Archive for the ‘Catholic Faith’ category

2015: A Year of Healing

December 31, 2015

With 2015 coming to a close, it’s a natural time for reflection.  You can’t always see what’s going on when you’re in the middle of things; you have to look back to see the bigger picture.   I can see now that God has used 2015 as a year of healing for me.  He used two of his favorite tools:  truth and love.

Going into 2015 I was still being swallowed up by lies.  There were the lies I told myself and the lies of others that I had accepted and internalized.  Just as a physician must sometimes cut open a festering wound in order to clean it out, God allowed some of my wounds to be cut open in order for them to be cleansed and replaced by truth.  Sometimes this hurt like hell, but finally having these hard truths revealed made me stronger and healthier.

And then there was a lot of love.  There were all of the hugs and kisses and snuggles and special times shared with my kids and the unconditional support of my parents and sister.  My closest friends laughed with me and cried with me and prayed with me and sometimes picked me up off the floor when I was a total mess.  My neighbors and our school/church community have had my back over and over again, agreeing to help whenever I requested it and offering help sometimes when I didn’t even realize I needed it.

Every act of kindness was a balm that soothed deep-seeded feelings of unworthiness.

God also sent me a healing love in a way I never expected.

Back in May I realized that I really wanted to reconnect with one of my dearest friends from college.  The last time we had seen each other had been a brief dinner four years previously, and then we had lost track of each other yet again.  It took me a few days to find him, but once I did, we started catching up on all we had missed in each other’s lives.  Then we started talking with a raw honesty about deeper things within us, and we saw how we had each grown and been shaped by the joys and sorrows of our separate lives.  And then we realized in August that we cared about each other as more than just friends and began a long-distance romantic relationship.

As my friend and as my boyfriend, he has helped me uncover another layer of lies that were weighing me down.  His unconventional points of view often (unintentionally) make me re-evaluate who I am and who I want to be and what I want in my life.  His sense of humor and general goofiness sometimes have me laughing to the point of tears.  His total acceptance of me, quirks and all, have restored my sense of self.  His kindness, generosity, tenderness, and love (philia and eros) brought me back to life.  And in the two weeks he visited me, a whole slew of happy memories were made to replace a lot of bad memories that kept haunting me.

I am not completely whole again yet.  I still have work to do, things to figure out.  But an amazing amount of progress has been made this year.  And I can see God’s hand in all that has happened:  the good and “the bad”.  Sometimes it was very direct and sometimes it was more subtle and unexpected.  He knew what I needed, and He made sure I got it.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:25)

So, what was God’s purpose?  I think that’s what I’m about to find out in 2016.  I suspect that 2016 might just be a Year of Promise.  I don’t know what all lies beyond the bend in the road, but I sense there are some big things waiting just out of sight, good things.

How Punching a Heretic Saved Christmas

January 7, 2015

One of my girls has been really struggling since the divorce.  The whole situation has been fraught with good things and bad things.  My feelings have been all over the place about it at times, and I understand way more about the situation than my kids do.  It’s no wonder that my kids would be experiencing and emotional roller coaster, too.

One of them, though, has a tendency to stuff her bad feelings way down deep and try to pretend that they don’t exist.  Then she explodes on the rest of us over trivial things.  Sometimes it’s a constant stream of criticism and verbal abuse.  Sometimes it is hitting and kicking and throwing things at people.  She is old enough to know better, but she just can’t seem to stop.  And trying to get her talk about what is really bothering her is futile.

As Christmas approached, she started to express concerns that she might be on the naughty list.  What if she woke up to a stocking full of coal while her sisters delighted in their gifts from Santa?

I told her that I think Santa understands that she has had a rough year.  Santa knows that her dad and I split up and then he remarried someone else within a very short period of time.  That’s a lot for a little kid to have to deal with.  Plus, she seems to be at a transitional age which can make things emotionally and mentally topsy turvy, too.

Then she started asking me questions about Santa mythology (she still believes).  I reminded her that Santa started out as the bishop Nicholas.  He started out by secretly dropping money for the poor down their chimneys.  I told her how one time Nicholas got so mad at a guy who was telling lies about God that he punched the guy in the face.  I explained that Nicholas had to apologize and go to confession for what he did.

