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Finding a Church Home – Part Four

Prior to the pandemic, attending another church was easy. You just walked in but now many required sign-ups to go. Some super private as if you needed to be on an exclusive list. Even Easter Masses were not shared with the general public in order to push out the “C&E” Catholics (those that attend only on Christmas and Easter). How could the church do this? Why was the Archbishop allowing this? Church has always been for anyone and everyone. This was very divisive.

After feeling quite abandoned by our church, we decided to start attending the one that was close to our home. We had been driving 25 minutes to go to our parish for the last 15+ years but technically, it wasn’t our home parish. I checked the rules for the parish near our home and they had their sign up accessible online. It didn’t matter if you were registered there or if this was your first time. They were welcoming all!

Off we went. We walked in and they had holy water in their fonts and people could receive Holy Communion on the tongue. In fact, they had four kneelers present in the communion line to indicate who would receive on the tongue. The only ones who distributed Holy Communion were the priests and deacons. This felt reverent and seemed to have more of what we were looking for, except the progressive music.

We also had some friends that were on the “exclusive list” for the TLM and they were able to bring us. But before I asked for them to add us to the list, I needed to get past the prideful TLMers. I decided to reach out to a few friends who I knew had been attending TLM or had recently switched. One conversation did not go so well. The friendship almost ended. Part of that was on me and the feelings I had towards what she was sharing. That was something I needed to explore but I met with another friend who was loving and explained things really well. I felt confident I could at least go once and just see. Everyone explained I would have some “extraordinary” moment and I wouldn’t be able to go back to the Novus Ordo.

So I asked our friends to put us on the list and walk us through our first TLM as a family. I had been to a Latin Mass as a child but didn’t remember much of it so this was really a new experience for me as well. Our first TLM was on the first day of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year. How fitting!

I want to tell you so badly about the “extraordinary” moment I had at the first TLM but nothing happened. In my experience, I felt alone and isolated. I felt farther from God than I ever had when attending Mass. I was overwhelmed with not knowing anything or any of the norms and I was distracted by an unruly child in the pew in front of me. I felt sad.

I didn’t really want to go back if that was how I was going to feel. I had finally been participating in a way I had never done before, singing, reciting, kneeling more fervently, praying more reverently, etc. Friends would tell me that those who attend the NO were so unholy, “but you’re not.” They would point out abuses and tell me that I was “a good one.” This was offensive. And then I am attending “their Mass” and I find myself questioning why they like it. They don’t do anything. There is really no participation at all…at least not externally.

What I didn’t realize though, with all that was going through my head, was just how much my family was experiencing. My oldest finally felt at home. My youngest was in awe and shock that Jesus was in a “castle” and how deserving and fitting it was that the Lord was being worshipped. My daughter was enthralled and finally quiet in the pew, plus, she asked to wear her veil for the first time (because most of the women wore veils). This was the norm I wanted her to see and this is what I wanted my children to know but I was empty inside. My husband also was uplifted and he felt we were finally in the right place. Shocking considering he was a Protestant convert (although most great Catholics are converts).

I reached out to a friend who was also a priest and told him how I was feeling. His response…”Give it two months.” While he is an NO priest, he’s traditional, often encouraging us to find a TLM. In fact, he just brought TLM to his own parish!

Despite the advice, we decided to go back to the church by our home. We felt that it might be the in between we needed. So we signed up again. We got seated in the front row this time and felt a bit awkward since we were still new there but we made it work. The Mass was horrific. The Missal Book for the readings was missing. No one could find it. Mass was stopped. There were several little issues but this one was huge. Right before Communion my husband leaned in and said, “I have been praying and asking if this is the right church for us and for a sign that we needed to be here and this is a sign telling us otherwise.”

He was right. Now where do we go?

I succumbed to the TLM.

What Church Do I Belong To? – Part Three

Our Traditional Latin Mass journey began in Part One with the heavy grief we were carrying from our parish. We had to officially close the doors to our parish when I emailed the religious education teacher telling her we were removing our son from his sacramental preparation classes there. He was mid-year already and he would be starting over at the new parish but this felt right.

I really wanted to leave quietly. I didn’t want to leave at all actually but if I had to, I wanted it to be quietly. Once that email was sent, it triggered a chain of events and I had to come clean. Many emails and calls began once they heard we were leaving.

We weren’t attending that church anymore.

Saying it hurts my heart. I stuck with our church through some really tough changes. Friends begged me to leave because they felt I was missing something. I felt called to stay. I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament off and on for years asking if it was time to leave, all the while, the message was the same…STAY.

