Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Marriage Isn’t Easy

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Mass and an interesting twist of thought

I recently purchased Bishop Barron's newest project and gift, The Mass. Since it is in high demand and the warehouse is behind in their shipping, those of us waiting a bit longer for their shipment to arrive got a free pass to watch it online.  Only wanting to get a peek, I watched the Bishop's first episode and introduction to the project.

 In this six-minute presentation, Bishop Barron explained in beautiful detail, the Mass and it's meaning.  He treated us with an interesting twist of thought from Romano Guardini, a German-born Catholic priest and Theologian of the twentieth century.  The bishop quotes Guardini, "The liturgy, the Mass, is the supreme form of play."  Pretty shocking, right?  Bishop Barron explains it like this:  Work is an activity that has a purpose; play, on the other hand, is done entirely for its own sake.  Play has no purpose outside of itself, therefore, it's higher than work, it's more beautiful than work, more precious than work."   GK Chesterton observed, "Children always know how to engage in serious play."  Play is the most useless thing we can do, which means it is the most important thing that we do.  We tend to think work is the most important thing, instead of playing.  In Heaven, we will not be working at all.   There we will be resting or in eternal rest and relaxation, worshiping our God in rest.

The Mass is the supreme moment of worship. When we worship our God and our Lord Jesus Christ, we are right with God and ourselves.  The Mass gives us this chance to direct our worship to the one true God and the highest directive.  Bad praise comes when we do not direct our worship to God and instead raise to the highest place in our minds and hearts things of the earth and of mankind.

Bishop Barron's work for the Church is quite magnificent and boundless in his eloquent style of verbiage.  I am pleased that we have such a theologian as this in our modern day midst to help us along the way in understanding and appreciation of our faith vehicle, called Catholicism.

May God bless and keep our wonderful Bishop for many years to come!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

When it all seems like why pray? Why go to Mass?

Being a mother seems to be a sign that I am somehow bullet-proof.  That, however, is the farthest from the truth!  As a child, I often wondered about being a mother and a wife.  How handsome and wonderful my husband would be and the many would I have and what would it be like to see people who looked like me. All I wanted to be was a mother and wife, oh sure there were spurts of wanting to be a rock singer, actress, or a cashier, but all in all; it was being a wife and mother that I always resorted to. 
For the past thirty-six years, I have been a mom.  Through it all, I have taught my children to love God and believe in his saving gift of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.  We prayed and they all made their sacriments under the guidance of our parishes and our homeschooling curricula.  Throughout our eight years of home-educating, I was connected with many families online in various places learning, comparing notes, and making it a successful experience for our family.    My husband was very supportive this time and was the principal, science, and math teacher with his Ph.D. in Biochemistry

Our family went through a crisis with one of our children a few years ago.  As the matriarch of our family and the Catholic in our marriage, I led the family to Mass every Sunday and obligation days, taught our school with Catholic curricula and myself achieved master catechist certification through the diocese.  To say that my husband has been a supportive partner in my Catholic faith, raising the children Catholic and purchasing Catholic books each year is an understatment.  

During the darkest times of this crisis, I became weary of praying to "deaf ears" as I put it.  This child kept disappearing on us and doing things we never fathomed in our minds would do.  She was out of control and we were too. (I had to stop and cry for a minute, sorry) Ok, so one day as she refused to listen to me beg to stay home, our little 5'2" daughter stubbornly and/or bravely got into a taxi and left.  As it went down our street carrying our baby, I gave her to Jesus.

One Sunday morning as my husband finished his morning coffee and came upstairs to check on my progress in getting ready for Mass, he found me sitting on the side of the bathtub in my nightgown.  "Don't you need to be getting ready for Mass?" he asked.  "For what, no one is listening to me anyway!"  "What?"  he's confused.  "I pray and pray and only want the good for her, I am praying all the time and no one is listening!"  I shouted out of complete exhaustion and frustration.  The scientist and searching Christian husband said, "That's not how prayer works."  "How do you know?"  "It just doesn't, that's all I know.  We need to be getting ready for Mass."  "I'm not going, why should I bother, there is no one up there."  In shock, he said, "You're serious?  You aren't going to Mass?  Well, someone has to go.  I'm going to Mass."  he turned around and went to his closet to get ready.  I got up and followed him, "What, why would you go to Mass, you aren't even Catholic!"  He said looking at his shirts, "Well someone has to go to Mass."  I walked away and sat back down on the side of the bathtub and thought, why is he doing this?  In pure resignation, I told him I'd go and got dressed.

