My story has been brewing for almost 22 years. I suppose if we want to be technical, it’s been brewing for over 45 years, but for now, I’ll keep the focus to the past few weeks.
Lent this year was less than stellar for me. I always find it fascinating that no matter what I decide to give up or even include during my Lenten journey, God always manages to throw some new ideas into the mix during the 40 days. You know, some I certainly would never have chosen for myself... This year proved to be no different.
A little side note here- when I am nursing or pregnant, I tend to do very little as far as food sacrifices go….a girl has got to keep up her energy...especially one who is the mother of 8 children who all apparently inherited some crazy energy gene that I do not carry…
But this year, I tried to give up snacking (like the junk kind…) and TV (mostly because the only time I really watch it is with my husband and he gave up Netflix and Amazon Prime so- easy!). But as far as actual sacrifice goes, it seemed as though my list was waning. A bit.
But never fear- because when you are the mother of 8 and you help put together a Catholic Women’s conference, there is no limit to the temptation to sin being thrown at you daily.
I had my fair share of less than stellar mom moments, friend moments, colleague moments, wife moments, daughter moments. It was a veritable cornucopia of shame when it came to realizing just how much of a sinner I am! (we all are, I’m not being scrupulous, just pointing out the obvs…)
The entire Lent was marked with sick babies almost WEEKLY, a constant barrage of family issues, events, etc that left me feeling exhausted and wondering why I ever worry about ‘giving up’ something to begin with. If I just wait, Lent will show me my sacrifices rather quickly…
Fast forward to the week before Holy Week. We were attending the new parish we are in the process of switching to. It’s literally a mile down the road from our house and we’ve been hemming and hawing for years about how much easier it would be if we attended Mass/religion 5 minutes from home as opposed to the 20 minutes, sometimes 30 during the evening rush, we had been dealing with for the last 8 years. Also, having three in high school, one in middle school, one in upper elementary and soon one in lower elementary in the local area, it was really starting to become impossible to get to every single place without implementing teleporting…. :) Wouldn’t that be awesome??
We are very good friends with the priest at this particular parish and his mom is practically my mom, too. I just love her. She sends me notes, letters, even gifts often and that Friday (the week before Good Friday) at Stations, I was privileged to see her!! The priest had made mention that the Divine Mercy Novena would be starting on Good Friday and ending right before Divine Mercy Sunday. He said, “my mom sent me with all of these Divine Mercy Novena pamphlets to leave for you all and she told me to tell you to do the Novena….And I try to listen to Momma….” (This priest is actually quite hilarious….but loves his momma dearly). And it got me thinking that I’ve 1) never really done the Divine Mercy Novena (or I don’t remember doing it at least) and 2) I sometimes RARELY finish Novenas-really. Some I do, but it’s tough with my short memory and crazy chaotic life. 3) I felt the call that my husband and I needed to do this Novena. Like, NEEDED TO DO IT. It’s hard to describe and my typing skills have weakened thanks to constant texting, so to actually put it into words….I really felt the call from God that I needed to do this Novena. I’ve had a rough year and a half. And as I stated early, 22 years of brewing and stewing…..
So I didn’t want to ignore this feeling that God was calling us to pray the Novena and my husband readily agreed to do it, so I knew it was meant to be. And we remembered EVERY DAY! The kids would even ask for us to do the “singing Chaplet” when it was time to recite the Chaplet. It was kind of fun to see how some of them sang along….
There is a Plenary Indulgence with the Divine Mercy Novena. I’m not 100% sold on this practice (which is the beauty of my faith, I can question things until I’m sure I understand them, and that’s so important to me, especially during these times where most would just LEAVE their faith because they didn’t like, understand, or accept a particular teaching/faith matter/practice.)
I borrowed the definition of a Plenary Indulgence from EWTN.com.:
The following "General remarks on Indulgences" from Gift of the Indulgencesummarizes the usual conditions given in the Church's law (cf. Apostolic Penitentiary, Prot. N. 39/05/I):
1. This is how an indulgence is defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".
2. In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions(below, nn. 3, 4), and the performance of certain prescribed works ..... [in this case, those granted for the Feast of Mercy]
3. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed. [i.e. one must be a Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism.]
