Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spirit of Poverty: My Birth Story (Part 1)

At last. My birth story! I bet you thought I'd NEVER get around to it :) All that talk and preparation for a homebirth and no story. Well here is how it all went down:

As I've previously posted, for me, the choice to have a homebirth was on a large part one in the spirit of poverty--financially and spiritually. Financially, it allowed me some control in the expenses during the pregnancy and delivery.  Spiritually, it allowed me to experience my pregnancy, labor, and delivery simply and naturally, as I believe it was designed to be. Having had 6 birth experiences, this homebirth was by far my favorite!

 We had my religious goodies up on the mantle which included our enthroned Mary statue and Sacred Heart of Jesus picture, a pregnant statue of Mary on lend from a dear friend, and a relic of St. Gerard Majella (patron saint of expectant mothers).
As is the tendency with my pregnancies, I went overdue. A full 14 days overdue! From the beginning I told myself I would be patient and stay calm, I'd put myself in a mindset that the baby was going to run late. But having had 3 inductions from being post term, I began to panic a bit that I may not be able to have my homebirth after all and would need a fourth induction. My biggest fear. Unfortunately, I don't think that fear was helping me or my body go into labor.

We tried walking. . .and walking some more.
We tried walking with homeopathic cimicifuga and caulophyllum.
We tried Evening Primrose. . .
We tried stripping membranes. . .
We tried belly wrapping. . .
We tried using castor oil exteriorly as a belly rub . . .
We tried nearly all the tricks in the book.

I was on the verge of attempting to ingest castor oil, a last resort. I was one day away from giving it a go I was getting so desperate. The deal with the midwives was that I could continue the pregnancy past 2 weeks but would need to have a non-stress test administered to verify that Baby was happy and healthy. That would have been an out of pocket expense--an expense I was trying to avoid.

Going on a little tangant here, at 8 months pregnant I had to pay for an ultrasound. There was concern that the baby was transverse. As I was heading out of town for a one last hurrah with my girls at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA before the baby arrived and I would preoccupied and tied down with a newborn, my midwife thought I should have the position verified, in case something should happen and I go into labor out of town. If that should be the case I would require a c-section. We had to get creative on the cheapest way to have an ultrasound done. Many diagnostic ultrasound offices were charging as much as $500. We simply needed to check the position of the baby--we didn't need a full work up. One of the closest and cheapest solutions was a place called Clear Sight Ultrasound in Richmond, VA. They do gender determination, 3-D ultrasounds, and all those memorable pregnancy extras. This was a first for them, to determine the position of a baby for a homebirth and to do ultrasound that late in pregnancy. But they were great and willing to do it. So, on our way down to Williamsburg we stopped along the way at their office in Richmond. I had been deciding whether or not I wanted to know the gender, as I didn't know up to that point. I caved into the pressure of my other daughters who were dying to know. My girls got to be with me in thr room as we watched the ultrasound on a large screen-GIRL! It a great experience and memory for us a family. And come to find out, by that time Baby Girl #6 was laying diagonally head down--a much better position!

So here we were 2 months later, no signs of labor staring.  I had a home visit with the midwife, a second membrane stripping, and was trying an herbal tincture (I can't recall the name off the top of my head). At last things started happening, I was having irregular contractions the rest of the morning and afternoon. By evening it seemed things might get serious. My mother came and retrieved my other 5 girls so I could relax and let my body labor. However, I still wasn't 100% sure this was the real thing, I had a false start another time and I guess I had lost all trust that my body knew how to go into labor. But with the consistent dosing of the tincture and homoeopaths plus a belly wrap to better position in the baby in my abdomen contractions were becoming more regular and stronger.
My husband and I ate a leisurely dinner of Stouffers macaroni and cheese and chicken parmesian. This was a sweet moment in my mind because in my prior induced labors I was banned from eating. And here my husband and I were sitting at our dinner table in our own home eating a meal, timing contractions, and anticipating our baby. Priceless.

Contractions were holding strong and regular but by 9 p.m. (my usual bedtime) I was getting tired and remember them slowing down to about 20 minute apart. Fearing my labor was stoppipng I wouldn't allow myself to sleep. Somewhere along the line my husband dosed off on the couch. So I continued with the tincture and homeopaths, sat in my recliner and watched a marathon of Deadliest Catch episodes of all things (sadly it was a slow movie night on the TV and there was nothing better to watch). About 1 a.m. or so I started dosing off myself between contractions. I was absolutely exhausted I couldn't help myself. I was able to pick up a few minutes here and there. At around 2 a.m. all of sudden contractions began to pick up to a regular and steady 6 minutes apart from there prior 20 minutes intervals. I finally felt it was time to call in the troops. I texted my midwives to let her know things were picking up and my doula as well. I called my mother, who was going to be present for the birth too.

FINALLY! I was in labor!!!

