Universal Church | Women of Faith in Australia

Dr. Christine Wood | October 20, 2019

Question: As Director of the Office of Evangelisation and Catechesis in the Diocese of Hobart, what are 1) the challenges of living out the Catholic faith for the average modern woman? 2) The fruits of the faith in your diocese?

Australia is becoming a very secular society. Our Christian heritage was originally brought here by the British and Irish settlers, and later in the early twentieth century by European immigrants. More recently, we have seen immigrants arrive from very diverse cultures embracing a variety of religions and moral values. Various social changes have pushed Christianity out of the public square for the same sort of reasons as it has in North America and Europe. The number of people who claim no religion is rapidly rising.

This secularised culture brings a number of challenges to the faithful living of the Christian life. It seems to me that the main challenge is apathy, arising from different causes including extreme busyness, lack of spiritual havens to nourish one’s faith, and an aggressive culture that says all religions are equal and, depending on one’s philosophy, all people will attain the same end of either happiness or nothingness.

So where does this place Catholic women now? The average Catholic woman in Australia who seeks to live out her faith does so by connecting with bible studies and prayer groups that she finds online, or in locations outside her local parish community. She is usually able to foster a healthy sacramental life in her local parish, but the communal aspect of parish life is far from active.

Those women who are striving to live a faith-filled Christian married life do so by honouring their spouses, catechising their children at home (or at the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd if they have an atrium nearby), and worshipping together as a family. Catholic women are increasingly aware of the need for fatherhood programs which help husbands to find their true place in the Christian family. Marriage enrichment initiatives are popular for couples who need to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to reflect on God’s plan for their marriages.

World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 was a boost in faith practice for young people. Single Catholic women have begun small prayer groups in their homes or at university. Students have established pro-life student groups on college campuses offering support for pregnant women, and raising awareness of life issues. Others have initiated youth outreach events like annual retreats and conferences that seek to evangelise, connect, and form young people in their Christian faith.

Some diocesan and parish initiatives include the use of faith formation programs like those developed by the Augustine Institute in Denver, or Alpha in a Catholic Context, or bible studies from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology or Jeff Cavins. These initiatives give women the opportunity to connect with other people in the parish, to share and grow in their faith, and to develop a fuller Christ-centred life.

We have begun Endow Groups in the Archdiocese of Hobart in order to bring faithful women together, to share their faith, and to support one another through prayer and the friendships that will develop in these groups. The older women in our groups are able to mentor the younger ones in the Christian life, and the younger ones bring enthusiasm and hope for the future.

I’ve found that if women are able to develop a Catholic worldview, that is both Christ-centred and sacramental, they see the world with the supernatural eyes of faith. This enables them to break through our secular culture to seek the things that are above, loving others with a Christ-like love, and bearing the fruits of the Kingdom of God in their everyday lives.

College Gals, How do you Keep it Together?

Karli Smith | October 20, 2019

Question: The Lord is calling me to be a good student. Sometimes, I just can’t seem to make it to Mass on Sundays because of the amount of homework that I have for the following day/week. I’m really trying to be a good Catholic but I can’t do it all. There are too many things that I am called to do. How do I discern what is a priority?

I remember my last semester when I found myself lying awake at night, anxious about getting to sleep because of all that I had to do the next day as a nursing and theology student as well as part time employee for two jobs. I was just trying to keep my head above water so as not to drown in responsibilities. I had cut out almost every other facet of my life excluding school and work, and even though I didn’t miss my Sunday Mass obligation, live a life transformed by Christ, for Christ, in love of Christ. So, how does this work practically?

First, it means fulfilling our Sunday obligation by going to Mass. Our Lord commands this day set aside for His worship, not for His own benefit, but for ours. It is in the celebration of the Mass that He grants us the gift of the Eucharist, the very body and blood of Christ, by which we receive the grace to persevere in a life of faith. Prayer is also essential. Just like in any other relationship, our relationship with God can only be sustained and fruitful if we spend quality time with Him. Prayer is quality time with God, which provides further grace and continues to sustain in us what He has already generously bestowed. This quality time can be spent in silence, meditation, casual conversation, written prayers, singing praise, or reading Scripture. C.S. Lewis depicts the importance of our need for the Lord in our lives when he wrote, “A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel for our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.” 1

To do this requires prudent planning and use of time. Having time to relax, fulfill our responsibilities, and invest in relationships with friends and God, is not impossible, it is simply a matter of prudence and self-discipline. If we do this not only will we be able to get work done, but we will be able to be fully present and appreciate the time we have to spend relaxing and having fun with friends.

