Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lent: Luminous Thursdays

the fruit of Desire for Holiness. Here's my take.

The Transfiguration was an awesome sight for Jesus's most beloved disciples. As faithful Jews they revered Moses and Elijiah. This event foreshadowed the coming Rsurrection and Jesus walking the earth again unrecognized. It also emphasized how wise Jesus was in His disciples' eyes.

Peter went a bit out of his head when presented with the sight of these holy men. H was star-struck and uncomprehending. Yet, his first thought was not to gain something for himself. Instead he offered to build tents for the holy men to shelter them from the elements. This is a drastically different reaction than most star-struck individuals of this day and age. Cameras are whipped out of pockets, clothing is torn, booklets or scraps of paper are thrust into the faces of the star. In ancient times, selflessness was highly regarded. Caring for elders, the unfortunate, and the revered was foremost to these people.

Jesus's disciples had also had quite some time to absorb Jesus's teaching of further humbling themselves. Their desire for holiness was not simply for themselves, but firstly in homage to God. The disciples sought to share the knowledge of these holy men with others, but also offer the holy men some rare privacy and accommodations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the same were true today? I pray to desire holiness for God's sake not my own. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion. From this solemn mystery we are to gain the fruit of perseverance. Here's my take.

The path Christ carried the cross-member of Hs cross was arduous. The crowds and soldiers jeered and inflicted insults upon His battered body. Historically, I've learned that carrying the cross-member was somewhat reserved for further humiliating the victim of crucifixion. Although the entire cross was not carried, the cross-member weighed upwards of 100 pounds. Carrying an awkward load like this after being scourged was simply more torture and a means of ensuring a fairly quick, although more excruciating, death once crucified.

Christ knew this was His cup in the Agony in the Garden. Perhaps He thought He fully understood the physical pain, exhaustion, and grief that this cup meant. I can personally say identify with that thought with my breast cancer journey. However, no matter how prepared you think you are, the reality is unbelievably different -- usually worse. However, even if Christ was surprised at the horrible reality of this cup, He persevered in His task.

Christ didn't have to do anything. At any point Jesus could have called the angels to His aid. He is God and all-powerful. However, the other side of God is that He is all-loving as well. John 3:16 is often quoted, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." God's plan for His Son included this excruciating and humiliating death. Jesus willingly accepted that this was the only way to save man-kind. Why were we worth all this grief?

In a way, we aren't worthy of anything. We are sinful, prideful, independent, careless, etc. however, just as God has another side; we too have another side... We were created in His image. God gave us free-will and desired that we use our gifts for His glory. Not because He needs us, but because love is not complete without being returned. The ultimate gift of love was laying down His life to ransom us. It was a huge price to pay, but since God created us out of love, He saved us out of love.

Jesus told the parable about the lost sheep. As a literal (OCD) person, I've always had a little trouble with this parable (kind of like the one about sheep not opening their mouths when they're sheared or slaughtered). In the parable, the shepherd abandons 99 sheep to find one. In my experience, farmers (as close to shepherds as I've experienced) do not abandon the majority of their animals. Perhaps if the lost animal is the only one of its kind or highly prized for some reason, they may look for it. However, realistically, the 99 are worth much more than one.

This is another example of how God's ways are not our ways. Jesus's point, the moral of the story, is that all of His flock are prized. If I try to think like God (impossible I know, but I try) and abandon what little I know of farmers (shepherds), I can reason that having one sinful person return to the flock means more than keeping 99 in the flock. The reason is because the return of the one indicates the depth of love of that one. Initially the lost sheep forsakes its shepherd. Once it is found, the sheep once again obeys its shepherd. This type of devotion is crucial to our relationship with God.

How many times have I been that lost sheep? How many times have I abandoned what I know is right to do what I want? How often do I express my love for God by doing His will and not my own? I pray that the answer to the latter is 'often' and to the former are 'seldom'. In truth, I know that I need to be more like a sheep to God's shepherd.

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The fourth Sorrowful Mystery is the Carrying of the Cross. From this mystery we are to gain the fruit of patience. Here's my take.



During Lent most Catholics participate at least once in the Way of the Cross. Catholics have elevated this Sorrowful Mystery to it's own prayer. In some opinions, we emphasize the suffering of our Lord more than the celebration of His rising. However, is it possible to do one without the other?

Although He was already suffering greatly, Jesus showed exemplary patience along His death walk. He fell only to fall again and again. He was given unwilling aid from Simon the Cyrene. Yet, He looked upon the women of Jerusalem and spoke to them. However, His words were not ones that are comfortable to hear. Jesus at this time was not all love and joy. No, at this time, Jesus was pretty harsh. He rebukes the women for crying for Him. Instead, He tells them that there are even worse days ahead.

A friend of mine used this scripture in a novel way (to me) in her post on Catholic Sistas. She linked the reference Jesus makes, "blessed are the barren, and the wigs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed..." to the current contraceptive, anti-child mindset. I thought this was genius, because I'd never really considered that verse before. However, it appears in Luke as well as in some of Jesus's earlier discussions in Matthew.

