A Letter to My Future Husband #NPN2017

NPN2017Dear Future Husband,

In our day and age, I know it isn’t a matter of whether or not you have been exposed to pornography, but a matter of what you did/do once you were. I ask you to be honest with me. I know. I learned the statistics, the appeal, the behavior, the prevalence, and I’m asking you to, please, choose me. To choose us. Appeal to my love for you by being honest and transparent.

Don’t think for a moment I won’t be angered, disappointed or discouraged. Mostly, I will be scared. Maybe Betrayed. Definitely Hurt. Concerned for myself and potential children. I won’t excuse your behavior. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Porn isn’t just bad behavior. Porn lies. Kills Truth. Kills love. Porn distorts: Sex, Attraction, Beauty, Respect, Dignity, Worth, Value, Gratification, and Discipline. Porn objectifies. Porn turns men into beasts. Porn ruins your soul, your relationship with God, your ability to master virtue, and your ability to become the husband/father God called you to be. Porn is ultimately selfish.

Choosing to view and act on pornography is like eating a delicious 3 layered cake that is enticing and pleasurable in view, taste, smell, texture, etc. But you are so blinded by the externals and yourself (maybe peer pressure or “well intended” advice to eat the cake,) you don’t realize you just ingested a 3 layer “meth” cake of addictive hell, selfishness, and anti-love. But, it’s too late, you need another fix. You go back to the meth cake. You choose the meth cake over real love. It becomes a coping mechanism for disappointment, hurt, shame, uncertainty, insecurity, conflict, marital intimacy problems, etc. Pleasure and a quick fix distracts from struggling and striving for authentic faith, hope, and charity. I’m sorry and saddened if you bought into the lie of porn and chose the garbage when God wanted to give you heaven.

So what now. Guess what? You aren’t a slave to your lust, your past, your mistakes, your shame, your guilt, and your weaknesses. But you do need to change your heart which will change your body, mind, and soul. You ABSOLUTELY must change. There is no alternative. You need to become a true man: a lover of God and not yourself. Be disciplined in thought, word, and deed: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, etc. You need to learn that there is right and wrong. And others, including God, have authority to inform you and hold you accountable to what is right and wrong. That there is good and bad behavior.

In the meantime, cling to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Learn to do good and sin no more purely out of love for God. Love God! Create a clean heart in me, O God! Heal and hope. Become a real man of God. Don’t be afraid to suffer and sacrifice. Choose love. Choose me. Choose us. And please, pray for me and for my purity. Please, pray for us. You are in my prayers always.

With My Whole Heart,

Hannah

A.M.D.G.

Catholic 365 Article: NaProTECHNOLOGY for the Unmarried Woman

A couple months ago, I submitted an article to Catholic 365 which was published. This article is a follow-up to an article I wrote a couple years ago. The article is a personal witness and testimony to health and healing beyond hope.

http://www.catholic365.com/article/6864/naprotechnology-for-the-unmarried-woman.html

Part 1: Pride Goes Before Disaster

“Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be humble with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.” ~ Proverbs 16: 18-19

Other than the theme of love the theme of pride dominates the majority of literature- Hubris. I learned acutely this week: Pride has no business in an intimate relationship.

St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changes angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” So very true. Pride enslaved us to sin and death. Humility freed us from sin and death.

S. Augustine- pride

Within a loving, intimate relationship pride ruins relationships and wrecks havoc. Pride destroys all other virtues and even other vices. Pride denies sin. Pride ultimately means an over-inflated, misplaced self reliance and rejection of our reliance on Our heavenly Father- Our Creator. Pride is like giving God the middle finger. We puff up like a petty, pouffy self-absorbed grouse. But pride makes us feel good or justified or superior. In reality, we reject God, turn ourselves into mini-gods, and reject the people we claim to love. We’re too busy loving ourselves.

Pride manifests itself in many ways within a relationship: lack of communication, resentment, abuse and control, sexual perversion like pornography or masturbation, holding a grudge, inability to think of others, lying, omitting or twisting the truth, blaming others, whining, etc.