Sometimes, even this doesn’t quite solve the problem. We have to face the reality that we piled too much on our plates. I realized throughout my years in college, that in my enthusiasm to be active and involved in all the amazing opportunities there were, there was a temptation to overcommit myself to the point of doing nothing well. The better choice, I discovered, was choosing and committing to a couple activities I could fully invest myself and my time in, and to do them well.

There was a time that I hadn’t been in the chapel for a long period of time, and I found myself thanking God for so patiently waiting for me to visit Him, and asking His forgiveness that He had to wait so long. I realized that if I was going to be the woman I desired to be and was created to be, I could not merely make time for God in my schedule, but that I had to build my entire schedule and life around Him. I wanted to make Christ the true center of my life, and treasure of my heart. No longer did I want to put other gods above Him; I wanted to dethrone my pride and vanity, my laziness and selfishness, my entertainment and comfort, to place the King of Kings in His rightful place on the throne of my heart. This meant making sacrifices. Some days, I needed to forego gym time, or time with friends, or Netflix, or taking a short break and falling into the black hole that social media can suck me into during my study time. Other times it meant inviting my friends to pray with me or accompany me to Mass as a part of our time spent together. Even harder, sometimes I had to practice self-discipline and make myself go to bed earlier in order to get up for early morning Mass when I knew the rest of my day was going to be really busy. Sometimes the best way to make sure to get to Mass and spend time in prayer is by taking time on Sunday to look at the week and choose a time everyday to spend with God, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Put it in my planner, on a stickie note, or in your mind’s list of things to do, and consider it an unbreakable appointment. It’s also important to make this time during a part of the day when you will be able to be present and thoughtful, and when you know you will be able to keep your commitment. For some of us, we know we cannot make it first thing in the morning, because there is a chance we won’t get up on time, for others it can’t be at the end of the day, because we would most likely fall asleep.

Even with planning, life is full of the unexpected and unplanned. Perhaps the best perspective to have in such situations is to trust that if you give quality time to God, even and especially when it seems like you don’t have enough to give for Mass or prayer, He will often make the time you need to fulfill all of your other responsibilities. That is, He will in a sense multiply your time. In fact, Our Lord Jesus Himself says, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure by which you measure will in return be measured unto you.” 2

In all circumstances, though, we can and should make our entire lives a prayer of praise and gratitude to God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 3 This can be done by requesting the Lord to be present through a simple invitation such as, Jesus, I invite you to be present with me during my studying, or, Holy Spirit, I thank you for your faithful presence, and particularly invite you into my time cleaning and cooking, that you may make this time Holy. You can say a short prayer before beginning to study or taking a test. Some friends of mine have small stickie notes or prayer cards taped to their laptops as a simple reminder. Or, you could begin your day with a morning offering, to give God your entire self and all your day’s activities. St. Josemari­a Escriva said, “we can raise the level of our efforts we can try to turn the work we do into an encounter with the Lord and the foundation to support those who will follow our way in the future. In this way, study will become prayer.” 4 In this way we will live a life of Catholic faith. Our worship of God will extend far beyond the hour spent in Mass on Sundays. In fact, in doing all for the glory of God, we are actively living out our call with which we are sent forth from the Mass when the priest gives His final blessing to, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We will live a life, seemingly simple and average, if you will; yet, in reality, we will be living an extraordinary life, a life of greatness for which we are made.

1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

2 Luke 6:38

3 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

4 Josemaria Escriva, Furrow and the Forge, p.526

Through the Eyes of the Saints | Saint Gianna Molla

Claire Dwyer | October 20, 2019

Almost twenty years ago, when I was a new mom, I slipped out one evening for a presentation, an introduction to the then newly beatified Gianna Beretta Molla. The presenter came to share the story of this doctor, wife, and mother who had captivated the world with her fierce devotion to human life even if it should cost of her own. He came with stacks of holy cards printed with her photograph and the prayer for her canonization.  And he came with her wedding gown. I remember pressing the holy cards to the satiny folds of her white dress. Touching them to a piece of her life, a symbol of the sacrament that she gave herself over to with radical faith and deep love, I felt a connection and a desire to know her more. This will be a relic someday, he predicted. Gianna was saving her dress, hoping to turn it into a vestment if she should have a son who would become a priest. Her son, as it turned out, would not become a priest. But she would become a saint.

