Let Us Begin

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.

Teresa Fiata Oertle

Prayers of the Faithful:

Our response is, May it be done according to Your word.

That the eyes of the world will be opened to recognize and value the precious gift of every human life from the moment of conception until natural death, that we may persevere in building a culture of life.

We pray to the Lord.   May it be done according to Your word.

For the souls of all those who have died before birth, especially Teresa Fiata, Joseph Paul, Veronica Marie, and Kolbe Michael.  That through their pure and holy intercession, we might be sanctified to one day join them in paradise.

We pray to the Lord.   May it be done according to Your word.

For the souls of all who have died especially Teresa Fiata’s great grandparents, Spencer and Elizabeth Cason, Amy Robezzoli, Jack and Betty Oertle, and that the holy souls in purgatory might be carried in Mary’s arms to the throne of her Son, Jesus.

We pray to the Lord.   May it be done according to Your word.

That we might seek the face of God in His distressing disguise and recognize Him with joy in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and see his hand in every happening.

We pray to the Lord.  May it be done according to Your word.

For a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us all, upon our country, and upon the Catholic Church through the intercession of Blessed Mother Teresa and Mother Mary.  May we model her fiat in our lives that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We pray to the Lord.   May it be done according to Your word.

 

 

 

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For What Do You Wish?: {Bishop Olmsted’s Exhortation to Love}

I have been wanting to share an exhortation to love proclaimed by our faithful shepherd, Bishop Olmsted, for some time…

Have you ever had the experience of sitting in the pews and feeling that every word proclaimed from the pulpit was meant just for you, that God was speaking directly to your heart through His preacher to convict your innermost being once again of the call to follow Him, the rest of the congregation surrounding you in that place of worship fading into the background as Jesus’ voice cut through all of the other voices in this world in a way that left no more room for doubt or confusion?

That is pretty much what happened at the “annual natural family planning mass of appreciation” here in the diocese of Phoenix this past February.  (I have been meaning to share it ever since)

You see, Johnny and I had just barely learned of Baby Girl’s existence little over a week before and were actively discerning the “yes” we knew God was asking of us even as fears and so many unknowns unrelentingly swirled within and around our restless minds.

Our hearts were encouraged by our bishop in such a profound and necessary way to give us strength for the journey that would lie ahead of us… (even more than we could have possibly known at the time).

 

These were (in part) his words to us:

 

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

The key word here is “wishes.”

For what do we wish?

What is that our heart desires?

Encountering Christ is a gift, a gift beyond all other gifts, a gift that we do not deserve or initiate. And it is a gift that meets the deepest desires of our soul. Whoever wishes to come after Christ wishes to follow where these holy desires naturally lead.

Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, says of this personal desire to belong to Christ:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart… (emphasis mine)

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas est (God is Love), Pope Benedict writes that to believe in the love of God is: “the fundamental decision of one’s life.”  Becoming a follower of Christ “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Let us return now to Jesus’ words:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Whoever wishes to respond to the love of Christ must, in other words, learn the value of suffering, especially suffering for the sake of our Beloved, the Bridegroom of the Church, the Lord Jesus.

Pope Benedict has reminded us of this on a number of occasions, especially in his encyclical on hope (#37):

“It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness that we drift into a life of emptiness…

It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love”

Jesus says: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life?”

The Greek word for “save” literally means “to keep safe and whole”– precisely the opposite of what Jesus Himself did. He who, from all eternity, was completely safe from suffering took flesh from the Virgin Mary in order to be able to suffer, even to suffer death on the Cross. Christ chose to become like a grain of wheat, which must fall into the ground and die in order to bear fruit. He chose not to save His life but give it for us in love.

C. S. Lewis, in THE FOUR LOVES, p. 169, writes:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements, lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

It is not safe to follow Christ. It is not safe to get married. It is not safe to become mother or father …It is not safe to love in truth and to speak the truth in love. It is not safe to follow the way of Christ rather than the way of the world; but it is the blessing above all others.

St. Paul tells us (Rom 12:1-2”, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.” 

 

Whew… thank you Bishop Olmsted.

I don’t think Johnny and I stopped squeezing each other’s hands the entire time our beloved bishop spoke.

We would go back to that homily, absorbing the transcript he so generously shared with us many times in the weeks that followed … We read and reread quotes to one another as the conviction of their truth applied to the situation we found ourselves in caused tears to stream down our faces and for us to look at one another saying,

 

“how could we possibly say no?”

 

Surely the path ahead of us was clear.

It wasn’t safe, but it was good … “the blessing above all others”.

 

Fast forward five months and in light of all that has transpired since we became Seraphia’s parents for a week…

I find it pretty incredible and beautifully ironic that the very same words that gave us the courage we needed to say “yes” to loving Seraphia as our own now give us the strength we need to face each day without her…

I am reminded once again that

“to love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken”

I think of the prayers I have sung along with Hillsong on the radio for the Lord to

“Break my heart for what breaks Yours…Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause”

and can’t help but know in a deeper way than ever before how true Fr. Arrupe’s words are that the decision I made so long ago and renew daily to give my life to Christ – “to fall in love, to stay in love” with Jesus … has in fact “decided everything”… It is the “fundamental decision of my life” and has decisively pointed me in the direction to arrive exactly where I am today.

