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Feast Days Saints Sarah

Navigating Heartbreak: Novena to St. Valentine

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we often think of big romantic gestures. Maybe a candlelit dinner or a gift of roses.

The reality is that I have never experienced any of those things. Most Valentine’s Days I have been single.

The only exception to the rule was my one-year relationship. Given that we broke up over the Christmas holiday, I know that this Valentine’s Day will be rough.

Maybe you also went through a breakup or you’re still waiting for a special man to ask you out, I want to introduce you to my new favorite saint, St. Valentine. Before I do, I need to share a little bit of relationship history.

My Relationship: How it Ended

Spoiler alert: I emotionally cheated on my boyfriend. I am grateful for the godly people in my life, who showed me the dangerous path that I was undertaking. I confessed to my boyfriend and we broke up.

I think any relationship requires vulnerability and trust. I know for myself I was not honest about the insecurities about the relationship. Rather than voicing my insecurities, I sought the comfort of another.

This was wrong!

I feel bad about how it ended.

Chastity is Hard!

A word about Chasity: nobody can help you. I consulted numerous dating books. Heck, my ex-boyfriend and I read Theology of the Body together. At the end of the day, it still doesn’t help you define the line.

The most I can say is have a set of non-negotiable ground rules. Once you start physical activity it is hard to stop.

I would say that if we were imperfect in any way, it would be because of chastity. We gave away our hearts too soon without a sense of future together.

The pain of Breaking Up

As the dumper, I didn’t expect to feel pain or loss. After all, it was my decision. Yet regret hit me like a flood. I lost and hurt the person I supposedly loved.

I’m a fixer by nature.

I want to fix my mistakes. I’m learning slowly that some mistakes can’t be taken back easily.

Thus I turn to the only source of comfort I have, Jesus Christ.

St Valentine’s Novena

I wanted a novena. I wanted something I could pray every day for nine days. I wanted it to be about relationships and dating.

I know that Saint Raphael the Archangel is usually the go-to person when it comes to relationships. Yet Saint Raphael’s novena did not speak to me. I had nearly given up when I stumbled on this,

“Loving Father, You know that the deepest desire of my heart is to meet someone that I can share my life with. I trust in your loving plan for me and ask that I might meet soon the person that you have prepared for me. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open my heart and mind so that I recognize my soulmate. Remove any obstacles that may be in the way of this happy encounter, So that I might find a new sense of wholeness, joy, and peace. Give me the grace too, to know and accept, if you have another plan for my life. I surrender my past, present, and future into the tender heart of your Son, Jesus, Confident that my prayer will be heard and answered. Amen. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Valentine, pray for me.

Legend has it that St. Valentine was arrested, beaten and killed for helping Christians get married.

Thus the guy knew a thing or two about obstacles.

My favorite line is, “Remove any obstacles that may be in the way of this happy encounter So that I might find a new sense of wholeness, joy, and peace.”

This line reminds me that ultimately God is in control. Yes, I messed up. Yet if the relationship was meant to be then God can remove all obstacles; even the ones I placed myself.

If you find yourself single for Valentine’s day, please spend some time with Jesus. Ask him to help you trust in his loving plan. Consider praying to St. Valentine.

There is no obstacle God cannot remove!

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Ink Slingers Sarah

What Memento Mori Means to Me

What Momento Mori Means to Me

Memento Mori: remember you will die.

I remember the night I thought I was going to die!

I had been having pain in my right leg. My doctor diagnosed me with a pulled muscle. All was well and go until my foot swelled up.

Now minor swelling is normal with my medicine, Thus I thought nothing of it at first. Then almost overnight my foot began to balloon up.

It was as big as an elephant’s foot.

I rushed to the patient first. The doctor took one look at it and said, “ you need to go to the emergency room now; we can’t help you.”

So I went to the emergency room, right?

Wrong! I stupidly decided to go home. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. Plus I didn’t want to worry about going home in the middle of the night.

That night was the worse sleep of my life. My giant foot loomed in my vision and reminded me of my poor decision.

Having so many brushes with death in the past, I lied awake wondering if I was ready.

Was I ready to die?

Memento Mori origin

According to an article on National Catholic Register, the phrase Memento Mori originated in the Roman Empire. Trumpet Roman gladiators would have slaves whisper, “Memento Mori” into their ear. It was to remind them that the one battle they cannot win is death.

Death comes to everyone.

Life is a Vapor

One of my old Evangelical pastors before an altar call would say, “life is like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.”

The fleeting nature of life should not lead us to fear, but rather into the arms of Christ.

Obviously, I lived on and survived two deep vein thrombosis, but I will never forget that night.

I can only trust that God’s got my back.

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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah Series

Spiritual Lessons my Caregivers Taught Me

Spiritual lessons my caregivers teach me The song, Glycerine by Bush was one of my favorite songs growing up. The lyric, “I’m never alone, I’m alone all the time,” described my life at times. As a disabled person, I grew up with a large variety of people coming in and out of my life. These people would help with daily living skills. They would be known as my caregivers. I am grateful for everyone, who has ever worked for me. They taught me spiritual lessons: how to trust, how to listen, and how to evangelize. They helped me become a more merciful Christian.

