Tag Archives: Faith

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.

ECW: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.” ~St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

A lot has been in the news lately regarding immigrants. From reforming legislation, to building a wall, to stricter vetting procedures, to blocking people from specific countries, there are many opinions on the issue. Regardless of where you might stand politically, as Christians we are called to welcome the stranger.  To treat everyone as Christ. This certainly includes immigrants and refugees. Most of us can trace our family history back and see that at some point, our ancestors were immigrants, too.  To hear the stories of immigrants, whether from history books or our own family members, whether hundreds of years ago or here and now, we know that there are many struggles they face.

The next empowered Catholic woman I want you to meet in this ECW series made a huge difference in the lives of immigrants, so much so that she is the patron Saint of immigrants!

Born in Italy in 1850, she spent most of her life battling health issues. In fact, when she first wished to join the religious congregation of Daughters of the Sacred Heart at just 18 years old, she was turned down for poor health. Instead, she was urged to teach at a girls school where she was quite influential. In 1877 she officially took her views becoming Mother Cabrini. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart with six other women. The Missionary Sisters founded seven homes, a free school and nursery to help poor children in schools and hospitals…all in the first five years!

Pope Leo XIII asked her to continue her work in New York City to help the Italian immigrants in the area in 1889. Despite facing many setbacks and even being told she should just go back to Italy, she continued on with her calling.  She taught the Italian immigrants, opened homes for orphans, and founded hospitals.  In fact, she founded 67 institutions including orphanages, schools, and hospitals across the United States including New York, Colorado, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as South America and Europe.

She became a citizen of the United States in 1909. In 1917 she died at the age of 67.  She was canonized in 1946 and her feast day is November  13. In 1996 she was named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Wow!

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was not wealthy, not a celebrity, not a politician.  She didn’t have much in terms of earthly possessions or worldly status, but she did have the Holy Spirit guiding her and through the Lord’s guidance she found a way to live out her calling and make a tremendous difference in the lives of countless people, particularly immigrants.  She was certainly not held back by being a woman!

As politics become heated and discussions on immigration become more prevalent in America, let us ask for the intercession of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, to guide world leaders in making policies to help those in need, and to guide us in our own lives to follow the Lord’s call. May we see by the example of this empowered Catholic woman that there is nothing we cannot do when the Holy Spirit is working within us.

+St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us+

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ECW: The Blessed Virgin Mary

The first ECW (empowered Catholic woman) I want to focus on in this series is Our Blessed Mother. She goes by many titles: Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, and many more. When looking at women honored and respected by the Catholic Church, you can’t get much greater than Mary. In fact, Mary is so much a part of our Catholic faith that it can be easy to take her for granted and not realize what a immense blessing she is.

From the first moment we meet Mary in the Bible, we meet a strong woman who does the Lord’s will fully and without reservation. She says YES to the Lord when asked to be the mother of the Son of God, even while she does not fully understand how this will happen. (Luke 1:26-38) Being a young, unwed virgin and finding out she was with child, she certainly had reason to say no. She could have been stoned for adultery! But she trusted in God’s perfect plan for her. That’s a pretty strong woman!

She visits her cousin Elizabeth who addresses her as most blessed among women. (Luke 1:42) And while Mary acknowledges that all generations will indeed call her blessed, she does not keep the praise for herself. She does not brag to Elizabeth  about how she was chosen or how righteous she is. No. She is quick to give all glory and praise to God. (Luke 1:46-55) And still today this is what she does. By acting as our mother, she does not take away from God but rather magnifies Him, points us toward Him and gently nudges us closer to her Son, the Savior of the world!

But Mary’s YES to the Lord’s will didn’t end there. It was more than a YES to have a baby, it was a YES to endure all that would come with being the Mother of God.  She travelled nine months pregnant on a donkey to a strange land and had her baby surrounded by animals and shepherds instead of family and friends. (Luke 2:1-20) She left the people she had known to escape to Egypt to save her son from Herod’s killing. (Matthew 2:13-17) And when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, she was met with the words of praise for the Messiah…along with a foretelling of the pain she  would endure because of her YES (and you yourself a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35)  But she didn’t complain. She didn’t run or hide or say to God, I’m done now this is all too much. No. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary raised Jesus and was with Him for 30 years.  After hearing those prophecies, I can’t help but wonder if she found herself during those 30 years thinking when will it happen? How will it happen? Can’t we just stay like this happy and together? Even if she felt this way, she never allowed it to interfere with what the Lord willed. She did not give in to temptation and hold her Son back from fulfilling His life-saving mission. Quite the opposite! After all, it was through Mary’s  intercession that Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. (John :1-12)

