I will admit that after I wrote about leaving Facebook again, I struggled to deactivate. That is until God knocked me upside the head. This is the “letter” I wrote to my Facebook friends, many of whom have been very important to me at various times in my life.
Here is the latest video of our daughter Michaela asking people to help us with our adoption fundraiser. The adoption process is arduous and largely broken. It is prohibitively expensive, but we are pushing forward trusting in God since we believe He is calling us on this adventure of joy after so much loss and grief. Our daughter has wanted a sibling here on earth for a long time. She has only known loss and the death of her two sisters and two brothers in miscarriage. She now waits patiently, and not so patiently, as we go through the adoption process. We hope and pray that you will prayerfully consider helping us on the journey. No gift is too small and we are deeply–beyond words–grateful to each person who donates and shares our fundraiser on social media or with friends and family. You can find our fundraiser here: https://www.youcaring.com/constanceandphilhulladoptionfund-680004
May God bless you always. Pax.
Dear University Students in Need of a “Safe” Space,
Today is Veteran’s Day. On this particular Veteran’s Day, university students and their professors across the nation are crying that they are traumatized by the results of Tuesday’s election claiming they need “safe” spaces to deal with the horror of Donald Trump’s election (There are dictionaries on campus to help with defining words like horror, tragedy, trauma, pain, and suffering in case they are needed.) Students are not attending classes and their professors are encouraging this infantile behavior by cancelling their classes and “protesting” with them. It is fitting in the face of this adolescent behavior to contemplate what I was doing when I was 18-22 years of age (I served 6 years, but most college students are 18-22).
I enlisted in 1999, during peace-time. I needed to pay for college, and while that was my initial reason for enlisting, that quickly changed as I learned of the real sacrifice of serving in the military. I am thankful that my military service did in fact pay for my Bachelor’s degree and it is now paying for my nearly completed Master’s degree. I am not saddled with $100,000 in debt I can never repay with a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving.
I was a linguist and my position required mainly desk work. That desk work meant that when I was 20 years old I was in charge of complex classified systems at a large government agency. I was doing work graduate students only dream of–I hadn’t even finished college at the time–but I was already fluent in a second language. You are claiming exhaustion and trauma from an election. I worked rotating 12 hour shifts for years without even knowing what day it was while entrusted–along with all of my fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines–with the task of keeping this nation safe.
At 20 years of age the unthinkable happened. A real trauma and tragedy: 9/11. Overnight we went from peace-time to war-time. I found myself standing in front of the burning rubble of the Pentagon with 400 grieving family members. We stood in front of the tomb where 184 people had been murdered. Trauma is not when you don’t get your way. Trauma is a response to actual violence. An election going as elections go in a Republic is not a trauma. It’s the electoral process of this nation.
Three years after 9-11 I found myself trapped in the pain and real trauma of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had actual, not made up, PTSD. My relief work proved deeply painful and I had to pay a great sacrifice; one that so many of my fellow Veterans pay and carry today. You don’t have any idea what the need for a “safe” space is when you’ve never woken up from nightmares in a state of sleep paralysis alone in your bed across the ocean from your family or you had to run out of a movie theater, cower in a corner, and have a panic attack at the entrance because you didn’t expect the 9-11 movie trailer. The same goes for combat Vets when they see combat scenes. Hollywood can occasionally get something right, and they are pretty good at portraying flashbacks. You have no idea what it is like to give so much and carry that kind of tremendous weight your entire life. Being an undergraduate at a school where you are coddled, isn’t trauma. War, terrorism, violence, natural disasters, abuse, cancer are real traumas. Those of us with PTSD in the military, kept doing our jobs while getting treatment. We didn’t get to stop acting like adults in the midst of that suffering and neither do the men and women battling the scars of war today.
You and your friends are safe in your warm dorm rooms whimpering about your losses and how this country is going to fall apart and all of those “racist” voters will destroy this country. It’s much easier to label people than engage in actual intellectual debate based on reality and facts. I didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump, I exercised my free right to go third party, but I accept the election results because that is what we do in a free nation. The way you are acting implies your desire for a dictatorship based on your feelings and relativistic beliefs predicated upon nihilism. I know people of all backgrounds and races who voted for Trump. Just because you want something to be true does not make it true.
While you are playing beer pong and comforting one another in response to that “awful” Donald Trump, I have friends who have committed suicide from the trauma of war. I have friends who have died suddenly from injuries that occurred in war zones or on humanitarian missions. I have three cousins who gave years of their lives to war in the Marine Corps. I have friends who have been shot, blown up, and lost friends in IEDs. I have family still serving in the military.
