Monday, March 25, 2013

St. Raphael the Archangel Novena

Here is a novena that we are doing for my upcoming surgery on April 17th. We are starting the novena Sunday April 14th if any one wants to join in. It is taken from the small prayer book by Angela Carol, published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.
It is a great little prayer book and is good to have on hand you can get it here:


Novena Prayer to St. Raphael

Most illustrious Archangel St. Raphael, who faithfully accompanied the youth Tobias from Syria to Media, deign also to accompany me, a wretched sinner, on the dangerous journey which I am making now from Time to Eternity.
Glory be to the Father...

Most wise Archangel St. Raphael, who while walking beside the river Tigris preserved the youth Tobias from the peril of death, teaching him how to obtain control of the fish which threatened him, preserve my life also from the attacks of the monster which threatens to devour me.
Glory be to the Father...

Most compassionate Archangel St. Raphael, who, by a miracle wonderful in it's simplicity restored the precious gift of sight to Tobias, free my life, I beseech thee, from the blindness which afflicts and dishonors it, so that I may know things in their true aspect. Never permit me to be deceived by appearances, but help me always to walk secure in the way of the divine Commandments.
Glory be to the Father...

Most perfect Archangel St. Raphael, ever standing before the throne of the Most High to praise Him, to bless Him, to glorify Him and to serve Him, obtain for me the grace never to lose sight of the divine presence, so that my thoughts, my words, and works may be directed always to the glory of God and to my own sanctification.
Glory be to the Father...

We are also adding these prayers taken from the same book to the novena:

Prayer for Health

O Raphael of the glorious seven who stand before the throne of Him who lives and reigns, Angel of Health, the Lord hath filled thy hand with balm from Heaven to soothe or cure our pains. Heal or console victims of disease, and guide our steps when doubtful of our ways. Amen.  

Prayer to St. Raphael for Help

O glorious Archangel, Saint Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, illustrious by thy gifts of wisdom and grace, guide of travelers by land and sea, consoler of the unfortunate and refuge of sinners, I entreat thee, help me in all my needs and in all the trials of this life, as thou didst once assist the young Tobias in his journeyings. And since thou art the "physician" of God, I humbly pray thee to heal my soul of its many infirmities and my body of the ills that afflict it, if this favor be for my greater good. I ask especially for angelic purity, that I may be made fit to be the living temple of the Holy Ghost. Amen.   

Thursday, March 21, 2013

St. Joseph

Yes, it is a little late but I thought I would write about him anyway.

It is hard to put into words my devotion to St. Joseph, much like it is hard to describe complete love for God or JJ. I am not equating my love for JJ or St. Joseph on an equal level to my love for God. Nor do I worship St. Joseph! It is just that when you have this all consuming love for God that same love flows onto other people. God is the ultimate source of Love, so it would make sense for this to happen. Anyhow back to St. Joseph...

St. Joe with Jesus and Lilies close to his heart!

My devotion to St. Joseph has not always been there, there was even a time where I did not like St. Joseph! I know how could this be right? Well to understand this you must first understand my lack of relationship with my father. My mother was a single mom and my father did not bother showing up in my life until I was a teenager but I could tell he was not there for me, he was trying to get back together with my mom. I am glad they did not get back together because I later found out other dealings my father had going on and it would have been a bigger disaster if they had gotten back together.

Having this very negative view of men and fathers was a source of distance between me and St. Joe. I was upset with St. Joe especially for contemplating divorcing Mary quietly. I would think "how could he do that?! How could he not see that this is of God? He would just abandon a pregnant woman and Jesus? How is that saintly?" It was only later after patient explanation from JJ and my own life experience that I see how much love and protection St. Joe was exhibiting toward Mary by contemplating the quiet divorce. St. Joe was thrown into an impossible situation where he had to decipher what the will of God was. As I matured in my faith while I was deciding my vocation I could really relate to this, even now with IF I especially relate to this. What is the will of God for JJ and I, is it more treatments, adoption, foster care, missionary work, etc.? Having these unknowns and making a decision is not an easy task.

After I got over my issues with St. Joseph I grew to love him! One of my favorite titles for St. Joe is Guardian of virgins. When I was single I would ask his intercession when I would take the bus to work or college and would be in some sketchy situations sometimes. Knowing that he had my back calmed my fears of being kidnapped or raped as I was traveling alone. I also love the title Terror of Demons! Since I never had the over protective father in my life I always feel protected and that he is ready to fight for me when I need him. St. Joseph has been an instrumental role in healing my past experiences with my father and other men. I asked St. Joseph to be my adoptive father awhile back like he was for Jesus. I really feel like I not only have my heavenly Father but St. Joseph as well. For a girl who never got to call any man "daddy" I am comforted in knowing I have St. Joseph.

