Hubby and I are teaching the RCIA class this coming Monday and our topic is The Priesthood of the Faithful. I’m the genius who signed us up to teach this…so I get to do most of the research and prep, which is okay by me. I’ve become even more of a night owl since having a baby. She can nap and I can enjoy the beverage of my choice while delving into the the amazing teachings of our Church and the thoughts of men & women far smarter & holier than I. I thought I’d share the transcript below. I’m planning on borrowing heavily from it for Monday. Enjoy!
There is more than passing value in looking at the meaning and implications of the priesthood of the faithful. There is much confusion these days in some quarters about who and what is a priest; there is an overwhelming amount of what they call identity crisis in many priests. So many writers are saying that ordination makes no difference, that every Christian is equally a priest, and that priests (as they are properly called) are merely functionaries; long, learned disquisitions on this subject say priests are not really different from the faithful. Finally, most of the agitation about women’s ordination stems from confusion over who is a priest…”Oh, she can be a priestess!”
The Mass, being in the vernacular, now brings out more clearly than ever the intimate participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice. The liturgy says throughout “we” and “our” and “us”, “your sacrifice and mine”. Somehow they share in the offering of the Mass. Somehow the faithful participate; they must, otherwise the language of the liturgy would be unintelligible. They participate in the priesthood. The question is, how? It is worth going into this subject because it is part of divine revelation.
We have the explanation in the first letter of Saint Peter, the first letter of the first Pope, in which he speaks on the priesthood of all Christians. My intention is first to quote what he says, and then explain briefly what the Church says he means, all the while make applications to our own personal and corporate spiritual life.
He (speaking of Christ) is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: “See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen” and “the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed”. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, “the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down”. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.
But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart” to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were “not a people” at all and now you are the People of God; once you were “outside the mercy’ and now “you have been given mercy”.
I urge you, my dear people, while you are “visitors and pilgrims”, to keep yourselves free from the selfish passions that attack the soul. Always behave honorably among pagans so that they can see your good works for themselves and, when the day of reckoning comes, give thanks to God for the things which now make them denounce you as criminals.
As we prayerfully reflect on the inspired words of the first Vicar of Christ, we find they contain four great mysteries of Christian revelation that are like four pillars of the priesthood of the faithful. They are: vocation, community, faith, and responsibility.
The first pillar is vocation. In the mysterious designs of Providence, not everyone has been actually called to Christianity. We are not now here referring to God’s absolute Will; but de facto, concretely and historically, less than one half the human race has even heard the name of Christ. As Saint Paul asks, how can anyone believe in Him unless they have heard of Him? Before us, there were those who had heard and we inherited their faith. In a word, our primary vocation, on which all other vocations rest, is our vocation to Christianity. Fundamentally, it was this that Christ, speaking to all of us, meant when He said, “Come follow me”.
We do not often enough think of being a Christian as not merely “a” vocation, but “the” vocation, of which all other vocations are only aspects and variety. God’s ways are not men’s ways. The fact is plain that not all have actually, existentially received this call. We have. In our own country there are millions who haven’t the vaguest notion of who Christ is!
Some years ago I happened to be traveling on a train on Christmas Day. I got into conversation with two little boys whose ages were about seven and ten. As we were talking, I found out they knew that the day was Christmas. “But,” I asked them, “what is Christmas?” Well, they told me something about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. So I further asked them, “Do you know today is Somebody’s birthday?” Both said it was not their birthday. “No, it is some great Person’s birthday-Jesus’ birthday.” They had no idea. And behind them, of course, was the ignorance of their parents.
We, unworthily, have been called. That is why Peter uses the word “chosen”. We have been called, selected; we have been preferred. Truly it cannot be because God foresaw such great heroic virtue in any of us. No Lord, depart from me a sinner! Never get the idea that having a vocation or being called is something which the one who is called merits. God calls whom He wills. But He does choose. Having been chosen, we then have an extraordinary dignity. All our consequences of being Christians follow from the fact that we have been called specially.
The second pillar is community. We are called. That is a collective, not a distributive plural. No doubt each one is called as an individual, but we are called to join an already existing community. The first believers were Mary and Joseph. That is the nucleus of Christianity in whose midst was Jesus. He couldn’t have made the collectivity or community aspect of this vocation more plain. In fact, He made sure there was the making of a community even before He was conceived; it is why Mary and Joseph got together, to make sure there would be at least two to start this thing going.
