Categories
Ink Slingers Maurisa Spiritual Growth

Fifty and Fabulous

“My name’s Sally O’Malley and I’m proud to say I’m 50 years old. I’m not one of those gals whose afraid to tell her real age. And I like to kick, stretch, and kick! I’m fifty. Fifty years old.” -Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live

A year ago, as I turned forty-nine, the panic set in. How did fifty years fly by so soon? I was dealing with rolling hot flashes (among other pre-menopausal symptoms), degenerative disks in my spine, aching knees, and painful bone spurs in my feet. The vanity in me started to notice every gray hair, the appearance of crepey skin on my neck, and every crows foot and laugh line on my face. Fifty and beyond was not looking like a whole lot of fun and I started to really feel depressed about it. My sister-in-law is a year older than me and as I wished her a happy 50th she confessed, “Maurisa, I pretty much cried all day.” Ugh. Are the best years of my life already behind me? What do I have to look forward to other than a continual downward slide and a rebelling body? And to be frankly honest with you, I was truly afraid of getting old and of death itself.

While I knew I couldn’t do anything about getting older, I knew I could mitigate some of the more negative aspects. The depressing conversation with my dear sister-in-law became my motivator. I did not want to spend my fiftieth birthday in tears. Under the guidance of a Nutritional Therapist I changed my eating habits—cutting out processed sugars and grains; boosting my protein, fats, and veggies; and introducing some supplements. This was all focused upon alleviating the hot flashes, irritability, lethargy, and joint pain, but a wonderful side benefit was that I dropped 25 pounds, something that becomes increasingly difficult as we age. As energy levels began increasing I started exercising more and by my birthday I was in the best shape I’d been in since we began our family.

As for the gray hair, crepey neck skin, and crows feet; I came to accept and look upon them as hallmarks of a life well lived. I found myself looking about and seeing the beauty in those already far into their golden years. At every stage of life we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We should give God thanks for each day he has graced us with and not be afraid. As my 23 year old son observed,”Mom, you shouldn’t feel bad about getting older. You’re at that age when people actually respect you.” It was probably the nicest and most comforting thing he’s ever said to me. 

It wasn’t just my body which needed attention. I knew the fear and depression about getting older had a spiritual aspect to it as well. I handed my worries over to God and started using Lectio Divina to enrich my prayer life. Looking back over this past year I recognized the amazing graces I’d been given and for the first time in a long while I saw substantial spiritual growth. So much so, that when the actual day arrived it ended up being one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. In His Providence, my birthday fell on a Sunday—and not just any Sunday, but the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. It felt like a birthday gift from heaven! I enjoyed Mass, a lovely late lunch with my husband and two youngest boys. We then took a nice long nap. It was lovely. No panic. No tears. Just peace, happiness, and gratitude for the wonderful life I’ve been given so far and joyful anticipation for the years to come.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”-Psalm 92: 12-15

This coming year holds so much promise. Our oldest will be getting married and our youngest will receive his First Holy Communion. How awesome is that? Fifty years may have flown by, but I have so much more to look forward to in the future. Every season of life can seem daunting and may fill us with trepidation. That is why these words from Saint John Paul II really resonate with me:

“Have no fear moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing I am with you, therefore, no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”

My name’s Maurisa Mayerle and I’m proud to say I’m 50 years old.

Categories
Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood Prayer Spiritual Growth Vocations

By Faith, With Hope, To Love

Recently, I found myself confronted by some fairly powerful, negative emotions centering on an incident which I felt to be a betrayal from someone I knew. Part of the emotional response was easily identified – it rested in my wounded pride. The other part of my emotional response was driven by a broken friendship – admittedly, one that had failed long before the knowledge of the perceived betrayal. The more I rationalized the deep hurt I felt, and crafted my plan to move through the pain and into a more centered place, one phrase kept coming back to me…

 


As I processed the situation, I recognized the need to heed advice that I have often given to others – I needed to have faith, hope, and love.

Life doesn’t often go according to our own plans. When those plans go awry and we begin to spin our wheels, we are often times left to ask God why – why our plans must change, why they fell through, why they did not come to fruition as envisioned.

One of my favorite devotions is that of the Divine Mercy. The five word prayer, “Jesus, I trust in You,” has become my mantra, building my strength in the face of altered plans. It also has come to remind me of the strength Our Lord provides when I trust in Him, accepting His plans are greater than mine.

God asks us to have faith in Him… even when we don’t understand.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1817). As I spent time reflecting on the situation which caused me so much hurt, I recognized that my faith grants me the opportunity to shift my focus from hurt and sadness, to hope.

