Saturday, November 29, 2014

Are we a people of hypocrisy?

I've been thinking about this title and topic for almost a week now.  There are so many ideas flurrying about in my head that I can't seem to nail down the exact message I want to get across in the title without offending some, or scaring off others.

Another title could possibly be, "Jesus didn't say let only the quiet children come to Him."

By now I either have captured your curiosity or annoyed you to just move on.  Either are ok, because even though I feel extremely passionate about this, many will read it and not care.  But it's something that I think is a problem especially in our Church.  And I don't just mean the one I attend every weekend here in snowland, but every single Catholic church across the country.

Are we a people of hypocrisy?

I have been keeping a steady 'journal' if you will, of my pregnancy.  Which, by the way, today is day 219, and no I'm not keeping count, but this amazing app sends me a daily message and today is day 219 since the start of this amazing, overwhelming at times, exhausting journey.

This pregnancy was a complete surprise to me.  Unexpected if you will, regardless of the fact that my husband and I are extremely open to life.

I have wanted to write a book since day one on the trials and tribulations of pregnancy over 40.  A slightly comical, slightly serious compendium for those who find themselves struggling with all the gems of being AMA patients in a world that sees pregnancy as a disease and children as something of a trophy prize for when the time is right.  But not only am I not a very organized person (which, yes, with soon to be 7 children, you shouldn't be surprised), but I'm also not one to even know where to begin and would really prefer someone to micromanage me in that department.
After a conversation with my husband this past week, the urge became stronger but almost perhaps, switching gears to something much more serious and concerning to both me and now my husband.

My husband has the opportunity through his work, to meet with and talk to many people who are Catholic.   Now, as with a great deal of Catholics in this country, a lot of them are very luke warm in their faith.  Some are the faithful two timers (Christmas and Easter) but many don't even attend Mass anymore.  They have lost their faith, and I believe of no fault of their own at times, in our Church and have decided the Church is no longer relevant in their lives.  Or worse, they've decided the Church is full of hypocrites.  Several of his co-workers have expressed this to him and in his true faith filled way, he has always said to them that even HE is a hypocrite and Jesus came to save just such people the most because of that.  Remember the Pharasees????    Do as I say, not as I do, right?

But lately, my concerns over hypocrisy and this idea have grown and the nudging of the Holy Spirit can't be ignored by me anymore.  When my own husband discusses these things with me, then God has used every possible means for me to understand what He wants me to write/speak about.

Is there a hypocrisy among some of the most devout members of our faith?

I will explain.

Several people have made comments in the past about how the Church tries to 'impose' her beliefs onto us.  From religious ed, to Mass, to the USCCB (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) statements in regards to our faith and our doctrine.  I tend to try to ignore those comments, because they're made out of ignorance of the understanding of Church teaching and when I can, I try to explain the why or the why not of our faith.  Unfortunately, not only my generation, but the one before me and quite possibly, the one or two after me are going to be very poorly catechized in regards to church teaching and it's up to those of us who know much to teach our brothers and sisters the truths because it was of no fault of their own that they were either poorly, wrongly, or just not catechized at all in their upbringing.  (remember Luke 12:48- to whom much is given, much will be required).  Those of us who have either been properly catechized, or have rediscovered our faith, God expects us to teach those who are ignorant of the faith.

But are the ignorant (which, please don't be offended by that word, it's so very misused and used improperly-it actually means lacking in knowledge or training;unlearned; lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.)  just those who don't attend Mass or complain about religious education?  Or are just the two timers ignorant?  Or are every day Mass attendees, devout, faith filled, rosary praying parishioners also ignorant of things?  Of that I have no doubt.  I remember how my grandmother loved attending Mass, but comments she would say to me about the faith as I grew in knowledge of the 'why do we do this' made me realize that just as devout, faith filled people can have ignorance of faith.

And today, I'm not speaking about the rubrics of the Mass, or the dogmas of our church.  I'm speaking even more simply than that.

I'm speaking about the pro-life movement in our Church.  (*gasp*)   What on earth is Catholicmomma gonna say now........