We are called to something; that something is a community. That is why Saint Peter uses words that are symbolic of community. He speaks of Christians forming a spiritual house made up of many stones; that was in the days before they made houses of wood. It takes many stones to build a house. We are a chosen race having a common ancestry in Jesus Christ. That is what a race is, people who somehow have a common heredity. We are, he said, a consecrated nation, having all been born. And that is what “nation” really means: people somehow born together, politically speaking, within a geographic space; and spiritually speaking, all born of grace. We form one nation, a nation of grace. And we are a people set apart. We are not to be, because we are not, like those who are not called; and we’d be out of our Christian minds to suppose that there is any credit to us.
Our priesthood as Christians, therefore, is that of a community. We belong together; we are members of the Body of Christ. Christianity is not solitary-that is a contradiction in terms. There are no solitary Christians, which doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes feel lonely. We have solidarity; we are not solitary. Human nature is individual, is divided, is in pieces, grace creates community.
The third pillar of our common priesthood is of course faith. This is what, building on the grace that God gives us, makes us a Christian community. We are first and mainly a community of believers. Let me make that stronger. We are a community only insofar as we are believers. Much of the confusion in so many peoples’ minds nowadays arises from the fact that there are those who no longer believe but still claim to belong to the community. No they don’t! You either believe and you belong or if you don’t believe, you don’t belong. And it is possible to have belonged and to cease to belong.
By our faith we believe, which means we grasp what we cannot see; we accept on the word of God. He sees. We take His word; we embrace what He tells us is true. But let us never think that because we do not see with reason when we believe, we do not see. Yes we do! We see by faith. One of the most comforting phrases in Latin is “lumen fidei”, the light of faith. We have it. We can see things that people who don’t have the faith just don’t see. When we kneel down before the Holy Eucharist, reason tells us it is bread; faith tells us it is Jesus. We love other people including those who don’t love us; reason sees an enemy, while faith sees a friend. This is seeing. A person dies. Reason sees the life principle of the body leaving the body and leaving a corpse; faith sees the human spirit leaving this world, thank God, for a better one. Faith sees.
The heart of the Christian priesthood is faith. Whether it is the priesthood of the faithful, which is why they are called faithful and why they are priestly, or whether it is the priesthood of those who are ordained, the heart of the Christian priesthood is faith.
One of the great joys of this common priesthood of the faithful is to be in the company of other people who also believe. We have all had enough experience in life to know what the opposite means. This is not make believe; it’s real. The moment we enter a home or a group or a religious community and are among people who believe like we do, we relax and feel that we belong, even though we may never have met before. It is as though we have known each other all our lives. And we have, because in Jesus Christ we have long ago met before we have met in body.
The fourth pillar is responsibility. God does not call anyone in vain. He always calls for a purpose. Every vocation implies a mission. Simply put, to have been called to be a Christian is to be called to exercise the responsibilities of a Christian. What are they? They may all be summarized in the word which we all know synonymizes priesthood: sacrifice. To have been called to be a Christian is to be called to a life of sacrifice. Sacrifice means surrender. Since the priesthood we are talking about is the priesthood of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed not things outside of Himself but Himself, it must also somehow mean the surrender of ourselves.
Our faith could not be more sublime. It could also not be more demanding. This priesthood is not something merely to reflect on; it is something to put into practice. How?
The Sacrifice of Our Selfish Passions
Saint Peter says that we must sacrifice of our selfish passions, and he identified what kind of passions we are meant to sacrifice. We are told to sacrifice our passion to spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and criticism. Now we know we are not to be spiteful, when we have every reason to be; or deceitful, when it would be so helpful; or hypocritical, when no one would know; or envious, when somebody has something that we obviously like; or critical, when it is too clear for words that the person is wrong-not to do these things calls for immense sacrifice.
Needless to say, what Peter specially had in mind is the kind of sacrifice on this level, which those who are Christians are called upon to practice to be members of a community. We are not spiteful unless other people are around; or deceitful unless there is somebody to deceive. Why be hypocritical if there’s nobody to impress; or envious, if we don’t see someone better or better off than ourselves; or critical, unless we are living so closely with someone else that we can watch every breath they breathe? The sacrifice of our selfish passions is our lifetime of sacrifices, and Peter tells us that this is the first and continuous exercise of our priesthood of believers.
