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.

Gemma

Gemma

This is St. Gemma. I just finished reading her diary. And, um, WOW.

Gemma Galgani was an Italian girl who lived at the turn of the century near Lucca, Italy. Much like St. Therese, her mother died when she was very young, and from then on she embraced Mary as her mom. Gemma’s diary is all about her love for Jesus and her struggle for holiness. What is really remarkable is that she was frequently blessed with mystical experiences, regularly conversing with Jesus, Mary, her Guardian Angel, and St. Gabriel Possenti.

I loved her diary. I really loved it. She was close to my age, and reading the conversations between Gemma and Jesus were just so…. I can’t think of a word. It was awesome. And in her diary, Jesus comes across as a real person- not just the up-in-the-sky ethereal Godhead, but the real flesh, blood and personality that we know is true but so often forget. He has a personality!! His facial expressions show real emotions, and he laughs. And her guardian angel even says things like, “Gemma, you have to talk to Jesus this way, otherwise he won’t want to do what you ask.” How human is that!!?? As Catholics we believe that Jesus really is human and divine, but how often do we remember the human part? There’s even one part where Gemma says something to Jesus that her guardian angel had told her, and Jesus gets kind of a stern look on his face and said “I don’t like him to tattle on me.”

Reading St. Gemma’s journey to holiness made me think a lot about my life, and I think it has a great lesson for everyone. So much in life is out of our control. Gemma was never able to become a Passionist sister, as was her dream. And some dreams really do not come true, no matter how hard we try. But God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, and that is holiness. We are made for Heaven, and the prayer for holiness will always be answered. This dream will come true.

St. Gemma’s diary is a love story with Jesus.  He loves us more than we can imagine, and all he wants from us is our love in return.

If you’d like to read more about St. Gemma and her Diary, click here.

St. Gemma, pray for us.

When Necessary, Use Words.

When Necessary, Use Words.

Truth be told, I’m rather non-confrontational. I don’t seek out arguments. And if there’s one skill I learned at the auto body, it’s patience and calm under fire.

That being said, it seems rather ironic that I’ve always had an interest in Catholic apologetics- studying, explaining and defending the faith against misconceptions (and the occasional outright lie).

As Christians, we are called to evangelize. What does this mean? St. Francis of Assisi is famously quoted saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Our love should be the primary witness to Christ in our lives. No one likes a pushy door-to-door Bible salesman, or the people who confront you at the mall on Sundays when all you want is a new pair of jeans.

When Necessary, Use Words.

But what about those times when words really are necessary?

I usually don’t start discussions about differences in faith. My general philosophy is that no one is converted in an argument. If someone asks me questions about my Catholicism, I’m happy to answer. I love religious discussions. But I usually don’t go looking for debates.

Recently, thanks to social media, I’ve been involved in a few of these. The first was quite amicable. It was difficult, but everyone involved was respectful and polite. I truly believe that the participants were seeking the truth.

The second of these was markedly different. It was with a stranger: a professed atheist. He started poking me a little, but he seemed polite enough. It was civil, so I entertained him for a bit. But as the conversation wore on, he lost his cool. He started getting rude. And then he crossed the line: he referred to his atheism as “the way, the truth and the life.”

That’s when I knew who was talking. I said a prayer and ended the conversation.

So what’s the takeaway? How do we handle conversations about differences of faith? Do we never discuss religion at all, be friends with everyone, and go through life never making waves? But what about all the misinformation out there? Don’t we need to be witnesses to the truth of the gospel, and aren’t words necessary at times? How should we handle things like this?

+AMDG+

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. Thérèse 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.

Radiating Fruitfulness: Sacrifice

Radiating Fruitfulness: Sacrifice

We made it! I made it! Welcome to the third and final installment of my first series, “Radiating Fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality, Sacrifice,” where we explore what it means for a marriage to be fruitful, even for those of us not blessed with children. If you’re just joining us, feel free to check out Part 1: Radiating Charity and Part 2: Radiating Hospitality.

Radiating Sacrifice

Somehow that title doesn’t have the same ring as the last two. The word “sacrifice” doesn’t exactly fill us with warm fuzzies, does it? Still, the Catechism points to sacrifice as a way in which all marriages are fruitful. What does this mean?

Sacrifice means giving something of ourselves, offering something up, as a gift to God. Sacrifice is an act of love, and an exercise in trust. We know that we will be ok without these things, because God is our strength. Christ gave is own life as a sacrifice on the cross, to redeem us. We in turn take up our crosses daily, uniting our suffering to his.

