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Abortion Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Respect Life

The Plan after Unplanned

The Plan after Unplanned

*Spoiler alert* 

Unplanned was screened in just over 24 cinemas across Canada, and done so despite strong protests against it. In my city, the movie was only shown in two theatres and for less than a week, so you’d better bet I was rushing to go see it. Before I get into the thick of it, one positive outcome was that the movie ended up selling out across the country. Not just because of the amount of pro-lifers wanting to see it, but  because of those who were on the fence, or pro-choice altogether. There were loads of mixed reviews after the movie aired, some quite offensive, but I think that the most powerful thing to come out of that film was the conversation it started.

I was no stranger to the Planned Parenthood controversy before entering the theater. I used to listen to Lila Rose podcasts, of her research and undercover investigations in the clinic. I was also familiar with Abby Johnson’s story: a former clinic director turned impassioned advocate for life and anti-abortion. I thought I would be prepared for this movie. 

The film opened up immediately with a scene of a young girl at about 13 weeks pregnant undergoing an ultrasound-guided abortion. It was the first time that Abby would witness firsthand, what a fighting life looked and felt like (as she was holding the probe).

It was a shockingly graphic scene, and I don’t think there was one woman in the theatre that wasn’t clutching her stomach, or feeling uncomfortable. It felt like somewhat of a physiological response to something deeply unnatural and inhumane.

As overwhelmingly emotional as the movie was, I think it’s so important for women of my generation today be aware and adept at speaking about these issues. What’s more, we as Catholics should learn how to have a conversation about protecting the sanctity of human life without drawing on religious arguments right away. This doesn’t mean we hide the truth, but we have to find a way to open up the ears of our brothers and sisters who are non-believers. We know there are valid non-religious arguments for the existence of human life at conception, but are we equipped to use them? When we have conversations with our coworkers, friends, and family outside of our religious circles, we need to learn how to converse with them and find the moment. I call the moment the tiny door that opens up and allows you to ask a question that crosses into personal territory without raising any sort of debate. People tend to let their guards down when they feel they are being heard. 

I recently found a moment at work. My female coworker and I were casually talking about life goals and ambitions. As she was of a certain age and professional status, my curiosity compelled me to push a tiny bit into that personal territory, with respect of course. 

I asked her, “What are your thoughts on having children?”

I was genuinely curious. I wanted to know what women today truly thought. It stunned me how tough it was, how we often try to censor ourselves when it comes to talking about kids, motherhood, and family. I braced myself for a guarded response, but she instead started talking about why she wouldn’t have kids until she was fully ready. Our conversation spun into one about why people have kids while in unstable relationships, or because of pressures from friends and family, and even pressures from the marriage itself. What I realized was that we actually cared about the same thing: children being raised in a stable home.

We didn’t agree on everything, but I got to see some of the underlying issues as to why men and women divert from the God-designed family structure, and see some of those “where we went wrong” points in society. I never made any comments about what I believed in, I just asked questions. We don’t have these conversations enough, especially with other women. I think some of us are too busy judging each other’s lifestyles that we forget about our common ground.

This connects me to a moment that inspired me from Unplanned. It was the perseverance of Marilisa, the young woman that worked for 40 days for Life on the other side of the fence, praying for and speaking to the girls about to go in to the clinic for appointments. The most ‘scandalous’ thing about her behaviour to me was the relationship she formed with Abby Johnson over the years that Abby ran the clinic. Both women were fully aware that they were on opposite sides of the issue, but both continued to do their work for their causes in front of each others’ eyes, with an unfailing grit and determination . They spoke to each other cordially, and sometimes even crossed lines into personal territory. The scene that intrigued me was when Abby was getting into her car with balloons and such after celebrating her baby shower at the clinic, and Marilisa saw this. Instead of asking pointed or loaded questions, she congratulated her. She spoke to Abby with a gentle, genuine demeanor, as she was also carrying a child herself. I thought it was a powerful moment between the two women, and it’s as if Marilisa saw who Abby Johnson truly was in that moment –  not only two people, but two souls. It was a moment that fueled Marlilisa’s prayers, that Abby would one day wake up and see the truth. It was the respect and love that Marilisa treated Abby with over the years that led to the ultimate action of Abby running into her arms when she finally realized the lie that she had been living, and selling.