About My Care

I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I suffered from a brain injury. This injury affects the way my muscles in my body move. I do not walk and use a motorized wheelchair to get around. When I was twelve, my parents applied for help with the Department of Medical Assistant Services (DMAS). This allowed us to hire caregivers. In the DMAS system, there are to different types of care. Agency directed care describes a situation in which a company provides caregivers. Consumer-directed describes when the patient employs caregivers. I experienced both in college. I am more fond of consumer-directed care. Yet agency-directed care allowed me to meet people from all walks of life.

Trust

When relying on others for help, you learn a lot about trust. I cannot get into bed or go to the bathroom by myself. Thus when people do not show it is an exercise in trust. God has been faithful and always made a way for me. One example happened when I was studying at the University of Virginia. I had gone out with some friends to see a play. I had told the agency caregiver that I had expected to be back around 9 pm. My phone was on silent out of respect for the performance. Turns out that it was closer to 10 pm. I didn’t think much about it because her shift didn’t end until 1am. When I returned to my place and knocked on the door, nobody answered. After much struggle, I was able to get the door open myself. I walked in to find nobody there. Luckily for me, a local student, who happened to be one of my caregivers, was available at 11 pm to put me to bed.

Listening

Until coming to know the Lord, I struggled with this quite a bit. I had zero patience for small talk and typically only cared about my needs. I thought that my caregivers were there to cater to me. After having an encounter with Christ, I started valuing people. Even my mom noticed. When I struck up a conversation with a hospital nurse, my mom remarked, “you’re a lot nicer now.” I try to make time to talk with my caregivers and ask how they’re doing. I still am not perfect. I have a hard time forgiving mistakes especially when they affect me. I get easily frustrated when a caregiver burns dinner or is late. I am striving in those moments to call upon the Holy Spirit and show mercy.

Forgiveness

I, unfortunately, have been wronged by caregivers in the past. I have been emotionally manipulated and stolen from. The wrongful actions down by people I trusted made me angry. It makes it harder for me to have compassion. It also teaches me the importance of forgiveness. As a Christian, I’m called to forgive. I am not called to forget. I forgive them so that my anger does not make me cynical and bitter. Forgiveness enables me to let go and focus on the good people I have in my life.

Evangelizing

One of the greatest ministries I have involves interacting with my caregivers. Some of my caregivers come from broken homes. Some are not religious. A lot of my caregivers are evangelical. Thus they have misconceptions about the Catholic Church. When they interact with me, I try to show them what a faithful Catholic looks like. I am able to dialogue with them about God, Jesus, and religion. One of the best interactions was with a lesbian caregiver. I didn’t preach to her or tell her she was wrong but tried to love her (even though I was clear that I stood with the church). When her brother got into a car crash, I gave her gas cards so that she could see him in the hospital. By my witness, she was considering church again. People need love and I have the unique position to show that to them.

Conclusion

My disability provides ways to grow in holiness. In the grand scheme of things, growing in holiness is more important than getting out of bed by myself. I do believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, whoever loses his life will save it.
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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah

Making Room For Disability

We need to make room for people with disabilities In our lives, schools, and church communities. Society will continue to view disability as a disease to be eradicated unless we make room in our hearts to love the other. Yet so many times I’ve felt like an afterthought in so many parishes. Luckily for me, my faith is strong enough to persevere. Others have not been so lucky. One such instance sticks out in my mind. I was studying bioethics at Yale University. One of the participants was also in a wheelchair. One day he came up to me. He said, “we need to do lunch; I want to know why you kept the faith given all the issues” Sisters, I wish I had gone to lunch with him, but time was not on our side. I do sympathize with his concerns. Let me tell you about my struggles at two different parishes.

Parish One

The parish first came to my attention when I saw an advertisement for Young Adult adoration. I decided to attend. Being new, I got lost and arrived late. I don’t know if arriving early or on time would have helped the circumstances I am about to describe. So I walked to the parish and my heart dropped. There were stairs to get into the parish. Now I had been warned by multiple people that this parish was inaccessible. Not willing to give up yet, I looked around and saw a handicapped symbol in-between the priory and the parish. I walked down the path with my friend. We came to a door, which led to a tiny elevator. Not knowing what floor to choose, we tried various options. Suddenly the elevator opened to reveal a floor on top of stairs and a door. Unsure of what to do or even where we were, I sent my friend to find someone. She found one of the priests. I say, “I am here for adoration. We weren’t sure whether this door leads to the sanctuary or not. “ He opens the door to reveal the front of the sanctuary. There was a woman at the ambo speaking. To my embarrassment, I had to walk in front of her to get to a small cut out in the front pew. Guess you can’t hide when you have a disability.

Parish two

For starters, when I attend mass I struggle to find a designated handicapped spot. The first row, which is regular chairs and not pews, has been claimed by people with disabilities. Yet the people in wheelchairs are responsible for moving their own chair. At least I can only assume since nobody offers to move the chair for me. Because I bring my own chair so to speak, It’s not easy for me to access the hymn book and missal. Yet I love to sing. Luckily for me, I have a knack for memorizing song lyrics and song tones. Since my parish reuses a lot of songs, I find it easy to remember songs and sing along. I also do the mass reading ahead of time. Yet not having easy access hymn book and no offer to help makes me feel unwanted.

