Categories
Ink Slingers Margaret Mary

Two Heavenly Mothers

The month of May is special month because we honor our Blessed Mother. I don’t think it’s a coincidence we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, too. It only makes sense that we honor our earthly mother along with our heavenly mother at the same time.

For as long as I can remember, my earthly mom told me to pray the rosary. “At least one decade,” she would plead with me. “Sure thing,” I snarled, annoyed at the thought of repeating 10 Hail Marys, let alone 50. What I failed to realize was that I wasn’t supposed to just “recite” the rosary; I was supposed to “pray” it. Guess I never heard the word “pray” come out of mother’s mouth. And to be honest, I always felt like I was disobeyed my mother by not praying the rosary!

But the seed was planted. The rosary seemed to be my mother’s “security blanket.” As she got older, she was in and out of the hospital. Each time, my first question would be, “Does mom have her rosary with her?” If not, I would bring it to her.

I didn’t view my mom’s devotion as admirable, but I didn’t see it as silly, either. It just was. But I could never figure out why she had so many rosaries. She could only pray with one at a time! (Now, that seemed silly to me.)

Over time, mom would keep encouraging me to pray the rosary. But it wasn’t until I left Michigan and moved to Texas in my late 40s that I finally heeded that advice with some help from a religious sister at my church. Sister was another great influence on me, with her devout faith that included praying the rosary daily. She taught me to meditate on the mysteries through Mary’s eyes.

Oh, so that’s what Mom meant! I get it now.

But I had to start slowly; praying all five decades at once wasn’t easy for me. So, I began praying one or two decades in the morning, one or two during lunch, and finish up in the evening. I found it easier too, if I prayed with EWTN, a Catholic television station. I wasn’t praying it perfectly, but I was praying. I can only imagine the smile Our Lady had because I was at least trying and gave up making excuses. I know my earthly mom was proud: I still remember calling her and telling her I was praying the rosary. I could hear her beaming over the phone lines, she was so excited.

I try to pray the rosary every day. I find it peaceful and relaxing. Praying scriptural rosary has given me a whole new insight into our Lord’s life, which gives me insight into my own trials. When I follow along with a CD in my car, I find myself being a better driver, too. One of the many beauties of the rosary is I can pray it any time, any where, even in a long line at the grocery store.

Over the past few years I’ve built quite a collection of rosaries myself. They’re by my bed, in my bathrobe pocket, purse, and car. Guess mom’s collection wasn’t so silly after all.

Sadly, in February, my mother passed away. She requested a closed casket, so when my husband and I made the trip to Michigan for the funeral, we went straight to the funeral home so I could have my proper goodbye. I put my hand on top of hers and thanked her for teaching me to pray the rosary. I then prayed the Hail Mary with her. I just know she was praying with me. About two months after she died, I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt mom and I were praying the rosary together. I felt so much at peace when I woke up from the dream.

I thought Mother’s Day would be hard for me this year. And to some degree, it was. But I’m so blessed knowing I have two mothers looking after me from heaven: my earthly mom and Mother Mary. Now that’s a true blessing.

Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Saints Uncategorized

What Would Mary Do?

As we enter the month of May as Catholics we begin a month of honoring our Mother Mary.   At our parishes we may sing songs about Mary, have a May crowning, offer novenas and encourage each other to pray the rosary, plant a Mary garden, read books about Mary, or go on pilgrimages to shrines built in her honor.  It is a special time of the year to be sure!

But why do we honor Mary?  Wasn’t she just a mere woman?  Wasn’t she just like us?  Our faith tells us that Mary was handpicked by God to bring His son, our Savior, into the world.  We believe that she not only was born without sin (as she was saved by Christ before she was even born) but that she remained sinless her entire life.  When God sent his angel to Mary to announce she was highly favored and chosen she could have said no to God’s request at any moment.  Instead, she chose to obey God and say yes to His Will.  She was no mere woman; she was the Mother of Our Lord.

As Christ hung dying on the cross he looked at his favorite disciple and said, “Behold your Mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:27)  Christ loved his mother so much that he wanted to make sure that she was taken care of after he was gone.  Christ honored his mother.  As Christians we are called to follow in Christ’s footsteps.  When Christ gave his mother to John he gave her to us as well.   We are also called to honor his mother.

