Thursday, March 17, 2016

Let's talk about suffering

I wrote this observation on my Facebook page to mixed reviews among faithful Catholics (some loved it, some thought it was insensitive, more an accusation than an observation):

"I am stunned at how often Christians wish to throw off and avoid their crosses and sufferings, considering how often Christ told us we would and must suffer on this earth. I think it's an American thing."

A non-Christian friend thought the whole thing was interesting and suggested writing about it on the Bubble. I think that is a good idea.

We already discussed redemptive suffering here, something that even most Christians have never heard of. And I wrote of how the worst suffering in my life so far brought me the most peace I've known (I am not saying I will do well next time suffering comes, but that's where it stands right now).

And I've mentioned before that abandonment to God, no matter what He sends our way, is the only way to peace and joy, according to Jesus (who insisted we must suffer with Him) and the saints. Total death to our own wills, total surrender to His.

This passage from my favorite book is so powerful to me -- it was like a lightbulb going off in my head, and it might be powerful and helpful to some of you as well:

This understanding, and this spiritual principle of surrender, or total abandonment, has helped me immeasurably in my journey. I believe to my core that it is the key to the peace and joy that our loving Father wants for us. I want to share it with everyone, because there is so much suffering all around us, and so much fear and anxiety

If this discussion might be of any help to someone who is suffering, it's worth having. Let's talk. 


A great means to preserve continual peace and tranquility of soul is to receive everything from the hands of God, both great and small, and in whatever way it comes.
--St. Dorotheus


  1. Leila, I loved your FB post and am in agreement with you when it comes to suffering. We increase our suffering when we fight against it. (I am not speaking about avoidable suffering here but that which can't be avoided. And there's plenty of that in life!) Bearing our sufferings/crosses peacefully lessens the suffering, helps us grow in virtue, and breaks the chain of that negative self-love and pride in us. The saints suffered with joy because self-love was displaced by holy love and this kind of love is greater than suffering. There is a direct correlation between pride and not being able to bear suffering of any kind. Humility, on the other hand, bears it with grace.

  2. Mary, Yes! That is so true about increased suffering! My dad always said, "Don't carry your cross sideways." Meaning, it will be a lot harder to get around, through doorways, etc., if you are not carrying your cross straight! But we carry it sideways and we make our cross SO hard, SO cumbersome, MUCH worse by refusing to carry it with abandonment. It's not someone that can be taught, it just has to be tried.

  3. I wrote this observation on my Facebook page to mixed reviews among faithful Catholics (some loved it, some thought it was insensitive, more an accusation than an observation):

    "I am stunned at how often Christians wish to throw off and avoid their crosses and sufferings, considering how often Christ told us we would and must suffer on this earth. I think it's an American thing."

    The next idea here would just be that people could logically ask you to defend your assertion/observation (since it deals with asserting a frequency of occurrence and even an idea about a country), but I don’t see the assertion/observation itself as particularly “insensitive” or “accusing”.

    They might call you on some numbers to argue you to prove your opinion more thoroughly, but other than that, I just see their jump to emotion as their way of not wanting to pursue the argument from your angle.

    They read it as “shots fired!” and they want to fire back at the assertion/observation, so they say you’re “not being nice”. It’s not really a fitting response to what you posited, but there we are.

    A different/better response would be, “How often do you see this?” (it pins a number) and/or “What makes it more an American response than, say, a Chinese one?” Something like this, where the response is suited to the assertion. Then you'd be on the trail to explaining it more intellectually and they'd be able to get out from under the emotional reaction.

  4. So, I just put a comment on your FB thread, asking this same question: What is an example of Christians wanting to throw off their crosses? What are you thinking of when you are thinking this? I see people doing this, not so much any of my good, Catholic friends, in which I surround myself in my bubble!

    1. I guess, I see this as "American", not wanting to suffer, but, I don't see it in Christians. That's why I'm curious what examples you are talking of when you say "Christians" not wanting to throw off their sufferings.

  5. Wise father! I'll have to remember that!

  6. Nubby, I agree! It would have made more sense to go from there.

    Jamie Jo, whoops, I think I misunderstood your question on my thread so I will answer it here, since I answered the wrong question there.

    First, most Americans are still Christians, so I hold that it's Christian Americans, yes. Most are Protestant and don't have a theology of suffering anyway, so that feeds into it. And Catholics act like Protestants (since we don't know our faith).

