Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buen Camino, Peregrino!

I recently had a friend who made the pilgrimage of  "The Way of St. James" or "Camino de Santiago". She was putting pictures and videos up on the book of faces, and as I watched her walk the camino I imagined myself there. I imagined the toil, strength and will it would take to journey that far. I have always wanted to go to Spain but could not afford the opportunity. I can't imagine I will anytime soon either. Then when I saw this post by Cecily about an at home pilgrimage to France, I thought JJ and I must do the same! So this past Sunday we became peregrinos to Spain from home. Here is what our day looked like...

We actually started preparing for our journey by watching the movie, "The Way", on Friday and Saturday evening. In the morning on Sunday we took a walk, because all pilgrims need to walk if they can. So we headed to our local Carmelite cloistered monastery.

This is a bridge we crossed on our way there. I chose to do black and white photos to make them a little more artistic. Doesn't JJ look so deep in thought?

The connection to Spain is that these are Discalced Carmelite nuns; the order of St. Teresa of Avila. You can actually go to Mass with the nuns every morning M-Sat. except Sundays, since it is their community only Mass. We are very blessed to have these Sisters so close to us and they are so faithful in praying for your intentions if you ask them.

Every pilgrim needs to stop and smell the roses. They also must contemplate what brought them on their pilgrimage and how they can become closer to God through the experience. Their roses smell lovely by the way. 

This is my favorite picture of the day! So serene and hidden you can be at a cloistered monastery. I love the shadows of the trees and the sunlight on their porch. JJ found this spot after me protesting that on Sunday the monastery does not like visitors so we should not go on the porch. He insisted that, as pilgrims, we must explore. I am glad he convinced me! 

While at the monastery we sat on the steps outside the main chapel and read the life of Sts. Isidore the farmer and his wife Maria de la Cabeza. JJ lead us in praying St. Isidore's litany and we took some time for reflection. Did you know Sts. Isidore and Maria only had one child who died in childhood. We feel so much more connected to these Saints now.   

After the monastery we headed home and got ready for Mass. Luckily we already go to a Discalced Carmelite parish so we did not have to seek out anything far from us. We went to the 1pm Mass which is the Latin High Mass and I wore my Spanish mantilla of course! 

When we returned home we had a snack of cheese, olives, figs and chocolate. We could not have a pilgrimage to Spain with out chocolate. After our snack we took a siesta.   

Then I got to work on dinner which was paella and white wine/peach sangria. Yum! These pictures are better in color so you can see the beautiful colors of the food.  

We ate this delicious dinner as we watched Episode One on the life of St. Teresa of Avila with Concha Velasco who is a famous Spanish actress. The whole thing is almost 8 hours long so we will be watching it over the next week or so. We call it our telenovela.   

All in all, I think it was a fun day and we had some time for prayer, reflection and rest. We definitely want to do this again and we have other countries already picked out. Our goal is to do this once a month so give me any suggestions for Saints or Countries. So far we want to do France, Italy, Ireland, Mexico and Israel. It was so good to go out of our normal routine and purposefully give the day a more spiritual reflection. I encourage each of you to try this as I am sure you will not regret it! Buen Camino, Peregrino!    

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Raising Children is not Sanctifying... Me!

Raising children is not going to sanctify me. At least not at this point in my life. Let me explain before you think I am anti-child or parenting. I have been mulling over this thought of how raising children is sanctifying. I  know that it is sanctifying my friends and family because that's what children do right? I keep thinking "I know raising children is hard and can make you less selfish, which is sanctifying you every day. Why is God waiting to give me sanctification?! I want to be sanctified!" 

Well, dear reader, guess what?! Having children is not what is going to sanctify me, at least not at this moment. What is sanctifying me is NOT having children. For those who are dealing with the day to day diapers, meals, messes, tantrums and everything else that comes along with having children, this may be hard to hear. It may make you feel like what you are doing is not important for the Kingdom of God... Welcome to my world of not having children and how that can make me feel. What I am saying is that what you are doing corresponds to what God chose for your sanctification; but not for me. It may be hard to wrap your mind around how not having children can be sanctifying. I mean, I must have such an easy care free life, right? No tantrums to deal with or sleepless nights. It is true I am not dealing with raising children at the moment, but I do have some sleepless nights and JJ and I do throw an occasional tantrum. Despite NOT raising children we are being sanctified, becoming less selfish and growing in virtue.  