As I researched this verse I saw commentaries that linked it's meaning to the desolation of Jerusalem. However, I agree with my fellow Sista that it holds true today. It is often implied or even outright said that children are more trouble than they're worth, so don't burden yourself with them... Take this medication or precaution. In Jesus's time, barrenness was a great issue for women. Without offspring they were destined to have no one in their old age to care for them. They were replaced with fertile wives. However, today, barren women (except those fighting infertility) are held in highest esteem. These women have "taken control" of their fertility and are living their dreams.

I also found some modern blogs of infertile women grasping this verse as the theme for their journey. I just browsed a few entries and came away with the thought that these women get it. Children are a blessing given to us by God. Barrenness (childlessness) is not something to be praised or sought. Throughout scripture, God calls us to be fertile. There are occasions where barrenness was used for God's glory, but never was it the intended purpose of womankind.

It takes incredible patience to deal with this sign of sin (not personal sin, but generalized sin of Adam). Jesus displays His patience as do women who fight their infertility within moral limits. Women who "control" their fertility are impatient and shutting God out of their lives. So let us pray that we can all receive some measure of Christ's patience when dealing with our own crosses.

If you're looking to have more "control" over your fertility while maintaining morality, check out this link: http://r1rk9np7bpcsfoeekl0khkd2juj27q3o-a-fc-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/ps/ifr?container=friendconnect&mid=0&nocache=0&view=profile&parent=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicsistas.com%2F&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Ffriendconnect%2Fgadgets%2Fmembers.xml&communityId=07392896805747272642&caller=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicsistas.com%2F2012%2F03%2F26%2F6422%2F%3Futm_source%3Dfeedburner%26utm_medium%3Dfeed%26utm_campaign%3DFeed%253A%2BCatholicSistas%2B%2528Catholic%2BSistas%2529&rpctoken=1468124537

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lent: Joyful Mondays

This is the last installment of Joyful Mondays. The mystery for discussion today is Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple. From this mystery we are meant to gain the fruit of joy in finding Jesus. Here's my take.

Luckily, so far in my parenting adventure I have not had a situation quite like Mary and Joseph faced. However, in my own little way, I have experienced some of the anxiety associated with searching for a child. Mine was much less dramatic.

Andrew, Simon, Rachel, and I were lounging around the house one evening. The kids were flitting in and out of the living room. Typically, for our house, if we couldn't see them, we could hear them. I don't remember exactly what we were doing, but suddenly I noticed that I wasn't hearing Rachel. I walked throughout the house calling her name. I looked in all her favorite hiding places: the shower stall, her closet, Simon's room, my closet, even the kitchen cabinets. I thought I had looked every where, so I anxiously went to the back door and peered through the glass. No sign of her.

I finally asked Andrew if he'd seen her. He too began searching throughout the house calling her name. We spoke briefly of our fear that she'd learned to open the doorknob and gone outside. Our search became more frantic. It doesn't take very long to search a 1750 square foot house with an open floor plan.

Finally I heard Andrew exclaim, "I found her!" I rushed from the other end of the house to see him pull a grinning Rachel out from under our bed. I hadn't considered that space because Rachel's pleasantly plump figure dwarfs it. Andrew just then mentioned that she'd hidden under the bed previously. We gently chided her... Ok ok, I admit we were not quite yelling, but not terribly quiet either. I still can't believe that my vocal, extremely active, 2 year old little girl could hide under the bed without making noise or coming out to see what all the fuss was about. That night, Andrew and I discussed how happy we were that our children aren't lost or ill. Our joy in finding Rachel was complete.

So as I think about Mary and Joseph on their way home from Jerusalem finally figuring out they lost Jesus, my heart drops for them. I mean, Rachel is my miracle baby no doubt, but Jesus was entrusted to Mary and Joseph by God because He was God's only begotten Son! As God-fearing Jews, Mary and Joseph probably had fairly strict rules governing their lives, especially for Jesus.

In my mind's eye I can't quite picture Jesus as a child, much less a teenager. Jesus was on the cusp of His teenage years when this event occurred. Yet, I have a hard time imagining Him laughing at His parents or being a smart aleck. However, His recorded response, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" seems to me to be a little bit defiant. After all, it had been three days since they'd seen Him. God the Father had put Him in their care. They were likely mindless with worry. In Hs wisdom, Jesus would have known they would come looking for Him. He was their Holy child and Savior of the world.

I don't feel as if I've ever lost Jesus in my life. I have definitely had difficult times, but I don't recall ever feeling as if I had lost Jesus. I've lost hope before and I've pondered why my life is so crazy sometimes, but I feel confident that God has a plan for me, I just don't understand. However, there are times when I come to the realization that something clicked into place and the joy I felt when we found Rachel is replicated in my heart and soul. This joy is difficult to describe and sometimes I cannot even pin-point the change in myself. I pray that I can maintain this joy in my life at random times just to be sure I am in close contact with Jesus. I pray that each and everyone who reads my words and about my journey can feel that same joy some day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Horse Hockey...

Rachel

I would normally have composed and scheduled my Lenten Mystery by now, However tonight, God had a different penance/obligation for me.