Those three years of His ministry must have been filled with joy and also pain for Our Lady. Surely she was amazed by the wondrous deeds He performed, the loving message He shared, His courage to speak out for what was right. And yet as people spoke out against Him, tried to trick Him into speaking against the Scripture, called Him names and plotted against Him, I am sure her heart was heavy. What mother wants to see her child ridiculed and spoken of in such a manner? Still the pain she faced in watching Him treated this way during His ministry was nothing compared to the pain of watching her only son put to death on the cross 

Jesus’s crucifixion was beyond difficult for His followers to face. They were confused, filled with sorrow and dismay and fear. So troubling was His suffering and death, that we do not see them present with Him at His death. They followed Him for years but in the final moments could not stay beside Him.  Mary was by His side to the very end and beyond. (John 19:25-27) She did not accompany Him to Calvary to beg that He change what was to happen, to scream for the soldiers  to stop, to say to Him as did the others, “save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) No. She stood, stood, at the foot of the cross silently. Not buckled in grief or crumpled on the ground weeping, although perhaps inside she wanted to do nothing more than just that. She trusted fully in the Lord and through Him was given the remarkable strength to stand there while watching her son suffer and die because, though she may not have understood it, she knew that this was His plan and she was not going to go against His will. And after He rose from the dead, and even after He ascended into Heaven, she remained faithful to the Lord and devoted herself to prayer with the disciples. (Acts 1:14)

What incredible faith! We can learn so much from Mary’s example of obedience to the Father. She said YES to have a baby, but she also said YES to every bit of suffering and every moment of joy. She knows what it is to suffer. She knows that there is pain in this world because she has lived it. And now from her place in heaven, she hears our cries and seeks to draw us ever closer to her son, Jesus Christ. She wants to console us in our grief and sorrow by sending us into His loving, outstretched arms where she knows we will find peace.  She wants to share in our joy when we see the glory of God displayed in our lives.  She loves us as her children, for she is our mother. 

When it comes to empowered Catholic women, perhaps none was more filled with the Holy Spirit than Mary. And what a tremendous gift that we have her, not only as an example to look up to and admire, but also as an advocate for us! She is not just a distant holy woman we can read about and that’s that. She is present to us here and now through the the communion of Saints to pray for us and guide us on our faith journey. May we learn from her  example to live according to God’s will for us and to accept our joys and our sufferings.  And when we find ourselves struggling to do so, may we turn to her that she may intercede for us and bring  us closer to God. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

Empowered Catholic Women


What does it mean to be empowered? Particularly as a woman? 

I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile. As many of you know, I struggled with infertility for years and was blessed with a miracle baby boy just six months ago. As I started to think about what direction to take this blog in, this is the question that lit the fire within me

What does it mean to be an empowered woman?

In the months since I published my last post, mainstream media here in America has had a lot to say on the topic. With the election of Donald Trump as President, so-called champions of women’s rights and feminists have come out in full force to demonstrate the importance of women and to empower women to make a difference and be all they can be.  

Or at least that is the message they claim to send.  But in reality, many of these groups seem to think an empowered woman is only one who thinks like them. After all, only one who supports all women’s rights, including the rights to birth control and abortion, could truly be empowered as a woman. And so conservative organizations and the Catholic Church in particular are seen to be “anti-woman.” A Church refusing to allow women priests, opposing birth control and abortion must be opposed to the success of women, right? That crazy Catholic Church just wants all the women to stay home and keep house and have babies and never contribute anything more to society…at least this is the message that seems to prevail. But let’s really think about what empowerment means.

Empowerment, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “authority or power given to someone to do something.” By this definition, it seems the most empowered women would be those receiving their power and authority from the highest source.  Whoever has the highest authority themselves would be able to bestow the greatest authority onto another to do great things.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18

Of course our Lord and Savior holds the highest authority! So those who act according to His will are certainly empowered to do great things.  The Catholic Church, the church that Christ Himself founded, believes this to be true also. In fact, those who follow the will of the Lord and live extraordinary lives of faithfulness are recognized by being pronounced as Saints. And sainthood is not limited to men! In fact, many of the most influential Saints in the Church were women! Catholic women who were empowered by the Holy Spirit, who used the gifts given to them by Jesus Christ who holds all authority, and who accomplished great things. Things like becoming scholars, fighting battles, founding hospitals and schools, caring for immigrants, going to places no one else would to care for the poor, the sick, and the dying. They were women who risked their lives to do the will of the Lord. Women who perhaps received little to no recognition in the secular world for their greatness, but who were instead honored by the Catholic Church. Certainly doesn’t seem very anti-woman to me!  The Church shows us through these amazing women that to be empowered means embracing the gifts God has given us to do the things He calls us to. Women have special and unique gifts that allow us to do incredible things. 

