Saturday, June 1, 2019

Becoming a Spiritual Mother (At Any Age)

Last week, I finished up my second chasuble, for another good friend who was about to be ordained. As I was hanging it up to take a picture, I was struck by it's placement...right next to the beautiful little quote a best friend gave me after Gabriel died. (You can order one from Katrina here.)

Back when I was discerning my vocation, I remember bargaining with God. I felt the call to marriage, but I was afraid that it wouldn't be a holy enough vocation. (Which I laugh at now. I can't imagine any other vocation capable of reminding me of my weaknesses and need for God's grace the way this one does, while simultaneously giving me a daily glimpse of God's love for me.) I knelt before the tabernacle, praying, "Okay, God, you can call me to marriage...but can you give me a son? And can he be called to be a priest?" Of course, God's plan for Gabriel was very different than mine.

But my motherhood of Gabriel trained my heart in a way that it wouldn't have been otherwise. Typically, a mother has to say a sort of good-bye to her grown children, allowing them to fly from the nest. But I had to say good-bye to Gabriel after only a few weeks with him. I wasn't ready. And I haven't stopped loving him, not for one minute. I have prayed ceaselessly that he may receive the benefits of Baptism, even though he was only given a conditional baptism, and God has consoled me by answering many of the intentions I entrust to my little guy. I am fully convinced that he is part of God's plan, and that my little love is playing a role in the Church that I won't fully understand in this lifetime. 

What Gabriel taught me was how to love deeply while also being willing to let go. He taught me that love is worth suffering. Walking away from his grave was and is one of the hardest things I have to do. I hate that his tiny little body is in a casket, buried deep in the ground. I hate that he isn't in my arms, or running around with his pack of sisters. But I'm willing to continue loving him, even though it's painful. I am willing to continue to mother him through my prayers, even if I don't get to enjoy the benefit of seeing him grow. He is a gift, and he has been more than worth the pain. 

It was this love of Gabriel that prepared me for spiritual motherhood to priests and seminarians. 

Because if I'm honest, being involved with the seminary the way our family is is both a source of joy and ongoing loss. I sometimes compare spiritual motherhood to a seminarian to mothering a child in utero. Not every one of them makes it to ordination. Many discern out of seminary before then. I still care for those guys and pray for them, and I know that God has a plan for them. (I have too many friends married to former seminarians to believe otherwise!) But the end of the year rounds of emails, sharing who is leaving the seminary, can be emotionally hard. Even if you can see God at work in their lives, it is hard to entrust them to God and know that they will no longer be a part of your life in the same way. 

Ordination season is also at the end of the year. There is such tremendous joy, in knowing that a man has discerned the vocation to priesthood and will now be living it out. I can't begin to put into words the joy that is on the face of a new priest. It is a glimpse of heaven. I also can't begin to describe the joy of getting to be present at that ordination, and to witness the birth of a new baby priest. There is so much joy, and I can't believe that I get to experience it with them. 

But it is also painful. It is so painful. This man, who you have known and come to love over the course of years, is flying the nest of the seminary. A priest belongs to everyone and no one. You can't cling to friendship with a priest, the way you would to friendship with a lay person. He belongs to all. And you have to let go. You just have to. But you also have to not stop loving him. Because baby priests need even more prayers than seminarians. Especially in our current culture, it is an incredibly difficult vocation, with guaranteed persecution in one form or another. That persecution will probably only get worse, as these young priests age.  

Andrew has been teaching at the seminary for five years this fall. In the last half decade, I felt an ever growing call to spiritual motherhood. But I have also felt a strong call to share this vocation with others. A good friend of mine introduced me to spiritual motherhood of priests, and it's become clearly and clearer to me that this is a vocation that the Church needs...and it can only be filled by women. It is our opportunity to assist Mary, the Blessed Mother, in her great work for the Church.

After this most recent ordination, I quietly went over to my friend's family pew. He had asked me if I could cut the threads on the diaconate stole that I had sewn for him, so that it could be opened into a priest stole and worn for his first blessings. As I sat quietly trimming the threads, his mother caught my eye. She leaned over and asked, "Did you sew that for him?" I told her I did, and she reached out and gently cupped my cheek with her hand. She beamed, and said with deep feeling, "Thank you!" 

