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Suffering at the Hands of Family: A Personal Invitation and a Gift {Part 1}

I’m reading through threads on social media today and am thinking that if I had a nickel for every thread I read about the hurt family inflicts…. *sigh* well, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about my fuel budget to haul my ducks around town.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. For myself, every time we have family visits, my anxiety shoots through the roof because I know I can’t change my beloved extended family’s habits of inconsideration, rudeness, pettiness, and the usual contrived jabs. This occurs on both sides of the family.

After 14 years of this in married life (and x years before), all I can do is steel myself before these visits. Then I pray, wait, and try to prepare as much pre-damage control as possible (if that’s possible).

It has struck me more than once how I never thought that my Catholic family would be the cause of hard feelings because of envy, jealousy, lack of charity, unwillingness to forgive, and grudges that lead to further separation in the family. It is this separation that causes us to drift so far apart that we lose touch. Finally when we tearfully meet 5, 10, 15 years later at mutual loved one’s funeral, we wondered whatever it was that caused us to part so.

Here’s my situation…

My extended family members are faithful Catholics, but to this day, still struggle to get along, to show basic manners when it comes to planned events, asking us to leave so they can have dinner with friends who are coming by, not offering support in any way, and trying to control our children and how we parent them, etc.

I can’t change them, however, and have to be comforted in the fact that they are Catholic and that as Catholics they are called to love. They have the Sacraments to help them to reflect, to try to bear wrongs, to be charitable. It’s not in my hands if they do so but I pray for them for God to lead them as I ask that He lead me. We may not be friends during our time here, but I beg that we meet in Heaven someday.

I’m a wimp and am incredibly flawed (ask my husband), but I grit my teeth to ask for suffering to bear on their behalf for the wrongs—the grievous, almost unforgivable wrongs they have hurt me with and still hurt me with if I give them the chance—so that they don’t spend a single day in Purgatory.

Now it’s a little harder in a way with my non-Catholic family who are openly hostile toward my Lord and His Church—and anyone who loves Him and is in His Church. But at the same time the betrayal isn’t as deep or hurtful as it is from my Catholic family. I mean, one expects better from faithful Catholics, right?

Yet, with my secular family, it’s hard to not be affected when my precious 5 year-old, in her innocence wants to color and draw pictures for Jesus with a same-aged cousin who is every bit as precious and just as innocent, and the family’s response is anger and hostility, albeit in the passive aggressive form because she dared express her love for Jesus and had her cousin doing the same. For this side of the family, this is all too common. While we try to lay low, not give too many opinions, to be helpful and accommodating, we can tell that our mere presence is offensive somehow and they can’t wait for us to leave.

Given both sides of our families, my husband and I wouldn’t care so much if it was just us. We could stay away and not make an effort. But we have children who are like all children; they love with all of their hearts, and that includes people who are family who have been a big part in our suffering.

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t lived it. The first thought someone who may or may not know you and yours is, “Well, what’s wrong with you that your family hates you so much?” They might think that I’m not telling both sides. If I detail our defense I’m torn between the fear of looking like a petty, oversensitive, drama queen or of them looking like monsters. I don’t feel like going on trial at the hands of even well-meaning friends who cannot understand and unknowingly cause more hurt when they defend the undefendable. I don’t blame them, they don’t know the history. How can a survivor of child abuse really explain to people who haven’t live it? I don’t want to burden them and I doubt they want to be burdened. Who does? It’s between my husband, myself, and God for our Sanctification and for our children’s souls and the souls of our family and friends, and enemies. As much as my family still hurts me, mainly through my children, I love them and don’t want anyone thinking badly about them. I want the best for them in this life and the next.

When I used to talk about it and be more open about difficult visits, perhaps it was because I sought understanding and empathy; perhaps because I wanted to know if anyone else was in this situation and how they coped and healed–if there was healing. I’m learning how to bear it more quietly. I said “more”, not “entirely.” I am writing this because I see similar situations and want to reach out to those suffering at the hands of family to tell them, “You’re not alone. You are loved. I don’t know you, but I love you because I am called to love you and I feel for you! You are in my prayers.”

