The Burn Zone

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My family spent a week of our summer falling in love with Montana. It was my first visit viewing the tremendous landscape after the heat of the summer sun melted the snow making visible the depth of curves and crevices carefully carved in mountains standing grand in a vibrant sky. White water chased us as we drove along remote highways passing ancient tectonic plates whose geothermal features sang out in boiling gurgles, as individual microorganisms revealed to us their own majestic color within the lava rock. Hikes up mountains and down valleys taught us that the gentle crescendo of softly flowing water in thin unassuming streams might very well lead us to discover the magnanimity of hidden waterfalls rushing with unfettered fervor. It did not take us long to realize that marveling at God’s imagination is rather easy to do in Montana. 

At one point, though, we noticed a peculiar tree line that had been recently ravaged by fire called the Burn Zone. In the middle of what seem like endless scapes of pines that stand strong, tall, and healthy, are bunches of tiny, scraggly looking saplings, pines so little they barely came up to my knees. Scattered among them are taller ones that are so tired, we wondered how they stand at all. At first glance, it is quite a sad looking sight, slightly pathetic even, especially in the scheme of such brilliant views. 

I came to learn, however, that fires in those parts, usually caused by lightening strikes, are permitted to burn. For decades many attempted to manage and chase them, to put them out and squelch the heat that seemingly threatens to destroy the pristine purity of an uncultivated wilderness. It had not yet been discovered though, that these fires are the purest form of natural reinforcement of new forest. Intense heat, incidentally, is required to penetrate the protective wax of the most fruitful seeds of the most mature trees enabling new ones to implant. It is only in letting a fire burn that the ecosystem is able to reset and rebuild allowing the unmatched beauty of mature mountain forest to begin again, to start anew, sturdier than ever. 

Recently, I, like so many Catholics, have felt like my faith has been struck by lightening and that my Church is caught right smack in the middle of a Burn Zone. Our hierarchy often appears to be a mere remnant of moral authority due to its own failure and corruption, led by many that seem awfully inclined towards arson. Not only is Rome burning, but so many of our dioceses, too. 

How often I have wanted to run from the destruction, to put out the fires that fuel around me rather than withstand them, to hide from what God might be trying to rebuild as a result of this pain. How much I have wanted to give my time, my talent, and raise my children in a place less susceptible to ravage so as to protect and defend what is most precious. How difficult it is to trust God under such intense heat, such blinding confusion, such thick smoke. How weak I feel in the middle of it all. How much I doubt that my faith can survive much more.

And yet, I could not help but find God calling me to pay attention to the lessons of that tree line. How brave are those tired trees who were willing to offer the most precious parts within them so as to bear fruit that will last much longer than they will. How relentless is their desire to survive, their insistence in teaching us that life is brought forth by fire, that there is rebirth from the ravage, so long as we stand tall and trust, so long as we are willing to withstand all that is falling around us. It is then that we may notice that this fire, as brutal as it is, has become the source of revival, the means through which we will begin again, better than we were before. 

One Year Later

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It has been one year since reading the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. Themes of abuse of which I was well aware were not what most surprised me. It was the names that I recognized, people with whom I conversed, admired, trusted, regarded highly and defended. That is what kept me reading those long, terrible pages, that left me wondering what I could do, if I could change it.

Not much of the structure of the Catholic Church has changed in the past year. The Diocese of Pittsburgh has arguably gotten worse. Sure, we have new programs that “protect God’s children,” we have checks and procedures that keep volunteers accountable. But, true contrition? Lasting changes? Real admittance and accountability? A genuine desire to fight for heaven? That has occurred as few and as far between as homilies that hit home, of conversations from the higher ups that attend to our wounds, of priests, now referred to as administrators rather than fathers, seeming happy in their new assignments.

We have seen priests whom we love suffer, families leave, young people give up, dismiss, and turn away from a Church that has failed them, and I, card carrying and devout, do not blame them.

And yet, I remain.

Why? Because for whatever reason, that thing that 75% of Catholics just reported not believing in, that thing that so many of us think of as nothing more than a symbol, just an ordinary piece of bread? A regular glass of wine? That thing, to me, is real. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot walk away. 

At face value, the Eucharist is absolutely ridiculous, preposterous, bizarre. God becoming bread? Offering it to each of us?  Becoming part of our being?

And yet, I believe. 

Why? Because for whatever reason, He made it real for me. All I do is show up. And Time and time again, it happens. I plead “help me!” And He does. I say “prove it!” And He does. I say “your Church is run by crazy criminals!” And He says, “I know.”

And so, I stay. I keep my focus on Him. Because there is still good stuff here, even in the bad stuff. There is still good stuff. 

#MyWishForMoms

This article was originally written 4 years ago after the birth of my fourth baby. I am reposting because #mywishformoms struggling with PostPartum Depression is that they know love and find peace. 

A7A51C3F-CD52-4A31-B820-F624E9487AF9I was overcome with emotion as I spilled an entire pot of soup. Clumsiness and a poorly placed matchbox car were the unfortunate combination that robbed me of serving my first meal cooked successfully since the birth of our fourth baby. Bone broth and chopped vegetables settled into the cracks of my kitchen floor. Giggling toddlers splashed wildly in broth puddles. Failing to realize they were smashing my work and effort, they continued to stomp on heaping quantities of kale and carrots. They squealed joyfully. Relieved from eating vegetables for dinner, they rejoiced.

Normally, neither the spill, the mess, nor the chaos would bother me. Normally, my children’s joy would be enough to make me laugh, or at the very least, crack a smile. Normally, I would not cry or experience tremendous sadness over something that is moderately disappointing at most. Normally, I would not face incredible guilt for failing to properly navigate my emotions. Normally, I would happily discuss my struggle with my husband.

But I no longer felt normal.

Even with flagrant symptoms, admitting that I had postpartum depression (PPD) feels more like making a confession than stating the obvious. With a new baby and so much to be grateful for, admitting emotional turmoil can feel unnecessarily dramatic and selfish. Science clearly demonstrates that the illness is both blameless and its treatment is vital, yet my personal feelings work hard to convince me otherwise. Even with professional experience in psychology, properly navigating my own mental illness can feel hopeless.

