Archive for Marriage – Page 2

No Right to Same-Sex Marriage

protect marriageThe topic of gay “marriage” is a sizzling in the media.  Are we being selfish and narrow-minded to deny gay couples access to marriage?  Do gay couples have a “right” to marry like other couples?   Here’s an incredibly erudite, kick-ass argument for why homosexuals can’t claim a right to legal “marriage.”  Catholic attorney Andrew Greenwell argues that because homosexual couples lack the obligations or duties of the historical office of marriage, they therefore lack the right to marriage.

I haven’t heard or read anything from anyone who recognized the significance of the “office” of marriage and how that impacts the marriage debate.  When you hold an office, you have a special status or identity related to “doing something”; the person holding the office has to be capable of assuming certain duties and obligations in carrying out that work successfully.  It is those duties and obligations that give rise to rights.  Without those duties, talking about “rights” is a sham.

Here’s a snippet from his article:

The reason for this is that the office imposes upon the holder of office a duty which obliges him in conscience, and the obligation of fulfilling that duty gives rise to a right to fulfill that duty, a right which must be respected by others and which public authority can enforce.

Moderns, however, have severed the relationship between duty and right, between office and right, so we hear all manner of things about “rights” that are entirely untied to any office or duty. This gives rise to all sorts of silly rights, fictitious rights, to the point that “rights talk” has become virtually unmanageable.

The office of marriage can only be assumed by people who can carry out the chief duty of marriage: bringing offspring into the world.  Only a man and a woman could possibly fulfill that duty; two women or two men can never fulfill this duty and obligation, so they can’t claim a right to marriage.  Check out Greenwell’s full article for more insights!

So, what would you reply to somebody who countered that if we accept Greenwell’s argument, infertile couples couldn’t marry because they could not assume the duties and obligations of bearing children?

UPDATE:  Andrew Greenwell and I exchanged emails and he shared that he intends to write another article addressing the question I pose in my last paragraph.  Looking forward to it!

 

A Lesson in Forgiveness by Anne McDonald

Editor’s Note:  Welcome back Anne McDonald!  In this new essay, Anne shares honestly and tenderly about what she has learned about forgiveness from her husband.

It was one of those arguments that you wish had never happened.  An argument where you’ve said such painful, hurtful words that when you look back on it, it makes you sick to your stomach.  However, it was an experience that my husband turned around and made into something so beautiful.

forgiveStewing over hurt feelings without talking to my husband about them was my first mistake.  Then I let them grow wildly while I gave him the silent treatment, and my imagination blew everything out of proportion.  Add a heavy dose of pregnancy hormones, and you’ve got the explosion that came out of me that afternoon.  I marched downstairs to the basement where he was working hard at finishing our basement.

And I yelled.

I only remember a few of the accusations I leveled at him about how I thought he had been treating me.  To this day, five years later, it hurts to think about how I took advantage of his love for me, how I assumed that I could dump out my feelings on him like I was ripping open a bag of trash at his feet.  Like I had some right to speak to him that way.

To his credit, he stood up for himself, but that meant telling me that I was wrong, and at the time, that’s what hurt me the most.  I had the audacity of being upset that my pride was hurt, and that maybe, just maybe, I was wrong.

I returned upstairs with the same dramatics that brought me downstairs, sat on the side of our tub, and had a good, long cry.  It was at that time that I realized what I had done, and how unfounded my accusations were.  If I had calmly told him, “I’m not feeling loved because…” that would have been one thing.  But that wasn’t what I said.  I told him that I doubted his love for me.  And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Bringing myself to go back downstairs to him to feebly apologize was so difficult.  He didn’t look at me as he said it was alright and kept working at framing out the basement.  I stood there, feeling like an idiot for a minute, and left him to his work.

We had already planned to go to confession that Saturday afternoon, and confessing the way I had treated my beloved was both humbling and healing.  I walked out of the church feeling God’s love for me, sure of His forgiveness, but in my mind, how could my husband forgive me?

