The important life and death of my baby.

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I am still not really ready to write this post. But I want to anyway.

About 3 weeks ago I had a miscarriage. It was very early – I only knew I was pregnant for about 10 days. But from the moment I saw a positive result on the pregnancy test I loved this child as much as my other 3 children. I immediately consecrated my child to Mary and loved him with all my heart and soul.

Like my other children, this baby was planned and very much wanted. But it did take an almost heroic leap of faith for me to consent to being open to life a 4th time. My husband now works from home, but was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 4 years ago – 3 months after the birth of our 3rd child. He has been unable to work at all for most of the last 4 years. But pretty much as soon as he got his home business up and running we both knew we had to take that leap of faith and try for, perhaps, our last child. I will be 39 this year, and I went into this 4th pregnancy in full knowledge of the toll it was going to take on me physically, and all the risks involved, but we still wanted another baby so much.

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On the night I began to miscarry, I told Jesus I was scared about what was going to happen to my baby. He told me “Look Clare, he is either going to be with you, or with Me.” Those words gave me a huge amount of comfort in the very worst of circumstances. Whatever was going to happen, my baby would be safe.

The next few days I just cried and cried. Tears of grief that only the women in this special ‘club’ will understand. A club nobody wants to be a member of. My husband felt disappointed, but did not feel the need to gieve like I was. And that is fine. Everyone handles it differently. But he does respect my grief, and is being extremely supportive.

A few days in and I start with the anger – mainly at God. “So where the F**K is my baby?” Refusal to pray, refusal to receive Him in the Eucharist, storming out halfway through Mass. Worry about how I am going to raise my kids Catholic now I hate God. Worry that I will have to close my business because I will never be able to make another vestment ever again. Paralyzing fear He will take my other kids. Terrible, terrible guilt and loneliness because I cannot bear to be with the God who ‘took my baby’. I still believe in Him, I just HATE Him.

We did not get the chance to baptise our baby… where is he? The church teaches that in the case of unbaptised infants, we must ‘rely on the mercy of God’. The same mercy that permitted my baby to be taken from me? I’m not sure I am interested in that sort of mercy. I no longer have any desire to enter heaven when I didn’t even know where my dead kid is. My plan was to go looking for him after I died. (Can I just make the point here that pastorally speaking, the Church fails spectacularly in reassuring mothers of dead unbaptised infants.)

I asked for prayers and I got them. I can only thank those who have been incredibly patient and loving with me during the last few weeks. I was truly humbled by the huge outpouring of love from the online Catholic community. I have never realised how much I rely on my brothers and sisters love until now.

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When the depression hit I knew I had to quit work for a while and the only thing I could think of doing was something physical. So I started going to the Gym 5 days a week. It was a great idea and has really stemmed that depression, and has also given me a great outlet for the anger.

One of the most painful things for me was when people tried to downplay the importance and uniqueness of my baby when they said stuff like “Oh, well, it was very early…” and “obviously not meant to be…” and “you’ll have another one…”. No! I’m sorry, No! My kid WAS, I mean IS important! There will never be another human being like him! He will not be able to be ‘replaced’ with another baby – EVER!

The turning point came for me when a friends teenage son tried to commit suicide twice in one week. I suddenly realised that my child was already safe. He would never be in danger of Hell. He will never suffer, or know sin or pain or sadness or grief. But more than that I realised that my child could possibly intercede for my friends son. I just turned round one day and told my kid “Sweetheart – we’ve got work to do!” But I needed a sign from God that he was in heaven.

My sign came that Sunday evening when I was granted to be with my baby during Mass. Except he was not a baby at all. He was the fullness of who he was as a human being – a young man. Since then he has been with me every day, and will continue to be with me everyday for the rest of my life until he comes to throw his arms round me when I die. I am looking forward to that day immensely, but I have some more stuff to do here first, like raise his other 3 siblings! The relationship I have with him is obviously different from the relationship I have with his siblings, but nonetheless it is a relationship, and it will continue to grow and develop.

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Since then I have had other people come to me asking for my son to intercede for them. I have found this rather strange, but moving, and also I think it is helping me reach some sort of level of acceptance of the situation – of which I am still grieving. Everytime someone does ask, it affirms that my sons very short life and death, does have infinite meaning and purpose, and this is extremely important to me. He WAS meant to be.

To have a son already in heaven has built a bridge for me between this life and the next which can never be broken. Heaven no longer feels so far away. The veil that separates this life from the next just got that bit thinner.

 

 

Fr. Dylan’s Sermon’s… Feast of Christ the King, Year A.

By Fr. Dylan James

Mt 25:31-46; Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17.

Today we keep the feast of Christ the King. I’ve been pondering this week that being a “king” is a rather old-fashioned concept. And I’ve been thinking that Shaftesbury is a rather old fashioned kind of place, and we probably have a much higher percentage of monarchists here that there are in other parts of the country.  But, and this is my point today, what KIND of king do we picture Jesus to be? Because His kingship isn’t just a cosy nice traditional piece of symbolism. I want to make three brief points: how His kingship is modern, how it is old fashioned, and why it is so vitally important that we think of Him as ‘king’ at all.

First, His kingship is ‘modern’. And by this I mean that He respects our freedom. He lets us do what we choose. He is not a tyrant. So on one level, He is like a modern king in a democratic state.