It’s a question we all have as pro-lifers: How can we have a meaningful impact on the other side of the fence? I think that genuine love must drive our words and actions. When we speak with people about the value of life, our bodies, motherhood and abortion, we must attempt to listen and empathize before expressing judgement. I am of the belief that small, meaningful conversations can change the game as much as large movements, protests and political sanctions can.

It’s hard to see the scale of the impact that our words have, but changing just one woman’s life is a win in itself. Teaching a girl or woman to love her body is a win. Celebrating children in all families, whether broken, blended, or nuclear is a huge win. Supporting women post-abortion is a win. Sharing information on the biology of sex, hormones, and childbirth is a win. There is so much information about the human body that kids don’t learn in schools anymore…the internet has become a new teacher with lessons that range from real to dangerously ‘fake’. You just never know when your small win can influence something as big as convincing a woman that the fetus inside of her is truly alive.

In my reflection of the film, I recall David’s awe and humiliation in Psalm 139,

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, 

for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,

 I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. 

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were 

written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139, 11-16

I pray that one day every man and woman recognizes how intentionally and intricately designed their bodies are. I pray for the day that every woman sees how precious her body is, and the part it plays in God’s beautiful love story with us. I pray that my sisters all over the world continue to draw strength and grace from our Immaculate Mother in times of confusion and turmoil.  I pray that children are loved completely and without condition, just as Jesus loved. Lastly I pray for the unborn babies. They are loved and not forgotten.

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Ink Slingers

Welcome Back One-piece

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This summer I am welcoming back the one-piece bathing suit. And you can too! It’s not about hiding stretch marks or feeling more confident than in a two-piece (because I do!). It’s about reclaiming modesty.

I think most of us women can reflect on our coming of age years and realize that we hit a certain point––we didn’t want to be “girls” anymore; we wanted to be “women.” We wanted to grow up already. We wanted to wear makeup, shave our legs, and wear two-piece bathing suits (which are essentially a bra and underwear, right?!). We didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. Without knowing it at the time, we were also rushing to give up our modesty and innocence.

I don’t know about you, but that rush into womanhood (as defined by culture) led me down a path away from God and from who I really wanted to be. The culture taught me that my identity as a woman and my beauty was on the outside. I lost respect for myself and for others and that was revealed in my dress–too tight, too revealing, too short. Turns out, this way of living was not fulfilling, nor life-giving.

I suppose this is a prodigal-daughter-like story because God sent a beautiful holy woman into my life to show me what is was like to be a real woman. You might have heard of her, Mother Mary? I came back from a pilgrimage to one of her shrines and my life was forever changed. I first and foremost learned the truth––my identity and beauty came from being a daughter of God and Christ living in me. This changed everything. I gained respect for myself and for others and within six months, I had a new wardrobe.

Mother Mary taught me that her beauty comes from the fact that she loves God with her whole heart. The more I strive to do the same, the more I recognize things in my life that obstruct my love for Him. She has taught me that we must be pure to enter the Kingdom of God. Modesty guards our purity. Our childlike innocence is what lets us see the angels who gaze on God. Mother Mary is the true and best example of womanhood. From her, we can learn everything God desires of us as women.

So back to the one-piece bathing suit. Having learned what I have in my journey and now as a mother of two girls, I feel the importance of this responsibility to show my daughters what true womanhood is. Yes, the culture is still going to tempt them with the rush into womanhood, with manicures at four years old and two-piece bathing suits at five years old, but we cannot underestimate that they still look up to their mothers!

I’m wearing a one-piece bathing suit for my almost three year old daughter. You might be thinking, “She’s three! She doesn’t notice!” but when we went to the beach this past weekend, do you know the first thing she said when she saw me? “Mommy, we match!” as she pointed to her one-piece suit. I smiled and thought to myself, that’s exactly why I’m wearing it. I never would have thought that wearing a one-piece could ever feel so good!