She is famous for her final story: the crescendo of self-giving love when she, pregnant with her fourth child, discovered that a tumor was growing on her uterus. She rejected a hysterectomy, which would have been morally acceptable but would have resulted in the indirect death of her unborn baby. Instead she opted for a surgery which would remove the tumor but would allow the pregnancy to continue, all the while knowing, as a physician herself, the risk she was taking. At every step, she was insistent that the baby’s life come before her own. Gianna delivered a healthy ten-pound daughter, Gianna Emanuela, on April 21, 1962, via c-section. Probably because of the surgical delivery, she contracted an infection in her abdomen. After a week of excruciating suffering, which she voluntarily chose to endure consciously, she died in her home on April 28 now her feast day.

This sacrifice, this willingness to lay down her life for another, was only the culmination, though, of a life lived entirely for God and those He sent her. Gianna may be a saint because of one heroic decision, but she became a saint because her whole life was a prayer of praise and a symphony of smaller sacrifices. The loss of an older sister when she was young propelled her into the world of suffering, which she met with a dedication to prayer daily mediation, afternoon visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the rosary. While in high school, she went on a retreat of the Spiritual Exercises, making firm commitments in the spiritual life. Jesus, she journaled on the retreat, I promise to submit to everything that you will allow to happen to me. Only help me to know your will. And submit she did, to the death of her parents, the sorrows of World War II, the struggles of medical studies. She grounded herself in service: leadership in Catholic Action, which involved giving talks and retreats to young women, and her mission her medical work which she saw as a ministry to Jesus in the bodies of the sick. Never judging, always compassionate, she stressed the value of life, especially to those patients who considered abortion. Sometimes, she would leave money behind on the tables of her poorest patients. And always, she would do it with a smile.

When she married Piero Molla in 1955, they both desired a holy marriage and family.  Warmly welcoming three children in quick succession, Gianna was still able to balance work and family, continuing her medical practice up until shortly before little Gianna Emanuela’s birth. And still, every day, every busy day, Gianna stopped in to visit the Blessed Sacrament, to be with the One who gave her the strength for all of it.

What this means for us is this: that our readiness for the bigger sacrifices of life is made possible by our acceptance of every little one God gives us the opportunity for. Our faithfulness to Him begins in the small practices of everyday prayer. And so Gianna is a model of heroic love, true, but it is a lifetime of love we see when we look to her. Meeting each morning as an opportunity for prayer and love in motherhood, in the workplace, in the many nooks and crannies of the world that is possible. And it strengthens us for the heroic, the impossible, the possible-only-with God.

That is the secret of St. Gianna.  May she pray for us all.

How College Roommates Prepare us for Marriage

October 20, 2019

Question: As a single woman in college, how can my roommates prepare me for marriage?

I came to realize that, even as a single woman in college, God provided me a very real means of preparation for marriage and family life in having roommates. It is in the intimate space that you come to think of as home, where other people come to know you your virtues and vices and you can come to know theirs. Living with roommates offers a glimpse into the daily life of marriage calling you to stretch and grow in ways that dating cannot.

Loving Through the Little Things

More than ever before, I have come to see my personal weaknesses, wounds, and vices. When I was able to humbly step outside of myself and take an objective look at the circumstances, I came to recognize not so much my roommates accumulating unwashed dishes, for example, but my love that was so little, weak, selfish, and impatient. I was, and continue to be, challenged time and again to love as I am called to love with patience, kindness. Most of the time, sitting down and learning to articulate these seemingly unimportant bothers helped me and my roommates avoid big fights. It stretched us in our ability to serve charitably, to be more thoughtful of one another and our shared spaces, to respect boundaries and differences, to be patient with one another, and to sacrifice little preferences in order to reach a compromise.

Communication Learning the Love Languages

In time, my roommates and I also came to recognize differences in our love languages and charitably navigate how to best. Some of my roommates were more assertive and direct and some were more silent and less likely to speak their mind. I had to learn to be more aware of how I perceived the communication of my more outspoken roommates, and how to gently encourage more communication from the more cautious roommates. Communication enabled us to share our thoughts and feelings to one another, as well as to express our love which also had many different ways of being given and received. It is easy to love another in the way that I most easily express and receive love. However, unfortunately, assuming that another person receives an action or word as loving when they do not receive it as such, has left me wondering why they don’t seem to notice my effort, and has left them feeling unloved. It was important for me to love each individual roommate in the way that they receive love. It was also helpful when I could recognize that, even if I don’t feel loved in a particular way, my roommate was going out of their way and making an effort to love me so that I was able to thank them and affirm them for their efforts to love me.