The Sacrifice of Our Patience
Our priesthood is secondly, as Peter further tells us, the sacrifice of patience, patience in putting up with those who oppose us. In Peter’s time he had his pagans; in our times we have our pagans, and they are all around us. We are, therefore, to expect to be criticized, to be opposed, to be handicapped in so many ways by those who do not believe. This was in large measure Christ’s sacrifice. He was finally put to death by His own people who did not believe in Him and by the pagan Romans who, perhaps, could not have been expected to believe. What He endured in His way, as He told us, we are to expect to endure in our way. I don’t know where Christians got the idea that being a Christian in any day is anything but to arouse opposition. You can be the nicest person in the world. Jesus was the nicest person in the world. Look what they did to Him!
The unbelieving world will oppose us, and does oppose us just because of what we are: mothers with families; men practicing chastity; priests faithful to their commitment; religious behaving like religious. There are many that admire Sisters in religious garb; they thank God and thank Sisters for looking like Sisters. But not all. Sometimes, may God forgive them, our worst enemies and the greatest sacrifice of patience we are called upon to practice is from those who have been with us but who have left us.
The Sacrifice of Our Witness
Thirdly, Peter says that the priesthood of the faithful is to be a sacrifice of witness. TheApostle could not have been more extreme in describing who we are. He called us a royal priesthood. Conscious of our dignity, of our royalty, we are to behave accordingly by frankly, though humbly, witnessing through our practice of virtue so that the world might learn to know and love Christ from having seen us. A Christian is always on display, is always watched; a Christian is always to give witness to the great High Priest, who witnessed to His undying love for mankind by dying on the cross.
Saint Peter finally says that we exercise our priesthood of believers by our praising God, which he calls our spiritual sacrifice because it comes from within the spirit of man. You might wonder why Peter would call this praising God a sacrifice. When we talk about the sacrifice of the New Law, we mean necessarily the sacrifice of self. What does praising God mean? Very simply, it means not praising self. Concretely, we praise God in what we call our “acts of adoration”. To praise God is to adore God. The greatest temptation to which man is prone is to adore himself. If the word sounds strange, the reality is not strange at all. Adoration of God, otherwise known as praising God, means paying attention to God, acknowledging Him; it means admiring God.
The Sacrifice of Our Praising God
Praising God means paying attention to God, and we know what sacrifice that takes, because it means turning attention from self. Acknowledging God’s greatness, who He is, means sacrificing that recognition of ourselves which we so hunger for that nations have been plunged into war because of one man’s ambition to be acknowledged as great. Psychologists tell us the deepest hunger of the human spirit is to be acknowledged as something by someone else. People will die to have this hunger satisfied. Acknowledging God in adoration means we acknowledge God’s greatness by acknowledging our nothingness. That is what we were before He made us and that is what we would be except for His love, nothing! This is the hardest sacrifice of all, the sacrifices of the praise of God.
We finally praise God by our admiration of God, which means that we so often, even daily, have to turn away from the mirror of self-admiration. We know this is costly. Faith tells us that it is here that we practice our priesthood, not just once in a while, but all day and every day, participating in the priesthood of the Savior, sacrificing ourselves like Him. But in addition, since He is God as well as man, we must also sacrifice ourselves for Him.
Jesus, our great High Priest, help us to better understand what it means to share in your priesthood. Help us to live this kind of priestly life, a life of daily, total, self-sacrifice.
I think it is probably just a little wrong that I hope my baby will start screaming when people are around or holding her so that I can either avoid handing her over to be held or demand they return her to me because I am Mama and nobody cuddles like Mama cuddles.
I think it is a little more wrong that if I’m already holding my baby, I’m very tempted to pinch her feet to get her to start fussing. Not that I ever do. I”m not a monster…just a mother.
It’s been just over a month since we went to the hospital for the induction of our baby. Today marks 4 weeks since she joined us on the outside and she’ll have enjoyed one whole month of life “after womb” on Friday. So much has happened in this past month. I kept meaning to sit down and write a post but I’ve been busy. 🙂 I have had so many thoughts and conversations and feelings that I’ve wanted to share with you in the past month but right now, I just want to share our joy. Please meet our daughter, Miss Colette Marie Zestilia Nixon. ♥
Oh today. Oh today was a day. A day full of frustration, tears, and emotional craziness. I’m blaming it on the baby. (Cause the nurse at my midwife’s office said I could.)
