NFP Raw & Unscripted: An Encounter with Popes & Saints

Rome, Italy- Fall 2018

When I envisioned Rome and the Vatican, shedding dewy tears in the Tomb of the Popes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica kneeling before the Tomb of now St. Pope Paul VI wasn’t my first vision or any vision for that matter. My Italy trip, generously bequeathed by my parents, coincided with the preparations for the canonization for Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero along with the beginning of the Synod on Youth. I’m a private person (so sayeth the Catholic blogger.) What drove a private, composed girl like me to shed private, composed tears in Rome? Of human life.

For those familiar with Compline or Night prayer you encounter: “When I called out, he heard me, the God of my righteousness. When I was in trouble, you gave me freedom: now, take pity on me and listen to my prayer.” (Psalm 4) My NFP (Natural Family Planning) Story mirrors this Psalm. This verse professes staunch faith and hope in the Lord, proclaims His loving plan, embraces the freedom of His plan, but still pleads and cries out in prayer and supplication for His mercy and grace. My NFP journey is strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles coupled with immeasurable healing sometimes physical but even more so spiritual and emotional.

Three years ago, I “knew” learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP (a method inspired by St. Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae) as a single, unmarried young adult as a diagnostic tool for my reproductive health would be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stretch. The method did not disappoint in that regards and exceeded my expectations in providing a plethora of opportunities for personal growth and maturation. What surprised me and rattled me to my core would be the profound revelation of my femininity through the eyes of my Creator. A glimpse that many women and men in our modern times never experience for various reasons or willfully reject.

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands.” – Saint John Paul II. When I passed by the sarcophagus of then Bl. Paul VI now Saint Paul VI, I felt little happiness or liberation in that precise moment. The weight of physical, emotional strain coupled with the confusion of international travel and the stress of unknown outcomes wore heavily on me topped with mind-altering migraine medications. I wasn’t prepared for my encounter with the remains of a man who championed the truth and suffered for it decades before my earthly existence. The precise truth I choose to suffer with and for today.

After celebrating early morning Mass in St. Peter’s a few days later, after a few days of reflection and improved sleep, I chose to encounter St. Pope Paul VI. I bee-lined across the vast expanse of St. Peter’s Basilica towards the entrance into the Tomb of the Popes. My deft footsteps echoed softly on the marble floors. I slid silently onto a massive, glossy wooden kneeler placed before his tomb for the devout onlooker to stop and pray in preparation for his impending canonization. I knelt before the remains of a Saint- a Saint of my century.

My eyes glazed over staring at St. Paul VI’s sarcophagus as a flood of memories, experiences, pain, sadness, confusion, desperation, hope, joy, gratitude, and awe flooded before me. My mind raced as emotions and feelings frantically jumped in a thousand directions. I buried my head into my hands as the tears threatened to tumble down my cheeks. The din of tourists’ footsteps floated around me but left me untouched. St. Paul VI and I had our moment.

In our own ways, we both made a life-altering choice by choosing a lasting but unpopular truth. Amid the cultural clamoring and storms of confusion, we anchored ourselves to the firm foundation of God’s design for mankind in His deliberate and intelligent design for man and woman for family, intimacy, and reproduction. We both paid an earthly price for that choice. We both suffered. We both loved.

Kneeling there in tears, I recognized many of the female and male tourists admiring their surroundings rejected the teachings of Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. We all live with the repercussions. I verged towards angry. Then a young adult man about my age knelt down beside me. Two young adults one man and one woman both products of the St. John Paul II era and the new evangelization knelt before the tomb of St. Paul VI champion for Human Life and Father of Truth in humble supplication. In that moment, I felt hope.

There is more to my story with my encounter with St. Paul VI (more that I’m still processing and accepting) but this gives you a glimpse at how God works in surprising and mysterious ways. “For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. – Humanae Vitae

May God bless and keep you all in 2019!

“The Vanier Way”

The Vanier Way Qoute

My mom and I watched a documentary on EWTN recently called the “Vanier Way.” A group of students from the Canadian Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School: “visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, and immerse themselves in the culture as they partake in workshops in pottery, mosaics, and gardening.” (@EWTN) These disillusioned high school students visit Parisian and French cultural, religious, and historical sights as well as immersing themselves in a few different L’Arche communities around the Paris area. The students were more moved by the L’Arche community than the Eiffel tower. Why? Because they experienced authentic love and joy. They experienced real truth and beauty amid the broken, outcast, and “undesirables” of society.

“L’Arche was not my project, but God’s.”- Jean Vanier

The students are blessed to interact with the Founder Jean Vanier who established the first L’Arche community in the late 1960s outside Paris after visiting local asylums. A female friend suggested the term “L’Arche” or “The Ark” in English indicating a community where people with intellectual disabilities could create a new family and no longer hide in the shadows of society. In 1970, the first L’Arche community opened in India. In 1972, the first USA L’Arche home was founded in Erie, PA. Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen lived his last 10 years at a Toronto’s Daybreak L’Arche home. As the founder states, “L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, other seeds were planted in other soils. . . L’Arche became ecumenical.” All L’Arche communities have a religious dimension to their community even in communities with those of severe intellectual disabilities. “Some communities are one religion, others are inter-denominational or inter-faith. Members are encouraged to grow in their spiritual journeys, and people who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.”