Making Room: Small Changes to Welcome People, Who are Disabled

So what can parishes do to make room for those with a disability? I would like to offer four small changes that parishes can make to help people with disabilities.

1. Easily Accessible Doors

Here in Virginia Beach, we are blessed in that most parishes have automatic doors. I understand that automatic doors can be expensive to install and take away from traditional architecture. My solution is much simpler. Have greeters or Ushers hold the door open for people. Yes I could ask the greeters and I have, but why are they not trained to automatically do this is mystifying. Second, if St. Mary’s had had a greeter, it would have helped me know where to go. Not sure how I would have managed by myself.

2. Easy Access to Hymn Books

If you are going to have a designated handicapped space, make sure the hymn books can be reached by a person in a wheelchair. Make sure your staff is trained to ask if assistance is needed. For selfish reasons, I do prefer projectors or programs even though it takes away from the aesthetic at Mass.

3. Advertise Services in the Bulletin

One time when giving my testimony, a friend of mine said that her brother was deaf. He was no longer practicing his faith due to not being able to participate in the Mass. When I asked why the parish never provided a sign language interpreter, she responded that she didn’t know such services existed. While parishes may find it expensive to pay for a sign language interpreter for every Mass, It may be helpful to advertise that such service is available as needed. This also applies to Religious education classes, where those with intellectual disabilities may need adaptations or additional help. I know that certain parishes offer a buddy system, which is helpful.

4. Ushers Aware of The Handicapped Section

One time I traveled to Atlanta and decided to visit a local parish. Upon arriving we were greeted by an usher. We asked the usher, “Is there a section for me to sit?” He replied that he did not know. Discouraged my friend and I looked for the handicapped section. Ushers need to be trained on answering basic accessibility questions.

Making Room

I hope that these small changes may help you consider where your own parish can be more welcoming. Sometimes people, who are able-bodied, take certain things for granted. Unless you are disabled or hang out with disabled people, there are aspects of life that you all take for granted. Thus, I, as a disabled Catholic, strive to bring these aspects to the light for the benefit of the community.
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Assisted Reproductive Technologies Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Respect Life Sarah

IVF Hurts People with Disabilities

IVF Hurts People with Disabilities My heart froze when I heard about the eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland. According to CBS News, “Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.” Doctors perform these tests on a naturally conceived baby. They can also perform the test on fertilized embryos outside of the womb. When done as a part of IVF, the fertilized embryos not chosen are either discarded or never implanted. IVF helps eradicate down syndrome and potentially could harm other genetic disabilities. I want to live in a world where disabilities exist!

My relationship with other people with disabilities

My parents were my primary caregivers growing up with a disability. They helped assist me with daily living skills. Growing up with a disability, I didn’t have too many opportunities to rebel against my parents. One of my few moments of independence consisted of going away to summer camps. I would attend camps for people with disabilities. At these camps, we would get to participate in a wide range of activities. Some activities included canoeing, swimming, and arts and crafts. At the camps, there were multiple people with disabilities represented. Meeting people with different physical and mental capacities expanded my horizons. I met two young bright girls with Down Syndrome. Forget every stereotype you know about people with Down syndrome. these girls broke all of the stereotypes. They were witty, funny, and articulate. Did they have struggles? Yes, they struggled to focus and communicate with a group. They had to share their answer independently. This was very frustrating as a group leader. Yet, I’m glad we got to hear their voices. My experience helped me appreciate different perspectives. Yet given IVF technology, we are approaching a disability-free world.

What the Catechism says

A child is not something owed to one but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”170 (CCC 2378)
IVF is wrong because it invites a third party into the marital chamber. Likewise, it makes children into a product we choose. The movie Gattaca embodies this perfectly. The movie describes their first child as a product of love. Not wanting to make the same mistake for the second, the parents opt for IVF. The doctor asks them what they want for their child. The parents sheepishly reply that they were hoping to leave it up to chance. Then the doctor replies, “no you want to give your child the best of you.” He lists out their specifications and encourages them to choose a gender. It is no longer a product of love, but design.

Objection

A lot of people feel that it is wrong to knowingly bring a disabled child into this world. They argue that when all things are equal, having a healthy child offers more well-being. The argument is that disabled children are not harmed by not being brought into existence1. People, who make this argument, tend to value what a person can contribute.

Response

We need not look at disability as a disease that society needs to eradicate. Rather, we should see disability as a respectable form of human variation. Disability should be similar to sex, race, and ethnicity. It is morally suspect to choose males over females. Yet a similar decision occurs when we choose disabled over non-disabled. Furthermore, society dictates normal species functioning. Imagine if a majority sprouted wings and could fly. Society would consider those without wings to be disabled. As someone, who has a disability, I do not want to live in a world where disability no longer exists. My disability has made me a stronger and more resilient person. I am glad that those girls got to have a voice. We soon may be living in a world where people with Down Syndrome don’t exist.
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1734131/pdf/v031p00231.pdf