Five habits for highly peaceful Catholics

Peace. Isn’t that the elusive thing we’re all after? It’s sometimes a feeling of satisfaction, or the act of letting go. You can’t necessarily make it happen for yourself, but I am convinced that most us are regularly doing things that hinder our ability to feel at peace. Know what I’m talking about? It’s the restless feeling after scrolling for too long. The afternoons when you’ve been going nonstop and suddenly realize you forgot to eat. Or maybe it’s the crushing weight of all the problems in the world riding on your shoulders.

We might know intellectually that God is the Prince of Peace, that his plans are good, and that so many things in the world aren’t actually that important. But do we live like that? How do we concretely combat that feeling of restlessness and truly be at peace resting in the knowledge that God is with us?

Here are several basic ways we can cultivate peace in our everyday lives. I am no expert, so these are as much personal goals for myself as they are my recommendations for you.

Read the rest of my piece on our monthly topic of peace over at Everyday Ediths.

Death and life and why I’m staying Catholic

It’s been weeks since we learned about (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick, and long enough since the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released that the initial shock has dissipated. But now we have letters and statements and accusations renewing our dismay. My response to big events is often clear and immediate. Other times I want to read and be clear on facts before addressing it. But in this case, things just keep coming. If we ever get full details on the corruption currently rotting in our clergy, it’s going to take a while.

I’m not waiting for that day to talk about it.

To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely surprised by what we are learning. The sexual abuse, rape, use of pornography, and homosexual activity that has occurred is disturbing and wrong. My heart goes out to victims of these crimes, and I believe it should be a major priority in our Church to heal these wounds. Victims deserve justice. And so do any perpetrators or enablers of these atrocities.

Learning of the horrific experiences of some seminarians, especially in the 70’s and 80’s, is disturbing. Is this part of why our number of priests declined? I wonder. If the testimonies are true, which I am inclined to believe, then whistleblowers were sometimes removed from seminaries. Good guys left out of disgust. This was not acceptable.

And the cover-up.

This is what makes my blood boil.

It remains to be seen exactly who’s right about what. Archbishop Vigano’s testimony is being attested to as accurate by a growing number of credible people who are calling for an investigation. At the same time, Pope Francis has been silent for the last few days. This part of the story has been the most personally disheartening to me so far because of this: if one is innocent, it should be easy to simply state that upfront and discredit false accusations. And if one is guilty but repentant, it should be the obvious course of action to admit wrongdoing, clarify details, and accept consequences.

I do not want Pope Francis to be guilty of covering up these things. I don’t want to know that there are wolves wearing shepherds clothing. But we know too much to let this breeze over. I want the whole truth and nothing but the truth put out into the light of day. Besides actually being found guilty, silence seems like one of the worst reactions by clergy at this present moment, and I struggle to interpret this in a positive way. I think the Church deserves answers to these serious allegations, and that a full investigation all the way up to the Vatican should have been publicly started days ago.

All these details are difficult to follow. My mind has been running like a hamster wheel and I’m not sleeping enough (not that I ever do). I can’t stop thinking about this and reading everything (yes, both “sides”). This is a stunning moment to be Catholic, but I am profoundly grateful for what’s going on. This evil needs to be exposed, and I hope that with how big this has become, it will have to be dealt with.

But Laura, you might say, these things are so heinous and despicable. How could you ever remain a Catholic?

I’m glad you asked.

You know how people talk about the fight or flight reaction we usually have in the face of danger? I think if this was new to me, I might be more likely to be stewing in and blinded by disgust and anger. But sadly, clerical corruption is not an unusual topic of my reading. Besides committing crimes, bishops, priests, and even the Pope are dead wrong sometimes about theological, practical, and pastoral things. And no – I’m not a “far right” Catholic who thinks Pope Francis is the AntiChrist. It’s not everyday they’re covering heinous crimes, but they sure are wrong about some things on the regular. I don’t talk about that often here because it’s depressing and feels prideful to talk about how I think they’re wrong.

But I’ve worked in a less than perfect diocese. I went to a Catholic college. I’ve gone through Safe Environment Training twice. I work for a Catholic organization now. I am a well-informed Catholic, and I know our history is rife with scandal. I know the gates of Hell will not prevail against the universal Catholic Church, but I also know there’s no one country where God said it would remain strong. Whatever happens, though – I’m here for it. I believe this is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith established by Jesus Christ, and I’m not leaving him because of modern day Judases.

I can look at Jesus on the cross and ask why people make atrocious decisions. But I cannot look him in the eye and walk away because of them.

