Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This weekend, as I was ignoring all the work in my house, and wasting time on the computer, I happened upon the Natural Family Planning Facebook group. This is a fantastic site and if you are a member of Facebook this would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about NFP. This group has a wonderful set of resources, and lots of good discussions among members.
I thought I would interview one of the officers, who is the creator of the group, Kristen Bierer, and see what she has to say about how the group began, and how she got involved with NFP. She gracefully responded and here we are:
Marcy K.: I guess I would start with the question of how you became interested in NFP? Did friends or family recommend it or did you come upon it yourself? What is your NFP story?
Kristen: I became interested in NFP when I returned to the Church. I was never taught the Church's stance on artificial contraception, so I began taking the pill when I became sexually active at 18. I continued to use various forms of ABC [Artificial Birth Control] until I became engaged to my now ex-husband. We talked about NFP and took the classes together.
My mother was supportive, my father was not. He thinks that ABC is fine, and doesn't really get the Church's teachings against it. My former in-laws, I am not entirely sure of their stance. I do know that my former mother-in-law told my ex-husband that we would be pregnant by June (we were married in May). In the two years of our marriage, we did not get pregnant, even when playing "fast and loose" with the rules.
MK: What method do you practice? Did you and your husband find it hard to do? Where did you learn it? Do you teach it? What challenges, if any, did you have with it. How has this affected the relationship with your husband?
Kristen: I used to use Sympto-thermal, but am now using mucus-only as part of the Marquette study. I learned it from a diocesan course that was part of our marriage prep. It was a voluntary class, but I do wish it were mandatory. I think more couples need to be exposed to NFP. My only challenge was actually remembering to put everything on my chart, LoL. I would have it all in my head, but not on paper.
As I stated, my husband and I are now divorced. NFP had nothing to do with it, but the communication it fostered did allow us to separate on amicable terms, and we are still friends.
MK: If you told anyone you were using this method of child spacing were they supportive or disparaging?
Kristen: As I said, my mother was rather non-committal, while my father encouraged me to go back on ABC. (Both are Catholic). My little sister was interested but is currently on an IUC (she is also Catholic). My former in-laws only seemed to care about the ability for it to fail (both are Non-Denominational Protestant with anti-Catholic leanings), and were not supportive at all. I had a few friends who were supportive, and the first to join the NFP group.
The friend who has been the most supportive is my best friend, Kari, who is Pagan. We met when I was Pagan, and she has been the one to continuously encourage me on my spiritual path and in learning and loving Catholicism and everything it teaches. And she is my only close friend that "totally gets" the NFP approach and the reason the Church teaches it.
MK: When did you feel the need to promote NFP and how did you get this group of people together to start the Facebook group? Do you have a separate website with more information?
Kristen: I felt the need to start a FB group after seeing other Catholics who had no idea about the Church's teachings regarding the family and ABC. I started the group, invited my FB friends, and posted an invite on various Catholic FB groups. It just kind of went from there.
We do not have a separate site, but we do have a treasure trove of helpful links available to group members. This can be found under the "info" tab on the group page. We do not assume that all group members use the same NFP method, thus we provide links to various forms of NFP, and other informational sites. Additionally, we do not assume that all group members are Catholic. Some of our members use FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) rather than NFP. While the group does not support FAM, we are understanding of members who use it.
MK: What do you recommend for women who have health problems or difficult cycles?
Kristen: Give NFP a try anyway! You will probably find that your charting and observations allow you additional symptoms for better diagnosis. Additionally, NFP is wonderful for ladies with difficult/strange cycles. While your cycles may not seem to have rhyme or reason, NFP will give you "signals" in advance of what your body is doing.
Lastly, I encourage all women to seek out NFP-only doctors. These doctors will not only help you to find an NFP instructor, they will also endeavor to help treat any problems you may have without masking those issues with BC.
MK: Is there anything else you would like to tell anyone?
