Friday, March 8, 2013

Catholic In My Heart: Our Infertility Story (Part 3)

Just joining us? New to her Little Ways?  This is a deep and heavy post!  I promise you that they're not all like this.  But if you're intrigued or wanting to know more of this story, you may want to start with Out of Ashes... and continue on with God is so Much Bigger Than One Percent!  Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Finding a New Home

Just like a job transfer that requires a move, I began "church shopping" for a new denomination to call home.

Eeegads.  Isn't this what my Protestant friends do?  Find a new place to call home if they "outgrow" their current affiliation based on their church changing its theological perspective...or a beloved pastor leaving...or a fallout with Church elders...

I don't know how to do this...I've been Catholic my whole life.  My. Whole. Life.

I began testing the denominational waters by calling or lunching with girlfriends that were either fallen-away Catholics or faithful Christians but never Catholic.  Interestingly, not one of those girlfriends steered me towards their church.  They engaged me in deep, theological discussions, sharing their "issues" with Catholicism, but never extending an invitation to go to church with them.

Today, I look back with fascination at that fact.  Was it because they knew I was not ready to leave Catholicism?  Was it because they believed that each person needed to find their own way home (wherever that took them) without any influence?  Or did they wish not to be culpable of me leaving the Catholic faith?

Besides discussions with girlfriends, I began following a lot of blogs that were either written by Mormon wives/mothers or non-denominational Christian women.  These women fascinated me.  They displayed such a deeply profound love for Jesus Christ and for their families.  They put up Scripture quotes on their sidebars...and statements proclaiming their identification with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  These women were living their faith while raising children and proclaiming their love for Jesus publicly!  Who does that???!!!  Many of these women have become true "virtual" friends, and I love that I have gotten to know them through blogging.

Giving Up All This

But when it came right down to it...even after all of my research...I could not do it.  I could not pull the trigger and walk away from the Catholic church.


  • I could not give up my deep love for the Holy Trinity.
  • I could not give up my deep love for the Eucharist and my belief in transubstantiation.
  • I could not give up my belief and love for all of the Sacraments.
  • I could not give up my deep love for Our Lady, Christ's own Mother whom He gave to us!

  • I could not hurt my parents and surviving grandparents...who are such defenders of the faith...and turn my back on my cultural connection to Catholicism.
  • I could not convince my husband that we needed to leave the faith.  *wink*
  • I could not imagine not raising my own precious kiddos, who I had dedicated to God and pledged to raise as Catholics at their Baptisms, in the Catholic church.


But where did that leave me?  What did that leave me with?  Could I remain with the Church, identifying myself as "Catholic" in name only (CINO)?  And how would I explain that to my children???


Oh look...my mom holding Blessing #3...Luke Alexander born July 2010
Openness to Life...
...the gift that keeps on giving!
Born one month before my 41st birthday!!!



The Journey Home

During all of this soul searching, I reconnected with a sweet friend from high school.  We found each other via Facebook, and I discovered that she too had a blog.  A Catholic blog.   (This could only be a God thing!)

(Hmmm.  Interesting.  I didn't realize that Catholics had blogs, too.)

Neen's blog was/is amazing!  This homeschooling, mother of ELEVEN children, lives out her Catholic faith (the best she can!) every single day.  She is an inspiration to many.

While navigating around her blog, I saw an EWTN link on her side bar.  EWTN...what was that?  As I visited the Catholic television network website, I saw a tab for a program called The Journey Home.  I was intrigued and set my DVR for record.

"Moving" is the only way I could sum up the episode I saw.  I can't even tell you who the guest was or what religion they converted from.  But as I sat and listened to the convert share their faith history background and what led them "home", I knew then I could not leave Catholicism.

But what about me?  The cradle Catholic who had erred?  I was just a tiny bit jealous of the converts from atheism/agnosticism, Protestantism, Judaism, etc. who were able to walk away from their past mistakes and be welcomed into the Catholic church.  (It's truly not that simple!!!)

It was a few weeks later when I caught a segment of the Journey Home that welcomed a "revert" to the faith.  Revert?  I quickly learned that a revert was a fallen-away Catholic who returns to the Faith. These guests' stories intrigued me as much as the converts.  And, I could relate.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

In addition to reconnecting with my high school friend, and discovering EWTN, I joined a newly formed Women's Group through my parish.  This dynamic group of women were stay-at-home moms like me that were interested in doing Catholic bible studies.

