The other day my 3 yo daughter said to me, “Look Mom, I found a pencil, but it’s broken.” Well, the pencil wasn’t broken it was just new and unsharpened!
Instant analogy sprang to mind about how sometimes we might think of ourselves as broken, when really we just need to be sharpened! A pencil has a purpose: to write. We all have a God-given purpose as well. I am reminded of a St. Mother Teresa quote, “I am like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing.” But how does the pencil get sharp?
The people you surround yourself with can help you reach your new year’s resolutions. Whether they are personal or professional, goals for the body or the spiritual life, a community can help you get and stay on point. This could be the accountability of an exercise buddy/class or a small faith community listening to a podcast together like “Bible in a Year” or “Catechism in a Year” by Fr. Mike Schmitz. Shameless plug, I love that guy!
Suffering can also sharpen our pencil. There is a saying: Your scars are someone else’s signs of hope. As we all struggle through trying to bear the sufferings of this desert world, some of us find that the tough times have brought us to an acute realization of the supernatural. The best things in life aren’t things. God draws us; He draws us close to him. And the greatest blessing in my life has been when I have felt him drawing with me.
If you’ve followed my blog, you know I like to say…put things in God’s hands and you will see His fingerprints! Well, the other thing that can happen in God’s hand is that He may use you to write in the stories of others! And it is an overwhelming honor to play a little part in God’s plans. I will admit it is hard to bear suffering and I am not holy enough to ask for it like St. Therese the Little Flower, I am holy enough to not be mad at God for the opportunities suffering brings along with it.
“O Mother, it’s very easy to write beautiful things about suffering, but writing is nothing, nothing! One must suffer in order to know! I really feel now that what I’ve said and written is true about everything….It’s true that I wanted to suffer much for God’s sake, and it’s true that I still desire this.” (1) ~St. Therese of Lisieux
In this “Happy New Year” we wish everyone health and happiness. But as the Brother Isaiah song says, “Every good thing is born of a struggle.” He goes on to say, “I see you’re struggling, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.” So instead of health and happiness, cupcakes and rainbows, maybe we should instead wish that for every mountain you face you find Love walking by your side. Love made incarnate through your family and friends helping you through the climb. It is not the American way to be anything but independent. We so often want to present ourselves in that perfect light, strong, and with it all together. But behind so many of glossy (and matte) Christmas cards are unseen struggles and shortcomings. So, while we wish for health and happiness what we need to do is pray for each other to increase our confidence in the Lord and His plans for the new year.
Last year I found a new way to use my Christmas cards to pray for our family and friends. After the Christmas season is over, I reluctantly take down the Christmas cards, but I save them for a bit longer. I write down a family a day in my planner and then that family is my special prayer intention for the day. Particularly, we include them and their needs in our nightly family Rosary. There’s no doubt families can use all the prayer they can get. I know mine can!
Sometimes life is hard, and it’s ok to fall apart! Tacos fall apart and we still love them! (A fond meme, not mine) In seriousness, if you feel broken- you are not- you are probably just being sharpened for a mission! A mission God has specifically assigned to you with perhaps an unavoidably painful preparation. We can’t rewrite our past, but we can write a new chapter, and if we let God be the Author we can write a happy ending beyond our wildest imagination!
Cheers to the New Year, stay sharp!
(1) https://www.beautysoancient.com/saints-quotes-on-suffering/ I also wanted to note: The essence of the Catholic view on suffering is that although suffering in itself is not inherently good, God allows us to suffer for the good of our souls. Suffering refines us and help us to get to heaven if we allow it.
“Take my hand, not my life,” says the unwanted child.
“Take my hand, my heart, my life,” says those proposing marriage.
“Take my hand, I’m in a low place, abortion is my only choice, show me another way,” says the woman in a crisis pregnancy.
“Take my hand, the road ahead is rough, but you are enough, you’re not alone, I will walk with you,” says the Christian.
The hand is the most readily identifiable human part of the body, second only to the human face. Our hands connect us to one another through hugs and handshakes. We can give a helping hand up or a handout. We can give some one a big hand to encourage or congratulate them. We can use our hands to pray, to work, and to serve. All of these things are integral to forming communities where we can love and be loved as long as we are not afraid to get our hands dirty. Community where humans can flourish through strong bonds with family and friends.
The 1973 Supreme Court Ruling Roe v Wade has been overturned! Each state may make their own laws regarding abortion. People are in various stages of shock and disbelief. For some it is a dream come true to have at least the possibility of legal protection for the most vulnerable form of human life. Others are horrified that women can be stripped of their bodily autonomy by the government and forced to bear unwanted children. They feel betrayed. The issue is as divisive as ever…the devil’s favorite game to pit people against each other. To have us all think and see the worst in each other instead of the best.
