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Doctrine Emily Faith Formation Ink Slingers

It’s a MYSTERY…

Think back to when we were kids – waaayyy back for some of us {{cough, cough… ahem}} – and try to remember what the word “mystery” used to mean to you.  The word conjures up feelings of secret passwords and dark hallways, hidden images and underlying meanings… oooooh and those who were clever enough to figure things out felt like we were transported into a new dimension of knowledge!

Now as adults the word “mystery” just doesn’t feel the same.  So many of our childhood mysteries have been solved.  The hidden images are blatant and the underlying meanings that once brought us to tears now feel pedantic to discuss.  We wash away the thoughts and feelings that made our hearts and minds swoon only to fill them with the answers, as if we were filling in a scan-tron on a standardized test.  We’ve turned the pursuit of knowledge into a race to the finish line – and now that we’ve all earned our medals we can’t quite figure out what all the fuss was about.

But mysteries are a huge part of our Catholic Faith.   How do we view these mysteries as Catholic adults?  Do we look on them with childlike wonder?… Or do our eyes glaze over with boredom?  When people ask us questions about our faith do we try to have all the answers?

One of the central mysteries of our faith is the Trinity

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

 In fact, the Catechism speaks beautifully on this mystery of our faith:

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith.” The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.”

Wow… that’s pretty intense.

In my free time (HAAAAHAHAHA!) I participate in a small faith group at my parish.  We are using a program called “Why Catholic?”, which, like many other great programs that are out there, helps guide us through different discussions in the faith.  This particular program goes through the Catechism in different sections.

Our group is made up of several moms with kids at the Catholic school, as well as our principal and vice principal… about 10 of us in all. We’re pretty diverse – wide age range, kids in various grades, very different backgrounds, and I find it really interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives and individual thoughts on each topic.

Lately we’ve been discussing the Trinity and how we address God in prayer.  We were surprised at our unique views.  The principal, who is the eldest in our group, said she mostly invokes the Holy Spirit in prayer.  One mother in the group was raised in France and was taught by nuns – she, on the other hand, was never comfortable addressing God as the Holy Spirit – this side of the Trinity was just not familiar to her, so she mostly called upon God the father.  Another mother in the group was raised protestant and was most comfortable speaking to Jesus in plain language – formal prayers are more challenging for her to truly connect to God through.  And there were also those of us (including myself) who rarely saw God as a single one of His Persons… to me, they are always the three-in-one.

Really, there’s no “right” answer.  Of course, God is always His Triune Self, no matter how we, as individuals, tend to encounter Him.

And the Catechism goes on to discuss…

The Trinity is One.

The divine persons are really distinct from one another.

The divine persons are relative to one another.

… all of which should completely negate each other… and yet, simply are.  What a BEAUTIFUL mystery to ponder!!

The MYSTERY of the Trinity is just so extremely beautiful.  As we wait in hope to encounter the Incarnation of Christ during this season of Advent, it’s always nice to take some time to meditate on some of the rich mysteries of our beautiful faith.

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Emily Faith Formation Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Saints

Sit down, shut your mouth, and maybe you’ll learn a little something about PATIENCE!

Have you ever felt a little… edgy?

You know… when you clearly didn’t get enough any sleep, and the husband is obviously and deliberately pushing your buttons, and the kids are being just slightly less than angelic, and the STUPID DOG just barfed, and the coffee is cold, and “mom, I have a spelling test today,” and WHERE THE HECK IS THE BOTTLE OPENER!?!

Yeah… me neither.

Well, for the REST of you impatient heathens… listen up:

Patience is a virtue.

And… wine isn’t exactly appropriate at 6:32AM.  {WHAT?}
No, not even Pinot Noir.  {DANG!}

Sigh.

Today is October 17th – Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  Don’t know much about him?  Let’s explore.
He was a bishop in the late first century and was known for his letters to the early Christian churches and was the first one known to use the term “catholic” (meaning “universal”, “complete” and “whole”)  to describe the church.   In his letter to the Romans he shares:

From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated.

Dang, no mention of resorting to wine… or whine.

Oh… and he was a martyr… eaten by lions at the Colosseum.

Wow… okay… puts things into perspective. {deep breath}

Patience is a virtue.

So how do we set an example to others for how to live a virtuous life in this day and age?
How do we treat those who are closest to us?
Are we instilling a Culture of Life in our actions as well as our words?
If we can’t die to ourselves, how can we expect others in this world to die to their own “wild beasts” that encircle them?
Those who see abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty as options for coping with our daily burdens rarely see any alternatives and need immediate solutions.
And while it’s easy to self-righteously compare splinters to beams in terms of the weight of our sins, it’s rare that we actually exhibit patience in our daily lives – especially to the extent that we expect others around us to maintain.

We work hard to instill every good Catholic formative teaching in the hearts of our children, but patience is something we learn by example.  And not only our children, but everyone we meet in our day to day lives.

It’s important to remember that the Culture of Life BEGINS with us, in how we actually treat one another and how we are perceived by others.

How’s that for a good ol’ Catholic guilt trip?   Eh, we could all use a good smack in the soul with a  solid examination of conscience once in awhile.