I didn’t sleep well last night and it really p*ssed me off that my husband slept so soundly that elbowing him didn’t even stop the snoring (like it usually does). I’ve been having contractions all weekend, getting excited because I thought we were on the road to LABOR (woo hoo!), but all the contractions basically stopped last night. My diabetes has been acting up and that is just plain infuriating. When it was an appropriate time to get up today, I ran bath water, only to discover that we had mud and dirt in our water line (apparently there have been a lot of water main breaks in our city lately), so that meant using baby wipes to try to clean myself up as best I could. We weren’t put under a boil water advisory but I have my doubts about trusting our plumbing…at least just yet. So, here I am, dirty hair, feeling gross, exhausted, annoyed with this whole labor/not labor/labor thing that my body is going through, my pregnancy enhanced sense of smell is giving me all kinds of chances to accept a little extra suffering (nothing like a sweet, chemically, cancer smell in the afternoon…gag me!), I’m finding Facebook to be extra annoying, and my husband and I are running late for my midwife appointment. On the way to the appointment, my husband is kind enough to make a joke that brings me to tears (poor hubby) and comments that he thinks our van is about to fall apart (oh joy). To top everything off, I just felt guilty. So, so guilty. Why? Because I was totally succumbing to the emotions & hormones. I was totally falling into the BLAHS that (I understand) are fairly typical at this point in a pregnancy. I was blaming being a crazed maniac on our baby…our poor, innocent, stubborn baby.
Harold and I lost a baby 2 years ago. He measured just over 9 weeks “gestational age”. After our miscarriage, my doctor said that there was no reason to try to figure out WHY we miscarried. It “just happens” sometimes. I went through some ups and downs in the months following our loss. It seemed like I was having more ups when I found out a good friend was pregnant. Everything just seemed so easy for her! She got pregnant without even “trying”. I remember thinking, as she progressed in her pregnancy, that it seemed like all she ever did was complain. “My back hurts. My feet are swollen. I have gas. Pregnancy is so hard. Blah, blah, blah.” I just kept thinking that she just didn’t understand how blessed she was…how amazing it was that not only was she given the blessing of conception (which is hard enough for enough of us) but she was having a good & healthy pregnancy that seemed easy (at least from an outside perspective). She not only got to be pregnant but she got to keep her baby, too. I had nice things to say about miscarriages, a positive spin, things I held on to that gave me great comfort (and are all very true) but that doesn’t change how badly I would’ve loved to have been able to carry my first pregnancy to term and raise that child, too. I mean, it’s amazing that our child was given a “go straight to Heaven” card and we are the parents of a saint, but my mother’s heart still aches for the little soul I would never get a chance to know, at least on this earth. I always thought, if God ever blesses us again, I will not complain at all, no matter how bad it is!! (Harold likes to remind me that I said that.) So, now I feel guilty. We lost a baby and then struggled for a year and half to get pregnant again. We got pregnant and I’ve had such an easy pregnancy. (I don’t think I’ve complained that much, either.) I felt so guilty today, wallowing in my exhausted self-pity, because I know I am suffering for such a beautiful BLESSING. I KNOW that everything is okay and God will take care us. This baby is so worth a crappy day. (Ok, I know we’ll have more crappy days to come…but you don’t need to burst my bubble just yet.) There are so many couples who suffered through more miscarriages than we have, longer periods of infertility than we have, and would happily suffer through a day of crazy hormones if it meant such a blessing was theirs. I am sorry for complaining about being blessed. I am sorry if my complaints have caused anyone else pain. I am sorry for being a really crappy friend and not understanding my friend. I think it’s hard for us when we realize that just because we are blessed, that doesn’t mean that the blessing comes easy, free, or without some kind of suffering. Pregnancy is a blessing. That new, eternal soul that you’ve been allowed to participate in the creation of is a blessing! Whether that soul ever lives a day on earth or only lives in Heaven, they are ALIVE. Blessings are wonderful and beautiful things and we think that they should all be easy BUT we suffer from sinful choices. We are broken and fallen and when our first parents ate of that lovely fruit, everything that was supposed to be easy became difficult. So, blessings (of many kinds) are wonderful but we shouldn’t be surprised that they may also come with their share of suffering. Even if you have the easiest pregnancy & labor/delivery in the world – you still have to raise the kid & you’ve been blessed with the GREAT responsibility of helping that kid get into Heaven. You are given the task of molding a little disciple. Wow. What a blessing. ♥♥♥
So, as I sit here, airing my dirty attitude, I am trying to embrace the back pain I’m currently feeling, and I’m thankful because that small suffering I’m experiencing right now is a sign of the great and tremendous blessing my family and I have been given.
I know you can find “How to Name Your Baby” lists all over the place…cause I’ve read many of them. I just decided I’d add my two cents, especially because as prepared as I thought I was, I was still surprised by some things we’ve encountered as we’ve discussed baby names. Below is similar to the process we went through.
