is known as the patron saint of athletes, but do you know his story? An early martyr,
he was unique in that he was martyred twice. A covert Christian he joined the
Roman Army in 283, living in a time of intense Christian persecution in Rome. He
rose in the ranks of the Emperor Diocletian’s Praetorian guards (elite body
guards with special intelligence responsibilities) to have access to the
imprisoned Christians so he could encourage them. Though hard to verify the details
of his life, the stories handed down contain him converting many to the faith
including those in prison, the prison guards, officials, including the local
prefect, and their families. One preserved story tells of the official named
Nicostratus and his wife Zoe. Zoe was mute for six years and upon her conversion
was discovered in 286. He was sentenced to death by a firing squad of archers.
St. Ambrose in his 4th century history described him as being shot
full of arrows like an urchin. Left for dead, he was later found to be alive
and nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome.
Now, I think
most of us in this situation would cut our losses and get the heck out of Dodge.
Not Sebastian, he was cut from a rare cloth. He confronted a stunned Emperor Diocletion
in public renouncing his inhumane treatment of the Christians! He courageously
stood up against injustice and it cost him his life. He was then sentenced to
death again by clubbing.
is the feast day of St. Sebastian, this year it happens to coincide with
another great man who courageously stood up against injustice- Martin Luther
King, Jr. MLK, Jr also died for his cause. Today there is still injustice, injustice
against the unborn comes to my mind. We need brave men and women to stand up
and endure the “polite persecution” as Pope Francis puts it. This means your
life is not at stake, but you may be judged, laughed at, or worse for being
Christian. But just as St. Sebastian was shot full of arrows, but persevered,
so we must be able to take the blows of life and continue to fight the good fight.
St. Sebastian exemplified in his life inspired us to name our son Sebastian. We
were devastated to discover while our son was in the womb that he had HLHS
(Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) or half a heart. We knew he would need the strength,
courage, and endurance of St. Sebastian to survive the series of open-heart
surgeries necessary to save his life. And we figured if we got the miraculous
healing we were praying for he’d probably be a great athlete : ) Coincidently,
it seems that both arrows and the name Sebastian have been trending over the
past few years.
An arrow can
symbolize different things to different people. From tattoos to home décor they
are everywhere it seems. They can signal journey, direction, protection, friendship,
evil or something that pierces your heart. When I see an arrow, I think of St.
Sebastian, and I think of our own journey. When we received our son’s diagnosis,
I felt like I was shot through the heart. I have a decorative plaque with an
arrow that says “You are my greatest adventure” and that reminds me of our
Sebastian and his heart journey. I also had a heart mom friend, not knowing
anything about Sebastian and the arrow, give me a necklace while in the hospital,
that had an arrow charm and a dogtag engraved with “be brave and keep going.”
Do any of my
Catholic friends remember the hymn, “Blest be the Lord?” I never hear it
anymore, but it is a classic from my childhood. The lyrics go like this, “Blest
be the Lord, blest be the Lord, the God of Mercy, the God who Saves, I shall
not fear the dark of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:5), I
haven’t heard it in years maybe decades, but the words are so familiar to me. The
song goes on, “I need not shrink before the terrors of the night, nor stand
alone before the light of day. No harm shall come to me, no arrow strike me
down, no evil settle in my soul.” I have to wonder if Saint Sebastian was
familiar with Psalm 91. It is such an encouragement in trying times!
year 2000 when the name Sebastian cracked the top 100 it has rapidly climbed up
the charts. According to the Social Security baby naming data it was ranked #18
in popularity in 2018. I don’t know what accounts for this increase in
popularity. Maybe people like that unlike other traditional boy names, it has
stayed only a boy name. (I’m not judging here, our daughter Charlotte we call
Charlie). While a lot of people probably still think of Sebastian as the crab
from Disney’s The Little Mermaid; I hope now maybe you will also think of a heroic
saint worthy to be a namesake. Trend on, Sebastian! St. Sebastian, pray for us!
The other day (Oct 11) the Idaho Statesmen, a newspaper based here in Boise, ran an article that took my breath away. A friend sent me the link asking if I’d seen it and it opens with this from the AP:
Hevan Lunsford, a nurse in Alabama, was five months pregnant when a doctor told her that her fetus was severely underdeveloped and had only half of a heart. She was told the boy, whom she and her husband decided to name Sebastian, would need care to ease his pain and several surgeries. He may not live long, they were told.
Lunsford, devastated, asked about ending the pregnancy. But the
doctor said Alabama law prohibits abortions after five months. He handed
Lunsford a piece of paper with information for a clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, a
roughly 180-mile drive east.
“The procedure itself was probably the least traumatic part of it,” Lunsford said. “Most of the laws I navigated, there was no reason for them. None of them prevented my abortion. It just made it where I had to travel out of state.”
If you don’t know my story the parallels are uncanny. We also received the devastating news at 5 months that our son had a severely underdeveloped heart, only half a heart. We also named our unborn son Sebastian. Both of our sons were loved. Both of them suffered. Both of us feel convicted to be advocates for others.
“My grief is complicated so deeply by the unnecessary stigma and regulation of abortion. I can’t just be a mother grieving the loss of her son. I have to be an advocate for my son. I have to be an abortion educator. I have to be a political activist. It’s exhausting.” Hevan Lunsford.
I wish I knew more about Hevan’s son Sebastian. I wonder what would cause pain in the womb of an underdeveloped baby, and how would they know it is in pain? Or was the choice to terminate made more out of the very real fear of pain or suffering. I was surprised to learn that one of the myths of doctor-assisted-suicide is that it is often chosen in cases of pain and suffering. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition did a documentary The Euthanasia Deception pointing out that our medical practices are generally very good at controlling pain, but it is a fear of pain, decline, and/or being a burden, that more often motivate people to end their lives. They are not in a current state of pain. In searching other articles about Hevan’s story she is quoted saying, she “took the pain upon herself so that he would not ever feel a moment of agony.” This makes me think the baby wasn’t in a current state of pain, but that if she went through with the necessary surgeries for survival with half a heart he would be.
A couple things annoy me about the way this is presented. First off, it talks about “ending her pregnancy.” Birth ends pregnancy. In abortion what ends is the very real life of a baby that has not been born yet. In the other article, she says it was “palliative care.” She is a nurse, she should know how misleading it is to use the term “palliative care.” Palliative care is not a cure, but a medical plan to make patients as comfortable as possible as they live out the days God numbered. It does not unduly prolong life, but the intentional termination of life is prohibited. Part of the very long definition of palliative care that many institutions use includes:
Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death, affirms life, and recognizes dying as a natural process.
Morana’s book, “Recall Abortion” she dedicates an entire chapter to fetal anomalies.
Reading her book years ago was the first time I had ever heard of “perinatal hospice.”