It's no secret that I've confessed that this pregnancy has given me a billion times more compassion to those who have ever experienced an unwanted pregnancy.   Now, before my holy rollers gasp and delete me as a friend for life, let me explain.  While this pregnancy was not something 'wanted' by me at any point during the time after the birth of my 6th child, it does not mean that this child, now growing huge and strong is not wanted.  I had no desire for more children after my sixth birth.  I was content.  My hands were full.  God and I had an "understanding" so to speak (remember, there are more of us who struggle with putting God in our perfect boxes than not) and I just KNEW He would never overburden me.  I had been open to life, I had a 'perfect' number of children in my world and quite frankly the thought of another one, just made my head spin and my heart stop.
But the difference in me and probably thousands (if not more) women, is that I am staunchly pro-life, my husband is extremely supportive, and I have this amazing faith, with some amazing sacraments that have contributed to the healing of my heart over this surprise.
Not everyone has that.  And quite frankly, not everyone in our church feels they have that either.

I'm talking about the people who sit in the pews (and not all of them are of the blue haired variety) and gawk at the families who are struggling to be at Mass every weekend.  And some, don't even come every weekend, because at this point in their lives, sports, kids activities, home improvement, are their gods.  They don't always feel welcome at Church, and this is just one of the reasons why.  They sit at Mass, with children who are less then quiet, and feel those horribly ugly stares and hear those very unkind words or shushes even (yes, I've heard a lady shoosh children in my parish-God bless her very confused soul).

These people who so many are trying to reach out to and bring back to the faith, are the very ones stating that our Church is full of hypocrisy, and quite frankly, I agree.  As a woman who has gone from rediscovering her faith before even having children, to adding six little souls to the pew, I have seen it first hand, and sometimes????  Even a seasoned veteran Mass attender like me has to stop and tell herself, "Lord, they know not what they do."  Because it hurts.  The stares, the long, frowning stares, the comments, the whispers.   They're extremely painful.

Let me give you an example.

A very nice lady came up to the pew where my husband and I only had 3 of our children with us (three are altar servers) and squatted down in front of us and proceeded to thank us profusely for our "quiet and well behaved" children.  I'm sure she meant well.  But her next comment stayed in my head and caused quite a pause in my heart.  "There are some days, when I just have to leave because it's so loud I can't even pray."

WOW.   How do you think that would make a less seasoned Church veteran feel to hear those words?  That actually their children supposedly caused this woman to leave Mass?  Can you imagine the anger and indignation of someone who wasn't "there" in their faith hearing those words?  Personally, I was extremely offended by her words because she's not alone in them.  She just happened to think she was doing a service by patting our backs and saying, 'way to go mom and dad, your kids can stay here because they're quiet.'  How sad for her and the many others who feel children should be quiet in Mass.  Can I share another scripture verse that I think can be interpreted another way?

Matthew 19:14.
Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, and do not hinder them, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

Now, yes, this verse can mean that we are to be childlike in our approach of faith because as a teacher of young children, I can tell you first hand they are much more accepting of things like Heaven and Jesus than us grown, hardened adults who have let skepticism, materialism, consumerism, and relativism literally consume us.

But that verse can also mean something else.  Because I don't know about you, but I didn't see the word quiet anywhere in that verse.  Matter of fact, I can think of no verse that instructs us to "keep our children quiet during Mass."  There are verses that say to bring children up right, and to bring them to Jesus, but none that I can think of nor google that teach us our children are to be silent at Mass.

Because children don't understand silence, and in all honestly, unless you're a super blessed family (which at times I have considered myself very blessed because we made it through an entire Mass without much incident)you don't have quiet Masses.  More often than not, you haven't had a quiet Mass in years, or maybe a decade or more.... ;)

Jesus wants the children there.  He wants the children to live.  He wants people to not only be pro-life, but pro-life at Mass.  He wants those who insist on shooshing, staring, and complaining, to see that the pro-life movement doesn't end when the woman decides to keep her baby.  It ends when we see that the child is trained in the ways of the Lord, through the screams, cries, and defiance at Mass.  It ends when we instruct them on the faith in religious class, even though their parents tell you it's not really important.  It ends when we who have been given much, are expected to be that example of love and life by encouraging those parents who are at Mass not to stop coming.    It's so easy to forget, even older parents whose children have grown and haven't started having children of their own, that children are not quiet.  Children are noisy.  Children cry, whine, drop books, yell, burp, poop, and distract.

But maybe through all that distraction, God is trying to tell us something.

Maybe while we sit there, feeling distracted and disturbed at the child up front who for the umpteenth time has taken that blasted book and tried to throw it over the pew, He's wanting you to hear something else.