    But here it is: So many (and I'm not discounting myself!) complain against even the smallest sufferings and sacrifices. They do what they can to find comfort and convenience instead. And, when the BIG suffering comes, they do tend to spiritually rebel. They think that God could not POSSIBLY want this for them, that surely it's a mistake, and that they don't "deserve" this suffering. They find anyway around it (and that's okay, if the means are moral) but if the suffering is unavoidable and huge, they get angry at God. Now, is it "natural" to get angry at God? Sure, it's human nature to feel that emotion. But I worry when spiritual leaders and such say that it's "good to get mad at God" because "He can take it". It's as if we have a right to be angry at a just and loving Father. It may be a stage that we need to get through, and we are all (save a precious few) at those beginning stages, but we tend to think this is fine and not something to discourage, or not something that should be superseded with a better way, something like this prayer (my bishop's favorite):

    I abandon myself into your hands;
    do with me what you will.
    Whatever you may do, I thank you:
    I am ready for all, I accept all.

    Let only your will be done in me,
    and in all your creatures -
    I wish no more than this, O Lord.

    Into your hands I commend my soul:
    I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
    for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
    to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
    and with boundless confidence,
    for you are my Father.

    Charles de Foucauld

    Now, that might strike most Christians in America as a very SCARY and DANGEROUS prayer, don't you think? I think so! When I first read it I was freaked and wanted to hold something of myself back from it, lest God answer that prayer!!

    1. Love that prayer! It is very similar to the daily offering prayer from Consoling the Heart of Jesus (in the prayer companion prayer book)

      Have you read that book? Now that book really helps with suffering...Fr Gaitley explains in it how God is gentle with the suffering He does allow in us....if we choose to console Jesus in this way. (Our offering of our sufferings)

      I do think "suffering" is foreign to so many, but I don't see it in my group of friends, because they are like-minded and get it. I do see it though, in the mainstream of people, the lukewarm Catholics who do not really know their faith.

      I do notice in myself, that when suffering comes along (and it always does)God IS gentle, yet, it takes me a good week or so to "accept" it...I cry like a baby, "Why me?" I feel as if I've been betrayed or something. (I'm thinking specifically when my 4 year old, at the time, became a type 1 diabetic) Then, those thoughts are taken over with my knowledge that God knows best, He knows all and He is always there and this is good for my soul. (and so much more, like He brings good out of bad)

      Are you saying though, that practicing Catholics, that know their faith, when suffering comes their way, they don't want to accept it ever, or like what I said, at first don't want to accept it? Are you seeing these practicing Catholics not getting closer to God with their suffering, because they are not allowing it?

  7. Oh my gosh!! Bishop Conley posted this today, St. Patrick's Day, from the Saint!

    Emphasis mine:

    From the Confessions of St. Patrick:
    "I give unceasing thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the day of my testing. Today I can offer him sacrifice with confidence, giving myself as a living victim to Christ, my Lord, who kept me safe through all my trials. I can say now: Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling, that you worked through me with such divine power?

    ... You did it so that, whatever happened to me, I might accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God. God showed me how to have faith in him for ever, as one who is never to be doubted. ...

    If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favour."

  8. Not sure if this the "reply" button or the "add a comment" button, as for some reason, my computer is not showing me where to type....I'm doing this blindly! (sorry, I replied above)

    Morning Offering, from Consoling the Heart of Jesus, by Fr Michael E. Gaitley

    Dear Jesus, I know that your Sacred heart is sorrowful because so many people neither love you nor trust in you. Behold, Lord, here I am. Though weak and sinful, I love you and I trust in you. I intend that all my actions this day be for the purpose of consoling you.

    Heavenly Father, in union with all the Masses being offered today, I give you praise and thanks for the many gifts you will send me, including the gift of my small sharing in the Cross. May this my prayer glorify you and console your Son. With the help of your grace,, I resolve to remain all day in this prayerful spirit of praise and thanks and, further, to console Jesus by being merciful to my neighbor through my deeds, words, and prayers.

    Mary, my mother, come with your spouse, the Spirit. make my sacrifice of praise, thanks, and mercy a most pleasing consolation to your Son. Behold, I present to you all I am and have. Take my offering so it may pass through your Immaculate Heart, to Jesus' Sacred Heart, and on to the Father, for his greater glory. Amen.

    "including the gift of my small sharing of the cross"
    One of the most powerful lines in this beautiful prayer.

