You’ll Never Guess What Happened

I promise I have a very good reason for not having written here in about 9 months. And I promise I’ll tell you what it is. But you’ll have to wait a minute or so.

We’ve had so many new and different experiences since last year. You can see the highlights on my Instagram (trips to Texas, Rome, Panama, Chicago, etc.), but I’ll focus on the big stuff.

I spent the entire month of October 2018 living in Rome at the North American College, covering the Synod at the Vatican on social media. Some really cool stuff happened:

paul and pope

But it wasn’t all papal greetings and gelato. As the month wore on, I felt more and more uneasy about something. The scandals, the clericalism, it’s hard to stomach for anyone, but when you work for the Church, it takes on a new level of intensity. The Church is made up of humans, and sometimes those humans can be horrific cesspools of sin. Theoretically I’m supposed to know that (I am one, sometimes, of course). And I was already starting to feel demoralized over all of it before my trip. But while in Rome, I snapped.

I ran into a chapel and said to the Lord directly, “If this is your kingdom, I don’t want any part of it.”

Bet you’ll never guess what he did.

Somehow, through some connections, I was invited to go to Eucharist with a community of the Neocatechumenal Way on a Saturday night at a parish in Rome. I couldn’t resist – I just had to see what this was about. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say I was floored. This is someone who likes singing in Latin, who loves incense and solemn worship spaces, who prefers silent Adoration to the praise and worship version… and yet, at a little parish in Rome, I fell in love with the liturgy of the Neocatechumenal Way.

When I returned home in November, James and I joined a community here in the DC area. It’s hard sometimes, especially since we hover between two parishes now, but the way that the Way celebrates the Eucharist is what holds me there. And the fact that we’ve met more people in just a few months with the community than we have in years at our other parish.

Outside of this massive shift in the way we experience Catholicism, everything else in our lives was also going crazy. Work was hard. I stopped going to choir because I felt overwhelmed. I began feeling like I had to just tread water. But also, something else was going on all the while.

Last June, when I chaperoned a bunch of teens at a LifeTeen camp in Georgia, I said that my life had been changed forever. I meant it. I couldn’t yet say what it was, because my family reads this blog, and I was keeping this a secret until I was ready to share with them.

My husband and I have a wonderful life. A wonderful, awesome, sometimes challenging, but very fulfilling life. And infertility is a big part of that life. We had attempted adoption about 3 years ago, but we knew it wasn’t where God was calling us, at that time. So we stopped trying to adopt, and we focused on life.

When I went on that trip to Georgia, something happened between me and God. I felt like my heart had been stretched. And… at the end of the week, I decided I wanted to adopt.

We researched international adoption all summer long, and in September 2018, just before I left for a month in Rome, we started the process to adopt a child from China. The entire paperwork process was fraught with many ups and downs, and many, many moment of me wanting to give up. There was even one period of time (December 2018) when our social worker told us she wasn’t going to approve us. I wanted so badly to call my mom and cry but James and I had decided that we weren’t going to tell our family until we were matched, because we wanted to do this on our own, and make these decisions with just us and the Lord.

Throughout the whole process, never once were we at a point where we were “craving” a child. It was more that God had placed this on our hearts and we knew that, if it worked out, it meant that somewhere in the world, there was a child he wanted us to love. And we knew that if it didn’t work out, that would be ok too, and we had often resigned ourselves to that kind of suffering.

But, it did work out. And we will be traveling to China to bring home our 3-year-old SON in just a few weeks.

I’ll share more about the way God has been leading us through this, but that’s a long enough blog post for now. ❤
GabesRoom

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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!

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.

 

We’re Going to Fatima.

 

October 13, 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the famous Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

Something’s been nagging at me for a while that we should go. We were already planning on going to Spain next October, so why not add in Fatima? And regular readers know that I’m not one to discount interior feelings.

I told Jesus that if we’re supposed to go, let me know and make it happen.

Nothing really stuck out at me, but that little feeling of “let’s go there” has stayed with me.

So we’re going.

I never thought I’d be going on a pilgrimage—or to Portugal, no less. We love to travel, but these things were never on our list.

