I had the opportunity to hear the beautiful Dr. Gianna Emmanuela Molla- daughter of Saint Gianna-speak at Father Gabriel Richard Highschool the other night, at an I.d. 9:16 Special Presentation. I am still glowing from the inspiration I received from her beautiful testimony. I have to be honest, when I first heard the story of Saint Gianna, I was confronted with my own selfish response to the question: if I were a mother who was expecting a baby and found out that I had a cancerous tumor growing alongside my baby, would I be willing to lose my own life for the sake of my unborn child? Even if it meant leaving three young children and the love of my life- in order to give life to this wee baby? I surely do not know. I am so stuck in my human mindset- a child needs it’s mother, and a husband needs his wife, certainly! I was so moved by Gianna’s message because I wasn’t expecting to learn so much from her.
Here is what I learned:
If you wish to help support the community that Gianna Emanuella represents, she is on a mission to turn her childhood home into a shrine with perpetual adoration. For this she needs funds to restore the home and make the place accessible for all to visit and be touched by this modern saints life and story.
I hope you are also inspired by this Everyday Saint- and that you and your loved ones are drawn deeper into the vortex of love that this faithful woman points to. Please share with me your favorite Saint! And even better- I issue you this challenge: what are you doing right now to help YOU become a saint?
Long ago I had a friend who was very dear to me, still is, who was in a relationship with an atheist. She felt that she could leave her Christianity behind because of her love for this man. It hurts even now to talk about it, because I really had to let that go. What can be said when a person, friend or family has made up their mind? Nothing. All you can do is quietly love them from afar because embracing them full on is also accepting the logic they are using to reject God. It’s difficult.
There are places and people who feel like a warm pocket. Every time I go to them, I have an encounter with someone who recenters my faith, who brings me back to reality, back to God and His Church. I have had to make a distinct choice to spend time with these people, to linger in these places. I think sometimes we think that Christians must just be born faithful, must have some natural tendency towards wanting to be holy. It’s not true. Being a Christian is an every day, moment to moment decision, that takes guts.
Want to stay married and be in a committed and loving relationship? Be around couples who speak highly of each other. Want to have a good report with your children as adults? Hang with moms and dads whose children keep coming home long after college. Want to feel supported and part of something? Pick a parish and stick with it, volunteer your time, make it your responsibility. It takes perseverance and hard choices to get what you want out of life.
I know that some folks don’t want to hear me say this, because it may sting a little: we don’t live in a Christian world, anymore. Even when I was growing up there was some shame when a person did something that was obviously against the teachings of Jesus, now- it’s ALL GOOD. Literally. There are so many confusions, I get confused about it. I have gay friends who are confused, too. Can we just switch genders and change clothes and feel good about making everyone else and their mother feel super uncomfortable, sure- because we should do whatever makes US HAPPY, right!?!?! I know it’s counter-cultural to be a Christian, but I really truly believe in God and the teachings of the one, holy, Catholic Church! I know that must be okay because it makes me happy.
Recently, when I was at a prayer meeting I got a vision that Jesus wanted to take me and some of the strong women I was sitting close to and stick us in a pocket, a place where we could be safe and out of the way, I thought, somewhere where we could be together and not have to worry about the way the world sees us. It was a lovely vision. I feel like the way of life I long for is totally unattainable because of all the worldly influences that inundate us constantly. It’s almost like, even if there were a place to rally the wagons and create a bubble, it’s too late, because of internet access, constant media in our faces, and the comparison mirror staring into us, we cannot -NOT pop that Utopian bubble we’d sometimes like to surround around our growing families. But Gods ways are not our ways, and even though we are unpopular we will stand tall and proud and continue to try and be vigilant and protective as long as we can. We will find these pockets.