It all started this morning when both my arms were numbing and tingly as my alarm went sounded. As I rolled over to turn it off and get up, I felt like a knife was stabbing me in the chest. It seems that my ribs don't stay in place like a normal person's, they move and poke out at random causing intense irritation (pain) of the covering muscles. During physical therapy last night, the therapist did "joint mobilizations" to try to decrease the pain although an increase in pain was the immediate side-effect. As the therapist placed a special kind of tape across the offending muscles, we noted that my chest was actually swollen where the irritation had been so severe. With pain this severe, driving to work is not really an option. Not only does this not put my bosses in a good mood; it also reduces my paycheck and increases my tension.

My day was made worse by the cardio-thoracic surgeon telling me today that surgery is basically my only option to relieve the pressure on the arteries in my neck/shoulder (thoracic outlet). He typically recommends physical therapy, but since I've been actively involved in that for almost 6 months, he said if it was going to work, I'd notice a drastic improvement by now. So he's going to access my thoracic outlet via my collar bone to reduce the risk of lymphendema -- especially since my mastectomy scars are already located in my axilla (arm-pit). There is a risk of lymphendema anyway, as well as scar tissue formation and further disruption of the nerves or blood vessels supplying my arm. However, he said he hasn't had any trouble with those kinds of issues, so I should be fine. If the surgery is a success it could actually improve my nerve issues as well as the arterial issues I'm having in my left arm/shoulder. If it is a failure, I can try physical therapy again. Or, if the surgery is *really* a failure I may actually have worse circulation and nerve conduction that cripples my left arm permanently. Great news for a 30 year old with 2 very active children 4 and 2 years old, a full-time job, and a disabled husband. <---- very thick sarcasm

This was not the news I wanted to hear. I do not want to have an 8th surgery. I do not want to have another 2 week (minimal) recovery off from work. I can't afford it. I don't want to risk more complications to the problems I already have. However, unless a second opinion differs exceptionally, I foresee another surgery in my near future. Since I was unhappy with the news I decided, with the kids avid approval, to go visit the horses down the road from us. Mr. Oliver and his herd of gentleman horses (a Belgian with feet at big as my head, a Quarter Horse with a back as bad as Andrew's, and four ponies that barely come to my hip), are always glad to have us visit. The horses enjoy the treats and attention we give them. Mr. Oliver enjoys our enjoyment of his equine friends. Horses have always been my anti-depressant too, do I figured it was a win all the way around.

I am slowly and carefully introducing the kids to the joys of riding. The ponies are so docile and small that it is no strain at all to lead and hold a child upon their backs. Andrew was in charge of leading and I was in the support role of holding onto our kids while they rode one at a time. I deference to the hot weather, both kids were in shorts. By necessity, they sit astride without a saddle (pony saddles are hard to come by and even more expensive to buy). Rachel rode first and she wasn't as enamored with it as she was the last time. I thought it odd, but didn't really think much of it -- she is in her terrible twos. Simon rode as well, but also wasn't feeling it. Andrew noticed that Rachel had begun digging at her legs really badly. I had noticed earlier that her excema seemed flared up, but just figured she needed her generic Zyrtec and a rub down with one of her various creams. So we headed home.

Upon our arrival we noticed Rachel's skin started looking worse and worse. We debated over giving her th generic Zyrtec or the dreaded Benadryl. Since she began having redness and itching all over we chose the Benadryl, but only 1/4 of a teaspoon. Her pediatrician has told me in the past that when her skin really flares up and we think it might be an allergy to give her this medication. We stripped her down to her diaper and washed her legs, hands, and face with luke-warm water. As I applied lotion to her legs, I noticed that the bumps appeared more hive-like than excema-like. I looked at her face and noticed some bumps there as well as some swelling.

Since I've become fairly well-versed at allergic reactions with Andrew, I became convinced that a visit to the ER or at least a convenient care clinic was the best answer. This is not a typical reaction for me; I tend to avoid ER visits at all costs. I called the pediatricians office. The nurse (PA?) advised me to give her another 1/4 of a tsp of Benadryl and slowly make my way into town to be closer to the hospital if things got worse. she recommended we go out to eat and if things got no worse or even better, to just go back home. As I kept observing Rachel I was more and more convinced to just go straight to the ER. So off we went.

We arrived and were immediately seen. The assessment by the nurse showed that even after 1/2 tsp of Benadryl on board, Rachel's throat was slightly swollen, she was still covered in hives, and her entire face was swelling. When the doctor arrived in the room, she was still playing and talking, but her voice was raspy and her actions a bit slowed by her constant scratching. The doctor ordered an oral steroid and an antihistamine shot. Then she was kept in observation for about 2 hours. She sucked down the oral dose and only cried for about 5 seconds for the injection. Then she set to playing. I set about keeping her occupied and watching for signs of improvement or worsening. By the end of the observation period, she was more than ready to go, but still showing some swelling and hives, so the doctor called in a prescription for steroid and antihistamine.

Poor Rachel was very hungry, so while we waited for her prescriptions to be ready, we wandered through Rite Aid. She gobbled down some peanut butter crackers and whole milk. Then about 5 minutes after starting our journey home, she fell into a peaceful sleep. She is even now (as I type it is 11:15pm) tucked into bed beside me. We are making plans for our entire family to visit the allergist in town. I am hopeful that the allergist won't forbid horse-back riding for Rachel. Hopefully we'll even get some better treatment options for her excema. All I know is that today has just not been a very great day. Thank you for all the prayerful support. It really means a lot to us all!!