You see, there is a reason for what transpired. This incident solidified in my heart how my primary focus should be my vocation as a wife, and my avocation as a mother. My focus should not be externally driven, and instead, should center on those closest to me. I was reminded of the quote attributed to St. John Bosco,


My hope must center on doing for my family the best job I am able to do, since I know I will be held to account for my actions toward them when I seek to enter eternal life.

As I hope for the reward of everlasting life, my actions for my family are the ones which will be the weightiest in the decision.

The lost friendship I mourned reminded me of the final instruction by St. Paul to the Corinthians – love. We must love without hesitation, without reservation, and without  condition. Sometimes though, I admit that can be a tall order, especially when we examine situations where we feel betrayed.

However, as I thought of betrayal and love, and how they blend so seamlessly at times, I recalled the betrayal of Christ. Perhaps it is because of the time I recently spent participating in the Stations of the Cross during Lent, but my thoughts immediately turned toward how my actions, as a friend to Christ, have at times betrayed Him.

And yet, He loves me. Without reservation, without hesitation, and without condition.

I want to live like Christ. I want to model myself after His example. I want to be joined with Him for all eternity. He does not promise us that following in His footsteps will be an easy path. But, He does ask for us to live as He lived.

Which means through the pain, the hurt, the disappointment, the challenges and the difficult moments, I am called to love like Christ.

We are all called to love like Christ.

So, my pride is still a little bruised, and I expect that it will take a little time to heal.

But, my perspective has changed, and I am finding clarity and strength in knowing that I am choosing to live 
                                                                                      by faith…
                                                                                                         …with hope…
                                                                                                                                …to love.

Anni Harry

 

Categories
Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Motherhood Reviews Saints Vocations

Embracing Edith Stein: Wisdom for Women: A Book Review

edith0Before reading Anne Costa’s book Embracing Edith Stein: Wisdom for Women from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, I knew who Edith Stein was but did not really know a lot about her. She had figured into other things I have read and I had connected with some of the passages quoted from her writings. But, of course, I had never (and still haven’t) read any of her writings. When this book came to my attention I jumped at the chance to explore the writings of Edith Stein a bit more. I have to say that having read the whole book I have a deeper appreciation for the writings of Edith Stein and I feel like I know her a bit better.

But that alone is not what this book is ultimately about. If you are interested in Edith Stein but not ready to jump into her writings quite yet, this would be a good place to start. In this book, Anne Costa shares her spiritual journey in discovering more about herself as a woman and as the person God designed her to be. She does this through the writings of Edith Stein. Costa shares with her readers the friendship she has with Edith and challenges readers to reflect on their own spiritual journeys. I was swept into this journey of self-discovery as I read through this tome and I want to share some of those moments from the book with you.

First of all, I enjoyed reading the chapter on the life and philosophy of Edith Stein. I knew the basics of her life but this chapter delves into her life’s journey and uses her writings to form the person Edith Stein was. I found it particularly interesting that as a teacher, prior to entering the convent, Edith often taught during the day and prayed through the night. She accomplished a lot and maintained a strong prayer life. I know for busy moms it can be hard to find the time to have a deep and intimate prayer life while maintaining a home and caring for a family. I was particularly struck by Edith’s explanation:

“I don’t use any extraordinary means to extend my working time; I just do whatever I can. Apparently, what I can do increases in proportion to the number of things that have to be done. When nothing urgent is called for, my energy gives out much faster. Heaven evidently has a sense of economy … It all depends on having a quiet little corner where you can talk with God on a daily basis as if nothing else existed … and regarding yourself completely as an instrument, so that you treat your most frequently demanded talents, not as something that you use, but as God working through you.” (p. 13)

There is so much packed into that one short passage! This is just one example of many that caught my attention. I was amazed to learn more about Edith Stein’s character and to read of the admiration and high esteem those who knew her had for her.

The heart of Costa’s book discusses the four gifts God has bestowed on women: Receptivity, Generosity, Sensitivity, and Maternity. There were lots of things to take away from each of these chapters. One that stood out for me was in the chapter on generosity. Costa takes us back to Genesis in order to understand the role of generosity in a woman’s life, particularly as man’s helpmate. Edith offers this explanation of woman as “helpmate”:

“The woman who ‘suits’ man as helpmate … complements him, counteracting the dangers of his specifically masculine nature. It is her business to ensure to the best of her ability that he is not totally absorbed in his professional work, that he does not permit his humanity to become stunted, and that he does not neglect his family duties as father. She will be better able to do so the more she herself is mature as a personality; and it is vital here that she does not lose herself in association with her husband but, on the contrary, cultivates her own gifts and powers.” (p. 55-56)

I read the above passage and wrote in the margin, “Best definition of wife as ‘helpmate’ to husband that I’ve seen.” I continued reading and discovered that Costa had a very similar reaction as my own, she says, “I had never heard woman’s role of helpmate described in such an affirming and uplifting way” (p. 56). This is just one example of many with which I connected.