“Without this spiritual dimension and growth in holiness, L’Arche could become simply another group home. It would lose what makes it unique.”- Jean Vanier

The beauty of the documentary lies in the reactions of the high school students interacting with members of the community, how they process those interactions, and the transformative seeds planted. Another beautiful aspect is the insightful and authentic observation and story telling quality of Jean Vanier who speaks with a spiritual depth, peace, and humility few people evoke. He warns about the impact of social media (guilty here) and the power of “the tyranny of the Group.” And provides interacting on a human level with “the other” as an antidote against “the tyranny of the group.” These human interactions, absent of cell phones and social media shake us up and out of ourselves and illuminate the lies and pressure we follow so blindly with or without question.

The heart of the Vanier Way is simply the recognize and live in accordance with the profound recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human being from conception to natural death regardless of form or function. Our job is to love. Love and be loved in return. To love without measure or degree. To love the lovable and unlovable. And to allow love to transform us and inform us. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” – St. John Paul II

“Our community life is beautiful and intense, a source of life for everyone. People with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.” —Jean Vanier

May God bless you and keep you! You are more precious than you believe!

To learn more about the United State’s L’Arche community: LINK

To learn more about the  International L’Arche community: LINK

 

St. Patrick’s Breastplate: Virtue Armor

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Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

*text from ewtn.com

 

International Travel & Packing with Chronic Health Conditions

“Leaving on a Jet plane! . . .” Cue the excitement and the thrill of international travel. Regardless, of the reasons behind travel, whether domestic or international, the drive comes from an innate, human curiosity and capacity for learning and experiencing the “other. ”

What does travel look like for a person with chronic health conditions? Depends on the condition and circumstances. Certain conditions may even limit a person’s ability to travel. But I know my packing list and priorities differ from your typical travel blog.

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Points to Ponder:

1. Understand the region of the world you are interested in travelling to. Be realistic about your condition(s) and understand the potential risks of visiting an area where you will not have access to certain types or quality of medical care. God be with those that don’t have access to good medical care.

2.  Check with your health insurance company to see if your policy follows you to your travel destination. My past two policies did, but only certain facilities in the UK were covered. If not, weigh your need for a temporary, international health insurance policy.

3. For ease of mind, research how to access healthcare services in your destination country(ies). Most of the world operates on a different healthcare system then the US. The local Embassy website will outline how US Citizens can access different healthcare services within that specific country.

READY TO PACK?

1. Medications The General Rule of Thumb: Carry on your prescription medicine in the original package(s) with a Letter from your prescribing doctor outlining the medical necessity of your medications. Research medication travel guidelines by country you plan to visit. Most Embassy websites within your travel country will have info regarding travelling with prescription medication. If you have less than 3 months of medications, you typically don’t have to disclose to Customs  (varies by country). If you have over 3 months of medications, medications administered by injection or liquids, or medications that are “controlled substances,” assume you will need to disclose to Customs.

2. A Doctor’s Letter. Make sure to request a Letter outlining the medical necessity of your prescription medicine needs, list of prescription meds, and contact info for your prescribing physician at least a 1- 2 weeks before travel. Most doctors are responsive to patient requests, but your doctor could be out of the office. This way you aren’t stressed and scrambling at last moment. Having this letter will help with any Customs inquiries or if you needed any medical attention while travelling.

3. Daily Dosage. Depending on the quantity and shape of your medications, bring a pill case or Ziploc bags filled with your non-prescription medications. Once through Customs, you can easily transfer your daily dosage from the prescription packaging to a convenient and portable on-the-go system. For example, I take more non-prescription and prescription meds daily than can fit in any pill case. I use sandwich size Ziploc bags. Once through Customs, I add my prescription meds to my supplements and grab one bag per day. Do not discard the original medication packaging.

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4. Pack Extra. Pack more prescription medications than days you are actually traveling.  Don’t save space by packing fewer meds. Take another 1-2 weeks of meds for “just in case.”

5. Prone to Nausea. If you’re susceptible to stomach sickness, skip the airline barf bags and pack a couple quart to gallon Ziploc bags. Discreet and practical, these plastic bags allow for better control and ease of disposal. I have complicated migraines and sometimes struggle with nausea.

6. Research Handicap accessibility and guidelines at your intended travel destination. Check with your modes of transportation and lodging about handicap accessibility and accommodations. I do not need special accommodations for accessibility, but please, research for your particular needs.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the experience of international travel! May God be with you on your next adventure.

St. Christopher, pray for us!