Open Letter to LMU

I apologize in advanced for the long email… I wish I had been able to talk to you ahead of time.

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PIANO_PRIMO

With his Apostolic Letter – Porto Fidel, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared that a “Year of Faith” would begin on October 11, 2012. With this letter, B16 challenged Catholics to study and reflect on the many aspects of our Catholic faith, including the documents of Vatican II and the catechism.

When October 2012 rolled around, I distinctly remember asking myself the question, “How was I going to respond to this challenge?” At about this time my wife and I had just stepped down as Youth Ministers at Holy Family Catholic Church in Artesia. She was already busy continuing her faith formation through a book club she started with a few of her friends. I, on the other hand, had done nothing. Sure, I had attended various religious retreats and conferences, but nothing sparked. It wasn’t until the following February at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA that something caught my eye.

Directly in the center of the convention center floor was a rather large booth, with the words Loyola Marymount University. Like the moment when Luke saw the image of Princess Leia appear out of R2-D2, LMU Bellarmine School of Liberal Arts – Department of Theology lured me in. It was as if I had found my “call to action.” Luke had known in a split second that he had to help this Princess Leia… I, on the other hand steadily approached the LMU booth and signed up to attend an Open House. Needless to say, after evaluating several schools to pursue a Masters of Theology, I soon learned LMU would be the perfect match for me. Thankfully, they felt the same.

After six weeks into my first semester, I have now come to a crossroad in my life. I have come to learn how difficult it is to exercise the left side of my brain during the day at work and then completely switch to the right side of the brain to process what is needed for school. I have come to learn how difficult it is to attempt to learn something without being able to practice it in my daily life (it is quite difficult to incorporate the New Testament into the world of Software Engineering). I have come to learn how difficult it is to write research papers (with properly formatted bibliographies) when the last things I’ve written are: blog posts, functional design documents, and visio diagrams. This has all brought me to realize that if I want to be able to keep up with the many brilliant and insightful people around me at school, I needed to push myself harder and invest more time in my studies.

And that is where my dilemma lies…in time.

Three and a half years ago, my wife was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Since that time, we have been fighting to overcome infertility in hopes of conceiving a child. My wife has gone through two surgeries, several different prescriptions, and countless trips to our OB (who is 2 hours away from our house). We have come to a point where we and our doctor think we have found something that works. We see signs of ovulation and it seems it’s only a matter of time till we are able to conceive. But that’s just it…it’s only a matter of time.

I cannot sacrifice any time from work because well, work is work. It’s my current career track and it’s something I love to do. I received a blessing from my manager and director to pursue Grad School because I guaranteed them that it would not affect my performance at work.

So that lead me to a big question…where do I find this extra time for school?

I cannot borrow time from work.
I cannot borrow time from my wife.
I cannot get my hands on a time turner (a la Hermione Granger).timeturner

Since I had no real resolution to that question, I had to ask myself a different question. This was a question that has been asked of me ever since I enrolled at LMU. Where do i see myself in 3 years after I finish grad school? In regards to my career and how I would apply my new degree…I had no answer. What I do know, is that in 3 years, I do want to be celebrating Father’s Day with my own children.

Therefore, I have decided that I will be withdrawing from enrollment at LMU.

This isn’t a goodbye, but more of a see you later. A Masters of Theology is still a personal goal of mine, but I must set priorities first. Time is slowly going against me and my wife, so we must take full advantage of the time we have now. School will always be there, but the opportunity to have kids naturally will not be.

Thank you Professor Daniel for opening my eyes to the world of Post Colonial Theology and the many other countless other disciplines within Theology. As the new Chair of Graduate Studies in Theology, I was very honored to have you as my conductor on this journey into the world of Theology. I really do hope we cross paths again, perhaps when I am able to re-enroll at LMU. I pray that you are able to use the many talents God has given you to guide the many graduate students.

Thank you Professor Siker for sharing your passion for the synoptic analysis. You have given me a new outlook on the Bible and several tools for analyzing it (I can’t wait to start doing synoptic analysis with my friends). You truly have a way of infecting your students with your passion for theology. LMU is blessed to have you and your husband guiding the minds of their students.

