“What Has God Been Saying To You Lately?”

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I sincerely hope that you have someone like my grandpa in your life.

By that I mean that I hope you have at least one person in your life that will ask you casually over dinner at a local pizza place, “So Mary, what has God been saying to you lately?” 

I also sincerely hope that when that person asks you this question (as you’ve come to expect they will from time to time), that your reaction is less like the, “I, er, well, um…” that mine more often than not seems to be; but is more like how you would answer if someone asked you what you and your best friend have been up to as of late.

Because people like my grandpa are constant reminders to me that the two questions shouldn’t really be all that different.  Praying to God should be a conversation with God.  And when someone asks what God has been saying to me, it shouldn’t feel like a trick question.

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My grandpa leading the blessing at my wedding reception almost two years ago :)

What I think I like most about being asked this question is that it reminds me that my prayer life—my relationship with God—doesn’t have to be this supremely personal, almost hidden or secretive thing kept just between me and God.  Sometimes it’s easy for me to think that way.

It’s not that I want to hide from others the fact that I have a relationship with God.  Rather, it’s that I’d like to hide from others all those things that God—my Creator and my Savior—knows about me.

When I’m asked this question it reminds me of my tendency to picture God as my “divine secret-keeper,” as the One Who Knows All The Bad Stuff. How easy it is for me to forget that He cares and wants to talk to me about the good stuff, too!  And not even just the big, life-altering stuff, but the day-to-day stuff, too—much like a close friend would.

Maybe you can relate.  What is your reaction when someone asks, “What has God been saying to you lately?”

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A Small Request (PLEASE SHARE!)

 

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The Pearson Family (minus one! It’s hard to get 24 people in one place for a picture!)

This evening, at 8:30pm central time (That’s 6:30pm if you’re in California like me, or 9:30pm if you’re on the east coast), I’d like to ask all of you to take some time to pray for my father in law, Doug Pearson.

Doug was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, and will begin four months of aggressive chemo this coming Monday.  Our family is spread throughout the country, but we thought we’d all “gather together” in a sense tonight to pray.

Here is the request from my sister-in-law, Cassie:

Hey everyone, as you have all heard by now that my dad, Doug, has stage 4 cancer. He is about to start four months of aggressive chemo. As this journey of fighting and beating cancer begins, I would like to ask everyone, at 8:30 pm Texas time, so 6:30 pm in Nevada and California, to stop and pray for my dad. At that time, my parents and little siblings will pray a rosary, and I am requesting that everyone stop and pray with them, a private prayer, a rosary, adoration, whatever you can do, just offer up prayers for him at that time. Please spread this around so we can get as many people as possible to stop and pray for my dad,  for healing, for strength and for peace. We are truly humbled and blessed as a family from all the love and support from family and friends.

Thank you everyone!

As Cassie says, 8:30pm Texas time is when the Pearsons will pray their family rosary, so we are asking you—if you are able—to stop and pray with them and with all of us at that time.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that treatment was scheduled to begin this Monday, September 8th—the feast of the birth of Our Lady.  Please join us in entrusting all of this to her, knowing that she will lead us all through this to the heart of her Son.

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One last thing: the Pearson kids set up a place to donate online to help the family with medical and day-to-day costs through all of this.  If you would like to donate, you can visit their GoFundMe site, here (or by clicking the logo above).

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In Defense of “Going Through the Motions”

 

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Sorry for being MIA for a while.  Life has been busy!

The Tylers and I moved into our very own place about a month ago; Tyler Jr. is coming up on his first birthday; and we are expecting ‘Baby Number Two’ mid-February!  (We will be finding out the sex later this month—I’ll keep you all posted :) )

Anyway, I wanted to share this little bit of wisdom from Saint Josemaria Escriva (who else?  I may be a little obsessed…) that I found to be helpful.

I know that I often struggle with giving myself a hard time about just simply “going through the motions” when it comes to my faith.  I don’t just want to recite the rosary or go to mass out of habit—I want those practices to come from a place of passionate love for my Savior!  Yet it’s helpful to remember that even when the feelings aren’t there, those small acts of love are still meaningful to Godand to us!

Saint Josemaria says it better than I could:

…[when] we feel cold and uninspired; when we find it difficult to fulfill our duties and attain the spiritual objectives we had set ourselves, then the time has come for us to realize that God is playing with us, and that he wishes us to act out our play with style…

…’But, Father’, you ask me, ‘can one put on an
act for God? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?’ Don’t worry: for you the moment has arrived to play out a human comedy before a divine spectator. Persevere, for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are contemplating your act; do it all for love of God, to please him, although you find it hard.

How beautiful it is to be God’s jester! How beautiful to act out such a role for Love, with a spirit of sacrifice, not seeking any personal satisfaction, but just to please Our Father God who is playing with us! Turn to Our Lord with confidence and say to him: ‘I don’t feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for you.’ And then put your heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play acting. Blessed play acting! I assure you it isn’t hypocrisy, because hypocrites need a public for their pantomimes, whereas the spectators of our play, let me repeat, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Virgin, St Joseph and all the Angels and Saints in Heaven. Our interior life involves no more show than this, it is Christ who is passing by.

What a privilege to be given the opportunity to be God’s jester!