So I pray. Sometimes I cry. And I feel alone. It’s here I can identify with my Lord’s Passion when He was falsely accused- by friends! He was maligned and betrayed- by people He loved and who were closest to Him! I think of Our Lady who suffered His Passion in her heart. It’s how I am drawn closer to Him through Her. I am at the foot of the cross as I gaze at their hearts: her Immaculate Heart and His Sacred Heart on fire with love us, pierced by our wrongs toward one another and God. Mary feels the pain from the blows of our sin to her Son simply because she’s His mother! With love of God and us (in spite of the pain we cause), she gives her suffering to Him, Who makes all things new and turns this suffering into something beautiful to heal and bring souls to Heaven. Her love is so pure. She does all of this because she loves us, only like a mother could. He bears it—bore it for love of us. It’s mind boggling.

I grew up Catholic and used to study pictures of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts in wonder. Why did they draw it like that? It took all of this time, suffering through a wounded childhood and the continued rejection of the people whom I love most to help me understand. This is only a taste of what my Lord suffered on my account, because He knows every hair on my head and my own heart better than I.

When I have the gift of suffering at the hands of those closest to me, I am being invited to partake in my own little passion made Holy by a God who can always bring a greater good. My heart will look like theirs: pierced, purified, and on fire with love of God and love of my neighbor—even my enemies—for the sake of loving God. To His Heart through hers. To Him through her. To God, the Father through His Son by the Holy Spirit! I rejoice because I am blessed indeed.

 

Monica is married and has a Masters Degree in Engineering. She “gave it all up” when her first was born to stay home with her growing family. She homeschools their five children, some of which are special needs. She is currently living her “happily ever after” deep in the heart of Texas.

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Abortion Current Events Ink Slingers Misty Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

Has Abortion Lived Up to Its Promises?

In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion-on-demand the law of the land. The milestone is causing many on both sides of the aisle to take a closer look at our changing political landscape and ask, “Does legal abortion have a future in America?”

As a recent article in Time magazine pointed out, ultrasound technology and medical advances have steadily chipped away at the public’s support of abortion, because the humanity of the unborn child has become increasingly undeniable. And while that’s good news, there’s still a barrier pro-life advocates haven’t seemed able to overcome, a reason people cite for keeping abortion legal that for many, trumps even the moral responsibility to protect innocent human life. And that’s the belief that abortion offers a pragmatic solution to our worst societal scourges.

Abortion may be evil, admit the honest pro-choicers, but it’s a necessary evil. We need it if we’re to keep other serious problems in check. Even before Roe v. Wade, abortion advocates have insisted that widespread access to abortion will mean “every child a wanted child,” which will reduce child abuse. Abortion will reduce crime, too, since those unwanted and impoverished children who often grow into criminals will never be born. It will also protect vulnerable women from being butchered by untrained abortionists cashing in on their desperation. Widespread abortion, we were promised, would lead to stronger women, stronger families, and a stronger society.

So has abortion lived up to its promises? The answer is a resounding “no.”

With nearly 50 million “unwanted” children eliminated via abortion since 1973, we should have seen child abuse plummet. But that’s not what has happened. In 2005, nearly a million children were victims of abuse and neglect, with experts estimating that three times that amount were actually abused. Almost 1,500 children died of their injuries that year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which reports that all types of child abuse have increased since 1980. For some reason, the plan to reduce crime by eliminating the potential victims just didn’t pan out.

Nor have we seen any positive impact on crime in general because of abortion. Interestingly, “progressive” states that legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade experienced consistently higher homicide rates nearly every year between 1976 and 1998, according to Yale University law professor John Lott and Australian economist John Whitley. Lott and Whitney found that legalizing abortion actually increased state murder rates by up to 7 percent. It seems that the plan to reduce crime by eliminating the potential perpetrators floundered, too.

And what about the women whose lives would be dramatically improved by abortion? How have they fared?

Contrary to the claims that thousands of women were dying from illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade, the American Medical Association reports that the figure for 1950 was actually 263, and that those numbers were even dropping, with 119 abortion-related deaths in 1970. Regardless, legal abortion was supposed to virtually eliminate the chance that a woman would be injured or killed during an abortion.

Today, however, providers who had great incentive to perform a medically competent abortion prior to Roe v. Wade now practice in medicine’s most unregulated specialty. In the book Lime 5, pro-life group Life Dynamics reported on the thousands of public records proving women are injured and killed every year by abortion. Just this week, the organization published controversial autopsy photos of a young woman who died during a botched abortion in a Pennsylvania clinic. Perhaps the most recent example of women being sacrificed to the altar of abortion rights is the case of abortionist Kermitt Gosnell, who was indicted in 2011 for some of the most egregious medical conduct imaginable…including the gruesome murders of at least eight babies born alive during attempted abortions in his Philadelphia clinic. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that a regional advisor to the World Health Organization admitted in 2005 that “up to 20 percent of maternal deaths are due to abortion, even in those situations where abortion is legal.”