As my daughters get older and we live strive to live the faith, which is often counter-cultural, I hope they always know that I’m on their side fighting with them. That I’m always striving to be a woman like Mother Mary. That they can look up to me. That we match, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kathleen Spiritual Growth

Why I Veil: A Millennial Perspective

This Lent, I started covering my head during Mass. I know, I know- off the Traddie rails, am I right? But hear me out.

I wanted Lent to be different. I wanted to be able to say that I had prepared in a way that I hadn’t the rest of the year. I really felt strongly that I should start to do this.

And guys? It was amazing.

The Sacrifice of the Mass

The biggest thing that veiling has done for me has helped me stay focused on the sacrifice of the Mass.

As a mother of two young kids, here’s what my preparation for Mass looks like. I get up (probably late) and run around like a crazy person making sure we’re all dressed and have the diaper bag and everyone is wearing shoes and coats and underwear. My son is mad that he can’t wear his football shirt. My daughter is mad because she doesn’t like to go anywhere or do anything if she has to, but would prefer to float through life without any obligations. (Me too, kid. Get in the car.) My husband stands in the wrong place or something and annoys me because he’s not in my head and I’m mad at him for not doing what I’m thinking of asking him to do because I didn’t leave enough time to get ready. Once we get to church it’s an hour of picking up thrown books, handing out this week’s Magnifikid to my daughter if I was smart enough to bring it, handing out last week’s Magnifikid to my son to color on and having him flatly reject it (sorry, you can’t read, so you don’t get your own subscription), and convincing both children that Daddy will, in fact, come back after being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. He didn’t go away to war.

And if it’s a weekday Mass? All that an hour earlier and by myself. Do you know how much ambient noise there is at a weekday Mass? None. Do you know how much noise my tired cranky children produce? Not none.

Wearing a veil has become a physical reminder to myself that I am in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. I am participating in literally the most important thing I will ever do. Not that the obligations of my family go away, but I am able to switch my mind back much faster and focus much more after distractions.

It’s Not About Me

Wearing a veil at Mass has changed the way I feel about myself as a woman in unexpected ways.One of the concepts that I love is that we veil what is sacred. The tabernacle and altar are veiled. Women are sacred- we have a duty unlike any other. We have the privilege of veiling before the Lord that men do not.

When wearing a veil at Mass, I am not Kathleen anymore. I’m not the girl that’s worried about her forehead wrinkle and that weird hair that sticks up at my hairline. I am a daughter of God, and I am able to be much more humble before Him. It is not about me.

As someone who can tend towards the sin of vanity, I had hoped that this would happen and it has truly allowed my relationship with my God to deepen.

Sacred Femininity

One thing I never expected was the way veiling would make me feel about my femininity and even my fertility.

Since I had my son four years ago, my attitude towards my fertility was that it was basically a long slog towards menopause. I had (have) grave medical and psychological reasons to avoid or postpone subsequent pregnancies. Super fun when you practice NFP and you’re not even thirty yet.

But veiling has made me focus on my femininity. That focus has made me realize that while I don’t know if I can handle a pregnancy now (or in the near future), my fertility is a sacred gift from God and not something to be merely managed. The power and privilege to have the ability to carry a child (with regards to how God designs us, not restricted to married or fertile women) is unbelievable, and I am so unbelievably lucky that I get to experience that.

Veiling is not for every woman. It is not required for Novus Ordo Masses (although I wear mine at NO Mass), and if it makes you uncomfortable this is clearly not the sacramental for you. But if you are intrigued by the idea, I suggest giving it a try. I promise, you will never think about yourself before the Blessed Sacrament in the same way again.

 

Categories
Faith Formation Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Rest, Don’t Quit

rest, don't quit

Catholic women work hard. Understatement of the millennium, right? We nourish and nurture relationships, create and raise precious lives, look well to the ways of our households, and bring our feminine genius to endeavors within and outside of the home. We are wives, consecrated religious and singles, mothers and teachers and healers and warriors and executives and intellectuals. We rock the cradle and rule the world.

