Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Being Sensitive to Those With Infertility (Part 3)

Over the past two posts, I have shared the need for awareness among families who are struggling with primary or secondary infertility and my own struggle with infertility. In this one of the graces that I've received is strength and support from my sister in laws. Honestly I'm still getting used to having "siblings" but it's a great blessing. One thing that my sister in law told me was that she was there for me. Although she has great fertility and the sweetest nephews and niece I could ask for, she told me she was glad to know what we were going through. She didn't try to offer advice, she didn't didn't try to tell me "it's God's will" she just let me talk. Below are things that can help those who are dealing with infertility.

1. Know that we are grieving.

Grief is often known as huge or mounting sadness caused by loss. While for those with infertility, they may not have suffered a miscarriage, though many have, they are grieving the loss of their dreams for the "perfect" family. Also just like grieving a loved one there will be strange triggers that may bring back deep feelings of grief.

2. Don't belittle our losses.

One of the hardest things I've ever heard was someone telling me I could always get pregnant again after I had lost my child. While a child who is miscarried may not be "real" to you, that child is very real to a parent who lost them. There are always outside influences that you may not know of that caused this loss and the parents are trying to deal with them.

3. Please listen to what we are saying...

I know for me, talking about infertility can be really hard. When I come to my friends and just need to talk, thes best thing is to know that we are being listened too. We may stumble, cry and laugh in one sentence, but feel comfortable and safe talking to you.

4. ... and don't offer solutions.

Many people know of the options that are open to them being infertile. Adoption may not always be the best option for those who are infertile. The same would be for being foster families or other medical options. It is in the best interest of a couple to find the best option for them rather than finding that an option will not be fruitful if pursued. Also, everyone knows someone who got pregnant after doing (insert topic here). Just because it worked for one person doesn't mean it will happen for the person you are talking to.

5. Don't be afraid to share your joy.

Pregnancy and birth announcements can be understandably hard. Don't be afraid to share your joy. It may be easier to let those who are experiencing infertility know before you make a big public announcement. This will give those dealing with infertility a chance to process their emotions before being present at a large family function or seeing major announcements on 

6. Find community.

For those who are dealing with infertility a welcoming community can help to sort out emotions and feelings regarding infertility. For those readers who are practicing Natural Family Planning there is a Christian forum over at with separate boards for men and women. This is a forum for those who use Natural Family Planning or are curious about it. They have great resources for those on any step of the journey: those trying to conceive, avoid pregnancy, work through infertility or miscarriage, during pregnancy and after.

7. Don't think of our friendship as "weird".

It can be difficult to maintain a friendship with those who do not have children after you have given birth. Truly, continue and maintain your friendship. A good friend will realize that though things have changed, a good friendship is worth maintaining.

While this is only a short list of ideas, what would you add to this list?

Dear Mr. Barnes - A photographer's perspective

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Your recent use of cameras and death in your post A Possible Anthropological Origin of the Duckface was quite a stretch for me to read today as a person who also takes joy in photography.

Let me start with my beginnings with a camera and move forward. I caught my first shutterbug when I was 6 and my mom let me take photos during the dolphin show at the Brookfield Zoo on my first family vacation. My mom showed me how to hold the little point and click 35mm film camera and aim it at my unsuspecting swimming mammalian targets. Some how I knew the patience of waiting for the right moment to try to capture the moment of the dolphins flying in mid air, because that’s what subjectively we see.

Moving forward into high school I was the lead photographer and “Senior Editor” of our small school yearbook. I would capture candids of my peers, the thrill of games and the action behind the scenes. I learned what photoshop was, how to manipulate, cut and frame. Photos became more than a snapshot of time but a story unto themselves.

Fast forward to today. I take photos to capture the dichotomy between light and dark, the contrast of colors, joy in my day, and memories I am proud of and choose to share. I never ask my subjects to pose or be different of who they are, generally I’m happy if I can catch them still enough to snap a quick one before running away. I play with sliders to balance and shade. To match the lens of the artificial to my eye and memory. Just with any story passed down from relative to relative, there may be an occasional embellishment but the essence is the same.

A photo is nothing more than a reflection of the captured and the intent that a person chooses to see. I capture photos because there is a stirring in my heart or something I deem to be precious. Sure, their worth is not necessarily known to those that I share my photos with. To share my photos, regardless of the content, is an objective act of myself showing my subjective feelings towards myself and those people and places I’ve encountered

Certainly we have all posed for cameras in our lives. It may be that we want to have more of our subjectivity shown to others or that we are making a choice for our behavior. Anyone who is the subject of a photo should remember that they will be viewed objectively by another person and be reacted to by their subjectivity.

Not posing, finally standing still :)

The duckface is not only an action or pose by the person doing it, but reaction created by the person viewing it. The old adage of “A photo is worth a thousand words” is not the words of the subject but those of the viewer. Even in the most basic of stories, a picture or illustration proves to guide our hearts and minds toward the author’s intent.

Lastly for the topic of death. We as Catholics still treat a person’s corpse with every respect that we should have treated them in life. The reason that the Church still prefers the body present during the funeral rites is that it recalls our loved one’s life and death. If a body is so easily discarded and has no worth after we have died, the Catholic Church would not teach so strongly on the Resurrection of the body and soul.