Another reason I love St. Joseph is that JJ has a HUGE devotion to him. JJ reminds me very much of the characteristics that I think St. Joseph would have had. JJ is a hard working, quiet, humble, just and contemplative man. JJ has also shared his devotion to St. Joesph with me, he taught me a prayer that he learned as a boy. It is the oldest known prayer to St. Joseph :  

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. We place in you all are interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist us by your powerful intercession and obtain for us all spiritual and temporal blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. So that having obtained here below your heavenly power we may offer you our thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph, we never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms, we dare not approach as he reposes near your heart. Press him in our name and kiss his fine head for us and ask him to return the kiss when we draw our dying breath. St. Joseph patron of departing souls, pray for us!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quicktakes (6)

--- 1 ---
So obviously...............we have a new Pope! I will now be praying for this man after every Mass! God bless Pope Francis and give him strength for the job. Who would seriously want this job?!

--- 2 ---
In less exciting news JJ and I have been taking turns being sick the last couple of weeks! First Aunt Flow came and kicked my butt then JJ got a really bad cold then I got the really bad cold. I am not sure I got the same thing as JJ though because I had a slight fever and chills too. Our house needs to be cleaned because it is so germy. JJ and I are both weird about germs and sharing germs so we are both kind of walking around the house in disgust but we have not had time to clean it.

--- 3 ---
Part of my Lenten promise was to work out M-F but I have not done it at all last week or this week so far. JJ actually advised me not to because of being sick but I kinda miss it. I am almost fully recovered so I am going to start up today again! If you know me, I HATE working out so the fact that I am actually liking it is huge for me. The workout routine I am doing is a dvd and I really like it. JJ and I would not even consider spending money on a gym membership and I am pretty self conscious when it comes to people even just glancing at me while I am working out, so a dvd was a great option. The woman on the dvd kicks my butt and I can "yell" at her things like "You are crazy and NO I will not do five more of anything!" I liked it so much one day I clapped at the end of the workout, lol! I was so embarrassed even though it was just me but I like the way I feel after it, so I clap. I am also noticing that my body is getting stronger which means better health overall :)

--- 4 ---
I have been super busy with Creighton and have gotten my 18 clients! wooohooo! That means I get to take my final in May. I can see the end of the tunnel and it looks great :) I have been at our parish so much seeing clients that the night secretary said I should just be on staff. We get to use a special office for NFP most of the time if the Deacon couple are not meeting there with anyone. It is so nice to have a home for NFP at our parish! I am so grateful that our Pastor understands how important this is. A lot of other ministries at the parish have a place now in what used to be the rectory, it has been so nice to see and interact with each other from different ministries. There is also a small chapel upstairs that I can pray in at anytime I want in between follow-ups or if one of the couples wants to pray together privately they can do so. As much as I complain about being at a parish with big Catholic families with lots of children everywhere, it really is a blessing!     

--- 5 ---
Last weekend I gave a talk at a teen retreat about contraceptives and Church teaching. I read this story and I think the teens were listening especially during the story. JJ told me to stress to them that this is NOT my story because I am a pretty convincing reader. Maybe I should be a professional book recorder for audio books or something, hmmmmmm. 

--- 6 ---
Two prayer requests: One that JJ goes back to work soon, he has been off of work for two weeks now and we are hoping it is not much longer. Back in 2011 he was off for 6 months and we had to use most of our savings to get by. We have been trying to build up our savings again and use it to adopt but now I am afraid we will have to put that on hold for longer than we first anticipated. Second is for our friends who just had a miscarriage. We are so heartbroken for them and continue to pray that God give them comfort at this very difficult time.   
--- 7 ---
Lastly, I have tried to get more involved with people or a women's group but there is not much out here. I did start going to a book club that a friend invited me to and I really liked it. This month we are reading Hinds Feet on High Places. We alternate between a spiritual book and a fiction book every month and then get together to talk about it. The other fun thing I have gone to is a once a month craft Sundays at another friend's house. I am learning to knit so it is nice to have others around who knit or do other crafts as well. It is nice to have these groups as most of the women's groups are for single women or stay at home moms. It's nice to have a mixed group to go to although at the book club I was painfully aware that I was the only married woman there that did not have any children( here on earth), oh IF can't you just leave me alone for one evening!

