Categories
Ink Slingers

I Pick Me: Responding with Love

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that ended with you feeling like less? 

I recall a situation not too long ago between me and a colleague. This person became extremely upset, and began to speak down to me. Instead of responding by speaking up, I let him continue to berate me. I drove home that night questioning what was wrong with me, and why I felt incapable, stupid, and used.

I used to struggle with the idea that as a Christian, we must be overflowing in mercy in all interactions with others. Submission, humility, meekness – these are all words that cross my mind when I am thinking of how to love best in a conflict situation.

What Does Meekness Look Like?

Meekness attempts to leave room for others and learn from them. To be meek is to be patient with others, practicing restraint and selflessness. What meekness is not is allowing others to hurt us, or choosing to stay in a harmful situation.

And as much as others may say hurtful things to us, I’m willing to bet that we say more hurtful things to ourselves. In fact, it’s easier for us to be compassionate towards others than towards ourselves. 

We Have Dignity

We are all dignified and constituted with value by virtue of Christ’s incarnation. All of us carry the responsibility to honour human dignity – including our own. Reverend John J. Coughlin outlines this in his article “Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being”:

God’s forgiveness of humanity, which is expressed in the Son’s perfect self-sacrificial love, serves as a testament to the highest degree of human dignity both by revealing the love of God for humanity and by demonstrating the fullest possibility for the human person. (2003)

God’s sacrifice demonstrates the fullest potential for the human person, which means that the only appropriate response to one another is love. Unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Now we know that we cannot love perfectly, but we have a calling to participate in that love to the degree that is possible for us. If we don’t, we risk undermining the dignity of all human beings. 

John Paul II writes that the human person cannot live without this love. In the absence of the “revelation” of love, the human person remains “incomprehensible” to self” (Coughlin, 2003).

Understanding that preserving human dignity requires love, how do we train ourselves to respond with love?

Some important things I learned in therapy:

  1. Managing your thoughts can be a way of protecting yourself. We can begin to change the negative thoughts and emotions we have about ourselves during times of conflict and stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was, and continues to be useful in mind management.
  2. Setting boundaries is a way of honouring human dignity. It is, in fact, necessary that we do so to protect and uphold our own dignity. This can look like learning to say “no”.
  3. Like most important life skills, setting boundaries must be practiced. As any healthy relationship takes time/effort, so does our relationship with ourselves. We must love our neighbours as ourselves after all.

Responding to yourself with love is not allowing others to use or demean us in any way. It means not allowing others to walk all over us, or take their anger out on us. As women on the receiving end, this behaviour may even become normalized, which tends to result in lower self-esteem and higher negative self-talk. We need to have a loving relationship with ourselves in order to extend our hearts genuinely to others. In the context of a conflict or confrontation, it is okay to pick yourself.

Picking yourself can look like: 

  • Suggesting you have the conversation at another time, when you will be in a better headspace.
  • Walking away if you don’t like the way you’re being spoken to. 
  • Telling them that you will not continue the conversation if they continue to disrespect or call you names.
  • Choosing to stay silent, and listen rather than speak.

Although this may not be new information for us, a reminder never hurts. Sometimes it takes more than once to draw your boundary. If we do not show up for ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, we will struggle to show up for the people in our lives – this we know! Be patient with yourself, and above all remember that we love because He first loved us.

Reference

John J. Coughlin, Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 65 (2003-2004). Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/494

Categories
Abortion Ink Slingers Michelle Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

The Sanctity of Life and Our Catholic Response

I can remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Leo as clearly as if it happened just yesterday and not 8 ½ years ago. I remember the joy, the pain, the fear, and the worry. I wrote about my journey through a high risk pregnancy here at the website and the outpouring of love and support that our readers showered on me helped to make each day a little easier and less scary to face, especially as many family and friends abandoned us in our time of need.

If you aren’t familiar with my story I will give you a short overview (unless you’d like to read it and then you can find it here, here, and here). During the birth of my 10th child we discovered my son was breech. The doctor, who had delivered more breech babies than any other doctor in our area, was confident in both my ability and his to safely deliver my son. However, try as I might, I simply could not deliver him. Worse yet, while trying I felt an incredible amount of pain (that was a different kind of pain) and my instincts jumped into overdrive. I began to plead with the doctor to take me to the OR to do a cesarean section. I couldn’t get them to understand how vital it was to get us there quickly. They wanted to simply numb my lower half, but I knew we didn’t have that much time. I begged them to put me under and to take the baby. I think they were pacifying me because I was so panicked, but I am forever thankful that they listened to my pleas.

