What my Uncle’s disease taught me about suffering.

A couple of months ago, my Uncle was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, commonly known as ALS. I didn’t realize until recently how it was destroying him. ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that destroys nerve cells and causes disability. I realized that even though he hasn’t officially been diagnosed with it for very long, that it can very quickly progress.

My Uncle has been going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation0) program at our parish to become Catholic. When he started to get worse, our family talked to our priest and asked that he be expedited into the Church. Thank God our priest was more than willing to do that.

I was talking to my dad the other day and he told me something that I didn’t realize until then: my Uncle’s disease is killing him. It broke my heart when I found out, because I didn’t entirely understand what ALS did to a person until my dad told me.

My Uncle’s brother went to visit him and said this on Facebook, “I went to see Marty (my Uncle) yesterday, and that was rough. He’s in good spirits, but I couldn’t understand most of what he tried to say. In reflection, I think back on all he’s had to deal with in his life, and then ALS pops up. He told me yesterday that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I know where he’s coming from. He’s thinking outside the box of this life.” I’ll come back to why this is important later.

Like I said, my Uncle just recently became Catholic. Both my priest and another Uncle had talked to my Uncle Marty about redemptive suffering:

” Redemptive suffering is the belief that human suffering, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for one’s sins or for the sins of another. Like an indulgence, redemptive suffering does not gain the individual forgiveness for their sin; forgiveness results from God’s grace, freely given through Christ, which cannot be earned. After one’s sins are forgiven, the individual’s suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin(thedefender.org).”

My Uncle Marty once told me that he would like to pray 5 Rosaries a day: One for himself, and two a piece for the people he was praying for in our parish to come back. I thought to myself that I could never do that, and even wondered why he’d want to do that. He’s to the point where he can barely talk and he can’t even eat by himself anymore, and he wants to pray 5 Rosaries a day. People in his circumstance could get by with sitting around doing nothing all day, and he wants to pray for others. That inspired me so much. It reminds me of a quote by Blessed Chiara Badano:

“I suffered a lot but my soul was singing! I have nothing left but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”

That’s the thing about my Uncle, he’s suffering so much, but I never hear him complain and he still has the same friendly demeanor as he’s always had. He doesn’t get angry that he has this disease, he embraces it and always looks at the big picture:

“He’s thinking outside the box of this life.”

This inspires me so much. He teaches me that in the midst of suffering, you still need to realize that God will get you through this and that even though he’s suffering, that God will still be faithful. He’s so full of love, and I realize that you don’t have to be suffering like that to love unconditionally. To love others so much that instead of praying for yourself, you use the suffering you do have and offer that up with Jesus’ on the cross and offer that for the salvation of others. It’s both a blessing and a curse to see him suffer. He really does know the dignity of life by the way he embraces death. I just pray that I can be like that when my time comes too.

I am the pro-life generation

Friday I had the opportunity to attend the March For Life in Washington D.C. I’ve always been pro-life, but now I want to do more for the pro-life movement. When I say I’m pro-life, it doesn’t just mean I want to stop abortion, even though that’s a major part of it. It means I’m pro woman, pro baby, pro refugee, not just pro unborn life.

What I experienced at the March For Life has forever changed me. Along the march, there are a couple of TV screens showing aborted babies both dead and still living, this brought me to tears. It’s so much different talking about how bad abortion is  compared to seeing pictures of aborted babies. When you talk about them you don’t see the life that was taken.

It breaks my heart knowing that there are so many people that are okay with killing the unborn. They could have been the person who cured cancer, ended world hunger, the list goes on and on. Believe it or not, but one life has great importance.

I came into this march wanting to be a voice for the voiceless. Jesus says in the Gospel, “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me.” This bible verse has really been on my heart lately and I’ve found it to be so influential in my life for several pro life reasons: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and defending the unborn.

One thing that I noticed about this march as opposed to the “Women’s March” the previous week was that it was a peaceful protest. It was also so full of love, there was no hatred. There were women there who’d had abortions and told how it affected their lives and we were there to show our support and show them love. We weren’t there to judge or hate them, they had come to the realization that what they did was wrong, we didn’t need to tell them. We only needed to love them, just as Christ loves them.

On the bus ride home, we watched a video on Margret Sanger the founder of Planned Parenthood. She actually said that, “The most merciful thing a large family does to one of its members is to kill it.” She also coined the term “Birth Control”. The reason she wanted to implement birth control was because she wanted the poor, the unattractive, the mentally handicapped, and the blacks to stop reproducing. She pretty much only wanted the attractive and successful people to be able to have children. She wanted to sterilize these people so that they couldn’t have children. Imagine how many of us wouldn’t be here if the world followed her standards.

People often criticize me for being against Planned Parenthood, but many don’t understand why. The reason I’m against Planned Parenthood is because they are the largest abortion provider in the United States. Planned Parenthood performed around 330,000 abortions in the years 2013-2014 (National Right to Life). That’s in one year. People have told me that only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion, but look at the numbers.Around 330,000 babies lost their lives before they were even born. They never got to experience life. Planned Parenthood also gives out practically free birth control. The reason Margret Sanger wanted birth control to be available was so that women could have premarital sex without the consequences of getting pregnant. I don’t believe in sex before marriage, so I’m not okay with birth control. Does it help with other things? Yes. But it is mainly used for controlling birth. These are the reasons I’m all for defunding and shutting down Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation.

