Thursday, April 25, 2013

Flirting with the Thin Pink Line - Updated

This article was originally published on my first blog, Defined By Faith. I have edited it to update some personal information and glaring grammar errors that I found.

I live in a different world than many of my peers. Many are planning their exact 2.1 children, schools they will attend, and sports they will play. I am left wondering when or if my husband and I will ever have children.

Before you think I'm off my rocker, bear with me a bit. Medically, primary infertility is defined as a healthy couple trying to conceive for 1 year without achieving their first successful pregnancy. This is where my husband and I lie. We've been married and trying for 27 months.  Every month has been a struggle to wait and see what will come, then dealing with the heartbreak with each single pink line.

For some women one pink line is reason for rejoicing. Whether it was a failure of birth control, not ready for a child for any reason, a single pink line is a comforting thought. For me, one line often results in a minor emotional breakdown.

There are many times I get stuck with thoughts that tell me I'm not going to be a mother, or that I'm being punished for something I did. There are other times when I feel rotten for fighting back tears when I should be happy for friends and family who are expecting. Most often, though, I feel alone. So, I went searching for answers.

While doing research on the Papal Document Humanae Vitae, I stumbled upon another document entitled Donum Vitae. This document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 1987, has a small section titled, “The Suffering Caused by Infertility in Marriage.” Here is an excerpt from that section. The emphasis is retained from the original text.
Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child's dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.
I read that, and I can't help but recall a conversation I had with my mom. 

When I was little, like any kid, I would grab random toys off the shelves in a store and ask for them. Occasionally, it would be the same item on separate trips. Since we didn't go shopping together more than once a month, Mom would often get the hint that this was something I was truly interested in. After I had heard “no” enough, I would stop asking. Then one day I would find a surprise, and it would be the item I had been asking for. Naturally, I would be even more excited because I received it as a gift. Just like Mom, God will give good gifts, and is also the giver of that “supreme gift” of a child.

A child “is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.” When my husband and I were dating, we would often hear from our married friends that “someday our love will grow so large that in 9 months, we will have to give that love a name.” Whether our friends knew it or not, they were speaking a great truth of their sacrament. Sure, it can be argued that a child might be brought into a family situation that is less than ideal. But God understands the positive impact that can be brought into a family if they choose to view a pregnancy as a gift, rather than a burden.

How does all this relate to the lack of fertility? Alone or not, infertility is something that many people encounter. As I've been writing this post, I think it comes down to perspective. I can look at the situation my husband and I are in and either find it as a way to grow or a way which will lead to despair. I often need to remind myself that infertility is not the end of the world. Ultimately, God is in control of my life. The gifts he will give me are great. I can choose to be persistent in prayer, but, ultimately, I am called to be patient.

Since the original publishing of this article I've learned so much more about the grace and love which God can give. We still have not conceived but have been able to look at the work that we are able to do without having children of our own. Although we still desire children of our own, my husband and I are able to devote more time to those we serve through my job as a youth minister. My husband and I are also working to improve our state in life by paying down debt and improving ourselves to be better parents should that day ever come. Until then we both wait patiently and try to echo the Fiat that Mary gave, that everything be done according to the will of God.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Burden of Life - Gosnell Trial

Last night I was working out with two good friends when the Gosnell Trial came to our discussion. All one friend needed to say to get my mind spinning was "Did you hear that Gosnell has been acquitted of 3 counts of murder? They couldn't prove that the babies were born alive."

As I let this sink in I knew I had to find some news source to back it up. I found two articles from CBS and a local blog. What also shocked me was that since one of the counts of first degree murder had been dropped from one of the infant deaths, one of two counts of infanticide we dropped. Also the charge of abusing a corpse was acquitted since the preserved feet of babies found in specimen jars could not be proven to be taken from children who had been born alive.

As I fumed over these results I couldn't help but wonder what constitutes life?

Merriam Webster defines life as:
a: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body

b: a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings
c: an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
I will admit that Merriam Webster is not a scientific text. The scientific texts I looked at all refer to statement c with slight variation in text.

