Thursday, March 22, 2018

Our Lowly Bodies


I have a friend who, when embarrassed by her special needs daughter in public, later complained to her husband about how she felt.  Her husband lovingly chastised her to "stop right there" - did she think she was better than her daughter? This story struck me, and has stayed with me for years.  What a loving and wise father and husband.  This happened well before my daughter was even a twinkle in my eye.  It helped develop how I view the world. 

Proverbs 14:31:

"Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."

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      SInce my daughter was born, I feel like I've been fighting for her dignity since the maternity ward.  How dare that woman from records say "I'm sorry" when learning of her diagnosis?  Since she was born, I have been on the offensive - "you WILL love my child! look at how beautiful!" It hurts me, on behalf of her and those like her, when people think her condition is undesirable. The vanity of this world is so strange. So, I have been walking around uselessly injured, unbeknownst to those who hurt me.  My kids have a saying. "That sounds like a 'you' problem, Mom." Praying for a charitable heart, the truth of that becomes clearer and clearer. I cannot dictate to another how they deal with an unexpected circumstance. But I want to. Pray for me.  

     Yesterday was World Down Syndrome Day.  I don't reject the notion of having a day to celebrate our "special" kids and advertise how remarkable they are.  I love it.  What I take umbrage at is that we need to show the world, justify, in a sense, their humanity.  I happen to have a child with DS, but it could be ANY anomaly, any disease, any condition that is atypical...every one of our children is fully human. Worthwhile. Necessary. 

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     Because DS is a repeat of the 21st chromosome, March 21st was chosen to be World Down Syndrome Day.  Because of 3/21, I went in search of Holy Scripture, any book, to see what each ch.3, verse 21 had to say.  Some were irrelevant to my purpose (I'm not fully sure what my purpose was, other than to find something that applied to where I am right now), but didn't Philippians 3:21 come up:

Philippians 3: 
"And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

     To me, this verse proves that we are all broken, on a level playing field, equal to the guy next to us.  We all have lowly bodies.  We are a fallen people.  We all have sin, and vanity and pride and bad hearts and TBIs and bum legs and failed kidneys and anxiety and depression and cancer, or any malady.  

     One day all of our bodies will stop.  Our bodies are not who we are.  We will be freed the bonds of this plane, and we'll each have our transfiguration moments, of a sort, when we will be seen as we truly are, and we hope, with grace and mercy, go to Heaven where we will be free of ailments.  
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     Are diagnoses that are genetically detectable before birth any different? I would argue that these pure souls will touch God's face LONG before the rest of us. 

     Are they to be mourned? Or do we serve Our Lord, Creator of each one of us, who knew us before He formed us, when we delight in the gift of every child He sees fit to send us, for us to care for as our own.... 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

My Child Is Good

     I am not a wise person, nor particularly bright, but there are a few things I've picked up along the way (this is not the inclusive list).

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     One of the first things you will often hear new parents say is, "It's not about me anymore."  God's Design and Infinite Wisdom is so evident.  Just as Our Lady's motherhood helps us to fall in love with her Son in the Infant, our babies awaken in us a love that indelibly imprints on our hearts, and everything we do is for this child. These children. We love them first, the most, more than our own lives.  They are our favorite people.  We like them. 

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    This is good.  This is very very good.  Because those bundles of innocence one day turn into three-yr-olds.  They made us love them (thank you, Lord, for the Design), therefore we are able to deal with "three".  Then seven.  Then eleven.  And we are able to keep our thumbs on them, their worlds revolve around us, and we kind of like it that way, I think. We say something  - It shall be. We're in charge.  This, of course, is part of the purpose of childhood - they learn the rules, they learn what's expected of them, they learn how to do things, and we give them a foothold on autonomy.  You know, so they can be good adults, go into the world, be capable, and lead responsible lives.

      Then, well....then come the NEXT years.  You know, where they have to put their autonomy into action.  Where they need to make their own decisions.  And we have to LET them. 

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     I want to say a few things.  They are not universal.  They are not aimed at extreme cases.  I am still learning.  I am not done rearing my children and I have no idea what's in store for all of them, or for me, in the years to come.  However, some of my big kids are adults now.  It wasn't always easy, and still isn't, and some lessons were a long time coming, and some were VERY VERY HARD!  But I know some stuff now, especially regarding our older children - our teenagers: 

     - Your child will do bad things. 

     - Your child will be belligerent. 

     -  Your child will embarrass you. 