Things in our family are constantly changing, including my faith.  The morning made me realize that I didn't want to not have faith.   I started praying the rosary everyday and my husband and I started reading the readings each day before work at the breakfast table.  We started praying the Lord's prayer together before going to sleep.

Our trials are not over and I still have weak moments when I just can't pray.  In those moments
I just get quiet and know that Jesus doesn't need my prayers, I need them, and more than that I need to continue to grow my faith and relationship with Jesus.   He has a plan for me and for our child.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A fundraiser for helping families with Prenatal Depression and Anxiety Disorder

This is an organization that I am a team member and soon-to-be trained postpartum doula, helping new mothers with prenatal depression.  HOPE will have trained birth and postpartum doulas in service along with restaurants, therapists, lactation specialists, etc to surround these moms in the "fourth trimester" postpartum period and beyond if need be.   Please see our website and read more about our mission and team and board members and help us if you can.   Thanks!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Immaculate Conception

May is the month of Mary and I desire to continue to consecrate myself to our Holy Mother. This year I will be reading Fr. Michael Gaitley's book, "33 Days to Morning Glory" for the second time. Here in his book, Fr. Gaitley discusses Marian devotion through, as he describes them as the Marian giants, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Theresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.

St. Kolbe dedicated his life to Marian devotion and worked hard to bring this devotion to the world through his organization called, the "Militia Immaculata." Before he was arrested and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, he wrote his teaching on Mary's words to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, "I am the Immaculate Conception."  Let me explain my understanding of St. Kolbe's teaching.

Mary was born without original sin for a purpose like none other. Her conception in her mother, St Ann, is the Immaculate Conception we speak of.  She was the pure vessel set apart from all others in preparation for becoming the Theotokos (Mother of God).  She found favor from God in the very beginning and Mary's Yes is important as witness to her sinless soul. I've wondered what a person would be like who sin never touched their being. Certainly without evil within their souls, they would be a holy person, no doubt. Mary was this and more. When the time was fulfilled for her, as is described in the first chapter of Luke, the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with these words, "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you." and "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." Grace perfects and Mary was full, totally full of grace; so Mary was perfect. There have only been two people without sin whose feet touched the earth: Mary, a simple young girl, and Jesus, the God Man. She would carry in her very womb the son of God in Jesus Christ, and He would humble himself in human form and die a horrific death in atonement of our sins. Big, big undertakings!

Her unflinching acceptance to conceive through the Holy Spirit was beyond brave.  Her cousin, Elizabeth, who bore John the Baptist, was a married woman. No divine intervention needed to take place for her to conceive in her late years other than the fertilization of her union with Zechariah.  In the words of the angel, Gabriel, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." There was no mystery AND no need for an answer from either Zechariah or Elizabeth since they prayed for this; also there was no eminent danger or extraordinary risk in their new situation. Mary, on the other hand,  single, but betrothed, stood to lose everything, including her life with this pregnancy.  Thus, God took care of her with Joseph.

 In answering Mary's question in how this will be done, Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the son of God." The Holy Spirit, with the power of the Most High caused the conception of Jesus in Mary. St. Maximilian Kolbe sumed up this with the Holy Spirit being the eternal or "uncreated" Immaculate Conception and Mary as the human, or the "created," Immaculate Conception.  "For with God," said Gabriel, "nothing is impossible"

Without the Holy Spirit's intervention, conception would never have happened and St. Joseph could not fulfill this role.  The Holy Spirit and Mary created Jesus in fulfillment of God's plan.  When Mary calls herself the Immaculate Conception, she is saying that she is the human part of the Immaculate Conception of whom we can relate.  That she is perfect, but that she is NOT God; that is the Holy Spirit.  She is the vessel in which salvation was born.  Her will agreed with and met God's Will and the two became one in Jesus Christ.  This is what St. Kolbe describes as the quickest and easiest way to sainthood, W + w = S.  God's Will plus our will equals sainthood.