Sixteen percent of new moms experience postpartum depression. The course and severity of the illness is different for everyone, and the course of treatment will vary accordingly. In the thick of mine, the intensity of the feelings is remarkably confusing. I am easily elated by the presence of my new baby. Simultaneously there is a strange, tangled combination of guilt, anxiety, loneliness, dependency, and isolation. I want and know one thing, but I feel another, all at the same time. The feelings pile up and swirl around each other creating a burden that is as heavy as it is bewildering. They overwhelm and self implode. Emotional reactions are rarely appropriate, and it is difficult to determine why. Allowing them to dictate behavior is incredibly easy. Simple criticism sticks. As it churns, I get stuck. It is a cycle of sadness, anxiety, anger, and misplaced guilt. It begins and ends and begins again. It explodes.

Facing such a beast requires care, focus, and help from loved ones and professionals. With proper treatment, though, I do believe there is considerable meaning in the mess and invaluable opportunities to love and be loved.

But the courage to finally say it aloud, to reach out to my husband, and do something about it did not come until weeks after I scored high on the doctor’s new mom’s mental health inventory for depression. Even when my husband asked or approached me with gentleness, I stalled the conversation. Once said aloud, I would have to deal with the reality of the situation. I’d need to carve time out of already busy, sleepless days. So I clung to the unspoken.

I spent much of that day finding my self-worth in the completion of small tasks. The demands of being a new mom—laundry, cleaning, spending individual time with each of my children, and countless other things—piled high. My desire to complete my to-do list robbed me from joy and diminished the dignity of what I was doing. Then, one night just before dinner, I spilled the soup and I decided it was time to talk.

To ensure our marriage is not an unintended casualty, my husband and I focus on communication. If I find it difficult to identify my feelings, I communicate just that. Although the depression is mine, his expression of feelings cannot get lost in the shuffling of my emotions. So we take turns empathizing and expressing until each of us feels understood. In all of this, the dialogue becomes less about managing an illness and more about finding joy in the opportunity to love vulnerabilities, sadness, and pain. Soon, what begins as a therapeutic exercise becomes a rediscovery of the person I married and of myself. It is a chance to revitalize the adventure and build a life as companions.

Honest communication with my husband also serves an important practical purpose when dealing with PPD. In the course of a postpartum day, I find myself managing busy schedules and many other new things. By frequently checking in on my internal thoughts and feelings, I can set more realistic expectations. Potential stressors, such as being alone for too long, are more easily identified and avoided as a team. Stress relievers like exercise, healthy eating, and quality time are more easily prioritized.

Thoroughly cleaning a mess of magnitude requires many things, especially patience. If chicken soup is involved, I also suggest having access to a generous amount of paper towels. Try also to remember that bottoms of small feet covered in smashed carrots threaten the well-being of clean carpets much faster than one may anticipate.

Most importantly though, it is essential to realize that seeking help from those who love you can transform a wearisome task. If approached with the right supplies and a good attitude, what seems overwhelming becomes much more manageable.

At some point, the sadness begins to untangle. The confusion unravels. The crescendo of madness settles into quiet. Peacefulness begins to blossom. What once felt nonsensical and haphazard begins to once again make sense. By accepting myself, my mental makeup and all that it entails, I can begin to experience gratitude for the particulars of my own biological process that I often fail to notice or take for granted. I have found that there is a certain sort of beauty in experiencing a type of suffering that is uniquely female, so intimately feminine. It is a process that brings forth a new unique human being made and born from the very depths of my own body. If there is anything worth sacrificing for, it is that.

Faith in the Fire

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While I am hesitant to read too deeply into the metaphorical significance of a Cathedral of such tremendous magnitude returning to dust at the onset of Holy Week, in a time of such turmoil, when corruption has come to head, when all we have felt in our hearts is how much we will not stand for what has gone on and what continues to be, I think it is safe to say this really, very much, feels wholly, completely, absolutely, and totally symbolic.

We will not rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral. The magnificence that took 200 years to point our eyes towards heaven no longer stands. We may one day build a physical structure that somewhat resembles it, but, the harsh reality is: Notre Dame has fallen.

Minutes after watching in horror as it collapsed in burning flames, I drove with my second grade daughter to teach her First Holy Communion class. Tonight, they witnessed with their eyes the inside of the Tabernacle, and for the first time, they tasted the unconsecrated Host, in preparation for their big day. They giggled and they squealed. They tried their best to remember which hand is right and which one is left. They wondered where to go and what to do next, and that the sign of the cross begins on their head, where the wisdom is, then their heart, where Jesus dwells, and that the Spirit will continually guide them on the left and on the right no matter which direction they will take. They skipped up the aisle and they played with the kneelers, they made funny faces when tasting the bread. They absolutely could not sit still. Nor should they. Receiving Jesus is a reason to dance.

As I watched each second grader approach the altar in earnest, I was reminded of something more important than any building or pew or altar, even the most ornate, the most iconic, the most impressive, the most spiritually and culturally significant. The Cathedrals that matter the most are the ones that we build in the hearts of our children. Do they know Him? Do they love Him? Do they know how much He loves each and every one of them? Do they know how he died, but more importantly, do they realize that HE ROSE. He Rose. He Rose for them and He Rose for me and He Rose for you. And He will Rise Again, for that very same reason; he loves us, even if and no matter what: He Loves You.

Our buildings may be crumbling. Our Church may feel like it is on the brink of turning into dust. So let us build it back up with the bricks of our faith. Let our love be what points high above to heaven and let it be what brings us back down to our knees, brick by brick, prayer by prayer. Each one of us a magnificent, irreplaceable work of His art. Keep the Faith, it Needs You.

The Best Lent

53417216_10101692801649072_498996756512505856_n copyI was approaching my 21st birthday, a new college graduate, and desperately in love with my ex-boyfriend who was discerning a vocation to the priesthood and had been for nearly two years. Despite the obvious nudge on my heart to utilize Lent as a spiritual opportunity to let the guy go wear his cassock and part his hair in the silliest looking severe side part you ever did see, I continued to pine, to lament, to complain ad nauseam. Underneath the incessant chatter was a deep fear. If God had called him, if the priesthood made him happy, if that is what he was made for, what would happen to me? But instead of tackling that load of heavy, I approached Lent insistent that 2007 would in fact be the year I succeeded in 40 days of fasting from my real addiction: Chocolate. Specifically, dark chocolate salted caramels.

A few days into Lent, my cravings were worse than I expected. Ghirardelli seemed like it was everywhere, so I met a friend to lament about Lent and complained some more about how terrible it felt to have the hots for a potential priest. And then she said, “What you are doing is not love, and I’m tired of listening to it. If you really love him, you would want him to find God’s will, even if you aren’t part of it.”