Prayer the School of Love

There is so much more that can be learned and so many more ways that living with roommates can prepare you for marriage. It forces you to stretch yourself and grow in humility, patience, sacrificial love, and your ability to communicate, compromise, and love in the little ways. There is one aspect of this experience that is imperative for living with roommates, and for a healthy married life prayer. Prayer is the only way that I have been able to live with other women. I need the grace of Christ, so that He can love through me, and for His grace to be poured forth on the hearts of those I lived with as well, so that, where we were, He would remain in the midst of us.

A Woman for All Seasons

Claire Dwyer | October 20, 2019

If you are busy woman juggling family, friends, work, and prayer, trying to balance works of mercy with your daily duty, prayer time with household chores, and marriage with ministry, then let today’s saint be an inspiration. There are few women who can’t relate to her in some way- she was a wife, mother, friend, prayer warrior, champion of the sick and poor, and founder of a religious community. But most of all, she was a daughter of the Church who lived both her marriage vows and baptismal promises to the full. March 9 is the feast day of St. Frances of Rome.

Her story could be an epic movie. Born to a noble family in Rome in 1384, she wished to be a nun from a young age, but her parents had planned a marriage to a wealthy nobleman, Lorenzo Ponziani. Devastated, the young teenager stubbornly objected and prayed that God would intervene. Her confessor challenged her: Are you crying because you want to do God’s will or you want God to do your will?

Humbled, she accepted her parent’s wishes and married. Lorenzo was kind and good and powerful in fact, he was the faithful commander of the papal troops in Rome during the time of unrest and division within the Church. Together they had three children, and Frances, while devoted to her family, found the life of a noblewoman difficult. Parties and fancy clothes had no appeal for the girl who still longed for a life of prayer. Confiding her secret wishes to her sister-in-law, Vonnozza, Frances found a spiritual companion and life-long friend. Together, the two women would pray in the chapel they had set up in a tower of the family home, attend mass, and visit hospitals and prisons. Always, however, they put their family’s needs first. When her mother-in-law died, Frances, only sixteen, successfully took over administration of the large household.

And then began a time of severe trials. With the feuding in Rome at a fever pitch, violent threats to their family drove Lorenzo out of the city for his own safety. While he was away, invaders overtook their home, kidnapped her oldest son, killed the servants, and destroyed the house. Shortly afterward, the plague took the life of her other children.

With incredible fortitude, Frances redoubled her efforts to serve the poor and turned her ruined home into a hospital. One patient was her own husband, who returned home later a broken man. She cared for him and in gratitude and love he gave her his blessing to begin a lay order of women called the Oblates of Mary. While remaining in the world, these women promised deep devotion to God and service to the poor.

Eventually, the Oblates opened a home for their widowed members, where Frances became the superior upon her husband’s death.  Her childhood dream of religious life had finally been fulfilled but in God’s own perfect time.

St. Frances of Rome is a model of self-surrender, obedience to the will of God, faithfulness to marriage, motherhood, and daily duty, service of neighbor, and the discipline of a rigorous spiritual life. She is patroness to many causes, including drivers (because her guardian angel used to light her way on night-time visits to the poor and sick) but she has also been appointed by the Church as one of the patronesses of all women. May her prayers help our own feminine vocations to bloom in this new springtime of the Church, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II.

St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!

Teaching Truth with Grace is Worth the Struggle

Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M. | October 20, 2019

Question: How do I teach Catholic Principles in a school when faculty, parents, and students disagree with Church teaching?

For a new teacher, one of the most challenging situations is how to teach Catholic principles in a Catholic School when faculty, students, and parents disagree about these principles! Basically, there are three different communities of discourse, each with their own expectations and hopes. To further complicate the situation, within each of these communities of discourse there are also many individual differences of opinion about what principles are true.

Even though the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a wonderful foundational structure for centering a discussion around a dispute about what really is the Church’s position on a particular theme, Catholic Theology is not like the sciences of mathematics or physics, where a basic text book can definitively settle all disputes.

