Friday, June 9, 2017

Pondering the Present at The Potty. By:C.C.

"The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you.If you have a child, your duty at the moment may be to change a dirty diaper.So you do it. But you don't just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child. You can see Christ in that child. (Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents)

We can often box ourselves into a prison of sorts in seeking beyond where God has called us. To rest in the present with a calm of heart requires us to remain ever rested in God, as the great St. Augustine reminds us...“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

To rest in God leads us naturally to reside in our present circumstances with an immensity of purpose. Though simple things may seem they become imbued with incredible meaning when seen in the light of God's grace to us.
There are moments perhaps of lusting for another time and place, to be somewhere beyond the "nitty gritty" and the seeming monotonous things of our days overtake the zest we have planned for ourselves just outside  our reach. In this we are victim of failing to recognize the extraordinary presence of Christ within where we are. We miss His majesty within each moment.
Refining ourselves to such an awareness is a huge spiritual work brought on through much surrender. motherhood in particular proposes such an invitation to surrender. A shedding of self and pruning of virtue. Surely we must deafen the shouts and sounds of the "mom wars " circling around and hear the noise and battle within our own soul, calling us ever so gently to servitude at the Lord's feet through the service to our children and families. This is , in my opinion a forgotten art, a forgotten treasure and viewpoint ripped apart by illusions of pro-women ideologies. 

Children invite sacrifice, in fact if you are a stranger to it, sacrifice comes like a thief, or cry in the night and shatters self so beautifully, or destructively depending on your perception of course. 

The closer we live to God and away from self the easier, or more peaceful this transition can be. There is incredible grace, for we are used to living for Another, because of Another. When we can have reverence for our own existence then being a parent, being a mother is a divine task.
But surely we are victim to a generation of "stuff" marketed to "aid" women in their task of motherhood from contraptions to tools, to some of the most outlandish and expensive items, which in turn fail to praise and identify that the most irreplaceable most essential of all aids comes from what a mother's love can alone achieve. 

I wish we sought more to build up and highlight the power and immensity of a mother's touch instead of sending them reaching out for items. Reaching them past the universe of divinely given treasures within them and out in the battle zone of moms.... moms who have "this" and have "that". The judgments are outlandish and how destructive it is to see the supposed "War on Women" being spearheaded by other women! True femininity is a radical hiddenness in the heart of Christ and the bosom of our Lady. To reconcile ourselves to this hiddenness is the revealing of the most beautiful mystery.
Void of God, all of us, each of us, from moms to dads, to grandmoms, have essentially nothing. 

Most recently I began potty training my daughter. Simultaneously, and rather appropriately, I also took one of Catherine Doherty's books off the shelf and immersed myself in reading. Naturally, as a Catherine I am drawn to her.....oh, perhaps a bit biased in it, but she has been a source of tremendous wisdom. 

Nothing has prepared me for patiently awaiting each "doodie" in potty training, like her teaching on the "Duty of the Moment". Quite frankly, potty training has attuned me to be present in the moment like nothing else. My restlessness in sitting at Eliana's feet in the early days of training (literally sat there for what felt like an eternity in the first day) revealed to me how distracted I was from the present moment most days. How much I was truly like Martha. It is amazing how much meditation on the foot of Cross is made possible at my daughter's feet on the potty! 

I recognized so quickly, that even though I am home with her each day and tending to her needs and the immense needs of up-keeping the home and the kitchen,I often forget the power of just sitting with her. Distracted by what may seem to be the "Duty of the moment", and looking past the most important. 

I am reminded of Jesus' words to Martha, and the witness of Mary (Luke 10:38-42), this has reconciled for me the call to stillness, to silence, to presence before those we serve and to truly listen for Christ speaking to us in these most simple things.

Imbued with great love of God nothing is void of meaning or purpose. Even the potty, even the dirty diapers within our lives show to us the numerous blessings of Christ. (CC)

By God's grace potty training has gone very well. :)

Here is a video of her in all of her potty joy, excited for her potty reward of strawberries....and no she did not dive in the bowl, a timely cut off indeed!!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

We are What Jesus is Still Doing by: C.C.

"There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books
that would be written." (John 21:25)

The unknown graces of God become more evident to us through faithful obedience and trust in God's will. At the close of today's Gospel reading  we are offered an opportunity to infer the immensity of "many other things that Jesus did". Through a faithful lens we are left with awe and amazement at thinking that the Scriptural accounts of Jesus' life still only graze the surface of what He did.
Perhaps naturally we can then think of what Jesus is still doing presently, in the souls of many throughout the world. Can we imagine if the world were flooded with the individual testimonies and unknown graces of God? Surely no book could ever contain the entirety of works. 

For this reason it is apparent to us that what Jesus did and those things we come to learn throughout the Gospel stories are not far removed from our present day or some isolated historic event. They are ever present to us in faith. It is nearer to us than we may think or perceive but hardness of heart often keeps us at a distance from knowing the "God who is , who was, and is to come at the end of the ages." 

