The Prophetic Message of Humanae Vitae

It’s been 50 years this July 25th since Pope Paul VI released the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life).

There’s even a documentary about it that is being screened across the country.

There’s so much to be said about this prophetic letter, negative and positive. Most people talk today about the negative effects – how it caused such a rift between the Church, between priests and bishops who didn’t agree with the Pope’s message, between Catholic couples who ignored it altogether, between secularists who thought the Church was being old-fashioned and “should just get with the times.”

No matter what your feelings are on the Church, one cannot help but read the letter (it’s only 6 pages) and come to understand that, tragically, what Pope Paul VI predicted has come to fruition.

Section 17 of the document is the most “famous” for what the Pope saw as the notable and disastrous effects on society if birth control were to be embraced, namely – increased marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, reducing women to mere objects, as well as the government and public authorities imposing their use on everyone.

Plenty of theologians and people smarter than I have written extensively on Humanae Vitae. I added a new section to the blog specifically for it.

As for me and this post, I just thought I’d offer some common sense logic as far as this document goes and express my thoughts on what I came to understand after reading it for the first time a few years ago.

First, a fun fact: Did you know that long before Pope Paul VI wrote HV, there already was a 100% guaranteed effective method of preventing pregnancies? It’s called abstinence.

Not the most glamorous word. Not a word that gets us very excited. It’s pretty blah, I admit. But maybe that’s because it’s not a virtue. It doesn’t take PRACTICE to be abstinent.

It DOES take practice to be chaste, though. And that challenge of practicing chastity, especially with someone we love and are deeply and completely devoted to, is difficult for people to adhere to. And I think, at least in my opinion, this is a key reason why so many folks became bitter and dissident from HV. They don’t like being told what to do.

And all they saw/heard when this document was released was “No.” But they never heard the WHY. They just heard a Rule and didn’t hear the love behind it. It’s really a pity because Pope Paul VI was just trying to do what the Church does – Mother us. Guide us. And protect us from going down a destructive and sinful path.

So let’s look at each of the main predictions and see how they match up to today’s reality:

  • Decline in morality and uptick in divorce

Last I checked, despite the controversy over the ACTUAL percentage, it looks like around 42-46% of marriages end in permanent separation or divorce.

Among some studies I found, many of them ask participants open ended question of why they got a divorce and infidelity was in many of the top 5 most common answers.

So what’s the link between infidelity and contraception? Well, I had never thought of it this way, but think about it – Men who cheat/women who cheat won’t do it if there’s a possibility of their spouse finding out, right? But how would they know? If the woman gets pregnant.

So where does the Pill come in to play here? Well, if a woman is taking a contraceptive that prevents her from becoming pregnant, you can clearly have an affair much more easily. And if she does become pregnant, she can always get an abortion and the “problem” goes away. And no one is the wiser.

What is argued from the pro-life Catholic perspective is that the Pill tells the man and the woman that sex is all about pleasure. We’ve eliminated the possible outcome of a pregnancy so we can just “have fun” with no consequences.

But that’s not pleasure – that’s USE. The man uses the woman for her body only. And the saddest part is hearing other women argue against this and say that this is crazy talk. But it’s not. It’s the truth. Maybe that’s not the INTENTION of the woman. Because of course, who the heck wants to be used and then discarded once the man gets tired of her? But this is exactly what the pill/contraceptives do.

Another way women are treated as objects is through exploitation in prostitution and human trafficking. According to Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone.  “Women are seen as one-dimensional objects – commodities – to be bought and sold in this “modern-day slavery.”

And then you have women being used for their eggs through surrogacy, egg donation and in vitro fertilization.

Seriously though, what happened to our moral compass?  I try to think, for me, personally, how was I influenced as a youth/young adult? Who did I look to and who was I influenced by when it came to what was immoral vs moral? Of course, the Church. And the 10 commandments. But, I was also easily influenced by the culture. And when I think of the culture I think of tv and what was popular in those years. For me, when in high school and college, the biggest hit tv show that I think *most* of my generation watched was “Friends.”