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A Letter to Students Headed Back To School

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My nieces and nephews are starting school this time of year.  They’re all little guys, but each year when they start heading back to school it always gets me thinking about what I’d tell myself if I were still in school.  So I wrote you all this letter:

Dear Students,

Another school year is beginning, and I remember those first day of school jitters I used to get without fail every year—the ones you might be experiencing now.  The excitement over picking out that first day of school outfit, getting super organized with back-to-school supply shopping, and of course day-dreaming that this could be the year I’d meet “the one.”

If there’s one thing I want for you to know as you begin this new school year, it’s that nothing within those four walls of your school has the power to define who you are.

In school you may find that there are a lot of things competing for your attention; so many things begging you to invest your whole identity in.  “I am an ‘A Student,’” or, “I am a ‘student council member,’” or, “I belong to this group.”

Your grades are important, and I do hope you try your hardest.  Sports and activities are great ways to get to know people and to have fun, so I hope you put yourself out there and try new things.  The friends you make during your school years matter and they will certainly influence the way you think and act, so I hope you find good ones—and try to be a good one.

But most importantly, I hope you remember that you are not your grades.  You are not the sport you play or the activity you choose to participate in.  You are not even the friends that you hang out with.

You are God’s beloved, God’s soldier—God’s precious child.  Nothing you do will ever change that, and nothing you learn in school will ever be as important as knowing and believing that.

As you begin this new school year, I invite you to make the prayer of Saint Francis your prayer for this year.  Just imagine if our schools were full of students seeking to live this out!

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

God Bless you as you start this new school year!  You are in my prayers!

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Ask Mary: Does God Will “Unplanned” Babies?

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Question:

Hi Mary,

I have a question about Catholic teaching and conception that I’ve
been wondering about. I often read about married Catholics who don’t
use artificial birth control saying that God will decide how many
children they will have and when they will have them. Taking this
premise that God is the ultimate authority when it comes to married,
non birth control using couples conceiving children, how does the
Church reconcile this teaching with the biological reality that
conception can take place in any less sanctified or loving sexual
encounter? 

 

Answer:

Thanks for this question!

First of all, I love that you said, “The biological reality [is] that conception can take place in any…sexual encounter.” 

Translation: Sex makes babies!

It may seem obvious, but the fact is that the Church’s teaching with regards to marriage and the marital act is just about the last remaining place where you’ll hear this “biological reality” proclaimed today.  Elsewhere in our culture we are told that sex can be merely used for pleasure, or simply to unite two people in love while attempting to strip their very act of love from its God-given potential to create new life.  The Church holds fast that to do so is to turn the marital act into something less than God created it for, and thus hurts married life.

2363 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog in more detail about why the Church teaches what it does about contraception.  My aim here isn’t to re-hash that, but if you’re interested, check out these posts:

How Do We Determine God’s Will?
As you said, often times when we Catholics are asked why we don’t use contraception, we say it’s because we want God to be in charge of how many kids we have and when we will have them.  While this answer is 100% correct and truly gets right to the heart of the matter, I think that when it’s stated so plainly it can sound to some as if our method of determining God’s will for our family is to just close our eyes and see how many babies pop out.

In reality, we can come to know God’s will (for any facet of our life) through prayer, discernment, and use of our God-given faculty of reason.  Part of the beauty of having a relationship with the Living God is that we don’t have to simply “wait and see;” we can actually talk to God and ask Him to reveal His will to us!

One very practical way to discover God’s will for us in a general sense is to consult what He has revealed to us in Scripture and in the Teaching of His Church.   With regards to birth control, Scripture and the Church have revealed that God’s Will can never be for it because the act of contraception imposes something on the married act to seek to remove its life-giving potential.

Now, with regards to the marital act itself, the Church teaches first of all that it is created for marriage—the indissoluble life long union of one man and one woman.  The Church has always taught that sex, marriage, and babies go hand in hand— not because some pope made it up hundreds of years ago, but because that’s the way God designed it!

So in a sense the Church doesn’t have to “reconcile” anything here, really.  It’s the rest of us that need to reconcile ourselves with God’s design for sex and marriage!  God created sex for marriage and by it gave man and woman the ability to participate in His creative power.  What an incredible gift!

If we decide we want to pretend that sex is for other things, that’s our choice, but it won’t change God’s design for sex.  The “biological reality” will still run its course, and conception can still occur, because sex and babies—by God’s design— belong together.

Amazing Grace
The beauty and the mystery of God’s grace is that He can take even something He did not will—like a sinful act—and use it to bring about great good.  Just look at the Cross!

If you get nothing else from this post, hear this:

We can’t outsmart God.  We can’t overwhelm God.  He knows our decisions, our choices—good and bad—before we even make them.  From the beginning of time He knew and He planned each and every soul that would ever come into existence.  No life is a mistake.  No life is unplanned.  Each person—no matter the circumstances of his or her conception—is willed by God and loved by God.  God wants you here, no matter how you came to be here.

In short, the answer to your question is somewhere in the middle of God’s grace and earnestly seeking God’s will for your life.  I think the Psalmist’s answer to this question is much more eloquent and meaningful than my attempt:

(Psalm 139)

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
With all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

God is in control!  And we are never too far from His grace.

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