PITTSBURGH, PA

'Babushka Power'

Friday, November 15, 2019 - Updated: 3:01 pm

Whenever my parents had a Saturday night date night when I was a youngster, I always had the same sitter. She was my maternal grandmother, my Baba, whom I affectionately called “Porchy,” a nickname she got from her favorite pastime — sitting on her front porch.

Whenever I went to stay at Porchy’s on a Saturday night, I would accompany her to the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at Divine Redeemer Parish in Ambridge, where she and my grandfather were members. She was a member of the Rosary Society. We always left for Mass plenty early since the Rosary Society prayed the rosary an hour before the 11 a.m. Mass.

One of the interesting things that I remember about Divine Redeemer Church is that the women always sat on the left side of the church, the men on the right. That distinction was made clear by hat clips that were attached to the pews on the right side of the church. Since men were not allowed to wear hats inside of the church, the hat clips were there as a place for the hats to be kept during Mass. To the contrary, all the women, without exception, were required to wear a head covering. Most, if not all, of the women in the Rosary Society wore babushkas, scarf-like head coverings.

During the praying of the rosary, I was always impressed by the number of women who engaged in this important devotion. The rosary was prayed in Slovak. There was a hymn quality to their prayer that made the devotion even more beautiful.

Sacred and secular

The rosary was followed by the celebration of Mass, which in the 1950s was a “High Mass” accompanied by the presence of the full choir. Following Mass, the faithful would gather outside the church, and conversations would naturally begin. I always was struck by how quickly the “sacred” celebrated during Mass evolved to the “secular” outside of the church. The love of Jesus that was the “main event” inside the church became gossip outside of church.

Some years later, I have come to refer to that conversation that became gossip as “Babushka Power.”

Lest you be tempted to think that I was singling out the members of the Rosary Society as “Babushka Power,” I think all of us, if we are honest, would have to admit that we are all capable of gossip — sometimes speaking well of others and unfortunately sometimes speaking ill.

That tendency is timeless. Permit me to reflect on one of those times as told in the Bible.

You and I well remember that Jesus had a very good friendship with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. We likewise remember the famous story of Jesus visiting their home when Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to his wisdom. Martha was in the kitchen preparing all the “stuff” of hospitality. As the story is told by St. Luke, Martha becomes ticked. Figuratively, she put on a “babushka” as she complained about her sister.

It seems to me that while there are many lessons contained in that story, one was Martha’s “Babushka Power.” She was much more concerned about the what and why of her sister’s actions than her own. Rather than embracing her own hospitality by being attentive to Jesus in the kitchen, she complained more about Mary’s brand of hospitality at the feet of Jesus in the living room.

Isn’t the same true for you and me? Like Martha, don’t we sometimes find more opportunities to be concerned about what other people are doing (and sometimes making judgments on such) than on why and how and for whom we should be doing what we do?

Gifts and talents

There is no doubt that all of us have been given a very special Vocation (with a capital “V”) — to be married, or single, or religious, or ordained. But we have also been given a call, a vocation with a small “v” — those gifts and talents that we are called to use in our day-to-day jobs and/or encounters.

In the Gospel story — Martha used her talent as a cook and a hostess. Mary used her talent as a good and careful listener.

If you and I recognize that everything we do or say or think or plan in our lives is meant to help us take another step closer to God’s kingdom in heaven and use our gifts and talents to get there, then that means we need to pay less attention to gossiping about what others are doing or not doing with their gifts and talents and pay more attention to what we need to be doing with our own and why.

As I reflect on my own life, there are times when I too exercise “Babushka Power” and need to let go of it.

How about you?


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