Kristen: Join our group, talk about NFP, be understanding and loving to those that don't get it, and don't knock those who just trust in the Lord.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
This seems to be happening a lot to me lately, or maybe I have just noticed it more. Sick kids calling from school is a popular reason, as is the latest mechanical problem with my husband's car. One unexpected occurrence was my good friend calling me in tears asking me to go with her the next day for an emergency mammogram. Thank the good Lord is seems to be nothing.
That did not compare at all to Good Friday. My husband's sister called at 8:30am to tell us their dad was rushed to the hospital, and the doctor said he probably only had a few hours to live. He said they should "call the children." My husband was just arriving at work when I called him. I had him on a plane by 11:30am.
Thank God that my beloved father-in-law, John, rallied a bit and surprised the doctor by being a lot better by the time my husband landed at 4pm. My father-in-law is 80, has cancer, and is taking chemotherapy, so I use the term "a lot better" pretty loosely. He got a urinary tract infection that went to his blood. He has been on 5 different antibiotics and is not right on death's door, but still pretty sick. They get him up to walk a little every day, and he has conversations and is eating a bit, but everyone is still very worried.
When my husband flew to see his dad last week it just brought home to me how easily life can change in a second. My husband got up as usual with no idea that he would not make it to work that day. He had no idea that he would be on two planes that day and not sleep in his own bed. He had no idea his dad would almost die that day.
On one hand, the unexpected makes life interesting and fun. The free concert tickets that you receive. The friends you haven't seen in years come to town. Your sister calls you and tells you she is having a baby. They're great things but, of course, life has a terrible side and we all know what can happen.
What about the unexpected happening to you or your spouse? Or your children? Are you ready? Have you ordered your life around Christ? Have you fostered your relationship with God? Do you have faith?
Why is that important some would ask? How does having "faith" help you? It most likely will not cure your family member or make his bones heal. It won't bring someone back from the dead... but it will give you solace and peace.
I remember being quite surprised when I read in Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth when he stated quite firmly that Jesus did not come to Earth to solve all the problems. The Messiah was expected to make life grand. To cure Israel's woes. To remove the invaders. Jesus turned that upside down. He did not come for that. He came not to fight wars, but to save us from sin. To bring us holiness so we can be with God. He came to be with us in our suffering, not necessarily take it away. Why? Because suffering causes us to rely on God...to seek him out...to search and find him. He allows these trials to bring us closer to him. When we die, that will be the only thing that counts.
If we foster our relationship with Him through prayer, the Eucharist and Confession, if we delve deep into our Bibles, we will slowly find him. We need to think of others (like He did) instead of ourselves. We need to meditate on the Ten Commandments and try to live them. We need to trust. We need to trust He is there. He loves us, He suffers with us, and He walks with us. Every day.
The day my husband left on that airplane I started making plans in case the worst happened. I thought I might have to drive up with the kids as soon as possible. And it would take two days to get there. I left my husband at the airport and took my car to get serviced and ready. I filled up with gas and did my mental packing of the things we would need for the trip. Who would take care of the cat? Where were the maps? What would we need?
Just like that my life turned, but I was trying to be ready. I sat waiting for my oil change and prayed the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I sent out emails to all I thought would pray for him. I asked God to be with each family member, to make things go smoothly, to give peace where there was none. I cried thinking of how much I loved my father-in-law and how I would miss him, but I cried with Jesus and asked him to help me in any trials.
The act of doing that brought me closer to the Lord. Maybe I don't actually feel that, but it did. I tried to rely on Him and to show Him I trust Him. The more I trust Him the more I love Him.
A strong prayer life can carry you through the figurative "Hell and Back." I know so many of my friends that are strong Christians and have heavy, heavy burdens and trials in their lives. Trials that I honestly would be crushed under. I watch them struggle every single day and be tested like Job. It is only the fact that Jesus walks with them that they are able to carry those burdens without cracking.
