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.

Dealing with Miscarriage Part II: Grief

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I wrote yesterday about what it is like to be Catholic with only one child without even realizing that it is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms from the couple who cannot conceive to people like me who have a child and then suffer repeated miscarriage. I know that many people suffer from the grief of miscarriage. I want to re-visit a series that I wrote on my own experiences and I hope it ministers to you. God bless.

Swimming the Depths

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Blessed are they who mourn; for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:5

Grief is one of the most difficult aspects of life.  We are guaranteed that it will come our way.  Most of the time it blindsides us.  Grief in miscarriage can be lonely, deeply painful, infuriating, and cathartic all in the same day.  The grief sets in when we are told that our child is dead or it may set in once the bleeding starts or stops, or it may take years for the grief to overtake us.  Miscarriage is something that our society, and I hate to say it, the Church largely ignores.  This is probably for a number of reasons.  I would say some of it has to do with the abortion culture, some of it is privacy, and a lot of it is fear.  Fear on the part of the family who has lost…

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Being a Catholic Mother of “Only” One Child

KLAngelGrief

When my husband and I got married we figured given our somewhat later age (I was 29 when we got married) that we would have four or five kids. We had undergone a radical conversion while dating thanks to our priest sending us to a Theology of the Body seminar. We finally understood the why of the Church’s teaching instead of just the no. We decided that we would be open to children, even as I applied to graduate school. In fact, I was accepted to graduate school and then discovered that I was pregnant with our daughter. I put graduate school on the back-burner at the time.

Pregnancy was very difficult for me. I did not leave the house for a month because I was vomiting so much. Then something happened that was never on our radar. We went to our first ultrasound to detect the heart-beat. Our daughter’s heartbeat was strong, but we discovered that she had a twin who had died. What? Is all I could think of at the time. I had lost a baby, my daughter’s twin. It never dawned on us that we might lose a child in the womb. On the happy day of the wedding and Sacramental joining it doesn’t typically dawn on the couple the suffering that will be asked of them. It should. Through our Baptism we are united to the Cross of Christ and the mysteries of his life and death, but most of us don’t give it enough thought and prayer. It usually happens as it did for us, with a complete and total shock.

I was over-joyed that our daughter was healthy, but my heart was broken for the child that I had lost. I was sick and alone with my grief on many days while my husband worked. Eventually God gave me some peace in prayer that my other baby was in fact in Our Lord’s arms. It was enough to help me through the unexpected grief. But, it never occurred to me that I would be in this state of grief for years to come.

My daughter was born healthy and beautiful after an un-planned c-section. I was so happy and cried when I heard her for the first time. The first few weeks were the typical sleep deprivation and wonder of being a new mother. It is a time that I honestly don’t remember well and unfortunately it was marred by a rapid descent into post-partum depression. Ladies, PPD can come on suddenly and with bizarre symptoms. Get help immediately if you start having weird thoughts, anxiety, or depressive symptoms. I spent months crawling back out.

Five months after I had my daughter, I discovered that I was pregnant. I was pretty shocked, but happy. The pregnancy started differently. I had more energy and only threw up once or twice a week. It was a vast improvement from my previous pregnancy. I should have known better. One day I woke up and just didn’t “feel” pregnant anymore. It was a strange sensation. A friend (may she rest in peace) mentioned that with her miscarriage she stopped feeling pregnant. I knew deep within me that something was seriously wrong. About 12 hours later I began to miscarry. I was devastated. My husband grieved quietly so as not to add to my burden. I do wish men would share in that grief with their wives. It isn’t a burden.

Once again I descended into grief. The Church offered little help in this area. I read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Limbo, which has never been a formal teaching of the Church. I spoke to multiple priests. I couldn’t baptize my little children before death, so I was concerned. Everyone told me to leave it to God’s mercy. So that is what I have done.