So many seek purpose for their lives, so many are without sense of what it is they are called to do while here on earth and to Whom they most belong. Some of these questions, void of God lead one to despair. It is tragic. 

We as the faithful are testament to "the many other things that Jesus" is still doing, to all that He has done. We are not to run out and attempt to site in numerous books all that the Lord has done for us perhaps, but we continue the sharing of this unknown grace by the testimony of our very lives. By the simplicity of our actions, and by the hiddenness of our prayer.

As the Church now celebrates the Confirmation of thousands of youth we are offered a visible sign of what Jesus is still doing. To dismiss this as solely a thing of passage or some necessary  ritual of sorts is to miss Christ among us completely. The Sacraments in a special way shine forth to us Christ active among us. We can experience panic and even sadness at the seeming decline of vocations, but we are never without God's providence. How much then should we rejoice at the witness of one holy obedient man laying down his life in service to God through the priesthood? If we trust God and if we believe in all that Jesus did and promised us then we must too be joyfully expectant for His provisions.

Each of us are a visible sign of what Christ is still doing.Though, Imperfect we may be. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours,Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.” 

May we strive always to shine forth the beauty of Christ in all that we do, and continue to reveal the beauty of the divine story.(CC)


Monday, May 29, 2017

The Forgotten Spirit of Fr. Francis McSpiritt. By:CC

Hindsight is always a good teacher. If we are graced enough to recognize the blessings of yesterday while we're still living, then we do well to be attentive to these graces and give thanks to God. Some of these graces are blessings of places we have come across and people we have met.

By faith, this also includes people we have not met, but those that have somehow touched us and blessed us by our coming to know them in prayer. One of these people for me has been an old Irish priest named Fr. Francis McSpiritt. 

As our Archdiocese prepares to celebrate it's 175th anniversary, I felt it to be a fitting time to highlight one of the most prominent and ordinary servants of God that served within our diocese in an extraordinary way. 

I am not seeking to foster a fanaticism of sorts, but to re-earth some of the most beautiful stories of healing and intercession that took place. St Patrick's Church in Wildfield as we see it structurally today is the fruit of many answered prayers and humble tithes as a natural consequence to supernatural aid from the hands of a humble surrendered Irish priest. Money is said to have poured in from numerous pilgrims and those offering thanks to God for what was done through Fr. McSpiritt's intercession. However, Bull notes that Fr. Mac had left the parish in Adjala "largely because he had felt unequal to undertaking the building of a new church. Now a similar situation confronted him at Wildfield. Money poured in freely in his declining years, and although he gave full vent to his charitable inclinations he still had enough and to spare." (Bull 346) "The priest chose to build the new church a little further south, on a knoll from which the ground falls steeply away on three sides. Thus the tall spire of the new St. Patrick's can be seen from miles away. This church was open free of debt." (Bull 346) One could just imagine a pastor like him fronting the family of faith campaign!

My interest in this history is heightened because I attended St.Patrick's Elementary School from grades 6-8 ,received the beautiful Sacrament of Confirmation at that parish, and was given the gift of our Lady's Miraculous Medal  there,  and somehow, only by the grace of God graduated grade 8 with a Christian fellowship award, when surely I spent more time in the principal's office for talking too much. There were many soccer practices held on the parish grounds, yet during these times of ignorant youth I had not known the rich history. 

Many years later in July of 2012 I had a friend named Patrick from London, Ontario up to visit. I had met him at the Abbey of The Genesee (of course) and thought it would be fitting to prayerfully spend some time making a mini pilgrimage throughout the area and up to Tottenham to explore some of the older and beautiful parishes surrounding the vicinity. Given Patrick's Irish roots, and of course his love of St.Patrick we thought beginning near my home was the best choice. 

As we prayerfully perused the grounds and chatted with one another we stumbled upon the grave site of Fr.Francis McSpiritt. Patrick made some casual jokes in passing about his top hat and his name (Lord, have mercy on us) and we continued on. It was not until we were visiting the other parishes and the name McSpiritt came up again that my interest was peaked. I jotted this priest's name of long ago into my journal and carried on. 

I returned home with interest to learn more about this Fr.Francis McSpiritt. My reading took me through learning about the history of the entire archdiocese from it's conception and I was enthralled. Specific titles for those interested in following suit would be Catholics at the Gathering Place, McGowan and Clarke and From Macdonell to McGuigan, William Perkins Bull. I learned of many interesting figures throughout our local Church history and situations that were trying and truthfully some that would give any good Bishop quite the headache! 

