Do we live in a culture of fear? Watching your news station, reading a newspaper, your Facebook feed or even a quick Google search will confirm that we do. Much can be written and in fact has been written about why that is.
It seems that some adults find this time of year difficult, as they are being asked by loved one’s ‘what they would like to receive for Christmas?’ Among the list they share things that cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree, such as, financial security, more sleep, or a sense of purpose.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. The weather is cooler, the sun still shines bright on most days, flowers still bloom, but most of all, the leaves on the trees go from their radiant green to the beautiful combination of orange, yellow and red. Colors are everywhere!
Read more here.
Hope springs from faith in God and love for him and the souls He has placed in my path. This love extends from my family members, friends, acquaintances to strangers. Through my faith and love, my trust in God and His promises grows stronger, and springs forth the hope that motivates me to complete the work He has entrusted to me.
As Catholic parents we have a responsibility to pass on our faith to our children, so involving them in activities that provide religious formation is a non-negotiable.
Years ago, I would read Proverbs 31 daily. I wanted so much to be like the woman in the proverb. I prayed that God would send me a friend who was living like the woman praised in Proverbs 31 so that I could have a mentor.
Well, God is gracious and not only did He send me one, He sent me a few!
With great humility I share with you that I am now a contributing writer for Regnum Christi Live
I will share the links here for those of you interested in reading my posts. You can also subscribe to receive updates directly from RCLive blog and read the posts from the other inspiring writers!
Follow this link to read: Feeding Gremlins with My Disordered Life
Do you panic when asked about your Catholic faith?
Every baptized Christian is called to evangelize; yet many Catholics find personal evangelism intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be! In Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies, Nancy Ward shows you that evangelization can be simply a matter of letting others know how God has worked in our life.
As Nancy explains the importance of being able to bear witness to God’s love by sharing your faith story, she shares her own story of lifelong conversion and shows you how to recognize the ways God has drawn you closer to him throughout your life. You’ll also get ten tips on how to share your story in a way that is natural, effective, and un-intimidating.
In the second part of the book, you’ll read more than thirty personal faith stories by Catholics from all walks of life—converts and “reverts,” clergy, religious, and lay people who tell their own unique stories of how God has drawn them gradually closer into his loving embrace.
In this book, I shared our story about how the Church teaching on marriage and family and bringing back openness to life blessed our marriage. It’s a story that we often feel is no longer ours, in a sense. We lived through it, but now God has called us to share it in hopes that other engaged and married couples will avoid many of the pitfalls we fell into.
It is a humbling experience to be part of this project, encouraging others to share their story. We all have a story to tell, we have a responsibility to share it to make God’s work known in the world.
Certainly, we struggle at times to share how God has worked in our lives, because it may require a certain amount of vulnerability and in our effort to remain humble, we think sharing our story may be an act of pride. My hope for the readers of this book is that the tips and tools included will help you work through whatever it is that may be holding you back from sharing your faith story.
If you’ve ever wished you could be a more effective witness to God’s truth and love, you should learn to share YOUR Catholic faith story. You have a story only you can tell, and someone needs to hear it!
You can find Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story on Amazon.com.
The Humanae Vitae is difficult to accept and even more difficult to live out because many believe contraception allows us to be responsible parents and allows us to exercise our so-called “freedom”. What we want is to be “free” to have sex when we want without having to worry about getting pregnant. Having to accept the discipline that comes with practicing chastity and abstinence seems to difficult and unnecessary in a world where other options are easily accessible and acceptable.
Sex is meant to be a gift for married couples, it serves to purposes, pleasure and procreation. These two are meant to be kept in balance. Contraception tips the scale and sex is used only for pleasure. When we reduce the chance of pregnancy, then we justify sex outside of marriage, pre-marital sex, same-sex, and extra marital affairs, which is infidelity.
When contraception fails, some resort to abortion as a back up. As Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Others chose life for that child and take responsibility for the life that has been created. Even when life is created outside of God’s plan – God can redeem it and make it beautiful. Every human being is a result of millions of sexual unions. History of humanity is determined by who had sex with whom. Remember this the next time you celebrate your birthday, what you are celebrating is that your parents had sex.
Sex is a language that says, I give all of myself to you. While couples use contraception, their marital act is incomplete. They are lying to each other with their bodies, and there are real consequences in their relationship. It affects their communication, the level of intimacy and the way they view each other, and others of the opposite sex. What they think is freedom from the rules, is causing them to be slaves to their own bodies.