Watching some of the repeats now on syndication, I am shocked at how much every single episode is literally about sex. Apparently someone with a lot of time on their hands counted 2,000 references in all of the episodes. And this was on NBC, this wasn’t HBO’s Sex and the City. This was one of the most popular sitcoms on TV in the 90’s-early 00’s.

And I would argue the quality of the tv shows on today haven’t gotten much better as far as morals. And let’s not get started on movies. Fifty Shades of Grey ring a bell?

I’m not about to blame the decline of morality on one tv show or one movie. It’s just that we have to admit at some point that things started to take a turn for the worse.

Abortion stats are widely known.For those that aren’t aware, we’re at just over 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb in the United States since Roe v Wade.

The stat on children born out of wedlock is staggering – about 2/5th’s of all births are to unmarried women. In the African American community it’s extremely high at 72%. 

I found the reason for this increase from an article particularly fascinating:

“The increased availability of contraception and abortion made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who wanted children, who did not want an abortion for moral or religious reasons, or who were unreliable in their use of contraception found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations without being able to exact a promise of marriage in case of pregnancy. These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.

That last sentence is particularly of interest. That’s the definition of the hook-up culture. Sex without commitment. It’s happening right now. It’s happening on college campuses at this very moment. And with the internet and online “dating” sites like Tinder and goodness knows what else (do we really want to know? I sure don’t) the hook up culture shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.

Keep in mind that quote above is from an article in 1996. I would argue things have only gotten worse in the past 20 years.

  • The lack of respect for women and treating them as objects

I’ve already covered this with the hook up culture and sex outside marriage (sex without commitment) but I would throw in the rampant use of online pornography and the now infamous #MeToo movement. 

  • Government would forcibly use contraception abortion and sterilization for population control.

In other words, if two people can control their own family population, what’s to stop the government from enforcing their own population control onto their countries?

The most glaring example of this was the Obama Administration and the HHS Mandate; forcing pro-life/religious organizations to provide their employees with contraceptives and abortifacients.


So what’s the Good News?

I think there’s a lot of hope for the future. I think many women, especially young women, are waking up to the fact that the sexual revolution sold them a bunch of lies. Freedom does not equal happiness and empowerment. There’s nothing empowering about raising a child alone because the father left and wasn’t ready to commit. There’s nothing empowering about taking a level 1 carcinogen that could possibly cause you to have a stroke. There’s nothing empowering about getting a ride to an abortion clinic to kill your unborn child. And there’s nothing empowering about waking up next to a man in bed after a one night stand. There’s nothing empowering about your spouse leaving you for someone else. There’s nothing empowering about finding out your infertile because you were on birth control for decades because your doctor told you as a teen that it would clear up your acne. And there’s nothing empowering about selling your body for money or drugs.

This is empowering? No, this is degrading. And women, and men, and children, all deserve better.

The answer to how the Church can fix this mess is still the one it’s always been and continues to be – Prayer. And speaking the truth in love. Women are speaking up. Mothers are speaking up. Priests and Bishops are speaking up.

Keep the conversation going.

Let’s not wait another 50 years before we speak up again.

 

 

Real vs Fake

The fake news finally got to me. The past two weeks seem to have been particularly awful with mainstream media and reporting and just “bad news” in general.

It finally got to be too much. I made a decision to try to cut back my intake of all the fake news (real news too) and made a goal for myself – No checking any social media sites once I am home from work.

It’s been almost a month and looking back, I was successful exactly 50% of the time. Not too bad, right? I kept my promise of not sharing or tweeting anything after I was home but I sometimes would fail at checking social media. On a few occasions, I didn’t even realize I failed until I found myself staring at my news feed; I had become THAT habitual about being on my phone after work.

But one day after work, I think I just had it with the news cycle in general and went to the adoration chapel to lament to God about all of this -He still loves me even when I whine and complain to Him 😉

And almost immediately I received a response:

“I’m real.”

Oh right.

That isn’t a piece of bread I’m staring at – that’s the real presence of my Lord and you know what? He’s real. And I can count on Him to give me nothing but truth and goodness and beauty.

Pope Francis attends the worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

God is real.  And God doesn’t lie.  He can ONLY be authentic and real. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “Fake.” That’s the Devil’s word. The Devil doesn’t have his own clay, so he twists and distorts what is sacred into something evil, something “fake,” something false, doing his best to pass it off as real.

