Saturday 5 March 2022

How to Bless Parents of a Newborn

As I get closer to the arrival of my second baby, I'm once again bracing myself for the very challenging postpartum weeks and months,  that I experienced just a year and a half ago. I have other close friends going through the same stage of life,  and I want to write this post because I realize now how easy it is to be completely clueless about what parents of young children are going through. I'm sure I might forget too, so this is a guide for my future self too.

So here goes, how to bless parents of a newborn, some practical suggestions:

Don't wait for them to ask, or offer help vaguely like "Let me know if you need anything." Offer concrete help. 

Drop off fresh meals (especially for immediately after they return from the hospital) and small nutritious snacks for Mama (constant breastfeeding is hungry work).  Some ideas: Mini quiches or sausage egg muffins that can be frozen, homemade granola bars, cookies, hummus and chopped carrots and cucumbers, cheese and crackers, banana bread or carrot cake, laddoos, kheer kebabs, fresh fruit juice or milkshakes, smoothies, chicken soup, cut fruit or salads, meatballs, anything that doesn't involve any work except reheating.

Take older kids out for walks in the mornings. Take a snack and water.  Prepare to change diapers or take them to the toilet when necessary. Go regularly if possible. 

Go over and just hold the baby if needed so parents can take a nap or shower. 

Intense level help: If you're a close friend or relative, and if they have noone else,  offer to go stay with them overnight/ for a few days/weeks to help with night wake ups, chores,  and entertaining older kids. You'll be tired but you can go home and sleep after your sacrifice! 

Go over and wash dishes or clean the kitchen or fold laundry or do anything to reduce the chaos. 

Do not expect to be entertained or hosted or fed when you're visiting. Only go to help,  no social visits till the parents say they're ready. And even then,  keep them short. 

Don't offer any unsolicited advice or make negative comments about anything. Postpartum hormones are pretty wild, and there may be tears. 

Offer mama a massage (if you're a close female friend or relative)..  her body is painful and achy for quite a while after giving birth. 

Wash your hands before holding the baby.  Don't visit if you have a cold, or you've been sick, or you have kids who are sick. 

Take some good photos and videos of parents and baby if they're up to it. 

If you can't do any of this,  just pray for them and offer them words of encouragement and support. 

Additional suggestions by other young moms: 

Even dropping off chapatis helps! Or a sweet note with some store bought granola bars and coffee sachets. 

Hold the baby and entertain the kid/s if you can manage it. 

Be a blessing to the parents and make them chai or coffee in their house, and take snacks or fruit 

Small things like calling before you go over and offering to buy fruit, veggies, bread, milk or curd for them.

Parents of small babies,  any other suggestions?

Thursday 17 June 2021

Covid and the Invitation to Extend Grace

The past year has been tragic for many people - deaths of loved ones, severe health problems, job loss, financial hardships, mental health struggles,  and so much more. 

But for some of us, one of the difficult things about the past year and a half has been a seemingly smaller problem - trying to figure out what is safe to do,  and what isn't. Of course there have been guidelines that have been updated by the health authorities - wash hands, wear masks, stay home, keep a safe distance, etc. But as a few months have turned into over a year,  it's not always been possible or easy just to hit pause on life. 

Some people have laughed off the dangers of covid,  ignored the risks not only to themselves, but also to the high risk people they could encounter. But many of us took the pandemic seriously,  and still have had very different ideas of what an acceptable risk is. 

Should I hire a maid to clean? It's risky but she probably needs the job and the money,  and we are drowning under housework and childcare. 

Should I go to the dentist? How long can I put off my dental work? 

Should I run an errand for a friend? Will their need outweigh the risk to myself and my family? 

Should I visit my old grandparents? They are high risk,  but they are also desperately lonely and need family to visit them occasionally. 

Should I take my young child to see her grandparents? It's a risk to them and to us, but is the solution not having a relationship for over a year? What if they get sick at the  end of the year anyway from some other source,  and we missed out on the chance to build our relationship?

Different people have had different answers to these questions. 

Many didn't have an option about staying home. My husband is a doctor,  so while he wears PPE at the hospital,  we have not been completely isolated since the start of the pandemic. We heard that some doctors' wives and kids moved to a different home to be safe,  but my husband and I didn't think that was what God wanted of us- for him to miss out on the first year of our daughter's life,  or our own married life together.  We'd face the risks together (while trying to take every precaution possible). 