It was unsolicited advice coming in hotter than a hot fudge lava cake straight out of the oven.

I was mad, and down a coping mechanism. With no fudge to drown in, I took her words in front of the Eucharist, and cried. She was right. I did not want her to remain right. And so began the year I gave up Jim for Lent.

It was hard. I failed a lot, usually daily. Little by little though, chocolate chip by M&M, the act of redirecting my thoughts towards God’s will for Jim and not mine, did not get easier. It did, however, grow in peace, and trusting God all the way deep down became more real, more felt, more of an owned desire. As Good Friday approached, I knew a little bit more about love as sacrifice. Fasting from sweet treats remained torturous.

Easter morning came bright and beautiful and around the time I savored my 27th Cadbury egg, my sister called to say, “I have to talk with you about Jim.” Ready to rumble and remind her of all of my spiritual hard work I began to bite back. Before I could berate her though, she uttered the most glorious sentence I had ever heard, “Jim is coming home on Friday. He is not becoming a priest.”

Not only was God not skipping me, He was preparing something beautiful, and he was doing it with a bit of a liturgical season dramatic flare. Months later I would learn that Jim decided he would come home before Lent, but thought 40 more days prayerful preparation might make him a better husband some day. (The privilege of being married for 11 years is that I now get to consider that detail less romantic than it is annoying, because seriously, you could have just texted.)

Every year as I rattle my brain to come up with the perfect Lenten sacrifice, I think back to that moment I found out he was coming home, the rush of understanding, being overcome with the grace of knowing God is always there, in each and every day that Jim and I spent apart, and in all of the days we would get to spend together. How much of an effort God makes to roll away the stone blocking my heart from His. It helps to remember to not pursue perfection, to settle down from the sacrifices, so as to settle into the season of learning what it means to love.

Even If, No Matter What

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The moment occurs at the beginning of each of my pregnancies. Shortly after discovering that I am, in fact, pregnant I am overcome by this experience that I hesitate to qualify with any term other than grace. It is one of those moments that only lasts a second, if that. In that second though, is so much powerful significance that I still feel as if I can reach out and touch the memory of each of the times it has occurred. The chill of my body, the exact spot where I stood, the way it smelled, how it sounded; it is all permanently ingrained.

I consider it God’s way of communicating to me, revealing something I need, letting me catch a glimpse of what He has in store for me in His eternal heart. It is also a startling awakening that signals me to stop focusing on all the silly things that do not matter very much, on all those reasons why I think I can’t, again.

The moment hits me in an unexpected wave that is both gentle and strong. Its soft whispers convince me that not only is it going to be ok, it is going to be wonderful. Beyond the sickness, the exhaustion, the itchiness, the insomnia and all of the other things that are hard and feel, momentarily, all consuming, there is something very good happening.  And for that second, the most brief of all instances, that is both there and gone before I take my next breath, I know who my baby is.

Before a sonogram, the pregnancy announcement, the gender reveal or a protruding belly, upon absolutely no power of my own, the sense of who they are goes all the way through to my bones. Call me crazy, but their eyes, their hair, their mischief tingle up through my spine and back down again. I sense the gender, their faults, the gifts that they are given, the talents they will develop, the ways they will drive me crazy and make me crazy in love in one singular instance that changes everything. It is as if they existed all along.

I have long considered this experience an intimate gift between God and me, a singular instant shared that reminds me no matter how difficult the next 9 months and subsequent years may me, at the heart of it all is not something, but someone. A person. There is a whole entire person entrusted to me. This is a very helpful thing on which to focus, especially when puking at 3am or trying to get five kids to school on time.

Since learning the news of New York’s legislation that permits and legally protects the abortion of human beings through all 40 weeks of pregnancy using the cruel and unusual means of lethal injection, I am compelled to share more of my experiences of life’s first moments. This effort is not so much rooted in an attempt to convince anyone’s opinion otherwise, although I happily welcome that. Simply, I want to exercise the privilege of sharing who I am, what I think, and what ideas make up the person, specifically the woman, that I am- an existence for which I am eternally grateful. There is nothing more important to me than our ability to recognize the dignity of the human person at all stages of life, especially the most sufferable in the most impossible of scenarios at the most inconvenient of times.

The topic of abortion in its polarization, politicalization, propaganda, and ability to really ruin a dinner party, has the ability to rattle and unravel rational thinking and productive conversation. As much as I hesitate to participate in a conversation that political structures have so successfully vilified (mostly for their own profit), I cannot ignore the encounters with the dignity of personhood that is so thoroughly and firmly part of who I am. The laws I support must reflect the philosophical underpinnings that I have made my own. In the circumstance when the law directly violates the very framework by which I live and the essence of my experiences as a woman, I cannot remain silent.  The reality is, that no matter how emotional we get, abortion will always boil down to one incredibly important and absolutely essential question about our existential existence as human persons. When does life begin? Why are we as Americans, in all of our scientific and technological advances, unable to answer with any semblance of coherence?

For me, and many, this question is not only answerable, it is an essential building block upon which we frame and build our philosophy of life. Life begins at conception. There is much scientific evidence that supports this position, and a sonogram will prove it.

Political semantics have attempted to pigeon hole my position about when life begins and silence my point of view because a pro life feminist does not fit the narrative. The assertion that life begins at conception which is largely based on my own experience as a feminine person, attempts to disqualify me and call me anti-woman, anti-choice. The effort to make me yield my convictions to the velocity of women’s rights, and the magnitude of movements like #metoo, the wage gap, and so many other flagrant injustices is both frustrating and isolating. Nonetheless, I refuse to concede that participating in the human rights violation of others will make us equal to men or more productive in society. It will make us worse and less influential.  Moreover, it makes us less of who we are as women and the inherent feminine genius that we possess. Women are made to do hard things, to deliver babies in seemingly impossible circumstances, to give and bare life with the very flesh of our bodies. As a feminist, I cannot grapple with the fact that we would ever deny ourselves the experience of seeing to fruition the full consequences of our sexual decisions. That we would ever believe we must rely on the government to grant us rights that we inherently possess, that we desire the false promises of believing sex ought to exist without consequences, or fail to recognize the humanity that finds its very beginning within the depth of our bodies.

