Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Immaculate Conception

May is the month of Mary and I desire to continue to consecrate myself to our Holy Mother. This year I will be reading Fr. Michael Gaitley's book, "33 Days to Morning Glory" for the second time. Here in his book, Fr. Gaitley discusses Marian devotion through, as he describes them as the Marian giants, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Theresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.

St. Kolbe dedicated his life to Marian devotion and worked hard to bring this devotion to the world through his organization called, the "Militia Immaculata." Before he was arrested and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, he wrote his teaching on Mary's words to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, "I am the Immaculate Conception."  Let me explain my understanding of St. Kolbe's teaching.

Mary was born without original sin for a purpose like none other. Her conception in her mother, St Ann, is the Immaculate Conception we speak of.  She was the pure vessel set apart from all others in preparation for becoming the Theotokos (Mother of God).  She found favor from God in the very beginning and Mary's Yes is important as witness to her sinless soul. I've wondered what a person would be like who sin never touched their being. Certainly without evil within their souls, they would be a holy person, no doubt. Mary was this and more. When the time was fulfilled for her, as is described in the first chapter of Luke, the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with these words, "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you." and "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." Grace perfects and Mary was full, totally full of grace; so Mary was perfect. There have only been two people without sin whose feet touched the earth: Mary, a simple young girl, and Jesus, the God Man. She would carry in her very womb the son of God in Jesus Christ, and He would humble himself in human form and die a horrific death in atonement of our sins. Big, big undertakings!

Her unflinching acceptance to conceive through the Holy Spirit was beyond brave.  Her cousin, Elizabeth, who bore John the Baptist, was a married woman. No divine intervention needed to take place for her to conceive in her late years other than the fertilization of her union with Zechariah.  In the words of the angel, Gabriel, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." There was no mystery AND no need for an answer from either Zechariah or Elizabeth since they prayed for this; also there was no eminent danger or extraordinary risk in their new situation. Mary, on the other hand,  single, but betrothed, stood to lose everything, including her life with this pregnancy.  Thus, God took care of her with Joseph.

 In answering Mary's question in how this will be done, Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the son of God." The Holy Spirit, with the power of the Most High caused the conception of Jesus in Mary. St. Maximilian Kolbe sumed up this with the Holy Spirit being the eternal or "uncreated" Immaculate Conception and Mary as the human, or the "created," Immaculate Conception.  "For with God," said Gabriel, "nothing is impossible"

Without the Holy Spirit's intervention, conception would never have happened and St. Joseph could not fulfill this role.  The Holy Spirit and Mary created Jesus in fulfillment of God's plan.  When Mary calls herself the Immaculate Conception, she is saying that she is the human part of the Immaculate Conception of whom we can relate.  That she is perfect, but that she is NOT God; that is the Holy Spirit.  She is the vessel in which salvation was born.  Her will agreed with and met God's Will and the two became one in Jesus Christ.  This is what St. Kolbe describes as the quickest and easiest way to sainthood, W + w = S.  God's Will plus our will equals sainthood.

Finally, at the foot of the cross, Jesus gave his mother to us.  Mary had served him well and now we needed her special graces to fight sin, pick up our crosses, and together with her, fight the great fight that is evil.  She is the Immaculate Conception, she is our Holy Mother, and she is waiting for us to call on her.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Mother's nighmare: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorder

Recently, I  joined the efforts of a fellow parishioner in supporting women suffering with postpartum mood disorders.   I suffered depression with my first two births, but had no idea how severe it can be, especially left untreated.  This April, I attended a 2-day training by an organization called, "Postpartum Support International".  I learned more than I ever could have imagined about this devastating hormonal disorder.  How critical this condition effects women, babies and the entire family!

Having a child is an exciting event in a woman’s life for most.  But it also bring a great deal of stress and anxiety as her hormones fluctuate during her pregnancy and postpartum period, considered the fourth trimester. Though this is a normal occurrence in the biological system, a new mother may not have the ability to identify such swings.  Coupled with having to handle a crying or colicky newborn at the same time is overwhelming at best.  Nearly 35% of reported new mothers suffer from postpartum mood disorder, of one kind or another.  If left untreated, this condition can often move into a psychosis, which is the most dangerous condition for the mother and the infant.  The problem is many of these mothers do not know or want to call for help.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, (PMAD) is one of the most under-diagnosed condition in today's medicine.  Over 400,000 infants are born to mothers with depression.  Many practitioners do not recognize, or are equipped, to help these mothers beyond the postpartum period.  This lack of information leaves these mothers and families at risk of a more serious problem, a psychosis.   Identifying and preparing women for this period is the mother’s lifeline.  Many women have no idea how their emotions will change within a day or a few hours post delivery. During this time of confusion, she feels overwhelmed and lacks confidence.  She may feel that she is not a good mother and become detached from her newborn.

