Tag Archives: 40 Days for Life

Jesus is Knocking

In Acts, Chapter 9, Saul “still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord” falls to the ground on his way to Damascus. Caravaggio’s famous painting depicts him being knocked off his horse. Blinded, he hears a voice asking “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and Saul asks, “Who are you, sir?” Contrast this with Ananias, a few lines later. The Lord calls upon this disciple in Damascus, and Ananias answers, “Here I am, Lord.” He immediately knows the voice of his Shepherd. Saul does not know Jesus’ voice for the Lord is not his shepherd. Jesus is a stranger to him. On Good Shepherd Sunday Catholics everywhere reflect on John 10.  

“The Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. …he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. …I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

John 10: 1-10

We are in a unique moment in history. Call it self-quarantine, shelter in place, or lock down. But to borrow a phrase from a priest on Catholic radio, this is a time to “sit down.” For some Jesus is perhaps using this difficult time to knock you out of your normal routine and off your horse. The “non-essential” stuff has been cancelled, and what is left is a huge opportunity to embrace your family and your faith in a way like never before. Family meals around the table are so important for family bonding and the well-being of our children. And we have been getting A LOT of those in! When kids join sports or other activities, we as parents always need to count the costs.  Not just monetarily, but how many family dinners will it cost for Susie to be on this elite soccer league? Our world can be so loud, seemingly always “on the go.” We have technology at our fingertips and information overload. Could Jesus be knocking at the door and we can’t even hear him amid the chaos? Maybe this is our “intervention” where we sit down unplug and listen to his voice so that we might live life more abundantly through him. Like the famous painting, Christ at Heart’s Door. Jesus knocks, but without an outer doorknob, we must open the door, invite him in to our hearts, and give him a place within our lives. Why not make this “sit down” a sit down with Jesus?

“Could Jesus be knocking at the door and we can’t even hear him amid the chaos?”

~ Regular Joan

Quarantine. The origins date back to the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century where ships coming into port in Europe were required to remain isolated for 40 days to reduce the spread of contagious diseases. An estimated 1/3 of Europe’s population was decimated by “The Black Death” in just three years 1347-1350. “40 Days for Life” prayer warriors know the power and history of the number 40. Forty days was chosen for semi-annual peaceful prayer vigil because in the bible we see 40 as a time frame of transformation. Straight from the 40 Days for Life Talking Points:

Why 40 Days?

God has used the period of 40 days throughout history to bring about major transformation…

  • Noah experienced transformation during 40 days of rain
  • Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai
  • David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge
  • Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from one meal
  • Nineveh was transformed when God gave the city 40 days to remain faithful
  • Jesus transformed the world following His 40 days in the desert
  • The disciples were transformed after spending 40 days with Jesus following His resurrection

I see 40 as transformation or preparation. Forty weeks in the womb are transformational as we see a single cell develop into a newborn and prepare itself for the world! This meme I saw on Facebook reiterates this point and then some!

This is an opportunity where the busyness and loudness have been largely involuntarily turned off! What do you hear? There are the big calls in your life, such as, marriage, motherhood, job opportunities, and ministries. Then there are the little promptings or calls of the Holy Spirit each day: asking us to pray and serve one another. It could be a call to check in on a friend, to take a load of groceries to the food bank, to read an extra story to your child, or to deepen your spiritual life through prayer, reading, or Formed. I love Formed : ) We baptize our children to give them the grace to hear God’s voice, to follow the Good Shepherd through the gate. A shepherd that is willing to leave the 99 in the desert to go after ONE lost sheep. A shepherd that freely lays down his life for his sheep. We don’t want them following the voice of a stranger!

Currently, during this coronavirus pandemic, we (the 99) are asked to take measures to protect the “one”. The early Wuhan data showed that COVID-19 is about 1% fatal, compared to the flu which is about 0.1% fatal. In order to protect the vulnerable, we are asked to take precautions.

Wear a mask and socially distance yourself six feet to prevent the spread of the disease. Although it is impossible to know if these measures are “necessary” it is a small act of love. It is a pro-life thing to do! 

~ Regular Joan

The masks are not very effective at protecting yourself; but are for the protection of those around you. So, the best scenario is everyone wearing them. That way we can all look a little goofy together! It was so nice to be able to attend Mass in person on Good Sheperd Sunday! I think the cost-benefit makes sense for these two simple measures as we phase into the next new normal. It costs very little to wear a mask; an inconvenience? Yes. They can get hot and are not super easy to breath through. However, the benefit may be that it saves someone’s life! Saints in the Middle Ages wore hair shirts; I think we can handle wearing masks for a few weeks or months in public. I see it similarly with the distancing and ban on hand shakes and hugs. You can’t say it isn’t effective when ERs and pediatrician’s offices are ghost towns. COVID-19 isn’t getting passed around and neither is Strep Throat, RSV, Influenza, etc. I won’t speak for everyone, but I do NOT miss the notifications from school about head lice!

I know some worry about their child’s academic progress. But I think when Jesus sits down with us and we talk about our children, I don’t imagine him asking about how we prioritized teaching them about helper verbs or improper fractions.  I think he is going to gauge their success, (and in a way our success as parents) with a different set of metrics. Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control are all fruits of the spirit we should be teaching our children- by example : ) Life skills, right?

I know I’m not the only one seizing this opportunity to slow down and focus on the essentials: faith and family. A recent PEW study showed a quarter of Catholics (and similarly other Christian denominations) reported growing in their faith during this pandemic. Have we changed over these 40 days? Jesus is knocking!

The Cheetos that Pierced My Heart

Cheetos are 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.

Regardless, 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?

God winked at me through Cheetos. Skeptical? That’s because He didn’t wink at you, He winked at me.

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.

Finally, one 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.

And After 6 Days – Ian smiles

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!