  9. Hi Leila, Why don't Protestants have a theology of suffering? Thanks!

  10. Jamie Jo,

    I think that many of us Catholics do what you describe, in that we balk at the beginning until we begin to accept. But some try very hard to be in control, to avoid suffering, to order their lives carefully so that no catastrophes happen, and still others do resent every cross that comes their way, especially those that they don't feel they "deserve". And they may have their feelings of resentment lessen over time, until the next cross. God doesn't want things halfway, he wants ALL of us, and ALL our hearts, ALL our will. I think Fr. Groeschel said that most Christians live and die in the first stage (purgative), so yes, I think most of us fight or struggle against our crosses (God's will for us) all the days of our lives. That is why we will likely go to Purgatory, to purge those vestiges of self-love that we didn't do on this earth (but the saints learned how to do).

    1. Jamie Jo, an easy test is this: Do you know Catholics who are always fearful and anxious? Who live in the past or worry for the future? That is evidence, barring unavoidable mental illness, that they have not abandoned themselves to God's will, including the idea that suffering will come and it's okay. They have no peace.

  11. Beth B,

    I think because they truncated the Faith so much. They cut everything in half. And in their theology, "works" (or anything we can do) are utterly meaningless. God did it ALL, and we are left to do nothing (except pray the sinner's prayer and be saved for all eternity no matter what we do, as in evangelicalism). The idea that we could share in the redemption of the world, that our sufferings have real salvific meaning to ourselves and other souls? They cannot abide that. It would mean that Christ's sacrifice was "not enough".

    And it's a great loss. They have no way to explain suffering except to say that it's a trial that will make us stronger (why? If we are going to heaven anyway), or that we just need to endure it (again, why?).

    The first link in the OP will bring you to an article which explains why redemptive suffering is not opposed to the idea that Jesus' sacrifice was enough.

  12. Yes Leila! I do know people like that, good Catholic friends....I have caught myself saying, "I'll pray for peace for you" or even "You need some peace!" to their shock, I'm sorry to say, they are the last to admit they do not have that peace!

    I do so wish I was not such a baby and could accept suffering immediately, instead of catching myself crying and wondering "why?" or even "Why not them?" I sometimes think, though, that our tears are prayers in themselves, offering up to our Lord, our pains, our LOVE, through our sadness, begging for His graces.

    I do hope we, if we have that "happy death" we pray for, are able to purge those self love things...through our end of life suffering.

    1. I do always accept whatever suffering has come my way, I must clarify that. I always try to thank God for the joys and sufferings in life, as they come. That being said, I don't always LIKE it.

  13. It's interesting that you should post this again today. I love that passage. In trying to figure out how to accept some of the things in life that are objectively bad, I have needed the distinction between God's absolute will and His permissive will to help me understand. However, I feel like God has been gently leading me towards deeper surrender this Lent, and the latter part of that passage is what is needed for practically working through that in day to day life.

  14. Thank you for that great explanation, Leila. That makes perfect sense. And with some evangelicals I know, I'm guessing that's why baptism is purely symbolic - because Jesus' sacrifice was enough.
    I am definitely not at peace as I constantly am anxious and fearful, but am definitely getting better the deeper I go into my faith. But you are right - it's a total control issue. I have control issues. I want to be in control of everything, and I wonder if that's caused me even more suffering!

  15. Jamie Jo, tears are good! The Gift of Tears is something I've always wanted, really! I barely ever cry!! I would love to do so, as it's cleansing. :)

  16. Catholic Mutt, that's what happened to me, too. I just LOVED learning that there was God's active will and His permissive will, but who knew that I would even love the unlearning of it even more! Meaning, not to pay attention to the difference, and accept all that comes to me as if from the Hand of God. How freeing!

  17. Beth, yes!! If we don't cede control on our own, it will be pried from our death grip!!! LOL!! We have to learn the hard way, sometimes. But it's not a lesson any of us can escape. Read this:

    I think it will resonate!!

  18. Leila - feel free to take some of my tears; I'm not-so-slightly on the emotional side and feel things deeply. Right now, I'm trying not to be overly dreadful of Good Friday next week....I'm not going to lie, I hate fasting, and I know we have it so easy even compared to the Byzantine Rite (whose fasting rule is much stricter than the Latin Rite) but ugh! I'm such a snacker and hate that gnawing hunger sensation -- I know, I's supposed to remind me of my dependence on Christ, but in reality, what ends up happening is that the hunger distracts me from praying (plus the tabernacle being empty of the Eucharist isn't helpful) and I get "hangry" and I feel like I desire food more than God and yeah....vicious cycle. I know we can't have Easter without Good Friday but oh how I wish we could!

  19. I think because they truncated the Faith so much. They cut everything in half.

    Sadly, they more than halved it. Regarding the sacraments alone, they have, what, 2 of 7? That's 28.5%ish. There's no cohesive whole to understand things like suffering because they don't believe in a fuller theology (Catholic theology).