You have to be ready. You have to pray and trust. Ask the Lord to help you. Ask Him for his Holy Spirit to guide you. Ask the Blessed Mother to pray for you so that you may be strong in the Lord. Then when the day comes, and it will, that you will need to rely on the Lord for strength, you will be ready and you will not be afraid.
Friday, April 9, 2010
The Easter season is in full swing and I thought you might be interested in something you may not have heard of: The Stations of Light, also known as the Via Lucis, or the Stations of the Resurrection.
Similar to the Stations of the Cross that many pray on Fridays of Lent and during the year, the Stations of Light have 14 stops, but you meditate on Christ's resurrection and what followed. It is prayed during the Easter season, but I don't see why you could not pray it during the year, especially on Sunday.
I think this devotional is just beautiful and I love praying it. Here is a quick list of the Via Lucis, the Way of Light:
1. Jesus Rises from the Dead
2. The Women Come to the Tomb Encountering an Angel
3. Peter and John Visit the Tomb with Mary Magdalen
4. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalen
5. Mary Magdalen Proclaims His Rising to the Apostles
6. Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus
7. Jesus Gives the Disciples the Power to Forgive
8. Jesus Confirms the Faith of Thomas
9. Jesus Eats with the Disciples on Tiberias Shore
10. Jesus Forgives Peter and Commissions Him
11. Jesus Gives the Great Commission to the Disciples
12. Jesus Ascends into Heaven
13. Mary and the Disciples Keep Vigil for the Spirit's Advent
14. Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit
You can find the Stations of Light online at the Archdiocese of Detroit website and in a few books such as one by the well-known author Ann Ball, Stations of the Cross/Stations of Light and this absolutely beautiful book, Journey into Joy: Stations of the Resurrection
Hi there! I hope you are having a happy Easter and all your festivities were blessed and wonderful. I've been a bit busy, but I'm happy to do another 7 Quick Takes!
1. So when I say I've been busy this week it is because I have had an epiphany and found just the most fantastic website. I have literally been spending days reading it and I feel so guilty...it is called Pioneer Woman. Now you may be familiar with Pioneer Woman, but I came across it by accident when a friend of mine posted a recipe of hers on Facebook and I became hooked. It is like 6 different websites in one and while one is about cooking, another is about photography. She has just the most beautiful pictures. BUT...go to the "Confessions" section and read the story of how she met, fell in love with, and married her husband. It is guaranteed wonderful and romantic. I stayed up until 3am reading it the other night. Truly delicious.
2. Looking at all her photographs has brought back my lust for photography and I'm just dying to jump up and buy a digital SLR camera and get back into it. I still have my old film cameras but....I've gotten spoiled by the instant gratification that is digital, even if it is only "point and shoot." Boy, it is really a toss up...dslr or iPad... I better get to saving my birthday and Christmas money. Maybe I can get a camera used. If you know of a good place let me know.
3. Well, we colored Easter eggs with natural dyes and here are the results. I used the recipes from Mother Earth News, which my husband has had a subscription to since the mid-70's. I did the onion skin recipe for yellow exactly as they said. The eggs came out a beautiful golden color. Since I did not really feel like scraping beets (especially since the only beets I had were canned and sliced) I just took the juice from the can of beets and added vinegar. The results?...not so good. Next time I'll follow the directions. And since I forgot to buy blueberries, there were no blue eggs, but that was OK, my littlest was more than happy to eat any of them.
5. We actually did not have the official Easter Dinner until Tuesday. My father-in-law is very ill and in the hospital, and so my husband had to fly up on Friday and returned on Monday evening. We were very concerned, but my father-in-law is doing a little better and we hope for the best.