It is important for a teacher not to get caught in the kind of arguing that pits students against their parents or one teacher against another teacher in a school. Yet the Catholic teacher has an obligation to do her best to be faithful to the trust that has been placed in her to speak according to her well-formed conscience. What can help someone facing this dilemma? I would like to suggest three different kinds of things.

Firstly, in 2007 the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome has published an important document titled,  Educating Together in Catholic SchoolsWhile this document is addressed to persons within lay and consecrated vocations, it also well serves priests and parents. In par. 13 of this document we read:

The Catholic school, characterized mainly as an educating community, is a school for the person and of persons. In fact, it aims at forming the person in the integral unity of his being, using the tools of teaching and learning where criteria of judgement, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life are formed. Above all, they are involved in the dynamics of interpersonal relations that form and vivify the school community. (Sept. 8, 2007)

The primary goal of the teacher should be more than imparting the facts of a particular academic subject. It should include above all fostering communion among the persons in the school especially in the classroom. How can fostering communion be done in the contemporary world? For example, teachers and administrators could study this document together and discuss it during one of their pedagogical or formation days. Parents could be encouraged to consider parts of it where relevant to their children. Schools run by religious communities could decide to study the document together.

Secondly, for those who are interested in broader principles of education, which may not be limited just to Catholic theological positions, I have written an article that considers how a philosophy of the transcendentals: unity, beauty, truth, and goodness can guide a teacher at four levels of education. These transcendentals are characteristics of God who is One, True, Beautiful, and Good. Everything in the world participates in these transcendentals to some degree. This philosophical approach has the advantage of being open to persons of all religions. It also gives examples of how a teacher can inadvertently act against one or another of the transcendentals, and thereby interfere with fostering communion. (See: Sr Prudence Allen, R.S.M., How Catholic Philosophy can engage Secular Culture in Education, tudes maritainiennes Maritain Studies, Vol. XX (2004): 106-147) (Email us for a copy of it!)

Thirdly, a teacher can broaden the context of the discussion among the different communities of discourse to include reflections on the history of women and education. What may be helpful for this purpose is to read and discuss sections of Allen, The Concept of Woman: Volume II, The Early Humanist Reformation (1250-1500*). The Index of this volume lists several pages according to the following topics: Education of children, of boys, and of girls; Education of women: in classical schools, in monasteries (or convent schools), in household, by father, by father-in-law, by mother; in humanist schools, by lay communities, by tutors, and theory of.[1]

After great struggles in the western world, education became an important gift to girls and women of all classes. Therefore, it is worth the struggle today, when education is so available to everyone, to work with conflicts towards genuine dialogue, real communion among the persons involved, and real communities compatible with Catholic principles in the schools.

[1] Remember that Volume II was chopped into two parts, so that the first part has the table of contents and the first half of the text, and the second part has the index and bibliography with the second half of the text.

Healing from Miscarriage

Michaelene Fredenburg | October 20, 2019

Question: My friend just had her second miscarriage and is understandably devastated. I myself have not experienced this and don’t know how to be there for her other than to bring her dinner and check in. I feel useless and it hurts to see her pain. Any suggestions on how to help women heal from this experience?

Dear sister in Christ,

I’m so sorry for your friend’s losses. The helplessness that you are expressing in the face of her pain is quite common. Since our culture typically treats loss after miscarriage as a non-event, we often find ourselves unsure what to do and how to support family and friends. However, what you are doing acknowledging the loss of her children verbally and showing your love and concern by providing for her practical needs is most likely exactly what she needs. And this is something that she, and her husband, will need for some time to come.

If you aren’t already doing this, you may want to make yourself available to spend time with your friend and allow her to share about the loss of her children. It can be awfully hard to listen to such deep pain; however, this is one of the greatest gifts that you can offer her. Think back to a time when you lost someone close to you. I imagine that it was a relief to be able to talk about that person and all that they meant to you. In addition to talking about your loved one, there may have been other times that you simply needed someone to sit with in silence. Your friend needs the same opportunity to use as many or as few words to express her grief. So although you have not experienced a reproductive loss, you have experienced other losses that will provide some insight into how to help.

Assuring your friend that what she is feeling is normal will also help her quite a bit. If it’s appropriate, you can share with her that everyone experiences grief differently that there isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve and that there isn’t a set timeline to grieve. You can also feel confident assuring her that although it doesn’t feel this way right now, things will get better. Your friend will never forget her children, but remembering them will be less painful as time goes on. (Something again that you can probably personally relate to when thinking about a loss in your life.)

