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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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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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