It is hard to react to death because our selfish tendency wants those we hold closest to never permanently leave us. Our repulsion to corpses is that we have so many human memories wrapped up in the objectivity that this person had. We long for the goodness that was brought into our lives by their objective presence and miss that it will no longer be a constant presence in our lives.

I have watched as my loved ones have planned funerals and find myself in that same boat now. As I am taking care of loved ones and learning their final wishes, I am blessed to have the opportunities to know how lives will be celebrated.

For those who I love who are terminally ill, there is a very thin line between objectivity and subjectivity because we can visibly see the struggle they have in communicating and that struggle shows me more of their spirit and who they are.

When their time has come and I know that they have seen God for who He truly is; back here there will be tears and pictures. These pictures will show us glimpses of who they were and keep their memories alive in our hearts.

Thank you for your perspective and I hope you appreciate mine.

Amanda Castro

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Family and Fertility (Part 2)

Through the responses I have received from my initial post "Families and Infertility", I have decided that this should become a series of posts covering the topic of infertility from my point of view. I cannot write from the point of view of people who have adopted or are currently seeking to adopt. I also cannot write from the perspective of those who have been able to have advanced fertility treatment. However, below is my story.

My name is Amanda, and my husband and I have been married nearly 3 years. We have never used contraception or chosen to use Natural Family Planning as a means to abstain from having children.

My story actually begins when I was a sophomore in college. Our local Catholic student organization had brought in our local Natural Family Planning coordinator to give us the basic information on Natural Family Planning. I knew her outside of NFP because her eldest daughter was 3 years younger and we had attended Diocesan youth functions together. She gave us facts about the process of NFP, the rates of effectiveness, and why the Creighton model worked scientifically. It was funny to watch the guys squirm but it made a lot of sense. It also clarified questions I had about my own body that had never been answered by my mom.

I was in a serious relationship with a guy that I was discerning marriage about so I decided to sign up for the next one on one starter class. That class was great but also made me think about why I was choosing NFP. At that time, it was for my health and I wanted to get off hormonal birth control for my periods for good.

I had been on HBC for a year to "control" my cycles. I was seeing many of the symptoms of a normal cycle before HBC but not during. Something stirred inside my thoughts saying, "that isn't right." So with guidance from my doctor, I stopped taking HBC and tried Creighton. Using Creighton was amazing and I learned so much. I also learned that once you have information, you can't let go of it. Many of the NFP habits I developed then I still maintain now.

However, I kept loosing my stickers my charts, having issues with what I should be marking things as and waiting on others. My charts were a mess, I was a mess, and I was having trouble at school. Since I wasn't engaged yet, I thought it would be prudent to wait to start again until I was engaged.

My reproductive health became a bit scattered again and when I went for my check up the doctor asked for my family history. It wasn't the greatest but I also mentioned everything from my grandmother, paternal aunt and mom. The doctor looked at me like I was broken. He prescribed me HBC again with the warning that if I ever wanted to think about having kids I needed to know two things, one I needed to take HBC until I was ready to get pregnant to save my fertility and I needed to get pregnant by the time I was 28 if I was ever going to have kids. I gave the prescription to my mom and started taking it as recommended.

Going into my Senior year I became very sick. My cycles would shut down, I'd start to get weak and I even passed out in the chapel for no apparent reason. The only thing I could put my finger on was the HBC. This time I didn't even consult a doctor about my medication, I threw out the HBC. I started charting again and meeting with my Creighton mentor. I made another appointment and told a new doctor what had happened and she agreed I shouldn't take HBC but agreed, 28 was the magic deadline for kids.

Fast forward to two years out of college. I had grown lax in my charting but I always knew where I was in my cycle what was going on and things were relatively healthy. I had dumped my long time boyfriend and started dating my now husband. We are both Catholic and wanted to start charting together. This didn't work out, my previous mentor was a mom from the homeschool group he belonged to and the only other teaching couple in the area was one of his professors. Thankfully there are many new smartphone apps and charting programs online to learn and implement. That's what we use still today.

We were married and decided not to abstain but not actively try to conceive either. We had moved for work to an area where there weren't many teaching couples and even fewer NFP friendly doctors. I had been in recently for a large anovulatory cycle and the doctor brushed me off because I wasn't pregnant and I was fat. That's the only reason my body was acting out. No tests, no checking, just get used to it. Somehow the same magic statement of "If you want kids, you better be pregnant by 28" was still there.

Since our marriage we've had two miscarriages. The first we were shocked and excited at the "pregnant" sign on the view window but as I kept testing lines got lighter and lighter. When I called into my doctor, she didn't want to see me but because I was early, I'd be fine passing "it" at home. I was told to treat it like a heavy period. So I did. I was only about 6-8 weeks along but I knew when I had passed her. I was in shock and didn't know what to do. In a blind panic I ended up flushing my little girl down the toilet. It wasn't until a few days later it had sunk in what I had done. I still pray for forgiveness for that every day. Our second is still fresh and I'm not comfortable sharing that story.