Everyone arrived and we just hung out on my living room floor. I used the birth ball to lean on during contractions and my doula rubbed my back. This was my first unmedicated labor, taking each contraction one at a time, it was surprisingly not as painful as I was anticipating. DO NOT get me wrong, it was by no means pleasant. The thought crossed my mind once (or twice) usually in the midst of an intense contraction that I could be at be at a hospital with an epidural, feeling nothing at that moment BUT I quickly dismissed that notion. I was exactly where I wanted to be--at home.

At about 4 a.m my midwife was checking the baby's heartbeat with a Doppler. I was laid out on my couch for a better listen. The contractions started coming back to back, I couldn't find a break between them to sit up. That's when she said it was time to start setting up shop. I was getting close. While they were getting out supplies, I decided after much deliberation that I was going to use the restroom one last time in the bathroom located only short distance down the hallway but seemed like an eternity! After that I would return and finally get in my birth pool to experience my beautiful, tranquil waterbirth.

 We had the birth pool all set up. My husband painstakingly filled it up and maintained the water temperature all night long with water boiled on the stove.

Ummm. Well, I never made it off the toilet. My water broke. My doula, who was assisting me to the bathroom, hollered to the midwives, who came running. They were telling me I needed to get back to the living room pronto. I was in a daze of sorts at this point. The instant my water broke I felt like I needed to use the bathroom--I told them so. I remember one of my midwives yanking me off the toilet seat saying if I didn't get off of it I was "going to crap my baby in the toilet"!!!! Sure enough as soon as I stood up the baby began presenting. I told them with set determination that I couldn't move. So there standing in the middle of my little bathroom, crammed in with my two midwives straddling the camode, trying to yank my pants off, my darling little baby girl was brought into the world. I like to say we almost had a water birth of a different kind!

I have to admit I sort of felt like I cheated with labor pain. My body was in labor far longer than I gave it credit for. It was a very slow, subtle labor with subtle changes instead of a quick, intense labor and delivery. The contractions were all manageable especially having kept my waters until the last minutes, keeping that cushion during contractions. And then with the assistance of gravity I really didn't have a "push time". Christy came flying out with very effort on my part except for holding on the towel rack and sink counter top for dear life.

It wasn't what I had planned or what I would have expected but it was an awesome experience with a great story!
Christy Gianna
Born April 11, 2012 4:36am
7.8 lbs, 20 1/4 in. long

To be continued. . . .

I'll finish up with the second part of my birth story next week and share some photos!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spirit of Chastity: An MC Retreat Talk on Vows, Marriage and Otherwise

A few years back I was blessed to be able to attend my first, and only, LMC retreat. I traveled from Virginia to Scranton, PA--a four hour drive--by myself . My life at that time was difficult to say the least as I was learning to surrender and humble myself to life's circumstances and God's providence. My husband had been a District Manager of Circuit City when the company went bankrupt. He lost his job and couldn't find a new one in the economic recession. We slowly lost everything. We had to move with our four daughters in with my parents. The idea of a retreat was appealing.

I suppose it was emotional exhaustion from our recent loss of livelihood coupled with a deep self-accusing feeling of sinfulness (mind you, I am a former teen mom with a less than polished past, to put it nicely--self forgiveness is an ongoing issue of mine :) that overwhelmed me emotionally. I spent a good part of the retreat in tears! Lol, not what I was expecting. But it ended up being one of the most beautiful, memorable, and important experiences in my life. I went in crying and came out radiating.

One the priests giving the retreat was Msgr. Esseff. He was absolutely amazing! He was a spiritual director and confessor of Mother Teresa, gives spiritual retreats to the MC sisters around the world, and occasionally to us LMCs too. He recently gave direction to some sisters at a retreat in Australia. You can hear an array of podcasts on his web page called, Building a Kingdom of Love. I recommend you listen to any (if not all) of his talks, but I am sharing with you this one in particular on vows. Msgr. Esseff has some beautiful words to share not only on religious vows, but on marriage vows as well.

I hope you enjoy:
The Vow – Session 2 Day 7 of the Australian Spiritual Retreat

If the link does not work, try visiting his web page for the full list of recorded sessions, and listen from there.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Say Cheese!

I'm not the type who usually spends the extra money to buy the warranty when purchasing a product. I have always found that there are way too many hoops to jump through in order to use the warranty that it either becomes too frustrating to use it or that due to the fine print it is darn near impossible. It ends up being just a waste of money.

Boy am I glad my husband bought the warranty when he got my birthday camera back in November. A week after buying it my young daughter knocked it off the table and it had to be returned. Still under the store warranty I could exchange it for a replacement at Walmart.

Over these past months of using it, a tiny piece that holds the battery door closed tightly broke off. In the middle of taking a shot the flap would pop open and the batteries would spill out. My hubby tried to exchange it at the store again but was told he needed to call the number for the extended warranty plan. I thought, "here comes all the warranty loop holes." So I put it off. I finally got around to placing the call after considering keeping the darn thing and taping the door shut. But NO! We bought the plan for this very reason. I shouldn't have to suffer with a gimpy camera.