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen @ Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Love Story: Her Version

This weekend I am giving a talk at a teen chastity retreat. The theme of the retreat is "Love Story" I will be speaking on contraceptives and their harmful effects. JJ and I will also be giving our testimony about our love story. So I thought it might be fun to do each of our versions of our story. So here goes mine:

Where to start with me and JJ, I feel like we have always been together. There have been times when I have asked him "remember when we were kids and I..." then he looks at me strange and says " No, I don't remember because I wasn't there." It is hard for me to remember him not being in my life! I don't remember ever officially meeting him. JJ played football so I probably called out his jersey number and name or tossed him his football playing uniform dozens of times. You see we went to the same high school, JJ was two grades ahead of me. My older brother went to the same high school and played football, he passed down his love of the game to me. I LOVE football so naturally I wanted to be involved with the team somehow. So I decided to help out with stats and team management. Most of the girls who did it just wanted to be around the football players they liked. Not me, I wanted to be able to see the game from the sidelines! So we have never officially "met." My first vivid memory of him was when we were all on the bus on the way home from a game we had just won. I remember the guys chanting JJ's last name not because he was the star of the game but because they wanted him to "bust a flow" aka freestyle rap, which JJ is very good at. I remember thinking he had a strange last name, haha joke is on me!

During high school is when I had my reversion to the Church so I started going to the local Catholic church's youth group per the invitation from two friends. I had been going through a lot in my life and was desperate to find answers and be loved, I was really desperate for God actually. I found a home in the youth group with peers that had a similar longing. JJ was in this same youth group and we got along quite well, a lot of people got along with JJ because of his shyness and ability to blend in with people. At this time I was not necessarily wanting to date JJ, I was actually dating somebody else but I remember thinking how much I liked my conversations with JJ. I liked being able to hang out and talk to him without romantic notions. JJ had become my brother in Christ and my friend.

After high school I went to the same community college as JJ and a handful of other friends from our youth group. We would all hang out after classes, go to daily Mass and grab a quick bite of lunch before our afternoon classes. It was such a blessed time! None of us were dating so it was nice to have a deep fellowship with one another and not think about dating. A few of us decided to join the Gospel choir of the school, that decision changed forever how I felt about JJ. I really love music and singing and so does JJ and JJ can really sing. He got a solo for one of our concerts and despite his shy nature he did very well. That was the year I noticed that I was attracted to him, I am blushing as I think about it. After I noticed these feelings I prayed that God would take them away because they were too complicated and I did not want to ruin our friendships with each other and everybody else. If these feelings were to come to light the group dynamic would change besides I was pretty sure he did not feel the same. He had actually talked to me about a couple of girls he liked and I gave him some advice that was probably biased ;)

To get my mind off of these feelings I started hanging out with the next guy that came along, so that I could forget these feelings for JJ. In reality I should have clung to God instead of trying to distract myself. JJ started to date somebody else, so I needed to distance myself emotionally. JJ and I were still friends and talked about deep things like we always did but it was different. I remember JJ scolding me for hanging out with this guy and saying "Kat you're standing at the gate of hell and you need to turn back!" I always wondered why he felt so strongly that I needed to stay away from this guy, how did he know the relationship was impure? I cried when JJ said those words to me at the time I felt that he was judging me but I also knew it came from his deep concern for me not just physically but my soul. After that I scolded JJ about his relationship too! We were both growing farther away from God and knew we needed to ask Jesus to straighten out our lives.

Me and my NET sisters. Oh  how I love these beautiful women!

After that I decided to do a missionary year with NET ministries. It was nice to get away and start fresh with God. I left for NET and JJ stayed in college. I did not talk to him much while I was gone just when I was back for Christmas and once on the phone in February while I was in Seattle a few months before I came home. After those conversations I noticed those feelings for JJ again and instead of ignoring them this time, I gave them to God and pleaded with Him to take them away. When I came back from NET I felt so grounded in my relationship with Jesus, He was my main Man. I was also considering entering the Carmelite sisters while I was on NET and when I cam home. I love the Carmelites and was open to religious life. I realize now that I was trying to get away from my feelings and abandoning my complicated relationships so I could hide from them in a monastery. I decided to do the 33day Marian consecration so that it would end on July 16th OLMC feast day and my birthday! JJ and another friend wanted to do it too, so we said we would keep each other accountable. The other friend dropped out suddenly, so it was just me and JJ doing the consecration. We decided to talk on the phone once a week and check in with each other on Sundays after Mass. Oh Mary my Mother, I see what you were doing at the time.