Even in situations where the outlook is grim, the baby may not make it to birth
or may only survive minutes, hours, or days, there are choices better than
abortion. Perinatal hospice allows babies to be loved and cherished for as long
as he or she lives naturally. It is better for the unborn child not to be
poisoned, shot through the heart with digoxin, or worse. But it is also better
for the parents. As Morana points out, “Parents are able to plan for the birth
with the support of doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, and family. Babies are
bathed, dressed, cuddled, and surrounded by the love every baby deserves, and when
they die, it is with the dignity every human being deserves. Parents who choose
perinatal hospice still have to deal with the grief that comes from losing a
child, but studies have shown they can deal with that grief much better than
women who choose late-term abortion.” Dr. Byron Calhoun, a pioneer of perinatal
hospice in the 90s, discovered that when offered 75% of couples choose life
over abortion. I can’t help but wonder
if Hevan and her husband had been offered perinatal hospice.
Half a heart (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – HLHS or could have been a hypoplastic right side which is easier to correct surgically) is fatal after a few days without intervention. When our Sebastian (we call him Ian for short, get it? SebastIAN) received the prenatal diagnosis of HLHS we were given “compassionate care” as an option. Compassionate care would let our son die naturally days after birth, we could even take him home if we wanted. We chose to let him fight! Ian had his first open-heart surgery when he was one week old. He suffered, we suffered. Though I will say I don’t think he was in excessive pain, fentanyl does a pretty good job! The things he will never remember -and we will never forget! Praise God, our reality now is so far removed from the pain in the past! But in that darkness, we found a new appreciation for the light. Christ our light and our love who has prepared a place for all of us. Christ is Love personified. And those who work for Love, Truth, Peace, Beauty, and Goodness work for Christ! They may not acknowledge or recognize Him but He is all those things! Those who love Truth or love authentic Beauty love Jesus!
The story of the Lundsfords and their little Sebastian is heart breaking. It breaks my heart not only for Sebastian himself, but also for his parents. God’s plans are hard to understand sometimes. It is hard to trust a plan that involves suffering, a plan that involves a heavy cross on a little baby, a heavy cross on Mommy and Daddy. Finding out such devastating news at 5 mo pregnant gave me 4 months of agony in the garden. My constant prayer was for a miracle, if possible Lord let this cup pass, heal our son, if it be according to Thy will.
He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father,* if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
I know that God has a plan and infinite contingency plans! I know that abortion breaks God’s heart. I know God’s heart breaks for Hevan Lundsford as well, He feels her pain too. He wants to heal her pain and extend his bountiful mercy. There are people he is sending through ministries like Rachel’s Vineyard that can help. I don’t look down on her, I look up to God and see how he wants to shower her with his grace and fill in all her wounds and holes with love.
Many Fridays during 40 Days for Life I would pray at 3pm. The hour Christ died, and darkness fell over the land. Meditating on the Passion, the Stations of the Cross, the last moments of Jesus’ mortal life on earth is sad. The lamb led to slaughter. (Though we know the happy ending!) Praying outside an abortion facility while abortions are going on like I did this past Friday is dark. It is okay to feel sad and lament, it is good to let abortion break your heart because as I’ve said I believe it breaks Jesus’ heart too. You’ve perhaps seen the recent coverage that David Daleiden’s undercover work at Planned Parenthood has exposed more gruesome details about the sale of aborted baby parts. The fetal hearts were harvested alive. It’s not just your heart that breaks but your stomach that turns. How can we combat this evil?
As Fr. Frank Pavone reminds us, we aren’t fighting for victory, but from victory. How sweet the victory Christ won for us through his own suffering! My husband and I have endured quite a few rough patches on this journey with our own warrior Sebastian and have paths unseen ahead, but we’ve been graced with God’s friendship. Now we enjoy “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible!” as Casting Crown’s song Thrive puts it.
Revisit that song. Such a powerful positive light-filled message! Lyrics: “It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive!” To spread that joy, is to make God’s heart happy! How many people can you help to heaven? Can you help others find peace on earth? Sometimes, God calls us to dark places, like abortion facilities, to bear his light, his love, and his truth. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Ian, you are a light in the world and I will not hide God’s story in you under a bushel, and I’m certainly glad I didn’t let the devil blow you out!
engineered to be irresistible. I recently noticed a foreign exchange student had
quite the affinity for them. I wasn’t sure if she was on her way to a Cheetos
addiction or if Cheetos are one of those things that know no borders.
it reminded me of the story of The Cheetos that Pierced my Heart, a story that validated
for me the power of fasting.
Eight years ago I joined a peaceful 40 day prayer campaign for an end to abortion called “40 Days for Life.” It encourages participants to not just pray, but to also fast for this special intention. Being a cradle Catholic I had fasted during Lent my entire life. I saw it as a voluntary sacrifice, an offering to Christ for all he sacrificed and a way to unite myself to Him in a small way. I never saw it as a spiritual tool, never had used fasting for a cause or special intention. I quickly grew and learned that fasting gives my prayers wings and amplifies them in my effort to storm heaven.
Well, I had a special intention that I really wanted to intensify in prayer. After having my own children, I was really struck by what a gift a child is. I could hold up my baby and it was just so obvious that this child came from Heaven and God’s heart. Scott and I weren’t the average couple that gets pregnant within 3 months of trying. It was painful personally and as a couple, as anxiety and uncertainty about our fertility mounted month after month. Thus, my special intention was a dear friend “Anna” (and her husband) and their family planning. You know the couples- the 1 in 8 that struggle with infertility for years. I had fasted off and on for her a day here and there in traditional Catholic style- two half meals and one full meal, no snacks. But I wanted to give something up.
Now, I see
where you’re going, it seems lame to give up Cheetos, right? Well, maybe it
was. But at the time I had introduced my young daughter to them and found
myself buying them two bags at a time! With next to zero nutritional value, I had
previously resisted Chester Cheetah and his tasty crunchy snack, but once I started
with the “kid food” I opened a flood gate of desire from those salt-loving
taste buds! So, I decided to give up Cheetos for Anna and her family planning,
keeping in mind that the endpoint of this fast was indefinite.
In addition to 40 Days for Life teaching me about the power of fasting, it really did cement in my spiritual life the power of prayer as well. So as the months turned to more years for Anna I organized a prayer campaign! Not 40 days, but 9 days (Catholics know this devotion as a Novena, but I wanted to keep this ecumenical). I created a Facebook event entitled “Prayers for Anna” and invited any Facebook friend that wouldn’t be offended by being asked to pray with me. I also emailed people like my aunts and mom not on Facebook. Would you believe she got pregnant?! Sadly, she miscarried the baby. The prayers and the sacrifices increased on my part and I extended my net to include all those struggling with infertility. She did get her bouncing baby boy eventually! In the grand scheme of things, I wondered, did giving up Cheetos for ~5 ½ years really matter?