I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity and ease in implementing the Walmart Warranty. After a short, sweet phone call to file the claim, a drop of a package containing the old camera into the UPS box, I was issued a cash check for the full amount of the camera. I could either use the money to buy a new camera or spend it as my heart desired.

My hubby took the money from that camera with a little "upgrade" money and bought me a GE X500. He surprised me with it one day after work.
I love it! I have had so much fun learning the features and taking pictures with it. Very much a beginner photography, this is all the photo power I need at this point.

I'm very glad I sucked it up and used the warranty after all because only two weeks after completing my camera claim my daughter dropped her prized ipod on the gravel drive way, shattering the screen. Luckily, we bought the warranty for it :-D  It was just as easy, if not more so, because I filed the claim online. . . oh, and I had that recent experience of dealing with the warranty claim system under my belt. I'm a pro at it now!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Service to the Poor: Canned Food Donations

A group called The Knights of Columbus at our parish holds a food drive every third Sunday of the month. They collect food to be used and distributed by the local Soup Kitchen.
Unfortunately, since the kitchen is sponsored and run by the K of C you have to either be a member or know one in order to help out. On occasion you can find a volunteer opportunity posted in the church bulletin to get in on. My children and I have had the privilege to assist in one evening of preparing and serving  food.
 It's a small operation, but what I thought was nice about this kitchen is it is run in a restaurant style manner. The person comes in, is greeted at the door, and seated. They are then served by a volunteer "waiter." Doggy bags and Take-Out plates are even provided.
With the K of C manning the Soup Kitchen, one of the easiest ways for my family to assist the poor in our community is by simply donating food.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spirit of Obedience: Latest Art Work

 I list my art under the classification of obedience. Why?  It is something I feel called to do.
It is out of the spirit of obedience I try to heed that calling.
See, I have my own little art business St. Catherine's Apprentice.  
I am not interested in the fact that my business be a success or a failure. What's most important to me is that it is my way saying I'm open to God using me and my art if He should want to.
He'll provide me with the business if He wants.
He has my hand to create whatever art He should feel inspired to if He should ever want to.
So whether my business thrives or fails, I'm already a winner because it was never about that to begin with--it's about saying "yes" to God.

This is my latest piece, Christy Gianna.

Having an artist mama, you bet my favorite subjects and most drawn are my own little ones. This is chalk pastel on black board. No one but me might know this, but that is the very quilt I made for my baby; see here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spirit of Poverty: Birthday Pinata

My mother had her ??th birthday this past weekend. Her party was Madagascar Circus themed. Rainbow afro wigs, honking red noses, circus music, turkey legs, funnel cakes, carnival games, tye-dyed t-shirts. . . we had so much fun! I have to admit I highly enjoyed myself. I even sported a metallic, purple, Doodlebop-ish looking wig . . .  and liked it! Thank God I was the one behind the camera, no evidence pictures of me. What happens at Nana's party, stays at Nana's party!

I contributed the pinata. My gift to my mom. I made her one a few years ago for her pirate themed birthday party. I worked and slaved making her a life sized pirate skeleton, complete with a little parate perched on his shoulder. Overboard is an understatement. I can't help myself when it comes to artsy stuff.

The paper mache recipe I used called for 1 cup flour and 2 cups water. However, I found the mixture was too watery and added more flour until I had a thicker paste. I also discovered that magazines work just as well as newspaper for this project. I didn't have any old newspapers laying around but had a stack of old magazines. I tried buying a newspaper at a stand, but for 50 cents I only got a very thin paper. Not going to work! And I didn't leave myself enough time to come up any other solutions to my newspaper shortage, I needed to start it pronto to give myself enough time to let it dry between layers. So I substitute magazines for newspaper with good results.

I used, of course, a balloon for the belly--to leave it hollow for candy. For everything else, I just experimented with what I had lying around the house. I used acrylic paint I had stashed away in my art supplies. So when all was said and done, the pinata cost me 50 cents to make (the cost of that newspaper I bought)! Not bad.

This what we ended up with. Those are coffee filters on the cuffs.

Originally I tried going to the Internet for clown face inspiration. BIG MISTAKE! I freaked myself out. There are far too many scary and freaky faces out there.

We settled for a generic, non-threatening face in the end.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chastity: Rehashed Marriage Tips

I've mentioned previously that my husband and I have been in an almost 14 year relationship.
I'm only 30.

Our "serious" relationship began only after my teenage pregnancy at 17. We've been through a lot as a couple over these number of years. We've done a lot of maturing and growing up together and at times growing apart. I'm not the person I was at 16 or 17 years old (thank God) and neither is he (thank you God for that too). So needless to say, we've needed a bit of marital assistance along the way. I'm not ashamed to share that. I'm being real. Marriage is difficult. My marriage is no exception.

