To answer the survey question about my most and least popular posts, I'm pretty sure it's hard to distinguish between the two, since this blog is not exactly mainstream. I got more hits on my NFP Awareness Week post earlier this summer than many others, though.
Undoer of Knots.
About a year ago, I became acquainted with Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. I love the depiction of Our Lady, dutifully untying the knots (our problems, our prayers) that are brought to her by angels. Pope Francis has also indicated a devotion to her.
Recently on our wedding anniversary, someone gave us a small picture placard of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. I usually think of her as solving impossible problems, situations that we cannot figure out. But, the friend who gifted us with this also said she's great for marriages.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Our Lady, Undoer of Knots was the last thing on my mind. I was thinking of my marriage. We have a wonderful relationship. I am so much happier as a married person, and we are in love and trying our hardest. At the same time, I still feel some barriers between me and my husband. Old wounds, old grudges, old fears that are still there at times on my part. Things are great, and yet I can sense within my heart some hesitations to love fully. Without too much thought, I identified this "stuff" as a knot in my mind. And then immediately I remembered Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. Our marriage is great...but I still feel some knots.
Those barriers between us really do feel like knots - knots of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of panic, chest pain that feels like a knot, like my heart is literally breaking or hurting from worry or old wounds, situations that are so complicated that a knot is the best way to visualize them. As wonderful as married life is, we already (or still) have some knots. We didn't do everything right while we were dating, we haven't always practiced the faith, and I am a really wounded, messed up person sometimes. I haven't totally forgiven everything emotionally speaking...I know this because I still feel the ache...the knot...sometimes. I believe forgiveness is an act of the will. I have consciously forgiven. I'm waiting for the emotions to catch up.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots...pray for us. Pray for me. Pray for my husband. Pray for my marriage.
A few years ago, I read the book by Immaculée Ilibagiza called Left to Tell. It chronicles her harrowing experience of surviving the Rwandan genocide. Not only was her survival miraculous on many levels, but she talks about the absolute need for forgiveness to survive. She walks in freedom because she has forgiven those who hurt her.
It's an amazing story, and recently I started following Immaculee on Twitter. She tweeted something about how once, she and another woman were applying for the same job. Immaculee really needed and wanted that job. So, she prayed a rosary that the other woman would find a different job so that she herself could have the job they both applied for...and it worked.
Recently, there was a situation in which my husband and I were invited to an event that included the attendance of a really negative person in our lives. Someone who tried to tear us apart and nearly succeeded. A very toxic person who cannot be trusted in more than one way, for more than one reason. I know that it's possible I will have to run into this person eventually, even though we live in one of the largest cities in the US. I just didn't want to go to the event for that reason, but my husband did for many reasons, his career/networking being one of them (kind of important). I didn't want to re-hash all the reasons I didn't want to see this person or even explain to my husband that that was the reason. I expressed some resistance and said, "maybe," and that I wanted the option to play it by ear on the day of the event. I considered lying about being sick, but decided that was wrong. Although the wound from this person is something I think about often, and maybe even too often, I didn't want to talk about it with my husband. I thought it would re-open old wounds, and my thinking about it often is something I'm trying to deal with. Although we may run into the person eventually, I didn't want to go to an event in which their presence was guaranteed. I still feel like I need more time to be ready for that moment.
I prayed to God and acquiesced to whatever His will was. If my husband really wanted to go to the event, I told God that He would have to give me the grace to handle it. I figured it was better that we both see this person than just one of us. That way, we could present a united front. In addition, I figured the best way to live out my vocation as a wife is to support my husband. So, I didn't want to cause a fight if he really wanted to go to this event. I understood his reasoning, and I thought maybe I needed to suck it up. I saw Immaculee's tweet around this time, and I prayed that perhaps this person would find other plans for the evening, rather than showing up to the same event. I also went ahead and prayed that perhaps s/he would find a significant other, so as not to try to interfere with our marriage.
Within moments of those prayers - both to have the grace to support my husband and to perhaps give the other person alternate plans (both for the event and for the long run) - I got a text on my phone. I knew it was from my husband. I knew it was in regard to our plans that evening. I composed myself and braced myself and read the text. I had been in existential drama for days about this. His text said something like, "My family would like us to join them for an impromptu dinner. We are all on the same side of town, would you like to do that?" To my sweet relief, this time around, an alternative was presented. I said a hearty, "YES."
Thank you, Jesus, for providing a way of dealing with a difficult situation that didn't involve me fighting, having a panic attack, dredging up the past, or dealing with something I'm not quite ready for. I know that a prayer being "answered," doesn't always mean I get my way. I'm just glad that an alternative was presented to me, and that it was my husband's idea.
Your grace really is enough.
Love Your Enemies.
The next time you're tempted to think that all religions are essentially the same, remember that Jesus said to "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) This is revolutionary stuff. While other religions may promote peace and goodwill, or some version of "the golden rule," none go so far as to say you must love your enemy.
It hurts, it's the right thing to do, and it's difficult in our human nature. Here is a wonderful prayer to pray for your "enemies," those who hurt you, those whom you are tempted to will evil against. When we pray for our enemies, we have completely thwarted the devil's plans. We not only forgive them, we pray that they will be converted. We can offer up our pain for their salvation and for ours. In these moments of knots and pain from others, I always hear the refrain from the Anima Christi, "Within thy wounds, hide me."
"Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen."
I have mentioned Joseph Sciambra before. He is a former gay man, now practicing Catholic. He writes bluntly and profoundly about his experience, both "coming out" as gay, and coming out of that lifestyle. I will say his writing challenges me. This article of his, in Church Pop, is some of his best writing, in my opinion.
Let's all join our prayers with his that all would be transformed by the power of God, especially our gay friends, brothers and sisters.
Yesterday morning was going along fine and dandy until I realized it was only Thursday. So, we finally made it to Friday. For some reason, it's been a loooong week around here.
In honor of St. John Chrysostom, whose feast day it is today, a little quote from him. This is a friendly reminder that when those earthly relationships sometimes disappoint, God loves us more than we can imagine. And when those earthly relationships are deeply satisfying and a glimpse of God's love, remember that it's only a portion of God's love for us...the tip of the iceburg...an icon of the real thing.