     -  Your child will get carried away and exhibit poor judgement.  

     -  Your child will disappoint you. 

     -  Your child will break expensive things. 

     -  Your child will enrage you.

     -  Your child will make you feel betrayed by them.

Nota Bene: your child is NORMAL! They're stupid...and normal. (sometimes it's a humbling thing, isn't it, when we thought ours were better than the other ones).

      I've been blindsided.  I've been enraged.  I've been shocked.  I've felt betrayed.   I remembered something, though.  I remembered that it's not about me.  I also remembered that my child is not his actions.  My child is not defined by what she does wrong:  

      - My child is good. 

      - My children are the same people who stole my heart before they were born.  

      - My child does more good than wrong.  

      - My child is good. 

      -  My children, despite their failures, need to know they are loved. 

      - They need to know, despite their failures, that they have security. 

      - My child is good. 

      - A car can be repaired easier than a broken heart or spirit.

      - My child needs guidance, not rejection. 

      - My child is good

      - My child may need punishment, but I need to have perspective about the severity of the infraction.

      - My child, guaranteed, was not thinking about betraying/hurting/embarrassing ME when they did whatever. 

      - My child is good.

      - No institution, school, group, or team deserves my loyalty over my child.

       - My child feels worse about what happened than I do, because she lacks the perspective of a more experienced world-view. 

       - My child is good.

So, sadly, there's no handbook.  I messed SO much up. I'm going to again.  Now, though, I have a child who's learning to be an adult, and even though we don't have the same control over them as when they were small (nor should we), we are still so paramount and central to their world.  This may be more crucial now than when they were babies.  My most fervent prayers are for my children. I pray that I don't overreact when they do wrong.  I pray that I remember to not be heavy handed; that when I'm hysterical about something that's "not so bad", what's left? 

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I see a lot of similarities in what they need as in what I need.  I need, and ask daily, for forgiveness.  You know how pitifully we ask Our Lord to show us mercy, even underserved?  We have to give that same, loving, parental forgiveness.  I need, know, and see daily, the assurance that I am loved, I am remarkable, I am worthy, I am wonderfully and fearfully made.  I MUST mete that same security to the child who relies on me to instill it, as a microcosm for Our Father's love.  I make mistakes; I sin and I sin big; and then I pray that, in my sorrow, God can't see my transgression anymore.  My child needs me to recognize the other parts of his life that he's experiencing, not just what he recently did.  There is more to me than the harm I commit.  My child is more valuable to me than anything, despite their mistakes. 

It's not about me.  Perspective is everything.

These children. We love them first, the most, more than our own lives.  They are our favorite people.  We like them. 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When I Die....or..."Is She OK?"

     Yep. I am SO ok it's ridiculous. No worries. But I am going to die. Not anytime soon, Lord willing, but, well, life is terminal.

Seriously, none of us leaves here alive. Well, alive in Christ, but we'll get to that. 
     For the past few weeks, my sons have been called to serve midweek funerals at a local parish, since they're available b/c of the homeschool schedule. I figure, since I'm there, I might as well go to Mass, too (I learned to do that from my grandmother). 

     I have some funny thoughts and observations from being in attendance with these grieving families, as well as more reflective ones. Let's do funny first:

1)  I want to be buried from Mass at 1:pm.
    My aunt's friend, Barbara, an Anglican, says, "no WONDER you Catholics are weeping and wailing at your funerals - you're EXHAUSTED!".  There is something to be said for that. Also, in solidarity with the parents of young families, have you ever tried to get your whole family beautiful (because it's a funeral, right?), make it to rosary at the funeral home before the Mass at nine, and then convoy over to the church for 10? BLECH!  So, 11:am would be better, but by the time Mass is out, it's lunchtime and there's a mini-rush hour and then everyone has anxiety about the funeral procession being broken by people who have to get back to work. So, 1:pm allows you to get ready, eat something so you're not dying (har har) because you haven't had lunch, and then after interment, you can reasonably have baked goods snacks! Then everyone's home in time for supper. boom, boom, done. 


   Self-explanatory. Oh, and if you can throw in some Latin Hymns (maybe asking for the entirety of Mozart's Requiem is a little much), that would be great. Thanks. 

3)  I want altar boys. Maybe my boys. It's way nicer. 