The stories of Fr. McSpiritt's healing were those that stood out as a source of comfort in a trying time. His first reported cure was while he was in Niagara Falls at St.Patrick's parish and became known as a "man of miracles" . "Here he was reported to have returned sight to a blind man and to have restored peace to a girl suffering from St. Vitus Dance, a nervous disorder." (150th Anniversary pg 7) 

Many of the sources site continuous healing and cures at the hands of Fr. McSpiritt by the grace of God. He did not seek reputation for his healing or any glory. He did not gloat about what was occurring and made known to those who retold his miracles that it was God's work. One protestant man seeking healing said the reason for his coming to Fr. Mac was because "they say you have some power of witchcraft." "Get down on your knees," Fr. Mac ordered."Make the Sign of the Cross. Now go home and tell your friends it was by the sign of the Cross you were cured."(Bull 335) Fr. Mac, as he was often referred to was a selfless and tireless servant , he is reported to have even slept in the basement of the parish to be readily available to those in need.

Surely there are many ordinary men doing the extraordinary within our diocese daily, but in looking back to McSpiritt one can see that he notably stood out among the flock. Undoubtedly this was a time of great trial too. As naturally Archbishop Lynch would have been sensitive to the optics and grandeur that Fr.McSpiritt's prayerful intercession of healing was creating around the area. In retrospect I am sure that the scandalous behavior and tavern hopping during that time on part of some wayward priests would have been just as concerning. I sympathize with Archbishop Lynch as he must have been between a rock and a hard place indeed.

  "When tales of Fr.Mac's remarkable cures reached Archbishop Lynch, that ever diplomatic and wary prelate earnestly besought him to give no further 'thaumaturgic exhibitions', but in vain did the Archbishop tell him that a charge of charlatanry might be brought against him.Father Mac was not to be turned aside. He regarded himself as a divine instrument and under command from the Master to use his gift for the alleviation of human misery. To the  ever-recurring question how he worked his miracles, his simple reply was, "It is between the afflicted and God; I know nothing of it."(pg 333 bull) 

 I am sure we have missed many saints among us out of fear of heresy and the prominence of some outlandish crazy folk, but I trust that the Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth of Christ among us with maturing of time and humble simple faith. 

We can not look back and blame those who obedient to their roles and the grace given unto them at the time would have sought to "silence" the works that were taking place. We must understand this to be work of grace too, either the complete resistance to it, or honest obedience to one's own prayer. Regardless of what was tried or spoken the truth is that Fr. McSpiritt's healing and gifts continued. 

Those touched by it firsthand testified to it time and time again and have undoubtedly passed these stories on throughout their own families. I am sure it is enough to reside there faithfully in the heart and soul of the faithful. True holiness does not seek fame, or recognition. The veneration of the ordinary men and women extraordinarily graced by God is a cause that belongs to people much beyond me and in some Vatican office amidst many books, files, and records! 

We can earnestly pray and accept the graces though and pray for intercessions. I do believe that a saint is a saint whether known to the masses or not. And truly should we pray , keeping Fr. McSpirrit in mind,  say a prayer for the repose of his soul. It is amazing that he resided so near to us, that I could be confirmed there, receive the gift of our Lady, and be led there some years ago and stumble upon his grave.

Prior to his death those weary at anticipating his parting from the world were comforted by his words "A bit of earth from my grave will do ye...." he replied, "say a little prayer for the repose of my soul when you take it." In fact, for a long period following the burial of Fr. McSpiritt, parishioners took earth from the grave site with the strong conviction that a clod of earth from his resting place carried curative powers. Oral tradition recounts the frustration of the local grave keeper who was unable to maintain a decent covering over the spot where Fr.McSpiritt had been laid to rest."(9) 

Naturally in 2012 I did just that following morning Mass one day, to then be confronted gently by the Italian pastor there "Ma cosa fai?" sparing some words of course we exchanged pleasantries. 

......"His influence was felt by good men of whatever faith, the example of his saintly life raised the moral tone of the community. His own people flocked to him to confess, to ask advice, and to be strengthened against temptation. The sick and the dying begged for his assistance. He did remarkable things, but the man was always bigger than his work." (350)

Fr. Francis McSpiritt, pray for us
Archbishop Lynch, pray for us
All the unknown saints of heaven, pray for us.
and of course St.Patrick, pray for us!!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Beholding My Mother" (Book Excerpt) by:C.C.