This work that we do is important and holy. If you’ve ever doubted that, just take a look at Pope St. John Paul II’s words in the encyclical Laborem Exorcens:

“Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’.”

But many of us do this important work while carrying heavy personal crosses: mental or physical illness, care for an ailing family member, financial strain, or broken relationships lay heavy on our shoulders as we go about our daily business.  Our own personal weaknesses, quirks and sins also add weight—just ask your favorite perfectionist, worrywart, procrastinator or control freak!

help at workSo through the brokenness of the world, others and ourselves, work often morphs from a holy endeavor to a painful drudgery or all-consuming monster. We work and work and go and go until we can go no more. Many times, we ignore our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being until we crash under the weight of illness and sin. This is not healthy or holy behavior. Work is not a god, and martyring ourselves in its name won’t bring us happiness in this world or the next. But what’s the alternative? In our increasingly extreme society, we imagine the opposite of working is quitting. We envision our lack of participation equates to sinful laziness and apathy, our families and finances falling apart.  But there is another way.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

This quote, popularly attributed to the famous graffiti artist Banksy, perfectly describes the Catholic counterpart to work. It’s the antidote to the overwork and crash cycle that secular society perpetuates. Rest seems like a stupidly simple idea, almost insulting to suggest. Of course we’ve all tried to rest! We snag minutes on the Internet or the couch, squeeze a date or a girls’ night into our already-crowded calendars, or nervously tap our fingers on the kneelers at Adoration, peeking at the clock to see when our hour is up.

But true, holy rest, like all things Catholic, goes much deeper than meets the eye. Rest from our labors requires practice and focus. Far from being a fall-back or a lame excuse for not working, rest should be an intentional part of our daily lives and yearly calendars, waxing and waning in tune with our personal circumstances. Rest increases our virtue, refreshes our souls, and heals our bodies and minds for another round of holy labor for the Lord.  Below are just a few practical ways we can rest and the fruits we can gather while doing so:

  1. Ask for help: If you’re overwhelmed with the tasks on your to-do list, ask a friend, family member or co-worker to help you carry your cross. More often than you might imagine, people are happy to help with an hour of babysitting, a hot meal, or a housekeeping project. Admitting that you can’t do it all grows you in humility and reaching out in your time of need requires courage.
  2. Start from the beginning: The very, very beginning, like Genesis. God showed us the perfect way by resting from all his good work on the Sabbath, so imitate his holy relaxation by taking time out from your labor on the Lord’s Day. Your email and laundry can wait, and heeding the Scriptural mandates of our faith is a great way to practice holy obedience.
  3. Be intentional: There’s a good reason so many monks eat and work in silence: they’re giving their full attention to whatever God has called them to do at that exact moment in time. Imitate their focus and intentionality by hallowing your times for relaxation. Whether you’ve got fifteen minutes or a whole week, don’t waste it by dwelling on the job you’re going to do next or worrying about the future. Cultivate diligence in your leisure and time with the Lord, and you’ll be all the more rested when it’s time to get back to the grindstone.
  4. Go with the flow: On the flip side, most of us aren’t in a cloister. No matter how much we’d like to focus on our times of rest, urgent phone calls, children with boo-boos, and unexpected obligations are a part of life in the world. Putting aside rest temporarily, and picking it back up gracefully (over and over and over again!) helps us grow in patience, perseverance and inner peace.
  5. Counter the culture: Rest doesn’t necessarily mean a fun social activity, a pricey vacation or a self-indulgent Netflix binge (although there’s a place for all these in a well-balanced life)! Much of the time, rest is simply about ceasing our labors in order to honor the Lord, our loved ones, and ourselves. What that looks like varies according to your own personal devotions and family, but choosing our ways of rest, and lessening our dependence on the world’s definition of leisure takes both bravery and wisdom.

Catholic women work hard, of that there’s no doubt. But let it be said not only that we rock the cradle and rule the world, but that we refresh and repair a tired and jaded society by our holy rest in the Lord.