It’s clear legalizing abortion has actually increased the risk to women’s health. As Gosnell discovered, even the most incompetent abortionist can count on abortion advocates to cover up the carnage they visit on unsuspecting women, who have been assured that abortion is safe because it’s legal. Case in point: former pro-choice governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge (R), ended regular inspections of abortion clinics in that state during his administration. Which meant that for nearly two decades, Gosnell’s house of horrors was allowed to operate unchecked, with warnings from patients, doctors, and public health employees repeatedly ignored.

Not that Pennsylvania is unique; many (most?) states have turned a blind eye to the abortion industry in the interest of protecting abortion access at all costs. My home state, Virginia, just passed legislation a few years ago finally requiring abortion clinics to meet the same medical standards as other free-standing clinics. In any other area of medicine, this lack of government oversight would instantly be considered unsafe and unacceptable, yet we’re willing to expose women seeking abortions to this kind of substandard medical care. Abortion advocates need to just say what they really mean: safe if possible, but legal regardless.

Not surprisingly, then, “complications following abortions performed in free-standing clinics is one of the most frequent gynecologic emergencies…encountered,” according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February 1983. Twenty years later, nothing has improved, as the 2005 WHO report showed. Few people realize that even in the United States, legal abortion is actually the fifth leading cause of death for pregnant women. Far from protecting women, legal abortion is instead maiming and killing us–with impunity.

 

But abortion gives women control over their fertility and that’s empowering, abortion advocates insist. Yet for a choice that’s supposed to be so beneficial, it’s strange so many post-abortive women find the experience anything but positive. Countless studies show that women who abort have an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and suicide. They’re at a greater risk for substance abuse, and often engage in years of uncharacteristically self-destructive behavior after their abortions. Many of these women, who were once pro-choice, are now speaking out against abortion. It seems that this “empowering” experience really leaves the vast majority of women feeling powerless, abandoned, and violated.

For 40 years, we’ve been told keeping abortion legal is both the practical and the compassionate choice for America. We were promised it would reduce problems such as child abuse and crime, that it would empower women and keep them safe from unscrupulous and greedy medical butchers. Abortion must remain legal, we’ve been told, because there are just so many practical benefits to be gained. Yet as the evidence clearly shows, abortion’s promises are as empty today as they were before Roe v. Wade. The practical, personal, and societal benefits of legal abortion never have and never will materialize, because a poisonous tree can’t bear good fruit. The social experiment called “legal abortion” is an abysmal failure. Let’s pray, sisters, that it doesn’t take our nation another four decades to rectify this costly mistake.

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Alessandra Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Reversion Sacraments Testimonials

Broken Childhood Healed by Christ

 

Rushing to my pew, quietly and quickly, I tried to go unnoticed. A shy college student, I had no one to really go to Mass with me – well, not as often as I wanted to go, which was daily. Pulling the kneeler down, I felt my knees hit the leather chocolate brown cushion, folded my hands in prayer and closed my eyes in adoration. Just a few minutes later, I heard little feet scuffling the tile floor of the center aisle; I didn’t have to open my eyes because I knew it was the Sanchez mother and her nine little ones. In admiration, as I heard the last set of feet pass my pew, I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of this lovely family which stood out like a sore thumb at our parish of over 500 families because of the size of theirs. It took two vehicles to get to Mass for them at the time, but you could count on them to be there almost on a daily basis. Their father was the Deacon at our parish, a sweet quiet man always quick to offer a smile and who also was a doctor. Teresa, their three year old, would look around the church and have a staring contest with the beautiful images of Mary and the saints frequently until her eyes met mine and we would share a quick smile and a little wave. Though their family was a little bigger than the Martin’s, they reminded me so much of what Saint Therese of Lisieux’s family must have been like while she was growing up. I admired this family and frequently thought to myself, “oh how I wish one day I too could have a family like that, but that probably won’t ever happen.”

