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.

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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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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.

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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!

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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!

Translating faith into action

Faith. I think about my Catholic faith everyday. It’s part of my job, my gallery wall, and my car. It’s obvious in the crucifix I wear, the books I read, my bumper stickers, music choices, and social media presence. But it’s easy for faith to become automatic for me, to forget to have a deep appreciation for the gift of faith, and to neglect to translate that into concrete action.

Read the rest of my take on our topic of faith over at Everyday Ediths.

My epiphany of our calling to give

The original Epiphany we celebrated a few days ago commemorated Jesus’ physical manifestation on earth thousands of years ago. Now we think of modern day epiphanies as earth-shattering dramatic moments where we suddenly understand something previously unknown. Or is that just me? My life doesn’t contain too many of those. But there are many times when I’ve come to understand a concept in a way that completely shifted my perspective.

I was on my way to one of those moments in an airplane during spring break. It was a combined retreat and service trip, in a place I’d never been to, without a single soul I’d met before. I’m still not sure why I went, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience during my college years.

Continue reading my piece on discovering the basics of Theology of the Body over at Everyday Ediths.

 

What I’m doing for Advent 2017

Of the many things I love about being Catholic, the season of Advent is definitely high on the list. Advent is the beginning of each new liturgical year. It’s a fresh start (we get TWO new years!), and a hopeful season in preparation for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.

There are so many ways to observe Advent, but much of what I see on the interwebs is how to observe it within the context of family life. As someone that doesn’t apply to right now, I thought it might be nice to share a bit of how I’ll be observing the season.

1. Decorating my apartment
It might be hard if you live with un-festive people, but fortunately that’s not the case for me. We already got a tree (still to be decorated) and set out our Advent wreath with a few other things and will be adding more soon. I think it’s fun to leave the mangers empty in nativity scenes and only add him on Christmas, but otherwise I say go all out. Chocolate calendars are not only for children.

2. Cutting back on social media
It’s a perennial problem for many people nowadays that we just need to put down our phones more. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, because I like to break self-imposed rules. But my mornings are awesome when I don’t get on anything before work, so that’s where I’m starting. I removed the Facebook app from my phone a while ago. We’ll see how this goes.

3. Making time for extra prayer
First, this includes saying the St. Andrew novena (starts today!). It goes from November 30 to Christmas Eve, and I highly recommend the beautiful prayer if you’ve never said it. My family said it around the lit Advent wreath every night growing up, so I’ll be making an effort to light the wreath more often with my housemates.

4. Making time for extra reflection and reading
This year I was overly ambitious and purchased In the Beginning as well as Rooted in Hope. I enjoyed Blessed is She’s last year – it was an excerpt from the Bible, a reflection, and journal space for each day. In the Beginning is the same format. I’m excited to do Rooted in Hope as well because it gives you space for lectio divina for each day’s Bible excerpt, which I think helps you dig even deeper into it and think about what you’re reading. I’m getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal to give more time to do this in the morning before leaving for work.

5. Confession
Ideally I would be going every month already, but never in my life have I gotten into that habit. Advent and Lent are always times I’ve gone, though, and I want to make this the beginning of a monthly habit.

6. Festive everything
Socks, pajamas, hand soap, FOOD, music (just bought this), earrings, you name it. Bring on the festivities. I am really not at all liturgically observant of the fact that much of the celebration is more appropriate in the 12 days of Christmas. I just can’t contain the cheer and yes, if you’re wondering, I am not yelling in my car at the stoplights. I am rocking out to festive music because Baby Jesus is worth celebrating. Here’s a pretty epic song to check out.

7. Christmas cards
Is it awkward for single young adults to send Christmas cards? If it is, I don’t care, because I’m doing it anyway (along with housemates). Snail mail is timeless and amazing and I love sending Christmas cheer. This year I designed the card by hand, digitized it, and had it printed, which is quite exciting.

Aaand I’m linking up with Kelly & fam for some Friday quick take fun. Head over there for more.