     Now let's hit reflective:

1)  It's evident, from their demeanor, that many people haven't stepped foot in Church in a while,  at the funerals my boys serve. Maybe, just maybe, this experience will be a catalyst. It will be the thing that gets them there and makes them stop and think, "someday this will be me".  And they'll see that this, Church, is important.  At funerals, I ask the intercession of the loved one being buried, so that Our Lord will touch their hearts, and make them want to come back. So, when I die, maybe, just maybe, someone whom I love will step back into the Church, too, and maybe their heart will be touched and want to keep coming back...what an amazing thing, to have one life gather many in the nave of the place where the Holy Sacrifice is offered.  I suppose we all have the potential, with our funeral Masses, to witness to others. So, when I die, I kinda hope that happens. 

2)  The priest at that parish is really very good.  He protects the Blessed Sacrament by saying, "all who are in a state of grace and are eligible to receive, please come forth into the communion line." It's a gentle way of saying, "if you haven't been to confession in a time frame that is quantified in 'years', and if you're not a Catholic in communion with Holy Mother Church, you probably should skip the communion line."  At my funeral, I want that kind of priest.  See, because even though you're there because of the Dearly Departed, Mass is about Jesus. I mean, if it wasn't, any old place would do, right? So, even if a "few thoughts" are read outside of the parameters of Holy Mass about the person who died, the Mass is focused on the Source and Summit of the life of the loved one.  So, when I die, I hope Father does just as lovely a job keeping anyone who comes (presuming anyone comes) focused and trained on Jesus. 

3)  When I die, I don't want people to be sad. See, Jesus is Divine and Merciful. And I will live on, because I trust in His Mercy. There are a few things that I presumptively and selfishly will indeed ask for, though.  I want prayers for my sorry soul. I will need them. I want people to pray to God in thanksgiving, on my behalf, that I got this stunningly amazing gift - life. I don't want anyone to be dressed in black. Unless you're in a cassock. And mostly, I will ask that my family, my friends, my neighbors, my acquaintances, will remember why we are on this earth to begin with. See, we were not made for this place. We were made for Heaven. We need to encourage each other to that end. We need to live lives of service, out of love for God, manifest in our fellow man. See, when I die, my chances at doing that for others will have ended. But I want people to know that their lives go on, and I want them to do that, because they still get to work on their souls, which are eternal, and we were made to live on in CHRIST! really. Heaven is our real life. And because God is good. and because I have control issues...

4)  and really, in all seriousness, PLEASE NO "EAGLE'S WINGS"!!! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

These Forty Days

He is Risen! He is not here!

Oh, my goodness, how light my heart is now that Easter is upon us and this Lent, this Lent, this LENT has passed. Lord, thank you for the Lent!

At Mass, on the first Sunday of this season, Father posited, "If we cannot deny ourselves the good things, how can we resist that which is harmful? How can we say no to sin?" Again and again, I reiterated those words to our family, weekly, as much to remind myself of the benefit of sacrifice.

So many fruits poured forth from the sacrifices made, the daily denials of little luxuries or pleasant options, and the extra "things I just don't want to DO".

Self-knowledge is surely one of those fruits. We discover, don't we, where we are weak, how easily we forgive ourselves, and how often we deny Our Lord, failing to even "stay awake one hour".  Lord, forgive me in my weakness and self-indulgence.

But He knows we are weak. He knows we fail. At the culmination of all of His sufferings, He saw us, as Father tells us, through the blood and mud and sweat and filth of His terrible via crucis. He trod forward in pain, bearing it for us. 

This act of love, this salvation for ME, who deserves none, edifies my soul that my life matters, is seen and noted, and my life is worth His being given, because of His great love. For me. Because He wants me to go to Heaven. 

Because then, of His Sacrifice, I chose to offer my Lent for another. The fruit of THIS is - closeness with Our Lord!  How much easier is it to bear a suffering when done out of love for another? For the life of their soul? And don't we, then, see why and how Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, bore His ultimate Sacrifice and Death on behalf of His children? 

So now these forty days are done. Our Lord is no longer in the tomb. He is Risen in Victory- Victory over death!

We commemorate it every year. Every Lent, every Holy Week, every Easter. And every Easter I am utterly astounded at the relief from penances and suffering (if you could call it that) we attempt to share with Jesus, and the great joy and love unmerited by me that He so freely and willingly bestows upon me, and us all. 

My heart is full, because of the parchness of the last forty days. My joy in the Risen Christ overwhelms me! I cry out again and again, "We are the Easter people! Alleluia is our song!". 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Matthew 6:33

         There's a boy who lives here.  He's sensitive and obnoxious; precocious and juvenile; insightful and obtuse;  mostly he's just good.  We talk a lot.  We butt heads a lot, too.  We love each other very much.