Mothers who seek an abortion are asking that a living being be removed from them so that their child does not have the chance to live. On some cognitive level both the mother and the abortionist are acknowledging that there is a child growing within its mother. By removing the child at an early stage of development there is no chance for the child to live.

The second question that I ask myself is; if these babies were not born alive, why would Kermit Gosnell need to snip their spinal cord? An answer of just to make certain that the child is dead doesn't make sense. If the child was already dead, why would Kermit Gosnell care to continue, his job was already done.

Abortion is always a hard topic for me to write on. I would adopt children if my husband and I were financially stable. I have prayed and talked with people in front of abortion clinics. I have marched at my state capital and and pray for an end to abortion. Yet, I know it isn't enough.

The on-demand pervasiveness of our culture screams that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. Advertising marketing thrives on this need. The opposite also thrives, that if a person decides something is a hindrance or burden they do not need to follow through with the consequence of their actions. Human entitlement has allowed for us to question the value of life and determine both its start and end.

What scares me most is that court rulings have the power to become the law of the land without needing to be approved by elected lawmakers. It scares me that the acquittal of these three murders will change when a "life" actually begins. That I as a potential mother or my doctor can choose after I have given birth that my baby isn't actually alive. A future with that as a potential truly scares me.

Please join me in praying Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Prayer for the Unborn.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pinata Faith

Growing up, I was the kid at birthday parties who hated pinatas. I would see one and I would just groan and stand in line somewhere behind the kid I perceived as the strongest so I wouldn't have to take part.

My first experience with a pinata was when I was about 3 or 4 at a giant Christmas party. They lined us up from youngest to oldest and had us swing at the pinata shaped like Santa. When it was finally my turn they gave me a large wooden bat, that I couldn't really pick up, blindfolded me and let me swing at air. I could hear the older kids laughing and I hated it. Then I went off to the side and watched Santa getting creamed with a baseball bat. Needless to say I didn't get any candy. I had tried to swing at a pinata after that, but it was consistently missing followed by laughter. I am not a pinata fan.

The idea for this topic came from talking with my husband. I had taken a couple days away from the blog and when I came back my total hits had increased 400%. I was flabbergasted and knew I had gotten some viewers from Big Pulpit, friends who I had told at Living The Sacrament, Phatmass, and Facebook, and was pleasantly shocked when I also saw referrals from the National Catholic Register and the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas. (Howdy from MN) So, thank you for your readership!

I asked my husband what was I doing to get readership? Our conversation went like this:
Me: What am I doing right?
DH: You hit at truth.
Me: Yeah, I hit at truth like children hit a pinata; I miss a lot and maybe once I get lucky.
DH: So do all writers.
Me: But, *pout* I've never hit a pinata.
Humorous as our exchange is, my next thought got my mind spinning. Many Catholics I know, myself included, have that kind of response to our faith. We will swing around wildly trying to hit some form of truth and then pray we get a payback.

Wikimedia Commons

Pinatas have been used to describe the relationship between sin and faith in our lives. The traditional seven pointed pinata depicts the seven deadly sins and by being blindfolded and disoriented, we are sent swinging in our faith to persevere over sin. Once habits and sins are broken we are rewarded for our steadfast and persistent faith.

On the other hand I look at the state of Catholicism in the United States. People pick and choose what they want to believe in. People saying "I'm spiritual but not religious" or that "the Church doesn't have a right to tell me what to believe." Priests who don't speak up on topics of marriage, fidelity, addiction or even say the word sin in their homilies. Especially, as we have just celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday, we are a people wildly swinging hoping to come in contact with truth and collect the benefits when it is opened up to them. Then we are left as I was at 4 years old, disheartened, disillusioned and sad because we didn't come close to touching anything.

I may paint a bleak picture but this is what we are asked to leave through the Year of Faith. We celebrate the start of the Second Vatican Council and the publishing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with mediocrity? No, we are called to live out our faith as a verb while we learn about our faith as a noun.

I also remember when the Catechism of the Catholic Church was first published 20 years ago. My mom bought one from the back of the church and had the cover laminated so it would last. It looked like the picture to the left but it was in hardcover. I remember as a young child wondering what was so special about this book. It was explained to me that it was a book that contained what we believed as Catholics.