Last summer, I got my answer. Ian my then 3-year-old son had to have another open heart surgery. When you have HLHS or half a heart any surgery is major. But his surgery was especially so because not only did they re-route blood changing the blood flow of his body they also unexpectedly had to reconstruct his aorta. Two major surgeries in one. The recovery was quite rough. You could tell he just felt like garbage. Our poor boy was super nauseous and vomiting for days and days. The medical team tried everything g-tube feedings fast and slow, enemas in case he was blocked up, nothing worked. He would not smile, he was super close to having a psych consult because he was so depressed. Even Daddy and Paw Patrol Marathons couldn’t cheer him.
of the Nurse Practitioners said no more g-tube feeds, put him back on his
normal diet on his terms. She advised me to go to the grocery store next door
and get some low fat potato chips (part of his post-op protocol was a strict
low fat diet), something we can get him excited about. I go next door and they
don’t have any Baked Lays…BUT I found Baked Cheetos. My heart just leapt when I
saw those. I knew these were going to be perfect. Bright orange, crunchy, messy
and irresistible. Sure enough, six days after surgery, the first thing that Ian
ate and held down of any significant quantity was Cheetos! That night he asked
for food for the first time. He was sitting up in bed for short periods,
smiling and we even got him to laugh. We were able to be discharged a few days
later! God winked at me through Cheetos. And that answered my question. Yes, our
prayers matter and our sacrifices make a difference. I’m so thankful for all
those praying and rooting for us from heaven and earth. Padre Pio and lots of
other prayer warriors helped us all pull through that difficult time.
40 Days for
Life is gearing up now! Join hundreds of thousands of prayer warriors at one of
505 location world-wide! Visit 40daysforlife.com The next campaign to end
abortion using prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil starts September 25th!
He was splashing . . . . enjoying the jungle’s great joys…
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.”
Horton Hears a Who! By Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss’ character Horton the elephant in the book Horton Hears a Who! is a champion for equal rights. Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” seems tailored to fit the rights of the unborn human. A human too small to be seen or heard, but a person non-the-less. However, Dr. Seuss did not write Horton Hears a Who! with commentary on the abortion issue in mind. It was written in 1953 after a trip to Japan, where Theodore Geisel came to a realization that he, like many post WWII, harbored a hatred and prejudice against the Japanese, which contradicted the dignity every person deserves. The book is dedicated, “For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.”
Theodor Seuss Geisel was known as a liberal democrat, though he never publicly shared his position on abortion. Depending on the source- his widow or his foundation- reportedly said that it is not right for pro-lifers to hijack his story for their own purposes. However, we are not hijacking his story, the story was written as an illustration of equal rights for all. No matter the color of skin, their size, or their physical maturity. Abortion is the human rights issue of our time.
Horton, being an elephant, has very large ears and can hear the plight of the “Whos” when the kangaroo and other jungle creatures cannot. This reminds me of a song lyric, “For the Lord hears the cry of the poor.” In the case of the Whos, who live on a speck of dust, no one can see them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people cannot hear them, and perhaps some people choose not to hear them. Horton hears their cry and at a great personal risk and expense protects them. He is the laughing stock of his community, but does not back down. He even tracks them relentlessly to ensure their protection after they are kidnapped, begging
“Please don’t harm all my little folks, who
Have as much right to live as us bigger folks do!”
Who are the poor? Can you see them? Do you hear them? It is much easier to deny they exist than to accept that you are perhaps blind and deaf to their needs. Is being pro-life just about the unborn? Undeniably, the unborn and crisis mothers are in need of our attention and compassion. Pro-life or Respect Life can be surmised in the word “dignity.” It is about upholding the dignity of all life. There is no greater assault on the human person than that of abortion where they are willfully and legally exterminated like a pest. So we must minister to the hungry, the homeless, and the helpless, but their needs are not above those of the unborn and unknown “somebodies.” We are many parts, but we are all one body. I can use my unique gifts to help mothers and unborn children, to feed the hungry, and help the blind see, etc And I know that there are other parts of the body, other people in my Catholic/Christian Community, that answer the call to minister to the poor in the many other necessary ways such as visiting the imprisoned, educating the unlearned, and caring for the sick and handicapped. Do we have enough help? No. In every area there are people that are still forgotten and left hurting. Are there people that are not answering God’s call to serve His people?
“Are you sure every Who down in Who-ville is working . . . is there anyone shirking?”
We need everyone in the body to do their part. It starts with respecting the dignity of everyone you come in contact with. Kindness and respect should not need to be earned. You will never regret being kind.
“I think you’re a fool!” laughed the sour kangaroo .. You’re the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool.”
It is hard to really love. To sacrifice for the good of another without getting something out of it for yourself is cautioned. Horton plays the fool so well. Both in Horton Hatches an Egg and Horton Hears a Who! we see this lovable elephant risk not just his reputation, but life and limb to protect those smaller than himself. The “polite persecution” as Pope Francis has called it, we do not risk our lives to live out our Christian faith, but it is more of a social suicide. If you live out your faith too loud, you’re just weird. You could also be instantly painted as a racist, bigot, ignorant, judgemental, etc just for sharing an opinion on moral truth contrary to the rampant relativism. In other parts of the world persecution goes much beyond this, such as the Easter tragedy where sadly hundreds of Christians died attending Easter Sunday services in Sri Lanka.
I’m not sure why Dr. Seuss picked the 15th of May. But anyday and everyday is a good day to begin to recognize and seize the heroic moments in our lives. Kudos to Horton for risking it all for the equal rights of the marginalized. So take a little extra time talking with that elderly person so often overlooked, buy an extra jar of peanut butter for the food bank next time you’re grocery shopping, and when a big chance comes to change someone’s life don’t be afraid to be uncommonly generous. A martyr is someone who dies for Christ. A living martyr is someone who lives for Christ. As a whole we live our own lives, we live for ourselves, our own pleasure, profit, and satisfaction. And we feel good about ourselves when we give a little here and there. But like Horton we need to hear the cry of the lowly and fight for them with great vigor and vim. Are you willing to be hauled, mauled, and humiliated?
Heart Month! My 3-year-old son Ian has HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). He
was born with half a heart and has undergone 4 open heart surgeries among other
procedures. There have been ups and downs, but he is a light in our lives and
instead of dwelling on all the uncertainties, we try to see everyday as a gift.
Currently, he lives a fairly normal life. #halfthehearttwicethefight is one motto
in the HLHS community. I think another hashtag could be
the HLHS community lost the second oldest known person living with HLHS. She
was 38 years old and her surgeon Dr. Norwood was an important pioneer of the
life-saving operation that allow people like my son to function without a left
ventricle. My son had his “Norwood” surgery when he was 1 week old. Sometimes
people will ask me about Ian’s life expectancy. Usually an awkward silence
follows. The answer is we don’t know. The oldest people living with HLHS are
our age. Scott is 38, I am 36. Technology keeps advancing and the medical
community continues to learn more and more. The highest risk of death is in the
first 5 years. We don’t dwell on the reality that there is no guarantee of 40
years, 20 years, ten years, or even tomorrow. Ian’s life, though we know not
the number of days, is certainly a gift. Nobody knows the number of their days,
however, heart parents have a much more acute sense of how fragile life can be.