Ten months later I discovered that I was pregnant again. I was happy, but scared. Then I went through what I can only describe as the pregnancy from hell. I would have four days of horrendous vomiting and then three days of debilitating depression and anxiety. It was hyperemesis and PPD together in one pregnancy. Then I went in for the ultrasound to detect the heart-beat. I really dislike those ultrasounds. The doctor came into see me and I knew it wasn’t good. There was no “fetal pole”, but I could be off on my dates. I knew I wasn’t. I chart after all. I went back a week later and all I heard was “blighted ovum”. The baby had died just days after conception, but my body missed the memo. Since I was at the 8 week mark, he said that we could see if my body miscarries naturally or I may need a D & E. I might need the same operation that they use in abortions. I was devastated. I chose to go home and wait, I had been through this before.

I began to miscarry shortly after, but it was not normal. The bleeding was extremely heavy and pouring out of my body at one point. I was terrified. This was not how things had gone before. I talked to the on-call OB who didn’t quite believe me. I am seasoned in miscarriages and knew something was wrong. Soon she told me to go to the ER, where they scooped me up like the actual emergency that I was. I can tell you that when the ER responds to you like you are an actual emergency it is very disconcerting. I had large clots and my body was incapable of having the miscarriage. I needed an emergency D & E. I remember they put me out cruciform on the table before I went under and I just thought of the Cross.

I also went through periods of post-partum after my miscarriages and my body never fully recovered from my last miscarriage. My hormone levels tanked and have never returned to normal, which is why I have to have my husband give me a shot of hormones four times a month in order to help my body function normally.

This is what my husband and I went through in the first four years of marriage. It had not dawned on us that we may only have one child. I didn’t want my daughter to be alone. My husband and I both have siblings and an only child was never our plan. Our plan. Isn’t that the great lesson? Even when we are Catholics who do not, I repeat, do not use contraception in any form, how many children we have is not up to us.

Catholics need to work on charity in this department. I am very happy for those families who are able to have tons of children. What a blessing! The reality is that God’s will is not the same for every family. For whatever reason, he may will only one child for us and we are under no obligation to justify that to others. The illusion of control in this department is rampant in our contraception laden culture, but it is also rampant within the Church. The open to life crowd forgets that being open to life also means being open to death. We have three beautiful children in Heaven precisely because we were open to life. We opened ourselves, albeit unknowingly, to the mystery of the Cross.

God wants me to be able to serve my family. Pregnancy and miscarriage has decimated my body. I am now on hormones for medical reasons and on a low dose of Prozac because of what I went through. Hormones are closely linked to neuro-chemistry. While a good many Catholics ignore Church teaching to their detriment, not all families do. My husband and I work hard to live as faithful Catholics and only having one child doesn’t change that fact. People who use NFP do so for a whole host of reasons, many of which are medical. NFP cannot be used in a gravely sinful manner, and at most, it could result in venial sin. Let’s try to remember that the families sitting in the pews next to us have a story that we know nothing about. I am the woman who still cries when she sees a new baby.

God has blessed us with one beautiful, intelligent, and amazing daughter. It comes with it’s own Cross. My daughter is extremely social and loves people. It makes me ache constantly that she is alone, but God has his reasons. God sanctifies each of us differently and watching her times of loneliness is a time to unite our suffering to the loneliness of the Cross. The next time you are at Mass, pray for the smaller families and the bigger families. We have no idea what is going on with them and the Crosses that Christ has asked of them. I am deeply grateful that I am the mother of my only child. She is the greatest blessing that my husband and I have been given. God bless you in this Easter season.

Guest Post from My Dad: Mom on the Mend

Today I want to share a post by my father, Mike Rapkoch, from his Ricochet site. My grandmother became critically ill about 2 weeks ago. My husband and I rushed out on the drive from Virginia to my home-state of Montana, expecting the worst. Instead, my grandmother recovered and amazed us all.  My father was her care-taker during this episode and these are his words:

As time goes by I am ever more convinced that O’Henry’s reflection in the Gift of the Magi, that life is “made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles, with sniffles predominating,” is the truest description of human experience ever put to paper. I’ve spent the last two weeks at my mother’s side as she’s struggled–and I mean struggled–through a mysterious illness that has caused huge weight loss, brought on nearly constant nausea and vomiting, and triggered other very unpleasant gastrointestinal manifestations. The condition developed slowly over several weeks and had her doctors completely stumped. When she was ordered into the hospital things looked grave.