Do you believe Jesus came to conquer sin and give us the Church and its sacraments? Do you believe he is holding us in the palm of his hand through this? Do you believe he is with us in the Eucharist and present among us? Do you believe in the beauty and necessity of the sacraments regardless of who’s ministering them?

Then join me. Stay and fight for the Church you believe in.

“Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.” Mother Teresa said.

And it’s true. I feel like I’m carrying a weight and just want to know the truth and get this over with. But I also want the Church to experience a deep purging and cleansing that will take time.

Some of the best words I’ve seen recently come from a German radio broadcast by then Fr. Ratzinger in 1969:

“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members . . . And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

With death always comes resurrection. May the extent of this rot be exposed and burned down to allow new life to flourish. May our faith in Jesus be stronger than any storm. And may new life come from this death.

To LIFE,

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A Litany for Our Church in Crisis

Abuse and crisis within the Catholic Church I call home are unfortunately nothing new. But every time abuse previously unknown to the public comes to light, it is a reminder of a festering, rotten, wound that has not yet been fully healed. We’ve learned recently of decades of evil abuse. And understandably, many of my fellow Catholics are feeling powerless to make this change. What can we do? Where should we start?

To begin with, let’s pray. Prayer is more powerful than it feels. And prayer is always essential to rightly order ourselves in determining concrete action moving forward. We need to commit to fervent prayer for our Church, the people tasked to lead it, and those who have failed us. When I pray for other people and causes, I like to have specific intentions. So I present to you:

If you’ve not prayed a litany before, it’s a style of prayer with a list of intentions and responses. The response for each group of intentions is given in italics after the first line and is repeated after each individual intention. It can be prayed individually, or in a group where one person reads the intention and other say the response. It is meant to be prayed slowly as we reflect on each specific intention.

A Litany for Our Church in Crisis

Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ hear us. Christ graciously hear us.

In the midst of darkness, confusion, and outrage, God we ask for your guidance and right judgement in revealing what is hidden, righting what is wrong, and healing what is broken.

From apathy when faced with evil. DELIVER US, O LORD.

From covering up of sin within our Church.

From systems which allow the continuation of abuse.

From cowardly and sinful leaders.

From despair and hopelessness.

—-

For every individual who has personally suffered at the hands of a clergy member or lay leader. LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER

For every victim not taken seriously.

For every family member and friend of those who have suffered.

For healing and restoration.

For those who groom individuals to become victims of crimes and commit grave sin, particularly abuse, rape, and molestation.

For those who abuse the power of their office to violate the dignity of other people in an effort to placate their selfish and sinful appetites.

For those who violate the trust of those they vowed to lead to Christ.

For those who aid and abet grave sin among our clergy and lay leaders.

For justice to be served.

For sincere repentance and conversion of heart.

For those coerced and blackmailed into silence.

For those who remain silent in the face of evil.

For good and holy clergy and lay leaders working to heal the wound of abuse and prevent it in the future.

For good and holy clergy as they continue to perform their duties and provide access to the sacraments.

For good and holy lay people working in parishes and religiously affiliated organizations.

For courage on the part of all leaders entrusted with the protection of members of the Body of Christ.

For the formation of current seminarians.

For parents concerned for their children’s safety and wellbeing.

For those tempted to leave their home in the Catholic Church because of abuse and scandal.

For those experiencing feelings of betrayal.

For perseverance in combating evil.

For renewed faith in Jesus Christ.

For renewed hope in the saving power of a life lived for heaven.

For renewed charity towards our brothers and sisters.

For renewed commitment to rightly ordered sexuality through the virtue of chastity.

For purity of heart and action.

For transparency and collaboration in forming a solution.

Jesus, giver of life, purify your Church plagued with the rot of sin. Spur on faithful leaders to courageously take decisive action knowing full well the personal sacrifice required. Give the grace of humility in admitting wrongdoing and working towards a long term resolution. Enkindle in the hearts of our laity the perseverance to endure the scandal of sin and the faithfulness to defend all that is good about the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, Divine Comforter, be with your children who are suffering. Inspire the reform needed so desperately in your Church. Be with every faithful member of the Body of Christ as we determine how to move forward. God the Father, remind us of your goodness. Bring peace to every weary soul and justice to every hidden corner of sin. Shine your light on all that is hidden and wash it clean with the blood of your Son offered in reparation for the sins of your children.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.


You are welcome to share this litany and pray it with other people or your parish. I’ve created a PDF for easy printing, which you’re welcome to use for that purpose. Click below to download and print.

Printable Litany for Our Church in Crisis PDF

To Life,

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Life lately – August

How is it August already?! Did your summer fly by? People say time speeds up the older you get, and I would have to agree with that. It’s been a full summer with several trips, so I’m just now home and getting back to everyday life. It’s a privilege to be able to travel, which I’m grateful for. But being home is SO good. I thought I’d pop in for a little update on life lately.