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning with Thorns. From this mystery we are supposed to gain the fruit of courage. Here is my take.

Jesus's executioners did not have to humiliate him as they did. The Romans were seemingly bloodthirsty though. Pilate's command to scourge Jesus followed by Hs crucifixion cemented the soldiers ideation that this is man was worthy of their worst. His stoic bearing of all their insults and assaults frustrated them into further grievous actions: crowning Him with thorns and mocking Him as "king of the Jews". How did He bear it?

In a word: courage. Jesus had great courage to suffer such indignities as He did. Through His sufferings, the Gospels only mention Jesus speaking or crying out a few times. After His scourging and crowning with thorns, He carried the cross-bar of his cross. However, He was able to converse with the women of Jerusalem and His Mother. Even after He was hung on the cross, He was capable of speaking to John and His Mother with clarity. Even His crying out had the purpose of fulfilling Scripture prophecy and announcing His death.

The Scriptures foretold much of Jesus's suffering. One reference from Isaiah has always confused me. Isaiah 53:7 says, "he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth." I've been around a lot of livestock; hardly ever are they quiet. Instead, in my experience, chaos and raucous sound rules the day. Surely Isaiah and other ancient people knew this as well as I do. So why this unusual statement? What does it mean?

When sheep are lead to slaughter or shearing, they cry out to communicate with one another. Members of the flock reassure one another with bleats. However, they do not plead with the tormentor for release verbally. Sheep trust their shepherd implicitly. Perhaps this is the similarity; Jesus trusted God the Father implicitly.

He did not beg the soldiers or Pilate for clemency. Pilate even remarks on His lack of communication in John 19:10-11. Jesus implies that God the Father is the one ultimately in charge. He spoke to His followers in such a way as to encourage or prophecy to them, not to save Himself. His courage stemmed from His acceptance of the Father's will. He had more ability than anyone to take Himself away from the suffering, as the people mocked Him (Luke 23:35-39). Instead, He courageously offered Himself for us.

Let me strive to be as courageous as He and face my paltry sufferings with grace. I is through Christ that I am capable of such redemptive suffering. It in imitation of Him that I offer my torments to redeem my soul and those of my intentions. Jesus, stay by my side to offer me the courage, grace, strength, and love to follow You. Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lent: Joyful Mondays

The fourth Joyful mystery is the Presentation of Jesus. From this mystery we are supposed to gain the fruit of obedience. Here's my take.

Civilized society is based on obedience. Even in our "land of the free" we have ubiquitous laws that govern almost every aspect of our lives. Some people chafe at the "restrictions" such laws put upon us. At the very least, many pick and choose which laws to obey.As an avid Catholic, I enter into discussions about religion quite frequently. One of the objections I hear reiterated is that Catholicism has too many rules. Compared to strict Judaism (as Christ followed), there aren't that many rules. However, by modern society's judgement, there are myriad rules. This viewpoint only emphasizes the ignorance of society's laws by many. For my primarily rural state, the book of state laws is approximately 2 inches thick and just shy of 1600 pages (not counting indexes and appendices). That equates to a LOT of laws!

In Jesus's time, to disobey the law, even "minor" infractions, could cost you a limb or even your life. Punishments were quite severe and often public. Sometimes a law didn't even have to be infringed upon, just the suggestion of disobedience was likely to cause you severe discomfort (to put it mildly). Nowadays, people seldom think twice before disobeying "stupid" or "illogical" laws.

With ancient laws in mind, it makes complete sense that Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple at the appointed time. Although we know Jesus was already consecrated to the Father, since He is one with the Father, according to the law all first born sons "shall be called holy to the Lord" (Luke 2:23-24). Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was spectacular, but they didn't fully understand His divine nature. Therefore it behooved them to follow the law explicitly.

Regarding modern laws, a popular refrain right now is for the Church to "stay out of bedrooms". Ancient Judaism did enter into adherents' bedrooms: dictating appropriate times, positions, and clothing. The Catholic Church, in contrast, only asks adherents to follow the natural order of intimacy. In other words, do not put anything between the flesh nor do anything that prohibits the natural flow. Regarding other aspects of bedroom behavior, the Church is silent, although seems to tacitly encourage healthy pleasure in intimacy as long as it follows the natural order.

As a Catholic, I am dismayed at the governments intrusion into my moral code by requiring my Church to fund immorality in the guise of free birth control, abortions, and sterilizations. The Church is trying to stay out of non-believers bedrooms. By forcing the Church to fund such things, the federal government is not only trampling upon the First Amendment, but also involving the Church (and other opponents) in bedroom behavior. If the people really want laws "out of the bedroom" then the federal government should comply as well!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lent: Luminous Thursdays

The third Luminous Mystery is Proclaiming the Kingdom. From this mystery, we are supposed to gain the fruit of repentance and trust in God. Here is my take on this mystery.

