Catching Hell for Heaven

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 Real Presence in the Womb

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)

See Top 10 Reasons to Use NFP and perhaps you’d be interested in the Culture of Life Symposium celebrating Humanae Vitae in Boise Oct 19 & 20 (2018).

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.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.

Too Much Spiritual Junk Food

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

Trust or Bust

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!” ~Regular Joan

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.

Statue of The Divine Child (Jesus) aka El 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 after baptizing SebastIAN NICU-style.

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!

Follow Your Heart and other Bad Advice

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.

St. Margaret of Antioch by Raphael

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.

Overpopulation Overstated

I’ve noticed that some pro-choice people are all about personal choice as long as you don’t choose to have “too many” children. Sadly, “too many” is defined as more than two! Families of four or more children, take a lot of heat from the public at large. We’re talking online comments, grocery store remarks, and rude whispers. I was horrified to hear a fellow mom tell me that a man told her “Your family is a burden on society” in front of her children! I remember reading a Yahoo Style story about a cute birth announcement where they were announcing #7 (it really was cute I wish I could find it). The comments were pure vitriol. I browsed the first dozen or more comments and they were all negative! A common theme in some of these anti-family comments was “save the planet!” or “<derogatory name> don’t you know the world is already overpopulated!” There are some people who think we can’t end abortion because logistically what will happen to the world if we have any more people.

Is this idea of overpopulation fact or fiction? The fact is the population did triple between 1950 and 2000 and those that promote “population control” would have us believe that it will continue tripling every 50 years. The UN Population Database has Low, Medium, and High Variant projections for population. It was universally pointed out in the articles I researched that historically when they’ve made these projections in the past the Low Variant has always been the projection to come to pass. I used four primary sources: Dr. Janet E. Smith’s essay Contraception Why Not?, Fr. Frank Pavone’s articles via Priests for Life, and Human Life International’s recent article How the Church Must Respond to the Overpopulation Myth by Fr. Shenan Boquet, which mostly reference their own sources in their articles and sites. What the low variant projection shows is that in about 30-40 years the population will hit the 8 billion mark and then actually start declining.

So why did the population boom from 1950 to 2000 and why won’t that trend continue? The population increase first occurred because of all the medical advances prolonging life. In places like Pakistan the life expectancy actually doubled! If life expectancy doubles, the population doubles. But it makes sense that if life expectancy went from 35 to 70, it would be impossible for it to double again. The second major contributor to the population boom between 1950 and 2000 was a dramatic reduction in infant and child mortality rates. Better healthcare and nutrition leads to higher infant survival rates. I don’t know the exact numbers but you can imagine how implementing widespread use of vaccines and antibiotics alone would lead to a small boom in population that would not be expected to be repeated. So the population trend has nothing to do with people having more babies. In fact it is happening in spite of people having fewer babies.

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that family sizes have dramatically decreased over the last 50 years. We are almost on the brink of a population crisis … an underpopulation crisis. Can this be true? As Dr. Janet Smith points out about 15 years ago the UN started simultaneously holding conferences on what to do about overpopulation AND what to do about declining populations. Fr. Pavone mentions that over 70 countries, representing half of the world’s population, people live in an area that is below replacement rate. What is the replacement rate? The replacement rate is the average number of children a woman must have in order to maintain the population. In developed nations it is 2.1, in underdeveloped nations it is 3.1. Most of Europe is under 1.4, Japan is at 1.2.

Why is there this prevalent notion that the world is overpopulated? In a word, poverty. Poverty exists so it must be because there are too many people! In Jason Evert’s book Saint John Paul the Great His Five Loves, he tells how

“John Paul believed that the solution to poverty is not to reduce the number of innocent poor children, but to reduce the number of corrupt rich politicians.”

He goes on to say “the cause of poverty is not the poor. It is war, inhumane political systems, lack of education, and an unjust distribution of resources.” Now some critics of the Catholic position on birth control will claim that it exacerbates the poverty in overpopulated third world countries. To this Jason notes, “Distributing birth control pills in the barrios might reduce the number of children, but it won’t improve the living conditions of the living. Although Western nations often try to impose “family planning services” on developing nations, the poor rarely clamor for access to it. They possess enough wisdom to view children as their greatest treasure.”

