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Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Saints Spiritual Growth

The Eyes of Suffering

The Eyes of Suffering

In the world, you will have hardship” (John 16:33). That’s a statement from Jesus, our loving Savior. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we suffer. We should expect it.

Poor Job described it so well “my eyes will never see joy”(Job 7:7).

We need not look far to stare suffering in the eye, and many times we only need a mirror. Suffering is a part of this life.

We see suffering in the eyes of the mother of a stillborn, the father of an addict, the scared abandoned child, the broken-hearted widow, the exhausted young mother, and the depressed single father. The eyes of the undisclosed addict, the wounded adulteress, the rejected hungry beggar, and the scoffed at Christian all tell a different story. The eyes of the tormented of obsessive thoughts, the pregnant teenager, the nursing home ridden elder, the stunned family of a house fire, and the cancer patient all mirror a similarity. The eyes of the worried mother, the misunderstood son, the secret porn addict, the emotional teenager, the diabetic, the lonely husband, and the pain-ridden elderly all have suffering in common. All of us, every single one has some sort of suffering.      

Something that has always been a place of comfort to me is to offer this suffering to Jesus. This mystical way of willingly offering our suffering is to share in the suffering of our Lord. We must carry our own crosses in this life. It’s ok if we stumble under the weight; our own Lord stumbled under his cross. Much redemption comes from suffering. The saints loved suffering.

They have left us with many writings to encourage us on this journey:

It is You Jesus, stretched out on the cross, who gives me strength and are always close to the suffering soul. Creatures will abandon a person in his suffering, but You, O Lord are faithful. (1508) – St. Faustina

When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly. – St. Sebastian Valfre

Trials are sent to some so as to take away past sins, to others so as to eradicate sins now being committed, and to yet others so as to forestall sins which may be committed in the future. These are distinct from the trials that arise in order to test men in the way that Job was tested. – St. Maximos the Confessor

In suffering love and in loving, suffer! – Blessed Maria Lopez of Jesus

We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials. – St. Teresa of Avila

We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. – Saint Vincent de Paul

He longs to give us a magnificent reward. He knows that suffering is the only means of preparing us to know Him as He knows Himself, and to become ourselves divine. – St. Therese of Lisieux

We Find Suffering in Scripture

2 Corinthians 1:5 – For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives; so too does the encouragement we receive through Christ.

Philippians 3:8-10 – Yes, I will go further: because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ and be given a place in him, with the uprightness I have gained not from the Law, but through faith in Christ, an uprightness from God, based on faith, that I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being moulded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Wherefore, so that I should not get above myself, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself. About this, I have three times pleaded with the Lord that it might leave me; but he has answered me, ‘My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.’It is, then, about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me; and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions, and distress for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

Romans 2:3 – 5 Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

1 Peter 5 – Keep sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that it is the same kind of suffering that the community of your brothers throughout the world is undergoing. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts forever and ever. Amen.

It is easier to look back on suffering than to walk through it. It is without a doubt where we grow and change. It is without a doubt a part of every human in this walk of life. It is in moments of raw suffering that we are able to put these scripture passages and saintly words into action. It is in times when we hurt that we are becoming more like Christ. We are learning to pull ourselves through the suffering and are better able to lend a hand to help others through the suffering.

Jesus also said, “but be courageous, I have conquered the world.” So we have hope in our suffering. We should expect it, but we will not be defeated by it.

Job’s life was transformed into something wonderful that stands as a testament to suffering for all of us.

We have the loving option to reach to our loving Jesus. We have the option to let His grace shine on us. We have the option to let this suffering change us and help us to be more Christ-like.  

Today we will suffer, but tomorrow we look with hope to be with our loving Lord.

So today, let us suffer well.  

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Celeste Faith Formation Fasting Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Prayer Recipes

Feasting During Lent

 

FeastingDuringLent - meatless meals, Lent, feast, www.catholicsistas.com

When you enter into Lent on Ash Wednesday, tradition sees us going into the church, and exiting in a solemn way with having done away with the “Alleluia” and a physical manifestation of the inward penances that we will practice with a visible mark of ashes on our forehead. So why would I include “Feasting” in an article about Lent? Because we are called to live our faith joyfully, as Pope Francis keeps pointing out. We are called to be a people of joy even in times of penance and sacrifice. As scripture also points out, we should not douse our heads in ashes and cry about the sacrifices that we practice so as to make a public display, but rather live as we normally should, (joyfully) so as to emulate to the world the joy that we find in being beloved of Our Lord.

Now, by feasting I don’t mean to load our tables with all things glorious and gooey, or to lay a table full of magnificently stuffed birds and sugar-laden desserts. On the contrary, we can feed our bodies with simple and nutritious foods, and make them beautiful and enjoyable while still observing our season of fasting and abstinence. If you weren’t aware, there are only two days during the season of Lent when we are called to a more “extreme” form of fasting: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Well, I can do that, you might say. And so you should. On those days we can still feast, and by “feast” I mean to eat and feed our bodies, minds and souls with those things we need a joyful spirit and with a spirit of thanksgiving to our Lord for that ultimate sacrifice which He made for you and I.