There were times that Jesus called for repentance, but He seldom expressed it so simply. John the Baptizer had preached repentance in preparation for Jesus's coming. Jesus did nothing to detract from John's message and actually built on it. However, He was more subtle. When asked, He told us to forgive our brother seven times seventy times (Matthew 18:22). In those times, seven was a sacred number. Basically seventy times means infinitely. He also told us to forgive others as the Lord forgives us. We are told to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and love our enemies (Luke 6:27). All these verses are calling us to turn from our selfish ways and learn the ways of God.

Jesus also spoke often of trust in the Lord. The one that immediately came to my mind was Luke 12:22-32. In these verses, Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds of the sky and plants in the fields without any input from them. How much more so will God care for us who are created in His image and likeness? However, unlike plants and animals, we have been given a free will. We must choose to be faithful and loving to God. That is why we have the Scriptures, Catechism, and other documents to explain God's rules for us. Without knowledge of these rules it is a crap-shoot as to whether what we do is pleasing to God or not.

I don't know about you, but I'd like better odds at gaining Heaven. Some Christians believe that once you profess your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you're finished. Catholics believe that your profession of Faith is vital for your Salvation. I addition, we acknowledge that good intentions often go awry. Therefore we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all human and therefore we often fail to give to God what He deserves -- our undivided love. If were fail too often, it doesn't matter what we profess with our mouths, our souls are separate from God. To return to God's good graces, we must repent of our sins and confess them.

It's fairly simple to confess "directly" to God, but it is infinitely more difficult to confess to a human representative of God. Part of Jesus's message was humility before God. How much more humiliating is it to confess your darkest sins to a representative that you perceive as righteous? Another benefit, besides humbling yourself in front of another person, is that this righteous person, a priest, can offer suggestions for how to avoid the sins you've confessed. This is a sticking point for some, especially when the sins confessed are sexual in nature (or another area they think a celibate priest would have no knowledge of). However, it is not necessary to commit a sin to understand the temptation of that sin.

Priests spend their lives studying Scripture, the Catechism, and other documents. They also hear hundreds of confessions and counsel hundreds of people. Each priest (at least in my diocese) is required to attend a full week of retreat. During this week, they confer with one another, commune with God through prayers and meditations, and research God's word. Of course, priests are human as well, so they struggle with various temptations that we, lay-people, probably do not fully understand. Their lives are committed to God and helping His people stay on the straight and narrow.

Since the Kingdom of God is approaching, it is time to repent. In other words, I need to go to Confession. I am too prideful, I think. I avoid Confession most of the time. I tell myself that I need to go, but I always come up with a reason not to go. In this Lenten season, I will go. How about you?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lent: Glorious Wednesdays

The third Glorious Mystery is the Descent of the Holy Spirit. According to my app, we are supposed to gain the fruit of Love of God from this mystery. Here is my take.

The disciples and some of the faithful women were in the upper room cowering in fear of the same group of people that executed Christ. They were probably talking amongst themselves about the various signs, mysteries, words, and miracles of their Lord. Since He had been crucified, they were probably pondering His odd words that foreshadowed His suffering and subsequent rising from the dead. They had all witnessed, at various points, His resurrected body, even if they didn't recognize Him initially. Then, as I discussed last week, they watched Him ascend into Heaven. However, at that point, they didn't understand any of these events one bit.

Who can blame them? These events are, after all, one miracle after another. We have the advantage of being privy to ALL of the information, signs, and wonders at our finger tips along with thousands of years of learned theologians interpretations and explanations. However, we still don't fully comprehend or even acknowledge the glories of our God.

Jesus told them that He would send His Advocate to them after He was gone from their sight. Of course, they didn't understand that any more than they did the other odd things He'd told them. Even with their limited information and understanding, the disciples and faithful women loved Jesus so much that they faced their fears together and met even though it could be a death sentence for them. This love and devotion to Jesus is what we are called to imitate through this Mystery. The Holy Spirit descended onto these lucky individuals and opened their minds to the glories of God.

At Confirmation, we invite the Holy Spirit to descend upon us in a similar manner. For most of us, it isn't the sound of a driving wind, the appearance of tongues of fire, or the sudden understanding of foreign tongues. Instead, it is a quiet whisper, as it did to Elias in 1 Kings 19:12. However, the whisper is not always heard. We tend to keep our minds so busy that the quiet that is God doesn't register. Sometimes, the only way for us to "hear" God, through the Holy Spirit, is to open our hearts to love God even though we don't comprehend His ways or His words. This love of God without comprehension is what the individuals in the upper room had -- a child-like devotion to the Master they had lost.

We're so busy being independent that we forget to love God first. If we allow ourselves to love God first, everything else will eventually fall into place. It may not be as we wish, but God cares for His own. All He asks is that we devote ourselves to Him, His ways, and His people. In return he gives us life here on earth and, most importantly, eternal life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lent: Joyful Mondays

The third Joyful Mystery is the Nativity. The fruit we're supposed to ponder is poverty. Here's my take.

We all know the familiar story of the Nativity. Joseph and his bride, Mary had to travel to Bethlehem for the census. There was no room at the inn, yet Mary's time was near. They found shelter in a stable amid humble animals: sheep, oxen, and their donkey. Jesus's birth took place amid a location of poverty. His first visitors weren't the three kings or wise men. Instead the first to hear the good news and worship the Son of God were humble shepherds. However, this was definitely not the first time God gave shepherds priority. Just the other night I read another familiar story to my children as part of our Lenten observance, David and Goliath. Throughout the old testament, God chose shepherds to be raised to kings and prophets. It is no wonder that this profession was once again front and center to a very important Divine revelation.