I thought it was funny the way Dr. Janet Smith puts it as she apologizes to a group from Zimbabwe about Western solutions.

“Your people are hungry? You need more condoms. Your people are dying from diseases? You need more condoms.” ~Dr. Janet Smith

What she is getting at is before 1993 the UN had programs to help develop infrastructure in third world countries. Industrialized nations have more stable population growth and less poverty largely due to more education and better access to food and healthcare. The more education men and women receive the smaller the family size as people wait until completing their education to have families. Also a more educated populace produces better candidates to support better healthcare and other infrastructure. What changed in 1993? The UN put in place population control programs (pushing contraception and abortion) and if third world countries did not participate they would not receive any kind of aid such as health care, education, or financial incentives for industrialization. has a series of 1-2min videos that cover a lot of these sorts of topics. I recommend watching them. The UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities) was founded in 1969, the year after Paul Ehrlich of Stanford published The Population Bomb a book, in which he “expertly” gives doomsday predictions such as this one,

 “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” ~Paul Ehrlich

The UNFPA has been involved in government programs throughout the world that deny women the right to choose the number and spacing of their children, such as the infamous “One-Child Policy” in China, uncovered by the US State Department in 2001, afterwhich the United States pulled its funding of UNFPA. But sadly, it still gets plenty of support from what terms the “Wealthy West.” Even without government support wealthy private donors set up programs for “Free Abortions” like the program highlighted on the front page of the Idaho Statesmen a few weeks ago. Couldn’t that money be better spent? According to  writing for Human Life International (HLI) “Since 1996 the United States and other developed nations have spent over $65 billion on anti-life programs in Africa – $150 billion in countries around the world – with little to show for it except paternalism, exploitation, and violation of peoples and cultures.” HLI Regional Director, Emil Hagamu, in Anglophone, Africa puts it like this:

“Africans need assistance with infrastructure. We need to have good roads. We need to have good hospitals and medicines. We need to have good schools. We don’t need condoms. We don’t need contraception. We don’t need abortion.”

In addition to poverty and propaganda, I think urban overcrowding also affects the perception of overpopulation. Poverty and urban overcrowding tend to go hand in hand. In 2003 I participated in a GATE program (Global Awareness Through Experience) sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at Viterbo University and travelled to Chiapas Mexico the poorest state in that nation. What stuck with me from that trip is how our economy in the USA affects other economies, which may be more fragile. Everyone feels like their economy is the most fragile, kind of like everyone feels like the place they live has the most unpredictable weather. I’ve heard many times, “That’s Idaho weather for you!” Wait what? Boise, Idaho has nothing on pretty much everywhere else I’ve lived- the Wisconsin winters, the Houston humidity, icy Iowa, Memphis rains! I don’t know much about NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), but through GATE’s presentation I saw a side of capitalism I never saw before. I saw how unfair competition in the market really devastated a lot of Mexican farming communities. The US apparently subsidized corn giving our farmers a huge price advantage over the farmers of Mexico. Corn being a major market with corn tortillas a staple of their diet, etc this affected a lot of people. So those farmers that couldn’t make it anymore were forced to move into the city to find new opportunities. Huge urban cities like Mexico City result and that contributes to the overpopulation perception. It makes me wonder what would happen if we invested more in stabilizing their economy through infrastructure and less in building walls and beefing up borders?

I’ve often heard it said that it is not a population problem, but a distribution problem. Do we have the resources necessary to feed the world? We do! Father Pavone points out that enough grain is produced for every person on the planet to consume 3500 calories a day; if you add meat, fruits and vegetables and other foods there is an average of 4.3 pounds of food produced per person every day. Here is the YouTube link to a 2 min video from pointing out how we produce more food farming on less land than ever before and some other good points!

I’m not pointing any fingers but someone is a greedy glutton. Was it St. Ambrose that said if you own two shirts, one is yours, but the other belongs to the poor? We are in the season of giving, and so we must continue to live out our pro-life passions by doing our part to care for the poor. As Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker movement said, “If everyone tried to be poor no one would be.” He also encouraged us to be go-givers instead of go-getters. Although ‘trying to be poor’ isn’t practical for most, prioritizing giving over accumulating wealth is something even Ebeneezer Scrooge reminds us at Christmastime.