It can get awfully confusing when presented with the most extreme of circumstances, those scenarios flooding our social media feeds, that say this law is really designed to protect good women from the pain of delivering babies that are no longer viable, but so desperately wanted, and to save the life of the mother whose survival hangs in the balance of a dangerous pregnancy.  To that, since I am not a doctor, I offer the Dublin Declaration, in which thousands of OBGYNs assert that there is never a medical reason to encourage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, which is the exact medical scenario that this law seeks to legally protect. Many medical scenarios may arise in which the demise of the baby occurs precisely because the intent of OBs is to always do what is best for the woman. In those very hard cases, the ones where the sonograms show predicted inviability, why as women are we so encouraged to not still see it through? Why are we told and encouraged to deny ourselves the experience of doing hard things and sharing these experiences? There is no way to sterilize suffering, no matter how painless the injection. How terrifying it is to accept the parts of life that are beyond our control, those things that limit and confine, crush, and and make us crumble. Those things that make us do what is hard when it is against our will and in spite of our desires. In those moments though, is the opportunity to cling to the core truths that we really do know, deep down underneath it all. The moment that life begins and ends is not up to us to decide.

My niece Mary Margaret has six older brothers. Her mother, at the time of her conception was of “advanced maternal age.” Her 20 week ultrasound indicated severe fetal abnormalities, the sort of which incur the suggestion of abortion in an effort to reduce the high probability of suffering for both mother and child. Yet, Mary Margaret is a thriving three year old who spends much of her day bossing around a bunch of bigger boys. How lucky a young lady to one day learn how wanted she is even if, and no matter what. To me, this is the heart of what feminism needs: A well lived conviction that women are always loved, even if, and no matter what.

I am reluctant to judge all of the supporters of this legislation. The temptation to categorize them and permanently sever my own way of thinking from theirs is certainly present. As difficult as it is for me to understand, though, the intention to protect women may very well be in their hearts, a viewpoint that is a convoluted product of a broken culture or particular experience. Nonetheless, I am terrified by this laws ability to impact harm both on individuals and the already torn fabric of American culture at large. The ambiguity and deliberate vague definitions of “women’s health” allow for the abuse of this law by very bad people, in very bad ways, and it will allow it all to happen with the full approval and protection of American Law. As the events and current condition of my beloved Catholic Church continue to remind me, we live in a world where Theodore McCarrick was decidedly protected and purposefully promoted. There are very bad people who say things that sound quite good. Our laws cannot enable their behavior, and we must wake up to the power that we possess to make it better. For example, I encourage you to recall the case of Kermit Gosnell. Under this law Kermit Gosnell has protection. He was convicted as a serial killer. 

Life begins at conception. Therefore, abortion is always a violation of human rights. 100% of the time. Even if, and no matter what. That does not mean I do not feel sympathy for the parents, or fail to recognize the vastly complicated realities of life, and poverty, and race, and abuse, and rape, and youth, and fetal abnormalities, and just how difficult all of this is and will always be. It means I believe that there is another voiceless human being that we, as a culture, fail to recognize or acknowledge as mattering at all. The definition of personhood, that point in time at which a human being begins to matter continues to become more and more ambiguous, less and less legally protected. Across state lines personhood laws lack any coherence or consistency. In the attempt to normalize abortion, we have failed to answer the most basic questions of all: what makes a person a person?

Is it when we will it? When I say so? When I decide that I want who is already there? As powerful and beautiful and strong and capable as women are, we do not get to decide when life begins or when it ends, even if, especially if, it is happening within us.

New York’s legislation has awoken the unsettled questions and reignited the hate filled attacks that keep us all in our corners ready to knock out the other before the first punch. That to me, is another element of how well crafted the evil; the way the reporting and politicking twists it and sells it so as to permanently separate, continually enrage, completely dismantle our ability to have a conversation. The desire to win at making the policy disables us from finding the person- not only in the womb, but in each other.

Conversely though, it has reinvigorated so many of us to celebrate life with honesty, bravery and courage. May we continue to tell our stories, to share our beliefs, our children’s beginnings, our unwanted pregnancies, and those we tried so hard to conceive. May we dig deeper in our pursuit to allow life, at its tiniest beginnings, to impact the totality of our existence with tremendous enormity. Let us celebrate life and protect it with all that we are and all that we do.

Worth It

The following is a story written by me 5 years ago on my old blog GoodOneGod.me I am sharing again because I want to share stories of the Dignity of Life in light of New York’s decision to legalize abortion with the use of lethal injection.

A Great Race 

The runners sweat drips steadily and peacefully offering the dark hard road its gentle rolling moisture. Just outside my fifth floor window, the pattern of pounding hardens and slows at the wet hill; its incline stifling the swift, continuous stride of their rhythmic feet, the muggy air sticking to its steepness, the cadence of each step slowing towards its unrelenting landing, their socks soaking the rain are soggy. Each step is one closer towards the finish of this Great Race. They are a sea of muddled effort, a community of isolation in tandem and competitive contest in parallel motion. They stare at the road beneath them. Its monotony is inflexible. The cheers of the sidelines are unable to change its interminable blackness. Their clothes are light and revealing the form of their bodies, made of spandex and rayon, their color black with neon flashes. Their reasons for running are frustrated by the incline of the hill, its gradient muddying their purpose, precipice rising with each cold step.

I lay on my side. My eyes brew with envy towards the foggy glass barrier. They continue to pass by, impacting me much more than their knees. I would like to capture the air beneath each foot just before it strikes, that single moment of human flight. I imagine flying by with speed and long legs, toned and tight, without veins, cramps, or extra pounds. My body light and free, my midline strong and balanced, as I soak the sideline cheering, determined and fast, smiling and well trained. My stomach is calm, and unlike the year before, I do not vomit over the highway’s side, in a disgusting display of too eager too early, unable to endure the swishing and churning of nervous acids threatening to expel. My joints, rejuvenated, do not pound. They glide and absorb the landing. They rebound with bouncing speed, each step faster than the last.

“Maybe next year,” I whisper hopefully as I shift my stare below to my feet, swollen and veiny, tired and cramped. The floor beneath them is parquet, small pieces of dull wood composing a puzzle frustrated with no beginning or end. It is just like the one in the living room at home, but hopefully, cleaner. The walls, covered in maroon colored, fruit patterned wallpaper circa 1986, the year of my birth, or some other year of unfortunate fashion, suffocate. I wonder what this room designer is like, the one who decided the color of dry blood for walls looked upon for courage and strength. The one who put that window there with the perfect view of cycled flight fast and free. I think maybe that I hate her.

