Category Archives: Prayer

Seeking to Console

14492355_10104705101121664_5578315947801954111_n“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
 Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
 Where there is injury, pardon;
 Where there is error, the truth;
 Where there is doubt, the faith;
 Where there is despair, hope;
 Where there is darkness, light;
 And where there is sadness, joy.

 O Divine Master,
 Grant that I may not so much seek
 To be consoled, as to console;
 To be understood, as to understand;
 To be loved as to love.

 For it is in giving that we receive;
 It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
 And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assissi. This prayer, attributed to him, is very well known. It is recited often, printed on cards, and is the basis for hymns. In fact, we recently sung this beautiful prayer during Mass.  While I’ve been familiar with the prayer for a long time, the part that has stuck out to me most recently is that second paragraph:

 O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

We all face difficulties in life. Whether in our marriages, our careers, struggling with illness, financial troubles, infertility, death of a loved one, you name it.  Not one of us walks through life without being touched by some sort of trial, big or small.  And sometimes these troubles seem to take control of our lives.  In those times when all our focus is on the troubles we face, we tend to expect a certain reaction from those around us.

We want the people around us to be better at consoling us, to understand us more, to show us love in a different way. We get frustrated when they don’t have the right words to say. Or when no matter how hard they try, they just can’t understand what we are dealing with.  And when we don’t find ourselves consoled “properly” by those around us, it can lead us to feel more upset.

The second paragraph in the St. Francis prayer seems to me to be a cry for help in just these moments. In the times when we think to ourselves “no one understand what I am dealing with,” this prayer asks God to help us realize that, even if we ourselves don’t feel understood, we can still seek to understand the pain of those around us.  If we do not feel consoled by the words of others, rather than letting it upset us more, we can pray for the grace to see others in pain and find the words to console them.   It is a prayer that takes our attention away from our own struggles and instead redirects the focus to those around us who are in need.