That’s it for now! How do you do Advent? Share below and let’s chat about all the ways we can celebrate the season. Jesus is coming!

To Life,

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When Catholic leaders are in stormy waters

It’s an interesting time to be Catholic.

We have a pope some people love for his focus on mercy and others hate due to his seemingly purposeful ambiguity on difficult issues. I put myself between those extremes. I don’t want to form beliefs about people until I have the whole story. But when a filial correction is sent after many attempts at clarification, and you find out about something like this where the intention is so unclear, it might be time to start thinking and talking about this more.

We already know about the ambiguity in Amoris Laeticia which is being interpreted in wildly different ways by different bishops (if you want more details, we can chat!). For any moderately aware Catholic, this can be unsettling and frustrating, which is why we need to talk about it. Ignoring it doesn’t help. These are stormy waters, and the world isn’t exactly for us, so we’ve got to work together to navigate these times.

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When you’re a child, at least in my experience, you take many things for granted. Often the faith you do or do not grow up with is a default until one takes ownership over it and transitions into a more adult practice.

I have purposefully chosen and embraced my faith over the past several years by learning more about it and putting it into practice. But as I grow more deeply into the truth of Catholicism, I’ve only grown more aware of the challenges Catholicism has faced throughout history and is currently enduring too. It is deeply unsettling to come to the realization that your church is made of fallen people who are capable of making bad, sometimes evil, decisions. And I will never, ever, defend gravely wrong (or just dumb) decisions made by people just because they may claim the same faith as me.

If you’re aware of any pope, bishop, priest, religious sister, or any other person who represents the Catholic Church who has done confusing or frustrating things, you might be disturbed. You might decide religion isn’t for you. But when things like this happen, I think we need to dig deeper, together, as believers weathering stormy waters. We’re members of a church filled with imperfect people. So what is one to do with this realization?

Educate yourself. I think this is the most empowering action we can take, because regardless of what any mistaken individual might think or confusing thing people might say or do, we will actually know what the truth the Church teaches. There are clear and rich explanations for the tough positions we’re called to take, even if a leader doesn’t recognize that publicly. Looking for resources? Comment or email me and we can talk about where to find info on specific topics.

Don’t assume headlines are true. I want to assume the best of people until or unless they’re proven guilty, but that’s hard when headlines give an unproven verdict. So when people start saying crazy things about Catholicism or any figure within the Church, the facts are what gives the clearest picture – not headlines. Look at what the person actually said or did, not just what people want you to believe. Don’t make assumptions or rely on biased reporting (CNN, MSNBC, and LifeNews being respective extremes). It’s easy to get caught up in rabbit holes of despair and worst case scenarios when we don’t have all the facts. But when we have the facts of the case, it’s easier to see what’s actually happening.

Discuss the issues openly. One of the worst things people who are Catholic can do right now is to ignore this, not learn about it, and refuse to talk about it. We are not perfect and nor are our leaders. Being honest about that and not being afraid to talk about it publicly demonstrates our humanity, which I think is important when people have so many misconceptions about what we believe. We should be talking about the good books and articles we’re reading, the podcasts, songs, and projects that enrich our faith – most importantly, engaging in discussions on these tough topics, and arming ourselves with what we know our faith holds.

I can’t make Pope Francis clarify these issues. Nor do I know how to change the minds of misguided bishops, priests, religious sisters, and other leaders within the Catholic Church. There is only so much I can do about other people. And knowing motives behind confusing actions (or lack thereof) is not one of my super powers.

What I can do is educate myself and grow my faith deeper, because my faith ultimately can’t depend on other flawed people. My faith depends on Jesus Christ, who came and died for each of us personally. He is the rock my church is directly built on. He left a perfect church made of imperfect people.

So do Catholic leaders do confusing things? Things that are hard to imagine in a charitable light? Yes and yes.

Should that push us away from the truth? No.