Several of my family had or are having pandemic babies. My daughter too was born in August 2020. We didn't have an option about going for check ups and different doctors' visits. 

I asked my mum to come help me for the first few weeks of my baby's birth. She knew there was a risk involved,  but she felt that my need outweighed the risk. My husband and mother were both with me through my long,  painful labour and for the actual delivery. Amazingly, though we later found out my doctor had covid,  none of us contracted it. Others who took every possible precaution, still contracted it. 

So many different situations,  and so many difficult decisions,  that needed to be re-evaluated with new data, new needs and struggles, and as cases went up and down. So much thinking and overthinking,  discussing, reading,  researching, and analyzing. 

That was difficult enough.  But another more painful problem seems to have arisen across the globe - a high level of judgment and anger and hurt about other people's decisions, often within families and communities. I saw people discuss this on Twitter and Facebook threads,  and realized a lot of people are going through the same struggle. 

I began to realize sometime last year that this particular decision-making is difficult for everyone,  and it's not my job to make decisions for other people.  I didn't always agree with everyone else's ideas of acceptable risks, and I'm sure not everyone agreed with mine.  

Then I remembered a lesson I had learned many years ago - that one of the best gifts I could receive or give was the gift of 'extending grace'. To me that meant trying to believe the best instead of the worst about people's motives, always giving the benefit of the doubt,  withholding judgment, and being kind regardless. It meant trying to put myself in the other person's shoes,  and trying to understand where they were coming from,  even if I couldn't fully agree with them.  

It was helpful to take into account different people's situations and personalities. In some ways,  many introverts thrived on the hermit- like life asked of them.  No social engagements or obligations? Yes, please. (That's me.)  Extroverts on the other hand have been slipping into depression. Some people are naturally more cautious and risk-averse, so in some ways this pandemic has played into their inclinations and confirmed their fear that the world is a dangerous place and too many people are crazy risk takers. I recently read on one FB thread that the more cautious personalities did better at the height of the pandemic, and became more and more anxious as things opened up.  More adventurous personalities were NOT inclined to 'stay home, stay safe', but many did it anyway... until months passed and it just became too much. People from very community-oriented backgrounds couldn't really grasp the concept of not socializing, or not inviting people into their homes.  A lot of the older generation just couldn't seem to get it. These were things I just couldn't control,  nor was I asked to do so. 

My responsibility was to make decisions with my husband for OUR family. Which brings me to the other important concept I began to reflect on - boundaries. Boundaries are a reminder of what I was responsible for,  and what l wasn't.  One  of my most important life lessons (especially because I keep thinking it's my job to make sure everyone is happy, healthy, holy and safe) is the motto: I can't control what other people do, but I can control what I do. 

These two ideas actually worked well together - I could sympathize or empathize with other people's decisions,  but finally I had to make my own decisions (after praying and talking to my husband). I had to respect other people's decisions,  as I expected them to respect mine. 

Like any hardship, the pandemic presents us with an opportunity to allow God in,  or shut Him out. We are always offered an invitation to choose love, mercy and grace in the midst of the most difficult of situations. 

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6: 36-37

Friday 14 May 2021

My List of Postpartum Must-Haves

My baby is now almost 9 months old, but I wrote this when she was just a few months old.  I had no idea how rough those first few weeks and months would be, so I thought I'd share, both for those who are going to have babies themselves, for their husbands and families to understand what they're going through, and just as a record for myself. 

Most women have their hospital bag list, and their getting ready for baby list.  But do they have their own personal postpartum list?  What do you need to survive these first few weeks and months? 

Patience: As my body faces aches and pains, achy finger joints, stitches that take some time to heal, I have to remember it WILL get better day by day. I thought when I was done with labour and delivery, the pain would all be over, but the weeks that follow have their own share of struggles. But it DOES get better. 

Midnight snacks: Did not know how hungry breastfeeding mothers constantly are. It’s a tough night when I forget to keep a snack within reach. Want to bless a new mom? Gift her some snacks! (Some of my awesome fam did that!) 