We know that marriage comes with sacrifice. We vow to love and honor each other “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.” Even in the good times, placing the needs of your spouse before yourself isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sanctification in marriage comes from a daily dying to yourself for the sake of the other. “No, I’m not going to stay at the office later than I have to, because I have a wife who needs me.” “Sorry, I’m going to have to cancel my plans to take care of my husband who’s not feeling well.” “Yes, I’ll hold my tongue in front of your mother.”

Those things are little, and yet we know there are bigger sacrifices that come with love.

“No, we’re not going to live together before marriage because we trust that God has a plan for us, and that sex belongs in marriage, period.”

And then, the struggle of the infertile:

“No, doctor/mom/dad/brother/cousin/myself, for the thousandth time, we refuse to engage in IVF. Yes, we know that that is our only chance for a biological child. Yes, we are suffering, more than you realize. But we trust that God has a plan for us, and that new life is sacred. We make this sacrifice because our souls are more important to us than the fulfillment of our dreams, because our greatest dream is the Kingdom of God.”

What good, truly, comes from these sacrifices? If we look with human eyes, we only see the pain. In the first instance- “My spouse is encroaching on my comfort.” In the second- “Quaint, archaic rules are getting in the way of how I want to live.” In the third- “Old men in Rome are dictating whether or not I can have children.”

If we look with eyes of faith, we see the Glory of God. When we sacrifice and die to ourselves, we open our hearts and become holier people, and that holiness radiates outward.

Like St. Therese’s “Little Way”, we are growing in holiness through small, everyday sacrifices. In the first instance, sacrificing your own comfort to tend to the needs of another bears witness to the love and patience of the Father.  In the second instance, bearing witness to the truth of sexuality goes so far against the grain that it angers those who can’t bear the light. While many won’t have to courage to say it out loud, more than one will be touched by this witness. And on a much more personal note, couples can attest to the many blessings and graces that flow after marriage as a result of this sacrifice.

In the third case, perhaps the witness is more silent. Perhaps not many will know that refusing IVF comes with an immense suffering on your part. But I promise, it is worth it. Graces flow from obedience. In the words of Our Lady of Lourdes, “I cannot promise you happiness in this world, only in the next.” Couples dealing with infertility are on the front lines of the culture wars. Our witness to the dignity of life and the sanctity of marriage matters. It is perhaps a still, small voice- but one that has the power to open eyes and change hearts.

 

We know that all love bears fruit. It is my hope that this series might be a small comfort to my brothers and sisters who are suffering in the throws of infertility. I promise you, your marriage has a purpose. God has a plan. I pray that all who read this will experience the healing touch of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that whether or not you have children, your marriage will bear much fruit, for his greater glory.

+AMDG+

 

RadiatingFruitfulness

The Author of Life

The Author of Life

The infertility stories in the bible have one thing in common. They all end in a miraculous pregnancy. Abraham and Sarah conceived in extreme old age, despite the sins they committed in their distrust of God’s promise. Hannah cried in the temple and vowed to give her child to God, if only he would grant her request. God said yes, and Samuel was born. Elizabeth and Zachariah, the parents of John the Baptist were infertile and advanced in years, yet God answered their prayers, regardless of Zachariah’s doubt.

Some will point to these stories and say that if you pray hard enough, you will conceive a child. They claim that if you’re still not pregnant, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. There are even a number of books that espouse this notion.

I call bullshit.

You heard me.

The point of these biblical stories about miraculous cures of infertility point to one big TRUTH:

We are not the author of life. God is.

God is in charge. God has a plan. God has the ultimate power to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whichever way he chooses. Human beings may cooperate with God’s design, but we are not the ones in control. Period. He proves this time and time again in Scripture. Mary, a virgin, conceives. Lazarus is raised from the dead. Job’s life goes in all over the place. The widow’s oil and flour is always replenished, and as God cares for the sparrows and the fields, so too will he care for you (Matthew 6:26).

In our world, there are many beautiful, wonderful, faithful women who never conceive. Infertility is a symptom of our fallen world. It is not their fault. It’s no one’s fault.

God gives each of us different gifts, depending on his plan for our life. This is why we pray for his will, and for and increase in faith and trust on our part. Just because God can doesn’t mean he will. And even though he may say “no” or “not yet,” he always has a perfect plan.

Someone Much Greater Than Me

Someone Much Greater Than Me

Ok, as promised, a post about my veil experience.

Let me start with the fact that in nearly 27 years of existence on this earth and as a Catholic, the only times I have ever worn a veil to Mass were for the sacraments of First Communion and Holy Matrimony. That’s it. A 2nd grader excited to dress like a bride, and an actual bride.

Other than those two events, I’ve never even thought about it. Growing up, my mom told me pre-Vatican II Catholic school stories of teachers bobby-pinning a paper-towel to her head at the last minute for Mass. Vatican II meant no longer having to wear yucky and embarrassing brown paper on your head. Yay for the better world we live in today!

I don’t want to get into a discussion of the wherefores and why-nots of wearing veils to Mass. Personally, I’m fine when people do. And it’s not really for me, because being as ridiculously self-conscious as I am, I hate the idea of drawing attention to myself (this girl feels nervous when her husband starts shouting talking loudly in a noisy restaurant).

Then I had my Burning-Bush moment.

Honestly, I know no other way to describe it.

It was a Thursday evening, about 6:15. The church was dark, except for the red candle near the tabernacle. As I began to pray, I felt this overwhelming sense, “Cover your head.” I mean, it came out of nowhere. I happened to be wearing a hoodie. I hesitated. “What would someone think if they saw me? Would they think less of me and think I was some kind of nut? Or would they think me more holy than I deserve?” “Stop worrying. Cover your head.” I put the hood up. It made me think of the way that God told Moses to take off his shoes in his presence in the burning bush. And then I felt at peace. Who cares what anyone thinks. Pride is my greatest struggle, I think. I prayed about that. And when I looked at the time, three quarters of an hour had passed. It was the most profound spiritual experience I’ve had in nearly a decade.

I know some modern Catholic authors say that women should wear veils because their bodies are sacred life-bearers. As a woman who’s body was created infertile, this never sat well with me. Clearly there must be more to this, right? I remember learning that Jewish men cover their heads in prayer as a physical reminder that God is above them. I like this. And this is what I felt that night. It was an acknowledgement that there is Someone much greater than me, very much above me, and this is what I was to do in his presence.

 

So, we haven’t talked in a while…

In the last few months, I have felt an unusual stirring in my soul. A pull. A tug. Whatever you want to call it.

I don’t know what it is he wants, but I know God wants something.

When I was a child, I was completely in awe and would love nothing better than to spend hours in prayer. This fervor faded a little bit when I was started college. It never completely went away, but saying I’ve had a 10-year spiritual dry spell wouldn’t be completely inaccurate.

In the last few months, I know he’s been calling me back. I have this overwhelming sense that there is something he wants me to do, but I have no idea what it is. I can’t see the big picture. All I can see so far are the little steps.

He asked me to start reading again. Every morning before work, I read as much as I can from the bible over breakfast. So far I’ve been through the Gospel of John, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and 1 Samuel.

He’s been nudging me to pray the rosary at various unusual times. A few times in bed after my husband was asleep, and occasionally at other points. This is kind of strange, as I never really liked praying the rosary, even when I was younger.

I stumbled across St. Gemma. Never heard of her before, but I can’t stop reading about her.

Last month, on what happened to be a Thursday, I had an overwhelming urge to pray in front of the Eucharist. I went before the tabernacle at 6, and by the time I looked at my watch it was almost 7. What happened during this hour was unlike anything I had experienced since I was a girl. Non-stop tears, and an inexplicable desire to wear the hood of my jacket. So I did. And more tears. More about this in a future post.

I don’t know where this is leading. I’m trying to be patient.

I can’t focus on anything else.

 

Anything-Can-Happen October

A week ago (while we were on our Great Western Vacation), I got one amazing piece of news. I’ve been chosen as this month’s Adopt-A-Blogger by This Cross I Embrace, a wonderful blog that I’ve been following for years, and mentioned in this previous post. I am so incredibly grateful for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and support. If you’ve never heard of this beautiful prayer campaign, check this out:

Adopt-a-Blogger

I’ve been asked to write a few paragraphs about myself, and truth be told, I don’t know what to say. My infertility journey is a little unusual. At age 16, when I still hadn’t gotten my first period, my mom took me to a number of doctors until someone was finally able to figure out the issue. To everyone’s shock, we discovered that I was born with MRKH- a rare birth defect that affects 1 in 5000 women: I was born without a uterus, cervix, and, well- check this website out for more information, if you’re curious as to details. That kind of shock doesn’t just literally affect the course of your life- it also creates a huge identity crisis. Was I actually female? Was I still like every other girl? Why did God make me this way? What was the purpose of this? Why make me female and Catholic without any hope of becoming a mother?

That was 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve done a lot of grieving, and I’ve come a long way. I learned that having a uterus isn’t what makes someone a woman (even though in our English language, we refer to a girl’s first period as “becoming a woman”). I’ve learned that being a faithful Catholic does not mean that your marriage must produce 6+ children. I’ve learned that my life has meaning and value, and that God does have a purpose, even if I can’t see all of it at once.

I feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing in that black bag of cures for me- yet if I’ve learned that if I really want happiness, I can find it in my own back yard.

James and I are looking forward to adoption, and hopefully we’ll be able to start the process in the Spring. In these past 10 years, I thought I had done my share of grieving, and it seemed that I had come to peace with my own loss. But, oddly enough, marriage has made me start grieving again. I’m grieving for my husband’s loss. I’m grieving for our loss as a couple. I (and we) need healing and help with this grief. If you are so kind as to participate in this wonderful program with TCIE, please consider praying for our emotional healing and for us to get through this new stage of grief, and for us to have courage and success with adoption, if it is God’s will for us.

Thank you, and God bless.

3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

It has now been 10 years since I learned that I don’t have a uterus (MRKH). During this time, having sought the help of many faithful lay people, priests, theology books, saints’ writings, blog posts and support groups, I have noticed that there is a gaping hole in the body of Catholic publishing and public awareness. Catholics dealing with infertility have plenty of resources telling them what the church does and does not permit with regard to reproductive technologies. What they don’t have is enough spiritual support to help them walk the difficult road they face.

I love that Pope Francis talks about the Church as being a field hospital. It’s not just a place for the perfectly holy with perfectly working bodies who live in perfectly formed worlds. There is sin, there is suffering, and there is death. We live in a war zone.

I don’t know anything about pastoral techniques, and I don’t have a theology degree, but I have walked this particular road long enough to have a decent view of the landscape. Taking the last 10 years into account, this is what I would like the world to know:

Infertile people need help carrying this cross. They need validation of their suffering, confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ, and encouragement to walk the path set before them.

1. Validation of suffering.

Accepting infertility is a grieving process, not unlike grieving the death of a loved one. The pain is real. Don’t minimize it. Never tell someone to “get over it.” Even years later, something unexpected can trigger tears without warning (prime example: Facebook pregnancy announcements- especially with pictures). Your infertile friends are grieving. Minister accordingly. Ask them how they’re doing. Empathize. Tell them you love them. Help them feel loved. Help them know that God loves them and has a plan for them, in spite of their body’s failings. Don’t offer false hope, and beware of Prosperity Gospel squeaking its way in. Sometimes, more prayer isn’t going to make a baby. God will do what He wills, not what we will.

2. Confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ.

Simply put, many of us feel like we don’t belong. We’re surrounded by other couples who have been gifted with children.

Infertile couples need to know that their marriage has a purpose in itself, with or without children, which are a gratuitous gift from God and not a prerequisite to a faithful union or a required demonstration of fruitfulness. Being “open to life” means being open to whatever life God has planned for you, be it 10 children, no children, overseas missionary work, or anything else. Growing up in a family, it’s natural to expect children-but what right do we have to expect a gift? If we teach that certain technologies are wrong because children are a gift and not a right, then we need to carry that through and emphasize the fact that marriage is not made complete by the blessing of children- sacramental marriage is already complete to begin with. This teaching tends to get lost. We need to remember that children are not the only manifestation of fruitfulness in marriage. They are most obvious, but not the only. Let’s talk about other manifestations of fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality and Sacrifice.

3. Encouragement to walk the path set before them.

Following the teachings of the Magisterium in the case of infertility may be the hardest thing that many of these couples have ever done in their lives. With some forms of infertility, the the only way to fulfill the good, natural, and burning desire for a biological child is through illicit treatments. Laying down these God-given desires and freely choosing to forgo these technologies (sometimes out of pure obedience rather than agreement) is a tremendous sacrifice. It is truly dying to oneself. This self-sacrifice can go on for years, or even a lifetime. If you know someone dealing with infertility who is trying to follow Church teaching- encourage them. Recognize their desire to please the Lord. Don’t beat them down with doctrine and never, ever say, “just adopt.” Adoption is a unique calling, one that the couple needs to discern separately.

The best thing that anyone ever said to me upon expressing my frustration with Church teaching was, “God gives us these rules for a reason. He knows what is ultimately going to make you happy. Somehow, I don’t think that IVF is going to make you happy.” Those words have stuck with me ever since they were said some six years ago, and they have become the biggest source of encouragement for me along this path. True, these words won’t work for everyone, but there is something out there to give life to The Way for each person who desires to walk it. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to help us to see the beauty of the Church’s teachings. Help us stay strong in our belief that this road is worth it. Be a friend along the road, even if it’s the Via Dolorosa.