Seeing other people’s flaws should not drive us away. It should drive us ever deeper into the faith we know holds the treasure not everyone sees. Have you found this pearl of great price? Do you know God loves you, even when people do confusing things? He is the glue that holds our universal Church together. He is the foundation of our belief, especially so when people on the same journey as us fall short. And when they do (because we all will fall short at times), we can’t let that rob us of the peace and steadfastness in our faith God calls us to exercise.

Let’s build our understanding of this foundation we’ve been entrusted with. Because if you grew up with some of the same hymns I did, you know that no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.

Very cheesy picture to illustrate how I feel about God among crazy times in the Church. #BringIt

To Life,

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7QT, Vol. 66: Jury duty, summer, and adulting

Time for some quick takes on this Friday afternoon! Head over to Kelly’s place for more.

1. This week I served jury duty. I was on standby the night before. Then when I checked back, I had 1:30 to report downtown. We all sat in a giant room (at least 200 people), and then I was one of 84 people called into a courtroom to start the jury selection process. The charge was read to us, and we filled out a questionnaire about related past experiences of ours. The next day, I was one of 24 called up to the jury box to begin questioning. It was a loooooong day. And I was SHOCKED at the number of people who had difficulty following instructions. I had to come in for a third day, and was thankful to be excused then. It was fascinating to see part of the process, but I have a trip coming up and it would have been too much time away from work.

2. Speaking of, I’ve officially been at my job for a year! It was quite the experience ending up where I am, but it’s good to be here. It’s not what I expected, and who knows what the future holds. But I’m thankful to be gainfully employed.

3. In other adulting news, my sister and I have been thinking of starting an Etsy shop with greeting cards and prints. We’re experimenting with watercolor and calligraphy. Anyone have a favorite quote or type of card you’d like but can’t find?

4. Have any favorite summer recipes? This salad is the bomb diggity. This lemon ice is refreshing and light and originally from an American Girl cookbook.

5. Did you see that video preview yesterday from The Center for Medical Progress? Well, a judge ordered it to be removed from YouTube. Ask me more about it if you want to hear a rant/rage. I have no patience or tolerance for killing babies, profiting off of it, and then people trying to cover their butts. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

6. In better news, this is an interesting article about the boom in young Catholic women starting initiatives and organizations. I’ve noticed this trend, and am grateful for so many fellow young Catholic women living out their faith and fulfilling needs of our world hungering for our authentic witness. I do honestly wonder if guys have the same wealth of resources, though. Hmm. Any thoughts on that?

7. Lastly, Happy Memorial Day. Let’s give special thanks this weekend for those who have given their lives for our country.

That’s it for now! What have you been up to lately? Have any thoughts on my takes?

To Life,

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Planned Parenthood is scared of 40 Days for Life

Do you know something kinda fun? Being on Planned Parenthood’s email lists.

They’re feeling very defensive right now (obviously, they’re going to be funded!), and are constantly asking for money. I found this email today a bit hilarious, but also sad: they feel threatened by 40 Days for Life.

If you don’t already know, 40 Days for Life is a pro-life campaign that happens twice a year where people commit to prayer and fasting, holding vigil outside abortion facilities, and community outreach for that time period. People literally stand outside praying, holding signs, or offering life-affirming resources (or a combination of those). It’s peaceful and prayerful if you’re into that.

I find it lame that they use scare quotes around this legitimate organization’s name. They can’t even give 40DFL the dignity of calling them by name. Their contempt for this peaceful, prayerful, campaign goes to show how deeply wrong they are about how we should approach this issue. Shouldn’t women be treated with this peace and understanding and empathy instead of these hideous and tiresome fundraising emails? What speaks to the heart of who we are as people? Yeah, not the emails.

Also, wow. Totally makes me want to back off from ending abortion when they use this campaign to raise $5,000. (LOL, nope, I’m not intimidated either.)

They are correct that this isn’t letting up, though.