God Bless,
Mark Anthony de Jesus

LMU Open House
LMU Open House – April 03, 2013
The doorway to my future
The doorway to my future
My home away from home...theology village
My home away from home…theology village

#nfp

Natural-Family-Planning

Over four and a half years ago Abby and I entered into this adventure called marriage. And about three and a half years ago we took the dive into NFP. A few weekends ago we were able to share about this adventure with our parish. NFP (or Natural Family Planning) has been an amazing gift from God to help us responsibly plan out a family. And what was disconcerting to me was that it seemed like almost no one at my parish knew what NFP was!

It’s like watching that amazing episode of Battlestar Galactica and you find out who the last cylon is, but there is no one to talk to about it. There is no one that understands how intense each episode was… no one that understands how much you admired Captain Adama despite his many flaws… no one that enjoyed all the heavy Christian undertones of the show…

Hello? Anyone still here? 🙂

Well that’s how amazing and beautiful NFP has been for me and my wife. Even though it’s been three and a half years practicing Natural Family Planning and still no baby, the journey has been more than worth it. Practicing Creighton and NFP have enabled our marriage to grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

We have been able to learn about how complex and beautiful our bodies are. We realized that NFP is something that allows the husband to be just as (well almost as) active as the wife. The husband is not a bystander to the whole process, but requires him to be in tune with his wife’s body almost as much as she is. What we’ve gained from this, is a new level of understanding and commitment between a husband, a wife, and God.

Now I can go on forever, but that wasn’t the point of this post. The point is that God has revealed to us that we need to spread this gift. We need to bring others on this adventure. Next year we WILL celebrate National NFP Week at our parish. The message will be spread regardless if Abby and I do end up conceiving.

Do you see a need for NFP at your Parish?
Do you want to help provide another way for families to grow?

Below are good places to start to learn more about NFP:

And in case you wanted them….here are some amazing links on Battlestar Galactica. 🙂

bsg

adama

 

image sources:
http://acoupleofcatholics.com/blog/2013/07/27/natural-family-planning-methods/
http://www.bakiniz.com/battlestar-galactica-karakterler/
http://www.walldug.com/wallpaper/32358-fake-grace.html

My Mt. Wilson

Abby here, guest posting. =) I know this is the NaPro HUSBAND’s blog, but what’s a husband without his wife butting in every now and then? =P

Anyway, I just wanted to share about what I learned from my most recent hiking adventure and how that hike was very similar to our journey through infertility.

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This past Saturday, Mark and I (and three other friends) hiked to the top of Mt. Wilson.  A personal accomplishment, to say the least, but that 14+ mile trek kicked…my…butt.IMG_5258

There was one point while we were hiking down the mountain when I wanted to give up. I was over it. Everything down to my toes ached and I just wanted to sit there and cry and sulk.

But then I thought, ‘What good is quitting going to do for you, Abby? You HAVE to keep going, or else you’re just going to be stuck on the mountain. Like, really, STUCK there. They’d have to call a helicopter to bring you down. And you’re not a lame-o. There’s no use in crying. You have to finish what you were set out to do.’

It wasn’t until the day after that I realized God was speaking to me right then and there.

You see, this past week had been pretty rough. Particularly because I knew Mother’s Day was coming up and it would be another one that I didn’t have someone going through the stash of cards in my office, wondering which one they should give me. The whole week, I was feeling sorry for myself – crying…sulking…feeling the same way I felt when I was on the mountain. But instead of my toes, it was my heart that ached.  I was over it…over the charting, over the nightly dose of medication, over the constant questioning of ‘when is it going to happen? Or will it ever happen?’

But at mass on Sunday, I thought about the mountain and how there was no use in me crying then and there was no use in me crying now. I have to finish what I was set out to do. I have to finish what God set me out to do – to remain hopeful and joyful in times of confusion, anxiety, and worry. And to ‘continually praise God’ just as the disciples did when they were anxiously awaiting the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49-53) .

So that’s my mission.  Well, our mission. To share that there is joy and hope in NaPro Technology and Natural Family Planning. I wasn’t meant to take the helicopter down…nor was I meant to do In Vitro Fertilization or anything else that compromised what I believed in. I was meant for this. And though this adventure may seem as never ending as those gruesome switchbacks on Mt. Wilson, there will always be something wonderful waiting for me at the top.