When we lost
Ian’s little brother Gus during the second trimester of pregnancy it hurt. (FYI
Gus died from a nuchal cord, no heart or other defect) And part of the pain was
a fear that God was somehow using this loss as a dress rehearsal for a greater
loss. His funeral was a very beautiful experience for me. It reminded me of our
wedding (oddly) and I felt very connected to my God and my Catholic faith. I
finally understood not just in my head, but in my heart the glory of the
resurrection. And we found peace in our submission to God’s will.
I am 28 weeks pregnant a benchmark
also known as “obviously pregnant” where strangers will comment on my expectant
condition. Before I was showing, I confided our joyful news in a non-family
member who I thought could use a little cheering up. I was surprised at his
reaction, “You’re having another one? After all you’ve been through?” I was
quick to reply, “Oh yes, we have faith not fear.” Twice the faith because of
I am reminded of the oft quoted verse from the great Tennyson poem:
“‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
We chose love, and I don’t have to defend myself for that. We chose love in a free, faithful and potentially fruitful way. Yet, there are plenty of people who question having “more children” especially after having a child with a “defect.” Scott and I put the pen in God’s hand, not knowing if His plan included more children for us.
about love, right? Love your partner, love God, and know that by God’s loving
design new life may spring forth from that love. But society wants to terminate
the connection between choosing love and life. One can choose to love their
partner with their whole body, but then flush, dismember, or shoot through the heart
any strings attached. God’s design connects the body and the heart. And though
a baby may not ever be given a birthday, for many women a child is born in her
heart the moment she learns of her baby’s existence. You can terminate the
pregnancy, but you can’t sever the heart strings to the soul. You can only
perhaps let your heart grow cold, the unfeeling heart will never feel the pain of
Human Rights month. Martin Luther King, Jr day, January 21st fell one
day before the 46th Anniversary of Roe v Wade the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the
United States. This anniversary was particularly tragic as New York state legislature
picked that day to strike another blow to the legal protection of unborn
humans. Shouldn’t being a human be the only qualification to be granted the
most fundamental human right, a right to life? A right to exist as every other
member of our species once existed, and not be willfully and intentionally
killed. As slaves were once considered property of their owners, so too the
unborn are considered property of their mothers- literally at their disposal. The
abortion debate is the human rights issue of our time.
What strikes me about the above sentence is the phrase, “to give birth to a child.” If it is given birth (wanted) it is dignified with the designation “child,” but if a woman elects an abortion it is the dehumanized “pregnancy” that is terminated. The right to choose is the right to murder via age discrimination an innocent human being. I gave birth to 3 children, but God gave them life. And as Mother Angelica sums this whole debate up so concisely, “Let no one call to death someone God has called to life.”
The fear of Roe v Wade being overturned and state abortion laws then being enforced, we will see more and more of this debate. States may allow abortion up to 24 weeks for any reason like the New York law does. This puts the lives of all “defective” children at risk. Children like Ian who we learned at 20 weeks would be born with half a heart. Half the heart, twice the fight. And he has fought hard. He has fought through shunts that were too small, paralyzing agents, delirium, partial blindness, partial paralysis, permanent vocal cord damage, feeding tubes, kinked breathing tubes, long hospital stays, nausea, vomiting, bouts of being blue and too many pokes, tests, and tears. Oh my brave boy, my conquering hero. You are my greatest adventure.
No one said
it would be easy, they only said it would be worth it. Looking at my boy he was
so worth the fight. And I believe few people regret giving their “imperfect”
children the chance to fight. I know what it is like to be pregnant and
uncertain ….. fearful of the future. What
kind of life will we be able to give him? How will his disability affect my
other children? He has changed my life no doubt, he has given me abundant joy. God
gave him life, and I gave him birth. Choose love. Choose life. Choose joy.
I see some God-fearing individuals getting depressed at all the potential negative consequences laws such as the one passed in New York. It breaks my heart to think of little ones like Ian being aborted, having their ending written before their story really began.
“Once upon a time there was a very young child created out of the heart of God . . . . . .The End.”
by 800,000+ Americans who each year think they can write a story better than God and choose abortion over life.
The story may be a drama, but let me tell you, it is also a love story. A love story that points to the greatest Love Story ever told. The cross, the Christ, the kingdom. Let your faith be greater than your fear. Continue your pro-life efforts and ramp them up if you can. There are 101 ways to build a Culture of Life. Seek the ways that God is calling you, and step by step we will march closer and closer to justice for the unborn.
I’d like to close with four great quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How do they speak to you?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to
“Our lives begin to end the day we
become silent about things that matter.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite
40 Days for Life Fall Prayer Campaign is at an end. In some ways my husband and I feel disappointed in ourselves as leaders. We are keeping it going, but we are falling short of the ever present goal to keep it growing. We have ~80 faithful folks that have been making ripples over the years praying peacefully for an end to abortion, standing witness to the dignity of life, and offering hope, help, and mercy when asked. But to make waves we need more (prayer) power!
Maybe the following encounter I had last week on the sidewalk will inspire others to join us.
A young woman pulled up in an SUV, got out, and headed in my direction. Not knowing if she was a “friendly” or not I took a deep breath. “Hi” I greeted her and she responded in kind asking me if that was my sign. The sign reads “Praying for Moms and Babies” and “Pray to End Abortion,” I said yes. She told me she had something to tell me. Still not knowing which way this was going to go, I nodded for her to continue. She told me that she was once 17 and pregnant. She made an appointment at Planned Parenthood and when she drove up there was someone outside praying with a sign, just like me. She said she was too embarrassed to get out of the car and that she drove away. She continued quickly to add, breaking into tears, that she is so glad that she did because now she has the most amazing 6-year-old boy! I was crying too with joy and told her I was sorry she felt embarrassed but I was so glad that she drove away! What courage! She asked if I wanted to see a picture, to which I gave an exuberant, “Yes!” He was such a charming cutie, with dimples and everything. She told me, “I bet you guys catch hell out here.” I laughed it off, “Yeah, sometimes.” She continued, “Well, I just want you to know that what you’re doing makes a difference. It made a difference to me. And I am so thankful for people like you. I just can’t imagine my life without him.” The crying turned to hugging.
I got his name, but respectfully won’t share it. I asked if she didn’t mind telling me if he was born in Idaho, which he was not, he was born in California. We hugged again before she left. What a beautiful young lady and I know as a mother myself there are hard days, but I’m so glad she carried through her trials and is able to live with no regrets.
40 Days for Life has had a presence in Ada County (where Boise and Meridian are) for over 7 years and where “only” 1047 abortions happen per year in Ada County (according to the Health and Welfare statistics of 2016). There are that many and more that happen every month in Los Angeles county. I have always had a sense that we are not just praying for an end to abortion here at our specific facility, but everywhere. And if you pray on a day the clinic is closed your prayers are not wasted. Somewhere someone’s life is in the balance. An unexpectedly expectant mother could be weighing her options at home, or sitting in a parking lot somewhere having second thoughts. When you see a woman on the phone pacing in the parking lot the intensity of your prayers increases as well as your sense of mission.
