Faith as Verb

I hate grammar. I hate identifying parts of a sentence, I probably can not tell you the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Multi-variable calculus makes more sense to me. Who knows, blogging could be some form penance for me. However in my knowledge of English grammar, I can tell you the difference between a noun and a verb. A noun is a person, place, thing or an idea. A verb is an action or state of being. (Thank you Mrs. Angel my 1st grade teacher.)

This week, my parish is hosting a mission with Deacon Ralph Poyo, who is an amazing speaker and Evangelist. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak before but there is one line he often says that catches me off guard, which I am paraphrasing form memory. “Faith has two definitions, a noun and a verb. Faith as noun is the knowledge we learn from Catechism classes. Faith as a verb is the action that we take with God.”

Amid all the other mind blowing information he imparted last night I couldn’t help but think of my little corner of the blogosphere. What am I doing to act out faith as a verb? I have some head knowledge but how does it translate to my heart and how I govern my actions?

In my time as a youth minister and wife, I’ve needed to step out in faith. Where to take jobs, when to look for them, where I’ve moved to and people I associate with. Aside from that, I haven’t taken any bold movements of faith. I don’t speak up about injustice, fear and sin because I’ve let fear hold me back.

In the past I’ve been holding onto faith as noun, my books, conversations and gleanings from people that are far wiser than I. Now it is time to get moving into the right direction and live out faith as verb, to truly be defined by faith. This year I will revamp the site and maybe move off word press and share more of my experiences of living my faith rather than sharing it. Who is ready for a new journey? I am.

From here forward, I am going to try and have new content every Monday. That way I can share more prayers, plans, and ponderings. Let’s move forward in 2013.

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O Rex Gentium

In a year I have a new readership base. The O Antiphons are my favorite preparation to Christmas and I wanted to share these short posts I have from previous years. Please check back through the rest of the week for a new reflection each day. Minor edits have been made.

O King of the nations,

and their desire,

the cornerstone making both one:

Come and save the human race,

which you fashioned from clay.

Between Genesis chapter 1 and 2 we have the great accounts of how God created the human race.  Whether you believe that we were originally created from clay or not, There is no doubt that we are fashioned from our beginning by God.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.

Psalms 139: 13-14

It is not that we are born and forgotten but that we are loved even greater because we are created in the image and likeness of God. While people will often remind us that we are male and female, all different ethnicities and different, it does not diminish our value as human beings.

Being made in the image and likeness of God, comes from our very souls. Our souls are created to live on after our bodies decay. Our souls are immortal, they have a definite beginning and will have no end. This is similar to God who is eternal, He has no beginning and he has no end.

That being said St. Augustine reminds us “that our hearts are restless, until we rest in thee, O Lord.” This echos the greatness that every person is created in, from natural conception to natural death.

With two days until the vigil, please pray for those who have passed and are able to fully see the greatness of God this Christmas.

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.

Love

Although I am only 25, I could share quite a few different perspectives on love and what it means to me and those I care for. Then there is the fact that I cannot get The Beatles “All You Need is Love,” out of my head, and my husband would find this greatly amusing. So I’m going to share the love with you.

Then I will share the randomness of how my brain works. I can’t help listening to this song and then have 1 John 4:8 pop into my head, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Now I’m am nearly certainly positive that The Beatles were not making this connection when this song was written and recorded, but I want to share specifically the second verse and the chorus with one key change that I’m going to let you discover.

There’s nothing that can know that isn’t known,

Nothing you can’t see that isn’t shown,

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you are meant to be,

It’s easy

All you need is God,

All you need is God,

All you need is God,

God is all you need.

Lennon/McCartney  – Adaptations in italics are my own (substitute God for love)

In 1 John 4, John, makes it very clear that love is essential to faith and in the eighth verse makes the bold statement that “God is love.” Taking into account a couple of mathematical principles, we can easily say God = Love and making a quick substitution for God in the lyrics of a Beatles song still makes sense.

Going back to the beginning, we know that God creates man and woman with a purpose and the Baltimore Catechism teaches it as such, “God made man to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” This is pretty clear when God tells man to have dominion over the earth and it’s creatures, plus to honor and love God by not eating from the Tree of Knowledge. In short we know what God asked from Genesis chapters 1 and 2, then that pesky snake comes into the picture in chapter 3.

Satan doesn’t often tempt us with what we do not already know. God told Adam and Eve, don’t eat from that tree or you will die. It wasn’t that God didn’t make enough other plants that they could have eaten from. We also know that it was the tree of knowledge. Although Adam and Eve had free will they did not know what a negative consequence was without eating from that tree, Adam and Eve were completely protected from that knowledge.