"The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."
from the movie, The Butterfly Circus

This article was shared with us by our marriage counselor. I'm passing it along to you. It offered some good advice and jumping off points when evaluating and discussing our marriage relationship:

Denis Lowe, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Family at Pepperdine University, has conducted extensive research on marital happiness. The six most important traits are:

A sense of companionship. "This is particularly important midmarriage. Being one another's best friend is what draws couples together at the beginning of a relationship, but successful marriages find a way to cultivate that feeling over time, which is not easy to do, "Dr. Lowe says. It's easy to get pulled in different directions by kids, older parents, work and hobbies.

Active commitment to one another. Sure, marriage vows are a statement of commitment, but living them day after day requires finding specific ways of constantly saying, "This is the most important relationship relationship of my life," Dr. Lowe notes. The bonds of marriage should supersede relationship with children, colleagues and the families we grew up in.

Effective communication. It's not just talk. You need to get your point across in a way that increases the likelihood your spouse will really listen, such as talking nicely rather than accusingly; listening in order to better understand your spouse; and negotiating through differences.

The ability to manage conflict, change amd adversity. All couples hit bumps in the road, which can include unemployment, legal or financial problems, tragedies, even affairs. "When some couples run into a snag they figure, 'Something must be wrong with our marriage,'" Dr. Lowe says. "Long-married couples know they'll experience their share of adversity and work as a team to resolve it."

A sense of trust and safety. Each partner needs to feel safe enough to share any fear, doubt or failure without it being held against her or shared with others.

A balance between togetherness and separateness. Too much togetherness can create a sense of smothering and control; too much time apart puts the relationship at risk.

(Woman's Day, August 2002, pg. 78)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Whole-hearted and Free Service to the Poorest of the Poor: The Vow

Last in the series of studying the vows in literal form is Whole-Hearted and Free Service to the Poorest of the Poor. This is one of my favorites and what draws an LMC to be an LMC. It is what distinguishes this movement from others. It is the work of Mother Teresa.


"What we have seen and heard,
what we have watched and touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of Life, we proclaim to you. "(1John 1:1-4)

"Truly I say to you, whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt 25:40)

1. The fourth vow of the LMCs contains and expresses:

- their particular Charism;

- their affiliation and interdependence on the Missionary of Charity Family;

- the kind of apostolate they must engage themselves in;

- the type of persons they are called to serve in their way of serving them.

2. This vow distinguishes the Movement of the LMCs from various other movements and associations, confirming and clarifying their distinct vocation in the Church. If in the first three vows is manifested the task of the LMC to observe the first great commandment to love God with the whole heart, with the whole soul and with the whole mind, through the fourth vow they are assisted in the practice of the equally important command to love one's neighbour as themselves, and especially the poorest of the poor (Mt 22:34-40; 25:31-46).

3. Taking this vow, the LMCs undertake to give whole-hearted and free service to the members of their own families and to all the poorest of the poor, according to the Statutes.

a) Service means:

- living generously in the world without being of the world, one's own life consecrated by prayer and faithfulness, with a profound sense of responsibility, and joyously accepting whatever the Lord wishes to send in the name of and for the sake of the poorest of the poor. "All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of the Word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they put on in baptism, and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at confirmation, so that others, seeing their good works, might glorify the father" (Mt 5:16; AG 11);

- to be always ready to offer poor, humble, simple, loving service to the best of their ability in all the needs of the poorest of the poor, not only with the simple intention to help them, but also for the love of God;

- to share person-to-person, by their presence and dialogue, the overflow of God's love that they experience in their way of life. "Just as Christ penetrated the hearts of men and by a truly human dialogue led them to the divine light, so too, his disciples profoundly pervaded by the Spirit of Christ should know and converse with those among whom they live, that through sincere and patient dialogue these men might learn of the riches which the generous God has distributed among the nations" (AG 11).

b) Free means:

- giving freely and joyously what they have received (Mt 10:8), without asking in exchange, either money or goods, and without expecting gratitude and appreciation (Lk 17:10).

c) Whole-hearted means:

· to give everything we can without considering the cost, to give even when it hurts (Jn 13; 15:13); to give to the poor not only our hands to serve, our lips to speak, our eyes to see, but also our hearts to love, with goodness, humility and joy. "...The Church, through its children joins itself with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and the afflicted, and willingly spends herself for them. It shares their joys and sorrows, it is familiar with the hopes and problems of life, it suffers with them in the anguish of death" (AG 12).

