Yes, we’re still here! Except now it’s the three of us. Ante and I were thrilled to share the news of baby Skoko arriving September, and we are still in awe of the number of you who have been praying for us--we’re eternally thankful! Nausea hit harder than I imagined, so rather than writing blogs, I slept and ate as much as possible (anything I needed to do to get through the days’ demands and deadlines). The first trimester is past and I’m feeling like myself again. Ante was on “keep Roberta happy” duty and he nailed it… Reality show worthy! Just over 17 weeks in, our tiny human is poking away and I’m loving every second.
It took us a year and a half to conceive and my peace did not waiver for a few reasons:
1. Ante was convinced we’d have a baby, whether it took another year, or ten. He didn’t break a sweat or express worry even once. Thank you for that, handsome. Even though I was the realist and acknowledged that we may not get pregnant!
2. I knew the answer to my desire for a child might be, “no.” I prayed each day: “Lord, may Your Will be done.” I spent too much time in my early faith life worrying about things that I couldn’t control. Realistically, if you’re being faithful and repentant, focusing on Christ above all else, everything will work out... not necessarily as you want it to, but as it’s meant to. I REFUSED to let anything take my peace and shadow my love of Jesus. Our time here is so short and I understood that any day could be my last. I didn’t want to be known as, “Roberta: devastated that she couldn’t be a mom,” but rather, “Roberta: loved Jesus relentlessly.” Of course, the inability to conceive isn’t glorious. Of course, I had--and would have continued to have--moments of sadness and desolation, but they should never carry on too long. Jesus is always there asking, “Do you trust me?” What was my alternative? Trust in God and willingness to go where He calls is our only purpose.
3. My desire was to be a mother, and I know that God fulfills desires, one way or another. I started living in the joy of knowing that I would be a mom, naturally, through adoption, or spiritually to others, and not without a heavy cross to carry either way. If one day we were to find out that we could not have children, well, we would carry that cross when we came to it, but not a second before. Besides, I had a studly husband to focus on and a marriage to nurture. The reality is, we have to fight like hell for our peace, and it’s worth it.
4. I felt your prayers. Truly. Know that you have mine, forever.
So sometimes the answer is, “no.” Babies don’t come, people die tragically, prayers seem unanswered, and we are debatably straying further and further from ‘world peace.’ How do we reconcile this?
The existence of suffering is likely the greatest impediment to faith for many. If God is so good, why does he allow sickness, injustice, etc.? When Ante and I minister to this point, we make very clear that the Catholic Church is no advocate of the “Prosperity Gospel” (the theology of health and wealth, holding that if humans have faith in God, he will provide financial security and prosperity. WRONG). Wrong, wrong, WRONG. God blesses us, sure, but have you seen a crucifix lately? The narrative is complex.
Jesus said he was God. If untrue, this is blasphemy under Jewish law but was by no means punishable under Roman law. Yet days after his palm-paved, joyous entrance into Jerusalem, the people turn against him; their faith waivers and they incur a bandwagon mentality, urging Pontius Pilate to release the felon Barabbas, crucifying Jesus instead. He was blameless, yet convicted nonetheless. The greatest tragedy is the most perfect man undergoing an undeserved and vile punishment, and yet it happened to God himself. He was scourged to the point of skin falling from his back, mocked and spit on with a crown of large thorns shoved into His head to increase the pain and mockery. He then carried a beam on His bloody and skinless back to which He would be nailed, hanging there for hours, speared and taunted. Eventually, He breathed his last breath.
On the third day, Jesus rose, defeating death. Watch “The Case for Christ” for a good analysis of the Resurrection. Bottom line: if the Resurrection didn’t happen, we shouldn’t be Christian. I’m not Catholic because life is hard and I need a crutch to lean on. I’m Catholic because it’s true. Jesus cannot be a nice guy or a mere prophet; He said he was God and that has implications for our lives. Simply read through the Gospel readings over the past 7 days and you will see that He doesn’t muddle his words. As Christians we defend the Truth of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, proclaiming from the mountains that HE IS THE WAY.
If the greatest injustice led to the opening of the gates of Heaven and our salvation, our suffering will be used for good, as well. God does not will or cause suffering, but rather He allows it, using it for His glory in our lives and in the world. Sometimes miracles happen as a witness to His glory for a time in a certain place, but while we are here there will be pain and not everything will unfold as we’d like.
The Catholic Church holds the theology of “Redemptive Suffering.” Catholic Answers writes, "Redemptive suffering refers to our sufferings we offer up to Jesus for the salvation of souls, whether our own or others. Such an offering can be specifically directed to making amends for our own sins or those of others. But it doesn’t have to be. One could offer one’s suffering for other reasons." We live in a fallen world because free-will allowed for the turning away from God’s love, unleashing evil manifest in numerous ways. It is our duty to navigate through the world well, trusting the Plan with our eyes on Heaven. In the meantime, we can take our suffering and join it to the Cross of Christ as a prayer for the conversion of sinners, the reparation of souls, or anything else we’d like. For example, I plan to have a drug-free birth, and I’m offering up the pain for you, your journey with Jesus, and your salvation (and that of myself and my family). We can offer our pain for anything and we’ll find that it’s more fruitful than complaining. Mother Angelica once said, “Suffering in itself does make not us holy. It is only when we unite it, out of love, to the suffering of Christ that it has meaning. Suffering without love is wasted pain.” We must ask ourselves, "Am I wasting the pain I have been blessed with?"
As we begin into Holy Week, may we enter into the suffering of the Crucifixion and the glory of the Resurrection, remembering that it is our call to conform our lives to Christ, spreading His Truth to the ends of the earth.
God Bless you all!