Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent, NFP, and Such

I did not do a "what are you doing for Lent" post - probably because I'm still avoiding my blog (how long can this go on!?! Blargh!), and also because, I want Lent this year to be a bit quieter. I know you haven't noticed, but I'm sort of a loud-mouth and if I'm not careful, I get braggy and preachy. So I hope you all have found great things to enrich your Lent, and I'll assure you that I have too.

What with all the HHS mandate talk, contraception v. NFP is getting a lot of press, which is nice, I think. There was that article about making "NFP sexy" which I was happy to see. By the time Tom and I headed to pre-Cana classes, we'd already been learning Creighton for 6 months, so the brochure they gave us with outdated information that was clearly from the 1970s wasn't any sort of a blow to our confidence. However, we were the only couple in the class that asked educated questions in this section, and the woman next to me was shocked to discover that we were actually going to use it (which was weird, because she was definitely headed out of her child-bearing years, so you think she'd be less worried - it's not like she has 17 fertile years ahead). NFP could definitely use an update.

I think the biggest comforter in learning NFP was talking to the many couples who never used contraception, and have average-sized families. My godparents have three kids - never used any form of contraception, ever. It's just what God had in mind for them. We had dinner last night with a lovely older couple in our parish - they have four kids, never used any form of birth control. I think what most women aren't discovering until they get married (usually much later than is ideal for having kids) is that getting pregnant, the disease they've been protecting themselves against since they were teens, isn't a given for everyone. An acquaintance of mine waited to have her first child until she was 40, despite being married for 10+ years before that, because she was a career lawyer wanted the right house and everything else. She confessed after her child was born, "If I had known being a mom would be this much fun, I would have done it earlier - I would've planned to have more children!" This is tragic.

On another note, please pray for a great blogger, the Mom over at Shoved to Them, because her 7-year old daughter is having some serious health problems. It's Friday - please lift up your prayers today for her and her suffering child.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Avoiding You

It's true, I've been avoiding my blog! Writers block? Blog confusion?

No, no. Just a big secret.

I'm a horrible secret keeper of my own secrets. I hate keeping secrets! Especially good news. I want to tell everyone, all the time - strangers, friends, everyone. I'm really bad at secrets. Which is funny, because I married the human equivalent of Fort Knox: what goes in never comes out. Yet I am horrible at this. Horrible.

I am not inviting any of you to guess. Instead, I will try to distract you (and myself) by talking about another sudden realization: advertising does no one any favors. The truth is that every stage of my life has resulted in some disappointment on my part because it didn't look like what I thought it would: it some how was not reflective of the edgy black and white photos that represented this phase of life on blogs or in catalogues. It's my version of that phase, so it's usually messier and filled with more tears (I'm a crier) and a really dirty kitchen floor (no seriously how does anyone keep their kitchen floor clean?).

I did not look like this on my wedding day. And you probably didn't either. 

I've always known that consumerism and advertising doesn't do anyone any favors, but I never realized how much. I never realized how much it is meant to breed discontentment: because no one's reality can look as perfect as staged photographs. I'm buying into the concept of a life that doesn't even exist anywhere, for anyone - it's made up. It's made up for me to feel discontent, so that I'll go searching for my satisfaction in products and fads and newness.

That's a basic truth that I'm just beginning to wrap my head around. The fullness of life isn't lived through pictures or anyone else's perception; the fullness of life is lived by following one's own call and living that to the fullest. I did know this, I just didn't full wrap myself around it and embrace. I thought I was secretly copping out because I was too weak or lazy to achieve what those advertisements sold. But I'm breaking out of that now - I don't want that cookie cutter-ness anymore. I want what's mine: I want my life, fully mine, fully good, fully True.

I'm excited. It makes me want to unplug all these supposed sources of "inspiration" and just go off actually looking and touching real things. I know I can't totally do that - it's not in the nature of communication anymore - but I dream of it. I dream some day of people saying "Oh, her? Yeah, you have to mail her a letter! Doesn't even have a phone. But she loves it when company drops by, that's for sure."

Friday, February 3, 2012

To See Rightly

I wrote previously on trying to define myself via hobbies rather than by my vocation, a mistake that is too easy for me to fall into. This got me thinking about vocation. I was preparing for a talk to give to some high school students on chastity, and had to read up on the concept of "grace." After consulting my handy-dandy Catechism, I read again about how various types of graces helps us in various stages of our lives. Thanks, God! Good ideas in that book...

Sanctifying grace is what we receive before, but especially after, baptism. This is given to all of us, because we are all called to a universal vocation. We are also given sacramental graces, the aid necessary to worthily receive and live out the reception of various sacraments. This is not given to all, but only to those that are receiving that Sacrament: so priests do not receive the graces to be married, but they do receive the graces to take holy orders. We can also receive actual graces, or grace given to a person to deal with a particular situation they're facing.

Baptism of St. Augustine by Louis de Boulogne II

What really struck me is the sanctifying grace. Everyone receives it. Why do we all receive it? Because we all have the same universal vocation: we are all called to eternal life. Of course, we all have individual primary vocations that refer to our state of life: priest, religious, married, consecrated single. But these are the "many mansions" in the Father's house; the path remains the same for all. Each vocation consists in completely giving of ourselves for the other: your spouse, or the Church.

Yet we want to individualize, specialize ourselves: we want to believe that our path to Heaven is much, much harder than the next guy. This segregation of ourselves from our brothers happens especially in Catholic parishes, most of which are quite large. We have the knitting group, the young adults, the youth group, the moms group, etc. etc. And so we explain ourselves via these titles. Catholics in particular love adjectives. Conservative, liberal, orthodox, charismatic, cradle, cafeteria, convert. This is a great tragedy, for we all partake in the same Eucharist and are bound by it to call one another brothers.

The Institution of the Eucharist by Federico Barocci

The problem with segregating ourself by activity or age or state of life is that we do not see God's greater work. We start to focus on this one small portion of the tapestry of humanity, and so we start to see mostly what is wrong with it - we gossip about those in our own group, maybe dismiss those in other groups, or just believe what others say about them because they seem so far removed from us. I had this experience recently when a woman called me; a woman who is the favorite topic of gossip at our parish for her inappropriate dress and sharp temper. I join in just like everyone else, yet I realized when she called...I had never had a real conversation with her. Ever. A few polite hellos and such, but I could barely recognize her voice. I had dehumanized her by distance, made her my ticket to get along with others - oh here's a joke about this woman, this will break the ice because at least we all can't stand her.

What I want is to see my parish as a family: different in so many ways, but united in love. I want my own eyes to perceive her that way, so that I can treat her that way effortlessly. But until I do gain true sight, I will strive to treat her that way anyway. The Church is greater than we realize, there is a "cloud of witnesses" with us constantly - the Church militant forgets the Church triumphant, the saints, our Heavenly siblings that cheer us and intercede for us at the throne of God. I am working alongside future saints now, my siblings now. I must have the courage to see them.