Catholic Exchange: Evangelizing Through Christian Friendship

As Christians, our lives and our relationships are meant to be different from the prevailing culture. We are witnesses to Christ crucified and risen from the dead, who is the cause for our joy. As the Mystical Body, the communion we share with one another is one of the ways that we are able to draw others into the love of the Most Holy Trinity and to the eucharistic banquet. When people see the love we have for one another, they should immediately see the love of God dwelling within us. 

As witnesses, we are not meant to draw attention to ourselves, but rather, to the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within each one of us. There should be a dynamic at work in our friendships and relationships that leads people to wonder in amazement at the love we have for one another, and it should awaken within them the desire to enter into that love. Our bonds of love in friendship—or any other loving relationship—is a reflection of God’s love for mankind. Our friendships are meant to be infectious and life-giving. And while there will always be varying levels of intimacy and affection in each one of our relationships with individuals, the joy in the love of Christ that we share in those relationships should always be inviting to others so that love and communion can deepen and flourish within the Mystical Body.

When our relationships are grounded in the love of Christ, they take on a new quality. There is a closeness that becomes evident to others. I’ve been thinking about this in my own relationships. I’ve noticed that the more my relationships are focused on the love of Christ, the more other people, even within my own parish, ask me about them. I am frequently asked if one of my closest friends is actually my biological sister. I tend to reply with: “Yes, she is my sister in Christ, but we aren’t biologically related.” Our friendship is centered on our mutual desire to grow in holiness through the paths we have each been given. The closeness we share with one another in Christ is evident, so people are convinced that we are sisters.

Another close friend of mine, who I visit with after daily Mass each day, is often confused for my mother. Fellow daily Mass goers see the love and high regard we have for one another, so they’ve come to wonder if we are mother and daughter. We’ve taken to telling people that we are spiritual mother and spiritual daughter, because it is true. Once again our relationship is first and foremost about our shared love for Christ. That love, deepened through the Holy Spirit, radiates outward and the intimacy we share in our relationship is seen by others to the point of people believing she is my mother and I am her daughter.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Christ and Marriage in a Time of War

I have been watching the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere for a while now. About a year ago, some friends and I organized a grassroots campaign to raise awareness for their plight, as well as raise money for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). We called the project Help Nasara in honor of the Arabic ن (pronounced “noon”) painted on people’s houses in Syria and Iraq to identify them as Christian so that they could be forcibly converted, live in dhimmitude, or face martyrdom.

It can be difficult for those of us who live quiet and comfortable lives in the West to comprehend or even ponder the unspeakable terror and violence these people live with every single day. It is not something we have experienced and we can easy fall into an “it’s over there” mentality. For Christians, however, this is not a correct understanding of the Mystical Body. These Christians are not a “them” they are in fact “us” in a very real way. We are all united in communion with Christ as our head. They are our brothers and sisters in a way that runs deeper than blood, but that is also bound in the blood of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our blindness to them is a great dishonor to the Church and to them. While most of us cannot run to Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, the Ukraine, or other regions; we can pray, fast, raise awareness, and give alms within our means. We can also pay close attention to their witness because they are teaching us, and the world, something truly profound.

Last Friday I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when a posting of three pictures caught my attention. They were photographs of a wedding at St. George’s Church in Homs, Syria. The church was completely bombed out. There was no roof, no windows, no altar; there were only bare stone walls still standing. One of the pictures showed the surrounding buildings which were also bombed out and reduced to rubble in areas. What caught my attention was the picture of the couple standing before the priest to be joined in Holy Matrimony.

There is no doubt that all in attendance have lost much during the Syrian Civil War that continues to rage on today. Many have lost family, friends, homes, churches, and nearly everything. The couple themselves have probably lost much, and yet, there they stood in hope. Rather than despair and focus on what has been lost, they have chosen to stand up and come together in conjugal communion, even if it is only for one day. I could see the face of Christ clearly in their witness. It is truly an awe-inspiring witness to the true definition of marriage, to the Blessed Trinity, the love Christ has for the Church, and the power of the Cross.

God has constantly referred to His love for His people in marital language. The Jewish people were His Bride and often they were “adulterous” when they gave into sin and idolatry. The covenant God has established between His people and Himself is the basis for the theological understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage and the reason the Church teaches as she does about the nature of marriage. A man and woman coming together is to mirror the communion God has established with His Church and the communion that is in Him through the Blessed Trinity.
Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

What I Really Am Thinking While I Pray at Planned Parenthood

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I have learned a lot in the three years that I have participated in 40 Days for Life and have prayed outside of Planned Parenthood.  The first time that I went, was when I was five months pregnant with my daughter.  It actually was not a good experience the first time because someone tried to scare us off, but we stayed.  Once my daughter was born I started taking her with me.  She sat in her stroller, and now she walks with me or someone else while we pray, or she kneels beside me.  We get lots of honks of support, and we get yelled at, or flipped off  a couple of times.  There is a lot of pain and anger in the world.