And finally, don’t forget to express your condolences to the baby’s father and ask how he is doing. As you can imagine, men are often completely forgotten in the midst of loss due to miscarriage. Although men tend to show their grief differently, studies indicate that they are equally impacted and that their grief often goes unresolved due to the lack of support from family and friends and the culture at large.

Sister, it sounds like you are doing a terrific job supporting your friend. In addition to what you are already doing, you and your friend may benefit from visiting MiscarriageHurts.com. This anonymous healing website features activities to work through the grieving process, as well as a place to memorialize, and a place to find further help and support.

New Feminism | All Movements Start Small

Mallory Smyth | October 20, 2019

I had decided out of total obedience to the Lord that I would no longer fight the faith in which I had been brought up. For three years, I had been attending my local non-denominational church. If I was going to mass at all, it was only out of familial guilt. I had fallen in love with everything protestant. The music was great, the preaching was meaningful, but most of all, I was involved in the women’s small groups and these groups were changing my life. I was as shocked as anyone else when the Lord asked me to recommit to the Catholic church, but I did. I left the ministries that I loved, came back to the mass and started looking for ways to get involved.

There wasn’t however, very much offered to a 24 year old like me who wanted to be involved in my local parish. There was only the youth group, so I started volunteering there, but I wanted more.

My life had been completely transformed sitting in those non-denominational circles with other women as we studied the book of Esther, and then Daniel, and then the nature of God. It was in those groups that I could get my questions answered. I learned from the other women how to actually apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to my life as a young adult. I sat with women who were in their 70’s and absorbed their wisdom as they destroyed many of my generational stereotypes. Every time I finished a small group study, I couldn’t believe how much I could know about my faith and how much there was for me to learn.

I was leaving mass one day missing the community I had left and, I wish there was a Catholic women’s small group flashed through my head. Immediately I heard, “Then start one.” My excuses started flowing. I’m not from here. I don’t know anyone. I don’t have time. How would I even do that? It didn’t matter, I knew they were excuses and I knew God was asking for a yes, not a million reasons why He was wrong to ask me.

Within a month, I scouted out four other women my age whom I didn’t know. I creepily asked one girl for her phone number after mass and mentioned starting a small group. To my surprise, she told me she had been looking for something more and would love to join. Another girl, I met on a plane and then happened to sit next to her in mass. I invited her, she said yes and brought a friend.

The small group was not a raging success. My invitations were awkward and we only met about five times. Since then, however, I have led about ten catholic women’s small groups. Each time I am more convinced that the Lord just needed my yes so that He could do His job. He didn’t need my expertise. He is the expert. He didn’t need my brilliance. I am not brilliant. He needed my obedience, my willingness to be on mission.

If you have ever thought to yourself that you wish there was a small group in your area or that there was something more for Catholic women at your parish, the Lord may very well be asking you to be the person to start. There are a millions reasons to say no but how would the Lord use you if you said yes? What if you made the time, opened your heart, stepped out of your comfort zone and just do it? How would He change you? How would He change others?

We have received the most amazing inheritance in Catholicism. St. Paul tells us that the riches of our faith are literally unsearchable but too many of us never take the time to begin the search. It is no secret that most Catholic’s know barely a faction of what we should know if Jesus is real and the Church is true. This is in our control to change.

We all know the words of Jesus when He said, “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.” The world we live in is thirsting for the Truth. The more that we as Catholics seek that truth in a transformative way, the better we equipped we are to fully participate in the worship of the living God and the better we can be to engage our brothers and sisters who are starving for meaning.

Are you curious to see where the Lord could take your yes to leading a small group? Now is a great time to start and we at Endow want to make it as simple as possible!

Trust Me, You’ve Got This. Because He’s Got You.

October 20, 2019

Question: I am feeling hopeless. Looking around at our country at large and my local community it is clear there is a social breakdown happening that is threatening relationships all around me. There is such division, tension, and instability in personal identity, family life and politics yet my friends seem so numb to it not caring about its effects or objective truth. I understand our gift of feminine genius and ability to contribute to human flourishing, but how do I make a difference when I feel like no one cares?