I was praying with that moment later, and reflecting on the interactions I had seen between this new priest and his mother. At the end of a priest's first Mass,  he presents his mother with the cloth that was used to wipe the Chrism oil from his newly ordained hands. Since Gabriel's death, that moment always gives me a pang in my heart. Gabriel will never do that. Mothers of priests have a special role in their son's life, and it is a special vocation. It also isn't my vocation (at least not that I know of...unless we are someday blessed with another son). But from that moment that my priest friend's mother showed me that gratitude and tenderness, I realized something. Her tenderness is the same tenderness that Mary shows to all spiritual mothers. Mary is the mother of the true priest, Christ. She is also a mother to all priests, in a way that I never can be. But she invites other women to join her in that work. If you are a woman reading this, she is inviting you.

I am no one special. I am an ordinary Catholic woman. But I have been given an extraordinary opportunity, to glimpse into the hearts of so many seminarians and priests and to be able to call them friends. Oh, friends...I wish you knew them. They are ordinary men with an extraordinary love for Christ and His Church. Their "yes" to their vocation strengthens me in my own vocation. 

And you can be a spiritual mother to them, too, no matter how old or young you are. 

Last year, my oldest daughter's best seminarian friend was ordained a priest. It was hard for her to say good-bye to him. We've seen him since then, but his home diocese is pretty far from ours, and so we weren't sure when we would see him again. In her sadness, I encouraged her to adopt him as her spiritual son. And she did, much to his delight. 

Our first ordination of this season was a diaconate ordination near our diocese. My oldest daughter's "spiritual son" was going to be one of the concelebrants, and she eagerly watched for him in the opening procession. They both were so happy to see each other. Not to be outdone by her big sister, my middle daughter decided that she wanted a spiritual son, too. One of her favorite seminarians was getting ordained a transitional deacon at this Mass, and after hearing her sister's delight over her spiritual son, my middle daughter declared, "Well, Michael is my spiritual son!" Then, she decided she couldn't stop there. Two more of our seminarian friends were also getting ordained to the transitional diaconate at this Mass, and I asked her if Dominic and the other Michael were her spiritual sons, too. "Yes!" she declared. "They are my spiritual sons, too!"

The conversation continued, and this dear little girl went on to declare that, in fact, all of the men up there getting ordained (even the ones she didn't know) were her spiritual sons. 

"They are all my spiritual sons. All the priests and seminarians in the whole world!" I asked her how many spiritual sons she had. "I have a thousand spiritual sons!!!" Also included is our pastor (who is much beloved by her), our auxiliary bishop (who baptized her and who she refers to as "her guy" as a result), the rector of the seminary, her favorite priest from Omaha, and many, many others. 

She and her sister inspire me. Of course, with their patron saints, I shouldn't be surprised. 

Our oldest is named for St. Therese of Lisieux, who had a deep love for priests, and was a devoted spiritual mother to them. Our second daughter is named after Mary, who is the Mother of Priests. I am not in the least surprised that these loving girls of mine (both who are very possessive of their patron saints) would want to take up this mantle of spiritual motherhood. 

But, you may wonder, what does spiritual motherhood look like if you aren't in close contact with priests and seminarians? What does it look like for a grown woman vs. a little girl?

In some cases, it looks like friendship. Every church has at least one priest associated with them, so every Catholic woman knows at least one priest. Can you and your family befriend him? Have him over for dinner? Send him a card on Father's Day? Smile at him and greet him every Sunday after Mass? Do it.

But whether you have priest friends or not, spiritual motherhood is much more than that. It is about prayer and sacrifice. 

This is possible for even little ones. My oldest hates practicing violin, so this Lent she offered that up for her spiritual son. Whenever my second daughter is frustrated by something out of her control, or bored, and tired of waiting, I try to encourage her, "You can offer that for your spiritual sons." (It doesn't always work, because she's five years old, but it's still planting a seed. It is so much easier to offer up suffering or sacrifices for someone you love than it is to do it in the abstract.) And I try to do the same. On my roughest days, whenever I have to do something I'd rather not or am battling depression or anxiety, I remind myself, "It's ok. This is your sacrifice."  I was especially encouraged by my friend's first Mass, when he invited us to unite all of our sacrifices with the one he was offering on the altar. 