Costa book coverFrom a practical standpoint, this book would be a great read for a book club. Each chapter ends with 3-4 questions or points to ponder. I found myself answering some of the questions in the margins as I read along. I think the questions Costa provides would lead to some great discussions in a Catholic book group as well as some deep inner reflection if reading this on your own. The book also comes in at just about 100 pages, making it doable for busy women.

Overall, I think this is a book worth checking out. I learned more about Edith Stein than I had known previously, felt like I was taken on an interesting journey of self-discovery, was introduced to some amazing passages from Edith Stein’s writings, and was challenged to reflect on aspects of my own life and my own concepts of womanhood.

The book is published by Servant Books and available from Franciscan Media for $13.99 as well as other online retailers or check with your local Catholic book store.

I received a copy of Embracing Edith Stein: Wisdom for Women from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Categories
Apologetics Discipleship Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Motherhood Prayer Vocations

Catholic Women and Faith in the Workplace

Photo courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The number of women in the workplace today (full-time or part-time) has risen considerably since the 1970s. In 2010, 72 million women (58.6%) were in the labor force, both employed and unemployed (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force, 2010). Mothers make up a significant portion of that number. Statistics for 2012 show that 70.5% of mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Working mothers in 2012). With so many mothers in the workforce, it’s to be expected that many are Catholic. Whether they work part-time or full-time, in retail, in an office, or in any number of work environments, Catholic women in the workplace live out their vocations as women and mothers in diverse ways while at work.

Our Catholic faith is part of who we are and thus not something we can leave behind when we head off to work. This may seem contrary to the business culture around us, especially in the public sphere, but it is totally doable. At the end of this post, I have provided a list of resources on how all Catholics can live their faith in the workplace. Check those out for additional information.

This post will focus specifically on women and mothers in the workplace. As a Catholic woman and mother I sometimes struggle with how to live out my faith in the workplace. It is challenging in a secular, public work environment and I imagine I’m not the only one who struggles with this. How do we evangelize those around us when religion is a taboo topic? It’s my opinion that we can evangelize others through our actions and be true witnesses of our faith by how we treat others, how we present ourselves, and how we care for our fellow co-workers. Actions speak louder than words.

Below are five suggestions on how we as Catholic women can be witnesses of the faith and evangelize to others in the workplace. but first there are two points that can apply to all Catholic men and women.

First, always remember to pray. Prayer is the most important aspect of our faith and not something to be set aside during work hours. Ten minutes at lunch, a quick prayer when you sit down at your desk or on your way to a meeting, an afternoon break to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, any of these things and more can easily be incorporated into your day regardless of the type of work you are doing.

Second, don’t overdo it. By that I mean, be careful how you are witnessing to those around you. In the workplace you are surrounded by people of all faiths and no faith. Don’t be so forward with your faith that you turn someone off to it. It is important that we each evaluate the environment we are in and take an approach that works well in that environment and for us. You want someone to be attracted to how you live your life and treat those around you so that they come to you rather than run from you.

And now, five suggestions for Catholic women in the workplace:

Keep a Tidy Work Space

I know! This sounds like a strange suggestion, but stay with me. I once worked with a woman who had the neatest desk I’ve ever seen. She was also a strong Christian woman and one day I finally put the two together. She had such a focus and always completed tasks in a timely manner and almost always had such a good attitude about her work. I really think the tidy work space contributed to her ability to stay focused on her work and assisted her in keeping a good attitude. She had nothing to distraction her and it led to peace of mind. Women can be great multi-taskers, but often what we think of as multi-tasking is really distractions that cause us to constantly change our focus, which is not as productive as we like to tell ourselves. If we can create an environment in which we can keep our focus on the task at hand, we can approach those tasks with a positive attitude. As a Catholic we should look to our work as a positive good.

Be a Mother, It’s Who You Are

God calls women to some form of motherhood. How that motherhood manifests itself varies for each of us. Whether you have children at home or not, we can all bring our motherhood into the workplace. Show compassion for the people you work with: your supervisor, your peers, those you supervise. Show them that you care about them and that you can take a few minutes to listen if they need to talk about something. As mothers we do this sort of thing automatically with our kids. You can do the same in the workplace. Eventually people start to know that you are a caring and compassionate person who will take five minutes to listen and offer consolation when needed.

Keep a Servant’s Attitude

Christ has called us to be good and faithful servants. Be a servant in everything you do. Keep that positive attitude toward your work, stay on task, and be willing to go above and beyond. Be a servant also to those who work for you. As a supervisor, I view it as part of my responsibilities to help my staff be successful in their jobs. I try to do anything I can to serve them to that end. I believe women have a strong inclination to a servants heart. Bring that with you into the workplace.

