A Holy Smackdown

I have been in the thick haze of newborn parenting these last weeks.  Leah Denise Pullano joined our ranks on June 29, 2016, weighing a healthy 9lbs 3oz.  She is perfect and just awesome.  Once again, this new little life feels like the greatest gift our family could ever receive! I am, as ever, in awe.
‏
At the same time, our household has been busy with the teenager-end of the spectrum. Noise, laughter, food, music, and lots of plans with friends, describe these lazy days of summer for the high-schoolers−though to hear them tell it they are seriously overworked!  Poor kids. 😉  One of our girls will be a junior this year and many of her friends have gotten their license. That will be a reality for us in the next weeks as well. It has been gradually sinking in this summer that my 3rd-born little baby is no longer in my grasp and it’s terrifying.
‏
This fear is what’s prompting me to share this experience, both to be potentially helpful to others as well as to call myself out. The stark reality is that I am terrified of losing another child. It’s a fear that forms in my mind and then takes root down deep. When I’m not paying attention, it sprouts branches and without really noticing I am suddenly that annoying, in-your-face, tell-me-your-every-move mother.  As if I am in control or something. (And oh how teenagers love having their mom in their face…)  
‏
The moment I realized what a monster had taken root, I just happened to be at Mass; not really much of a coincidence since Jesus has a way of laying the smackdown when we need it. With His love, mercy and compassion, He helped me start digging it out from down deep.  Gosh did that hurt. Digging out fear requires surrender. The kind that says again and again, “Yes Jesus, I trust in You, even if it means I have to lose another child.”  Ouch! But, I will not live in fear.  I cannot.  It’s no kind of living. And so, as I received my Lord, body, blood, soul, and divinity, He filled up the now-empty space, every nook and cranny, where fear had resided.  He overwhelmed me with Truth and Love so amazing, the fear was but a shadow of a memory.  Oh Lord, never let me forsake receiving You in the Eucharist; nothing can compare.  Where the enemy would steal joy and peace with the lie that I can’t handle the worst, Jesus is waiting with the Truth that I can do all things through Him. 
‏
My 16 year-old is an awesome teenager.  She is smart, resourceful, humble, and capable.  We will be prudent and careful, but she is fully her own agent.  She will be driving a car, working at a job, applying to colleges, and growing up, as she should.  I can’t add a minute to her life with my worry.  Maybe she will make a mistake or a bad decision that will carry a hefty consequence.  Maybe she will be an innocent bystander in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  Maybe she will get sick for no reason at all.  I certainly know that these things can and do happen.  Whatever comes, we will walk the path in faith with our Savior by our side. Jesus, I trust in You.  You are working it all for good. 
‏14039978_10154205986522819_904705514791886026_n
We recently welcomed little Leah into the Church with her Baptism and Fr. Hyde made a wonderfully important distinction in his explanation of why we baptize our infants.  He said, “Evil affects us all, the innocent as well as the guilty.  If it only affected the guilty, we would call it justice.” (Thus, infants have original sin even though they are innocent and so need baptism.)  Evil is part of the human condition; no getting around it.  I may have to say goodbye to another child in my lifetime, or several, and even as I desperately beg the Lord to let that cup pass me by, I cannot and will not live in fear of it.  The lie needs to be called by name, acknowledged, and brought to the One who heals and restores.  He alone can overshadow it with Truth.  And I must not stop bringing it to Him through prayer and the sacraments, not even for a day.  I am reminded of the scripture about the unclean spirits in Matthew 12, When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its arrival, it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first.”
‏
I cannot let my guard down.  Jesus needs to dwell always in the void created by the loss of two of my children. He is always waiting to pour Himself out when I invite Him in, and I need to invite Him with intention and my continuous attention, not the vagueness of prayer that plagues me when I am busy. 
‏
The other night we played a familiar game on a car ride with the kids.  My husband asked them, if they could pick one thing, anything at all in the whole world, what would they want? The answers were cute and funny, typical for their ages.  When it came around to me, I was wracking my brain for something worldly that I actually want and came up empty. But, I did share my greatest and deepest desire that all my children live with me in heaven for eternity.  I want nothing so much as that.  Evil can never steal it away, and THAT is Justice.

Testimony:Cradle to Grave

Written by Anabelle, Age 37 in AL

From Cradle To Grave Catholic With Detours in Between

CradletoGrave

(That’s not me but my daughter. My photos are too orange to publish.)