Life is SO precious, why end it? Some people can’t even conceive and there are people out there killing their children before they’re ever born. That’s crazy.

These are the reasons why I am such a supporter of life. God made us unique and beautiful, and children, no matter what the circumstance are a gift, and that’s why I march.

Please pray for the end to abortion.

 

A Soul on Fire

If you know me well, you know how much I love my faith.

But it wasn’t always that way.

I have to admit that the only reason that I am still Catholic is because of the grace of God, and with a little help from my friends the saints, and some men I call Father.

Now my dad did help me stay Catholic, but  I’m specifically talking about priests in the Church.

My dad is a devout Catholic most of the times, goes to Mass on Sundays and is in Knights of Columbus, which is great, but that’s about the extent of it. I’m not saying he’s a terrible father by any means at all. I’ll put things this way: My dad feeds me physically. He works and puts food on the table, which is very very important. But I, along with everyone else needs spiritual food, and that’s where my other Father (a priest) comes in. It’s his job to feed my soul the truth of Sacred Scripture.

I never really realized how important a spiritual father was to me until I needed the sacraments.

A while ago, I was going through a really rough patch with depression and I knew that Satan was the one dragging me down telling me that nothing was going right (which was obviously wrong, because Satan is a jerk) and I went into the hospital.

In the Church, we have 7 sacraments, one being Anointing of the Sick. It used to be called last rights, but was changed, blah blah blah. Anyways I knew that I wasn’t as spiritually strong as I should be, so I called the rectory at church and asked if Father would come up and see me and bring me communion (the Eucharist) and give me Anointing of the Sick, so he did. I felt so gloomy and conflicted before hand, and after he gave me anointing of the sick and Jesus Himself, I was so at peace and joyful. The sacraments are SO powerful believe it or not.

After being in the hospital, I started to appreciate priests so much more, like, THEY MAKE JESUS. That’s pretty rad if you ask me. And Jesus wants these men to do that for us.  If you think being a priest is lame, think again.

Priests are father figures too. When ever I have some kind of spiritual conflict or religious issue, I call Father. I really feel like I should have the rectory on speed dial sometimes. But the important thing is that like a good dad, he is there to help me figure out what to do and give me advice.

I attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) at my parish and my priest actually teaches it. Let me tell you, you can learn so much more from a priest who’s gone to school for six years than a person who was in PSR for 10. He helped me realize not only just how important the Church is, but how important Christ is.

Because I started learning more, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to go to more youth conferences and to get involved with youth ministry at my parish. Learning about the faith is so important in order to keep it, otherwise you might lose it.

I have to admit that my priest isn’t really the only one who influenced me. I’ve met several priests on retreats and seen several during conferences that have helped me realize just how important the Church is. They are so on fire for their faith, and they helped ignite the fire inside of me just by being faithful servants of God.

Thank your priests, they are so awesome. Thank you for serving God, and leading us.

Totus Tuus ❤

 

 

Matthew 25:40

One day I was driving around Quincy ( a town nearby to mine). At that period of time for at least a month up until then, I had been experiencing a feeling of emptiness inside. At that time I didn’t understand why I felt that way, because life was going great, and I had a great relationship with Christ.

As I was driving down Maine Street, the song, “Do Something” by Matthew West came on:

I woke up this morning, saw a world full of trouble now. Thought how’d we ever get so far down? How’s it ever gonna turn around? So I turned my eyes to Heaven and thought, “God, why don’t you do something?” Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty. Children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me. So I shook my fist at Heaven said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you.”

Right as that last lyric played, I was passing Catholic Charities.

I felt God telling me, “There. That will fill your emptiness. That will show you your purpose. Go and serve me through others. Be a light of my love for them.”

I felt God nudging me to go into that building and volunteer, so that’s exactly what I did.

After that day, I stopped going for a while, but a passage from Matthew kept popping into my head:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”

The upright will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you?”

And the King will answer, “In truth I tell you, when you did this for one of the least of my brothers, you did this for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

When that verse popped into my head, things started to click into place better. He wanted me to serve Him through others, so I started volunteering again.

One day in particular, there was a woman with what I assume was her granddaughter, who was probably only 3 years old. When I saw this little girl, I knew that what I was doing was important, I felt like I was needed, and I had found purpose in my life. In this 3 year old, I could see the child Jesus. This really opened my eyes and made me want to do more for these people, and their children.

The Baltimore Catechism says that man was made to know God, to love God, and to serve God. I knew God, and I definitely loved God, but I forgot I was supposed to serve Him too. I knew God was telling me to serve Him by serving the less fortunate around me. When I realized this I immediately started volunteering again. I have gained such a deep love for the poor. I have such a desire to tell them about Christ, and His love for them. And I pray that through my service to them, that they can see that.

