Hour of Our Death: Corona Stories Piece

I sincerely hope people start making peace with the fact that we cannot control the outcome of this pandemic. No SARS vaccines have been viable in the last seventeen years. One may be found for this one, but there’s a good chance it won’t. That means herd immunity is our best shot, which means we have to start making peace now with the effects of the disease.

And that means we must truly see with the eyes of supernatural faith. People have struggled to understand why my husband and I are not freaking out, even though he is immunocompromised with a rare lung disease. We already knew that things would become more dangerous as time goes on.

We Made Peace With God

We made peace with it. God gave us that grace before this pandemic started. We lived the fear and panic the first eighteen months of his illness. It is a soul-sucking waste of time and energy. It comes from the Enemy. Life and death are up to God. That doesn’t mean my husband’s going to take unnecessary risks, but it does mean we are going to live our lives.

Read the rest over at Hour of Our Death.

Catholic Exchange: Responding to the Painful Reality of Death

It is fitting that my daughter came to me on a dark November night. It is the month the Church remembers the dead and prays ardently for the poor souls in Purgatory. The days are cold while the trees shake off the last remnants of autumnal glory to enter into the silent deep of winter. November here is always gray, almost maddeningly so. It seems strange to go from the mountains set aflame with the burning colors of October to end up gray and stark in November. In this time of year the Church and the natural cycle of the seasons invite us to enter into the quiet, dark, and hidden places. This time of year naturally lends itself to the contemplation of mortality and death.

My daughter came and sat on my lap two nights ago and began to sob. Like every other November evening, it was pitch black at dinner time and I was sitting on the couch when she came to me. She nestled close to my heart as I wrapped my arms around her trying to understand what was wrong. She finally sat up looked at me and through sobs she blurted out: “I don’t want to die.” I think every parent feels a dagger to the heart when their child comes to them about death, even those of us who are Catholic. It is true that we are a Resurrection people, but like anyone else, we must confront the reality of death.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Confronting Death in a Culture of Avoidance

Death comes to us all. It is a hard reality, but it is a reality that we can face with hope through our faith in Christ Jesus. Meanwhile, we live in a culture that largely ignores death. We hear mantras such as “You only live once” or “Live today like it is your last”, but these are typically expressions to assuage guilt over leading an immoral life. The reality of death is also ignored by the majority of people because death is something that is hidden or locked away in Western culture until we are faced with it. The only time it seems to be discussed is when a group is pushing for “mercy” through euthanasia.

I know I have largely lived as if death was some far-off reality. This makes little sense since I was a 9/11 relief worker and confronted the hard realities of violence and death at 20 years of age. I profess, along with my fellow Catholics, the teachings of the Church each Sunday which discuss the Last Things. It was not until recently, when my husband’s health took a dramatic turn, that I began to confront death. We are confronting it together, as married couples must.

Two months ago, I woke up at 4:30 AM to my husband yelling for me. He was standing over our sink coughing up a large quantity of bright red blood. He had coughed up blood a few years ago and had a lesion on his lungs, but it healed and we thought it was some kind of fluke. It wasn’t. Instead, what happened a few years ago was the first sign of symptoms of a mysterious disease. Over the course of the last couple of months, doctors have ruled out every normal possibility from tuberculosis to bronchitis to fungal infections. He’s been negative on every single test and more cavitary lesions (holes, for lack of a better word) continue to form in his lungs. We are now faced with a series of intense tests to definitively see if my husband has a very rare disease known as pulmonary vasculitis. He will have an open lung biopsy performed by a thoracic surgeon in the next couple of weeks along with a MRI, MRA, even more bloodwork, and the list goes on. A neurologist has also been brought in to begin seeing if he has the even rarer form of brain vasculitis. It’s a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. It comes with serious risks, including premature death.

This period has been marked by immense grace. God truly gives us the strength we need to confront the hardships of this life as they come. It doesn’t mean any of this is easy.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Evangelization and Reaching the Broken

A good friend of mine from high school died recently. It was a tragic death. This was not at all surprising to me because I worried that he would meet an early and untimely death. He died at the age of 37. The sadness and grief I feel are even greater because I knew deep down it would happen. We were very close during a time when youth mingled with deep pain. Both of us struggled with backgrounds marred by broken and dysfunctional forms of love. It was our brokenness that brought us even closer as friends. We had an understanding that our other friends did not. Our wounds bound us together, even if our choices were very different.

As we grew into adulthood, our lives took different paths. We lost touch when I returned to my Catholic roots about ten years ago after a period of wandering and he began to remind me of the tragic character Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited. In fact, it even appears that my friend suffered a violent end in Morocco. Strange since Sebastian spent time in Morocco before finishing his days in Tunisia. He so desperately wanted to be truly loved, but looked in all of the wrong places. The anger, resentment, abandonment, and weakness of the flesh made this journey even more difficult. It makes it even harder for many of us to see God through our own choices, our family backgrounds, and the real and perceived abandonment by others. I have no doubt that the “Hound of Heaven” was on his heels at every turn. Now, in death, I pray that he turned to the God of mercy and found the True Love he sought his whole life.