That evening, we worked quietly together, making dinner.  I apologized several more times for what I had said, how I had hurt him that day.  I didn’t believe him as he said that it was fine and that the episode was over for him; again, I was doubting him.

He stopped, looked me in the eye, and said, “Its okay.  You forget…. I don’t hold grudges.”

And that was it.

At that moment, I took that leap of faith that he had forgiven me, and that he wasn’t going to make me pay for my childish behavior.  That argument was never brought up again, and in fact, when I mentioned it to him tonight, he didn’t remember it.

I learned a lot from him that weekend.  How many times have we had arguments, that I’ve drudged back up time and again, long after they should have been over.  I try hard not to do that, though, because of that lesson in forgiveness.  We’ve also come a long way in learning how to communicate better with one another, so that we don’t have long, drawn out silent treatments that end badly.  I’ve also learned that while I can rest assured of his love for me, taking it for granted is not an option.

The biggest lesson that I learned, though, is that our marriage will never keep going forward and continue to grow, if we continue to let ourselves be mired in the past of old hurts and arguments.  Once we’ve recognized how we’ve hurt one another, and sought and received forgiveness, we close the door on that pain and move forward.  And apparently, my husband lives up to the old saying, “forgive AND forget.”

Anne’s Bio

McDonald FamilyAnne McDonald lives in Northern Virginia with her husband of 12 years, Jonathan, and their six children.

After receiving her BA in English from Christendom College, Anne went on to work in public relations until her oldest was born, at which point became a stay-at-home mom. She currently homeschools (with some away-schooling this year) her children, and helps out in her parish homeschooling group, having led a pre-school co-op this past autumn.

Are We Done Yet?

The Tierney Family of 6, soon to by 7!!

The Tierney Family of 6, soon to be 7!!

I think it started in earnest when I was expecting our third child.  Questions like, “So is this it?”,  “How many do you plan to have?”, and  “Are you done after this one?” almost always seemed to follow close behind the initial congratulatory remarks once family, friends, and even complete strangers learned of my pregnancy.  When I first heard these questions, I often fumbled for words.  The curiosity of others seemed so far removed from my husband’s and my way of thinking.

When I was once asked how many children we plan to have, I simply and honestly responded, “I don’t know.”  The person who asked me the question appeared shocked and exclaimed, “You mean you haven’t talked about it?!?”  I nearly laughed out loud.  If there’s one thing faithful Natural Family Planning practicing couples do, it’s talk!  We revisit the question of whether or not we are being called to conceive another child at least once a month.  The subject has already come up between my husband and me as we enter the last few days of my pregnancy with our fifth child.  The truth is, we still don’t know for sure how many children we will ultimately have–and it is the very essence of that uncertainty that blesses our marriage and spiritual lives with riches beyond compare.

Our humanity can never fully comprehend the plans God has laid out for us as we make our earthly journey to heaven.  He, along with the Church, is our compass, our map, and our guide.  For this reason, we are called to seek God’s will in all that we do.  We are incapable of choosing the correct road to follow all on our own.  Our judgment is too often clouded with sin, internal spiritual warfare, and self doubt.  But if we surrender our will to that of our heavenly Father, He will protect our souls from being corrupted by the lies and deception of the evil one.

This way of life, of course, carries with it a degree of uncertainty.  But earthly uncertainty has the potential to evolve into divine surrender, and our great gift of fertility cannot be excluded from this.  Choosing to ignore the devil’s attacks on this most sacred and holy part of our marriage is not always easy.  Seeking God’s will does not come without trial and tribulation.  A heart open to God is especially vulnerable to the stealthy ways of the devil.