So pick a priest or two (even if it isn't someone you know personally...sometimes I intentionally choose to pray for a priest who I disagree with!). And hold him in your heart and your prayers. Offer up daily little sacrifices of love for him. It won't make the suffering or sacrifices you face not painful, but it will imbue even little moments of sacrifice with love. 

Our priests need this. They need our love and prayers so badly. And they each need an army of little spiritual mothers who tuck them deeply into their hearts and prayers. 

And, of course, if the priest or seminarian you've adopted as a spiritual son is your friend, let him know that you are praying for him. It is such an encouragement to them. 

I don't know what the short term solutions are for the Church, but I do know this - there is an army of men laying down their lives for Christ and his Church. They aren't conquering by clericalism and pride and power. They are conquering with countless quiet, unknown sacrifices and prayers offered for the sake of love for God and His people. They grow in number by the year. And they will save the Church, with the help of our love and prayers. There is hope, so much hope, for the Church. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Celebrating Holy Week (as a Family)...

"Just over three years ago, on Palm Sunday, we found out that we were expecting our third child. We were overjoyed. Our secondary infertility had been particularly challenging that time around, and we had long been hoping and praying for this little child. A positive pregnancy test has always been a cause for gratitude for me (having faced secondary infertility twice), but the joy I felt at this one was different. It had just been so long, so very, very long, since we had been able to conceive. I was crying happy tears as I told my husband, and he and I laughed with delight.
That Holy Week was tinged with so much hope and joy. As I participated in the liturgies of the Triduum, I was mindful of the little child that I carried. I dreamed of having him in my arms the following Easter..."

Monday, April 8, 2019

My Sacrifice

The other day, I was talking to one of my seminarian friends about a talk he was preparing to give. He was hoping to encourage a group of young families to attempt bringing their little kids to Mass more, and he was wondering if I had any ideas. But then, he told me the central theme that HE had come up with, and it stuck with me.

He was reflecting on the idea of sacrifice at Mass - that the priest is offering the sacrifice of the Mass, but he doesn't just call it his sacrifice. He refers to the sacrifice as "my sacrifice and yours." My friend was saying that, in a very real way, our sacrifices we bring to Mass (and for those with small children or infertility Mass can be very difficult to attend, although for different reasons). He was mainly talking about families with small children, but I can think of others who also sacrifice much to be present at Mass. I know from my own brief experience of secondary infertility how painful attending a church filled with babies can be. I can only imagine how much more painful it would have been without children in my arms.

Likewise, those suffering from grief may struggle to make it through Mass without crying. Some of those griefs are visible, but some - like miscarriage - aren't. My parish actually listed Gabriel as one of the members of the parish who died that year, and just that recognition helped...but most people in our church had no idea that we were grieving the loss of a child. That's just the nature of miscarriage in our society.

My hyperemesis gravidarum gave me a tiny glimpse into the physical suffering of so many who are ill and/or elderly at Mass. For many, just the physical endurance needed to attend Mass makes it a tremendous sacrifice.

These days, though, I'm mostly in the midst of  the "taking care of multiple small children at Mass" version of sacrifice. Having struggled to conceive AND having lost one, I don't take these little ones for granted. But, despite my gratitude for them, it still is hard work taking care of them. Our youngest is a toddler and she is the busiest person I have ever met. Mass is no exception.

Lately, I've been feeling God nudging me to be open to the sacrifices HE IS ASKING for, rather than stubbornly trying to stick to my own idea of perfection. After talking to my friend last week (and going to Confession on Saturday for an extra booster shot of grace) my heart was open to this idea of joining my sacrifice with the priest's.

It completely changed my experience of Mass.

When everything began to unravel, when I spent almost the entire Mass in the back of church or the vestibule or chasing the toddler down the aisle (in her defense, I asked her if she wanted to go up to see Jesus and the priest and she figured there was no time like the present) - I just reminded myself, "This is my sacrifice." I gazed at the priest elevating the host and realized...he and I weren't doing parallel things. My sacrifice was joined to the one on the altar.

