Friday, May 30, 2014

Living on a Prayer

Hello Ladies,

The strangest thing happened to me a few months ago.

I was thinking back to the drama that was happening in my family at the time my youngest daughter was born. It's really hard to let it go of the pain because there was so much nastiness going on. (Look back to entries from 2012 for more details.) I'm not really into drama. Been there - done that. So it seems really unfair that other people's drama should have poisoned what should have been a beautiful experience. But it did.

So I began to pray: "God, why did this have to happen to us? It was so wrong! What did we do to deserve it???" Like Job, I demanded an answer from God for my suffering.

And God answered. Suddenly peace filled my entire being. And then I heard a whisper in my heart: "My daughter, you are right. It should have been beautiful. Your family did nothing to deserve such cruelty. But I was with you every moment and I carried you through it."

Some people might think that this is too little, too late. And really it is. I gave too little, too late. What would it have taken for me to have trusted God from the beginning of the ordeal instead of being angry that He didn't act in a way that I wanted Him to??? Or maybe I did trust in Him and that is what got me through the dark place of post-partum depression?  Or maybe it's a bit of both. Or maybe I'm just asking the wrong question.

So I began to pray again. This time I thanked God for ALWAYS being there for me and asked Him to increase my faith. But I'm finding this easier because I know I didn't get through the depression or the family drama on my own. Now I can enjoy my life and my children. That dark, lonely time is only a means to increase my compassion for others who are trapped within the teetering chemistry of their brains.

I know this change in prayer is working. Instead of asking to change my circumstances, I'm asking God to give me strength to get through this moment. Then the next moment. Then the next. Walking with Jesus on a journey with no limits is pretty darn cool.

Sometimes I hear about spiritual warfare. It's an intriguing concept though it's not one I've really taken seriously. I don't know if it's cool or hokey and slightly paranoid. But I will say that faith in God's love for me and my children has led me out of some really dark places. Looking around, I notice that the world has become a cynical place. Joy is being traded away for instant gratification. Prayer is considered a superstition. A good friend of mine from way back, one who was once comforted by the prospect of being prayed for, literally laughed in my face when I mentioned prayer.

I begin to wonder if prayer, beginning with gratitude and ending in faith, is not a power in its own right. If it were merely superstition, why would it be so upsetting? (Knock on wood and no jinx!) Why would people prefer to believe that love is merely an emotion or a limited resource? Why is it so hard to believe that we are worth dying for? I think that if we understood the love that God has for us that our world would be a more beautiful place. And yet, we too afraid to reach out for our birthright.

I have no answers tonight. I only have faith that God knows what He is doing.

(Jesus, I trust in You!)

Heavenly Father, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having taken such wonderful care of my family when I could not. Please grant us the grace to see you working in our lives. May we always have the courage to do what we know is right, especially when it is difficult. Help us to forgive ourselves and others for the suffering we encounter in the world.  My we always trust in your Sacred Heart.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

May God continue to bless you!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Hello Ladies,

In spite of all the wars, misery and pettiness in the world I am experiencing an unshakable calm in my soul. It's as if Jesus is about to come to heal the world and make things right. I'm trying to rationalize myself out of it. It can only lead to disappointment. Or could it be I'm feeling the peace that only God can give resulting in, well, hope for all humanity? If the latter, bring it on!!

May God continue to bless you!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Things I Love

Hello Ladies,

Today I'm going to talk about things that I find really useful in understanding my Catholic faith. Realize the best way to teach your children is by example, and how can you live something you don't understand? The really neat thing about the Catholic faith is that it stands up to scrutiny.  Don't understand a doctrine? Look it up. Find out more. There is always an answer based on scripture, tradition, and philosophy. It invites intellectual inquiry. Don't take someones else's word for it. Find out for yourself.

1. Read the Bible. It sounds obvious but not many people actually do it. What's in the bible? It is the written history of how God choses to reveal Himself to us in space and time. It is the history of a people. It spans thousands of years and continues to impact us today. It is the basis for Western laws, art, music, and governments. Plus it's a great read. I would go as far to say that everyone should read the bible if only to truly understand today's society.