 “…if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.  Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be hasty in time of calamity.  Cleave to him and do not depart, that you may be honored at the end of your life.  Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient.  For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him…Consider the ancient generations and see:  who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? …For the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  Sirach 2: 1-6, 10, 11

How quickly our plan to serve the Lord becomes an issue of trust.  Do we trust that if we seek God’s will alone that He will give us the strength and self mastery we need to faithfully practice Natural Family Planning in the midst of a serious medical condition?  Do we trust that God will answer our prayers for a conversion of heart in a spouse resistant to adhering to the precepts of the Church?  Do we trust that God will provide us with the means to faithfully raise another child?  Accepting our fertility as a gift affects so many facets of our lives and of our faith.  We find ourselves continually assessing how God wants us to embrace this gift at any particular point in our lives.  Are we being called to bring another life into the world, or do we have a just reason to postpone pregnancy?  It is only through the discipline of prayer and proper conscience formation that we will be able to discern God’s will.  We can be certain that God will never ask us to do something that is in direct conflict with the teachings of His Church.  We can also be certain that God will never ask us to do something that will not ultimately lead us to a great sense of joy and peace in our lives.  So we must pray, educate ourselves in the faith, and communicate with our spouse what God is saying to us in the depths of our hearts.

 “Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention to one’s partner, helps the spouses to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love; and deepens their sense of responsibility.  By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring; little children and youths grow up with a just appraisal of human values, and in the serene and harmonious development of their spiritual and sensitive faculties.”  Humanae Vitae  21

This responsible acceptance of our gift of fertility is a key factor in our children’s “just appraisal of human values.”  They observe us viewing the gift of new life through the eyes of God.  They see the love of our marriage emulating the blessed Trinity as the love of two begets physical and spiritual fruits.  They see that accepting the responsibility of conceiving a new life is neither a decision to be taken lightly, nor one to be forever cut off from the grace of God.  A mere five times for them to observe all of these truths through the tangible miracle of a tiny baby suddenly doesn’t seem like enough!  Our children live in a world where they are bombarded by the snares of the devil.  His subliminal messages often appear more glamorous and appealing than God’s truths of what will truly make us happy.  Our children need to see us surrendering our bodies and souls to God with complete trust.  This will nurture their sense of trust and discernment, which will in turn fill us with a sense of peace as we learn to give our children back to God.

Is this not where Catholic Attachment Parenting begins?  With our attachment to God and His will–only then can we discern properly what He desires for us and our children.

So are we done yet?  I don’t know if God will bless us with any more children, but I do know we are not done trusting in Him.  I know we are not done seeking His will.  And I know we are not done reaping the graces that He will continue to shower upon His faithful followers until we are one with Him in heaven.

A Lenten Love Story

year of faith photoLent is the season to fall in love.  I’m not talking about the earthly kind of love that will forever be marred by the fall of man and the presence of sin and evil in the world, but a different kind of love.  What if you fell deeply in love with someone who you could fully trust to always be working for your best interests, even in the most dire of circumstances?  What if you could surrender yourself to someone with complete faith that you would never be disappointed in your decision to do so?  What if you fell deeply in love with someone who had the infallible ability to help you reach your fullest potential, and who would go to the greatest lengths to give you every opportunity to choose to become all you were created to be?

This is divine love, and it’s ours to receive.  During Lent, we are called to grow closer to God.  Sacrifice, repentance, acts of charity, prayer, and scripture study are all wonderful ways to embrace God, but as Catholics we have an obligation that runs much deeper than that.

When we love God, we are also called to love Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And when we love Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are Lenten crosscalled to love the Church that Jesus established, as well as it’s leaders who have been blessed with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  We never reject the gifts of those we love most when they are given in the true spirit of charity.  A homemade card from one of my children with words of love crudely written and misspelled all over it melts my heart faster than any gift they could buy at a store for me.  Their deep love and trust is obvious as they hand me something that took time, effort, and humility as they struggled to create it within the limitations of their young years.

So it is with Christ and His Church.  He handed us this great gift when He handed His body over to be broken for us.  He loved us so much that He gave us the Church and her leaders to impart that love for the rest of time.  He trusted that we would embrace every aspect of the precepts of the Church for which He gave time, effort, and humble suffering as He experienced the struggle between His divine love and human qualities in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He trusted that because we love Him, we would also faithfully love His Church.