Maybe He is trying to tell us that if we don't stop looking upon these "distractions" as gifts from Him, our Church will soon get smaller.  And eventually, there will be no one to hear our confession, or give us that life sustaining food of Christ Himself.

Maybe He is wanting us to stop our prayer for just a moment and look upon the future of our Church and perhaps, pray about a way we can become involved in the training of these future members of our faith.

Maybe He is pointing out the hypocrisy of all of us who stand on the street, holding signs for life, but don't condone those who stand in the pews, holding the very life we defend and hoping they walk out sooner than later so "we" can pray.  Because clearly, they aren't praying.

Maybe He is wanting us to take a step back and see if we really can walk the walk and talk the talk.

We can't proclaim to be a pro-life faith, if we are constantly irritated with that couple who tries to bring their children to Mass.   That is hypocrisy at it's finest.

So that's where I am today.  Trying to put into words what has been circulating on my heart for 219 days.  Hearing in the last few months how people don't like our church because all the "pro-life" people look so condescending upon them for being there with less than quiet children.

Jesus didn't say, 'let the quiet children come to me."  He said, "Let the children come to me."  And He also makes it abundantly clear that those who hinder them from that, will not be looked upon with favor for hindering them from coming to Him.  Those of us past that young child stage, or perhaps haven't had children yet, could stand and take pause at that command.

Are we letting our concerns for getting our prayers in, hinder God actually working in our life through the distraction of a child?

It's something to ponder in the very least.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seeing Him in Everything...

Yesterday was November 11th.  Veteran's Day.  A day to remember all those who have died fighting for our freedom and all those who have served throughout the history of our great country.  It was, at least in the Western part of New York, an absolutely glorious day.  In more ways than one.

The day started out with blue skies and warmed considerably through out.  We had several goals for the day, one being my 28 week OB appointment, running a couple of errands after (ok, picking up some Christmas gifts AND torturing my husband by 'forcing' him to go to Hobby Lobby), and getting two cars sprayed with something I equate with polyurethane but since I don't know what it is- I will just keep it at that-it protects the under belly of the cars from all the salt and yuck they put out during the winter season.

My husband also wanted to get both vehicles washed and cleaned inside and out before our afternoon car appointments so the kids were appointed with that job as I wanted to clean out my flower beds (at least the front one since we need to get our Christmas decorations in the ground before it freezes and won't unfreeze until March....  It appeared to be a busy day for certain, but let me tell you what an amazing day it was for all of us.  Most especially me.

My husband was off of work.  It IS a federal holiday, ya know, so we started the morning off together.  I LOVE waking up with him and he being here for the day.  I absolutely cherish his days off and look forward to each one hoping we can spend the maximum amount of time together.  It is always a great day when he's home.

He set out to exercise in the basement and I set out to relax in bed.... :)  I do have my priorities.  When he finished, he made oatmeal for the family and rushed us to get ready before we lost precious time in all our outdoor activities and because he knew we had to leave soon and wanted the van cleaned before we left for my appointment that morning.

The kids had a blast cleaning the cars.  Perhaps too much fun, but the fun the youngest one had was almost too much!

She was the master washer.  That license plate was clean as a whistle when she finished.  And when she finished, she was soaked.  Head to toe.  It was so darn cute.  I couldn't believe how she would take her sponge and dip it ALL THE WAY IN the water.  It was hilarious.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and it brought to mind something my oldest and I heard this weekend when we were working on her religion assignment.  It was how sometimes, all you have to do is think to know there is a God.  Today proved that over and over again.

She's taking this amazing Confirmation class using these incredible videos and book that I so wish I had when I was kid.  It takes the truth of our faith and really connects it to our hearts.  She really got a lot out of what they were saying on the videos.

Something can't really be made from nothing.  A great painting has a great painter, a great book has a great author, a beautiful sculpture has a sculptor who created all these things.
Just like one day a printing press full of words and letters didn't just explode from nothing and 'voila' a dictionary appeared, a great mass of thousands of objects didn't just explode in space and 'voila' a great Universe appeared.  There has to be a master designer.  Things are too amazing for there not to be.  The seasons, the moon, the rotation of our planets around the sun, the SUN!  I mean, a great designer had to put all this together!  Just like creators of art, something or some ONE had to put our amazing universe together.