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of live, or contentment, or even common sense.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Pride isn’t the same concept as being proud. We can delight in our gifts, talents, and accomplishments barring maintaining healthy gratitude to Our Creator who bestowed us with the capacity. Pride doesn’t mean having unhealthy boundaries, being a doormat, excusing bad behavior, or refusing to cultivate a conscience that delineates between good and evil. Having convictions or a moral compass  is not automatically pride.

Pride prevents reconciliation, humility, forgiveness, freedom, and virtue. Pride tramples faith, hope, and charity (love.) Pride enslaves a person to their distortion of self reliance and prevents freedom in this life and the next. Pride snuffs out joy. Pride destroys peace. Pride prevents communion and union.

“The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1563)

I’m guilty of pride. Pride that hurts others and myself. Daily I struggle with occasions of sin and sin prompted by pride. I struggle to keep prideful behavior at bay within an intimate relationship. Pride can be sneaky too manifesting itself in unlikely manners and places.

What is the antidote to pride? Humility. Not faux humility. Authentic humility. Part 2 of this post will be an exploration of humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

Dear Little One,

*Dedicated to Francis, Noel, & Karol*

With the news of your impending arrival, we rejoiced at the gift of your life and anticipated when we would interact with you in our surroundings. We marveled at the thought of another unique human being entering our family. We imagined the soft feel of a newborn paired with that uncanny bonding smell of a newborn. We could almost hear your soft content coo and infant cry. A baby is a gift.

love beads

The joyous shrieks and squeals of your cousins echo in my memory as the soft tears of your grandparents, aunts, and uncles remain etched on my heart. We instantly held you in our hearts. A place you will always remain.

Though we never experienced your uncanny newborn smell, the softness of your skin, or the glow of your unique personality, you are ours. The quality of love shared with my living nieces and nephews cannot be explained or quantified. Years of bonding, connecting, living, breathing, and feeling with them. I may not as acutely feel your death the same way as I would theirs, but that isn’t your fault, Little One. The limits of my human imagination and experience don’t diminish the reality of your existence and personhood.

I do believe you’re watching over us, praying for us, and keeping company with family from above. We grieved your loss. Your parents miss you. We miss your presence. Little One, please, pray for us. And we, in turn, pray and hope for the day in which we shall be reunited with you.

Someday, Little One, I’ll hold you in my arms. For now, I’ll hold you in my heart. Thank you for being a part of our family and for your prayers. Please, take good care of each other.

With All My Love,

Aunt Hannah

 

Life & Love with Chronic Illness

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

As the years of my life unfold, my medical record lengthens and complications arise. My life isn’t over. My ability to love isn’t less. It may be even more. There is something to maturation with age. Young enough at twenty-seven to not accept the status quo, challenge the system, and fight passionately for my goals, dreams, and desires, but I have matured in many ways too. I’m much kinder to myself than I used to be and more at peace with who I am. The real person who I am. Not the person I could be if most realities in my life changed. I bargain less and embrace more.

Learn to recognize what you can change and what you cannot change. Are there days when I wished I woke up minus a few health conditions and the symptoms I experience? Sure. That is an understandable response. But, at the rising or end of the day, I have no real control over my diagnosis. What I do have control of is being as healthy and whole as possible. I eat better. I exercise. I avoid allergens or irritants that may aggravate symptoms. I stress less or at least attempt to. I seek professional help when needed. I relax. I have a clean and healthy living space. I engage in mental and physical activities that are enjoyable. I spend time with family and friends. I work. Take each day by day. Slow down and smell the roses, feel the breeze brushing your cheek, and laugh when snowflakes land on your nose.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t live up to your own expectations, others, or the culture’s expectations. If you have one or multiple chronic illnesses like me, you can’t be someone else or wish you were someone else. You are just you. And that is good. Many days, your physical, mental, and emotional health will dictate your day, the activities you engage in, and your daily priorities. Don’t feel inadequate because you stayed home while your friends went out for a drink. Don’t apologize for eating or drinking or doing whatever you need too differently in order to care for yourself. You aren’t less of a person because you have “limitations” and “weaknesses” or “special circumstances.”