Outside of the aforementioned activities how can we honor Christ’s mother, our mother?  Several years ago I had an epiphany (and wrote about it here)… I was feeling down about my lot in life at the time.  It was Mother’s Day and I was looking forward to a day off.  My husband was going to help me out with the kids and I was just going to have some down time.  Unfortunately he became sick and it was not going to happen.  It really bothered me.  I was grumpy and probably a little whiney and asking God why I just couldn’t have a break.  As I was cleaning I began thinking of Mary and how she might handle the situation. Would she whine and pout?  I decided that she wouldn’t.  I began to feel silly for my reaction to something so clearly out of my husband’s hands.  That day, as a wife and mother, I began to think “what would Mary do?”

We have heard it said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  I would argue that we can also show our honor through imitation as well.  With that in mind, over the years since that day I have tried to remind myself that I have the perfect role model in which to turn to when things are so hard for me as a wife or mother.  I often stop and think about how Mary might handle the situation that I am struggling with.  How are my actions and decisions honoring our Blessed Mother?  If I have a baby in my arms that just won’t stop crying I think about how Mary would have gently handled Jesus.   When I am overwhelmed with the household chores and duties I think of Mary gracefully and respectfully serving those she loved.  When I am worried about whether or not we have enough to provide for our family I think of Mary, open to God’s will, and saying yes to His request even though she had no idea how God would provide for her.  When I am worried about our trials and tribulations I think of Mary searching for Jesus and finding him in the Temple.  When I am consumed with sadness and feel unable to go on, I think of Mary at the foot of her son’s cross.  These images of our Holy Mother help me to continue on.  They give me strength, courage, and wisdom.

God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that not only did He need a willing servant to bring His son into the world for our salvation but that we would also need a mother whom we could look to in times of need.  He saw fit to not only give His son an earthly mother to raise him but to give us a mother whom we can turn to when we feel lost, alone, confused, joyful, excited, and happy.  She knows our pains and sorrows, our happiness and love because she has been here too.

During this month of May when we honor our Mother I ask you to think to yourself, “What would Mary do?”  You can honor her as the mother of our Lord and thus honor Him by imitating her life… saying yes to God, serving others, accepting the trials of life and turning to God to see you through them.   We only have to look at our Mother to see how our Father hopes we will live our lives. We are taught that Mary will always lead us to her son.  If we are ever in doubt as mothers, wives, or daughters (or fathers, husbands, or sons) we only have to ask, “What would Mary do?” and we will not only know the right thing to do but will be headed straight into our Savior’s arms.

 

 

Categories
Current Events HHS mandate Stacy

My Dear, Kindly Get Your Ovaries Off My Rosary

Stacy Trasancos | Catholic Sistas

Oh my dear! How many times we have heard you exclaim that us tres terrible praying Catholics should get our “Rosaries off your ovaries”? You seem to imply that our prayers are going to take away your freedom to indulge in recreational sex, and so, like tyrannical children, you have decided that if you can force us to pay for your pills, devices, cannulas and scalpels, you will somehow become powerful unto yourselves. Do you honestly think that if we provide you with the ability to poison yourselves and kill your children, you will have suddenly merited dignity?

Honey, dignity can’t be co-opted, and we can’t buy it for you. You have to earn it for yourself.

Now we could play your way and just say, “Keep your bodies off our laws!” or “Keep your biology off our theology!” or “Don’t like Rosaries? Then don’t pray one!”

But come here and sit down, let’s talk. The very First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, states that “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. The Constitution was written to protect our rights, those endowed, unalienable rights most fundamentally put forth in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are good things.

Catholics can never have a doctrine that permits contraception because it destroys the full openness of love and communication between a husband and wife bound in marriage. So those ovaries of yours that hold the half that is supposed to unite with your husband’s half, in love, to create your children, belong to you. The word “zygote” comes from a Greek word that means “to join together.” Save your gametes for the man that you want to unite with to be the father of your children. And don’t ask me to violate my conscience by funding poor choices that lead to anything less – for broken souls and broken families only lead to broken societies. And I won’t do it. Kindly keep your ovaries to yourself; they do not belong to me, or to any man, or to the government.

Now let’s act like grown-ups and talk a little about your womanly power and dignity. Shall we? Let me tell you about this prayer, the Rosary, that we pray. Perhaps you’ll understand why we cannot subject it to such degrading and irresponsible behavior.