A few thousand steps before this hill each racer stood behind the start line attempting to balance anxiety and self -assurance, apprehension and preparedness. For me, the moments before a race are always the same. The physical hunger is subsided by nerves unsettled by the fear of the shotgun, as I wonder if my feet will do what they ought when the sound is heard.  My speech is hurried.  I step up as close as I can to the line. I’m almost bouncing; excitement intensifying all the way to my fingertips painted red and vibrant, sleek and loud, and I cannot seem to shake it out. I inhale, unable to catch the air all the way. The height of the breath remains out of reach, stifled by the pounding of my heart. The gun is a pop, the signal to go. My shoes do not absorb the first strike, or the tenth. It is a sloppy stride with too much distance between each step, heels landing flat, and hips bearing down. The height of each breath is still dangling above me, as I wonder if I will complete even one mile. Then, the first burst of moisture is felt on the small of my back, at the point of sciatic pressure and lumbar curve. It gently rolls, spreading to my neck and forehead, each bead a wet release of encouraging stamina. With its break, I find my stride. I begin to fly for millions of singular moments between each pounding rebound.

This pregnancy, too, began with a line. A faint shade of pink, a delicate color for a statement so strong. Its paleness marks the start of my 40-week gestational marathon.  At its sight, buckling knees, sinking hips, shoulders surrendering into the concaves of my chest, flatten my immovable feet further. My breaths exhale to the pit of my stomach, yet they fail to move me at all. The lump in my throat sits large. No matter how tightly I close my eyes, or how much the burrow of my brow reveals my worries; the sight of its positivity remains the same. Hours earlier, the public display of gagging at the site of raw chicken had already indicated pregnancy. The midnight sweats catapulting my head from my pillow and into the toilet further signaling my suspicion. I raise my eyes, watery and beginning to swell. The sight before me was a pale reflection of fear and doubt, disbelief and question. My mind fills with waging battles between midnight bouts of vomiting into porcelain, with early morning toddler wrangling with swollen eyes and creaking joints. Images of three lap children on one airplane with strict aviation laws and other passengers, trips to the grocery store with two hands, three babies, a shopping cart, and produce displays within a toddler’s arms reach, pushing strollers the same size as small European vehicles, crawling under tables to pick up Cheerios, continue to thwart my motivation to move, to blink, to breath. All I want to do is run. To feel the pavement below each strike, to soak its impact fast and hard, to shed my fears through dripping sweat, my feet the vehicle of freedom and distance, my will its driver. Yet, as I strain to lift my heel from the floor, my muscles are tense and inflexible. I am stuck.

I had seen that line before, and I had been ready. There was no regret, no apprehension the two times before. The knowing awareness of her tiny beating heart, pulsing with each of mine, mount the blame already welling, further halting my feet and their steps. Unable to meditate on the life within me, or grapple with any of my practical impediments as the parental unit of three children two and under, a spiral of self-pity commences.  The guilt is heavy and thick and so is the fear.  I look at my arms, and regret their lack of tone. My waist still thin, having never worn that dress. My skin, beginning to age prematurely for its number of years already looks tired. My free time to be traded for naps of tired desperation. At 25, I feel old.

There is a peculiar resentment of my fertility even though I know how precious it is, how delicate, how fleeting. While I am aware of the tiny humanity clinging to my nourishment, relying on the walls of my body and making I do not yet appreciate her, know her, want her. The guilt for harboring such thoughts debilitates my breaths into unrelentingly confusing gasps and sobs. My two children fight and squawk in the kitchen over blueberries and juice boxes, as my husband knocks on the door at the sound of my sobbing. With nine grueling months ahead of me, my breaths continue flickering unsteadily, barely able to support my stance at all. I rest my hand on my womb and search for life, but I can’t yet feel it. The end is millions of miles from that bathroom mirror, and I am desperately seeking a path to escape, to run away as fast as I can, to avoid the reflection staring back at me.

I do not run. “God knows,” I repeat to myself, gently coaching moment after moment, day after day, even though I don’t believe it.  But, growing a baby is a commitment of mind just as it is one of the body, and I refuse to give up. It is a marathon of life, a resurrection of sacrifice, and this is my turn to give what I’ve got.

Its precipice is my looking out this window as laboring my third child intensifies, still wishing I could run away.

The sheets on the bed that detains me are itchy, confining, and hot. I place my hand on its scratchy covering. I stretch each finger long and wide; their violent texture an inconsolable foundation for finger’s working so hard. I beg the pressure to escape my fingers red painted tips, too flashy a color for birthing a baby. As the height of the pressure declines and releases, I stand so as to shake the labor out from my feet, to release it with kicks and flailing limbs thrusting their way towards nowhere.

The gown is draping, revealing and hot. It does not move with my body. It stifles. It hangs. It sticks. It’s too big, too ugly, too borrowed, and not made for a woman so small or with so many opinions.

The bathroom a few feet away, might as well be ten kilometers from the squishy ball on which I sit, leaking and swaying. It is made for stretching and sit-ups. It is used to ease each mounting pressure with movement, to break the monotony of the bed’s stillness. As if rocking will make it end sooner or squish could absorb the pain.

I breathe in between. My husband is in my face breathing with me. His face is gentle. He is confident of the strength inside me, of my ability to pace, and make it to the end. He can see the womanhood I possess, and all of its feminine power. Yet, as it tightens again, I am weak, and unfeminine, with nothing left to push, and nothing left to give. I feel incapable of handling what is to come naturally for a woman, but probably not one with such small, childlike hips. I dream of running the fastest 10 kilometers of my life in the face of someone who believes in me. Then, the strength for one more contraction comes out through the gasp of my breath.

The haze will not release the sun. It is stuck, just like me at too few centimeters. I am not close, and if I hear the number 6 again, I think I’ll rip out the needle and throw it at the bearer of “only four more to go!” The cheer is meant to be one of encouragement, but with what seems like an eternity of painful distance between one and ten, my screams become grunts of anger.

“Concentrate, you are doing great. It’s just a few miles more” he tries to encourage using words I like, metaphors I understand. My gaze continues in envy, toward that window. “Stop looking at them,” he says catching my focus. He hopes the race ends soon because the envy is distracting, and he is tired, too. The runners now are stragglers, their landings hard and painful, their clothes soaked, their bodies heavy. The good ones have crossed the finish. They eat bananas, compare their times, regret their performance on the hill outside the window through which I blink and stare.