4. This vow allows us to love and serve Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor through:

a) the seven spiritual works of mercy, which are:

1. to call sinners to repentance
2. to instruct the ignorant
3. to counsel the doubtful
4. to comfort the sorrowful
5. to bear wrongs patiently
6. to forgive injuries
7. to pray for the living and the dead

b) the seven corporal works of mercy, which are:

1. to feed the hungry: not only with perishable food, but also with the Word of God, prayer and sacraments;
2. to give drink to the thirsty: not only water, but also knowledge, truth, justice, peace, love and joy;
3. to clothe the naked: not only with a piece of cloth, but also with human dignity;
4. to give shelter to the homeless: not providing only a house made of bricks, but a heart which understands, protects, and loves;
5. to visit the infirm, crippled and blind: not only those who are infirm, sick, crippled or blind in body, but also in mind and spirit;
6. to visit the imprisoned: not only those who are imprisoned behind iron bars, but also imprisoned in their passions, selfishness, sin, indifference, and ignorance;
7. to bury the dead: not only corpses, but also bad habits, sins, and selfishness.

5. Among the poorest of the poor it is necessary to also include:

- the members of one's own family, the persons with whom we live, work and pray;

- each LMC, each brother and sister of the Missionaries of Charity;

- those who continue to live in sin, who lead others into sin, into error, and into confusion;

- those who live in solitude, the aged, the abandoned, the unwanted, the unloved, the shut-ins, those who live in despair and the shadow of death;

- those who are deprived of their natural rights, the gypsies, the refugees, those who are considered inferior or who are mistreated because of the colour of their skin, their culture, their status, their religion, or their nationality;

- the faithful departed.

6. This vow does not prevent one, however, from working for one's living and receiving a salary for the support of one's own family, but without coveting money which is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10) and is out of place among LMCs who make the effort to follow Christ, born poor, lived poorer, and died the poorest.

7. To awaken and satisfy the hunger for God is the heart of the vocation of the LMCs. They, however, do not manifest presumptuous attitudes toward the poor, but go to them as witnesses of Jesus Christ to communicate the influence of silent prayer and the personal experience of God's love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Obedience: The Vow

Continuing today, we examine the third vow of an LMC--obedience. Check out the LMC website and statutes for further reading and understanding.


"As by one man's (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's (Christ) obedience
many will be made righteous"(Rom 5:19)

1. Obedience is the whole-hearted and free submission of our will to the plan of God through a series of intermediaries: persons, events, institutions, human authorities, written rules, customs and practices. To obey is to say 'Yes' to the sacred order of existence established by God in this world.

1 - Based on this motive there can be two ways of obeying our legitimate superiors:

- servile obedience which is based on fear, and

- docile obedience which is based on love and respect for the person we obey - the obedience of Jesus. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 77).

2. The obedience of the LMC is based on the obedience of Jesus, who although He was God's Son, subjected Himself to human parents (Lk 2:51), obeyed all lawful authorities, as He saw in them the design of His father's will. For the same reason he obeyed Pilate even when He knew that Pilate was wrong.

Jesus learnt obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8), obeying even to death (Phil 2:8) to become the source of salvation for all who obey Him (Heb 8:9). Jesus Christ thus became the supreme inspiration and example of true filial obedience (Mt 26:39ff.) who repaired the damage caused by the disobedience of Adam (Rom 5:1 9).

3. The LMC obeys not only because Jesus obeyed, but they endeavour to obey like Jesus, doing so with all legitimate superiors.

Therefore obedience must be:

- supernatural in its motivation, which means to see God Jesus in the persons are obeyed. The fundamental motive which constitutes the sacred bond of obedience is the love of doing the will of God. It is to this end that the LMC must follow the obedient Christ;

- universal in its extent, in the sense that LMCs intend to submit themselves to every command of their legitimate superiors;

- perfect in execution, always prompt, without reservation, and joyful because the LMC intends to follow the example of Jesus the Master, co-operating in the work of salvation and continuing the work to repair the damage caused by the disobedience of the people of the world.

1 - Through the vow of obedience we surrender to God the right to make our own decisions, thereby binding ourselves to obey the lawful superiors commanding according to the Statutes in all things which are connected with the life and work of the Society and the law of the Church. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 79).

2 - Although our vow of obedience does not bind us to obey the civil authorities, we are supposed to respect and obey the civil laws and regulations as long as they are in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 80).

4. There are legitimate superiors in both the natural and the supernatural order.

a) The legitimate superiors in the natural order are:

- in the domestic society, that is, the family, the head who is the father;

- in the civil society, whoever is placed in the role of authority in accordance with the various forms of government;

- in the work environment, where we find employers and employees, whose respective rights and duties are determined by particular contracts.

b) In the supernatural they are:

- the Holy Father, who has supreme authority over all the Church;

- the Bishops, who have jurisdiction over their respective diocese;

- pastors and curates, who under the authority of their respective bishops, administer the parishes entrusted to their care;

- the responsible persons within the Movement of the LMCs, together with their Spiritual Directors on the local, national and international levels. However, whoever joins the Movement binds himself / herself to observe the Rule and Statutes and to obey the Superiors.

