And the Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed

And the Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed

Summer of 2018 has been miserable.

There have been no morning coffees on the deck, no pleasant afternoon walks, no evenings gazing up at the stars. At least, not since about June-something. The reason? It’s always either 100 degrees, or raining, or both. It’s the most awful summer I can remember.

And that’s just the weather.

Without going into detail about everything else, suffice it to say that I’ve been angry, sad, overwhelmed, worn down, and just so, so, so done. I’m done.

It’s been a long, dark summer.

And where there is darkness, we crave the Light.

Light dispels the darkness. Darkness is despair. Light brings hope.

Jesus is the Light.

When Christ comes, he destroys the darkness. He is Light. He is Hope. He is Love. Justice. Mercy. Life.

This morning, my usual routine of opening the bible to a random page, it fell on Isaiah chapter 40:

Every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low;
The rugged land shall be a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

You can read the whole passage here. Usually, when we read this passage, we think of John the Baptist, the “voice crying out in the wilderness.” We think of the Incarnation, of Jesus coming to earth 2,000 years ago. But isn’t it also a message for us today?

The Lord sees the darkness we are in, and he is coming to save us. He sees all the work that needs to be done. He sees the jagged mountains of pride, the deep valleys of deception, the rugged untamed wilderness of self-serving hearts.

We are a people living in darkness right now. It’s inescapable. But the Lord is coming, and with him, he brings the Light.

I’ve been getting a lot of comfort today in the words of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We often tend to think of this as a Christmas carol, but really it’s not. Read it slowly.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

Come, “O Wisdom” Come, “O Lord of Might”. Could you imagine a prayer we need more right now? We know that Jesus promised never to abandon us. We wait for him to come and reveal his Glory.

Maranatha!

 

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Bugs, Mud, and Jesus

Last week, a perfect storm of events came together in a way that changed my life forever. I went on a trip that I didn’t plan, and I didn’t even want to go on, but I knew it was what Jesus was asking so I said yes and now…

Ok, let me back up a bit.

Two months ago, I got this text from a priest at church: “Want to go to Georgia with some teens?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. Every year, our parish youth group drives down to Covecrest, a LifeTeen summer camp in Tiger, Georgia. Our group was mostly girls, so they needed another adult female chaperone.

No. Heck no. Oh my goodness no.

I had seen the pictures from last year. People covered in mud from head to toe. Sunburn. Sweat. Bugs.

“No. Freaking. Way.”

So I resolved to call our priest and tell him no. But as I thought “no,” I also felt a little voice pulling me. I was calling him, instead of texting, because part of me, I guess, was a little open to persuasion.

He didn’t answer.

I went to Mass, thinking I would try calling again after. And, well… I looked at the tabernacle and I asked Jesus what to do and don’t you know it… he said Come to Georgia. 

Clear as day, in that gentle voice he always uses so you know it’s him. And his words, “Come” instead of “Go” – he was implying that he was already there waiting for me. It was an invitation, not a command.

I was stuck. I didn’t want to go, but I knew it was him. So I called our priest and gave him my “yes”. He promised it would be awesome, in a way. “No one comes back the same,” he said. I was… a little skeptical.

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus himself asked me to go didn’t stop me from spending the next 2 months dreading the experience and sending spiteful text messages to said priest (i.e. if I die of malaria it’s your fault). But he laughed it off, and off I went to Covecrest.

covecrest

“No one ever comes back the same.”

I had never met any of these kids before the trip. I’ve never volunteered with youth group, ever.

The kids were great – very welcoming, kind, well behaved, so much that for many of them it was easy to forget they were in high school. But the activities, the hiking, the bugs, the mud – it was all difficult for me.

snark

My cross was weighing heavily on me, and my heart was being re-broken, it seemed. I had thoughts like, “If I had kids, no one would ask me to do this.” (Sounds a little like something I’ve said before.)

And yet, I loved being there for these teens. I felt like a mom to all of them. At one point in our small group, I opened up about my MRKH, and it was wonderful to see how sharing this story invited others to open up about their deep wounds too. I knew that God was using me, but it was so painful. I sent my daily guilt-trip text to our priest, but now it had become, “I hate the idea of abandoning these kids after this week.”