Second, however, He is also old fashioned. Although He leaves us free to choose whether or not to follow Him, He will also judge us for our behaviour -judge us on how we have USED that freedom. Both our first reading and our Gospel text described Him as judging and separating the sheep from the goats.
Let me specify this further and note that He will judge us according to HIS standards rather than according to our own. In the Gospel description of the judgement both those who were praised and those who were condemned were told that they had not seen the truth in their actions. So, those who had failed to feed the hungry hadn’t realised that they were failing to feed Christ, but The Lord didn’t say, “That’s alright, I realise you didn’t realise it was me you were neglecting”. And the Lord didn’t say, “That’s alright, I realise that you followed your own principles, and that’s what counts”. No, He condemned them. He condemned them because what they did was wrong. He condemned them because they should have known. When Christ comes He will judge by His standards, not by ours.

Finally, why is it good for us that He should be king? It’s good because we NEED to have someone in charge in life.
As we know, most of our contemporaries live as if there was no greater purpose in life, as if there was no one watching over us, as if there was no one caring and guiding us. In contrast, to acknowledge that Christ is King is realise that there IS someone in charge. Someone in charge of the universe; someone in charge of directing, in Providence, the events of life -even through suffering; Someone in charge of my life and what happens to me. And this is a great realisation. It means I am not alone. It means I am not just left to my own devices and my own strength or weakness.

HOWEVER it brings with it a practical conclusion. If I am to acknowledge that He is King then I need to submit myself to Him as His subject. And this is a very old fashioned, non-democratic thing. But if I am to benefit from what His Kingship brings then I must commit myself to being His subject. I must accept what He teaches, strive to live His commands, call on His mercy when I fall, and rely on His strength amidst the trials of life.

So, to sum that up. Having a “king” may seem the kind of cosy nice traditional thing that we in Shaftesbury “go for”. But with Jesus it means something very specific. He is a modern king in that He leaves us to be free. He is an old fashioned king in that He will judge us for how we use or misuse our freedom. And it is GOOD that He is our King, that He is in charge, because He is the loving shepherd of all who choose to be His subjects.

Fr. Dylan’s Sermon’s… Purgatory, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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By Fr. Dylan James

I want to speak about an important way to love, a way that, sadly, many people seem to have forgotten about today, namely, the need to love those who have died by praying for them.
Now, I’m not saying that people don’t care about the dead any more. But it does seem that people have lost sense of part of what is INVOLVED in love for them, namely, praying for people who have died. One of the ‘seven spiritual works of mercy’ is to pray for the dead.
So, let me point out the three things that the dead need our prayers for.

First, they need our prayers for MERCY in the JUDGEMENT.
When I die I will stand before the judgement seat of God. It will be decided whether I will be sent to Hell or Heaven.
Part of problem today is that we tend not to really believe in Hell any more, so that we just gloss over the words we heard the Lord Jesus say, as He said many times, of this place where “there will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Mt 25:30) for all eternity. Likewise, our modern world is so unwilling to face death that we avoid texts like the one we just heard from St Paul referring to our end coming like a “thief in the night”(1 Thess 5:1-16).
We tend, instead, to picture a comfortable middle-class Western lifestyle that will continue past death with no awkward realities like ‘judgement’ getting in the way.
But the simple truth is that I will die. And I will be judged.
And it is the prayers of the living that will assist me in receiving mercy in that judgment. This is what the Jews of our Lord’s own time believed (2 Macc 12:42-45). This what the early Christians believed, so we find St Paul praying for a dead man called Onesiphorus that “the Lord will grant him mercy”(2 Tim 1:18).

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Second, after the particular judgement, if I am to go to heaven I will still almost certainly need to be PURIFIED of my sins, to be ready for the perfection of Heaven. This purification happens in the place that the Church calls ‘Purgatory’. It involves CHANGING us, and like any change it is difficult and painful. The classical image for this is of FIRE, as St. Peter puts it, being purified in fire as gold is purified in fire (1 Pet 1:7) –the impurities burned away. Thus the new Catechism quotes St Gregory referring to this “purifying fire”(CCC 1031). Many of the saints have seen visions of this, the earliest recorded being to St Perpetua, who was shown a vision of her brother in this place of “gloominess”, “thirst”, and “pain”, and yet she was also shown how her prayers brought comfort to him in that refining fire -like water in a desert.
So, our prayers for the dead bring them COMFORT in their time of purgation.

Thirdly and finally, the souls in Purgatory need our assistance to SPEED them through this process, to SHORTEN their time there. Thus we read in the book of Maccabees that sacrifices were offered in the Temple for the dead “that they might be released from their sins”(2 Macc 12:42-45). Because if I am there I will not get out until the temporal debt has been paid for my sins.

And because our loved ones are now outside the same ‘time reference’ as ourselves we should CONTINUE to pray -thus I still pray for my Grandma who died two decades ago, even though that was long ago and even though she was a lovely woman. I pray for her because I still love her, and I expect all my prayers to be counted on her behalf.

Finally, HOW should we pray? Which prayers should we offer? I think the most important thing is that we should pray REGULARLY, even if it is only Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers.

So, there are three things that the prayers of the living assist the dead in: Mercy in the judgement, comfort in the purging fire, and in a shortening of the time in that fire.
To failure to offer this assistance is to fail to love. But to be faithful in offering this assistance is to show both our love and our belief and hope in the resurrection of the dead.