Needless to say, the validation that young lady gave me was a blessing. I wish each prayer warrior could see or hear in a more tangible way the difference our prayers makes. When you don’t get a lot of saves, you have to just keep showing up on faith. And it is harder to walk by faith than by sight.
We do catch hell sometimes. We’ve had several people stop by to thank us for reminding them to donate to Planned Parenthood. We also for the first time had someone show up and stand beside one of our strongest prayer warriors with a sign that read, “My Body, My Choice.” Contrary to the thoughts of some, participants in 40 Days for Life don’t need to get a life. We are there because we feel called by heaven to do something about the grave injustice against the unborn known as abortion. I am recalling the Sir Edmond Burke quote I included in my Statue of a Rabbit blog several years ago,
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Are good men doing nothing about abortion?
Is there something you can start doing today? Yes, Spiritual Adoption. There are 121 days between now (the end of the Fall Prayer Campaign) and when the next 40 Days for Life campaign starts March 6th (Ash Wednesday). That is 347 babies on track to die in Ada County alone between now and then. What I propose to all my fellow prayer warriors is to spiritually adopt three children. That means you name them and pray for them every day for the next 4 months. After all, pretty much all babies in Idaho are aborted in the first 4 months of life (and the majority everywhere). It is not done because it is illegal; Doe vs Bolton (ruled on concurrently with Roe vs Wade in 1973) made it legal to terminate a pregnancy through all 9 months -past the point of viability. A fact that many Americans out of touch with the issue do not realize. It is not done past 24 weeks in our area because there are not any doctors willing to do the procedure that late.
I would recommend making up your own prayer for Spiritual Adoption, however you can use your favorite search engine and find one easily like this simple one I found by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen,
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of ___________ the unborn baby I spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion. Amen.”
Prayer is powerful, and so is your vote, your financial support of life-affirming organizations, and the many other ways we live out our values. The more out-spoken you are the more hell you may catch. But remember while you may not feel you are winning any popularity contests with your pro-life convictions; your Savior didn’t win friends or popularity contests either. Barabbas won his life and freedom in the particular popularity contest coming to mind. Christ on the other hand, in losing, won eternal life and true freedom for those who walk in His footsteps. He walked leaving footprints left, right, left, right; I see his followers making strides in love, truth, love, truth. If you are trying to follow God’s will and feel like you can’t win for losing, keep trusting God’s providence because Christ wins in the end.
The word “catholic” means universal. One of the cool things about being Catholic is that all over the world the same readings are used during Sunday Mass. So roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have been looking at the John Chapter 6 also termed the “Bread of Life Discourse” throughout August. You can use the link or I included an excerpt as a refresher. Specifically, it starts with the feeding of the 5000 men with five barley loaves and two fish (the 5000 isn’t counting the women and children so it was really many more than that in case 5000 isn’t impressive enough). Towards the end in John 6:55, Jesus gives the difficult teaching “My [Jesus’] flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” So difficult in fact, many of his disciples, after just being astounded and amazed by the miracle of the loaves and fish, “returned to their former way of life” and no longer followed him.
The Real Presence of the Eucharist does take some mind bending. How can something that looks like bread, feels like bread, and tastes like bread actually BE the Body of Christ. Jesus spiritually becomes physically present. Transubstantiation (the conversion of the bread into Christ via the priest acting as Christ) is a miracle, it is shocking precisely because it defies the senses. Although it exists and is consumed under the species or appearance of bread (and wine) it is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. “It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh-is of no avail.” What defines a person is not their human body but their spirit. A body can and will change. Think of a class reunion. Twenty years or 50 years later- same old Class Clown, etc. Now skeptics might be thinking that is convenient you have no tangible evidence. Well, science doesn’t have to be able to prove something for it to be true. There are numerous philosophical truths, say about the existence of love, that can’t be proven through the physical sciences.
Now if you want physical evidence to prove the Real Presence using science, it does exist. There are a host of Eucharistic Miracles (pun intended ; ) documented through the ages. For example the host turns into real flesh, with veins, and the wine turns into coagulated blood that will be a dried stain, then at other times appear fresh. I am reading a whole book of accounts of Eucharistic Miracles. Blind scientific studies on the specimens have been done showing the flesh is striated myocardium of a male with AB+ blood type (heart muscle tissue of a blood type very common among Middle Eastern nationalities). It blew my mind to hear that they did a comparison from two different miracles around the world and they matched! Here is a well done video about the Buenos Aires Eucharistic Miracle in 1996.
I can’t help but draw parallels to another difficult teaching. Life Begins at Conception.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, 2270 “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”
How can something so tiny be a whole person? A single cell, a ball of cells, an organism only days or weeks old, is a human person? Even a Kindergartener learns the difference between living and non-living things: Does it grow? Does it take in nutrition? An embryo is clearly alive and looking at the DNA (or what “it” becomes given time) it is clearly human. Not an “it” at all, even from conception the one-celled living organism was created male or female. Trent Horn, a well-known apologist from Catholic Answers makes the case for Life begins at Conception simply using science and reason not religion.
Our physical world exists within the constructs of space and time, and many people need a child to be given space and time to grow before they concede that it is a person with certain inalienable rights. But those of us that recognize the spiritual realities of the situation see that a human being is endowed with its human dignity when it first comes into “being,”… at conception, not any arbitrary stage of development. And at one’s physical conception this has certainly occurred, but could it even be before that? Before a person was conceived in their mother’s womb they were first conceived in the Mind (or is it the Heart?) of God.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5
When a baby is growing in his mother’s womb it does not eat food or drink. It is given all the nourishment is needs directly from the mother’s flesh and blood (called the placenta). And that flesh and blood sustains life for 9 months, and God’s perfect design of breastfeeding enables the mother’s body to continue to provide for her baby after its birth.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. John 6:56-57b
The growing fetus remains in the mother physically for 9 months and in her heart forever. The mother remains in the child as he shares half her DNA taking on varying degrees of her physical likeness. Additionally, the child grows and grows using the building blocks her body supplies through nourishment. A whole new take on “body building.” And just as the mother has life because of her parents and God, so also the unborn baby has life because of the mother. Thank you, Mom (and Dad ; )
All this body talk reminds me of a Peter Kreeft quote,
“Abortion is the Antichrist’s demonic parody of the Eucharist. That is why it uses the same holy words, ‘This is my body,’ with the blasphemously opposite meaning.” – Dr. Peter Kreeft
To draw the obvious lines, Christ says, “This is my Body, given up for you.” The My Body My Rights mentality: “This is my Body,” to do with what I want in the pursuit of my own happiness, even at the cost of another person’s life.