Today we remember the people who serve or have served this great nation and who understand sacrifice in the face of tremendous pain and suffering. So, it’s time to put your big boy or big girl pants on and accept what has happened. It’s time to be an actual adult. You have no idea what a “safe” space is or what real trauma, tragedy, and suffering is like. I do and so do countless others.
A U.S. Navy Veteran
In a Fallen world where suffering abounds: What is the Christian answer to suffering and uncertainty? What is it we have been given in the face of pain, sorrow, uncertainty, and agony in our lives and the world? The answer is the supernatural virtue of hope. The Christian life is one lived in hope, no matter what happens on a personal or global level. In his encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us of this gift:
“Spe salvi facti sumus”—in hope we are saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.
Spe Salvi 1
Not only are we given hope, but “trustworthy hope” because hope comes from God. It is true that the road to holiness and communion with the Most Holy Trinity is arduous. There will be periods of intense suffering from external and internal factors largely outside of our control, but in the midst of that suffering hope sustains us and propels us forward. If we keep our eyes fixed in hope on Christ and our eschatological end, then the pain is worth the effort necessary to attain our goal, which is God. We must live in hope and not despair no matter what happens around us or to us.
Where does our hope rest?
Our hope does not come from the material world or the powers of this world. Our hope rests in Christ. While the Paschal Mystery has renewed creation, and brought about the salvation of mankind, men and women must still battle sin and suffering in the pursuit of holiness in a Fallen world. Pope Benedict XVI states: “Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last forever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom.” Definitive hope rests with God, not in the temporal order. We live hope in the temporal order, but hope does not come from this world.
One of the major struggles in Western society is based on a secular humanism that promises to lift mankind out of suffering through the use of reason. Due to the sinful and free nature of man, we cannot rely on the hope promised by human beings alone. This is also the danger of those who look to the state for all of the answers to human misery. No system based on reason and sinful human beings can completely free humanity from suffering, sin, and death. Only Jesus Christ can fulfill those promises.
A little over a week ago I reactivated my Facebook account after a year away. I have one of those personalities that gets easily sucked into the news feed. I have been watching the news since I was 5 years old, so old habits die hard. My problem is I become immersed in it. It isn’t good for me or people like me. I knew this a year ago and it is still true today. I am deactivating my account and trusting that God will provide for our adoption through His ways.
I went back on because social media is an invaluable tool in running an online fundraising campaign. My husband and I discerned that we need to humble ourselves and begin an online fundraiser to help us pay the astronomical costs associated with adopting a child, or Lord willing, children. I built our fundraiser and then I reactivated my Facebook account to share it. Upon my first scroll through the news feed I could see why so many of my friends have come to me saying they left Facebook for good. This election cycle has brought out the absolute worst in people on all sides.
The problem with the war being waged in social media is that many Catholics are involved in the constant battles and nastiness. It is true that we are called to take an active role in political life; however, it is hard to tell the difference between believers and non-believers at present. Christ tells us in the Last Supper account in the Gospel of John. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So my question for people is: Can people tell we are disciples by our love for one another? Can they tell our love for others? Christ commands us to love our neighbor. The constant fighting, offensive and overly simplistic memes, and the dehumanizing of one another accomplishes nothing except Satan’s desires for division. And there is a lot of division.
Fear and ideology have blinded so many that common sense has been lost. Catholics are forgetting that there are in fact laws, principles, and virtues to follow. Things are so upside down that a priest can commit sacrilege on an altar harming the pro-life movement while Catholics applaud this abuse of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and violation of the dignity of the dead. Catholics keeping throwing around mortal sin, without fully understanding moral theology or Catholic Social Teaching. The blindness to Clinton’s radical pro-abortion agenda and her constant apathy towards the dignity of the human person is ignored by her supporters. Trump’s waffling and indifference on pro-life issues is supposed to convince me that he is the great harbinger of the culture of life. In reality they both subscribe to intrinsic evils, are are wholly unreliable, corrupt, and bullies. I couldn’t buy the arguments of either side in the cacophonous din.
In full disclosure I have never voted for a Democrat because of their radical abortion agenda and the fact that faith is not divorced from public life. What I do see on both major sides is a lost sense of the good and how fear has come to rule the day; any and all scare tactics can be used to elect someone is the claim of the ideologue. We can do anything as long as she isn’t elected. This is false and immoral.
