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Catholic answers to 9 real reasons millennials don’t want kids

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The marriage act… ‘at the same time ‘unites husband and wife in the closest intimacy’ and together makes them capable of generating new life.’ Both the one and the other happen ‘through the fundamental structure.’ Since this is so, then it follows that the human person (with the necessity proper to reason, logical necessity) must read at the same time the ‘twofold significance of the marriage act’ and also the ‘inseparable connection between the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act. Here we are dealing with nothing other than reading the language of the body in truth. (Saint Pope John Paul II, TOB July 11, 1984).

When a couple gets married in the Catholic Church, they stand at the altar on the day of their wedding and vow to love each other totally, freely, faithfully and….fruitfully? Why is procreation included in the wedding itself? Isn’t the wedding day supposed to be about the couple and their marriage, not about children? Why is the Catholic Church obsessed about married couples having children?

Both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage are valued enough by the Church that they are included in the marriage rite itself:

(Name) and (Name), have you come freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your life?

Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism that marriage by its very nature is “ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601).

That being said, there are definitely reasons that a couple should avoid pregnancy in their marriage. There are many valid reasons to not have littles, and each one of those reasons is meant to be prayerfully discerned between the spouses and God.  And there are also valid reasons such as infertility, finances, and health struggles.  But there are some red flags thrown of the field when you’re entering into a marriage commitment and deliberately saying “No kids. Never ever.”

In my own marriage, if my husband and I did not sacrifice for each other on a daily basis, our marriage would be suffering. If either of us spent our time just thinking about my priorities and my needs, then the marriage would start to go downhill.  The beauty of marriage is found in the cross – and so is the beauty of parenting.

For some millennials, littles are not anywhere on their radar.  In a 2016 article , Rooster interviewed millennials and asked them their reasons for not having children.  In the article, children were referred to as “thankless spawn,” “larval stages of a human money suck,” and “baby blobs.” Although some of the concerns given for avoiding children were understandable and grounded in facts, the reactions that millennials had to the facts were problematic, to say the least.

With a little digging, each one can be addressed from the Catholic point of view.  Their answers also reveal that we live in a culture that doesn’t value the redemptive nature of sacrifice and suffering, so the concerns of these millennials make sense.

1. The world kinda sucks right now.
“Have you watched the news lately? That’s exactly why I don’t want kids.” – Taylor, 23

There is truth in Taylor’s statement, and it is grounded in fact.  After all, the world is a crazy place.  Political turmoil, international conflict, and natural disasters seem to be around every corner, lurking to jump out on us when least expected.  But when has this world been a calm and pristine place to bring a child into? We are part of an incredibly messy humanity and thanks to concupiscence and original sin, it’s not going to look too pretty until the end of time thanks to Adam and Eve.

Between the 16th to 19th centuries, the Atlantic Slave Trade trafficked between 9 and 11 million Africans. From 1940-1945, 1 million people were killed in the Auschwitz death camp alone.  In 1999, 12 students and 1 teacher were slaughtered at Columbine.  Human beings are not the greatest at being cool, calm and collected.

People are messy, but what a beautiful ability we have through parenting to bring about positive, creative change.  Are people rude and out for their own good? What an incredible opportunity to strive raise a child who is gentle, humble and selfless. Amazingly, through childbearing, a couple has the potential to become the change in society.

2. We’re as poor as hell.
“When a kid leaves your body, it costs a pretty $20-30K. I’ve got $52K in student loans to look forward to. That’s negative money I have to feed and clothe and educate a kid. Not trying to bring up a dirt baby.” – Seth, 25 

Children are expensive. Prenatal checkups, hospital bills, medication, diapers, school supplies, daycare, tuition, and they do eat a lot (especially those high school boys).

If we wait until we’re ‘rich’ to have children, we’ll never have children. There will always be something more we think we need to ‘fulfill us’.  A bigger house, a better car, a nicer credit card statement at the end of the month.  But if we keep waiting for the perfect budget to have a child, we can excuse away children ’til the cows come home.  Because life happens – it’ll never be perfect.  In the end, we’ll find that those material things we had to have before we start a family (money, house, car, etc.) didn’t fill our hearts, either.

Children are priceless.  You cannot put a price tag on snuggling with your newborn, or pillow fights with your three year old.  You cannot say it wasn’t worth the money when your five year old asks you to hang a painting on the refrigerator, or your high schooler starts looking at colleges and thinking about their own future.

3. The failing environment and overpopulation make life miserable for the people that already exist.
“I have to say my commitment to the environment is greater than my commitment to humanity. Without an environment, there can be no humanity. So, I’m keeping my p**** shut.” – Heather, 24

A recent report from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) discovered that the hormones from women on birth-control, flushed into the water system and our drinking water, are impacting the fertility of fish – up to three generations after the initial exposure. In the study, the fertility of the fish was reduced by 30% and their offspring had a lower chance of survival. This is not to mention that humans are consuming these hormones through drinking water unknowingly.

This study is one of many that proves that human’s contraceptive chemicals are causing damage to wildlife, the environment, and the reproductive systems of animals.