In your charity don’t forget to be charitable in your attitudes towards those with big families. There is no place for comments such as “baby factory” or anything but congratulations when someone announces they are expecting again. I don’t recall God saying in Genesis “Be fruitful and multiply until the planet hits 10 billion then there will be too much CO2 and you will all perish.” There have been studies trying to determine what the carrying capacity of the planet is, and they are inconclusive. Humans are innovators; in God’s likeness we have a creative genius. So as in the past we’ve always been able to outpace energy and food demands for our population.  “He’s got the whole world in His hands” may sound like a naïve children’s song, but He’s got my trust. Don’t get me wrong, we try to do our part and then some for the planet, my husband drives an electric car, we have way more recycling and compost than we do garbage, etc. (Though I will confess as a working mom those crockpot liners had me at hello). My real concern is less for the planet and more for the souls of the corrupt who exploit the poor, and the souls of those who are consumed by selfishness. God gave me children to teach me to be less selfish and although I’m a slow learner I know lessons in love are things that all of humanity needs for salvation. Jesus Christ our Savior showed us how to give until it hurts, how to love so hard it draws blood. The poor make us uncomfortable, but as Pope Francis has said they are our passport to heaven.

The Most Powerful Force in Human History

40 Days for Life is in full swing! We are entering the home stretch with just 2 weeks left. In Meridian, Idaho we have some amazing and dedicated prayer warriors. We are so blessed to be part of a group committed to cooperating with God’s grace and changing lives. My husband and I do wonder, as all campaign leaders probably do, why don’t we have more prayer warriors?

Is it fear that holds people back? Stepping out of your comfort zone and praying in front of an abortion facility can be intimidating. I don’t think it is fear so much as a lack of faith in the power of prayer. Like me for so many years, I think people have bought into the lie that there isn’t anything one little person can do about the big problem of abortion. Do my prayers really make a difference? Do my sacrifices really matter?

Today is Saint John Paul the Great’s feast day (Oct 22nd). This is what he has to say about it,

“Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.” ~ Pope St. John Paul II

Yes, your prayers and your sacrifices matter! How does fasting or giving up hot showers help my prayers? Fasting bolsters prayer in two ways. First off every time you’re tempted to have what you’re fasting from, you are repeatedly bringing that intention into your consciousness and sending up a prayer. I frequently give up sweets and I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many times a day I think about consuming chocolate in it’s various forms. Secondly, fasting is an instrument of amplification for your prayers. So, if you have a prayer intention you really want to pray for, you deliberately attach a fast for that intention which adds strength to the prayer. For example, skip a meal for a friend or relative that is having surgery. This is also a form of solidarity since the patient likely is required to skip all meals before anesthesia. Your ensuing hunger adds wings to your prayers.

Those of us in the 40 Days for Life movement are believers in the importance of prayer and fasting because we’ve seen how those prayers have been answered. Hearts and minds have been transformed resulting in 13,593 lives that have been saved from abortion, 156 clinic workers have quit, and 90 abortion facilities have shut down in the last 10 years. And those are just the people we know about! There are countless others that we don’t know about. There are women on their way to their abortion appointment asking God for a sign. They come across ordinary citizens peacefully praying and realize, this is my sign; and instead of turning in they drive on by. How do we know these “drive bys” happen? Because clinics like Planned Parenthood report a dramatic increase in clients missing their appointments on the days there is a peaceful pro-life presence outside their doors. Former Texas PP director Abby Johnson cites a no-show rate as high as 70%. The lives we save but never know about are just as valuable as the lives we save and know about. 40 Days for Life is NOT a protest, but a prayer campaign focusing prayers like a high intensity laser beam on the target of ending abortion.

There are still two weeks left of the fall prayer campaign, so please join me in praying and fasting for an end to abortion. It will take a powerful force to change hearts and minds about abortion, but we cannot underestimate the great spiritual weapon we wield in our persistent prayers and sacrifices! It may seem like conquering the culture of death is akin to moving a mountain. But we all know what faith can do! Maybe you’ve gone slack in your fasting or never started, renew your efforts for the last two weeks! Participate from home or better yet join us on the sidewalk.

I’d like to end with the prayer that the Angel of Portugal (aka Angel of Peace) taught the three shepherd children at Fatima over 100 years ago:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.”

