A Couple of Catholics

A blog about faith, intentional living and the joys and struggles of married life.

Category: Faith (page 2 of 3)

4 Resources to Make Lent More Agonizing

Welcome to the second week of Lent. How has it been going so far? I hope you are off to a great start!

Admittedly, this post probably would have served you better if it were posted before Ash Wednesday. But hey, part of being Catholic is always striving to be better. So if you need a bit of a Lent pick-me-up, here are four of our favorite Lent resources to help you deepen your faith journey.

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Saying Yes to Motherhood

It’s no secret that motherhood is challenging. It’s the most challenging job I’ve ever experienced. Still, it wasn’t like this was any sort of well-kept secret. People told me it would be tough, that there would be days when I would just want to cry and tear my hair out all at the same time. Just like they told me that marriage would have it’s rough patches, but for some reason I never listened to them. I guess I just thought they were exaggerating or too cynical or whatever.

The truth is they were all right. There is one thing that they didn’t tell me, though. One aspect that I wasn’t prepared for. That was how much the trials and victories of motherhood would alter my spirituality.

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So You Think You Know the Catholic Church? (Part 1)

You don’t need to be Catholic for long, or even study its theology in any sort of depth to realize that there is no shortage of misconceptions about Catholicism. As a former theology teacher and missionary, I’ve encountered many people who think they know the Catholic Church, sadly they hold so many misunderstandings about our beliefs and teachings. Not that I can blame them…many Catholics don’t understand their faith. Naturally it seemed fitting to put together a list of the common misconceptions I hear about the Catholic Church. Sure there are plenty more than this post covers, but these are the ones that I have most often been faced with explaining.

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Take a selfie on Ash Wednesday and post it with #AshTag

Even if you didn’t watch the Oscar’s this year, you probably at least saw Ellen’s epic selfie somewhere online. Ellen literally broke twitter (because her photo became so popular in such a short time). Since I work in social media, I’m always interested in taking what works in mainstream media and adapting it to better communicate as a church.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the word out about Lent and Ash Wednesday with the same viral power? Well, while browsing twitter, I came across an ingenious way to spread the Lenten love. Continue reading

Catholic Schools Week – Making the Faith Come Alive

This week is Catholic Schools Week, a nation-wide annual celebration of Catholic schools. While there is so much to celebrate as a teacher, I find this time of year to be somewhat challenging and thought-provoking. How can I, as a Catholic schoolteacher, help promote the mission and focus of our schools?

Since I teach theology, teaching Christian values and ideology naturally makes up my curriculum. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow. In an effort to motivate myself, and as a challenge to my fellow Catholic schoolteachers, I’ve comprised a list of ways to make our rich and beautiful Catholic faith become more alive in the classroom.

 

Make the Saints Tangible

We can all relate to the saint parades and celebration of feast days. It’s fairly commonplace for us teachers to recount the lives of these heroically virtuous people to our students, but if we are not careful such stories and festivities can quickly become the humdrum of teaching in a Catholic school. How we can so quickly forget the courage, fortitude and remarkable virtue these people had, equating their lives to the genre of tall tales?

Not only should we be sharing these stories with zeal and enthusiasm, but encouraging our students to strive for sainthood themselves. Yes, WE ARE ALL CALLED TO BE SAINTS! Saints are not an elitist class of God’s favorites, but a real and legitimate standard for each of us. So in addition to passing on their incredible stories, may we encourage our students to aim for this life of virtue and to become saints themselves.

 

The Sacraments

These are the building blocks of our faith tradition and uniquely make us Catholic, yet we often find ourselves routinely attending weekly Mass because “that’s just what we do at Catholic schools.”

Weekly Mass and regular Confession are one of the finer job perks of teaching in a Catholic school. Think about it, we are getting paid to cultivate our own spiritual life (bonus). While our students may not appreciate this immense opportunity quite yet, it would be beneficial for them to witness our enthusiasm for participating in such privileges. So let’s make sure that we always appreciate this benefit to the fullest.

 

Evangelization

If Catholic schools primary mission is to simply cater to Catholic families and give them an alternate option for educating their children then we have drastically missed the point. Catholic schools should be a light within the wider community, promoting not only a great education, but also superior standards in all realms.

The reason the Church exists is to reach out and evangelize to all people…I’m not saying convert, but share with others the joy we have found by living a life in Christ and for one another. Subsequently then, evangelization needs to be a priority in our schools. If we as a Church are not evangelizing then what the heck are we doing!? Working out salvation for ourselves, yet failing to have any regard for our neighbor’s salvation? Catholic Schools Week should be another opportunity to remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to serve the larger communities around our schools. I suggest that we use the example of our Holy Father and do something this week to serve the poor.

 

Prayer

This one always seems to be tricky for us Catholics. Your typical all-school prayer service, Stations of the Cross and prayer at the beginning of the day are well and good. It’s comforting to us… the bread and butter of the school day. Don’t get me wrong this is great, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this is enough. Christ wants a personal and intimate relationship with each of us. He wants to know our joys, successes, hopes, dreams, fears and worries. He wants to know us deeply…and I’m going to step out on a limp and say it is difficult to cultivate such a relationship with a Hail Mary at the end of the day.