In terms of the supposed overpopulation the world is experiencing, if we wanted to squeeze super close to each other, the entire population of the world could have a 10 meter by 10 meter room in the state of Texas.

“In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society,” says Pope Francis.  So do not be afraid by the myths of overpopulation.  Instead, become a member of the beautifully large family that is the Catholic Church, and if God is calling you to it, a domestic church of your own as well.

So overpopulation is not a valid reason for spreading illicit birth control practices. It is simply a pretext used by those who would justify avarice and selfishness — by those nations, for instance, who fear that the expansion of others will pose a danger to their own political position and cause a lowering of the general standard of living, or by individuals, especially those who are better off, who prefer the greatest possible enjoyment of earthly goods to the praise and merit of bringing new lives into existence. The final result is that they break the fixed and certain laws of the Creator under the pretext of correcting supposed errors on the part of His Providence.” (Pope Pius XII, 1958).

4. Pregnancy is. . . not. . . hot.
“I’m just not one of those people that thinks pregnancy is a beautiful. I see pregnant women and my eye bulges and I feel grossed out by the whole thing. There’s like, a person inside them. The only thing I want inside me is a vibrator or 26 burritos.” – Zara, 26

Our human, first gut reaction to something that makes us suffer or sacrifice something (including the physical shape of our body as women) is to run for the hills screaming ‘heck no’ or look for things we can do to prevent suffering.  But labor and motherhood actually offers us the opportunity to do the opposite – to cherish, protect and love the human being who is causing our bodies to stretch and our internal organs to rearrange themselves.

Then, after child birth, parents are called to be present with their mini-me for the rest of their lives. Granted, that relationship shifts when the child reaches adulthood, but the ultimate goal of a parent is to prepare their child for the beauty of heaven.

If you fell in love with your partner for just their looks, you’re in for disappointment down the road. The reality of the situation is that our bodies are fleeting.  Give someone another fifty years and most things about their physical appearance will change.  Hair will go grey or go away. Medical conditions will come up. That slim figure may not be so slim.  But if you and your spouse were attracted to each other by common goals, faith, and an appreciation for the whole person, a woman’s body during and after pregnancy will not kill your marital love life.

5. Because these days, people have kids for selfish reasons.
“People say it’s selfish not to have kids, but I think it’s selfish to have them. Think of all the overcrowding and disease and depleted resources we’re already facing. To bring them into the world just so you can see what the hybrid of you and your partner would look like is so dumb.” – Fiona, 24

Today’s society looks at children as a burden, not as a contribution. However, this assumption could not be further from the truth.  Treating children like food sucking parasites is short-sighted idiocy even from a secular perspective. The children of today have potential to become tomorrow’s innovators.

“If we also consider the non-material aspects of children – their meaning for parents and for others who enjoy a flourishing of humanity – then the case for adding children to our world becomes even stronger. And if we also keep in mind that most of the costs of children are borne by their parents rather than by the community during the child’s early years, whereas the community (especially in developed countries) gets the lion’s share of the benefits later on, the essential differences between children and other investments tend to improve rather than weaken the social economics of children” (Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource).

When we say ‘no’ to children forever on our own choosing, we’re never leaving the realm of our own desires.  The desires to travel, own our own house, or to pay off the college debt are great. But those desires are not encouraging us to magnanimity or to sacrifice ourselves for the good of another. They’re offering us an environment of comfort where we don’t have to push ourselves or grow.

6. We’ll ruin them with terrible parenting
“I don’t want to know what a little me would be like. Have you met me? I can’t even keep a plant alive.” – Allen, 31

“I’m a complete mess. I drink and I f*** and I get absorbed in my work. I have all these qualities I dislike about myself that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, so I’m sure as s*** not going to wish it on my own child. Meanwhile, I really do love my cat.”- Colton, 25

Peter DeVries once said, “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.” The beautiful reality of having children is that childbirth and child raising have the ability to transform parents into the best version of themselves – and biology and psychology are helping prove that.

Through marriage we learn about loving a spouse and the sacrifice it requires.  Similarly, when we haven’t become parents yet, the challenges and joys of loving a child are unknown.  It is only when we learn to love the child God gives that we can learn to reflect the immense love God has already shown us as His children.

Let everything take second place to our care of our children, our bringing them up to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If from the beginning we teach them to love true wisdom, they will have great wealth and glory than riches can provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich, teach him this. He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…Don’t think that only monks need to learn the Bible; Children about to go our into the world stand in greater need of Scriptural knowledge.” — St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 21

7. We want careers. So sue us.
“Every single person I know that’s had kids in their twenties has given up their lives and careers to become a housewife or househusband. Even if both parents are working, one person always has to work less, or has to focus less on themselves and their dreams and aspirations. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am and given up so much to reach my goals that the idea of giving up even more to stay at home and reroute my life in a different direction for the next 18 years doesn’t do it for me.” – Kathryn, 28

“When I picture my future self and the lifestyle I want to lead, I don’t see kids. I love my job and I want to get the most out of my career. The thought of having to give that up to do things like spoon-feed mushed peas to a baby who will die if I’m not around her 24/7 is too stressful for me. I’d always be worried that, in trying to better myself and make myself happy, I’d be hurting my child in the process.” – Wyatt, 26

Some men and women have to work to fulfill the basic needs of their family – food, shelter and clothing are necessities.  Some men and women don’t have a choice in the matter.  But the problem with today’s society is that it encourages people to look towards their jobs their only option for satisfaction and self-fulfillment.

