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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Kathleen Marriage Mary Prayer Rosary Vocations

Talk to Your Mother

Talk to Your Mother

On a beautiful crisp morning, my family and I were heading to the Marian shrine to Our Lady of Good Help in northern Wisconsin. It was Saturday, there was a wide-open expressway in front of us, and we had about an hour and a half to go. Both kids were strapped in their car seats (read: contained and not able to destroy our plans quite as easily.)

“Hey! Let’s say a rosary on our way up! That’s a good way to prepare for the shrine,” I suggested cheerily, turning down the music.

My husband looked at me like I had suggested he pull over and take a few shots of whiskey. “No! I can’t do that! I’m DRIVING!”

Uh yeah, I know. I did not suggest doing a short Lectio Divina in which you lie on the floor to be more prayerful. It’s a rosary. You SAY the words.

See, my husband and I say the rosary in completely different ways, and they are all equally valid. My husband must contemplate the mysteries as he prays the rosary. He goes through the gospel, many times with his eyes closed, and can even be moved to tears by considering Christ’s journey through Mary’s loving eyes.

That is beautiful. He gets to do this because he prays the rosary on his own or with me, either after the kids are asleep and we are sitting quietly in our living room, or in his office with a closed door and a chair.

(I am not suggesting he does not work hard for us. Just that he literally gets to go to the bathroom by himself and that really annoys me sometimes.)

(But I digress.)

I love saying the rosary. It is my favorite prayer.  I love contemplating the mysteries, too. I love reading reflections after every decade. That is great, but it rarely happens to me. Rosaries for me usually happen while I am folding laundry, or cleaning the house, driving to the grocery store, or even lying in bed at night awake with anxiety-induced insomnia. When I feel that familiar panic creep up my chest and my breathing start to quicken and my thoughts start to race I know that the only thing that will help is starting a rosary. 17 minutes later, I have mostly calmed down and often fall asleep, calmed by my Heavenly Mother and thankful to my earthly parents that they gave me this gift.

In none of those situations do I spend serious time contemplating the mysteries of the rosary. In most of them, I don’t even use the beads. God gave us ten fingers for a reason!

How I talk to the Blessed Mother

I am simply calling out to Mary, talking to my mother. I’m telling her I’m here and want to be connected. I want to do something better than folding the laundry, to sanctify whatever humdrum household thing I’m doing. I strive to model to my children that one’s whole life can be a prayer.

As I wash the dishes and speak the words that the Angel Gabriel said, sometimes I’ll say it in Latin to practice my skills and shock my children’s ears into understanding that something is different and they should pay attention. Other times, I’ll say it quickly on our way to lessons or the store, to remind myself and them that God is present in every aspect of our lives, even the ones that aren’t at home or Church. There are times when I will say it with my whole family; in between admonishments and getting crayons for my son and showing my daughter where to find the words to the Creed and anything else that comes up. At night, I will pray it with my husband, barely even hearing the words because I’m so tired from the day of tasks and errands and just constant neediness from someone, always someone but knowing that I am so lucky to have a faithful man as a husband and wanting to be close to him in a way that nothing other than prayer can bring us. And in bed at night I’ll just mouth the words silently to myself, allowing my husband to sleep next to me.

In many of these situations, the prayers become almost a sacred incantation. Even if I am not contemplating the mystery, I am acknowledging the mystery of the Incarnation and the Mother of God, and my dependence on Him and through her intercession.

Someday I’ll be able to contemplate. Someday I will read and reflect and hopefully discuss the mysteries with my children and grandchildren.

For now, I’m just talking to my mother.

 
 
Categories
Ink Slingers Kathleen Marriage NFP and contraceptives Respect Life Spiritual Growth Vocations

The Art of “Practicing” NFP

::photo from Pixabay::

A friend of mine told me once that it’s true that you really “practice” Natural Family Planning. You don’t do it, you don’t take it, you don’t even learn it beyond the initial (and ongoing- call your instructors if you have a question ladies and gentlemen!) instruction. You really, truly, practice it. Over and over and over again during your marriage.

You practice getting good at implementing it. Even deceptively simple methods (other Marquette users say hey!) make way less sense when you’re dealing with human bodies and stressful times and anxiety disorders. I know. I’ve been married for five years and using NFP to avoid pregnancy since my four-year-old was born and I’m in the middle of the most confusing cycle ever and I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BODY AND IT’S MAKING ME ANXIOUS AND PLEASE SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHEN I CAN BE WITH MY HUSBAND AGAIN!

You constantly practice learning your body and algorithms and patience and a peaceful mind. Because I’ve discovered that nothing works when you’re a tightly wound ball of stress glaring at the negative ovulation predictor kit. Unfortunately.

You practice communication. I know some people are amazing about involving their husbands in charting and some even do it for them, but frankly, I feel like that would just end up being more work for me. So I have to actually communicate to my husband what is happening with my body and what that means for us and why I either want to kill someone for being stupid or cry at the sight of a lost baby animal. Dude might be a chemist but he’s learning all sorts of things about my LH surges.