Step 1: Have you and your spouse make a huge list of every name you like. Consider family names (either to include or automatically veto), biblical names, Saints’ names, etc. (If your spouse is like mine, then he won’t bother with a list. He’ll just add a couple names to yours and then proceed to veto nearly everything, including some of his own suggestions.)
Step 2: Play the veto game on each other’s list. (He vetoes names off your list and you veto names off of his.)
Step 3: Start trying to combine names into first and middle combos from both lists (cause that’s just nice).
Step 4: Say the names out loud, like they may be said in various situations (like your kid is in trouble, you are cheering for them, they are graduating, passing the bar, arresting a suspect, being arrested, etc).
Step 5: Think of any possible nick names, especially mean ones and decide if you like the name enough for your kid to learn to live with whatever you come up with. (Kids are genius when it comes to making up nick names, especially mean ones, so don’t stress too much over this part).
Step 6: See if your child’s web “real estate” is available for the various names you’ve picked. Try first/middle combos as well as first/last, nicknames, etc.
Step 7: Veto more names.
Step 8: Pray. A name is a powerful and important thing. It’s good to ask God what He thinks about your choices, especially if you are leaning towards naming your kid L-a (pronounced Le DASH Ah), Shi’thead, Turtle, or some other extra creative (*cough* or crazy) name.
Step 9: Prepare yourself for lots of opinions. If you choose to share the name you’ve chosen or names you are considering with people, prepare yourself for unsolicited “advice”. Like “What about this name (that neither of you like and vetoed before ever hitting Step 1)?”
Step 9.5: I call this 9.5 because it is also about preparing yourself…for people to express abject disappointment and to almost seem rejected by your name choices. Really, it happens. You don’t want to name your kid after great-great-great-Grandpa Dickie and someone gets their panties all in a bunch.
Step 10: Unless you KNOW the gender of your baby and are absolutely certain about baby’s name – AVOID getting anything monogrammed until after baby is born and you settle on an official name. I can’t be the only person who’s name was changed at birth. My mom didn’t KNOW if I was a boy or a girl (cause they didn’t have all that fancy technology in the dark ages) but had a gut feeling that I was a girl. She called me “Amanda” throughout the entire pregnancy. Then she met me. My name is NOT Amanda. Amanda doesn’t appear in any form, in any way, in any part of my name. She met me and KNEW that I would never be an Amanda. I had to be a Rebecca. (Good thing for me because my husband’s ex-girlfriend’s name is Amanda. My MIL disliked her INTENSELY and I don’t think things would have gone as well if my name brought back memories of her.)
Step 11: Name your baby and tell the rest of the world to take their opinions and shove it. Ultimately, this baby is being entrusted by God, to you, and that includes your God-given authority to curse your baby with whatever moniker you want.
Step 12: Buy your baby’s web real estate (their website). Even if you aren’t going to “do” anything with it. This ensures that some crazy cat lady or escort or moonshiner or mercenary or amateur “film” maker or evil master-mind, etc., who just happens to share your kid’s name, won’t be able to buy it and use it for their own nefarious purposes.
I wish you all good luck with naming those babies!!
Occasionally, your kid still ends up nameless, even after following all 12 steps. Then you pull out Step 13 and just ask your kid. Our daughter was nameless for the first 3 days of her life on the outside. We had trouble deciding between the two names we’d narrowed it down to, so we asked her. “Are you a …?” She frowned. Ok. “Are you a …?” She almost started crying. Ok. Back to the drawing board (kinda)! She seemed to veto both names and we didn’t feel like either name seemed quite right…something was just a little off. So, we prayed some more and checked out the list of Saints names and checked out name meanings. One name kept coming back up. It was pretty and feminine and classic sounding. It was different but not so different. It was shared by a an awesome Saint and had a wonderfully deep meaning for our family. We asked our daughter “Are you a Colette?” and we saw her smile for the first time. We figured a newborn’s smile was all the confirmation we needed and our daughter was named. Funny thing…the two names we’d been trying to decide between were Violet and Coleen. How close were we?!?