Elizabeth Corey writes in her article No Happy Harmony, “The problem is not that this work is time-consuming or that it reduces or eliminates a woman’s ability to do other things. The problem is that the serious pursuit of excellence requires a self-culture. The excellence is within us and must be developed: my musical potential brought to fulfillment, my academic aptitude developed and realized through education…Parenting requires ignoring for a time the individual quest for self-perfection and excellence and focusing instead on the needs of another person.” Granted, a whole new set of excellences can be produced through child raising – we are given the opportunity to become excellent parents, excellent teachers, etc.

Parenting requires us to go out of our comfort zones and out of ourselves. To love another for their good, even if that means putting our desires for self-fulfillment on hold.  Children need their parent’s non-divided attention, they need their whole parent.

This is not to say that parenting is easy and oh-so-perfect.  Corey continues her thoughts on mothers, saying:  “Although the rewards of caring for children are great, motherhood can also be tiring and frustrating, not to mention lonely. A woman must be extraordinarily self-assured to withstand the self-doubt that might cause her to wonder at times whether she has done the right thing.”  Ultimately, we’re human beings who cannot be two places at once.  Parents have to admit there are certain things they cannot do 100%, and some things they will have to say no to. But that sacrifice isn’t fruitless, and the lives of loved children are the witness to that.

8. Because they’re not going to fix anything.
“But kids aren’t Band-Aids; they’re life sucks who demand your complete attention for a minimum of 18 years.”

True, children aren’t Band-Aids to fix marriage issues.  You shouldn’t have a child because your marriage is struggling and you think having a little would revive it.  After all, marriages are repaired with grace, hard work, willing the good of the other, and continual effort.

But kids are not ‘life sucks.’  And to call them such greatly misses out on the beauty of what children are.

Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: “It is not good that man should be alone,” and “from the beginning [he] made them male and female”; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.” [GS 50 § 1; cf. Gen 2:18; Mt 19:4; Gen 1:28]

9. We don’t have a reason, we just don’t want them so stop asking.
“It’s my body and I shouldn’t have to explain to people what choices I make with it.” – Jalise, 31

Jalise is right.  It is her body – and it has been her body from the moment of her conception.  It hasn’t ever been a body that belongs to anyone else. In fact, we’re all here reading this article because someone who loved us recognized that our humanity from the very moment they found out they were expecting a baby into their family.  They let us grow and develop in their womb, and then outside the womb after birth.  Every human deserves that same chance.  When we’re talking about a pregnancy, we’re talking about two bodies – a woman’s and her child’s.  Parenthood calls us to find the meaning of our lives – a meaning found by sacrifice of our bodies, our time, our plans and our days (and nights).

“In this way Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning, and its fulfillment when it is given up. At this point our meditation becomes praise and thanksgiving and at the same time urges us to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps…We too are called to give our lives for our brothers and sisters, and thus to realize in the fullness of truth the meaning and destiny of our existence” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae: 51).

Ultimately, the Catholic Church doesn’t have a list kept in the golden vault at the Vatican of all the reasons you can avoid a pregnancy.  In her book The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning, Simcha Fisher says, “If the Church is distressingly vague, it’s because she doesn’t want to get in the way of the conversation you could be having with God. He doesn’t want to talk to The Church as a whole – he wants to talk to you.” 

When a married couple decides whether this month is going to make the switch from trying to avoid to trying to conceive, they have to consider the factors of children they already have and children-to-be.

Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. (Gaudium et Spes, 1965).

In every situation, we are all called to be responsible parents. But we are not called to reject parenthood.  Even in cases where children are not in the plans for that month, or that year, or for the next five years, we’re called to be open to life.  That could be through loving the children already in the family, or fulfilling the role of parenting through spiritual parenthood.  But regardless, openness to love and life is something married couples vow at the altar…and it’s a vow that is meant to be lived on a daily basis.

 

Would John Paul II approve of International Women’s Day?

March 8th is International Women’s Day. If you logged onto Facebook this morning you were reminded that today is a day to “celebrate the amazing contributions women make to our world and our future”

And if that was what International Women’s Day was, I’d agree. But after doing some research on the origins of the holiday, I have to take a step back and ask the question only a huge Theology of the Body and history nerd like myself would ask –

Would Saint Pope John Paul II approve of International Women’s Day? 

An International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 1917 in Petrograd. Women who worked in the textile industry gathered in the capitol of Russia and rioted.  This was the start of the Russian Revolution, which caused Emperor Nicholas II to abdicate the throne just one short week later. The women’s day march-turned-riot was an incredible turning point for the rise of communism.  The provisional government that took the place of Emperor Nicholas granted women the right to vote. But the communist governments around the world  also issued in a reign of terror.

