An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church

 

An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church:

We want to invite you to come talk with us, and we are excited to meet you! Just like you, we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers; students, professionals, and stay-at-home moms. We are teenagers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and beyond. We are from many walks of life and from diverse backgrounds, but we share a common faith – one we want to invite you to revisit.

Some of us have been away from the Church, and by one way or another we’ve come back. Some of us never left – but that doesn’t mean we’ve never questioned nor been confused. Some of us were raised outside of the Church, and made the decision to join as adults. In one way or another, each one of us has come to know and love Christ in the Catholic Church – and in keeping with Pope Francis’ request we want to share that love and joy with you.

 

 

Being Catholic isn’t easy, and we’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect; we have many planks in our own eyes to worry about. Our faith embraces paradoxes, challenges our culture’s values, and makes us feel uncomfortable when we are called to examine our actions and our motivations. But – as you already know – just because something is challenging does not mean it is not worthwhile.

 

We know that you are intelligent and capable. We believe that you deserve answers to your questions, and explanations for the teachings with which you’re struggling. We’ve all struggled with various aspects of our faith, but we aren’t here to judge or condemn you. We simply want to listen to what you’re feeling. We want to understand what is making you uncertain about being part of our Catholic faith. We want to help you find the answers and explanations that helped bring us home. We want to meet you, we want to hear about your experience, and most importantly, we want to invite you back.

 

Feel free to email any of us with questions or concerns you may have about the Church, her teachings, or what reversion means. If you’re not ready to bare your soul to complete strangers, we’d love to direct you to sites that helped us (and still help us) as we discerned our calling in life.

Wherever you are, whatever you believe, know that we are praying for you. You are our sister – another woman navigating a challenging world. We look forward to talking with you!

In The Peace and Love of Christ,

The members of #cathsorority

 

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. A solemnity is a solemn feast day, in this case in honor and thanksgiving for St. Joseph. St. Joseph is one of my particular favorite saints, so I am delighted to celebrate his feast today. This feast (I think) always occurs during Lent.  This means a one-day reprieve from the fasting of Lent, all the more reason to be happy for the feast.

When I think of St. Joseph, I always think of a painting that we had in our house when I was a child. It received pride of place during Advent and Christmas, but I think it was usually hanging in a not-so-prominent spot the rest of the year. It was a simple painting of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in acrylic on velveteen or ultrasuede, with no background or fancy flourishes. I think my mother painted it. In the painting, you can see the tenderness between Jesus and Mary, and Joseph stands in the position of protector – an important role of his. He has a look on his face that some might say appears to be worried, but I always thought it looked like he was listening for God’s instructions.

And what instructions he received and heeded – to raise Our Lord and to protect Our Lady.

St. Joseph is the patron of families, of children, of fathers, of carpenters and all workers, of house hunters, of infertile women and of the universal Church. He is such an important saint that he has two feast days, the other being St. Joseph the Worker on May 1.

If I have $2 in my wallet, when I’m in my parish church, I light a candle before St. Joseph’s statue, and I ask St. Joseph to pray for my father, my father-in-law and all fathers, for my husband and my brother and all men who wish to be fathers, for the safety of our home, and for the blessing of children in it. Then I ask him to kiss Jesus for me. I am confident that Jesus will heed the intercession of the man who was his foster-father on earth.

My husband has some profound thoughts about St. Joseph and Our Lord here.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference

Today’s (very long) entry is especially for my sister-friends Mrs. N. U., OP and Miss C. R., OP who were unable to attend the Conference. It is also dedicated to them because I think that much of what I learned is valuable for young wives, which N. is and C. is about to become.

On Saturday, February 23, I attended the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “My Heart: The Holy Spirit’s Home – Celebrating the Year of Faith.” The emcee was Sarah Reinhard, local Catholic mom, author, and social media maven. The day began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frederick Campbell. The featured speakers were Fr. Leo Patalinghug of the Grace Before Meals movement, Suzanne Fowler of The Light Weigh, and four of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist: Sr. Mary Michael, OP, Sr. Catherine Marie, OP, Sr. Joseph Maria, OP, and Sr. Mary Jacinta, OP (who happen to teach at my parish school). The Confession talk was given by Fr. Stash Dailey, diocesan priest (and my former associate pastor).

Bishop Campbell’s homily was much more eloquent than I am about to tell, but I will try to give the more important points that I noted in my program. First, I noted that he pointed out that Christians (married women especially) are called to sacrificial love. And sacrifice, as he explained, means “to make holy.” My impression of this is the ends of the sacrament of marriage: the mutual enrichment of the spouses and the procreation of children. What I mean to say is that in giving of myself for my husband, I help him to become more holy. I am sure that the procreation and rearing of children will be a sacrificial and refining journey. Bishop Campbell also held up Our Lady as a model of sacrificial love, rejoicing in all circumstances, and praying hard at all times, even for our enemies.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug is a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He has founded an apostolate called Grace Before Meals, which aims to strengthen families and communities around the dinner table. He had so many good points in his talk, as well as being an exciting and animated speaker. Father Leo said he wants families to have a religious experience around the dinner table together. By religious, he means the root of the word religious, religare, meaning to bind together. He compared the main ceremony of the family, the domestic church, to the Mass – at each, we talk about God, we pray, and we eat. He had some profound thoughts and I feel that I won’t do him justice since I couldn’t record his exact words, but here are a few:

  • Your belly button is proof that from the very moment of your conception, God promised to feed you.
  • Fast food was intended to give us more time to spend with our families.
  • God doesn’t use a microwave, he uses a crock pot.
  • Conversation can lead to conversion.
  • God is the greatest foodie: he created food before he even created humans.
  • The family dining table is where children become disciples.