A nursing pillow: Thank the Lord for all these little inventions that make the life of a breastfeeding mom a little easier. Did you know new babies feed almost EVERY TWO HOURS? My arm has been saved by using this pillow. (Yet another great gift for a new mom.) 

A hands-on, understanding husband: The long nights are a little easier with a husband who says “Give her to me when you finish feeding and get some sleep,” and then holds the baby, burps the baby, soothes the unhappy baby and changes diapers. Also a good husband is essential for when a postpartum wife keeps bursting into tears (I did not know this was a thing! Yay crazy postpartum hormones) Other tasks of a good husband is reassuring his wife that her body will get back to normal eventually, NOT commenting on how tired she constantly looks, providing food and water and hugs and prayers when she needs them, and not expecting anything of her except survival. 

Two bedrooms: Obviously this is for those whom it is possible. We realized we would both do better if we took turns to sleep and care for baby.  I took night shift in our extra room so Joel could sleep undisturbed. I would hand baby over in the early hours of the morning, and sink into sleep for a few hours. 

A support system: My mother came to stay with me for two weeks after the delivery, and then I stayed at my parents’ home for another two weeks. My mum went above and beyond- cooking for us, taking the baby at all hours including the middle of the night so I could catch some sleep, holding and rocking baby when she was crying her head off, showing me how to care for a tiny human being from bathing her to identifying her needs. Some friends sent food over, especially helpful immediately after returning from the hospital when all of us were exhausted. (Another post on this coming up.) 

Low expectations: Don't expect to cook or clean or go back to work or do anything except survive at the beginning. The bare minimum is a LOT. Get a tiffin, or order food, and don't be embarrassed about it. You will have so much more peace of mind if you give up unnecessary guilt. 

An internet connection: There are awesome Instagram accounts that help me remember I'm not the only one struggling.  There are articles, support groups and forums for every question I have about my baby and her struggles. I’ve researched everything from how to help a baby with vaccination pain, reflux, gassiness, to tricks to burp baby, to why my baby wakes up as soon as I put her down, and a LOT more, sometimes in the dead of night while holding her yet again. 

Perspective: This one is easy to lose when you’re in the trenches, in a blur of tiredness and breastfeeding and diapers and spit-up, and it seems like baby won’t stop crying and you’re never going to sleep again. But it’s super-helpful to remember that it’s perfectly normal for everything to seem overwhelming especially in the first three months, that baby crying doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you are scarring baby for life with your incompetence, that it WILL get better, and you WILL feel normal again, and you WILL sleep for more than an hour at a time. 

Boundaries: It's okay to tell people that no, you are not up to guests, or that you need to take your baby in to feed now, or that you need to go sleep because you're exhausted, or that no, you can't attend that meeting or wedding or whatever because it's just too hard right now.  You don't have to be embarrassed to say no, nor are you under any obligation to please everyone else. Your priority is your baby and your own survival.  You don't have to be rude or get mad- they probably just don't remember or know how hard the newborn stage is. 

Humility: At the beginning I was so weak, all I could do was feed baby, as my mother and husband literally fed me. My mother or husband cooked (or we ordered), I didn't set foot in the kitchen for months. My mother even massaged my painful body.  I felt so helpless. But I remember thinking- your baby is dependent on you, and you are dependent on them... and that's the way it is. Some day you will be the one taking care of them, but for now allow yourself to be looked after. 

What else would you add to this list? 

Sunday 20 December 2020

INSPIRE2020: Why I Am Catholic

I am participating in the six-month #INSPIRE2020 challenge, in which Indian Catholic content creators write about a particular topic every month. This month's topic is 'Why I Am Catholic'. Also, follow Desi Catholics on Insta and FB!