I started working on a post about The Holy Family on their Feast Day (12/30/12). I worked on it some and then saved it as a draft and kind of forgot about it. As I started looking through my drafts today it caught my eye. How appropriate that I re-read and revise this post today, 1/9/13, as this is also our first CCD class of the new year and we will be talking about The Holy Family, among other topics today. Not only will be talking about The Holy Family, but we’ll be doing a little dissecting as well. We’ll discuss St. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus and their individual roles within the Holy Family as well as what it means to be a family and what The Holy Family is like, as a unit. I’m excited to be back in class with my second graders and pray that God will give me the words and open their minds and hearts as we study and work on their preparation to receive Jesus, later this spring, in our Most Blessed Sacrament, The Eucharist. When I started writing this blog post 2 weeks ago, I had a love story on my mind. Well, more than one as The Holy Family is a picture of such amazing and pure love itself, but specifically I had the love story that God has written for my family on my mind and heart. He is so amazing & the gifts He wants to give us are divine. Simply, amazingly divine. So, below, you’ll find the post that I began working on last year. 🙂 To be totally honest, it’s really more about my family than The Holy Family but The Holy Family did provide inspiration!
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. I am sitting here, next to my husband, thinking about what all this means. I can’t help but hope that our baby will be born today. (Update…as of 1/9/13, I am still very pregnant. 😉 I must remind myself that everything is in God’s time & His time is perfect.) I realize there is a very slim chance that that will happen, seeing as it’s already past 3 in the afternoon and I haven’t had any kind of regular labor pains, contractions, etc & no water breakage, either. Why do I think today, of all days would be so cool for Baby Nixon to join us? Because it just fits us and our story so well. (This is actually all of the original blog post from 12/30/12 that made the final cut. LOL. Oh, who doesn’t love some editing and revision.)
Everyone has a love story. Really, we all have a few of them. The love story of us and our families. The love story of us and God. The love story of us and our spouse (no matter if our spouse is God, The Church, or a person). Every love story is supremely unique and so very special but, of course, everyone thinks that their personal love story is just a little extra unique & special. I tend to fall into that camp and happen to be of the (biased) opinion that the love story I share with Harold and our family is something a little extra special.
I could go all fairy tale on you (to be honest, I do LOVE a good fairy tale) but I won’t. 🙂 Everything about our relationship was a (to quote a Julia Roberts’ movie) “wrong fit right from the start”. Harold did not like me, at all. He didn’t find me to be attractive and thought I was a little too…well, too much, I guess is as good a way to describe it as anything. He liked girls with dark hair and dark eyes. He’s always found girls with an ethnic background, specifically Latina girls, to be particularly beautiful. What am I? Light hair, light eyes, and fair skinned. Northern European (whole lotta German & English in my background) through and through. Thankfully, he’s always been a bit of a chubby chaser, so one plus for me. So, almost no physical attraction on his side. What about me? Well, I didn’t find Harold to be all that attractive, either. He had a very young face and NO chin at all. Nothing, nada…he went from face to neck (not totally true…he just had a very “soft” chin). I also thought he was a little strange, a little quiet, a little too sensitive, and a little too meek. Also, he liked to talk philosophy. PHILOSOPHY?!? Ugh. Our personalities didn’t mesh (he told me I was simply too brash & I thought he was a mama’s boy), we weren’t physically attracted to each other, and every time we talked or hung out he always swore to himself that that would be the absolute last time. He really wanted nothing to do with me. And what now? We’re married. We’re madly in love (mad is a sometimes a big part of that) and we have one child in heaven and one in oven, due any day now. I can say there is no way we would’ve moved beyond personalities not meshing and the total lack of any physical attraction if it weren’t for God. He had to be at play in our love story. There had to be some divine intervention. (Just FYI…I find my husband to be ridiculously attractive and sexy now. He tells me how beautiful I am and that he can’t believe he didn’t see it the first time he saw me.)
I struggle with my prayer life. I always have. It ebbs and flows, like I’m sure many of yours does. I’ve always known how important it is to pray for your spouse, even when you are single and have no clue who your spouse may be. To know something and to do it are two different things entirely. I did not pray for my future husband. I’m sorry for that. Harold did. When I say Harold did, I mean that Harold prayed for MY future husband! He also prayed for me. He would kneel at the back of our church, under a picture of The Holy Family, light candles, and pray for me and my future husband. He was positive that I was a good girl, who needed a good man, and that man was NOT him. He figured that man would need the prayers. He figured I did, too. He was right about almost all of that. 😉 We’d been dating for nearly 6 months when Harold confessed this prayer habit to me. He still wasn’t sure about anything. I fell hard the instant he told me he’d been praying for me all that time. That’s our love story, well at least the beginning of it. My husband faithfully prayed for me (and him, he just didn’t know he was praying for himself), even when he didn’t like me. That is love. I am thankful. There are plenty of cute stories I could share with you. Plenty of ups and downs, plenty of inside jokes. Harold loves to make me laugh & he’s pretty funny. Those are stories for another post (maybe).