Shepherds were not highly ranked in society. However, there did have a significant place in the Old Testament and daily life at that time. Jesus, once He began His ministry, spoke often of this profession as a metaphor for God's relationship with us. Although shepherds were not highly regarded, without them, life in Jesus's day would have been much more difficult. Shepherds cared for the flocks that produced meat, wool, and sacrificial offerings. They were the salt of the earth, so to speak. Everyone in Jesus's society knew that these largely uneducated people were responsible for life as they knew it. They were all familiar with shepherding as a job. So His use of them in parables was understandable.

Although we lack everyday examples of real shepherds in our lives, we still have some of the same duties. All parents are called to shepherd their children physically to keep them from harm and in the ways of the Lord. As Catholics (Christians) we are also called to shepherd unbelievers into the Church. Our shepherding isn't quite as obvious as in Jesus's time, but it is still hard work with very little gratitude. in Jesus's days the sheep (or goats) knew their shepherd's voice. Today, our children know our voice, but seldom seem to listen to it over all the other noises present in our homes. I
Jesus's times the shepherds physically lead the sheep by walking ahead of them or behind them. When they walked in front of them, it was example that the sheep followed. Today, as Catholics (Christians) we are still called to lead by example. However, there are so many noises and nefarious examples that finding a good one can be difficult. As a Catholic mother, I know that my actions, words, and lessons are vital to my children's well-being. I strive to walk in the Good Shepherd's footsteps.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lent: Luminous Thursdays

The second Luminous Mystery is the Wedding at Cana. It's fruit is to Jesus through Mary. Here are my thoughts about it.

Catholics are often accused of being Mary worshippers. We have prayers in which Mary figures very prominently. However, none of these prayers are worshipping Mary; instead they all ask Mary to intercede for us to her son, Jesus.

This mystery is the basis of all our Marian prayers. A first, Jesus seems rather put-out by Mary's request to help the host with his wine shortage. "What is this to me and thee?" He asks her as He informs her that His hour had not yet come (John 2:4). However, Mary, being a mother, assumes He will be a good son and do as she asks. She commands the servants to do as He tells them.

John does not tell us whether Jesus rolled His eyes at Mary's assumption or if He sighed as an adult child does sometimes when commanded to do something. Instead, John jumps right into Jesus ordering the servants to fill the water jars and present them to the steward.

We also aren't told whether the servants whispered among themselves that these to Nazarenes were a bit crazy. Nor do we know whether these servants -- being the only ones who knew for certain that the water jars had been filled with water, but transformed into wine -- were shocked and among the first believers of Jesus. All we know is that Jesus did as Mary asked.

Jesus actually performed above and beyond what was expected. This is key for those of us who ask Mary's intercession. If Jesus knew it was not His hour yet, but performed a miracle beyond what was asked, how much better will He answer our petitions now that He sits at the right hand of the Father? How much more will He out-perform Himself if His mother, Mary, asks for our sake? Jesus's time is now and His mother still has His ear!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lent: Glorious Wednesdays

The second Glorious Mystery is the Ascension. The fruit of this mystery is hope. Here are my thoughts on this mystery and it's fruit.

Hope is something that is supposedly very important to cancer survivors. I have a small metal cross with a pink ribbon and the word "hope" emblazoned on it. To be honest, I had/have less hope since I've been diagnosed than I did prior. You see, prior to my diagnosis, I was a "normal" young mother with a dazzling future. Once I was diagnosed, my hopes and dreams became much more grounded and slightly depressing -- hope to survive chemo, hope to deliver a healthy baby, hope to survive chemo again, hope to survive surgery, hope to look and feel "normal" again, etc... Somehow I don't think this is the hope that is meant by this Mystery.

According to dictionary.com, one archaic definition of hope is to place trust in something. That seems to be more fitting for this mystery. We were not there when Jesus walked the earth before His death or after His death. We did not get to be like Thomas and place our fingers in His wounds. However, we are called to trust the Gospel writers about these important events in Christ's life. We hope in their veracity for our eternal life.

Jesus's ascension into Heaven at the right hand of the Father is key for our salvation. At the moment of Jesus's ascension, God's plan reached fruition. His Son, Jesus, had conquered temptations, human weakness, and most importantly death. He came into the world as a helpless baby, completely dependent on His mother and others around Him. He died humiliated, tortured, and derided. He rose from the dead amid disbelief and the blindness of His friends. It seems fitting that He should ascend into Heaven with a crowd of onlookers witnessing His glory.

We hope (trust) the stories we've been taught are true so that we, too, may rise triumphant over death and evil. We hope to join in the unending song of praise for our Creator. We hope to overcome the obstacles put in our way for the good of the kingdom. All this hope centers around the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. It's fruit is purity. Purity is definitely not what I think of when I think of the Scourging. I would say humility, sacrifice, obedience, or even love of neighbor before I thought about purity. Apparently I need to dig a little deeper... 