Once I was older and had more knowledge of Catholic teaching I would find a topic that I was interested in and just read. I soaked up knowledge like a sponge and I loved it. Now I utilize it or the YouCat to help prepare the teens I work with.

The Year of Faith is still going on. You can pick up a good book like Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You can utilize online platforms such as Flocknote's Catechism in a Year delivered straight to your inbox. You can check out recordings from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

In a homily I heard over Lent, the priest instructed us that even if we haven't engaged in a Lenten practice yet, it wasn't too late. The same can be said for this Year of Faith. Just because you may not have started engaging in your Catholic faith, doesn't mean it's too late to start.

In the comments below, let me know what you are doing for your Year of Faith.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pursuit of Beauty

It should come as no shock that the prevalent American culture puts a high value on the sexual identity of a woman. How sleek, slender and fierce she looks in order to complete her job or attract a significant other. Well this afternoon I was using Google to try and find something I had watched a few nights ago on Youtube before I went to bed and I stumbled across another article. Stop posting that Dove ad: "Real Beauty" campaign is not feminist over at Simply because I read "not feminist" in the tagline, I had to read it. *note* I'm linking to it to cite my inspiration for this article, this is not an endorsement of the article.

I read it and I was laughing at the outrageous and broad brush strokes that the author uses in her writing. In short, this is an advertising campaign for Dove products, aimed at boosting women's self esteem rather than her sex appeal.

If you haven't seen this advertisement yet, have a peek.

Based on this advertisement and the over sexualization of media, I would dare ask the author, what is wrong with this ad? How is it not feminist?

Feminism is the advocacy of equality in women's rights, this can be achieved through political, economic, and social equality. Through the branch of social equality, shouldn't women be able to have self-respect for themselves and have the self confidence to reach their highest potential without continuously being told to change? Isn't part of feminism taking hold of yourself and looking at those telling you to change and say "I am proud to be who I am and you should treat me equally"?

Johannes Vermeer - The Milkmaid

I am a fan of classical art and have noticed how the conception of beauty has changed. The woman that Johannes Vermeer painted above is a healthy, active woman who would have been thought very attractive in his day. Today she would be overweight or obese and unfashionable. But how is she different from the modern everyday woman who Dove chooses to showcase in their advertising? This milkmaid is going about her daily work for her home and family or her local dairy farm and not needing to care if she fits the right image of how people perceive her.

I work with many young women who have an outstanding perspective of their self image. I have worked with other young women who try to change themselves for the chance that the "right person" will notice them. I find this ad an affirmation that all women are more beautiful than they perceive themselves to be.

As for myself, I'm not the over 35 woman with a library card that the article's author describes, (I'm 27 with a library card) but success and determination should be determined by each woman. The stay at home mom has the same level of equality as the high level CEO. A struggling single mother has the same rights and equality as the woman whose income with her husband allows her Gucci and Prada merchandise. The beauty of this ad shows that although it's true that many women have self-esteem issues, the image that a woman sees of herself can be vastly different than how someone else sees her. That sometimes the biggest struggle for equality comes from within herself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Sheep Smell

Since I've been blogging again, I have had the opportunity to read more blogs. This morning on the top of my feed pile was this little article from Pat Archbold from the NCR Blogs titled "Archbishop: Bloggers not Catholic". Needless to say as a Catholic Blogger, it got me scratching my head. I was hesitant, to say the least, to believe what I was reading. Every part of me wanted to scream at the computer that social media and outlets like blogs are the forefront of the current push of the New Evangelization. That being said, I needed to read the homily that was quoted.

Thanks to Catholicmemes. com
This homily comes from the Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols' Mass for Pope Francis from April 10, 2013. Please read it in it's entirety, I found it wonderfully insightful, including today's topic.

One of my favorite quotes from this homily is as follows "Pope Francis is telling us, more than once, that he sees the Church at its best when it is outward looking, going forth to meet people in the specific circumstances of their lives. Memorably he prompted us priests to go out and come back 'smelling like our sheep!'"