I woke up 3 ½ hours later to find that my uterus and bladder had ruptured and that I had lost so much blood the doctor didn’t feel I would survived a hysterectomy and so he put the “puzzles pieces” of my uterus back together, tried to fix my bladder, and then closed me up. He would tell me that had we not followed my instincts both the baby and I would have died. He also told me that my uterus was so badly damaged it would never hold another pregnancy again; that if I got pregnant that both the baby and I would die.

Fast forward a mere 5 ½ months and after Herculean efforts to not get pregnant, I was sitting in my bathroom with a positive pregnancy test, tears spilling down my cheeks, fear and joy filling my heart simultaneously, and wondering how in the world I was going to tell my husband and children. Never in my thoughts, though, was what would I do about the pregnancy. I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would risk my life to give my child a chance to live.

The events that followed still hurt. We were discharged at my OB office because I refused an abortion, we lost friends as they turned their backs on us and judged us, we felt isolated and alone, and truly felt persecuted for living out our Catholic faith. My heart still reels from the injuries that friends and family inflicted on us during that time. Thankfully my story ended beautifully- a sweet, healthy little boy in my arms, doctors astounded that my uterus was perfectly and “miraculously” healed, and a new gift of life for my son, for myself, and for our family.

I write about my choice for life because today is a dark day in the history of our great United States of America. On this day in 1973 a ruling in the Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion across America. The case denied the rights of the unborn and instead gave women the “right” to decide to end a pregnancy for whatever reasons she may have. The case made it possible that today we have reached over 62.5 million abortions performed in the United States alone. It set a precedence that said a woman’s right to choose is more important than a child’s right to live. It demeaned life in the womb as unworthy in comparison to the mother and it set into motion the false ideology that one human is more important than another. It made a god out of “choice” and placed it on an unholy altar to be worshiped. It has directly affected the importance and sanctity of marriage and family life as well.

As much as I could write about the horrors of abortion and how it has torn at the fabric of our families and our faith, instead I want to touch on what our response is and what it should be towards those faced with the decision to choose life or to choose abortion.

In my own life I faced the condemnation of fellow Catholics who thought I was irresponsible for either “getting pregnant on purpose” or for allowing myself to “fall pregnant again”. Neither scenario was correct as we had done everything within our faith to avoid pregnancy, but that didn’t matter to those who condemned me. I was married, had many other children, and was a faithful church-goer and volunteer. If someone like me, who up to that point had “done it right”, was condemned in such a terrible way, I can only imagine what single young women, poor women, women who made “bad” life choices, drug addicted women, and others feel when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s not hard to understand why they may choose to end a pregnancy instead of face the flames of condemnation.

A dear friend of mine chose differently than me. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy while still very young, her family encouraged her to have an abortion. It was just “what you did” she told me. There was never any thought that she would have the child; it was taken for granted that she would take care of the problem. And she did. We didn’t meet until I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Leo and as I told her my story about choosing life, she shared her story with me. My heart broke for her. The pain caused by her abortion long ago was still present. Her abortion was encouraged and supported and yet the pain she carried was heavy in her heart and on her soul. Even though we chose differently, the pain that lingers in both of us is evident.

The Catholic Response

If we want to convince others of the horrors of abortion, we have to be willing to live what we preach. I found that were many who claimed to be pro-life and yet could not understand that even though I had 10 other children to take care of, I had no other choice but to offer my life for my son so that he had a chance to live. I found that, to some, our Catholic teachings maybe meant one thing on paper and another thing in real life.

Which is it? Do we believe that life is sacred and worth protecting or do we think that there are ifs, ands, and buts that supersede the teachings of our Catholic faith? If we truly believe that every life is sacred and worth saving, how are we working to help those who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies to choose life and to endure the hardships they are facing? Are we simply quoting Catechism passages and Bible verses or are we truly living out our call to help others understand and respect the life that God has blessed them with and then support them as they bring life into the world, regardless of the circumstance?