6. We had ham again. My husband cooks it on our charcoal barbecue. We make a Dijon mustard, white wine and brown sugar glaze. We serve the extra glaze with the Ham. Wonderful. We served it with sweet potatoes, green beans, strawberries and oranges salad, and Resurrection Rolls. If you haven't made Resurrection Rolls you are really missing something. Our dinner was very simple because of the circumstances. I did not use the good china. My heart just wasn't into it this year. I did however, make Pioneer Woman's Carrot Cake for dessert and it was very good.
7. I was one of the readers for the Easter Vigil this year and, as always, it was beautiful. If you have never been to one, please take the time to go next year. While it is long (about 2.5 hours) it is so worth it. It is hands-down the most beautiful and interesting Mass of the year. I wanted to show you a few pictures.
This is one of our wonderful priests, Fr. Jonathan. He LOVES baptisms!
This is our pastor, Fr. Alex. He is a big fan of Holy Water too. Can you tell he is just drenched? He just returned from a trip to the Holy Land and mixed water from the Jordan River into the Easter Water to bless us. Too cool.
I hope you have a wonderful Easter season (you do realize this is still Easter? And that it lasts until Pentecost on May 23rd?) I pray the Lord blesses your family and friends with peace.
He is risen! Alleluia!
Oh, and p.s.... LiveCatholic is now on Facebook so stop by and say hello and become a fan.
Be sure to check out more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
When I first came back to the Church 14 years ago one of the first devotions I discovered was the Divine Mercy. I was fascinated by the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The depth of love she had for our Lord was incredible. As was the depth of Jesus' love for us. I was so touched at the image of how he would immerse us in an ocean of His Mercy. How he loved all sinners. This is still my favorite devotion, even though I have gotten a bit slack praying the beautiful prayers and the wonderful Chaplet. I find it also aids in another Beautiful Way of Prayer that I have written about before. I also make sure I don't forget each Good Friday to begin the Divine Mercy Novena which ends the Saturday after Easter. The next day is Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus Himself asked St. Faustina to pray this Novena, and it is He who wants us to pray for all these souls.
Each day of the Novena you pray for a different group of souls...
First Day (Good Friday)
"Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me."
Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.
"Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious,
and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind."
Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard -- upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.
* In the original text, Saint Faustina uses the pronoun "us" since she was offering this prayer as a consecrated religious sister. The wording adapted here is intended to make the prayer suitable for universal use.
"Today bring to Me all Devout and Faithful Souls,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness."
Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.
"Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me,
I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."
Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
*Our Lord's original words here were "the pagans." Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.
"Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church*,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion."
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.
*Our Lord's original words here were "heretics and schismatics," since He spoke to Saint Faustina within the context of her times. As of the Second Vatican Council, Church authorities have seen fit not to use those designations in accordance with the explanation given in the Council's Decree on Ecumenism (n.3). Every pope since the Council has reaffirmed that usage. Saint Faustina herself, her heart always in harmony with the mind of the Church, most certainly would have agreed. When at one time, because of the decisions of her superiors and father confessor, she was not able to execute Our Lord's inspirations and orders, she declared: "I will follow Your will insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus " I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me" (497). The Lord confirmed her action and praised her for it.
Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of Little Children,
and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.
Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father's favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy*,
and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:
Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.
*The text leads one to conclude that in the first prayer directed to Jesus, Who is the Redeemer, it is "victim" souls and contemplatives that are being prayed for; those persons, that is, that voluntarily offered themselves to God for the salvation of their neighbor (see Col 1:24; 2 Cor 4:12). This explains their close union with the Savior and the extraordinary efficacy that their invisible activity has for others. In the second prayer, directed to the Father from whom comes "every worthwhile gift and every genuine benefit,"we recommend the "active" souls, who promote devotion to The Divine Mercy and exercise with it all the other works that lend themselves to the spiritual and material uplifting of their brethren.
"Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory,
and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice."
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.
"Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm,
and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.
If you want to learn more about this beautiful devotion and the Chaplet please go to EWTN. I hope you will find it as fulfilling as I do and I wish you and your family a beautiful and blessed Easter .