And we fall for it a lot.

I know I certainly did.

So maybe it’s time to reclaim what is real and call out fake news, fake people, fake ideas and call them out when we see them.

And when the shouting and the screaming and the endless stream of bad news (fake AND real) gets to be too much, maybe retreating to one place where nothing but truth, goodness and beauty resides is the best medicine.

 

 

Why I supported my autistic daughter’s social transition to a man

I just came across this heartbreaking post from this mother of an autistic child who fell for the Transgender Ideology. Please, let’s address this from a scientific standpoint, not an ideological one!

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by FightingToGetHerBack

FightingToGetHerBack lives in the United States with her husband and 17-year old daughter Zoe. Four years ago, Zoe made the surprise announcement that she was transgender. 

FightingToGetHerBack shares her personal story to illustrate how even smart, educated parents can be emotionally blackmailed into supporting their children’s transition. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post, and can be found on Twitter @FightingToGetHerBack


  For almost a year, I actively supported my daughter’s social transition to appear as a man. I called Zoe by her preferred masculine name and pronouns, and introduced her to others as my son. I was by her side as she marched in a Trans Pride Parade, waving pink and blue flags and dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” I purchased the binder she wore to flatten her breasts.

Outwardly, I appeared as the supportive, loving mother of a transgender…

View original post 3,807 more words

Humility Month

Three years ago, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that forever changed the way our country looks at marriage as between one man and one woman. It was decided in the landmark case of Obergefell vs Hodges that same sex “marriage” was legal.

If you were on Facebook, you were inundated with not only photos and news of this  event, you had the chance to change your profile picture to a rainbow filter. You were also pressured to repeat the mantra “Love Wins” in several posts.

At the time, I probably had close to 800 “friends” on Facebook. Unfortunately for them, I had just returned from Pennsylvania where I had taken a class called Theology of the Body 1 – A Head to Heart Immersion Course. I was on fire for the Lord and God’s plan for sex and marriage. I was really excited to share all of this newly discovered information (for me it was new, even though it was 2000 years old) with family and friends.

I recall working my part time job at the time and walking out of the store where I had just finished my shift and went on Facebook to find out what SCOTUS had decided.

My heart dropped as I scrolled thru my feed – It was inundated with rainbows. I didn’t need to read much of anything else. One look at people, some close friends, but most people I wasn’t very close to to begin with, had all of a sudden changed their profile picture to a rainbow filter, courtesy of Facebook, of course. The hashtag, #LoveWins was trending.

I knew it was my duty as a Christian to speak up. To say that this wasn’t right, that God created marriage between one man and one woman, and this is written right into our bodies as being created in the image and likeness of God.

I had read the statement from the USCCB and decided to cut and paste it:

Supreme Court Decision on Marriage “A Tragic Error” Says President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference

June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

I prefaced this statement with one simple sentence: “Just because something is deemed legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Well, that was enough to emit a bunch of responses that I wasn’t really expecting.

“Wait, so, you think being gay is a sin? That’s horrible!”

“The Church needs to get with the times.”

“What makes you judge of someone’s sex life?”

“What two people do in the bedroom has no effect on you, love is love!”

“You sound like a hater. Another Christian bigot!”

and

“What would you say to one of your nephews if they came out of the closet?”

 

Others used much more colorful language. I defended my position as well as I could. I tried to do my best to talk about chastity and our universal call to holiness and promoting the short film “The Third Way.” I referenced the Catechism but mostly I mentioned how we are all sinners in need of mercy. And of course, I referenced some Theology of the Body books and resources for those that were open to learning more.

I was surprised at some of the people, many of whom were my Catholic high school classmates, who commented or sent me a private message. Some of them expressed similar feelings to me but admitted that they didn’t have the guts to post about it on social media for fear of offending someone. Others simply thought I was nuts for believing in traditional marriage.

Fast forward to this year. We are now in the month of June, typically known as Pride Month.  This is the month when, traditionally, most Gay Pride Parades take place.