We pray for the joyful fruits of humility, love of neighbor, poverty of spirit, purity of mind and body, and for obedience to that which is greater than us. We pray for the luminous fruits of gratitude for our faith, fidelity, desire for holiness, spiritual courage, and love of our Eucharistic Lord. We pray for the sorrowful fruits, that God’s will be done, for the mortification of our senses, for the reign of Christ in our hearts, for the patient bearing of trials, and for the pardoning of our injuries. Finally, we pray for those most glorious and victorious fruits, that gift of faith and Christian hope, the gifts from the Holy Spirit of wisdom, understanding, virtue and prudence, fortitude, knowledge, piety and reverential fear of the Lord.

We will not subject this prayer to indolence because habitual laziness and sloth only keep you stupid. We will not subject this prayer to the seduction of ignorant bliss or the promise of carnal pleasure because that only turns you into a slave. The promises of contraception and abortion are the promises of falsehood, and such promises are not oriented towards freedom, justice, beauty, and dignity.

You are a woman! You have a God-given right to demand that politicians as well as your own chosen husband do not reduce you to an instrument which they can pump full of chemicals so that you are available for sexual use twenty-four hours a day, every day of your life. You – body and soul – have worth, and you are worth knowing and loving.

It’s not that we don’t care about your egg-holders, it’s that we pray for better things for them. We pray that they belong to a body and a soul that is in love with knowledge of herself and her Creator. We pray they belong to a woman who knows she is cherished by the One born of the Mother most chaste, the Virgin most powerful, the Vessel of honor, the Gate of Heaven, the Queen of peace.

Please understand that you cannot take from us what we truly own and you cannot chain us where we are truly free. We will stand strong – Rosary beads in hand and Rosary prayers on our lips – because we remain freed by Truth through the grace of God, the mercy of Christ and the courage of the Queen of Heaven and Earth. These prayers are fused in our hearts, and we do not fear things of man.

We are no man’s slave – for we belong to God.

Until our prayers are answered and you join us by turning away from that evil abyss of deceit, we hold our Rosary (sans your ovaries) in one hand, and stretch out our other in the fervent hope that you will join us on this journey in the light of truth. We’ll even get you your own strand of beads if you ask for it. We won’t let your ovaries get a hold of our Rosaries, but you are most welcome to let your hands and heart grasp one. That, dear sister, you most certainly can request of us, and if you let it – it will lead your soul out of its darkest depths and into the glory of eternal salvation.

 

I make these by hand and give them away to people all around the world. Contact me if you’d like one, or if you’d like to learn to make them too and give them away as gifts!

Categories
Abortion BirgitJ Current Events HHS mandate Ink Slingers NFP and contraceptives Respect Life

FIAT: HHS Mandate and Why We Should Care as Catholics

The HHS Mandate has been prominently in the news for the past week or so. That the current administration would violate the religious freedom of the Catholic Church, by forcing Catholic institutions to provide abortifacient birth control to all employees, has resulted in a unification of purpose not seen in recent times – if ever. The USCCB  is pushing back – with one voice – as other clergy and Catholic leaders are seen in the national media. What will ultimately happen remains to be seen but many different avenues are being explored in a united effort to proclaim the respect for life that Mother Church sees as her mission.

Today I am sharing a wonderful, encouraging video produced by a growing video company, Lolek Productions, that is rich in its Catholicity. Thanks to Fr. Joshua McCarty and his vision, they are growing by leaps and bounds. Just this week, news of their new video – Fiat: A Catholic Response to the Healthcare Debate – about the beauty of the journey to NFP by a local family, has made it to his local newspaper. Since I could never presume to explain it better myself, I will simply share their description of the video and allow your heart to burst with pride in our beautiful Church and her mission for us all!

Birgit J

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Why should we care as “Catholics?”
It is a stance often seen as an obsolete stronghold in a world that moves much faster than an antiquated church, ruled under the heavy hand of a bunch of old men.

Why would the Church care about this?
It’s a plausible question, seeing as 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control.
The whole contraception controversy is shrouded in misunderstanding, yet the Church remains persistent in Her teaching about the life-giving purpose.

What is that teaching?
That every married couple have a dozen children? No, not at all. It is a much more endearing standard than that.
No matter if you are on the rocks financially or if you are trying to keep up with the Duggers, the teaching requires that a couple allow God to have the final say on the dimension of their family.