For perspective, Hitler and his Nazi regime killed between 11 and 12 million people, 6 million of them Jews.   Communist leader Mao Zedong of China is responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 40 and 75 million Chinese people.  His political decision of the Great Leap Forward alone is responsible for the deaths of 18 to 45 million.

Stalin is estimated to have been responsible for 20 million deaths, placing him second on the list of dictators who killed the most people.

For the almost sixty years, the holiday was celebrated mostly by socialist movements and communists countries – including the Soviet Union, China, and Spanish communists in 1936.  In commenting about the women’s march, Stalin said:

“I wish them every success…in making the two sections of the oppressed masses, which are still unequal in status, a single army of fighters for the abolition of all inequality and of all oppression, for the victory of the proletariat, and for the building of a new, socialist society in our country. Long live International Communist Women’s Day!”

So with its roots in the communist movements, I am hard pressed to believe John Paul II would be involved. After all, communism played a significant role in the life of John Paul II.  In fact, he fought it so strongly that Mikhail Gorbachev said, “I did not destroy Communism, John Paul II did.”

John Paul II  spent a majority of his life standing up against the forces of Communism – but also standing up for the beauty of the feminine genius and the beauty of masculine and feminine complimentary.  His first mission after he was elected pope was a series of 129 Wednesday audiences discussing the importance of men and women in today’s world in order to bring about a better understanding about the beauty of God, sex and our universal longing for fulfillment.  He saw people as persons to be loved, not things to be used. This didn’t sit well with the strong belief of the Communist government that people were meant to be used.

“He [John Paul II] knew that people do not exist for the good of the state. Rather, the state should exist in order to serve the people.  This wasn’t about making the government more religious, but about making it worthy of the human person. In Wojtyla’s mind, injustices such as violence and the suppression of of human rights are lies spoken against the truth of humanity. When the laws of a state are not based upon the truth of the dignity of the human person, inhuman conditions and acts inevitably follow. This is especially true under communism, which sees man as a purely material being” (Jason Evert, Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves).

In 1995, John Paul II released a letter to women, in which he said:

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity. (Letter to Women, 1995)

But finally, I don’t think that John Paul II, who was amazingly pro-life (from natural conception to natural death), an advocate for masculine and feminine complimentary, and a fighter for the true definition of love would stand for what the women’s moments of today stand for.  Can you picture John Paul II standing with any one of these signs?

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protest fuck yeah sexism feminism reproductive rights misogyny protest sign SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE Arizona Women Unite Rally feminist protest signs:

One of the 2 jewish-christian creation myths says that Eve, first woman was made from the rib of adam. Then Eve would go on to give birth to children. If this is your belief system then, unless you are the Adam of that creation story, you came from a vagina. And if god had made 'her'' from his rib, Eve would be Steve. Biological fact. WAKE UP PEOPLE, the babble book was put together by men for men. Use it to start a bonfire, then it will at least serve a purpose.:

Is is it wrong to celebrate the beauty of femininity in today’s world? No! In fact, the world could use more appreciation for the inherent amazing feminine genius that women offer.  But we need to promote the beauty of a woman’s dignity by fostering a culture that understands, embraces and appreciates the beauty of her fertility and femininity.  Not by seeing her as an ends to a mean in a communist mindset, or rejecting her fertility as if it was a disease.

So I respectfully decline the celebration of International Women’s Day. Not because I hate women (I am one, after all), but because I’ve been inspired by John Paul II to appreciate women at a much deeper level than a holiday steeped with communist roots can ever supply.  To realize the beauty and dignity of woman is incredible and out of this world.  In the words of John Paul II,  “The basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.”

“Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation” (Letter to Women, 1995).

 

 

Chapter Chats: The Hope of Lent with Pope Francis

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When I think of Lent, the word ‘hopeful’ doesn’t come to mind first.  Instead, usually ‘fish,’ ‘sacrifice,’ ‘suffering,’ and ‘pain’ are the first words that I think of.  But in her book, The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis, Diane Houder reminds us that Lent has everything to do with hope.

We hope that we are transformed this Lent into something better, a truer and holier version of ourselves. But we also don’t live Lent just focused on the end goal.  If we did, it would cause us to miss the beauty of the everyday life of Lent.  Eating fish, sacrificing something, joining in Christ’s suffering and pain are things that we do during the season of Lent.  But what is the most beautiful part of the season of Lent is what God does. 

God came down to earth as a vulnerable baby and loved us.  He gave up His life for us in the ultimate sacrifice. And He shows us mercy even while we are still sinners and in desperate need of his compassion.

Pope Francis has made ‘mercy’ an incredible theme of his time as Pope – even naming last year the Year of Mercy.  If you, like me, are missing the Year of Mercy already, check out this book and consider adding it to your Lenten devotions.

