Tuesday, January 24, 2012

7 Catholic Things I Never Learned in CCD

With all my years of CCD, Catholic High School, and attending a Catholic University, perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention, but the following are a list of 7 concepts I either never understood, priests or parents (or anyone else) never talked about, or for whatever reason, I never fully grasped until recently as an adult:

1. The real meaning of “The Communion of Saints“. This isn’t simply a catchy phrase meaning we are all happy together in Heaven. The Church Triumphant are the Saints in Heaven. They help us, intercede for us, and pray for us. The Church Militant are all of us here on earth, fighting the good fight. We gain help from those in Heaven (and even those in Purgatory) and can truly help those suffering in Purgatory and on their way to Heaven. The Church Suffering are the holy souls in purgatory. They can no longer pray for themselves, and rely on us for our prayers and sacrifices. All of us together make up The Communion of Saints.

2. Fridays are a day of penance. This means EVERY Friday, and not just during Lent! While abstinence from meat is required during Lent, on all other Fridays, we can choose our penance. Abstaining from meat is preferred, but we can do a kind deed, say an extra rosary, give up a small comfort, basically any penance of our choice.

3. Going to a psychic or having tarot cards read is a serious (mortal) sin against the 1st Commandment.

4. The pope isn’t infallible - he is very human like the rest of us. In fact, it is said that he goes to confession at least weekly. The infallibility part comes into play when defining faith and morals, “ex cathedra”, (meaning from the chair). The last official ex cathedra document was in 1950, The Assumption of Mary, by Pope Pius XII.

5. It is a requirement that all Catholics confess any mortal sins within a year. For most of the people I know, and definately myself, this boils down to confession at least once a year. (The barest minimum!) It is Church teaching.

6. Fasting 1 hour before Communion is required. (Water or medicine is OK, but not coffee, or gum). That means, if I scarf down my breakfast too soon before Church, or in the car on the way, I shouldn’t receive Communion.

7. This one is probably obvious to any serious Catholic, but I never deeply grasped what exactly was happening at the Mass. We are entering into the same sacrifice as the sacrifice offered up at Calvary. We really enter into it, (in an unbloody way - no physical shedding of blood). The priest is our earthly representative and he is actually offering Jesus to our Heavenly Father. This transcends all space and time. What an awesome concept! Until recently, I never really considered Mass in this way. I learned about the consecration and what that means when I was younger, but never really got that it was The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pregnant And Not Finding Out The Sex

Today was a great day! Besides having a holiday off of work, my husband was able to come with me to my ultrasound. I'm 27 weeks pregnant. It is always so thrilling to see images of the little baby inside of you, heart beating, stretching, kicking, yawning, moving... It's so awesome. We are so blessed to be parents!

I have decided *not* to find out the sex of this baby. My first two children are girls, and we knew it well in advance. We had plenty of time to paint the nursery lavender, decorate it with lots of pink and purple flowers, and get together our little girls' baby supplies. After listening to a male co-worker express the joy and anticipation that he felt at the birth of his little boy, and later, his little girl, and having no idea until the moment of birth if they were going to be little boys or girls, he was beaming as he explained that it was "simply the greatest surprise of his entire life"... I knew I wanted to experience that with my husband also!  Dad isn't so on board with this decision at the moment, being the "ultimate planner", he really wants to know and the uncertainty is driving him crazy. After the last ultrasound, he even called the doctor's office behind my back to try and find out the sex!  (Of course, they wouldn't give him any information... but still, I couldn't believe he even attempted to do that!)  Anyway, I am sure he will thank me when it is all said and done.

"But how will we plan?" "What if it is a boy?" "We have no boy's things..." Relax, I keep saying! First of all, it will probably be another girl, in which case, we will already be prepared. If it is a boy, you'll just have to run out and get some boys clothes when I am in the hospital...we can repaint the room later, and as for the wooden carved flowers on the white crib? (Hmmm, I'll have to creatively figure out how to cover them up, somehow... ) We'll work it all out... right? I am much more relaxed with this baby than I was with my first one.

So... for other mothers out there, how did you prepare for the arrival of your little ones?

"Now, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you." -Jeremiah 1:4-5 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Dark Night of the Soul

I am very blessed to be pregnant with my third child. Since my reversion back to the Catholic Church several years ago, my husband and I have been completely open to life.  No more IUD, no more last minute withdrawals, no more pills, and no more "sins against nature". I can't speak from the male point of view, but for me it has been surprisingly easy. I simply made a decision and am trusting God that things will work out. After years of contraceptive practices, I know I am extremely lucky to be carrying my child. I am almost 38 years old. Tragically, many of my friends around my same age have and are suffering infertility, repeat miscarriages, and even stillbirths. Many acquaintances have turned to expensive infertility treatments in desperate attempts to have a child. My advice to any young married couple reading this, is to not delay having children! It seems to be so much easier when you are in your 20's. Fertility rates decline rapidly in your later 30's. Maybe you will not be able to conceive the child you dream of one day if you keep putting it off.

With that being said, however, while the end result is 110% worth it, and I will do it again in a heartbeat, I physically hate being pregnant. After 26 weeks I am finally able to even write about it. When I first realized I *might* be pregnant, and obviously we were trying, I ran out and bought multi-pack pregnancy tests from the drugstore. I was taking them every couple of days. I had been nursing my 18 month old and my menstrual cycle had just returned, so it was hard to tell what was happening because I hadn't re-established any regular pattern yet. I just kept taking the tests. Soon, and quickly, I found out I was pregnant. The initial feeling of disbelief and then elatedness washed over me. I realized I am carrying inside of my womb the secret of life and just wanted to get down on my knees and praise God for this miracle! I walked around in a state of happiness and thankfulness, not wanting to "spill the beans" to anyone yet, except my husband. I made my first doctor's appointment to confirm everything. The first week or so was thrilling and exciting.

And then the 6th week hits.  The nausea starts slow but builds quickly. It is always there. Nothing works. Not crackers, not ginger, not lemonade, not wrist bands, nothing! The vomiting starts soon after. And progressively gets worse day by day. For me this is not typical "morning sickness". It is all day, all night, everyday sickness, and it is debilitating. It knocks you off your feet and makes you feel like you have the H1N1 flu virus constantly and never ceasing. It sucks all the joy out of my life. Initially, I begin vomiting everything, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a glass of water, a sip of water, an ice cube. Forget prenatal vitamins or my thyroid medication! It all comes back up, all of it, every time. I will throw up 4 - 10 times every single day, and feel like complete crap all day and night around the clock. I have tried every prescription drug prescribed by my doctor. Nothing works. I like to imagine the Zofran pills take the edge off for 20 minutes or so but that is debatable. Usually they just make me throw up. Once the weakness starts hitting because of lack of nourishment, I will do anything to try and stay hydrated, and stay out of the hospital. For months the only thing I could drink was cherry kool-aid and sip on Frozen Cokes. (Not healthy, but at this point, the last thing I cared about was eating healthy.) All food tastes bad and the nausea is so horrible, that even the thought of food is sickening. Thank God I am usually able to keep one small portion of food down, something bland like a piece of toast or some oatmeal, at least once a day, it is probably the only thing that kept me going through those first 3 months. The tiredness and fatigue is all encompassing for me. I cannot afford to lose my job, so I literally save every ounce of energy to get to work and then shut down before and after. I manage to drive myself to and from work everyday, but I do whatever I can to avoid interaction with people and quietly do my work in my cubicle when I am able. I survive by spending long bouts sitting locked in the bathroom stall and by bringing gallon zip lock bags to work with me and going out to my car several times a day to throw up in the bags. I would also take a 2 hour lunch break as often as I could get away with it, pull into a supermarket  or busy parking lot, and just sleep through lunch in my car. Often I would have to go out and sit in my car alone, drive to a secluded spot, and just break down crying because I just couldn't handle it anymore. I would manage to get home, then crawl into bed with my clothes on, and sleep for 14-16 hours a day. Sleep was the only respite from the nausea and the pain, so I slept as much as possible. I could not cook dinner, or do the dishes, or be a good wife or mother. My poor husband is always left doing all the work, taking care of the kids, the house, the dishes, the laundry, everything. I simply cannot do it. Another disgusting symptom that I have to deal with, is the excessive salivation. It comes faster than I can deal with, and at times literally pours into my mouth! If I try to swallow it, it makes me sick, so the alternative is to spit it out. I constantly have to run to the bathroom or any nearby trashcan and spit into it. I have to carry a "spit cup" or bottle with me wherever I go to deal with the over production of saliva. My doctor thinks this is all in my head, but I assure you, this is one of those rare symptoms that women with excessive nausea in pregnancy have to deal with, and it only adds to the problem. At night, I would have to sleep with a rolled up towel under my face to catch all the drool. I would produce several cups of saliva a day in a cup that I would have to dispose of. Talk about disgusting and embarrassing! Although this is not physically painfull, it just is one more thing to deal with on top of everything else. To make matters worse are the encounters with hundreds of pregnant women who say, "I didn't feel a thing", or "I felt like I had to throw up once or twice, but never actually did", etc. etc.  My experience is definately NOT the norm! It is a lonely, difficult, and guilt-ridden road.

So, you get the point. During this phase of the pregnancy, I'm completely miserable. I am depressed, I don't want to socialize or talk to anyone, and it is difficult for me to even be around my children and husband. I can't smile or socialize. My patience is gone. My humor is non-existent. I feel like I am dying. Even worse than the physical and social aspects of the pregnancy are the spiritual aspects. It all goes out the window!  Normally I have joy for life. I enjoy reading the Bible, saying the rosary (almost) every day, going to adoration. But now? Forget it. It's not like God turns his back on me, but I feel like I turn my back on Him. I lose all desire to pray, to read, to go to Church! For weeks at a time. My spiritual life suffers greatly and because of my withdrawal, my family also has to suffer. Initially, each time I am hunched over the toilet throwing up over and over, I will try to "offer it up" and say "God, just let one soul out of purgatory for this suffering... Your will be done!". But after missing Mass for weeks at a time, and knowing I have shut God out, I just kind of give that up also. It is difficult to explain, but I can't handle the suffering and develop a kind of aversion for all spiritual things! It is definitely a trying time, and I don't deal well with it. It is my "Dark Night of the Soul". I have physically and mentally suffered more during my pregnancies than probably anything else I can think of.

So, where am I now? I have gradually been coming back to life. After 22 weeks, I started to notice slight improvements. I am 26 weeks pregnant now and am able to enjoy food again. Finally, my hormones have settled down, and although I am not 100%, I am so much better than I have been for the past 20 weeks. I have been to confession several times. I need to go again! It is a struggle. I am going to Church again. I am being a mother to my children. I only throw up about once a week now. Still feeling sick, but it is so much better and manageable. Soon, hopefully, I will be able to resume saying my rosary. I know God is waiting for me to come back. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel.

May God bless my wonderful husband for his support during this trying time. I could not get through this without his love.   

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Resolution to Tithe 10% of our Net Income

This is a topic I have been thinking about for a long time. I have to confess, although we assist at Mass on Sundays and follow Church teaching... we are not perfect. Disclaimer: I should say, I am not perfect, as I am the one responsible for handling our family finances (at least balancing the budget and writing the checks). I contribute financially to the needs of the Church, but usually it is whatever I have left over or available at the time, and is never painful to throw into the pot, so to speak. I have been very stingy in this department! This is not something I am proud of, and I am admitting that this is a personal weakness. I have always been in somewhat of an awe for others who can tithe, but thought "this is not for me..." We have 2 kids to pay for day care, one on the way, and a boat load of bills, barely scraping by as it is. However, it is the New Year... a co-worker whom I respect tithes. I recently learned that a relative whom I respect, tithes, and this really got me thinking that I need to stretch myself in this area. I want to try it. God deserves this, and I want to do it. We don't even have enough money to pay the credit card bill this month, but I tried not to think too hard about it as I wrote out the check for 10% of my last paycheck 2 days ago. Now I have spent many hours searching on the Internet for personal testimonies on tithing and for other perspectives on such questions as: Is it biblical? (It is not required in our Church.) Is it worthwhile? Does one tithe 10% off of their Gross Income or Net Income? Does one tithe off of their tax refund? Is it ridiculous to tithe when you are in debt or do not have an emergency fund? So much controversy and so many opinions. I have no doubt I will be lambasted by certain crowds for going about this endeavour in the way that I am, however, coming from someone that didn't even come close to offering .05% of my income last year, this is a major decision and I want to write about it. Frankly, the prospect of doing this for an entire year scares the hell out of me! I hope I can do it. I think it will have to be a week by week thing. One step at a time.

If there is anyone out there, I am so very interested in hearing your story about When and Why you decided to start tithing! How do you personally go about doing it? What have you gained spiritually from it? Or do you think it is just plain crazy?

The average Catholic gives 1.04% of their income for all charitable causes. I am seeing many statististics and studies hovering around this number (give or take a 1/2 percentage or so.)

What are your thoughts on tithing? 

My First Post - What in God's Green Earth am I doing?

I decided to start a blog. So bear with me while I figure out what I am actually doing here. What are my motives? Hmmm.. make enough money on the side so I can quit my job and stay at home with my kids? I know this will probably never happen, but the prospect is fun and tempting to think about. For now, at least, my goal is to throw some of my thoughts out there (and I have a few important things to talk about, at least to me...), collect some like-minded friends along the way, and hopefully learn something. Most of all, I intend to start a meaningful dialogue and create the type of site that adds value, challenges and inspires. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you decide to contribute.