Since I’m not one to panic my initial reaction to the news was, odd as it may sound, to smile. Mom’s a tough old bird and has battled her way through a bout with cancer and a couple of major operations with, if not ease, at least with grace. I figured she’d be back on her feet toot sweet so there was no point in worrying too much.

Then mom called and the tone of her voice instantly wiped my smile away. She sounded so sick. She sounded so frightened. She sounded so desperate. Although she insisted I stay home, I was in the car and on the way in ten minutes. For all her protests of “you don’t need to drive up,” there was no escaping the plea in her voice “please come help me.” If she wasn’t sobbing I was.

I arrived in two hours, breaking one or two traffic laws along the way. Concerns over personal safety drain away quickly when someone you love needs you.

As I walked into mom’s hospital room I saw, for the first time in my life, true fear in her eyes. With a mock scold she said “I knew you’d come even though I told you not to.” Her words plunged like a dagger into my heart. “I knew you’d come” meant “I knew you loved me.” It was childlike and I cannot think about it without sniffling a bit. I was here now and could hold her hand as she faced down an agony she could not understand.

When I was a kid I had to be confined to bed for a year with Rheumatic Fever. It was a lonely life. But mom was there. On Christmas Eve, as she tucked me in, I saw deep love and pain in her eyes over my suffering. I can still see that look clearly in my memories eye. It was a look I hoped to one day repay. This was the day.

As the week went on mom began to tank. Wednesday evening she began to vomit uncontrollably. I was helpless. I pulled out my Rosary and began, in a daze, to run the beads though my fingers as I recited the prayers and sobbed. Every time mom began to gag and wretch I stopped, went over and put my hand on her shoulder, and said the only thing that made any sense: “I love you mom.”

Then, as the spasms of nausea took total control of her she looked at me and said “I’m so sick.” Like a child she was stating the obvious because the obvious was all that made sense. I am sure that the look on my face matched that loving look she gave to me all those years ago. The look of a broken heart which can do nothing else but join the suffering in love.

For a few brief moments the vomiting subsided and mom’s eyes closed at the brief and merciful reprieve. I went back to my Rosary. My brother Dan arrived and, as is the way of the Rosary, simply joined in. There’s no fire in the Rosary. It is a deeply meditative prayer. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and it is a prayer of desperation. As Dan and I reached the end my sobs turned into sniffles as we prayed the last prayer, the Hail Holy Queen, with its heart rending words to the Blessed Mother “to thee do we cry, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” It is the perfect match to O’Henry’s insight. We sniffle, we sob, and we find comfort in the words “turn then O most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.” Then we can smile–even and especially– in the face of pain.

More than that we can rest, like a child in his mother’s arms.

I count it a miracle that, as our Rosary came to a close, mom fell asleep, perhaps from the anti-nausea drugs, but certainly with the comfort of knowing her Heavenly Mother, and her two worldly sons, were with her. I went to mom’s house at about 2AM, and fell asleep, even though I was sure that I’d never see her again this side of heaven.

Of course I was wrong about that. I got back to the hospital about 8AM, and found mom quietly sleeping. The nurse informed me that the nausea had subsided around 3 and that mom had slept through the night.

A few minutes later my brother Geof walked in. Mom woke up, smiled, said hello, and sat up to talk. I was flabbergasted. A few days later they sent mom home, many pounds lighter and still weak and unsteady, but on her way back to her old ornery self (just kidding if you ever read this mom). She’ll be with Home Health for a few weeks. The therapists have assured her that if she does what they tell her she’ll be back in the swing of things in short order. And I’ll be heading home in a few days. That’s going to mean some sniffles but, as hard as it is to accept after such a scare, I have to let mom get back to her own life. She’s only 87 after all. Besides, by the time I’m ready to leave mom will be pushing me out the door because, well, she’ll need a rest from me.