As a faithful Church, we need to be interpersonal in our relationships with those that we meet and not be stuck to our same pew, time and quick handshakes at the sign of peace. Pope Francis has been wonderful in this respect through his way of handling his personal affairs. This has been evident since day one of his Papacy. We have a Pope who remembers who he serves and that the best place to serve is at their side.

At the same time, I am not a priest, but I work with teens. The "sheep" I work with smell like they've been drenched in Axe, Old Spice or other cologne/perfume with a heavy dose of insecurity and coming into their own in a highly digitized world where the most "liked" piece of anything becomes law. I serve them, so I spend a lot of time working with them personally and through outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+, and finding the hazards of places like Snapchat and Pheed. As an adult, it is a scary place, as a teen, all of these places look like a slice of freedom.

But at the same time, with freedom comes immense responsibility. There are many teens who cannot yet grasp that. That's when we hear of cyber bullying, trolling and using these media outlets for pornographic messages of themselves. Please note that not all teens are doing this, but this is a staggering upward trend.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols continues by saying;
He has said that when the Church fails to look outward, then it is 'self referential' preoccupied with itself. Then, he added, 'inadvertently she believes she has her own light, and is not dependant totally on Christ for receiving and reflecting his light. If this happens, then the Church (those in the Church) live to give glory only to one another and not to the rest of the world.'
Yesterday, I mentioned how through loving others I see God working through them and with them in their lives, regardless of their knowledge of God. When we fail to love, through sin, we stop reflecting Christ's light and look at each other as a commodity or as an object.

Archbishop Nichols, after speaking about Peter returning to Christ says this:
The Church must be a community rooted in the love of the Lord. 
Pope Francis understands this in practical terms. He has already identified two kinds of behavior that destroy love in the Church. They are complaining and gossiping. He is a practical man. He knows that we live in a society in which complaining and gossip is a standard fare. They sell newspapers and attract us to blogs because we love hear complaints and to read gossip.
But Pope Francis is clear: they should have no place in the Church.
From reading this section of his homily I am momentarily confused. Because of the article from Pat Archbold I am already predisposed to read this as newspapers and blogs should not exist. As a Catholic who blogs, I should take offense and write something angry. On the other hand, within the context of the entire homily, I read that Archbishop Nichols meant that complaining and gossiping have no place in the Church. I don't know about you but we could add things like, spamming, trolling, enticing arguments, and using demeaning words and phrases to what we do as a digital culture.
For example, if you have ever read Youtube comments or many comment sections of mainstream blogs, you will almost always find someone who tries to anger someone else. They often succeed and the responses are often ridiculous. These comments would rarely be said if a person had been talking face to face with another.

Internet outlets have the ability to unite and divide people very quickly. People, and I'm guilty about this too, become so polarized with a topic, they believe that the author is speaking only to them and they have to defend a position. The above comic from always makes me chuckle. I know people like that character; I have occasionally been that character. At the same time, I know that I can choose to engage and "defend" or I can take a breath, think about what I've read, and thoughtfully engage.

Above all, I cannot pretend to know what Archbishop Nichols intended with his homily. From the date, topic, and tone of the overall message, I can infer that he is encouraging we as the Catholic faithful to engage more fully in our faith and communities. To get dirty and work amongst the "sheep" we encounter. It so happens that most of the people I encounter are tech savvy, internet based, and ready to show they have a voice in the world. So, there I will be, right alongside of them, tears, triumphs and smells included.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Love Another Person...

My husband and I are huge musical theater fans. I am not ashamed to say that he is a bigger fan than I. It may not surprise readers that this being said, we are fans of the recent 2012 movie of Les Miserables. *sigh* I have linked to a Youtube clip of the audio.