Over the next several weeks, I’d like to highlight just a few of these inspiring women. Women who live thousands of years ago, and women from our own lifetime. Women who are mothers, teachers, scholars, and more.  Women from various backgrounds and walks of life who had one thing in common; they were empowered Catholic women.

Follow along with the ECW (Empowered Catholic Women) series weekly to learn more about amazing women of faith including…

Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Joan of Arc

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

…and more!

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!

Meet Rebecca

I am blessed to have three wonderful sisters.  We are all very close and truly are the best of friends.  Aside from the goofy times and girl talks and childhood memories, we share a deep faith instilled in us by our loving parents.  We support each other in everything that we do and are always helping each other to grow closer to God.

RebeccaToday I wanted to share my support for my youngest sister, Rebecca.  Rebecca will be working as a missionary this summer and just started her own blog to document her faith journey and to help raise money for the trip. Despite this being her first blog, you may have read her writings before in a guest post on the Eucharist that I posted here a few years ago.

I encourage you to check out her blog and learn a little bit about her.  If you are able to offer any donations, now or in the future, I know she very much appreciates any assistance!  And even if you are unable to donate money at this time, I ask that you keep her in your prayers as she prepares for her missionary work.

Click here for Rebecca’s blog

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

Answers to Prayers

Whenever discussing our struggle with infertility, I always remind myself that I know God has a plan and we will have a baby.  Recently I was asked how I can be so sure of that despite all the obstacles we have faced and are still facing.  I have faced the same questions myself on more than one occasion.  Every time I begin to look down another path and give up on becoming a mother, something happens that  calls me to be patient and continue on my journey.  It may be some good medical news, a particular verse in the Bible that seems to jump out at me, or someone sharing a story of their own struggles.  But each time, I am reassured that being a mother is in fact my call.  Even so, it is certainly difficult to remember at times.

Almost a year ago I was having a very hard time with it all.  I decided to delve deeper into my faith and make an honest effort to keep myself truly open to whatever God’s will may be.  Around that time my parish women’s group was beginning the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat in preparation for Marian Consecration by Father Michael Gaitley.  And I decided to participate.

MaryThe purpose of the retreat is to bring you closer to Mother Mary, and thus grow closer to Christ.  My mother participated in the retreat long distance.  She and I would discuss the daily readings and I would call her after each weekly meeting with my women’s group to tell her what we talked about.  In late November, while in the midst of our retreat, my mother called me early one morning to tell me something wonderful.

She told me that the previous night, she had a visit from Our Lady.  She was unable to see her face but could see her robes, could hear her voice, and knew without a doubt that it was Mary.  This was not a dream.  It was more than that. In her visit, she told my mother to let me know that she sees my pain, she knows how deeply I long for a child and that I will have a baby!  She did not say how.  She did not say when.  But she did say how important it was to remember my blessings and to keep praying because our prayers are so very powerful.  She said that there is something else that must be finished first, but that I should not be sad because God hears my prayers and I will have a child.

Now some might say that is just a dream but I know it was more than that.  The peace that my mother felt and that I had upon her telling me this was surely from God.  I truly believe that the Mother of Our Lord came to my own mother here on earth to deliver a message for me, in a way that perhaps only a mother can.

The message from Mother Mary was an answer to my prayers.  I didn’t find out when or how I would become a mother. And almost a year later, I still am not pregnant.  It can be tempting sometimes to say that my prayers have not yet been answered but I know that is not the case.

I was at a crossroads praying for direction.  My heart and soul longed to be a mother and I felt such pain in the thought of letting go of that dream.  I believe I was led by the Holy Spirit to participate in this retreat because through the 33 Days, I found myself letting go of more and more of my own desires.  I was giving more of myself up in preparation to fully give myself to Jesus through Mary at our consecration.  And by opening my heart up in this way, I received the answer to my prayers.

I received confirmation that motherhood was indeed my calling.  And just as important, perhaps even more so, was the message to remember my blessings and to continue on in prayer.  There have been many struggles since then and many times when I do not know how in the world I will become a mother.  There are times when it seems like I should give up.  But I remember the message from Our Lady and hold tight to my hope and faith in Jesus Christ who I know hears and answers my prayers.

Answers to prayers come in many forms.  It might be the answer you were looking for.  It might be a gentle nudge to move in another direction. It might be the pull to a particular Bible verse that speaks to your heart.  For me, I am incredibly thankful for the blessing of Our Lady in her visit to my mother which uplifted my spirit, renewed my hope, and led me to a greater faith in her Son, Jesus Christ who gives me the strength I need to continue on my journey.