Planned Parenthood is going to be defunded, I hope very soon. And we’re not going to rest until then, and until abortion becomes unthinkable. This is not an attack on women’s health, but our desire to see human rights for all – and BETTER healthcare that doesn’t kill people and lie to women. You want to know what good healthcare looks like? Check out The Guiding Star Project. I’ve known about them for a while, but was so impressed and inspired listening to their founder Leah Jacobson in this podcast yesterday. I’ll definitely be writing more about some things she said.

Also, peaceful, prayerful, vigil isn’t harassment.

Get yo facts straight, PP. Anyway, I just popped on to talk about this because I don’t want PP to keep doing what they’re doing without being called out. I see them. I see you. And together, we’re bringing down this lying Goliath one step at a time.

To Life,

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P.P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’m not affiliated with 40 Days for Life, though I have participated in the campaigns in the past.

Mother Teresa beyond the poor

What if I told you that there was so much more to be learned from Mother Teresa’s life than helping the poor? 

As a Catholic, there are thousands of people we recognize as possessing heroic virtue, so it might be hard to pick a favorite saint. But Mother Teresa, whom I affectionately call Mama T, is hands down one of my favorites. Let me tell you why.

At first I admired her for giving up everything to help the poor. Who wants to walk the streets helping people who kind of (really!) don’t like you (at first)? Probably most of us wouldn’t jump on that opportunity. 

It’s admirable and beautiful what Mama T did to help the poor, and I think most of us could make a greater effort to alleviate the suffering of those living in material poverty. That’s the easy to agree with message that so many people fell in love with Mama T for.

But there’s so much more to her. Here are some of the reasons (beyond helping the poor) Mama T is my homegirl:

She teaches us to trust God with absolutely reckless abandon. 

I use those words literally because to most people, how the Missionaries of Charity live is totally reckless. When I spent a spring break with them, I learned that they never ask for what they need or want. Instead, they’ll pray for God to provide. And guess what? He always does – even if it’s not how we imagined. The soup kitchen I helped them run for a week was overflowing with food to share. And they had never put donation bins in churches or asked for people to contribute. They got up around 4am, didn’t have furniture in their chapel, hand washed their sari’s, got through each day helping others tirelessly, traveled around their city to help all sorts of people, AND were able to stay awake for an hour of adoration. We can’t all do this, obviously. But it was a good example of what can happen when we lean on God. 

This story is another illustration of how Mama T trusted God (and shows us to!), which I try to remember. I’ve gone back to that story so many times. Her example is such a good reminder that God will never lead us to such deep waters that he can’t carry us across. 

She showed me that being Catholic doesn’t mean you have a perfect relationship with God.

It might be scandalizing to some people to know that Mama T felt unloved by God for the majority of her adult life. To me, it’s comforting. It’s proof that being a good person doesn’t come from special spiritual super powers. Yes, she had to have a lot of grace to do what she did. But just like her, I can choose to do what is good and contribute something beautiful to the world even if it stinks sometimes. People we admire have struggles and feel alone sometimes. How awesome to know what we’re all capable of.

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Never heard of her struggles? READ THIS BOOK.

She helped me understand that loving is about giving.

Much like the quotable Fulton Sheen, Mama T had some mic drop moments talking about giving. Reading her words have been part of my understanding of Theology of the Body – that life isn’t about getting and having. It’s about being and giving.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

During my mission trip, one of the sisters was experiencing severe pain in her foot. It apparently was getting worse as she was getting older. But we didn’t find out until well into the week, when it came up in conversation. Her response? “You don’t get old until you stop loving Jesus!” She just kept on giving.

She taught me that feeling unloved is a crisis unparalleled by material want.

To much of the Western world, being without a house and food sounds like one of the most horrible things that could happen to you. It is surely a sad thing. At some point, I thought how nice it would be to go to places like the slums of Calcutta and alleviate the suffering there. But having a bit more life behind me now (ha!), I get this. Material want can be fixed. And it should be, by people who have things. Want for love is so different. Whether it’s a broken relationship, a rough upbringing, or something else that’s cause for a feeling of alienation, there’s not as easy a fix. It’s complicated and messy and I hope that throughout my life I can help some people feel a little more cared for.