Want more on prayer and fasting including seven examples from the Bible? Here’s a link “Why Should I Fast?

Find Your Own Calcutta

On September 5th the Catholic Church celebrated for the first time the feast of Saint Mother Teresa. It was also the 20th anniversary of her death. She was truly a holy and inspirational woman. The saints are our heroes, real life people with super strengths of courage, perseverance, and faith that moved mountains in ways rivaling those in the Marvel and DC Comics universe.

When there is danger, a fire or a flood, everyone flees for their lives. But the heroes, the firefighters, the first responders, etc run toward the fire, into the danger to rescue people. St. Mother Teresa -in St. Damien fashion- ran toward the lepers and other untouchables while everyone else turned their backs and ran away. She established communities for them and brought help, hope, and above all the dignity they desperately lacked.

The good and Godly efforts of Mother Teresa were not glamorous, but glorious. Glory to God the Giver. He gives life and He takes it way. All life comes from Him, made in His image and likeness, therefore all human life deserves dignity. St. Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity founded orphanages, schools, hospitals and more. But some of the most touching work was with those left in gutters to die. St. Mother Teresa sought out the dying homeless. She brought them to the make-shift hospitals, not to save their lives (for they were beyond being saved physically), but to honor them. Her gift was a death with dignity. Eye contact, holding hands, food and drink, reprieve from the heat, a bath, and a prayer are all simple gifts. Yet, they are all powerful acts of kindness for these lowly ones “caste” out into the streets to die forlorn in shame.

A journalist once commented to St. Mother Teresa that he wouldn’t do the work she does for a million dollars. Her response was “Neither would I.” Her heroic acts of charity attracted many people. Surprisingly, when folks offered to come to Calcutta to help her, she seldom accepted. Instead, what she proposed in her typical perfect wisdom was this five word response:

“Go Find Your Own Calcutta.”

In a few short weeks all across America and the world groups of ordinary people will rearrange their normal routine and make time for a special weekly hour of prayer. As part of “40 Days for Life,” men, women, and children will peacefully pray outside of abortion facilities like the one a few miles from my home in Meridian, Idaho. We pray simply for an end to abortion. We pray for those who have been duped by the devil and blinded by evil. We pray for the truth to prevail against the lies, for the scales to fall away from their eyes. The truths that too many women don’t know: their true beauty and worth for starters. Children aren’t the end of a dream, but a new beginning. In every abortion, something inside the mother dies. Women deserve better than abortion. There is help and there is hope and no one is alone. But as we implore the Lord to please change our hearts and minds and to keep us on a path towards Him and His peace, it is not enough. The parking lot is full. Young ladies go in, and they come out, but the life has literally been sucked out of them. We sometimes feel a failure. What would St. Mother Teresa say?

So prayer warriors find our “Calcutta” on the sidewalks of our towns and cities. And if we fail to save a life, we succeed in bringing it dignity. Although the abortionist and the mother may reject and deny the worthiness of these little lives, our presence is a witness to their value. Time spent participating in “40 Days for Life” is never wasted.

So will you join me in praying and fasting for an end to abortion for 40 days, Sept 27th – Nov 5th? You can pray and participate from home and/or from the sidewalk. Visit to find a vigil site near you or to sign up to receive daily devotions and stories. This grassroots movement has brought peace and saved over 13,000 lives from abortion since 2007. Is God calling you to find your own Calcutta? I know what you’re thinking, you couldn’t pay me to go out and pray in front of Planned Parenthood. Why would I run towards something so unpleasant? Let me tell you one reason why. Do it for the Glory of God the Giver of Life. Where “they” insult the Creator by labeling His most precious masterpiece of creation as medical waste, we exalt Him by giving the unborn a  simple gift, a death with a measure of dignity. St. Mother Teresa, heroine of our times, pray for us.

The seed for this blog was a talk by Shawn Carney, co-founder of 40 Days for Life. Thank you Shawn for your inspiration.