I believe in Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John that He is truly present in a humble host after consecration. Likewise, I believe that there is truly life present in that humble “clump of cells.” Out of respect for the dignity of even the earliest human being we as Catholics oppose things such as Plan B emergency contraception. This and all hormonal contraception could prevent fertilization, but it also functions, if fertilization has occurred, to prevent implantation, resulting in the death of a living, moving, metabolizing, human being. For those readers in Idaho, this November 2018 you can vote against Prop 2 for Medicaid Expansion which proposes expanding abortifacient coverage via Planned Parenthood. See Right to Life of Idaho’s FB page for more details.
The use of hormonal contraception (potential abortifacient) is widespread even among the Catholic Community. However, Catholic teaching has not changed and was affirmed 50 years ago by soon-to-be-Saint Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae stating that the use of contraception is “intrinsically evil” CCC 2370. Though a startling conclusion in modern culture, the pope really does use a lot of logic in his reasoning with such a ring of wisdom and truth it is hard to deny. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60)
In conclusion, I come back to John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that gives life.” It is in the uniquely human mind and soul that are made in the image and likeness of God. Just as God is a creator and giver of life, we instinctively love and give life. Every woman should have the right to be born. And every life deserves a lifetime.
The Gospel of John, Chapter 6:53-63
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life.*60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
It is summer! Bring on the shorts, swimsuits, and salads. Nothing like sunshine to inspire outdoor exercise. But as we reign in excess empty carbs in the name of “beach body” do we also need to take the time to “cut the fat” for our spiritual health this summer?
In the book, “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food,” Mama Bear notices that the cubs have settled into some unhealthy eating habits. After Papa Bear’s pants hit the “ripping point,” they become much more conscientious about what food the family eats. Sister Bear asks Dr. Grizzly, “About sweets and goodies-what harm do they do?” Dr. Grizzly replies, “Most of them aren’t very nourishing. Instead of helping build and strengthen our bodies, they just pile up as extra fat…And even worse-they fill you up, so you’re not hungry for the food your body really needs.”
Physical and spiritual health have a lot of parallels. They both require discipline and conscientiousness. We have to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies both physically (no mindless eating) and mentally (no mindless media). Comfort foods may have their place, at celebrations, for example, but you don’t want them taking the place of nutrition your body needs. It seems to me when looking at what’s available for entertainment there is a lot of junk food out there. The Sugar Balls and Choco-Chums Papa Bear struggles to give up could well be a trashy television program or magazine. You may have your own guilty pleasure that comes to mind. Whether getting caught up in YouTube videos of cats for an evening (did you see the ones where they get scared of cucumbers?) or a reality TV show like “The Bachelor,” for a season, entertainment has some value. But we should not allow our comforts to take the place of those things that are good for the soul. Entertainment should not upstage relationships. Relationships with other people and/or our relationship with God. Are we binge-watching Netflix when we should be calling home?
In college I would unwind with “The Bachelor” a reality TV show where a bunch of girls vie for the affection of one “Bachelor” and the dating field is narrowed down week by week before he proposes at the end. There were several of us that watched it and gushed over the unbelievable happenings. Fast forward to life with kids, occasionally I would still catch an episode, but I realized it is like Sweetsie-Cola (another Berenstain Bears reference). I don’t want my kids watching it because I know it is not good for them. Well, wait, if it isn’t good for them and it isn’t good for me why would I want to watch it? Does it do harm or is it harmless entertainment? Well, let’s ponder, is there any better way I could be spending my time during a three-hour finale?
There are so many great books out there and yet secular TV can be a lure. Much like secular radio, it is fun to listen to sometimes, but for the most part I choose Salt & Light Catholic Radio. It is actually a staple of my spiritual nourishment. It seems even only listening 30-60 minutes a day I always hear some juicy tidbit. And just like when you cut that extra sugar out of your diet; you may crave Sweetsie-Cola for a while, but eventually you see it as the empty calories it is and it is no longer as hard to resist.
“The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
~Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
What do we have on our summer reading and movie list? What about our children’s? Is it comfort food or is it something more wholesome? Are we spending time in spiritual exercise, such as prayer? Or only seeking excellence in our physical health, and settling for mediocre in our spiritual health? There is so much pressure to be perfect in everything in life and yet we know we have to balance. Social media and the internet connects us to so much information, but we end up less connected to each other. Sometimes on Facebook I feel like everyone is doing it better. So, I certainly don’t want anyone to think I’m asking them to put one more thing on their plate. But our mental and spiritual health hinge on us being as choosy about our family’s media consumption as we are about what’s on their plate. I remember the peanut butter slogan from my childhoood, “Choosy Moms choose Jif.” What else do Choosy Moms choose for their children? Books like Chime Travelers and shows like VeggieTales? I wonder if this metaphor is the foundation for VeggieTales, the animated children’s television series that uses vegetable characters to promote Christian virtue in a creative and comical way. VeggieTales are a great way for young kids to watch something “healthy.”
The recent rise in suicide rates is an indication of the mental health crisis some Americans are experiencing. I know I am not alone in wondering if it isn’t as much (or more) of a spiritual health crisis? In secular society, there is nothing that can replace God. Our lives are valuable only because we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our worth is not derived from our net income, our perfect family, or anything else. As Fulton Sheen put it, “God doesn’t love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because He loves us.” God loves us and there is nothing we can do about it! What is especially alarming to me is the increase in suicide in the youth. The rate for girls aged 10-14 tripled between 1999 and 2014, going from 50 to 150 (1). Can you imagine being the parent of one of those 150 girls? I live in a state that is chronically on the list for highest suicide rates. So it hits close to home and the tragedy of it all breaks my life-loving heart! This is the canary in the coal mine; we’ve got to bring God back. I think all the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) promotion is good. But what I would really like to see is a focus on ‘STEEM. Self-esteem.
My daughter has been a part of American Heritage Girls (AHG) for the past two years. This is such an amazing scouting organization rooted in Christian values that cultivates virtue in our girls. Yet few have even heard of AHG. They are about: Faith. Service. Fun. Such a combination for self-discipline and self-esteem!
As we relax this summer let’s be sure to keep something with substance on our reading list, and limit mindless media consumption! What’s a good book? According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “Any book which inspires us to lead a better life is a good book.” Here are some books that I read last summer or have been recommended to me for this summer. Feel free to add more titles in the comments. It takes more effort to be mindful, no doubt!
He Leadeth Me by Walter J Ciszek, S.J. “An Extraordinary Testament of Faith” by a priest who served a 25-year sentence in a Siberian work camp post WWII.
Boys in A Boat by Daniel James Brown, Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D. How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids-and How to Break the Trance.
Night Lights by Phyllis Theroux, Bedtime Stories for Parents in the Dark
People are Good by Anna Marie McHargue, 100 True Stories to Restore your Faith in Humanity.
My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell, A Spiritual Memoir that is completely contemporary and totally timeless.
Champions of the Rosary by Donald Calloway, MIC, The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon.