While I'm not going to debate the Theology of the movie version (I'm still working on the book) I am using the music to make a point. During the Epilogue of the movie, Jean Valjean, at the end of his life sings one of my favorite lines in the show, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

On my Ignatian Prayer Adventure today I am naming my blessings. The biggest blessing that I have and gift that God has given me is that of Love. I can confidently say that I am loved by my husband, my family, my friends and last and not least, God. Yet I also love those I interact with. Each person I encounter is deserving of a different kind of love. My parents and my husband will always have a deep and prominent place in my heart; I have friends that I have adopted as siblings as I am an only child. I also love those I work with and for through what I complete during my days. Those that I love are gifts that God has placed in my life, and I would not be who I am without their love and influence.

Beloved, let us one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. 
1 John 4: 7-8
While I look at those that I love and love me, I truly see how God works through all of us in the world. This ability to see God in each other also comes from being created in God's image. If we were created in his image then we are also made for love.

Because of the love that comes from God, there are other gifts I have received: healing, mercy, joy, hope and faith. Each of these gifts could warrant an individual post of their own. I am grateful for these gifts and I each flows through my life and those lives that I touch.

I maybe digressing from my initial topic so I will return to it now. "To love another person is to see the face of God." Through the Catholic Teaching and Tradition, as well as my own experience, I believe that all human life is to be treated with love and respect just because they are human. I have recognized God in people simply because they are my fellow man. True, I have not seen Jesus' physical face, body, and human form, (unless you count the Eucharist) but I can recognize his love and grace in those I meet. 

To conclude my reflection for the day is to count what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my husband, family, friends, my job, basic necessities, this blog and my faith.

What are things that you are grateful for today?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunshine and Snowflakes and Darkness

Once upon a time when I lived in Iowa, I learned that Spring meant warm sunbeams and crazy western winds from the plains. When I moved back to Minnesota I thought Spring would come a bit later, the winds would be a little less and Spring would eventually come. This year, the winds have followed me from a direction I cannot find, and when we thought Spring had come, we got 13 more inches of snow. 

Nasty trick Winter, nasty trick.

There is something I cannot doubt though, Spring is "here". It is hiding like an illusive child but it is here. (I say this knowing that "Winter Storm Yogi" is going to drop more snow on us Wednesday/Thursday. *sigh*)

Today I started my second week of this Ignatian Adventure and I am beginning to work on the Examen. If you aren't familiar with this practice, it involves prayerfully looking through your day at triumphs and sins and asking to be forgiven as you strive to be better. I apologize if I'm off base with this. Part of the challenge is to walk around today and enjoy God's scenery.

When I read that, I chuckled and said "yeah right, the wind is kicking up enough where road salt is sand blasting my car." Then it dawned on me, while I was running errands today the primary thought I had was "Oh the sun feels nice, and I haven't seen the sky this blue for a while." There I was, basking in the beauty of God's creation between stores and my car, trying to find Red Vines for a friends birthday.

Regardless of what I was doing out and about, I am glad I made it outside today. It is a gorgeous day in Minnesota and I am happy to be here, even if I'm writing this blog.

Then at work, I start seeing posts and tweets about the Boston Marathon. Another great day to be outside until I realize that this isn't what these messages are about. There has been a bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The first I heard of it was from a message that a dear friend sent that she was praying for the victims in Boston. I have since then been praying and keeping up with the news myself. Just last year I knew of a priest who was running the marathon who dedicated each mile to a different prayer request. He had prayed each of the 26.2 miles and I don't know if he was back again this year.

I can't tell you how many times as a "responsible adult" I've been asked why God lets evil happen if he is completely good. What I've learned is that evil is just an easy definition.

If you were to ask me explain mathematical concepts of subtraction or division, I could tell you that they don't really exist. Subtraction and division is just another way to explain a way of addition and multiplication. 5 - 3 can be explained the same as 5 + (-3). Division is the same as multiplying by a fraction. Any scientist will tell you there is no such thing as "cold". If it is cold outside, it is the same as saying there isn't enough heat for it to be comfortable. It would be the same to say that darkness is the absence of light, white is the inclusion of all color and black is the absence of all color. 

Evil is the absence of goodness and grace.

True enough, God has given of himself and God is all things good and filled with grace. To be blunt, the absence of God, his love, his grace, is what we call hell.