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The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francisis published by Franciscan Media.  Each day, Houder introduces the time of reflection with the Bible readings of the daily Mass.  Then follows a reflection on the readings by Pope Francis.  Then Houder encourages her readers to do two things:

  • Take the Word to Heart – she reflects on the Pope’s words.
  • Bring the Word to Life – she challenges her readers to an action for the day.

Then each day of reflection ends with a prayer by Pope Francis.  If you’re looking for a daily devotional and a way to grow closer to Christ along with our Holy Father, this is the book for you!

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media
* Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own.
* In exchange for the review of The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope FrancisI received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

 

Chapter Chats: Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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We are exactly one week away from the start of the Lenten season.  Even though Lent is late this year, it still seems like it sneaked up on me.  After all, didn’t we just finish the Christmas season? But ready or not, here it comes. So pour yourself a latte and pull up a chair – let’s have a heart-to-heart.

Every Lent it seems that I resolve to give up something I like (coffee) or put into practice a spiritual habit (getting up in the morning to pray). And each Lent, after about a week, I lose my stamina and the season starts sliding downhill for me.

If you know where I’m coming from and also struggle with this beautiful season of preparation,  there’s hope for us yet.  After all, the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. And this Lent, I’m checking myself in for a serious case of spiritual neglect.

Life has been crazy for the past couple of months, and as things start to settle down, I’ve realized where I can improve.  For me, this Lent provides an opportunity to grow closer to God in conversation and prayer – with an emphasis on my need to develop listening skills in prayer.

So I was excited to receive a book to review for the Lenten season (this is just one of two books I received – watch for another Chapter Chat post soon!)  Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations  by Heidi Hess Saxton could be just what the spiritual doctor ordered.

What I love about daily devotional books like this is that there is a daily appointment. In past years, to avoid the temptation to let the book slip after reading the first day, I place books that I’m reading through Lent on my pillowcase.  Now I can’t go to bed without picking it up and reading a  short meditation.

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The book is designed to be read once a day during the 40 days of Lenten preparation. Each day starts with the scripture readings from the daily Mass.  Then, Heidi Saxton pulls a thought out of the readings and highlights it.  For example, this is the scripture passage she selected for Ash Wednesday.

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

After scripture, Heidi reflects on what the passages meant in the life of Saint Teresa herself.  For the Ash Wednesday reflection, Heidi speaks on how we are called to love over and over, to pick up our cross  of love even when it is inconvenient.  Lent is not about posting our #GetYourAshToMass selfie, but about how we live the next forty days without the cross on our forehead to remind us of what this season means. Heidi ends her reflection with a quote from Saint Teresa:

I’m very happy if you can see Jesus in me, because I can see Jesus in you. But holiness is not just for a few people. It’s for everyone, including you…Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason He created us.

Then, Heidi offers moments of reflection. Here’s what the questions for Ash Wednesday look like:

  • Look in the mirror and study the cross on your forehead. What kind of cross were you given to carry? Is it big and bold? Barely visible? What is God saying to you about what He wants for you this Lent?
  • Is it time for you to go to confession? The Church teaches that we need to go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we are conscious of having committed serious sin (CCC 2042). Don’t worry if it’s been a while – God is waiting to meet you there. Don’t settle for ashes alone when you can receive absolution and a fresh start! 

Finally, she ends the devotion of the day with a quick prayer.  Here’s what the Ash Wednesday prayer looks like:

Lord Jesus, as I start my Lenten journey, I confess that I still have far to go on the “road of reconciliation.” Give me the courage I need to follow you, as St. Teresa did, even when the road is hard. Holy Spirit, work in me so that one day I too might be a saint! Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

This is the first Lent that we celebrate with Mother Teresa as a Saint – I can’t think of a better way to get to know her better throughout this Lenten season.

Do you have a favorite book you’re revisiting for Lent? Or perhaps you’ve picked up a new title to discover through this season? Tell me about it in the comments !

You can purchase the book Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations from Franciscan Media here.

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media
* Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own.
* In exchange for the review of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, I received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Why I decided to be a stay-at-home-wife.

If you asked me about my dreams for my life, the list has some big goals on it. I want to write a book.  I want to launch my own website.  I want to be a mom.  I want to give a talk on Theology of the Body.  I want to learn how to make creme brulee with a fire torch.  I want to sleep in the back of a pick up truck and look at the stars.  I want to have my own podcast.

As Joseph and I got to know each other when we were dating, we gradually started talking about a future together.  The dream of that future meant that we would start building dreams with each other in mind.  Only 6 months into our relationship, I sat down for a heart to heart with him at midnight and decided that I wasn’t going to look into getting my doctoral degree in history.  Instead I was going to start a life with him that didn’t require years and years of more school and a move to a city nowhere near him.
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Through my senior year of college, I started to work at the university library and I loved it.  I loved the research questions, the front desk, and the interaction with fellow students.  It made sense for me to keep fueling my interest in libraries and pursue a master’s in library science (MLS).  Everyone at the library thought it was a great fit for me.  I learned a lot through my time there and, by the end of my college career, I had seen almost every aspect of the library and student success center that was also housed there.  Sometimes I even brought part of the library home with me!