     There's a mom who lives here.  She's well-intentioned and falls short;  a success in some regards and a colossal failure;  insightful and obtuse;  mostly she's clawing to keep her head above water and somehow get herself and her family to heaven.  She talks a lot.  Sometimes she even listens.  And she loves.


      As parents who want to pass along something so great as our Faith, we do a lot.  We keep Catholic our lifestyles, we observe the liturgical seasons, participate in tradition, and tell our children, every day, something about what it means to be a follower of Christ, and how to live out our Catholicism.

      And then, sometimes, as Catholic parents, we are struck with fear.

      One very late night, in a reflective tone, the boy says, "Mom.  You know how you feel close to God?  I know you do, because I see you get really animated when something moves you and all." "Yes, I guess I do feel close to God.  Not all the time, but mostly.  When I don't, it's because I've moved away from Him.  We're all human, so I fall a ton."  "Mom, how do you do that?  I want to feel that.  I want to feel Him in me.  I want to 'feel' like I'm close to God.  How do I know He's there? How do I get that?"

      Instantly, my heart breaks and aches on so many levels.  If one can internally sob, I think I did. My thoughts crash one upon another, "Have I failed him? Is it too late? Did I lose him? Did I never give him enough in the first place? Is my example too poor? Oh, child! I know...I know that longing!"

      I have to stop myself.  I have to collect myself.  I have to trust that I have given him good things.  Yes, I have given him knowledge and prayer and habit and examples, and examples of things to NOT do.  I have given him richness and beauty, a faithful lifestyle.  I have to trust that I've given him a foundation.  That I have been, and will continue to do my job as "carer for his soul".  I have to stop and think...

     Yes, I have GIVEN to him, and then I remember being his age (which really isn't as long ago as he would think).  I, too, had a foundation.  A long, storied, firm foundation.  I have good parents.  I have good grandparents (who also formed me).  However, there came a time when every day was closer and closer to me being farther and farther away from their influence.  And go away I did (don't press, just trust me, I did).  And then there came a time..when I had to go in search of instead of having it be handed to me.

     When I had children I had to decide how to live and what we would pass on.  Yes, I always knew we'd be a Catholic family, because, well, I came from a Catholic family.  But I had to make choices, grow, and learn.  I really hadn't thought about that as a stupid teenager.  I didn't realize that faith and religion had to be cultivated.  I just thought it "was".  So I understand completely how it felt to my boy; that faith is something that some people have and some people want, and how the hell did people GET it and why don't I have that strong feeling?

     "You know, I'm not sure how to answer that", I say quietly, "but I will try."

     Silently, I pray, "Holy Spirit, give me words..."

      "I had a child who was born with a pneumothorax, because he was such a strong baby and his first breath burst the alveoli in his lungs.  On the second night of his life, he turned gray because he stopped breathing.  They brought you back.  I know that was God."

       I whispered, "My eighth baby, the one who needed the most, had RSV, and then it turned into pneumonia, and then her lungs collapsed and then she went to the hospital, and it took three hours to stabilize her, and she should have died, and the hospital staff encouraged me to call a priest, and this holy, holy man administered extreme unction with a relic of Bernadette on baby's chest as he prayed, as he cried throughout the entirety of the sacrament, and then within hours she turned around, so that I could stop wracking my brain, wondering where we would bury her...I know that was God."

       "Not for nothing, but my third baby had RSV, too, when she was twelve days old, and was in Children's Hospital for eight days, and then she got better and we baptized her the day after she got home. I know that was God."

     "One day, and you know this because you were there, son, we all watched in horror as your four year old brother rode a bike with no brakes into route 140 at rush hour.  No matter how quickly we reacted, no matter how fast we ran, we would never catch him in time. Oh, my Lord, I wondered in that split second what the accident would look like, what his body would look like in the grill of a box truck....and so as we ran down the driveway I screamed 'JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!' the whole time and then, as if a hand were pushing them, the cars, in both directions, slowed. Then they stopped.  Ten cars in either direction.  And not one squeal of brakes.  I know that that was God."

     "These things, and a thousand more close-calls, and a thousand comforts when they're not close calls, but the real thing, these are signs to me that Our Lord is with me.  These are the things that make me feel Him in my life."

     "Before all this, though, I had to decide to have faith. I had to decide to trust God.  I had to choose to see him."