2. Go to mass. Another obvious one. Without the Eucharist we are not Catholic. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is Jesus. Literally. In the mass we pray with all the angels and saints. In the mass the veil between heaven and earth is removed and we get a glimpse of heaven.

3. Laudate: This is a free app I found for my phone. It has everything from prayers, saints' days, and Vatican documents to podcasts of prayers - in Latin! (Yes! You had me at Latin!)

4. Immaculate Heart Radio: Believe me, I really dislike sugary, dreamy voices talking about Jesus. Blah, blah, blah. But what I found here was intelligent discussion. Why do Catholics believe what they believe? Listen to Catholic Answers Live. You can even call in to ask your questions. Want to hear world news without dramatic commentary? You can find it here. (To be fair BBC also does a good job as does the Wall Street Journal. But I digress.)

5. While we're at it I might as well mention EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), the Catholic cable channel based in Alabama of all places. My son likes watching the shows about the saints. He likes that the saints are portrayed as people who struggled to attain an everyday holiness.

6. Prayer. Yes, another obvious one. But I have had secular friends prefer to hear that I 'wish them luck' than I would pray for them. There is little understanding of what prayer is. If we do not teach our children what prayer is and how to pray then they're going to believe some crazy things.

7. Read Catholic authors. Theology is FUN, my friends. Well, Catholic theology is. It's history, philosophy, languages,  and sociology. Just looking at my bookshelf I spot Scott Hahn and Dorothy Cummings MacLean along side Saint Augustine, Mother Teresa, and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Well, Ladies, my time is up. My daughter has just set up a tea party for her dolly who turned four today. If I remember correctly we sang 'Happy Birthday' when her dolly turned seven just a few days ago.

If you have any other suggestions feel free to comment.

May God continue to bless you!

PS: (Sorry, I don't always get to things when I want to because of the children.) A Mother's Bouquet written by Sherri Boas is the best book or rosary meditations I have ever read.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Change of Pace

Hello Ladies,

Today I'm going to do something that I thought I would never do: get personal. I've tried to be as anonymous and neutral as possible because I want to be a source of comfort to all moms and not just those who fit into my racial/political/religious/educational strata. What would be the point of that? Also I've looked at other 'mom blogs'. They are entertaining, well written, and sometimes wise. But to write about myself? Well, I prefer reading about their lives to explaining mine.

But then I got to thinking; who wants to read about dry theology, anyway? Perhaps this "Everywoman" approach is informative but lacks the intimacy of a friend. I have also come to the realization that I want other women to share in my journey. Why would you post a comment if you have no clue who I am? Yes, my posts will continue to be theology based and anonymous but from now on I'm going to write to you as a friend.

So friends, here is a little about myself.

I chose the name Mariam for my blog because it was the name I chose for my confirmation when I was 16.  I have always felt close to Mary but that relationship continues to be conflicted because of the strained relationship with my earthly mother. My mother died several years ago as a direct result of her addictions. Even though I went through a tumultuous childhood I no longer blame my mother for all the bad things in my life (probably because she can't cause any more damage). I miss her.

I am the mother of three children: boy (7), girl (4), and girl (almost 2).  They keep me exceedingly busy but they are worth it.

I was raised Catholic and continue in my Catholic faith because the elders in my life whom I greatly respect continued in their faith. They overcame great hardships with patience and grace. I saw firsthand that the power of love could conquer self-loathing and hate.

Things I like about being Catholic:

The Eucharist. Whether in mass or at adoration it is the only place where I feel I am "good enough". I am in the presence of Love, after all. I also feel closer to those who have died and yes, even the children in my family waiting to be born.

The communion of saints. Time and space don't matter. I continue to be close to my grandmother. Sometimes I feel my mother's love surrounding me. I'm not saying that she suddenly became a saint when she died. But I do believe that once she saw the power of Love she could finally love in ways that she couldn't manage while trapped in her diseased body. Sometimes I think that watching over me and my children is a part of her purgatory. I have no theological basis for this. I just feel that to give and receive love is healing for us both.