What???  Catholics do bible study???

It was through my interactions with these incredible moms...each with their own story of brokenness (shared in confidence)...that I began to understand sin, mercy, and forgiveness.  As I sobbed out my own shameful story to these very fertile NFP-ers (LOL), I was embraced with kindness, love, and encouragement.

Encouragement to return to Confession...to visit Father to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

They promised me it wouldn't hurt.  Okay, my heart might be hurting, but they reassured me that what I had to share with Father would not be so shocking...and that grace and absolution was all that he would give. They also told me to be prepared for a life-changing experience.

It took several weeks for me to build up the courage to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It took a humbling of heart...a dispensing of sinful pride...an acknowledgment of brokenness...and desire to be made whole...to walk into that confessional.

But as I choked out my story and was granted absolution, I felt an amazing weight lifted from my shoulders.  For the first time in years, I felt a lightness of heart, and a desire to be on fire for Christ.  All this time, the Holy Spirit working on me!

A Work in Progress

As my desire to know Christ...to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church...and to raise my children with Faith continues to grow,  I learn more and more about just how much I have to learn!

The relationships that I have developed with the ladies from my Women's Group will be life-lasting regardless of where life takes each of us.

The knowledge and understanding that I've gained by researching the "whys" of the Faith (using my trusty Catechism) continues to deepen my love for the Church.

And the network of Catholic women that are on-line that I have come to discover through blogging are amazing!  These women are inspiring...crafty...and down-right hilarious.   "These women are living their faith while raising children and proclaiming their love for Jesus publicly!  Who does that???!!!"  

My Catholic girlfriends do that!!!

So Why Write All This?  Why Share This Very Intimate/Private Faith Story?

The Profession of Faith
166     Faith is a personal act--the free response of the human person to to the initiative of God who reveals himself.  But faith is not an isolated act.  No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life.  The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others.  Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith.  Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers.  I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

I love that statement from the Catechism!  So full of truth.  "the believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others."

I read this out in blog land..."Exactly when does one become Catholic? At their Baptism...their Confirmation...on Holy Saturday at their Initiation into the Church?"  The blogger went on to say, "One becomes Catholic when they become Catholic in their heart."

My religious affiliation has always been Catholicism, but I haven't always been Catholic "in my heart".   And I'm certain I wrote a post or two about IVF that goes against Church teaching before I knew the error of my ways.  I have since removed (or tried to remove) those posts, but their titles sometimes still pop up in the "link within" add on at the bottom of my posts.

But as much as these past three infertility posts have been about being transparent...they are also about the above statement from the Catechism.  If I can save one woman...one couple..from experiencing the pain of separation from God...than I willingly put my story out there.

I am a sinner...saved by grace...not once, but every single time I ask for it (and I need to ask for it!)...striving to live a holy life...developing a deeper "personal relationship with Jesus"...and Mary...and the Saints...

Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to share these posts that left me feeling raw and vulnerable, but that were also deeply cathartic and well received.

 And in the words of Mother Teresa,

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 


In Christ,

 

15 comments:

  1. Beautiful faith journey, Valerie! There are NO words to explain how absolutely amazing it is to know the Holy Spirit has worked in oneself. Receiving grace through the sacrament is kind of like pouring chocolate syrup into a glass of white milk. It sinks to the bottom and stays put. The milk stays white until you stir it up to change it to chocolate. That's kind of how I explain sacramental grace to my own kids. We have to stir things up ourselves (free will) in order to know we've experienced the change. Blessings to you as you continue on your faith journey, because you know it isn't over yet. (unlike what many cradle Catholics assume.) We are truly never finished growing in our faith.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I plan on reading these this weekend sometime...just have not had time....just wanted you to know...

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such a beautiful witness to Catholicism, Valerie! Thanks for writing about it - I love reading conversion and reversion stories. I left the Church for a while many years ago. While I wish I hadn't done this, I have to say that I have a much greater appreciation for my Faith and a greater love for God than I ever had when I was young.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your story- all of it- is just so beautiful. Such a testament to the fullness of our Catholic faith and the mercy of Our loving God.