I am Catholic because my parents chose to have me baptized. But I am a faithful, believing Catholic instead of an agnostic or atheist because of a combination of many factors:

A consistent life ethic 
The litany of the saints 
Truth, Beauty, Goodness 
The Eucharistic Jesus 
Adoration chapels 
The grace of Confession 
Theology of the Body 
Mother Teresa 
Saint John Paul II
The call to holiness 
Holy balance 
A place for every culture and nation 
A place for the little ones 
A commitment to social justice 
Redemptive suffering 
A place for the misfits and outcasts 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 
The Emergency Novena 
Consecration to Jesus through Mary 
Travelling Rosaries 
Mary’s maternal care 
Spiritual warfare and sacramentals 
The St. Michael prayer 
Guardian angels 
Reason and faith 
The Church of Peter 
The promise of Jesus
The early Church Fathers 
Authority given by Jesus to dispense the sacraments 
Faithfulness to the truth entrusted by Jesus 
The Charismatic renewal 
The living saints 
An openness to renewal and re-examining ways of doing things 
Vatican 2 
Catholic communities focussing on discipleship and evangelization 
Catholic Twitter 
The fellowship of wise and holy Catholic brothers and sisters 

I’m Catholic in spite of 

The abuse scandals 
The hypocrisy of many leaders 
The polarised political American Catholic Church 
The lack of clarity and unity in communication and teaching from most Catholic leaders 
A failure to live by the Spirit 
Lack of fellowship and accountability in most Catholic parishes 
Parish politics 
My Catholic convent school 
My parish youth group
My parish culture
Many loud Catholic celebrities and speakers 
A failure to evangelise even our own flock 
The lies and half-truths coming out of many seminaries 
A culture of authoritarianism and clericalism 
Horrible Church music 
New Ages practices promoted by Indian Catholic priests
Pauline bookstores
Action songs 

“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” (G.K. Chesterton, Why I Am A Catholic)

I wrote a more detailed post here: When I Get Tired of Being Catholic

Saturday 5 December 2020

INSPIRE2020: Tough Topics - Love is Love... Or Is It?

I am participating in the six-month #INSPIRE2020 challenge, in which Indian Catholic content creators write about a particular topic every month. This month's topic is 'Tough Topics'.

Although the Church's stance on same-sex marriage is not the central or most important teaching of the Church, it is one of the more controversial ones, and one that seems to be a hot-topic online. I'm writing about it because I know it can be a confusing issue especially for young Catholics who care passionately about social justice issues, equality, and human rights, and if Catholics don't explain it well it could easily alienate them from the Church.

First of all the reason this is such a tough topic to broach is that social justice issues seem to be presented as package deal. If you care about women's rights, you are supposed to fight for abortion rights. If you care about LGBTQ struggles, you should be fighting for their right to marry and adopt. And if you do NOT accept everything, most people assume you're on the same page as 'Gays go to hell', 'Women belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen' kind of extremists.

Let’s clear up a few beliefs that I as an orthodox Catholic have: 

- I do NOT believe it’s a sin to ‘be gay’ or to be attracted to the same sex. Neither is a person with such an orientation a mistake or an accident. 

- Self-identifying as LGBTQ is not the same as a statement of someone's sexual activity.

- I do not believe that people who choose to call themselves ‘gay’ or LGBTQ (instead of ‘struggling with SSA, etc) is a terrible thing, and definitely not a sin. Your sexual orientation is obviously not your whole identity, but it is an important part of your identity which has consciously or subconsciously influenced your relationships, your perspective on the world, your idea of your own value, the way people have treated you, the confusion you may have faced as a teenager, etc. It’s fairly easy to see how big an influence it is when we listen to any real life stories or experiences of LGBTQ people. Naming that experience or struggle can help you feel you’re not alone. (There are some who disagree with me.)

- I think the representatives of the local Catholic Church need to do much better at talking about these struggles instead of ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist.

- I believe homosexual activity should be decriminalised. Not every sin is a criminal matter. We need to stop acting as if other people’s sins are far more repulsive than our own. LGBTQ sexual activity is on the same level as all other sexual sin - premarital or extramarital sex, masturbation, pornography, contraceptive sex or pretty much any sexual activity outside of God’s design - free, total, faithful and fruitful sex between a man and woman committed to each other for life. 

- I think we need to do far more to help LGBTQ people especially with creating safe spaces where bullying is not tolerated, and with addressing the high rate of depression, self harm and suicide found among them. 

- I think there are so-called Christians who have done a great deal of harm to our witness to the LGBTQ community- from parents kicking out their children who come out to them, to the crazies with their ‘God hates fags’ posters, or those obsessed with narrowly defining true masculinity or femininity, or  those whose hackles rise as soon as the label LGBTQ is used. 