Our great need for mercy.

These last couple of weeks since I learned of his passing, I have spent a lot of time remembering. It has made me realize even more why we need mercy. Many of us are dealt difficult hands in this life. Our crosses vary. Some of us may be born into poverty, become chronically ill, battle mental illness, come up in dysfunctional homes, and the list goes on and on. We can become battle worn and wounded to the point of which we are barely making it. There are so many people around us, in our homes, or even ourselves who are deeply lonely.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Strange Beauty in Art and Life: The Agony in the Garden

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Today I am waiting for my dad to undergo some medical tests to see why he is so sick and whether or not it is life-threatening. Ever since I got word last week that my dad’s chronic illness was not the cause of his weakness and he is bleeding internally, I have been thinking and contemplating the Agony in the Garden.

Agony is a part of the human experience and it comes at unexpected times. My dad is only 59 and while he has had rheumatoid arthritis since he had rheumatic fever as a child, I am struggling to be ready for whatever comes next. Today we will find out why he is bleeding internally, whether it is cancer or something else. Please pray for him and for all of us who love him dearly.

So it is that we are faced with the terrible and beautiful paradox of the gift of suffering. The Agony of the Garden goes into the depths of human experience in all of its pain, horror, suffering, and death, but it isn’t the last word as we know living through this Lenten season awaiting the joy of Easter. Pax Christi.

Catholic Exchange: Meditation on the Rosary and Miscarriage

My meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and miscarriage is up at Catholic Exchange today.

Last month we recognized Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting.  When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor.  Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died.  The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over.  After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside.  You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again.  So much waiting.  It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort.  With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting.  I was waiting to bleed out my child.  It was agonizing for me.  Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified.  Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The World Did Not Know Him: Understanding Christian Persecution

 

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The amount of information we ingest each day from the Internet is staggering. In 5 minutes I can see what is happening worldwide.  Most of that news is bad news.  In fact, a good deal of it is horrifying. From gruesome murders to terrorism to starving children to the erosion of religious liberty in this country, it becomes overwhelming.  The forces of evil are on the march and Christ has called us to be a light in the world even though we face incredible odds on this side of Eternity.  The battle for man’s freedom from sin has been won by Christ on the Cross, but we still have to live in this Fallen world.

 
Yesterday I spent too much time looking at the train wreck that is the news.  I had to catch  my breath as I read one too many horrors.  I was also once again reminded that my freedom as a Roman Catholic in this country is washing away.  Not that this country has been too friendly to Catholics, but it was a nice reprieve.  Actually, all Christians are in great danger, at least those who hold to biblical teachings on human sexuality, of losing their freedoms as well.  There will come a day,  much sooner than any of us think, when we will have to make a choice to either stand with Christ or cave to the secular will.
 
As I prayed Vespers last night, Our Lord gave me a much needed reminder.  Sometimes I forget that the world did  not accept Him, so why should I expect those of us who follow Him to be accepted by the world?  Living in a country that had religious liberty for all, notice how I said “had”, we can forget that we were promised persecution.  What is  happening now is only a natural response by those who do not know, or who have denied that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  That He came to redeem us and save us from ourselves and He came to save us from sin and death.  That His call to love and serve is universal.  He is the much needed medicine for this sick world.  Here is the reading from Vespers last night:
 
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
in letting us be called children of God!
Yet that is what we are.
The reason the world does not recognize us
is that it never recognized the Son.
Dearly beloved,
we are God’s children now;
what we shall  later be has not yet come to light.
We know that when it comes to light
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him
keeps himself pure, as he is pure
 
1 John 3:1-3
 
As I watch the outright assault worldwide on Christians, I am reminded of a scene in The Return of the King.  Aragorn has led a small army to the gates of Mordor.  The gates open and evil in all its fury marches forward to swallow up the small battalion.  Aragorn rallies the troops and they run into battle.  A battle that seems pointless.  A battle they seem sure to lose.  But, this moment is a great reminder that somethings are in fact worth dying for.  It is better to die than to live and choose evil.  In the end, Frodo quite accidentally, destroys the Ring and Middle Earth is saved.  We must daily remind ourselves in the face of great ignorance, hatred, and evil, that Christ has won.  There is nothing that can change that fact.
 
If, like me, you struggle with moments of despair in the face of the world, remember that the world hated Christ first.  Humanity put Christ on a Cross, drove nails into His body, and killed Him.  As hard as it is for me to even imagine at this point in my spiritual journey, what makes me think that I can avoid such a fate?  Not all are called to martyrdom, but many are in fact being called worldwide to die for their Faith.  My family and I must pray for the strength to stand firm when we are called to defend the Faith, in whatever capacity Christ calls us.  No matter what, the tidal wave is coming, but there is always HOPE.