There are people out there that are struggling. Really struggling. Our brothers and sisters are struggling to provide and feed their families. I see it every day. In the people I see, I know that we should be offering them more. Not more food, but more knowledge. More love, more compassion, a listening ear. We should be telling them about how Christ and His Church has influenced and transformed our lives, and how He loves us so.How even in the midst of struggle, of suffering, of hardships, He is there reaching out to us. He has such a deep love for us, and wants nothing but our love in return.

We need to be missionaries of the Gospel. I’m not saying that you need to go on a mission to some 3rd world country to do this. I’m saying that you can be a missionary, you can be an example of  Christ to the person down the street, next door, or even a random person on the street, you can tell them about HIm. Nothing brings me more joy than talking about Christ and His Church and what I’ve learned. I want to share that with others, so they know how truly good He is, and so they can come to love Him the way I do.

Please pray that I have the courage to tell more people about Christ and His love, and that I may continue to try to be a light in this dark world.

You’re in my prayers as well.

Pax Christi ❤

Called to Dwell.

My absolute favorite thing is to go in to the church at night when all the lights are off and all I can see is the sanctuary lamp burning. In that quiet moment, I know He is there. Listening to me, wanting me to come to Him with all my pain, and suffering, and anxiety. Wanting me to lay it all down at His feet.

It’s a weird thing, because usually I’m scared of the dark. But Christ is the light of the world, so why should I fear the dark of night? That sanctuary lamp tells me that Christ is present with me in that moment. And not only that, but I feel different when I’m there. I feel His love, and mercy, and presence.

I started visiting Christ every day before I went into work. It became something I craved and something I couldn’t get enough of. And I still can’t. I sit in His presence and I don’t want to leave Him. His love sings to my heart and my soul is at peace.

Jesus calls us to truly dwell in His house.

I can truly say that when I am with Him, in the presence of the Eucharist, I am home. That’s why it’s so hard to leave, because why would you want to leave home. It’s where you’re understood. It’s where you’re loved and appreciated.

I offer up my prayers for those doubting the true presence, I’ve been there. But I can tell you:  He IS there, and in such a profound way. You just have to open your heart and let Him in. Let Him love you. Let Him mend your brokenness, because He will. And He wants to.

How lovely is your dwelling place.” -Psalm 84

May it be done unto me.

The other day on my local Catholic radio, I heard someone talking about how hard it must have been for Mary, carrying Christ in her womb. Imagine, she, being around the age of 14, was probably mocked and made fun of, because some people didn’t understand that she truly was going to give birth to the Savior of the world. She risked so much just by saying “yes” to God and His will.

Honestly, I never really noticed how much Mary must have been mocked and judged because for one, she was pregnant outside of marriage (yes, it was God’s doing, but some people didn’t understand that).

Mary had so much courage to live out God’s will.

I’ve really started meditating on Mary, and thinking about the sacrifice she made for us as well. She carried Christ for us. That’s why we, as Catholics look up to her so much, and place her higher than any other saint. She is the mother of God, and also our mother.

Lately, I’ve been kind of stressed out about school and work. Sometimes I feel like God is giving me too much to handle. I know God’s telling me, “Dominique, you’re doing fine. I am with you, and I won’t leave you.” I try so hard to live a life of virtue and let me tell you, that is very hard to do in today’s day and age. I try to listen to God, help the poor, and do His will, and you know, that’s really not an easy thing to do. I have dreams of my own, but God’s plan for me is even greater. It’s so hard to grasp this.

I’ve heard it said that you’ll never be asked for anything more than Mary was, and that was simply, “yes”

I want to always be able to say yes to God, for whatever He asks of me. And when you think about it, God never asks for anything but your life, your heart, and your love. I know that seems like a ton, but compared to what His son gave us, that’s very little.

This year, try to listen to the voice of God, and when He asks you to do something difficult, let us respond with the words of our mother, Mary,

“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

May we all accept what is sent to us — even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard.

New Year’s Resolutions

That time has come again — another year has ended. At the beginning of a new year, a lot of people decide to make resolutions on things they are going to change or do in the next year. Usually I don’t really make resolutions, and if I do I hardly, if ever keep them.

This year things are going to change.

1. My spiritual life

I like to tell myself that I have a decent prayer life, and read my Bible like I’m supposed to, but I’ve come to realize that my prayer life could be a lot better and I should really crack out my Bible more often than I do.

I think my prayer life has definitely gotten better, but I’ve realized that I need to spend more time listening to what God is telling me, and less time asking him repeatedly what I’m supposed to do.

This year I have a couple of resolutions regarding my spiritual life:

  1. Attend Eucharistic Adoration more often
  2. Keep my devotion to the Blessed Mother
  3. Attend Mass (weekday) more often
  4. Read more religious books and the Bible more.
  5. Keep a daily journal

2. My physical health

I’ve realized that in the past year I’ve put on some extra pounds, and with college starting, I really need to get more active so I don’t continue to gain weight.

I also have a couple of resolutions regarding my physical health:

  1. Eat healthier
  2. Drink more water
  3. Exercise at least 3 times a week

I think that resolutions are important, and if we keep them in mind, we can achieve whatever we set our minds to.

Pax Christi