Healing a Childhood Wound
December, 2012
I was grateful for my ongoing dialogues with Fr. John Eudes. He became an instrumental part of my spiritual life during those early, pruning times. I brought to him the matters that were most troubling for me. Any doctrinal questions, or scriptural clarities, and also complex things of the heart and soul. I felt safe with him. Perhaps that is the tact of any good priest and psychiatrist, but he was far beyond a Doctor of the monastery; truly a living Saint.
He was charitable in that he took time to respond to me, and always prudently. As I was immersed back into the world and into the classroom setting I could always count on his humble prayers whenever I sent him an intention. Many times these intentions were for my students and their sufferings. I had seemingly long forgotten the struggles of young adolescent life until I was given the grace to guide them in their learning.
During a meeting with him at the Abbey on December 15, 2012  Father was rather jovial sharing many tales from his younger days, of diving into seaweed in 1939, rambles about the army, or crazy things he had seen while studying medicine, including a story about a woman who had given birth and believed her baby was a rabbit. I never quite understood what he was getting at, but it absolutely frightened me. 
Amidst all of the lighter joys of his reflective sharing he brought up the martyrdom of his brother monks in Algeria, something I had not heard about until this moment. He explained how the monastery was raided in the middle of the night by Islamic radicals. All of the men, except one, were taken and brutally murdered. The one who survived, and at this point still living was a friend of his. All of these martyred men his brothers. There was no room in this for speech on my part, I had no place to share or offer anything. I surrendered to the grand silence. Father then went on from this to speak of the need for healing. 
Father John had a way of sharing things rather fraternally and superficially, yet was careful to not over penetrate the personal, or seek to self-glorify. His sharings were always rooted in God’s glory, intended or not, it was reflective of how authentically grounded in Christ he was.
As our meeting this specific day came to a close he said “I think it would profit you to read a book entitled “Healing the Eight Stages of Life”, we have it out front in the Abbey bookstore, it may help you understand the conditions many of your students are facing, and also yourself.”  
I had taken to reading quite a bit since conversion, but was adamant about never bringing books to the Abbey. I came empty and open, knowing that I would be provided with reading material. This never failed; the Holy Spirit is a well-equipped Librarian!

Off I went to peruse the book shelf. I found the book Fr. John had referenced, it wasn’t the most inviting cover, an image of some man probably as old as Fr. John himself with two young children and seriously retro font.  This would not be the first book I would choose for myself, but I trusted his counsel on it. I had grown accustomed to recognizing that most things I had chosen for myself weren’t always best for me anyway!
 I started reading as I walked back to the retreat house and was immediately drawn in. Through the introduction alone it was apparent that this was not a Catholic book. It was Christian though, and spoke of healing the stages of life and wounds that can be acquired there by bringing Jesus into them. It was very intriguing, and by no means was it some charismatically fluffy book. With each stage of life presented there was a corresponding character trait, for example in infancy it highlighted the cultivation of “trust, resilience” and how these qualities are fostered through sound parenting and the importance love and touch. Anyway it went on and on through all of the stages.

As I got into Bethlehem house, I was sure to make my way into the kitchen for a hot cup of black coffee and a cookie. The cook was always kind to leave little treats inside of a container on the counter. Often the retreatants much less kind and some would rapidly finish them all, but I am not here to call one a glutton or judge sins, though it is quite sad to find the cookie jar empty. On this day it was plentiful.  Most of the time I fasted from these goodies while retreating, I chose to modestly indulge during this visit.
Following my snack I headed to the chapel in the house with my new reading material and journal in hand.  I was amazed at the complexity and beauty of the emotional life, of how much of our psychological make up is in fact reflective of what we experience and receive. I was also saddened by the reality of the wounds that can linger within us as a result of neglect in one of these fragile areas of our life. It indeed helped me to understand some of the brokenness I had witnessed in the classroom, and in those around me. Most of it I read with ease and objectively, I wasn’t prepared for what it revealed about me and my own wounds.
I arrived at the chapter on “Play Age” and that it where my reading became much more sensitive. As I read through the stories and examples suddenly everything felt more personal. Even though most of the examples had little direct resonance with my own experiences they did succeed in drawing emotions out of me. Before I knew it I was weeping. Sitting on a pillow in the back of the Bethlehem chapel before our Lord, weeping out a wound I knew that He was there to heal.
I continued reading onto the “School Age” chapter, attentively and tearfully. For the first time I was aware of just how much my Mother’s mental illness and breakdown had affected me. I was aware of the void of maternal love and feeling of abandonment that was the result of her illness. The guilt that I held within me for her breakdown, as if I had played a part in it, was oozing to the surface. 
Christ met me in this. I did not like it. I did not want to have to focus on this. Not here and not now, heck, not ever. Simultaneously I knew it had to happen. God wanted to heal my brokenness so that I could love more fully. So that I could live with a greater sense of His immeasurable joy and have in this life an experience of His goodness.
I sat and wept. For the first time I felt as if I had permission to finally break down myself. To express in my solitude before our Lord how much weight was within me. Though I never did numb myself to the reality of my mother’s illness I did see, through the grace of conversion how a lot of my behavior and wrestling with sin was an acting out of this wound.
At the close of each chapter is an exercise or meditation to help heal a wound occurring in that stage of life. Though I was not one usually into these “self-help” feely, touchy type exercises, I could not deny the importance of what was happening to me interiorly.

