All posts by Emily

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 Hush on Women’s Health

Knowledge is power. However, it seems women have been empowered with methods to post-pone pregnancy, but not empowered with the knowledge of the potential side effects that may accompany these decisions. Politics and morals aside, here is my top ten things every woman should know about her reproductive health.

  1. There is a link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC link). 108 world-wide studies on abortion and breast cancer reveal an overall 30-40% increased risk for those with a history of abortion (1)
  2. Estrogen is a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). When a healthy pregnancy occurs, the body is flooded with estrogen. The further along a pregnancy is at termination the higher the risk of breast cancer until 32 weeks. There is a 3% increase in risk for every week of gestation until 32 weeks. At 32 weeks, breast tissue matures into cancer-resistant cells. Second trimester miscarriages (or abortions), between 12 and 32 weeks, double your risk of breast cancer.  Early miscarriage has not been shown to increase breast cancer as low estrogen often accompanies first trimester miscarriages.
  3. In 2005, the World Health Organization classified estrogen-progestin combination drugs (birth control) as a Group 1 carcinogen. All hormonal contraception is carcinogenic, increasing a woman’s risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer. Hormone Replacement Therapy for post-menopausal women also increases breast cancer risk.
  4. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women 20-59 years old. In North America 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. Only 20% of breast  cancer cases can be attributed to family history. In 2011, Parkin published a study in the British Journal of Cancer which found 15% of premenopausal breast cancer was attributable to hormonal contraception. In the U.S. over 9,000 new cases of breast cancer could be eliminated if hormonal contraception ceased (2).
  5. There is a petition to the CDC right now for a Black Box Warning on birth control for breast cancer, cervical cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, depression and suicide, venous thrombosis and cardiovascular events. Petition on Hormonal Contraceptives PDF accepted by the FDA in 2019.
  6. Modern Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness based Methods, such as the Creighton Method, SymptoThermal, or Marquette Method are an all natural means of avoiding or achieving pregnancy with efficiency rates similar to hormonal contraception (3). Be cautious about using Apps without instruction as they may be based on the age-old rhythm method that is only 70% effective.
  7. The pill and other birth control methods are not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy! The pill for example in actual use is ~92% effective, so with 9-10 million women in the US taking it ~810,000 unintended pregnancies occur each year and about half of those end in abortion.
  8. All hormonal contraception can allow break through ovulation and act as an abortifacient; Abortifacient means the conception of new life (ovulation and fertilization) is possible, but 7-9 days later implantation of that little human being was prevented causing death. The “mini-pill” (progestin only) allows ovulation 50% of the time!
  9. Over 80 studies show abortion as a risk factor for premature birth. Abortion history can account for 18% of premature births. Things such as an incompetent cervix and placenta previa are more common after surgical abortions. Fifteen states don’t even have informed consent laws requiring doctors to be transparent about the risks that come with abortion.
  10. The greatest window of risk or susceptibility for breast cancer is between puberty and a woman’s first full term pregnancy. Waiting until 30 to have your first child doubles your risk of breast cancer. Smoking, hormonal contraception use, and abortion during this window increases one’s breast cancer risk significantly. Appropriate screening should be done in those populations at risk.

Has reading this brief list made you thirsty for more information? Watch the documentary Hush for yourself! It is available to stream for $6 at Hushfilm.com or if you are on Formed it is included with your subscription. (Formed is a Catholic media platform available via the web at Formed.org or on the Formed Channel via a web streaming service like Roku, Firestick, etc) The woman who does the film Punam Kumar Gill is a pro-choice Canadian, so don’t dismiss this as “pro-life propaganda.” You can also learn a lot more from breast surgeon and researcher Dr. Angela Lanfranchi (one of the many experts featured in the movie Hush via the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. She has an 18 min lecture called “The Pill Kills” or there is also a great interview with her on “At Home with Jim and Joy.”

Sources: These sources all have more resources and sources on the webpages

  1. Hush, hushfilm.com
  2. Breast Cancer Prevention Institute- www.bcpinstitute.org
  3. Naturalwomanhood.org

The overall increased risk may be small at 30%, but a small risk taken by millions of women results in tens of thousands of women affected. When it came out in 2002, that Hormone Replacement Therapy in post-menopausal women increased breast cancer by 27%, half of the millions of women taking it used that information and chose to discontinue use. Since the passage of Roe v Wade breast cancer in premenopausal women has risen by 400% (SEER data, The Pill Kills). Women have rights over their reproductive health, but they also have the right to transparent information so they can make not just choices, but informed choices.