 

which brings me back to our good bishop’s opening question:

 

For what do you wish? … What is it that your heart desires”

 

and as much as a part of me wishes it didn’t have to be this way …

that my heart didn’t have to suffer the loss of yet another child.

 

When I think of the alternative…

of never having loved Seraphia

 

I would much rather have a living, breathing, beating heart (broken though it may be) that knows Ardent Charity

than one kept so “safe” by “withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt” that it becomes incapable of it …

 

Because this pain is a testimony to the fact that I am ALIVE…

 

and so is she.

 

 

-Alison

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Loving Seraphia Caritas {Breaking the Silence in the Midst of Our Brokenness}

Oh my dear friends,

It is with trembling fingers and weak knees, a heart pierced through and poured out until empty that I am attempting to write a post that I never dreamed I would ever be writing…

I am compelled to write because I know many of you have been wondering how we are doing and starting to be concerned that I haven’t updated my Facebook page in a few days.  I have received multiple messages that you are praying and hoping that everything is still okay.  Apparently my sudden silence has been deafening… but how do I find the words to say what it is that I have to say to you?

You who have been supporting us and praying alongside of us deserve so much more than a mere status update and yet I still cannot begin to express adequately what is on my heart and I am not sure if the reality of it all has even really begun to sink in.  I kind of feel like I am walking in a dream and keep hoping against all hope that I will wake up soon from the nightmare of these past few days but it isn’t a dream…

This is real – the unthinkable has happened…

Seraphia’s birth mother backed out of her adoption at the very last moment.

After being her mommy and daddy for a week, taking her home with us and introducing her to her big brothers, we had to drive our Baby Girl to the adoption agency and give her back on Tuesday -

and so we will do our best to carry on knowing that Christ and the power of your prayers are carrying us even in the midst of our brokenness and gut-wrenching agony.

 

We know that your hearts break with ours.  We are so, so sorry that this is happening…

we know that you love her and have prayed for her

we know that you love us and hate to see us hurting

we are so very sorry for the pain that her absence in our lives will undoubtedly cause you too…

 

but please,

we beg of you,

do NOT allow this in any way to discourage any heart from adopting!

Refuse, alongside of us, to be mastered by fear or heartache because that is not of God.

 

We recognize in our story the potential for fear tactics so often used to scare families away from risking to love for the sake of a child through adoption and I think it would be so easy for people who hear what happened to us to feel validated in such a stance – confirming the worst case scenarios and exclaiming “I COULD NEVER DO THAT”.

(Believe me in our weaker moments, we have said similar things at least regarding domestic adoption – it is certainly not for the faint of heart)

BUT that kind of discouragement is the LAST THING we would ever want to happen!!!

because you know what?

 

SHE WAS WORTH IT!

 

This is not about whether we are cut out for heartbreak.  Who is?

No one wants to endure having their hearts ripped out of their chests and a baby ripped out of their arms.

We are not made from any different stuff than you are.  We will get through this and you could too.

Because it’s not about us and its never been about us!

We are not adopting to fill some void in our lives or to make us feel good or because we thought it would be easy.

We are the grown ups here.

It is about the worth and dignity and value of every child who deserves to have a family, a mother and father to love them and nurture them and care for their every need forever.

and it can be messy and ugly and painful

and there is sin and selfishness and heartache because such is our fallen human condition

 

but it is not Seraphia’s fault or any child’s fault.

We are talking about helpless, innocent children here!

 

Seraphia, like every child, is worthy of having someone fight for her.

 

We had the HONOR of being the ones God asked to step up to the plate on her behalf.

 

This we know for sure.  (If you read the ways He brought her into our lives, no doubt you are confident in that too.)

There was never any question what God was asking us to do.  And so in the midst of such turmoil and concern for her welfare and safety

(I can’t tell you how many times I wake up on the night to check on her, looking over to the side of my bed, her co-sleeper already packed away – and I panic for a moment wondering where she is and if she’s okay and then I remember and my concern for her only grows and so I pray and pray until I finally drift off to sleep only for it to happen again a short time later…)

even in this, there is a peace too that surpasses understanding – in knowing that we have done what God asked us to do.

We have been faithful and He is pleased and that is all that we can ever hope for.

I pray that in every moment, I will always have the courage to lean into the Lord and rely on His grace enough to do what LOVE requires of me and to never be motivated out of fear, paralyzed to the good heaven needs me to do.

 

We have NO REGRETS and would endure it all again

in. a. heartbeat.

 

We were Seraphia’s mommy and daddy for one incredible week

and she will always and forever be the child of our hearts.

God knew that she needed us and will continue to need us.

Although we may never see her sweet face again,

not a day will go by as long as I have breath in me that I don’t storm heaven on her behalf.

I ask that you continue to pray for her too.

 

Be not afraid my friends.

God is still good.

He is in control.

and He calls us to love without limits…

 

and although it may not have been His will for all that has transpired in the past few days to take place, He did allow it.

and we have to believe that He can bring grace and glory and resurrection even from this cross.

 

With all of our Love,

Alison

 

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