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!

Holy Person of the Month: Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, Patron of Chronically Catholic Blog

Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com
Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com

After 11 years of hoping and praying for a child, Ruggero and Maria Theresa Badano welcomed their daughter, Chiara Lucu, on October 29th, 1971. Born in the small Italian village of Sassello, she was considered a beautiful and simple child; Chiara exhibited an acute awareness and compassion for the poor and suffering, especially drug addicts and persons with mental illness. The simple, beautiful child grew into a vivacious and active youth filled with zest and love for life. She enjoyed swimming, outdoor actives, and socializing with friends. In 1980, Chiara became involved in the Focalare Movement and an active member in her local youth group. Chiara, though virtuous and unique, enjoyed being a modern teenager.

In 1988, while playing tennis, Chiara experienced excruciating pain in her shoulder, and soon received the diagnosed of osteogenic sarcoma- bone cancer. During her final two years, Chaira fulfilled her name’s mean “Clear Light” becoming a illuminating presence of joy in the midst of immense suffering. After an excruciating night, she stated, “I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing.” Even in her weakened state, Chiara’s presence touched many lives. One of her doctors remarked, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” Intrigued by stories of this heroic teenager, Cardinal Saldarini visited her in the hospital and asked, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara replied: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”

Chiara in the Hospital
Chiara in the Hospital

Even after she received her terminal diagnosis and during treatment, Chiara keenly understood the value of redemptive suffering. She often repeated the phrase, “If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.” As Chiara’s beautiful locks fell out due to chemotherapy, she prayed as each strand fell, “For you, Jesus.”  She even refused pain management wanting to remain lucid. She explained, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.” Chiara befriended another adolescent struggling with depression and drug-dependency. Despite how painful walking was because of a large growth on her spine, Chiara walked with this girl; “I’ll have time to rest later.”

As her impending death approached, Chiara encouraged her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’” With her friends and family present, Chiara Luce died October 7, 1990. Her last words were: “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.” Her family buried her in a wedding dress as requested.

bl. Chiara Luce Badano When Chiara died, I was one year old. Her first confirmed miracle involved a young Italian boy dying from meningitis induced organ failure. His parent’s asked for Chiara’s intercession. A panel of doctors ruled that there was no medical explanation for the boy’s full recovery. On September 25, 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict VXI beatified Chiara Luce Badano- the first blessed from Generation X.

In the words of Chiara: “Previously I felt … the most I could do was to let go. Instead, now I feel enfolded in a marvelous plan of God, which is slowly being unveiled to me.”

Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, pray for us!

Why did I choose Bl. Chiara for my blog patron? I stumbled into her story and witness during a period of intense medical fragility and complexity in my life. I became dehabilitated. I was lost. More doors and windows were shut than opened. Then the Holy Spirit guided me to this young woman who died around the time I was born. I felt an instant connection. I felt hope. When I decided to chose a patroness for my blog, I chose her. I believe in the Communion of Saints. She helped me ad continues to intercede for me. And I want to share her heroic virtue and story with the world- even just a small corner. 

The 54 Day Rosary Novena . . . Whew!

P1010451
Gonzaga University

54 Days Ago very well-intended and inspired, I began the 54 Day Rosary Novena. This particular rosary novena is known for being immensely powerful and grueling. I “knew” what I was getting myself into or not. I heard of this novena from my parents who prayed it once together during a desperate family situation 27 years ago when I was an infant.

The historical origins date back to 1884 Naples after an apparition of Our Lady of Pompeii to Commander Agrelli’s daughter Fortuna who suffered from untreatable, agonizing stomach ailments. She and her family commenced three rosary novenas. On March 3rd. 1884, Fortuna greeted Our Lady of Pompeii accompanied by St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Dominic with “Queen of the Holy Rosary.” Mary upon recognizing her title requested 3 more rosary novenas in Thanksgiving of a cure. Upon the 6th set of rosary novenas, Fortuna experienced her miraculous cure. Upon learning of this miracle, Pope Leo XIII urged Christians to pray the rosary fervently.

Considered “a laborious novena, but a novena of love,” this rosary Novena consists of praying the rosary with a specific introductory prayer, particular introduction to each mystery, closing to each mystery, a spiritual communion offered, and specific concluding prayers. The first 27 days (3 rosary novenas) are prayed in petition. The last 27 days (3 rosary novenas) are prayed in thanksgiving for the answering your prayer intention(s) whether or not it has been “answered.” Since the novena originated before the Luminous mysteries, traditionally only the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries are prayed.

My 54 Day experience ranged from great highs to impressive lows. Some days I felt immense consolation. Other days I experienced spiritual isolation. Part way through the first 27 days, I felt lost. After five days of 4 hours of sleep, I felt spiritually drained and attacked. I almost quit. I continued a few more days. When one of my intentions seemed to go up in flames, I almost quit. I continued a few more days. When I lost sleep again, I almost quit. One night when I was sleep deprived, I messed up the mysteries. In tears, I ranted to my mother. I felt like I failed. Again I resumed. Another night when I was even more sleep deprived, I fell asleep during the 1st Joyful mystery. This time I entrusted my human limitations to Mother Mary and continued to pray. By the final 2 weeks, I prayed, and I felt a sense of resolve and peace. Today I completed my imperfect yet sincere 54 Day Rosary Novena. *SIGH OF RELIEF*

Some people write that if you mess up the 54 Day Rosary Novena at any point, you must restart. Congratulations to all those who pray correctly all 54 Days. But God and Mother Mary understand intention. And effort. Um, perfection isn’t the point of pray. Love is. Purpose is. Intention is. Trust is. If that means 54 days of perfection or imperfection, God and Mary know. I learned much about myself, my faith, and my relationship with Mary and her Son. But, to be honest, I don’t see another 54 Day Rosary Novena on my horizon. But God is probably laughing. If I pray another novena like this, it’ll be for a very special, prayerful occasion.