So far, this year in the United States alone there have been nearly 50,000 abortions performed. Friends, we are only 22 days into the New Year and nearly 50,000 babies have died because abortion is considered a valuable commodity in our country. How can this be ok? More importantly, what can we do about it?

It seems as if for now, legally, we don’t have much recourse to reverse Roe v. Wade and to make abortions illegal in our country. But we do have the ability to help women choose life. We have the ability to not only teach about the sanctity of life, but to live out those teachings by supporting women who find themselves in unplanned or crisis pregnancies. In order to help others respect life, we must first respect life. Not just the life of the baby, but the life of the mother, the father, and the entire family. We can’t just talk the talk, we must walk the walk.

  • We must teach our children that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. We have to begin teaching them at a young age. Our children innately know and understand the sacredness of life and are horrified at the thought of someone killing another person, especially a baby. We must encourage their understanding and foster their love of all people.
  •  When we encounter someone who is experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy we should meet them with love and hope, not judgment and condemnation. We should encourage them in their choice for life and support them as they go through pregnancy, birth, and family life. It’s easy to tell someone they should choose life and then never show our faces again. It’s more difficult to be an active participant in their lives, willing to help at every turn when possible.
  • Volunteer at a pregnancy center, at your church, at a homeless shelter, at a women’s shelter, a low income day care, or a soup kitchen- anywhere that provides services that a pregnant woman may need. If we don’t have the time to volunteer, we should financially support those programs that help women and families. Don’t worry about why they are in the position they are in, but simply love them enough to help them to better the situation they are in.
  • Be vocal in your support for life. Don’t be obnoxious, but be genuinely loving and kind as you explain why life is so precious and worth saving. There will be those who want to fight you… be strong in your faith and convictions but also in your love for those who think differently from you. The love we extend wins over more hearts and souls than hate ever could.
  •  Pray. Pray for the mothers, pray for the fathers, pray for the babies, and pray for the extended families. Spiritually adopt women who are considering abortions and offer up your hardships, your worries, and your own trials for their well-being and for their choice for life.
  • Offer a healing hug for those who have experienced abortion. Listen to their story, offer prayers, and don’t judge them. Guide them to understand that they are still loved and that they can be forgiven. Point them to resources that will help them through the pain that accompanies abortion- not the just the physical pain but the mental, emotional, and spiritual pains.
  • Work within your legal system to encourage our leaders to make new laws that focus on ending abortion and the need for abortions. Abortion is big business that lines the pockets of many and so it will be difficult to eradicate. But we have to continue our work to bring about those changes.

Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I ask that you pray with me for all those women who are facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies, for those who are facing medical emergencies in their pregnancies, for those who feel alone and abandoned in their time of need, and for all those who are facing a decision between life and death. Let God use us as His means to provide help and hope to those who need it most. I pray that God will wrap them in His arms and help them to see their worth, their child’s worth, and the joy that comes from choosing life.

If you or someone you know is facing a crisis pregnancy, please know that we are here for you. Reach out and we will do our best to put you in contact with those who can help you.

If you are in need of post abortion healing, please consider contacting Rachel’s Vineyard. They can help you find hope, healing, and peace.

Categories
Anni Bible Catechism Current Events Discipleship Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Tread Softly, Pray Fiercely

Tread Softly Pray Fiercely

The past several months of this year have been exceptionally hard to watch, as friends and family seem to quickly and easily tear each other apart. Assassinations of character, name-calling, ad hominum attacks, and vitriol seem to be spewed with nary a thought of a backward glance. All across social media, the push to speak first, think after seems to be prevalent, and the share buttons seem to promote use of simply sharing what best suits our own narrative, rather than considering the point of view of friends who may not hold that same viewpoint.

We all seem to be in a rush to drown out the other person, without taking the time to not just hear the words of the other person, but to slow down and identify the true intent behind that person’s beliefs. Social media, of late, is simply a tool being used to air grievances, ills, snarkiness, and ugliness.

There used to be an unspoken social norm that said, whenever engaging in public discourse with someone outside your home, “Never discuss money, politics, sex, or religion.” Yet, in today’s world, it seems as though we have all waded into a hotbed of discussion, with no preparation in understanding the best way forward in a debate is to listen to the opponent’s argument – both spoken, and unspoken.

And, our relationships are suffering because of our inability to listen… to truly hear each other.

Left and right we are witnessing our friends and family on social media tout their message, while lambasting those who do not agree.