And when those “wild beasts” begin to encircle us we should remember St. Ignatius of Antioch, who continued to treat them kindly – even to his own death.

 

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Emily Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage NFP and contraceptives Prayer Respect Life Vocations

Bats in the belfry…

So, last time I posted it was the jackhammers.  I know you’re dying for an update – so I have to say it is getting a little better.

There are still random clashes of construction noises here at work, but overall there is a return to sanity.

Well, sanity is an interesting concept.  Personally, I’m more drawn to the insane side of life – mostly because my life tends to naturally gravitate there anyway – so why fight the inevitable.  This week’s insanity started off pretty darn amazing…and to continue with my “word of the day” theme I’ll elaborate.

Today’s word of the day…bats.

Normally, I’m not too squeamish about the flying rats.  They eat mosquitoes and bugs and fertilize the ground.  They flutter around right at dusk in the skies above the natural spring and river behind our house.  They’ve even got a huge presence at my Alma mater… The University of Florida has a well-known “Bat House” on campus.

But 10:45pm on Labor Day?… flying around your HOUSE!?!  Yeah, no – that’s an entirely different story.  FREAK OUT!

Okay – so our story goes WAY back, and I won’t bore you with all the details (because it may include some amazingly distracting stories about our insane neighbor who talks to his weeds and wears tighty-whitey underwear on his head), but our house is not very well built.   Our master bathroom has been gutted for over 10 years (never have the money to really dive into that project), our walls have signs of leaks and water intrusion, and the exterior siding has a desperate need of being replaced.  Living in Florida has plenty of perks, but the environment can certainly take its toll on a poorly-built home, not to mention the housing-boom-then-crash has left us with little options available for taking out home equity lines to get the work done… so we muddle through and try to fix the most important things as they come along.

So, along came the spider, who sat down beside her… which inspired my wonderful husband to want to seal up the gaping holes in the exterior siding of the house as a temporary fix to keep out the spiders until we have the funds to fully replace all the siding and seal everything up.   GREAT motive…BAD results.   He sprayed this sealing foam stuff up in the cracks – mostly with the intention of trying to keep critters OUT of the house, and not really considering what we could be trapping INSIDE the walls.
Four hours later, we found out exactly what we should have been considering.  Kids are all upstairs in bed, snuggled up and getting a restful night’s sleep before school the next day. Husband and I are discussing news and bills on the computer when this black thing flies downstairs and through the room.  HOLY CRAP – A BAT!  The next 45 minutes are spent running around looking like idiots (because we’re cool, calm, and collected like that) with nets and towels trying to find the intruder, searching in every nook and cranny, inside closets and behind dressers…no luck.  Then we decide to research online about bats in the house – which was worse than we thought.  Apparently it’s NOT a good idea to sleep in a house with bats – you can get bitten while you sleep and not know it because the bite marks are so small… and with the chance of (deadly) rabies – it’s not worth the risk. So, we load up the car at 11:45 at night and drive to my mother-in-law’s to sleep.  We stay at her house for the next several nights – driving home early in the mornings to shower and get off to work and school.

One of these early mornings I came back to the house at 5:30, alone, to get my shower before my husband woke up the kids and brought them home.  I walk upstairs and find… THE BAT… hangin’ out on a door frame in our hallway.  So here I am, alone, 7 months pregnant, at 5:30 in the morning.  I knew no one (ahem – husband!) would ever believe me if I caught it, so I ran downstairs, grabbed a net and my cell phone (to record the capture on video).  In the 2 minute video my emotions ran from  bravery, to psychotic babble, and finally ending on screaming terror as I capture the beast (it had to be the size of a butterfly – utterly terrifying!).  In my unstable mental state my only thought was to release it outside.  In retrospect, I really regret that decision.  I should have killed it and had it tested for rabies.
Throughout the week, the thought that our kids could have been exposed to rabies that first night (while they were sleeping upstairs and the bat flew down the first time we saw it) was plaguing our minds.  I was so scared about an unnecessary (and very expensive) vaccine, my husband couldn’t handle the slightest possibility of a disease that was non-treatable (certain death).

Suddenly we have to reevaluate what’s important…and try not to panic…and trust that things will work out.  Financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually…trust seems a little daunting right now.  We prayed, and argued, and debated…over time being guided by the advice of several doctors and websites that it would be a wise choice to go ahead with the vaccine.  So our Friday night was spent in the ER for 4.5 hours (x3 ER co-pays!)…  but we knew this was the right decision – our children were too precious for the slightest risk.

See, being a Catholic means we have put some SERIOUS trust in God the Almighty… and it can be REALLY REALLY hard to put that kind of trust outside of our control.
We have the ability to CONTROL everything in our lives these days – our appearance, our education, our finances, even our ability to reproduce!  But God wants us to ponder and evaluate every single one of these Free Will choices we make in our lives.   God asks us to trust Him and His creation.  His creation is GOOD and it is filled with MERCY!

Take birth control, for instance… Why do we crazy Catholics reject contraception when the entire world sees it as a wonderful solution?  Because it’s a blatant denial of the amazing GIFT of being co-creators of other souls with the Almighty!   Wow, pretty heavy stuff when you really ponder it.

