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This is a marathon, not a sprint.

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For the first time in recent memory, I ended a year on a Spiritual high note. I wasn’t running on fumes through Advent, I’ve enjoyed Christmas, and I’m excited to start 2012 and grow in our beautiful faith even more. So, as we’re less than a week into a new year, I thought I would share some ways to keep our spiritual “endurance” throughout the year.
What came to mind was a Homily that my husband and I heard while attending Saint William of York (Stafford, Virginia) in August. Father made some remarks about “Lapsed” Catholics, also called “C&E’s” (Christmas and Easter) sometimes. This (very large) group of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not the ones that we see every Sunday. We likely won’t see them while they’re vacationing, and we also most likely won’t have many conversations with them about our Catholic faith. However, it never fails that come Christmas and Easter, they all show up. The parking lot is full, the pews are full, the Church is very warm. Father Magot made us all chuckle when he said, “why chose the busiest Masses of the year to go to? I’d rather go in August. There’s plenty of parking spaces, room to sit. Communion lines are shorter.”
Obviously the point he was trying to drive home is that EVERY Sunday Mass and Holy Day of Obligation are important. We are obligated to attend them all. And without a serious excuse, we are committing a mortal sin if we do not go.
And so we have begun 2012.
About ten years ago, I had a gym membership. It was a 24 hour gym and my regular workouts began around 10 PM. The following January, I think I witnessed fifty “New Years resolutions” happen before my eyes. Tredmills were all of a sudden full, weight machines had lines, and the classes in the room off to the side were full of energy. To be honest, the sudden surge of people was someone of a distraction as well as annoying. Not because I didn’t want these people to get into shape or to be healthy, it was because they didn’t stick around.
Come February and March, the New Years resolution crowd dwindled out in numbers. Few were left to continue on their mission. The rest had given up.
And after sharing these two stories, I can’t help but think of the similarities between the two. Just as a journey towards becoming physically fit and healthy takes a lot of work and dedication, so does growth,in our faith. It cannot and does not happen overnight. Any surge in energy or bursts of the Holy Spirit may only seem temporary, unless they are nourished.
Through,our Baptism, we are initiated into the Church and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Eucharist, we are nourished and strengthened, and through our Confirmation, we are sealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit, thus completing our initiation into the Church.
As we continue in this year, let us keep in mind the promises we made through our Confirmation, to grow in our faith and to share our faith with others.
I would like to end with some suggestions to keep the flame burning:
1. Make it a duty to attend Mass regularly. Every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. While daily Mass is not an obligation, attending regularly can only help us grow in our faith.
2. Make time for prayer. I was recently gifted a book on The Family Rosary. How cliche to hear, “A family that prays together, stays together.” Say bedtime prayers with your children. Say a prayer at meal times. Pray when you wake up. Prayer is simply conversation with God, and the more we’re talking to him, the less likely we are to fall into sinful behavior. Also, drive around with a CD of the Rosary being recited, or religious music playing. It’s hard to be in a bad mood while listening to “How Great thou Art.”
3. Go to Confession regularly. If you haven’t been in a while- go! It will give you,the grace to sustain you and keep your soul in good shape.
4. Join a Catholic group or look for a Spiritual Advisor. Having someone to guide us along the journey is imperative to our growth. For me, I have a lovely group of women who I have become very close to. We talk every day. All things Catholic, and sometimes not.
5. Do something within your parish. Whether it’s volunteering as a CCD teacher or singing in the choir, assisting in a number of ministries or on the parish board….. whichever interests you. When you’re accountable to others for something, you’re more likely to follow through.
6. Wear our beautiful faith on your sleeve, figuratively speaking. Mention to others in conversation that you are Catholic. Invite friends to go to Mass. Find or answer questions friends may have about our faith.

We have a whole long year ahead of us. There is no doubt that it will fly by. But our job is to come out on the other end stronger in our faith than when we started last week. So, I challenge you all. Make it count!

Wannabe

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I admit readily that I am and always have been a wannabe. I became aware of this fact about five years ago, when I was still a single mother of five, working up to 14 hours a day in a physically, psychologically and emotionally demanding job as a nurse while going to church two to three times a week.
At the end of one particularly difficult day at work, I went home to enjoy a very aggravating evening with my children, which included three teenagers, one of whom was determined to make me either a saint or a criminal with his behavior. Later that night I was lying in my bed after I had prayed and I was dwelling on the fact that I just wasn’t happy with anything that I do. I felt I could be a better nurse, a better mother and most certainly, a better Catholic. As I took a few laps in my pool of self-pity I dwelt on the reasons for my lack of satisfaction in all areas of my life. Was it because I had a parent whom never had praise for me? Was it because I was just a mediocre person and destined for a lifetime of mediocrity? I can not say that I came to a conclusion that night but in the last year or so I have figured out why I’m a wannabe. I’m a wannabe because I should be one! Seriously, can any one of us look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘Oh, yes-I am the best (fill in the blank) that I can be?
Do we honestly spend as much time in prayer and instructing our children how to be good Catholics as we should? I know I don’t! It doesn’t help to have an unenthusiastic audience, but that is no excuse. Several years ago, my teenage son Daniel, in one of his ornery moods, asked me why I made him go to weekly adoration and Sunday mass when he didn’t want to go. I narrowed my eyes, hoping I was administering a piercing look of earnestness, and in my most serious “listen up child, this is important” voice I told him, ‘One day I will stand before the throne of God and I do not want Him to tell me that every Sunday I ALLOWED my child to commit a mortal sin and now I have to pay for my culpability because, while I had the power to prevent the sin, I did not! My first obligation is to save my soul; my second obligation is to do everything in my power to make sure that YOU have the tools to save yours.’ I told him that I would drag him out of the house kicking and screaming before I would allow him to commit one mortal sin.
He never again asked me to let him skip Sunday mass. I don’t know if he found the idea of being physically dragged out of the house by his mother totally demeaning or if he actually understood the wisdom of what I said (That’s my hope!). I’m thinking it may be the latter because a few weeks ago he called and asked me to help him find out when and where mass is celebrated on the base he is stationed.
I’ve read the lives of many saints and not once have I come across one that thought they were good enough for God. How true! We can always find another fault in ourselves, however insignificant the world deems it. I’m not referring to beating oneself up over things over which one has no control, I refer to aspects of ourselves which we have the power to change such as actions, thoughts and words we speak. I truly believe that is the path to sanctity, not just eliminating the mortal and venial sins from our lives but the imperfections that lead to those sins.
In the past I have carried the arrogance of thinking that no one should have have the gall to expect me to change, if I wasn’t good enough for them; they could take a hike. On the contrary, I now believe that if someone truly loves me, they will want me to become a better person, in as many ways as possible. Having a spouse or family members that encourage our growth spiritually is especially a blessing! So now, I am satisfied to be a wannabe because I know that desire to always be better will serve both me and others well in all areas of my life-as a mother, a Catholic, a wife, a nurse and a friend.