For those that have never attended a pride parade, you can simply Google Image search them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s heartbreaking and shocking. A better representation of what happens is to ask those who attend from a Catholic perspective. One of the best people to ask is a man named Joseph Sciambra. He has a great story of conversion. He wrote a book that I cannot seem to finish due to its graphic nature called “Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality and The Occult.”

Joseph attends the pride parade in his hometown of San Francisco, the biggest pride parade in the country (maybe the world?) every year and hands out rosaries and cards with his website that simply says “Jesus loves gay men.” He has posted on Facebook some of his interactions with the (mostly men) who he speaks to. The stories he tells are both tragic and troublesome to even READ.

I refuse to even type the words of what has been reported as happening during these parades because the devil isn’t someone to play with. This isn’t me being a paranoid Christian either, this is the real deal. Some legit occult-like acts happen right there on the parade route, some of the more evil ones behind screens.

This isn’t something I say to shock anyone. I say it because not too many people even know about this. They think pride parades and promoting the gay agenda is all innocent because, “no one gets hurt,” and “love is love.”  Well, I beg to differ. Read Joseph’s story or read about those who used to consider themselves gay and who came back to the Church. They may still be attracted to members of the same sex, but they have embraced celibacy because they understand to love someone, is to will the good of the other.

But here’s the positive side of social media and these silly #Hashtags and a perfect example of how we as Catholics (or simply those who aren’t religious but believe in traditional marriage) –  can change the conversation. And we can come up with our own hashtag. Case in point – After Obergefell, someone posted a painting of a crucified Jesus with the hashtag #LoveWon.

Simple and very effective.

This month, after seeing one particularly popular Jesuit priest tweeting all about PrideMonth, I took it upon myself to Retweet his thoughts (they were blurring the lines between affirming pride and sin) but with the link to Desire of the Everlasting Hills, my FAVORITE film about same sex attracted folks, and I used the hashtag #HumilityCuresPride.

Granted, that’s a long hashtag and I didn’t think anyone would start using it, but the point was to insert our faith into the culture in order to steer others towards the path to God, not sin.

So imagine my surprise when I saw #HumilityMonth was trending this morning on Twitter! A bunch of popular Catholic authors and speakers and others were using this opportunity to talk about how pride is still a sin, that of course we love all of our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of who they are attracted to, and by the way, let’s stop promoting a deadly sin!

So I thought about how I can help. How can I help steer people towards the Church? How can I share the Good News and how the Church is the antidote to our hyper-sexualized culture, not just for gay people, but for all?

My idea is this: Tweet out one line from the Litany of Humility each day with that #HumilityMonth hashtag.  It’s an amazing prayer, it’s a challenging prayer and it’s a great cure for pride. How great would it be to see Humility “trending?”

For those who would like to pray it, join me:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Happy Humility Month!

 

Overcome with Gratitude

So something random and interesting and really quite extraordinary happened to me yesterday (Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday) morning.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that it was the first sunny day in who knows how long here in Michigan.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in a good mood to begin with.

I don’t know if it was the smell of clean clothes and clean countertops in my kitchen that I just sprayed as I cleaned my apartment and did the dishes and laundry. (Who doesn’t appreciate a clean dwelling space?)

But all of a sudden, as I was listening to a podcast from Bishop Robert Barron (of all people!) and folding laundry (of all things!), I had this overwhelming sense to drop to my knees and praise and thank God out loud.

This has simply never happened to me. The urge to thank Him was simply overpowering. I was just overcome with a mixture of joy and elation and gratitude, for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t get over it!

Maybe it was the fact that I had gotten up very early and just started to clean like a madwoman. I had incredible energy and had neglected to do my “typical” routine of sitting down on my couch, opening my LOH, or praying a rosary.

I almost feel like God was saying, “Umm…Hello!? Creator of the universe over here. Are you even going to acknowledge me, my daughter? What happened to thanking me first thing? The dishes can wait.”

So I went out on my balcony, because it was such a beautiful day, and I was literally watching birds chirp in the trees and prancing (jumping?) in the grass. And not a cloud in the sky. The only other sounds coming from the cars driving by on the street. And maybe my neighbor’s wind-chimes when the breeze picked up a little.

It was simply the most beautiful scene I could have envisioned on this Sunday morning. Truly a day that the Lord had made.