 

Reading: Bonnie’s list of nominee’s for the Sheen-azing Awards, and was surprised to see my little corner of the internet as a nominee! Thank you to the lone soul who reads what I write and nominated me under the “best kept secret” category. Head over there to check out some of my wonderful fellow Catholics doing their thing on the interwebs, and vote for your favorites! I’ve also been reading great books this year, but will have to give those their own post since there are many.

 

Writing: Not a whole lot lately, but check out the Freedom’s Calling series from last month if you haven’t already. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done here, and something I hope people go back to. With this year being the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I had to do something to commemorate it, and am grateful for those who contributed to this series of stories!

 

Traveling: to the island of GUAM! How crazy is that? I’ve always wanted to go because my paternal grandparents are from there. So why not now? It’s a great time in my life to take advantage of the flexibility I have for adventure. I went with my paternal grandparents and an older sister and it was amazing. I also went on a camping trip with local young adults in May, and just got back from a girls weekend in San Diego with a cousin and sister. Having the flexibility to do all that is amazing.

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Singing: in the car. Do you? I pray the rosary along to a CD first thing on my ~45 minute commute, then often play music. I have little tolerance for weeding through junk on pop stations, so I often listen to something like Audrey Assad. She’s awesome, but I need a little variety. Give me your recommendations for the best sing along music and how you listen! On the way home I usually listen to podcasts, which deserve their own post.

 

Thinking: a lot about the latest abuse revelations and capital punishment debate. Geez do things stay light around here! I’ll write more on these in the future. If you’ve read any great pieces on these topics, would you please share with me? Below in a comment is fine, or you can email me directly. I’m trying to read from a variety of places and be informed.

 

Watching: an interesting documentary on gender during a recent flight. It was incredibly biased and contradicted itself, saying biology is everything in regards to gender (“don’t choose a gender for a child born with unclear anatomy and trap them”) but also nothing (“gender is just a social construct and has nothing to do with our biological makeup or anatomy”). This is pretty common as far as I’ve seen, but seems to me to be an incoherent and unscientific defense. In more positive news, on the plane I also watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. The music had already been playing on Pandora, so I was familiar with it, but wow – the music is great. The story was eh to me and could have used more character development.  But the music was sooooo good.

 

Budgeting: do most people budget? I’ve been thinking more about this lately and what I could do to set myself up for a decent financial future. My college debt is relatively much less than most people, and I’m over 1/3 done paying it off a little over two years since graduation. The only other debt I carry is a car loan. Looking back, I would definitely have gotten a cheaper car, but live and learn, right? One good thing I’ve done is contribute to a 403(b) fund (like a 401k, but it’s different when you work for a non-profit) from the beginning of my employment. Someday that’ll be handy, right? I’d be interested to write a whole post on this and discuss people’s money habits!

 

And that’s it coming your way this Wednesday. Hope you’re enjoying the last weeks of summer!

To Life,

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7QT, vol 70: Immigration

These last few weeks, I’ve sat back and watched debates and insults and virtue signaling raging like a California wildfire. Immigration is something I rarely post about due to how complicated it is and how relatively little I know compared to other hot button issues. But I have some thoughts to share.

1.

Immigration policy is not a question of dogma. As a Catholic, there are some non-negotiable issues I am obligated to hold a certain stance on. However, immigration is not one of those. It’s an issue of what we call “prudential judgement”. This means that our opinion should be the conclusion of prudent consideration, and reflect the truth of our faith, but that there is legitimate room for disagreement in what exactly that looks like. There’s just no way a universal Church could come out and tell the world one way everyone has to handle immigration. Because of this, I 100% reject the idea many of my fellow Catholics have expressed in saying “if you’re a real Catholic” you HAVE to think this way or think it should be handled like X, Y, or Z. That’s not true. There are some things you can legitimately disagree with even your Bishop or Pope about, and this is one of them.

2.

That being said, there are some basic tenets of Catholicism that should be part of our prudential judgement. For example, we recognize that every person is made in the image of God and thus warrants dignified treatment. We have escalating issues with this at our southern border that have been going on for years. We have drug trafficking, sex trafficking, kidnapping, killing, raping, and of course the violence some flee from to America. As a country in our position, I think it does little to solve the problem to only address the surface issues at our borders. No country should be so dangerous that people feel they have to flee for their lives. And in our relative position of power, I wonder what we could do to aid countries in solving their corruption. Do we have an element of responsibility there? Can we help fix it? I honestly don’t know. But I think it does little in the interest of reaching a long term solution when this isn’t part of the discussion. Yes, people deserve to be treated right. And if that isn’t happening at home, it needs to be addressed at the source.