The End of the Present World by Father Charles Arminjon, The book that inspired the Little Flower over a 100 years ago only recently available in English. “Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life!” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux
“Occupy your mind with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones. Unoccupied, they cannot be.” ~ St. Thomas More
March has arrived and with it our Heart Hero Ian turned 3. Ian was born with half a heart -HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) How can one survive with only half a heart you might ask? Well, not everyone does. But through miraculous surgical interventions starting days after birth it is possible for most kids. The protocol involves three complex open-heart surgeries named the Norwood, the Glenn, and the Fontan.
When it comes up about Ian’s heart and the journey we’re on. Many people respond in surprise because he looks so healthy! They are also flabbergasted trying to wrap their minds around how they would or could handle such a health crisis if it had happened to their child.
The truth is it can’t be handled alone. The weight of it all will crush you, the fear will be paralyzing. When you receive the kind of news we did ~5 months into your pregnancy it feels like a punch to the gut, where the wind gets knocked out of you. You’re left gasping for air. The word “Pneuma” in Greek has a double meaning it can mean “wind” and “spirit.” For some this can lead to a spiritual crisis. The prospect of such things as the heart-lung bypass, aortic reconstruction, shunts, stents, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, open chest wounds, all to a small innocent little baby necessary for a chance at survival. It wrenches not just your heart, but your soul.
There was only one thing to do…Trust God. We prayed like it all depended on God, and acted like it all depended on us. We asked everyone and their mother and their mother’s mother to pray for Ian and a miracle. We researched and asked God if it not be his will to heal our son to lead us to the best hospital and doctors. I read something from another heart family that said,
“Give God your trust and he will give you his peace.”
We had to conscientiously keep our focus on Christ or we would crumble. I don’t think I ever knew what real fear was until this journey with Ian and his special heart. And if I’ve never really been afraid, have I ever really trusted God? We leaned on God and each other hard.
“Having a sick child can be depressing. Fear like a sneaky rodent nibbles away when you’re not looking. Nibbles away at what? My heart, my soul, my well-being. But I know that it is the devil trying to use fear to steal my joy, to steal my hope. So I keep my eyes on Christ. Christ is not just my King, but my Comfort, and my Conqueror. I cast out all doubt and trust fully in His plan. We all have plans for our lives, a Plan A if you will. But what we need to follow is Plan G, God’s plan. For God’s plan brings us the greatest graces and gives God the greatest glory!
Our situation was trust or bust. Take the peace he offered us or fall to pieces with worry. We turned over all our burdens to God and placed our son and our family completely in His hands. When you put things in God’s hands prepare to see His fingerprints! We needed a friend and mentor and one appeared in Fr. Jairo Restrepo.
Fr. Jairo was Scott’s parish priest as a teenager and married us ten years prior to Ian’s birth. Disappointingly, we rarely saw him in the six years we lived in Idaho in large part due to the fact that his church assignments were out of our area. He made a special effort to come and baptize our two daughters. Fr. Jairo’s love for children has always been apparent. Even in the naming process of our daughters, we entertained Jairo as a middle name, however being girls, it was not to be. Well, as fate/God would have it, Fr. Jairo got moved not just to our area, but to our parish in Nampa at the exact same time we found out we were expecting for a third time! What timing! I knew this baby would be special from the beginning. I literally took a pregnancy test in the church bathroom of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Grangeville on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul! We were travelling up there for a half marathon and I needed to know to what extent I could celebrate that night. That was the very end of June 2014 and Fr. Jairo started in Nampa July 1. It wasn’t until October that we found out it was a boy and got our devastating diagnosis. We turned to Fr. Jairo and he gave us good counsel, telling us to name him as soon as possible and to start a devotion to Divino Niňo.
Ian, short for Sebastian, was named after St. Sebastian. St. Sebastian lived in the late 3rd century and was a covert Christian serving as a captain of the Emperor’s guards, he used his position to encourage other Christians during this age of persecution. In 286, he was discovered and sentenced to death by a firing squad of archers. He was shot full of arrows and left for dead, “like an urchin” an early biographer described. Miraculously he did not die, but through strength and perseverance was nursed back to health. Most people in this situation would flee for their life. But courageous Sebastian confronted the Emperor Diocletian himself denouncing his inhumane treatment of the Christian people. He was then martyred a second time. The strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity inspired us to name our son after St. Sebastian.
Ian is also a form of John (Scottish). St. John of God is the patron saint of heart conditions, his feast day is recognized as either March 1st or 8th (Ian’s birthday is March 2nd his due date was March 6th). Fr. John Rizzo is the Italian priest that served as a missionary in Colombia and received the original message from the Divine Child (aka Divino Niňo) to “Take Me with you.”
We named Ian, Sebastian Jairo Naugle more than 3 months before his birth.
Fr. Jairo was shocked because his father’s name was Sebastian too! Here we wanted to honor Fr. Jairo’s legacy and we did so even more than we knew! Fr. Jairo only stayed in Nampa for one year an unusually short assignment. God sent him to us to encourage us and to assure us that God would be able to use this cross for our own personal growth and for his glory. In January, we went to the annual March for Life in Boise featuring a pro-life speaker, as we had made a habit for several years. We once again felt God making his presence known to us. Of all the pro-life speakers available in 2015 a 12-year-old girl with HLHS and her mom were featured. (HLHS the exact same rare heart condition as Ian’s!)
We saw his fingerprints so many places. Some say seeing is believing, but for us believing was seeing. There were many difficult moments when we had to walk by faith, not by sight. But because we could see God at times with such clarity, it made it so much easier to have the faith we needed to walk through the rough parts. We were faithful to God and he was faithful to us. Ian was life-flighted to Los Angeles, CA at 2 days old where there is a highly specialized pediatric cardiac surgical team and ICU. Someone in an elevator even commented that Ian’s head surgeon Dr. Starnes was as close to God’s hands as you could get. At one week old we had to completely trust the hands of God as we let go of our son and said good bye for what could be 4-8 hours, or could be forever. Our surgeon was known for having some of the fastest bypass times in the world. We’d also heard the hours feel like an eternity. After we said our good bye, we headed to the chapel of the hospital. This hospital was recently expanded doubling in size and we’d been spoiled to be in the new areas thus far. However, in 2015 the chapel was still in the old part of the building, and could be described as a glorified closet. There was a Buddha statue on one wall and something Zen-like on another, a plain cross, and some pretty stain glass windows. Then there were two kneelers and to our surprise two statues. One was the Sacred Heart of Jesus that looked like it was at least 40 years old. The other one was a fairly new Divino Niňo! We’d never even heard of Divino Niňo until a few months prior and here he was….of course he was. We ended our prayers by saying a Rosary- the entire thing Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. This is over 200 Hail Marys and within minutes of finishing it, we got the call that Ian was out of surgery in record time! Praise God! It wasn’t just Jesus watching over us, it was our Blessed Mother as well. It was more than just “watching over us” in these surreal fingerprint moments it was more like Jesus had sat down next to me while I was in daze and gave a friendly nudge with his elbow, “Hey, I’m right here.” One piece of advice that I got from a friend to help cope during the times I couldn’t hold Ian was to ask Mary to hold and comfort him. So, I did, and she did. And in comforting Ian when I could not she comforted me.