 The way that God has chosen to refine me is by not raising children, at least at this time. How does this refine me? On a practical level when I hear my friends' or family's children call out "mama", I desperately want to hear that said to me. In those moments the cross seems so heavy to carry. In those moments I have to turn to God and ask Him to give me the grace to accept the life I have been given. And not just accept it but to live it joyfully with gratitude! When I hear people jokingly say, "Oh wow, you get a lone time?! I would love some of that!", it takes all the virtue I can muster to not tell them to shut their trap. When I see a pregnant woman rubbing her belly and complaining about her pregnancy in conversation, it takes courage to stay there and not run to the bathroom and cry my eyes out. When I have to tell my husband that aunt flow is visiting again it is a lesson in humility that I do not have control over creating human life; God does. When I feel lonely when JJ is away and wish I had a baby to cuddle in those early mornings, I have to gratefully accept my life. When I am feeling cramps instead of labor pains I have to pour out my life to God and say "Thy will be done." 

If you have known me for a long time you would know that the most important thing to me in choosing the vocation of marriage was to raise children and have a big family. My friends and I used to joke that I would have a 12 passenger van or an SUV full of children and a crazy chaotic home life. We all agreed that I would be so good with children and domestic life. We always said I was made for it. So those who have known me a long time can recognize how heartbreaking infertility has been on me. How sanctifying it has been for me.  

You see, we can get caught in the line of thinking that parents are the only ones being sanctified because of their heroic duty of raising children. This simply is NOT true! We are all being sanctified in the day to day life that God is calling us to live. I used to think "If only...I would be holier" or "If I had ...I would be content." We can all get caught in that type of thinking whether we are infertile or not. I remember feeling like I needed to change my circumstances when I was a missionary in order to be "better sanctified". I was on a missionary team that had very different team leaders than myself. As an introvert, that was one of the hardest years for me because I got very little, if any, alone time. I remember thinking "if I were only on a team with like minded individuals I would be holier" or "this can not be the team that God meant for me! The supervisors got it wrong" or "maybe I should just go home. This is too hard." Conveniently during that trying time I was reading The Imitation of Mary during part of my daily prayer time. On a day that I was struggling the most I read the following:

"No, your state is not of itself a barrier to holiness. For it is not the place nor the occupation that sanctifies a man; it is the man who must sanctify the place and the occupation. 

We often turn our thoughts to some state other than the one in which we are. The reason, however, is not love of goodness but our restlessness. 

What gain would you have in changing? Would you be a better person? No: in changing your situation or condition, you might change your mood, but not your character. 

Wherever we go, our defects follow us. My child, what you must change is not your state or duties but yourself..."  

Ouch, right? These words hit me particularly hard when I was a missionary and they have resurfaced lately as I contemplate this idea of sanctification with out children. You see, it was not my team that needed to change, it was me! That team was exactly the one I needed to be on to sanctify me. It's not the infertility that needs to change, although that would be awesome, it's me that needs to change. I need to be sanctified right where I am at, and for me that does not include children at the moment. It may never include children here on earth.  

Whatever your "only if" is, let it go. Let it go right into the arms of Jesus. You can grow and be sanctified no matter what state in life you are in, even if it is one you never imagined for yourself. If God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can make ME see sanctification in living a childless life, I am sure you can too, since you are most likely less stubborn than I. Know that this does not diminish the struggle, but makes it holy; an offering to God. All of us can be refined and glorify God. Not one situation is more sanctifying than another. Raising children is NOT more sanctifying than consecrated religious life, childlessness or the single life. We must encourage one another as we walk this road of sanctification, urging each other on toward Heaven. Onward and upward!     

 "Sanctify what you do in your present state by referring it all to God, and you will not have cause to complain that your duties are a source of distraction...

Holiness does not consist in serving God where and as you would like, but where and as He wishes. 

You will glorify God more on a bed of pain if it be His will that you lie there, than if you were to wear yourself out with hard work in an effort to win souls for Him."