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Personally, I’ve never felt a desire to give birth to children (although I’ve always said that if I’d marry, I wouldn’t deny my husband the joy of biological children.) However, since the 2nd grade, when I learned what adoption was, I had felt a strong desire to adopt children in the event that I would marry someday. Eleven years ago I married a wonderful man, but motherhood is looking less and less likely a possibility as time moves on. Recently I came across an article on Facebook titled “Spiritual Motherhood“. Perhaps I should take Dr. Alice von Hildebrand’s advice:

“From now on your daily prayer should be, “God, send me spiritual children and I will never turn any one of them down. The more the better.” Simple as that. Pray for the gift of spiritual children. It might very well be that in your beautiful desire to be a biological mother you have overlooked cases where you could have become a spiritual mother….

You are called to motherhood right now. Not next week, not next month. I’m absolutely convinced that God has placed people in your path and called you to motherhood. Your task is to love those that are weak, unhappy, helpless, and unloved.”

I’m posting this ahead of Mother’s Day for all the women out there who, for whatever reason, have not been blessed with biological or adopted children. Sometimes a sadness and depression can set in, a mourning if you will, when this happens. But, perhaps God has a different sort of motherhood in mind for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the biological, adoptive, and spiritual mothers!

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This Lent I’m doing something a bit different than in the past. I used to get the Little Black Book that our church offered and spent a few minutes of the day reading the daily bit of trivia about saints and Catholic practices, the Bible verse, and the reflection. I’ve done this for many years but as I reflected more on this practice, I realized that it seemed like it was doing me no good. All the practices during Lent (fasting, abstinence from meat, almsgiving, giving up some bad habit or something you like, spiritual practices) are supposed to move one closer to God.

This year I’ve been feeling differently about Lent and the practices that are mandated. Do they really bring me closer to God?

On Ash Wednesday our heat went out. On top of that work and other aspects of my life had me stressed out. Needless to say my mind was not on Lenten practice for the day. By 3:30 in the afternoon it was getting unbearably cold to work (I work from home). Just as I was ready to quit early for the day (putting me even further behind in my work) and go downstairs where I have a space heater, the furnace repairman called to say that he was on his way. Thank God!

By the time the furnace was fixed, there was no time to get to Mass that evening. So, being that it was an atypical Ash Wednesday and I had had other things on my mind the entire day, I forgot to adhere to the Church-mandated Ash Wednesday fast. As I was lying in bed that night, I realized what I had done. How was I going to rectify that? I thought of several things, but ultimately it led me to reflect on these Lenten practices and to ask myself if these practices lead me closer to God. I’m told that they should, but personally they don’t. I wanted (needed) something more.

Recently, as I was looking at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church bulletin, I came across something that said “Don’t give up chocolate this Lent.” That led me to the Dynamic Catholic website and this:

What Should I Give Up for Lent?

Lent is the perfect time to form new life-giving habits and abandon old self-destructive habits. But most of us just give up chocolate. Then, when Easter arrives, we realize we really haven’t grown spiritually since the beginning of Lent.

Lent is not just about giving things up, like chocolate. Lent is about doing something—something bold to become a better husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, friend, neighbor, etc.

This intrigued me because I had just been thinking about the fact that giving up things for Lent was useless to me. It’s something I’m supposed to do, but it never changed me, my attitude, as it’s supposed to. If this offered an alternative, I was ready to look into it. I bought the Kindle version of the book Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly and I signed up for the “Best Lent Ever” email series.

To get the most out of it, I intend to do the exercises at the end of the chapters. Reflect and write. Something I vowed to do, in general, once my term on our subdivision’s Board was complete. Interestingly enough, my term on the Board ended a day before Ash Wednesday.

I’m a bit behind on the reflections since I didn’t come upon “Best Lent Ever” until 3 days into Lent, but these questions seem to be some of the things that I should ponder not only during Lent but all year long. My pondering tends to take longer than a few minutes so I may end up thinking about the daily reflection on a daily basis and then go back and reflect and write at my own pace. I’m hoping this more reflective practice will indeed have me rediscovering Jesus and growing closer to God.

The first question for reflection: In what area of your life is God inviting you to experience a new beginning?

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Easter Rebirth

Crocus_03292013

Each year when the crocuses bloom I think back to my full initiation into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1997. All adults preparing for initiation into the Catholic Church — converts from other Christian faiths; non-Christian converts; and those who, like me, were baptized Catholic but never had their First Communion nor had been confirmed — must attend R.C.I.A. classes in order to learn about Catholic beliefs and traditions and hopefully, in the process, strengthen their faith and grow close to God.

R.C.I.A. stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The classes I attended started in September 1996. In one of those early sessions our catechist gave each of us a crocus bulb and told us to plant it in our garden. It was to be a symbol of us, of our faith. Just as the crocus lies in wait, gathering nourishment from the surrounding soil, until it bursts forth into a new life in Spring, so too would we lie in wait, gathering intellectual and spiritual nourishment through our study, through the support of our classmates, through the prayers of our family and faith community, until the moment of our baptism*, confirmation, and our First Holy Communion when our faith blossoms, we become a new creation, and we are able to experience a closeness with Our Lord as we have never experienced before.

*Only those from the R.C.I.A. class (and those in the equivalent class for children) who have not been baptized into a Christian faith before get baptized at the Easter Vigil. As I reflect on my experience those many years ago, I remember the stirring moment when one of my classmates was baptized. It seemed as though I could see the moment the Holy Spirit came down, just by looking at the expression on the man’s face. I could feel the Holy Spirit there with us. It was a profoundly moving experience! It wasn’t until our class met for one last time a week later that I learned I wasn’t the only one in our class who had the exact same experience at that moment.