Compassion is what we have in common. We see and want to end the pain and suffering of others. We all want what’s best for women (with some notable exceptions such as sex traffickers). In God’s perfect design, what is best for women is also what is best for the baby! Compassion is defined differently by the world and Catholics. The world may attempt to end suffering by justifying any means to that end. Catholics know that “an end doesn’t justify the means.” This means you cannot use an unjust course of action to bring about a “good” result. To end suffering without love is not true compassion. For example, compassionate healthcare could mean using assisted suicide to end someone’s life. Or to take compassion on someone in an unplanned pregnancy would be to offer to pay for an abortion. Catholic compassion, however, is rooted in love. When you encounter suffering, you do not remain on the outside, but you enter into the mess. You wade into the darkness with your light and try to bring warmth. You help bear the suffering and thus lighten the load, bringing about a good (1). This is played over and over again in the pro-life movement as we give hope and help to those in crisis. Sidenote: Pity is to see the suffering and do nothing -no one wants pity. Worse though is indifference, which does not even acknowledge the suffering at all!
In my experience with suffering, I have found three things that bring hope and encouragement. First, knowing you’re not alone, whether it be others with the same cross, or just knowing someone has your back no matter what. Secondly, knowing there are others that have gone before you and seen the other side. Lastly, the knowledge that suffering is finite- it will not last forever! If not in this life than the next. In darkness, there is despair and fear (the devil’s handiwork) you feel alone, you feel like you’re the first person to face something of this magnitude, and you cannot see anything beyond the mountain, only the arduous impossible climb. Compassion climbs the grueling climb in companionship, because love is demanding and requires sacrifice. Companionship champions strength, courage, and the hope needed to endure and to conquer. We all need someone to believe in us, especially when we don’t believe in ourselves. Someone to build us up and see the beauty that we could never see in ourselves. This is what the pro-life movement does to empower women!
Does abortion empower women? Many post-abortive women cite “lack of support” (not finances) as a reason for their abortion. Why don’t they have support? Where is their support system? Are their family and friends shirking their duties? Do they hope for a quick fix without getting their hands dirty or reputations tarnished? The message is sent that the woman in a crisis pregnancy is incapable or would otherwise not be a good mother. They love you enough to hold your hand while you get an abortion, but do they love you enough to be there holding your hand in the delivery room? Whether parenting or placing for adoption it is a journey that would be very hard to walk alone.
Abortion is an illusory solution that can cause mental, physical, and spiritual damage. The opposite of love is not hate…the opposite of love is use. (St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body). Abortion empowers men to use women as objects of sexual gratification, horrendously in the sex trade, but even in everyday hook-ups and relationships. How can we settle for a moment’s pleasure when God made us for a lasting treasure? God has prepared a banquet at a 5-star-restaurant (marriage) and we spoil our appetites by hitting up the hot dog stand?? The hunger is real, we think our hunger is for love, but really our hunger is for God (2).
“Take my hand, not my life,” says the unwanted child. Though you can’t hear my voice, I’m more than a choice and I’m crying out to you, see me through. I am part of you and you are part of me. A happy family we could bless and I won’t think you less! Don’t let something inside of you die.
“Take my hand, my heart, my life, be my friend, be my wife,” proposing a man to one woman. Marriage is a shelter in storms, a strong-hold of safety, and a fortress for the family where one can be truly known and treasured.
“Take my hand, I’m in a low place, abortion is my only choice, show me another way. Does anyone see me? Does anyone hear me?” asks the woman in a crisis pregnancy.
“Take my hand, the road ahead is rough, but you are enough, you’re not alone, I will walk with you,” says the Christian. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. We don’t see you as a charity case, we see someone who is strong and brave and not defined by her past. Let’s turn this stumbling block into a stepping stone!
The 2500+ PRCs (Pregnancy Resource Centers) and countless Respect Life ministries of the Catholic Church have been “Walking with Moms” for decades! We have people come to us for help and we help them, this is not a new concept! Contrary to popular pro-choice belief, we never abandon them after birth! We have provided baby showers, including car-seats, cribs, and strollers. We help with what’s needed, such as transportation or even just a new car battery. We have even been blessed to provide living accommodations every time the need has arisen. And I am so proud to be familiar with the four pregnancy centers in our area and they all have big hearts, big enough for everyone. But it isn’t about the “things” we have provided, it is as much and I would venture even more about the emotional support. And that is something the government will never be able to provide. Because we don’t do it out of duty, but out of authentic love.
I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and am married to a counselor, I know well the value of the love and security you feel when someone is available. Someone you can call anytime and not feel judged, someone who believes in you and your ability to be the mother your child needs, someone who accepts you whole cloth with all your baggage, and knows how to listen. In fact, at least half the people we’ve helped were not even abortion-minded, they just needed help and we gave it. And those that were abortion-minded struggle to believe us, but we’d still be there even if they had chosen abortion. Because when we reach out our hands the only strings that are attached are the ones to our hearts. We will feel pain, but we won’t shy away from our mission. Our mission is to be a sign of hope and mercy- to be the hands of Christ (3).
Note from Regular Joan on a hunger for God. It is a common concept that we all have a God-shaped hole that we can only fill with God. St. Augustine says that our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord. I thought it was GK Chesterton, but it turns out to be novelist Bruce Marshall that said, “I still prefer to believe that sex is a substitute for religion and that the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” Lastly, Carrie Gress explores in her book The Anti-Mary Exposed that when feminist Betty Friedan wrote the Feminine Mystique she describes the “problem with no name” a dissatisfaction with a woman’s life at home. Gress opines this was actually not a new ache, but the age-old ache for God.
Part of our mission with 40 Days for Life is to be the last sign of hope for those going into an abortion facility and to be the first sign of mercy for those coming out.