And really, I’m not sure what it means to me. We’re not Fatima groupies or apparition junkies. We do pray the rosary most days. I would like to say daily, but I tend to skip it most Saturdays and Sundays. I’m working on that.

I’ve been on quite a faith journey in the last year, and who knows where I’ll be next October. But this feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m going to take it.

Maybe this trip will change my life.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

 

 

What exactly is Eternal Life?

What exactly is Eternal Life?

One of the best homilies of my life happened on a weekday morning mass at St. Matthew’s in DC. 

It was several months ago now, so I don’t remember all of the details, but it had such a profound effect on me that it must have been the Holy Spirit speaking through the priest that day. 

I don’t even remember whether the gospel reading was the Bread of Life discourse from John, or the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, or something else.

What I do remember is that the priest was talking about eternal life.

Here’s where my whole perspective on my daily living was changed.

What is eternal life?

Joy.

Pure, unnatural, overwhelming joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding.

When we say that Jesus offers us eternal life, we think this refers to when we die and go to heaven. Yes, it means that, but it’s more than that. Eternal life starts NOW.

Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is life. This gift of eternal life is the gift of Himself. And He is love, peace, and JOY.

What does it mean to be joyful? Does it mean we’re always stupidly happy no matter what happens, even in the midst of tragedy? No, that’s not what joy means. There are times when we grieve, there are times of suffering and many, many tears. But this doesn’t mean we lose our joy.

Joy is the peaceful assurance and hope that God loves us and reigns over all. We know in the depth of our being that we are LOVED. 

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s a grace, a sign of His life within you. It’s the only real comfort in the midst of suffering. It comes from the faith that God loves you, rescues you, and works all things for your good.

Eternal life isn’t something I have to wait for. I have it now.

And I have never felt so free.

I’m a Wretch, You’re a Wretch

I’m a Wretch, You’re a Wretch

What is the virtue humility, and what does it mean to be humble?

I did a little Googling on this last week and found these awesome videos from Gabriel Castillo. This guy is definitely intense, but WOW, what a teacher. Each of his videos are like a 30 minute retreat.

I found his two part series on humility, and this is what I got from it. Humility means knowing 2 things:

  1. The truth about who you are.
  2. The truth about who God is.

That’s it, that’s what it is.

So, who are we? We’re dust. We’re miserable. We continually fall into sin and can’t do crap on our own. My favorite line there: “I’m a wretch. You’re a wretch. We’re all wretches.”

Yes, we’re all wretches. But the good news is that God,  who is infinite power and goodness and love, loves us and even became one of us to save us from our wretchedness. And in his infinite mercy, he fills us with his grace. And then,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Jesus-The-Good-Shepherd

If you want to know more, you’ll have to see this video. Part 1 is about humility, and part 2 is about listening and following God’s will in your life.

Once you see this, there’s no turning back.

Ready for your life to change? Check out the video.

“Littleness”

“Littleness”

Any time we go through grief or suffering of any kind, we have good days and bad days. Sometimes we have good minutes and bad minutes. The other night I was having a bad hour (after a very good day, no less) and an image came to mind of  “the poor little MRKH girl,” like “the poor little match girl” but without the dying part. And it made me think.

Perhaps it is in the carrying of our cross that we become all the more special to our Heavenly Father. Maybe it is our greatest pain that endears us to him. Maybe seeing us in our most trying agony moves his heart and makes him want to hold us. Like the way Tiny Tim was special to his father Bob Cratchet, maybe it’s the same with God. Maybe the littler we become and the more we recognize how desperately we need God, the more he yearns to give.

Feeling “little” isn’t a bad thing. Christ himself said that we must become like little children. The greatest saints all recognized their own helplessness and need for their Savior. Maybe that’s why children and poverty are such a popular theme in Christmas stories. Jesus came into the world as a helpless infant, and we are meant to recognize how small we really are. That’s why he taught us to call God “Abba”-the equivalent of “Daddy”. It’s only when we are comfortable in our littleness that we can reach our arms up to heaven and call for our daddy to pick us up.

tiny-tim-120305

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.