Dear sister,

I really feel your heartache in all of this. What you say is right: things are tough right now. If you have a sensitive spirit and a big heart, social realities weigh heavily. Abortion, euthanasia, divorce, abuse of children, the hook-up culture, poverty, disease, natural disasters not to mention war and atrocities in many parts of the world. What came to mind when I first read your question is what John Paul II was so fond of repeating: do not be afraid! (You can see an example here.)

The longer I have pondered the message of St. John Paul, the more I have been convinced of its importance for us. Fear has many effects on us, all of them toxic. Stress, for instance, and confusion. When we are afraid, we don’t think clearly and it’s hard to see things in proportion. All of this paralyzes us.

I have a baby boy who is 11 months old. He has just learned to climb up stairs, and he often starts up them eagerly. But about two-thirds of the way up, he stops and looks back, sees the huge set of steps behind him, and becomes terrified. He doesn’t know how to come back down. And his fear keeps him from moving forward. He begins to panic and cry. When I rescue him he calms down immediately, and his good spirit returns. And this, I think, is the message of the Gospel, the message of St. John Paul the Great. Be not afraid! A savior is coming. He has conquered the world. He will lift you up and hold you!

Notice something important about this. A mom who rescues a stray little one doesn’t say: baby, the stairs are small, don’t worry. No, she scoops up her little one to comfort his distress. Of course, the stairs are small for her, and she knows that in time her child will learn to handle them, with her help. But in the moment of trial, her motherly heart seeks only to comfort, to save.

Just so with Our Savior, Jesus. He doesn’t say that our problems are small. If they were small we wouldn’t need a Savior. Instead he says trust in me. I’ve got you.

What has all of this to do with your hopelessness? Only that hopelessness comes from a certain kind of forgetting that there is a Savior. We find ourselves a little stuck, a little overwhelmed, a little crushed by things, a little bit stuck on that high stair. We can’t go forward, we can’t go back. Fear and negative emotions overwhelm us.

The good news is that you don’t have to think your way out of this. Possibly the last thing you can do well in the midst of hopelessness is think. I said that hopelessness was based on a certain kind of forgetting that we have a Savior. I didn’t mean that you are literally forgetting, but as a Catholic community I think we have often forgotten how to hold out our hands for the Savior. So there we are, stuck on the stairs, and we don’t know how to call for help.

I’m going to get to some very practical advice in a moment, but I wanted to put it in this context, because the language of the Gospel is so much this: that we should become like little children, that we should see Jesus as our shepherd and we the lost sheep. It is little to raise our hands and cry out for mom on the stairs. It is little to wander closer to the shepherd. It is little to try humble things instead of big things. And yet, this is the structure of reality as God created us, it’s how we are made. And it’s how we nurture our feminine genius.

So here is my practical advice, advice that worked for me at one of the lowest parts of my life, when things seemed dark, confusing, and unsure. I was twenty-two years old, had no idea where my life was going or what I was supposed to do next. I was in graduate school but I still felt directionless. I only knew that I wanted to help somehow, that I wanted to be a gift to others, that I wanted to make a difference.

In complete desperation, weary of thinking through things, I got the idea to just get myself into Church every day, where I could see the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus in the tabernacle, and I asked for His help to see what I should do. I asked Him Lord, show me the way. Sometimes I prayed this prayer after catching a daily Mass; other times I just stopped in. I thought that I wasn’t strong enough to pray, so I just put myself physically in the presence of God. I went into His house and asked for the grace to see. What I didn’t know then is that I was praying! That simple act was a physical, bodily cry for help like my baby on the stairs who throws his hands into the air as if to say pick me up!

So, here is a simple plan to start to climb out of hopelessness:

1 Put yourself into the presence of God every day, at a Church, or an adoration chapel; aim for just a five-minute check-in. You have to be with Him, you have to crawl onto His lap and He can fix everything in those moments. We are physical and Our Savior is physical.

2 When you are in His presence, do two things: first, make an act of hope say, Jesus, I hope in you! Jesus, I trust in you! Second, pray to see what you can do to make a difference in the suffering of the world. One saint that I know of recommended the short prayer Lord, that I may see! Domine, ut videam!

3 Do all of this, as much as possible, without thinking. Try to do it the way you go to the store when you need milk (or coffee!). You don’t think. You assess your need. I need coffee. And you get a coffee. This is just the same: you need God. So you go to Him.

The world is starving from a lack of God. Sister, you are feeling this, and it weighs on you. The only way to start remedying this is to be the change that the world needs. Humanity as a whole can’t have a relationship with God. He is a lover who loves your soul and needs your soul as he loves and needs all the other souls he has made.