What happened in Boston is horrible, we cannot work fast enough to help everyone who is affected by this tragedy. This was not an evil act, this was an act done with the absence of love for one's fellow person. That being said over the next few days we will hear many other stories. Stories of grace and love. Stories of people who ran in where darkness prevailed. These people will be hailed as heroes, I am happy to call these people grace filled, compassionate, individuals who did what was right. They have tended to the wounded, cared for the grieving and brought love into an unloving situation. They are God's love and grace in action. They are living out the Corporal Works of Mercy in our midst.

Then as one person in southern Minnesota I will do what I can, I will pray for those who have been affected and pray that God's grace and mercy touches those who did this today.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is done in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not in
to temptation but deliver us from evil. World without end. Amen

Friday, April 12, 2013

Expectations of Sacraments

Earlier this week I came upon an article by Dr. Taylor Marshall Phd. titled Pope Francis: Infant Baptism Shouldn't be Held Hostage. It is an interesting opinion article regarding the current state of Sacramental Preparation. In many parishes there is some form of preparation before a Sacrament is administered.

As I write this, I am torn, as I have only been able to look at this from the side of the parish. Reading this article I understand what Pope Francis has said on the topic of infant Baptism. I agree that the Sacrament should not be withheld from anyone who seeks it and there shouldn't be a waiting time for infants to be baptized. However, I do see why there are certain "procedures" currently in place in the parishes I have been a part of.

One of the saddest things I have witnessed as a Director of Religious Education or a Youth Minister is the lack knowledge when it comes to the Sacraments. Many parents I have encountered look at the Sacraments as something they are entitled to, as a right of passage, or something they are obliged to do. While Infant Baptism is something that should be done shortly after the birth of a child; many, not all, parents are unfamiliar with the commitment that they are making when they ask for Baptism for their child.

This is the House of God and the Gate of Heaven
Secondly, a little catechesis never hurt anybody. Knowledge often leads people to make better and well informed choices. These choices can include a better and more active choice as a child's godparent and lead parents to want to learn more about the Catholic faith which they are having their child brought in.

Lastly, the approach which parents take to Baptism will often be the approach they take to other Sacraments.

I currently prepare students to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. I always have enjoyed this Sacrament and it hurts when I hear students say that their parents are using it as a bargaining chip. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard students say, "I don't have to go to mass again because my parents are leaving it up to me", "I'm only doing this because my parents are making me", and "I don't know why I'm even doing this".

Students who are seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation do have tasks they need to complete in order to receive this Sacrament. If parents do not take an active role as the primary catechists of their children, there is very little that volunteers or I can do to help them without the student having a personal relationship with the Church.

From my understanding what Dr. Taylor Marshall Phd is sharing, is the need for change from parents when they receive the gift of Baptism for their child. That there is the need for conversion for parents since they are seeking this sacrament. I have met parents who have had their children Baptized and been changed by it and I have met many more who have not taken the need for personal change and repentance in their lives. After all, this is what parents do ask for their child.

Priest: What do you ask of God’s Church for N?
Parents: Baptism
Priest (to parents): N and N, you have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training N in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring N up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
Parents: We do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Yesterday was hard for me to go through the exercise, today was a soothing balm to that hurt.

I often frequent a Natural Family Planning website and forum at and from the women on the forum, I have learned to take an approach to my fertility as Mary did with the Archangel Gabriel. So it came as a pleasant surprise to have Luke's account of the Annunciation. The instructions of the day from "An Ignatian Prayer Adventure" was to "marvel at Mary's freedom to say 'Yes'!"

When I read through the Annunciation today I heard two different things. First I put myself into the story and wondered what it would be like to have an angel tell me that I would be pregnant. I am not saying that I would be given the blessing to carry the Lord but my own child. Gabriel saying "Do not be afraid" I think reaches out to any first time parent's fear of having a child. At the same time I would still be like Mary as I would be concerned with the 'how' it would happen.