Don’t compare yourself to others, “should haves” or “could haves.” This mindset is detrimental to anyone, but a killer to a person with chronic illness. Whether you’re perfectly healthy or not, you are beautiful, lovable, and good. For years after I graduated from college, I beat myself up because I couldn’t be and accomplish how I imagined or in the manner my peers did. My mental aptitude was there but the physical was more elusive. Four years out of college, I learned my worth isn’t tied to my accomplishments. Life is a beautiful and challenging surprise.

You are lovable. Worthy of love and being loved. My love life has been tumultuous. I seethed or cried when men said rude, shallow, shortsighted, and uncompassionate comments regarding my health and worth. It hurt badly. Then I realized it was more about their issues and less about mine. Then I changed my dating approach. I stopped apologizing. I stopped justifying. I stopped tolerating dumb, mean comments. Yes, this thinned out my prospects and good riddance. Yes, a good man did come into my life. A man that loves me even more for what many men fear not less. Again, don’t compare your love life to others. You aren’t less of a couple or less loving because you can’t or shouldn’t appear in a certain manner, go to certain events, etc. Don’t do yourself or the one whom you love this disservice.

Daily Motto: You are beautiful. You are lovable. You are good. You are enough.

 

U.S. Catholic Christian Voting & Faithful Citizenship

photo credit: WikipediaElection Day on November 8th is fast approaching. Presidential and Vice Presidential debates ensue. People take stances or the lack therefore. Families argue. Friends argue. Catholics argue. Not to be too blunt, but evil feeds off of discord. If you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, you know that the little forces or the little devil’s minions seek to create discord, disunity, confusion, and hopelessness. Politics and Presidential elections tend to evoke similar qualities.

There is nothing simplistic about faithful citizenship or conscientious voting. The crux of the matter is a “developed conscience.” This developed conscience allows us to make difficult decisions and weigh matters through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Catholic Christians, we are blessed with less ambiguity when it comes to voting and faithful citizenship. Our Catholic faith provides clarity and sense of direction. There is a hierarchy of evils. Some evils will fatally flaw society more than others. Some policies will strike at the heart of the culture and create discord, confusion, hopelessness, and fraction. Our voting responsibilities reflect that.

Here is the link to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ teaching document entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”  As disclaimed in the intro, this document is to be read in its entirety not selective to support ideology or agenda. I find the document comforting and hopeful. There is a rhyme and reason to faithful citizenship though the lens of our Catholic faith. My voting season became less confusing.

And, yes, many Catholic Christians will argue that defending “right to life from conception to natural death” is not the MOST important voting issue. Without life, there is nothing else. No other important issues or topics. No fundamental grounding principle to enact better systems, policies, and services. Everything becomes relative. We can try but will always be crippled by the fundamental flaw.

Here is one of my more graphic examples. As Catholics, we believe in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Trinity is the eternal exchange of love between three persons, one God. We believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the love of the Father and Son. We believe the Holy Spirit lives, moves and animates are daily lives and the world around us. We believe that the sexual act is a reflection of Trinitarian love. A child conceived proceeds from love regardless of whether or not the sexual act was loving or not. Directly aborting a child is comparable to killing the Holy Spirit in the Trinity (imagine me slamming my first down on the table for emphasis.) That is fundamentally flawed.

The above document does not tell us exactly how to vote (the whole idea of free will), but guides a Catholic Christian in the formation of their conscience. May the Holy Spirit bless, protect, and guide us in faithful citizenship. Amen.

Weddings, Love, & Submission

wedding
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

One of my best friends is getting married this weekend on the Feast Day of St. Therese of Liseuix. A weekend of celebration with family and friends, fancy bridesmaid dresses and suites, and most importantly committing one man and one woman to each other before God and loved ones in the Sacrament of Marriage. The Sacrament of Marriage means an “an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Jesus Christ.” A living testimony of heaven and earth living in union/communion and poured out to humanity. A reflection of the continual exchange of love shared between the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That is marriage.