1 - By choosing deliberately to be obedient to all our lawful superiors we like Jesus and with Him continue to save the world through our prompt and joyful obedience, making reparation for the death brought about in the world through many disobediences of daily life. We freely choose to live in obedience to reach the true freedom and maturity that belongs to the children of God, for it is a sure sign of doing God's will, an unfailing source of peace, inward joy and a principal condition for close union with God. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 84).

2 - Our vow of obedience obliges us to obey even when the Superiors cannot give the reason for the command, or when we fail to understand its value. Like Christ we learn obedience through suffering (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 86).

3 - Obedience is the authentic proof of our love for God, for the Church and our Society; in this way we grow in holiness. "It is not those who say: 'Lord, Lord' that will enter the Kingdom of God but those who do the will of the Father"(Mt 7:21), like Jesus (Jn 4:34) (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 87).

4 - Authority is a matter of serving the design of the Father's love, while in accepting directions in obedience we cooperate in the work of redemption:

- all authority in our Society will be exercised in a spirit of humble service to the community after the example of Jesus who came among us to serve and not to be served (Mk 10:45ff.);

-the Superiors are to be the bond of unity and charity among the Brothers whom the Lord wishes to serve through them. By their special ministry they are to unite their community and all its energies toward the realisation of the society's aim at each succeeding moment in the bond of love and the communion of the Holy Spirit; they must foster in the Brothers the spirit of voluntary obedience (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 88).

5 - By our free and joyful obedience to our Superiors, we contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church, therefore:

a) we obey whole-heartedly using the forces of our intellect and will, and the gifts of nature and grace to execute the commands entrusted to us;

b) we recognise that the superior remains subject to the same weakness as the others. If we love him for his human qualities, we run the risk of not accepting his ministry when we discover his sinfulness. criticism, prejudice, murmuring and any sort of negativity kill the spirit, prevent growth and cripple evangelical witness. Let each brother be quick to pray and slow to judge his Superior. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 91, a & d).

6 - "Never look upon your Superior otherwise than if you were looking upon God. Keep a careful watch over yourself in this matter, and do not reflect upon the character, ways, conversation and habits of your Superior. If you do you will injure yourself and you will change your obedience from divine into human and you will be influenced by what you see in your Superior, and not by the invisible God whom you should obey in him" (St John of the Cross).(From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 94).

5. Those in the Movement, called to exercise authority in serving their brothers and sisters, carry out the design of the Father's love and exercise their capacity as God's representatives, to give greater glory to God and promote the general welfare of both the members of the Movement. In accepting the directives of those in authority the members follow our master's example and cooperate in the work of salvation.

6. It is evident that it is neither obligatory nor permissible to obey a superior who would give an order manifestly opposed to divine or ecclesiastical laws: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

7. One must obey one's own conscience which is in the intimate recesses of one's heart and one's sanctuary. "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself, but he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged. His conscience is man's most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths..." (GS 16).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Poverty: The Vow

Continuing with the exploration of the LMC vows in literal form, today we look at poverty. 
A copy of the statutes in full can be found here.


"Christ, though rich became poor for our sake, so that in His poverty we be made rich" (Cor 8:9)

1. The LMCs, as a Movement of Consecrated Persons, choose poverty through which they might become rich in Christ. Living as lay persons in the world, not all are able to practice the vow of poverty in the same way in its material expression. Each one individually must be able to decide the best way to observe the vow of poverty, most pleasing to the Lord; thus in their voluntary poverty they will be able to help poor become rich. However renunciation of wealth in heart and spirit, the inner detachment from all earthly goods, is an absolute obligation for all.

1 - Poverty can either be material or spiritual; both of which have negative and positive aspects.

- Negative material poverty means to be deprived of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothes and education.

- Negative spiritual poverty on the other hand is an attitude, a mentality or indifference toward God, an apathy toward religion, a feeling of self-sufficiency and autonomy; in effect man becomes his own God.

- Positive material poverty means that one freely and joyfully chooses to love a simpler life; content with the basic necessities of life in imitation of Jesus who was born poor, lived poorer, died the poorest, and desires to have less rather than more.

- Positive spiritual poverty means the awareness and the conviction that without God he can do nothing - "I am what I am by the grace of God" (1Cor 15:10) - that the way to power lies through the realisation of helplessness, that the way to victory lies through the admission of defeat, that the way to goodness lies through the acknowledgement and confession of sin, that the way to independence lies through dependence, and the way to freedom lies through surrender.

Evangelical poverty is the combination of the two positive aspects of material and spiritual poverty deliberately wanted and voluntarily chosen in imitation of "Jesus who though rich became poor for our sake so that in His poverty we may become rich" (2 Cor 8:9), in order to make the poorest of the poor rich in our voluntary poverty.(From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 62).

