Things I Should Be Doing

Things I Should Be Doing

One of the common themes you find among groups of those suffering is the thought that there is something else that you should be doing, and would be doing, if it weren’t for this cross in your life.

For example, James and I have been married long enough that we could easily have a preschooler by now.

And many of our friends do.

Had we stuck with our adoption plans, we could easily have a baby by now.

And many of our friends do.

Last weekend, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a woman for the first time. Not a girl anymore.

I should be making cookies for my preschooler’s class.

But instead, I put on my best face and made cookies for the parish picnic.

More than one child at the picnic grabbed my leg for a moment and thought I was their mamma.

Lord, we have a lot to talk about, you and I.

He heard me.

When one of his children wants to talk with him, you can’t expect him to remain silent, can you?

Take courage, it is I.

For years now I’ve had this nagging, pulling feeling in my heart, that Jesus is calling me to something. I don’t really know what it is, but that feeling is real and it’s not going away.

Radical Trust.

What do these words even mean? They’re also there, repeating in my heart. It’s like he’s telling me that he wants me to abandon all of my plans and desires and wait to accept whatever he places in front of me. And so this is what I’m doing.

And it’s been bringing me so much joy.

The reason I’m putting it out there is because I want you, in whatever you’re going through to have hope.

Maybe Jesus is calling you to this radical trust too – this idea where we can see that yes, bad things have happened, or they loom on the horizon, but no matter what we know that Jesus is with us. The only reason he allows any of this to happen is because he wants your salvation. He wants you to be with him, to have eternal life, and the shortest way there is through the cross. All of our pain, confusion, grief, trials – it’s not the end of the story. The cross is just a gateway to the resurrection.

 

(As a little side note, as soon as I finished writing this post, I Googled “radical trust” and found this amazing post from Jennifer Fulwiler: The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God. I think you’ll like it!)

 

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Called out of Barrenness

Called out of Barrenness

 

Years ago a priest told me “No one is called to infertility. You’re called to be fruitful.”

It took me a good long time to figure out what this means, but I think I’ve finally gotten there, thanks to Jesus. Let me explain.

For a good 12 years, I spent a lot of time crying over not having a uterus. Now, and really it has to be a miracle, my tears have changed into laughter. That’s not to say that I don’t still feel the pain of infertility (Mother’s Day Mass was very hard), but something else has been going on, and I want to tell you all about it.

About two years ago, someone told me that they received a vision of my children. They (my children) were in heaven, they were with Jesus, and they knew that they couldn’t be born to me and James, but they loved us very much. I wondered, “How can this be?” But now, I think I finally understand.

I’ve had this feeling lately that somehow, despite permanent infertility, I will have more children than my Nana—who had 10. These aren’t necessarily legally adopted or even actual children, but rather they are people of all ages. Just ordinary people with their own lives, and somehow I will be a mother to them. And someday, after I die, I’ll get to see all of them, and who I impacted, and how. I think about this, and it fills me up to a point where I just have to cry – but from joy.

A few months back, there was a moment when I received Jesus in Communion, talked to him about my parish, and he told me that my parish family (and all the Catholic faithful) are indeed real family that even shares the same blood – His. We are blood family. I can’t really explain why that hit me so deeply – perhaps years of feeling hopeless in that my family would never truly grow. But it will. And it’s already bigger than I think it is.

And following this realization, the Lord brought me several opportunities to act upon this, and be “fruitful” in a sense.

In May, I went to a meeting where the Lord used me to encourage and inspire people on my parish staff to go out on social media to meet the world. “Be not afraid of vicious comments.” “Christ has no Facebook page but yours.” What started as a strategizing meeting for these people to pick my brain turned into an occasion for the Holy Spirit. I was on FIRE. The Lord wasn’t just using my professional knowledge to help the parish – he was using ME – my personality, my joy, my enthusiasm. The next thing I knew, they had asked me to run it for them, and here I am finally with a real outlet to use my marketing skills for something I truly believe in.