For example, Mexico has been recognized as the second most dangerous country in the world, and their murder rate rose by 23% to a record high in 2017. New President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, and I sincerely hope violence there and elsewhere is reduced.

3.

What about separating kids from families? Of course it sounds horrible. But what I fail to see included in the cries from so many about this is what we should actually do when families cross the border illegally. It’s inhumane to rip a child from his or her mother without just cause. So now we detain them together, which is complicated since children can only be held for 20 days. Or we go back to the utterly failed concept of “catch and release” where families are released into the US with a court date they don’t go to. Or we just send everyone back. None of those sound like sustainable options to me, so I’m honestly at a loss for how I think it should be handled.

4.

There’s also the issue of asylum. We have ports of entry where people fleeing violence in other countries can come to seek asylum. This is perfectly legal. I think this makes sense. However, I read that the system is backed up for over a year. That’s crazy, and I think requests for asylum should be processed much quicker. Is that possible? Why is it backed up in the first place? I don’t know. And I imagine it’s difficult to process these requests quickly. If that could be expedited in some way so people sincerely seeking asylum could realistically go through the proper channels, it would help grant asylum to people who actually need it.

This brings up another issue: some people choose to circumvent the legal way of claiming asylum, and give it as their reason for crossing illegally when caught. Are some using it as an excuse? Do some not know how to do it legally? Is the system so backed up it doesn’t work to do it legally? I don’t know. But I do know you can’t just blanket together all people claiming asylum. The way to do it legally should be a straightforward enough process to make it possible for people who need it.

5.

Here’s another distinction I don’t usually see: My personal responsibility to other individual people looks very different than my country’s responsibility to individual people. There’s no doubt our immigration process is broken and people have been mistreated. There’s also no doubt we need to treat people with dignity. However, what that looks like on a national policy level is different than how you or I would respond to a person right in front of us. It is not violence to the dignity of a human person to have a strict process for entering another country. It is not a mortal sin to say we can’t take everyone. The process should be straightforward and realistic. But it is not unreasonable to have rules and boundaries in protection of our country. I know people illegally crossing the border aren’t all horrible people, and I think we’ve done a huge disservice to them by letting things get to this point.

I think a big part of our problem is that the legal way to do it is backed up and the way we’ve treated illegal crossing of the border has given way to an underground market of thousands of people doing so everyday.

6.

So what do we do now? The fact remain that there are thousands of people living in the US without legal citizenship. Of those with salaried jobs, many use fake social security numbers and are paying into a system they will never reap the benefits of. How would one become a citizen? This is what I read:

Before you can request to be a legal US citizen, you have to be a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder) for five years. There are currently three ways to apply for that:

i) Family-based petitions. A US citizen or Permanent Resident parent, spouse, adult child, or sibling files a petition for you, which takes 1-22 years to process.

ii) Employment-based petitions. A US employer can sponsor you, but only if you are in a profession requiring an advanced degree or unique skills. The potential employer generally has to prove that they made good-faith efforts to hire a US citizen for the position, but no qualified applicants applied.

iii) Diversity visa lottery. The US government annually selects 50,000 people who enter a lottery and pass background checks to enter as Permanent Residents. This is available to people from countries that traditionally send few people to the US – so, people from countries such as Mexico, the Philippines, China, Guatemala, India, El Salvador, and other countries that send larger numbers of immigrants to the U.S. do not have this option.

Does this seem realistic for people who are already here illegally? Nope. I think we clearly need a better process here. I think it makes sense to give people the options of a realistic path to citizenship, leaving, or knowing they may face serious consequences for not being a legal citizen.

7.

The more I hear about immigration, I realize that I used to see it as more of a black and white issue. Obviously people should just get in line and come here legally, many say. And yes, that’s true. People who break just laws should incur the consequence. But we need a better system. We need a quicker way to determine if people are truly seeking asylum. We need violence fixed back home. We need a more realistic path to legal citizenship. We need congress to get their butts in gear and agree on a bill to pass.

But one last point: not all moral issues are equal. It is always gravest to protect our fundamental right to life, the first basic right we are endowed with by our Creator. Any attacks against it are the gravest battles to fight. We are not all called to fight every battle, and that is okay.

Immigration is not the most important issue to squabble over. It’s still important to be informed and work toward better policies, but not all problems have the same priority. You take your gifts and skills and use them to better the world. I will do the same. We are no less human, no less Catholic, for choosing where to focus our world-changing efforts. I don’t mean that in a callous way, but we’ve got to be realistic.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t talk about this often because it’s so complicated. And as you can see, I still have many questions. But I wrote and rewrote this many times, sincerely sharing what I know and think. I welcome your civil discussion, and really am interested in discussing this more.

