To My Nephew,

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! Our entire family is overflowing with joy and gratitude with the grace and excitement of celebrating your First Holy Communion and Confirmation. This weekend that commemorates and celebrates the Most Holy Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ begins your full journey within the sacramental life of the Catholic faith.

How do I explain the gift & truth of the Eucharist in our modern times marked by relativism and skepticism of the divine? How do I impress upon you that your First Holy Communion and each instance you receive the Eucharist you receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (God and Man who walked the earth 2,000+ years ago) under the appearances of bread and wine? How do I express the mystery of this sacrament and the consummate relationship we enter into with God through the gift of the Eucharist? Ultimately, as you age, despite all the modeling, explanations, witnesses, and prayers of your family and loved ones, you will make a personal choice as a child of God and your relationship with the Holy Trinity.

As you learned, and by the grace of God and the gift of faith may come to know in your heart, mind, body, and soul, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The Eucharist & the Eucharistic relationship is why we are Catholic- why we live, breath, suffer, die, and rise in the newness of eternal life. May the Eucharist, like the Church, become the source and summit of your life. Whatever happens in your life, cling to the Eucharist. There you will find: beauty, peace, life, love, hope, passion, purpose, and truth. All things lacking in our distracted and relativistic society. People, whether they know it or not, search their whole life seeking what your just received within you- Jesus Christ.

Tragically, the world, society, peers, authority figures, relatives, or romantic interests will try to beat the truth out and distract you from the truth of childlike faith- the acceptance that this is Jesus Christ fully present within the Eucharist. Their arguments will be convincing, popular, rational, interesting, and less confrontational veiled under the threat of stigmatization, ostracizing, intolerance, rationalization, and relativism. You will learn in due course, there is an earthly price to be paid as a Christian, especially a Catholic Christian. But Be Not Afraid for Christ has already overcome the world!

As you mature and develop from a boy of God into a man of God, always remember you are a Child of God. The measure of authentic manhood and masculinity, like our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Joseph or St. Francis of Assisi your confirmation saint, is our love for God- beginning with the most tangible metaphysical intangible in our earthly lives the Eucharist. This lifelong love will permeate all other aspects of your life: how and why you make decisions, your pull towards virtue or vice, your peace or turmoil in times of uncertainty or fear, how you live out your earthly vocation, and the narrow road which leads to heaven and eternal life. Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.

Since I know you appreciate an epic saga, I will quote a Doctor of the Church who experienced his own epic life saga. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, ” “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”

This weekend you were sealed with the Holy Spirit and may the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit be apart of your daily life, every moment from this day forward. Dominic, our family loves you dearly and that love will continue to grow and mature as we all mature and grow together in our wonderful earthly adventure of sainthood filled with moments of the agony and ecstasy. You are not alone in this journey. As you so eloquently explained, Christ is everywhere. He is also waiting for you in the tabernacle, monstrance, and paten. The Holy Spirit is your spiritual breath. And God the Father grants graces from above and eagerly awaits your homecoming. Our Lady will lead you closer to the Trinity as she herself entered into communion with the Holy Trinity. And all the angels and saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, will always be with you in this life & the next. As I will be, whether next to you or above.

With all my love and affection,

Aunt Hannah

A.M.D.G. JM+J

Sexual Love As Described in “Humanae Vitae”

When I read St Paul VI’s (I love writing Saint before his name) encyclical Humanae Vitae last year, the section on “What Love Is …” startled me. As I read his descriptors of what love is, especially what sexual and marital love is, I immediately drew the connection to St. John Paul II’s lecture series “Theology of the Body” (1979-1984). The themes of sexual love within Humanae Vitae mirror Theology of the body. Love is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, & FRUITFUL.  

Below is a graphic representation of God’s plan for sexual love according to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical: 

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February: The Month of Love

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

As we enter the month of February when stores are awash with merchandise sporting pinks, reds, and purples, consider that the first boundary of respecting yourself and others is your . . . SKIN. Reflect for a moment what skin does for our bodies. Our dermal layer protects us from dirt, disease, germs, injuries, and invasion by unsafe foreign objects. Essentially, skin keeps the good IN and the bad OUT.

There are many types of love (including non-sexual or erotic love) and expressions of love that reflect the beauty, truth, and goodness of God and his plan for love even in our imperfect and broken world. He created us out of and for love.

During the month of February and the Feast of St. Valentine’s Day, remember your body and every other human’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20)

May God bless you and keep you!

Be Satisfied With Me

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

Feeling distracted and overwhelmed this Advent Season? Loosing sight of the reason for the season? Christmas blues?

-A Poem Attributed to St. Anthony of Padua-

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.

But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone.

Discovering that only in me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you.

You just keep watching me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry
Don’t look around at things others have gotten
Or that I have given them
Don’t look around at the things you think you want,
Just keep looking off and away up to me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with me.

(Amen.)

You are beautiful. You are enough. You are Made in His Image. Happy Advent!

Monthly NFP Update: Lessons in Drug Reactions

PSALM 73 (1)

August- a month of opposites. The Creighton Method and Naprotechnology treatment requires a huge helping of patience and humility with a hefty sprinkling of courage and trust. In these moments of increased suffering and confusion, my relationship with God shifts into a more pristine focus- better aligned and less muddled by my pride and control.

For a moment, I thought my body and reproductive track considered cooperating. Somewhere between the travel adventures and joyous occasions my body found enough time and energy to protest my Napro treatment for PMDD. About 6 months ago my PMS diagnosis was revised to a PMDD diagnosis. For those who may not be familiar with PMDD or Post-Dysphoric Menstrual Disorder in the most simplistic definition PMDD is a more severe and volatile version of PMS. After I passed with flying colors the screening for PMDD, my local napro doctor prescribed a medication which used in minute dosages can help your body reset the bio-chemical endocrine processes surrounding the transition from one cycle into the next. But it’s a medication to be respected.

Medical need finally tipped the scale outweighing my reservations, and I successfully took the medication for 5 months before the final hurrah. Looking back at my chart, a few positive affects can be noted. ***And I should disclaim this medication has been beneficial for many women undergoing Napro treatment without or with minimal side-effects.***

This month I only made it through 3 days of my 10 day course before having cardiac and neurological symptoms. I ignored the fluttering heart rate and palpitations the first 3 nights before the neurological symptoms hit which were harder to ignore. On night three, I felt a sudden decline in my mental acuity and a heavy mental fog descend, my rate of exhaustion skyrocket, followed by slowed speech and thought, catapulting into decreased balance and increased dizziness. This led to falls, topples, and bashed knees (and a rather scared and confused Hannah.) Two weeks later I regained my mental acuity and the fog dissipated. It took one week to regain my balance in full. My darkened mood hasn’t rebounded yet. I discontinued my med, consulted with my doctor, and spent time recovering. My doctor and I will need to re-evaluate and discern the next steps.

In many ways, I know I am blessed that nothing more severe or life-threatening happened. In other ways, I recognize my medical de-sensitivity played into my ignorance of the severity of my drug reaction. A hard lessen to learn but an important lessen to know when and what your limitations are and when you should seek professional medical help.

I am frustrated by this set-back in my treatment. I am concerned what the next step will be or if there is a next step. I am worried what the ripple affect will be. Already my cycle has changed without the drug treatment. The brokenness is coming back more recognizable and distinct in my charting. The weakness if pouring into where the healing was. I offer up my cup of brokenness and weakness to God. He makes all things good. Everyday He keeps repeating, “Hannah, you are good.” And to that light of love I cling.

“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73: 26

 

 

 

 

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae: An Encyclical of Hope

 

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July 25, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the prophetic and controversial Encyclical of Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.”  Most people refer to his beautiful encyclical as the “contraception” encyclical. During a period of social, cultural, and religious turmoil surrounding the purpose and place of family, relationships, and procreation, Pope Paul VI released an reaffirmation of the truth: the Catholic Church would not support the use of artificial birth control or other reproductive technologies that could undermine family life and human dignity. But this was radical for the many influences adamant the Catholic Church would join their Protestant Christian brethren in accepting and normalizing artificial birth control.

What people miss by generalizing this prophetic document are the tenants of what eventually would be known as St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” or “Love and Responsibility.” This document expresses the profound nature of marriage between a man and woman, the marital embrace, and fruits of marital love. Love that is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, and FRUITFUL. After an exploration into love and marital love, Pope Paul VI warns of the dangers of artificial birth control and the consequences society would reap by accepting it. Towards the end of this document lies a call to action for medical practitioners and researches pleading for medical advancement regarding reproductive medicine, health, wellness. That is where my story with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae most intimately begins.

Because of Humanae Vitae, we have the Pope Paul VI Institute and Creighton Natural Family Planning Method. We also benefit from NFP spin-offs like the Marquette Method. Because Pope Paul VI had divine inspiration and the guts to swim against the cultural tide, almost fifty years later, I had a fighting chance of health and wellness as a young woman in my mid-twenties. My friends have a fighting chance of healing from infertility. Or my mom from developing reproductive cancer. Or loved ones maintaining a pregnancy after miscarriages. One of the more hidden messages of Humanae Vitae is hope- hope in what seems like impossible odds.

Yes, this encyclical is an encyclical of love, but from that lesson in sometimes a very challenging and difficult school of love bears the fruit of other virtues such as faith and hope. Thinking about the past three years of my Naprotechnology treatment, though riddled with severe physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, tears flow while I write this in gratitude and joy. I am beautifully broken and my journey of reproductive health and wellness is far from over. Amid the pain, suffering, and uncertainty, I found my dignity instead of loosing it.

Through the lens of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, I’ve experienced a glimpse into the profound nature of my womanhood and femininity and even a deeper insight into masculinity and manhood. My medical treatment is filtered through the lens of Christ viewing me as a good and godly creation. Beautiful in His sight. All because one little man in a white cassock (and a few others) inspired by the Holy Spirit swam against the tide and upheld authentic love instead.

Pope Paul VI, please, pray for us! Amen.

 

 

 

Catholic Match Blog Post

Please, read my recently published article on Catholic Match Institute’s Blog, by clicking on the link below.

Bargain Less & Embrace More: How to Navigate Love with Chronic Illness

This article shares my personal experience with navigating the highs and lows of life, love, dating, and relationships with chronic illness. Learn how I’ve changed my dating approach, and how I bargain less and embrace more while being true to who God created me and the unique manner in which God calls me to express love and be loved.

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Catholic Match Blog Post

Please. check out my latest blog post published on Catholic Match Institute’s Blog. I’m hoping this article helps provide a Catholic perspective on relationships, marriage, and high risk pregnancy. Please, enter into a very personal and important topic that has touched my life and many other women. May God bless and keep you all!

Real Talk: How to Discuss Sex and High Risk Pregnancy While Dating

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