Currently I have a wonderful doctor who is willing to work with me and order needed tests for my husband and I. However, right now with our current insurance, we are not able to get the tests we want done. Although this doctor doesn't buy into the magic 'pregnant by 28" it is still a fear that looms on the horizon and that horizon is getting closer. We wait patiently and continue charting. We've placed our children and any others God may give us into his hands because as parents, it's the least we can do.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Families and Infertility (Part 1)

I know I haven't been posting lately for one reason primarily, I knew I couldn’t be charitable. This comes about because of a topic that has been nagging me a lot in the back of my mind, married infertility.

There are two articles which finally spurred me into reflectively writing about this. The first is an article by Fr. Robert Barron, “The Very Sad Childfree Life” which I first encountered at, and “Of Wedding Bells and Baby Booties: 10 Reasons to Have Kids Early in Your Marriage” from Katie Peterson Warner at The Integrated Catholic Life.

Both of these articles are very good reads and provided a lot for me to think about as a young married woman. The reason that these articles stirred so much in me is, I am a late 20’s married Catholic, who practices NFP with my husband of almost 3 years. We desire to have children and cannot. Our lack of children is not by choice and if we had a choice we would have a little one preparing for at most their second birthday and a newborn in our arms. Instead we have our little apartment with only 7 fish and each other to take care of.

If you have read the above articles you can figure that my husband and I are not the 20 something couple who has chosen to not have children, but how would you recognize us in a restaurant, grocery shopping, or speaking to us in church? We do go on dates, we try our best to take care of each other, we enjoy the company of each other and our friends. We try to take trips and visit family. We wouldn’t look any different than those who have chosen to not have children. Fr. Barron is spot on in his title, “The Very Sad Childfree Life”, except we realize what we are missing and cannot bring it into our lives.

Katie Peterson Warner is also spot on in her article. I have watched these characteristics shine through many of my friends and in-laws who are recently married and having children. It’s amazing to watch them grow and strengthen their marriages and realizing at the same time that my husband and I are more like our unmarried friends than them.

I know at surface value these may seem like selfish and superficial reasons to desire children. At least for my husband and I, these aren't our only reasons.

Most married couples can attest to the two functions of sex in marriage, to be unitive and reproductive. It is also common scientific knowledge that there is only a small window that a woman can conceive a child in. It is a true miracle for any child to be conceived in any act of intercourse. One of the blessings of any form of Natural Family Planning is that I could tell you on any given day, my cycle date, which “phase” of my cycle I'm in, whether I’m waiting or not to see if I'm pregnant and a whole other plethora of “too much information”.

It’s a battle of potential doctor’s appointments, progesterone, blood draws, vitamins, and personal health issues to see a test with only one line on it. A struggle to keep yourself positive when you are overthinking every symptom that your body has to say of whether is it pregnancy or is it PMS. The courage to look at every period as a chance to start fresh rather than what did we do wrong. A challenge to not cry a little bit for every pregnancy announcement, story of a family member who had infertility and got pregnant naturally, or stick to your beliefs and not cave to medical treatments like IVF.

I will fully acknowledge the good work that institutes like the Pope Paul VI Institute has done for Natural Reproduction to enhance a couple’s chance to have a natural conception. I am thankful Church documents like Familiaris Consortio, Donum Vitae, and Dignitas Personae, for at least acknowledging that infertility is a struggle, even for a brief moment.

This is the cross my husband and I carry. It is often heavier than I can imagine and barely noticed by those we haven’t told. I know that those who share stories of those who have suffered infertility and had children are only sharing their joy. The truth is, it doesn't always turn out that way. Rather let me tell you this story.

My husband and I are happy to say that we are performers. We love being involved in concerts, plays, musicals and anything that lets our love of the performing arts be shared with others. On our wedding day, we stood in a large Cathedral, without microphones, and stating our consent to marriage and vows publicly. We wanted to be heard and would have screamed it from the rooftops if we could have.

We had stated our intent twice, we had come together freely and with the intent to honor each other for the rest of our lives. The priest asked us if we were willing to accept children lovingly as a gift from God. Our “yes” resounded even louder. Our two year old nephew who was just learning to speak his mind chimed even louder, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” to the laughter of us and our guests. As the laughter died down, my husband and I looked back at each other and in hushed voices said yes, smiled and continued through the mass.

I still look back on that and laugh today, but now I have a little whispering voice wondering if it wasn't at least a little prophetic of the struggle that my husband and I have today.

In writing this, I’m not saying that these other articles have said something wrong. I just find it painful that people who I love and trust have thought this is our choice or that we could wish or pray a child into being. I am writing this to show others that this is a struggle that many couples are facing and that I can’t be the only woman who is looking to guidance from our clergy others who are facing this struggle as well.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bibles and Cell Phones

I don't know about you, but I've seen this image popping up on Facebook and Twitter lately. Does it look familiar? If you haven't looked at any of the pictures that I've posted, I highly encourage to the point of pleading please look at this one.