Fr. Stash Dailey talked about Confession. The way this conference works usually, is that there are three featured speakers, plus a local priest who talks about Confession, just before the confessionals open up. The most encouraging part of Fr. Dailey’s talk for me was a story of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She was a 17th century French Visitation nun. Our Lord appeared to her and showed her his Sacred Heart. Sr. Margaret Mary was questioning the authenticity of these apparitions, so she asked her spiritual director (Saint) Fr. Claude de la Colombiere, what she should do. He encouraged her to ask Jesus “What was Fr. de la Colombiere’s favorite sin in his youth?” Despite her reluctance to know, she asked, and Jesus told her “I don’t remember. He confessed it.” She was dejected thinking that if anyone would know the priest’s secret, Our Lord would know. But when she told her director, he explained to her that the apparitions must be authentic. Jesus does not remember our sins when we confess them. Furthermore, Fr. Dailey clarified, a grace is communicated to us to help us forget that sin and put it behind us. He also said that if you don’t know what to confess, look at yourself from your husband’s perspective… and from Christ’s perspective. Pray before you confess to see your life as Jesus sees your life and to love yourself as he loves you.

Suzanne Fowler is a mother of seven and the author of The Light Weigh and Light Weigh One King, which are Catholic small-group/DVD Scripture study programs with a focus on weight loss and giving yourself to God, rather than allowing food to control you. I have a vested interest in Suzanne because I have been a part of three Light Weigh groups at my parish (led by our sisters Mrs. Toni M., OP and Mrs. Rebecca G., OP) and I am currently participating in a Light Weigh One King group. I began with the Light Weigh before I got engaged, in September 2008. I was engaged in October and lost 15 pounds before my May 2009 wedding. Unfortunately, after the wedding, I let go of the principles I learned and gained 20 pounds, but later rededicated myself to Light Weigh eating and lost those 20 pounds, and then 5 more since the beginning of 2013. So, because of what I learned from Suzanne and from Scripture, I now weigh less than I did on my wedding day and I feel like I know much more about myself and about God. Through The Light Weigh I learned what it means to “offer something up”: that I can offer my sacrifices and suffering to God for an intention. This has made all the difference for me.

But enough about me, what did Suzanne talk about at the Conference? She talked about having faith. She said having faith is like when you’re on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop. You have to put your own mask on before you can help other people with their masks. You won’t be able help others if you don’t help yourself. She spoke about how each of us is a precious, unrepeatable original. She talked about how God gives us “head hunger” (as opposed to real bodily hunger) to call us to him. She said that the devil (she calls the devil the darkside) wants us to go to counterfeits, rather than to God. Food is one of those counterfeits. She said that even though service is good, it shouldn’t overtake sacrifice – Jesus didn’t redeem the world by washing his disciples’ feet, he redeemed the world by dying on the Cross. One thing from her talk that really stuck with me was about doing the little things. She talked about a basketball rivalry. The result of the recent game between the two rivals came down to free-throws. The team that lost was well-known for their three-point shooting, but the other team won because they were able to do the little things: the one-point free throws. How much in our lives comes down to doing the little things?

After Suzanne spoke, it was lunch time. I thoroughly enjoyed lunch with some friends. We discovered that some of my girlfriends (who didn’t know each other) had friends in common from growing up Catholic in the same city. I was also excited because there were gluten-free muffins. I know it’s not very Lenten or penitential to eat a chocolate chip muffin, but since I have stopped eating gluten, I rarely have sweets, especially baked goods. I felt like that was a gift God was giving me.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are a quickly growing group of habited sisters based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sr. Mary Michael is the principal of my parish school (St. Michael in Worthington, OH), and Sr. Catherine Marie, Sr. Joseph Maria, and Sr. Mary Jacinta are teachers there. The sisters spoke on the virtues and the theological virtues specifically. Sr. Catherine Marie gave a quick primer on what virtues are, and the corresponding vices that result from a lack or excess of each virtue. She said that when we truly ask Jesus “What must I do?” He gives us an incredible calling to a virtuous life. The saints, and especially Mary, are our best models for a virtuous life. Sr. Mary Michael spoke on faith. She emphasized the value of silence to listen to God and time to ponder his Word in the Scriptures. Sr. Mary Jacinta spoke on hope. She emphasized humility and magnanimity (greatness of soul/having a big heart). She encouraged reading Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women and Mulieris Dignitatem. Sr. Joseph Maria spoke on charity. The thing that struck me the most in her talk was John 19:25: “Standing near the cross was the mother of Jesus.” She talked about how Mary was standing there, loving, praying, and consoling Jesus. She wasn’t fainting or lying on the ground as some have painted her. She talked about how in embracing our crosses, we receive God’s own power to carry them. To tie up the whole talk, Sr. Catherine Marie gave us a quick way to learn to grow in virtue:

  1. Determine the virtue you need to grow in, and pray for it.
  2. Live that virtue.
  3. Don’t stop!

Can you tell she teaches religion to sixth through eighth grade students?