And it certainly helped when my toddler dropped everything she was doing, and ran over to gaze at Jesus as the bells of consecration were rung.

The fact that she pointed at Him and loudly shouted, "Mary! Mary!" is irrelevant. Baby steps...

(By the way, if you're looking for Easter basket stuffers, it isn't too late to grab a copy of one of my new books!! These two also have read aloud videos on YouTube!

To purchase the books click here.

To watch the read aloud videos with your kids:

Holy Week for Children - A Guide to the Liturgies

Take Up Your Cross (a super short version of the Stations of the Cross!!!)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Hope for the Church

This afternoon, I was looking through old pictures on Instagram and was just filled with awe and gratitude for where God has led our family.

There's more than can ever be told here, but I look back over my own discernment and vocation story, and where I am right now and the people I am surrounded by - I couldn't have imagined this life for myself if I have tried.

I couldn't have imagined a husband like the one I have. I couldn't have imagined God leading us to the opportunity to serve the Church in the ways He has. I couldn't have imagined raising children running through the halls of a seminary, having seminarians juggle for them and Carmelite sisters handing them cookies by the handful. I couldn't have imagined the love and support we've experienced from this spiritual family of ours.

When Andrew and I (very suddenly, only six months into dating) felt an incredibly strong call to marriage, we wondered what it meant. Did God have something special in mind for us?? Years later, I now realize he did - the special, ordinariness of our vocation to marriage. Our vocation isn't flashy. Our holiness is growing through dirty diapers, night wakings, washing dishes, and wiping sticky little fingers. 

But as a bonus to the incredible vocation to marriage and parenthood, He has given us the additional opportunity to be a part of the formation of future priests. As time goes on, I feel the call to spiritual motherhood of seminarians grow stronger and stronger. 

As the recent scandal has broken in the Church, my greatest consolation has been my friendships with seminarians. These young men are entering into their vocation with eyes wide open, knowing the stigma around the priesthood in the culture. They are willingly, lovingly choosing to suffer for the Church. The recent scandal seems to have only strengthened them in their desire to lay their lives down (spiritually) for Christ's bride, the Church.

There is a hallway at the seminary that is lined with pictures of bishops who once were students there. I regularly remind my husband that he is not only helping to form future priests, but future bishops. It is certain that some of the young men we know will be one day be called to be bishops.

And do you know what? That thought fills me with more joy and hope than I can possibly say. These men are real men, men desiring to live lives of sacrifice and holiness. These are men longing for sainthood. These are men wanting to know how best they can serve the laity, and eager to listen to any stories or suggestions we have to share with them. They are undergoing an incredibly rigorous formation process, and that is only the beginning. Priesthood, in a time with fewer priests and increasing opposition to the Church, is harder than it has been in a long time in America.

But these men - these current and future priests and bishops - are men with fathers' hearts. They are the kind of men that quietly cut the meat on the plates at the children's table at a party, so their poor parents don't have to get up for the millionth time. They are the kind of men who will intentionally ring the entrance bell at Mass quieter, because they see you swaying with a sleepy baby in the vestibule. They are the kind of men who will anoint a sick pregnant woman, or offer to say Mass in her home, so she and her family can actually go to Mass together. They are the kind of men who will pray with you at the grave of your miscarried child, and text you years later on his patron saint day.

They are the kind of men who even when they have been ordained a bishop will still treat every person they meet as if they were incredibly important, and even remember to bring goldfish crackers for the children of the family when they come to dinner. 

There is a lot of pain in the Church, but I just want to tell you... don't give up hope. If the men we are friends with are any indication, there is so much hope for the future of the Church. May the Holy Spirit lead us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Grace of Enough Book Tour!!

When my lovely friend, Haley Stewart, invited me to join the online Book Tour for her new book The Grace of Enough, I said yes in a heartbeat.

When it comes to Catholic books, I am a total book snob. Having studied theology in undergrad and grad school, I have read a lot about the Catholic faith. Sometimes, I try to pick up a Catholic book, but I just feel like the author is saying stuff that I've already heard and it's not making me grow. 

You guys...this book isn't like that. 