I don't know about you, but I am usually lost without my cell phone. I check my mail, my bank balance, play games, Facebook, this blog, communicate, and even pray with it in my hands. I'm bored waiting for an appointment, let's play Temple Run 2. Trying to better plan out my day, lets look at Evernote or my calendars. Trying to get some deeper level of prayer in adoration, try Laudate or iBreviary. (Yes I have used my cell phone as a prayer book in Adoration. Yes I've had to explain it to little old ladies. It is embarrassing.) But I am completely and thoroughly attached to this electronic leash that I can't get rid of.
Then I look at my Bible. I have two which are mine and a couple dozen floating around my office that occasionally make their way home too. But of the two that are my own I have one that is a paperback, slightly dog eared at the corners and never written in. The other has been graffitied, decorated, highlighted, has a broken spine, pages falling out, duct tape and smoke damaged. I shouldn't use it as a reading Bible but it serves a much deeper reminder.
My very worn Bible. Can you see where the cracked spine is?

I look at the above image and acknowledge, that even though I access prayer apps and occasionally the daily readings on my phone, my Bible lays stagnant.  I can't help but get mentally caught on the "... turned back to get it if we forgot it?"

The spine has broken here completely in half. The two halves are held with duct tape.
When I was 22, I was student teaching, preparing for end of year finals which I was writing the finals for students. I was living with my extended family when their home was caught in a house fire. It was a huge fire that impacted two other houses that were nearby. When I was trying to get my composure and get out I grabbed my Bible, cell phone and other necessities. I couldn't think clearly until I heard in my head "drop everything and get out" in my father's voice. My father was a firefighter and always stressed the need to get out when a fire struck. I thought I had dropped everything when I ran downstairs and saw my cousin, (who's about 65) on the phone in his kitchen calling 911 as I'm watching the sliding glass door 10 feet behind him melting in an oozy pile of orange glass. I yelled at him to get out scooped up my shoes and ran outside.

In the few moments after I hit the fresh air I looked and saw that I was wearing shoes with my pajamas and holding my cell phone. I used my phone to call my family and try to find a place to stay but my beloved Bible was dropped from my hands and was sitting on the floor of the bedroom where I had been staying. Once the fire was completely put out, I was able to go back in and I got my Bible.

Evidence of smoke damage in the front cover

I was at a crisis of faith. I had chosen to leave an object significant of my faith behind when I had the chance. I wasn't proud of that and I wanted to leave the church behind. I was simply going through the motions of faith because I knew it would make my family happy. After brooding and being bitter about it, I worked my way back to going to Confession. The priest that heard me had only been ordained the day before. He was new, I was in pain and he truly had the graces from God I needed to come back fully to church, even though I never fully left.

As Catholics we declare that the Bible in its entirety is the Divinely inspired Word of God. It is a true gift of faith to be utilized, studied and prayed with. I wasn't proud that I left my Bible in such a hurried disordered way. Living a life, regardless of how short it was without the word of God was painful. The very top image illustrates quite poignantly why the Bible is important in our lives and what would the impact be if we had the same need for the Word of God as we did Facebook or Twitter.

This Bible in particular I received while on retreat and in the front cover was a message which I am glad to share with you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Royal Baby and my Niece

It's not new news that the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband, Prince William, are new proud parents of Prince George. What may be news is the news that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge is receiving over the showing of her postpartum baby bump. While many are cheering her dress choices or crying foul at the media I think that there is something in all this royal baby buzz we are missing. The world waited with baited breath the whole 9 months to welcome her baby.

The whole world and all of the media outlets were happy to divulge the nitty gritty details of Kate's health and the status of her baby. Whether we'd find out the gender, when she left and was admitted into the Lido Wing and how awful her pregnancy symptoms were, especially when hospitalized for dehydration. The one thing that the world seemed to agree on though was that she was carrying a human baby. One that not only had rights to live but had a wonderful chance at destiny being the third in line for the British Monarchy.

This former clump of cells has dignity and a chance to be born. There was also no doubt that Prince George would either be a boy or a girl or at the very least human. In one swoop The world simultaneously acknowledged the humanity of one fetus. They welcomed Prince George in the matter of a moment once the royal pregnancy announcement was made.

I collectively wonder what would happen in the world if we were to acknowledge that level of dignity in every person we meet regardless of child, middle aged, elderly or in utero. Sure the circumstances of each birth may not be as privileged as that of Prince George but it doesn't mean that their life has any less dignity.

I look at pictures of my youngest niece. In the picture above, she's nearly 2 months old. It didn't take a couple good pushes and a deep breath to affirm her dignity as a human being. That red headed princess captured all our hearts the moment we heard her mother was pregnant. Why then can't we support all mothers with love and care and let these children be born?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unplanned Does Not Equal Unwanted

With the recent triumph in the Texas Legislature returning abortion to the "safe, legal and rare" precedent for their state my Facebook feed has been filled with emotions of why abortion is not practical as a form of birth control. In the debate on whether abortion is safe, we are often so focused on the health of the mother that we forget that in nearly 100% of all abortions, it is fatal to the life of the unborn child. Even if we don't forget, abortion is a safe word that lets those who are pro-choice and pro-life skim over that fact "comfortably."

My husband and I practice Natural Family Planning. Most days I can tell you where I am in cycle without batting an eye, my husband has a bit more of a hazy understanding. However after 2.5 years of marriage, any pregnancy we would have would be definitely "unplanned". We want a child, but have been unsuccessful in growing our family. When we say that a child would be unplanned we don't mean that we don't want a child, just that the positive result would be truly a surprise.