Despite Mary's fear she still has the boldness to say yes regardless of all the stigmas of her day. Then I saw the meme to the left and remembered a lot of cultural issues Mary would have faced. She should have been cast out of her family and stoned. From my collegiate studies, Mary was also supposed to be a consecrated virgin. She had reason to be overly scared for herself and her only worry was that she "didn't know man." (v. 34) Gabriel reminds Mary, and myself, that nothing is impossible for God, (v. 37) and that was enough of a reassurance for Mary to give her "yes".

So Jesus had been an unplanned pregnancy and currently, short of divine providence, I am not expecting to become pregnant. My second realization is how a person reacts in faith. I truly do marvel at Mary's yes. Her yes only started with the Annunciation and continued throughout her life. From trying to find the lost child Jesus, to raising Jesus as a single parent, supporting his ministry, and standing by him as he died are only a small list of the yeses Mary gave.

However, I need to be more bold as I step out in faith. I second guess myself, I occasionally doubt my decisions. I look at where God is trying to bring me and stop being a child and digging my feet into the ground trying to stop my moving forward. I need to confidently move forward and not always balance the options.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Loving God and a Lost Child

Yesterday I had mentioned that I had began an 8 week exercise using "An Ignatian Prayer Adventure" and today I almost quit. I almost quit because it got hard and hit one of the spiritual wounds I carry and I don't like to talk about. It took me 6 months before I even considered mentioning it to my new confessor. This is a wound that I don't like mentioning but always seem to come out once I trust someone, a lot. It has also been one God and I have been working on together, slowly, like taking off a bandage with care. Well, today it got ripped off instead. But here's the deal, I wander to different places, I never quit the journey.

When I was a teen I had awful self confidence, I thought everyone hated me and I never knew who I could trust. A mentor of mine and a priest suggested that I begin praying using Psalm 139. It was my rock, it gave me hope and as a teen I had too many highlights and girly doodles around it to signify my obsession with this Psalm. As I grew more confident in myself, my need for relying on this Psalm decreased.

Fast forward to my post college years to now. I am happily married and my husband and I are trying to start our own family. The beauty of how God creates individual life is evident and apparent to families and readers of this Psalm alike. It scares me that my husband and I may never know or fully understand what it means to assist God in his creation. I am afraid that part of it is selfishness because my husband and I are happy with our lives right now, and the other fear I often hold is that I've done something in which infertility is my cross that I am being asked to carry.

This brings me to the questions that the exercise asks me, How does God gaze upon me? I feel like God looks at me with the love that is beyond compare. He looks at me with the same love as when he created me, and will continue until I leave this earthly life. Because of this I feel ashamed and guilty for feeling like I have not and am not carrying my cross with submission.

I vowed that my husband and I would accept life as a gift from God, I just haven't been treating it as a gift. I've been demanding it as a right. By my own blind desires, I am again missing the mark.

Then comes the next reflective question of the day, How open am I to receiving this intimacy? Intimacy, a word that I heard all too frequently as a teen and young adult. It was often explained to me as the act of "into-me-see". Intimacy isn't just the love that my husband and I share with each other but how I am able to see into those I love, to know fully who they are.

This intimacy with God scares me because I don't want God to see inside of me. I don't want God to see my brokenness and woundedness. I want to be better than I am and show that I've been a good steward of his love. Then I recall something I read from St. Therese of Lisieux in A Story of a Soul, "Here is one of those incomprehensible mysteries which we shall only understand in Heaven, where they will be the subject of our eternal admiration. My God, how good Thou art! How well dost Thou suit the trial to our strength!" Because I am loved, because God chooses to bring me closer to him, I am given a trial to which my strengths will assist me. Now, only if I could place what those strengths were.

Through it all, God is often referred to as the "Divine Physician"; if I don't show him what my wounds and scars are, how can I let him heal them? By doing this, I am also accepting of the intimacy that he chooses to share with me. Scary though it may be, it is also beneficial to me as his daughter.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Week One - Day One

At my job, it is often crucial to block out time when possible and go and pray. Since I was able to go on retreat last year I fell in love with the basics of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We weren't able to go deeply into them but there was always something that drew my heart closer to them.