Also in May, James and I hosted a dinner party at our house for my sister and mother’s birthdays. As usual when we’re hosting something, I told Jesus that it’s his house, his party, and his job to please take care of everything and make sure it goes well. Per usual, he was all in favor of this, and we had the most wonderful time. James and I could really see what the Catechism means when it mentions that couples without children can “radiate a fruitfulness of hospitality.” We’ve had at least two more dinner parties since then, and I’ve found that I am the most happy when I’m having people over for dinner.

We even happened to host several cousins, my sister, and a new priest-friend for dinner on the feast day of St. Martha – which was kind of hilariously ironic yet absolutely fabulous. My sister and I decided we might need to make that a tradition.

I find myself now, at the start of August, brimming with joy. Sure, there are plenty of stressful things going on, but for the first time in my life, I really feel like I’m using my talents for God, and that just makes me so very happy. I’m meeting new people, making new friends, and learning new skills. I feel so alive.

Thinking on all of these things now, I’m in awe of how much things have changed for me. Jesus doesn’t see me as “infertile” or “barren” and he doesn’t want me to see myself that way either. He loves me (and you!) just as we are and will use us in his own way to build up the kingdom. And those crosses that we carry – he’ll use those too, and through all of this, he’s creating something absolutely wonderful.

“Behold, I make all things new.” -Revelation 21:5

 

What to do when Mass hurts

What to do when Mass hurts

Raise your hand if you’ve ever cried at Mass.

I don’t know for certain, but I get the sense this is a very common thing.

To be honest, I’m not sure why Mass is often so tear-inducing.

Sometimes it’s a manifestation of Jesus healing something deep within us, and your body manifests this in tears. Sometimes when you feel his presence that’s all you can do. A nun once told me that this is called the gift of tears, but I might not be remembering that correctly.

Other times, though, those tears aren’t about the beauty and the glory of God- not in the obvious sense, anyways.

Sometimes, they’re about pain.

Whenever one is dealing with grief (whether it’s infertility, a painful diagnosis, a death, etc.), it’s common knowledge that one of the absolute most painful places to be is at Mass, particularly on a Sunday.

Why is this?

God is Truth. And when you’re right there in the presence of absolute Truth, you can’t hide your wounds. You can’t cover them up and lie about them to yourself, and certainly not to Him. He brings all things into the light.

And when those wounds (loss, jealousy, confusion, a lack of faith, whatever it is) are exposed like this – it hurts. And it doesn’t take much to send you over the edge into full-blown sobbing.

The priest says something that makes zero sense to you in your situation. You hear a little one scream in the back. You notice a family with living children. Or you see an engaged couple when you’ve been praying for a spouse for years – and your heart just cannot bear it.

“God bless them,” you think. You wish them nothing but the best. But seeing them makes even more obvious the massive, throbbing wound in your own heart.

And you can literally feel the knife in your chest.

What, then, are you to do – besides pray like heck that no one notices your uncontrollable tears?

Trust me – it’s not fun (especially when you’re the cantor and you’re desperately trying to clean your face up before standing in front of EVERYONE and announcing the next hymn).

We could go on and on about why you should or shouldn’t feel what you’re feeling, but that’s besides the point.

That pain is real. So let’s you and me get real for a minute.

The next time you feel that happening – whether you’re hit with a surprise infant baptism after the homily, or an unbearably adorable family of seven, or a little old lady who reminds you of your grandmother you lost long ago, here’s what you do:

Look at him.

As the tears are streaming down your face, look at him. Stare intently at the Eucharist, and as that knife is twisting it’s way into your heart, let yourself feel it. Try to accept that actual, in-the-moment pain and offer it in union with Our Lord’s suffering on the cross, and in reparations to his Sacred Heart.

I know it can sound overly pious, but in a practical setting this is the way you get through this. Acknowledge the real, physical pain of your grief, and try to think about how wounded his heart is, and keep each other company that way. Even to the point of picturing yourself on the cross with him.

I remember several years ago when I had it out with a priest on the phone for something that he did during Mass that really upset me, and I said, “I don’t come to Mass to be crucified.” But in the years after I had said that, I realized, well yes, I do. I mean Jesus sure does. And we’ve been given this amazing opportunity to join him there. Even if it doesn’t feel amazing in the moment.

And sometimes, when you’re looking at him in that way, through the pain of your own crucifixion, you’ll feel him looking back at you as he says, “This day, you will be with me in paradise.”

