I can’t go to sleep tonight without touching on the immense wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and love that was poured into my mind and heart this past week. I have to start by saying that on Tuesday, November 2nd, I got a negative biopsy result for endometrial cancer. The exhaustion of the last 6 months – physically, mentally, and emotionally – was so taxing and it drained much of my energy in so many ways. I left home on Friday, November 6th for Three Rivers, CA to attend the first phase of a 13-month training program to become a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner. It was wonderful to know that my husband and children would be coming and I was excited about what I didn’t know would happen. However, there was still a heaviness I carried with me from not knowing what was wrong with my body…not understanding why God brought me to this place.
It was quite a journey for the four of us who walked together as “sister Practitioners” (as Linda had called us). We came from different places with different experiences…different heartaches, but with a common sense of purpose. We were called by God to be there TOGETHER. And the two women who guided us down that path were phenomenal, to say the least. This week – all of it – was incredibly providential.
There are volumes to be said about what unfolded over the course of the week, but I have to start somewhere. During the morning Masses, I started to see a thread being woven through the readings…connecting them to the work God has called us to do in the field of fertility care. As the days went by, it became more and more clear that we were part of something HUGE…bigger than any of us could even imagine.
So I will begin with those readings and share with you the insights that came to me as I sat there in the chapel, as well as the realization of what this means – for me, for the the Church, and for the greater good of humanity. Bear with me, as I try to get it all down…taking it day by day…”down the road, up the mountain, and back down again.”
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8
Gospel (Mark 12:38-44)
“…she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
The Lord is calling us to a generosity beyond what the world may understand. The widow shows us what it means to totally trust…to present to God every last bit, even when it feels as if we have nothing more to give. We never read a word that she uttered, but maybe we can assume that although this woman chose to sacrifice the little material wealth that she had, her heart was so full of love. I don’t imagine that she had a look of despair as she dropped the two small coins in the box. She must have known that she still had something going for her…that she could still offer her heart to God and to others because the love He had placed in her heart was limitless.
This Gospel spoke to me because I felt that I didn’t have a whole lot to give after being broken for so long. I didn’t have a lot of money, I didn’t have a lot of time or energy…and at that point, I didn’t even have my health. God said to me through His word, “What little you have, Marianne, give it to me.” I didn’t know what to expect for the coming week, but something told me that He was going to make it all worth it. Somehow, I would be repaid without even asking for it because He loved me far greater than I could ever know.
And so I took His hand and I walked…
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9
“God is our refuge and our strength, and ever-present help in distress. Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.”
What an incredible comfort these verses were to me. The Lord had always carried me through the darkest, most confusing moments in my life, and He proved to me that He wasn’t about to abandon me now. I needed to be reminded how sovereign and powerful God was. He brought me to a place of healing…He introduced me to people who could help me…I needed to be there at the St. Anthony Retreat House at this particular time with these particular women. The weeks before the biopsy were quite heart-wrenching, and I found myself questioning God. Yes, it took some time for the answers to come, but He made them so clear to me. Today, He told me that I didn’t have to look anymore.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10
1st Reading (Wisdom 2:23-3:9)
“Indeed God created man to be immortal in the likeness of His own nature, but the envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death.”
This is when I truly began to study the spiritual battle we had chosen to fight. God had a beautiful plan for humanity, and through the enemy’s hatred for us, we have been enticed to destroy ourselves and each other. Under the guise and pretense of convenience and women’s rights, artificial contraception and abortion have directly and indirectly caused chaos throughout our society. Death. Death to our own children…death to our marriages…death to the amazing opportunity to be co-creators with God. But if this was the end, what hope would any of us have for the salvation of the world? The story needed to continue…it had to.
So I kept reading…
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the unwise they appear to be dead. Their going is held as a disaster; it seems as though they lose everything by departing from us, but they are in peace. Though seemingly they have been punished, immortality was the soul of their hope. After slight affliction will come great blessings, for God has tried them and found them worthy to be with Him; after testing them as gold in the furnace, He accepted them as a holocaust.
At the time of His coming they will shine like sparks that run in the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will be their King forever.
Those who trust in Him will penetrate the truth, those who are faithful will lie with Him in love, for His grace and mercy are for His chosen ones.”
The Holy Innocents…from the time of Moses to Jesus to the very culture that we live in…these children had their lives taken from them because someone decided that they had a right to do it. Pharaoh…King Herod…our governments all felt these children didn’t have a place in this world. Pharaoh wanted to save his kingdom from the threat of a slave uprising. King Herod wanted to protect his rule from a child who would become the King of the Jews. Our governments have placed in the hands of women the choice to take the lives of their own children.