Later at mass, a different day, I was praying and found myself caught up in the after receiving the Eucharist bliss. That feeling so warm and so full. God loves us so much he is willing to come to us as food. How amazing. How satisfying. And as I’m praying I kept coming back to the crucifix, that standing announcement that nothing is simple, and every one of us suffers. I kept examining Christ’s face and longing to wipe away his tears, and like Mary must have felt, saddened that he had to receive this torture, but then my eye kept moving towards his strong chest. YES! That’s it, of course- God was letting me imagine pockets because he wants me in a specific pocket: HIS pocket. His Chest Pocket. He is always trying to move me closer to Himself if only I’d let Him direct me. I do want to be next to your Sacred Heart, Lord! I want to be right there where you can reach me.
Reach us, Lord, and use us. Help us to be instruments of your tender love.
The wonderful part about being a mom is that you always feel needed. There isn’t a day (or a moment) that goes by that I don’t feel that I am needed. It’s a blessing, to have people that depend on you because then you have the joy of feeding them or helping them with whatever it is that they need. It’s not something that everyone gets to do. I have to remind myself of this on especially busy days, but overall I don’t take it for granted. They say that the children grow up, and move away– and it’s true….even though that frightens me to no end- I do treasure the times I get with my kids as they are becoming adults and teens and having more of a social life. It’s so funny because when the kids were all little, I would have people tell me all the time, “Just wait until their teenagers!” As if I was having too much fun with the little ones and they wanted to appropriately warn me of what horrors were to come! HA!! Boy were they wrong- my teens are the light of my life. Truly. I see in them brilliant people with hearts for God, with hearts of gold- and I’m tempted to take credit for their awesomeness, when really what is so wonderful about it is that they are becoming more and more themselves! It’s an incredible privilege to witness their spiritual awareness, their friendships growing and deepening, the inspiration they take out of the world. And not to mention their physical prowess-OY!
The interesting thing I am experiencing at this stage of parenthood- with one foot in babyhood fading with the two-year-old, and a grown-up moved-in-with-girlfriend totally independent son, and then the inbetweeners- is it’s a practice in gratitude. I am thankful for the littles and the funny things they say, and I am thankful for the articulate elders who can make me feel so amazed and humbled at their own intelligent and deep thoughts and observations.
I am not sure if the feelings that I have been experiencing are normal or not, but there is a general haunting feeling of “hold on tight” right now, I so don’t want to forget to treasure the fleeting moments when the kids do things for the first time, or actually need me just a little bit longer. Now that the big boy is off in the world, it makes it all so raw and fresh: this will continue to happen! They will keep getting older and move on. It makes me sad and incredibly nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. If the kids we are pouring ourselves into move out and go and do the things that God is calling them to–watch out world! Here comes a generation of kids who want to please God, and help others in a way that perhaps no other generation had the ability to do. It’s pretty incredible the reach that our kids have now with access to the entire world via the internet!
Thank you for hearing my awakenings, and thank you for sharing yours. Any moms out there with grown children who have and tips or pointers?
I had the privilege of hearing Barbara Morgan speak again a few nights ago, and was again profoundly touched by her wisdom. One of the parents had asked this question: Aiming heavenward with our children, with earthly tasks at hand (future careers, household chores, etc), how do we/should we try to do it all???
I loved Barabara’s response because unlike me, who often ends her day in a puddle of glee/crazy overwhelmed, unequipped to really know how to do any of the things I’m doing, including homeschooling!!! She said: “homeschool families are already making an effort to raise their children Catholic. The tiny babies who are full of sanctifying grace- will one day get to the point where they can choose sin- and they will! Everybody has a sin problem! It’s our job as parents to teach them how to repent to one another, and use the tools that we have (like the Sacrament of Confession) to deal with this sandpaper ministry we are involved in!” I think it’s really important to talk about this because I know some of you are really struggling with your kids for different reasons. Barbara was really encouraging and focused on how as parents we need to repent to one another in front of the kids, and to really make an effort to KNOW each and every child that GOD blesses us with. What are their interests? Have their interests become OUR interests? They should. We need to be trying to encourage them by using the things we know they’re into. I was really humbled by that. I’m not a big sports girl- but my husband LOVES LOVES LOVES sports…. and I just tune it out or attempt to push it aside, she said during her talk that she knew there was a really imortant basketball game on that evening because she makes it a point to be into what her husband is into, also! That really convicted me to try harder to be into the stuff my family is into, even if it’s not something I naturally lean towards. Barabara, thank you for sharing this, and one last thing she said: ” You can’t do everything that it would have been good to do for each child! But God is going to honor what you put into them, and they will turn out bigger and better than you ever could have imagined.” That was a relief to me, and I hope to you also- God will honor our efforts, and even though it isn’t going to be perfect, he will bless it!! Amen!!