“Behold, your mother.”
From the sufferings of the Cross, Jesus gave us His mother. This moment for me in the chapel, meditating upon one of the heaviest crosses in my young life, I too was given the grace to embrace our Lady, our Mother, my Mother.
I had built a routine around praying the Rosary regularly and though I understood some of the spiritual significance of it. At this time I lacked an honest connection to our Lady. I am not talking about one of these heretical type relationships, or some madness of receiving daily messages and Tweets from Her. I mean, yes, She speaks to the soul, I am sure of this. I am just more convicted of humble discernment and prudent silence.
 I question anything spiritual that is too loud and projected really. Things most sacred, things most authentic must naturally linger in silence from where they are conceived and thus remain so intimately woven between the soul and our Lord where they bear fruit, humble fruit; cultivated in time and revealed void of human glory, long after the human body has decayed and the soil dried up! True contemplation is conservative.

Back to the meditation…

The exercise invited the reader to write a letter to Jesus from the moment of hurt. It provided a suggestion in the event that one could not think of one themselves. Weeping and writing I wrote to Jesus as was asked of me. What came out was something written with incredible honesty and the limitations of my young self.

Dear Jesus,
I remember my mother’s absence like it was yesterday. I don’t know what a mother’s love is like from my own mother. This always made me seek attention and approval in everything. I blamed myself that something my brother and I did had broken mom. I began to hide my emotions and everything. I didn’t share anything with her- she was not there. I remember feeling alone.
At school I sought the affirmation of teachers. I was scared of my mother from the moment I heard her yelling that day. I did not know what to do, but she was dangerous to me.
Dad was overwhelmed and ashamed of her. I never wanted him ashamed of me. I felt abandoned and neglected and alone. I felt it was my fault. I became ashamed of her too Jesus. No one told me I was good because everything became about mom then.
Sometimes I still feel like that child in need of love, and so deprived deep within me of a mother’s validation. It still hurts me.

It was out. Everything I wanted to yell and scream. I knew it was not pleasant or nice. I knew that no one should feel this way toward their mother, and I knew my mother would never understand the complexity of my emotions about this as she struggled with the radical fluidity of her own. The sixth commandment always haunted me in this regard. How could I honour her, with these feelings in my heart? Simultaneously I was also aware that she was ill, that this was not her, I was torn between not wanting to discriminate against her and her mental illness, and yet victim of it too without consent. There is great stigma in our society surrounding the mentally ill and quite frankly there are many silent sufferers in their caregivers and family members who ride the highs and lows of this illness, afraid of sharing their honest truths and difficulty.  
I found myself searching for my mother. Some memory of her before the illness took her away. Who was she? Was she a happy person? Did she love us?
I can still remember some prominent moments from my childhood, pleasant ones of mom, a couple of encouraging words and hot lunches when my brother and I would walk home from school for recess. That warmth is all I know and all I remember though, yet somehow I am sure of her good work and mothering in my earlier days. She will sometimes tell me satisfying stories about those years and I cling to the hope of believing them.
Jesus was there. For the first time I recognized Him amidst all of this, as the exercise invited me to bring Jesus into the moment. My tearful and sobby panting had started to settle, my breaths more calm and deep, more relaxed, more free. With my eyes closed I envisioned my old kitchen. I was 8 years old, the time of mom’s breakdown. I could feel the laminate floor beneath my feet again. Hearing the humming of the old fridge to my immediate right and seeing the dim light coming in from the kitchen window. My mother stood before me. “Okay, now Catherine bring Jesus into this”  I imagined what the exercise suggested, breaking one of mom’s china cups, though I don’t recall mom ever having china, this was redundant. It was a moment of me doing something to upset her and there emerged the anger, the yelling, and the woman I wanted to desperately forget from my childhood.….Suddenly He was there, radiant, yet sorrowful. He stood behind my mother with His hand on her heavy shoulders and looked at me. I felt warmth and comfort within, indescribable peace. It was the first time I think I ever realized how broken she was. How much she needed Jesus to be able to stand and that he was always there with her looking at me and watching over me.
My eyes still closed and tears now trickling down my cheeks She too was there, Our Lady, in this tiny childhood kitchen. She was behind me, surrounding me with her Maternal love and warmth. She was always there holding me and I had not known Her. I could see then that I was always provided for. That the void within me could never be fulfilled by the expectations placed on human love. We are made and sustained by the radical love of God for each of us and it finally resonated with me.
“Behold, your Mother”, was imbued with immense meaning now. I could begin the journey now of laboriously learning how to hold my own mother, surrounded now with the understanding of our Lady always holding me.
At the close of the exercise I was invited to write a response from Jesus, meditating upon what He would say….

Dear Young Catherine,
I saw your hardship and was always present beside you. I heard your cry and held you in my arms, waiting for you to talk to me, to come to me.
I have given my Mother to you to guard and protect you, to guide you for the rest of your life into motherhood and every place you now go. Your life will be fruitful. Continue to trust in me. It is over now….I love you

* Please pray for my mom. For her healing and conversion.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The (Home) Birth Story of Peter Romeo by:C.C.