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Then last summer, I decided that even pursuing a MLS didn’t quite seem to fit into our plans, either.  Most of my colleagues at the library seemed to think I was crazy for not going for that goal.  I was told I was wasting my mind if I didn’t get a higher education past my bachelor’s degree.  Even my professors told me I was ridiculous, marrying young and forgetting about school. But I knew that it was possible to get a job at a library after college without the MLS because of the experience I’d gotten already.  And all the while I kept writing for my own blog, as well as picking up a couple of free-lance opportunities along the way.

I graduated in December and sent in what seemed like an infinite amount of resumes to libraries in Kansas City once Joseph and I knew that was the city that we’d live in.  I went up and visited libraries and discussed their systems with connections from my time at Washburn.  I poured my heart into cover letters and researching about how to answer the interview questions that would lead me to nail the job. And I didn’t hear back. Or, when they did contact me, it was to tell me they’d decided to pursue another candidate. Nothing was working the way I had planned, and it was driving me crazy.


I started to attach my self worth to the job search, and quickly became disappointed.  It felt like I wasn’t useful. Wasn’t worth it. Wasn’t good enough. And the chorus of ‘you’re not good enough’ seemed to follow me and ring in my ears with every rejection e-mail and every time the job was taken off the board without me in the position.

I ignored the small voice in my heart that told me to be still and wait and know He is God. Instead I frantically moved and put in resumes with jobs I didn’t even want.  I had the remnant of a plan left. I was grasping onto it, but it was slipping fast.

Then the answer came to me one night about a month ago, sitting on my bed and flipping through my e-mails.  I’d just had an interview to be a substitute teacher at Catholic school about thirty minutes away from our new home .  They’d offered me the position.  You would think that this meant I was finally at peace.  But I wasn’t.  I sat on my bed and realized that I didn’t want that job.  And I didn’t want the twenty-some other jobs that I’d applied to. The reason I’d applied to them was that I wanted to proudly state that I was employed, as if that added something to my self worth.

What was it that I really wanted? To pursue the thing I was good at, that I enjoyed and that I loved – writing. At that point, I was writing for two different websites, I had my own blog and opportunities to pursue that dream kept falling right into my lap.

So, when Joseph got back from an out of town trip, I asked him if I could have another heart to heart.  I spilled my thoughts to him in a corner booth at Panera.  I didn’t want him to think I was giving up on looking for a job, or being lazy by focusing on my writing instead of the traditional 9-to-5.  But his response was amazing – he said he’d thought I should write too.  I stopped my resume submitting, told the school I’d be unable to substitute for them.  And on Monday I had my first day as a stay-at-home-wife while Joseph went to work.

On this first week of my time as a stay-at-home-wife, I’ve learned quite a few lessons already.  To start the week, I became a little more stay-at-home then I would have liked…the transmission on my car gave out, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Joseph and I’s little apartment.  While that may sound like torture to some, it’s been the perfect environment for me to write and enjoy my time as a wife.  God was just giving me more opportunities to trust Him and be not afraid.

I’ve had family and friends ask me how long I’ll do this, or if I’m looking for another job. Or what my plan is for the next year.  But the reality of my life right now looks like this is going to be something that happens for a while.  And I’m loving it. It is awesome to be able to finally cook.  While some may consider that a chore or burden, I have missed my time in the kitchen so much while in college and living off of leftovers.  And to have dinner ready when Joseph walks in the door? That’s an incredible feeling that I’ve been looking forward to.

It is beautiful to finally have time to read books that have been sitting on a shelf since I graduated from high school.  And I’ve blogged and written more in the past three days than I have been able to for weeks. Who knows…maybe something will happen in the next year or so that will change what my day-to-day look like.  It could be that God opens the door to someplace where He thinks I can better serve Him.  Maybe littles will come along and the job description of stay-at-home-wife and blogger will transition to stay-at-home-mom and blogger.  I don’t know…but I know someone who does.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

He has a plan for me.  It may not look conventional, and it doesn’t look like a thing I had planned.  But I know He has work for me to do.  And if my mission field is here within the walls of this apartment, then His will be done.

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”  (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

Can you be both pro-life and pro-woman?

Can women stand against abortion and still call  themselves feminists? This is a question that has arisen before, but it is being brought to the surface again because of this Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

Even though they formerly were officially partnered with the march, New Wave Feminism has been officially removed as a partner just four days before the march.   The Women’s March official statement apologized for the mistake of including an “anti-choice” group in their march organization.

The Women’s March has established themselves on a platform that fights for a woman’s right to abortion.  New Wave Feminism has said they are unapologetically pro-life.

New Wave Feminism recently wrote on their blog:

When I imagine what the world would look like if our fertility were treated as the super power it is, and the life of the unborn human given the respect it deserves, I see a place that’s a whole hell of a lot more pro-woman than what we have now.

To break down the situation, women are telling women “You can’t march alongside me! You don’t stand for women because you want rights for all women! This march is inherently grounded in the fact that we stand for the right to abortion for women outside the womb at the expense of women and children inside the womb.”