Until the message changed…

I received a call from the Religious Education Director, whom I adore and love. It hurt to tell her that our son would receive the Sacrament of Penance at another church. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the new community we have at our new parish but that doesn’t overshadow the very real grief I have in leaving the church that put me on a journey to really learning my faith.

I grew so much in the 16 years we were there. I went from being a mediocre Catholic that attended Mass when I felt like it to veiling and kneeling to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. I went from being scared of priests to inviting them into my home for breakfasts and dinners. I went from not participating in ministries to revamping one completely and helping to create a ministry that didn’t exist there. And then I met a very special person who planted the seed to start a women’s conference in Denver and the Catholic Women’s Conference of Denver was born.

I really grew at the parish even as things changed and I wanted to stand by it but as progressive music and guitars came in, I felt lost. Then Advent and Lent came and went with no Latin. It was the only time of the year I ever got to hear it and I missed that ancient piece in the liturgy and didn’t even realize how much I was truly missing. None of the liturgy was sung after COVID hit either which further contributed to feeling lost.

My very dear friend who helped me start the women’s conference had already left our parish for the Latin Rite. She spoke of it often and encouraged me to try it but I rejected the notion. I was a “lifer” at this church and I would die going here. I had heard of Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and knew of one other person that was going there.

But most of those who attended TLM seemed talked poorly of those who didn’t. It was confusing and I struggled. Talks on Catholic Radio even discussed how Novus Ordo (NO) was a bad word and you are “not Catholic” if you attended the NO. It was sad to hear I wasn’t considered Catholic if I didn’t attend the Latin Mass. I certainly didn’t want to experience the isolation and shunning this priest describes.

I couldn’t understand how anyone could look down on someone who attends NO and believe TLM is the only way to go. It seemed prideful and I knew that was a sin so I didn’t want to be a part of that. I didn’t want to be sucked into what I felt was a “cult.” Soon my social media feed was full of people speaking poorly of those who attend NO.

TLM was a turn off and even though many friends were trying to tell me all that I was missing, in reality they were pushing me away. I know their comments were well meaning but they didn’t lead me to leave the NO. I knew that something wasn’t right where I was going but I didn’t know what I needed or how to fix it. Talking with my priest fell on deaf ears. I was still questioning the validity of the Mass and this wasn’t about NO or TLM. It seemed much smaller than that.

As the president of the Catholic Women’s Conference of Denver, I had many choices to make in terms of the annual conference. Many friends help me and I don’t like to say I am the president because the women who help me with the conference are just as important (if not more), than measly old me. But this was also an area where I saw some issues. Even within our own group, we had push back about being traditional.

Our spiritual director had been trying to guide us into a more traditional form of Mass and feedback received from attendees was negative towards the traditional parts he brought the conference. But I was also feeling that certain things weren’t traditional. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Altar Girls were areas I was struggling with for years.

My oldest son walked away from being an Altar Server because of the girls. He grew up seeing them serve. He didn’t know there was any other way. He didn’t know the tradition either but he himself felt like altar serving was a role reserved for boys only. My son explained that he felt the girls he served with were domineering. He didn’t like that so he stepped down. It was sad.

I didn’t have a daughter until three years ago. I was looking for preschools for her to attend when she turned two. Many of the schools were protestant churches. One in particular, we had to turn away from. There was a female “minister there.” I could not allow my daughter to witness this. I did not want her to think that this was something she could aspire to.

Regardless of your feelings about women pastors/ministers, respect mine please. I don’t think we (women) should be filling that role. You probably think they should. If women want to serve in a religious role, there is an opportunity for them. Unfortunately, we don’t see Sisters often enough but many opened our first schools and hospitals so you can thank a Sister (and the Catholic Church) for that.

Several hundred women attend our women’s conference annually. We always get feedback that the women want a Sister to speak or for them to be present. When we do have them at the conference, it’s truly amazing but this just shows how much women want to see Religious Sisters. We are moved when we do.

But I’ll return back to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion because I was struggling with having a lay person do this. It’s actually an abuse to have them do this and that is what I found to be true in my research. A priest and deacon should be the ones to distribute Holy Communion. We don’t need, nor should we have lay people to do this. What we need is patience. So what if Mass is 5-10 min longer? What’s your rush?

If I knelt down to receive the Blessed Sacrament, some would role their eyes. If I received on the tongue, some struggled to distribute it that way and of course, when COVID hit, many priests refused to distribute the Eucharist on anyone’s tongue. If you firmly believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ…are you actually worthy to be touching Him? I wouldn’t be. I’m sure we can question whether or not some of our priests or deacons are worthy but that’s not the discussion of today.