What is this “love” that propels Jesus Christ’s instituted sacrament of marriage? A wedding is a day. A marriage is, hopefully, in the original plan of God is intended for a lifetime.  As Jason Evert delicately put it “compatible comes from the Latin word compati, meaning, ‘to suffer with.’ If you are unwilling to suffer with someone until death do you part, then you are not compatible.” Marriage though joyous inevitably comes with sorrow and suffering too. I defer to the ever popular wedding Bible Passage:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Corinthians 13:4-7

How much do you and I really stop, ponder, and prayerfully process this reading? The words are powerful. This isn’t a butterflies in your stomach, roses, and chocolates sort of love. Instead, the above love describes an authentic, not easily attained and maintained love without a tremendous amount of daily grace, humility, and striving with the help of the other Sacraments like the Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation. etc.

Another popular wedding reading is the “submission” bible passage. Women cringe and rant/rave. Men smirk or shift restless in the pew. Sadly, original sin mucked this up. Men are historically and personally susceptible to the taint of original sin in the form of domination or “Lording over.” Woman and children have born the brunt of this taint of original sin throughout the ages. In the Greek and Hebrew,”submission” entails a serious degree of obedience, a gravity of obedience. What does the passage actually say?

 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.“For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh.”This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband” = Ephesians 5:21-33

This is what I took away from reading the biblical passage above.

  1. Both husband and wife are subordinate to one another.
  2. Wives should be subordinate to their husband as the Lord.
  3. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church. WHOA! Hold on one sec. . . . So a husband is suppose to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Ponder and weep men. You’re called to self-sacrifice, die to your sins and selfish desires for your wife as Christ did for the Church. So crucifixion isn’t out of the job description.
  4. Sanctify her. Cleanse her body by the Word. Who is the word? Christ is the word. Men are spiritually responsible for leading their wives and family to heaven. Sanctification!
  5. Present himself without spot or wrinkle . . . sparkly splendor. i.e., NO SIN.
  6. He who loves his wife loves himself. If the man loves himself, he loves his wife. And if he doesn’t love his wife, he doesn’t love himself.
  7. The man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This means growing up emotionally, spiritually, and mentally as a man. A man can love and honor his parents and family, but cannot his use his family as a selfish, hurtful tool against his wife and children.

Now women, we aren’t off the hook either. We are called to respect these men. Hold them to a higher standard. Call them to better behavior. We can’t drag them into bad behavior and then complain about how awful men are. Sadly, many men and woman wouldn’t want the above relationship. Some will act a certain way but deep down are hypocrites. Many times, we will fall short of the perfect plan God outlined for us. That does not mean it isn’t the ideal.

Please, join me in praying for holy marriages and families. Because only with holy marriages and families willing to sacrifice together in authentic love will peace be in our world. For all those in relationships, engaged, and newly married . . .

May the Holy Family inspire, support, and guide them. AMEN.

 

Dear Future Husband,

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Photo Credit: Fight the New Drug (Instagram)

In our day and age, I know it isn’t a matter of whether or not you have been exposed to pornography, but a matter of what you did/do once you were. I ask you to be honest with me. I know. I learned the statistics, the appeal, the behavior, the prevalence, and I’m asking you to, please, choose me. To choose us. Appeal to my love for you by being honest and transparent.

Don’t think for a moment I won’t be super ticked-off, disappointed, or discouraged. Mostly, I will be scared. Maybe Betrayed. Definitely Hurt. Concerned for myself and potential children. I won’t excuse your behavior. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Porn isn’t just bad behavior. Porn lies. Kills Truth. Kills love. Porn distorts: Sex. Attraction. Beauty. Respect. Dignity. Worth. Value. Gratification. Discipline. Porn objectifies. Porn turns men into beasts. Porn ruins your soul, your relationship with God, your ability to master virtue, and your ability to become the husband/father God called you to be. Porn is ultimately selfish.

Choosing to view and act on pornography is like eating a delicious 3 layered cake that is enticing and pleasurable in view, taste, smell, texture, etc. But you are so blinded by the externals and yourself (maybe peer pressure to eat the cake,) you don’t realize you just ingested a 3 layer cake of heroin, meth, and cocaine or hell, selfishness, and anti-love. But, it’s too late, you need another fix. So you go back to the meth cake. You choose the meth cake over real love. It becomes a coping mechanism for disappointment, hurt, uncertainty, insecurity, fights, marital intimacy problems, etc. Pleasure and a quick fix outweighs struggling and striving for authentic faith, hope, and charity. I’m sorry and saddened if you bought into the lie of porn and chose the garbage when God wanted to give you heaven.