I don’t really know how to close this. I’ll just have to give it a rest. Thanks again for all the prayers. Peace.

Abandoning Disobedience

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I have been watching the Charlotte Catholic High School controversy with a mix of concern, interest, and finally frustration. I know the priest in charge there and he is a wonderful priest. They are blessed to have him, even though, they cannot see it. I am also a Lay Dominican, so a Dominican in the news is of importance to me. Both Fr. Kauth and Sister Jane Dominic have studied in Rome. The latter has a doctorate in Sacred Theology. I cannot remember Fr. Kauth’s full studious background, but I have attended multiple Masses of his when he would stand in for the priest who married my husband and me. I no longer reside in that Diocese, but I watch it in the news because I know there are very holy and orthodox priests coming out of that Diocese. It may be hard to believe it in light of what has happened here, but the young priests in that Diocese are great lovers of Christ and His Church.

More brilliant minds than I have written extensively about this incident. You can read about it here and here. I merely want to write about a couple of things that have come to mind as I watch this situation on unfold. First, I want to talk about humility and obedience. This is a core problem with situations like these. Many Catholics have fallen into the trap of relativism and follow the secular age while sitting in the pews. They profess the Faith from one side of their mouths while undermining it from the other side of their mouths. Second, I want to talk about the weight of our personal Cross. In our culture it appears that more emphasis is put on the crosses of individuals that have to do with sex. This is a byproduct of our culture’s obsession wtih sex.

So let’s begin with humility and obedience. As Catholics we are called to be obedient to Christ’s Church. When we profess the Nicene or Apostles’s Creed at Mass on Sundays, we are saying that we fully accept everything the Church teaches from the divinity of Christ, to papal infallibity, to social teaching. The end of the Creed states our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”. Since this profession of faith is a part of the Mass, it can become robotic. But, do we really think about what we are professing. Credo, “I believe”. Do we really believe? or are we perjuring ourselves in the Real Presence of Our Lord? This is something every one of us should think about.

I spent some years living in disobedience to the Church. I thought that I knew better. I listened to heterodoxical people, rather than my own conscience and catechesis. I knew better. When I finally underwent a major conversion five years ago I realized that my pride and sin had gotten in the way. I realized that I could not possibly know better than 2000 years of sacred tradition, as well as Holy Scripture. Who am I to say that I know better than Christ and His Church? When we are disobedient, we are playing God. The teaching of the Catholic Church is Christ’s teaching. It is not of men, it is of God. Do you know better than Christ? This is a part of what is going on right now. Eden is playing out within the walls of the Church, as it has since the beginning. Some of us choose to follow God, some of us choose to follow ourselves. Whenever we sin, we choose ourselves. This is hard to swallow, but it is the beginning of true conversion.

We live in a country where individual liberty is prized above all else. We are the masters of our own destiny. No one can tell us how to live, not even the Church. That’s fine and good, but it is not a Catholic understanding of freedom. Freedom is the ability to what is right. There are billions of people on this planet who do not have that freedom. Look at China’s forced abortion policy. As Catholics it is God who is the Master of our destiny and that destiny is supposed to be Heaven.

The simple truth is that if we want to follow Christ then we must be like HIm and submit in love and obedience to the Father. That means following Church teaching even when it is hard, even when it is brazenly counter-cultural. We need to stop letting other people tell us what to believe. The Church’s position on issues of our day is not “hateful, bigoted, or homophobic”. It is based on authentic love and understanding. It is based on God’s desire for all people to be saved from eternal damnation. The Church is in the business of saving souls not racking up popularity points. To truly love is to desire the salvation of our neighbor and ourselves.

Second, we need to begin to understand that suffering is a part of the Christian life. Suffering is an integral part of the Catholic understanding of this earthly life. Christ told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. That means all the way to Calvary. Something that people need to think about is that being Christian is to die to self. It is to be crucified in our daily lives. Avoiding suffering is a secular (and some professed Christian groups) goal. Ours is to learn to accept and embrace our crosses so that Christ may sanctiy us and bring us further along on the path of holiness. The meaning of life is to become a Saint, it is not comfort.