- I think our first response to someone who comes out as LGBTQ to us should be acceptance and love, not immediately checking whether they are chaste or not. That conversation can happen if and when the Spirit prompts. Lead with love, as always.

Most of the beliefs I’ve stated above are not very controversial on social media. But being Catholic means being willing to hold on to and talk about the unpopular aspects of our faith too. 

As a Catholic, I believe- 

- God’s design for marriage was between a man and a woman, for life. Our bodies are created in such a way that even in a world marred by sin and dysfunction, it’s fairly easy to see the original design and plan for human sexual relationships. 

- The healthiest and most secure place for a child to grow is with a mother and a father who are faithful to each other and who emulate the love of God to their children. Of course there are many who have not had that privilege due to death, abuse, divorce or other factors out of their control, and God is able to bring healing and provide what is lacking. But that doesn’t change His original design and plan. (The polygamy of the OT was part of the dysfunction of a world twisted by original sin, but Jesus came to restore God’s original plan.) 

- If I really love and care for an LGBTQ person, I cannot cheer them on in a relationship that cuts them off from God’s good plan for their lives. However I can and should love them and find other ways to build that relationship (apart from getting excited about their love life).

- If I really love an LGBTQ person, I will help them find healing* from any abuse or trauma they have suffered rather than just affirming and celebrating their sexual orientation. (Obviously this is not the situation for all LGBTQ people, but it is not uncommon.)

The reason Catholic beliefs about homosexuality are so hard to swallow is because they have been presented as an opposition to the overly simple phrase - Love is love. 

This is how it is articulated- love is love, whether it’s between a man and a woman, or between two men, or between two women. We don’t choose who we love. Everyone deserves to be in a loving relationship/to find love. These thoughts are always presented alongside a picture of a cute affectionate same sex couple. 

It is so much easier to go with the flow and think “Well yeah, everyone DOES deserve love.. so what if they love in a different way than I do? They’re so cute. I can’t imagine the God of love would have a problem with this.’ Who could fight with it when you put it like that? So Catholics either ignore the inconvenient teachings of the Church, or try not to think about them, or choose to hope the Church will eventually ‘get with the times’. 

What DOES the Church say about this? Here's part of the Catechism's section on chastity:

2357 Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. 

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. 

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. 

And here are some of my thoughts about the ‘love is love’ statement: 

Love is love, whether it’s between two men, or between two women. 

What about between three people - two women and a man? Sounds a little weird? Well, polyamory has already become socially acceptable in many circles. What about between an adult and a child? Or between siblings? If you call it ‘love’ and take cute pics, does it somehow become acceptable? We need to be wary of the ways we are being emotionally manipulated to accept lies as truth.

People used to be against interracial marriage or inter caste marriage or inter-religious marriage. This is the same thing. 

No it’s not. The colour of our skin and our beliefs or family backgrounds are very different from our basic biological make up. Our bodies are not just our shells, but who we are. We are embodied spirits, not just souls knocking about in an outer casing. 

We don’t choose who we love. 

We don’t choose who we are attracted to, but attraction is not the same as love. The same rationale is used to allow people to cheat on their spouses. Love is willing the good of the other, doing what is best for them. If you truly love someone, you help them follow God’s plan for their lives and find a deeper peace and a clear conscience, even if it includes self-denial and sacrifice. 

Everyone deserves to be in a loving relationship/to find love. 

This is true! But marriage is not the only loving relationship we should have. We have made an idol of marriage or romantic relationships, acting as if that is the only path to fulfillment and love. No wonder single people feel such pressure not to land up ‘alone, with cats’. Not all are called to marriage for different reasons. It’s our job to encourage and build up holy relationships and communities so all can find a home, a community where they feel accepted and loved.

There is obviously a LOT more to discuss and think about and say on this topic. But most importantly, let's remember - As Catholics, we have to accept the uncomfortable position of not fully belonging to any camps, but following faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus who is love AND truth**. We are called to speak for truth, whether those particular truths are popular or unpopular. We are called to act with love whether it feels comfortable or uncomfortable. 

*There's a really nice podcast that addresses a lot of these issues sensitively. It's called Restore the Glory.

**I have been blessed to follow some Catholics who get this on Catholic Twitter. It's very freeing to know you don't have to accept the bad beliefs of either side, and that you can and should call out the problems you see on 'your own side'.

