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 | By Alison Blanchet

The Obstacle That Isn’t: My Path to Holiness Looks Like a Toddler

At the end of 2022 a favorite Catholic author, Meg Hunter-Kilmer, released A Year in the Word Catholic Bible Journal. I was intrigued by a reading plan to read the Bible in 365 days, with a half-page reflection and a half page to journal. Journaling is a favorite way of prayer for me — in my 20s and 30s I used to go to the beautiful adoration chapel at St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, or light a candle at the kitchen table, pour coffee and spend indefinite amounts of time prayerfully writing my thoughts and feelings.

As a 40-year-old mom of three — including a toddler who finds deeply insulting my need to occasionally shift my attention from her antics to preparing dinner or using the restroom alone — half a page of journaling seemed ambitious. There is always laundry to fold, groceries to put away and someone needing a poster board. However, I took comfort in Hunter-Kilmer’s note that “there’s no virtue in accomplishing this feat in 365 days,” assuring readers that any time spent prayerfully reading Scripture was worthwhile. 

I had high hopes when I began on Jan. 1 and found the daily readings were manageable and could be done before bedtime or in those nuggets of time occasionally found before the kids were awake. However, I only made it to Jan. 4 before a fussy bedtime left me dozing next to a crib and then stumbling to bed in the middle of the night. I remembered to brush my teeth (a self-care win), but the Bible remained unopened that day.

When I woke up, I saw my Bible and journal and felt a twinge of disappointment in myself. I knew I would lag at some point, but I had hoped to stay on track for at least a work week — that’s five days, not even the weekends, because I believe in honesty. But wise spiritual leaders have reminded me that the needs of the children in my life are my pathway to holiness, not its obstacle, at this stage of life. Taking heart, I prayed and journaled Day 4 on Jan. 5. 

This Lent, maybe you are in the season of life I was in once — you can schedule your prayer and be reasonably certain that tiny humans, or whomever is depending on you, won’t tiptoe into your room at 5:45 a.m. and ask if you know where their clean socks are or need you to rearrange their blankets and “make them cozy” approximately 17 times before they can fall asleep.

However, if there are people in your life who depend on you — whether they are your children, parents, neighbors or even a friend experiencing a tough season — and it feels like you are frequently needed when you’re trying to pray or get to the parish mission or even just bless your (rapidly cooling) dinner, take heart that this is your path to holiness right now. This is the Lenten season you have been given in which to grow.

If you’ve been able to pray daily since Ash Wednesday, that’s a gift! If you’ve struggled and missed more Lenten commitments than you feel you’ve completed or haven’t even figured out what to do between soccer practice and Sunday school, know that each day is a new opportunity. And there is no time, no matter how little we feel we have, that’s wasted when it’s given to God.

Alison Blanchet lives in Panama City with her husband and three children. She works as a therapist for children and teens. Email her at