Which begs the question – can you be pro-life and a feminist?

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What does the term ‘feminist’ mean?

Is there a set definition of the word, or has it succumb to the increasingly murky waters of relativism, where I define my own kind of feminism, which can differ from your type of feminism?

My undergraduate minor is in women and gender studies, which by no means makes me an expert on women or gender.  But the question on the label of feminism is something that I’ve wrestled with quite a bit during my time in the minor program and after graduation as well.

Watch this post for for updates as the story, as well as my thoughts on the subject of Catholic feminism, take shape.

 

Thoughts from a girl two weeks away from a wedding

I think I began planning my wedding around age seven.
I knew the colors and the cake – purple, and three tiers respectively.
By age ten, I knew the location and the time of that big day.
Saint Joseph Church on Van Buren Avenue, and noon.
By age sixteen, I’d chosen the wedding gown, four bridesmaids, and a maid of honor.
And by twenty, I was just waiting for the man.

Because I’d met a lot of Christian boys, but not a lot of Christian men.
I wanted a man who would fall to his knees in love of God and service of me.
And I wanted to do the same for him.
I wanted to love when I was ready, not when I was lonely.

Wherever he was when I was growing up, planning our wedding day,
I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking about the color and texture of his tuxedo.
Or how dashing the purple boutonniere would look against a suit jacket.

But now I’m two weeks, fourteen days, 336 hours away from saying “I do.”
And we have the colors, and the cake, the church, the time, the women surrounding me, and the dress.  And I’m preparing for a life-long love with a man who I love more than I thought was humanly possible.

And it is all happening in ways that I never imagined and better than I ever dreamed.  Because ‘love’ never happens the way you think it should – but then you find that reality is better than all of your dreams combined.

I used to struggle with the word “submission”.
It sounded archaic.
I didn’t understand it.
Then I found out that it meant ‘under the mission of’ – and it changed everything.
Because this man that I’m marrying?  I know his mission in life.
He wants to get to Heaven.  And he wants me by his side on the journey there.

When Father Zarse asks me in 2 weeks, fourteen days, 336 hours from now
to repeat: “I, Chloe, take you, Joseph, as my husband” I will probably start
repeating before he finishes the sentence.  And later I will apologize for my anxiousness.

Then I’ll explain how I’ve been wanting and waiting to say those words for so long.
Through a 10 month countdown that started on a mountaintop in the sunrise light.

And how excited I am to climb all of life’s mountains, valleys, and in-betweens by his side as his wife.

Because I’m excited.  I’m thinking about him and our life together all the time.
I’m lying away at night, staring at the ceiling fan praying for him.
Because in 2 weeks, 14 days, 336 hours I am marrying my best friend.

And I’m going to decorate a home with him and do everything with him.
Like watch weird YouTube videos, and be beside him right when he wakes up, and nudge him out of bed, bribing him with coffee and probably bacon.

We’ll laugh until our side hurts, and be there to hold each other when life happens and things get squishy and messy and we are reminded of how human we are.

He knows what I look like without makeup.  And how I smell after not showering for six days.  How I love the little things.  He’s going to find out how I wander around and sip coffee in the morning.  And how I dance horribly and have a very small amount of funny faces that I make.

And I know the face he makes when he is thinking.  How he drums the steering wheel along to the rhythm of songs.  How he can back into parking spaces like nobody’s business.  I’m going to find out how he eats cereal and what it sounds like when the door opens after a long day from work and he comes in exhausted.

We want to be saints together.  He’ll probably be the patron saint of engineering (move over Saint Patrick) and I’ll be the patron saint of coffee drinkers.  He’ll be up in Heaven helping those hard working engineer students with electromagnetic theory homework.  I’ll be recommending vanilla lattes over hazelnut.  It’ll be beautiful.

Please keep us in your prayers.

The next 2 weeks (not that anyone has a countdown going or anything) are going to fly by. Before we know it, we’ll be starting our new life
together as Mr. and Mrs. Langr…and it’s going to be beautiful.

“Young people are always searching for the beauty in love.  They want their love to be beautiful.”
Saint Pope John Paul II

 

 

 

How Firm a Foundation

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In a few short weeks, I’ll be moving out of my parents house for the first time ever. I’ve started the packing (and pitching) process…and I don’t think that I’ve ever been more sad and excited at once in my whole life.

These next four weeks bring with them an incredible amount of change.  In just one month, I will have graduated from college, celebrated the Christmas holiday season, rang in the New Year, moved to a new town, and changed my last name.  Joseph and I will find a new church, grocery store, doctor, gym, library and friends.  I’m moving from a home filled with loud littles and comfortable familiar chaos to a quiet, one-bedroom apartment with a man who I will have to get used to calling “my husband.”

I’m going to change from thinking of home as ten people to home as two people. I’m going to have to start cooking again, after a couple of years living out of the leftovers from the fridge.  I’ll say goodbye to friends who have lived in the same city with me for the past four years.  For the first time in nineteen years, I’ll share a bedroom with someone who isn’t my sister.  And I’ll realize very quickly how selfish I am and how much room I have to grow after I get married.