I feel like this book came to me at just the right time, which is usually due to some nudging from the Holy Spirit. 

For the first seven years of our marriage, one or both of us was in grad school and our budget was super tight. Our two family charisms are hospitality and generosity (or, at least, those are the charisms we're trying to develop in our marriage), but despite that...I still felt a need to acquire a lot of stuff. It wasn't that I was spending a lot of money, but I would go to a rummage sale and come back with a box of stuff. I just felt like I needed so much, and because we didn't have a ton of money, I felt like, if I saw something for cheap I had to buy it (in case I needed it later). 

Other times, I would go out on Saturday mornings, after a week of taking care of itty bitty kids, and just want to feel like I accomplished something. So, I would spend $10 on a box of potentially useful stuff and momentarily feel really good about myself. Needless to say, that feeling didn't last forever. 

When we moved to our new house a couple of years ago, we got rid of a ton of stuff, but I still held on to so much. The past year or so has been a process of letting go of more...but I still felt like I could be doing more. I still felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had.

I've only had Haley's book for a little while, but her message (gently given, in the context of her own family's story) was exactly what I needed to hear right now. I don't spend a ton of money on stuff, but I definitely know the feeling of satisfaction when you think you've bought the perfect thing that will make you happy forever. (I loved Haley's story about her "perfect" computer bag, and I could totally relate to it.) But I know that, too much, I cling to the temporary satisfaction that I can get from stuff.

In case you don't know Haley's story, a few years ago she and her family made a huge life change. Her husband was in a job that was draining the life out of him. They ended up discerning that they were called to do a farm internship, halfway across the country, and spend a year in a tiny apartment with three kids and a composting toilet. (So, basically, she shaved off years in purgatory.)

Their story is so beautiful and it resonated so deeply with me, because Andrew and I did the crazy thing (i.e. get married and have kids while still poor and jobless, so that Andrew could pursue his vocation as a theologian) and we, like the Stewarts, haven't looked back. Like them, we have experienced that when you trust God (even if it seems crazy to do so) there is so much peace and joy that follows. It isn't easy, but that peace makes a world of difference.

In our case, trusting in God to provide led us to a seminary - a community that has become like another family to us. 

In Haley's case, trusting in God led them to a farm - and a community that has become like another family to them. I love, love, love Haley's descriptions of the farm. I love the community she describes, and the simplicity. It reminds me so much of our life as a family. 

And that's what is so beautiful. Sin is boring, but holiness is interesting. There are only a certain number of ways to sin, but there are so, so many ways to be holy. I love to hear people's vocation's story; to hear how God has prompted them to follow His call in their own lives. Like in the stories from the lives of the saints, it never ceases to amaze me how God is at work in so many people's lives - and in such different ways. It gives me hope, and courage, to live out my own vocation. 

Reading Haley's story gives me that kind of hope and encouragement. Do crazy things for God, and you won't be disappointed, is the underlying message!

But more than just affirming things I already know, The Grace of Enough has been challenging me. Our bedroom closet has been a disaster for years. There was so much stuff I was hanging on to "just in case" I needed it down the line. But instead of using all that fabric and yarn and other various art supplies and ill-fitted was just stressing me out. I would open the closet door and be overwhelmed by so much stuff. But, without realizing it, I was afraid to let it go.

Chapter 2 of The Grace of Enough really challenged me to reexamine why I was hanging on to all of this stuff. Then I realized - it was because I was afraid to let go of stuff that I might use (nevermind the fact that I had owned some of it for years and never used it). "Living simply doesn't mean we cannot own anything," Haley writes. "But if our possessions are owning us, if we are distracted from service and things eternal because we have too much, then we need the courage to make a change." (p.26-27)

Guys, I cleaned out that closet. I let go of so much stuff that I had been desperately hanging on to. 

And do you know what? I feel free.

I'm in the midst of an ongoing letting go of things (something that I've done before, but still need to do periodically), and I feel like this book is helping to refocus my heart. It isn't just about decluttering and being tidy. It's about being a good steward of the things that God has given me. It's about doing everything - even de-cluttering - with love. 