On the feast day of St. Francis today, I pray that we might all strive to be a brighter light in the lives around us. To bring peace, love, joy, and hope to those who need it most.  And that when we find ourselves struggling, we may have the strength to turn our focus to others who are also in need and to find a way to help console them, understand them, and love them, even in the midst of our own struggles.

~~~~Baby Update~~~~

Just to update all of you who have so kindly kept us in prayer throughout our journey of infertility and our miraculous pregnancy, everything is going very well!  I am 36 weeks in my pregnancy this week and while I have loved being pregnant and feeling his little kicks and flips, we are so excited to meet him and hold him in our arms in a few weeks.  Thank you again for all your prayers!

Holding on to Joy

joy of the LordFor years I prayed for a baby.  I prayed so hard and I cried each month when it didn’t happen.  I didn’t know what to do when we were told it never would happen.  I was devastated and prayed for a miracle.  And I am so beyond blessed today to say that I am just about 30 weeks pregnant with my little miracle baby boy.  I still can hardly believe it!  Every time I feel him move, or listen to his heartbeat, or look at his ultrasound pictures, or see my own growing belly, I feel such joy, happiness, and thankfulness.

And yet, despite the joy, it seems over the past month there have been numerous trials trying to steal that joy.  Things that come up and cause stress and worry and pain (all amplified by the pregnancy of course).

Things like my husband having to travel out of town again for work.

Or like my dog getting a severe infection and requiring a last minute vet visit and several medications (not to mention the costs associated with this) all while my husband was out of town.

Or my car (that was paid off mind you) going into the shop for what we thought were minor repairs only to find out the cost was outrageous and it was more economical to purchase a new (to us anyway) car.

Or contracting a bizarre skin infection that has resulted in unexpected doctor’s visits, medicine, and a few added layers of stress.

Why in the world did all this need to happen in the last trimester of pregnancy?

Despite the joy felt by my husband and myself and many friends and family members over the new baby, there is one who is not happy about the new addition at all, and that is the devil.

I am sure that the idea of new life never thrills him, especially considering how much effort he puts into getting others to end life here on earth through abortion, terrorism, suicide, murder, euthanasia.  And the fact that this baby is nothing short of a complete miracle from God?  Well I don’t think he’s very happy about our joy over all this.  And I can’t help but think that maybe this same someone is watching these little trials come my way just waiting for them to take over so that the joy over this baby inside of me is replaced with worry, fear, anger, doubt.

But I refuse to let that happen.  Because when I take a minute to look at the big picture, there is far more to be thankful for than there is to be upset about.  And those things that caused extra moments of stress?  Well when I look at them compared to all our blessings, they are really nothing at all.

It is hard when my husband has to travel.  He is my best friend and I miss spending every day with him when he is gone.  I miss making him dinners and having him beside me when I go to sleep.  Of course I feel sad sometimes while he is away.  But I am blessed to have him in my life, as my husband and as the father of our little baby coming soon.  I am blessed that he is in good health.  Blessed that he shares my faith and helps me grow stronger in it constantly.  Blessed that he has a job in the field that he studied so hard for and that his job is one that is making a positive difference in our world.  So if that job sends him out of town here and there, I can deal with that.  Compared to all the good, that is nothing!

Our dog getting sick was certainly not fun. (She ate something left behind by some stray cats that dogs are not supposed to eat…)  But she was ok.  And despite the stress it caused in the moment, it was a blessing that I had the time to take her as soon as she got sick.  A blessing that it was nothing serious and that the medicine quickly helped and she is back to normal.  A blessing that we have the ability and finances to go to the vet and take care of our little pup when needed.  And a blessing that I still have her following me around, cuddling, taking walks with me.  So who cares about a silly vet visit with all those blessings?

It was so nice to have paid off my car.  But you know what?  We will make it just fine with the new payment.  Things may be tough but there are many things we can do without when money is tight.  We are blessed now to have a safe vehicle that we don’t need to worry about driving with the baby especially on long trips to visit family out of town.  And we are blessed that we found out about the car issues while it was in the shop, not during a break down on the side of the road.

The skin infection was truly random and caused the most worry out of all these.  I was concerned about it affecting the baby and about the medicine I needed to take for it.  But I am blessed that it was on my arm where I could easily notice it and have it taken care of quickly.  Blessed that we caught it early enough that it remained topical and did not get to baby.  Blessed that modern medicine has options for treating it that are still safe for me and the baby.  And blessed that it is healing!

When I sit down and look at all these blessings (not to mention other blessings we have like our family, home, food, running water, and countless more), I realize there is truly nothing to complain about.  Nothing to worry or stress over.  God is in control and has blessed us beyond measure.

So although that thief of joy might be waiting for me to lose sight of my blessings and turn to negative thoughts instead, I refuse.  When I feel myself getting overwhelmed or stressed, I will turn to prayer and to counting my blessings to keep things in perspective and to keep holding on to that joy.  The joy that comes from having the Lord in my life, having Him beside me every step of the way, and from all that He has blessed us with.

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” ~Nehemiah 8:10

Get Equipped

Things have been a bit hectic lately and I haven’t had time to write.  So in place of writing today, I am sharing a post from my sister Rebecca who leaves for her mission trip this week.  Check it out!