" We live in a culture today that treats pregnancy as an illness, the birth experience as something to be numbed from,motherhood as a burden, and death to be something medicated into. We have lost sense of the fragility of life, and have bought instead the allure of living comfortably in the perception of control. The loss of this is never really living at all, but numbing ourselves to the most beautiful reality of God's grace and gift of life." (CC) 

Our son is now almost four months old, our daughter has since celebrated her second birthday. Gone are the moments of having two children under two years old. It has been an incredible blessing and much of the experienced joy beyond words. Surely, there are some moments of struggle, but it is more a struggle of wills. A shattering of self that invites a hiddenness in Christ, and help through Him and our Blessed Mother that is available to each of us should we remember to ask and invoke such faithful intercession. 

The struggle bears fruit with endurance and reveals a blossoming of maturing into a vocation that God so graciously gives all we need to succeed in.

After the birth of Eliana Grace and the miraculous way our Lord provided I was left in awe and amazement at the power of prayer and grace in the birthing process. Her first blessing prior to leaving the hospital by an Egyptian Coptic priest is one that still remains fresh in my soul's memory and even nearer to me given their recent/continued sufferings. What helped me through her labour and going about it naturally (as I had desired) was born from many strong intentions and the cultivation of spiritual, emotional, and physical preparation. I am by no means a health "guru" or one to impose my birth opinions on anyone, I can only attest to my own experience.

Peter, or my "little rock" as I have nick named him has helped me anchor myself further in God's will and accept wholeheartedly the plan of One who knows much better than me. Surely I had my own "plans" and selfish designs even while thinking I was living in accordance to God's plan. I had in my mind an outline of sorts. I am grateful that God truly overstepped the boundaries of my feeble line and placed two lines in front of my face on Mother's day weekend last year telling me that I was a mother again. 

The journey began and preparing to birth again was looming over my head. I had self defeating thoughts, not about mothering two, but about the whole process of birthing again....could I do this? Oh my, what if I can't? I kept these thoughts and remained in prayer about some intentions to offer up my "pangs" for and other thoughts to help get me through. I decided instead to focus on the very important point of remaining in the present and to appreciate and recognize that nothing is promised to us and how much I should concern myself less with these selfish thoughts of pain and pray instead for the safety of this little life forming in my womb.

After having a profound experience with my lovely and devout Catholic Polish midwife, I was definitely looking into that avenue again. The issue I encountered though, was the distance of her clinic to my home, and the distance of her hospital of privilege (some 30km away). Given I was due in January (winter in Toronto can be unforgiving in terms of driving) , and also how quickly my first labour progressed with Eliana her clinic agreed it was best for me to be given care at a sister clinic closer to my home. AHHHH! 

Thankfully my lovely midwife was to be on vacation at the time of my due date and agreed  that no matter what she would attend my birth. What a kind soul she is. The midwives at the sister clinic were also incredible. They agreed to "share care" with my former midwife without  fuss, some extra paper work, and a little back and forth of communication. In my heart at this time the idea of home birth was beginning to stir. I recall wanting to know more, and began asking about it to women who have gone through it before. My former midwife would also be able to be the primary midwife on call if I chose to birth at home. 

I discovered a podcast  and followed their journey to home birth and beyond that helped to provide some extra information for me and I continued to read up on everything I could find home birth related.( I was also interviewed on their podcast, but did not open up fully about the spiritual aspects about my birth, so choosing to expand here :) )

My husband is quite the conservative and this whole idea did NOT sit well with him. I was persistently unrelenting in my request, but also mindful of his important input and feelings about it all. He always has this saying though "Catherine, in the end what you want is going to happen anyway" I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing, or evidence of my stubbornness--haha.  I pressed on in preparations, dragged Carmen to an information session at the midwife clinic and saw little sparks of hope ooze from his pensive stare. He was aboard and we began to prepare for our home birth together. 

In doing this we kept it completely private as we knew explaining this to our well opinionated Italian family would be a labour of sorts itself. I Also wanted to keep the birth as intimate and sacred as possible.. It doesn't get much more personal than in your home after all :)

I began petitioning our Lord for how I would really appreciate the birth going. I prayed that a) it would happen at night when my daughter was in bed b) by His grace things would go smoothly! 

I gave birth to Eliana at 39weeks and 4days so I had anticipated an early arrival for baby #2 also. But truthfully what do I know? Surely enough Peter Romeo was born at 39weeks and 4days, the exact same gestation! 

My water broke with Eliana and this was an easier landmark for me and helped me to "know" that labour was upon us soon! With Peter things were far more different more eventful to say the least. I started having signs of labour and some minor pains on the Wednesday two days before labour. I was in denial of this being anything though. Carmen was to work on Thursday away from home and also play a gig that night so I was praying with every part of me that this baby would hang on. I was convinced I was in labour, and my way of distracting myself during this time was to vacuum my house....repeatedly, mainly to keep movement as it does aid the process. I had a dear friend come over and she brought me an incredible amount of food and just kept watch with me should anything happen while Carm was out. She was so kind in doing this and I will not forget it.