At the same time there are women everyday who find out they are pregnant and it is as the worst possible time in their lives or under the worst circumstances. Our contemporary society tells us that abortion is the best option for the living mother, excuse me, woman. Not only is it encouraged, it's expected. The same is the result of those child who unexpectedly have a physical or cognitive defect while in the womb. The parents may love that child, but in the child's best interests are told to abort. It is a courageous and noble or even stupid choice should parents choose to keep the child.

In these "unplanned" circumstances, why do we show that disposal is a better choice than love. There is a deep societal stigma regarding pregnant women. Unless the child being born is being brought into this world in the best situation, why even have the child?

Love. Love requires self sacrifice and self giving. Society is so wrapped up in convenience and living the easy life that anything truly sacrificial is seen as an undue burden. Only give while it feels good and then call yourself good.

I've used this picture before. I absolutely adore my nephews and the eldest from this family is on the left. I will call him Batman. Batman's mom had a completely unplanned pregnancy. She had been with her boyfriend for about a month and Batman had found his Batcave. She never hesitated once and decided to keep him. After Batman had been born his parents decided to get married. While it hasn't been easy for their family, they make due on work when they can find it, and live comfortably cramped in their small apartment. And Batman in the lead watching over his two younger brothers and baby sister. My sister in law is a great model of faith, hope, and love while doing their best in life.

There is another story which can probably do more to illustrate that not all unplanned pregnancies are unwanted.

We all know the story of a very young teen who finds herself unmarried and pregnant in ancient Israel. The Blessed Virgin Mary found herself accepting the promise of God through his angel that she would be carrying the Son of God. Saint Joseph even found himself wanting to not marry her because she was pregnant. He wouldn't have been out of line to think it was with someone elses child. Leaving her side would have meant almost certain death for Mary and her child. Their society wouldn't have batted an eye at that. Even at that time when it was only Mary who wanted to keep the child, Jesus was definitely unplanned in her life but he was even greatly loved and wanted. Love and self-sacrifice won out. Joseph through the instruction of an angel was told that Jesus would be the savior. Mary had a healthy baby boy and the rest they say is Salvation History.

Children who are unplanned and for mothers' and fathers' who are thinking that abortion is the only way out, please consider adoption for your child. Please consider calling your local adoption agency or speaking with someone at Birthright. There are agencies who will support your choice and help you find the best choice for you.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Praying in Rome

I don't often get excited by giveaways that are on the internet. This is one that you my readers may be interested in. I think this book will be well worth the read and something that you may want to check our for yourself.

The giveaway lasts through the rest of the week so act fast!

Other than that, I will be posting later this week but the wonderful wall of writer's block is back so, we'll see what we get!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Can Understand the Allure of In Vitro Fertilization

This past week I was on a blessed and relaxing vacation with friends and family. Part of the holiday weekend was spent with my husband's family for a family get together. Over the past few years the family joke was that someone was always pregnant. This was apparent by the 6 children present under the age of 5.

My younger sister-in-law had just given birth 2 months ago and no one else was pregnant. My in laws looked to my husband and I for a surprise announcement but we didn't have any news to share. The secret we had only shared with our respective parents was that we had suffered a miscarriage in November, I would have been about 7.5 months along this past weekend.

Over this past weekend I met my newest niece and the child of my best friend, both these beautiful bundles are less than 4 months old. I have never seen their mothers happier than I did seeing them holding their children, at the same time I have never been more ashamed of how much I wished to have a child.

In vitro fertilization is the combining of a sperm and egg outside of the act of sex and replacing that egg back within the mother. Extra eggs and sperm are combined and saved in order for a higher rate of pregnancy or to try again for additional children. This practice is condemned by the Catholic Church because of the undertaking of playing God by all parties involved. It is also condemned because of the reckless wasting of life through the mingling of sperm and egg. Each of these zygotes also contains a human soul which regardless of implantation or not, means they are still humans. There is a waste of life because of the low implantation rate and that many of these children will not be "utilized" for a pregnancy.

However even with the cost I can see the allure, the desire and craving that parents seeking IVF as an option see. The chance of having a beautiful, biological, child of your own out weighs a lot for many parents. If I did not have the beliefs I did, IVF would be a very tempting option indeed.

However I look inside myself and know IVF is never an option for my husband and me. Let's go through a couple reasons here.

1.     I am not God.

Sex as a marital act requires both husband and wife and including God as the author of life. It is because of this relationship that heterosexual marriage mirrors both the relationship of Christ and his Church as well as the Trinity. By removing God as the author of life we are attempting to play God. Medical science would simply say that they are working to overcome a natural deficiency of the body, we are eliminating the need for faith and trust. We are coping the choice of Adam and Eve's first sin, trying to be as God.

Secondly, I don't always know what's best for me. Just as the parable of the parent who always gives good gifts, I may be asking for the wrong gift to fulfill what is best for me. So as my spiritual father, God will not give me a gift at just because I asked for it. There may be a greater wisdom in asking us to wait.