4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:
?have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
?have sacramentally confessed their sins;
?receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);
?pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
6. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).
7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.
As you can see, it’s something that might be hard to understand, but for whatever reason, and i’m getting ahead of myself, it was made crystal clear to me on Divine Mercy Sunday. But I’m jumping ahead.
We finished the Divine Mercy Novena on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday. I had wanted to get to confession, but we had such a crazy afternoon/evening and one of mine had to serve at our former parish on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, so even getting to confession was looking slim. I knew I would miss Saturday. Sunday would mean no confession, because i knew my former parish didn’t have confession on Sunday. I was secretly praying that God would somehow grant me the grace to receive the sacrament without saying anything to anyone. Boy did He blow my mind away with what happened.
Saturday night I was home with the little ones and my husband went to our new parish. My oldest took my one daughter who had to serve to our former parish (which is still her parish since she has been confirmed and is much like me, a creature of habit and comfortability). Sunday morning my second oldest daughter and I went to our new parish and to my delight, were told about the Divine Mercy celebration that would take place that afternoon starting at 2 with confession and exposition of Jesus in the Monstrance. Did he just say CONFESSION??? You can imagine my delight. But I had a dilemma as you can guess, being a mom of 8 might….
My husband was in another state with my oldest at a volleyball tournament. My son, who is the sacristan at our former parish (he’s been confirmed, too, and his parish is our old one…) had to work at 7:30 that Sunday morning. Which meant, he finished at 1:45. But our former parish was also having a Divine Mercy celebration at 2 (not with confession as far as I knew) but I knew it would be tough to get him all the way in another town and back to our new parish in time to get in line for confession. For some reason, I must of known it was going to be tough, and wow. I’ve never seen that many people in line for confession outside of parish penance nights during Advent and Lent!! It was unreal, but I’m jumping ahead again!!
I had texted my son to see if he would possibly be able to leave by 1:45. He wasn’t sure because he might need to help set up. I figured as much, but instead of getting down as I usually do, I just sighed and told God it would be really nice if I could get to confession. I had been wanting to get to confession for a few weeks because I really wanted to confess some root sins of mine that I needed to work on. You know, like pride, anger, sloth…..the ones we struggle with constantly. I knew I needed to really work on being forgiven for my root sin of pride because honestly, pride is what I struggle with the worst. It affects everything I do from being a mommy monster, to feelings of jealousy, to not getting my way, to how I deal with disciplining my children when they disrespect me. You get the idea... I needed confession.
Not to mention, I felt in my heart, not connected to the indulgence at all, but connected to God’s mercy, that there was something very powerful about the novena and purifying my heart in confession and receiving communion. Again, it’s hard to explain, but my heart actually was burning for confession.
So I decided to head up to get my son at 1:45 even though he might not be ready. And wouldn’t you know it, he finished and was out by 1:45. I was super excited and maybe a tad too confident I would make confession. I even heartily agreed to stopping by the house to let him change clothes because he actually wanted to go with me. Bonus! Also, by stopping, my 12 year old daughter decided to go to. I had offered it to all the kids at home, but they were the only two to take me up on it. So the baby, my son and daughter, and I headed to my new parish.
As we walked into the church, I was shocked and and a bit worried, when I saw the confession line, 20 people deep...I was almost discouraged, but I kept my focus. In my head I just kept asking God to allow me to receive confession. Please Lord, I need this. Jesus was exposed on the altar, and I just kept trying to focus on Him and asking Him to hear my plea for confession. I would not allow myself to be down, or even entertain a negative thought.
We stood in line for a good 20 minutes before a lady showed us that there was actually another line for another priest up front. We, and several others, decided to leave that line and head over. Little did we know it was our priest friend whose line we were in. It was almost 3 and I knew the Deacon was going to start saying a few words, we would sing the Chaplet, and then Jesus would be put back in the tabernacle. I was getting nervous I wouldn’t make confession. It’s rare these days for priests to stay in a confessional and just listen to the sins of the people until they are all heard. Finally the person in front of me went and I started praying for my confession. I knew what I needed to say, and I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt that I was putting myself before my two children. I sheepishly turned around and graciously offered them to go before me. I felt terrible for seeming so selfish, but those two were so kind. They both told me to go first. And it wasn’t because they were afraid to go, it was because they knew how badly I wanted to go.