Another night passed, I tucked my daughter into sleep and no labour. I remember thanking our Lord in a sense because I did not want the whole dramatic "Carm I'm in labour, get here soon" fiasco. Surely enough on the evening of January 13th as Carmen was kneeling in prayer before bed around 9:30pm I had my first (or so I thought) contraction. He was exhausted. All he said was "are you serious?" followed by "okay, I'm going to bed, call me when it is serious"

Recognizing the importance of a well rested spouse I got my headphones, popped on the same Gregorian Chant playlist as my first labour experience and went to the new baby's bedroom to time and move through the contractions. Surely enough I was already four minutes apart, lasting for about a minute, for an hour. BAM! 

I paged my midwife and she assured me she was on her way and should anything change (i.e. they become closer) to contact her again so she could dispatch the other team members. I gently woke Carm, as gently as "Hey I'm in labour" can be and we continued monitoring. In seemingly no time at all I was already 2/3 minutes apart with each contraction. Midwife was called again, and the whole team was on way. 

By the time my midwife arrived I was already at 8cm, When the Lord answers , He means business and moves quickly sometimes! The home birth setting was incredible, I didn't do one of those blow up tubs (to be honest they freak me out) I chose instead to birth in our room and it was a beautiful setting. Dimly lit, crucifix visible, our Lady's statute by my bedside and loving midwives sitting and waiting patiently. My husband was a champion. He even made tea for the ladies as they waited. I continued in my "Agnus Dei" songs and was preparing to meet this baby. 

I remember a moment of fear though, nearing the end. And I privately said to my midwife "I do not want to push this baby out" (Yes, how ridiculous)  this was surely my moment of asking the "cup" to pass from me. Barbara spoke these calming words that soothed me so much. She said to me "Catherine, it is time to bring your baby into the world, Jesus and Mother Mary are with you." 

I reflected upon my intentions. 

For this labour I offered up the pains for the grief and suffering of those women who have had miscarriages, my dear friend Deanna, among other personal friends, and for couples who have had to endure still birth, or the death of a baby shortly after arrival. I found these experiences to be very heart wrenching and through social media, I indirectly came to know of two stories in particular of people I do not know at all, that I held close to my heart during  labour: Laura Kelly Fanucci, and Tommy Tighe as well as a private family friend intention. Any physical pain experienced during labour paled quickly in light of recalling these realities I can only pray for their continued consolation amidst such loss. 

By 1:15am little rock Peter Romeo was born. It was a quick and beautiful experience. We named him Peter, primarily because my husband loves the name, but also after St. Peter. As shared before Carmen and I went to Rome for an engagement blessing prior to being married and were able to pray before St.Peter's bones and pray for the intention of our marriage with a lovely Archdiocese of Toronto priest (shout out Msgr.Owen Keenan) at the Altar of St.Peter. 

Romeo is the name of Carmen's deceased nonno. His name also happens to mean "a pilgrim to Rome" The two together are undoubtedly infused with meaning for us.

We are blessed beyond measure. Also joyful that the news of our home birth was well received by family and friends alike. 

Post birth Joy :)

My heart is full (C.C.)
Our Lady of Grace, pray for us.
St. Peter, pray for us.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tempted to Judge? Humbly Remember by:C.C.

“Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:9-15)

If you have ever kept company with a person filled with intense zeal for the Gospel and blazing with faith it is perhaps difficult at first, to not deem the person absolutely insane, or to simultaneously desire an ounce of the faith that they proclaim. It can be extremely intimidating. It can also in fact be isolating for one on the “outside” or to one who is struggling with belief themselves. 

Granted, we of faith in Christ can struggle from time to time with believing that He has truly risen and fail to live out our lives witnessing the proclamation of this truth. This does not make us terrible people, nor does it render us void of faith, it rather exposes our shared human frailty and provides an opportunity for us to deepen our trust.

Struggling with faith is something our Lord well knew would happen. I have often heard the argument that having faith was “easier” in the times of the disciples.Today’s Gospel provides a reality much different than this point. I find it tremendously humbling that even those who ate with Jesus, walked with Him, knew the prophetic Scriptures of Isaiah, and heard Jesus Himself speak of His own fate and the glory of His rising, were slow to believe.

I can imagine the haste and zeal present in Mary Magdalene as she stormed in to bring forth the good news of Jesus’ rising, only to be met with the extreme doubt and continued mourning of those who had been with Him. I wonder if she pleaded with them to believe her, or if she continued to persuade them. I imagine, that after having had an authentic and genuine encounter with our Risen Lord and Savior her response was probably and appropriately much more humble and silently patient, trusting her Lord to make Himelf known to them. To do or say too much would only give rise to more doubt.

