infertility

On Suffering – A Lenten Reflection, Part 2

Many Catholics are familiar with the phrase “offer it up,” but what does that mean and how can we offer up our infertility? “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man [or woman], in his [or her] suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.” (Salvifici Doloris 19)

This can give meaning to suffering, which so often seems to be lacking.  I know then, through my faith, that my suffering has meaning, that just as Christ died for our sins and suffered, the cross I carry has meaning.

In the Second Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle writes: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesussake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh …. knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4, 8-11. 14).

I find it helpful to focus onSt. Paul’s use of the word body and his imagery of us carrying our cross in the body since infertility is a physical ailment.St. Paulsays it clearly: we can manifest the life of Christ in our bodies. We can be witnesses to God’s love no matter what happens. We can show others a different way of dealing with infertility. We can be afflicted but focus on Christ and know that He has suffered for us and joins us on the road of infertility – we will not despair.

And in the Letter to the Romans he writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12, 1).  While undergoing countless tests and procedures, it has helped me to focus on that image of my body as a living sacrifice. We bear the suffering of the cross but know that the story does not end there. Our faith in the Resurrection is what helps us to continue on the journey despite the difficulty. Paul’s words challenge me to show others Christ in and through my suffering of infertility. This is very difficult and there are moments when it seems almost impossible to do. For example, when recently hearing the news of another IVF pregnancy, the hurt and anger were deep.  Talking to a friend in the faith helped me to vent and gain the necessary perspective. 

The brokenness of infertility is also special in that it is a brokenness of our body that may not be obvious.  It’s not a physical deformity that can be seen by others, for the most part, but we may feel that our bodies have let us down, like they are not doing something they are supposed to do; we may even feel like less of a woman Also it’s a brokenness that many times goes unspoken — maybe because people don’t ask, are afraid to ask, or we may not want to share.

St. Paul, though, also reminds us that “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 4, 8-11. 14 – 1, 5). This is the key, however: to always remember that we are not alone in our suffering, that Christ is comforting us as well.

In Salvifici Doloris, the late Blessed John Paul II alludes to the maturity which suffering brings.  Tto suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God. (Salvifici Doloris 27). It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.

Confession became an important sacrament and avenue for this transformative grace for my husband and me as we learned to let go of so much and seek God’s counsel. I have to be honest and say that confession is not the easiest of sacraments for me to participate in, and though I am a more frequent confession-goer now because infertility has brought to the forefront many of my failings and sins, I still need more of the grace received from reconciliation.

John Paul II said that, “Suffering is also an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man, his spiritual maturity.”  By being a witness to others on the journey you can also inspire them in their own faith. Christ did not conceal from his listeners the need for suffering. He said very clearly: “If any man would come after me… let him take up his cross daily” (Luke 9: 23). The way that leads to the Kingdom of heaven is “hard and narrow,” and Christ contrasts it to the “wide and easy” way that “leads to destruction” (Matthew 7: 13-14). Our culture rejects the difficult road many times and looks for quick fixes.  Yet God says in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

As we enter this Holy Triduum, may we remember that in coming to God and uniting our suffering with Christ’s, our journey will be easy as we place our trust in Him.

On Suffering – A Lenten Reflection, Part 1

I was reading a devotional recently that talked about suffering. It discussed the temptation we fall into of asking “Why me?” Instead, the devotional asked, “why not me?”

The question struck me because I had never thought of it that way. Why not me? Why can’t I carry the cross of infertility? Why can’t I be the one who is an example to others?

The question haunted me for quite some time and I thought of it often in prayer. What good reason did I have for not walking the road of infertility? Why, because I wanted things to be nice and easier? Were any of these reasons really good reasons? I know that through difficulty I would grow but it’s so comfortable not to, so comfortable to not learn to trust completely.  When we may feel betrayed by God we should pray to change our cry from “Why me?” to ‘Why not me?”  Our suffering makes us more human, better able to relate, and help and minister to others.  There is a level of compassion that can only be achieved when the suffering is shared, when we share in Christ’s cross.

In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” We answer this question in how we live our lives.  It’s a constant question we are asked and that we are answering sometimes without even realizing it but others are looking to us for that answer.  Others see Christ in the way we respond to our suffering.  How we carry our cross is an answer to Jesus’ question.

Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris (The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) about situations that bear the sign of suffering and he cites the lack of offspring as one such situation. (paragraph 6).

One of the most common human responses to suffering is to question why, but as the Book of Job explains, suffering is a mystery for which our answers are insufficient and inadequate.  However, as Pope John Paul II explains in his letter, the answers in Scripture do not end with the Book of Job.  He makes reference to the “Gospel of Suffering” written by Christ.  Sometimes the suffering is a repeated fight with my own pride, which theologians say is the primary sin. Pride leads me to subtly buy into the idea of my right to a child.  I think sometimes it is because it is too painful for me to believe that God is truly saying no to our request. God is so loving that it is hard for me to understand the love that allows me to suffer so much. “Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering” (Salvifici Doloris 13). As St. John says, God is love, so only God can reveal the meaning of my suffering to me.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla said, “One cannot love without suffering or suffer without loving.” At times, it seems almost cruel to see so many people around me become pregnant. I can even understand why infertility leads some people away from their faith – but at those moments, I ask God for the grace to persevere, trust and love as He did amidst the suffering.

Free infertility webinar

Ave Maria Press is hosting us for a free webinar on Thurs., March 29 from 3-4 p.m. entitled, “Infertility: Spiritual Care and Practical Support for Catholic Couples.” We will be talking about how parishes and dioceses can best support couples bearing this cross.  Will you join us? Please click here to sign up: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/808577385

On blogs and brownies

Welcome to our website! We are Carmen Santamaría and Angelique Ruhi-López, best friends from Miami who love to share our faith – and the occasional chocolate brownie. We have a lot in common (with a few differences of opinion, like whether dark or milk chocolate is better) but perhaps one of the most formative experiences of our friendship is walking the road of infertility. Though we walked this journey at different points and with varied experiences, we both felt called by God to write down our experiences so that other faithful Catholics could know that they are not alone in carrying this cross.

We compiled our research on the Catholic Church’s rich teachings on infertility and human dignity and combined them with our own personal testimonies and experiences to write The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples, which is scheduled to be published by Ave Maria Press in late March 2012 (just a few weeks away!)

In addition to the book, we have created this companion website (a companion for the companion, if you will) where we will post select portions of the book, update you on Church resources on the subject of infertility, as well as any speaking engagements we will be doing to promote the message of hope while bearing this cross. We pray that both the book and this site are as comforting as a warm, gooey chocolate brownie on a long, lonely day.

Welcome

Please stay tuned as we prepare to share more information, stories, resources, and more to help you on your Catholic infertility journey.

Blessings,

Angelique & Carmen