These two goofy people and seven wonderful others are the light of my life. I believe that these gifts are given to me by God, and I am thankful beyond belief for the ability to be able to serve, love, and spend my days alongside them.
It is quite a responsibility to be a mother. I am always learning and trying to improve what I am doing to make their lives as beautiful and treasured as possible.
I have a long way to go. And time travels fast in this life. I am eating my own words when I tell you I have joined up and become a Young Living Distributor!!! I am excited beyond belief to learn more about kicking chemicals to the curb. I am horrible at selling things and I hate it when people try to sell me stuff, but this is different. I have a passion for knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle. I have had several close friends and family members struggle with cancer, and it’s no joke. I want to be healthy and I want my children to be healthy. I have always prided myself on being crunchy granola, but when I recently attended an Essential Oils 101 Class, put on by the beautiful Brittani Gabowitz, I was thrilled to hear that only 5-10% of cancer cases are genetic in origin. The rest are environmental or a result of nutrition and lifestyle choices.
Do you want to know what I’m giving up for Lent? Toxic Chemicals. That’s what. I’m making it a goal to eliminate or replace all the cleaners and substances in my life that are bad for me. Quite a big challenge.
150 chemicals found in the home are connected to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological disorders.
[Source: Consumer Protection Agency (CPA)]
Should we be fearful!? Ummm yes. But more concisely, we should be smarter. We should not bathe our babies in toxic chemicals found in products that we feel safe with just because we grew up using them !!! I remember thinking, “but I can’t afford to pay for the all natural products that companies are selling”…now I think, “Pay now or pay later!” It will be a little bit of upfront cost to get essential oils and the natural products that make sense, or…. according to an article in Time Magazine, ‘Johnson and Johnson is just the tip of the Toxic Tip of the Iceberg,’ “We discovered two chemicals that have been linked to cancer, formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, in dozens of leading baby shampoos and bath products. People were shocked. Two years later, after we reported that Johnson & Johnson was selling formaldehyde-free versions of their baby products in Europe and other countries, the company announced they would reformulate their products worldwide to remove the ingredient and others of concern.”
Okay, so what else are we putting on our faces, clothes, floors, and babies???
It begs the question, what am I doing to protect my children from a future of illness? Well, I have my answer: I can use Young Living products and learn more about different ways of cleaning and healing my family. Reading these two books is where I’m starting. I especially love the Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child by Valerie Wormwood because she gives wonderful recipes and simple explanations for common issues with children and babies. My mind is blown by the other one, Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils by Carolyn Mein, as it is helping me to confront the many issues I need to work on. It is amazing how the body holds memories in the brain through smells!
I am learning and relearning more and more information about how chemicals impact me and my household….and I hope you will challenge yourself to do the same. The United States Environmental Agency says that laundry soap and fabric softener are the most dangerous chemicals we have in our home because they off-gas in our closets, which are likely in our bedroom, and that we wear them next to our skin all day long. Something to think about…
My family is having a blast trying new things with essential oils- here are our favorites:
Judah prefers peppermint:
Eva loves lemon:
Mira massages with Pan-Away:
Siah is satisfied with Lavender:
Cana is crazy for Frankincense:
Anya gets sappy about Stress-Away!
Ezra is proud of Purification:
Hope you enjoyed these! Let me know of your favorite way to kick chemicals to the curb!