Jesus then appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus. They too went forth to share the incredible news and still they were met with doubt. And yet, so mercifully our Lord finally appeared to the eleven and revealed Himself to them. For whatever reason there was this struggle with doubt. The hardness of heart the disciples had was perhaps due to their own grief and mourning, when we wallow in our own despair or are too self-absorbed with feelings we can inadvertently block the blessings and miss our Lord in our midst. Like the disciples we can forget the message of hope that Jesus proclaimed.

As our modern times can give more reason to succumb to a hardness of heart, it can seem more trying to muster up true faith in the Risen Lord. We may often be guilty of judging others and become unsympathetic to their struggle with belief. 

Today’s Gospel offers us reason to meet this doubt with humility and perhaps understand and recognize how difficult it was to believe in the early days of Christ’s rising too. By placing judgement we do not demonstrate faith, we do not proclaim that we believe in the Risen Lord, or act out of the trust that He will reveal Himself and soften the hard hearted.

What I find most captivating in this Gospel for today is the tireless way our Lord makes Himself known. He does not stop, He does not give up on us, He continues to provide a means to reveal Himself. This is not for any self-glorification, or for any other reason but to reveal the immensity of God’s radical love for each of us. As believers in Christ we must also trust that His outreach today is no less significant or divine than it was in the time of St. Mark's revealing to us. Jesus is not victim to our limitations or our feeble hands, and though we are called to be vessels of His truth, we must also patiently trust God’s ability to exceed all of our expectations, all of our human reason and height of intellect.

Where are we within this Gospel? Do we believe and trust as Mary, or do we doubt?
Let us trust that despite where we and those around us are at, that we are equally loved and pursued by our Risen Lord. 

May those touched with faith truly "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” And may we all wake each day mindful of our feebleness and pray “I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) (CC)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Judas In Us and Christ's Redemption by: C.C.

Holy Week invites a sorrowful participation in the journey of Christ to the crucifixion. Though completely familiar to us the Scriptures seem to invoke a sense of newness and freshness as we revisit them again this week. As we strive to lead lives of holiness and renew our commitment to follow Christ each day these Gospel readings also renew in us a greater sense of what Christ truly endured. It unfolds to us as a movie that we've watched many times and well know the ending of, yet are still left trembling and deeply moved. 
To live under the shadow of the Cross is to live well in Christ. Without this essential remembering than our spiritual lives and faith are not anything more than a placebo. Perhaps over time we gravitate to certain moments leading up to Christ's Passion, we are lead to identify with certain "characters" more than others. We are roused to greater anger, or great is important to be attentive to these movements as they offer us a chance of humble examine and an opportunity to bring these findings to the foot of the Cross begging for mercy.
Today's Gospel particularly brought me to stand among the twelve, to stand as Judas. I am not proud standing here, but I am guilty as he is guilty. How many times in my life have I "handed over the Lord" for much less than "thirty pieces of silver"? Shamefully for nothing at all, but the emptiness of sin...and surely in retrospect and the gift of grace one begins to recognize that there is nothing worth this handing over of Christ. No amount of anything offered by man , nothing tangible, nothing here on earth, worth denying our Lord. Yet we continue to do. Perhaps it is unnoticed, unknown to others, but in the depth of our interior, in our thoughts, and in our hearts. How often have we stood as Judas? How often have we handed over our brothers and sisters , and not recognized that in this we too hand over our Lord? How often have we come to the table sinfully?  To grow in sanctity is also growing in the ability to see clearly the numerous sins we have. As long as we are living and breathing we are not white as snow. 
We know the full story though, we have the privilege of knowing of Jesus' rising and still we fall. Christ knows this, He knew it then as He took the Cross, and He knows it now. And He loves us in such an unfathomable way that He renews even His taking of the Cross for us each day, out of radical love for us.  His wounds bleed not only for us, but also because of us. It is a hard reality to swallow. Especially in our times when we dare not share the truth of the Cross, lest we offend , lest we drive away someone sitting in the pew looking for their "peaceful" Sunday Mass. But unless people are brought to the fullness of understanding the Passion, recognizing the immensity of what this means...then no peace, no minute understanding of Christ's love for them and His unimaginable mercy and peace as a result of this incredible love can be ever experienced. To dilute the the message of the Cross is reason why the Western Church has become so lukewarm.
As those imbued with the knowledge of what happened on the third day, then we too have access to the greatness of Christ's mercy now. He invites us to the foot of the Cross, and He renews us in the Resurrection , should we desire honestly to follow and to be renewed, and to be given new life, then there are many implications to live by. This is why the Sacrament of Confession is so vital. So many remain in shame, and in despair, never knowing the freedom of Christ's forgiveness , never knowing the fullness of life. Let us prayerfully continue to journey with Jesus, and to remember we are dust. (CC)
Christ, Have mercy on us.