I’ve always been able to enter into the season of Advent fairly easily as the days got shorter and weather colder and I felt free to give myself permission to join with Mary’s soul in the joyful expectation of our Lord’s birth and also the Second Coming. I fed off of the anticipation and appreciated the welcomed quietness of the season.
This way of praying became a bit more difficult after being married four years ago and trying to get pregnant. It started to feel as though I was in a constant “Advent” season, but also “Lent” as well: a fair mixture of waiting and suffering simultaneously. There was a serious lack of joy revolving around our infertility. Even the joy of Easter has been hard for me to enter into over the course of our marriage as it seemed like the spiritual joy was non-transferable to our reality in this area.
There is a lot of beautiful writing and reflection circling the internet and devotional world about the season of advent in regards to “waiting in hopeful expectation.” Yet, how do I enter into this call if I do not have hopeful expectation and am sick of waiting? Does this make me a bad Catholic?
Let’s break this down and define our terms:
- Wait: stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens
- Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust
- Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future
So basically it sounds like the call can be translated into: “stay and trust in the desire you have, believing that something will happen in the future.”
Stay. Stay? My first reaction is why would I want to STAY in my infertility?! The dreaded day in and day out reminder of my weakness and bodily imperfection; the reminder that I am a broken human being. Lord, are you asking me to stay in this?
This is uncomfortable. This is a place of vulnerability and of hurt and disappointment. Why would I want to stay here? I want to run from this dark hole in my heart that I attempt to fill every day with something…
As I meditate on this call the Lord is asking of me, I am reminded that our Mother Mary stayed in this place of uncertainty, being uncomfortable, vulnerable, and seemingly unlivable conditions during advent. She stayed.
Suddenly, I find myself asking for the grace of Mary to remain here. Even though I am not wrestling with these thoughts and feelings while I am pregnant as she was, I can still relate. Lord, give me the grace to stay in the uncomfortable, in the hurt and disappointment. I ask You to meet me there.
He is also asking me to stay in my desire, to trust. What was my desire? I surely desire to have a child and be healed of infertility. This was a screaming desire of my heart! However, I felt as though He was asking me to go deeper. What was my ultimate desire?
Eternal life. If I am honest, this ultimately trumps my desire for a child.
I felt as though He was asking me to stay in my desire for eternal life, not stay in my desire for a child. And I have to choose to believe that this will happen someday in the future, as my hopeful expectation.
Suddenly, this was making sense to me. On the surface, Advent could be seen as a season of waiting for healing and pregnancy, however, the Lord wanted to remind me of the deeper meaning and truth. Ultimately, I can only wait in hopeful expectation, for eternal life. This is what He promises us. He doesn’t promise me a child, or even healing.
He promises me eternal life.
“O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!”
The “O” Antiphon for Dec. 20
This post can also be viewed at springsinthedesert.org. Springs in the Desert is a new Catholic ministry devoted to helping women and couples struggling with infertility to process and move beyond their grief to find the fruitfulness God has planned for their marriage.
Messenger by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird-
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
How is He astonishing you today?
As part of my Spiritual Direction formation, I was asked to make a 19th Annotated Ignatian Retreat on the Spiritual Exercises. Whoa. I had heard of making a 30-day silent retreat with the Spiritual Exercises if you felt as though you may be called into a religious vocation. However, this version of the exercises was created for “busy” people. Instead of 30 days, you stretch it out over 30 weeks. I will be working with a spiritual director on a monthly basis to complete the retreat. I am committing to praying for an hour each day for the next 8 months. I am excited about this new journey, but also a little nervous as to what God will reveal to me.
These exercises were written by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s. He was a Spanish soldier wounded in battle. While he lay healing in the hospital, he experienced a conversion. He later wrote these exercises for prayer and founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Please pray that God will provide what I need during this retreat and for the grace to accept it! St. Ignatius, pray for me.
Have any of you ever done the retreat?