I just voted–and in full disclosure–I didn’t vote for either major party candidate. For the first time in my life I wrote someone in. I went with the American Solidarity Party. I walked out without the slightest tug at my conscience. I don’t agree with their call for single-payer healthcare, it violates the principle of subsidiarity and eventually the other three principles of Catholic Social Teaching in practice, but I didn’t have to choose between Moloch and Ba’al, as someone put it so well on Facebook. I could not stomach (I actually felt sick to my stomach) voting for either candidate, so I said a resounding “no” to the evil of both candidates. That is what I decided to do based on my conscience, which is properly ordered to the Catholic teachings on faith and morals. Others may arrive at a different conclusion and still be in line with CST.
I don’t expect people to agree with me, but I am fully within my right as a Catholic and acting in line with Catholic Social Teaching. My conscience could no long accept the consequential argument of the lesser of two evils. The “lesser” part kept on tripping me up this time around. I couldn’t see much of a distinction between the two. We reached the point–I knew we would soon after I plugged my nose to vote for McCain and Romney–when my conscience couldn’t do the mental gymnastics anymore. While folks from either side may not agree with my decision, they are required to respect it, which is the problem on Facebook these days.
There is no respect for others and a total dehumanizing and labeling of “other”. I have been accused of committing a mortal sin because I did not vote for Trump. That is the argument of an ideologue. I commit a mortal sin by abstaining from evil? It takes astonishing mental gymnastics to reach that conclusion. An example where this might actually fit might be: I vote for Clinton because she is for partial birth abortion. That violates the moral law and Catholic Social Teaching. Let’s try to keep our facts and theology straight.
The use of “other” to separate people has been in use since the Fall and it is always dangerous. It is used to take away the dignity of another group of people; to forget that they are human beings made imago Dei. The memes demonizing both sides does this task quite easily. Anger, fear, and the irrational are fueled and the volatile situation we now find ourselves in becomes reality. Social media provides an endless onslaught of real-time information, much of it false, anti-intellectual, offensive, or overly-simplistic. Yet, we ingest it and share it en masse without the slightest nod to prudence.
Fear is the word of the day. Far too many people are worried that if she gets elected the world will come to an end. There will be open sacrifices of the unborn on altars around the country, all Catholic Churches will close on Inauguration Day, and the apocalypse is upon us. The problem is, this isn’t an exaggeration of what I have seen. It reminds me of the scene from Ghostbusters where they talk about the End Times as they wait for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Fear is not a reasoned response to evil. Fear makes people do, say, and think stupid things. Yes, stupid. I think stupid things when I am blinded by fear. I will freely admit it. There’s a reason Christ tells us to hope and not fear. I can understand a reasoned argument in favor of Trump, but I do not accept the argument based on fear that if she wins the end is nigh, so I must vote for Trump. I don’t vote for one because of the other. That isn’t a sound evaluation of the candidate as he stands. We are called to use our God-given reason, not succumb to fear of the unknown.
There is a tremendous lack of hope right now, which is the antithesis of the Catholic understanding. Catholics live in present history, but also in the past and the future. There has never been a perfect time in human history since the Fall. Horrors, evils, torment, and intense suffering have always been a part of our experience. Even in that pain the joy of the Paschal Mystery renews all of creation and us. We now dwell in the hope of entering into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. We live in the hope that God will use us in His divine plan. We are called to transform the temporal order within our sphere of influence. Yes, vote, but our system is completely broken. We have to start from the ground up and evangelize the culture. It’s the long view. It’s the Catholic view. We don’t obsess in impending doom. We transform the culture where we are and come what may, even if it is martyrdom. Our eyes must always be fixed on Christ and not the storm:
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.t once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
People who come across us in social media or in person should be able to see that we are Christ’s. We share our political affiliations–if we have any at present–in hope and joy that no matter the outcome, Jesus Christ is King now and forever. We do not rant in irrational fear. We do not overlook evil and call it good. We do not dehumanize others. No matter who is elected this evening, our mission remains the same: to become saints. We can’t do that if we are blinded and attached to ideology. We cannot become holy if we harbor any hatred in our hearts. We cannot become holy if we wallow in fear. Admitting things are broken is not to give up. It is to reassess and figure out how to begin anew. That has been our job in every age. The culture collapses and we are there to pick up the pieces. We cannot pick up those pieces if we are screaming, ranting, or posting obsessively about politics in a doomsday manner.