Get EquippedGet Equipped

Well my bags are packed and I’m Rpreparing to leave for 46 days to serve the Lord on Missions. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been dreaming of this moment since as early as 2008, and I have been preparing for this one trip since August. God has done so much for me in all this time, and I feel he has prepared me so well.

Continue reading here

With God All Things Are Possible: My Miracle Story

13076967_10104245281224424_1389941517515175780_nThis week is National Infertility Awareness week.  Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility?  I’ve posted about my own struggle here before.  Infertility is a very real cross.  The grief of letting go of that hope you have in your heart month after month after month is excruciating.

Last spring, after almost three years of trying and praying for a baby, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  It was the PCOS that seemed to be responsible for the lack of regularity in my cycles as well as hormonal imbalances and cysts on my ovaries.  There are ways to work around PCOS.  Medications to try, nutrition changes to make, etc.  But before we could try any of those things, my body had to get rid of a large complex cyst.  After months of monitoring and medication to attempt to shrink it, the cyst had only grown larger and another one had joined it.  The next step was to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the cysts.  My doctor suspected I may have endometriosis as well.  The only way to officially diagnose endo is through surgery.

During the surgery, she removed the cysts and discovered that I had stage 4 endometriosis.  It had stuck my insides together making it impossible for anything to function properly.  She was able to clear it out but the things about endometriosis, there is no cure.  You can remove it via surgery, but it will likely return.  And the further along you are stage-wise…the quicker it typically comes back.  She advised our best chance at pregnancy would be within 6 months of surgery.

So we hoped and we prayed.  We tried medications to help my hormones and had ultrasounds to monitor my ovaries.  After 5 months we decided enough was enough.  The medications and ultrasounds were expensive and didn’t seem to be helping.  So we decided to stop treatment and see how things progressed on their own.

My first cycle after the 6 month mark was incredibly difficult.  Not only did I feel like hope was lost since our “window of opportunity” had passed, but I was in a lot of physical pain too.  I suspected that the endometriosis was returning or that another large cyst had formed.  And so I went back to see my doctor.  An ultrasound showed no cysts and so my doctor and I both figured it was the endo returning.  My doctor sat down at this point to tell me that despite being 7 months ago, she vividly remembered my surgery because of the severity of the endo.  She explained that the surgery was very difficult and that my whole pelvic region was a mess.  She said we could of course keep trying, but that we had little to no chance of ever conceiving, either on our own or with treatment.

I was completely devastated.  I cried in her office.  I cried in the car on my way back to work.  I cried in the bathroom at work.  I cried when I got home.  I didn’t know what to do or where to go.  I set up a meeting with our pastoral minister Sr. Rose Anne and spoke with her about it all. She was incredibly helpful and encouraged me to keep praying for God’s will and try to switch my focus for a while.

So we did.  We turned our full attention to our search for our first house and found one we loved.  They accepted our offer and things began moving quickly with packing up the apartment and figuring out all the logistics of buying a home and moving.   We decided to focus on the house.  Neither of us felt called to adoption so we agreed to let it be for now and revisit the issue in a year once things got settled.

Later that same month of my disappointing doctor’s visit, at the urging of my husband, I took a pregnancy test.  I was convinced it would be negative.  Despite trying to remain hopeful, my doctor’s words were embedded deep in my brain and in my heart and I fully expected to take the test, have a good cry over it, and move on with the day.

But to the amazement of myself and my husband, it was positive!  I almost didn’t believe it!  I cried but for a very different reason than all the other tests!  I cried with joy at the miracle that God had given to us.

I am blessed beyond belief to say that today I am just passed the 3 month mark in my pregnancy!  I have had several ultrasounds to monitor my progress during early pregnancy and have been able to see little baby’s hands, see him/her moving around, and to hear the precious heartbeat of our little one.  I no longer need to see my specialist and will continue with a normal pregnancy with my regular doctor!

Some people hear this and say “see you just needed to relax and think about something else.”  Or  “see it always happens as soon as you stop trying.”  But I don’t believe that.  I believe the same thing I have believed in my heart all along but that my head sometimes forgot.  That God has a plan.  That everything happens in His time, not ours.  That life is a miraculous gift and a wondrous blessing given by God, not man.

I thank all of you who have prayed for us over the years and I ask that you continue to pray for all those who are still struggling with infertility as well as for our little baby.  And please join me in rejoicing at the goodness of our Lord who has blessed us with this tiny miracle!

Enough

After a few years of dealing with infertility, it can seem like there are two options available: continue to pursue medical treatment or begin the process to adopt. In reality there is also a third option and it is the option my husband and I have decided to take at this point.   And that is, basically, to do nothing.

Some might say that given what the doctors have said this doesn’t make any sense. Some might say that if we really wanted a baby we would do something more proactive at this point. Some might just shake their head in a sad fashion with a look that seems to say “so you’ve given up?”

And that could not be further from the truth. I still long desperately to be a mother. I still pray daily that it will happen. But after years of trying this treatment or that, we simply said “enough.” Enough tests, enough medication, enough stress, enough of the medical appointments (and bills that go along with them).