This time he threw the guilt right back and told me I could volunteer with the youth group on Friday nights.

Dang.

“Mater Misericordiae”

The last night of camp, something beautiful happened. I was with 4 of the kids, and I mentioned that if I had kids, I would have liked to sing the Salve Regina as a lullaby.

They asked me to sing it to them.

I got all choked up, and invited them to sing with me. So we did. And it was beautiful, and wonderful, and a dream come true. I can’t even describe how much that moment meant to me.

“That’s what Jesus does.”

We drove home singing Taylor Swift and Disney and all the latest Christian pop music. We prayed the Rosary and evening prayer, and my heart was about to burst with joy. We finally parted in the middle of the night with hugs and tears and promises of prayer for one another – and I’ve written some of their names in my prayer book.

I felt as though my heart grew. “You’re going to think this sounds weird,” I told our priest, “but I feel as though my heart has been stretched, in a good way. I feel like I want to love more.”

“I knew it!” he said. “That’s what he (Jesus) does! He makes us capable of loving more. You went on a trip that you didn’t plan and you didn’t want to go on, but you were open just a little bit, and that’s how he was able to work.”

(“I knew it.” Goodness. It was all a set up. Looking at you, two dudes in your 30’s with beards.)

And so here we are, a week out from camp, and… I still can’t sop smiling. I even had a moment in the car driving to work where I found myself overcome with joy thinking about the MANY children that I have.

Remember what I wrote last summer, about that feeling that I would have more children than my Nana? I think I’m watching it come true.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that God is faithful, and that he is working all things together for my good.

So we wrote a letter…

So we wrote a letter…

Hi Everyone!

We talk a lot on this blog about what it means to be a woman, and a Catholic woman at that.

We talk a lot about hope, and what it means to have hope when the outcome you’d like just isn’t going to happen.

Last week I got the change to talk with Chloe Langr of OldFashionedGirlBlog.com about the experience faith, femininity, and infertility on her podcast, Letters to Women.

Here it is:

https://www.oldfashionedgirlblog.com/letters-to-women-podcast/infertility-letter-woman

Enjoy!

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!)

 

St. Gabriel – Not to be confused with the archangel.

St. Gabriel – Not to be confused with the archangel.

Today (February 27) is the feast of St. Gabriel Possenti, also know as St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. I actually have a fun personal story about this particular saint.

stgabriel

St. Gabriel Possenti was a Passionist, living in Abruzzo (the Italian region where my family is from) during the 19th century. He’s the patron of students, young people, and the Abruzzo region.

My great-grandmother had a special devotion to him, as she grew up right next door to the church that housed his incorrupt body. I always heard growing up that my she and her family used to take care of this body, and that our family was blessed because of this.

In my crazy, imaginative Catholic child brain (the same one that thought magical things would happen if you’d only apply a little holy water), I heard this story about “St. Gabriel’s body” and was perplexed. “How does an archangel have a body?”

Different Gabriel, kid.

But still, this question bothered me for years until the advent of Google and just goes to show how truly ridiculous my mind is.

A few years back, I started doing a little more research on this saint, and stumbled upon a link to a website about St. Gemma Galgani, who lived after Gabriel’s death, but had visions of him throughout her life. I was immediately taken with Gemma. Her diary is beautiful and has been a true help to me in the last few years. I really believe God sent Gemma to me right when I needed her, and used Gabriel to introduce us.

This is what is really amazing about the communion of saints. As Catholics we believe that when we pass from this world, we are not dead, but alive in Christ. We are all part of His body. And just as we ask our friends on earth to pray for us, we have friends in heaven that will also give us their love and their prayers. We have a family that loves us, and nothing can separate us from each other, not even death.

The story of St. Gabriel and his friendship with St. Gemma is a real testament to this. And in particular for me, it’s a reminder that saints aren’t always ancient people from distant, far-off lands.

They’re family.

 

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

 

How Not to Hate Winter

I’ve always dreaded Januaries.

Maybe it’s because the post-Christmas solitude often feels empty and uncomfortable.

And it’s cold outside.

Instead of counting the days until Spring, I’ve decided this year to find ways to enjoy the long, dreary winter and live in the moment. I’m baking. I’m watching old movies. I’m visiting people. These are all things that you can do any time of year, of course, but somehow they seem like they belong to the winter.