    They basically cannot add the suffering to Christ's because they deny that we should even be thinking that way. To them, that is like saying that what He did on the Cross (and afterward) wasn't enough. It is odd to me because I know that so many Protestants are really big on "offering" and on giving God the "first fruits" in terms of offering money/tithing, they are very generous that way.

    If they understand that type of offering, it's a shame they cannot connect the (logical) dots that even human suffering can be an "offering" and can be used in the spiritual realm by God who is spirit. Nothing is beyond His grasp or out from underneath His care. All is meaningful. All can be useful.

  20. I could also give you some tears. I cry so easily it's embarrassing!

  21. Oh, Nubby, great perspective I haven't thought of! It's kind of like how they find value in asking Christians on earth to pray for them, but not the ones in heaven. Disconnect!

  22. Okay I have a question...if a woman has to go back to work, and has to leave her baby with someone else, the baby would suffer to an extent. But what if the woman can avoid going back to work all together and avoid her baby suffering by separating from her husband temporarily and living with someone who is willing to support her (like her sister) until the baby is a little older? Would that be employing moral means to deal with the situation and indicate the baby's suffering is avoidable?

  23. Very meaningful and helpful posts!
    What can add to the suffering is if one spouse is influenced by fundamentalists co-workers who opine that one can be healed if they just have enough faith.

    Devotion wise-there is a interesting novena of 'surrender to the will of God'. And sometimes just praying the Rosary of Seven Sorrows of Mary, (there's an app), and contemplating the travails of Our Immaculate Mother Mary can be soothing to the soul.

    One unexpected positive outcome of suffering, if you will, is that friends/relatives who are experiencing their first major trial, contact those they know who have undergone tribulation and ask how we endured the distress and not become bitter,etc. and keep on trudging while trying to maintain a positive outlook.

  24. But what if the woman can avoid going back to work all together and avoid her baby suffering by separating from her husband temporarily and living with someone who is willing to support her (like her sister) until the baby is a little older?

    Doesn’t this assume the dad doesn’t get to see the baby? Isn’t that wrong? Does this just come down to mom not wanting to work?

    I don’t understand why the woman needs to avoid work if she is able bodied, and work is available and necessary to keep finances afloat within the family unit.

    And isn’t she going to honorably have to pay the sister back, anyway, to keep everything peaceable and honorable? We don’t want to become burdens for family members. Unless there is abuse, I don’t see any kind of freeloading as morally right. It’s not a Catholic attitude. We don’t want to be burdens if we can solve our own issues, even if it means we have to use daycare for a while.

    What does dad do for work that doesn’t sustain the family financially and can he switch jobs instead of having the mom go live with someone else? It’s a break up of family, otherwise, from the sounds of it.

    It is not morally proper for us to leave a difficult financial situation and go live off of someone else’s excess—because chances are, it’s not an excess, it’s a struggle for the one sharing funds.

    It’s a burden for the sister, when the burden should be remedied between the husband and wife.

    Is dad out of work? If mom is able bodied, her obligation is to provide, not skirt provision. Our obligation is to find work to support immediate family. IMO, living with the sister and living off of her funds would only be right if there an abusive situation needing immediate intervention.

  25. I don't normally comment on these kinds of posts, but this one resonates with me. I've gotten really depressed with social media, looking at other peoples lives and thinking goodness, sometimes I'm sad what is wrong with me? No one else seems to be sad?

    One of the greatest lessons I've learned is that 1) no one is as happy as they pretend to be online and 2) not to beat myself when I'm going through a hard time. Instead of 'getting over it' like everyone suggests unfortunately, the only thing is sometimes to go through it. If you aren't elated every day all day there isn't something wrong with you, you aren't meant to be.

  26. Nubby - it doesn't come down to not wanting to work, in fact I'd argue the job is more fun than saying at home all day with an infant! And of course one would pay the sister back in time. The woman would be cooking, saving expenses of the single sister from eating out all the time, etc. I completely agree that free loading is not okay.

    The husband is not out of work and earns well, and the mother is able bodied and definitely capable of going to work. But doesn't formula feeding affect a baby's IQ? So couldn't ecologically nursing a baby be seen as a long term investment? And doesn't separation from the primary caregiver cause adverse long term psychological effects? Wouldn't these things outweigh the importance of going back to work jusr so the family can be more comfortable financially?

    I totally agree breaking up a family is a bad thing...and it's a last resort, definitely not a first choice and only short term. Or is even that out of the question/immoral? If so, then that means baby's suffering is unavoidable, and part of God's Will, and will be accepted with peace and grace.