This lack of voice has left many feeling downtrodden, depressed, and silenced.

This is precisely where the devil wants us.

Matthew 7:19-20 reminds us, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

The uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is not where we stand on any given issue; rather, the question to ask is are our actions – spoken and unspoken, in real life or on social media – bearing good fruit?

What are these fruits? The list of bad fruit, or “works of the flesh,” is found in Galatians 5:19-21 and include, “… hatreds… jealously… outbursts of fury… dissensions, factions..” and more.

Yet, the good fruits, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a time and a place to correct someone for their sins. After all, we are given the task as Catholics to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy, in addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant.

However, many of us have forgotten the other Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy: Bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offences, and comfort the afflicted.

In an effort to prove our way is the best and most correct, we find ourselves speaking over, and forgetting the patience, the forgiveness, and the comfort to which we are called to share.

As faithful Christians, we are reminded blatantly in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Going back to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the guidance in 1 Corinthians is sound, but is also sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

How do we extend love to others, when we are interested in getting our own viewpoint heard, or even convince others of our approach to situations?

Quite simply:

We tread softly, gently and silently.

We assess the situation.

We determine which battle we want to choose to fight and champion.

We remember the adage that God gave us one mouth to speak, and two ears to listen, and we employ that saying as we approach the situation.

We employ the cardinal virtue of prudence, which challenges us to, “discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1806).

We recognize the bad fruit trying to sway our country toward further division, hatred, and violence. Satan operates under darkness, and in secrecy, to create division.

We call out the prince of darkness, not by casting blame at each other and hurling accusations at them, but by recognizing his sleight of hand in the strife.

We call to mind one of the last words of Christ, as He hung on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Finally, we pray… fiercely.

We ask God for prudence, but we also ask Him for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and for the ability to speak less and listen more.

We ask God for both the willingness to hear the spoken word of our opponent, and the grace to see beyond the spoken word to understand the unspoken, and perhaps even subconscious, motivation behind the words.

We pray, not just for the other person, but for humility to acknowledge when our own viewpoint may be both difficult to hear, and also at times, completely incorrect.

Simply put, as we continue to wade the waters of instant gratification on social media, and swim these waters of division in this world, we tread softly, but pray fiercely.

– AnnAliese Harry

We listen to the words spoken but listen harder to the underlying motivations and experiences of the other person.

We speak firmly, but with patience.

We love each other.

We pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As we continue to move forward, let each of us visit, and re-visit, the uncomfortable question at hand – are our actions, both in real life and on social media, bearing good fruit?

Are we living with our collective and individual sight set on our eternal home?

Are we ready to squirm a little by taking accountability of our own actions, in an effort to live in a manner which is ultimately pleasing to God?

Are we being agents of love?

Categories
Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Loss

Loss and Legacy

 

2019 has so far been a year of many losses. I lost my great aunt, my mom’s good friend, and my boss (may they all rest in peace). Losses also came to me in the form of losing a mentor to a layoff, and losing a friendship. I think one of the most sorrowful losses I experienced this year was one that I saw coming: the death of our Lord during Lent.

This Easter was tough for many reasons. All of my losses seemed to fall one after another during Lent and afterwards. The most recent one was quite jarring for me.

I lost my boss this week. I write this in honour of him, who honoured my writing. He was a brilliant architect and an insatiable storyteller; a creative mind that couldn’t be contained. He understood me on that level, and that need to create something that changes the lives of others in whatever form that may take.

I don’t like funerals for obvious reasons. I sit there with a lump stuck in my throat that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s the kind you get when you try not to cry, and it swells up when you attempt to get out a few words. It feels like there is nothing in the world at that moment that can make the pain go away. You look at the faces of the people grieving, and you realize just how loved this person was. That there’s a love even death cannot conquer.

I can’t help but reflect on Jesus, and what it must have been like for Him, who had to die without a ‘loving’ send-off or a funeral. How lonely and devastating His death must have been. Yet he knew that His suffering would have purpose.

Through death I begin to understand what it means to honour someone else’s legacy. Oxford dictionary tells us that a legacy is “something left or handed down by a predecessor.”

What did Jesus leave us when he left this earth? He gave us forgiveness and salvation. As Christians, we understand that we cannot have those two things without love. Jesus left us with perfect love. Just like heirs to a throne, we are called to honour that legacy and pass it on. We pursue holiness through the cross – the passion of His perfect love He left us with.