Fellow Catholics, does our social media presence point to Christ? Is it filled with hope and joy even in the midst of suffering? I am very open about my own pain, grief, and suffering, but I also walk firmly with Christ by my side even as sobs engulf me. Vote today, trust, become holy, love others (including those you disagree with), and ask God for your mission in transforming the culture.
Read these to get started:
P.S. Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference between sinful anger and righteous anger. Do we know ourselves well enough to tell the difference? Most of us are not developed enough in the spiritual life to truly know the difference. We need to be careful for the sake our souls and the people around us.
By now most of the world knows that this is an election year for the United States. It’s hard to miss the constant reporting at an international level. This piece isn’t about the election. It was inspired by the election, but it is meant to be about something deeper and more long-term than a single United States presidential election.
We all live in a home country with political, economic, social, and other systems at work. Some of them we have control over, others we are able to influence slightly, some we merely offer our duty, others we have very little control. It is our duty to participate as citizens. That participation is left to the faithful to execute through a properly formed conscience. A properly formed conscience is ordered to the moral law as it is understood by the Church in light of Sacred Tradition and Scripture. The Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching is a great place to begin to understanding this aspect of the Christian life. I highly encourage people to pick it up and have it alongside the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The call to transform the culture is much more basic and deeper than merely voting, running for office, starting a business, giving to charity etc. It begins at the level of each person. This is the essence–it is the very beginning–of Catholic Social Teaching. Each human being is made imago Dei. Every human being shares the same nature of body and soul and each person is ontologically ordered to goodness and truth. We are made to love and serve God. We constantly seek God whether we are consciously aware of it or not. When we encounter Christ, we enter into the life of faith. Our nature–through the use of faith and reason–helps us to bridge the divide between the material and the immaterial, the spiritual and matter. Through the Paschal Mystery and the direction of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, each one of us is set on the path to holiness beginning at Baptism. We are all called to holiness. Every single one of us is called to be a saint. Sainthood is not solely reserved for lofty souls.
The Church just celebrated the great Solemnity of All Saints. In that great feast, we are called to celebrate and enter into friendship with all of the holy men and women who have gone before us on the path of holiness. Each of them points us towards communion with the Most Holy Trinity. They help us to see in a Fallen world of violence, chaos, corruption, illness, and brokenness that we must conform our lives to God. They also show us that if we truly want to transform the world, then we must become holy. To change a political, social, or economic system, we must be working towards holiness in our own lives and within our families.
The call to holiness is repeated most recently in Vatican II, Christifideles Laici, and the teachings of Pope Francis. It is the mission of the laity to transform the culture. We cannot do so if we are not actively pursuing holiness. We are all on the journey and we will fail at times. All of us will stumble and fall daily, but the point is to persevere. The radiance of the saints and their successes comes from their faithfulness to the mission. That mission is holiness.
The topic of miscarriage is one that is still largely taboo in our culture. It has only been in recent months that women and men have come out of the woodwork to publicly share their grief and anguish at the loss of an unborn child. Their bravery is often met with scorn, derision, or apathy.
I know, because I am one of these women. I have had four miscarriages. The most recent occurred just a month ago.
The sad reality is that many people are either afraid or unprepared to deal with the grief of miscarriage publicly. In a culture that lauds abortion on demand and dehumanizes the unborn child, this is understandable. Why talk about it? Until our society acknowledges the humanity of the unborn child, the pain of parents who lose their children before birth will continue to be ignored.
My Battle with Recurrent Miscarriage
My husband and I have one living daughter, and we have lost four unborn children in the first trimester. Each time, we have shared our pregnancies with family and friends immediately upon receiving positive pregnancy tests. It seemed completely natural to share the joy of our pregnancies, since a new life was created each time. A unique person of great dignity and worthy of celebration was coming into the world. Yet our openness meant that we shared the heartbreaking news of losing a child on four different occasions.
I cannot say that I knew the risks of miscarriage with my first pregnancy. It did not become a reality until we lost our daughter’s twin, and then we began down the path of recurrent miscarriage. Most doctors do not begin testing until two or three miscarriages occur. This makes it difficult for families to get answers early on in order to prevent recurrent miscarriage. After my third miscarriage, I went through a myriad of tests with a Catholic physician trained in Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) and discovered that I have estrogen and progesterone deficiencies, which are usually treatable. For me, however, the treatment has not yet made a difference. I lost my most recent child while on natural progesterone and HCG injections.