I would be lying if I told you that I was handling these changes gracefully. There have been many times when where I’ll stop in the middle of a moment and realize it’s temporariness.  My last Christmas as a Mooradian was a few days ago.  My last few weeks of having all of my family under the same roof are drawing to a close.  There are only a few days left in my engagement and time as a fiancee.

There have been a lot of tears.  There will be many more.  There have been a lot of laughs, smiles, and beauty. More will come. But in the midst of all this hectic, crazy change, the one thing that keeps me grounded is a foundation. My foundation is Christ.

I truly don’t know how people make it through life without faith and Christ as their foundation.  I am a shaking, quivering mess of a person with God’s help…I don’t want to think of who I would be without Him.

We can scramble to control, stabilize, and manipulate our lives, but nothing we produced will even compare to the peace that comes with finding our contentment in His plan.  When we find our firm foundation in God, our priorities began to align to His will.

People move, jobs change and our lives can be flipped around and upside down in an instant.  But God is a constant that cannot be shifted.  He is a firm, unmovable foundation that offers us shelter in the storm. His faithfulness is buckler and shield.

Our lives will always shift around us. Let’s place our hope in the one who is the firm foundation.

How Mary Taught Me to Embrace the Mess

A combined picture of two paintings, probably by the same artist, showing Mary holding Baby Jesus in her arms on one side and holding the dead body of Her beloved Son on the other side. Very powerful!: If there was ever a human being who had it all together, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Conceived without sin, immaculate, gentle, and kind, she had it all.  She dedicated her entire being, even her virginity to God.

And then He turned her world upside down. 

He sent an angel to her, which frightened her.  Then, the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. Mary answers with the infamous declaration of ultimate sacrifice and love: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).

And then her life was perfect, right? Actually, quite the opposite.  Soon after she proclaimed her Magnificat, her betrothed tried to quietly divorce her, threatening the life of her unborn child and herself, according to Jewish tradition.  After avoiding near death, she had to travel ninety long miles on a grueling journey to Bethlehem.  When they arrived at their destination, there was no room in the inn, so Mary gave birth in a stable. After her child was born, the only place to lay Him was a feeding trough for animals.  Not a romanticized, Christmas nativity manger, but an animal feeding trough made of clay and straw that was held together with mud.

As if her son’s entrance into the world wasn’t difficult enough, over the next thirty-three years Mary watched her child grow up to be an amazing teacher and healer. But despite His goodness, He was slaughtered by the Roman Empire on one of the cruelest torture devices of the day, a cross.

When Mary said ‘Yes’ to God’s will, the result wasn’t perfection. The result was a mess.

I think we have a false idea that when we give our lives over to God, everything is going to be picture perfect. Things will fall into place and everything will work out.  Yet the truth is that sometimes God will turn our worlds upside down, and we’ll find that only then are things right where they should be.

God never promises perfection when we give our lives to Him. In fact, He warns us explicitly that our lives will more than likely become harder, not easier, when we give ourselves completely to Him. He says we will be persecuted for the sake of righteousness because we know and follow Him.

Yet we expect picture perfect. We want the perfect manger scene with soft straw hay and gentle swaddling clothes.  We want to ignore the messy reality of our lives.

The past months, I’ve been searching for a job. After struggling to not tie my self-worth into every rejection and time I was passed over, I finally resolved to give the job search over to God. Weeks have passed, I still don’t hear back from interviews. Calls come, but no follow-ups. Interviews are scheduled, but no further contact.

If I had given my job search over to God, why hadn’t He fixed my problems? I became more and more frustrated, unable to sit still and quietly let Him lead me to the next step. I was demanding perfection, and resenting Him for the mess I had instead.

When I ask that God’s will be done, it doesn’t mean that everything will magically fix itself, and I will get a call from an employer the next day.  He doesn’t automatically fix things for me…instead, He gives me opportunities to trust Him. And that is one area of my life where I could use a lot of work – so He’s giving me lots of opportunities.

Look back at the story of the Virgin Mary. She’d pledged her virginity to God, and her gift was transformed into something that humans deem impossible: a virgin birth.  God honored Mary’s gift to Him – yet His plan for her life was different that she could have ever imagined. After all, it’s not often that you pledge your virginity to God and the result is a baby boy.

How often do we given God a gift of ourselves with a secret plan in the back of our mind on how He should use that gift? Sure, I said that God’s will can be done in my job search, but what I secretly hoped that God would come in triumphantly and open the door to a job opportunity before I could blink twice. I wasn’t prepared for the part where His answer was ‘sit here in the stillness and wait with me.’

God yearns for our trust more than anything. He desire to take the pen from our hand and write the most amazing, beautifully messy story with our lives – more beautiful than we could have ever written ourselves.  He doesn’t promise perfection. Yet he tells us that He will be right beside us, yes, even until the end of the world.

It won’t be perfect. But it will be holy. He is a good, good father. So let’s allow Him to turn our lives upside down…and embrace the beautiful mess that ensues.