2. By means of the vow of poverty, the LMC will be protected from the dangers of:

- self-exaltation that can be a consequence of excess possession of material things;

- the use of the superfluous mistaken for needs; created things must be used not as an end in themselves, but as a means to know, love and serve God and to serve our fellow men better;

- avarice, which knows no moderation in the acquisition of wealth and carries with it the worries and preoccupation to secure a future in this world rather than friendship with God;

- prodigality, understood as an excessive and unrestrained use of material things, which offends against temperance.

- Through the gift of evangelical poverty Jesus calls us to:

· renounce everything, every desire and ambition of power, honour and glory (Mt 1:11), as a condition for entering the Kingdom of God (Mt 10:23-27); "renounce your very self" (Lk 9:23), "sell all your possessions" (Lk 12:32) in order to love Him above everything, love Him in everything and everything in Him. (From the Contemplative Brothers' Constitutions No. 64).

3. The LMCs constantly are reminded of the necessity for:

- filial dependence on God for everything (Lk 12: 22-32);

- renunciation of earthly goods as a condition for entering the Kingdom of God (Mk 10: 23-27). Every Christian, whether rich or poor, in their own environment and in the heart of the world, must always fulfil the service of God, with an evangelical spirit, with interior renunciation and with the appropriate use of the gifts of His love;

- fraternal sharing as a condition for entering the reign of Heaven (Mt 25:31-46). Everyone must look upon earthly goods as means for loving Christ in one's needy neighbour. "As long as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to Me" (Mt 25:40).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chastity: The Vow

To begin the first week of my new format, I thought I'd take a moment to share the vows of a Lay Missionary of Charity (LMC) in their literal form as taken from the Lay Missionary of Charity Statutes.


1. Chastity is an attitude of profound reverence toward that consecrated reality which is marriage, according to the design of God the creator who fashioned man and woman for that purpose, and thus the mystery of virginity and celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God transcends and exalts sex in the spirit of sacrifice. Christian chastity does not signify disdain for sexuality, but rather sure self-control in the exercise of the dominion of the spirit over the "flesh". Marriage and virginity are the two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of God with his people.

2. It is good to know that:

- the celibate state, that is, the choice to live in total continence for the sake of the Kingdom is God's special gift to certain people (Mt. 19:11);

- it finds its ultimate basis in the life, example and teachings of Jesus and in the tradition of the Church. By virtue of its witness, virginity keeps alive in the Church a consciousness of the mystery of marriage and defends it from any reduction and impoverishment (FC 16).

"It liberates the human heart in a unique way, so as to make it burn with greater love for God and all humanity, bearing witness that the Kingdom of God and its justice is that pearl of great price which is preferred to every other value no matter how great, and hence must be sought as the only definitive value" (FC 16).

"In spite of having renounced physical fecundity, the celibate person becomes spiritually fruitful, the father and mother of many, co-operating in the realisation of the family according to God's plan" (FC 16).

It is a fragile and vulnerable gift because of human weakness: "We carry this treasure in earthen vessels" (St. Paul).

"Just as fidelity at times becomes difficult for married people and requires sacrifice, mortification and self-denial, the same can happen to celibate persons, and their fidelity, even in the trials that occur, should strengthen the fidelity of married couples" (FC 16).

3. The sacrament of matrimony is a gift of God to His people, through which a man and woman establish a partnership for the whole life to:

- form a community of persons united and rooted in love;

- serve life, that is, the transmission of life (procreation) and education of children;

- participate in the development of society;

- share in the life and mission of the Church, fostering and promoting her teachings.

Christian marriage instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ is at the same time a vocation and a command to:

- remain faithful to each other forever, beyond every trial and difficulty, in generous obedience to the holy will of the Lord: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder".

"Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation..." (FC 21);

- bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage. "Conjugal communion is characterised not only by its unity but also by its indissolubility"(FC 20).

4. The basic points which govern conjugal chastity and furnish the criteria by which to judge the conjugal act are:

1 - a reverential disposition to render service to life: conjugal love must be an affirmative response to the command of the Creator: "Increase and multiply", an assent to the mission of procreation in Christian responsibility. "There must be excluded as intrinsically immoral every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequence, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (FC 32; HV 14);

2 - mutually faithful love: the conjugal act must express conjugal love and fidelity. "The gift of the Spirit is a commandment of life for Christian spouses and at the same time a stimulating impulse so that every day they may progress toward an ever richer union with each other in all levels - of the body, of the character, of the heart, of the intelligence and will, of the soul - revealing in this way to the Church and to the world the new communion of love, given by the grace of Christ" (FC 19);

3 - orientation to Christ in accordance with the nature of the sacrament: conjugal love, tolerance, sacrifice, must be understood as the fulfilment of the sacramental commitment. "The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart, and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ has loved us. Conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained, conjugal charity, which in the proper and specific way in which the spouses participate in and are called to live the very charity of Christ who gave himself on the Cross" (FC 13). "By virtue of the sacramentality of their marriage, spouses are bound to one another in the most profoundly indissoluble manner. Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the Church" (FC 13);

4 - the power of holy discipline and moderation flowing from love: the pure resolute assent to the sacred ordinances of God in the conjugal life must be attained through tenderness, effort and renunciation. "The dominate instinct by means of one's reason and free will undoubtedly, requires ascetical practices, so that the affective manifestations of conjugal life may observe the correct order, in particular with regard to the observance of periodic continence. Yet this discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continuous effort, yet, to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of their problems; it favours attention to one's partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their off-spring" (FC 33; HV 21).