Anima-Christi

 

Starting a Prayer Journal

Starting a Prayer Journal

I love my diary. Always have, always will. In fact, I have diaries documenting my life from middle school onward. Some parts are fun to go back and read. Others, not so much. Still, it is fascinating for me to see how much I have grown and changed throughout my small 20-something years of life. Things that worried Miss 15-year-old Connie Ann seem ridiculous to me now. Other times, I marvel at what could only have been the Holy Spirit working in my life.

I record all kinds of things in my diary- things people said, places I visited, achievements, etc., but the most fascinating part for me to read now is the development of my relationship with God. There were times in my life where I was on fire with love for him, and other times when I was not. Things happened. Hard things. Looking back, I can see how God used them for his purpose.

My diaries have been great for tracking my faith journey, but now I think it is time for something more. Something deeper. Something more focused.

Something for recording my spiritual travels.
For recording my spiritual travels

I’ve decided to start a prayer journal. I want to keep track of my relationship with God, and where he takes me, and where we’re going, so that someday I can look back and see all the places we have been together.

Some prayer journals list things prayed for, and the way they were answered. Some prayer journals list things to be grateful for each day. Mine may include these things, but really I’m most interested in paying attention to the way God speaks in this life. I hope this exercise helps me to see these things.

Has anyone here kept a prayer journal of some sort? Did you find it helpful? Was it difficult to keep up with? Any thoughts, tips, and suggestions are welcome!

What about me?

What about me?

Remember the parable of the laborers in the vineyard? At the end of the day, the owner pays everyone the same wage, a full daily rate, even to those who had been working for only an hour. The workers who had been there all day got upset and thought they should be paid even more. The owner, (God, in this case) says, “Are you jealous because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15).

How many times when dealing with our sufferings have we thought, “How come she gets babies and I don’t?” “How come they have a good marriage and mine didn’t work out?” “How come they get money and I can’t pay my grocery bill?” All of these things can be summed up in our minds as, “Why do good things happen to everyone, even to bad people, but never to me?”

We don’t wish anyone ill will, but we question why they get the things we desire most, while we are kept waiting. We have been laboring in the vineyard day after day, through the heat and without rest, and yet these people get the things we think will make us happy. So God asks us,

“Are you jealous because I am generous?”

We know that he will take care of us. Who among you would give your son a stone when he asks for bread? But we don’t always understand what this means in our life. What if he doesn’t cure your physical illness, give you money, or make your problems disappear?

God will satisfy the desires of our heart, but that doesn’t mean he’ll give us everything we think we need. Just like 6-year-olds praying for a pony, sometimes adults still don’t understand what they truly need. God is not our personal genie, and we cannot control the way that our Divine Physician chooses to heal. Instead, our job is to seek first the kingdom, to be more like him and to be with him. As we become holier, our wills align more closely with his. Only then will our hearts be satisfied.

He will heal our wounds. He will make us whole. He will bring us to himself.

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

Paul, meet Connie. Connie, meet Paul.

Paul, meet Connie. Connie, meet Paul.

So, I recently started talking to St. Paul.

In case you’re not familiar to praying to saints, this is where God grants his buddy Paul a special grace to be able to hear me, and I ask Paul to put in a word for me to the big man. Much like asking a friend on earth to pray for you, I’ve asked Paul of Tarsus to give our friend JC a little nudge to “wake him up”, if you will. After all, Jesus was known to fall asleep at inconvenient times. (Mark 4:38, anyone?)

Well, St. Paul woke him up.

On the 3rd day of our St. Paul novena, I got to speak with the Creative Director at the ad agency I work for. I told him I want to write, and he wants to help me! He said he would start throwing me some things to play with, and, “You never know,” he said. “I’ve met people who started at the front desk like you and ended up as Creative Director eventually.”

God bless that man.

On day 6 there was another mention from the Creative Director about hoping to hook me up with some writing in the near future, and an apology that he’s been overly busy lately. Clearly, it is on his mind.

Now I’m waiting. Still praying, still hoping, still waiting. But there is hope, and that is a wonderful thing.