For more quick takes, head over to Kelly’s place!

When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and science {Freedom’s Calling, part 7}

Today, please welcome Leslie Sholly for the final and seventh part in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 herepart 4 here, part 5 here, and part 6 here.

~

I’m a cradle Catholic, born in 1967. And I recall hearing a lot about the birth control pill growing up. I doubt I had any idea how it worked, but I had the general impression from the books I read, the media I consumed, and the people I knew that taking it was just what people did.

I knew that Catholics weren’t supposed to use contraception, and I personally knew many families who appeared to take that teaching to heart. In my Catholic school at that time there were still many big Catholic families with seven kids or more. However, in twelve years of Catholic education I don’t recall EVER hearing this teaching explained. The Church, as I experienced it, taught it was wrong but not WHY. I definitely had the impression that this was some old-fashioned idea that was safe to ignore.

As I became more educated about abortion in high school, I learned about the abortifacient potential of the birth control pill and IUD. It was easy for me to see that those forms of birth control were wrong since they could end the life of a newly conceived baby, but there were still plenty of other non-abortifacient methods of contraception. Maybe the filmstrip about Natural Family Planning we watched as high school seniors referenced the teachings of Humanae Vitae, but all any of us heard were the embarrassing references to cervical mucus.

I did not live against this teaching, but only because there was no opportunity for me to do so. I remember having conversations about birth control with my college roommate and even looking at what was available in the local drug store. I didn’t have a boyfriend and I planned to wait until I was married anyway, but I figured I’d need this information in the future.

When I was a junior at Georgetown University, I took a course called Christian Marriage as part of my minor in Theology. I had been dating my now-husband for over a year then, and it was already pretty well understood that we’d be getting married when I graduated. Taking that class felt like a good step in preparing for marriage, but I had no idea how life-changing it would be.

This class was taught by a Jesuit priest named Father Kaifer. The texts I recall were Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Sheila Kippley, Certain Declarations Concerning Sexual Ethics by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI.

Somewhere earlier in my life I had picked up the understanding that I was free to follow my conscience if I did not agree with Church teaching. But no one had ever mentioned the necessity of properly forming my conscience first. And oh, did my conscience start pricking me more and more as I read through these books! How I wish I could go back and thank Father Kaifer. He must have been a very clever man to teach us why contraception was wrong and then, no doubt anticipating our arguments on the necessity of using it, to supply us with a solution in the form of Natural Family Planning!

Discovering the teachings in Humanae Vitae marked such a turning point in my life that I can remember exactly where I was when I was reading it. My husband, John, is from Baltimore, just an hour away from Georgetown. We had gone to his hometown for the weekend, and I was sitting inside studying while John was outside helping with an oil change. I remember being excited by what I read, thinking WOW! The Church doesn’t just make stuff up! It makes sense! There are reasons! But at the same time I was filled with discomfort and dismay, knowing that my conscience and my then non-Catholic boyfriend’s were not going to be in tune on this issue.

Here’s where The Art of Natural Family Planning saved the day. When the uncomfortable conversation that I was dreading took place, I was already armed with an alternative to artificial birth control that not only satisfied the demands of conscience, but was backed by science and was aesthetically superior to barrier methods as well. He reluctantly agreed that when the time came we would try things my way.

I charted my fertility signs for an entire year prior to our wedding. We were blessed with a phase III honeymoon. It would make a better story if it ended right here, but the fact is that our practice was less than perfect, AND I turned out to be super fertile, which meant that we welcomed three babies in four years. There was friction and disagreement and periods of dissent for a couple of years before I finally recommitted to what I knew was right.

My advice to anyone who struggles with this teaching: Start by reading Humanae Vitae, please. You cannot dissent from something you don’t fully understand. Then take an actual class in Natural Family Planning and get your spouse on board. We never did that—I was self-taught AND I took on all the responsibility for it. I can’t go back, but if I could that’s something I would change.

Online support groups or forums weren’t really a thing back then either, and I’m sure they can be very helpful to anyone who is struggling today. I know that there are sometimes life-and-death reasons for avoiding pregnancy, but if that’s not your situation I’d also like to add that you are far more likely to regret not having more kids than you are to regret having one you didn’t expect. We have a six year (planned!) gap between our third and fourth children, and I often wish there was another child in the middle of that gap. Leave room for God in your family planning, and He will give you the grace to live according to His design. He can never be outdone in generosity.