If you would like your own copy of this lovely little book, you can purchase it here:

Thanks for the chance to be a part of the book tour, Haley! Click here to see a list of all of the stops.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Your Anxiety/Depression Aren't a Sign That You're Failing

I've been in a really, really rough patch with my anxiety lately. I tried to explain to my husband what it felt like by telling him to imagine that he thought that his boss was going to fire him and that he spent every day waiting for his boss to come in his office and fire him...but it never happened. Even though it never happened and was never going to happen, his heart would probably skip a beat every time he heard footsteps approaching his office, or every time one of his students turned the doorknob to come and see him.

My husband doesn't have anxiety (and he has an awesome job, so this isn't a real possibility) but the image captures what the experience of anxiety is like. It's exhausting. My nervous system feels like it's always on high alert, like danger is around every bend. Even when I know that I'm safe and everything is fine, my body doesn't seem to get the message.

Motherhood/homeschooling/work is exhausting enough without anxiety. Anxiety makes me want to just curl up in a ball and quit.

What's been hardest lately has been that I've been in a really long dry patch in my prayer life. Praying has triggered more anxiety, and my brain just wouldn't calm down in prayer. I didn't feel any peace when I was praying. And my dear Jesus, who I have often felt so close to, seemed so far away.

Was I doing something wrong?  I have a pretty consistent prayer routine, and I was faithful to it. I thought of Mother Teresa and her dryness in prayer. Surely, it wasn't a sign that there was something wrong with me? In the midst of this, i heard someone talking about a child who got stressed during a deliverance prayer and how surely that was a sign that evil was attacking their family. That may have been the case for their family, but hearing that had me worried. Was I feeling anxiety in prayer because I was an evil person in some way? 

i know that that sounds totally ridiculous, but there are a lot of people who think that anxiety and depression are a sign that someone needs to pray more, or trust God more. And i worried...what if they were right?

Then, I started reading Father Elijah. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Poor Fr. Elijah deals with some awful stuff, but his interior life was what struck me. It reminded me of consolations I had experienced in prayer. Although nothing like the miraculous stuff he experiences, I began remembering what a source of strength the Eucharist has been for me, throughout my life. And I decided to try to make daily visits to Jesus, even if they were short. 

The thing about Jesus is that when he wants to make you fall in love with him, he can be pretty hard to resist. On one particularly difficult day with my anxiety, I ended up just sitting with him in adoration, and even falling asleep. I felt more joy than i had felt in ages.

My anxiety didn't budge. It didn't go away. It wasn't cured.

But that's okay. Because my bouts with anxiety and depression aren't a sign that I'm doing something wrong. They're just the cross. They're just an opportunity to choose to love, even in the midst of suffering.

If you are in the midst of similar struggles, take heart. You are not alone. The Spirit and the Bride say come. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

This is What a Father Does

I was going to wait and just share an article that I wrote for Catholic Exchange once it went live...but then the news just kept rolling out. And then I heard the readings for this morning.

The readings for this Sunday include the "husbands love your wives" passage as well as Peter declaring to Jesus, "Lord, to whom else shall we go?" Both of them summarize what's on my heart today.

On Friday morning, I woke up and was terribly nauseous. I was afraid that I was unexpectedly pregnant. (Spoiler alert, I am NOT pregnant.) It turned out that I just had some kind of stomach bug, and I've been in bed most of the past three days.

Thankfully, stomach flu is a piece of cake compared to HG (another post for another time), but I've still spent the weekend noticing how much my Andrew has been doing for me and our whole family. First, he had to stay home from work on Friday (because I was in no shape to be taking care of the girls). For some husbands, that might be a treat, but Andrew ADORES his job, and he is genuinely sad when he doesn't get to go into work. Then, he spent all day Saturday and Sunday taking care of the girls, too. (I was well enough to go to Mass, but that hour at church was really the only stretch of time when he had help....and he spent most of it pacing in the vestibule with the baby.)