The prayers. Yes! The prayers! I love that Catholic prayers, especially the mass, (and the Our Father, of course) have been said, sung, and chanted for thousands of years in countless languages. Now THAT is stability.

Things that drive me crazy:

Criticism. I put my best into everything I do. I'm not a perfectionist but I set high standards for myself. I work hard to be accountable for all of my actions. So I HATE being second-guessed. Have a problem with my kitchen? Go ahead and clean it. Just don't ask me what I've been doing all day. If being a mom were simply an exercise in time management... Grrrr...

People who speed through school zones. 'Nuff said.

Popular media: I'm supposed to think uncharitable thoughts about people I have never met because of some unsubstantiated sound bite? I think not. And PLEASE, before you criticize the church, study history, or philosophy, or the doctrine in question.  Then come talk to me. I cannot believe that people can make money using arguments that would have earned me a failing grade. And do not get me started on advertising or "feminist" magazines that promote sex as the pinnacle of feminine power and freedom.

Things that I love but maybe shouldn't:

The shows "Say Yes to the Dress" and "What Not to Wear". I also love "Rehab Addict" and "Property Brothers". I also like "Doctor Who", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and "Babylon 5". I don't have the time to keep up with "Downton Abbey" or any show with a continuous storyline.

I love 'The Dresden Files' written by Jim Butcher. Like 'the kids have to wait while I read' kind of love.

"Lord of the Rings". The books - not the movies. Also "The Chronicles of Narnia".

My kids know the words to "Not My Mama's Broken Heart" by Miranda Lambert. I think I should be concerned about this.

Random tidbits:

My favorite time period is the Middle Ages. I have no fear of Old and Middle English.

I love Latin but I'm terrible at it.

I read theology books in my spare time.

I hate mornings and run on coffee. A friend of mine told me that I don't eat as much as I think I do because of the children distracting me or eating off of my plate.

I hate to admit it but I've been diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of both of my girls.

Well, that's about it.  I hope this makes me seem more accessible and, well, human. I am looking forward to getting to know you.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Is a Catholic Mom?

Hello Ladies,

I have been putting off this question for a long time. I don't like it. If you are Catholic and a mother then you are a Catholic mom. But lately a friend of mine (not a mother) was asking me why I do things one way and not the way other Catholic mothers seem to. Do you need to go to church every Sunday as a family? Do you pray the rosary (or a decade) nightly? Do you work outside the home? Do you home school or send your child(ren) to Catholic schools? Do you wear long skirts? Cover your head in church? Obey your husband?  Use cloth diapers? Carry your baby in a sling as opposed to using a stroller?

To be fair, my friend couldn't care less about diapers or strollers; but other moms DO care. And they WILL give their opinion.

Before I get derailed in the politics of motherhood I would like to make one thing perfectly clear: No matter our vocation, we are called to do it with great love. This includes motherhood. This includes working outside the home. This includes our studies. This includes our family life. In fact, it begins within our own family. To be precise - with the most vulnerable within our family: our children, our elderly, and our most vulnerable.

Perhaps the first question we should be asking is what does it mean to be a Catholic? After all, motherhood is one of many roles we are called to play. We do not start out as mothers and one day our children will leave our home. But God calls each and every one of us to follow Him.

The reason I am taking a step back from motherhood is that it is so all encompassing that sometimes it does not make the best starting point. As I said earlier, it's too easy to get derailed. Yes, the above questions are important. Yes, every mother needs to explore them. That is why it is so important to have a firm understanding of what you, as a Catholic and as a mother, bring to your home and to society.

The rules and the Spirit:

Okay, I already said that being a Catholic is more that following 'the rules'. In this context I'm talking about the outward trappings and not substance. Do I wear a long skirt? Do I have rosary beads hanging off my rear view mirror in my minivan? Do I make it to church every week with all of my children freshly scrubbed and in their Sunday best?

But there are other, more important rules; rules that are as unpopular as they are important.

Some people think that we don't need rules, that we are intelligent human beings who can handle the consequences to our actions. Fair enough. I am not the morality police. Nor do I want to be. But let's take a closer look, shall we?