So Satan stealthily slithers in and tells Eve the truth, “[…] You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” Genesis 3: 4 – 5, and he was telling her the truth. God knows what good and evil is and wanted to spare Adam and Eve from that because God already knew what the consequences would be. The consequence wouldn’t be physical immediate death, but the physical separation between God and humanity. The complete consequence for humanity in that separation, as defined by both the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1033), is Hell.

So why all this focus on love?

Love is the key to all of Salvation History. Love is why Moses was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and why they stayed in the desert for 40 years. Love is why David built the temple and why David was forgiven for what happened with Bathsheba. Love is why Abraham was given Issac, why Issac was sacrificed and why Issac was spared. Love, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,” John 3:16.

God’s love doesn’t stop there. We have the sacraments, grace, prayers, the mass, Saints and saints, forgiveness, virtues and the list just continues in great abundance. It is no wonder that we call love the greatest of all virtues. “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13: 13

In short, The Beatles may have been onto something when they said, “all you need is love,” but the fullness of that statement should be, all we need is God.

Call to Arms

Lately I’ve been busy with a myriad of different youth events, NCYC, Thanksgiving suppers, service events, classes, meetings, planning and stuff. A lot of it is busy work but it is busy work I enjoy, most of the time, however there are issues that get brought up that require some more immediate attention. Things get set aside, projects delayed and occasionally there are times that spur you to action.

There is one woman who has set out to make difference. “The Guiding Star Project is the next stage of the pro-woman movement. Join us in creating holistic, comprehensive centers nationwide that provide support for natural means of family planning, fertility care, childbirth, breastfeeding, and family life.” Her dream is beautiful and has a true purpose.

I love getting their updates and knowing what they are working on. I think their work is valuable and is in direct opposition to the “Culture of Death” that has permeated first world countries to the core. I was shocked to find this as a Facebook update today.

We were contacted today by one of our friends in Ohio who brought to our attention that the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is now promoting an ad Campaign sponsored by the local abortion provider Preterm. The movement called “My abortion, My life” seeks to “Help people see abortion for what it is: a normal and necessary part of women’s reproductive lives and health.”

The Guiding Star Project (emphasis mine)

“A normal and necessary part of women’s reproductive lives and health?” First may I be so bold to ask what makes abortion normal of any woman’s life? Google, “define abortion” and this is what you find

a·bor·tion/əˈbôrSHən/

Noun:

1. The deliberate termination of a human pregnancy.

2. A miscarriage.

It is debatable that abortion by its secondary definition is normal. By normal I include circumstances such as illness of the mother, pre-exsisting conditions, and unknown reasons leading to a natural end to human life. There is pain and suffering in the result of a miscarriage but through the whole duration of a pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage there is dignity of human life and design.

The primary definition of abortion, “the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy” (emphasis mine) is where we can call for an honest look at abortion. I am also looking at the syntax used in these definitions.

Thesaurus.com lends me some help, the synonyms for deliberate include the following: advised, cold-blooded, designed, meticulous, planned, predesigned, premeditated, reasoned, scrupulous, thought out, voluntary, and willful.

You can see the full list here http://thesaurus.com/browse/deliberate

One last call to Google for help, define murder.

mur·der/ˈmərdər/

Noun: The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Verb: Kill (someone) unlawfully with premeditation.

The only difference between abortion and murder, by the definitions, is a question of legality. Murder is legally wrong while abortion is protected by Roe v. Wade, 1973.

Regardless of where you stand on the position of abortion, I think we can agree that an abortion is a serious choice that requires a lot of thought and preparation. I do not know of a single woman who has entered into a clinic seeking an abortion on a whim. The choice of whether a person seeks an abortion or not takes thought and time.

I agree with Preterm’s stance that abortion does need to be discussed in an open forum. That is all I agree with Preterm about. However, to call an abortion a “natural and necessary” part of a woman’s life absolutely disgusts me. Abortion by its very nature dares to end a life with a variety of different implements or chemicals by changing a woman’s body to end a pregnancy in a horrific nature.

Here are some of the folks I have mentioned.

The Guiding Star Project:

Website: www.theguidingstarproject.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGuidingStarProject

My Abortion My Life

Website: http://www.myabortionmylife.org/

Rachel’s Vineyard: Catholic Counseling for Post Abortion

Website: www.­rachelsvineyard.­org

The Honor of Being Chaste

I remember learning Natural Family Planning (NFP) for the first time. I was 20 years old, engaged (for the first time) and completely naive. I had sound knowledge of a woman’s fertility, I was decent at judging mucus and could now start learning the rules about having sex.

I was a virgin in every sense of the word and all my instructor could talk about was when I couldn’t have sex once I was married. This blew my mind and it seemed like I would never be able to have sex with my husband. All I could think about was “I will be married and sex is supposed to be a good thing. Why do I still have to wait to have sex while I’m married?” Long story short and a different husband than I first intended, I am five years older and a pinch wiser.