    1. Of course she would pay back the sister in time with money I mean, not just hope the moey saved by cooking etc. would balance out the expenses.

      And again, the woman would go back to work once the baby turns two.

  27. Crystal, I second what Nubby said!

    friends/relatives who are experiencing their first major trial, contact those they know who have undergone tribulation and ask how we endured the distress and not become bitter,etc.

    Maggie, amen!! I sit at the feet of the most amazing spiritual mentors! What a joy!! And yes, people CRAVE those who have found Christ's peace. Such a gift!

    CS, what you are saying is true as far as it goes, but the point is not that we are supposed to feel "elated" every day. It's that even in our sufferings, we can find joy and peace (as Christ promised), and that is so, so different from the modern idea of "happiness" or this weird "giddiness" that we are supposed to exhibit.

    Anxiety is through the rough in our culture. Jesus commanded us not to be anxious. There is a path, the path of holiness, that will bring us there (more accurately, Christ will bring us there when and if we surrender to Him and His will (and only then). Otherwise, there really is no escape from the anxiety and fear in the interior of so many people around us. It's epidemic.

    But it's not about some facade of "Hey, look I feel happy! (while I go on sinning and ignoring God)". It's about suffering greatly (greatly!) and still having an interior peace and joy. This is what Christ was talking about when He said he would give the "peace that surpasseth all understanding".

    1. "Anxiety is through the roof"

      And sorry for typos, I'm multi=tasking, ugh

  28. There are so many assumptions here, though, look:

    But doesn't formula feeding affect a baby's IQ?

    How so? My kids were formula fed after 4mos and their IQ's are off the charts, even nationally compared to their peers (a brag, yea I suppose, to illustrat) so this blows a hole in that assumption, if the assumption is that formula fed babies won't be smarter than average.

    Wouldn't these things outweigh the importance of going back to work jusr so the family can be more comfortable financially?

    Why can't mom and dad figure their finances together, being together as they figure it out, that was your main issue/question in the first scenario. These things you brought up do not change the moral decision to break up the family in order to let mom bum off the sister, because look at the variables involved there. Duration of loans/money borrowing, duration of stay, effects on other family members when jealousy erupts, unforeseen circumstances where sister can no longer help out financially . I've lived it, I've seen the reality. I'm even against large "gifts" of money because I saw the drama that played out in several relationships, personally.

    Husband and wife cleave together. Right?

  29. Instead of 'getting over it' like everyone suggests unfortunately, the only thing is sometimes to go through it. If you aren't elated every day all day there isn't something wrong with you, you aren't meant to be.

    Leila's post is touching on the reality that in suffering there can be peace. So, to your point, Christianity doesn't teach "just get over it". It teaches "Let's add this to Christ's suffering so that there can be a net result greater than zero, because it can be used spiritually for our good or someone else's."

    The beauty of the Christian life is that even in suffering, all is not lost- in fact, "when I am weak, then I am strong" - St. Paul writes. It's not logical, but the spiritual world is not logical. It's upside down in that regard. So, maybe stay encouraged to think about that-- in weakness (unhappiness, maybe, emotional suffering, insecurities, what have you), there is strength when we allow God to work in those feelings, and impart His grace to even overcome those feelings, those sufferings.

  30. Yes, Leila,

    I meant that in our culture, that to be sad or suffering is to be doing something wrong, as opposed to a natural and necessary part of growth. And as you pointed out that is incorrect. Suffering is useful, universal and should be embraced, and not merely something to pretend it isn't happening and 'get over it'

  31. Nubby, yes they cleave together. So you're saying husband/wife unity > baby/mother unity? And that the baby's suffering is considered unavoidable, yes?

  32. CS, yes!! That is correct! To be suffering does not in any way mean that someone is doing something "wrong". Not in the least!

  33. I'm just saying the best options need to be on the table as far as mom and dad's employments choices or realities go, because the solution should first be looked for within that unit.

    I would not ever put it like husband/wife unity trumps mother/baby, because that leaves out the whole reality that husband/wife should be deciding what's best for their family together - not apart - and that mother/baby completely ignores father (husband), which is unfair, right?

    It's not right to start going down the avenue of separating the family unit, IMO.

    If there's no abuse, the couple should stay together. They need to figure out a way to get assistance in the meantime, but it shouldn't need to involve separating as a family. That causes more harm, I'd think. What does the dad do? Never see his family?

    I mean, what's the reality of the scenario here? Are you trying to summarize or analyze degrees of suffering here? Because there's no getting around some type of emotional suffering in your scenario, I suppose. The main idea is to minimize it (morally) while the family gets on its feet again.

