Tomorrow begins the “Year of Faith,” the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has uttered a call to all Catholics to renew and rejuvenate their faith, reading and putting into practice the rich treasury of wisdom that the Church has safeguarded for two thousand years.
To be perfectly honest, I’m in a much better place now to begin the year — having completed four days of my TOB retreat. My faith, which has taken something of a beating these past few months, is feeling less tenuous. Tomorrow night Craig and Sarah will come and join me for the last-night marshmallow roast — Sarah’s reward for being a good girl for Craig while I was gone. And in no time at all, it will be back to the salt mines.
What are you doing, to celebrate the Year of Faith? Ascension Press is offering a free email service of weekly reflections from authors like Danielle Bean, Jeff Cavins, Teresa Tomeo, and Dr. Edward Sri. You can sign up here.
In the meantime, I thought I’d kick off the year with a little story.
My Aunt Rosemary was in her early thirties when she was diagnosed with ALS. She was a faithful Christian woman with three small children — the youngest only about four. Her weekly women’s Bible study prayed for her every week, that God would take the disease away from her so she could see her children grow up. Prayed earnestly, with tears and great conviction.
Long story short, their prayers weren’t answered the way they’d hoped. Gradually, as Aunt Rosemary lost the use of her ability to stand, then to talk, the prayers got a little more frantic. Some actually accused her of “secret sin,” certain that God would have healed her if only she had enough faith. One by one, people stopped coming to her house. My mom would go to visit, communicating her with a shorthand alphabet system whereby she’d divide the alphabet into four parts (“apple” – a through e; “girl” – g through l; “manner” – m through r; and “stay” – s through z) and Rosemary would blink as Mom guessed the right letter for each word she wanted to say. She stayed in that medical limbo for almost eight years before she finally succumbed to the disease.
It wasn’t until years later, I asked one of my seminary professors about the sacrament of anointing, how often he’d seen actual healing take place as a result of ministering the sacrament. “It does happen,” Father told me. “But more often, it’s about strengthening the soul for what’s ahead.”
And so it is with the Year of Faith. None of us have any way of knowing what is in store for us in the coming year, shadow or glory. Rocky roads or smooth pavement. Feast or famine.
What we can say for sure is that, either way, how we respond to these circumstances depends to a great extent how willing we are to offer it back to God and trust him to make something beautiful out of it.
So join me, won’t you, in offering this year — whatever it holds — to the loving benevolence of God?
Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.
What do the Catholic Writers Conference Online, Auschwitz, Servant of God John Paul II, and confessionals have in common? They all make me think of one of my favorite feasts of the year, Mercy Sunday.
At CWCO 2009 this year, Danielle Bean talked about comments she gets from women who disapprove her choice to combine her vocation inside the home with her work as editor of Faith and Family. That this homeschooling mother of eight manages to find a spare minute to do everything else she does is nothing short of remarkable … and yet she freely admits that she is sometimes taken aback when other moms criticize.
“Women are way too quick to tear each other apart. I think a lot of that comes from pride and insecurity. If I am confident that what I am doing is best for my family, I need to embrace it … And then the ‘snippy’ people can’t even touch me.”
Ironically, it is Christian women — those who have experienced for themselves the boundless grace of God in their own lives — who can be hardest both on themselves and on one another. We are quick to criticize, and slow to see when a sister in Christ needs nothing so much as a word of encouragement. In no time, we become imprisoned by the combined weight of a thousand assumptions, impressions, and assertions … all of which can be released with a single timely word of grace.
And so, in honor of Mercy Sunday I’d like to take a moment to recall a time in my life when I experienced this unexpected brush with grace, in the last place some Catholics expect to find it … in a confessional. The article, “Tender Mercies,” was originally published by Canticle magazine in 2007, examines the origins of Mercy Sunday, and affirms the sacramental graces that are available to those humble enough to ask for them.
“Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development.”
John Paul II, Letter to Adoptive Families (Sept 5, 2000)
Are you looking for ways to celebrate adoption? Click here to go to an article from “Adoptive Families” magazine that offers 30 ways families can celebrate!
For more information about this important resource for adoptive parents, or to subscribe, click here!
The simple truth is that every child thinks Mom is extraordinary. Whether that child comes to us the conventional way, or through adoption, or foster care, or some other way. Your presence is what teaches that child about love, about goodness, about kindness, about truth. You ARE those things to your child … and to all the children in whose lives you invest.
Pope John Paul II used to talk about the “feminine genius,” and frequently quoted the Council Fathers of Vatican II who contended that “Women imbued with the Spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.” By our very nature, women have gifts and abilities that are distinctively feminine. We relate differently, both to one another and to God. And that is a good thing.
This website is dedicated in a special way to “Extraordinary Moms” Moms who devote themselves to their families (often but not always large families) to a remarkable degree. And Moms who are “extraordinary” in the sense that (like an “extraordinary” Eucharistic minister) they come alongside the “ordinary” mother and help her raise that child in God’s name.
Adoptive and foster mothers, godmothers and favorite aunts, even teachers and religious education instructors! For each of us has a God-given job to do … and in the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (a great patron of adoptive and foster families), “God does not call the equipped; He equips those who respond to the call.”
This website is for all women who need encouragement to live out their vocations as fully as God wants them to. There are resources for all kinds of EMs … those with big families and small ones, those who struggle with infertility and who wish they weren’t quite so fertile, those who long for children … and those who are considering, perhaps for the very first time, whether the child who is meant for them has already been born and is waiting for them. Those who are happily married, and those who carry on alone.
So let’s share our experiences … let’s help each other. If you’re considering adoption and are looking for more information, especially about foster-adoption, feel free to check out my adoption blog “Mommy Monsters.” For now, let’s begin, as we begin every good thing, by calling on the Father of us all!
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth
As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
Those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.