Harold and I had been dating for about 2 and 1/2 years when he decided to propose. He always said he would never ask twice BUT he actually did. 🙂 Most of the time I share the story about the first proposal but this time, I’m sharing the second. Harold took me to our church, to the back corner and we sat down. There were some older ladies in the church praying the Rosary and Harold didn’t want to draw attention or make a scene, so he told me I wasn’t allowed to cry. He asked me if I knew where we were and why were were there. I did not (I mean, I knew we were in church but you know what I mean). He pointed to the back wall, where the picture of The Holy Family was hanging and told me that we were sitting in the very spot where he used to kneel to pray for me. He knelt under The Holy Family and prayed for their intercession for me and my future family. Since it seemed to be God’s will that Harold was part of that future family, he thought it appropriate that this was the place he proposed. He dropped to one knee and pulled out my engagement ring. A pearl, surrounded by three interlocking circles of diamonds. The ring is full of a lot of symbolism, too. I did cry (very quietly…nobody noticed) and I said yes.
Sometime in the next three weeks or so, our baby will be baptized in the same corner of our church, under the same picture that Harold used to kneel under to pray for us and then that he knelt under to propose. I can not think of a more perfect place for our baby to welcomed into our Church family than that spot, under The Holy Family, where Harold and I agreed to start down the road to building our family. Icing on the cake…our baby’s baptismal garment is being made out of material from my wedding gown. Our baby will be baptized in a gown made from the gown I was wearing when our family was created before God, our extended family, and friends.
Our baby was baptized on February 3, 2013. This is a picture of our family standing in front of that picture of The Holy Family.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with The Simpsons, other than I’m watching a rerun as I write this post. I got you to read the first line or so, though, didn’t I? 😉 I’ve been thinking about humility a lot lately. I mean A LOT. The Litany of Humility is one of my favorite prayers. It is also one of the most difficult to pray with total sincerity. To pray for God to release you from the desire of being loved, from the fear of being forgotten, from the desire of being praised, from the fear of being falsely accused or calumniation (calumniate – To make maliciously or knowingly false statements about. – www.thefreedictionary.com). When you really stop to think about what you are asking for…what you are praying for – it’s scary. Most people have heard that you should be careful when you pray for patience because God will give you ways to practice patience Well, when you pray for humility – God will give you ways to practice it.
I was speaking with some friends earlier today about St. Ignatius of Antioch, among other things (including The Simpsons). He (St. Ignatius) was on his way to Rome, before Rome was Christian, and was fairly certain he would be martyred while there. He wrote letters to his friends and fellow Christians begging them to stand back and let him be martyred. Today, the Church would frown upon us seeking out martyrdom, like St. Ignatius did. As we were talking about this, one of my friends joked. “You mean I shouldn’t ask God to make me a martyr? How about to let it be quick and painless?” Praying for a painless, free, and quick trip to Heaven. If only it was so easy. In some ways it is. Remember, Jesus tells the rich man that all he needs to do is give away everything he owns and follow Him (Jesus). That’s not so hard, right? Right. Or not.
Just like we know the road to Heaven is not an easy one, practicing humility is a lot more difficult than you or I might think. Often, practicing humility requires humiliation. It requires a death of our pride. Our sweet, sweet pride. Sometimes I think nothing hurts more than dying pride. I pray to be free from the fear of being forgotten, so I am forgotten by those who (I think) I would never forget – and it hurts. I feel angry and confused. “Why am I so easy to forget, why am I not wanted, why don’t they like me?” These questions plague my heart and mind. “Oh, why God?” Then I remember, oh yeah, I prayed for this. Ugh. Thanks for that answered prayer, Lord. (I’m not nearly as sincere in my thanks as I should be.) I can’t develop humility on my own, by myself, because then I’m making it all about me and what I can do. That’s not very humble, is it? If I become too aware of my own humility then I run the risk of becoming proud about just how humble I am – not so humble. It’s a vicious cycle that Satan loves to use against us. All of this has been on my mind because I was recently given the gift of practicing humility. My first reaction was absolute anger. I was livid. Then, I stopped and thought about what I was feeling. I imagined carrying out many different scenarios that would assuage my wounded pride and put the other person in their place. How would that feel? Would I have satisfaction, peace, joy, or relief? No. I might feel a little superior but most likely it would only leave me one step closer to an ulcer and my heart would still be sad. I had to stop and calm my behind down. I had to stop and think about how many other people this would effect. I had to lay my pride down and walk away. It wasn’t easy – it still isn’t. I’ve been struggling with this since it happened. Part of me really wants to run back and defend myself. Part of me really wants to let my fury rain down upon them. Part of me wants to pick up my wounded pride and give it some life support. I am broken, fallen, and disordered. I want to take care of this in a broken, fallen, and disordered way. Who does that help? Satan. It helps him. He is the only one to benefit from me falling to my pride and disordered desires. It brings at least one soul (mine…possibly more) that much closer to him and that much further from God. I don’t like Satan and I have no plans of intentionally helping him out. I’m sure I already unintentionally help him out plenty.
