Infertility and the Liturgical Year
(Random thought: Isn't it kind of Infertility Awareness Week 'round here every week?....)
What I'm sharing today is just one more aspect of infertility that I didn't expect: how difficult the normal, predictable rhythms of my faith could become. I'm sharing this post this week in hopes that if you too find the Liturgical Year to be a challenge, that you know that you are not alone, and that if you know or love someone who is infertile, that you keep this in mind, especially when that person, who is normally a faithful person just doesn't seem "into" it.
One of my favorite things about being Catholic is the rhythm of the Liturgical Year, and the seasons that come along with it. (Practically speaking because I do not always plan ahead well and I love having a whole season of Christmas and Easter :).)
Currently, it is Thursday in the Octave of Easter. That means it is one of the two most joyful weeks of the year (the Octave of Christmas being the other), the celebration of the Risen Lord will continue on for 50 days through Pentecost. Death has not won. The cross defeated.
So, what does this have to do with infertility and awareness about infertility? For an infertile couple, it can feel like Lent 24/7/365. Easter has come, but the cross has not yet been lifted. Unless there was that dreamed of BFP, birth, or phone call, the Lent of infertility continues. The waiting, the unknown, all of it. While the world around us celebrates, and while we in our heads celebrate, for the Lord is risen, Alleluia. We know this, we hope in it, and we rejoice in it, but we are still stuck. Imagine Easter Sunday with the Alleluia and the bells back, but the statues still veiled, the tone of the music still somber, the priest still in violet vestments. That is what Easter can feel like to an infertile couple.
Lent, on the other hand, fits. The time of self-denial, penance, and waiting. The somber music, the dark colors, the quiet entrances and exits of Mass. While the joy of the risen Lord is there, for He is alive, always, what we are marking, the time of Christ's 40 days in the desert, the temptations, the hunger, the barrenness, all of it. It fits with infertility.
After Easter, comes Ordinary Time (named not because it is ordinary, but because the weeks are counted, they are ordered). It is a time to reflect upon the deep mysteries of our faith and to allow our relationship with Christ to not be one of extreme highs (Easter/Christmas) and lows (Lent, and Advent to an extent), but one that remains throughout the days of our life and grows as the time goes on. For me, the return to Ordinary Time at the end of Easter is somewhat of a relief. The overjoy that [rightfully] accompanies the Easter season comes to an end, and I no longer have to try to make my heart match what my head knows. There are weeks that will come that will be harder than others, but it is the normal rhythm of the year, and so too is what happens with infertility. As the years go by, the highs and lows come with each cycle, but overall, the rhythm of infertility sets in - the sorrow of a new cycle, the hope of trying again, the anxiety of the waiting, and so it continues. Ordinary Time provides the steady companion to the cyclical unsteadiness that is infertility.
After Ordinary Time comes Advent (really, Advent is the first season of the Liturgical year, but since we are in Easter, I started there). To put it quite honestly, Advent is brutal. It is all about the anticipation of waiting for a Baby. Of course, not just any baby, but Jesus. But He didn't come as a teenager or an adult, but as a baby, and so Advent prepares us for that coming. We know Jesus is coming, so there is much joy in our waiting, but, like with Easter, the joy is often in our head. I white knuckle through Mass (both Sunday and Daily) during Advent like no other time of year. The promises fulfilled, the stories of Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zechariah, they are almost too much for my infertile heart to take. Advent, while painful, is also challenging. It challenges me to consider how I bring Jesus to others; how my life is fruitful; how our marriage is fruitful. It challenges me to open my eyes and heart to how the Lord is asking me to receive Him and to not reject His way in favor of my own.
Then Christmas, the celebration of a baby. It's clear why this one is tough, right? It's deeper than that though, much like Easter, the celebration exists in my head, but in my heart, it's just not there. I think this is why Midnight Mass has become one of my favorites of the whole year, starting in darkness and quiet, and even as the Mass goes on, it has a quietness to it that is missing from most Solemnities. It is as if there is a hush so as not to wake the sleeping baby Jesus, and for me this quiet joy fits my mood much more than the busyness of the Vigil (Family) Mass or the overwhelming celebration of the morning Masses.
Finally, sprinkled throughout the year are the Holy Days of Obligation. Has anyone else noticed that they are all Marian Feast Days? (Not to mention the Marian Feast Days that are not Holy Days of Obligation....) Nothing lands me in the Confessional faster than Holy Days of Obligation. Seriously. I dread them. I've resorted to making sure I'm near Fr. D's parish (or driving the hour to get there) to make sure that I won't have to hear a homily all about how Mary was the perfect mother. Yes, she was, she IS, not denying that, I just don't need to hear it over and over again, there is more to be said about Mary than this. ahem.
So, while I love the changes the Liturgical year brings, and the ever renewing of our Faith and what we believe, it can be quite the challenge for my head and my heart to match what is going on in Church, and then, the challenge of making our home, our Domestic Church, match as well is sometimes too much. The Man has really taken over for Christmas. He drags me through Advent (lovingly) and makes sure just enough is done so that when a few days before Christmas the spirit starts to hit me, I can jump in and do the rest and not feel like a total failure. Easter this year was an epic failure, but that is its own post.
This is just one more aspect of infertility that I didn't expect. How difficult the normal, predictable rhythms of my faith could become. I'm sharing this post this week in hopes that if you too find the Liturgical Year to be a challenge, that you know that you are not alone, and that if you know or love someone who is infertile, that you keep this in mind, especially when that person, who is normally a faithful person just doesn't seem "into" it.
Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!