While adoption is a wonderful calling, it is just that: a calling. Not something that is a “last resort” option to have children. Despite how much we want a child, we simply do not feel the call to adopt. Deep in our hearts, we both still strongly feel that we will conceive and we will have our baby. And so we will continue to pray, continue to trust, continue to hope, and continue to wait.

I used to worry about what we would do when we reached this point. I would grow panicked at the thought of being able to do absolutely nothing else. But now that we are here? Now that we have made this decision? I feel immense peace about it. I know in my heart we will be parents. And I truly believe that we will become parents through conception. Even still, as we sit back and wait, we will continue to pray for God’s will to be made clear and to trust that if His will is something different, He will make it known to us.

We are not giving up hope, but we are giving up control. At the end of the day, it is God who creates life. Our decision to do nothing is a decision to fully give it to God. While I have said to myself before that we give this up to the Lord, a part of me still held onto control. A part of me felt that I had to try all my options. And I am glad that I did. I learned things about my overall health and got my body back on track. But now, I feel very comfortable with the decision to let go of it all and leave it fully in His hands.

A year ago today, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I made my first Marian consecration following the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat. It was an important step in my faith and one that has led me closer and closer to Christ. The consecration calls me to give everything I have and everything that I am to Jesus through Mary. It calls me to relinquish all control and to trust in the everlasting goodness and mercy of our Lord. It may have taken me a year, and I certainly still have a ways to go, but I feel that on this anniversary of my consecration, I am truly ready in my heart to let go and give it all up to Him.

Today also marks the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. To celebrate this, my church is holding a Bible study on Divine Mercy throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our first session was last night. To open the session, we listened to Matt Maher’s song “Your Grace Is Enough” and discussed how God’s grace, God’s mercy, is truly the heart of our faith. Pope Francis said in his Angelus address today, “Mercy is the key-word of the Gospel” and that “we should not be afraid: we should allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God, who waits for us and forgives everything.”

Today, at the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, while celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the anniversary of my first Marian consecration, I am ready to stop being afraid, to give it all up to God, and to allow His rich mercy to surround me and fill my soul. In deciding to do nothing, I feel that we are leaving ourselves open to everything. He has a plan for us, one that while I may not yet understand it, I know in my heart will be far greater than what I could come up with on my own. I am ready to really immerse myself in His mercy and let my heart be open to His will in my life. Because His mercy, His love, His grace is enough.

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

our-lady-of-the-rosaryToday we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Last year on this feast day I shared some beautiful words by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Our Lady.   Today I wanted to share some beautiful words from Saint John Paul II from his 2002 Apostolic Letter ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’:

Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us.

And further down in the letter, Saint John Paul II has this to say about the Rosary as a prayer for peace:

The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?

I invite you to read the full text of ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’ here.   It is lengthy but is a wonderful explanation of the beauty of the Rosary.  If the Rosary is currently a part of your regular prayer life, it will surely encourage you and inspire you to continue forward in prayer with renewed excitement and joy for this beautiful prayer.  And if you are new to the Rosary, this lovely letter by St. John Paul II will not only explain what it is, but how it leads us closer to Christ.  Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to you all!

Pilgrimage to Philadelphia

BannerThis weekend I was blessed to be in Philadelphia for the Pope’s visit at the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families. I do not think words can express how amazing the whole experience was, but I am still going to try – even if it gets a bit lengthy! Going into this trip, we fully expected to be back on a side street somewhere watching the proceedings on a screen. While we would have been perfectly content with this, our experience exceeded all expectations and was more than I had hoped for!

The group from our diocese left early Saturday morning on our bus. This truly was a pilgrimage and each bus trip had time spent in wonderful prayer and song. After arriving at  our campground, unloading, and eating a late lunch, we broke into smaller groups and headed into the city. It took about 45 minutes for our bus to get to the main parking lot at the Philadelphia Sports Complex. From there we took the subway into town. Saturday we knew we would not get close to the main stage for the Festival of Families so instead we headed towards City Hall where Pope Francis would be passing by in a Papal parade that evening.

Pope FrancisWe found a spot about five rows back from the gate to the street where he would pass by and waited. The crowd was large but not overwhelming and everyone was so friendly and joyful! You could hear in the distance the immense cheers as Pope Francis’s motorcade got closer to our spot and we all got our cameras ready. He went by pretty quickly and was looking on the other side of the street when he passed but it was still amazing to be so close to the Holy Father! Being a bit shorter, I could see him mostly through my camera which I held up high and succeeded in getting a (slightly blurry) photo as he rode by. Our small group of eight was amazed at how close we had been!   We walked a few blocks to a large jumbotron to watch the Festival from there. We saw him (on the jumbotron screen) speak at the Festival and stayed to watch a few performances before heading back to our bus.