I'm no historian, but a quick GoodSearch gave me ample reading to find that scourging was a typical part of corporal punishment by those in Jesus's time. It also provides evidence that the severity of the scourging depended on whether done by Jewish custom or at the whim of the Roman soldiers. Scourging was used not only to satisfy the bloodlust of the ancient Romans, but also to produce a quicker, although more painful, death for the unfortunate victim. The medical effects of scourging aren't necessary to know that it was painful. Nor does it seem necessary to belabor the humiliation of such a punishment. The focus of this Mystery isn't either of these points. Instead, we are asked to ponder purity when faced with Jesus's suffering at the lash of the soldiers. 

As Catholics (and most Christians), we believe that Jesus was sinless. Therefore, He was undeserving of the cruel punishment He received at the pillar. Jesus's purity meant that not only did He physically suffer tremendously from the scourging; He also suffered emotionally from the scourging. I have been falsely accused and even falsely punished. The accusation or punishment sometimes pales to the anguish I felt that someone mistrusts or disbelieves me.  However, even if I am innocent of whatever accusation or crime foisted upon me; I know that at least once there has been an incident where I was guilty, but not caught. So if I focus on my past sins, the punishment can be easier to handle. Jesus didn't have any past sins. He was a righteous God-man. Yet, He willingly accepted torture in His purity of love for us.
Isaiah foretold Jesus's scourging, "By His stripes we are healed" (53:4-5). Peter later reminded us of Isaiah's prophecy in 1 Peter 2:24. He identified that what Isaiah 'saw' was the same as what Peter saw with his eyes. Regardless of the interpretation of the actual words used in Isaiah, the effect is the same. Jews in Jesus's time expected the Messiah to take on our infirmities and free us from them. Most Jews in Jesus's time expected the Messiah to be a strong military figure or at least like Moses. However, most of the Jews at the time apparently thought they knew better than God. Isaiah's prophecy didn't strike a chord in their souls when they saw Jesus. He showed His purity by not using His God powers to escape punishment. In this one of His greatest moments, the Jews only saw a humble man, not a Sacrificial Lamb sent from God. How often do we let our perceptions get the better of us?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lent: Joyful Mondays

The second Joyful Mystery is the Visitation. The fruit is love of neighbor.I've been pregnant six times. None of my pregnancies were exceptionally difficult. Yes, four of those pregnancies ended in miscarriage. One of the pregnancies was simultaneous with my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, I wasn't horribly sick or incapacitated. Honestly, though, never during any of my pregnancies would I really have thought to travel on a donkey many miles to visit a cousin. In Mary's time, the journey was definitely difficult, but it was the price you paid to visit relatives. That is definitely displaying a love of neighbor.  Once Mary arrived -- probably exhausted, sore, and dirty -- we hear Elizabeth greet her with the famous words of the Hail Mary. Even more important, to me, is that we have anecdotal scriptural evidence that babies in the womb are more than simple "potential" humans. Elizabeth's fetus, later known as John the Baptizer, leapt in her womb the moment Mary's greeting reached the womb. Elizabeth knew this reaction was unusual. As a woman who has been pregnant to six months twice, I know that even when my husband's voice reached the womb, my babies didn't react visibly. He could occasionally tell them "kick the mama" through my abdomen and it would seem that they complied. But otherwise, the sound of his voice did nothing. A voice my unborn children had never heard would have even less of an effect. Obviously, there was something special about Mary and her unborn child.  We know, through Scripture, exactly what was so special about Mary and her son, Jesus. At the time of the Visitation, all Elizabeth knew was that her young unmarried cousin was pregnant. Mary knew that the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her and she was pregnant with God's son. She also knew that her cousin Elizabeth was thought to have been barren, but the angel had informed Mary of her cousin's successful pregnancy.  Elizabeth knew enough to be extremely thankful to God for her sudden success of conception. That is what people at that time did when good things happened to them. When bad things happened, they didn't curse God or say He was a watch-maker or careless God; they laid the blame on the person with bad experience. They were more than willing to accept that when bad things happened someone somewhere had screwed up. They also accepted that God was the ultimate reason for all success.  The homily we had this Sunday made me think about our so-called independence. At the moment, I cannot recall the rest of the homily -- this was his parting shot and I immediately began thinking about independence. We spend so much time trying to "do it ourselves" from the time we are infants, that it seems like weakness to rely on someone -- even someone as awesome as God. To a degree learning to do it ourselves is the only way to grow and learn. However, when it is carried too far we can easily forget that it is God who gives us what we need. When we forget our dependence on God we get things like abortion, birth control, suicide, bullying, etc. We try to do it ourselves, but we're like Rachel, my 2 year old, trying to tie her shoes. She cannot do it because she hasn't learned it yet. We will never learn what God knows, yet we persist in trying -- just like Adam and Eve in Eden. Until we accept that God is the Master and Creator of all, we are like a petulant two year old stubbornly refusing to ask for help from someone stronger. I am often guilty of this kind of independence. However, during my long illness I have found that it is when we rely on someone else that we truly learn to be strong.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lent: Soapbox Sundays