When I first fell in love with my husband, I found myself willing to overlook his weaknesses, quirky personality traits, and annoying habits.  As that love deepened and matured within the sacrament of marriage, we have both had times when we felt compelled to start a difficult conversation out of concern for the other’s soul, but the commitment has remained strong and our self-giving love for each other has endured.  How much easier it should be to love a perfect God who only wants what is right and good for us!  A soul that is burning with the fire of love for God wants nothing more than to seek always His presence and guiding hand.  It thirsts for the knowledge that will monitor every thought, every impulse, and every human tendency to be sure we are being led, body and soul, into the arms of our Savior.  A soul filled with love for God wants to immerse itself in the fullness of His truth so as to remain always consumed by the magnitude of His omniscience without any risk of falling into the snares of this world.

What a gift Christ left us with the establishment of His Church!  The rich, 2,000 year old legacy of the Catholic Church is filled with saints who inspire us, leaders who guide us, sacraments that fill us with the presence and graces of Jesus Himself, and limitless resources that quench our thirst for the truth.  It’s up to us to prove our love for Christ and His Church by choosing what guides us carefully.

Choose trusted Catholic publishers and authors.  Seek out the advice of your parish priest, catechetical leader, or the owner of your local Catholic bookstore for recommendations in reference to any topic.  I’ve discovered that the Church has an answer for everything.  While some of her answers may be difficult to understand or accept, it is our obligation as Catholics to persevere in our quest for the truth.  Often one good Catholic resource leads to another, and God will reward our perseverence with wisdom and clarity.  The deeper we delve into the study of our faith, the deeper we move into the corners of our souls, dusting off past sins both known and unknown.  This is a great gift, as it carries the potential for conversion of heart and reconciliation with God.

The people and resources who guide us should incorporate not only scripture, but also information from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the wisdom of the Magisterium, Church Tradition, and saints.  As I heard on a Catholic Answers Live radio broadcast one day, “As Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t say, ‘Be sure to read my Book.’”  He left us His apostles with Peter appointed as the first great leader.  The Holy Spirit gifted them with the ability to lead us to correct interpretation of scripture and other resources the Church offers, a grace that is passed down to today’s pope and priests. 

This Lent, read a good Catholic book, listen to a broadcast on Catholic radio, watch a show on EWTN, or “Like” a Catholic themed Facebook page.   Fan the flames of your love for God by falling in love with His Church and allow your children to watch your love story evolve.  I’ve heard the best lessons in life are caught, not taught.  Children know what authentic love looks like.  The words of faith that we try to teach them will fall on deaf ears if they cannot sense our own hearts bursting with joyful love for the Church from whence they came.  Open your heart and trust in God’s love as you journey into deeper union with Him through the gift of the Catholic Church. 

“Keep close to the Catholic Church at all times, for the Church alone can give you true peace, since she alone possesses Jesus, the true Prince of Peace, in the Blessed Sacrament.” –St. Padre Pio

Some Catholic resources that have inspired me recently:

Books

Story of a Soul:  The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition Translated from the Original Manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D., ICS Publications

Full of Grace:  Women and the Abundant Life by Johnnette S. Benkovic, Servant Books.  This can be read alone or incorporated into a women’s bible study.

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa M. Hendey

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

The Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West

Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? And 199 other questions from Catholic teenagers by Matthew J. Pinto

Parenting With Grace by Greg and Lisa Popcak

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly

Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly

Magnificat.  A fantastic monthly booklet featuring daily Mass scripture, morning prayers, evening prayers, night prayers, meditations, stories of the saints, and much more.