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Ink Slingers Martina

23 Ways Society Lies to Catholic Women

 

Society tries so hard to feed women lies about our self-worth. What makes it worse is that the comments directed to Catholic women aren’t just a stab at our womanhood, but the Faith we profess and strive to live each day. Oftentimes, I find myself in casual conversation with other Catholic women and how the message society sends to women is often demeaning to those who choose any path that’s different than what society has defined as “successful.” As a result, I find there to be varying levels and degrees of inadequacy that women may experience as a result. We have sometimes unknowingly bought the lie that any of the following must be true for us to fit the mold of that perfect female in society. Among the many women who I asked what lies they had heard over the years, it was refreshing to see a common thread that more and more women are catching on to those lies and seeing them for what they are. Here are just a few of those lies:

  • Birth control will solve all your problems.
  • Teen moms always fail. Teens can’t be good parents. Kids ruin your life. Your career and/or education is the most important thing in your life.
  • You don’t need a man. Men are the enemy.
  • Women’s issues translate to people touting free birth control or abortion access instead of issues we actually care about like jobs and security.
  • Instead of focusing on why women are different and amazing creatures… we should be trying to constantly prove how we can do anything men can do 
  • Being a mom isn’t a job. That everything has to be perfect all of the time. That if you stay at home, your husband won’t respect you because you don’t bring in money. That all men are pigs. That all men only want one thing, and you should be ok with that because we are all “sexual beings” and it’s ok to experiment. That he won’t buy the cow if he hasn’t had the milk (lol). How much times have changed… we went from “if you have sex with him, he’ll never marry you”, to “if you don’t have sex with him, he won’t ever commit to you” – Good Lord, help us.
  • Children don’t need fathers.
  • Wanting to be a stay at home mom (or even a mom at all) is proof that you’re oppressed (and, usually, have “internalized” and accepted that oppression as normal).
  • A “real woman” can “have it all” and successfully balance being a mom and having a full-time job. Thus proving that if you feel like a failure when you try to do both, that you’re just not good enough.
  • Sex without commitment and consequences (and by extension, birth control and abortion) is good for women.
  • Women are better than men.
  • That your worth comes from achievements and productivity.
  • If your toddler is attached to you, you have trouble letting your children grow up.
  • Children are inconvenient. 
  • There’s nothing wrong with sleeping around if you aren’t going to get married. Virginity is a “waste”. Women can do anything men can do and vice versa.
  • A Catholic woman’s stance on serving her husband is lowering the intelligence and worth of women because we should all be feminist who think men are objects or something, right?
  • Children are super expensive. For us, children have been a bigger “line item” than we ever anticipated😉
    The message then for me is that children are not *worth* the expense. 
  • Sort of the same line of thought, though not so much a message for/about women: kids don’t naturally like/welcome younger siblings, sibling rivalry is the natural way and you always need to go out of your way to prevent it and make them at least “okay” with being “replaced” as the youngest.
  • It’s normal, acceptable, and good for men to look at porn and you are a horrible, controlling spouse/partner if you don’t want your SO to watch porn/go to strip clubs/masturbate.
  • If you stay at home, you have it so easy. Everything should be done perfectly all the time. Homemade birthday cakes, clean house, obedient children. It’s not like you have an actual job.
  • Oh, and you can’t spend money on yourself because you didn’t earn it. And you made this choice, so you’d better not complain or show signs of having difficulties with it.
  • As a Catholic woman: There is only one way to be feminine. Whether it’s the traddie version of the Stepford wife or the Proverbs 31 superwoman, there is only one ideal. And you don’t even come close.
  • Your beauty is external. I would add that, no matter your accomplishments as a woman, you are not good enough/less than/uninteresting unless you are sexually attractive. Your value comes from your external appeal.
  • As Catholic woman we are oppressed, too. There is no place in the Church for women if we can’t be priests.

Do you recognize any of these?

Perhaps you have heard your own.

What do you wish society understood about you, a Catholic woman?