Top Ten Reasons to Use NFP

I recently saw a tote bag with the saying, “The struggle is real, but so is grace.” I immediately thought of NFP (Natural Family Planning). And so in honor of NFP Awareness week (July 23-29th) here is my top ten reasons to use NFP:

10) Money in the Bank

Obviously, this isn’t the #1 reason, but a penny saved is a penny earned and using NFP costs close to nothing. The only real expense is the cost of the classes to learn properly. (The exception is the Marquette Method which involves buying a Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor to track your luteinizing hormone (LH).The other three major methods Sympto-thermal, Billings, and Creighton, however are basically free).

9) Living Green

I don’t think anyone feels good about ingesting chemicals. It seems ridiculous that a bag of baby carrots even has an ingredients list, but it is affirming to read INGREDIENTS: CARROTS. However, other labels may have you telling your kids, “Be sure to say a prayer before eating that mac n’ cheese.”  Hormonal Birth Control methods use high levels of estrogen to override the natural hormonal cycle and mimic the only time a fertile woman’s body naturally doesn’t ovulate, which is pregnancy. Thus it makes sense that some of the common side effects are similar to those seen in pregnancy: moodiness, weight gain, breast tenderness.etc. Here is a link to the FDAs website where you can read, “It is rare, but some women will have blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes.” And what it doesn’t say is that can and have resulted in death. Just ask the families of Americans Ashley Lewis, Stephanie Rosfeld, or Zakiya Kennedy all young healthy girls that died due to blood clots related to the patch (link 2).

8) Clear Conscience

Consult any embryology textbook and you will see that the moment a sperm and egg join a new organism is formed with its own unique DNA and ability to grow and do all the things that “living things” do. Life begins at conception; God gives us life and a soul. The use of hormonal birth control can allow fertilization, but prevent implantation thus resulting in the death of a child in that early embryonic stage of development. After all, embryo, fetus, toddler, adolescent they are all terms used to characterize a stage of development of a human being. When you kill a caterpillar you also end the life of a butterfly.

7) Bun in the Oven

Knowing when you ovulate can increase your chances of conceiving when you want! NFP teachers can also look at your charts and identify problems. The Creighton Method is used by doctors who specialize in NaPro Technology to treat infertility without having to use IVF.

6) Effective

You don’t have to be an NFP teacher to not get pregnant using NFP. Mother Teresa taught NFP in India and in a study of 19,843 poor women the pregnancy rate was approaching zero! There have been studies done in Germany (800 couples) and China (10,000 couples) and like many other methods with “proper use” it is 99% effective. However, just like the pill (or other contraceptives) efficacy data you read that number is for a year. So 1% risk every year for 10 years = 10% chance of unexpected pregnancy with proper use. And like other forms of pregnancy prevention “actual use” numbers drop in effectiveness, for example in the Germany study of NFP this drops to 92%, condoms for example drop to 80% (varies by studies). We all know people who have had whoopsie pregnancies. I know people who have been surprised using NFP, the pill, condoms, IUDs (dangerous for baby when removed), Implanteon, and even 12 years post vasectomy.

5) Grace

The struggle is real, but so are the graces. NFP, if being used to prevent pregnancy, does require at times a heroic amount of restraint. However, this exercise in the virtue of chastity carries with it a spiritual good. Similar to fasting or voluntary poverty, it is the willful sacrifice of a good for a cause. I would recommend offering it up for the intention of your marriage and in reparation for past sins.

4) Personal Invitation to Christ

You’ve maybe heard sex referred to as “the marital embrace” or as a “renewal of our wedding vows.” The following is an illustration from Christopher West that really clarified for me the difference between naturally spacing your children, artificially preventing pregnancy. Imagine you are sending out wedding invitations, but there is someone you don’t want to come. What do you do? You don’t send them a DIS-invitation saying we’re getting married, but you’re NOT invited. God made men fertile 24/7, but not women. God made women with a natural cycle of fertile and infertile times. So when you utilize your times of infertility you invite Jesus to your wedding, which He appreciates, but He won’t be able to bring a gift. If you are fertile He RSVPs ‘yes’, and may or may not bring a “gift.” If you are contracepting you are disinviting Jesus; we don’t want your gifts, don’t come. Barrier methods may be desirable from a chemical and abortifacient standpoint, but they may be putting a barrier between you and God.

3) Strengthens Your Marriage

NFP users enjoy some of the lowest divorce rates (1-2%) Why is this? Commitment, communication, self-control, and being mindful of the other person are all essential elements of a strong marriage and are all similarly necessary and honed using NFP.