Her face lit up, and she said, “He’s like me.  I hit people when I get angry, too.”  I reminded her that Nicholas knew it was wrong, though, just like she does.  But I think it helped to reassure her that Santa Claus would understand that she has had a rough year and made some mistakes.

Then, because I had been unable to take her to confession due to all of the sickness in the family, we made a plan for her to go to our prayer corner, tell God her sins, and say the Act of Contrition.  It’s not as good as going to actual confession, but it was the next best thing at the time.

My Word

December 28, 2014

A few years ago this trend started of mommy bloggers picking a theme word for the coming year.  I’ve always kind of been skeptical of the whole thing while slightly longing to embrace it.  I think I may have tried to pick words in the past, but I can’t remember clearly.  I want to say “Joy” was the word I was looking for in 2013 or 2014.

The problem was that my longing for “Joy” was really a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of goal.  I had been led to believe that the reason I was unhappy all of the time was because I was incapable of being happy, that I was unhappy because I had unrealistic expectations for life.  And sometimes in the Christian world there’s this idea out there that a lack of joy is the result of a lack of faith in the midst of adversity.  I got the idea that if I just tried to act joyful then I would learn to accent the positive and ignore/accept the negatives in my life instead of letting them depress me.

In other words, it just became another way for me to stuff my real thoughts and feelings deep inside so that I could try to be what other people wanted me to be to make them happy.

Anyway, for the past few weeks I have just felt lazy.  The best part about being a homeschooling stay-at-home mom is that you have almost total control over the rhythm of your day.  If the baby was up all night sick and you’re subsequently exhausted, you can lighten the schoolwork or completely cancel the next school day and take an extra long nap, and you don’t have to justify it to an employer or a regular school.

The worst part about being a homeschooling stay-at-home mom is that you have almost total control over the rhythm of your day.  Which means that you don’t have outside schedules of the school or a job to make you get up at the same time every day or hold you accountable if you spend three hours a day catching up on previous seasons of Castle while the house falls apart around you.  The entire structure of your life depends entirely on you’re own consistency and fortitude.

I’ve been feeling this need to set up a real schedule.  Our lives have calmed down since the divorce.  Cassidy, at almost 2 1/2, is a lot more self-entertaining.  There aren’t as many curve balls to derail us as there used to be.  I have this tendency, though, to go from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I’m either running around working my ass off, or I’m sitting on my ass staring at a screen all of the time.    I need a schedule with realistic expectations for self-care, prayer, work, and recreation.

In a word, what I need is DISCIPLINE.

behavior and order maintained by training and control

-[word origin] directly from Latin disciplina “instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge,” also “object of instruction, knowledge, science, military discipline,” from discipulus

-[related to the word] disciple:any follower of Christ.  to teach; train.

I’ve come to realize, though, that discipline is not just something I need.  It’s not even just something my children need from me and for me to have, even though they do.

I’ve come to realize that God is asking me to learn discipline for Him.

Now that I’m no longer completely crippled by the weight of a terrible marriage, I’ve been jogging around in anticipation for God to sign me up for a marathon.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to follow God’s will and be an amazing instrument in God’s hands.  I’ve been waiting for God to give some big assignment that would inspire me and strengthen me and fulfill me. I’ve been the Little Engine that Discerned, puffing up the mountain trying to find and follow God’s tracks.  Yet, I’ve felt like I wasn’t really getting any closer to a destination.

I went to Holy Hour at my parish.  I was about five minutes early and knelt down to pray.  And I started thinking about how I’ve been in survival mode for so many years, just trying to make it through one 24-hour period at a time.  I started thinking about how I longed to thrive now.  And then it just kind of hit me.

The reason that I’ve been spinning my wheels the past few months is because while I’m no longer just trying to survive each day I am not yet physically, mentally, or emotionally ready to thrive.  God hasn’t given me some big assignment because right now He needs me to heal.  Every day might not be as hard as it used to be, but I still have the same bad habits that I had in survival mode.  I need to unlearn those and relearn new and better ones.