At Mt. Wilson, it was a chili dog from the Cosmic Café.  =P
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For the rest of my life, it’s heaven with my hubby.
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“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” – Romans 8:18

Happy Mother’s Day?

cgmothersdaycards

Today is one of those days that always bring mixed feelings for couples struggling with infertility. You can’t help but thank your mom for all that she has done to raise you.  You can’t be more happy for those new babies brought into this world.  You can’t help but feel blessed to be called Godfather or Godmother to countless other children.  But it does hurt not being able to hand your wife a card, a Mother’s Day card.

jesus AscensionToday at mass, we not only celebrated our mothers, but also the Feast of the Ascension.  It is a day where we are reminded that Jesus did not belong to this world, but rather at the Father’s right hand. His body and soul ascended into Heaven… but before Jesus left, He asked that the disciples not leave Jerusalem.  He asked them to wait for “the promise of Father,” aka the Holy Spirit. His work was done, but it was just the beginning for His apostles.  It was the start of their work… and our work.

 

It is not a coincidence that this year’s Mother’s Day falls on the same day that most dioceses will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.  God is calling all couples struggling with infertility to continue waiting… waiting for that promise.  But not in sorrow or sadness, but in joy.  Much like the disciples did in today’s Gospel (Luke 24:46-53), they ran back into temples “with great joy.”  It does us no good to dwell in our misfortune or to get upset that Jesus decided to unite us in His sufferings with our own sufferings.  Today concludes our 9 day novena with St. Gerard and the beginning of another.  Our hope is that St. Gerard joins us in our prayers for someday obtaining “the promise of the Father”.  It is also our hope and prayer that all infertile couples obtain that.

“For all those who have suffered the loss of a child, are struggling with infertility, or are waiting to adopt, may the peace and comfort of the Lord be with them as they turn their lives over to Him, we pray to the Lord.” – The prayer intention we submitted for all the masses at our parish (they said a modified version)

The prayer for the nine day novena
St Gerard

O glorious St.Gerard, powerful intercessor before God, and wonder worker of our day, I call upon you and seek your help. You who always fulfilled God’s will on earth, help those desiring to conceive to do God’s holy will. Intercede with the Giver of Life from whom all parenthood proceeds, that they may conceive and raise children who will please God in this life, and be heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

http://thepracticingcatholic.com/2013/05/02/novena-for-those-wishing-to-conceive/

Holy Thursday revisited

HolyThursdayAdoration1 year later… same prayer…

well.. a little different.

This past Holy Thursday I found myself in the same position as last year. Only this time when i knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament during holy hours, I could not get up.

For some reason I felt that if I could just stay on my knees a bit longer, I could prove to God that I loved Him. That my kneeling for more than an hour would some how convince him to say, “Yes you will be a father.’ Or perhaps he would even send down the Angel Gabriel to announce that we are with child.

No matter how much I pleaded, begged, and commanded God to provide me with that providential sign, I knew it was futile. Things do not work this way with God… well at least the God I have grown to know. He is a God of patience and trust. Maybe our purpose is to not be parents… maybe the only sacraments we will witness is that of our God-Children.. and not our own biological children. What ever that purpose is… there is only one prayer i need to remember…

Thy will be done.

After all… He died for us… the least we can do is to LIVE for Him.

NOTE: This entry is not an cry for pity… that is the last thing Abby and I want. Rather, let this be a request for prayers. A request that each person that reads this prays for all infertile couples… that they understand and are able to accept God’s plans for them. That we are able to be examples of how to live out a blessed life and understanding.

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Washing of the feet at Holy Thursday… everyone got their feet washed!

Washing of the Feet

 

My Beautiful wife.. 🙂abigail

Be Joyful

This past weekend marks the 4th Sunday of Advent (that last purple candle on the Advent wreath) and as Christmas approaches I have been reflecting on mostly the 3rd Sunday of Advent… aka Gaudete Sunday… aka the Pink Candle.

Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, when in the midst of the anticipation of the return of our Lord… we take time to rejoice.  And that’s not just because Gaudete means “to rejoice” in Latin. We rejoice because the mystery of the unknown also brings joy and hope for our salvation.