Avoid Gossip

This one can be so hard. Office gossip is part of the culture almost everywhere. Don’t participate. If at all possible walk away when the conversation around the office coffee pot heads in this direction. Be okay with others recognizing that you are the one who will not stand for tearing others down. You might just have an effect on the office culture as a whole, or at least your little corner of it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Feminine Side

Bringing our femininity into the workplace is a good thing. Women can still be competitive and strong leaders in the workforce while also being true to their God-given nature. I’ve already mentioned being compassionate to others, add to that being generous with your time and being sensitive to the needs of others. These are our gifts from God and we can use them in the workplace to be witnesses to the beauty of womanhood and our Catholic faith.

For more helpful resources on bringing your faith life into the workplace, check out these articles and other resources:

Articles:

“Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work” by Randy Hain (Integrated Catholic Life)

“Faith in your workplace” by Randy Hain (Catholic News Agency)

“Show Catholic Courage in the Workplace” by Randy Hain (National Catholic Register)

“What every Catholic needs to know about witnessing your faith at work” by Eric Sammons (Our Sunday Visitor)

Book:

The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain

Blog:

The Working Catholic Mom by Mary Wallace (who also just started a summer series of posts on saints for working moms)

Categories
Books Ink Slingers Kerri Reviews

Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: A Review

Courtesy of Ave Maria Press

As a fan of the podcast Among Women, I have been anticipating the publication of Pat Gohn’s first book for quite some time. Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is finally available and I was excited to be sent a review copy to do this review here on Catholic Sistas. Let me state right up front that I loved the book and highly recommend it.

Last summer I wrote an article here on how the Church celebrates womanhood and it generated a lot of discussion. As it always is with these things, the discussion did not go as I thought it would and there was much dissent with Church teaching in the comments. I wish that this book was available at the time so I could have recommended it. If you have ever felt that the Church takes a lesser view of women, doesn’t respect women, doesn’t treat women as equal to men, or whatever, I encourage you to add this book to your list of things to read and study in an effort to better understand the true teachings of the Church.

So why do I feel that this book can answer all those concerns? Pat does a great job breaking down the gifts all women have into three main categories and then exploring those to develop a fuller picture of the dignity of women in the eyes of the Church. Those categories are obvious from the title: the blessedness of women in the eyes of the Church, the beauty all women have through four main gifts from God, and the bodacious mission women have as a result of our beauty and blessedness.

What I especially loved was Pat’s use of not only her own personal experiences as a daughter, wife, mother, and friend, but also her incorporation of Scripture, the Catechism, writings of Pope John Paul II, writings from other famous Catholics and saints, and various Vatican documents. It’s a lot to include, but she does it seamlessly.

I believe, too, that you could read this book more than once and get something different out of it each time. Particularly at different stages of your life. A single woman will be struck by Pat’s words in a different way than a grandmother might. Those struggling with health issues may find comfort in Pat’s experiences of breast cancer as a young mother. There is something here for everyone.

For me, as I read this book, I was particularly taken in by Pat’s discussion of Our Blessed Mother Mary. Mary plays a large role in this book, but Pat is honest with her readers and tells us that Mary was not always a part of her life. I could relate to this and I loved learning more about how Mary became a larger part of Pat’s life and thus drew her more into appreciating the important role women have in the universal Church.

Of the three parts of the book, I found part two on Beauty spoke to me the most. I don’t want to give too much away, but there was much here I could relate to. There are four chapters, each discussing one of four gifts that all women have. Those who know me well know that I am a very sensitive person. I loved seeing an entire chapter on sensitivity as a gift from God. And I am not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes several times throughout this chapter as well as other chapters in part two. Pat’s words really helped me to see what a gift sensitivity is to me as a woman and to not be ashamed of it. Thanks, Pat!

Finally, I never thought about the mission we have as women. A mission that God has given us through the gifts He uniquely gives to women. A mission that is unique to women and different from that of men. Pat does a great job of discussing our calling as baptized Christians and our unique gifts as women and then bringing it all together to share the “bodacious” mission we have as women in the world. I especially loved the chapter titled “Beyond Fairy Godmothers” since in it Pat gives many concrete ideas for how we are all called to some sort of motherhood: biological, physical, spiritual, or all three. If nothing else, I know I will refer to that chapter again and again.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to any woman. If you are struggling with how your life fits into the mission of the Church, this book is for you. If you are struggling with motherhood, this book is for you. If you are struggling to understand who you are and why God has made you, this book is for you. And for as much information that is here, Pat herself admits to only skimming the surface of the Church’s teachings. She provides a thorough bibliography at the back of the book for further reading for those who want to dig deeper.

Go get yourself a copy and buy one for a friend while you’re at it.