I came back inside and saw my Grateful Giving prayer card sitting on the table. I had been given this little card at a church function in Cleveland a couple years ago and kept it on my kitchen table and another copy in the visor in my car. A great prayer to pray on the way to work/school/etc:

God, Creator and Giver of all that is good,

we thank you for our many blessings.

Mindful of your generosity, we acknowledge

that all that we have is from you.

Daily, we offer you thanks and praise for

the beauty of the earth, our work, our family

and our loved ones.

In the dawning of a new day, you are with us.

In each dark hour you are here.

Blessed by your grace, we show gratitude to

You by sharing what we have.

By serving our brothers and sisters,

We serve You.

As you protect and guide us on our journey,

We, your disciples,

remain ever grateful for your constant love.

AMEN.

But wait, it gets better!

This morning, I read this in the Office of Readings:

“In a word, every blessing is showered upon us, both in this world and in the world to come. As we contemplate them even now, like a reflection in a mirror, it is as though we already possessed the good things our faith tells us that we shall one day enjoy. If this is the pledge, what will the perfection be? If these are the firstfruits, what will the full harvest be?

From the book On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great

I’m pretty sure they call this an affirmation.

Because that’s what it felt like; a showering of blessings. And if I’m this overwhelmed by His goodness to little old me, how much more awesome is going to be when this is all perfected?!

As I sat on that balcony, I thought- I GET to clean!! I know it sounds so strange but how many people would DIE for the chance to have a roof over their heads to clean! Or a bed they get to sleep in. The ipad that I GET to listen to a podcast or a homily or watch a TV show or a movie, anytime I want. I GET to read all these books on my shelf, anytime I want. I GET to write on this computer for my little blog, anytime I want. I GET to text or call or email anyone in my family or my friends, anytime I want.

What gifts!!!

I get to live in the greatest country in the world where I am free to worship my Lord and Savior. I get to drive a car to a job that I get paid to fight for religious freedom and pro-life causes. And just a month ago I got to travel to the Middle East to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I’m still in the shock and awe phase apparently.

Maybe I’ll come back to this post the next time I feel like complaining about my slow internet connection, or the price of gas going up, or when I burn my toast.

Thank you God for this little life of mine.

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Top 5 Moments

I was blessed to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from March 24th until April 2nd.  A trip of a lifetime!

It’s going to be next to impossible to describe everything I saw the “holy moments” that all took place and the awesome other pilgrims I met on this trip, but I’m going to do my best to summarize in one post my top favorite moments. Here we go:


1. Basilica of the Annunciation – Mary’s House:

From the outside and this little pitiful picture, it doesn’t look like much. But this is all you can really see from the walk on your way up to it. It wasn’t until I got back home that I saw what it looks like from afar: church-of-annunciation-muzio2

This was one of the sites we went to after arriving in Nazareth. And we arrived on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation! (Although this year, March 25th was Palm Sunday so it was moved to April 9th.) But, it didn’t really matter. It felt like divine intervention that we were there.

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This is the spot where the Angel Gabriel asked Mary to the most important question and her answer changed the entire world. Quite a lot to take in as we stood there.

The inscription on the altar reads: Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est =

“Here the Word became flesh”

Here. Right here!

Later on that night we were able to come back and spend an hour of silent prayer here. I prayed Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast of the Annunciation, as well as a rosary. It was easy to become emotional in that moment as the Annunciation has special meaning for me personally. But just, when you sit there and think, “A girl of 14 or 15 years of age was approached by an angel to bear the Son of God…” I just wanted to thank her for her YES. So that’s what my prayer became.

The upstairs/main part of the Basilica is beautiful, decorated every inch with mosaics and sculptures and paintings of Mary from several different countries, including this iron one from the USA:

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2. Basilica of Agony – Garden of Gethsemane

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Some fellow travelmates and I saw a holy hour advertised at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Basilica of Agony on Holy Thursday night. Well, it was not so much a holy hour as it was an hour of standing in the back of the church for an hour with 2,500 of my closest friends. Shoulder to shoulder. This was not for the claustrophobic!

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But what made this so special was that it was during the night of Holy Thursday, at 9pm. Most likely around the same time that Jesus was praying there in the Agony of the Garden, sweating blood.