We need to support a personal prayer life among our students. Now as a teacher who is trying to do this within the classroom currently… I will be the first to say it isn’t easy. In fact sometimes it is downright uncomfortable (gasp), but regardless of what anyone says, I stand firm that this is the single most important thing I can do for my kids. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. My class spends five minutes twice a week in silence–yep, absolute silence. The kids can journal, read a spiritual book, or pray a decade of the rosary. It’s nothing phenomenal, but it’s a start. As I tell my students over and over, “At the end of your life Jesus does not care how well you knew all your religion facts, He cares that you had a relationship with Him.”

 

Living It

Now I’m not for a second trying to insinuate that I’ve got it all together (not even in the slightest). That being said, we as Catholic schoolteachers need to get our act together. How can we expect our students to have a deep, enriching and vibrant faith life if we ourselves don’t? I know everyone is trying their best to be good and decent people, but we need to up our game a little here folks. For starters, regardless of your faith background, students should see our enthusiasm for living a spiritual life. Rather than rolling our eyes and trying to squeeze in a prayer at the end of the day, students should see our passion and love of the faith. If our students can’t see why we buy into this whole Jesus thing, then why should they? Honestly, if you don’t really care whether your students immerse themselves into a life with Christ, then I don’t know why you are teaching at a Catholic school.

 

Stay Focused

Last but definitely not least, EVERYTHING SHOULD BE CENTERED AROUND CHRIST. From our curriculum, to our room décor… everything should draw us back to Him. Hanging a crucifix up on the wall doesn’t make a Catholic school Catholic (it makes it a wall with a crucifix on it). A Catholic school should be a place where students, teachers and administration engross themselves into a life centered on Jesus, or at least a place where a student’s spiritual formation is just as important as their academic growth.

 

Have other ideas on how to make the faith come alive beyond Catholic Schools Week? Share them in the comments below.

Image credit: Christ the King Regional School

You Said That?!?! (How We Met Part 2 of 4)

As Patrick and I prepare for a lifetime together I find it fitting that we take a moment to recall our beginnings. Every couple enjoys telling the story of how they met and we are no exception. Just as the saying goes, “when you aren’t searching for it, someone great comes along.” This is exactly what happened when I met Pat. In August of 2011, I had just returned to Kansas after spending the summer with a friend in Houston.

A co-worker and now my maid of honor, Clare and I decided to get out of Atchison for the evening and head to Kansas City…a trip we made all to often. Once in KC we heard about a Catholic, young adult event that would be happening that evening. This was totally our style…adoration followed by a BBQ. Needless to say, we were in.

At Saint Peter’s Catholic church as I stood in line for confession, a dashing, albeit very tall man walked by and immediately caught my eye. (Have you seen him folks… I mean how could he not?) It was in this moment that I distinctly recall experiencing a sense that some would call coincidence, I, on the other hand like to call it a God-poke. Due to many previous experiences in my life I believe that our God is a God who can and at moments does directly work in our lives. Anyway, I sensed that this man…this tall, unknown man would soon be playing a crucial role in my life. This intuition made me quite uncomfortable. I tried to brush it off as nothing more than my emotions running away from me again, little did I realize the significance of it all.

SEE ALSO: How We Met Part 1

Fast forward to the BBQ later that evening in the pastor’s backyard, Clare and I couldn’t find a seat. We decided to make ourselves cozy next to the beer coolers. I would never describe myself as boy-crazy by any stretch of the imagination, but for some reason or another I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was at work.

As I mingled around, chatting with friends and enjoying my Boulevard Wheat, I was still trying to play it cool and pretend as if all was well. Meanwhile, my mind was running off in thousands of directions. I attempted to conjure up every excuse I could think of to brush it off. Amusing myself with ideas like, ‘He probably already has a girlfriend.’ ‘He would never be interested in me anyway.’ There’s always my personal favorite; ‘Nicole you’re crazy… making this all up in your mind.’

Toward the end of the evening a college friend of mine, Paul wandered over to Clare and I to catch up. While filling him in on all my Houston adventures, Pat came over to say hello to Paul. Naturally, Paul introduced us…and then it happened…a line that has gone down as one of the stupidest things you could say to a stranger.

I want to stress how important it is that you recall all the random comments I had heard about Pat in the past few years. This makes what I said to a mere stranger seem a little less bizarre.

And so the conversation went…

Paul: “Nicole, this is Pat Padley.”

Me: “Wait…you’re Pat Padley?”

Pat: “Ugh..yeah.”

Me: “Oh my gosh, it’s the man, the myth and the legend.”

Yes, I actually said that.

I immediately realized he had no idea who I was and in my mortified state I tried to backtrack as best I could. I followed this awesome moment in time by attempting to explain that I knew his brother, Nick, but it was too late. The image of Pat staring at me with a blank and utterly confused look on his face will forever be burned in my mind as the moment I met my future husband.