There would be no way I could convince my pastor to stop having Altar Girls and he definitely wouldn’t stop Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. He wanted drums and guitars in the church and said as much when I challenged him on this. It’s okay. I will be obedient. He’s the pastor.

So it wasn’t just these things that pushed me away. Something was burning in my heart. I wanted to know more. I wanted to find out what the Early Christians thought and did. I wanted to know the roots of the Mass. I needed to know and understand. Biblical School really helped with that because I could see the Mass between the pages of the Bible. Book after book, the Mass was there.

Then, I found The Apologies of Justin Martyr.

IVF and Infertility – One Catholic’s Thoughts

Most people don’t know my procreative history. Many just assume we contracepted after having our first and then as our marriage progressed, pulled the pill or condom (figuratively speaking) and decided to have more children later in life. First, it’s really know one’s business but I do get the random looks and “judgment,” when I mention the spacing of my children. In fact, my husband even had someone assume his first child was from a separate marriage and the two youngest were from his current marriage. This made my physically sick to my stomach.

If you have followed my blog; you would know about my fertility history so if you are reading for the first time, welcome. I am pretty complex and my blog spans many years so you will see growth and changes in me especially in regards to my Catholic faith. What I am about to share is not judgment; although my statements will upset many. The truth is sometimes very hard to hear sometimes. These messages come from a place of love though. I want you to be in God’s grace. To be anywhere else is to not live.

I am a Catholic and I do not believe in IVF. I also suffered through 22 years of infertility (onset of menses through age 37). I procreate, I do not reproduce. Let me explain. Humans procreate, only animals reproduce.

I do not judge a person who uses IVF, that’s up to God but a person who uses IVF, regardless of why they are using it, is participating in an intrinsically evil act. I know at this point, many people are boiling over with anger against what I have written. I just said that IVF is intrinsically evil.

Creating new life is not usually associated with evil but it can be; if we do not surrender to God’s Will for us. IVF kills multiple embryos (babies) in order to get just a few “good” babies. IVF contributes to other evils such as “perfect babies” by utilizing techniques you are told will help increase your chances of having a non-disabled, good DNA, smart child. These techniques are also cooperation in evil under the guise of good. It’s part of the Great Reset (which is no longer a conspiracy theory because it’s out in the open now). So many who use IVF are tricked into utilizing these techniques. Why do we have such a lack of faith? Why do we think we can create a more perfect person than our Creator? It’s the fruit in the garden and the Devil has led you there.

IVF is one of many evils and God allows evil. This is one of the major confusions about faith in God. We are on Earth and we reject God because bad things happen but we must remember, this isn’t Heaven. Bad things happen here but if we are graced with Heaven, no bad things will happen.

Ultimately, the people who choose IVF will have to face God’s judgment over their lack of trust. Do you know what happened to people in the Old Testament for their lack of trust in God? Well, Moses got angry and hit a rock instead of speaking to it and God punished him by never allowing him into the promised land. All he did was hit a rock! Moses did some very amazing things yet despite all he endured for God, he lacked trust and was exiled from the promised land.

Look what happened to Abram and Sarai! God told Abram that he would have descendants. Many of them “descendants as the dust of earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted.” (Gen 13:16) And Abram complained that he was childless so God made a covenant with him. “Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” (Gen 15:5) Did you know it was daylight when Abram was told to “number the stars?”

And then what happens? We’re not sure how much time had passed (maybe decades) but still childless, Abram loses his trust and faith that God will provide and takes matters into his own hands when Sarai suggests Hagar is the solution to their childlessness. Hagar represents IVF here (my words, not anothers). Hagar represents the lack of trust and a child is conceived without ever asking God if this is the path they should take to have a child. God allowed it, despite the evils of adultery. Four years after this sin, God establishes a new covenant (circumcision).

I know it hurts to hear that a person who chooses IVF lacks trust in God. It hurts me when I am told I lack trust in God because I had genetic testing during my pregnancy. There are many things that hurt but ultimately, the hurt is coming from within me because it’s true. Because I DO need to have a deeper faith and trust in God.

I didn’t choose for my children to be 10 and 14 years apart. God chose that for me. I wanted my first baby at age 23 but that’s not what God wanted for me. I endured intense suffering personally, professionally, and within my marriage. I told my husband numerous times during our infertility journey to divorce me and go find a wife that could give him the children he deserves and desires. I almost lost my job because I was so extremely hormonal, filled with medicines to force my body to ovulate and obsessed (1 step closer to possession by the devil) to have a baby. I demanded it! I was “good” and God better give me the child I deserve!