Websites

www.dynamiccatholic.com

This is the brain child of Matthew Kelly and contains a wealth of Catholic resources.  He has a wonderful collection of Catholic books that are available for only the cost of shipping and handling.  If you have the means and the motivation to do so, you can also purchase these same books for an extremely reasonable bulk price to distribute to members of your parish.)

www.womenofgrace.com

This is where you can find Johnnette Benkovic’s bible study kit to accompany her book I listed above.

www.catholic.com

The home of Catholic Answers–I use this website often to search for authentic Catholic answers to questions on almost any topic that arise.  You can also listen to episodes of their radio show here.

www.exceptionalmarriages.com

You can find fantastic resources here from Greg and Lisa Popcak, including podcasts of their wonderful radio show, More2Life.

Of course, this list is just the tip of the iceberg.  Have fun exploring and falling in love with your Catholic faith this Lent!

Image credit (Lenten cross):  Charissa Ragsdale (photos.com)

Losing Control

Sometimes I feel like I’m losing control.

Take today, for example.  In the time span of just a few hours, I heard about some less than enthusiastic support within our parish for the Theology of the Body for Teens class that my husband and I teach, I slipped in a toddler-made puddle of water and all 140 pregnant pounds of me crashed to the floor, my husband won tickets to a college basketball game for the same night we had a much needed date planned, and a cup of milk was spilled all over my lap at lunch time.  While none of these were catastrophic events, they all added up to give rise to a multitude of emotions, many of which held the potential to lead me down a path filled with the snares of sin.

Sometimes we work so hard to lead others to the beauty of the truth of God’s plan, to nurture our relationships, to take good care of ourselves, and to practice virtue through our daily tasks, when we realize that any one of those abilities can be taken from us in the blink of an eye, even if only for a moment.

I was looking forward to getting out with my husband, and I had even just secured a babysitter for our big night out.  I want to just mope a little and feel sorry for myself that I will have to sit at home with the kids for yet another night by myself while my husband is out, fancy free and footloose, enjoying the big game.

But my conscience is telling me something isn’t quite right about that attitude.  If I take the focus off of myself for a moment, I remember that Rob’s plan, if he won the tickets, was to take our eight-year-old, Owen with him for some quality father/son time.  How blessed I am to have a husband who doesn’t want to use the tickets as an excuse to escape from his family with a guy friend for the night, but wants to create a meaningful memory with his first born son!  And then it hits me–I’ve been praying God would grace me with that same virtue of generosity that my husband so readily displays, and I nearly missed a huge opportunity for growth because I was so caught up in feeling sorry for myself!

Here it is:  my big moment.

And so my heart turns from the darkness of anger and resentment and fills with gratefulness for a husband who is such a wonderful father to his children and example of loving generosity for me.

As for those other little mishaps in my morning?  I am inspired to continue to seek new and charitable ways to lead more parents to want their children to learn about the Theology of the Body.  I am also even more convinced of the power and importance of prayer and am ever hopeful in the great power of the Holy Spirit to turn people’s hearts to the Truth.  Conversion happens only through the power of God and not solely in what I say or do.  I am also more aware of what a blessing those are who support our mission to inspire our teens to holiness with the life changing words of Blessed John Paul II.

Baby is still kicking, so aside from a few bruises, I don’t think my fall caused any permanent damage.  It did remind me of how grateful I am for my healthy pregnancy and caused me to marvel at the amazing design of my body and its ability to protect the vulnerable life within.

And the spilled milk?  I’ve heard before that “God is in the details.”  All of those cups of spilled milk remind us that we are ultimately not in control at all.  I wish sometimes that I could force my life to go according to my plan, and that everything would work out the way I have it written in black and white on my calendar.  But it’s in the cups of spilled milk and the unexpected puddles that God reminds us to surrender our frustrations to Him.  It’s through the unavoidable changes of plans and criticism of others that we can be inspired to turn to a rich prayer life filled with confidence that, where we fall short, God and the Holy Spirit will fill in.  If we can’t offer up the little glitches in our daily routines to Him, then how will we be prepared to surrender ourselves completely to Him in the big decisions of life?

So although there are moments when I want nothing more than to “get it together” and have everything go my way, maybe God knows that losing control is exactly what I need.