I am prideful, fallen, and disordered. I am a sinner. A big, goober, stinky sinner. I have plenty of logs to take care of before I point out any of my brothers’ (or sisters’) splinters. Heavy logs. I desperately long to be free of them. The thought occurs to me that to be poor in something lends itself to being free. When I have no money, it’s so much easier for me to give everything I do have to someone else. When I have nothing, it is easy to share. The more I have – the more we put away in our savings account or the more material possessions we amass, the more I fear loosing it. The more difficult it is to share. I have to constantly remind myself that anything I have has been given to me by God and it is not mine to horde. I should share it and I shouldn’t be afraid. God will always take care of us, somehow. If I could be poor in pride – how free would I be?!? I would be free from feeling inadequate, defensive, vengeful, and angry. I would be free to be thankful for every little thing I was given. I would be free to love. I would be free to follow Christ and accept whatever crosses He gave me. So, I am going to pray for humility. I am going to pray for it as sincerely as I possibly can and pray that God will help remove any resentment and resistance from my heart. I am going to lay my pride and everything else down at the foot of the cross and try not to run back for any of it. It is only with God’s help that I will be able to let go of it all and truly leave it. I long for true freedom and truth in Christ and I can’t do any of this without Him.
“Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?…When Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me!” (Lyrics from Gospel Hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow)
I am a silly, cotton-brained, ninny muggins! (To be completely plain about it.) In the last 10 weeks, I have found myself stressing out over various things involved with this pregnancy. I’m not stressed about labor & delivery or what it will be like bringing baby home. I’m not stressed over being “prepared” in the least. All of my stress has involved dealing with doctors, pharmacies, and (especially) my insurance agency. All of this stress has come to naught. Absolute naught, as everything has been taken care of and worked out. So, why do I keep falling for it?!? Once again, tonight, I’ve just been reminded that God takes care of His children. He has made a way. I’m not going to go into all the messy details because it’s really not that important. What I do want to do is encourage all of you (and myself) to remember that WE are God’s adopted children and his most loved creation. He will always take care of us…ALWAYS. We have no need to fear or stress over things of this world. God will provide, in some way, in His time. He will take care of us and we will always be okay!! Hold onto that. Be encouraged. Know how greatly you are loved. We are all loved. Our God provides for the smallest bird of the air, He will provide for us, too.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, no matter what trials are foisted upon you, what struggles are laid at your feet, what temptations you must battle, or whatever kind of spiritual warfare you find yourself in – hold fast to the knowledge that God loves you best of all His creations and He will take care of you. For a little added comfort…remember that this world is fleeting and this is all temporary. There is a much bigger picture to keep in mind, one that we can’t really see in totality. We are living towards an eternity.
“Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“Humility, however deep it be, neither disquiets nor troubles nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy and tranquility. Although, on realizing how wicked we are, we can see clearly that we deserve to be in hell, and are distressed by our sinfulness, and rightly think that everyone should hate us, yet, if our humility is true, this distress is accompanied by an interior peace and joy of which we should not like to be deprived. Far from disturbing or depressing the soul, it enlarges it and makes it fit to serve God better. The other kind of distress only disturbs and upsets the mind and troubles the soul, so grievous is it. I think the devil is anxious for us to believe that we are humble, and, if he can, to lead us to distrust God.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”- St. Augustine
“As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
“The highest point of humility consists in not merely acknowledging one’s abjection, but in taking pleasure therein, not from any want of breadth or courage, but to give the more glory to God’s Divine Majesty, and to esteem one’s neighbour more highly than one’s self.” – St. Francis De Sales
“Humility makes our lives acceptable to God, meekness makes us acceptable to men.” – St. Francis De Sales
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” – St. Augustine
“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.” – St. Vincent de Paul
“We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble.” – St. Teresa of Avila