From personal experience I can share that when we reached a low point in our marriage, we turned to the Church for help. It was through learning the teaching of the Church on marriage and family that we recognized what we were doing wrong in our marriage. First, we took our sin to confession, and then years later, Dave felt called to have the vasectomy reversed.
In the past 11 years since we have learned the Church’s teaching, we have come to see God’s plan for marriage and family is based on love and what is best for us. God is the creator. He created us in His image and likeness. He loves us so much, gives us a share in His creative power. We do our part with the physical union and God implants the soul. The three of us share a love so powerful it becomes a third person – a child.
St. John Paul II, in the Theology of the Body, spoke of the four pillars of a Catholic marriage. The spouses are a gift to each other and their relationship is to be total, faithful, fruitful and forever.
A total self gift as it relates to the marital act, means nothing is held back, not the life-giving seed, or the life-bearing womb. Contraception reduces the possibility of a life being created, it says, I give only part of myself to you.
Being a faithful gift to our spouse means that I have made a commitment before God and others to be true to the marriage vows, to only become one with my spouse. Having sex outside of marriage only proves that one can be unfaithful, because they are capable of having sex with someone they are not married to. Pre-marital sex, in a sense is practice for being unfaithful to your spouse.
Being fruitful requires an openness to the possibility of life being created, not placing any physical barriers that can prevent pregnancy. The Catholic church teaches couples to use Natural Family Planning (NFP), this is not Catholic birth control. NFP ultimately tracks the women’s natural cycle for fertile and infertile signs. If the couple have good, moral reason to avoid pregnancy, they abstain from sex on her fertile days.
A couple who struggles with infertility, meaning that they do not use any contraception but find they are unable to conceive, are still being fruitful in that they are not placing any physical barriers to prevent conception. It is a difficult reality for these couples who want to have children of their own and the church recognizes how trying this can be for the couple. While there are some Catholic doctors who can help with some of the difficulties couples face, these couples are asked to stay fruitful through their involvement in parish life, and adoption or foster parenting. The church teaching is since God ordained that life be created within the marital act, procedures like IVF and surrogacy are illicit because it goes against the dignity of the human person. (I could write a whole other post on this issue).
The fourth pillar, that the couples share a love that is forever, requires that they have made a commitment to each other before God and other witnesses. The marital act becomes a renewal of the vows they made on their wedding day. This is good for the family and society. Children deserve to be born into the security of the family, to a couple who are committed to stay together. Sure, in today’s world where divorce is rampant this seems to make little sense, I am writing about marriage as God intended it to be. The increase in the number of divorces in many cases is a consequence of not accepting the church’s teaching.
The virtues of chastity, modesty, and self-mastery are for the married and unmarried alike. Married couples need to practice these virtues to successfully use NFP and to fulfill the four pillars of marriage. If they practice these virtues before marriage they will be more successful continuing to practice them within marriage.
The church is not against sex. In fact, the church teaching is that sex is very good. It was one of the first commandments of God to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God assigned pleasure to sex, the same way He assigned pleasure to eating and sleeping. Each of them is to be enjoyed in their proper context, proper time and in a proper amount. Think about what happens when eat too much, or too little or eat foods that are not good for us. How about if we sleep too much, too little or at inappropriate times. There are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences. The same applies to sex.
Sex is meant to be a gift to the married couple for the good of their marriage and for their family. With mutual respect for the dignity of the person. Natural Family Planning (NFP) encourages open communication and empowers the couple to learn about their bodies. I will write more on NFP in a future post. For now here are some resources for you to learn more about Theology of the Body.
The ringing woke me from sleep. I absent-mindedly hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. When that didn’t work, I realized the ringing was coming from the phone. I opened my eyes to the darkness of my bedroom. The time was 2:30 a.m. and caller I.D. revealed it was my sister. My heart skipped a beat. This couldn’t be good news.
“Dad’s condition is much worse.” She choked back tears as she spoke.
“I am on my way.”
I didn’t want to waste any time. I needed to hit the road and get to the hospital. Dad had been hospitalized for 3 weeks with pneumonia. Being seventy-eight years old and suffering from lung disease for the past twenty years, made for a lethal combination.
Three hours later Dad took his last breath. We knew the time was coming but still, when it happened the finality of it set off a chain of emotions that we could not stop.
That was seven years ago. What has followed is a dramatic learning experience that has touched every area of my life, including my faith. The hardest part has been learning to live with the pain and to move beyond the grief and mourning.
Grief and mourning are not synonymous. Grief encompasses thoughts and emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, sorrow, guilt and loneliness are all a part of grief. Grief is unique; everyone grieves differently. Some may be more tearful, while others show more anger or frustration. Mourning, however, is grief in action. What we do with our grief is part of mourning. Expressing emotions, through tears, talking to others and even exercise will lessen the grief.