I need to find that discipline between self-care, work, prayer, and recreation.  Otherwise any grand assignment that God would give me is doomed to failure.

So, right now I’m thinking about the simplest way to balance those four things in my day in the midst of raising five children and homeschooling two of them.  I’m trying to think about those obstacles that are likely to throw off my game and those tipping points, the little actions that can have big positive ramifications.

I’m scared that I’m going to fall back into the same old bad habits, that the trial and error will wear me down until I give up.  So, please pray for me.

For 2015 I’m going to try to focus on DISCIPLINE in all of its many facets.

 

 

 

I’m Not Where I Used to Be…

August 6, 2014

My divorce was finalized today.  I filed on March 21st, and it only took four short months.  That’s what happens when you haven’t really been living as husband and wife for over a year and you have no assets to fight over,only debts.

I don’t really know how I expected to feel today.  At times I thought I would be throwing a celebration.  As I approached the judge this morning, I just felt like I was going to throw up.

In some ways I’m relieved that everything is settled in black and white.  The kids and I know what our legal rights and limits are.

I am slightly embarrassed.  I am now a divorcee.  My marriage failed.  I feel a special stigma as a practicing Catholic.  When we say “until death do us part”, we’re supposed to take that seriously.  And I do…and I did.

I know that this is not what God wanted for our family.  God wanted my kids to have two parents who were capable of loving each other in a sacramental marriage.  That’s not what my kids got, though.

I truly believe that God was working in my life in the weeks leading up to when I filed for divorce.  Even though He would have preferred the ideal, I believe God knew that the divorce was the lesser of the two evils that the children and I were facing.  He put events and people in my life without whom I would not have had the courage to do what I was prepared to do in one last attempt to save my marriage or the courage to do what I had to do when it became clear that there was nothing I could do to save my marriage.

In some ways, though, the finalization of the divorce is just the beginning for me.  Next up I will be meeting with my pastor to start the annulment process to determine if my marriage was valid in the eyes of God in the first place.  Through documentation and the testimony of others I have to show that my marriage that we “thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union”.  I’ve heard it can take as long as 18 months for the determination to be made.  (I still have a lot to learn about it.)

Part of me would love for the Church tribunal to discern that it never was a valid marriage in the first place.  I think it would make the civil divorce feel more justifiable.

Of course, the biggest reason that most people want an annulment is that they would be free to marry again.  Even though I know that I am not mentally or emotionally healed enough to have a healthy romantic relationship at this time, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the possibility of marrying again.  But frankly I am glad the annulment process takes awhile.  It’s like God’s gift of more time to get my sh*t together.

On the other hand, I think about what would happen if the tribunal declared that my marriage was and therefore is still a valid marriage.  That means that I am not free to date or marry anyone else until Ricky dies.  If I were to do so, it would be considered adultery in the eyes of God.

I can see where some people would think it is sad that I would be damned to a “life of loneliness”.  Of course, I’d rather be damned to spending the rest of my mortal life alone (although how can I ever really be alone with 5 kids?) than spending all of eternity separated from God.

I kind of wonder, though, what else God might have planned for me if getting remarried is completely off the table.  Maybe God would have a better use for all of the time that would be spent maintaining a romantic relationship.  Maybe God has a special way that he wants to use my time and talents for the glory of his kingdom once I am no longer busy raising children.

On the way to the courthouse this morning I prayed the Rosary.  As I meditated on the Sorrowful Mysteries, starting with the Agony in the Garden and ending with the Crucifixion, I kept thinking about how my sometimes extremely insightful oldest daughter summarized her feelings about the divorce.  She told me a few months ago that she wasn’t happy about, but she knew it’s what needed to be done.  After all, “Jesus wasn’t happy about dying on the cross, but he knew it’s what needed to be done.”

I thought about how Jesus’ wounds didn’t disappear after his resurrection.  They were still part of his glorified body.  I know that there is a lesson in there for me somewhere even if I can’t put my finger on it right now.