But, God also knows  it can be hard to sacrifice your body for the sake of another soul (personal experience and all)!  In fact, He understands so well that He designed this really groovy feature into us humans – periodic fertility that you can observe, track, and use within your own Free Will (Natural Family Planning).  You don’t have to use it – (in fact, if you’re cool with trusting Him entirely, that’s awesome!) – but He SYMPATHIZES.  You’re dealing with a whole lot of pain and suffering in this world, and it’s HARD.   Still – His natural order allows for Free Will… but when we choose to CONTROL every single aspect of our lives without His input, we are blocking God from participating in our lives!  NFP requires a lot of trust and prayer… and constant evaluation of our motives.

If you’d like to learn more about the practical application of NFP, contact your local diocese.   There are many methods – some of which may work better than others for your unique situation, so be open to lots of ideas and options. Natural Family Planning is also a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with infertility and desiring a child.  It’s not always a quick-fix-all, but NFP does open up some options and answer some questions, without diving deeper into more controversial infertility treatments.  Like two sides of the same coin (trying to conceive or avoiding conception) – either way we are called to prayerfully accept God’s creation – no matter how heavy that cross may seem.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that NFP is a quick-fix to covering the sin of contraception!… Remember, it’s not meant to be used with mindset of “control”.  For some, it can be quite challenging.  But, if we continue to approach our fertility as a GIFT from God, and PRAYERFULLY reflect on why it may be necessary at times, then we are fully able to receive this beautiful gift of mercy.

For now, I have a lot to trust God about.  While I really wish this darn bat situation was something I could dive in and control without it impacting my life, I know that life will go on.  We may end up poorer, emotionally spent, physically exhausted, and a little insane (don’t you dare call me “batty”!) in the end… but that’s what FAITH is all about.

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Emily Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

Mars, Venus, and… jackhammers.

I’ll be honest – I’ve never blogged before.   I’m not much of  a writer, in fact the entire act of writing doesn’t come naturally to me.  I’m an engineer and I LOVE math and logic, so I know I come from a foreign breed of women.  But I’m still a Catholic first, so to many I know I appear to be a walking contradiction as a working mother.  So if I can figure out how to balance out my life and it’s many contradictions without grave injury, I’m hoping I can at least survive at this whole writing gig.  Forgive me, for this will probably appear to be rather sinful for an English major to read.

Now that we’ve worked our way through the Penitential Rite I think we’re safe to move forward into meat of the word.  So, how about a “word of the day” theme?  I can work with that.

Today’s word of the day… jackhammer.

Oh yeah.  There has been a steady cacophony of this lovely sound going on at my office building for a few weeks now.  Sometimes it hits that certain migraine-inducing level of insanity, but most moments I tend to drown out the noise.  My co-workers, however, (all male, by the way –  we’re engineers, the statistics are true) aren’t handling this well at all.  They have called HR to gripe and complain, others have left the office to go work from home.  It has definitely impacted our ability to have conference calls or meetings in this area of the building.

But for some reason, it’s just not getting to me like it does them.
First off, the noise – for whatever reason – makes the baby in my belly dance.  Also, I tend to have a really childish sense of humor about the whole thing – raising boys does that to you.  Every time the noise starts my first reaction is to say “excuse me”, as if I’ve embarrassed myself publicly.  I sit here and giggle to myself like a 6 year old boy.  I really don’t think my coworkers are impressed anymore.

I keep wondering,  why is this not bothering me!?  And then one day it dawned on me… I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a mom.
Now, several of my coworkers are married with kids, so it’s not necessarily the general “family noise” that seems to make me immune.  Moms and Dads are just different.
See, despite the fact that I work during the day I still have that standard maternal nature.  I go home, clean out lunch bags, help the kids with homework, snuggle on the couch, ask about their day, fill out permission slips and write checks, all while making a fully balanced meal.  Moms just DO that.  The constant music of “Momma, Mom, MOMMY!” rings in this confusing evening harmony that tends to sometimes sound a lot like Holst’s “The Planets”, which is beautiful but not very easy to dance to.

But yet… we do!  We dance to that kind of music!
Sure, it’s pretty stressful at times, and there are certainly outbursts of random notes that just don’t make sense.  But it’s beautiful – it’s LIFE!

Then, I got to thinking about women in the Gospels – really, not much has changed over the centuries!
Mark’s Gospel tells us that “Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus in the tomb” (Mark 16:1) – despite everything they were going through, they got up and did what needed to be done.  After learning about Christ’s Resurrection, Mary Magdalene went and told Jesus’ companions “who were mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:10).  Sigh – men.

I just find it so amazing how God works with both the male and female aspects in His creation. Both are so necessary, they balance each other out in such perfect harmony. What would God’s perfect creation of Earth look like without the great masculine and feminine of Mars and Venus balancing out the Earth in the Natural Order? God’s creation is truly miraculous.

So, here at work the jackhammers droll on…
But my little baby and I are dancin’, and laughing about fart jokes… all while the men-folk curse the heavens and run away crying.
It’s okay, that’s why God made women – someone’s gotta do the work!