And when you go to Him in prayer, it will spill over to others: you will become better because he will change you; and you’ll start to see how you can use your unique gifts and talents to make things better around you. You probably won’t be asked to start a religious order in India (though you might be!); and you probably won’t be told to go to South Africa as a missionary (though you might be!). But whatever it is, God will inspire your heart with your own personal mission for the salvation of the world, a mission that is totally you, and totally yours. And you’ll set out with the confidence of a woman in love.

Trust me, this works. You’ve got this. Because He’s got you.

Motherhood | Am I Wasting my Talents

Kathleen Littleton | October 20, 2019

Question: I am married with three kids and want a large family. I gave up my career to be a mother and I wouldn’t trade what I have for the world. However, I feel this yearning to use my gifts still and keep being told, keep your foot in the door professionally. Can anyone talk to this balance? If I know there is a real chance for many more babies in the future, how do I go about discerning this for my family? Am I wasting my gifts? Will I damage my family if I work in the professional world or will it be a good example? How do I know what is right?

God’s plan for marriage and the family is what is right and true. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well (Matthew 6:33). As a Catholic wife and mother, your first responsibility is to your husband and children, and to be open to the life that God plans to entrust to you alone in the few and swiftly passing years you have been given the incredible gift of cooperating with Him in the creation of an eternal soul. God bless your inspiration and desire to have a large family! To be a mother and wife is your God-given grace filled and glorious vocation. What a blessing fertility to have the love between husband and wife bear fruit in the life of a child brought into the world and into eternity.

All real love entails joy and suffering, risk and sacrifice. God sees and will bless mothers for the time, care, energy, hopes and dreams mothers give their children while they seem to put all their own on hold. As He did with his own beloved son, God in His mysterious way takes your sacrifices and mystically transforms what is offered so selflessly for others into something new, something that transcends the cross. You will find that what the world views now as a waste of your professional talents while you raise your young children you will look back upon as your most precious gift ever given and time most rewardingly spent. The late, saintly Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty described a mother as “The most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body.”

It is a busy time for you now. You struggle just to get through the daily chores and duties of physically caring for your children, but the blessings are there abundantly as you have experienced. You feel at times the strain of getting through these days until you have more time to pursue your profession, to give of yourself intellectually to the wider world. You wonder if it is true that you are wasting your time in these tasks when you could be so much more valued out in the professional world, or if it will be so much harder to re-enter that world as time goes by. Yes, God has given you talents and charisms that are meant to be shared for His glory and to bring souls to Him. Yes, this too is your calling as a baptized Catholic, but in God’s time and with delicate balance. Trust in Him, that He knows what is best and will work everything out. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Put God first, and the rest will fall into place though God’s grace. Build up a strong and deep sacramental and prayer life including daily Mass if possible for your whole family, frequent confession, spiritual reading, spiritual direction, family prayer. By staying close to God in this way you will always be able to discern His will for you. You will be at peace in all that you do. You will be able to give of yourself one hundred percent to the duty or pleasure at hand. You will find yourself doing this joyfully, knowing it is God’s will for you in this moment without distraction or a restless heart. God’s will is where He has placed you, in this time and place. God alone knows what will make his children happy eternally happy that is as well as happy here on earth.  He will not give us what is not good for us. We should pray and desire what God wants, asking that His will be done as in the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. This is the prayer of faith, uniting our will to God’s will (CCC, 2570). The best way to pray, as St. Alphonsus de Liguori instructs is to pray in uniformity with God’s will; that is if this is expedient for my salvation, I will it.

In doing so, you will find that God will not only take what you offer Him, but will give you opportunities to exercise gifts and talents that you never knew you had in ways you never dreamed of doing. He will help you grow into the extraordinary person He plans for you to become, to shine the light of His love for all to see for His greater glory. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but on a stand, that those who enter may see the light (Matthew 5:15). So God intends to do with you! Recall the saintly example of St. Therese of Lisieux who had a heart so full of love for God she wanted to show him how much by travelling the world as a missionary, but God had other plans for her, to literally become love while in a cloister cell (Story of a Soul). Surely He has plans just as rewarding for you, the child of His heart! Don’t limit what He intends to do with your life, but surrender completely to His will and watch your life unfold beautifully, blessedly, and surprisingly most of all to yourself, if you will only let it!