So, on the way home I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, asking God to heal me, my ex-husband, and my children (a recommendation my pastor made during my last confession).  And I would ask that anyone who reads this post to please offer up even a small prayer of healing for my family.

 

Meyer quote

Nailed It!

July 9, 2014

Since I am in a huge period of discernment and because I stalk  follow Jen Fulwhiler and her blog, I decided to try out the Called and Gift CD set along with the Spiritual Gifts Inventory that she recommend.  Both were developed as a workshop by the Catherine of Siena Institute
to help people discern with which charisms they may have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to aid them in their vocation.  In other words, the Holy Spirit sometimes has specific ways that He wants to use each individual person within his or her vocation.  The theory is that if we can discern how the Holy Spirit normally uses us then we can more fully cooperate for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

Anywho, even though I thought my chances of actually being able to listen to all five CDs without a bazillion interruptions were slim, I actually found several times where I was able to listen to them with few interruptions.  (It had to be the Holy Spirit at work.)  I filled in the circles on my inventory, and eagerly looked to see where my high scores are.  Now the program doesn’t promise that those are the spiritual gifts that you have, but the inventory is supposed to help you narrow down which ones to investigate more thoroughly.

The program tells you to look at your top five.  My highest score was for the charism of Knowledge.  The next two that I remember were Evangelism and Writing.  And I totally can’t remember what the other two were, and my answer sheet is in one of these various piles of paper stacked around my kitchen.

I did all of this in May.  While I have kept it on my mind the past two months, it has been on the back burner while I’ve been dealing with other issues.   A couple of days ago, though, I came across the Spiritual Gifts Resource Guide that I had purchased along with the CDs and the inventory.  (It was in one of the piles of paper stacked around my kitchen.)  I sat down with it and went straight to the pages on Knowledge.

The program describes the charism of Knowledge as such:  Knowledge empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s truth through diligent study and intellectual activity that enables us to better understand God, ourselves, and the universe.

Well, that sounds pretty spot on for me.  God’s truth?  Check! Study? Check!  Intellectual activity? Check!  Making connections about how everything applies to God, myself, humans in general, and the universe? Check!

So, then I look at the Scripture and Catechism references.  Of course, the first three are from three of my favorite Old Testament books:  Proverbs, Wisdom, and especially Sirach.  I love me some Sirach.  I fell in love with it when I was bored to death on Senior retreat when they locked us in a chapel for what felt like two hours to journal and all I had was my Bible to read.  The book of Sirach just cuts to the heart of things with no b.s.

The first book on the recommend reading list is The Dumb Ox:  Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton which I have been slowly been making my way through.  The Patron Saints for this charism include Thomas Aquinas and Edith Stein.  Thomas Aquinas is, well, Thomas Aquinas.  This is the second time in the past few years, though, that I have been pointed towards Edith Stein with no real previous knowledge of her.  I may have to read her biography next.

Here’s where the punch line comes, though.  These are some possible expressions for those with the charism of Knowledge:

teaching

scholarship

apologetics

writing

RCIA/religious education

home schooling

Did you catch that last one?  HOME SCHOOLING!!  I literally laughed out loud when I read that.

I guess the Holy Spirit was leading me even when I didn’t realize it.  He’s sneaky like that.  I will still be homeschooling for at least another year or two (God willing), but I will need to start investigating other avenues (hopefully paying ones) for the Holy Spirit to put me to work.  But it looks like the inventory really had my number.

I can’t wait to see what else the guide has to say about the other charisms in which I tested high.

 

Why I Cried…

January 26, 2014

Recently the mother of a friend of mine passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s.  Over the past year, as her mother’s health rapidly declined, I have tried to support my friend in the limited ways I was able: checking in with her, listening, and praying with and for her.  When I left for her mother’s visitation at the local funeral home, I had no idea that it would such a profound experience or that I would be crying for close to two hours.  There are many reasons why I cried, even though I never met my friend’s mother even once.

1)  It was very obvious that the deceased was well-loved by her family and friends.  As everyone gathered in the room, people were invited to come up to the podium and share stories and memories about the deceased.  I know that everyone says nice things about the deceased at a funeral, but sometimes you can tell when people are borderline lying to come up with something nice to say.  I felt sorry for my friend who had lost her beloved mother as well as her brothers, step-brothers, step-father, husband, children, and nieces who all lost someone they would miss dearly.