That summer of August 2005 a bunch of young adult friends decided to go to the beach and have a bon fire. It was there that those pesky feelings came back in full force. It was there that JJ and I had another one of our deep conversations about God, religious life vs. married life and what the heck we were gonna do with our lives. I remember telling JJ that if he felt God was calling him to something he needed to go for it and pursue it, no looking back! I told him that if God was "dangling the carrot" in front of him then he needed to step out in faith and reach for it. At the time I thought JJ was thinking about the priesthood so I wanted to encourage him to go for it, in reality I was encouraging him to pursue me!

JJ and I after a retreat. He carved our intials in the log :)

Later that month at a Catholic conference after an intense prayer session JJ told me of his feelings for me. I knew how hard it was for him to have the courage to do that and I think I fell in love with him right then and there. We talked for an hour about how hard this would be and the complications it would bring in our friendships. I was also mad at him for not telling me sooner, though I knew it would not have been the right time before then. I could not believe that he liked me! My heart was full of joy but I was still very apprehensive. I said we should really take some time to pray about it before we started anything. After adoration that night I pulled JJ aside and told him that this felt right and I felt peace about it. On Sunday I told my mother what was going on and she was shocked, she kept saying "JJ?! Are you sure? JJ?! You all are such good friends and he is so shy!" After picking her jaw up from the floor she urged me not to talk about it to people until we had all prayed about it. Well apparently someone saw the attraction between JJ and I at the conference and started spreading some rumors about us. My mom heard of this and was pissed not at me but that people would talk about us behind our back instead of talking directly to me or JJ, we were adults after all.

After that fiasco JJ and I decided to distance ourselves from each other to pray and discern for three months. We talked on the phone a few times and hung out a few times during that time to see how things were going. It was so hard not to be around him as much as I wanted but I knew that if it were God's will then we would have our time together. During that time I spent a lot of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and seeking guidance from the Carmelite Sisters, who I was working with at the time. I spoke to my mom about it a lot and asked some of my NET sisters to pray for me during this time. After the three months we talked and JJ wanted to start courting. I took the discernment time differently I thought we were just thinking about praying to start a courtship! He wanted to spring into action and I wanted to pray about it for another month. After that month I issued JJ a challenge he had to talk to and get the approval of three people before we started courting. I really put him through a big challenge on this one but he did it anyway for me. It was important to me that I knew he took this as serious as I did, that our friendship would never be the same if we started courting. I did not want the struggle that it took to get to this point to be in vain. I was also protecting my heart because I knew how strong my feelings were for him and I wanted to be sure he was willing to go the distnace for us.

After JJ spoke to the people I had asked him to we started officially courting on January 6th, 2006. Our first date was hilarious as JJ was trying to take me to a restaraunt that he had no idea closed down months prior. We walked for an hour up and down Old Town Pasadena looking for this place and I finally asked him where we were suppose to be going and I had to tell him that the place closed down. We had a good laugh and went to eat at the Cheesecake Factory instead. A few weeks later we told each other "I love you" after praying a rosary at a coffee shop. I knew when we started courting that we would get married but we talked about it more seriously about 9 months after dating.

JJ and I @ a friend's wedding, 5 weeks before ours!

On our one year anniversary is when JJ proposed. JJ really had to hide things from me because I am such a detective I would have figured out what was going on. He took me to church to our prayer spot and sang me a song he wrote as part of the proposal. It could not have been better had I planned it myself, God truly knows what He is doing! During our courtship and engagement we would pray a rosary together every Sunday to ask for Our Lady's intercession. We knew that God wanted big things from us and we wanted to make sure our wedding day reflected how we wanted our lives to be, prayerful and seeking God's will.

 Our engagement was beautiful and blessed though it was tough to keep ourselves chaste. When you are engaged you can see the end of the tunnel and impatience grows stronger so we stepped up the prayer and fasting. We would have fasting days of no physical contact with each other and go on mini retreats in the park. The actual wedding prep. was pretty easy, so many people offered to pay for this or that so our wedding Mass and reception were very communal. We took NFP classes as part of our marriage prep. and really liked it despite our quirky teachers. We both knew NFP was going to be a big part of our family life. We got married on Dec. 15, 2007 at 1pm. It was a sunny day with big puffy white clouds it was not cold, this is SoCal after all.

Our wedding day

We got to go to our reception in my dream car a 1957 Chevy Bel Air :)

So that is the story of how we got to this point as husband and wife. There is much more to it with all its drama and angst but this is the abbridged version. Thanks for reading next time it will be JJ's version!

Today, still more in love than ever :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Love Story: His Version

JJ's Perspective...

