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Soul Sisters: A Story of Joy and Sorrow View Comments
By Colleen Connell Mitchell

AS A YOUNG Catholic wife, when I opened my heart to the Lord’s plan for our family life and the children God had in store for us, I immediately began to imagine the life that lay ahead. I imagined the announcements of pregnancies and the reactions of others.

I imagined my belly swollen with life as I grabbed the hands of active toddlers in parks and playgrounds. I imagined a table full of little ones, heads bowed as we prayed grace before meals.

I thought about all those little bodies bathed and dressed in printed pajamas, snuggled peacefully in bed for the night. I practiced responses to the shocked faces in the grocery store, and I prepared for the challenges those grocery trips would present.

As the Lord began to reveal his plan for our family, I prayed through each pregnancy, grateful for the opportunity to bear another little soul for God’s glory. I offered myself and this growing little one to him without reserve. Never once did I regret my decision to leave the plan for our family in the Lord’s hands through the wisdom of the Catholic Church.

As I became the mother to five little boys in 10 years, that plan played itself out pretty much the way I had imagined. My journey as the mother of a growing Catholic family had brought with it all the joys and challenges I had imagined, as well as many, many others. I grew in my faith more than I would have ever guessed. My marriage had been blessed, and my heart was overwhelmed at God’s generosity over and over again.

When my husband, sons and I found ourselves expecting our sixth son 12 years into our marriage, I was full of joy. I was overwhelmed at God’s surprising and sweet plan for our family. He had written the script for this life I got to live every day, and it was a life that I loved.

In my dreams of our family life, the one thing I had never expected was sorrow. In all my prayers to offer little souls to God, one thing I had never considered was that God might ask me to give one back before I was ready.

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Colleen Connell Mitchell is a freelance writer and the homeschooling mom of five sons. She lives and writes from southern Louisiana where she and her family minister in their local parish. It is her hope that, in sharing her story of loss and her faith journey through it, other Catholic mothers will be encouraged to trust in God’s loving plan for their family even in the most difficult of circumstances.

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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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