This is not some type of sado-masochism. It is understanding reality. Every one of us will suffer. Every one of us will have crosses to carry. We cannot avoid suffering because we cannot avoid the inevitability of death. We do not choose sickness, natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks. Suffering is a part of the human experience. It is universal.

In our culture the sexual sins are seen as too big of a burdern to overcome. The idea that someone who struggles with same sex attraction should be chaste is unimaginable to them. This cross is somehow worse than others. This is false. The crosses we are given are used by Christ to help us grow in holiness. I have no doubt that same sex attraction is deeply difficult to bare. That it comes with periods of loneliness, despair, and pain. Contrary to what many contemporaries think, most of us who support traditional marriage have had friends who profess to be gay. Some of my friends have embraced the gay lifestyle and others have chosen the Catholic path. I am going to say something that is very unpopular, this cross is no heavier than other crosses. Some people are chronically ill whether it be physically or mentally. Some people cannot have children, or like myself have lost babies. Some people live in abject poverty. Some people live in countries ravaged by war and violence. Some people have been abused in some way. The fact of the matter is that ALL crosses are hard. All crosses will cause us to stumble. Christ fell 3 times under the weight of the Cross and our sin. In the final analysis we must choose to allow Christ to help us with our Cross and use it for His purposes, or we can cast it off and choose the ways of this world. We either choose God or we don’t, but if we don’t, then we are to blame for the consequences.

Being Catholic, being a follower of Christ is not easy. It is deeply difficult. That is why we are called to be faithful and not perfect. The goal is perfection, but we are not there, yet. If you are sitting in the pews and think that being Catholic is easy, I would suggest some serious time in Scripture and discussion with a holy and orthodox priest. Our Lord was crucified for preaching the Truth. What makes us think that we can escape the same fate? What makes us think that Christ did not mean what he said about following Him? Love is the Cross. Total self-emptying. That means working to abandon those sins we hold on so tightly. I have some that I cling to. It means saying “no” to a culture that would lead us on the path of evil. It means professing the Truth no matter what and at times doing as Sister Jane Dominic has chosen to do in the Charlotte incident: dusting off our sandals and moving on to the next souls in need of salvation. If hearts are hardened, they will not hear the Truth, so we must seek those who will hear Him. We desire all be saved, but they must make the choice. That choice comes with humility, obedience, and an acceptance that crosses are a part of the journey. God bless you on your journey.

 

The Dangers of Modern Fiction and A Desire to Write

A desire to write is absolutely pushing itself upon me these days.  In fact, writing is constantly in my thoughts like when a new romance is started. I can’t explain it.  It is hard to contain and hard to balance.  I am the mother of a toddler, a wife, and about to become a postulant in the Order of Preacher (Lay Dominican).  I have a very full plate with the two vocations God has given me, does he really want me to pursue writing?

 
First, I am trying to make sure that my desire for writing comes from wanting to glorify and share Jesus Christ, and not my own pride.  This is an internal struggle, to be sure.  Second, I want my writing to improve the world, not drag it down even further.  Third, I think there is a dearth of good books for women and teenage girls that demonstrate authentic love.  Fourth, In any writing that I would do, I want my daughter to be able to read it some day without pause.
 
I am deeply concerned by the books that seem to be bestsellers.  It has always been this way. Trash sells.  Sex sells.  We just happen to live in a culture that thinks that sex is love. I am  increasingly more worried about how society’s changes in its understanding of love are affecting our daughters. Now my daughter is only two, but many women of my generation have teenagers and the majority of women in my generation are eating up these same books I am talking about.
 
Now I am not talking about Harry Potter or Twilight.  I have read both series and found them immensely entertaining.  I am not big on vampires so Twilight is a series I read once because my youngest sister was such a fan.  What I do like about the series, is that the author demonstrated chastity.  She also showed young women how much they long for a man who is devoted to them and is chaste.  I think this is a great message for young men too, even though, the audience for these books was predominantly female.
 