That's a piece of cake compared to what HE has to do when I have HG. He basically has to take over most of the parenting and household responsibilities for around two months - and clean up my puke, bring me whatever food or drink I can stomach (and run to the store or get take out if it isn't something in the house, because HG is all about survival, and I can usually only stomach one particular food at a time), and talk me through swallowing a million anti-nausea pills and sticking myself with needles for more anti-nausea meds. To say his life is messy and smells like puke and dirty diapers and wet sheets from a potty-training-someone wetting their bed, etc. would be an understatement. (I mean, maybe not literally, because he has the best hygiene habits of anyone I know, but you get what I'm saying.)

One of my favorite early parenthood memories of Andrew was right after we had had our first baby. I was still home on maternity leave, but he had to go back to grad classes the day after I got home from the hospital. He changed most of the diapers in the beginning, and I remember him coming home from class one day and saying, "I was sitting in class today, looking at my fingernails...and I realized there was yellow baby poop stuck in there."

My husband may not be perfect, but he is genuinely trying to lay down his life for his bride and his adorable little brood.

I was also thinking of this, because a friend of mine is currently pregnant with twins and has HG, and another mutual friend was commenting how - watching this friend and me with our HG - she was struck by how hard pregnancy and motherhood are.  And I was reminded (especially this weekend, as I've been having HG flashbacks with the stomach flu) of the times that I have literally laid down everything that I have to give for the sake of my husband and children.

Added to that is the fact that we, like so many young Catholic couples we know, practice NFP. Chastity in NFP is essential, especially if you are using it to avoid pregnancy. Abstinence and chaste love are a given at times. Self-control is a must. And through that chaste love, real love grows. Through the cross of sacrifice, our marriage is strengthened.

Then, I've been following all of the things happening in the Church.

There is simply no explanation, and no excuse. I sincerely hope that you have a priest or bishop or someone in your corner of the world that is showing you what a father's love should look like right now.

But do you know what? I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that out. When Andrew and I were talking about what sorts of responses were appropriate to the recent rounds of scandal, I asked him, "Andrew, as a father, how would you respond if someone hurt your child like this?" A look sufficed to confirm what I already knew - he would hold nothing back.

I hope that you - like me - are in a diocese where the bishop is taking some swift and sure action to dredge up all the dirt and begin the work of healing. I hope your pastor, like mine, didn't mince words in his homily. I hope your local seminary, like ours, takes this all very seriously and has been actively working to form priests rigourously.

But, I'm guessing that that's not the case for many of you. And do you know what? Despite that being the case for me, I still feel hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, discouraged, disillusioned, etc. Because even if I know good priests or bishops, it doesn't take away from the awfulness of the many who perpetrated these terrible crimes.

And so, I'm not going to make excuses for any of it. I'm not going to defend any of it. There are no excuses. We have been terribly betrayed.

If that is you, if you are feeling hurt and betrayed right are not alone. God is big enough to take it. And Mother Church - the real Church, not those in the hierarchy who have been masquerading as such - is big enough to take it. It isn't the first time that the Church has been rocked to the core by scandal. The Holy Spirit hasn't given up. I know He hasn't, because so much evil is continuing to be uncovered, instead of getting swept under the rug. I've had fleeting moments when I've wondered, "Am I in the right Church?" Then, I remember the words of Peter, "Lord, to whom else shall we go?" No church can stand as substitute for the Church founded by Christ.

But even knowing that doesn't take away the anger at knowing that here we are - trying our best to live chastely in our state of life, to sacrifice for our children and each other, and yet, many of our spiritual fathers have turned out to be absentee or abusive.

What we need right now, what the Church really needs, is fathers. Good fathers. The Church needs fathers willing to get poop gunked under their fingernails if it means a spotless Bride of Christ. The Church needs fathers willing to clean up puke and run themselves ragged taking care of their children.

I know some men who already fit that bill (both priests and bishops), and I'm happy to call them my spiritual fathers. These men fairly reek of their sheep, just as shepherds should.  But we need a whole lot more of these good men. And we need that fathering especially from those in authority, some of whom it seems have been more interested with their own gain than that of their children. We need fathers willing to lose everything so that their chidlren may live. We need men willing to lay down their lives or for their Bride, the Church.

Please join me in praying for the Church, and especially for the many, many victims who have had to suffer in silence for so long. No more. Come, Holy Spirit.

Please also join me in praying especially for all seminarians. I know so many, and they are a cause for real hope.