Category Archives: Prayer

That Pesky Pew Study

By now you may have heard about that new Pew research study. You know…the one that claims only ⅓ of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. Of course this is upsetting and has led many to contemplate how to fix this. 

But first, let’s put things in perspective. This is a study. Presumably the sampled people represent the Church as a whole. However, we can all recognize that the statistics may not be fully accurate. Not to say we shouldn’t be concerned, but just to keep in mind this statistic is an approximation. 

Now, what should we do? 

I strongly believe the answer lies in catechesis in 3 main forms: religious education, through homilies, and catechesis by example. Allow me to elaborate.

Religious Education

Proper instruction for children preparing to receive First Holy Communion, and afterwards the education should not stop! At minimum one lesson every single year of religious education should be devoted to the Eucharist, with the teaching deepening as children grow older. 

Similarly, adult faith formation opportunities that focus on the Eucharist should be available at least once a year to the entire parish. These could be in the form of weekly classes, a one day lecture series, even an online course or lectures such as those offered through Formed, Ascension Press, or Dynamic Catholic.  

In person instruction is great but some people simply cannot attend classes at church or do not feel comfortable doing so. A quick blurb in the church bulletin about online videos to watch, a link on the church website or social media is a great way to reach out to more people with this theology. 

Homilies

I was so pleased to hear my priest mention this survey in his homily yesterday and reiterate what we believe about the Eucharist. But i know not all priests do.

I have been to Mass where the Bread of Life discourse was proclaimed and yet not talked about in the homily. Or where the homily centers on a relationship with Christ but never mentions the most intimate relationship we can have in the Eucharist.

No matter what educational opportunities are available, there will always be people who do not want to, or are not able to participate. The homily is an amazing opportunity to remind the congregation what we are about to partake in and conveniently it fits in with many many scripture readings.

Example

Still with all the instruction in the world, sometimes faith is not knowing on an intellectually theological level, but trusting and believing in your heart even when you cannot fully understand. And in truth, none of us here on earth can ever fully comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist. So to better instill a true belief in the Eucharist,  we need to teach not only at the intellectual level, but reach to the heart. And that, I believe, is best accomplished through example.

This is where people are most inclined to argue. Some insist that the only way to restore reverence for the Eucharist is to restore the Traditional Latin Mass. Others argue we must receive the Body of Christ only on the tongue. Some blame the music, the lack of altar rails, etc. Maybe some of these would work, but true reverence can be shown whether in English, Spanish, Latin, French, or any other language. We can sit, stand, kneel, or crawl but true reverence comes from the heart and may look different for different people…but when one approaches with sincerity of heart and true belief, it shows through. 

Each of us needs to search within ourselves and ask…do we receive the Eucharist with true sincerity of heart and faith that it IS the Body Of Christ And does that belief shine through in our daily living?

While I believe these things will help spread belief, it is important to note that some still may struggle with this teaching. And that is ok! This simple prayer can help us through doubt, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

One final thought…

It seems to me, that if the devil really wanted to tear apart the Church, wouldn’t it be convenient that this study would come out just as we are still dealing with the abuse scandal? And wouldn’t it only make sense that he would attack Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith? Wouldn’t he delight in the many who don’t believe in the Eucharist and oh how he would love if this study plunged devout Catholics into despair and doubt? Better still, wouldn’t the devil love for this study to create arguments over how to fix it, and cause division within Christ’s Church?

Let’s not give him what he wants. Don’t give in to argument, to despair, to doubt or hopelessness. Stay strong in faith and let this information fill us with renewed love and commitment to faith. To draw us closer to Christ in the Eucharist and to bring our Church together in greater unity to serve the Lord. 

The Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive because it IS Jesus!!! Let us allow that truth to transform our lives each and every day.

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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!