Screening is a must in order to make sure the correct therapy and/or medications are in place for the mom-to-be.  We are learning that mood enhancing drugs such as Zoloft are not toxic for the baby during pregnancy and does not penetrate breast milk, as once thought.   We are learning more and more that mothers can be medicated safely during pregnancy and postpartum periods and beyond while breastfeeding.  Along with this, they are finding out that changing medications in the middle of any of these stages of childbirth can detrimentally effect the mother's depressed condition.

Who is at risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder?  History is one place to look, both family and personal with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, or bipolar disorders.  Did she have significant mood changes during puberty, PMS, or hormonal Birth control?  Pre-pregnancy diabetes, thyroid imbalance and other endocrine disorders also heighten the risk of PMAD.  There are many other life situations that can be a precursor, as well.

Is there support for the mother during this time?  Women need help through this initial period of parenthood; does she have it within the family?  If not, this will have a detrimental impact the mother, infant, and entire family.  With support, which could include a postpartum doula, the mother’s ability to care for her newborn will greatly improve.  A postpartum doula is trained to help the mother in caring and nursing her baby during the "fourth trimester."

Finally, the pharmaceutical and obstetrican worlds need to get together more for the women in these situations.   Also, women need to know that they can and should call, not wait months enduring their condition until the postpartum period is over.  They need to let their practitioner know what's going on now.   Treatment at the onset of PMAD is crucial for the mother, but also the baby, and the entire family.   As I look over my notes from this training, I am overwhelmed myself as to how much to touch on and leave off in this article.  We are a prolife community and all phases of life have trials and triumphs, childbearing is one that needs it's own special attention.  The Postpartum phase of life is a special time with special needs for each individual mother and family.  It is my prayer that more physicians, therapists, and family members become aware of this critical time, for helpless infant and the family as a whole.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Holy Nobody

As a Roman Catholic, I know that we have thousands of wonderful people whose lives were examples of true love and trust in God in their lives.  These examples of good people come from all walks of life and were canonized for the sole purpose as companions in prayer and intercession for those of us on this side of Heaven.  "The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today."(2683-84)  They also are examples of Christian holiness to model our own lives by.

As you know, all Christians are called to holiness, but not all Christians are canonized as saints.  Believe it or not, many thousands of good people living exemplary lives are not recognized as saints.  Still we can know them on a personal level and know that they are with our Heavenly Father where they belong.  These are the holy nobodies that most folks don't know.  They didn't have the opportunities that we did to know them personally, maybe they are your parents, grandparents or a wise uncle that you totally looked up to.

My father-in-law, Chester, is a holy nobody for sure.  He was a gentle soul with a big heart.  I do not recall him ever having a bad thing to say about another person.  He was always willing to pitch in and help at their church, treated his wife of 60 years like royalty; one of the last things I remember him saying was that she was his princess.  He lived in Houston, TX and I remember one very hot summer morning, seeing him rolling an elderly lady to church 2 blocks away from the church.  He never thought twice about taking that time and bearing the heat for this person to get to service.  He loved his grandchildren to no end.  The list goes on of all the selfless deeds he did without a moment of thought.  He was a good man, a gentle man, with a big heart for family and neighbors and his church.

There have been aunts and uncles, teachers and priests that have done wonderful things for others time after time without a second thought.  These people are good people that were examples of God's love in the world.  These folks will never be canonized, raised up in sainthood, but they are still good examples of living a life of charity, faith, hope, and selflessness.  Perhaps they had saints that they were inspired by, but we didn't know.  I would like to thing so and at least know that they knew God's love and grace during their lifetime.

Perhaps they knew a holy nobody of their own?



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Postpartum Support Project

The Story

Research confirms that parents who are cared for and supported after having a baby are more likely to feel confident, have a lower incidence of postpartum depression, and have greater success with breastfeeding. Eastern North Carolina is in need of these additional support services for new mothers and their families.

HOPE Women & Family Services, Inc. strives to help families in eastern North Carolina through the 4th trimester and baby's first year of life. We thank you in advance for your gift, which will directly impact the women and families of eastern North Carolina.

Our fundraising goal amount is set to cover 6 women and family units with our comprehensive service model. Our goal amount includes training, office supplies and fees. HOPE Women & Family Services, Inc. started from the ground up and has so far accomplished becoming incorporated, receiving our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and securing promotional tools and community partnerships.

POSTPARTUM SUPPORT PROJECT

Purpose Our Postpartum Support Project will provide services to individuals including, but not limited to: teenage mothers, single mothers, mothers from low socioeconomic households, partners of deployed individuals, mothers who have adopted a child, and mothers with a history of postnatal mental health diagnoses. Our comprehensive service model will offer postpartum doula support, health and wellness, therapy sessions (as needed and available), education and administrative services.
To see more details on what each of these services entails, please visit our website listed below.

Community Partnerships
Family Therapy Clinic, East Carolina University

For more information about HOPE Women & Family Service, Inc. or our Postpartum Support Project, please visit us online at www.hopewfs.org, or social media!
HOPE Women & Family Services, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3). Our EIN is 82-2577114. All donations are tax deductible.