I describe myself on my blog as Catholic and Southern, Wife and Mother, which gives a quick but accurate snapshot of who I am and what is important to me. I was born and still live in Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated from Georgetown University, majoring in Honors English and minoring in Theology, and meeting my husband in the process! We have been married for almost 29 years and have five children aged 13-27. In addition to blogging, I work at home as my husband’s legal assistant, and write grant proposals and do editing for a non-profit run by my mother. In the past I’ve worked as correspondent for our Diocesan paper and I wrote a column on life issues for several years. I was a charter member and long-term chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee, via which I helped to design a pro-life CCD curriculum, sponsored a conference on end-of-life issues, and gave many talks on abortion. My blog is now my primary ministry. My niche is hard to define because I write about what I care about, which covers a lot of territory: Faith, Politics, Education, Parenting, Graveyards, Gardening, Hiking, and the occasional recipe or product review!

You can find me on:
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Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant of Healing Heart of Jesus

This brings the series to a close. Thanks very much for your ongoing support of these important conversations!

7QT, vol 69: Politics, painting, and Guam

1.

Have you been keeping up with the news lately? Like many people, I got used to news coming from what friends and pages post on Facebook. But that’s obviously biased depending on who you follow, not to mention tiring and incomplete. So recently I asked for podcast suggestions for fair daily news! Here are three I’ve been listening to mostly daily, which I recommend:

The Daily (New York Times): this is the most biased of the three and I do slightly roll my eyes at times. But it’s mostly fine, and usually goes deeper into one topic than try to cover all of them equally. It’s a little over 20 minutes.

The Newsworthy with Erica Mandy: she covers a nice variety of topics and stays factual, which is awesome, in under 10 minutes.

Up First (NPR): this is pretty similar to the last one in that it covers a wide variety, but is focused a bit more on politics. It’s usually around 10 minutes.

Do you know of others to suggest?

2.

On a more personal note, last weekend I hosted a paint and sip! I’ve been hosting monthly game nights/get togethers to meet and get to know local young adults with my sister (which have been met with extremely variable results). We painted along to a Bob Ross episode, which I think was a great format. The one we did was called Mystic Mountains if you want to try your hand. Here’s my finished product!

Other things I’ve been up to? Sharing Freedom’s Calling – a blog series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s anniversary with real life stories! We only have the final post left. Can you believe it’s already almost over?! Check out the first in the series here, and you can go from there to each one. Would love to hear your feedback.

3.

The Supreme Court was BUSY this week. They decided 5-4 that pregnancy resource centers here in CA could not be forced to notify clients of where to go for state-funded abortions. Does that not seem obvious? I find it chilling that four justices don’t see a problem with compelled speech. Justice Kennedy did not mince words. He said:

“It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this Act [the law SCOTUS repealed]. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these…

The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.”. But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.”

[Read the whole piece right here starting on page 25.]

4.

Oh, and speaking of Justice Kennedy: Did you hear he’s retiring? This is huge since Trump will likely appoint a more reasonable and moderately-minded judge than one Hillary Clinton would have. I know many people who voted for Trump despite their reservations on his character did so for precisely this reason (though I didn’t vote for him or Hillary), and I’d honestly feel pretty validated right about now if that were me. This will certainly have a significant impact in coming years.

5.

Aaaanyway. Okay, last political thing for now: immigration. I’ve been watching and reading about it all. I even wrote out a long 7QT, but decided not to publish it. I just find the issue incredibly nuanced and difficult, and most people incapable of thinking or speaking about it reasonably. And I’d like to be a reasonable person. Would you like to discuss next week? I might make it next week’s 7QT, but enjoy how these are usually more fun. Let me know if there are any certain aspects you’d like to see addressed.

6.

Super exciting summer plans: do you have any? I usually don’t do anything crazy big, especially now working full time. BUT. Next month I’m going to the island of Guam with a sister and my grandparents (where they’re from). I am so pumped to see all the family history and experience the culture and meet relatives and visit what will probably be the best beaches I’ll ever see. I can’t even believe it and will definitely be sharing some pictures after the fact.

7.

Oooh! I didn’t share about the recent quick weekend trip to Mount Shasta. It was quite gorgeous, and a great place for fresh air in the mountains. 10/10 recommend getting outside more.

This is a view of Mount Shasta from the shore of nearby Lake Siskiyou. I walked around the entire lake (~7 miles) with a friend, which was so peaceful and nice.

That’s it for now. For more 7 Quick Takes, head over to Kelly’s place. Tell me all about your summer, recent reads, trips, and politics in the comments here!