Finally, at the foot of the cross, Jesus gave his mother to us.  Mary had served him well and now we needed her special graces to fight sin, pick up our crosses, and together with her, fight the great fight that is evil.  She is the Immaculate Conception, she is our Holy Mother, and she is waiting for us to call on her.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Mother's nighmare: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorder

Recently, I  joined the efforts of a fellow parishioner in supporting women suffering with postpartum mood disorders.   I suffered depression with my first two births, but had no idea how severe it can be, especially left untreated.  This April, I attended a 2-day training by an organization called, "Postpartum Support International".  I learned more than I ever could have imagined about this devastating hormonal disorder.  How critical this condition effects women, babies and the entire family!

Having a child is an exciting event in a woman’s life for most.  But it also bring a great deal of stress and anxiety as her hormones fluctuate during her pregnancy and postpartum period, considered the fourth trimester. Though this is a normal occurrence in the biological system, a new mother may not have the ability to identify such swings.  Coupled with having to handle a crying or colicky newborn at the same time is overwhelming at best.  Nearly 35% of reported new mothers suffer from postpartum mood disorder, of one kind or another.  If left untreated, this condition can often move into a psychosis, which is the most dangerous condition for the mother and the infant.  The problem is many of these mothers do not know or want to call for help.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, (PMAD) is one of the most under-diagnosed condition in today's medicine.  Over 400,000 infants are born to mothers with depression.  Many practitioners do not recognize, or are equipped, to help these mothers beyond the postpartum period.  This lack of information leaves these mothers and families at risk of a more serious problem, a psychosis.   Identifying and preparing women for this period is the mother’s lifeline.  Many women have no idea how their emotions will change within a day or a few hours post delivery. During this time of confusion, she feels overwhelmed and lacks confidence.  She may feel that she is not a good mother and become detached from her newborn.

Screening is a must in order to make sure the correct therapy and/or medications are in place for the mom-to-be.  We are learning that mood enhancing drugs such as Zoloft are not toxic for the baby during pregnancy and does not penetrate breast milk, as once thought.   We are learning more and more that mothers can be medicated safely during pregnancy and postpartum periods and beyond while breastfeeding.  Along with this, they are finding out that changing medications in the middle of any of these stages of childbirth can detrimentally effect the mother's depressed condition.

Who is at risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder?  History is one place to look, both family and personal with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, or bipolar disorders.  Did she have significant mood changes during puberty, PMS, or hormonal Birth control?  Pre-pregnancy diabetes, thyroid imbalance and other endocrine disorders also heighten the risk of PMAD.  There are many other life situations that can be a precursor, as well.

Is there support for the mother during this time?  Women need help through this initial period of parenthood; does she have it within the family?  If not, this will have a detrimental impact the mother, infant, and entire family.  With support, which could include a postpartum doula, the mother’s ability to care for her newborn will greatly improve.  A postpartum doula is trained to help the mother in caring and nursing her baby during the "fourth trimester."

Finally, the pharmaceutical and obstetrican worlds need to get together more for the women in these situations.   Also, women need to know that they can and should call, not wait months enduring their condition until the postpartum period is over.  They need to let their practitioner know what's going on now.   Treatment at the onset of PMAD is crucial for the mother, but also the baby, and the entire family.   As I look over my notes from this training, I am overwhelmed myself as to how much to touch on and leave off in this article.  We are a prolife community and all phases of life have trials and triumphs, childbearing is one that needs it's own special attention.  The Postpartum phase of life is a special time with special needs for each individual mother and family.  It is my prayer that more physicians, therapists, and family members become aware of this critical time, for helpless infant and the family as a whole.