I sought fertility treatments from family practice doctors, Obstetricians, Infertility Specialists, Reproductive Endocrinologists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists, Mayan Abdominal Massage practitioners, naturopaths, Chinese Herbalists, and other non-traditional/Eastern medicine practitioners.

Oddly enough, what you don’t see in that list and most people wouldn’t even notice, is I did not seek God. I did not seek an anointing of the sick. I didn’t even go to my priest for prayers or guidance. Sure, I prayed, “God please bless us with a baby,” but I didn’t say any specific prayers, seek intercession from the many saints who could have helped me endure the suffering, or even spend time in adoration/strict prayer for my healing.

Instead, I sought help from the secular world. So, I had little “faith” in God.

Sure, my faith wasn’t as strong as it is now. My knowledge of my faith was not even close to what it is now. I wasn’t practicing my faith either with as much zeal as I do now. I can say that I was “Catholic” only by name but not really Catholic. I wasn’t living (nor trying) to live my faith. I was a Catholic hypocrite.

It takes an immense amount of trust to live as God has asked us to but oh … the rewards that come from it.

Elizabeth Petrucelli

Suffering is NOT easy. We went through three and a half years of trying to have a baby before we conceived our first. Yes, we sinned. Some priests wrongly told us we did not sin but we did. We used IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) in order to conceive. We do not know if it was the IUI that actually brought us to conception or the “baby dancing” but we know that on our 5th try with the IUI, we conceived.

You see, with IUI, you still have sex. So we were still trying despite being “inseminated.” Where was the sin? We removed my husbands semen through illicit means, placed it in a tube, washed it, and then injected it through my cervix into the uterus to give the sperm a better chance of survival. Yes, a priest actually said it wasn’t a sin to masturbate into a cup and inseminate me. Sorry to be so blunt but this priest was wrong. It WAS a sin even though the “act” still occurred and conception occurred within my body versus outside the body like IVF.

Infertility hurts though. It’s suffering and no one likes to suffer. We do everything we can these days to prevent any sort of suffering. We have dumbed down our population because we are doing everything we can to stop the suffering. Even the minor suffering. It’s like no one has the skills anymore to hold off on eating for a few hours because they might “suffer” or rather, allow ourselves to be uncomfortable for a short time.

FYI: It’s okay to be uncomfortable and it’s okay to suffer, even if it’s hard. Yes, it’s sucks. We have all experienced some form of suffering. Through suffering, great good can come. It affords others the opportunity to help as well. Did I enjoy the three and a half years of the trials I went through in order to have my first? Absolutely not! Did I think, “this suffering will lead to others helping and provide me with graces later?” Absolutely not!

After we had our first, we spent six years trying for another. We went heavy into every alternative therapy there was. With our first, we only went to an OB, an infertility specialist, and then finally a reproductive endocrinologist. All the alternative stuff was done during the next six years in addition to the regular treatments.

It would have been easy to choose IVF. We could have started a “Go Fund Me” or participated in contests to “win” an IVF treatment but we didn’t. I seemed to have tried everything on my own, again, not turning to my faith or my priests. I prayed but not deeply. I didn’t turn to God. I suffered without the Saints. I tried longer than most do before putting it into human hands and forcing a baby.

I know, that’s a hurtful statement. But we aren’t guaranteed a child. We cannot demand God give us one.

After six years, we stopped treatments. I was tired and we accepted that God gave us one blessing. I moved on to something else in my life and just as I had truly accepted our only child and all the judgment that had come with him (how can you be pro-life/Catholic and only have one child?), I peed on a stick and it was positive. I was pregnant!

If you read my book All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage, you would know that story. You would know that I was pissed off that I was pregnant. I was angry. This child that I should have been so grateful for was a source of anger in my life. While it was short-lived, it was still there and I was certainly shameful for having those feelings.

Ruby died.

That was her name. She didn’t survive and her loss changed my life forever. I became an advocate for pregnancy loss. Losses in the first trimester meant nothing to society but the grief is real and is now much more accepted.

That was in 2010 and it was a catalyst to try to have another baby. It would take two more years to conceive. I gave myself a “drop-dead” date for stopping. December 31st, 2012. If we weren’t pregnant by then, we would stop all treatments and again, accept that we would only have one living child.

My last ditch effort was a laparoscopy. Again, still not turning to my faith; which is inherently fruitful, I asked my reproductive endocrinologist to take a look inside, to make sure that we hadn’t missed something. By now, my husbands sperm count was lower than it ever had been. Again, seeking information through illicit means. See, I am a sinner. But we didn’t have the knowledge to know there were licit ways to gather the same information. We knew it was wrong but we did it anyway (mortal sin) because we didn’t know there was another way.

