By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LEE’S SUMMIT — Yes, she counts her blessings, and sons Noah (age 4), Eli (2), and Levi (1) are definitely three of them.
But Linda Binggeli, who is one serious Catholic as well as one serious young mother, felt that managing a three-boy circus was causing her prayer life to, well, vanish.
So she went for help — straight to the top.
Learning over social media that Pope Benedict XVI was taking questions over his brand-new Twitter account — @Pontifex — on Dec. 6, Binggeli asked the pontiff this one, in 140 characters or less, that would strike a chord with all mothers of bright and energetic little boys:
“Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?”
On Dec. 12, the day the pope himself chose three questions to answer, Linda read these words on the pope’s Twitter account, in 140 characters or less, and thought they sounded like an answer to a question similar to hers.
“Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all circumstances of daily life and remember he is always beside you.”
Then she looked up her question. It was exactly her question, one of three Pope Benedict chose to answer directly by himself, from among thousands submitted.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness! I’m having this little conversation with the pope!’” Binggeli said.
And like all good answers, Pope Benedict’s reply reminded her — again — of something she already knew. Motherhood is a vocation.
So when Boy No. 1 is wrestling with Boy No. 2 because Boy No. 2 took a toy from Boy No. 3, it’s a form of prayer and following God’s will to be there and to restore peace and brotherhood — even when, in those brief nanoseconds of temptation all mothers experience, she wants to be the one ringing the necks.
“We’ve been blessed. We have three sons,” Linda, 31, said of herself and her husband, Mike, 30. “It’s crazy, but we love it. And having kids has made our faith stronger. We want to pass it on to them.”
“We aren’t raising kids. We’re training saints,” Mike said. “In fact, that’s her Twitter account — @trainingsaints.”
It wasn’t always like that for Mike and Linda Binggeli, who faithfully attend 9:30 a.m. Mass every Sunday at St. Mark Parish in eastern Independence.
Raised in a strong Catholic family and a graduate of Catholic schools, Linda still described herself as a “cafeteria Catholic” when she met Mike at DeVry University nine years ago. Like many young Catholic college students away from home for the first time, she fell out of the practice of regular Mass attendance.
“It just wasn’t part of my ritual,” she said.
But she still identified herself as a Catholic and even planned on a big Catholic wedding when she met the right guy.
Mike wasn’t a Catholic. In fact, he said, “I was into the whole fundamentalist thing, and I was very much anti-Catholic.”
As their relationship deepened, Linda made it plain that if they were to be married, their marriage would be Catholic and sacramental, and all their children would be baptized Catholic as infants.
“I wanted to make sure we were on the same page, and he knew why I wanted to raise my children in the same faith,” Linda said.
Mike grudgingly agreed, but he also had other ideas. He was going to show Linda the error of her ways.
“I started reading everything I could find on the Catholic Church just so I could disprove them,” he said.
Then a funny thing happened on his pursuit of the truth. He found it, Mike said.
“When I started seeking the truth, I found out that everything I was saying was wrong,” he said. “All the stuff I had learned before just fell away, and I found out that the Catholic Church was 100 percent right on everything.”
They spent their engagement in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adult classes — Mike as a baptized Christian candidate seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, and Linda seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation that she missed as an adolescent.
And they haven’t regretted a single second of anything they have done as a married, Catholic couple with Christ at the dead center of it all.
“I knew it would be easier if we were the same faith and we were all going to Mass together,” Linda said.
But still, she had to suspend her career as a web site developer for H&R Block to be a stay-at-home mom when she and Mike started their family.
And that was a tough decision, particularly financially.
“At first, we didn’t think we could do it,” Linda said. “We went back and forth on the decision, we budgeted it out, and it never worked out. We knew there would be sacrifices.”
Mike makes a nice income as a software developer at Level Five Solutions in Overland Park, Kan., but finances still get tight.
“We’ve had some bad months,” Mike admitted. “We have got to be careful.”
But they wouldn’t trade a second with any of their three sons for everything they have sacrificed. What they have, they said, is far more than what they have given up.
“It’s crazy, but we love it,” Linda said.
And Linda is also quick to credit Mike, who, if not the perfect husband, is pretty close.
“The boys get up at 6:30 to 7 every morning, and Michael lets me sleep in. He gets up when they get up and fixes breakfast,” Linda said.
Linda starts her day herding three boys shortly before 8 a.m., when Mike leaves for work.
The key is following the boys’ lead, but always steering them in the right direction.
“I let them do what they are in the mood for, but I still try to do things that are fun, but educational,” Linda said.
Then when Mike comes home from work, it’s Make Room for Daddy. He takes over the boys, which means playing with them, which he doesn’t mind at all.
“Stay-at-home moms have the hardest job in the world because there is no break,” Mike said.
“Yeah, we Dads work hard, too, but we don’t have three boys taking all your energy out of you all day long,” he said.
He also does one more very special thing with the boys for Linda.
Just getting to 9:30 a.m. Mass isn’t easy, and getting all three to behave perfectly at that age at Mass is impossible.
“It’s a miracle sometimes that we get there on time,” Linda said. “After Mass, we are exhausted.”
“You can feel the devil working against you,” Mike said. “There are days when the kids are at their absolute worst.”
“Time off purgatory is what we’re hoping for,” Linda added.
But every Sunday afternoon, however, Mike frees Linda to go back to St. Mark where she spends a quiet hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament while he takes care of the boys. It’s her time, alone with God.
His time? Every day that he can during the week, going to daily Mass at the Church of the Ascension, near his southern Overland Park office.
And still, she worries whether her faith is strong enough. That’s why Pope Benedict taking his time to remind her that everything she is doing as a mother is really for the greater glory of God, meant so much to her.
“It was an honest question that I struggle with,” Linda said.
“His response was very beautiful. It was very simple, and that’s what made it so beautiful,” Linda said.
And now, when she sees her boys, she knows they are the answer to her prayers as she goes about “training saints.”
“That’s our family Twitter motto: ‘Training saints,” Mike said.