To aide along side our preparation for the birth and return of our Lord, Abby and I have just completed all 9 crazy 5am morning masses of Simbang Gabi. Simbang Gabi is a tradition in the Philippines in which you attend a novena of 9 masses.  Typically you go into Simbang Gabi with prayer intentions so that you can pray all 9 days for that same intention.  For some… it’s to find a life partner; others it’s for some health issue; for us it’s the same thing we’ve been praying for the past 3 years of marriage… to start a family. But for some reason I felt like my prayer wasn’t complete.  It was until the 2nd day of Simbang Gabi… Gaudete Sunday…that my prayer changed.

You see… Simbang Gabi is in like 95% Tagalog (the primary dialect in the Philippines) and being a 2nd generation American born Filipino, I barely understand Tagalog.  So during the mass (especially during the homily) I find myself turning to my friends that were lucky to be born in the Philippines and have the gift to understand Tagalog for translations.  So as I go through the motions and try my best to actively participate without understanding most of what was being said and take in the mass… I realized something during the offertory.

I may not ever understand why Abby and I were blessed with the issues we are dealing with because we are not meant to. The only thing we need to understand is that we are not alone.  We have our family and friends, we have the countless other couples coping with the same issue, and most of all we have our God.  During the offertory we are offering up our burdens and joys to God so that we might be worthy to receive the Eucharist… the source and summit of our Faith.  I need to remember that this journey is something I need to offer up to God. Even though we will probably not understand its purpose until we stand in front of St. Peter at the gates.

So while mainstream culture has tried to take Christmas away from its true meaning… this Simbang Gabi has allowed me to take it back internally.  Which is why it is fitting that this year’s Simbang Gabi started during the weekend of Gaudete Sunday… we can rejoice in the unknowns that lay in front of us and know that when we come around the corner we will be face to face with the only thing that matters… Jesus Christ.

May you and your families have a blessed Christmas and that you see Christ reflection through each other.  Abby and I pray especially for the young parents out there… may you be a living and walking example to those around you, especially your kids. And to those that will spend this Christmas alone know that Christ is there knocking at your heart… you only need to let Him in.

the wall of underwear

So I was in the middle of Target standing in front of a wall of women’s underwear and I had no idea what I was doing. Abby said get the ones that will go above her tummy to cover her scar… so I grabbed a few. Each of the different brands had different size specifications. I mean, in Mens, we have Small, Medium, Large… etc. Women have Small, 4, 28… I was starting to panic. The number of women in the underwear section was growing. They were passing by me left and right, and I could feel them staring at me… judging me. They were giving me this look like, “Why is this guy just standing here and looking at women’s underwear?” I couldn’t take it. I grabbed a few different packages of underwear and headed to the register to checkout. Quickly realizing that I was in line with just women’s underwear… I grabbed a pound of Target brand coffee so I wouldn’t look like a weirdo and got the heck out of there.

Well, this is my life. This is the choice I made. And when my future son dyes his hair blonde (like his father did once when HE was a teenager) or begs me for the new iPhone 24, I will remember that moment at Target and remember the yes I made…to Abby…and to God. To buy my wife underwear because she just endured an Ovarian Wedge Resection. We are doing our best to say yes to what God is asking of us. For Abby, it’s to have surgery. For me, it’s to buy women’s underwear. I’d say that’s about equal… don’t you think? 🙂

And so here we are. We have taken the next step. Abby is in recovery mode and I wish I could say I understand, but I don’t. I will never fully understand because God didn’t ask me to understand. However he asked me to not get upset when Abby gets short with me because she’s in pain. He asked me to be uncomfortable because there is nothing I can do that can compare to the discomfort that Abby’s feeling. He asked me to play my part… “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her” (Ephesians 5:25)

This is the beautiful part of NFP (Natural Family Planning) and NaProTechnology. It is not just a method in which to achieve pregnancy, but a tool that can help mold a relationship of understanding and empathy. If both husband and wife are fully participative in this process, then that is when you start to see the real fruits. Husbands get to learn exactly what is going on within their wives’ body. It is no longer a mystery, but a miracle. Wives get to learn that the husbands will never fully understand the pain they go through and that there is no reason for them to get upset because of that.

So I’m just doing what I can… mostly praying that she gets better. That way I don’t have to buy women’s underwear anymore…but mostly so she can finally get a good night’s rest and not be so uncomfortable.

 

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Abby approved pictures below.. 🙂