I was sweating (because it was pretty warm and several people had to leave to go outside because it was just too darn crowded) I began to pray to the Lord to align this “suffering” with His. All I could see was what they projected on the huge screens but for the most part I could only stare straight ahead at the painting of Our Lord praying at the rock.

I couldn’t get my hands on of one of the programs, but from what I understood what was spoken in English, there were 3 Gospel readings and 3 Psalms, all of which were spoken and sung in several (I’ll guess at least a dozen) different languages. We then did Prayers of the Faithful and then chanted the Our Father in Latin to conclude.

While I wouldn’t say it was particularly enjoyable, I don’t think it was really supposed to be. The crowds didn’t make it a comfortable experience, but thinking about it afterwards, it was exactly what it was meant to be: It was prayerful. I was next to a French couple, I was in front of a German family, to the left of me was a Spanish family and directly in front of me was an Arab pair of men. And I think a few American’s sprinkled in there too! The point being, we were clearly there to be with our Lord, as He suffered and prayed in that garden knowing what was about to happen to him. What a time to be present there, despite the crowds!

Here is a brief video from the service as well as some photos from our official visit to the Garden of Gethsemane later on as a group during the daytime.

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The bedrock where it is believed Jesus prayed is the stone you see me praying as well as a miniature sculpture of Jesus kneeling in prayer.

IMG_1250.jpg This is outside the Basilica and just on the outskirts of the Garden. You cannot walk into the Garden of Gethsemane although I know there are people who have been able to spend the night or spend some time in prayer there. It’s most likely doable when you don’t have a large group.


3. Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee

We made our way down towards the Sea of Galilee and into a boat that, without the motorized engine, would be very similar to the kind of boats Jesus and his disciples may have used to go fishing. After about a 10 minute “tour” and explanation of the landscape and surrounding area, the drivers shut off the engine and allowed us some quiet time just to contemplate this scene. I set my phone on the ledge and hit record, knowing this was a moment I would want to go back to again and again.

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Technology somehow doesn’t allow me to share the video of the sea to the blog so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 🙂


4. Church of the Nativity – Bethlehem

Preparing to see where Jesus was born was something I really wanted to focus on as we made the bus ride to Bethlehem. I was trying hard to just contemplate this momentous, universe-altering event in my mind. Similar to the Annunciation, I found it difficult to comprehend that I was on my way to see this spot where He was born. I had seen friends’ pictures from their trips here and I knew not to expect a giant chapel or a decked out manger. I knew it was a star in the floor and that it was cramped. 🙂

This is our group making our way down the stairs to the cave:

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I had asked one of our pilgrims to get a picture of me venerating the spot. This all took place in the span of about 10 seconds. Our guide was encouraging us to go two by two to make the line move a little faster. Of course, in my mind, I was thinking, “NO! Can I just have this one moment alone!?” But really, there’s no time to be selfish (and literally no space). It worked out completely perfect actually. As I wait for my travel-mate to send me that photo (he took it on a professional camera and I saw he got a great shot of me) I can share with you this photo I took of one of our pilgrims about to kneel down to see the spot. It’s impossible to get an up-close shot because, obviously, it’s in the ground. 29792704_10155440826477544_8312783687370828990_n

As we got back up from the spot, we noticed that hardly anyone else was down there (very rare!) So before another group made their way there, we gathered in the small space and sang the first verse of O Come All Ye Faithful.

Quite a few teary eyes as we sang this…Right here, where Jesus was born!!!


5. Visiting the Holy Sepulchre to see the Tomb and Calvary

Within the same day (Wednesday, the day before Holy Thursday) after visiting the Church of the Visitation and some other sites, we hopped back on the bus assuming we were going to check-in to our hotel just outside the city walls and just a 15 minute walk from the Holy Sepulchre.

No sooner do we get on the bus and we were told, “We’re not going to the hotel to check or to have dinner yet. Surprise! We’re going to the Holy Sepulchre, NOW!”

Having no idea of the amount of crowds that were no doubt making their way to the Holy Land this week and most likely a lot in the next few days, our guide thought it best to go now to be guaranteed a visit to the tomb and Calvary.