Each contraction, like a hill; the intensity in its rising, lactic acid burning, focus on the breath, my muscles are ripping apart. Each one is growing stronger, a mounting pressure emerging steadily every two minutes. It is as if at first it asks its permission. It hopes for acceptance as its intensity grows. It exists nonetheless, and continues to climb in disobedience.

The sounds of hearts beating muffled and quiet continue to determine the course and pace of my labor. Our beats, united in both stress and calm, as her fast pulse is in sync with mine. She is squeezed, yet endures, moving down. It is difficult, though, to think of her, or anyone else, in moments that feel like such insurmountable personal weakness. I bear the consequence of another with parched breath, dry and stale. The faces of those surrounding me are all in mine, as I demand they push both my spirit and already bruised back. Yet, no amount of muscle or sweat could absorb my body that feels much too small to bring forth the life of my own, let alone someone else’s.

The sound down the hall is of a woman’s final push. It is a desperate scream and a call to God. The newborn cry follows. It is perfect and pure. It could be heard as motivation, of a finish line close, just a few more breaths. Yet, my concentration to bear down and breathe is baffled and thwarted. My envy is fueled by a finish line crossed by someone other than me. I request help with the pain. My sister interrupts, “Just one more. Pretend it’s a mile.” I do one more. She’s a runner, too.

They pray around me, with beads of peace and rhythm, so long as I don’t find it annoying. The repetition reminds me to breath, to experience my body. I listen to its strength, one step at a time, one cycle into the next, one bead after the other.

“It’s time,” the doctor says, and my eyes well with tears. “Are you excited?” I ask, with the finish line in sight, and they are crying, too.

The lights are bright, and reveal too much of a lady. The stirrups offer cold support, but their presence seems more appropriate on a horse for someone strong enough to use them. The mirror should be thrown and cracked and broken. The silver table, ready to greet her, with a test and to find her weight, seems too cold, far away, and rather judgmental.

My stomach tightens. I close my eyes. My breaths astonish my body’s dependent weakness, its bending and bruising. They hold my limbs, hanging and disconnected. I push. I pray. I cry.

The moment is the same each time for each race, not the circumstance but the feeling. The cadence slows, my muscles cramp, my heart beats fast, and my breaths can no longer keep up with its rhythm as airways tighten and restrict. I am pushed to the point of puking, or my shoulder bleeds from a messy fall, my knees smash into pavement, and I cannot remember how I stood up or why. To quit is impossible, but continuing seems so, too. The temptation is to be still, but that’s when the pain sets, swelling to the point of bursting. That’s where the will is made, the pain ignored even though I’m screaming, the movements persist not automatically, but to the tempo and tune of “almost there, cycle again, breath once more, exhale now, land and absorb, bring flight to it now, strike again, another step closer, inhale, repeat.” Then it’s over. The ending is immediate and abrupt. The path of the course, the rhythm of my treads, their circles and landings in duplicated recurrence are erased by the pavement behind me. The tempo of my body is made still, as my mind begins to race with adrenaline, sigh in elation, bounce in jubilation. Life is clear, and I am capable. My memory is oblivious to its trauma, my mouth grins a gloating smile, soreness is hung by happiness, and a sweaty release goes unnoticed. I did it. I finished, and the road behind me no longer matters.

The Ring of Fire is the name for this moment in labor. New life at the threshold of birth pushes to escape. Its breath is not yet present, but its power is full and robust, demanding to be noticed as it paralyzes and humiliates, authorizes and inspires. Then, it is a slide and a slither, a sobering instant streamlining unfathomable pain with a blink and a cry. The physical relief is not at first noticed. Rather, it is a surge of joy just as powerful as the pain, overwhelming just the same, grateful gasps resounding and repeating.

The room and its window no longer matter. The walls, the floor, the lights, and their faces are a background blur.

Her name is Rita.

I am her mother.

Her cries cleanse us both. What was once fear is purified by her gentleness, what was once saturated by guilt is transformed by her innocence. This baby I never thought I wanted, lying naked in my arms. Her innocence is exposed, my desire for her insatiable.

The first look between a husband and wife after giving birth surely must exist in eternity. The recollection of yelling, cursing, and nearly strangling him moments earlier is erased and forgotten. His smile is one of proud fulfillment, tears revealing his thanksgiving at the sight of his second baby girl. Memories of the gentle acceptance spoken by his first knock on the door in the moment of my discovery of pregnancy echo. His strong arms are protective, surrounding my frail figure, a tender reminder to breath slow; their embrace coaching my anxiety to absorb into the kind beat of his heart.

Awe is what I feel as she is given to me. My shaking arms hold her, as she is placed directly on my chest. Her tiny breaths are in sync with mine. These first moments of life hold humanity’s most important truths. It is where innocence stems, newness is revealed, and purpose is born, all in the form of a baby. She is a miracle made flesh. A person, there all along, when I looked in that mirror and had all those questions, faced all those doubts, struggled to believe it. She was there all along, in me, all along.

A gaze is at the reflection of myself in her, so small and new. There is finally a visual depiction of the language silently communicated by our bodies since the moment of her conception, a significance and purpose that I did not understand until her 7 pound body, made from and kept by the flesh of my own, lays there blinking and cooing at her brand new world. The victory is her presence, her body my reward.

364 days later I ran the Great Race again in a personal record. Five fast miles in, with the barrier to my left, and my window up five floors to my right, there is a hesitation in my stride. I begin to slow out of a curious desire to stop and stay awhile, to let that spot impact my knees just a little longer than my pace and its energy want. As I look up at my window from the other side, it was gratitude in place of envy, freedom in the place of guilt, desire in the place of regret. The road race’s finish line is a ways ahead of this spot that marked my effort, my desire to flee, my decision to accept, the courage to sacrifice in the Great Race of motherhood. I pause for a moment, praying and cheering for those women in their beds, with their itchy gowns and ugly walls, in their panting and breathing, their swelling and their cramping. “You can do it,” I cheer and I hope they can feel my motivation because each and every one of them is doing great, and so am I. With a wave and a smile I ran to the finish.