If you are on a special diet for some particular reason, health or otherwise, giving up or changing your diet can be extremely difficult or very limiting. You must be healthy, after all. It shouldn’t become an obsession for you that must be at the forefront of your existence for this season. Ask yourself, “Is this sacrifice going to bring me closer in my relationship with Jesus?” If not, and if it is more about losing a pound or two during this time of penance, perhaps a different sacrifice is more appropriate for you. It’s most especially important to keep this in mind if you find yourself unable to focus on those things that are important, like taking care of your family or functioning at work. If you pay close attention our Lord usually provides much opportunity for sacrifice during Lent. So perhaps instead of giving up chocolate, you may find yourself making smaller but more meaningful choices (sacrifices) like choosing a more healthy option than what you would naturally go for at first glance. Or perhaps your fasting and abstinence will not be about food at all. (There are exceptions for people with health issues! Speak with your priest about it if you have questions or are uncertain.) Perhaps your thing will be about serving your spouse or children their meal more joyfully or patiently. Or instead of just slapping the Mac ‘n Cheese in a bowl and shoving it in front of the kids on the hastily cleared off table, set a nice table and put dinner in pretty bowls and talk about manners. That can be much more of a sacrifice than easily saying no to a piece of chocolate.

Now that we’ve covered some logistical stuff, please enjoy this recipe and the accompanying short video!

A blessed Lent to you, friends.

+ MORE ON MEATLESS MEALS +

[yumprint-recipe id=’7′]

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Ink Slingers Jaclyn Respect Life Testimonials

Neonatal Nurses: Caring for the most vulnerable in our world when they emerge too soon

On January 31, 2010 I gave birth to two beautiful baby girls 8 weeks early.  Although one of them never came home, I owe every moment I spent with Samantha, who passed away when they were 5 weeks 5 days old, to the neonatal nurses who cared for her every day and every night of her life.  I know that caring for my babies was more than a job for them.

 

These caregivers loved my daughters.

Preemies are babies born before 37 weeks.  They need very intense assistance to live.  This care is provided in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Let me introduce you to the NICU where these angels do their work everyday.

First you walk through a waiting room and there is a sink for washing your hands before you enter.  This is not your usual hand washing though. 

There are brushes available and instructions about how much time you should spend on each part of your hand and forearms. 

 

Take off your jewelry.

Scrub front back and between fingers and all the way up to the elbow.

Then you put some antibacterial gel on your hands and you may enter.  No children allowed, and only parents and grandparents are permitted depending on the hospital.  A nurse checks your hospital bracelet until they get to know your face.

 

There are cribs and incubators spaced out along the walls and little curtains that you can pull for privacy when nursing.  There are even rocking chairs and breast pumps available.  Small windows up high let some light in but there is not a “viewing” window for visitors like the regular nursery.

The first time I saw my babies was terrifying.

 

They were so tiny and sprawled out in incubators.  Touching them was prohibited except during feeding time because of the stress it put on their fragile bodies.  When I finally got to hold them I needed help to pick them up because of the monitor wires were connected to them and the nasal cannulas, tubes in their noses, which were helping them breathe.  Mostly it is quiet, cool and dim.  These babies need a womb environment and only the beeping of the monitor’s alarms and an occasional baby cry interrupts.

In the NICU each nurse cares for many babies, depending on the level of care required and how many babies are there at the time.  They change diapers, heat bottles, feed, burb, and hold babies.  In addition they check temperatures and keep track of any problems to which the monitors alert them.

Then there is the love they administer.  Gentle soothing voices caressed the little babies’ ears.  Sweet comforting touches told them they weren’t alone.  The nurses made signs for my daughters to put on their incubators announcing their arrival.  They made a little sign for Hannah to celebrate her reaching 4 lbs and celebrating Samantha’s return to the hospital where Hannah was.  They took pictures of them and gave them to us.  And when Samantha passed away, they came to her funeral.  These are only a few of the things we saw and I know many happened when we were away.

Another full time job these nurses perform is parental care.  Teaching specialized preemie care and explaining strange words like bradycardia.  Also, they are counselors. I asked them within the first few days, how do you recommend I handle juggling two babies here in the NICU and a 2 year old at home?  They gave helpful suggestions and pointed out that I would be no good to my babies when they came home if I didn’t rest and take care of myself.  They always smiled and asked how I was doing.  They offered me every opportunity to mommy my babies.  They gave me privacy when I needed it while making themselves available to help.

Then there is the trauma factor.  When Samantha got sick the day she would die, it was a nurse who recognized her sickness and comforted her as she suffered.  It was a nurse who explained to us clearly and compassionately what was happening to our baby.  A nurse brought us drinks as we sat alone in the waiting room in shock as they prepped her to transport back to a level III NICU.

Neonatal nurses celebrated life with us and did the backbreaking work that it takes for babies at that stage to survive.  They mourned with us in death when our little Samantha didn’t make it.  I know they loved both our babies.  I know they won’t forget them.  We are facebook friends with many of them now and I try to take Hannah to visit and send them cards with pictures when I can.  I will never forget the gift these special nurses gave our family.  Sometimes it must be heartbreaking for the nurses to accompany parents on the traumatic NICU ride.   I’m sure there were many times I was less than polite and they were kind and understanding.  The constant care and kindness they offered was invaluable to my family.

Today is Neonatal Nurse Appreciation Day.  Although many people don’t know who they are, these are very special people who help some of the most vulnerable in our world.  These are the unborn that became born too soon.  Miracles happen even for micro-preemies (babies born at less than 1 lb 14 oz) with the hands of these amazing nurses.  The healing that happens when nurses are willing to grieve along with you at the loss of a little person is so precious.

I personally would like to thank the NICU nurses at Round Rock Medical Center and at St. David’s in Austin.  Expect some cookies today from ^Samantha^ and Hannah and their family.