(Just in case anyone is engaged or dating and reading this- give up hope of having any mystery left when you get married. Once you start talking about ripening follicles it’s all out there.)

(Don’t get me started on childbirth.)

Obedience

Most of all, you practice being obedient. Obedient to God, obedient to the Church, obedient to your sacred vow to have a fruitful and loving marriage.

For me, this is what makes NFP such a difficult cross for me to bear. For a long time, I did not understand why the Church would put so much upon us. I waited to be intimate with my husband until we were married. And now because of medical issues, I can’t even have sex when I want to now that I am married? That hardly seems sporting. I was whining about this in confession once, and a priest friend told me that obedience always precedes understanding.

That made sense.

I did not like it, but it made sense.

It took me awhile of practicing obedience to a teaching that was not pleasant to understand. I finally understood that it was not supposed to be pleasant. Our lives are not supposed to easy and simple. That is not what the Church’s teachings on anything are here for. They are to illuminate inherent truth and order our lives according to what is good and holy- even our sex lives. My cross of not being able to be with my husband whenever I want is, of course, mild compared to other crosses people bear. But it is a cross and I needed to realize that my life was so much richer for submitting in obedience, even when I didn’t want to.

The Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality and thus the practice of NFP within marriage is beautiful. Even when it’s hard. Our bodies are beautifully created to receive new life every month and that’s amazing. Even when it’s annoying. Our marriages are made to unite two people, but only if it is done with complete openness and complete self-giving. Anything less is unacceptable and frankly, not worth it.

I still have probably a quarter century left of practicing NFP within my marriage. It will take me at least that long to get good at it. Thank God I have the Church and the Sacraments and the grace is given to me in marriage to help me along the way.

 
 
Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kathleen Marriage Prayer Vocations

Praying with My Husband

 

I grew up in a faithful Catholic household with Catholic parents who prayed with us and with each other. I thought that was adorable, but not for me. Maybe I would feel differently when I found a man I loved.

 

“Not for me.”

 

As I grew up and started dating, I was still pretty sure that it was not for me. I would hear all sorts of things about praying with your boyfriend and making God a part of your relationship and once again, it was lovely. Just not for me.

I became engaged (to a wonderful, faithful Catholic man) and went through the FOCCUS process and archdiocesan marriage prep. Prayer is central to the sacramental marriage, everyone said. Great, I thought. But not for me. Not for us.

I do not know why I had this block against praying with my spouse. I loved to pray. I spent most of my college and graduate school years immersed in Church history and documents,  a form of prayer that was very akin to falling in love. I attended daily Mass whenever I could. There was even a period of time when I said the Liturgy of the Hours (before children, obviously. Hah.) I loved to pray. I loved my husband. I just never wanted to sit down and consciously pray out loud with him. It made me uncomfortable.

Intimacy

When I had been married for three years, I attended a talk at my parish’s mothers of toddlers group.The topic was praying with your spouse. “Oh great,” I thought, “Another faithful Catholic telling me I should pray before sex. Oh well, at least there’s coffee and childcare.”

“It made me really uncomfortable at first.” When the presenter, a woman I’d known in our parish for most of my life, said these words, my head shot up. Really? Someone else thought this was weird? Maybe I should at least listen to what she had to say.

She went on to say how she and her husband were faithful Catholics- just like me and my spouse. But they never prayed together. It seemed weird- just like me and my spouse. But after witnessing a couple they knew grow so close together, they wanted to know what their secret was. Prayer was the answer. The intimacy they craved, that I craved, was brought about through prayer.

That got my attention. Intimacy has always been an issue for me in my relationship with my husband. He was married before (to a woman that tragically passed away before I knew him.)

Obviously, he had been (and continues to be) nothing but supportive and loving in support of my attempts to deal with this. We have a true sacramental marriage and I can honestly say that I have never doubted his devotion to me for a moment in our marriage. But emotionally, I had problems. I constantly sought out intimacy with him that would reassure me that we were okay, that this was a real marriage, that I would have the fullness of emotional connection that I had been lucky enough to witness with my parents and grandparents.

So if prayer could help with that, I was all on board!

How to Pray Together

Then we had to figure out how to get started- and it made sense that after years of avoiding, we started slowly.

First of all, I realized we already had a practice of praying the most important prayer together- the Mass. We have gone to Mass together every weekend since we started dating. We go on weekdays whenever we can. We even went to Mass the morning of our wedding because we could not think of any better way to begin the day. I had always loved attending Mass with my husband, and finally, I realized that that meant I loved praying with him!

We started saying prayers together at night. Quickly at first, and then moving into longer prayers. Today, we will say a rosary together and do novenas throughout the year for various intentions. I so look forward to praying with him.

The benefits have been amazing. We pray for each other, and I find that we are a lot nicer to each other too. I am more conscious of all he gives up for us to support our family, and he is more conscious of what I do as a mother. As we raise two small children and have countless other outside forces pressing in on our marriage, that time of quiet together has become so important.