This has been an eventful week for me on this blog. Hopefully I'm not boring anyone to tears. I'm no theologian or even a very good writer, but I hope that my slightly skewed perception of the Mysteries of the Rosary helps at least someone. This post is slightly different. I'm going to get on my personal soapbox about a current event. As you probably well-know by now, I'm a very passionate Catholic, Pro-life, wife, and mother. Right now the Obama administration is making my future in America look pretty bleak. The HHS mandate that is being debated all over the web is what makes my future look so poor. Basically, the way the Obama administration is planning on enforcing this mandate will make faithful Catholic break their own moral code. The Catholic Church is against birth control (and abortion). To hear the media, the Obama administration, and pro-abortion people (like Cecile Richards) talk, the Catholic Church is trying to prevent anyone from getting birth control (or abortions). However, the truth of the matter is that the Church just wants to be able to continue with the conscience clause that allowed Catholic institutions to NOT pay for, provide, or cover (via insurance) birth control (or abortion). Currently, there are so many places you can get birth control for very little cost, that it is utterly ridiculous to try to force the Catholic Church into being an unwilling provider. This mandate basically indicates that the current groups that hand out birth control (and abortions) willy-nilly aren't doing a good enough job, so they need the Catholic Church's assistance. The Obama administration is actually going so far as to say that non-compliance will force the shut-down of almost, if not all, Catholic institutions. That is preposterous! Right now, Catholic institutions are ranked NUMBER ONE by the federal government for providing care to the less fortunate. That even takes into account the points detracted from the Church's institutions for not providing birth control (or abortions). Yet, the O administration is willing to sacrifice the thousands of people the Church helps for birth control. How short-sighted is that? The Church's care of the less fortunate does NOT require tax money -- funding is typically voluntary donations (although individual institutions may apply for federal grants). However, without the Church's institutions for the less fortunate, the federal, state, and local governments will have to provide the same services, plus birth control (and abortion), out of OUR pockets. Yes folks, if the Church's charities are shut-down by this mandate, WE will all be financially responsible for taking up the slack. However, the government funded institutions that are currently in a position to compete with the Church are no where near as well-run, economical, or beneficial. In other words, the Church's institutions get much more bang per buck than the government ones. So, which makes more fiscal sense to you? Should we let the Church continue, through voluntary donations, take excellent care of the less fortunate, but not offer birth control (or abortion) as a service or coverage? Or should we force the Church to shut the doors of its charitable institutions and force the taxpayers to fund othe,r less economical, institutions that do offer birth control? Even if I weren't Catholic, I'd have to say the first option makes more fiscal sense...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lent: Luminous Thursdays

Lent: Luminous ThursdaysThursdays, the mysteries are from John Paul II's Luminous series. The first of these is the Baptism of Jesus. Openness to the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mystery.As Catholics, particularly cradle Catholics, we are baptized as infants before we can hold our own head up, much less make decisions about our Faith-life. In Jesus's time, as infants you were presented in the temple (that's going to be the topic for the fourth Joyful Mystery). However, it was fairly common in those days to have prophets, such as John the Baptist, preach repentance, forgiveness of sins, and baptism (Matthew 3:1-6). Therefore, it wasn't unheard of to be an adult and repent of your sins and be baptized. But, the baptism then wasn't the same as we receive now simply because Christ had not yet opened that particular door. John's message was not terribly unique. Prior to him there were many prophets scattered through the Old Testament. Some were well-received, others not so much. They all had their purpose, even if their days were of a limited number. Of course, we know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, about John's unique mission. John's mission was to prepare the world for the Savior's coming. We are also privileged to know that John recognized Jesus for who and what He was even in the womb (Luke 1:41).
Since the fetal Jesus was already recognizable to another fetus, we have some evidence that Jesus was special (and that small though they may be, fetuses are living humans, but I digress). We also know that God is all good and sins are contrary to God. So it follows that Jesus, the son of God, was sinless. Therefore, Jesus had no need to repent and ask forgiveness for sins -- He had none! Why, then, did He get baptized by John in the Jordan?Jesus's baptism was not for Himself, it was, just like His entire life and death, for us. That we may believe in Him and gain everlasting life. Missouri is known as the "Show Me" state. The people in Jesus's time were no different, called "stiff-necked" and "obstinate" several times in Scripture (Deuteronomy 31:27 and Baruch 2:30 are two examples) . In order to have their eyes and hearts open, they had to witness something incredible. Jesus's baptism was incredible. A voice called out, "This is my Beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased." In the sky, a dove appeared where no dove and been (Mark 1:9-11). That was certainly out of the ordinary! Even then, the people were not entirely convinced. Jesus's hometown folks were scandalized by Him (Mark 6:1-6). Even Jesus's disciples didn't fully recognize His divinity (John 6:36 is one example). And we all know the story of "doubting Thomas" (John 20:24-29). It is hardly surprising with these stories that many today do not believe. Yet, if we have even a mustard seed sized belief, incredible things are possible (Matthew 17:19). In our belief, we can live the life we are called to live and gain more for Christ. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, hearts, and souls!

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Smiling already at 2 weeks

Smiling already at 2 weeks
Rachel has been smiling as a response to other people since day one.

And two shall become one...

And two shall become one...
In 2006, Andrew & I became one before God and family! Shortly thereafter we became 3 with the birth of Simon in 2008... Then 4 with the addition of Rachel in 2009!

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