Sitting outside as I picked and cleaned out the weeds and dead plants from my garden, the younger two were talking about why we were doing this.  Mostly because I was making them help me instead of cleaning out the van, I suppose the trade off wasn't much better, but the 6 year old said if we cut all this out, there won't be anymore plants for next year.  I simply said, we aren't cutting them out, we're trimming them, and hoping that the winter isn't too harsh and they come back in the spring.  Sometimes they don't because they died deep down in the winter because it was just too cold for them to bare.   And isn't that what happens when we lose our faith?  Something trims our branches so low, we think they've died and will never grow back.  But the amazing thing about being baptized in Christ, is that there is always another chance to grow back.  Literally.  God is always with us.  God is always with us.  We should say that every single morning and perhaps we might start believing it.  Sitting there yesterday, it was almost too easy to believe it!  I was feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, the cool breeze that blew, and watching the kids (and even several neighbors out) be outside just soaking in the last of the nice weather before winter sets in and causes us to mostly lie in a dormant state, much like the plants in the ground that I've cut down.  We wait until spring to really come out and play again, much like the plants/trees and grass in our world.  What an amazing cycle of life we live in.  When you see the beauty of our world, you can't help but think, Who created all this?  Was this just a chance?  A fluke?  How could it be that way?  How could something come from nothing?  It's impossible for me to believe it came from nothing.  I see Him everywhere and in everything.

I hope my oldest was able to take what she had watched this weekend and apply it to our amazing day yesterday.  I hope, and my prayer for her and all of my children, is that they never take those moments for granted.  That they never trim themselves so short, that they lose their faith.  God is always with us.  He's closer to us than we even realize at times.  We just have to look for Him, and we'll see Him in everything.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Confessions and amazing love....

Another crazymomma episode occurred this weekend.  Actually, it happened twice.  As the inevitable continues to progress (giving birth to number 7), I continue to have several amazing emotional moments and I can chalk them up to one very big thing.

And here goes:
As my amazing husband revealed to me Saturday after spending a better portion of the day not speaking to anyone because it would at least keep me from saying anything that might appear to make people think I'm grouchy, cranky, irritable, angry, whatever adjective you want to interject there that stands for 'not handling things' best, I am still not quite over the shock of this pregnancy.

I'll explain.  As I've said before, I am a planner.  I plan to the T in most things.  From menus, budgets, activities, to everyday life.  I plan.  I consider myself to be extremely open to life, I don't contracept at all and in fact have seen just what contraception can do to you physically, so I will never take, attach, or use anything ever again as long as I live.  Period.  Not to mention the side effect of it not be what God wants in a marriage, but I digress.  I have always considered myself pro-life since rediscovering my faith and seeing how amazing the creation of life is scientifically speaking alone.  I have always wanted a large family.

I was not prepared to have another baby.  I was not prepared mentally, physically I was just getting back into my old clothes, emotionally I was just recovering from the hormones that like to reek havoc on my mentality, and quite frankly, financially I knew we were about as tight as tight could be.  One of the many things the church teaches is that a couple must come to the decision of postponing or planning a pregnancy according and there is nothing wrong with postponing because of finances, or mental health.  In fact, the Church encourages couples to communicate these concerns to one another because the last thing they want is a couple in distress because of a pregnancy.  It should be a time of joy and of course trust, but sometimes, there are circumstances in our lives that warrant us to refrain during fertile times because of these moments of distress.  I'm certainly not saying I was in any kind of distress at that moment, but had I realized that my fertility was actually back on track and not a train wreck (because I had abandoned my charting/temperature/exterior observations) I probably would have communicated my fears of another child much sooner.

I don't doubt God will take care of us, and that's certainly not what I'm saying.  I don't doubt that all of what we need will be provided for, that's not what I'm saying either.  But this pregnancy came as an utter shock to me.  I love babies.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE holding babies.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE watching my belly move and feeling tee tiny feet, hands, heels, arms, legs, booties, move across, or jump, or hiccup, or just push out when I gently push in.  I love life.  I love pregnancy, mostly, minus a few things that tend to stop working correctly the older you get, but I was not prepared and there's nothing wrong with how I feel.  I have been terrified of what others would say to me or about me once they found out I actually had thoughts that didn't coincide with my pro-life world.  Thankfully, thoughts are not sins....

To say the least, it's given me more compassion for those women who are faced with unwanted pregnancies.  I feel a ton more compassion, especially for those who have zero support systems because quite frankly, without the support of my husband, I'm not sure where I would be today, other than the nut house.