When I hear the word wander, I think of someone going off at their own pace, schedule and time, to get away from what is happening in their daily life. I can do that in most things, but when it comes to prayer, a time I feel like my mind wanders and I can't stay where I want to be. I feel often "trapped" by rote prayers because I know they won't let my mind wander to trivial things. Then I catch myself and remember what St. Augustine said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." I remind myself that maybe my "wandering" is a call to pray more.

Going back to my desire of the Spiritual Exercises, I found an "Ignatian Prayer Adventure" from the people at Ignatius Press. I have done their 3 Minute Retreats in the past and also have been a fan of their printed materials as well. I thought why not give it a shot? So I am.

On Week One - Day One, I was given Isaiah 43: 1-7 to prayerfully read with two questions. They are, "Who is God for me?" and "How does God see me?" Through my prayer I couldn't help but think, "It's day one and already I'm going to be crying." The truth behind this is that I have never had a positive self image of my own worth.

Answering the first question was easy, I know that I am a small piece in the grandness of this world. God is my provider, my caretaker, my confidant and I hope he's my friend. I also remember St. Therese of Lisieux recalling that we are to be as children, lifting our arms up to be carried by him. I don't know why that works, but ask my nephews, they reach up and auntie will pick them up.

The second question was a lot harder for me to pinpoint in words. As I'm writing this I am still trying to find the right words to impart the correct meaning. As with any form of Lectio Divina, I find myself drawn to a passage. "Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life." Isaiah 43:4

Remember when I said I have a low perception of my self worth? When I read this I cannot help but feel that I am loved, I am valued and treasured. How can I not when the largest ransom he paid was his own son? I lose track of that when I cannot see myself through his eyes, when I lose myself in the world's perception. I'm sitting down in the midst of a snowstorm (thank you Minnesota) with really no where to go and the world is still able to reach me, and I know I would rather listen to that than the whispers of our loving God.

As I'm writing this my eyes glanced over another section of my open Bible.
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Accuse me, let us go to trial; set forth your case, so that you may be proved right. Your first ancestor sinned, and your interpreters transgressed against me. Isaiah 43: 25-27
God didn't have to blot out my sins and when I take him to trial he chooses to let me be guilty and forgiven because he pays the price. Above all, I know I am truly loved.

With the snow blowing with the ferocity of the wind off the plains and the furnace blasting to keep me warm, I know here I can tune out the world and listen attentively if I stop and take stock of where I have wandered.

Not all Wandering is Aimless

When I was young, my family would often say I was in my own little world. Going to college, I would find myself among like minded individuals listening or searching for the quirks that made us friends. Since college, I haven't stopped wandering. I've moved to another state and back, gotten married, and found the quirkiest and most amazing people on the way. It has also been said that I have a hard time finishing projects. It's true but it's only because I am usually distracted by something on the journey.

I find the most peace and diversity when I am outside hiking, camping, fishing, or searching. My husband would probably find it worth mentioning that I am the worst person to go hiking with. If I know a trail system and I feel we won't be gone long, I don't find the need to take a map. This will come back to bite me in the butt someday, just not yet.

However, this is how I live. I take life as it comes. I meander, take my time and wander in my pursuit to follow my dreams, ambitions and passions. Although not the most direct path to anything, it does give me the peace and reassurance that I have experienced everything I have intended to and seen many more things if I had just pursued my goal. Time consuming, yes, passionate, always.

I also had to think hard and long in order to think of a descriptor. Words are a potent ally and nemesis. When I ask people what they think of me I usually receive one of two responses, I am either faithful or patient; rarely ever both. I think that both are wonderful descriptions of who I try to be. I am a Roman Catholic who is searching for more answers and reasons to maintain and grow in faith. To study and to learn are practices which require both patience and faithfulness. Yet, I still wander.

When I'm out on the trail or working on my projects, I find that devotion to perfection or rejoicing in what normally isn't found is required of patience and it's greatest reward. So here I am, The Patient Wanderer.

I will be writing on matters of Catholicism, my life and my experiences. I've tried to keep a narrow scope blog in the past and it's never quite worked. If you want to check that out it is here at

I look forward to writing some and sharing more.