Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year

Uniting Our Lenten Sacrifices with Christ Crucified

jesus-pictures-crucifixion-2This Lent I find myself contemplating the nature of sacrifice more than I ever have before. While I have often given something up for Lent, most of the time I view that something more as a challenge to myself than as a sacrifice that is supposed to help me unite my struggles or sufferings with the crucified Christ. But a convergence of events has given me greater pause this year.

Shortly after Lent began this year I returned to work after a nice, long maternity leave. About that same time I also started praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. My days are now very long, starting much earlier than I am used to and going until fairly late in the day. I am NOT a morning person and every bone in my body dreads the early hour at which I now get up.

I started Lent this year with the idea that I was going to give up chocolate. Again, it was one of those challenges to myself. As the season began and I had to get into a new rhythm in my life, I found that I was contemplating the Passion of our Lord in those wee hours of the morning when I had to drag myself out of bed to feed the baby before the rest of the household woke up. As I thought about what Christ sacrificed for us I realized how small and insignificant my “sacrifices” were. I also came to realize that my real sacrifices were being made for my baby. I was getting up for him when I would have much rather stayed in bed. I was breastfeeding him and thus giving of my body for him.

It is a greater struggle for me personally to get up early each morning and I have found breastfeeding challenging and very much a sacrifice as well. In this area, right now, at this time in my life, I do find myself looking to the cross more than I have in past Lents. Or really at any time. I dropped the idea of giving up chocolate for Lent. It was a simple challenge and not a struggle that was going to force me to look to Christ and unite those struggles with His ultimate sacrifice. No, chocolate was definitely not going to do it this year.

But as I struggle to face each morning, as I deal with the occasional pain of breastfeeding, as I struggle with latching, as I face the boredom of pumping during my workday, I find strength to carry on by looking to the cross. My sacrifices are still nothing compared to Christ’s, but they are definite struggles for me. I look to the cross and I know I can do these earthly things. The spiritual benefits seem much clearer to me now than in previous years.

My Lent has become focused on sticking to my new morning routine, which includes praying the morning office and getting up much earlier than my body wants so I can put it to work caring for and feeding my baby. And as I do these things each morning I think about Christ dying on the cross for my sins. I find that contemplating the crucifixion helps me get out of bed when I’d rather try to grab a few more minutes of sleep. Thinking about the torture Christ endured for us completely minimizes any physical difficulties I am experiencing as I continue breastfeeding. And  praying the morning office reminds me to not just contemplate the crucifixion, but to rejoice in the Lord and all He has blessed me with.

In the end, this is what Lent is about. We spend this season participating in some small way in the sacrifice of the crucifixion so that we may rejoice at the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Maybe giving up something like chocolate or TV or coffee is a true sacrifice for someone that helps them to experience the sufferings of Christ. I’m realizing that those kinds of things, while still hard, aren’t bringing me to a place that I need to be to fully experience Lent. Instead, my struggle to start my day an hour or more earlier than normal and spend time in prayer helps me to feel united to Christ.

I hope you are having a fruitful Lent and are finding ways to be united with the crucified Christ in preparation for the joy and praise we will experience on Easter. I pray that whatever your sacrifices are, that you can stay strong and persevere through the rest of this Lenten season.

Ink Slingers Molly Y.

These Breasts are Made for Feeding

There has been a lot of discussion about breastfeeding lately. What is it? What isn’t it? How long is too long? Whose needs are really being met? And the implied: Is it sexual?

Many people are calling the controversial Time cover “provocative”.   Time’s goal was to shock (and they did!), but they also brought attention to a serious confusion in our society.  There is of course the discussion about nursing into toddlerhood, but at the core, our society mistakenly sees breastfeeding at any age as being something sexual in nature.  There is even a picture circling on Pinterest of a baby with the words, “One day old, Already made it to second base”.

Blessed Virgin Mary nursing Jesus

Here comes the real shocker: breasts were made for nursing babies! God’s wonderful design allows for a baby to receive nourishment and comfort directly from his mother at her breasts. There is nothing at all deviant about a mother feeding and soothing her child. So where does the confusion come from?

A woman’s beauty used to be viewed as a sign of her fertility. However, in our over sexualized culture, the conception lure has been removed from sex. Nourishing breasts, child-bearing hips and all that make women beautiful have always been related to both fertility and pleasure, but now they are viewed only as sources of pleasure.

Fortunately, there are still a few men like Dwight Schrute that know that babies’ needs come first. Here he describes the qualities he is looking for in a woman:


So if breastfeeding isn’t sexual, what IS it?

Breastfeeding is nourishment. There is no dispute that mommy’s milk is the perfect food for baby.  It even adapts to accommodate the ever-changing needs of a newborn, infant or toddler.  When baby is sick, mom’s body will make the antibodies baby needs and deliver them through her milk. What an amazing testament to our Creator! While there are endless benefits of breast milk, it’s not just about food either.

Breastfeeding is self-giving. Mothers intimately share their very selves with their children through breastfeeding. For many mothers, this is truly a sacrifice. When my son was about seven weeks old, I had a breast infection called mastitis. It is really painful! To drain the breast, I nursed my son in every position imaginable and a few that you might not be able to imagine.

As I hovered over my baby on the floor to let him nurse, I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I truly love him. I would have never thought I would be doing something so strange. Yet I was willing to do anything for his benefit, despite what it may cost me. Does that sound familiar? In that moment, God offered me a glimpse of how He loves each of us. I’m sure it’s not always easy for God to love me. Even when it pains Him, He is always there for us.  Like a mother sharing her milk with her baby, He generously shares His grace and mercy with us.

Mother's Day cuddles

Breastfeeding is a mothering tool. When in doubt, nurse. Breastfeeding is my ultimate mothering tool. When my son falls and gets hurt, nursing makes him feel all better. When he’s going crazy during Mass, some cuddle time with mommy calms him down.

During my first few weeks as a new mom, I needed lots of help learning how to breastfeed. I couldn’t help but wonder how Eve survived without lactation consultants, La Leche League  and other mommy friends. One morning, my son was especially screamy, and I wasn’t sure how to comfort him. That was the day I learned that breastfeeding is a mothering tool – and how (I think) Eve learned to breastfeed. I just know that all she was really looking for was something to shove in his mouth to make him stop crying!

Breastfeeding is bonding. Breastfeeding helps create a strong bond between mother and child. When I think about nursing, I think of the cuddles and kisses and hand holding. He’s touching mommy’s face, trying to smile while staying latched, playing with mom’s hair and necklace. I treasure the sweet happy noises he makes and how his little cheeks get so rosy. Those are the moments to remember, and that is, ultimately, what breastfeeding is.