  34. Crystal:

    Yes, spouse ALWAYS comes before children. Assuming the spouse is not a danger, of course. But that is the way God ordained it! The two become one. The children are the product or fruit of their love. The children are there BECAUSE of the marriage, they do not supersede the marriage. So many women (and we counsel this with engaged couples) tend to put their children before their husband when children come along. We must fight this temptation! God first, spouse next, children next.

    As for formula fed babies: I was a gifted student, summa cum laude grad from top university, blah, blah, blah. In my moms day, very few breastfed. I was 100% bottle fed.

    Meanwhile, I breastfed all my kids. Some are academically brilliant, some have other gifts which are often more important anyway.

    My sister has a chronic illness and could not ever breastfeed. Her bottle fed sons (three of them) are all off-the-charts gifted. Meaning, first son was courted by every school, took a full ride (all of it, plus extra money) to Fordham, now is being courted by top ten law schools (who are throwing upwards of $150,000 to temp him to come).

    Her second child (a national merit scholar like her first) is Number One in his class at the Naval Academy (that is a huge deal) and is a math genius who will probably lead the Navy one day if his superiors predictions are correct. (This would be great, since his older brother will probably be President!)

    Third son is in all gifted classes and is about to start high school.

    All bottle fed.

    Not to brag on my nephews, but just saying, like Nubby did.... ;)

  35. "But doesn't formula feeding affect a baby's IQ?"

    "How so? My kids were formula fed after 4mos and their IQ's are off the charts, even nationally compared to their peers (a brag, yea I suppose, to illustrat) so this blows a hole in that assumption, if the assumption is that formula fed babies won't be smarter than average."

    Nubby, I don't think your children's IQ disproves the original comment about IQ. (I'm not saying I agree or disagree with it because I haven't researched it.) But I think what was meant was that formula feeding reduces children's (potential) IQ. So, according to that theory, your children would have been *even smarter* than they are now if they had been fully breastfed.

  36. Leila, I'd much rather your nephew be president than most of the people who are running right now!! Maybe there's hope for our country yet :)

  37. ? It sure does disprove the assumption, if the assumption (like I said) is that formula fed kids are not as smart on average.

    But I think what was meant was that formula feeding reduces children's (potential) IQ. So, according to that theory, your children would have been *even smarter* than they are now if they had been fully breastfed.

    Lol- The beauty of intelligence is that it can be measured, and we don't need to worry about potential anything because we see the actual.

    If their intelligence was reduced, it'd show up pretty clearly in the IQ test. So, being that it's measured and compared to peers gives me a pretty sure bet that their brains are smarter than average, and that their personal test results, themselves, actually raised the national average.

    And, "potentially smarter"? How do they capture that? They need to calibrate that philosophy and the only way they can know that is if they start with the same baseline potential across the board to see their up or down results. Not hardly something to worry about and not hardly something to base a decision on like "should we break up the family over breast milk so I can take the baby and live with my sister?"

    That was the reason I brought up the IQ point.

  38. Ann Onymous, yes, there is hope!! ha! Her boys are good Catholic men, too! :)

    And just a caveat that I said all of the above as someone who is a breastfeeding advocate. Breast is best, for sure, but I fear we have made it an idol.

    But it's not the hill to die on.

    Keep the family together! Maybe I missed it, but Crystal, what does your husband want? I'm going to guess he wants to be with his wife and baby. ;)

  39. Well the reality of it is he is not on board with the separation (yes it would mean he wouldn't actually be with the kids for a year or so), but neither is he on board with the mother being a SAHM. He thinks they cannot afford it, she thinks they can but with some sacrifice (fire the housekeeper, sell the xbox, the second car, never eat out, etc.).

    And the thing is I don't see separating from the husband as actually causing suffering because he's a grown up and can/should understand! Right? Or am I horribly off base?! And oh, there is a toddler in the mix. She would suffer a lot by being away from her father! Also I guess the separation would cause scandal within the extended family. Plus the sister *might* eventually resent it, true. So if I'm morally minimizing suffering... gosh... if I can't be a SAHM, guess I'd have to allow my newborn to be without her mommy 9-5? And not fight to be a SAHM either, but instead surrender?

  40. I hesitate to give my 2cents, however, just another aspect to consider, take or ignore: Re baby formula/IQ- check labels to make sure there are adequate amounts of fats Omega 3 and DHA for optimal brain development; renowned pediatrician, Dr. Bill Sears, is a major proponent of this, (father of 8children), askdrsears dot com has more info on RDAs.

  41. Yes, separating a husband and father from his wife and babies, especially when the husband/father is NOT okay with that is terribly off base, indeed!!