It is a great tragedy. But praise God for the hope He gives to such souls – these babies who were never given the chance to fulfill God’s plan for their lives. This passage that follows the mention of Satan’s envy and the death he brings to our world shows how God still continues to reign supreme. The Good Father creates us to be immortal, and as the holy martyrs have said, “They may kill our bodies, but they cannot destroy our souls.”
So let us always remember these little saints, as they pray for us and intercede for the cause of defending LIFE. May we fight courageously for justice, for the end of abortion, and for every child who awaits the chance to do something great in this world.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11
1st Reading (Isaiah 61:1-3)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to the captives, freedom to those languishing in prison; to announce the year of Yahweh’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to give comfort to those who grieve; and give them a garland instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, and festal clothes instead of despair.”
We have an enormous responsibility to bring the truth to those who have never heard it. My husband once told me that we may never be able to change the laws in our country. Roe v. Wade may never be reversed, but if women do not want to abort their children, it will make a world of a difference to them and the children in their wombs. As I sat in our classes learning about the journey of Dr. Hilgers and the history of the Creighton Model System and NaProTechnology, I grew more and more aware that we were being called to be prophets in this age.
Pope Paul VI knew what God willed for His Church, and in his 1968 writing of Humanae Vitae he begged us to acknowledge the wonderful design of male and female, to remain faithful to the natural means of family planning, and to pursue research in this area. How profoundly prophetic this man was, as he foresaw what our society would become upon the acception and widespread use of artificial contraception. Selfishness, broken marriages, abortion, and government-regulated population control. We cannot say that God didn’t try to tell us.
Very few listened, but praise the Lord that they did. Without the receptivity and obedience of Dr. Thomas Hilgers and those who were willing to work with him, we wouldn’t be able to carry on this message of liberation to deliver to those who have bought into the advertising tactics of pharmaceutical companies. We are here to bring freedom to the women who want to be educated about their bodies because they no longer want to be imprisoned by the lies and the health risks they have been exposed to. And to the couples who are unable to conceive, we are being sent out as beacons of hope to proclaim the amazing possibilities available that no one ever told them about.
What joy comes from walking in the Light and being taught for the first time who God made us to be! It was an amazing personal discovery for me. Yes, I did go through a conversion experience at 21 years old…yes, I have fallen in love with Jesus and the Church as I learned more in the years following…but I had not known what perfect design He had planned for me to be a mother…not just in the circumstances and situations that allowed me to marry my husband, but in the very nature of our bodies.
If but every woman knew what a miracle she was…
if but every man grew to appreciate the gift of his wife’s fertility and the role he plays in creating a child…
if but every child was loved enough to be given a chance to live…
if our world could only come to realize how sacred our bodies are…
how beautiful life would be.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12
1st Reading (Wis 7:22b-8:1)
“In her is a spirit that is intelligent, saintly, unique, manifold, subtle, active, concise, pure and lucid… She enters holy souls, making them prophets and friends of God, for God loves only those who love wisdom… for light gives way to night, but evil cannot prevail against wisdom.”
We were learning so much. As each day passed, our minds and our hearts were filled with knowledge that empowered us and inspired us to DO SOMETHING for other women. I remember telling Margaret and Lynn, “I cannot go back out there into the world and not share this! To see so much pain…to know that they need to know the truth…we HAVE to tell people about what we’ve learned!”
And the instructions were simple: Let Wisdom be your guide. Straight from the Word of God. We could not work in the spirit of pride and self-righteousness. We had to speak the truth with love. It was truly like the Transfiguration in many ways…we went up the mountain (literally) and were shown God manifested in His creation – in our very own bodies. Then we were called like the early Christians who had witnessed the Resurrection…like Peter and the Apostles pouring out of the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, saying, “It’s true!!! You need to hear this!” While those before us preached eternal life and salvation found in Jesus Christ, we are an extension of that message, sharing that very life in its fullness as God has made us in His own image and likeness. Prophets and friends of God…we were filled with the wisdom of His Spirit. The week was spent learning more than just statistics and information. We saw what it meant for this generation and the generations to come; not just here in the United States, but all over the world. This was a gift to humanity, inspired by God Himself.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13
1st Reading (Wis 13:1-9)
“For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,
though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?”
They had a chance. Great men of science had the opportunity to make an enormous impact on reproductive health in such a positive way, but they didn’t listen. Forty years later, many still don’t hear the message or see the truth. They pursue medical and technological advances that will perhaps make life better for us, but they are led down a path of deception by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Most have good intentions. They sincerely want to help humanity. But where is God in all of this? Has He not tried to show them the way in their seeking? in their learning? in the voices on the steps of the nation’s Capitol crying out for life?
May the Holy Spirit work to bring about the conversion of hearts and minds…to raise up a new generation of medical professionals who will follow in the steps of Dr. Hilgers and make straight the way of the Lord!