Valuable Lessons

Charisse’s son James

James is my imaginative, creative child.  At six years old, he’s the child who can become so engrossed in  his personal fantasy worlds that he doesn’t hear anything anyone says to him until he’s brought back to reality by a tap on the arm.  He can play for hours with a paper clip as he bends and shapes it into whatever  he imagines it can be.  And when I asked him once, after reading a scripture passage, what he would do if he knew Jesus was coming for a visit, he simply looked at me and said, “But he’s already right here with us.  We just can’t see him,” with a childlike faith and acceptance that is one of the most wonderful fruits of his vivid imagination.

An imagination is a great gift from God.  The human imagination gave birth to some of the greatest inventions the world has ever known; it can create a compassionate and sympathetic heart and allow the soul to accept without a doubt what the mind cannot comprehend.  An imaginative spirit can open the door to a passionate and unbridled faith that believes with complete confidence and hope in God’s ability to do anything.

Like any great gift from God, the imagination can also quickly lead one down a treacherous path of unfounded fear, superstition, and sin.  It must be guarded carefully against one who would love to see it used for evil rather than good and for our own personal glory rather than God’s.

As I continue to explore my unique and unrepeatable children’s dispositions with them, I try to remember to see them as God sees all of His great creation.  “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31)  Or, as Blessed John Paul II reminds us in the Theology of the Body, everything has “value.” (TOB 2:5)  This simple yet powerful word, “value,” causes me to pause and reflect.  Do I make sure my children truly feel that they have value every moment of every day?  Cuddling and nursing a sweet-smelling newborn baby, praising a toddler for his first steps, and cheering on an older child from the sidelines of the soccer field are all ways to boost our children’s confidence in themselves, but parenting does not always consist of these relatively easy moments of recognizing their value.

Even in the most difficult moments of parenting, we must affirm for our children their inherent goodness, or value, so they will continue to grow in the knowledge that God truly created them for greatness.  We are called to teach our children how to turn vice into virtue and to have patience when they are struggling in the midst of temptation.    When we remain calm and encourage them to use their tendencies for good, we are demonstrating that we have faith in their ability to become the people God created them to be.  As parents, we have the wonderful obligation to learn with our children how God intends to use their varying personality traits.

I love seeing my son James’ imagination take hold of his heart when he looks with awe at the Eucharist during Mass and whispers, “I love you, Jesus.”  I see so much potential for unwavering faith that just wouldn’t be the same if his creative spirit were not allowed to thrive. So we work with James on discerning when it is appropriate to get a swept up on the wings of dreams and when that spirit needs to be channeled in a different direction.  I try to remember to tell my child that I love a particular quality about him, but that God means it to be used in a particular way:  to love and serve Him.  I hope to never send the message that any of my children’s personality traits are bad, but that God made them that way for a reason, and that reason is good.

It is the vision of who God created each of us to be that will serve my children well throughout their teenage years as their interest in the opposite sex evolves into t emotions that they’ve never known or experienced before.  I want my children to understand that God created them to have these feelings for a good and valuable reason.  As a parent, by learning along with my children how to direct their impulses and desires along the channels God intended, I hope to convey that God created them to feel attraction and longing because they can see the value of their peers who were created in the image and likeness of God.  God gave us these desires so that we might be reminded of the deep love we hold for Him–a love that can be so beautifully realized in the sacredness of the vocation of marriage or through a total dedication to God’s work in the single or religious life.

As I watch James’ eyes light up with joy while we ponder what heaven must be like, or his deep concern as he questions me about “the bad place,” I am reminded that his vivid imagination is not there to simply annoy me as I try to get him to finish his chores or get dressed for school without being distracted. God created this unique and unrepeatable child with qualities of great value that can be used to serve Him with a deep and unrelenting love.  It’s up to me to make sure that flame is kept burning strong and fanned always heavenward.