 
All of that pain and anger puts a pretty dark cloud over the abortion issue.  There is a lot of propaganda, on both sides, really.  Although, I firmly believe that the pro-abortion folks lie and keep the truth from a lot of these families.  I think that they have been lied to themselves, and just don’t know any better.  I hate to say it, but I am sure some of them just don’t care that a human life is extinguished.  What I mean to do is give my side and experience as someone on the front lines of the abortion fight in our country.  I have chosen peaceful prayer and a presence of witness as my tactics.  I also provide resources to poor women who contact a parish ministry that I work with along with three other women and I send people to our crisis pregnancy center.
 
What am I thinking when I kneel or stand outside of my local Planned Parenthood?  It probably is not necessarily what you think.  First, you have to understand what I want for these women, babies, and men who walk into the clinic.  I want these women to know that they have options.  I don’t want them to feel trapped or coerced into ending the life of their own child.  I want them to feel less alone.  I want them to see themselves as God sees them.  I want them to see their child as God sees them.  Motherhood is not easy, but the joy and gifts are worth the work. 
 
My daughter has taught me more in her 2 years of life than I have learned in 32.  She has shown me how deeply selfish I am.  She has shown me what it is to love unconditionally.  She has made me a better person.  My daughter has vastly increased my capacity for joy and a love of life.  She blesses me way more than the pain and heartache that come with motherhood.  When my daughter sits with me outside of Planned Parenthood, I want these families to see that children are a tremendous gift.  Perhaps not all women or couples feel that they can care for a child.  That is why they need to know that adoption is always an option.  
 
Today I was out at Planned Parenthood with my daughter and some friends.  Saturday is surgical abortion day.  It is heart-wrenching to see these groggy women stumble out of the clinic.  Usually a man or parents are with them.  I am overcome with deep sadness and compassion for these women.  I wonder what kind of despair would make a person choose to kill their own child?   My righteous anger is not towards them.  Rather, I am upset with the boyfriend, husband, or parent that drove them there.  That person failed to love that woman as she deserved.  She needed her boyfriend to be a man and stand up for her and their child.  She needed someone to tell her that it would be ok and that she would be taken care of.  To tell her that she was not alone.  To tell her that killing her own child is wrong.  The people who drove her to that clinic failed to take away her despair.  They did not give her any hope.
 
The other thing that bothers me is that the clinic workers do not try to help these women to their cars.  They have been drugged up and undergone surgery.  One woman today sat in her car almost the entire hour I was there talking to her parents.  As the abortionist and clinic workers left, not one of them went over to see if she was ok.  I desperately wanted to go over and check on her, and give her a Rachel’s Vineyard contact card.  My heart hurt for her, but I would be arrested if I went near her.  I can’t really do that with my 2 year old daughter with me.
 
It is hard to know how to react when someone leaves on surgical abortion day. I do not like to stare at them and make them feel condemned.  Rather, I try to maintain a prayerful posture.  We are not going to bring people to Jesus Christ, if we are condemning and cold-hearted.  Yes, killing your own child is a grave and horrible sin, but we need to bring these people to Our Lord, so that they can repent and receive the freedom of forgiveness.
 
At least the surgical abortion people see us.  We are a presence on that day for them.  A reminder of something more, of hope.  For the women who go home to do a chemical abortion, they are alone and isolated.  Once again someone has failed to love her.  Someone has let her bleed out her own child alone in her bathroom.  Or perhaps they stay with her, but they abandoned her when they helped her procure the medication to kill her child.  Abortion is always a failure to love.  That is what makes it so difficult.  The purpose of 40 Days for Life is not to reign down hellfire, it is to show men and women that they are not alone. Because, quite frankly, once they step foot in that abortion clinic, they are alone.  No one there is going to help them keep their child.  Stepping into that clinic is to despair and abandon Love.  We need to bring those people to either for the first time, or back, to the Divine Life.  We need to be a reminder that Jesus Christ conquered sin and death for all people out of his infinite love and mercy.
 
So, yes, I have periods of righteous anger, most especially at Neo-feminists and abortion industry workers who have been deceived and deceive others.   I also struggle with being mad at the men who drive these women to the clinics.  They failed these women, and while I know these women make the choice to end their child’s life, I pity them.   But, more than anything, the whole thing makes me deeply sad.  It brings me to prayer.  It brings me to the Cross and I bring all of those people I see each time I am at Planned Parenthood with me to the Cross.  I pray for their conversion.  I pray for their healing.  I pray that someday that may be truly loved in the manner they deserve.