It’s easy to see someone who is doing wrong, and say, “It’s not done that way…”
It’s easy to look around and point to the person and notice their flaws and indiscretions. It’s easy to look at others and focus on their negative qualities, but so much harder to look for the good….And acknowledge that there is another person in the world who has it more together than us, or who is more on fire for God, and is really trying to love others. We sometimes read the stories of the saints, and we’re like- yeah- that’s impossible, I could never cut off all my hair like Rose of Lima, or sacrifice my own life for the sake of another like Maximilian Kolbe, but, then I see you working selflessly for your family, or caring for your aging parents and I think: we’re all called to be saints. It’s the hardest thing to remember, and even harder sometimes to do, but when we put our hands out to touch another person, we are reaching out to God.
It was just recently when I visited a relative who lives in a nursing home that I saw this so beautifully. I was feeling guilty for not visiting often enough, and remembering all the times she helped me, when I saw a lovely nurse come to bathe her, and I saw the tenderness she gave. These opportunities no matter how small are gifts for us. Especially in the political climate we are living in, with a president who no one seems to like, even those of us who voted for him. It’s pretty stressful reading through my newsfeed on Facebook, friends and family posting random articles written by?? Perhaps a young person, an educated person, a liberal, a conservative? It’s pretty hard to decipher all the crud disguised as news. I do have to say though that many people seem to be easily swayed by the media’s interpretations, and few are thinking for themselves. It’s actually pretty predictable and repulsive. In response to some March for Life pictures I posted, I received a bitter hate letter. I was pretty surprised, even people who preach love and not hate are ready to tear someone down because they need a way to place blame.
I have a new perspective on the many hurt people and rampant discontent I see. I am reading a wonderful book, ‘The Broken Way,’ by Ann Voskamp. I’m pretty sure y’all know about her previous books, namely.. ‘One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.’ An Amazing and life changing book (I recommend the devotional, as well). I somehow got lucky enough to get invited to read this book as a group with some truly beautiful women (thanks Karen)! And it is changing me. I can see now- with these sudden outbursts of anger, contemptuous flares of hateful ‘feminism,’ and all sorts of looking at the glass half full- that God is here with us, amongst the brokenness. “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken.”
Many of us feel broken.
Ann says, “What if the busted and broken hearts could feel there’s a grace that holds us and calls us Beloved and says we belong and no brokenness ever has the power to break us away from being safe? What if we experienced the miracle of grace that can touch all our wounds? I wanted to write it on walls and on the arms scarred with wounds, make it the refrain we sing in the face of dark and broken places: No shame. No fear. No hiding. All’s grace. It’s always safe for the suffering here. You can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Grace will meet you here; grace, perfect comfort, will always be served here…..How do you live with your one broken heart? All I can think is-only the wounds of God can heal our wounds. God has not forgotten you, God has not abandoned you. God’s love is around you everywhere. When you feel in your marrow how you’re His Beloved, you do more than look for signs of His love in the world, more than have a sign of His love; you actually become a sign of His love.”
No matter the possible outcomes of this life, our hope is in God, not in any politician, and that is GOOD NEWS, friends. So, what practically speaking can we really do to help us stay sane during all this craziness?
My list is simple.
That’s what I’m learning about, trying today and all the days to do these things and feel loved by the One Who Saves. It’s amazing how He loves. What does your everyday list look like? I’d love to hear your comments and hear how “The Broken Way” has changed your life.
*cruciform: ‘love that is willing to suffer for others….there is no way to avoid pain, there is no way to avoid brokenness. Pick up your cross, It’s the only way you or anyone else can know resurrection. Carry your cross so this carrying of pain makes love. It is never the cross you carry, but your resistance to the cross that makes it a burden. Absorb the pain with greater love- touch a shoulder. Bite your tongue. Swallow your complaint. Still your wagging finger. Let yourself be worn down to love. Let your joints grow loose with love so your hands swing easy enough to give, to break and give your struggling-to-be-willing self away.’