I first remember seeing Kat running across the football field during practice apparently she was one of the stat girls for the team. I remember thinking how stunningly beautiful she was but me being extra shy I never pursued her and I didn't notice her after that until... We first met at Life Teen though I don't remember actually meeting her, everyone just kind of hung out together.

We really became friends when we went to the same college and went to noon Mass with about five or six of our other friends. I always thought that she was very attractive in both her physical beauty and personality. I probably would have pursued her then but there was an unspoken rule that she was already taken. So we were nothing more than close friends. There were many times during those good old college days that I wanted to let my feelings be known but it was just not the right time.

She went on NET and I put her in the back of my mind. I concentrated on graduating from college and getting my career started. I was really trying to discern what God wanted me to do with my life so I looked into different religious orders. I found the Carmelite Friars appealing and wanted to visit them. Through my discernment and some direct signs from God I felt more called to the marriage vocation. But who was to be my wife?

At about this time Kat came back from NET. When I saw her, something was very different and I somehow knew that she was the one. I needed time to discern if this was truly the will of God because it seemed too good. We went back to hanging out with our group of friends and I didn't know what I was suppose to do about my feelings for her. I really gave it all to God in prayer and asked Him to direct me.

After some months went by the young adult group went to a Catholic conference. There was a social gathering with music and dancing so I asked Kat to dance with me. As we twirled about the floor I thought "holy crap! This is it." What was I going to do? The next day at the conference after a long prayer session I let her know my feelings for her and to my joy her feelings were similar. So we decided to really pray about our relationship because it seemed so right yet so complicated.

After months of prayer and preparation we started our courtship. It was a fun and blessed time and we got to know each other and our families even more. I knew all along that I wanted to marry her. But when? After a year I proposed, on two knees, and she said yes. We were engaged for 11 months and that felt like such a long time. We had fun planning our wedding and so many people were willing to help. We wanted to be married already, but the date was set and we had to wait. By the way, I do not recommend long engagements.

Our wedding day finally came and it was one of the most blessed days of my life. Everything worked out perfectly and there were many pleasant surprises; like the classic car that drove us to our reception. That day we vowed to spend our lives together and to this day it has been more wonderful than I could have hoped for. The End.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not!

I am starting to realize more and more the meaning of this phrase, especially in terms of my struggles. In the literal sense of conserving, saving and using our resources wisely. I try to buy only what we need, which is tough! I try not to throw food away and save leftovers even if it a small portion. We recycle and repurpose/reuse things when we can so we don't have to buy new stuff. We also try and get used furniture from thrift stores and craigslist so that we are buying something that might have ended up in a landfill somewhere.

Now in the figurative sense I am understanding not wasting anything much more these days. I still suffer from severe menstrual cramps despite the medical and nutritional treatment I am on. I have also started a good exercise routine to build and strengthen my muscles so the cramps would be more bearable. The surgery I had almost two years ago showed that I did NOT have endometriosis. So here I am on CD1 thinking "what the heck! Why am I still balling and lying in a fetal position on the bathroom floor?!" As I was praying for at least one baby to be saved from abortion and for the salvation of me and JJ I was also doing some deep reflecting. Yes in the bathroom, especially during these times, is when I get some deep reflecting time in ;)

So I was thinking of why I choose to ask God to save a baby's life from abortion instead of asking God to make me pregnant this next cycle. Well part of me does not want to think about going through child birth because I feel like all of my CD1s that I have had so far add up to one long child birth experience! The other part of me knows the power of praying during suffering and I do not want to waste it on me. I know that we will have children one day no matter how long we have to wait, but the woman who is going in for an abortion today is trying to kill the earthly life of her child and to me that takes precedence. Whatever circumstances brought her to that clinic and to make that decision, her future is going to be a lot harder if she goes through with getting an abortion and that child will never be held and told that they are loved by their birth mother or adopted mother.

This is why at my lowest point when I am on that bathroom floor I pray for all, but at least one woman and child to be spared from abortion. I have been pregnant I know what it feels like to hold life and before that I have had a desire to have children pretty much all of my life. Femininity and motherhood are one in the same and they are innate to my being as a woman therefore I try not to waste my time or my suffering. I encourage all of us to not waste our suffering. Whether it is getting a negative pregnancy test every cycle, recovering from surgery, losing a child, unbearable menstrual cramps, midnight feedings with a newborn, disciplinary issues with a toddler, waiting for a birth mother to choose you or whatever it may be you can use your suffering. You don't have to make any grand gestures all you have to do is PRAY! You can pray from anywhere, even from the bathroom floor :)