    No, he cannot and should not understand why his wife is going to separate the family. The vows were between husband and wife. Where is the unit? That is what children need most -- married parents who love each other and are together.

  42. Haha wowww Nubby, Leila, congratulations on your little geniuses!! That's so amazing!! And totally okay to brag about :D :D and yeah, that does make me feel better about formula!

  43. Crystal, Srsly don't sweat the "formula" debates. IQ is largely inherited. Bright parents have bright offspring. And the more you expose your child to life and experiences, the smarter they will be (and they'll get that way faster than average).

    Besides, diet at any age is important, so even if there's not so much breast milk, then we just maybe encourage the kids to have leafy greens, fresh salmon, and all kinds of protein and fresh fruits/nuts/veggies as they grow and age. That's the bigger issue to me, anyway. How healthy are they eating as they age? Can they perform well in school because they're fueled properly, can they perform at sports and music lessons? Are they developing muscle and strength and motor skills because of this wide type of diet?

    I don't get into that whole breast/formula debate- sure, breast is the best option. I leave it there. But it's not 'damaging' to formula feed.

    A child's intelligence is largely dependent on what they inherit from their parents and also depends a LOT on the amount of exposure they've had to life experiences, socialization, all kinds of learning and all kinds of freedom to learn.

    The point is let them become well-rounded and efficient and independent for the glory of God. My two cents...

  44. This is off topic, and I'm not getting into the breast milk- formula-IQ discussion, but just for fun, here's an ode to breast milk which I quite enjoyed reading :) :

    Hope to find time to write a comment or two on-topic soon.

  45. My former mother-in-law recently said to me, "Why is it that Christians want to go to Heaven so badly, but no one wants to die!" She had a point.

    I would love to offer up the sufferings I endured while briefly married to her son, however, it was my decision to marry him in the first place. So what might we do with suffering that is self inflicted? Or the lasting effects (i.e. children suffering the effects of divorce) of those decisions?

  46. Back to suffering, I've often thought that the refusal to suffer is at the root of most sin. A kid lies to get out of trouble, someone steals to satisfy a longing, people self medicate with alcohol or drugs to alleviate suffering, couples separate because they are unhappy in their marriage, a father lashes out verbally or physically to assuage his irritation, etc. I read a blog post not long ago about how important it is in choosing a spouse to choose someone who suffers well.

    I have the book you mention, Into Your Hands, Father. One book I read over and over is Searching for and Maintaining Peace.

    I also love this song by JJ Heller which I listen to when I'm particularly down.

  47. I read a blog post not long ago about how important it is in choosing a spouse to choose someone who suffers well.

    I’d argue this by saying you don’t know how well or how badly your spouse is going to suffer, because you’ve not yet seem him or her face suffering. We can’t really prepare for the fires and trials. What we are called to do in married life is to pledge our loyalty and love at the altar, uphold our vows, and walk through whatever fires life brings with our spouse, no matter how well or how badly they do at suffering. It’s not ever going to be designed so that we all suffer well.

    Because if it was the case of him/her not suffering well pre-marriage, then we’d never marry them and that’s not really the gauge we want to use for marriage material anyway. We marry who God wants us to marry. We want to help them suffer well, even if they’re doing badly—even if we’re doing badly alongside them. The point is to carry each other, not judge their suffering style, right?

  48. Really good post and comments! I just have two things to add. One is a tendency I notice primarily with women, and unfortunately with my mom. While it's important to accept that we will suffer in life, be careful not to cause your own suffering, refuse to change, and then over spiritualize it. You know the scenario: someone won't take care of themselves, feels terrible physically, causes inconvenience for others, and says it's all from the Lord. Don't fall into that trap!

    The other, regarding death and heaven, is a quote by the wonderful writer George MacDonald: "How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset."

  49. Yes, I remember that blog post about choosing a spouse with whom you can suffer well. I thought it was great! Nubby is not wrong either. It's about choosing a spouse who does not expect that marriage = pleasure and fun! And that's the deal most Americans go into, I think. "You will make me happy!" "I will have a romance like with the dude in the movie!!" But can you see yourself suffering with this person? Would he be someone you could go through those tragedies and hard times with?

    Sarah, GREAT point!!!! Those who cause their own suffering and then say it's "from the Lord" OY VEY!! Heaven help us. That is too common. And unfortunate.

    Tina, those reflections are excellent!! Great way to look at it.

    Michelle, any suffering in the past, that cannot be rectified, has to be reconciled in the end, by God. Trust that he can do it. Any suffering still happening.... offer it up. And do your best to avoid those sins again. Yes, sometimes (often) the children suffer for our sins. That is the hardest thing. We owe them apologies... it goes a long way!