And yes, the promise of intimacy has been completely true. It is hard to explain, but praying with my husband has deepened what we have in all aspects of our marriage- physical, spiritual, and intellectual. Not to mention that it is really nice to have something so wonderful to be able to do together when physical intimacy is not an option for any reason.

How to Start

If you’d like to start praying with your husband or boyfriend, there are many resources available on the internet. Most are focused on married couples, so beware of that when researching if you are still engaged or dating. One of the best I’ve found is the USCCB’s For Your Marriage website.

Very simply, here are some suggestions.

  1. Admit it’s going to be uncomfortable. If you’re shy or a private person like I was, praying with someone might not come naturally. That doesn’t mean that you should stop.
  2. Utilize the Mass. Realize that this is the greatest prayer we have available to us as Catholics. Regular participation in the Eucharist together can pave the way for more prayer breakthroughs.
  3. Short is great- especially if you have kids. We love saying the rosary together, but there are days we don’t have seventeen minutes together quietly. Just saying a quick prayer together before bed can be wonderful.
  4. It’s okay if you don’t pray the same way. I love rote prayers- the words form almost an incantation to me that allows me to move beyond myself. My husband loves contemplating while he prays in a way that I don’t. That’s fine.
  5. Talk about it. With your kids, with your friends, with your family. It’s normal and wonderful to pray together in a marriage and talking about it will make it less uncomfortable.

I hope you can begin a prayer journey with your husband or boyfriend. I promise you, the intimacy with him and God cannot be beaten.

 
 
 
Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kathleen Spiritual Growth

Why I Veil: A Millennial Perspective

This Lent, I started covering my head during Mass. I know, I know- off the Traddie rails, am I right? But hear me out.

I wanted Lent to be different. I wanted to be able to say that I had prepared in a way that I hadn’t the rest of the year. I really felt strongly that I should start to do this.

And guys? It was amazing.

The Sacrifice of the Mass

The biggest thing that veiling has done for me has helped me stay focused on the sacrifice of the Mass.

As a mother of two young kids, here’s what my preparation for Mass looks like. I get up (probably late) and run around like a crazy person making sure we’re all dressed and have the diaper bag and everyone is wearing shoes and coats and underwear. My son is mad that he can’t wear his football shirt. My daughter is mad because she doesn’t like to go anywhere or do anything if she has to, but would prefer to float through life without any obligations. (Me too, kid. Get in the car.) My husband stands in the wrong place or something and annoys me because he’s not in my head and I’m mad at him for not doing what I’m thinking of asking him to do because I didn’t leave enough time to get ready. Once we get to church it’s an hour of picking up thrown books, handing out this week’s Magnifikid to my daughter if I was smart enough to bring it, handing out last week’s Magnifikid to my son to color on and having him flatly reject it (sorry, you can’t read, so you don’t get your own subscription), and convincing both children that Daddy will, in fact, come back after being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. He didn’t go away to war.

And if it’s a weekday Mass? All that an hour earlier and by myself. Do you know how much ambient noise there is at a weekday Mass? None. Do you know how much noise my tired cranky children produce? Not none.

Wearing a veil has become a physical reminder to myself that I am in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. I am participating in literally the most important thing I will ever do. Not that the obligations of my family go away, but I am able to switch my mind back much faster and focus much more after distractions.

It’s Not About Me

Wearing a veil at Mass has changed the way I feel about myself as a woman in unexpected ways.One of the concepts that I love is that we veil what is sacred. The tabernacle and altar are veiled. Women are sacred- we have a duty unlike any other. We have the privilege of veiling before the Lord that men do not.

When wearing a veil at Mass, I am not Kathleen anymore. I’m not the girl that’s worried about her forehead wrinkle and that weird hair that sticks up at my hairline. I am a daughter of God, and I am able to be much more humble before Him. It is not about me.

As someone who can tend towards the sin of vanity, I had hoped that this would happen and it has truly allowed my relationship with my God to deepen.

Sacred Femininity

One thing I never expected was the way veiling would make me feel about my femininity and even my fertility.

Since I had my son four years ago, my attitude towards my fertility was that it was basically a long slog towards menopause. I had (have) grave medical and psychological reasons to avoid or postpone subsequent pregnancies. Super fun when you practice NFP and you’re not even thirty yet.

But veiling has made me focus on my femininity. That focus has made me realize that while I don’t know if I can handle a pregnancy now (or in the near future), my fertility is a sacred gift from God and not something to be merely managed. The power and privilege to have the ability to carry a child (with regards to how God designs us, not restricted to married or fertile women) is unbelievable, and I am so unbelievably lucky that I get to experience that.

Veiling is not for every woman. It is not required for Novus Ordo Masses (although I wear mine at NO Mass), and if it makes you uncomfortable this is clearly not the sacramental for you. But if you are intrigued by the idea, I suggest giving it a try. I promise, you will never think about yourself before the Blessed Sacrament in the same way again.