2.     Delayed gratification over instant.

There is no doubt that our modern society places an emphasis on what I can receive now without waiting. Once a woman finds out she's pregnant, she still has to wait 9 months to meet her child but, it doesn't make her any less of a mother. Because my husband and I are still waiting for a child to be born from us, doesn't make us any less of parents, but how joyful will we be when we are finally able to hold our child and have them safe in our arms.

3.     I have other places to put my time.

My Nephews
There are mother's who can do it all. They work full time, take care of their children, volunteer, keep their home running smoothly and more that I cannot imagine. I have met these women and stand in awe of them. At this time in my life, I don't know if I can ever be one of them. As it stands, I have other children that are in need of my time, they are the students working to grasp and take ownership of their faith, my nephews learning to save the world and friends who are beginning their lives with their children. I am allowed to work crazy hours and take time to delve into other passions. While I still crave and long to be a full time parent, I understand that there are other needs that I can devote myself too in the meantime.

With these reasons, it is still hard to wait. I have prayed very choice words in frustration, heartache, and humility trying to find answers. The biggest answer I have received through prayer is "wait and see." I fully acknowledge the desire to want a child, but are incapable of having one, yet. However, until the answer I have received changes, I will wait and see what the Lord has planned for me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We Need to Pray for Our Clergy

Over the past few months I have read many posts regarding the state of the Catholic Church in America and the priests, bishops, and cardinals who lead her. Whether it has been the Archdiocese of New York and the handling of union health insurance contracts, DOMA, Proposition 8, calling for Nancy Pelosi to no longer call herself Catholic, or even the resounding fallouts from the new healthcare laws that will be going into full effect on August 1. The abundance of comments that are seen scream for our bishops to do something. I agree more should be done, but right now, we are waiting in anticipation to see what will happen.

In four years I have been a parishioner of four different Catholic Dioceses in the United States. There have been great moments and some not so great. But all the bishops I have met are amazing men who are trying to lead their respective diocese with great passion and fervor. We as the laity may not always see or recognize their efforts but they are outstanding men of prayer, discipleship, council, and usually a good sense of humor.

I understand that we are in a highly chaotic time within the Catholic Church in the United States. The secular media seems like it is waiting for any Catholic official to slip up publicly to turn into huge news. Then I call for this, pray for our clergy. It is increasingly easy for us to dwell on the negatives and wonder why these "super men" of the Church aren't doing more. They are taking care of the administrative needs of their dioceses, making hard decisions regarding the future of their parishes, priests, religious, seminarians and laity. They pray, work unusual hours and maybe find a brief moment of peace to themselves. The spiritual battle they face would make any of us pale, and for their efforts, I cannot thank them enough.

Please, with all the negativity pointed against us, let us strive to work together and pray for our clergy.
Heavenly Father, in these trying times when the spirit of the age threaten Christian values, give our bishop, holiness of life and wisdom to guide our (arch)diocesan family, so that we may grow in your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen. 
-Prayer for the Bishop, Catholic Online 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

American Sign Language and Abortion

Since it's the summer, I have a unusual office schedule. I try to maintain regular office hours and a routine, but because of the lack of students around, my cell phone can be somewhat distracting. I took a small break and checked my phone to see that a friend of mine had posted this short post from The Crescat. All it showed was a simple GIF of "abortion" translated in American Sign Language.

"Abortion" in American Sign Language

I am not fluent in American Sign Language but I remember my college classes in ASL quite clearly. We had a young adjunct professor who was deaf and didn't always use her cochlear implants. She chose not to use them, not because she was being rude, but to help correct our movements and rid us from our bad signing habits. As young signers, we slurred, spoke with a drawl and learned that what one movement says does not mean the same when quickly repeated.

I had American Sign Language as a block class for two and a half hours every Tuesday and Thursday. We would have a portion of the class that was book review and exercise, then the second portion was always conducted in sign to the best of our ability but in complete silence. If we didn't know a word and it wasn't in our glossary, finger spelling became our best friend. We were also required to have so many lab hours per chapter. Lastly we were required to attend events within the Deaf Community.

We were asked to keep signing as much as possible and mention that we were students just learning to sign. I have never been introduced to a more welcoming group of individuals in my life. It was through these immersion events over pizza and awareness that we learned how key facial expressions and eye contact truly were. Nothing was more annoying to them than a person who was to distracted by others. 

The other important thing I learned about the Deaf Community was how personal everything was. Each person has a unique name given to them by someone else within the community. Sure there can be multiple Amandas but there is only one you. Secondly, every sign is truly different but is meant to invoke a particular point of knowledge. For instance the sign for milk mimics the action of squeezing an udder to receive milk. A student is the personification of someone pulling knowledge from a book. Abortion, as we see above, is the  intentional discarding of a baby.

American Sign Language is meant to show the exact meaning of words. Words are chosen because of their precise meanings. If you need another meaning, you choose another sign. Even as a hearing people we use signing far more often than we realize. We use body language and gestures to emphasize what we say. As I look at the sign for abortion and look back on the experiences that I had as a student, it breaks my heart to see abortion like this. It hurts so much because there is a community of Americans who are stating what abortion truly is, whether they agree with it or not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Evangelizing Parents

I love my job. I love the students I work with. I even like the parents of the students I work with. There is a big reason that I say I like them and not that I love them. The most common critique I receive from my co-workers is that I use too much "churchy" language and turn people off. It's a comment, that I really don't know how to take.