It was so hard to see our son in such a fragile state. As a parent seeing your child struggle is one of the hardest things. We became a reflection of our son, when he was blue (literally) we were blue (figuratively) and in those early months of life he was mostly blue. We clung to every sign of hope as he slowly showed signs of progress during those first days after surgery, but were devastated when he fell short of benchmarks like breathing on his own. It was such an emotional roller coaster and so hard for our family to relate to our anxieties. Who can relate to having a child alive only because he is hooked up to 6 different machines? And then a passing word of encouragement to a fellow Heart Mom developed into a friendship. After complimenting her on eating healthy for baby, we struck up a conversation. Most of us moms were all pumping our brains out storing milk for the day our babes would hopefully be healthy enough to digest milk, in the meantime they subsisted on what we called intravenous Gatorade. After our short conversation she wanted to introduce me to her Josie. Would you believe that Josie had recently been given a statue of Divino Niňo from her great aunt and had it prominently displayed in her room?! We became fast friends with Josie’s parents. And I know that God sent them to us, and us to them so we could encourage each other.
Why was it that while in such a low place in our lives we saw so many glimpses from high places? I have only told you about a few of them. I believe it was the power of prayer. Not just our own fervent prayers, but those of family and friends living in heaven and earth. We had a litany of saints and relatives we asked to pray for us. It could also have been our willingness to trust God to the point of surrendering our will to His. Abba Father, He is the potter and we are the clay, the work of His hands. Put your life in God’s hands and see His fingerprints as he shapes and molds you. God has made us into better people through this hardship. Our marriage is stronger and the love we have for our children is more ferocious. Our faith is unbreakable and there are other fruits as well. As we look to the future Ian will have to have his Fontan in the next 3-6 months. We seek and surrender to Plan G; it is trust or bust. Jesus, I trust in You.
Happy Feast Day St. John of God, patron saint of heart conditions!
Be Yourself. Do What You Love. Dream Big. Follow your Heart. Each new year brings a universal call to self improvement. New Year’s Resolutions, because you have to be resolute in your determination to change. Synonyms of resolute are: firm, stanch, unyielding, stubborn. Does it seem sometimes that the slogans found on girls’ t-shirts and Target home décor are at odds with the underrated virtue of self-discipline? I mean, “be yourself” doesn’t that kind of imply “don’t change” shouldn’t we all try to be better than ourselves?
Do what you love? Is that even financially responsible? I much prefer “love what you do,” after all happiness is about perspective. Dream Big seems like it would set up lofty unachievable goals of high powered jobs, mansions and ponies, maybe even a convertible like Barbie; all destined to fall short with feelings of inadequacy. But more bothersome than that is the implication that our unbridled dreams would even hold a candle to what the Lord wants for us. We will always be limited to our own imaginations, but seeking, finding, and following God’s will for our lives is the joy on the journey. Joy that fills us up and overflows isn’t found in the things dreams are made of. The best things in life aren’t things. Do I follow my heart or follow Jesus? Can I do both? What does Jesus say about the hearts of men?
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” Mark 7:21-23
It seems to me that if you are following your heart you may very well be following folly. Our hearts are part of our bodies so there is something carnal and instinctual about that, but they are also the center for love so there is an emotional feeling component too. Can we trust our hearts? Cue early 90s Patty Smyth, “There’s a danger in loving somebody too much, and it’s sad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.” I’m gonna put my bet with trusting Jesus and encourage my daughters to do the same no matter what their shirts say. Importantly, we should ask the Lord to purify our hearts then we can follow them!
“A clean heart create for me, God.” Psalm 51:12
Sin feels natural. It is easy and comfortable and feels good in the beginning. The devil preys on the weakness of the flesh and the blindness of the heart. The Tempter is gratified as we fall to gluttony- YES have a 3rd slice of deep dish pizza. He fans the flame of our anger in hopes we’ll use stabbing words with those we love the most. He will inflate our egos so we look down on everyone else and even dwarf God. He can make lust feel so good it would seem impossible for it to be wrong. The seeds of all the deadly sins are already in our hearts he just tills and tends (often using our secular culture) and watches our sin take root.
Hark! Hear the intellect and use your will-power! We can conquer nonsense with reason and sin with virtue! The Lord may be mysterious, but He is reasonable and rational, thus to some extent He is knowable in our hearts and minds. So take advantage of the Lord’s mercy, if you are Catholic use the sacrament He gave us to wipe the slate clean. Confession isn’t something we have to do, it’s something we get to do! Start a new page and overcome whatever is holding you back in life. What sin is coming between you and a deeper relationship with God? New Year’s Resolutions may be secular, but they are a great opportunity to reflect on where we can improve in our lives. How can I better my physical, mental, and spiritual health? I recently read (can’t remember where now) that if the devil can’t get you to do the wrong thing, he will try to get you to do the right thing wrongly.
A bit of a zinger! Are we doing the right thing wrongly? That devil is so sneaky! I recently read a tidbit about St. Margaret of Antioch; she is often depicted as defeating a dragon. Legend holds that while she was imprisoned for her Christian beliefs the Devil in the form of a dragon devoured her. However, she escapes by the power of her crucifix which caused the devil to regurgitate her. This story may seem all fiction, but I can see the spiritual truth. She lived around 300AD a time when Roman emperors went out of their way to persecute early Christians unto death. St. Margaret after much enduring in the way of medieval torture faced certain mortal death. The devil appeared in the guise of Despair and tried to consume her using fear. However, he completely underestimated the resolve of her faith and she roils in his belly (or lodges in his throat if you prefer that version) because she is holding onto Christ Crucified. The cross, the only place where suffering and persecution make sense. And from Christ Crucified she draws her spiritual weapons of hope and blessed assurance conquering the Dragon in the face of Death. And who could say if it was Christ working through her or if she was working through Christ? Where does one end and the other begin, it is an enviable intimacy with our Savior. It seems some of the most compelling love stories are those of forbidden love and we see in the stories of consecrated virgin martyrs how love always wins in the end. Although some details maybe lost or stretched through time you can hardly contest her martyrdom. Margaret’s love for Christ was so strong she was willing to die for it and her death converted and inspired many. And she got her happily forever after with her Beloved. Instead of being myself I want to be like St. Margaret the Dragon Slayer!
Similar is this zinger:
“If the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.”
Speaking of slaying, can we also slay some of our busyness in 2018? My husband and I are intentional in keeping our schedules managed in part for our sanity, but also because it seems when schedules get crammed it is God that gets crowded out. Many Christians go to Church on Sundays because Sunday is the first day of the week; God is our first priority. So as you begin to write on your new page be resolute to: Put God at the top, Be a better version of yourself; Do what the Lord of Love wants you to do, Dream in God’s Big Ways, and Follow your heart AND intellect.