“Did you win, Mom?” my oldest, age 3, blurts out in enthusiasm as I return home to our home, quite comfortable in its mess. He stands sturdily with his favorite race car in his right hand. His hairs stick like wires, long eyelashes blinking quickly and inquisitively. He is barefoot and strong, clumsy and curious. My husband stands tall cooking breakfast. My daughter, age two, bounces happily towards me, her blond curls, voluminous and buoyant, spunkily rebounding with each of her steps. There is chocolate on her face and she only wears a diaper. She swiftly wraps her arms around my leg, her happiness exuberant as she repeats her sounding joy, “Yay, Mommy!” Baby Rita, just one day from her first birthday, sits content and glad, still in her pajamas, her tiny palms clapping while cooing and laughing. She would jump to me if she could, her smile containing the most cheerful peace, her chub the perfect amount for a happy baby.

“Absolutely,” I reply.

Pitter Patter

unnamed-1Pitter-patter is not at all political. It is unaware of congress, and the president, too. And it might be better off, for I would hate it to think that it is just a bunch of cells, lumped together haphazard, someone to be tossed out and thrown away, reduced to inconvenience, referred to as a choice and not a child. Its existence dependent on someone’s perspective.

Pitter-patter cannot vote, or choose at all, which seems unfair, to me, its mother. It cannot march, stand, or hold signs.  But it twists and it rolls. It can make you uncomfortable. Its taps are quite strong. A purpose its own. It speaks rather loud if you listen to silence.

I remember each time Pitter-patter began to speak to me.

It was the last Sunday in May, the first time James danced. I sat near a pond off the road called Love Hollow. Grass twirled in my hand as his dad’s arm drew back with his fly rod, its string swaying peacefully behind him and then into the water. I sighed in surprise and sat there a while, pressing my hand on his body and mine. The kick, like him, strong and intense. It seldom stopped, hardly settled, wiggling and wrangling all the way along.

Sweet baby Josephine danced awfully early. In the middle of chores, her feet jumped with a palpable joy. Gentle yet excited, enthusiastic and kind.  She’s never stopped tapping, never stopped smiling, reminding me then, just like now, to quit all that laundry, and enjoy a little freedom.

Rita Therese was 10 weeks along. I laid on the chair and its soft navy back, its cushion absorbing my exhaustion. What a surprise, those feet came to be, reminding of joy, and sacrifice, too. Her kicks the first, that led me to tears, for her soft gentle rhythms weren’t what I thought I wanted. Rita, my child, a gift sent from heaven, came at just the unexpected time I never knew I needed.

John Christopher began teaching me early, to trust in myself and let that voice be heard. At my 12 week appointment, no heartbeat detected, at first. “Move that doppler up a bit,” I said to the doctor. “There is no way you can feel it, it is much too early,” she spoke rather proudly. “I know what it feels like, and I know where he is. My baby is dancing, right here.” It was just like him, so steady and sure, soft spoken and gentle, never wanting to intrude.

Cora Regina’s blended right into the day, yet even in chaos, we all surely noticed. Her pitter patter peddled and pranced making everyone laugh and jump in excitement. A baby! Their sister! Their own! What a gift! Her hiccups came at the same time each day. Her legs stretched up to my ribs. She liked to dance at bedtime. She made her mom quite sick. But then again, she saved me.

They grow quick and they make messes. They stink and never go to bed. They are loud and they are crazy. We are never prepared. Each one of them is so perfectly imperfect, incredibly inconvenient, not ever to be taken for granted, so very worthy of being defended.

I hope and pray that each of my children grow to know the power of giving life, but realize that the power to grant it is not theirs.

The Magic Maker

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Tis the seasons for moms to make magic! It has long been my favorite time of year to be a mom as I revel in the privilege of being the magic maker; the one who directs their eyes towards the heavens and into the depth of mysterious realities inherent in the faith we share together. I witness their wonder, their hopeful vulnerability to believe in things they cannot see. I notice even the most irreverent of small toddlers compelled to pause at the sight of lights that dance and sparkle. They are eager to await all the goodness that is to come from the birth of Jesus trusting fully in that tremendous Santa Claus, not just for what he will bring, but for how he goes to such great lengths for the whole world to throw a birthday celebration for his special baby King. As I pursue the richness of myth and mystery, of Santa and sleighs and reindeer and elves, I continually wonder if I am doing it right; If I am properly walking that fine line that teeters its steps towards truth and honesty without bursting the beauty of childhood belief. As my children grow older, and a bit more intellectually mature, I want to make sure our celebration of Christmas matures too, but without losing its magical momentum. 

The thing is, I am a 32 year old woman who is cynical about many things, but I still fully believe in Santa Claus. How important a figure he is to rely on! To hope in the generosity of someone who cares so much for you, that he would do nearly anything to keep you safe, happy, and focused on the freedom inherent in putting God first! The story of St. Nicholas is one that continues to shape me. He was a young man, who inherited wealth upon the death of his parents. He saw his neighbors being sold into slavery because of their poverty. In his despair and grief, he realized still that he could do something about it, and so he did. He dropped gold through the chimney, into their stockings, and he disappeared into the night. He became a Bishop (a Good one!) and actually travelled in a sleigh. Through his sainthood, we get the real Santa Claus. Sure, modern cultures have dismantled the true depth and point of his life. His narrative has been abused and his face warped into the commercial tagline of a consumerism that is vicious and debilitating. But not all is lost! Magic making is still very much possible- even if your kids begin to catch on to how much “helping” we parents actually do. 

I say all this mostly because of what my mother has taught me. You see, she has loved St. Nicholas so completely through out her life, that without a doubt in my mind, I know that he is working through her. To put it simply, there is no other way to explain the mysterious effectiveness of the stunts that she pulls. She also skillfully manages to take advantage of the fact that no matter what she does, you can’t get mad at Santa Claus. It is not in the type of gifts that she gives, in their expense or in their luxury (although truth be told those are usually pretty awesome). It is the intangible way she channels generosity to take flight. It is that very special manner in which her December tactics will frustrate me to the point of boiling. It is only later that I find she was creating something magnificent all along. It is me realizing that the hidden magic in the day she showed up unannounced with presents in one hand, suckers in another, and a very large moving truck parked behind her that began ever so quickly to unload dozens of uniformed boxes wrapped in red before I could say, “Can I change out of my pajamas first?” That was the day she was gifting me her prize antique Duncan Royale Santa Claus collection (valued now in the $$$$$), which proved to me once and for all that the story of St. Nicholas ought to be shouted from the rooftops. Upon opening each one of the world’s depictions of Santa, was a chance to encounter my childhood staring back at me. I remembered hot June nights standing outside of the Cape May Christmas store, wanting desperately for her to hurry up so I could have ice cream. She continued to barter relentlessly with the store manager, reminding me to be patient because “she was working for Saint Nicholas.” She worked for years to buy those Santa Clauses, to find them, to negotiate their prices, to display them proudly, and it was a process that particularly annoyed me. But then, for no good reason at all, upon no good merit whatsoever, despite many good reasons why she ought to keep them or give them to someone much more deserving, she up and gave them to me. I didn’t even know that I wanted them. That I would be so mesmerized by their history, their legends of renegade generosity across different lands and cultures. Even in all of the difference, they were all in search of the same goodness of God.  That’s the thing about Santa Claus, he gives us the gifts that anticipate our needs, that give purpose to our mission, that help us focus on all the good that God put in us, no matter how badly we behaved. And sometimes, he makes us wait a little longer to unwrap the true essence and power inherent in the gift. But, no matter how dazzling the material of the present is, it is the intangible that sticks with us, that gut memory that continues to say “you are loved beyond measure, worthy of greatness, designed to be good.” 