Together with a crazy life of trying to keep many children alive, and staying sane, I haven’t written much lately. I feel God calling me, saying that many people need good examples and inspiring people to offer hope and assurance these days. So much hurt and pain in my own life, as well as those I’m surrounded by makes me wish for heaven. It also makes me think of people who have lived through far more difficult times than these. It makes me want to grasp for the hem of their skirt, to touch them, to know how they managed it all. It can feel endless- the dreary housework, cold weather, children stuck inside, and people wanting attention. Constant ongoing pressure to do more and be more. Well, we aren’t meant to live with that sort of insurmountable stress. We were meant to live in peace, to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father, so here, today, right now, give a moment to hear this story, and may it be an inspiration to you, as it is to me…..
If you don’t know Barbara Morgan, you should.
She was born in 1938 in San Francisco, and had one younger sister. She was primarily raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they moved when she was 8, and lived there through high school. When she was very young, Barbara suffered a bout of rheumatic fever and since this happened before penicillin was readily available, the treatment plan included staying very still and waiting for the body to heal because severe damage could be done to the heart unless precautions were taken. Barbara remembers her doctors and nurses and wonderful mother making this arrangement “not too terrible.” Her mother frequently met with her teachers and brought her schoolwork to complete at home so that she didn’t get behind. There was a time however, when she was so sick that her sister had to help her turn the pages of the book she was reading.
Barbara was raised Catholic by a mother who had converted as a young woman of nineteen, and her Baptist parents disowned her until Barbara was born. She was well versed in scripture and was an evangelist and lover of the Church! She taught Barbara about her personal relationship with Jesus when Barbara was just a tiny preschooler. She told her to listen to the voice of Jesus and how to discern God’s voice. Barbara had memorable experiences of giving her life to Jesus then, and also when she had her first Holy Communion, and again when she was fourteen, and then several times as an adult– recommitting her life to God. She says that her commitment to the Church came from studying scripture with her mother, she was made to memorize parts of the Baltimore Catechism in spelling bee fashion, and her mom would patiently explain the scriptural references, and Barbara fell in love time after time with God and with the Church!
Barbara aspired to be a journalist after high school, which she says was an honorable profession at the time! Her mind was changed when she accompanied a Sister to a nearby Native American Reservation where they would go to teach the children about God. She was going as a way to beef up her resume, not really because she was drawn to it. The first group she was assigned to was seven-second graders, they were outdoors under a pergola type structure covered with palm leaves. There was no blackboard and no books….she had to make it up as she went along, and Sister walked around checking on them, but she knew after those children received their First Holy Communion under her care, this is what she wanted to do! She went to college for education, but never finished because she got married and began a family.
Gary is someone that Barbara had known from high school, he had joined the newspaper as a sports reporter and at first Barbara hadn’t been super impressed with him because she knew he had joined the newspaper to get out of his Phys. Ed class. That kind of annoyed her, that he was getting out of this other class, but he was able to go to all the sports activities, even into the locker rooms and became a valuable resource. Even though Gary asked her out several times she didn’t accept until he had proven himself as the awesome reporter he was. Little did they know that their mothers (vice-president and president of the school board) had been conspiring to get them to like one another. They didn’t know about that until much later. Gary and Barbara were always very involved with the church, and ministry work. CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and CA (Catholic Actions) which eventually became CD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) were all groups that they belonged to.
They married and adopted five children. When I asked her about that process of adopting, she said that before Roe v. Wade there were homes for girls who became pregnant, and it was not uncommon to go to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Phoenix to adopt a newborn baby or through Catholic Social Services. Because there weren’t as many abortions, many more people gave children up for adoption, and it was a natural and accepted practice. She felt very blessed by each individual child that was clearly a gift from God. They never kept the fact that the children were adopted a secret, but always accepted their questions with love. Barbara says that parenting the children came naturally to her as did homemaking, that’s how things were in those days, the man earned the living, and the woman kept the house and cared for the children. And they remained very involved in their church.