I am more available and ready to talk to teens. Sure I use a smattering of higher language to use it as a tool to have them ask questions, but parents, parents can be downright scary when it comes to using the right language. The reason I find parents more intimidating than students, I am closer to the age of their students than I am to them. I try to bridge this gap by trying to show my competence and show my intelligence. The truth is, parents have much more varied and just more life experience than I do. They know their student better than I do. how to talk to them and teach them individually.

Then I am stuck. If I can reach the student but not the parent, what use am I to those I encounter. As a Youth Minister, I am both teacher and advocate, resource and guide, but all the knowledge in the world won't help me if I don't have the experience to use it.

For example, I am already intimidated by a talk I will have this fall on the topic of homosexuality. Although I have loved ones who are same-sex attracted, I can handle talking to them individually, we can see eye to eye. It happens to be the large topic that throws me for a curve. Parents could have siblings, cousins, children who are experiencing this now and they don't know how to react. My loved ones and I have at least come to an understanding with each other.

To parents, I can state Church teachings from the Catechism, I can explain things from biology, I can state facts and my personal experiences, but if I "do not have love, I am a gong or clashing cymbal." (1Cor. 13:1) The biggest trap I fall in is that when I get nervous, I feel like I have to rely on what I've learned and simply regurgitate information. The truth is, information alone will not be enough to soften hearts. 

I have found this, parents who are willing to talk about hard topics of their faith are willing to show that they've been hurt in the past. It could have been hurt from family, friends, parishioners, clergy, staff or even myself. I can't always undo the hurt that I've caused but I can help parents come to a middle ground. Through coming to a common understanding, I can hopefully get them willing to talk about other issues that they have with the Church.

Lastly, the parents that I've worked with are all Catholics of the "lost generation." The "lost generation" often refers to Catholics who were poorly taught their faith during the 60's through the late 80's after the reforms of Vatican II were put into place. The average knowledge of Catholic adults about their faith is that of a 4th grade level. There are many people who live their faith out of a sense of family tradition rather than understanding what the church teaches. I believe Venerable Fulton Sheen said it best, "There are not 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive the Catholic Church to be."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Campaign Empowering Generation of Artists who Believe in Beauty Launches with Tour, Album, & Groundbreaking Concept

If you ask my husband or my friends, they will tell you that I am always looking for great music. If you are like me check out this new campaign. Thanks to Ryan Eggenberger at Ignitum Today for getting this word out.
Music fans everywhere now invited to become patrons of ‘good music’

NASHVILLE, TN – The Love Good Music campaign officially launched today with a web-based advertising campaign, national summer tour, and a groundbreaking twist on how the music industry develops and distributes emerging talent: turning ordinary fans into influential patrons and replacing high-level recording industry executives with everyday lovers of Truth, Beauty, & Goodness. The idea is rooted in the Church’s history of patronage and builds on the empowerment created by digital distribution and modern-day crowd funding.
“In centuries past, Church leaders and wealthy individuals have always been the great patrons of artistic genius,” noted Mysterium Records President Jimmy Mitchell, the campaign’s architect. “More recently, record labels could make or break an artist. Now, it’s ordinary music fans who can discover new talent through social media and support artists they can believe in through Kickstarter and other crowd-funding models. Because of our partnership with incredibly talented artists who are also faithfully Catholic, this campaign is a huge stride for the New Evangelization.”
The Love Good Music Campaign is a major innovation on the increasingly popular crowd-funding system of raising capital for projects. The campaign seeks sustaining members for as low as $10 per month to invest in exclusive projects from emerging artists before they ever hit iTunes, Spotify or other traditional distribution services. The real perks, however, are in the power to transform the musical landscape. These patrons will then be able to provide feedback at the ground level – essentially becoming high-level influencers for new talent before the rest of the world would ever know the music exists.
“I’ve worked closely with some amazing artists and we haven’t even scratched the surface of talent that’s out there,” said Mr. Mitchell. “The Love Good Music Campaign—together with our patrons’ direct input—could produce a whole new generation of recording artists whose work focuses on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness rather than marketability and profit. It’s an amazing way to transform culture with our faith, and as far as I can see it, it’s never been done before.”
The Love Good Music campaign website offers highlights of an impressive resume for Mr. Mitchell, whose “musical curriculum vitae” includes tour management with Matt Maher, friendships with L’Angelus, Audrey Assad, and Eric Genuis, and many special projects and events with Colleen Nixon, Kevin Heider, and Chris Cole through Mysterium Records, which has distributed nearly 30,000 copies of several albums across the world.
To promote the campaign, all albums available on the Love Good Music campaign have been discounted throughout the summer. Mr. Mitchell has also set out on an ambitious 40-city tour throughout the U.S. bringing together artists to raise awareness of the campaign. The tour dates this summer will run the full gamut of intimate house parties to public venues, spotlighting the campaign and building support for the Church’s new generation of artists.
To learn more, visit

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recalling Life's Pilgrimages

It's not often that I find myself reading Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic and agreeing with how he presents topics to his readers. A recent post he made titled "The Difference Between a Pilgrim and a Tourist" really caught me off guard.