Leading Me Closer to Him

There is something about that moment.  That moment when the knowledge that has gradually been creeping into my mind is suddenly confirmed in the depths of my heart.  That moment when an awareness of God’s hand playing a significant role in the intimacy of my marriage becomes a reality.  That moment when I just know that the beginning of a new life is taking hold within the protective walls of my own body.

Suddenly, I am sharing the great gift of the body God gave me with the gift of another.  I am inspired to treat my body as the sacred, special entity that it is because God’s creative work depends on my care.  I become conscientious about getting more sleep, adequate exercise, and only consuming nutritious, wholesome food and drink.  I’ve done this four times before.  I know the routine.

But Baby Tierney #5 has already stirred the depths of my heart to a new awakening.

I realized with dismay that I had always avoided receiving Jesus’ Precious Blood during pregnancy as if it were a mere beverage that held the potential to cause my baby harm rather than the blood shed for our sins that it truly is.  The fact that I have taken the privilege and significance of this sacrament somewhat for granted my entire life hit home as soon as I suspected I was pregnant.

Created as the unique and unrepeatable people that we are, God chooses to reveal Himself to each of us in different ways.  My pregnancy allowed Him to reveal Himself to me through the gift of His Blood at Mass, which in turn gave me a full awareness of His Presence under the species of bread as well.  While “communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace” (CCC 1390), I also sensed that, for me, “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.” (CCC 1390)  Yes, God knew the perfect way to convert my heart to a deeper union with Him!

I have always believed with my mind in the Real Presence at Mass, but God’s revelation during the first days of my pregnancy led me to an awareness and belief that now rests firmly in the depths of my heart and soul.  I now know with my heart that it is not a symbolic piece of bread or cup of wine, but it is Jesus Himself present in the Eucharist, and I feel as if I have unlocked the joy of the fullness of the sacrament.

It feels wonderful to receive both Jesus’ Body and Blood, knowing I am filling not only my own body, but also my developing baby’s body with God’s grace.  I am so thankful for the teachings of the Theology of the Body that led me to this point.  By embracing the fullness of the marriage sacrament and being open to God’s plan for our family, I also opened myself to the fullness of all of the other sacraments.  If I had not been open to saying “yes” to God’s calling to conceive another child, I would not have been open to the gift of this little person who has taught me how to recognize God so fully in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  This amazing life that is but a few days old has already accomplished a conversion of heart before even being visible to the outside world.

I guess that’s often how God works.  He accomplishes great things through the smallest, the most vulnerable, and the silent.

I pray for a healthy pregnancy and a safe delivery, but even if unforeseen tragedy should occur, I am so thankful.  Thank you, Baby Tierney #5, for being a messenger from God and leading me by your tiny hand ever closer to Him.

Photo credit: photos.com ( 92833190)

A Marriage of Bridges & Boundaries

This month Philip and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.

We celebrated by going out to dinner (alone – no kids!), then taking a walk through a local nature reserve together.  I come to this reserve frequently, but we strolled down a path we’d never taken, across a wooden bridge surrounded by a stream and old, proud Sycamores.  I can’t wait to take the kids there:  The stream was much more perky on this particular path, lapping over gray boulders and slick tree roots.  We strolled beyond the bridge, but before long we came upon a no-trespassing sign, as we’d arrived at the boundary of the public part of the reserve.  Even in our limited little part of the reserve near the bridge, we enjoyed crunching through the leaves and deadwood, admiring some giant seed pods as the day faded.

Philip and I met when we were both graduate students at Oxford.  He was studying physics and I was studying medieval literature.  He witnessed me surviving several unfortunate dating experiences before swooping in and winning my heart.  We were actually very close friends for two years.  When things ended with one boyfriend with great pain and darkness, Philip waited exactly one month then asked me out on a date.  That was the famous first-date-that-I-didn’t-know-was-a-date-until-the-end-of-the-date.  We were married a year later.