Before getting into my experience, let me share some photos I took myself and then some MUCH BETTER photos so you can truly grasp what this all is. Because I must say, if you’ve never been there, it can look really confusing.

After waiting an hour in line, we made our way into the tomb. This is the entrance to it:

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Another view of the entrance to it (taken on a different day during a procession):

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This is a shot of Calvary:

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And underneath that small altar is a hole that you can reach into with your hand and touch the rock that Jesus was crucified on:

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Since you may be thinking, “What am I looking at?” I did the leg work for you and found some better photos of all the Holy Sepulchre contains:

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An outline of Holy Sepulchre
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The outside of Holy Sepulchre
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A view from above inside
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A view from around the edicule which houses Jesus’ tomb
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Jesus tomb
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Calvary/Rock of Calvary (under altar)

Hopefully these photos make it a little more clear.

As for the experiences themselves, at first it was quite rushed. No one can really spend more than a minute at Jesus’ tomb. I think the longest it ever “felt” that someone was in there was maybe 90 seconds. They definitely keep the line moving!

Secondly, we were instructed not to take photos of his tomb which I wouldn’t have anyways, I was just trying to comprehend what I was kneeling in front of. The magnitude of it all!

By the time I was done kissing and kneeling, it was time to get out of there. Maybe 30 seconds?

Knowing I’d be back there, I wasn’t too upset. We then made out way to Calvary where we waited about 10 minutes to kneel down and touch the rock of Calvary. Again, a bit rushed and not completely understanding that THIS was Calvary! It’s hard to imagine it all when you’re surrounded by other pilgrims, speaking all kinds of languages, some of them pushing a little bit, some of them taking selfies (ugh!) and many just talking a lot so if I was hoping for a moment of silence, that was never going to happen.

We then walked back down stairs from Calvary and were able to venerate the Rock of Unction:

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This is the rock that Jesus was laid on and prepared before He was put in the tomb.

That was the first experience at the Holy Sepulchre.

The second and third experiences I had there were much better, much more prayerful.

And most definitely require a separate blog post about it….

Stay tuned!

 

When We Love The Least of These…

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St. Francis of Assisi – Ann Arbor – March 3rd – 40 Days For Life Mass, Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction, Rosary Rally & Rose Procession

Celebrant: Fr. James Conlon, Pastor

Initial Reaction: Another parish, another giant baptismal font! 🙂 IMG-8883

So I originally had plans to pray outside the Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor this day at 10am. But when I went to sign up, it said on the website that a special event was planned at nearby St. Francis of Assisi. Never one to miss an opportunity to attend a different parish for daily mass for my Daily Mass Project, I made sure to change my plans so I could go to this.

Upon walking in, I actually saw the pipe organ first. (The picture below is from Wikipedia): Saint_Francis_of_Assisi_Catholic_Church_Organ_Ann_Arbor_Michigan

And then made my way to the center to get a picture of the sanctuary and altar, where a statue of Mary was placed surrounded by the roses, which we carried later to Planned Parenthood.

 

You may also see a basket with rosaries hanging out of it; those were also provided for the Rosary rally, as we recited the rosary as we walked.

As I waited for mass to start, I just sat in silence and prayed for the priest to give us some inspiration as this was clearly a mass centered around the pro-life movement. I thought about how I hear from people in the pews who are passionately pro-life like me and wish “Fr. So and so would talk about this from the pulpit more often!” I understand this argument because I too have sat there and wished that more priests would talk about tough topics more often – divorce, same sex “marriage,” contraception, abortion, pornography. And there are priests who do in fact preach this from the pulpit and I do commend them. But I think we all have to admit – aside from the anniversary of Roe in January, do you ever hear a priest talk about abortion? Do you ever hear them mention Rachel’s Vineyard? Do you ever hear them mention the men who regret lost fatherhood?

I have a feeling people will respond to this by saying, “It’s not the time or place for a priest to talk about those subjects during a homily. Give them a break.”  And I would tend to agree with that. But, when you consider that 70% of women who are post-abortive call themselves Christian, and 1 in 4 in women in the USA will have an abortion by the time they are 45, maybe you want to say something about that? And you may be right, a homily is when the priest breaks open the Gospel and the readings and makes it relevant to our lives. How can he possibly link abortion to a Gospel? I agree that’s not such an easy thing to do. That’s probably really unfair to ask a priest to do that.