I like Harry Potter because it demonstrates sacrificial love: the greatest kind of love.  It is the love demonstrated on the Cross.  I will not pretend that Harry Potter is Christian Fiction, it is not.  However, it does not escape the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western culture.  Our understanding of love has been formed by the God-Man who sacrificed for us.  No matter how much we try to drown this out, it is still in our very bones.
 
The trend that disturbs me most is how an understanding of love and romance is shifting.  Romance novels have largely been soft pornography for women.  Yep, sorry ladies, graphic sex in print is still pornography.  I have read a few of these books in my younger days.  They are entertaining in a vapid sort of way and give women a chance to form men in their own image.  However, they are usually shallow and continue to notion that all you need is romance and passion.  They do not demonstrate sacrifice and total self-giving.
 
The new “romance” books, if you can even call them that, scare me.  Yes, I am looking at you 50 Shades of Grey.  I have not read it, because I knew immediately that it is pornography.  It was all over the Catholic blogosphere, including some Catholic moms who were supporting it.  Very concerning and if I was ever in a conversation with any of them, I would suggest a meeting with their priest, so they could clear up their misunderstanding of what is pornographic.
 
That aside.  What concerns me, is the level of violence being leveled against women and their blind acceptance of it.  Since when is S&M love?  Since when is it not repugnant not just morally, but also to the very idea of romantic love?  With the increase in Internet pornography violent crimes against women are soaring.  Boyfriends are demanding pornographic sex and women willingly do it because they think they should do it out of love.  Ladies, NO!
 
First, any man who loves you, will wait for you until your wedding night.  Second, no man should be looking at pornography.  Third, no man should demand illicit sex acts from you.  A man who truly loves, respects, and has given himself to you, understands the sacred and holy aspect of the marital act.  The very act that renews the marriage covenant each time the two are brought together.  A man who loves you wants what is best for YOU.
 
So where are the books these days the describe authentic love?  Not just romance novels, books about friendship, service, parenthood, and yes, romantic love?  Why are we not concerned that S&M is a bestseller and about to become a movie?  Our society is normalizing illicit sex and continues to objectify women, yet, we open our wallets (among other things) to pay for this objectification.
 
Mothers, check what your daughters are reading.  Teenagers are reading books like 50 Shades.  They will hide it from you.  Do you want your teenage daughter to think that S&M is a normal type of sexual expression?  Do you want her to learn sexual mores from our culture or from Christ and His Church?  Talk about this with your daughters.  Talk about pornography with your sons.  If you don’t, our culture will do it for you.
 
So while I will not be reading any pornography, I have decided to start reading some of the popular novels of our day, especially those geared towards young women.  I want to pinpoint what is lacking and by God’s grace, write something that truly demonstrates His love.  Not sentimentality.  No, authentic love.  It may be allegory.  It may be daily life.  It might be romance.  I don’t know where God is taking me on this journey.  For now, I will get a hot drink, snuggle up under a blanket and tuck into a lot of fiction this year.
 
P.S. I just finished reading Richard Paul Evans’ A Winter Dream.  I read it as a recommendation from a friend.  I read it this morning in about 3 hours.  I really enjoyed it.

The Foot of the Cross

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November is the month in the Church when we remember and pray for the dead.  The month begins with the Solemnity of All Saints to celebrate the men and women who have gone before us and who pray for us from Heaven.  Then All Souls is on the 2nd, which is dedicated to the dead and most especially those souls in Purgatory.  My parish has had a major influx of priests this year.  This summer we had a different priest each weekend because our priest was very ill.  A very good friend of mine died in July and I needed to have a Mass said for the baby we lost in February.  It happened that this past weekend is when those Masses were said.

 
In the middle of all of this, I quite unexpectedly had my first duty as a Eucharistic Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) to the sick in the hospital.  I have had this ministry since June, but I live in an area that is only 2% Catholic so there have not been any Catholics in the hospital on my weekends.  I was surprised to be called to this ministry.  I prayed and genuinely asked The Lord if he was serious.  Me?  I am not exactly the confident type that likes to walk into complete strangers’ hospital rooms.  I am also very sensitive and struggle greatly with fears of death.  After intense prayer, I felt like He was surely calling me to minister to the sick.
 