Here we are on our wedding day, all young and svelte:

Philip & Kim

 

That was the last day ever that I didn’t wear glasses.  I tried contact lenses on our wedding day, but the right one was itching so furiously that I plucked it out and got rid of it before the Procession.  I think it might be stuck somewhere in one of those big Calla Lilies I’m carrying.  With good vision in only one eye I had a very interesting perspective on the wedding Mass.  It was like being under the influence of psychedelics and the Holy Spirit at the same time.

When our son Aidan (age 13) saw this photo he said to me, “Wow, you look pretty much the same, but Dad looks way older now.”  I told him the truth: “That’s because it’s so easy to be married to Dad and so hard to be married to me!”  (Note: Despite Aidan’s review, I also look much more flumpy now than I did on my wedding day!)  Philip is one of the few men on the planet who could be married to me for 15 years and come out of it alive.  Or at least sane.  I’m a bit of a handful.  We call this my “Lucy Factor” because living with me is like living inside a lost episode of I Love Lucy.  I always have some Big Plan or Big Idea in the works.  But Philip seems to find me interesting and even fun, though I know his face probably twitches any time I phone him at work and say, “I’ve been thinking . . . ”.   Philip is by nature risk averse; I by nature jump in front of moving trains.  We seem to balance each other out.  He follows me on adventures, but I heed his cautionary tales and balanced advice.  I show him the possibilities; he helps me see the realities.

Philip is one of those freakishly smart people who make everyone around them scratch their foreheads.  He’s a physicist, which is scary enough, be he also knows a lot about (and loves to discuss) politics, philosophy, literature, and — because of me – Labradoodles and the most deserving winning couple on “Love in the Wild,” a dating show set in the jungle.   (Come on, Yanina & Ken totally deserved to win!)  He can remember the argument in articles he read 10 years ago.  I find that exciting and a little mystifying.

Most people think Philip’s greatest gift is his intelligence, but it’s really his kindness.  He is without rival the most authentically kind and gentle person I’ve ever known.  Anyone who meets him is struck by his calm and gentle demeanor, which is coupled with an intriguing confidence and readiness to debate anyone willing to engage him.  (Don’t do it.  Run while you can.)  In 15 years of marriage he’s never uttered a rude word to me, at least not intentionally.  The same can’t be said of me to him, I’m afraid.  His kindness only makes my surliness seem silly.  The same dynamic occurs when we’re arguing, which usually involves me snipping away and his listening patiently.  This is quite annoying.  How am I supposed to have a fight by myself? 🙂

Once I was driving to see my great-aunt about an  hour away and 30 minutes into the trip I got a flat tire.  I don’t know how to change a tire, so I had to call him:  Philip to the rescue with all our kids in tow.  I apologized for my incompetence.  I’m a grown woman and should know how to change a tire, I said.  He told me he loved coming to my rescue, because it made him feel like my knight in shining armor.

And he is in so many ways.

He loves me in a way I don’t understand and surely don’t deserve, which helps me to comprehend the love of God for his creatures better.  He makes me feel beautiful, smart, and special.  When I’m having our babies, he seems to intuit my vulnerability and responds with protectiveness and care.  When I was pregnant with our fourth child, Lydia, Philip revealed to me that he finds me the most beautiful when I’m pregnant.  Every mom deserves to know her husband thinks she’s hot when she’s carrying their babe!

Now I’m not saying Philip is perfect.  Neither of us is perfect.  But we’re a perfect fit in so many ways.  I hope and pray for another healthy 15 years, which will surely include my leading Philip down some fascinating, unexplored paths and Philip pointing out all the boundaries and safety zones.

Marriage is a unique calling and every individual marriage also has a unique identity.  Alone, our vision can be obscured and confused.  Together, we have greater clarity about the truth and the source of the light we’re seeking.  Couples live out their unique married identities together year after year, and with the grace of God and the attention of faith, we can help each other face a bit more heroically the struggles and stumbling blocks we encounter, as we grow in wisdom and love processing together toward heaven.