Before I Formed You in the Womb I knew you . . .

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.”

Jeremiah 1:5

January is Respect Life Month. This year I’m the Aunt of micro preemie TTTS identical twins born at 25 weeks. Isabella born to heaven. Sara fighting for her health & development in the NICU. Both unique, fully alive human beings. Both fully capable of being legally aborted.  

After weeks of anticipation (and weeks of cold virus and bacterial infections that aren’t compatible with NICU visitations and medically fragile children), I recently visited my amazing 30 week old niece in the NICU. She is full of personality and spunk. So herself. Not me. Not her mom. Not Dad. Not Grandma. Not her siblings. So Sara. Unrepeatable Sara.

As I saw her roommate fighting for his life or other medically fragile babies in incubators around the NICU, I wondered: What if instead of terminating babies’ lives, we put resources, energy, & creativity into advancing medical care, diagnoses, treatments, & uncovering more holistic care for babies and mothers? What if we developed fetoscopic surgery procedures instead of developing abortion procedures? What if we sowed hope & possibilities in difficult situations instead of fear & hopelessness? What if we empowered & assisted men & women as mothers and fathers? What would our nation be like then? 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn, pray for Us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn, pray for us!

Christmas Is Coming!

Keep Alive the Spirit of Christmas & the Light of Christ All Throughout the Christmas Season & New Year!

THE MAGNIFICAT

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

(Lk 1:46-55)

Happy New Year from Hannah at Chronically Catholic!

Burying the Dead During Advent: Asking "How" & Not "Why"

“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through… People said to me, ‘It would be better to never have had them.’ I couldn’t stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones up above again.”

St. Zellie Martin

After a very risky and complicated identical twin pregnancy, my family and loved ones buried my niece Isabella born to heaven at 25 weeks. There are no pictures or videos of her funeral, but the memories and emotions are seared forever in my heart and mind. There are few words to adequately describe witnessing your eldest brother carry a tiny white casket out of the Chapel after his daughter’s funeral Mass or watch him place her int he ground. Or hold your niece and godchild for minutes while she cries into your wool coat. Or tell your teary eyed and recovering sister-in-law, “I’m so grateful you’re here, and I don’t take that for granted.” We could have experienced a double to triple funeral. And there is still the hopeful but unknown future for her sister Sara.

We did this together as a family and faith community. Withing the sacraments, we commended and entrusted this beautiful, precious girl to God. I’ve learned through the years not to ask “why” anymore but “how.” How has this child transformed our lives? How has this child reflected God? How have I responded to this gift? How can I act with compassion? Am I grateful for this life? Am I open to this life? Am I open to love- the love of a child? Yes.

Dear, Isabella, Aunt Hannah loves you and misses you. Your entire family loves and misses you. I hope to join you in Heaven someday. Requiem Aeternam, baby girl.

Advent Preparation, Anticipation, & Funerals

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist- Savannah, GA

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
– O, Antiphons

Advent a season of preparation- preparation for the gift of a child. While we prepare in joyful  anticipation for the Christ child’s birth, we also prepare to bury a child. During the 2nd week of Advent, my family & I will celebrate her life & mourn the loss of my 23 week old niece while her 26 week old sister fights to develop & grow in the NICU. Advent for us is a season of joy & sorrow & of loss & life. Mostly unwavering love.

This Advent heightens that the joyful birth of Christ is intertwined with the Cross of Christ & the Resurrection. One doesn’t exist separate from the other as with the Christian life. As a Catholic Christian, the crucifix & the manger bring me great comfort & perspective. The wood of the manger leads to the wood of the Cross, but neither is the final word. Because we look forward to the Resurrection of the Dead & the Life of the world to come.

Our family friend & priest that baptized me offered Mass for my family & for the repose of the soul of my niece Isabella at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. My best friend is travelling in the Philippines praying for our family. Two innocent little children deemed less than human by many have not only touched our hearts but people all over the world. In the Spirit of Advent, the season of preparation & anticipation of the birth of a child, we find the profound beauty & importance of the presence of a child- a child in utero.

Happy Advent!

Love, Babies, & Loss

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” -Jeremiah 1:5

I’ve kept mostly quiet about the TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) pregnancy my brother & sister-in-law are navigating. After 2 emergency fetoscopic surgeries 4.5 hours away, dozens of local Maternal Fetal Medicine appointments, & hospital bed rest, my precious identical twin nieces were born via emergency extraction at 25 weeks Thursday, November 29th. Isabella was born to heaven, and Sara is in the NICU. Mom is struggling with complications, but she is beginning to show signs of improvement.

Both baby girls are so loved & cherished by their parents, siblings, & extended family. Our lives are forever transformed by their presence! They’re parents have fought hard for their girls health and wellness despite the many challenges and risks.

We’ve experienced extraordinary medical situations & miscarriages in our family, but our present situation is uncharted territory. The fragility of earthly life is inescapable, changing within a moment with minimal control or certainty. The prolonged reality unavoidable. Our holidays will be involved in the best and most challenging sense. The intensive, specialized NICU care of Sara will continue into the New Year and beyond. And eventually our family will gather to celebrate her life and mourn the loss of Isabella.

But the certainty of God’s merciful & unending love never changes. He has never abandoned us or the girls. Through the confusion, heartache, & stress, the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit sustains our weary spirits. The sacramental life of the Church brings purpose, perspective, meaning, & grace. The twins’ lives are a catalyst for entering into a deeper understanding of authentic love, trust, hope, & joy. The twins are bringing us closer to heaven if we chose to respond to them through the eyes of God. By love refined…

🌹

Prayers are much appreciated! God bless. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Holy Person of the Month: Bl. Eugenia Picco

Born: 8 November 1867, Crescenzaga, Milan, Italy

Died: 7 September 1921, Parma, Italy

Feast Day: September 7th

Born Anna Eugenia, she was raised predominantly by her grandparents while her Italian musician parents Giuseppe Picco, blind from a childhood accident, and Adelaide del Corno toured the world. After touring the United States, Eugenia’s mother returned home without her father. She believed her father died while on tour, but the actual circumstances are unknown. Adelaide Picco, a lapsed Christian, resumed raising her daughter in a morally corrupt and irreligious environment where her mother lived with a new partner, Basilio Recalcati, whom she had three other children with. Eugenia enjoyed aspects of her new lifestyle including theater and Milanese society.

However, Bl. Eugenia described living with her mother as, “Dangers and occasions at home and outside.” Almost daily she fled her difficult and troubled environment seeking refuge in the nearby Basilica of St. Ambrose where she prayed. One silent evening in May 1886, Eugenia felt a call to sanctity. At 20 years old, she devoted her life to seeking Jesus and becoming holy. She also discerned a call to the religious life.

The Milanese Ursulines wrote & requested that the Congregation of the Little Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary receive Eugenia. On August 31, 1887, she fled her home and was immediately accepted by the founder of the congregation, the Venerable Agostino Chieppi. August 26, 1888 commenced her novitiate in Parma, Italy. On June 10, 1891 she made her first profession before Venerable Chieppi. After Bl. Eugenia made her solemn profession on June 1, 1894, she assumed various important roles within her congregation: novice mistress, archivist, general secretary and member of the council.

As Superior General, from 1911 until her death, Bl. Eugenia skillfully and joyfully performed the tasks of her office with serene and tranquil perfection even amidst the demands and difficulties of World War I. She reminded her sisters to remain faithful: “Suffer, be silent, love”. She embraced motherhood, especially the poorest and most destitute of WWI society, with courageous and tireless charity.

Bl. Eugenia is known for her passionate and unyielding devotion to the Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament was the vital fulcrum and the catalyst for all her apostolic work, interior life, and daily actions. The Eucharist was her great love, comfort, joy, and source of piety. This constant, burning love for Christ and the salvation of souls fueled her being despite the fatigue and demands of daily life.

Towards the end of the her life, her health declined. Bl. Eugenia developed a degenerative bone condition which led to the amputation of lower portion of her right leg in 1919. She offered and united her suffering with God. She remained a smiling, suffering servant all the days of her life.

She died of tuberculosis on September 7, 1921 in Parma, Italy.

St. John Paul II proclaimed her Venerable Eugenia Picco on February 18, 1989. In 1992, the healing of Camillo Talubingi Kingombe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was attributed to her intercession. After the confirmation of the first miracle attributed to Bl. Eugenia, St John Paul II beatified her October 7, 2001.

Bl. Eugenia Picco, pray for us!

  • Butler’s Lives of the Saints (219)
Photo Credit: Catholic.com

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!