2)  The deceased was younger than both of my parents.  It’s inevitable to think about how one day I will be in my friend’s position, mourning the loss of a parent.  I thought about how my friend’s youngest children will have little to no memory of their grandmother, and how, even though my parents are in good health, that they might not live long enough to see my youngest reach her 18th birthday.  The feeling was similar to when my next door neighbor (7 years my senior) got married when I was about 14; I remember crying at the wedding because I knew that my childhood was kind of behind me and adulthood was ahead of me.  I got a sense of what is approaching.

3)  One of the people who stood up to speak was my friend’s aunt.  She started by joking that she had known the deceased longer than anyone in the room.  They had fought with each other, and they loved each other.  It made me examine my own relationship with my sister, which hasn’t been close in a very long time.  It made me imagine (hopefully) many, many, many years from now what it will be like when my girls must mourn the eventual passing of each other.

4)  And then my friend stood up to speak.  She and I met when our oldest girls were in gymnastics classes during at the same  hour.  We struck up conversation and found that we were both Catholic homeschoolers in love with the Catholic Church and worrying about the best ways to help our children get to heaven.  She invited me to join a new Catholic homeschooling group that she was starting.

My friend had prepared a short speech, typing it out, because she wasn’t sure that she would have the strength to be coherent speaking off the cuff.  Her speech was about the last lesson that her mother had taught her through the long battle with Alzheimer’s.  My friend spoke about the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering, aka “offering it up”.  She spoke with humility for those who may disagree or be ignorant of this idea.  She spoke with the strength of truth.  She spoke with pride at having finally understood something her mom had been trying to teach her for over 20 years and love that this was something her mom had tried to teach her at all.  And she spoke with a longing that others could learn this lesson, too.  She wanted the suffering her mother endured, the indignities that come with Alzheimer’s, to be united with the suffering of Christ for the good of others.

I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through her and her grief.  And I was so proud of her.  I was proud to have someone like her as my friend.  So, I cried with pride.  And I cried with thankfulness to God for bringing us together.  Because it was truly God that brought us together:  our love of God, our faith in God, our trust in God, and our hope in God.

Faith Quick Takes

January 12, 2014

1.  Inspired by a discussion on Facebook, lately I’ve thought about the ways in which I don’t give God the best that I can offer.  I often give him the dregs of the day after everything else is done.

2.  I remember being shocked when I learned that Muslims were called to ritual prayer five times per day and that Protestants  sometimes went to church on Wednesday or Sunday nights in addition to Sunday morning.  Even though I knew Catholic churches offered Mass daily, and as a school we went to Mass on at least one week day, I thought that sort of thing was for Holy Rollers (aka religious weirdos).  It took me a long while to realize that we are all called to be religious weirdos, who long to attend Mass as often as possible and praying without ceasing every day in every thing we do.  After all the whole point of life is to become the best, most holy, version of ourselves, which means living every moment of our life as a prayer to God.  That’s an over-whelming and scary thought…scary because it just seems so impossible with all the pulls on our time and attention.

3.  I’ve been trying to think of more and more ways to remind me to keep God forever on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart (just like the three crosses we make before the reading of the Gospel at Mass).  I’m not saying this to brag anything about myself; I just want to help others brain storm little ways for themselves.  About two years ago I started trying to make the Sign of the Cross every time I pass a Catholic Church to acknowledge the Holy Eucharist kept in repose inside (a tip I read about online myself).  I started to schedule prayer times into my daily to do list.  I’ve posted copies of prayers over my desk and behind cabinet doors.  I set a daily afternoon alarm on my wrist pedometer.  I nailed a crucifix over my washer and dryer.  At first it was meant to be a reminder to stop whining about laundry, but now I try to genuflect before I close the curtains.  I’m just trying to find as many little habits and reminders as a I can to help me not forget about God as I go about my crazy life.