2) Cherished not Used

According to women often complain that contraception lowers their sense of worth. It makes sense. Women are not made to be like convenience stores open for business 24/7. St. Pope John Paul II, said “The opposite of love is not hate, but use.” Sex is made to be more than the casual, shallow, pleasure-driven past-time contraception fosters. It can become a slippery slope between the mutual self-giving it is supposed to be and not using each other.

1) Faithfulness to God’s Design

God designed sex to be a powerful procreative and unitive bond between two lovers. Our children are literally an incarnation of our love as spouses. That is why they are so beautiful! NFP never separates the power from the pleasure, the power to co-author with the Author of Life, to cooperate in grace and be led up the sometimes arduous path that leads to heaven. Integral to NFP done right is a continuous conversation with God. The idea is to take your desires and concerns to the Lord in conjugal prayer every month and discover what His plan is for your family.  And we all should do this even if we aren’t using NFP. In using NFP, our fertility is put in God’s hands and that is where it belongs.For more information on the “number one reason to use NFP” and in honor of NFP week I challenge you to read Humanae Vitae. It is a fairly short and easy to read encyclical describing why contraception is against God’s natural law and therefore the Catholic Church does not even have the authority to change its teaching. God is the Master and the Magisterium is the ministers.

“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.”                       St. Catherine of Siena

July 26th is the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne patrons of married couples. Sts Joachim and Anne pray for ALL of our marriages.

A special thanks to Erika and Jeff Cowman who are certified NFP teachers here in Idaho and were recently on our Catholic Idaho segment Passionately Prolife. They are an inspiration to me and I hope this inspires you to share this or another pro-NFP blog in honor of NFP Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “It’s Time.” It’s time to speak up about NFP! Looking for another idea for NFP awareness week? Jeff recommends renewing your wedding vows, just remember to invite Jesus, but not me! You can hear our segment with Erika and Jeff the next two Tuesdays during the 6pm hour on Salt & Light Catholic Radio 1140AM or 102.3FM (they are also available in the archives).

Mother’s Day at Chuck E. Cheese?

Mother’s Day is a day dedicated to Moms everywhere. Can you imagine if you ended up at Chuck E. Cheese eating cardboard pizza? This idea would be welcomed by young children (particularly mine), however for one day a year it is not about them. As Catholics, we are so fortunate to have the Mass. It saddens me though when I hear people say that they don’t “get anything out of it.” The celebration of Mass isn’t about GETTING, it is about GIVING. The more we give,  the more we get.

The focus of Sunday Mass is to WORSHIP God, in the way HE WANTS. And we know this is the way He wants because JESUS SHOWED US HOW, ie the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist- the source and summit of our faith. As much as we’d like to be entertained and taught, catechesis is not the primary focus of the Mass. I believe God designed the Mass, specifically the Eucharist, for intimacy with Him. And it is that same deep intimacy that Moms cherish with our children on Mother’s Day.

Intimacy [in-tuh-muh-see] noun

“a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving

personal relationship with another person or group.”

The Catholic Church is not the only church that has the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. But what we have that Protestant churches don’t is the physical presence of God as well. (If you don’t believe me just type Eucharistic Miracles into YouTube or you can read a book on them the old fashioned way. Mind blowing!). When we go to Mass we go to the house of the Lord to spend time with Jesus. We go to offer Him ourselves as a gift, but honestly the only gift that is worthy of God is God. So as He instructed us, through the priest, we actually unite the small sacrifices we bring to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The priest re-presents Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist to God and invites us as Christ did to take and eat and drink. And as we consume Him, He consumes our hearts with his love. A love that is so strong, once upon a time, he chose a cross so that that love could last forever.

We worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, because we give praise and glory to God first. Just like we tithe based on our income before taxes, because we give to God first and then to the State. Sunday is the one day of the week it is not about us, it is about God and what He wants. What does He want? And don’t say He wants you to be happy giving you license to do a s you please. Your mom wants your happiness, of course, but that is a poor excuse to do what you want on Mother’s Day. He wants us to come to His house and physically spend time with him and build a relationship. Catholics also believe He will us to also build community. He loves it when we bring sacrifices, He doesn’t need them.  Like St. Therese of the Little Way demonstrated, the small things we do for Him are like bringing Him flowers. And He is a God that will not be outdone in generosity. What do I mean by bringing sacrifices? Fasting before Mass would be a prime example. One hour is a bare minimum, you could fast all morning, especially before 11 am Mass (we are not a morning family). Sometimes just making it to Mass is a sacrifice. Living in Idaho, a state rich with natural beauty, summer Mass attendance tends to drop off. Is getting to Mass inconvenient? GREAT, the bigger the sacrifice to get there the bigger the gift you present to God. Do you find Mass boring? Is it difficult, because you struggle to connect with the homilies of a particular priest? SCORE a bigger sacrifice bears more spiritual fruit. And ideally this spiritual fruit will eventually reveal to you the beauty and power of the Mass so that you will no longer find it boring!

I was raised in the Catholic culture of never skipping Sunday Mass. If we were out of town or out of state, not going was not an option. Can you imagine if God took a vacation from us?! One hour a week is a bare minimum. Do you think you could maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse if you only got to be physically present together 1 hour a week? What if you missed two weeks or more? It would not take long before your relationship deteriorated and you would question if the intimacy you once had was even real.

Through the sacraments we are able to touch God and God is able to touch us. And although the purpose of the Mass isn’t to be entertained, inspired, or educated, many times that happens. I find that Mass fills me up, and without it I know I would be running on fumes. Don’t settle for the cardboard pizza when God has a standing reservation for you at the banquet.

Fr. Robert Barron in a reflection about the movie Arrival, said that the Bible is the words of God translated into the language of men. His implication is that words have their limits when it comes to communicating the divine (Word made Flesh).  I think it is like seeing things in only two-dimensions.

“However, with the help of the Church, grace through the sacraments and the Mass we can learn to see in 3D and things really start to pop UP.” ~Regular Joan

Experiencing God is 4D and so it takes all those things and the Holy Spirit to get beyond the point of only seeing in 2D. Just like with human eyes some people naturally have better depth perception than others! At times, more often than I like to admit, I know that I am only seeing the Mass in 2D, I feel myself going through the motions and have to force my eyes to refocus and stay focused. And even then I don’t really see or feel God, but because I know despite my perception the reality is Jesus is with us. The people who leave the Church leave because it always looked flat and felt flat. God reveals Himself, but we must seek; He laid down a banquet when He laid down His life, but we have to sit at the table and feed ourselves.

Wait a minute, if the purpose of Mass isn’t to be taught the faith (catechesis), how do we gain the understanding to achieve “depth perception?” Don’t we all want to experience the Mass in its fullest glory? There is no one right answer, but an important lesson we should all learn is that it takes more than 1 hour of Mass a week to flourish. This is my plug for Catholic Radio. You could and should read books- there are a lot of great books; The Bible and the Catechism are at the top of most any list. Others would include The Lamb’s Supper:The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn, and The Mass: A Biblical Walk Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy by Edward Sri. The problem is you can’t drive and read, you can’t wash dishes, fold laundry, or exercise and read. Well, I can’t at least, my friend Kathy might be able to, but you CAN do all those things and listen to Catholic Radio! Going to Mass is essential, but it is not enough. If you can make time to fit in all the spiritual reading you want you should. If you’ve had a copy of The Confessions of St. Augustine sitting on your bookshelf for 3 years and are juggling and struggling with, in a word-life- stop beating yourself up and tune in to [insert your local Catholic Radio Affiliate] Salt and Light Radio 102.3 FM or 1140 AM Boise. For me it has been a near effortless way to grow deeper in my understanding of the faith.

When life-or-death hard times hit our family a few years ago having a strong personal relationship with Jesus and his Church was a treasure beyond price. Christianity isn’t a nice philosophy or a set of morals it is a physical and spiritual bond between a living God and His children. Your mother knows you love her, but be sure at least one day of the year to show her. Adore her, tell her you’re sorry for “those times” growing up, and thank her in a way you know she would like. And may this outpouring of love for your mother illustrate how we must also offer to God our adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving in a way He appreciates by participating in the “greatest prayer” the celebration of the Mass.

PS. If you do feel Mass is a bit dry or 2D, here is a short article by Jeff Cavins that should wet your tongue and make it pop!