And of course, celebrating post-Christmas winter traditions helps too. For example, we did out first ever Epiphany house blessing where we chalked the door.

20+C+M+B+17 stands for the names of the three magi, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, and it also stands for Christ Bless this House in Latin.

The changes in the liturgical calendar really help to keep us centered. Ever since I started going to daily Mass, being aware of the different feast days and their associated traditions has really made my life feel more full. (Actually, if you’re interested in a really cool blog on liturgical living, check out Carrots for Michaelmas. I’m a big fan).

But of course, as with most things, there’s a deeper level of this “living in the moment” thing. I’ve been trying (for the last year) to step away from all my plans and dreams, and just exist. I’ve been trying to stop thinking about what I should be or what I would like to be and just be, well, me.

Specifically, I’m trying to just be God’s daughter.

Many years ago as I was talking to a priest at my high school, I told him, “You have no idea how much fun it is to be someone’s daughter.”

I was speaking in reference to my human parents, but I meant it in respect to God as well.

Being able to love someone as their daughter is a unique gift. I really believe this, and I think that is also why it hurts so much for people when their human parents are unable to allow their sons and daughters to love them.

And even if our earthly parents aren’t perfect, we have this opportunity to be in a love-filled relationship with our heavenly father.

What does this look like?

Jumping into his arms to hug him at the end of the day. Crawling into his lap when we’re sleepy or scared. Pouring out our hearts to him and listening as he does the same with us. Stopping by his house to say “hi” in the middle of a busy day.

It’s pretty simple, really. He’s Dad. I’m Connie Ann. And this is where I am right now – trying not to worry about the future, or whether or not there is anything else that I’m supposed to do or to be. If he wants me to do something for him he’ll let me know. For now, I’m just going to sit right here and be his little girl.

3 Phrases About Catholic Family Life that Need to Change

Let me say right now that I fully support and accept everything the Church teaches as true. If there is error in the following, please let me know.

Full disclosure, I’m not a theologian, and the following article is solely my opinion.

Now that that’s out of the way…

In my life as a Catholic woman (28, almost 29 years), I have noticed that in our beautiful, rich, life-affirming culture as Catholics in this country, certain phrases or sentiments have taken root in our lexicon that:

A) Over-simplify the truth to the point of becoming false, and

B) End up hurting people unnecessarily as a result.

Notice that in all of these statements, the problem in the second half of the sentence. We get the “what” right, but our “why” needs a little refresher.

 

Phrase #1: Women are sacred because they “bear life”.

Everyone assumes all women have wombs, and they extrapolate on that. (Example, Alice von Hildebrand in her final chapter of The Privilege of Being a Woman). “All women” have the capacity to bear children, therefore we’re sacred.

The problem: Women are indeed sacred—but not all of us have the capacity to bear children. In fact, not all of us even have wombs (I don’t). Not all of us are called to be physical mothers, and hinging our value on that doesn’t work. At best, it’s only hitting the surface, and ignoring the tremendous depth of what it truly means to be created female. At worst, it’s hurting tons of women who aren’t perfect and making them question their identity and sense of belonging as a daughter of the Lord.

Solution: Let’s avoid the kitsch and get right to the honest truth: Women have a beautiful calling from God to love and nurture and support and encourage and help everyone around them. God calls women to all sorts of beautiful vocations that reflect this: some to be mothers, some to care for the elderly, some to teach, some to guide, but all of us are called to LOVE.

 

Phrase #2: Marriage is like the Trinity because when husband and a wife love each other SO MUCH their love becomes a new person, a baby.

We’ve all heard it before, either in CCD, Catholic school, or even an occasional homily. It’s sappy, it’s cliche, and it’s not entirely true, either.

The problem: Here’s the thing: it’s true that marriage mirrors the Trinity, but this particular phraseology is ridiculous. The Father and the Son didn’t create the Spirit- the Spirit was there from all eternity. This statement sends the message that marriages to which God doesn’t grant children are somehow not complete, not successful, or worse, not even real. Furthermore, many beautiful, sacramental, fruitful marriages do not result in children (CCC 1654).