Thankfully, this sort foot-in-mouth disorder is one I’ve been coping with since childhood, so I’ve gotten pretty good at recovering from the awkward situations I all to often find myself in. I laughed it off as nothing more than me being dramatic, which is basically what it was. Lucky for me even God can work with foot-in-mouth disorder and bring the best out of it. Only time and a few more Boulevards would help me recover from this one.

Find out what happens next: Read Part 3 here

 

Going All Natural: 7 Reasons NFP is for Me

Pat and I have been knee deep in wedding planning.  After weeks and weeks of searching online, calling people, leaving messages and setting up times to visit we can finally rest in the fact that progress has been made. We have a church, a priest, a DJ, a photographer and yes FINALLY…we have a venue. Cue the hallelujahs and heavenly hymns.

Just as every good Catholic couple planning their nuptials, we have recently begun our Natural Family Planning classes.

Contrary to many who might feel uneasy or uncomfortable in a situation like this, Pat and I were rather excited to begin learning about NFP. I mean, after all, we get to talk about sex and what could be bad about that?

Aside from the fact that artificial contraception directly goes against our moral beliefs, we were looking forward to all the positives of going all-natural on this one. Positives? Like what you ask.

While there are plenty of people who know a whole lot more about this Natural Family Planning than I do…here are a few of the reasons I am stoked to get to it naturally.

1. I’m marrying for keeps.

I’m not sure about you, but I plan on this whole wedding/marriage being a one-time thing. Just as the countless others who take that leap of faith and walk down the aisle I hope and pray for a joyful, fulfilling and life-giving marriage. I want Pat to always cherish and love me in the way he does now. Likewise, I hope to always respect and honor Pat as my husband just as I strive to now. From all that I’ve read and heard about NFP I can only conclude that this type of family planning will support our hopes for marriage as this method promotes conversation between spouses about the future of their family.

2. Why pay for sex?

Simply stated, depending on the method you use NFP is free once you’ve learned the basics. I’m choosing to work with my body’s natural fertility to either postpone or plan a pregnancy. No trips to CVS to fill a prescription and pick up some condoms. I don’t know about you but a shopping spree sounds much more appealing to me than buying rubbers.

3. I’m going green.

I’ve never been one to jump on the bandwagon, but when it comes to personal health I’m on board. For all you vegans, vegetarians, carnivores or whatever else floats your boat…take a look at NFP.

A recent blog I stumbled upon (www.iusenfp.com) gives a good explanation of some of the harms associated with hormonal contraceptives. “One of the active ingredients in most hormonal contraceptives is estrogen which has been classified by the World Health Organization as a Class 1 carcinogen. What’s a Class 1 carcinogen, you ask? It’s a chemical with sufficient evidence proving its carcinogenicity to humans. Other chemicals that share this distinction are arsenic, asbestos, silica dust, and tobacco. Another chemical that is in Depo-Provera (the shot) is depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) which has been linked with a 2.2 increase in breast cancer.

4. It works.

That’s right folks Natural Family Planning is not the rhythm method your grandmother used in the 1930s and 1940s. NFP works with all women’s cycles: irregular or not. In fact compared to other popular forms of birth control NFP does quite well in measures of effectiveness. NFP measures at a 99% effectiveness rate comparing with the Pill at 99% and condoms at 97%.

Now, of course, it must be stated that these measures of effectiveness are based on proper use.

If you forget to talk the Pill one day and have sex you are taking a chance with pregnancy.

If a condom breaks or you choose not to use one, you are taking a chance.

Likewise, if your charting at peak ovulation time and decide to have sex, you are taking a chance.

SEE ALSO: Natural Family Planning: How to choose your method?

5. Why kill the mo-jo?

The answer is I don’t. According to its own warning label, the Pill can cause a decrease in a women’s libido, leading her to lose interest in sex altogether. Don’t believe me just research it yourself. Countless sources repeat this over and over again. http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20326842,00.html

I use NFP - Kill libido

6. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

I don’t view my fertility as a problem to be fixed or an illness to be cured. Obviously, I’m a woman and just as all women I was created with ovaries. These ovaries of mine seem to work just fine so can someone please tell me why I would want to mess with my body if it is working just as it was created to work?

While maybe not today at some point in the future I would like to have children with this man I’m about to marry. So I personally would prefer not to mess with my fertility. This way when we do want to start a family there is nothing stopping us. Natural Family Planning is 100% reversible. On any given month Pat and I will be able to decide whether to postpone our family or get to making babies. On the other hand most hormonal birth control recommends that you stop use 3-4 months before you desire to get pregnant. 3-4 months and that is assuming all goes according to plan.

7. I snagged a stud like Pat by staying away from the Pill.

I realize that this final point doesn’t directly relate to why I’ve chosen to use NFP. However, it does reinforce my decision to keep in natural. A short video chalked full of interesting info. Enjoy!

Intrigued? Read more about Natural Family Planning:

http://IuseNFP.com

http://www.janetesmith.com

http://nfpsite.aldred.org

http://americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/fertilityawarenessNFP.html

http://www.ccli.org/nfp/

http://nfp.marquette.edu

http://www.creightonmodel.com/

Wikipedia on NFP

Photos credited to IuseNFP.com 

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