     I was able to say to my child that night.  We were both in tears; the written word cannot convey the emotion in what I told him.  I know that the boy had a sense of what I was trying to say, but I need to expound on it.  To give him just a little more.  Even if it's only a smidgen of what he needs.

     My son, (all of my children, for that matter)  I want to tell you something.  Jesus is always here.  You are never alone, even if his presence is intangible. These episodes that I mentioned, they are my signs, and you will have your signs, but before I ever ever EVER felt a closeness, I had to seek him.

      When I finally understood that I had to turn to God, I didn't have to look far, because He's always with us, but I did have to LOOK for Him.

     When we genuinely seek Him, we know the route to follow, because the Church gives us the rubric to being in a state of grace.  We have faith by knowledge, not feelings, but guess what?  When we have grace, we are blessed with the feelings, many times, too.  Not always, but very often.  Our eyes must always be open, though. We have to search for, find, and get to know God.  I didn't really realize, when I was a kid, that I needed to put myself into it, as well.  I never want you to not know that.

     My child, whom I love more than my own self, I want nothing more than to give you Jesus.  I have brought you to him.  He has given his own self to us.  You know what to do, and how to do it (read the saints, scripture, apologetics, good Catholic authors, receive the sacraments frequently, spend time before Jesus in the tabernacle and at adoration, live a life of service).  But, see, I alone cannot give him to you.

     You. You must seek him. Never stop seeking him.  He won't let you down, I promise.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Where's God?

     I am reading a book in which one of the characters, a monk, who is devout and loves Our Lord, describes the murder of his family, their torture, and the torture he himself survived during wartime.  In his agony remembering their deaths, he sobs, "where was God?".  What a seemingly strange query to come from a holy brother in a monastery...

     This plea led to me to reflect on our current time.  We have hectic lives, fraught with busyness, financial hardship, and exhaustion, and we often feel alone, suffering.  The details of life cloud our perspective (because sometimes it really all comes down to perspective) and make our own selves the center of our gaze.  We have a skewed vision of what suffering really is, don't we...

     And then, thrown in to our busy lives, sometimes the terrible occurs.  There ARE sufferings.  Real sickness, real homelessness, real hunger, real terrorism, real disease.  Real death.  When we are (I am) focused on how long-suffering we are, what could be the result when Awful Things happen?  We are human beings.  Sometimes the result is "where was God?".

     In our frenetic stupor, how often do we step back and make it a point to unite all of our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world?  How often do we judge if what we are doing is pleasing and worthy to offer? How close do we keep Our Jesus, so that we may converse with him often?  How willing are we to praise His Holy Name in all things, for better or worse?  Do we contemplate his Sacrifice and know that our little crosses cannot compare? We are not little gods, and our suffering simply can NOT's united with his.

     By human standards, our real sufferings often feel like the worst thing that could possibly happen.  We convict Our Lord by saying, "a just, merciful and good God could not allow these things!", when in reality, because we have faith by reason, we should know that the opposite is true.  When we suffer, especially in cases of atrocities, don't we know that Jesus suffers there with us?  That he has the MOST compassion for what we endure?

     Bad things are coming.  There will be incredible trials for every single person on Earth.  I mean, it is going to be terrible.  We need to prepare, by making God present in all the things we do - the things that tax us, the things that hurt us, the small things that irritate us, and the everyday things we must go through, as well.  We need to make him real and here and keep Him the focus of all of our days. We need to know that His ways are not our ways, and trust Him in all that he allows, so that when dark times (really dark) we are not left to wonder, "where was God?".  We'll know that He is with us, even unto the ends of the earth..

     This world is not the end game.  Paradise awaits.  There is no greater mercy...

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Patience for This

How tedious.

Each day brings another wave of articles, quotes, and heretical speech regarding the canonization of JPII and John XXIII.  Each day I hear people grumbling about new saints.  Can you even imagine? They're complaining about NEW SAINTS!!  Stop it. Stop it now.

I'm so happy to see that in your 20, 40 or 60 years on this earth your pride hath elevated your opinion to be greater than that of Holy Mother Church.

I'm not going to argue finer points with you. I'm not going to listen to one more theory on the legitimacy of the papacy since Paul VI. I'm not going to engage in "anti-pope" discourse with you. I am going to pray for you. I am going to sincerely wish for you that the saints you approve of greet you should any of us enter the Kingdom of Our Lord.

p.s. you may want to look "heresy" up in the CCC, or any reference book for that matter.  Claiming that the Holy Ghost left the Church makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.