That's really, really, really hard for me to admit.  I don't ever want people to think a mother of such a large family can't handle things.  I feared that would give people the ammo they needed to attack people being open to large families. Not to mention, the hateful comments to follow in regards to how to "take care of things," or "prevent that from happening again," on top of what already bombard us on a daily basis.  Mostly from complete strangers once you admit that 'no, I'm not carrying my first, or second....' is revealed.

I don't want people yelling in my face that this is the reason a woman should be given a choice should she "encounter" an unwanted pregnancy.

Well, I disagree.  Because the "choice" came when she chose to have sex, and unfortunately, people have let society separate the act of sex from meaning just what it should mean= union between man and woman that could lead to the creation of a baby.  Unitive and procreative.  You can't separate the two, no matter how old, young, fertile, infertile, Catholic, Baptist, Atheist, or whatever you are.  This is what naturally occurs when zero UNnatural action occurs.  How God intended it.

I haven't spoken to many at all about these thoughts and pretty much kept it between just a few close friends and my confessor.  Who, by the way,  is an amazing human being.  Nailed it pretty much as soon as I went to confession-my guilt over how I feel about life and how I've reacted to THIS life that surprised me-which helped in my healing so tremendously, but clearly I am still dealing with guilt I've brought on myself.

Hence, why this weekend was such an emotional roller coaster.  I am dealing with the constant pain of veins, the new pain of a lower back issue, and of course the ever annoying constipation, tiredness, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, inability to do much for very long without having to stop and be done for the day (which having a large household doesn't really work!!!)  I suppose it just got to me and I let it take over my brain and evil Dr. Crazy woman came out in full force.

I don't know how my amazing husband deals with me on a daily basis.  He's truly a saint in the making.  I once again, let my prayer life go to the toilet and was relying on my unreliable self to solve my problems, which after 41 years you would think I would have learned something by now about that not working.....
I got angry.  I was in such pain.  I was tired of feeling alone.  I was tired of feeling as though there was no one I could talk to.

Once again, I crawled into my closet, shut the door, and cried my eyes out until there weren't any tears left in my head.  Plenty of snot, though.... ;)

So much sadness seems to overwhelm us at every corner of our world.  From horrible diseases, to horrible people doing horrible things to others, to horrible politics, to horrible translations of faith.  I just felt at that moment in my closet, like I was defeated and couldn't wrap my head around why God was allowing us to bring yet ANOTHER child into this toxic world.

At the end of the day, still in my closet, completely drained and feeling as though the world would be better off without one more crazed nut job if I just stayed here forever, my husband crawled over to the me in the closet and we had the most beautiful conversation ever.

Ladies-this is what marriage should be.

Gentlemen?  take note.  This is the man you should strive to be like.

He spoke gently, and he spoke truthfully, and he told me he loved me every other sentence.  He told me he's known since the onset of this pregnancy that I haven't yet gotten over the shock.  It still causes me great consternation and perhaps, fear, worry, and he knows how painful my pregnancy was with #6, so he knows how much it hurts me to be pregnant.  He also knows how I battle with these thoughts being so staunchly pro-life.  It's an internal battle of guilt thinking these thoughts are wrong and misguided.

God loves me, he said.  And he will take care of us.  He has taken care of us this far, he's not going to stop just because I have these thoughts and we are pregnant.  His words kept pouring out and I'll spare you the intimate details of the conversation, not that they were TMI, or inappropriate, but just because it's something so deeply passionate, and so personal, I wouldn't want to give away our relationship and it's deep bond over a blog.  Not to mention, it would be pages and pages long, because we talked for quite a while.

I love that man so very much.  He is such a solid rock.  He has been such a gift from God throughout the years.  Always willing to do whatever it takes to make me happy.  He would do anything.  He loves me that much.  That's exactly how God intended husbands to love their wives and he is the picture of just how much Christ loved our Church.  I know my husband would sacrifice his life for me if need be, but just that he sacrifices so much on a daily basis, shows me time and time again just how much Christ loves me as well.
My gift from God.....

I may be one of the craziest redheads he knows, but I know in my heart, that man loves me more deeply and passionately today, than yesterday and tomorrow, will love me even more.

That's the kind of love I wish our world knew God was waiting to give each and every one of us, if we would only let Him.

Life is precious.  All life.  Find the joy.  Happiness is temporary.  Find joy in life, and you'll get through anything.  My joy is my realization through my husband, that there is something infinitely more powerful and universal that loves me even more than he does.  The God of the Universe.