A second moving experience that evening, this time all my own, came after I was anointed at my Confirmation. When the priest embraced me it was as if Jesus himself wrapped his arms around me and a heavy burden lifted from me, one that I didn’t realize I was carrying until then.

As I look on the beauty of the crocus, as it blooms this Holy Week, I think about the profound effect my faith in Our Lord has in my life. And I pray that each and every one of His children will feel His presence in their lives, and experience a spiritual rebirth this Easter season.

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The child … makes the wife a mother. Man more commonly cooperates with nature, but a woman cooperates with God; she is the bearer of the gift of God to man. The word of woman is “Fiat”, submission, surrender, cooperation with life. A woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give; there is hell within when she refuses to give. Bearer of the cosmic plentitude, she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into the world. Looking down at that babe, a new paradox is revealed: it is the only time self can be loved without selfishness. A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn.

I’m currently reading the book Life is Worth Living, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. It includes the transcripts from 44 episodes of his television show of the same name. This particular quote was taken from an episode entitled “Children: Burdens or Joys”. I thought it quite appropriate to share this quote with you at this time, Mother’s Day being Sunday.

I think that this quote not only speaks to women who have given birth, but also to women who, for whatever reason, cannot: “a woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give.” I wonder about some women’s consciences, if there is truth to the statement “there is hell within when she refuses to give.”

Some reading this will be put off by the phrase “she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into this world.” But, in context, there’s no disputing the fact that God made Woman to bear children. This is what Bishop Sheen is alluding to.

I can empathize with the “unhappiest moment”. I can ponder the “hell within”. I was struck with awe, however, by the statement: “A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn”.

Slowly re-read that sentence. “…her body becomes the ciborium of the new life….” Just think what our society, what our human race, could become if each and every person took this phrase to heart and treated the gifts from God with the respect and care that they deserve.

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Full citation for the quote above: Sheen, Fulton J., Life is Worth Living: First and Second Series, Ignatius Press, original copyright 1953 and 1954, p. 173.

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Yes, I know that it’s going to be Father’s Day this Sunday but recently I was trying to catch up on some reading and came across an article in the Catholic Times, our diocesan newspaper. The article, entitled “Dominicans bless gift of ‘peace’,” talks about the Adrian Dominican Sisters marking Mother’s Day by installing a Peace Pole on the grounds of their retreat and conference center. It said in the article that this ceremony was reconnecting Mother’s Day to its original meaning. This had me intrigued. I had assumed that the day was simply meant to thank mothers for all that they do.

Later in the article it said that originally Mother’s Day, proposed by Julia Ward Howe, was “an event to focus on striving towards world peace in response to the death and destruction wrought by the U.S. Civil War.” Howe wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation calling all “women who have hearts” to come together to plan ways to put an end to war. “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

Somehow over the years this original meaning of Mother’s Day has been lost.

Now we also “allow our [daughters] to be trained to injure theirs.”

Perhaps now, more than ever, as war still rages on, we must revisit this proclamation. But, perhaps this should not only be a Mother’s Day Proclamation. This should also be a Father’s Day Proclamation and a proclamation that we take into our hearts the rest of the days of the year also, teaching (and relearning for ourselves) charity, mercy, and patience on our way to becoming “too tender of those of another country.”

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April is National Poetry Month. How will you celebrate?

Maybe some of you will go the high-tech route. Yes, there’s an app for that. Maybe some of you will go the low-tech route. Visit the library, a favorite book store. The Curious Book Shop is a local favorite here. Maybe some of you will want to celebrate with others. Find a poetry event near you on poets.org. Maybe some of you will not venture so far. Open up an old, dusty, long-forgotten volume of poetry that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for years. Scribble a beloved poem on a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket, ready to share with a loved one, coworker, or friend.

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 14th!

Then others, the creative type, may just write a poem or two this month. (But, don’t think that you have to be the “creative type” to do just that.)

I think that I will go the low-tech route and find some poems upon my shelf,
but I will also try to find the time to write some poetry myself:

A Lesson Learned

The ice has melted,
the warmth has come,
the river flows once more.
The geese along the shore
say “Welcome Spring!”
“But, ’tis March,” I say,
“The warmth will not endure.”

A goose honks back: “I know!
Each year papa says ‘It’s time!’
and each year I say ‘No.
Don’t you remember last year,
when our feet froze in the snow?'”

“‘This year will be different,’ he says,
and this year it is so.
For now the warmth is here,
but…”

“The cold will come,
the flurries too,
and the river flow
will stop once more.
Some more suffering we must endure
before the Springtime warmth is here.”

“Then this year papa will say ‘It’s time!’
and I will say ‘Yes it is!’
Time to find my true love
and start a family all my own!”

“Next year I will be the papa.
The papa that says ‘It’s time!’
But I will wait until April or May
when Spring is warm,
and flowers bloom,
and the river flows unceasing!”

I smile at the goose.
He smiles at me.
Then suddently he cocks his head
and thinks most seriously.

“No,” he says, “I won’t do such.”
“I must say ‘It is time’ in March
just as my papa does.”

“Without the cold,
the flurries too,
without the river flow ceasing,
I would not appreciate
the warmth, the beauty,
the river flowing deeply.”

“And as a papa, I must teach
my little ones the same:
The warmth is warmer,
the beauty more,
after one has suffered pain.”

Creative Commons License
A Lesson Learned by Joyce P. Simkin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Wishing all my readers in the United States a Happy Independence Day! As we celebrate the freedoms we have in this country let’s not forget all those who made this day possible. And, let’s not forget all those currently serving in the military who wish nothing more than to be home with their families!

Thank you for your brave sacrifices!

Let’s also not forget all those innocents who perish because of wars. May God bring their families peace and healing. And, may we all throughout the world do our part to bring peace and love into this world. Amen.

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