Father Mike Schmitz’s ‘Catechism in a Year’ Strengthens the Faith My Parents Gave Me
I want to look back someday and know that I did all I could to live in the divine life as Christ wanted me to do.
This past summer was a summer of reminders to appreciate what I have, and what has been given to us as Christians in the past. As much as I loved the Bible in a Year with Father Mike Schmitz, I am really learning from his Catechism in a Year reading and discussion program. Father has referenced the tragedy of using artificial contraception several times now, no doubt in preparation for a larger review of the subject as we proceed through the section on living the moral life in the catechism. “Dad and I never used that stuff. We remained open to life.” These were the words of my mother to me when we discussed the use of contraception in society at large. Mom’s choice to remain true to the Church in this matter had to have been hard, as she and Dad married late in life and had only three live children, two in very difficult deliveries, and two other children miscarried. And yet, she suffered through for God. Her own mother had a similar story, which Mom’s last surviving sister and I revisited at a cemetery in Indiana this summer where Grandma’s first two children are buried, both of whom died during the Christmas season one year apart. The first baby was born on Christmas Day but died seven days later on New Year’s Day. And yet Grandma went on to have three more children before a third son died. Undeterred, she and Grandpa had four more children and raised one of their grandsons. People can say that that’s the way it was back then, to which I note the choice of people centuries before them to find ways to contracept. Mom told me later that her Protestant parents chose to remain open to life despite their poverty, although some of Grandma’s sisters chose to use contraception in the 1930s. I cannot help but share these memories of the marriages of my mother and grandmother, difficult as they were, because they were also some of the happiest marriages I have witnessed. There was a joy in the relationship between Mom and Dad that was also evident between Mom’s parents. They really loved each other and just being around each other. The strength of these two women to do the right thing no matter the cost also influenced me as a single career woman to work with the sickness of a heart condition long before the appropriate medicine was developed and approved in the United States to help me. Like my mother and grandmother, I could not see what the future held but had to trust with faith, like Father Mike Schmitz has described, in a God who would take care of me beyond what reason could explain. I thought about this faith passed on to me when I saw that same faith in the eyes of the many pilgrims at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England this summer. The destruction of the English Reformation seems impossible to overcome when viewing the many crumbling abbey remains today. But the Gospel message of hope cannot be chained. Mass at noon on a Sunday in August was held in a packed church this year. Although culturally different from me, these many Catholics of Asian heritage were devout as they attended Mass with their large families. And what joy to hear so many babies crying during Mass! “These people are teaching us how to be Christians,” commented one Anglo British man to me after Mass. Again, a seemingly impossible situation was made fruitful through faith over time as we celebrated near the lonely arch of what is left of the original Walsingham shrine structure from 1,000 years ago. As I looked at what would have been the view of the altar at the ruins of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, I was reminded this summer of the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of the Church in my life. Like those choices of my mother and her mother, the presence of the Church and the opportunity to attend Mass are not matters I want to treat lightly. I want to look back like my mother and know that I did all I could to live in the divine life as Christ wanted me to do.
Thank you, Father Mike Schmitz, for helping all of us realize through your podcasts the chance to appreciate all that Jesus has given us to live the abundant life in the Church he founded!