SongThe next morning we woke up, ate, and made lunches for the day. Again we boarded the bus but this time when we arrived at the parking lot we were instantly aware that today the crowds would be much larger. With this in mind, and being fully convinced we would have to find a jumbotron far from the action, we took our time to keep our group together as we journeyed on. The subway station was packed and the lines long but the atmosphere was so filled with joy and excitement that we didn’t even care! We met people from near and far, Quebec, Pennsylvania, Dominican Republic, Chicago, and even some fellow pilgrims from Ohio!

When we got into the city, we headed towards the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. We found a security checkpoint but had to walk along the line to try and find the end of it! As we walked, we came to a block with angry protesters on each side. With their megaphones, yelling, and hateful signs, perhaps they thought they would discourage us. But walking by them only made the experience even richer as we joined together, the whole line of us, in singing the Our Father over and over until we passed their section. It was such a beautiful thing to see people so filled with love and joy in the Lord joining in song and prayer together without even stopping to pay any mind to those who were against us. ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ Romans 8:31

CrowdThe line was so long and there was no end in sight when we passed one of the many military members helping in the security efforts. As we passed, we heard him say that the checkpoint one block over was just being opened to the general public (it had previously been for ticketed guests only.) Our group cut over a block and got in the (much shorter) security line. We could not believe this blessing! We made it through security and were amazed at how close we were. Since we were so close to the ticketed area that each of us received a mass booklet as well! We had not been anticipating this at all!

Our first spotWe found a spot on the corner right in front of a large jumbotron that was directly behind the ticketed area. We literally were as close as non-ticketed guests were able to get! We set up our blankets and chairs. There was a sewer vent right near our spot and one of the volunteers informed us that since we were “in limbo land” we would not have access to any restrooms. The restrooms were either closer up in the ticketed area, or we would have to go out to the non-ticketed area behind us which would require going through security again. Despite this, we decided to stay at our spot.   We ate our lunches and then decided we would say a rosary together. We had just begun the first three Hail Marys of our group rosary when that same volunteer came up to our group. She told us to quickly gather our things, there was additional room in the ticketed section and they were going to let us in!

Our final spot for MassWe scooped up our blanket and quickly went forward. We ended up setting up a spot right behind the handicapped viewing area. We were close enough that you could see the art museum ahead of us and could make out the crucifix on the altar for mass! We were so thankful and thrilled! We finished eating and finished our rosary. We had plenty of time still until mass so we began to sing. One of the members in our group had put together a booklet of popular hymns that we had been singing earlier on the bus. We took out our booklets and started singing. People around us began to join in. It was beautiful.

From our spot, not only could we see the altar, but we were also right by a huge jumbotron where we Pope Francis in his procession before Masscould see the mass up close. We saw on the screen that Pope Francis was beginning his procession prior to mass. We watched in anticipation for him to pass by our spot as he slowly went through the crowds, stopping to kiss several babies along the way. When he was nearing our spot, I held my camera up above me but did not stop to look through it. I clicked away figuring I will get whatever photo I get. I wanted to watch the Holy Father pass by with my own eyes. He went much slower this time and was facing our direction so that we got a clear view of his joyful self, greeting all of us with love.

After the procession it was time for mass. The mass was more beautiful than I could ever describe. It is said that during mass we are the closest to heaven. All I can say is that you could truly feel that. Celebrating mass with a million people, not to mention the millions who watched from their homes, and with Pope Francis! It was beyond words. The readings were in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese, with some of the prayers in English and the Eucharistic liturgy all in Latin. The Holy Father gave his homily in his native Spanish. The jumbotron had translated captions along the bottom so we could follow along.

When it was time for communion, the priests who were distributing the Eucharist were signified in the crowd by yellow and white umbrellas held high above them. To see over a thousand yellow and white umbrellas as they made their way through the crowd for people from all over the world to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist was so moving. As we began to sing the communion hymns and made our way to the nearest umbrella I felt tears in my eyes. How awesome to celebrate this most Blessed Sacrament with so many others in one place together! Before mass ended, we received our blessing from Pope Francis.

The crowds leaving Philadelphia after Mass were certainly large but it was so well organized and everyone was so joyful that we didn’t mind. People were singing and laughing and celebrating together all the way back to the bus. You could truly feel the Holy Spirit among us all this weekend.

It is hard to describe our pilgrimage to Philadelphia. The photos don’t do it justice and while I pray my words express what we felt, I know they cannot. It was not about just seeing the Pope. It was not about getting as close as possible (although I am incredibly thankful that we were blessed to be as close as we were!) This was about worshiping together with so many people, led in prayer by our dear Pope Francis. It was an experience filled with prayer, love, and the joy of the Lord. It was inspiring and truly life-changing.

Glory to God for watching over us all this weekend! Thanks and praise for the wonderful blessings we received on this trip. And thank you to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for inspiring us all each day by your words and your actions. For helping to draw the Church closer to Christ. And for coming here to America with your message of love and mercy. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it.

Altar