Related Links 

The Very Touchy Topic of the Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

A conversation with my gay friend by Jennifer Fulwiler

And this video:


The Third Way from Blackstone Films on Vimeo.

Thursday 29 October 2020

#INSPIRE2020: Moments with Mary

I am participating in the six-month #INSPIRE2020 challenge, in which Indian Catholic content creators write about a particular topic every month. This month's topic is 'Mama Mary'. If you are an Indian Catholic, and would like to participate, sign up here:  

Although I grew up very Catholic, I didn’t always relate well to Mother Mary. I must have played her in several Nativity plays in Sunday School, prayed many Hail Marys over the years, could explain and describe all the mysteries of the Rosary and had a picture of her up next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our home. I even wrote an essay biblically defending her role as Mother of all Christians in my Catechism class in the ninth standard (which I remember with much pride because I got full marks). 

And yet... she remained a distant figure. As my faith and intimacy with Jesus grew as a teenager, I began to feel irritated by the way many Catholics seemed to relate to her. It was as if SHE was the approachable, gracious Queen, and Jesus was the distant unapproachable King. I knew Catholics who were far more likely to turn to her, than to Jesus. And then of course, I saw many treat her like a goddess, almost indistinguishable from the way Hindus treat their idols - a giant statue at home at which flowers and garlands and incense were placed, no sign of Jesus anywhere, many Rosaries piously mumbled (at top speed, with no reflection on the mysteries), and a focus on miracles granted by Mother Mary, with little or no reference to Jesus, the Father, or the Holy Spirit.

The statues of Mary didn’t help. She always seemed so perfect, so emotionless, or maybe a little sad. She didn’t seem very human. 

I remember wrestling with her place and role in my life. Obviously I knew that Jesus WAS approachable, tender, easy to turn to, and that He desired a close intimate relationship with me. Then what was all the hullabaloo about His Mother? Could I just be inspired by her yes without necessarily being in a relationship with her? What was the will of Jesus in all this? 

There were a few things that convinced me that I DID need her too. 

- I had a relationship with Jesus for many years, and still often struggled with sin, darkness, lukewarmness, etc. I began to realize that while my relationship with Christ was foundational, He loved me enough to give me additional ways or tools to bind myself more closely to Him, and aid me in my Christian life. His own Mother was a gift from Him, not to take His place, but to draw me closer to Him. I began to see her as a belt that would bind me more closely to Christ. 

- This view was strengthened when I read a book about Saint John Paul II, who obviously had a close and personal relationship with Jesus... and a strong love and devotion to Mary. Because of his witness, I consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary a few years ago (using the reflections from the book 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Michael E. Gaitley). 

- Some years ago I had a few experiences which I felt were spiritually oppressive. It only happened a few times, usually just before I was about to make some major life change. It would start with a (normal) nightmare and then turn into a strong sense of oppressive evil that I couldn’t escape from, a sense of abandonment, being cut off from God. In those moments, I called out to Jesus... and to Mary, and I felt a strong sense of her presence and protection. Catholics have often held that Mary has been given a special role in spiritual warfare. 

- In the past two months, I have felt a special connection to Mary as a mother. On the nights when Baby is crying in pain, I’m exhausted and near tears myself, I call out to her and to her cousin Elizabeth (after whom our baby is named). ‘You know what it’s like to care for a baby! Your babies probably struggled with gas pain and reflux. Babies through the ages have had the same struggles. PLEASE come and babysit for me so I can get some rest!’ And I believe they do come, and help me. Jesus loves me enough that He gave me not only Himself, but a whole bunch of heavenly (and earthly) friends and intercessors to accompany me and aid me in my struggles. 

I still feel that there are many Catholics who do not have a Christ-centred devotion to or understanding of Mary. But I also believe that we are missing out if we refuse the gift Jesus gave us - a relationship with His Mother, who is known as the Star of Evangelization, because her mission is to draw us closer to Christ. 