I picture a brazen warrior suited in gleaming armor on a steed, taking down foes with her bare hands to defend and uphold the king’s legacy. Unfortunately, this is not typically what happens immediately when “moving on” from a great loss. There are days when we are indifferent. Days when we are angry. Days when we forget. Days when we grieve all over again.

At my beloved boss’ funeral, many beautiful tributes were shared, and the word “legacy” came up. They said he left us with a very important legacy- not his awards or accomplishments, but his children. This man left the world suddenly, but not without leaving us his pride and joy, and what one might say, his idea of perfect love itself.

Perhaps in some similar small or big way, we as children of God are a legacy. We have purpose upon being brought into this world. The legacy doesn’t end when the person leaves this earth. We continually deepen a relationship with a God that is not “physically” with us right? Just as my boss’ children will not forget who their father was and what he did in his life.

The future holds a lot more for the people left behind by great tragedy, but I am also of another perspective. I think that part of moving on means never forgetting. It means looking back every once in a while to remember who came before us. Memories are powerful, in that there is a constancy to them. As if a snapshot was frozen in time. We draw on those memories to remind us how important it is to live for others. The resurrection of Jesus transcends this lifetime and the next, and as heirs to the kingdom, how do we make our father proud?

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. – Psalm 145:4

 

Loss and Legacy
Categories
Current Events Matrimony Same Sex Attraction Victoria K

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.  Full stop.  But I believe that there are ways that we can better love and serve the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for posts about the Church’s teachings on gay marriage, Jason Evert has an AMAZING video on this topic.

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

 

  1. LGBTQIA+ suicide and self harm is a pro-life issue.  As a youth minister, I believe strongly that priests, youth ministers, young adult ministers, DREs, and a variety of lay people should be equipped with knowledge of how to help struggling LGBTQIA+ persons.  At the very least, we should know how to help people get the help they need.
  2. We should raise our kids to stand against bullying.  This includes standing up for LGBTQIA+ peers and reporting bullying to trusted adults.  Bullying is not OK.  It is never OK.
  3. Watch your speech. If we want to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we love and care about them, we need to remove “gay,” “fag,” etc as derogatories from out speech and remind others to do so as well.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When we talk about LGBTQIA+ topics, do our words shine with love and the truth?  If not, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Understand where many are coming from.  One thing I’ve seen so strong from people posting about Pride is that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been hurt by (or know someone that has been hurt by) someone who supports traditional marriage.  This hurt could have been in many forms: emotional, physical, etc.  You may not have been the aggressor, but they now associate those who espouse traditional marriage with aggression.
  5. Ask loving questions.  One way that we can approach with charity is by listening first.  Not too long ago I reviewed Everyday Evangelism by Cathy Duffy.  She made the phenomenal point that:“…while an understanding of doctrine and worldviews is helpful, more often than not, the most valuable skill you bring to the table for an evangelistic conversation is the ability to listen.” We are called to become active listeners, because through listening we show that we truly care about the person as an individual.  Duff continues later to say: “Most people recognize that if we really care about someone, we should want to listen to them.  And, conversely, if we don’t care about someone, we convey that message by not listening to them.  The challenge for us is to improve our listening skills…” Before we do anything, we should listen.
  6. Be so careful as to what you post on social media.  I love social media.  But proceed with caution.  What you say is a public pronouncement to everyone and can be so warped out of context.  Fellow inkslinger Maurisa Mayerle wrote an incredible guide to interacting over social media which you can find here.
  7. Stop talking about “straight pride parade.”  This is a specific thing but it’s cropped up this particular pride month.  It feels like we’re drawing battle lines as opposed to forming relationships.   This is not how we show love, or start open, loving conversations.

 

At the core of all of this, sisters, is Love.  During this Pride month, a story went viral.  It was about a man wearing a  “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt (you can read it here).   He shares about people who would come up to him, crying, desperate for that “dad hug.”  So desperate for that love.  It’s heartbreaking to think of someone who feels so hated.  Especially when we all have a Father in heaven who longs to give them the Love that they seek.

Sisters, many of those who participate in Pride truly feel like Catholics hate them, look down on them, refuse to love them.  We are called to re-write that script.  We are called to be the Love.