I don’t have a memory of the most important day of my life.  But I know it happened because of acid-oranged photographs with my godparents, a Baptismal Certificate with my name on it, and no one tried to stop me when I received First Communion.  The seal of Catholicism was a cornerstone for my formative years, nurtured by a daily communicant mother who scuffed holes in her pants from kneeling pilgrimage-style across Church aisles; above-reproach principal who sang vibrating soprano-key for the daily 7:00 AM Mass; teachers who marched us to confession regularly; and a staunchly Catholic extended family with reunions that were marked by Baptisms, Church weddings, and funeral parties that always served garlic peanuts appetizers and roasted pig for the main course.  Being born into a predominantly Catholic country where public transportation was decked out with Jesus/Mary emblems and dangling rosaries on the rearview mirrors, was a support system that fostered my spiritual infancy and kept me on the straight and narrow.

Really I had all that I needed to grow in the fullness of my faith.  But my Catholic identity waned in a liberal Catholic law school when I reached the age of adulthood.  Oprah Winfrey’s ‘wisdom’, popular culture world views, new age novelty, immoral entertainment stole the truths that were deposited in my soul. I began to live in the prevalent narcissistic philosophy of ‘I/me/mine first” and accepted the whopping secular lie that in order to impress others, my spiritual life must be kept under the wraps of designer fashion and accessories.  I was the average dissenting/cafeteria/lukewarm Catholic.

On the brink of my graduation, the Year of the Holy Spirit, I unexpectedly pilgrimaged to Banneux, Belgium to an approved apparition site of Our Lady of the Poor.  There, I rambled on a litany of self-absorbed prayers:  help me pass the bar exam, marry a blue-eyed man, travel the world over, find the right shade of copper lipstick for my new dress etc…  But My Blessed Mother must have begged God for my conversion of heart because when the bar results were released, I was .02 % short of becoming a new lawyer.

There’s nothing like a dose of humility to make one see with clarity.  And the truth of what I saw was this:  I needed to ask God what He wanted from me instead of telling Him what I wanted Him to do for me.  The life that I’d built for me myself and I was shallow and unfulfilling.

With tail between my legs, I boxed up all of my leather purses and flirty perfumes and moved back home to recapture the peace of my childhood years.  I also kissed dating goodbye (thank you Joshua Harris!), joined a Charismatic prayer group that taught me about Jesus & the Bible, sought spiritual direction and re-discovered that a conscience living in a state of grace is where peace reigns.  This state of grace was the gift I received at Baptism, I could receive again at the Sacrament Confession. Being a cradle Catholic left it’s imprint in my soul that long before I was a student, lawyer, sister, friend, or any other label, I was a first and foremost a Catholic – a child of God and daughter of the Church.   That privilege was bestowed on me by faithful parents and the destiny to become a faithful Catholic woman was a path ingrained in me at Baptism.  I didn’t have to look to law school, to TV, to Oprah, new age or to the secular world, to find who I am and who I should be.   My identity was there in my faded photographs and Baptismal certificate.

The laws of Catholicism, the Sacraments, the devotions, and traditions drew me back into the Church started by Jesus Christ and this time, I was no longer a robot walking through rules and regulations.  I was in love with Jesus in the Eucharist, awed by a loving, forgiving God in the Confessional, captivated by the Blessed Mother and her rosary and longed to impress and become part of the communion of saints. Through the example of virtuous Catholics, I realized that being a lukewarm Catholic was worse than being a mediocre teacher/writer/lawyer/wife/mother/sister/friend and that in order to be the  best teacher/writer/lawyer/wife/mother/friend/sister, I had to become the best Catholic I could be.   I don’t mean a holier-than-thou-know-it-all but someone who stands firm in obedience to the Church Magisterium, who is willing to defend her from persecution, who prays for the conversion of my brothers and sisters, who strives for Mary’s sanctification and embraces Jesus’ Divine mercy when in sin.  A disciple of Christ who constantly studies the faith, repents, changes, inspires, corrects, evangelizes, and stays silent when necessary.

Hebrews 8:10 is the summary of my spiritual journey: “But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

 Obviously, not me either.  It is sadly, my fifth baby.

Obviously, not me either. It is sadly, my fifth baby.

And wouldn’t you know it:  I DID eventually move across the world to sunny California, practiced immigration law with some travel perks, married the blue-eyed man of my prayers, and settled in a friendly Sothern state with peaceful cows and generous chickens as my neighbors.

Catechism and reading the saint’s writings have encouraged me to write novels, articles, and even blog about the Catholic faith I now hope to pass on to my children and take with me to the grave.

We cradle Catholics tend to take our faith for granted and look for answers elsewhere but in the Church, but if we really studied Holy Mother Church’s true teachings and seek God with a humble heart, we’ll find that everything we’ve searched for was right under our noses, poured over our foreheads, tucked under the Baptismal caps, and clothed on us in our Baptismal gowns.

Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic, non-practicing lawyer, penniless novelist, happy homeschooler, and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God