Cultivating Joy: 2019 Lenten Reflections

Rockaway Beach, OR


My Catholic Counselor in a recent session, asked me, “Where do you find joy?” Everywhere. . .

According to Pope Francis, “Joy is the air Christian’s breathe.” Explaining even further in his May 2018 homily, Pope Francis elaborated, ” Joy does not mean living from laugh to laugh. No, it’s not that. Joy is not entertainment. No, it’s not that. It is something else. Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give. This is Christian joy. It is not easy to foster this joy.”

But how do we cultivate this lasting joy-the Joy of Christ that breathes life into a Christian? Not fleeting happiness but lasting and unwavering joy? A Joy inspired martyrs to sing and praise God while facing brutal deaths. We practice and cultivate joy. As Pope Francis emphasises, this lasting, unwavering joy isn’t easy to foster. But practice makes progress.

This Lenten Season, I will post a series of daily reflections to inspire cultivating Christian joy which essentially stems from a greater trust and reliance in our Heavenly Father and a deeper understanding and recognition of His love for us. He created us for love. He created the earth for goodness, truth, & beauty. We need to relearn or learn to recognize the beauty that surrounds us in this life and the next. Some of the reflections came from my recent reading of Haley Stewart’s “The Grace of Enough.”

“Oh my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve you. Enkindle your love in me and then walk with me alone the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it in peace.”
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

May God bless you & keep you this Lenten Season!

Fighting for Life

Photo Credit: Students for Life
Photo Credit: Students for Life

In the recent wake of Planned Parenthood videos depicting illegal organ harvesting of aborted babies, I wanted to share a story. Honestly, I’m horrified by the footage but unsurprised or less-than-shocked. The behavior follows a logical and historical pattern of evil, twisted yet fallen human reasoning when a group of people play God and deem themselves more a person than another. Back to the story.

My eldest brother and I share the same chronic kidney dysfunction. My middle brother does not. My brother and I are a medical phenomena that have outlived, out diagnosed, and out performed beyond the wildest imagination of the medical community, which by the way does not know everything. We are walking miracles that would have died and did die previously as “failure to thrive” children just a few years before our births. We represent a new demographic of children that will survive because of medical advances, but our lives are no less cherished or important than the lives of the children with our condition that died before us. For whatever reason, my brother and I live- a testimony to life in the face of adversity and uncertainty. A testimony that life is worth fighting for and the worth of the individual isn’t tied to their tangible, measurable utility.

Such a beautiful success story, right? My parents fought for our lives- my life. A medical professional in Philadelphia deemed my existence, before he ever knew whether or not I actually had the genetic kidney condition, as unworthy and a potential burden to the medical community and cost of healthcare in the United States of America. He debased my parents as “negligent,” “idiots,” etc. This medical professional knew better than anyone else involved, including God. This didn’t sit well with my parents. My father and this man ended up screaming at each other in the medical center hallway. My parents found a new practitioner. And nine months later, yours truly came screaming into Northern Philadelphia. The medical support staff, doctors, friends, and priests commented profusely on my beauty and vitality or how unusual my presence was. Shortly, I did become ill and was diagnosed with Distal RTA. Life hasn’t been easy, but I had a chance because my parents took a staunch position about my fetal dignity and the worth of my in-utero life and the countless individuals already touched by that life. I’m not a statistic or a ICD-9/ICD-10 code; I’m living flesh and blood with soul, mind, and emotions/ feelings. Thank you, Mom & Dad, for fighting for my life.

I’ve learned that life is beautiful in all its forms and function. Regardless of the person’s apparent utility, the worth of an individual is weighed on a divine scale that supersedes all human, limited notions of perceivable measurement of worthiness or substance. Nowadays, since exterminating your child is a “logical” option, parents must fight for the lives of children deemed “unworthy,” “burdensome,” “not human,” “impaired,” “inconvenient,” or “deformed” by relatives, friends, and the medical community. Please, fight for your child’s life whether your earthly relationship with your child lasts in-utero, shortly after birth, or in the years to come. Saying, “yes,” to these children is the most beautiful fiat you and I can utter.