    Then trust the rest to God.

  50. An apt post to share this tragic story.

  51. Johanne, thank you. I have been thinking about and praying for those sisters in Yemen. What a tragedy! I will have to find the story about what the remaining sister, the witness who survived, said about her friends.

    1. My priest today, at Palm Sunday mass, referenced these nuns, and the words of their bishop as well. They suffered and died just as Our Lord in His Passion.

  52. Crystal,

    I have been through having to go back to work against my will when I had a newborn. This is going to be long, so I'll post it in two parts. Part 1 is my story briefly (for the long version, you can find it in Trusting God with St. Therese). Part 2, I'll give some quick lessons/thoughts.

    Our first year of marriage, I worked while my husband wrote his doctoral dissertation. Then I had a baby. He was planning to get a job so I would not have to return to work, but he got no job offers. So when my infant was 9 weeks old (because he came 16 days late) I had to return to work.

    I am someone who when I embrace something, I do it totally. I had read up on and totally embraced attachment parenting. But everything went wrong. Instead of natural childbirth, I had a C-section. The day I returned to work, I caught a virus which lasted two weeks and I had to put the baby on formula. Then my DH insisted I get more sleep since my fever would not go away. That meant no more co-sleeping and he handled all night feedings. I felt like I spent almost no time with my baby.

    Some people would not struggle with this, but for me it was excruciating. Yes, I felt I was doing everything wrong. I thought I was giving my baby a raw deal. My DH and I disagreed. He didn't think it was any big deal.

    I had 3 choices: completely refuse to be a working mom and watch my marriage possibly break up; go to work and hate it; or try to accept it as being in God's permissive will. (I never thought of moving out temporarily, but I think that's a step towards option 1).

    I started with option 2, trying really hard not to be angry and bitter, but hating every minute of my time at work. Then I read "Abandonment to Divine Providence" and I knew I had to accept this situation. Even if my husband was wrong, God was in control of the situation and had allowed it to happen. I had to trust he would work through it. I had to trust my little one would be okay. So I took a big leap of faith.

    That was how I started on the road to trusting God. Once I accepted His will, my burden was lifted. It wasn't like I suddenly loved going to work, but it was tolerable and I wasn't angry or bitter. I was at peace amid my suffering.

    I worked for 7 months before my DH found a job. We had to move out of state to take it. I did not complain about the move. :)

    Today our son is nearing 14. He is a healthy, smart, virtuous kid with whom I have a great relationship. I see no ill effects from my return to work. I no longer care whether I or my DH was right. I can't thank God enough for the grace to accept His will. Trusting Him is still the primary focus of my life.

  53. Part 2. Some quick thoughts.

    1. Yes, breastfeeding in general boosts IQ, prevents ear infections, allergies, etc. At least, that's what scientists were saying 14 years ago. That doesn't mean every kid would have a higher IQ or be healthier if breastfed. It's more complex than that.

    2. Having your biological dad, married to your biological mom, live with you is umpteen times more important for your physical, psychological, spiritual, etc. health than being breastfed. I'd rather have an IQ of 130 and my dad, than an IQ of 140 without him. (And I did almost lose my dad as a teenager.)

    3. Marriage vows are to your spouse, not your kids. Faithfulness to your spouse protects your kids.

    4. The Church does not allow for unnecessary separations.

    5. Attachment parenting grossly exaggerates the needs of babies to be with their mothers. It's like they overreacted to the Radical Attachment Disorder kids get from really terrible situations in foreign orphanages and applied that to normal moms doing the best they can for their families.

    6. There's the ideal, and there's the doable. No one has a perfectly ideal upbringing, family life, education, etc. We do the best we can with the situation God gives us. Then we trust Him with the rest.

    7. Sometimes we have to say, "I think I know what is best, but God is not allowing me to live it." Then we let Him be in charge. (We are not really in charge anyway, we just fool ourselves into thinking we are.)

    Hope this helps.

  54. Oh, I was going to also say that going back to work does not necessitate using formula! The mom can pump. That's how we started. Even after being sick I was able to get back to supplying about half our son's milk. I never was able to completely satisfy him. But work vs breastfeeding is a false dichotomy.

  55. Connie! So much common sense! Thank you!!!!

  56. Yes, thanks a lot for sharing Connie!

  57. "Let's lighten things up"
    To...enough of that
    "Let's talk about suffering"
    Leila you're so Catholic

  58. LOL!! I noted that irony, too, Chris! But not till after it was already written, ha ha!!!


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