I have had many chances to play both the tourist and the pilgrim in my life and occasionally I've left as the tourist and returned as the pilgrim and visa versa. For example on a music "ambassadorship" I attended across Europe our group was often asked to sing in various churches and historical sites. One of which was St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy. It was a beautiful experience. I entered the church, finding the tabernacle and genuflecting per all Catholic churches we entered and we were ushered off by someone behind the Communion Rail to perform. Our first piece was a double choir piece called "Music Be Praised" the acoustics were wonderful and the tones we hit just lingered in the air. The next piece we sang was "O Magnum Mysterium" or "Great Mystery". In a Cathedral of that magnitude, there was no doubt for me, that my voice was lifted in prayer and hopefully also being echoed by St. Mark, whose relics are interred there. I entered in a tourist amongst those paying patrons seeking the frescos and ornately decorated facades and left a pilgrim honored to sing before Christ, his martyrs and saints.

In his post Marc has this to say.
The pilgrim does not walk into a cathedral because it is "a sight," but because he believes God allows himself to be present between the pillars. The tourist walks into the same cathedral because he believes culture is there, but what he does not recognize - drifting past the statues, tombs, and ribbon-rising incense - is that the culture is there because of the God and cannot be "experienced" in it's fullness without this raison d'etre [purpose], this thing, this fact that has basilicas, chapels and shrines roaring out of otherwise dignified villages in a constant fire-alarm of clanging bells, streaming people, drifting smoke, sprinkled water, and pitiful pleas for salvation. The second-hand experience is not the experience. To see something because it is a "sight" is not to see it for precisely what it is.
This reminds me of one "accidental" pilgrimage I found in my own life.

Living where I did after college, I found myself in a unique predicament. I lived in a town with around 20 Catholic Churches within a 25 mile radius. Two of these Churches were actually Cathedrals. The Twin Ports area of Minnesota and Wisconsin are both blessed enough to have their own Cathedral and they couldn't be more different from each other. During college I bounced between the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, and two other parishes for Mass, Confession, and volunteering in youth ministry. I knew I wanted to find a place where I could engage with all these aspects in one location.

It wasn't until I had completed school and was working full time my boyfriend pitched me an idea, why not start attending masses and the sacraments with him. It wasn't a bad idea and although "across the bridge" into Wisconsin, it was a trip over that I was making frequently. That summer I fell in love with the people, what they did and how they served. It also happened that the rector of the Cathedral also served the small, local Newman Center which my boyfriend had gotten me involved in. Soon I had registered with the parish and was becoming a part of the community.

Engagement Spot
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
When my boyfriend asked me to marry him we both knew we wanted to be married at the Cathedral of Christ the King. This put us in a strange predicament when reading the bulletin, it stated that in order to be married at the Cathedral, you needed to be a member for a minimum of 6 months. I did the math and I had only been a member for four months. My fiance told me not to worry and scheduled a meeting with the Rector and it turned out he had been a member since he began school there 2 years ago.

We eagerly began planning the "rest of our lives" when I accepted a job in Iowa. If you've been keeping track of the states, I lived in MN, he lived in WI and now I'm moving to IA. We sped up our wedding classes and "completed" them, on the stipulation that we would have a meeting every time I came home for a visit. We completed 6 meetings and the FOCUS test and results in 3 weeks. Along with me getting everything together for our wedding.

I moved and was quite lonely. The job wasn't anything like they promised and I was looking forward to any chance I had to go home. Especially the big, comfy Cathedral that we were going to be married in. The priest I worked for gave me extended time off for the wedding which was much longer than I was supposed to receive over the following three years. Greatful I soaked up the winter and spent time with my friends and family, working when I could and attending to last minute details.

When I could, I would "run away" to the Cathedral in order to find peace, quiet and a shred of sanity. I couldn't wait to embark on our new life and every time I was there I couldn't help but imagine the love and grace we would share there in a very short time.

Duluth + January = Brrr
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
When the wedding day came, it was a slightly blizzardy January morning and we wouldn't have it any other way. We were going to be married. Most of my fondest memories of that day were contained in that Cathedral before God and with our families because we were standing there faithfully before each other and God.

Since then we have moved back to Minnesota and are quite a distance away from the Cathedral of Christ the King. We still go there whenever we are in the area which is about 2 or 3 times a year. We see people who remember us, but the most important is the presence of God that resides there. I am always moved to my knees in awe and wonder and I pray that I never lose that and only seek to gain that where ever I attend mass.

I found purpose there, my feelings and experiences are different because I can see the threads that God has woven together in my life surrounding this one place. Even today as we belong to a wonderful community that we hope we never have to leave, our deepest prayer is always to return there to be in union with that community as best we can.

In two weeks, we will be able to seek another pilgrimage there. I will see if there are times that we can receive Reconciliation and attend more than a weekend mass. I will gladly pray and rejoice in the Cathedral and know that God walks amid the pillars and is present all through that sacred place.
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
Until then I will prepare for that pilgrimage by always entering into my home church with the same devotion and respect that the Cathedral of Christ the King evokes in me as well.