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Charla

But for the Grace of God

graceBecause of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I was at a Catholic schools teaching conference this week and the facilitator began his presentation with the verse above.  His speech was on ADD/ADHD. I have three children, two of whom have this disorder.  I am not here to debate the over diagnosis, nor do I want to discuss the overuse of medication.  I actually do not even want to talk about ADD/ADHD. What I do want to discuss is the very real frustrations that children and parents experience as a result of attention or other health issues in the context of our Catholic Faith and our experience with attention issues.

My kids are bright and beautiful and creative and articulate. I believe them to be perfect in every way God created them, but when I heard this quote, the image of the “thorn” never left me.  Difficulties in my kids’ everyday thinking and learning have brought me to tears, not because it makes them less perfect, but because they struggle and work twice as hard for, sometimes, half the results. What parent wants their children to suffer in any way?  I realize that ADD is a very slight problem to have in the grand scheme of things, and as compared to the sufferings of many children with severe physical sufferings, but it is our family’s challenge nonetheless. This is our “thorn”.

This thorn keeps does indeed torment, but it keeps me from exalting myself too much.  This has definitely put me in my place and has made me empathetic in a way I had not been before.  Many times I have asked God to help my children, even take away this difficulty.  However, this weakness in our lives has enabled us to accomplish so much, yet become so humble. God’s power is certainly perfected in our weakness.  The ability to overcome struggles has been an invaluable blessing for my children.  If they did not know the bitterness of difficulties, they could not know and relish in the sweetness of accomplishments. I am more grateful on the good days, and I turn to Him more and more on the bad days.  I realize how much I need Him because I cannot do this without Him.

Kids who are “imperfect” and their parents often experience insults, distresses, persecutions.  Their parents are questioned constantly: Are you doing enough? Medication, why? Are you sure he/she isn’t just spoiled? Are you sure you don’t need a second, third, fourth opinion? Your child just needs X (fill in the blank.) The list goes on and on.  At the risk of sounding cliché: God does not make mistakes.  A child with any kind of difficulty blesses us in ways we cannot understand; amidst the tears and battles, this child brings his or her family graces.struggle

St. Paul is saying in this passage that God wants us to trust Him more. Asking to be void of struggles brings no grace.  Asking God for the strength to deal with these struggles is what brings us infinitely closer to Him through the graces he bestows. Even Christ Himself asked, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me;” but He also followed that up with “…yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42.

I am blessed by my children in more ways I can even imagine.  I love them for their imperfections, because the struggles are blessings. I can attempt to be like Christ in my unconditional love for my children and I can strive to trust God in the way that only Christ Himself was able to trust the Father.

What struggles do you encounter that bring you closer to God?  How do trust God through everyday hardships and self-perceived imperfections?

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Spiritual Advice for Chicken Little

Dear Chicken Little (AKA Henny Penny, AKA All Christians today),

I know you are screaming, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”  and you have good reasons to feel this way.  In today’s world all you have to do to become sad, scared and feel hopeless, is open a newspaper, even a Catholic one.  Then when you go online and see or read of other things going on, it intensifies the feeling that there’s no way to combat those feelings because the forces of evil are so potent and so intricately woven into our culture. I bet you feel like St. Peter- you take notice of the storm and the violent waves around you and you think you are sinking.

But take heart!  If you have taken any time to listen to Pope Francis’s words, you will soon learn that he is paying attention to this horrid world we live in.  His message, that of the Gospel, is that everything will be okay. If anyone is surrounded by wolves and Judases, it’s the Holy Father! He knows this–and yet look at his sweet face radiating Joy and Love as he reaches out to your heart, mine, the unevangelized, Catholics and everyone! It’s important to keep up with what’s going on, however, balance is important, too. I’m sure you pray–but our prayers ought not be ones of desperation, but praise in spite of our affliction.

So here is a little list of spiritual advice for our “Chicken Little Moments” and what I do to help me remember this and balance all the bad news:

1.  READ ABOUT THE SAINTS:  

Find good biographies of Saints (bah for dry pieces that do not inspire but read like encyclopedia write ups; or romanticized pieces that make sainthood seem like it’s for only “the chosen ones” like Luke Skywalker instead of EVERYone). The saints were every bit as broken and human as you and I.  They suffered addictions, abuse, tendencies to lust, gluttony, messed up family, etc. None of them *liked* suffering. They all had their Agony in the Garden, Dark Night of the Soul, and Passion.