I digress.

My insides were fine. The medication I was using would allow me to ovulate so after I recovered from the surgery, I could move forward. To our surprise, I ovulated on my own on our first child’s ninth birthday, just two weeks post surgery and we conceived.

Born nearly 10 years apart, we would have a second living child. If we wanted another before my 40th birthday, we would need to conceive pretty quickly. How silly to put a date on it, as if having a baby in my 40’s was awful. My grandparents did it. But the secular world had a hold on me. The doctors would say I was old, friends and family would say, “aren’t you worried you will have a child with Down Syndrome or some other ‘problem’,” and friends our age were sending their kids off to college not bringing new kids into their home.

It was a struggle to shake those thoughts and feelings and place my faith in God but we did. We turned to prayer and pastoral support. We began to volunteer in the Church, put our son in catholic school, never missed Mass (even on Holy Days), prayed more rosaries, and prepared couples for marriage. I was ready to dive into treatments but I began to ovulate regularly six months after our second living was born. That was odd and a blessing but I was also deep in postpartum depression. So we waited.

After months of therapy, all was good and I was ready to try again and we conceived easily. Augustus Jude died though and after his death, we were “done.” I say that as if I was in control. I wasn’t. Nor are you. God is.

I began to have regular cycles again and NFP had become a struggle. We had never had to avoid pregnancy in our entire married life. I know I blogged about this numerous times. So here we were, in our 40’s learning how to control our “urges, something that should have been mastered in our “mature” age.

I know I blogged about what came next, or rather who came next so I won’t bore you with the repeat story but another baby was on the way. God’s design, God’s plan. Not mine. In fact, I had just contemplated abortion should I become pregnant this late in life; another societal/secular influence on me based on me wanting to be in control, not God.

But God loved me anyway and he softened my heart. Would I have done it? I don’t know. I am ashamed to admit that I considered it. I am ashamed to admit that I wished her (Baby Girl) away. But that’s as far as it goes because this girl is the greatest blessing of my life. Sure, all my kids are blessings but she was my fiat. I HAD to submit to His will.

Let me tell you something, I am no saint. I am a sinner. I fail all the time at trusting God. Sharing this with you is NOT casting judgment. I will be judged for not placing my faith and trust in him. I will be judged for “demanding” a child.

I don’t have an answer to your suffering. You may never look back after you have demanded a child and regret it or wonder what would have happened if you had just waited. Waiting is hard. It is not easy to give in to the suffering and acceptance. People do it though. It’s possible.

We are all sinners. God knows that. But have you asked for forgiveness for your faithlessness, for your lack of trust in Him? I don’t know if you have sat in that confessional and said, “Lord, I beg your forgiveness for taking your power of creation into my hands and not trusting in your plans for me by using treatments that go against your design.” It’s hard to say that.

I remember going into the confessional and saying, “Lord, forgive me for not being open to life by using a condom and resisting your plans for us.” Sounds silly, but it was HARD! I sin, just like you. I will be judged, just like you. I will have to suffer the reparations, just like you. Where do we make reparations? In purgatory.

I am not better than you for not choosing IVF. I know your suffering on an intimate level. I didn’t choose IVF because we knew it wasn’t for us . On a deep level, we knew it was wrong. That’s why so many who use it get defensive. They too, know it was wrong. Sure, a beautiful and amazing child came from it. God allowed that child but the means to bring that child here was wrong. The means we used to conceive our first was wrong. I have confessed it but I still feel some shame even though God has forgiven me.

And imagine for a moment what that child will grow up to believe. A child bought and paid for, exploited from conception. “I feel that donor conception is a trade in human beings and very few people consider the effects it has on a child.” – From a child

There are so many biblical women who struggled with infertility and so many couples who took their childlessness into their own hands and forced a child anyway (through a concubine or maidservant). That never went well for them nor the child. Curses abound. Bad things happened but we don’t equate those bad things to the sin, at least I didn’t until I began to study scripture. God doesn’t punish like that anymore. His mercy endures forever and we should be focused on his mercy.

Jesus died on the cross for you so that you could find eternal life in him through reconciliation. He wants us to say sorry for the wrong, not “oh well, everyone else is doing it,” or “I have been good so I deserve a baby.”

And by the way, it’s a sin to lead others to sin. If you’ve had IVF and you say, “well, I did it,” that’s scandal. Others will see it and think, “well, she’s Catholic and did it so I guess it’s okay.” Scandal. Sin.

Sin leads to death.

We must try not to sin and lead others into sin.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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