    Not one of us is free from sin, so many of us have fallen away from the Church in different ways (I stopped attending Mass for about three years and did not always follow the Church's teachings very faithfully). We all need to rely on God' s mercy- everyday.

    I hope this post and everything you have so willingly and openly shared in it, will touch others- as it has touched me.

    Many, many blessings to you and your whole beautiful family! ~Kari

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautifully written words right from your heart, Val...Blessings to you and that beautiful family, dear friend!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Valerie,

    So many of us will identify with your thoughts and feelings even if our circumstances are different. Yes, we are all sinners.

    Your description of returning to confession brought back so many memories for me. At one time, I was ready to leave the Church because I didn't think I would ever fit in again because of certain past events. Then I met a new friend (sent by God, I'm sure) who encouraged me to go to confession. She contacted Father for me and looked after my children and so I went. I too sobbed out my story. The priest told me that maybe everything that had happened to me wasn't in fact all my fault. God had allowed everything to bring me close to Him. It wasn't easy but I learnt so much from my imperfect past, and I now have this great sense of gratitude for what I have. Not explaining this well but I hope you will understand what I'm getting at.

    Valerie, we can only ever connect with others by being honest. Yes, your faith will help others with theirs. Thank you so much for sharing.

    God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Infertility is such a tough journey, that many people who KNOW the Church's standing on IVF are ready to overlook it due to their deep desire to have a child. You were aware enough to know you did wrong and then feel guilty about it - a true child of Christ. I'm so proud of you Valerie!! Confession takes a lot out of us, to swallow our pride and admit our mistakes. I've had that conversation a few times with non Catholic friends who don't understand why we go to confession, but its exactly that reeastablishment of our relationship with God and that light airy feeling as we know we are forgiven. Great posts!za

    ReplyDelete
  8. Infertility is such a tough journey, that many people who KNOW the Church's standing on IVF are ready to overlook it due to their deep desire to have a child. You were aware enough to know you did wrong and then feel guilty about it - a true child of Christ. I'm so proud of you Valerie!! Confession takes a lot out of us, to swallow our pride and admit our mistakes. I've had that conversation a few times with non Catholic friends who don't understand why we go to confession, but its exactly that reeastablishment of our relationship with God and that light airy feeling as we know we are forgiven. Great posts!za

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and faith. I think your experience can help so many who are going through similar trials. Keep the faith girl!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. HUGS Valerie! I love you for writing all this, and just know that we ALL have sins from our past that can haunt us and overshadow us if we let them. Only through Confession and reception of the Eucharist and prayer can we get God's graces to move on. The devil wants us to get discouraged about our sins, but God only wants to forgive and forget :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am in awe of your story and how beautifully you wrote it. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow, I remember connecting with you on Facebook and being so excited that a friend from high school was also into the blogging. And I was a little jealous as your posts are always so beautiful. I did read about your children and prayed that your faith was strong but never thought much about it. I was thrilled when you sent that facebook message about going to confession and the joy you felt. I just hope you know how awesome your story it. It is full of humility.

    I am so imspired by your blog and your humility. Thank you so very much for being so open to the Holy Spirit and for sharing your heart during this year of faith.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I LOVE Neen's blog!! She is such a great encouragement!!

    And wow - you know lots of us have these stories of defiance. But you are brave to post it and write about it so candidly. WHAT A STORY!!!

    And now you have 3 children? That is truly amazing and such a gift. Makes me wonder if the medical establishment was completely honest, or if this is a special miracle given to you to bring you back 'home'. Probably the latter huh? God is good :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I finally got to read all 3 posts!! This last one has been sitting here since Sunday! What a inspiring story. I have a couple friends that have done similar things and I have always felt like they would never be able to come to an understanding of why it was wrong to achieve pregnancy in this way, I mean the end is wonderful, it's the means that's wrong. What humility it took in you to ask for God's Mercy. I tear up just typing that. I love you and thank you for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is so beautiful. You are courageous! Thank you. And I think you will like this story:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/06/true-story.html

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Your kind words are appreciated! As Mother Teresa said, "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

Valerie