On the very same day when those poor movers walked with such deliberate speed and intentional direction as if they had been warned not to make eye contact or respond to my pleas, and when, I still in my PJs, chased them to our basement storage room trying to figure out what lay beneath all that red wrapping paper, I came back upstairs to catch the last glimpse of Mammy’s white car driving quickly up my driveway and out of sight until her next unexpected visit. Just as I began to sigh in relief at no more surprises for the day, I turned to notice the giant red velvet sleigh sitting smack dab in the middle of my entryway. In it were five little kids now chasing their sucker with a candy cane, singing Jingle Bells on its plush seat. They dashed and danced towards that magical place where children are loved purely and pursued with great fervor, that to me could only be heaven, but I’ll settle for the North Pole. In that moment, and through that completely absurd antique, she was making a magic maker out of me, and my kids were pretty darn thankful. While I’ll never be quite as good, thanks to her, I’m learning; and I own a very large replica of Santa’s preferred method of transportation to prove it.  

This year, as I noticed my newly turned 9 year old not as jazzed up by the traditions that usually made him squeal, I took my concern to Santa himself. I wondered if maybe my adult belief is more of a fluke than anything else and prepared myself to accept that Christmas might not be the same for him anymore. Good ol’ Saint Nick acknowledged my desire not to have a scrooge on my hands, and helped me put a little extra magic in my minivan. Together as a family, we loaded it up with treat bags and cold coins, and all before bedtime, we spread some St. Nick treats for a few in need and a few that we just plain love. It was the shift that my family needed, a chance to let them make a little magic of their own for others whom they love. Although the night before the feast of St. Nicholas might be better known as “the night mom taught us how to throw candy at front doors and we learned how to ding dong ditch,” I’d like to hope that they might remember the magic they felt when doing something so perfectly preposterous, but completely and totally generous for no particular reason at all. And if I judge the effectiveness of our Toyota Sienna sleigh ride by the sound of infectious laughter from my oldest kids sourced from the depth of their bellies, I think it was pretty successful.  

We don’t really deserve to find treats in our shoes or presents under the tree, but we get them anyway, simply because we are loved. If we can bypass the materialism, and forgo the stress of checking off our lists and reflecting on the true needs of those we love, the gifts of Christmas can point us towards the heart of our faith, the nonsensical reality that God makes something, someone, out of nothing for no particular reason other than: He loves. 

This year, in particular, our Church needs the joy and the hope of a happy Christmas, a reminder that purity still exists, a dependence on the great Saints who, like St. Nicholas, stand for truth no matter the cost. And we, as adults, have a special opportunity to focus our families on that sweet baby boy who gives us everything. As we encounter the weeks when we will somehow pull off Christmas out of what feels like nothing, let us remember that there is plenty of heavenly help wanting to give us assistance. And I think maybe it is in depending on the supernatural that all the magic is really made to happen, both in our hearts and under our trees too. 

To all you magic makers! Enjoy the season.  

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I very purposefully chose to get married in the church with longest aisle in the Diocese. I thought I would want to savor it, let the feeling of parading in my wedding gown simmer for a while, soak in the faces of all the people who I love, take in the music, appreciate the flowers, notice all those details about which my mom and I had spent so much time fighting. Yet, when the day came, and the bridal trumpet sounded, this fool rushed right in. I nearly tripped my father to the ground as I hurriedly skipped toward my groom, the only words I recall saying were “come on, Dad!” All those pretty details, the teeny tiny things I thought I would remember about my wedding forever, became blurry afterthoughts in the periphery of my focus on the incredible person dumb enough to marry me. And I was gleefully happy.

Over 10 years since I so happily ran down that long aisle at the idiotic age of 22, I think I might even be more grateful now than I was then to have had the chance to dive head first into the adventure of a young marriage without over thinking all the reasons why I shouldn’t, or stressing about all the things that could go wrong, or all the worries I might feel 3 years in, 5 years in, 35 years in. I discerned, I decided, and then I dove. The day to day was to be determined.

As a Catholic woman, wife and mother in this time of crisis, corruption, scandal, abuse, nonsensical idiocy, complete criminality, silent wayward leadership, and every other bad thing a person can think up, it seems, sometimes feels, and possibly is, silly to stay in this Church that I still call home. The breaking news is always bad. It has broken my heart and threatened to beat me down so many times in the past few months, that I’ve wondered, seriously- and out loud, what any of us are doing by staying. Yet, I’m still diving right in. In the midst, and in spite, I cannot quit, and I’m still in love. Why? Because it is not about the peripherals.

The Church does not belong to the Bishops. While these higher ups may have pledged more responsibility to serving her, while more souls are entrusted to their care, the Church is not any more the Pope’s than it is mine. THE CHURCH IS NOT EVEN AN INSTITUTION. The Church is a body, and what has been done to Him will be done to us. And it is on Him that I will try and keep my focus. And it is for the victims that we will all keep fighting.

The day to day news is going to continue to crush and crumble us. It is going to frustrate, to distract, to enrage, and to confuse. But I pray that none of that might steal our focus on Jesus as he waits for us at the altar and in the tabernacle.

What a time to be a Catholic, to be stripped of so many things in which I once trusted, with no choice but to dive right into the power of the Eucharist. I crave the fullness of the Church and all of its peripheral details, because like every smart bride knows, details matter. But I hope I gain the focus to race towards Jesus in the Eucharist like I did towards my husband on my wedding day, where nothing, not even a father who can’t quite keep up his stride, will keep me from Him.