On the other hand, we can’t just keep ignoring it. It’s happening in our world. Right now. Today. 3,000 babies are killed every day in the United States. I for one, think, that’s worth discussing.

I understand the risk of “losing” parishioners if they hear a message they don’t agree with and walking out. I was one of them! I heard the most ridiculous mission talk from a priest when I was 22 that made my blood boil. What was the subject of his talk? SIN. I was too stubborn at the time to realize that he was speaking the truth.

I thought to myself, “I can’t believe that I attended a church with all these hypocrites!” Looking back, obviously, I was convicted. And we can choose to stay or we can choose to leave in those moments. And I “left” (meaning I didn’t go to mass the following Sunday, had a particularly heartbreaking chat with God shortly after, and came back).

But I didn’t really acknowledge what I had heard from that priest until a decade or so later. I stayed in denial about sin for a LONG time and avoided confession because of it. And finally, 15 years later, I was in a place where I was ready to hear the truth (again) and this time, I embraced the faith, instead of running from it. And I pray for the conversion of those who haven’t stepped foot into a church because they fear condemnation. I pray that they will be led back to the fold and the laity will embrace them as a fellow sinner and lead them into the light. That doesn’t require a passionate and amazing homily from the priest (although it would be great!) – that requires love and compassion from us in the pews. So it starts with us.

Homily Reflection:  Fr. started by thanking us for our witness for the unborn. It was the feast day of St. Katherine Drexel, who was a very wealthy socialite turned religious sister. She was determined to bring love and hope to a world so full of hate and evil. Her family had a great heart for those who were seen as the “lowest.” She saw them as her brothers and sisters in Christ and grounded all of her work in prayer. And prayer is what Fr. said we ourselves, as we set out to process to Planned Parenthood to stand up for the unborn, prayer is what we needed first and foremost.

He also mentioned that we all have gifts from God. And we can use these gifts to promote a culture of life; we can use our voices, our presence outside clinics, our writing skills (holla!), our time, our talents, to promote the kingdom of God.

He said as the baptized, we bear the stamp “Property of Jesus Christ,” on us at all times. We may tarnish it, but we wear it. Ain’t that the truth? I can relate to that. How many times have I tarnished this “stamp?” But I still wear it, messy as it is!

As for abortion and the culture of death, Fr. James said that there are many who promote choice, who try to silence the Christian message, to put it to the side and so, make it a private matter because then it can be controlled and not visible.

But the Saints never did that! We will find ways around these clever maneuvers that abortion advocates will try in order to silence us!

We need to remember that it is God alone who creates and ends life.

Life does not end in butchering. It ends in the promise of eternal life.

The witness of love is always greater than the witness of death


Can I get an amen people!?

After mass there was Exposition and Benediction and Father read some beautiful prayers centered around the unborn, family, motherhood and fatherhood and pro-life efforts.

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We then processed out singing Hail Holy Queen, as the servers carried the statue of Mary the ENTIRE way to Planned Parenthood. What a great witness to see young men carrying Our Lady and leading us as we prayed the Rosary!

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Many people honked their horns in support of us, a few gave us the middle finger (As an Ohio gal, I wish I could just say it’s a “Michigan thing,” but we all know that’s not true) 😉  And one beautiful daughter of God shouted at us from her car. I couldn’t make out what she was saying but it was something along the lines of, “Why don’t you pray for the children already born?”  To which I would tell her, We do.

As we arrived at PP we chanted the Salve Regina. We then placed roses on the island outside Planned Parenthood, which I later found out is public property.

 

I just want to thank 40 Days For Life Ann Arbor Chapter for putting this awesome event on. What a gift to be able to spend part of our day marching and praying and worshiping on behalf of the unborn.

It’s not too late to get involved in your local 40 Days for Life chapter. It’s NEVER to late to stand up for the unborn. Click this link to find your local chapter and sign up for an hour to pray outside the clinic or find out to get involved in other ways. You could literally save a life!