Imagine driving a car in a town without any traffic laws. A car is not evil. The driver is probably not evil. But together it can make for a dangerous, even deadly combination. Now I have several friends who are firefighters and police officers. I can tell you that they have absolutely no sense of humor when it comes to running red lights, speeding through school zones and cross walks, drunk driving, or using a cell phone while driving. Does that make them fascist? Cruel? Eager to exploit their authority and hand out tickets? Possibly. Or maybe they're just sick of scraping innocent people off the street. Maybe they want to go to sleep without having nightmares. Maybe they are just, gasp, trying to protect us from our own stupid and thoughtless decisions.

Now let's look at the moral equivalent of a car wreck. Ever talk to a Catholic mother who is wondering when she should take her daughter to the doctor to be put on birth control? Twelve is too early but kids are having sex earlier these days... What if she's at a party and gets drunk? Is thirteen too early or too late? CRASH! How are these questions even possible?? But you can't get away from what is 'out there'. The problems of children raping children and drug and alcohol abuse have been featured on Oprah, Dear Abbey, and countless news stations.

And who is to blame? The television? The parents? The children themselves?

There are also other, smaller rules that we break every day and we don't think much about them until the consequences creep up on us. This is where I really appreciate speaking with priests because they have heard everything. People do not go to confession when they think that what they're doing isn't so bad. People go to confession with their regrets and their heartbreaks, desperately wanting to undo the past. No priest can ever say the specific sins he hears in a confessional but a priest can speak in generalities. Most frequent cause of divorce (for men): pornography. That's right. They begin to see women as sexual objects instead of people. This attitude spills over into their marriage and parenting. Biggest regret for women: allowing themselves to be seen or used as sexual objects and/or what they have done to "prove" that they are free from the shackles of their femininity. For children: what they have done to gain love or approval from their peers, including lying.

Somewhere along the line we have forgotten the critical point: each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God and is worthy of dignity. This means that I have been created to be more than a sexual or political object. I am more than a woman silently raising her children. I am more than my education, my paycheck, the fulfillment of my ambitions or what I contribute so society. And I firmly believe that this is where so many of us get it wrong. Our imaginations cannot encomapss the wonder of God so we wonder if God is even there. So we get it into our heads that our ambition is more important than God's will for us. We can't fathom God's love for us so we settle for what we can quantify. It is time to stop.

How can we teach our children that they have worth if we believe that our own worth is limited to our achievements or based on the approval of others? How can we help others if we are suffering from the consequences of breaking the rules ourselves?

Jesus is continually reminding us of our worth when He invites us to partake of His presence in the Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He continually reminds us of the dignity of others. He is constantly inviting us into a personal conversation with Him about how best to use our time, talent, and treasures. Why do we continually deny the dignity that God Himself instilled in us when we were conceived? Why do we deny it in others? We all want to live in a just world where we are respected and treated with dignity but we don't dare reach for it.

Every single Christian has been commissioned by Jesus to seek out and serve the most vulnerable of society.  This service may include fixing food and keeping house. It may include changing the diapers of an infant or an infirm adult. This service will probably be unglamorous and frequently isolating. Do it anyway. This service might call an educated woman to work within the home or challenge an uneducated woman to further education. This will probably be frightening. Do it anyway.

We all know this. This is nothing new. Perhaps what I am trying to say is that Catholicism isn't merely a set of rules which must be obeyed. It is not a way of differentiating ourselves from others. It is an invitation by God to live more deeply in Him. It is joyful and adaptable. (Frankly, anything that has been around for over 2000 years and spans continents needs to be adaptable.) It has structure that is timeless and recognizable. It is a way of asking God "what do I do with my time, treasure and talents?" in a way that there is hope of hearing a personal answer instead of in formulaic response.

And for us Catholic mothers? It begins within our own homes, with our children, our elderly, and our most vulnerable. It begins before we are mothers and will continue after the overwhelming aspects of motherhood are over.

And through the grace of God the rest will fall into place from there.

May God continue to bless you!