So what now. Guess what? You aren’t a slave to your lust, your past, your mistakes, your shame, your guilt, and your weaknesses. But you do need to change your heart which will change your body, mind, and soul. You ABSOLUTELY must change. There is no alternative. You need to become a true man: a lover of God and not yourself. Be disciplined in thought, word, and deed: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, etc. You need to learn that there is right and wrong. And others, including God, have authority to inform you and hold you accountable to what is right and wrong. That there is good and bad behavior.

In the meantime, cling to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Learn to do good and sin no more purely out of love for God. Love God. Create a clean heart in me, O God. Heal and hope. Become a real man of God. Don’t be afraid to suffer. Choose love. Choose me. Choose us. And please, pray for me. Please, pray for us. You are in my prayers always.

With My Love Always,

Hannah

Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love): Part 1

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Photo Credit: Catholic News, Ireland

Love is Patient. Love is Kind. Love . . . Most Christians and even none Christians are familiar with the Pauline text from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We hear the passage at weddings, vow ceremonies, church, social media, etc. Or we read platitude signs in department stores and gift stores. But what is this love Paul describes? In Pope Francis’ newly released Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia or the Joy of Love, Ch. 4 or a Discussion on Married/Conjugal Love starts with a reflection of this famous passage line-by-line. This is part one . . .

  1. Love is Patient or makrothyméi meaning slow to anger. A loving person doesn’t act on impulse or give offense thus leaving open the power of repentance and mercy. This mercy reflects the deep compassion of God. Being merciful and compassionate does NOT mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression, or allowing ourselves to be used by others. Pope Francis warns against lack of patience: “We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds . . . Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be” (92.)
  2. Love is at the service of others or chrestéuetai. I found it fascinating this word is used only once in the entire Bible. Chresteuetai derived from Chrestos means “a good person, one who shows goodness by his deeds.” Love benefits and helps others. Kind love is always ready to be of assistance. Love is more than a feeling. Pope Francis reflects: “As Saint Ignatius of Loyola stated, “’Love is shown more by deeds than by words,’ It thus shows its fruitfulness and allows us to experience the happiness of giving, the nobility and grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly, without asking to be repaid, purely for the pleasure of giving and serving” (94.)
  3. Love is not Jealous or not zelói. Unjealous love rejoices in the achievements of another and recognized each person has their own gifts and path in life. Pope Francis writes: “Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being . . . Love inspires a sincere esteem for every human being and the recognition of his or her own right to happiness. I love this person, and I see him or her with the eyes of God, who gives us everything “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17)” (95-96.) This attitude leads to a profound sense of happiness and peace. Rejection of jealousy also heightens are awareness to injustice thus advocating and contributing to a more just, equitable society for the vulnerable and outcasts.
  4. Love is not Boastful or perpereúetai. Vainglory, an old school term, denotes a need to be haughty, pedantic, and somewhat pushy. Basically, Love is not arrogant or puffed-up. Love build up while boastful love lords over. Non-boastful love embodies understanding, shows concern, and embraces the weak. For Christians, this love involves kindness to family members less sure or knowledgeable about faith and their convictions. Pope Francis states: “Love, on the other hand, is marked by humility; if we are to understand, forgive and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase. . . The inner logic of Christian love is not about importance and power; rather, “whoever would be first among you must be your slave (Mt 20:27)” (98.) Within families, domination and competition about whom is more intelligent destroys love.

What Have I Learned Thus Far:

I have much to learn about love and the practice and application of love within all my relationships but especially in intimate relationships. The passages challenge deeper reflection and constructive criticism of personal and peer behavior. It’s teaching me not to assume certain ingrained behaviors, whether learned within my own family or elsewhere, uphold the Pauline description of love. It’s providing me ample reflection in authentic compassion, mercy, and charity.

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

 Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.