It was finally my turn. I think I practically RAN into the back sacristy where the priest was sitting and laughed out loud when I saw it was my friend. He was laughing at me for laughing and I started my confession.
I LOVE confession. I know that sounds crazy. But I do. I love it, like I love shaving my legs. Bare with me for a minute. I know it’s a bizarre analogy, but maybe I can help it make sense. I hate shaving my legs. It’s such a tedious task, I don’t like wasting hot water, but I struggle with shaving with no water on because I’ll freeze and then get goosebumps and shaving goosebumps is never comfy, so I resort to using hot water, and blah blah blah...am I making sense yet?? (yes, I know, my husband doesn’t get me either at times….) but once I shave, I lotion up and my legs FEEL SO GOOD!!!! They feel so smooth, and creamy. I LOVE it. I can wear shorts. I can wear jeans without feeling hairs bending up and hurting. I can wear nightgowns without cutting either leg with sharp hairs….
Are you getting my visual yet?? Are you a tad disgusted by me? I know. I was born with a broken filter...it’s ok… ;)
Well, confession for me is the same way. I love confession. I hate how nervous I get before while I wait in line. It's so hard for me to tell the things I’ve done OUT LOUD to this priest (who consequently is acting in persona christa- you can google that for a later discussion if you don’t get the whole we are going straight to Jesus thing), I don’t like feeling like, wow, I’m a sinner (but that’s inevitable, we are. Thank you, Adam and Eve) but once I go?
It’s like my heart is free. I feel so clean and ready to tackle the world. I confessed my root sins and said my prayer of contrition, got absolution, and literally left bounding out of the room. All in all, it probably took less than 5 minutes. But it was the BEST, most HOLY 5 minutes ever of confession for me. I felt amazing. I had the baby with me, so her and I went to the back of church where I could do my penance, and for the first time in so many months, as I sat there before Jesus, I felt compelled to slip my veil on. Now, I’m not going to wear it all the time right now. I struggle with feeling like we already get an enormous amount of stares as it is, and the baby loves my veil. In that, she would like to wear it, too. So when my daughter came back from confession, she took the baby and I was able to kneel in adoration of Jesus with my veil on. I felt such amazing peace. I was truly worshiping my Lord and my God. It was awesome.
When the deacon began to speak, the priests continued to hear confessions. I was in awe of that. What a blessing for these people!! The deacon went on to explain the whole, plenary indulgence and how we can apply it to ourselves, or to someone who had passed away. So I thought to myself, alrite, if this is legit, and the church says it is, but if it is, I want to apply it to my Grandma, Grace. She passed away in 2011. So I left it at that. The deacon went on to speak and was just a beautiful soul as he spoke about the Divine Mercy devotion and how he came to love it and we then sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet. As we were leaving, my daughter told me that she applied her indulgence to my Grandma, Grace, too! I was blown away that she was so selfless and thought it was perfect that she chose her as well. So I asked God to apply it to my grandfather, her husband, who had died when I was in high school, and was someone who I struggled with forgiving for setting the ball for all the father wounds in my family. I felt another bit of peace there, as well.
But my story doesn’t end there. That was Sunday. On Monday, I had decided that my sebactical from working out was officially over and I needed to do something to help my brain seem less foggy and my body seem less icky. I knew I needed to start working out. I always feel better physically and mentally when I do. And since I was getting things right with God spiritually, I needed to get things right with Him physically. He doesn't ask us to become bodybuilders, but our bodies ARE temples. We ARE responsible for their health and well being. No matter what the circumstance. So I got the baby to sleep (and prayed God would help her rest long enough for me to get a weight work out in) and took my phone and baby monitor to the basement with my next two youngest. I not only got a weight work out in (which was tough. If you work out, you know what I’m talking about. My muscles cursed me that day….and have only eased up the cursing on day 5 today….)but I even walked a cool down mile walk on the treadmill! I thought I would watch something on Formed.org. I absolutely highly recommend Formed.org. If you don’t have it, or your parish doesn't, go talk to your parish administrator, or priest. It’s chocked full of Catholic content that ranges from kid friendly cartoons, to in depth Lectio bible studies.
I decided on the Formed pick of the week, the video series featuring Fr. Michael Gaitley as he presented “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told.”
That was the beginning of the end for me. I was sucked in, hook, line, and sinker. I watched each video with mouth open, jaw dropping amazement. The history, the miracles, the connection between saints and countries and our faith, BLEW ME AWAY.
I only had time to watch a few of the ten, but it was enough to tell me that there was something CRAZY to this Divine Mercy business and what it was that God wanted me to do with it, was still unknown. I really am not sure what He wants me to do as of right now, but something is going on.
To make the story even crazier- these Divine Mercy stories also involve Fatima and the Blessed Mother, whom I feel I have a really good relationship with. I have a crazy scapular story that happened to me 20 years ago, so for the last two decades or so, I’ve had Momma Mary to turn to during times of needing a motherly love or advice. Well, we had our priest friend over for dinner and he brought a gift that his mom gave to him to deliver to me. It was the Magnificat book on the Virgin Mary. Now, to understand why this was so crazy, I had just watched the Fatima connection to the Divine Mercy that day. I had just thought about the Consecration to Jesus through Mary book, 33 Days to Morning Glory and thought to myself, I should consecrate myself again. It gets crazier. I promise.
So I had this book. It wasn’t the book, it was the fact it was Mary. I was getting goosebumps. What on EARTH could God be calling me to?
I watched the rest of the videos that week and basically finished them by the middle of the week. Fr. Michael Gaitley ends it with a plea to consecrate yourself, or re-consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. I thought I had the book by St. Louis de Montfort that he spoke of, so I went on a rampage through my house. I just KNEW I had the book. Matter of fact, I had two of them. True Devotion to Mary (the one I currently could not find) and Secrets of the Rosary.
I found the rosary book, but the one pictured above, True Devotion to Mary, is MIA. I’m sure I gave it to someone. I am always loaning and giving my books away. But I did find another gem of a book AND I found my copy of the Diary of St. Faustina. The other book I found was one someone gave me years ago that I tucked away for a later read.
This book looks amazing and I can’t WAIT to do this with my family. Now, of course, my family isn’t exactly singing joy over this. But that’s a blog for another day. When I explain just because I have 8 kids and an amazing husband, does not mean they sit and watch and soak up all the faith-based material I present to them. Hardly ever….
Below is the book I have that I originally used for my consecration to Jesus through Mary! By Fr. Michael Gaitley (who is presenting the Divine Mercy videos on Formed!)
So, I had these three books and I decided I would re-consecrate myself. Unfortunately, I missed the start by a day. Isn’t it crazy how crazy we make ourselves when we think we’ve missed something? I was devastated! How silly of me of course, because I once remember listening to Johnette Benkovic on her Women of Grace radio show that if you miss a day of a novena, to never let that stop you from doing a Novena. So I knew in my heart it was ok to catch up one day, but I still fell into a puddle. I texted my friend who immediately replied, JUST START TODAY!! So I did.
Now, I’m pretty much caught up to today. I have no idea where God is leading me with this. We’ve switched parishes, we are doing a new religious ed program with this parish, I am trying to do less and listen more to God and what He wants….I’m excited, tho. I’m exhausted, and I feel that the devil will definitely use my baby and her insastiable appetite to just nurse exclusively 24 hours a day to bring me down, so I must keep focused. And when the shadow of doubt starts creeping into my heart, I have to remind myself of this extraordinary experience I had with Divine Mercy. I have to understand that I am called to do something. Maybe it’s with my own kids. Maybe it’s with my new parish. Maybe it’s with the women’s conference. I have no idea. But for now, I’ll just sit back, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and wait for His next move….