2.  WATCH MOVIES THAT INSPIRE:

  • For Greater Glory & There Be Dragons–excellent movies about true events during violent revolutions where Catholics were persecuted. We’ve been here before! It will be okay! And which is harder? The long, tedious sacrifice of the white martyrdom that takes decades to kill bodies? Or the quicker, compressed pain and violence of bloody martyrdom? Either way, martyrdom is our call and the gift of courage from the Holy Spirit is needed. And faith–faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we MUST pray for! It will be okay!

  • The Passion of Bernadette<–one of my favorites

  • The War of the Vendee — done by homeschooled children, lovely movie and pretty great acting for kids!

3.  READ GOOD BOOKS:

  •  “The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM” the amazing and 100% true story about a Seminarian being forced into the Nazi army.  I recommend it to anyone who is troubled about what’s going down here in the US (because we look an awful lot like Nazi Germany in many ways here–politically speaking with our foreign policy that promotes say, Eugenics). He is spiritually attacked. He is put into the SS because of his outstanding ability, in spite of his openly resisting the Nazi philosophy. He ends up as a POW. This isn’t a flowery book of bragging, but rather a direct autobiography with some hard realities. And it’s incredible. Read it and have hope! God is in charge–even in the midst of the enemy.

  • With God in Russia” is an autobiography of a priest who survives being a POW in Russia during WWII (the Communists were guilty of more devastation than the Nazis: 60M murdered as opposed to 10M).

  • The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier, and Korean War Hero” Fr. Kapaun is given the medal of honor–by THIS president? That’s a miracle in itself. He was a POW as well.

  • The Island of the World” is one of the most heart wrenching and devastating books of Hope and Faith that I’ve ever read. He’s long winded, but he’s one of THE best Catholic authors out there IMO.

4.  LISTEN TO INSPIRING HOMILIES:

  • Audio Sancto offers anonymous homilies from good orthodox priests.

  • Sensus Traditionis offers more great homilies as well as texts of talks by subject. A webpage dedicated to the defense of the orthodox Catholic faith as well as a promotion of serious academic thought in the areas of Catholic theology and philosophy.

5.  GO ON A MINI-RETREAT:

For me when I need a mini-retreat from the world,  I read a Michael O’Brien book. He’s one of my all time favorite authors. His fiction books show me how to carry my cross–in detail–with the most impossible situations for his protagonists. One of my favorites is “Island of the World.” Talk about the world coming crashing down around the main character who, as a child was in a beautiful Catholic community untouched by the influences of the West–and in a Catholic home, loses everything–violently, in just moments! This is based on true events of Fascists and Communists ravaging the former Yugoslavia (before it was even that) and what happened to the people there. The story line is fictional, but the history is true. He interviewed many people before writing this book. I wept through a good part of the book, because it was just so hard. It’s a testimony of the stoicism of people of faith who have stuck out the worst of conditions with their lives hanging in the balance.

6. LOOK TO HISTORY:  Remember history repeats itself:

  • It happened in Spain.

  • It happened in France (once the Church’s “Eldest Daughter”).

  • It happened in Mexico.

  • It happened in Cuba.

  • It happened in Russia.

  • It happened in the Balkans.

It will continue to happen. Remember the scene on LOTR where the Balrog is falling into the pit? He knows he’s lost and so he goes down thrashing and gnashing–and at the last moment whips his tail up to Gandalf to pull him down as he falls. This is Satan. He knows he’s lost and is on borrowed time. So he’s going to lie and cheat–even murder as he knows he can’t make us go to Hell, but he wants to make us think he can.  He can’t. They can kill my body, but cannot touch my soul. And if they do kill my body, for the sake of Christ–my soul is all the more glorified in His bloody Passion! For my Salvation and the Salvation of others! Deo Gratias!

7.  PRAY:  Going to Adoration and praying is really important in these hard times.  But you can also pray anywhere…and there are several important daily prayers that some Catholics have forgotten about, here’s a handy dandy list:

Lastly, take heart and trust in God because this the day and age and we have yet to have our crisis of faith here in terms of violent revolution. Good and bad. Bad that there’s fear. But good that we have so much history to take comfort from. And it’s okay to feel like St. Peter and feel yourself sinking but remember to stop looking down and look up because Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, is close by ready to calm the waters.

 

GUEST POST:  Written by Monica, mother to five beautiful children out in Texas!