Often I have heard it said that when you are dying you see your whole life flash before your eyes. The same may be true for those who lose a loved one. When my Dad died, I did not expect to relive all the memories of my life with him. For weeks after his passing, I could not get him out my mind. Remembering moments I haven’t thought of for years. Reliving memories from the good times as a little girl when I idolized him, to the rebellious teenage years when I did not respect him as much as I should have. Recalling the young adult who judged him and most recently recognizing the time when I was finally able to forgive, love and accept him for the man he was.
I understand now that our temperament and our relationship with the person who passed away will affect the grieving process. Watching my family grieve gave me a new understanding. Regardless of the relationship we had with Dad, we all have memories that come to mind and we are faced with the reality that we will never see his face or hear his voice again.
Some well-meaning persons have offered advice. Unfortunately, some of the advice is based on myths. One myth involves the belief that discussing your feelings is unnecessary. I was also told that the best thing to do is get over it quickly. If you are still feeling sad after three months then you are at risk of suffering depression. In response to this I wondered about our first Father’s Day without him, or our first Christmas without him. These celebrations happened well after three months. Feeling sad and missing his presence on these days cannot mean I am suffering depression. In truth, the grieving process will take as long as I need it to take. Tears are not a sign of inadequacy or weakness.
There are days I feel like I am doing alright. I smile and laugh, and feel like I have a handle on the grief. Then it seems out of nowhere, I’ll have a day where I can’t keep it together. Memories come on strong, and feelings of loss are unbearable. At first these days would confuse me and leave me wondering if I was regressing. These moments are perfectly normal, and those in bereavement work call them “grief bursts.” The grieving process is filled with valleys and plateaus. During the plateaus prayer and reading scripture have given me strength and hope.
Two months after Dad’s passing; my mom, sisters and I attended a conference organized by Dynamic Women of Faith in Toronto, Canada. The conference included a speaker, who trained under Dr. Alan Wolfelt, the Director of Center for Loss and Life Transition in Colorado. Her talk was titled, “When Someone Dies”. Much of the practical advice I received came from this talk. It has also been helpful to me to read articles on the internet from others who have also experienced the loss of a loved a one.
The first few months after losing a loved one can feel like a daze. The struggle to accept reality, working through the emotions and physical ailments that may occur, brings many moments of sadness and despair. During this time, it helps to share emotions and allow the process to happen. I booked an appointment with my family doctor to rule out any physical illness, since my immune system was weak and may have left me prone to illness.
Grief can manifest itself in feelings of helplessness, guilt and anger. Irritability, loneliness, inability to focus and fatigue are also a normal part of the grieving process. Adding an exercise routine, talking to others, seeking help through bereavement support groups or writing in a journal can help to work through these feelings.
The greatest consolation I received came three months after Dad passed away when I became pregnant with my third child. It was providential as we had hoped and prayed for another child for a few years. This brought on a mix of emotions. While I was excited about the pregnancy, I was also sad that my new baby would not meet his grandfather. After my son, was born I remembered how my dad held and played with my older children, and imagined that he would have done the same.
The grief process helps us move from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory. This can take years. We need to give ourselves permission to grieve. It is best not to make major life decisions during this time, and to set and follow a routine. Do the grief work, by perusing pictures and videos, listening to music, or writing a letter to the one who passed away. Accepting that tears and talking to others can and will help with the healing process.
The most valuable advice I have received is to take 5 – 10 minutes each day and allow memories and the tears to flow. Surprisingly this practice brought me hope, acknowledging that this process would get easier, and that someday in eternity we will see eachother again.
Though, I cannot ignore the fact that my greatest strength has come from my faith. God’s original plan did not include death; death is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin of pride and disobedience. This has given me a new appreciation for God’s love. He never intended for us to have to deal with the pain of grief because He knows how difficult it is for us. I know that He is grieving with me.
It took some time for me to sincerely open my heart to Christ, to spend time crying with Christ. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop. Doing this made me realize that I am not alone in this grief, and He gave me a new hope.
The sadness is still there and the vulnerability, but the reassurance that Dad is at peace and the consolation that has come from knowing my friends are praying for me and my family has been a tremendous help.
It is my hope that in sharing my experience and what I learned through this process, will help those of you who have experienced a death of a loved one. As a good friend reminded me, “We can never be ready for death, it comes like a thief in the night. We can only hope we are spiritually ready for it.”
Emerging From Grief – helpful resources: