Saint James, Humanae Vitae, and a Good Husband
Blog July 25, 2018
Today is our anniversary.
Thirty-one years ago, My dear husband and I entered into marriage. We were young, Catholic, and had lots of plans. Celebrating today brings to mind the gifts we received on our wedding day. The greatest gift we received but didn’t know much about was Humanae Vitae.
I was raised Catholic. I thought my family was strong, dedicated, conservative Catholic. The definition to me was going to Mass each Sunday and owning a rosary. Yep, I was a mass-going rosary carrying Catholic. When my beloved fiancé entered the church, I was pleased and we started pre-cana classes. The Newman Center was terrific with a young couple who had five children. Five children was radical. No one I knew had big families and I knew why - the birth control pill. When Bill McCarthy explained the teaching of the church on contraceptives, I restrained my chuckle. Later, when James asked my answer was, “Yea, right!” I laughed and explained that natural family planning was nonsense; I made a doctor’s appointment to begin the pill. That is what reasonable people do - they go on the pill. In anticipation of my marriage, I went to the doctor and began the prescription. I wasn’t informed about consistent use, side effects, or complications. My physical reaction was dramatic and my emotions erratic. I felt like I was losing my mind and when I called the doctor and was told that my experience was typical and that I needed to “ride through it.” In those words I knew only one thing, he was wrong. Instead of jumping off a roof, I threw the pill away. That physician wasn’t treating me, wasn’t listening to me, and he wasn’t thinking of my best interest. This was wrong.
As our wedding approached and James learned more about the Church he asked me, “What are we going to do?” It was irritating. Finally, I decided to clear my mind, listen to the Church, and the McCarthy’s. They taught me and listened to me. They answered my questions and supported me. I grew in knowledge and strength. I believe God blessed us as we placed our faith in Him and His Church. After our wedding on July 25, 1987, we moved to a new college and met many young couples. It was a beautiful time. The amazing thing was that all of those Catholic couples had made a choice to follow the Church’s teaching. Not a single one of them was practicing contraception. I graduated from college, taught, and in 1990 we had our first child.
Without Humanae Vitae, where would we have been? The declaration by Pope Paul VI that the Church was not going to give in to society or follow the culture allowed groups like the Couple to Couple League to grow and research to study what characterizes normal fertile cycles. Additionally, the interest in understanding fertility cycles and treating the fertility issues is essential. God has ordered all things well and that includes the human body. So today we celebrate.
Today, we celebrate the anniversary of Humanae Vitae. We celebrate Saint James, whose . Yes, James and I were married on the Feast Day of Saint James and we didn’t even plan it. We have learned that God’s plans for us are grand even when we are ignorance, sinful, and rebellious. Like a good father, He prepares what we need and He calls us to listen, to trust, and to love.
Today, I celebrate my marriage. I celebrate God’s gift to me of a wonderful loving husband who loves God. I celebrate my ten children and I celebrate my ability to walk with women and couples who have the same questions I had. After all, when looking at our beautiful family they may not understand God’s call to be open to life. They may look at us and smile having heard the joke,
“What do you call a couple on NFP? Parents.”
Yes, we are parents and very blessed.
Saint James, Pray for us!
Happy Father's Day
Daddies are going to save the world!
Happy Father’s Day! I am late posting this because I was celebrating. It was a great day spent with the best gift God ever gave me, my husband, and the man who gave me life.
I love you, Dad.
On Mother’s Day, I declared, “Every day is Mother’s Day!” Today, I wonder does our culture celebrate fathers? Do we? In the whacked out world we live in, one might wonder if fathers really matter. Television shows for years have portrayed fathers as lazy, inept fools. They are men who drop into their favorite chairs at night to demand a can of beer and a clear view of the TV set. They usually are monosyllabic and the butt of every joke. They are poor fathers, bad employees, and all around worthless individuals.
Many articles at this point would offer a disclaimer that fathers who are abusive do not deserve respect. I fully acknowledge that abuse, addiction, and family dysfunction are real problems that plague the family. I challenge the notion that we cannot speak of the biblical role of the father in families without detailing every reason not to respect him. If we succumb to this impediment, I believe we have little hope for growth in God’s Truth and Grace. Every person is created in the image, and the likeness of God and God has a plan for each one of us, including men.
A lack of respect for fathers, I believe, is at the root of many problems facing the family, communities, churches and the world but I have trust that men will regain their positions in our families, faith, and yes, I believe they will save the world. Are you interested in helping?
My goals to empower the men in my life, to show them the respect and love they deserve and require a behavioral change on my part:
Value Fathers as the Spiritual Leader of the Family - Just as Joseph was the head of the Holy Family, the daddy in your family deserves the respect of his wife and children as the head of the home. Encourage him in his faith and grant him the respect he deserves in guiding the family when praying, saying grace, or at church.
Allow Men to be Men – Encourage their desire to support and protect their families. Express gratitude for the actions they take, the living they make, and their position as head of the household.
Support his Role in the Family - Encourage strong relationships between men and other members of the family. Foster communication between the men in your life and their parents, siblings, and children. Avoid managing these relationships and especially demeaning men in their relationship with others.
Watch your “No”s and “But”s – Be aware of how many times you contradict them, especially in public. In the course of a story, do you add information? Become aware of the times those insertions begin with the words “no” and “but”. Encourage and allow men to tell their stories without added commentary or contradiction.
Thank Them – Express authentic gratitude for their hard work, sacrifice, and service.
Saint Joseph signifies the importance God the Father places on earthly fathers. If we consistently elevate our attitude, manners, and treatment of the men in our lives, we will see the glory that comes when men who are loved and respected. We will see the blessings God intends for our families.
Trust in God’s word,
“Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a
promise, that it may go well with you and that
you may have a long life on earth." Ephesians 6:2-3
May 10, 2018
“Men of Galilee, why are you looking at the sky?”
As a kid, going to a movie was rare and AMAZING! Usually, mom put a candy bar in our pocket for a treat. We didn’t buy popcorn or a pop and never gave the concession stand a second thought, going to a movie was good enough. When the movie was done, we knew it. You remember, the last dramatic scene, the music faded
and . . . well . . . the movie was over.
We went home.
That’s not the way movies are today.
Now, after the movie is done my kids stay because there might be something after those credits. It can be deleted scenes or a preview for the next blockbuster, something.
I wonder if that is how the apostles felt before Assumption, which we celebrate today. Those 47 days must have been one wild ride. I can imagine Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his friends thinking in amazement, “This is it!”
Front row seats for the coming of God’s Kingdom. Cue the dramatic music, fade, and happy ending.
These Saints watched their world go sideways. Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, abuse, and death left them reeling. Bruised, broken, and afraid, they think everything is over. Dramatic music, tragedy . . . when Jesus comes into through the door of that locked room.
Did the apostles think, “Ok, we are back in business.”
I don’t know.
Maybe they were just happy, satisfied. Maybe thankful like Jairus kissing his daughter's warm face or Martha and Mary, receiving Lazarus home from his tomb. Breathing a sigh of relief, the apostles moved on until today. Jesus disciples walk with Him after their reunion, and then they watch Him lifted into the sky.
“When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going* to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”
Acts 1: 6-12
“He was lifted up.”
They got to work, and they prayed.
Peter takes his position as the leader. As a whole, they appoint Matthias to take Judas place. They pray. The whole of the Church prays for the coming of the Advocate whom Jesus has promised. They trust His promise that they will “never be left alone.”
They believe Him, and they begin the first Novena.
Today we celebrate Jesus being lifted up.
On Good Friday, we observed Jesus being lifted up on the cross.
On Easter Sunday, we celebrated Jesus’ rise from the dead.
On Ascension, we celebrate Jesus’ return to heaven.
We get to work spreading the Gospel, and we pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in our homes, and in the Church Universal.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations,
Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
We are an Easter people
and Alleluia is our song!
April 17, 2018
Are you still celebrating?
If you are not celebrating Easter;
it's time to join the party.
I have a gob of pet peeves. To many I know, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when people get up and leave an event early. I don’t understand why but I have considered the reasons. Maybe they want to get out of the parking lot first,
beat the traffic, and avoid the rush. People do it. They get up before the game ends, before the dance finale, and they leave. I live in Wyoming, we don't have traffic, we have no reason to rush, but people do. I don’t get it.
What does this have to do with Easter? Lots.
I remember when the Easter stuff appeared on the shelves just after Christmas. For the last weeks of Lent, the baskets, plush toys, and candy, lots and lots of candy made me cringe. During Holy Week, there were Easter egg hunts on Good Friday, and I wanted to holler, “Easter isn’t here yet!”
Easter Sunday came and went. It was over too soon because the world doesn’t understand the beauty of the Liturgical Year. As Catholics, we should appreciate and, in this 40 days, we should still be celebrating. It is our time to walk with the Apostles as Jesus visits and teaches us. He shares the beauty of the Father's Plan, and He tells us that He will never leave us, never.
The Gospel reading this week is incredible, gather your family and read it before Mass. Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. As long as we stay connected to Him, we will have Life. The alternative is not good. Don’t leave this party early; there is no better place to go. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Let us walk with him, together.
We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.
Sing out loud, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
March 27, 2018
On Holy Tuesday, our family remembers and celebrates the birth of our son, Matthias Ambrose. It is had to believe it has been 12 years since his birth.
I walk through the weeks, days, remembering. Remembering what I was feeling, thinking, doing, everything that happened as his due date approached. I love it, and it hurts. The season’s change brings warmer days and the scent of spring reminds me.
It reminds me of Matthias.
Tomorrow, I will listen closely to the Readings at Mass. These Bible passages were spoken as Matthias was born and occur each Tuesday of Holy Week.
Hear me, O islands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother's womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
R. I will sing of your salvation
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother's womb you are my strength.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71: 1-6, 15, 17
I collect ways to celebrate Matthias. My favorite way is donating a book at a local spaghetti dinner fundraiser for a rural school. As we travel to Wapiti, I anticipate picking the book and writing his name inside. Every year, there has been a beautiful children’s title that speaks to and comforts my heart. This year, there were few items available and all been sponsored, but one.
The nice lady pointed to the pre-teen audiobook on the table.
It wasn’t cute.
It wasn’t a book.
I didn’t like it.
I was not interested.
I felt my emotions rise as I explained that I would buy a book and send it. Then I hesitated and looked again. It has been 12 years, I thought. That audiobook may be just what Matthias wants for his birthday this year. The woman was openly surprised at my changed attitude as I happily placed the tag inside,
“In Memory of Matthias Ambrose.”
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, was God has planned for those who love Him.”
What is heaven like?
What do people in heaven look like?
Will we recognize them?
Will they recognize us?
The answers to these questions may bring concern or comfort.
A dear priest shared a dream he had on the night that Matthias died. This dear, prayerful man was excited to share that Matthias was a grown man of 30. He shared that he heard a voice from heaven said, “Today, Matthias, you will be in paradise.” The priest heard God welcome Matthias as a healthy, happy adult.
I do not know if Matthias is an infant, a grown man, or somewhere in between. I do not know the answers to all the questions. I do know he is residing in heaven for all eternity and I am satisfied with God’s plan.
I give thanks to the Lord for the gift of three earthly days with our son and the eternity he will spend with God and all who love Him.
May this Holy Week grant you the peace that comes only from God,
February 17th, 2018
January 1st feels like a long time ago.
I noticed because just after New Year’s Eve people began talking about Lent, planning for Lent, they were excited about Lent. It was interesting because while the world was talking about New Year’s resolutions, my people were talking about Lent. Amazing people surround me, and I asked one friend, “If you are so excited, why don’t you start now?”
“No way!” she answered.
“I’m waiting for Lent.”
I have spent some time thinking about that response and why we love Lent. Lent is something we do together. The race begins, we assemble with our crosses of ash, and together we begin Lent. Some families have annual traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. Others observe fasting for their spiritual health. Whatever you choose, Easter is more beautiful following a Lent that is well observed.
Trying to explain Lent to non-Catholics or non-Christians can be tricky. Many of the traditions we love (yes, giving up chocolate) can be misunderstood. Our preparation for Easter is so rich in opportunities to change our hearts. The Greek word metanoia means repentance. Metanoia calls us to change our hearts and minds, to seek God. We can be proud to share that Lent is a beautiful time when together we can turn our hearts to God.
So, what about the rejection of sin?
Isn't Lent is about the rejection of sin?
This story, from a homily, spoke to my heart:
An alcoholic spent Saturday evening drinking until the argument with his wife began. That night ended the way most did, in anger. The next morning, the husband collected the beer bottles and took them outside for disposal. Sitting down, he picked up the first empty bottle. Filled with emotion, he spoke. “You!” he cried, “You are responsible for my broken marriage!” With that, he smashed the bottle and picked another. “You are the reason I NEVER see my grandkids!” Smashing it, he grabbed the next. “YOU are the reason I can’t keep a job!” Broken glass everywhere he continued. “YOU make me broke and miserable.” Sobbing, he reached for the next bottle but was surprised to find it full. The man hesitated for a moment before addressing the beer, “Stand aside, I know you were not involved last night.”
The Priest continued, “There is the difference between rejecting sin and regret.” So true, I thought. Do I morn sin or fear regret? Do I regret how sin affects my lives, my reputation, how it damages my relationships? This Lent is the time to reject sin in all its forms. It is better to value what is most important, my relationship with my Good Father in Heaven and the good that flows from living in His Will. Sin always damages that my relationship with God and I need no better reason to reject sin. I listened intently to the priest explain that we never fast from sin. My ears perked as he said, “We must always reject sin, and we fast from things that are good in anticipation of something better.”
This concept was new to me, and I shared it with my children and students using the best analogy I could, “If you are dining out,” I said, “who ruins their appetite with a peanut butter sandwich?” Great celebrations are worth the wait.
So today, I pray-
- For the strength to recognize sin in my life, to reject it openly with the help of God’s Grace.
- To enjoy the blessing of walking with my family in faith this Lenten Season.
- As a community, might we join in all the benefits and traditions of Lent.
- May each day grow from better to best.
May the season of Lent be a blessing to you and your family.
Let us walk together these 40 Days. It has begun.
'The Return of the Prodigal Son'
Artist - Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
January 27, 2018
Change is Good!
So, how is everything going in your life, good?
When was the last time you lost your keys, phone, coat, in your house?
I’m so glad to hear it.
Getting a great night’s sleep, waking up before your alarm sounds?
When life is easy, it’s easy. When life is hard, it’s hard.
Other than losing my phone, my daily life goes well. There is a rhythm of coming and going, things to do – life.
It is amazing how much comfort I find in routine and organization. I love it when things where they are supposed to be, put back right, things where they belong. You know, a mom’s expectations.
If you are feeling comfortable, enjoy it. If things are easy, relax and breathe but not too long.
If you want to grow, try something new. I invite you to join me in the area of conscious incompetence, it’s terrifying.
I recently stepped into “What am I doing?!?” when I volunteered to read at daily Mass. I thought, “I know how to read. I've watched this all my life. Yep, can do!”
Yep - Nope.
There are four steps to competency:
As I stepped onto the altar and encountered the lectionary, I panicked. There it was: the readings, alternate readings, words in red, bold word, and words in italics. I reminded myself that I did know how to read, so I read. After Mass, Father shared a note on what could be done, well . . . Differently. As I continued to volunteer, it seemed that the list was endless because each try and with each improvement there was always something. My ego felt the heaviness of each suggestion, though offered in charity. “Ughhhh,” hollered my ego, as my incompetence was displayed. Untrained, I didn’t know this stuff. “You know,” whispered my pride “I am just a volunteer.”
I love going to Daily Mass. I have attended Mass on friday and saturday morning every week for almost twenty years. Most of this time with little ones, I would enter the church laden with a car seat, diaper bag, and sippy cup five minutes late. I would slip into the cry room and on good days slide into the back row within the safety of the cry room and the bathroom. Being late, I would miss the first reading but was happy to stand for the Gospel and listen to the homily.
It was good, totally satisfying.
Now with my youngest was in school, I have fewer excuses to be late. I moved forward from the last row and realized that a lot happens before the Gospel. The recitation of the entrance antiphon (found in the back of the missal) challenged me to be more prepared. For twenty years, full participation is not what I had been doing and the lesson had begun. I had been listening to the Mass, comforted by its rhythm. In my busy life, the beauty of the celebration feed my soul like a baby resting with its mother. Now, I was being called to something different, to change.
That day was a surprise; I had arrived early to pray and prepare when Father approached me and asked me to read. “Yes,” I responded and took my place on the altar without the slightest doubt. You already know how it that went, and while the handful of people attending may not have noticed my errors or discomfort, I hurt.
There were more lessons to learn. Sitting in the front row, I found I wasn’t confident in the responses. Since the changes in liturgy, I need to pay attention because when I am distracted, I err. With sometimes only three or four people in attendance this showed, I began following in the missal to say the right words. I am amazed at how much I didn’t know and how satisfied I was with my ignorance.
What a blessing change has brought! I now recognized the hidden beauty of my parish family. For years, I have been carried by the unified voice of my church celebrating the Mass. Together, we respond boldly. Together, we learn new songs and responses. When a change occurs, it is bumpy for a time, but together we figure it out. God smiles as His people join together. Whether a group of 3 or 3,000, we celebrate, for “In You, we live and move and have our being. Each day, you show a Father’s love”. *
So whether you are being carried, called to participate more fully in the Mass, or become a lector,
may God bless you as you seek to know Him better.
May we never fear growth and may our good God guide and sustain us always.
*Gregorian Missal 2012, Eucharist Preface No. VI