5. Conjugal chastity demands that husband and wife are fully aware:

- of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood:

"...The commitment to responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognise their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society. From this it follows that they are not free to do as they like in the service of transmitting life, on the supposition that it is lawful for them to decide independently of other considerations what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God, the Creator" (HV 10);

- of the fact that the Church does not disapprove of making correct use of sexuality.

"When by means of recourse to periods of infertility, the couple respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and the procreative meanings of human sexuality, they are acting as 'ministers' of God's plan and they 'benefit from' their sexuality according to the original dynamism of 'total' self-giving, without manipulation or alteration" (FC 32);

- of their need to have very precise knowledge of in matters of fertility, in order to knowingly take advantage of periods of fertility as well as periods of infertility.

"The choice of the natural rhythm involves accepting the cycle of the person, i.e., the woman and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control" (FC 32).

"A broader, more decisive and more systematic effort to make the natural methods of regulating fertility known, respected and applied is very necessary for our time" (FC 35).

6. Conjugal chastity requires the couple to be aware of:

- the value and importance of choosing to practice periodic continence for example during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent or any other times which they jointly decide to observe on a short or long term basis, helping others to do the same where possible and necessary. "A very valuable witness can and should be given by those husbands and wives who through joint exercise of periodic continence have reached a more mature and personal responsibility with regard to love and life. To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to people the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the natural love of husband and wife with their co-operation with the love of God the author of human life" (FC 35; HV 25);

- the need to grow and progress together through constant prayer and especially frequently approaching the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation, and moreover, with sacrifice, mortification and selflessness which helps them practice interior chastity of the heart";

- their obligation to defend the teachings of the Church against the use of contraceptives, the practice of sterilisation, and the destruction of human life through procured abortion (HV 14);

- their right and duty to educate their children in the essential values of human and Christian life (FC 36 and 37).

7. The LMCs endeavour to follow in the way of life and the example of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and of her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph, foster father of the Son of God, Patron of the Universal Church, and always take them as point of reference and source of inspiration, and to turn to them for help and protection in moments of trial and temptation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm back! It's been three months since baby Christy was born. Life is beginning to settle down enough to where I can get back in the "blogging saddle" once more.

As you can see, I am making some BIG blog changes. It's still in the works and subject to change at any time if I don't like my alterations. The idea is to take everything I was doing and posting before but applying them to my Lay Missionary Charity vows--which are a lifestyle in themselves. I have been vowed since 2008 and am ever perfecting and growing in them over the years. Having just renewed my vows this past Saturday, I have made it my personal intention this year to increase my vows in my daily life and family life.

I will be implementing Chastity Monday, Poverty Tuesday, Obedience Wednesday, Service to the Poor Thursday, and then a Random Friday. Now you may be thinking, "Chastity Monday, seriously?! Boring. What is there to be said about that?" Well, for me that means keeping my heart on my husband. I met my hubby when I was sixteen and have been in the same relationship for some 13-14 years now. Things tend to get stale after awhile, so you might think of it as "Spice up your Marriage Monday." I'll be applying the topics literally and liberally. So Poverty Tuesday will hold such topics like my baking from scratch, crafting, sewing~anything pertaining to the spirit of poverty. Instead of going out and buying what you need, you make it yourself with what you have. So all my homestead, self-sufficient living, going green skills are in that vein. Obedience is following and fulfilling God's calling for me. The spirit of Obedience in my life are things like my family life, our homeschooling, my art business, discerning a possible path to certifying as a birth doula. And Service to the Poor Thursday will journal my service within my family, community, and assisting the sisters at the Missionary of Charity houses in Washington, DC. Random Friday will showcase any and all other topics that don't fit within the spirits of Monday through Thursday. So you never know what your gonna get on any given Friday. (I was going to call it Crapshoot Friday, but didn't know if that was appropriate! :)

I'll leave you with a passage from Words to Love by. . . Mother Teresa:

"Inevitably, someone overwhelmed by her dedication, will ask, 'What can I do to help?' Her response is always the same, a response that reveals the clarity of her vision. Respond individually, where you are. 'Just begin, one, one, one.' she urges. 'Begin at home by saying something good to your child, to your husband or to your wife. Begin by helping someone in need in your community, at work, or at school. Begin by making whatever you do something beautiful for God.'"

So with that being said, lets begin . . .