Freedom in Surrender {Freedom’s Calling, part 6}

Today, please welcome Laura Durant for part six in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, and part 7 here.

~

I grew up in the Catholic faith. At about age 14 I was given the standard “sex talk” (i.e., sex was meant for marriage and not before), but there was no mention of contraception. I started using the pill in high school, due to irregular and heavy menstrual cycles.

I was unaware of the Church’s teaching on contraception (including within a spousal relationship) until probably in my late 20’s, when we began marriage preparation. As I slowly learned more about Church teaching in this area, I received mixed signals. For example, I knew devout Catholics who said it was okay to use the pill while married to space pregnancies.

As part of our marriage preparation, my husband and I had education on Natural Family Planning and learned the true teaching of the Church on human sexuality. Even then, I had a priest assure me I was not sinning by continuing to use the pill to avoid conception, as my husband and I at that time didn’t feel we were ready to have children right away and I was not confident in our ability to use NFP to avoid pregnancy. Having a priest, who must certainly know the truth, assure me I was not sinning eased my anxiety and fear that I was living in sin. I lament at how much damage is done by misguided priests, religious, and lay persons who do not speak the truth of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. It confuses the faithful and those who desire to live by Church teaching but are struggling with it.

Continuing to use the pill did great spiritual damage, as I was not completely surrendering my marriage and my fertility to God. It also did emotional and physical damage, which I would not fully become aware of until a couple of years later when we felt we were ready to children.

Having used the pill for as long as I did caused challenges with my reproductive system and it took close to a year for my menstrual cycle to return to normal once I stopped taking it. I was blind to the spiritual void I was living in by not allowing God completely into our marriage. However, God is good and seeks to redeem us in our woundedness. This is an area He continues to provide great healing in each day.

We began to embrace Church teaching more fully, and began charting again. We visited the Vitae Clinic in Austin to determine the reasons behind our inability to conceive. I found the many tests and treatments exhausting and stressful, but always had a sense of peace that I needed to experience this. The staff and care at the Vitae Clinic was truly loving and compassionate.

After some time undergoing unsuccessful treatments, it was with a great sense of peace that we decided to discontinue actively pursuing pregnancy and leave our fertility in God’s hands. Since coming to live in full conformity with Church teaching on sexuality, we continue to give ourselves fully to each other and to our marriage. It is a continual process and requires ongoing discussion and discernment. Life is more fulfilling and our marriage is flourishing spiritually. We really do focus each day on helping the other to grow in holiness.

My advice to people struggling with this topic: Go to the source and learn what the Church teaches. Read the official documents. Do not rely on others to tell you what the Church teaches.

Inevitably, there will be some things about Church teaching that will concern you, challenge you, and you will not understand. Take all this to prayer and tell Jesus the areas you are struggling with. Ask Him to show you the truth. Learning to live with Church teaching will not always be easy, but as Christians, we are to live as Jesus did and Jesus’ life was not easy! Do not be afraid, as Jesus will give you the strength needed to live out your life as He wishes, even if it is difficult.

If you are in a marriage where your spouse is having a more difficult time with accepting and living out Church teaching in this area than you are, do the best thing you can do for them – pray for them and trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus! Ask Him to show you how to love and accept your spouse for where they are. He will transform their hearts, just as He is transforming yours. Trust in His mercy! Trust in His love!

Early in my journey of understanding Church teaching, I began reading the Theology of the Body by Christopher West. I did not read the actual full document of Humanae Vitae until recently. I can’t help but wonder how my life may have been different if I had been exposed to this teaching in my teenage or young adult years.

I’ve enjoyed reading books by St. Pope John Paul II, including Love and Responsibility (by then Karol Wojtyla). I would also suggest reading the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs does not detail Church teaching on marriage and sexuality, however, many see it as a portrayal of ideal human love, also of the union of Christ and the Church – which is what marriage between a man and a woman should symbolize on earth. I believe until we fully understand what God intends us to experience in this union, the true extent and degree of joy we are to experience in our hearts, it can be more difficult to live out the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The Song of Songs is a beautiful portrayal of mutual love in which the lovers give of themselves fully and completely.

The teaching of the Church leads us to experience this love in the way in which God intends us to – in complete freedom and as a total gift of ourselves to the other. Once we understand in the depths of our hearts what God intends, it is much easier to live with the sacrifice that comes with living out the teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality. If we live out our marriage with total giving of ourselves to our spouse (or to the Church and God’s people, as a priest, religious or single person), it is a life that comes with experiencing pure joy, not expecting anything in return for the total gift of yourself, but somehow receiving more from your spouse (or from the Church and God’s people) than you could ever ask for.