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

She showed me that you don’t have to go to Calcutta to change the world.

If you love Mama T, you probably thought about going to India for a hot second. Am I right? I did. Would it be awesome to see and experience her work? Of course. Yes. It would! I’ve found mission trips to be enriching and wonderful experiences. They’re great. But I think they also run the risk of us failing to see the people around us right here in our neighborhoods who need a helping hand. Mama T issues a challenge to us, which I hope to spend my life working on:

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

Are we up for the challenge?

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“I Thirst” written beside every crucifix in their buildings serves as a reminder to spend our lives satiating God’s thirst for souls by bringing his love to the world.

You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.

We’ve heard her words. We love her. Now let’s find our Calcuttas. Where is yours?

To Life,

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Standing on the cliff of uncertainty

It feels like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

Being just over a week away from graduation is something that always seemed way in the future. But now it’s right here. I am an adult who will soon have a degree and job.

My future is still not quite crystal clear, which is something I didn’t expect. At first when job leads became unsure, I insisted on looking at specifically Catholic or pro-life jobs. When nothing was happening with those leads, I expanded to non-profits in general and applied there. It’s been frustrating not knowing what the future will be like.

I’ve been praying about it and was grilling God a couple weeks ago questioning whether I was supposed to even work with Catholic or pro-life organizations. Were my standards too high? If nothing’s happening with those leads, am I not supposed to work in those areas? Why in the world would I have spent the last 5 years working in those fields only to be rejected to continue full time? Was I being doomed to work in a meaningless cubicle away from the work I’m passionate about?

So naturally, I gave God an ultimatum of sorts and said “Okay, but if you want me in those other places, show me. Open the door and I will walk through it, even if I don’t love it.”

Daring God is not the most intelligent or mature thing I’ve done, but it also gave him just enough room in this adventure.

I continued my job search online widening my horizons. It was rather discouraging. Those business jobs unrelated to missions of helping people are the jobs that are often highly competitive and driven by profit and dirty business. That’s not what drives me, so it’s difficult to bring myself to apply to those jobs. But wouldn’t you know? I think God’s got something up his sleeve because other leads started developing. And my applications for jobs at non Catholic/life-related jobs were rejected.

So maybe that was the point – to get to the place where I gave up my plans and started looking at what I don’t want to do.

After all, one thing taking Catholic Social Thought has taught me is that it’s not the specifics of our work that make it meaningful. It’s our co-participation with God in his plan to develop creation. It’s our dignity as creatures made in his image that gives our work meaning.

Who knows where God is calling me? Not this girl. I’ve been surprised, disappointed, discouraged, but also hopeful at different times during this process. Figurative doors have been slammed in my face. It has not been fun. It’s not something I wanted to do. And it’s certainly not over. But more than anything, getting to this point in life has taught me that the best things often happen when my plans don’t work out.

Recently I was absentmindedly humming Here I  Am Lord, and this line stuck with me when I realized how applicable it is to senior year: “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”

I will go, Lord, if you lead me

And for the first time in my life, I’m realizing that I actually mean that. God does not abandon us, EVER. Things like this that test us make us stronger. Bring on the fire! We can choose to lean into the change and let ourselves be molded, or we can crumble under the pressure. I choose to make the most of this. I choose to not be passive about finding what God has in store. I choose to find joy in this, even when it stinks. And I choose to allow God to unfold the masterpiece of my life.

Trust in God is one of the most horribly painful but awesome things ever. And it’s born from a place of realizing the gifts in life (basically everything) while developing an attitude of thanksgiving. It goes like authenticity to trust to gratitude.

That will never be easy to accept, but it has gotten easier. God’s got a plan and I’m out to find it. Are you?

To Life,

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