We’re moving!

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In our short time of blogging, we decided that in order to have more flexibility over our mission in blogging, we would ultimately need to upgrade to a .com website. That time came much sooner than even I could have anticipated. But God’s plans are infinitely better than mine…and always delivered with a sense of humor.

As of September 12, 2011, we will be blogging at Catholic Sistas – .COM – the official website. Be sure to bookmark our new page and come join us over at the new site. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

You’ll need to resubscribe to receive e-mail alerts and for this, we apologize but, better now than when we’ve gotten all comfy with each other, right? 🙂

Additionally, we will redirect this site to the .com site for a while until everyone makes their way over. Eventually, we will delete the wordpress.com Catholic Sistas blog.

In Weakness I am Strong

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Ten years ago, I gave up my career as a publisher to be a stay-at-home mother. My first few years as a mother of three young children were, in a word, miserable. I was stunned by the unrelenting neediness of our children.

I had a non-Christian friend in a similar domestic situation, so we took turns talking each other down from the ledge. While we both were committed to the importance of staying at home with our children, my friend made it clear that all she could see in the sacrifices was pointless misery. Life would be great, she imagined, if those tedious and menial sacrifices were replaced with predictable pleasantness most of the time.

There’s only one problem with that line of thinking: with marriage and parenting, it’s all about the sacrifices.

As a Catholic, I know this. Theologically. But knowing the path and walking the path are different things. The truth is, I become angry, disappointed, or discouraged because my husband or children do not allow me to do what I want. I want a cup of coffee, but they want breakfast. I want to read a book, but I have to discipline someone. I want to go shopping, but my husband has to work overtime.

Would my life be more pleasant and easier if my children were always well-behaved or independent? If my husband always met my needs?. Of course. But would I be a better human being? Definitely not.

Unlike my friend, I know that the key to life is not pleasantness, but dying to selfishness. It’s hard to think of our desires as selfish, because we don’t see anything wrong with wanting a cup of coffee. And on its face, there isn’t. But we can easily pervert even a good desire. In my case, having coffee is a fine idea—until I allow my desire for it to take precedent over the needs of my family. Then the care I could have offered my family as their—and God’s—loving servant becomes instead a resentful obligation rendered by an embittered slave.

On the days when family life seems especially hard, it can seem like God sold us an oyster with no pearl. We hear the world whisper its opinion about our vocation and we begin to wonder if it’s really worth all the trouble to raise these kids or stick it out in this marriage. The burden can seem so heavy that it’s tempting just to set it down. It took me years to understand that I am not actually responsible for carrying this burden. All I really have to do is get my pride and selfishness out of the way and the Holy Spirit will gladly take over.

Unfortunately, there is no formula that will effect a final surrender to God, that will help you give up the “I can do this just fine on my own” once and for all. But the first step is changing the way we think about our vocation. We want to believe we’re strong enough, that we only need God to swoop in and give us a boost once in a while. And we can even get angry with Him when we do all the “right” things like go to Mass, pray the rosary, and read Scripture and STILL struggle. But the problem isn’t God, it’s us. It’s our desire for control and desire to indulge our own selfishness. When we really surrender to Him—not just minutes at a time, bookended by our own will—we are able to be the loving, patient, amazing wives and mothers He intends us to be.

Surrendering to God does not mean using prayer as a talisman, thinking that a rosary will give me saintly, adorable children. Or even that I can exchange Bible-reading time for super-human strength to endure. God gives us nothing less than his own life, his own strength, if we will take it. Those days when I am a truly loving, patient mother, it is not of my own strength, but God’s. In my surrender, I become weak…and freed from the chains of my rebellion, the Holy Spirit loves my children as I cannot on my own.

Giving up control and the love I have for myself is the most painful experience of my life and it is a battle I never saw coming when I entered my vocation. I finally understand why Jesus said that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” When I surrender my will, and with it my sometimes all-consuming love of self, there is room for me to sacrificially and joyfully love others—and God.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, St. Paul says,

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

For the sake of our families and ourselves, may Christ grant us women the grace to be weak. Only in surrendering to Him can we ever truly be free and “love one another as I have loved you.”