Chastity and marriage are two words that are hardly ever mentioned in the same sentence as concepts that go together. In my opinion, this is a shame since chastity as a virtue can thrive within a marriage. Any NFP practitioner will give solid examples of why abstinence “should” be practiced, but a great NFP teacher will help couples embrace the call to married chastity.

The purpose of sex within the Sacrament of Marriage is two-fold, unitive and reproductive. This is a change in pastoral care since the Second Vatican Council. Prior to Vatican II the emphasis was on raising good, solid Catholic families and not necessarily the love relationship between spouses. The Second Vatican Council looked at the role of sex between married couples and found that the bond between couples grew with having sex during a woman’s infertile cycle. With this change in the mentality of sex, the responsibility of married couples (in regards to sex) also changed.

With these changes the most powerful word in a marriage became “no.” When looking at other virtues, this becomes apparent. For example, the key to Temperance is saying no before over indulging. The key to Humility is to say no to ourselves when our ego take control. In the same respect, the key to Chastity is saying no to the use of ourselves and others. Within each yes or no with Alex, my husband, is the same full consent of our marriage vows. Also what power is there in our yes to each other if we cannot say no. In this is also the essence of our Sacramentality,  we could not say yes to our marriage if in that same moment we did not have the free will to say no.

When it comes to saying no to the marital embrace, there can be a myriad of reasons: timing, fatigue, illness, personal situations or the simple need to say no. However, none of these reasons rule out the need for intimacy. It is in these intimate moments away from the marriage bed, personally, I can reflect more fully on our relationship. This is also where creativity in a movie/date/dinner/goofy British TV sci-fi marathon night ensues.

It isn’t in the midst of our crazy lives that we are separated, but rather that our marital bond is cemented. So what if the downstairs neighbor’s music is too loud, I’m watching Dr. Who with my husband and he is holding my hand. It is in that small routine act of giving that I am reminded of how much I am loved.  It is in the goofy nights playing laser tag that I feel joy, and in the simple kiss on the cheek while cooking that Alex lets me know I am honored and through my receiving, I honor him.

In Peace,

Amanda

The Great Comission

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Matthew 28:16-20

The trip back to Iowa after our honeymoon was somewhat miserable. Alex, my husband, was getting sick and I was sicker than I wanted to admit. Alex ended up driving most of the way down and I actually slept in the car for a while, which is a rarity. Before we started our 10 hour road trip Alex had contacted a friend of his who we would be passing through the area where his friend was working as a Catholic missionary for college students. We met up for dinner and started having a great chat.

Over our dinner we got onto the topic of living out our respective vocations. Our friend, Jacob, commented that he was living his vocation through the Great Commission. (See Bible passage above) The happy conversation came to a confused halt when Jacob mentioned that “the Great Commission can only be lived out by those in religious or single life. Married people don’t have the ability to reach as many people.”

My mind got to spinning. Marriage is not a lesser vocation to a priest, religious sister or the single laity; it is simply a different vocation. I was happy, since at this time I did not argue, I listened and understood where he was coming from. As Alex and I were headed back to the car I turned to him and asked, “Wouldn’t it be easier to be married and follow the Great Commission?” I brought up this scripture verse from Luke.

After this the Lord appointed seventy (-two) others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.

Luke 10: 1-3

Although there is more to that passage than what I posted, this is another commissioning of Christ to his followers. Here Christ explains how his apostles were to go out, in pairs. Marriage is the only vocation where you get to pick your partner. From there you are sent out to live your lives as a beacon and to be assaulted by those that would cut down the traditional marriage; very much like the “lambs among wolves.”

Being married also assumes another great responsibility, children. What better way to enlist disciples of nations than to ensure that your own children become the same great beacon as their parents. Provided parents have at least 2 children (which I understand is not possible for all couples) the faith is passed to a minimum of the same amount of people. Also faithful, married Catholics can be an inspiration of faith to their families. Especially if your family is like mine and come from a diverse blend of Protestant religions.

My job is interesting; I work as a DRE and a Youth Minister. I am a wife, an auntie, and maybe someday in the future, I will be a mother. I encounter people from all walks of life on a daily basis, and I am charged with bringing the love of Christ to them. I need to educate, love and evangelize with every word I speak and action I make.

I am called out to live the Great commission, it just looks different. I am no less a disciple of Christ because I am married, I just walk a different path. A call to holiness does not change because I have been called to a “normal” lifestyle, it means I must I must be holy and faithful according to my state of life. If that means posting this on a blog, saying an exhausted decade of the Rosary before I go to sleep, cooking a late dinner for Alex and I, or stop to talk with one of my parishioners in the grocery store because she’s having a rough day; those are my little acts of holiness and help bring Jesus to others.