After the sisters spoke, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet together in song. What a powerful prayer! Usually when I go to a conference or a retreat and it’s good, I don’t want it to end. I got so much out of this conference but I was happy for the day to end because I was fired up to take what I learned home, share it with others, and live it in my day-to-day life.

We all have a cross to bear

God our Father,

help us to follow the example

of your Son’s patience in suffering.

By sharing the burden he carries,

may we come to share his glory

in the kingdom where he lives with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Friday Week 1, Evening Prayer.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Better Late Than Never Edition

— 1 —

I have been thinking about blogging. But you see where thinking gets me. Another Friday with nothing between my Quick Takes from last week and this week’s edition.

— 2 —

This week I’ve been reading up on gluten-free recipes. I reserved a bunch of books from the library and I have slowly been going through them. One seemed really promising, but it’s from Australia, so quite a few of the recipes use products I don’t have available. The one I’ve liked the most so far is Paleo Comfort Foods which features “Paleo” recipes. That means no gluten, no dairy, no legumes, no grains, and no processed foods. It sounds restrictive, but this book has yummy looking recipes. I haven’t tried any yet. I will let you know how trying the recipes turns out.

— 3 —

We’ve got a three-day weekend coming up in a few short hours. Time to honor the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King to our nation and all its inhabitants.

— 4 —

Are you watching Downton Abbey? I wouldn’t miss it! We watched the first two seasons each within a week because we borrowed them from the library. I love the time to relax and think about the episodes when I’m watching on TV and the anticipation of waiting all week for another one.

— 5 —

I’m trying not to let my nerves get the best of me in regards to fertility treatment. In my case, I would need treatment even if I were not trying to get pregnant. The things my doctor has to do to find out what’s wrong with me are somewhat scary, but the outcome is worth it, whether it is just my health or if I will be healthy and a mother.

— 6 —

Have you read the Daily Decalogue of John XXIII? You can read it here. I printed it out and tacked it to the wall of my cube. What words to live by. I especially like this “Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.”

— 7 —

Prayer requests? I’m going through a lot of anxiety now and I would like to offer it for your intentions. I will pray for all my readers, but if you have a special intention, please leave it in the comments section, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, e-mail it to me – pineconejg (at) gmail (dot) com.

God bless you!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Advent Prayer Buddies

Thank you to Jelly Belly for praying for me during Advent. I did feel your prayers working, especially residually after Christmas when I started to feel a little peace about living in our current family situation, even if it is forever.

I was privileged to pray for Always Giving Thanks who is getting ready to have a baby! Pray for her, won’t you, that she’ll have a safe and easy labor? Her baby is posterior so she could have a hard time of it.

I love prayer buddies. It is wonderful to have someone else to shower with prayer, and have someone do the same for me. Lent is right around the corner, and I will be sure to participate in this wonderful blogger event again for Lent.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

Better late than never. I meant to blog this morning, but Brett got called to substitute teach so we had to rush to get ready so I could drop him off in time for school.

— 2 —

Today was my office’s annual Advent retreat. It was wonderful. The pastor of a local parish shared reflections of the Sunday Advent and Christmas Midnight and Day time Mass readings. We discussed the theme of Christ as our light.

— 3 —

A sacramental is an object that reminds us of God and our Faith. My favorite reflection that father shared with us at the retreat today was how a Christmas tree is a sacramental because it reminds us of how heaven came down to earth – it has a star or an angel on top which remind us of heaven, and gifts, a crèche, or a train below, which remind us of earth. And, it is covered with lights which bring to mind Jesus, our light.

— 4 —

I have my Christmas shopping over half done. I think it’s much easier when you don’t have children, although I would give up the convenience for that joy in a minute.

— 5 —

We were invited to three different Christmas parties that will all take place on the evening of December 15. I was a little stressed out trying to choose which one to attend, but we made our choice. Actually, when we were trying to decide, I didn’t even know about the third invitation, I only found out about it yesterday, after we had already responded that we would be attending one.

— 6 —

It has been slow going reading Witness to Hope. I guess I won’t post any more book reviews this year. I could review A Fish Out of Water, my 18-month-old nephew Grayson’s favorite book. I have read it several times.

— 7 —

Please pray for me on Sunday. Brett and I, along with our friend Camille, will be making Temporary Promises in the Dominican Lay Fraternity. We will promise to live the life of the Gospel in the charism and guidance of the Dominican order for the next three years. It will be a continuing time of discernment whether a Life Promise in the order is God’s call for us. In addition, our friends Gina and Doug will be making Life Promises. Please pray for all of us. I will be praying for you all and I will write a special intention for my readers in the intention book that our Lay Fraternity Chapter has at each meeting for our Holy Hour.

Have a lovely weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!