I was a relief worker, so I have been around extreme suffering, but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced this past Saturday evening.  The first family that I saw were in good spirits.  It made it easy for me.  I was nervous and unsure of myself.  There was a woman who was ill, her husband, and their son present.  The husband needed to get on the road because he did not like to drive in the dark.  I did the short version of prayers. It went well.  The gentleman gave me a tip and that surprised me greatly.   I promptly put it in the basket at Mass on Sunday.
 
The second family I went to was completely different.  First, they were in the hospital room directly across the room my 2 year old was in in August.  They were an elderly couple.  The woman barely spoke English and suffered from dementia.  The husband was trying to explain to his wife that I was there to pray with them and give them Holy Communion.  She spoke in German.  Eventually we calmed her down and I began.  I only had one host left because there had been 3 people in the previous room and I had only brought 4.  I had to break it in half.  As I did so, a voice clear as day in my head said, “You should not be doing this, you are a woman.”  I struggle with being an EMHC because my husband and I are more traditional, but I know that I am called to this ministry.
 
I wasn’t expecting attacks from the enemy.  I should have been.  Given that I am directly confronting  suffering and bringing Our Lord’s body, blood, soul, and divinity given out for us.  It solidified my belief that I need to wear a scapular.  Our Lord is not going to question  me in a moment I am ministering to His sick.  He is not going to accuse me.  I should probably take holy water with me next time too.  To be quite honest, it took it out of me.  I was exhausted by the end.  For those who don’t believe in the Devil, you know him when you hear him, trust me.  He is usually much more subtle and operates in temptations, but occasionally, he comes out in force.
 
This couple desperately needed Holy Eucharist.  The gentleman  was 91 and struggling mightily with his wife’s illness.  He felt alone.  His wife was confused and in tremendous pain.  He began to tell me about his life.  He has truly suffered.  He was in the Nazi Navy and had survived his U-boat being sunk by a US ship.  He was rescued by a US Navy Destroyer and brought to a POW internment camp in the US, where he stayed for 4 years.  After the war ended he went back to Germany and to his wife.  Even after all he had endured he wanted to live in the US.  After a few years he was able to get a job in Virginia and he and his wife emigrated.  His wife has been ill for 20 years.  He did not know what to do.  He did not want her alone in a nursing home.  So this elderly man was trying to care for his sick wife on his own.  It reminded me how the fringes of our society (as Pope Francis talks about) are the unborn and the elderly.  It made me deeply sad.
 
Even with all of his suffering, he always trusts in the “Good Lord” as he referred to Our Lord.  I stood and listened to him,  amazed by his life story.  He gave me a hug.  Even though it was hard, this is clearly where Our Lord wanted me.  I am a Navy Vet myself and I happily listened to him talk.  He thanked me in  German and I returned with “you’re welcome” in German; one of the three words I know of German.  His wife told me “good-bye” in German, as did he, and I returned the German.  If there is one thing I learned living in Europe and being a linguist, even if you do not know a language, people greatly appreciate you trying their native tongue.
 
I left and met my husband and daughter for dinner.  I was emotionally drained and my heart hurt for that suffering couple.  I have seriously prayed for them and the other family every day since.  Being an EMHC to the sick is going directly to the foot of the Cross.  It is meeting people in their affliction and brokenness.  For those few minutes, I share in that pain and bring them the only help available: Our Lord in His Real Presence.  It is a humbling experience.  I feel wholly unworthy and truth be told, I walked out of the hospital unsure that this is where God wanted me.  Given that my response has been prayer, I think that this is where He wants me, but it is a very hard ministry.
 
The Lord calls us out of our comfort zone to serve him.  I have not gone into the deep of other people’s suffering since my 9-11 relief work days.  I never expected to be called back in after all I endured in the years that followed.  I may not fully understand what He is up to in my life right now, but he is also healing my own brokenness in some way.  And so I will persevere and continue to bring Him to those in need.
 
What are some ways Our Lord has called you into the deep?