Laura Durant blogs at HealingHeartofJesus.com. She is married to her husband of 10+ years, and is the mother of two fur babies. She enjoys spending time with Jesus in Adoration, pondering His mercy, healing, and many blessings.

She is a cradle Catholic Christian and member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Province of St. Therese (Oklahoma Province). In living her Carmelite spirituality, she has been brought to a greater love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The fruit of her devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are the prayers and reflections she writes – which lead all to rest in the Heart of Jesus.

She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Texas State University – San Marcos.

You can connect with Laura over at her blog, Facebook, Facebook group, Instagram, and Twitter.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and sciencewith Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

JPII, champion of true femininity

Does being feminine mean you have to be sporting florals and be a delicate wallflower doing crafts? Nope. But what does being feminine mean? It’s hard to define since the technical definition just vaguely references “qualities specific to women”. Does the Catholic Church actually value women? Absolutely. I think my fellow contributors have made good points about femininity this month that help clarify.

Click here to read my post on femininity over at Everyday Ediths today! I included some epic words from JPII, which I hope encourage you.

Moved by NFP {Freedom’s Calling, part 5}

Today, please welcome Heidi Indahl for part five in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of its teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here.

~

Fifteen years ago, I had no idea that I would one day join the Catholic Church. My husband and I were happily married in our mainline protestant congregation and enjoyed what we considered a perfectly pleasant married life, following a relatively typical dating period.

I didn’t know Humanae Vitae existed.

Honestly, we started using hormonal birth control because we thought that’s just what everyone did. Early in our marriage, however, my husband and I became heavily convicted that typical birth control methods were not for us. There was a spiritual component, but for us it started as a health issue. We conceived early in our marriage (while on birth control) and subsequently miscarried. The pill made me feel like garbage, and switching to another form of hormonal birth control didn’t help.

As our research into hormonal birth control alternatives went deeper, we began to come across the idea of openness to life and found there was a great deal of scriptural support. At the time, we were looking largely at the perspective of the quiverfull movement. We found a great deal that we agreed with in the quiverfull teachings, that opened our hearts to the possibilities of a God planned family, but ultimately it still felt incomplete.

Ultimately , we explored Natural Family Planning specifically due to a chance encounter of Sheila Kippley’s book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, which I picked up at a local La Leche League meeting.

At first, I was simply looking for an alternative to birth control, but I found so much more.

As we began to learn and grow more, we began to be converted towards this idea of God’s design for our family. What were our complimentary contributions to be made to our married and family life? How did God want us to use NFP to be open to life? What were our duties as parents? What did that mean? I read Kimberly Hahn’s Graced and Gifted cover to cover more than once before even considering joining the Church. Within a few short years, I was pretty sure that Catholics had this family thing right.

Once we overcame the hurdle of artificial birth control in our marriage, the rest of the pieces to Theology of the Body and sacramental marriage began to snowball and build to the understanding we have today. Along the way, it became increasingly clear that we believed or at least agreed with essentially everything the Church teaches regarding human sexuality. Those beliefs became so entrenched in our understanding of our relationship that we could no longer find a mainstream protestant or evangelical church that would support them.

The Catholic Church was the only one that consistently lined up with our beliefs on life, contraception, and family.

I’ll never forget the look of relief on the priest’s face when, preparing us for our confirmation, he brought up the topic of the Church’s beautiful teachings on married life. You could tell he had been there before with couples, put in the position of trying to defend something that our culture fights so deeply against. To hear that we were already practicing NFP, that we already believed our duty as a married couple was to be open to life, was a pleasant surprise and a relief.

Still it took years before I ever heard the phrase Humanae Vitae and longer for me to realize it was a document I could read. My technical knowledge was late in coming and remains incomplete. From JPII’s Letter to Women (the first papal statement I ever read) to Humanae Vitae, each “discovery” of Church teachings on human sexuality and the unique dignity of each gender has added to my love of this truth.

Looking forward, the gifts of Humanae Vitae continue to unfold in our marriage and we pray that other couples, Catholic and not, can discover the freedom and beauty of our Church’s wisdom in right ordered relationships.

Heid is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker. She and her husband live with their seven children on a small farm in southern Minnesota. Her book Blessed Is The Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, & Infant Loss, is available from Peanut Butter & Grace Publishing/Gracewatch Media. She is also a regular contributor to the Peanut Butter & Grace Family Time! newsletters on topics such as pregnancy & infant loss, liturgical living, and intentional family life. Look for announcements on new Peanut Butter & Grace print resources from Heidi later this summer. You can follow her over at her blog Work and Play, Day by Day, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My Introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 3: Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission with Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant Healing Heart of Jesus

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and sciencewith Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb