O Sapientia

In honor of the O Antiphon’s returning to us again this year I am reposting my reflections on them from last year.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Growing up, I always heard people tell me, “Amanda, you are such a prude.” Meaning, I didn’t want to break the rules, I didn’t want to have fun, I wasn’t the one you trusted when you would divulge your plans to do something illegal. I would sit there and just pick apart those things and think about everything that could, and (knowing my friends) would go wrong. I have no qualms about admitting I was the wet blanket.

But Prudence is also defined as such:

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1806

I really enjoy St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of “right reason in action.” Not only being the wet blanket, but following through with it. I jest but I am trying to make a point. Prudence is the ability to have the foresight to make the decision and the desire to follow through with it.

Now God, the height of all wisdom, had the sight and ability when he created humanity to keep us wonderfully obedient people, yet He still gave us the gift of free will. God saw that free will could have its problems and had the prudence to know how we could be redeemed. The God who created the universe had a plan.

That plan was to give us the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. I would call that wisdom and prudence indeed.

A Simple Stable

Here’s my latest post from Ignitum Today with a few slight changes

With my job come several wonderful perks. Attending weekly mass with the Catholic School is one of them. It’s a K-8 school, and my favorite part of mass is going to receive Communion. The voices of the students grow louder and louder as I approach the altar. Of course, the older students think they are too cool to sing, and the Kindergartners are just happy to make a little noise. But it is a beautiful choir nevertheless.

As we were transitioning between Christ the King and the First week of Advent, I snuck into the school chapel to get in some prayer time. Coming into the chapel from a side entrance, I saw the Advent Wreath. But I also saw that they had put up the stable for the Christmas Creche. I prayed as I walked to the front that they had not placed Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the rest in it yet. I was shocked and in awe of what I saw. There was no Mary, Joseph, Jesus, or any person in it. Only sheep and some hay.

I had never seen this before, and was completely engrossed in it. A simple stable unknowingly waits to receive our Lord. For now, it is crowded with animals. They make a mess of the floor, live their daily lives and are none the wiser. As the weeks progress more animals will be stabled because of the census. It will be very crowded.

The same happens in our very own lives. Advent is a time to prepare for Christ to enter into our lives. Yet, there are tasks and activities which also enter our lives as Christmas approaches. There are cookies to bake. Presents to wrap. Events to attend. All of which can be good, but they have a tendency to muck up our lives. They leave us so busy and frazzled, we are more ready for Christmas to be over as it has just begun.

The good news. As with the stable, there are opportunities to muck out the stalls and floors of our own hearts. It’s not a pleasant job, but it must be done. New hay needs to be laid. Waste removed. Hungry animals fed. If you aren’t a stable hand, what are you to do?

New Hay – Many barns or stables have a dirt floor, so hay is needed to keep animals warm from cold, and to absorb animal waste. Try to get into the true spirit of the season by starting a new devotion. Attend daily mass. Sign up for daily mass readings via email, (https://www.flocknote.com/list/431). In short, do something new to help you grow this Advent.

Muck the Stalls – This job is often smelly, stinky, and required for the health of any animal. The same is true for our souls. We need cleaning up so that we are presentable for this great celebration. While Advent (a time for preparation) is not Lent (a time for repentance), we still would not go to a fancy party without cleaning up first. The same is true for the reception of Communion. We need to be in a state of grace when we receive him.

Feed the Animals – Nutrition is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. Do we feed ourselves spiritually? Although Advent is a season to start new practices, do not let current practices fall aside. Just because you could sustain yourself on a liquid diet, doesn’t mean you should pass up a chance to eat your favorite meal. That would be like praying daily and never receiving the Eucharist. Sure, you could live like that. But it wouldn’t be filling you.

Yesterday marks two weeks until Christmas. If you haven’t started anything, that’s ok. There is still time. If you are like me, you have lists of everything to complete by Christmas. Take a few minutes to make one more list. But instead of who is getting what, or the menu for Christmas day, make a list of what you want to have completed spiritually before Christmas comes. Mine looks something like this:

Go to Confession

Read the Daily Catechism (http://www.flocknote.com/catechism)

Read the Sunday Readings before Mass

Take 15 minutes of silence per day for God

Pray daily with my husband

It’s a short list but it’s manageable. In time, my stable will be fresh and ready to welcome the Holy Family. Blessed Advent all!

Perception is everything

About five months ago my husband and I moved in order to be closer to family and for a job I had accepted. I was trying to get healthy but nothing was working. Somehow after we moved, I started losing weight. It wasn’t a conscious decision but it started happening and I have taken a more active role again in my health. The truth is, I’ve always been overweight and if you follow the BMI index I would still be considered morbidly obese, but I’ve already lost 25 lbs. I consider that a pretty big accomplishment. I haven’t lost any sizes on my clothing, I still have issues with certain activities and I still am often the first to get tired at Zumba class, but I still do it.

It does get disheartening once in awhile but I keep going. Trying new things and looking for motivation on the internet. I have been looking for new exercises, diet tips, recipes, anything to get me out of a workout rut and I noticed the people in those pictures. Always skinny, always smiling, and usually perfect.

As a photo enthusiast, I somehow remember the Cannon Camera ads with Andre Agassi saying “image is everything.” As a photo company, it was quite catchy and it made the point. It’s the photos that you want to remember, what is portrayed is what you get. Wrong. I take photos, I know and love the thrill of being behind the lens and capturing the beauty I see. I love the opportunity to express what exists and what can be revealed with some creative thinking. It isn’t the image which is important, it is the perception.

Before my husband and I started officially dating, we would hang out together and hike, go for coffee, talk, and be each other’s best friend. One blustery January day I wanted to go get some pictures of Duluth, Minnesota’s shipping canal since it had been very cold and there was some really interesting ice. Although close to shore everything was covered in ice and I didn’t want to go alone, just incase I slipped and cracked my head open. So I drafted my best friend who I certainly wasn’t dating.

He didn’t understand what I saw that night as the sun was setting behind us. The light was dimming and I was shooting frantically but I loved it. It was thrilling, and after I slipped a few times, he saw why I didn’t want to do this alone. We went for coffee afterwards, it was his reward for dealing with the cold, and he still couldn’t see what I saw from behind the lens. A month later I had the pictures developed, I was still shooting 35mm film, and he could finally see it. Our perceptions finally matched.

The same occurs when we talk about our faith. From teens and adults I too often hear, “my faith … my beliefs… I won’t tell others what to believe…” people fear sharing their perspective. However, without our personal experiences or our personal testimonies, we do not have the chance to evangelize those around us through our example. If we are seen to be loving, caring, exuberant disciples of Christ who would want to follow him. How we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves is everything.

Wow…

I first have to say thank you to Tito Edwards for selecting me for syndication at BigPulpit and NCR. In three days I’ve been able to see a huge jump in readership.

Secondly, hi and welcome.

My name is Amanda and I am your sole author here at Defined by Faith. I am a mid-twenties, married youth minister with a lot of things on my mind and not often enough time to share them. I honestly try to blog at least once a week but occasionally life gets in the way. I also blog for Ignitum Today and The Guiding Star Project on a monthly rotation.

What I mean by life is a full time job, family, God, and the occasional hobby that I get to slide in. Then there is posting here. Although I’m making an effort to post more often, I hope that I have enough knowledge to help you on your journey and enough to share to make it relevant and personal.

As I said above, my name is Amanda and welcome to the journey.

Flirting with the Thin Pink Line

I live in a different world than many of my peers. Many are planning their exact 2.1 children, schools they will attend, and sports they will play. I am left wondering when or if my husband and I will ever have children.

Before you think I’m off my rocker, bear with me a bit. Medically, primary infertility is defined as a healthy couple trying to conceive for 1 year without achieving their first successful pregnancy. This is where my husband and I lie. We’ve been married and trying for 18 months, with barely adequate health insurance, and no money for testing.  Every month has been a struggle to wait and see what will come, then dealing with the heartbreak with each single pink line.

For some women one pink line is reason for rejoicing. Whether it was a failure of birth control, not ready for a child for any reason, a single pink line is a comforting thought. For me, one line often results in a minor emotional breakdown.

There are many times I get stuck with thoughts that tell me I’m not going to be a mother, or that I’m being punished for something I did. There are other times when I feel rotten for fighting back tears when I should be happy for friends and family who are expecting. Most often, though, I feel alone. So, I went searching for answers.

While doing research on the Papal Document Humanae Vitae, I stumbled upon another document entitled Donum Vitae. This document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 1987, has a small section titled, “The Suffering Caused by Infertility in Marriage.” Here is an excerpt from that section. The emphasis is retained from the original text.

Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.

I read that, and I can’t help but recall a conversation I had with my mom. When I was little, I would grab random things in a store and ask for them, like any kid. Occasionally, it would be the same item on separate trips, since we didn’t go shopping together more than once a month. Mom would often get the idea that this was something I was truly interested in. After I had heard “no” enough, I would stop asking. Then one day I would find a surprise, and it would be the item I had been asking for. Naturally, I would be even more excited because I received it as a gift. Just like Mom, God will give good gifts, and is also the giver of that “supreme gift” of a child.

A child “is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.” When my husband and I were dating, we would often hear from our married friends that “someday our love will grow so large that in 9 months, we will have to give that love a name.” Whether our friends knew it or not, they were speaking a great truth of their sacrament. Sure, it can be argued that a child might be brought into a family situation that is less than ideal. But God understands the positive impact that can be brought into a family if they choose to view a pregnancy as a gift, rather than a burden.

How does all this relate to the lack of fertility I seem to be experiencing? Alone or not, infertility is something that many people encounter. As I’ve been writing this post, I think it comes down to perspective. I can look at the situation my husband and I are in and either find it as a way to grow or a way which will lead to despair. I often need to remind myself that infertility is not the end of the world. Ultimately, God is in control of my life. The gifts he will give me are great. I can choose to be persistent in prayer, but, ultimately, I am called to be patient.

Bless us O Lord

… and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive. From thy bounty, through Christ our Lord Amen.

Grace before meals is one of the first prayers that we learn as children along with the Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. Needless it is a staple rote prayer in any Catholic’s arsenal. A few nights ago, I had a pretty lousy day at work that was extra long and then ran to my community theater play practice. At the end of the day I hadn’t eaten anything substantial and I was noticeably hungry.

After making a salad, I sat down said grace and cried. It was a prayer I had said thousands of times and make a habit of praying it in restaurants, schools, or alone, but I, for a moment, understood the fullness of that prayer.

In Thanksgiving

Living in America, I do not understand what true hunger absolutely feels like. There are a dozen fast food restaurants within walking distance of my home, and I have some food in both my refrigerator and cupboards. Even though there are times when meals are a hodgepodge of what I have left in storage, my husband and I do not go truly hungry. In the United States 14.5% of families suffer from some form of food insecurity throughout the year. This means that they are reliant on Food Stamps or Food Pantries in order to meet their basic needs. Even with these forms of assistance 5.4% still have missed meals or gone for days without food in order to get by.1

Even though I was hungry, I was truly thankful for what I had. I had made it through the day and was able to share a small meal with my husband. In that moment I was happy for the love and fellowship that I was able to have with my husband and grateful for the food I was about to partake in.

My thankfulness also extended beyond that of the food and company that I was about to enjoy. Recently I have been blessed to meet my newest nephew, move closer to family, and enjoy spending time with family in ways I wasn’t able to when living in Southern Iowa. These are all gifts that I recognize that God has helped me with and I am extremely grateful.

Bountiful Love

Paul reminds us in his first letter to John, that God is love. It is in that same gift of love, God gives of himself. All good things regardless of size come from the love of God. We are reminded from the book of Luke:

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11: 11-13

What God gives doesn’t come from an obligation from him to give us what is needed. Good things will come because God desires to give us good things. In this passage we are also reminded to ask. It is a very humbling experience to ask for things that we need. Luke writes prior to this that we should ask, seek and knock. Without searching we are unable to know what our needs are. It is an exercise in patience and humility to wait for the proper timing of God’s gifts. I often remind myself that I will be given gifts in God’s time, not my time.

It is also a gift of discernment to look at what we are asking for and know whether it is something truly good or unnecessary for us. There are times when we are hurt because we did not receive what exactly we asked for. We have to take time to look at the blessings of our day and find how they work in God’s plan. That being said, I am grateful for my job and being able to support my family. I am grateful for my friends and family and the support they give me. What today are you grateful and can give thanksgiving to God for today?

 



1 Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. “Household Food Security in the United States in 2010.” USDA ERS. USDA, Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Aug. 2012. .

Chick-Fil-A, Oreos, and Yiayia

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’ve had a lot that has happened. I hope to be back rather than start a new blog.

I don’t know about you, but lately my Facebook wall has been filled with photos that look like this:

and

The letter from the Mayor of Boston prohibiting Chick-fil-a corporation to open a restaurant in their city.

These are not the only photos, I have also received an equal number of posts regarding the other side of the issue. However, Gay Marriage, while important, is not the topic of this post.

Internet memes, laughs at one’s self and others, seem to dominate my Facebook feed. It’s what those I care about share in their lives. It may be their attempt at humor or “taking a stance” on an issue, but effectively, I know what’s on their minds.

Last night my husband and I were watching Food Network, enjoying a quiet evening and we were introduced to Yiayia. Yiayia is Greek for “grandmother” and the star of the Athenos commercials.

Please watch it and enjoy the laugh. What got me wasn’t what the actors were wearing, and it wasn’t that Yiayia reminded me of someone from Mamma Mia. It was that Yiayia came out and said that these 4 young and attractive people are sitting near a pool, and she calls it pornography. The young adults then try and cover themselves up a bit, but it still looks like they are ashamed, even though they are eating the right product.

There are four Yiayia adds that I have found: Yiayia calls a woman with a low-cut, but otherwise modest, dress a prostitute, Yiayia tells a non married couple who is living together that they are going to hell, and Yiayia tells a house-husband  that he is the wife because he does not bring in the family income. Well worth the chuckle if you have the time.

The reason I bring these ads up is because they touch on the Conservative Social Values that Chick-fil-a’s President-COO Dan Cathy shares. These grandmothers are chastising these young people because they live in a way that is a part of society, but against their personal views. We, as an audience, just laugh.

Many people would argue that these aren’t the views of the parent company, or we are laughing because these views are so archaic and backwards. I laughed at the first commercial because it touched on those values and told me, an advertiser is realizing we don’t need to show all that skin! For that, I may be unique, but I, as a young adult female who chooses to dress modestly, have a traditional view of family, and was a virgin who was separated by distance from my husband when we married, saw a glimmer of hope in advertising.

There are also many calling for a national boycott of Chick-fil-a based on the comments made by their founder. This is the quote that sparked a national outrage:

 “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.”

Chick-fil-a has also made this statement on its Facebook Page from July 19, 2012

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The emphasis is mine, because it closely resembles the Catholic Church’s stance as well.

“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358

The emphasis is again mine. Catholics, who are completely aligned with the Magisterium believe that those who are homosexual are called to lives of chastity. All people should be able to agree on the dignity of everyone, regardless of gender, race or creed.

Back to Yiayia. Based on these adds alone, one could argue that the parent company is in support of Conservative family values. These ads chastise how most people in the United States live their every day lives and mocks it in a public venue. Am I ashamed or offended by these commercials? No, I find them humorous, and as evidenced by this post, thought-provoking.

I try to be a thoughtful consumer. Does this mean that I will go out of my way to support Chick-fil-a because they support my views? No, I have never eaten there and do not live in an area where there is a Chick-fil-a. Will I go out and buy Athenos products because of their commercials? No, I purchase their hummus because it is the brand I prefer and I don’t know how to make my own. I still eat Oreos, Wheat Thins, Hummus, Feta Cheese, and Ritz crackers.  Why? I enjoy them and unless I could get a couple million friends to not purchase those things with me, I know my $5 here and there won’t do much to their bottom line. What will make a difference, is knowledge and standing up for our beliefs regardless of how controversial they are.

And for the record: Oreos are manufactured by Nabisco, which is a sister company to Athenos. Both are owned by Kraft Foods.