Barbara says Gary was always a very good provider, and very faithful, but nowadays she would describe him as a saint because of all the hands-on care he does to maintain her health issues. There was a time when they struggled very much in their marriage, and at thirteen years together they considered separation. But because they could never tell their families this, out of embarrassment they stayed together. “God used it!” They had very strong personalities, and there were certain things they just couldn’t agree on, she said they prayed a prayer out of desperation one night, “Lord, if there is anything you can do to help us….” And the next day as they went about their normal routine, it was clear that God had actually reached in and changed their minds. Little unimportant things, now looking back- but things that they had been hung up on for years. They knew then that God was going to save their marriage.
When their fifth and youngest child was in high school, Barbara returned to finish her degree from the Notre Dame Institute. Her first degree was in Theology. and then she ended up getting a Graduate Degree in Catechetics. At that time there were many young people coming to Steubenville to take classes that would allow them to go to their parish and have a job there teaching families the faith. Theology was a degree that helped them learn the faith, but not how to teach it. That’s when the University asked Barbara to begin writing and teaching courses that would do that very thing. Over the next fifteen years, that’s exactly what she did.
The things I found most useful that Barbara told me during this interview was that you have to choose to be a gift, and give the children a place to grow and develop. It is always making decisions and tailoring them to each individual. She says that this moral culture we are trying to develop is really about teaching “how it’s done.” Like for instance, in our house we do not hit, we don’t call names….teaching the children bit by bit how to love, how to enjoy each other. When the kids grow older they can fall back on that love, they were taught, and they have that foundation. It reminded me of that passage from Deuteronomy 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Barbara is concerned first and foremost that most parents do not make time for their children in the way they should. She agreed with my analogy that if our work of raising our children is truly a mission-field, shouldn’t we give it the same care and attention a scientist gives their studies? If a scientist was truly observing his test subjects, he wouldn’t leave them be- no he would watch and learn and take notes, figuring out what each one was like. Children are like that. They need to be known, and treasured in a way that they can come to be understood, accepted, taught, and loved. it is a full time job, and somehow our culture continues to devalue and deny that.
The other day our homeschool co-op asked her to come talk to us, and answer some questions. Here is the question she answered that night:
” I am curious what you may recommend to a parent who believes that if they DO all the right things for their children, including sheltering them from everything secular or unchristian, that it will be a good result?”
Here was her reply, from my notes, not word for word.
I hope you enjoyed this. Look for more interviews coming soon. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your families.
At the beginning of the day, which started too early, in the first place, we jumped through hoops and sprinklers and dryers. We found crispy clothing worth the most dollars. We huffed and we puffed and we drew up the bows, ground up the coffee and clipped up the toes. We fished for earrings, cooked eggs in pots, wrestled with diapers, and onesies in knots. We wiped and we brushed and we did our very best. And we ran and we screamed and we flew out the nest. The driver was harried, his wife looked fairly scary, but as they gulped down caffeine, they became much less wary.
They arrive just in time to slide in a pew, hopefully by somebody who’s feeling quite friendly! The kids are homeschooled, they’ll surely talk to you! The music is good, the pastor most kindly, except when he talks long, and then we get antsy. The power of prayer feeds the whole family, the gospels, the apostles, the sounds of the bells. We listen for Jesus, His Holy Spirit as well, and do not forget Father- the Trinity swell. Their voices come softly like a still soft wind, sometimes He comes loudly to me and quite bold. I think this is a gift my Father bestows on mothers of wild families below.
After mass we breathe for the first time in hours, and look forward to donuts and other reminders, that today is Sunday- a day of rest. Also a day for families and taking a quest. We eat fancy foods, and take nature hikes, we ignore loads of laundry, and ride on our bikes. It’s the first day of the week to go spinning in circles, tying loose ends, and searching for miracles.
The children are growing and learning and knowing that the purpose of all this is very endearing. They know that the love between husband and wife creates all the babies that provide this full life. They see the source and summit confers a blessing of peacefulness on all of the gears: the fast gear, the slow gear, the waiting, the trying. They understand the best things are for God and not man. This sacrifice of Sunday is hard to accept, especially for sports addicts and parish events. But hold on to the truth, and make boundaries ever clear: this Sunday is a fun day, and that’s why we’re here.