Living the Catholic Faith During Advent

“Living the Catholic faith is a way of life that embraces every minute of our waking and sleeping hours and permeates our lives at work, at home, in school, on a date, from the cradle to the grave.”
Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

Advent is the ideal time to breathe new life into living our faith. Traditionally, we light candle(s) from our Advent wreath each evening. As well, we celebrate the many feast days such as St. Nicholas Day (December 6), the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), to name a few.

For more ways to celebrate our Catholic Faith during Advent, I highly recommend the following books: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Domestic Church by Peter and Catherine Fournier and Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty (http://www.madonnahouse.org/publications/doherty/donkeybells.htm)

Which books would you recommend for living our Catholic faith during Advent? Please feel free to comment.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Advent Humor

It usually isn’t difficult coming up with ideas for our cartoons. This one was inspired by our youngest son. One year as he was blowing out the candle on the Advent wreath, he asked why we blow out candles before Jesus’ birthday rather than on the day of his birthday.

We have a tradition of allowing the youngest to oldest son blow out the Advent wreath candles. Even though our sons are older, they still enjoy blowing out the candles and continue to look forward to it every day.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Image copyright 2010 Full Quiver Publishing

Catholic New Media Advent Calendar

This year, I will be participating in the Catholic New Media Advent Calendar. On the side bar of my blog, under my photo, you’ll see this image. If you click on the image each day, you’ll be sent to a link which opens to a “treat” from a different blogger, author, singer or musician. I am the scheduled guest on December 2nd.

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Gripped by Fear by John M. Wills Review

My latest review at Catholic Fiction.net:

“Gripped by Fear” by John M. Wills is a crime novel and, at first glance, reminded me of a Mary Higgins Clark book. The back cover of the book says that the author “spent 35 years in law enforcement,” and the novel’s story, for the most part, rings very true to life.

Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson are two detectives with the Violent Crimes Unit of the Chicago Police Force. They are working together to find the rapist who is targeting “women who labor as office cleaners in downtown Chicago, sexually assaulting them as they travel to and from their jobs.” In the midst of it all, they are relatively new in the department and must deal charitably with others who are jealous and envious of their positions.

Click the link to read the rest:

http://www.catholicfiction.net/2010/11/22/gripped-by-fear-by-john-m-wills/

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Responsible Parenthood

My latest column at Catholic Mom deals with the difficult decisions James and I faced when deciding whether we should limit our family to three boys after a life-threatening pregnancy in 1993.

Pope Paul VI in his papal encyclical Humanae Vitae states: “ Responsible parenthood… has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

In the ambulance, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I didn’t have much time for retrospective thoughts, except “Please God, I can’t die. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mom.” I was bleeding internally, the complications of ectopic pregnancy surgery two weeks previous, and quickly becoming weaker and weaker. Waking up later in the recovery room, I was thankful to be alive.

“You should not be having any more children.” The words were harsh and at first, we took them as truth. I was capable of having more, but after two ectopic pregnancies and complications from one of the surgeries, we were told that we must limit our family to three boys. One of the doctors suggested that I be put on hormonal contraception. He later advised me to have my remaining fallopian tube tied. The physician wasn’t the only one to give the ‘order’ to stop having children. Well-meaning relatives and friends felt it was their duty to tell us that we should not get pregnant again. “You don’t want to be irresponsible, do you?”

“It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God…”

It became evident, as we dialogued with both the physicians and the well-meaning relatives and friends, that they were concerned only about my physical health. Most of them cared little, if at all, for my/our spiritual well being. And, initially, in those first few weeks after my surgery, we felt that we ought to listen to the “doctor’s orders.”

However, as the months went by, I began to regain my strength. We continued using NFP in the most conservative way, often adding one or two days to the rules for extra security. A year later, with heaviness in my heart, I thought of the future and the fact that we would not have anymore children. I wondered whether God was calling us to actively seek another pregnancy. My husband and I discussed it, then brought our concern to our spiritual director, explaining to him that the doctor told us that we should not have any more children. “James and Ellie,” he said, “that is a decision to be made between the two of you and God.” He encouraged us to pray about it and he further recommended that we talk to a faithful Catholic doctor. We knew of a Catholic physician through a neighboring homeschooling community. Her response after reviewing my file was that we could try for more children, but that I would need to be monitored carefully in the first several weeks to confirm that it wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy.

… a right conscience is the true interpreter…”

For the next several months, we prayed together. We deeply desired another child, but we did not want to be careless or irresponsible. After much prayer and discernment, and weighing all the risks, we decided to actively seek another pregnancy.

“…the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities…”

Ten cycles later, we were still not pregnant. We felt at peace with our decision to seek another pregnancy and, although disappointed, we trusted that God knew what He was doing. Eventually, we stopped charting. Another eight cycles went by with no pregnancy and I began to sell off most of my baby furniture. A few weeks later, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a period in six weeks. The next morning, I took my temperature and it was 98.9. After 18 months of saying no to us, God was saying yes and blessing us with another eternal soul. I was thrilled that another new life, the fruit of our love, had begun, and would be sheltered lovingly in my womb.

With the blessing, however, soon came suffering. I began having debilitating migraine headaches and some days I could not get out of bed. Worse than the physical pain, however, was the emotional suffering. Doctors, well-meaning friends and relatives told us that we were being “irresponsible” and “selfish,” and that if I was suffering, “I had asked for it.”

At 30 weeks, our unborn baby was six pounds and I had already gained 50 pounds. That might not seem like much, but with my four feet nine inch frame, it meant that I could not drive (the seat had to be pushed back so far to allow for my large stomach that my feet couldn’t reach the pedals) and I could not walk the last six weeks of the pregnancy.

Our son, Adam, was born eight weeks later at nearly ten pounds. The pro-life Catholic doctor who delivered Adam by C-section told me that we could try for another baby someday, but that the pregnancy would again have to be monitored. Three years later, our youngest son, Paul was born.

“… recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

The words of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae courageously proclaim the truth of responsible parenthood. The decision to have or avoid another child remains a decision between the couple and God. No one else ought to make such a life-changing and important choice because no one else will have to endure the consequences (and joys), nor will anyone else have to stand before God someday and explain their actions.

Although we could have used NFP to avoid pregnancy permanently and to limit our family size to three sons, we choose to listen to our hearts, to answer God’s calling, and to seek more children. When I consider that our two youngest sons (pictured below) might possibly not be here today, my heart becomes heavy. Both are unique, talented and amazing human beings who have already given so much to our family and to society. I am grateful to God, because I can’t imagine our family without them.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Condom Controversy

With all the controversy in the media and the “taking out of context” of Pope Benedict’s comments about condoms, Dr. Janet E. Smith’s excellent commentary will hopefully give clarification to those who mistakenly think that the Pope is giving “permission” to use condoms:

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=220:pope-benedict-on-condoms-in-qlight-of-the-worldq&catid=53:cwr2010&Itemid=70

Here is a short excerpt:

“Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms? No. In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a “real or moral solution.” That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity.

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a “first step” in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one’s sexual partner, who should be one’s beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets. Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.”