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Gaudette! Joy!

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Gaudette! Joy! During the third week of Advent, we are so close to the return of Jesus at Christmas that we are to be joyful. When Jesus is present, peace will reign. That is why the fourth week of Advent, typically the week that Christmas occurs, is to be one of peace. If we do Advent “right,” there should be a calm in our hearts and in our heads to celebrate Christmas well. I pray you all find that joy and peace in these coming days as Christmas draws closer.

Heavenly Father, you have given us a model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace, and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic, and vibrant with joy. Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow through family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our family, especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus make our hearts meek and humble like his and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way. May we love one another as God loves each one of us more and more each day, and forgive each others faults as you forgive our sins. Help us, O loving Father, to take whatever you give and to give whatever you take with a big smile.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Holy Guardian Angels, be always with us, guide and protect us. Amen
- St. Therese of Calcutta

Posted by Jill Fischer
Tags: advent

Suffering the Sleepless Nights of Motherhood

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Recently, a notification popped up on my phone’s calendar app: A year ago on that day, my youngest child slept 6.25 hours. High five! 

She would have been just two weeks old at that point, and that would be the best that any of my children have ever slept in the first year of their lives. Looking back, it seems her awesome sleep performance peaked that day. In fact, between molars and learning a bunch of new skills at once, from walking to talking to making the most adorable kissy noises, my littlest one hasn’t sleep in, ohhhh, six weeks, give or take.

Growing up, my mother advised me never to think too much about anything while you’re tired. Sage advice. Except what do you do when there’s no sleep in sight? No one really prepared me for that, and the suffering that I’ve felt by being chronically tired has been both immense and intense.

Suffering is a topic that has driven many a person away from God. They wonder how an all-loving God could allow the big awful things to happen, the sudden deaths, the horrible medical diagnoses, the car accidents. But suffering pervades our earthly lives in tiny ways, too. In fact, it’s mostly in these ways that we experience suffering - the irritating comment made by a family member, the engine refusing to turn over when you’re already late to an appointment, the excruciatingly slow pace children suddenly take on whenever it’s time to leave to go anywhere, a debilitating lack of sleep. 

It becomes crucial, then, to understand why God allows suffering, or at least to understand as much as we can and trust in the mystery of it, and then, of course, to let God in to help.

To say it briefly, we can’t know why God lets this suffering happen or this amount of pain to exist. That belongs to His grand beautiful exquisite and extraordinarily complex plan. But we can trust that God is a loving, merciful Father who allows some amount of suffering so long as an even greater good can come of it. We can picture it easily if we envision a parent taking a child to the doctor for an inoculation. Yes the child will suffer, but the parent knows, while the child can’t quite understand, that in allowing the pain of the needle’s prick and the next day’s sore muscle, greater suffering is avoided and the child will be more likely to enjoy better health. Apply this to Almighty God and we can begin to accept why we are allowed to feel the pain that we do.

And pain we certainly will feel. On both the macro and micro level, we and the world at large are broken and sinful. An unfortunate and continuing side effect of this reality is suffering. Mothers know this acutely, interiorly and in the suffering we feel by proxy with the sensitivities we naturally assume towards our children and our spouse.

One of the greater goods that can come from allowing pain in our lives is an increase in creaturely dependence, that is, the dependence we develop, creature-to-creature, as well as creature-to-God. 

During these sleepless weeks, I’ve had to rely more on friends and family to help. A friend has babysat for me so I could run errands without so many extra people to shuffle in and out of stores. I’ve said yes to the imperfectly completed chores that my husband has offered to do. It has been good for me to rely on them, and it has been good for them to be allowed to help me. It fosters better community, better relationships, better understanding of charity and mercy. 

I’ve also depended more on God. The prayers have been ongoing and constant. “Help!” “Please” and “Thank you” have been dispersed among rosaries and novenas. I continue to pray for the intercession of the saints. St. Jude and St. Rita, patrons of impossible causes, have put me at ease. St. Gianna Molla has walked alongside me.

The suffering will continue. Once the baby begins to sleep again, there will be another kind of suffering. After that subsides, another. God didn’t promise us complete and total happiness in this life. That, He saved for eternity with Him in the Beatific Vision, but in the meantime, I can embrace the suffering He allows, trusting there is some greater good that will come from it, even if I can’t see it through bleary, tired eyes. 

Perfection and Purification

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I love being Catholic. I have gradually grown to appreciate so many of its teachings for how logical they are. I especially appreciate how it is built around the fact that we are not perfect, but spend our lives striving to reach perfection. Perfection in the sense of being what God has created us to be. What made me start to think about this occurred while reflecting on the whole concept of the Communion of Saints and the souls in purgatory. The whole concept is genius! Let me explain.

We are all created good. God does not create anything bad for He himself is good. Being good and gracious, He provided us with free will, which allows us to have choice. Because God wants us to remain in relationship with Him and to be good, He has given us so many gifts in order to keep us on that track toward holiness, but free will can lead us astray. The goal is goodness. We, the Catholic collective, work to help others achieve goodness. The Saints, those canonized through the Church, are examples of how ordinary people can be extraordinary through the grace of God and others championing them. We are all saints, those who have the propensity to become Saints. So when we speak of the Communion of Saints, that means every human being created by God who strives to know, love, and serve Him at all times. We lean on one another, both living and deceased, to fulfill that mission. How marvelous to know that we remain connected as family across time and place! An example of how we do this is when we pray for both the living and the dead. This is in recognition that not everyone is perfect and prayer helps us in the purification process. Our souls, the essence of who we are, carry within it the consequences of our actions. The soul carries the weight of our sins. Saints are purified. We don’t all pass away in a purified state, but because God loves us and wants us to be with Him for all eternity, there is a divine plan in place for us to help each other get to a place of purification. That is where we need one another as family. We, of course, are purified through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. If we are not able to receive this sacrament upon the end of our lives, we have the Communion of Saints to help us. Assuming that an individual has worked to maintain a relationship with Jesus throughout their lives, praying for the deceased helps them gain purification as they “wait” in purgatory. “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”(CCC #1030). Purgatory is a place of purification. Even in death we are helping each other get to heaven. Therefore, as we honor all those who have gone on before us , remember them in your prayers. They are then praying for you. This is what we believe. This is what we can count on. This is why we work hard to have our children develop a strong relationship with Jesus. 
All you Saints and Angels pray for us.
All you holy men and women pray for us.

Posted by Jill Fischer with 2 Comments

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