Quickly negative thoughts would enter my mind as I closed my eyes again because I was still so very broken. I couldn’t understand why I was so broken at the time. I wanted to blame everyone else; after all, it was easier that way. It wasn’t my fault I lost my father to war and that he chose the military as his profession. It wasn’t my fault that my mother became a widow at twenty-five with three young girls ages five, three, and one and an immigrant to the United States of America. It wasn’t my fault she had to work two and three jobs at a time just to keep the water running and electricity on while my grandmother raised us. It wasn’t my fault she got involved with a man that was a child-molester and targeted all three of us as well as one of my cousins. It wasn’t my fault she became an alcoholic. It wasn’t my fault that uncles and male cousins thought I was “a pretty little girl” like my step-father. It wasn’t my fault we had to move around so much growing up – sometimes even going to two or three different schools in one year. It wasn’t my fault that we ended up in an apartment building in a not-so-great section of South Florida where gangs were popular. It wasn’t my fault I thought sleeping with my boyfriends from a very young age was the proper way to show affection; after all, wasn’t that the way I was taught by the only man in my life, my step-father? These thoughts ran through my head almost daily and I used them to continue to justify my actions even when God was showing me His love and mercy. After all, he had used one of these boyfriends to “bring me back home” and back to Church. That didn’t stop my broken nature though. I prayed and worked at a Church as a Youth Minister because I loved my Faith and my God but I didn’t really realize that my personal life was a wreck! So looking at what this beautiful family had, a lovely marriage, lots of little children, a happy Catholic life, that wasn’t for me. It would never happen, “stop dreaming”, I would tell myself frequently.

Of course, running a life pretending to be a good Catholic wasn’t working out. My hidden nature, the outcome of child sexual abuse would soon catch up to me. Soon after my graduation from the university I found out I was expecting a baby, the father didn’t want me to keep “it” and I decided I would raise the baby alone. This lasted about three weeks and his father, a man that had serious problems with commitment, decided we should go ahead and get married. We did, when I was five months pregnant; we had a big Church wedding, I bought the dress that concealed the baby bump and it was a beautiful day! That is, until reality hit. This man too was broken, but a different kind of broken – his childhood also tarred with abuse physical and alcohol. After four years of being the victim and trying to raise a child in this environment, I went to see my spiritual director and after failed attempts to save the “marriage,” I filed for a civil divorce and began my annulment process. Oh those were 2.5 years that felt like a century, between the pain of reliving my life for the application and realizing the vast signs and errors in both our ways {we really were two broken people that had no business being in a relationship to start with}.

During this time was when my life changed completely. I went on retreats often and to Confession frequently and since I couldn’t receive Communion, I went back to Adoration for hours on thinking and analyzing my life, realizing that really none of that was my fault, after all I was a child. But I had to make drastic changes in my life; I was now a mother and needed to work hard to raise a Godly young man. There I was again, my knees on that kneeler begging God to save me, “one more time!” Shortly after all this and living a now chaste single life with a child of three years old, I began a Novena to the Holy Ghost. In my heart of hearts I still dreamed of a family like the Deacon’s and his lovely wife, but I never thought that would happen; yet, God listens to our hearts. Since I was such the “Doubting Thomas,” I asked God for a specific kind of man {I even made a list, and among these were silly little things like being ambidextrous like my dad, a tall man, a man of a stronger Faith than mine}.

On the last day of the Novena, I met Peter (my now husband), and of all places, on what is now CatholicMatch.com. If I told you the details of my list and how precisely the description of Peter fit that list, you’d think I was crazy, lying or both. Peter had just finished discerning a vocation to the priesthood with the Fraternity of Saint Peter (an order of apostolic life which only offer the Mass in Latin}; he was a convert and knew so much about our beautiful Faith that ten years later I’m still amazed of how much he knows {versus me, the cradle Catholic who knows so little} and how perfect God’s plan in our lives is. This November it will be ten years since we met, courted, and later married in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Today my life mirrors that of the Sanchez Family more than any other family I’ve met; it amazes me that I never told anyone this nor did I ever ask for it, but the Lord listened to my heart. He heard that I needed His healing; my brokenness needed Him so much and through prayer and the Sacraments, here I am today, a better Catholic. I’m trying my very best to live a life of grace, a life of devotion and prayer as wife to the perfect man (for me) and mother to five little blessings.

Daily, I struggle with my sinful nature partnered with the sad memories of my broken childhood. I can now look back and accept what happened because it made me who I am today, and it also helps me look at my present and future with hope – true hope in Him. My wonderful husband who is so wise constantly reminds me by telling me this: “In your spiritual life, you are never standing still. You are either moving forward or falling back.” I strive to always be moving forward, much more than I did before I was healed by Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him, I cannot do it; it is impossible. It’s not an easy road, not a perfect one either, but it’s a grace-filled one full of the love and forgiveness and healing power of God. So my sisters, yes, there is hope and a beautiful life, even when life fed you a broken childhood! Pray for me so that the Lord gives me strength to continue to heal and thirst for Him ever more.