Related Articles

If My Friends and I Were Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation… 

Thursday 1 October 2020

#INSPIRE2020: The Time I Searched for Jesus in Delhi

I am participating in the six-month #INSPIRE2020 challenge, in which Indian Catholic content creators write about a particular topic every month. This month's topic is 'The Eucharist'. If you are an Indian Catholic, and would like to participate, sign up here:  

Like most Catholics, I grew up with Sunday Mass being a regular, unquestioned part of life. I didn’t like or dislike it, it just WAS. I do remember feeling like it was VERY long, one hour can seem like an eternity to a child. I don’t think I thought much about God during Mass. It was more fun to look at people’s shoes and clothes as they walked up to receive Communion. 

When I was about sixteen, I saw some visiting foreign missionaries genuflect with great reverence as they entered the church. ‘There must be more to the Eucharist than I thought’ was my subconscious thought. I began to make an effort to focus more on Jesus at Mass. I would shut my eyes tight after receiving Communion (those shoes and outfits remained a temptation) and remain kneeling to talk to Jesus even though everyone else was sitting and staring at the choir as if they were at a concert. 

As my own faith grew stronger, and I invited the Holy Spirit to draw me closer to Jesus, my experience of Mass began to change too. I actually began to hear the readings, instead of zoning out as I used to do. At every Mass, I would hear something God was saying specifically to me. But to a large extent I still took the Eucharist and its availability for granted till a little incident in Delhi when I was 24 years old. 

I was visiting my Protestant aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks, and I wanted to make sure I found a Catholic Mass on Sunday. I looked up Catholic Churches and masses online, and it turned out all the masses that Sunday were cancelled except for one big Mass outside the city because it was Christ the King Sunday. No problem, I thought, I’ll just find a Saturday evening Mass. 

I was used to my home city where we have several Catholic Churches within a few kilometres of each other, and plenty of options for Sunday mass timings. But it turned out that the north of India did not have such a high concentration of Catholic Churches. 

Finally I located one on the map which didn’t seem too far, and together with one of my (Catholic) cousins who was working in Delhi then, we ventured out in search of Saturday evening Mass. 

To my dismay, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed. There was no church when we arrived at the location. We asked some locals, and no one seemed to have heard of it or any other Catholic Church. Finally someone responded positively- “Ah yes, the church!” and gave us some directions... which we followed into a residential area, and found ourselves at a small Protestant church. 

Meanwhile I was getting more and more distressed. I resigned myself to arriving late to Mass, but by this time I was obviously not going to make it at all. I was in a strange, unfamiliar city, and the more we searched, the more desperate I began to feel for Jesus in the Eucharist. “I just want to meet you, Lord! Please! I miss you!” 

I called up my mum, close to tears. She reassured me, reminding me about spiritual communion, the ability to receive Jesus almost as intimately, when it was not possible to receive Him sacramentally. That was a consolation, but I still longed for the Eucharist. 

The Lord answered my prayer- my mum managed to contact a religious sister she knew who was posted in Delhi, and she told us about a Mass that was being celebrated for Catholics in the different foreign consulates. We ventured into the very beautiful consular area of Delhi that Sunday morning and to my great joy, participated in the Mass in a school hall along with a bunch of foreigners. It was the Feast of Christ, the Universal King. 

That day I experienced ‘my soul thirsting for God, as a deer pants for water’. Over the years, especially as I left home and spent time in the US and the Philippines as a full-timer, I found joy, consolation and familiarity in many Adoration chapels and Masses in various churches and languages. Since March 2020, public Masses in India have been suspended. I have the familiarity of my own home and husband, and what with going through the discomforts of pregnancy and now the demands of caring for a small baby, I’m grateful not to have any social obligations including long Masses to attend. So it hasn’t been as intense an ache or longing. It’s like I’ve become satisfied with a long-distance relationship instead of meeting my Beloved in person. 

I got the chance just once two months ago to receive the Eucharist (we made a special request to a priest we knew because I was going to be giving birth soon). There was no big dramatic experience as I received Him, but I was just so happy and grateful. 

I am looking forward to meeting Jesus once again in His Eucharistic presence. I hope I will not let that love and longing fade away or be forgotten. Maybe this deprivation will give me and others a greater appreciation for this gift. I hope so anyway. 

Reawaken my desire for You, O Lord. Increase my love and longing. You are the only One who can truly satisfy my soul. Please make a way for Your people to meet you in Your Eucharistic presence soon.