4.  I think often about an old post of  Jen Fulwhiler‘s (that I can’t find) that discussed how our home decoration is a reflection of what we value most.  For instance, if someone walks into your home and sees five hundred pictures of your family then they would assume that you really love your family.  If you walked into Delores Umbridge’s office at Hogwart’s you would assume that she really likes kitty cats.  If your home is decorated with holy statues and icons and prayer plaques, then one might suspect that God is one of the things you value most.   (Luke 12:34-“For where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”)

Of course we shouldn’t decorate our homes with holy things just to make other people think that God is the thing we value most; that would really makes us no better than the Biblical Pharisees.  But as I strive to put more reminders of God in my daily life, I find that religious decoration is conducive.

5.  I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.  I think even non-Catholic Christians could get a lot out of it.  I’ve been using his suggested Prayer Process every night (based on St. Ignatius of Loyola).  It’s just amazing.  And it really ties in well with several steps in the recovery program of Codependents Anonymous.

6.  I love everything by Matthew Kelly that I have read so far.  My only issue is that his early books sometimes have the perspective of a young single man with a lot of freedom.  For instance, I remember  a chapter he had on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual importance of getting enough sleep.  I saw nothing wrong with his encouragement to try to get a good night’s sleep, but his tone implied that there was no valid reason (except illness) why someone shouldn’t get a good night of sleep if they just make good decisions to ensure it.  He obviously didn’t have children when he wrote that book.  He didn’t realize that sleep is a precious commodity when you have young children, especially if you ALWAYS have young children, like for a decade or more.  I would love to get enough sleep.  I would beg, borrow, and steal to get enough sleep.  But it ain’t happening most of the time.

7.  The other night on Relevant Radio Father Rich Simon was talking about when the centurions pierced Jesus’ side and blood and water poured out.  (The physical explanation is that his heart was pierced releasing blood and accumulated fluid on the heart.)  We all know that Jesus inferred that he was the Temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt on the third day.  However, I never realized that this instance on the cross was another time when Jesus was making it clear that he WAS the Temple.

Animal sacrifice for the atonement of sins was the business of the Temple.  Every Passover thousands of lambs would be ritually sacrificed, and as Father Simon said, the place would literally be a bloody mess.  Apparently, the Jewish Temple had a channel in which all of the sacrificial blood and the water to clean it up would pour out of the side of the temple just as blood and water poured out of the side of Jesus on the cross.  I love learning about those historical/metaphorical/metaphysical connections that I would have never understood in scripture without putting it in the context of Ancient Judaism.

8.  At the end of Mass one morning, we had a seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet share his vocation story.  I love hearing vocation stories as much as conversion stories.  The thing you hear in about 95% of modern vocation stories is that the person telling the story was usually approached at least three times by different people who said, “I think you have a calling to be a priest/deacon/sister.”  Often these pronouncements would come completely out of the blue.  And almost every time the person being called would laugh at the thought of accepting a religious vocation and try to follow a different path.  God always got them in the end, though!

9.  One afternoon when I was out running errands I decided to pop in the church for a few minutes to see if the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was open.  The Church has taught since the time of the Apostles that the bread and wine are not just symbols but they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.  So if we sit with the Eucharist we are sitting physically with Jesus.  Some Catholic Churches have a small room where Jesus in the appearance of bread is displayed in a golden holder called a monstrance.  People can visit with Jesus there.

The door to the chapel was locked, but I could go into the actual church.  The red candle was lit, indicating that Jesus was present in the tabernacle (aka the big gold box).  I sat and prayed for a few minutes while a group of teenagers filed for Living Stations of the Cross practice.  I sat in a back pew and prayed for about 10 minutes, and then headed back out to the narthex where I met one of our deacons.  I told him that I had intended to visit the chapel but it was locked.  His response was, “Oh, He’s not there right now.  But he’ll be going there a few minutes after start rehearsal; we always start with praying before the Eucharist.”

It just struck me the way he said it so naturally.  “Oh, He’s not there right now.”  Even though I now fully understand that it is Jesus in the Eucharist, I still doesn’t come naturally to refer to the Eucharist has “Him” instead of “it”.