There are several ways to give God the power that is His-to be the Guide, Nurturer, Refuge and Creator of life. A couple invites God to their wedding to bless their commitment, and to hold them in love.
God is invited into their homes through daily prayer, love and sacrifice. God is invited into the bedroom when a couple gives of themselves totally, in the most vulnerable and beautiful way — body, heart and soul.

Trust is difficult, especially when speaking of something as life-changing as having children. With all the implications, just a few of which include financial and emotional, only a fool would run headlong into sex blindly. But that is not an accurate depiction of the teaching.
Through the design of a woman’s cycle, through her natural phases of fertility, through the natural attraction between a couple during a fertile time, through the firm and faithful decision of the couple to abstain from sex if they must, Natural Family Planning gives couples the ability to achieve or avoid pregnancy at a percentage of 99.5%. It is with that trust that a couple invites the Lord to put His seal on their life.

He is allowed His right as Creator and Designer. In their stunning trust, both husband and wife exude the beauty of Mary.


Fiat — “Let is be done unto me according to your word.”


Visit us on the web at http://lolekproductions.com

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lolek-Productions/154759447935572

Categories
Christmas Mary P. Saints Uncategorized

The Model Family

On December 22, 2004, I got engaged to a wonderful man. The proposal involved a religious backdrop, specifically a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes, with a statue of the Blessed Mother and one of young St. Bernadette.  It was a peaceful, beautiful location (albeit very cold, in late December!), and my husband’s choice of this location signaled to me the importance that our Faith would play in our marital relationship. I found out later that some time before the proposal took place, my husband went to my parents’ home to let them know that he intended to propose to me, and he brought with him something very special and unexpected – a beautiful statue of the Holy Family. This statue was given to my husband by a priest friend, and my husband told me that he believed it to be a sign of sorts, confirming what he already knew – that he and I were supposed to be married. He brought the statue to my parents’ house so that they could see this sign.

I think my parents were a little surprised by my husband sharing this statue with them (though I am fairly certain they were not surprised that he was there to talk about marrying me). Maybe they were wondering why a statue of the Holy Family would be taken by my husband as a confirmation that we were supposed to get married (my dad, especially, may have been wondering this, as he is not Catholic). Maybe you are wondering, too.

I think a big part of the reason is that my husband’s name is Joseph and my name is Mary (I realized for the first time last night that our names actually contain reference to the full Family, as my middle name has a connection to Jesus). We have been on the receiving end of countless jokes about our names being the names of Jesus’ parents (especially once I was expecting our first child – I can’t tell you how many times we heard “so are you going to name the baby Jesus?”*). We have always seen it as something kind of sweet and special, and perhaps even another little sign that we were intended by God to be together. I have always felt honored to be named after the Blessed Mother and I feel even more honored that God determined that I would be married to a man who shared the name of Mary’s husband. However, it sure does give us a lot to live up to!

I believe that the Holy Family is a patron of my little family in a special way, but I also believe that they are a model for all of us who are married with children. Today is the perfect day to reflect on this fact, as it is the day that the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family this year. Normally this feast is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas, but when that Sunday is January 1, as it is this liturgical year, the feast is celebrated on December 30 (because January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God).

This feast has been promoted by the Church as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit in our society by presenting the Holy Family as a family to be emulated. Yet, we do not have a lot of facts about the life of the Holy Family. Scripture is mostly silent on Jesus’ early life, and thus his life with his parents. So how do we know what we are supposed to be emulating? I think that even though Scripture may not tell us a lot about Joseph and Mary and their relationship with Jesus, there is so much that we can take away from what Scripture does tell us.

We know from Scripture that each member of the Holy Family was humble and fully submissive to the will of the Father. I wrote a bit about these qualities in Mary and Jesus in my last post. Scripture portrays Joseph with these same characteristics. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when Joseph found out that Mary was expecting a child (of course knowing that he was not the father), he determined that he would divorce her (showing his adherence to the law, or righteousness), but he decided he would do it quietly because he did not want to publicly disgrace Mary. At this point, Joseph did not understand the extraordinariness of the situation. It would have been entirely understandable and seemingly justified for him to have been hurt, embarrassed, and angry by the fact that she was expecting a child. How many of us would have taken satisfaction in the public shaming of someone in this situation, due to our own pride? But Joseph humbly decided that he did not want to shame Mary.