Solution: Let’s re-write this: “Marriage mirrors the trinity in that the love of a husband and wife radiates new life.” Marriage is life giving, but this doesn’t always mean physically. It means that the love in the marriage generates a spirit of love that spreads outward, affecting the world around them. And that is a beautiful thing.

Phrase #3: That’s a “Good Catholic Family” because they have enough children to fill up the pew.

This seemingly innocent phrase is commonly uttered regarding families with 6 kids under 10 with one on the way. Or, you know, a minimum of 5.

The Problem: NOBODY LIKES THIS. If you ARE a big family, you don’t want to be put on display, and you know that your life is far from perfect. You’re probably embarrassed when strangers say it.

If you’re NOT a big family, this kind of talk makes you feel like you are living contrary to God’s will. Almost every infertile or sub-fertile Catholic that I’ve met in my life has admitted to feeling supremely judged by their fellow parishioners. People assume that they are using contraception, or that they’re afraid to say “yes” to God, when really their “yes” just looks a little different. (Yes, I’ll accept this cross. Yes, I’ll accept another humiliating family gathering, Yes, I’ll accept another excruciating loss.)

This kind of talk, which is embedded into our culture as Catholics, is not only false, but also extremely hurtful all around.

Solution: Do we want to encourage the faithful living of vocations? Absolutely. Does holding up someone’s blessings as evidence of their faithfulness achieve this? NO. In fact, it borders on Osteen-esque Prosperity Gospel. Come on, people, we know how wrong this is. Think of the man born blind.  Let’s talk more about the reality of life, the reality of crosses, the reality of holiness, and stop assuming things about other people, period. We know that blessings come because of God’s insane generosity, not because of our glittery awesomeness. Holiness comes from the cross.

Being a Good Catholic Woman

Being a Good Catholic Woman

What a week in the world of Catholic women’s blogging.

On the one hand, we have this awesome article from Haley Stewart at Carrots for Michaelmas, Things You Don’t Have to Do to Be a Holy Catholic Woman.

Brilliant piece, and remarkably, one that an infertile female like myself doesn’t feel excluded by. I’m very happy that someone took the “wear skirts and homeschool your 10 kids or else you’re going to hell” people to task.

And then there was this garbage– and article that takes a narrow view of womanhood, and says that working outside the home means you’re “indulging in disordered emotional appetites.”

I expected better from Catholic Answers.

 

Being a stay at home mom is a beautiful vocation, and there are many good articles about that. This was not one of them.

Denying that women can find fulfillment in work, denying that many women are called to other or additional vocations beyond motherhood is not Catholic, not true, and not very nice.

Defending your vocation by putting down others is NOT acceptable.

Here’s a direct quote from this article:
“Even if I disliked most of the duties involved in homemaking, I would still do it. Once again, it’s about accepting God’s will and fulfilling the role he appointed—even if one is not titillated by every aspect of that role. Ironically, my working friends will often use this same rationale in defense of their boring jobs, though they will try to stop me from using it.”

Excuse me? “Boring jobs”- God called me to a wonderful vocation of being a wife–and a writer. And a singer. And a composer. And other things yet to be discovered.

 

Almost every female saint contradicts what this author says.

St. Zelie had kids AND her own business- and one of her kids is St. Therese!! St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had children, and she founded a school.St. Theresa of Avila was a brilliant scholar. St. Catherine of Siena was a powerhouse of thought. St. Mother Theresa, enough said. Sts. Agnes, Cecilia, Gemma, Therese, Mary Magdalene– none of these women were stay at home moms, and yet all of them faithfully followed a vocation given to them by God.

 

Really, I have three words for this author:

Joan of Arc.

Rant over.

 

 

 

Whoever gives up children for my sake…

Today’s Gospel has a very special place in my heart.

Peter began to say to Jesus,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Mark 10: 28-31

I’ve been touched by this passage before, and I was super excited that it surprised me at Mass today. It’s like Jesus was speaking right to us. Knowing that we will never have our “own” kids without a surrogate, and therefore giving up “our” kids for the sake of the Gospel. I know they say there’s no getting pregnant in heaven, but it reminds me that God is going to do something great, and somehow I won’t be sad about it anymore.

 

I promise I’ll write better posts soon, but I felt it was important to get this out there into the world today for someone.

Love,

Connie ❤