Honestly, I don’t even know if a writing position at this company is the answer. Maybe this nod from the creative director is just meant to give me a little encouragement as I continue to seek meaningful work as a writer. The path is still foggy up ahead. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep praying that the fog clears soon.

To keep the hope going, I’m looking for prayer stories. When has God given you a clear answer to your prayer? How did you hear his voice? Where did it lead? Do you have a favorite go-to prayer when you really need guidance?

Sacred Heart Prayers

Sacred Heart Prayers

As promised, a little published update and thank you for prayers heard.

I said this novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Jude:

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us.

You say this prayer 9 times a day for 9 days, and you are guaranteed to have an answer on or before the 8th day. It has never failed. It didn’t fail this time, either.

I prayed for either a new job or career direction. I have so many interests and I’ve been so confused, I haven’t really known what to look for.

This Saturday (the 7th day), I decided to go pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I tried to go in the morning before meeting a friend for lunch, but I ran out of time. Then, when I met my friend, she mentioned that she parked right near a really cool old Catholic Church. Wait, what?

After lunch (and shopping!) we went inside the church to explore a little. Then, when my friend left, I stayed for about 20 minutes to pray.

While I was praying, I looked up and noticed that up above the tabernacle there was a very large statue of the Sacred Heart, front and center. Looks like I’m in the right place. I looked at that statue for a while and remembered why Jesus asked to be portrayed that way- because he loves us. He loves us so much and his heart continues to burn with love for us. He doesn’t want me to be miserable, directionless and without purpose. He has a plan for me.

My eyes were then drawn to the right of the altar, and a statue of St. Paul was there. St. Paul? What’s he doing here? Wait… this church is called St. Paul’s. St. Paul is the patron saint of writers!

St Paul

Yes, the Paul who wrote half the bible (basically) and who is quoted more than any other source in Christianity was an intellectual with many gifts who was called to use those gifts for the Kingdom of God.

I thought this must be the answer: to look to St. Paul, to be a writer, and to ask for his intercession in finding fulfilling employment using those gifts. I still wanted a little confirmation though. And after all, this was only day 7.

That night I started googling St. Paul novenas. I had never heard of a novena to St. Paul. He’s not exactly known to be a heavy hitter like Anthony, Jude or Therese. And then came God’s second whack over the head for me:

It turns out, the Daughters of St. Paul have a special novena to St. Paul, and it starts JUNE 21.

June 21. Sunday. The 8th day.

Boom.

So last night, we continued with our Sacred Heart novena (must do all 9 days in thanksgiving), and we began a novena to St. Paul the Apostle, patron saint of writers.

Anima Christi

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me; O good Jesus, hear me; within your wounds, hide me; let me never be separated from you; from the evil one, protect me; at the hour of my death, call me; and bid me to come to you; that with your saints, I may praise you forever and ever. Amen.

Anima-Christi


When I was a child, I found this prayer in a book that I kept in my room. I would pray it over and over, completely mesmerized. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember having to pull out the dictionary for “inebriate”. Is it weird that whenever I hear that word, my thoughts immediately go to this prayer?

Within your wounds, hide me.

When I was a kid, I remember picturing being tiny and Jesus being like a giant, keeping me tucked in his pierced side and me being perfectly content, as close to him as possible. I never thought that was weird. Oh, the mind of a Catholic child.

Now that I’m an adult, this line has new meaning. We know that we are particularly close to Jesus in our suffering, for it was then that I carried you. Perhaps asking Jesus to hide us in his wounds means we are asking him to allow us to suffer with him. Perhaps it is about taking up our cross and joining him, uniting our wounds with his. Maybe it’s asking him to keep us close in suffering. This beautiful line makes me think of St. ThĂ©rèse and her desire to be small and insignificant. It makes me think of what St. Faustina learned from Jesus, that “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.” It’s something I could spend the rest of my life contemplating and never quite understand. Perhaps that is what makes it so beautiful.

I don’t really know why, but this prayer always fills my with a strange and wonderful fire, like a burning peace, if that makes sense. It is so powerful. If you’ve never prayed it, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Does anyone else find the Anima Christi to be particularly moving? What is your favorite prayer? Is there one in particular that really speaks to you? I’m thinking about making prayer discussion a recurring topic here at TFTV.