Then, when he was instructed by an angel not to divorce Mary because she was carrying a very special Child conceived by the Holy Spirit, he was unquestioningly obedient (he later displayed the same unquestioning obedience when an angel instructed him to take his family to Egypt to protect Jesus from being murdered on the order of Herod). I can only imagine what humility was required to accept the Lord’s will in this situation, when there was so much potential for embarrassment and disgrace for both Mary and Joseph. This same humility would be required for Mary and Joseph to parent Jesus, who was God Himself! Though Jesus surely would have submitted to them as his human parents, it seems to me that they also would have had to submit to their own son in some ways. Though parents normally educate their children, surely Jesus would have had a lot to teach his parents (as we catch a glimpse of when they find him in the Temple at the age of 12).

Imagine what a peaceful home it must have been with each person in the family being filled with humility and obedience. There would have been a perfect harmony to the relationships between husband and wife, and parents and child. Imagine now how much more peaceful our own marriages and families could be if each member of our families were humble and entirely submissive to God’s will? Too often, marriages today are power struggles, with the parents fighting each other for power and the children fighting the parents for power, instead of everyone humbly submitting to God’s authority and the authority of those who God put over them. Too often, spouses are unwilling to humble themselves to say “I’m sorry” to each other, or to show each other mercy instead of insisting that the other person gets what they “deserve.” Imagine if everyone in the family were to put the needs and feelings of others above their own egos, and the will of God above their own wills? Imagine if even just one person in the family were able to do this – it might change the family dynamic and set an example for other members. Perhaps you (and I) can begin to work on being that person.

Additionally, I think it’s worth reflecting on the fact that we see Mary and Joseph’s obedience principally in their welcoming of a child into their lives in circumstances that would seem far from ideal. It seems to me that the unwillingness of people today to accept children into their families in the Lord’s timing rather than their own (as demonstrated through the prevalence of birth control and abortion) is a huge contributing factor in the breakdown of the family unit. The issue of adding children to the family is one that has the potential to create much disharmony in a relationship, if both spouses are not on the same page. But even if they are on the same page, there still will be discord if the spouses are intent on being in supreme control of this aspect of their family life rather than trusting in God’s plan for their lives. I myself am guilty of being afraid to place my trust in God’s plan in the way that Mary and Joseph did, and that is why I am grateful that the Church helps to keep me on the right path through her teachings on contraception and openness to life in marriage.

Something else to meditate on is the fact that God was always physically in the midst of the Holy Family. Of course, we can’t be in God’s presence in that exact way (the closest we come to that is in the Eucharist, where God is substantially present), but we can be inviting of God’s non-physical presence in our home, and cultivate more mindfulness of the fact that God truly is always with us even though we cannot see Him. We can try to behave as if God were standing right in front of us, as He stood right in front of Mary and Joseph, rather than behaving in a way that tells Him that He is unwelcome in our family. Think about what a radical difference it would make if all members of our families were more inviting of and conscious of God’s presence in our homes.

One final thought about the Holy Family: I find it interesting that the Holy Family exists at all. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that God saw fit to send His Son into the world via a human family. There is a theological reason that it mattered whether or not Jesus had a human nature but it does not seem strictly necessary that Jesus come as a baby and live in a family with not only his mother, but also a man who acted as his earthly father. This tells me that families are important. More specifically, intact families are important. Fathers are important (despite our society’s attack on them)! What can we do to uphold the dignity and importance of families in our increasingly anti-family society?

I wish I could have included a picture of that special Holy Family statue I wrote about in the beginning of this post. Unfortunately, after five years of the statue being displayed in our home, someone (I won’t say who ;)) knocked it off the low bookshelf where we kept it, and it broke. The statue was so important to both my husband and me and it was a sad moment when it broke, but ultimately, it was just a “thing.” What matters more than that “thing” is that we remain conscious of the love and example of the Holy Family and try to live with even a fraction of the humility, obedience, faith, and trust that they had.

 

 

 

 

*We didn’t name our first child (or our second child) “Jesus.” However, my older daughter is named after my middle name, so as it turns out, her name is connected to Jesus.

 

Top Picture is a photo of the actual Grotto of Lourdes in France.

Middle picture is Vittore Carpaccio’s The Flight into Egypt.

Bottom picture is Juan Simon Gutierrez’s The Holy Family.