Category Archives: Blessed Mother

Announcing Pio Gerard’s arrival

Eighteen years ago this month, July 25th 1995, our firstborn son entered the world only to return home on August 21st. His brief life taught us the value of precious time and inspired our openness to life, but as the years passed and the babies kept coming, we began to take for granted that life was a given.

When I miscarried our first sweet little one in between our two youngest, I chalked it up to the inevitable reality of numbers. Which is not to say, I didn’t miss that sweet little soul who passed unseen through me.

 But then life turned upside down in July of 2010 when we lost a son in the second trimester. Then another sweet soul passed unseen on All Souls’ Day and another son entered eternal rest in my womb, again in the second trimester, the follow June of 2011. Finally, those five lovely souls were joined by another at Thanksgiving time.

I share all that only so that I can better express my sincere gratitude for this newest blessing of life in our family.

 After so many losses, it would have been easy to give into the temptation to despair. It would have been reasonable to have recourse to the infertile times only, so as not to risk further heartache. But God’s Will called us to surrender and to trust all the more.

How many prayers I’ve offered and intercessions I’ve implored, I cannot begin to count. Friends and family wrapped us in their petitions. Padre Pio’s oil was a regular anointing vehicle for crossing my belly and St. Gerard’s cloth spent nights pressed against my expanding skin. And where would I be without my Blessed Mother’s love and support. Truly it felt like this life was guarded by the communion of saints.

Expected to arrive for the Feast of the Transfiguration, our blessing chose instead to make his way into the wide world two and a half weeks early.

Precious Pio Gerard Brelinsky was delivered at home on Saturday, July 20th, 2013 at 3:09am. How fitting that he should come during the hour of mercy. For so great was God’s love and mercy that He answered our prayers in the form of a perfect child, a son.

Every life is sacred and every child
has a purpose in this world which cannot be fulfilled by any other. Honored am I to be entrusted with the privilege of preparing these eight living souls for the Kingdom of their Father. What more noble vocation could I have been called to?

My heart beats with genuine appreciation and thanksgiving for every opportunity for sanctification that God has allowed me, whether it be in joy or in suffering. Praise be to Him from Whom all blessings flow!

Women, Behold Our Mother – Mary Is The Answer To Modern Feminism

My grade school education was provided by a mix of 70’s style Sisters (in their knee-length blue skirts and simple habits) and lay women (some clearly representing new age feminism). Like many schools of the time, we learned the faith blended in with current culture. Madonna flooded our ears and flashed across the MTV screen inspiring the abandonment of modesty and submission.

Single mothers were becoming more prevalent and Church teachings less relevant. By extension, contraception promised independence; whereas, chastity was viewed as repressive. And Roe vs. Wade provided the back-up security measure while Humanae Vitae got buried in controversy.


Modernity and freedom seemed tied to rebelliousness and pride. Reverence faded from fashion. Coupled with Vatican II confusion, the role of women inside and outside of the Church became skewed.

Subordination Becomes A Dirty Word

Not surprisingly, many female lectors and parishioners began to stumble over the Ephesian instruction,  
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 
 
Of course, had they listened beyond the word “subordinate” (in some versions it reads submit or subject) to the verses describing a husband’s sacrificial role, they might have embraced the beauty contained in their part as women.

As women roared into a generation of new ideas and ideology, tossing their bras in the bonfire of feminism, they traded part of their true identity for a false freedom. Where once they were cherished as whole persons, now they could be separated into parts. Their partners could take what they wanted to and leave the rest behind (think, fertility).

Untying The Aprons Strings


Surely there was good to come from untying the knotted apron strings and stepping outside of the kitchen doors, but there is an internal wisdom unique to womanhood that got cast aside with the frying pan. Where once mother was the heart of the home, the proud and needed homemaker, now children returned home to empty houses and TV-sitters. Fathers cast-off their responsibilities with greater ease now that mother could be expected to shoulder the full weight of parenthood and provisions.

In line with our first fore-mother Eve, the modern woman was intrigued by the hissing, serpent promises of power, knowledge and self-reliance if only she would swallow the forbidden contraceptives. Of course, in this case she wasn’t encouraged to enjoy any fruit, but to toss aside her very own fruitfulness.

Ah yes, if she could unbridle herself from her fertility, than she’d be free to soar beyond her grandmother’s wildest dreams. She could be more like man, unshackled of the blessings of her womb. Happiness was only a career step higher, a one night stand away.

Mary Gets It Right


While Humanae Vitae prophesied the weeds that would grow from such unfruitful seeds, too many remain ignorant or obstinate to the truths foretold. So much more than is the gift we have in our Blessed Mother that she has the power to correct these errors.

In my own life, it was she who aided my conviction, her example that called me back from the misguided path I was stumbling down. I’ve written before about my conversion experience and about the vow I made to Jesus through her hands. It was a vow to surrender my fertility to Jesus with total abandon and trust if only she would promise to align my heart with His. But that is simply part of my personal experience and Mary has so much more to offer to all of her daughters.

She’s been referred to as the new Eve, because Our Lady said yes where Eve said no. Mary received the gift God offered without question or constraint, whereas Eve grabbed for more than her allotted portion. Mary trusted, while Eve doubted. The young, unwed, Jewish girl accepted the challenge with humility and surrender, as opposed to Eve’s willingness to breach the bond of communion. 
 

Mary was an Ephesians woman, she silently withstood Joseph’s initial plans to quietly relinquish her. She placed herself, heavy with child, upon a lowly donkey and let her husband lead her across rough terrain. And when her husband couldn’t secure a room at the inn, she dutifully accepted what he had to give to her, a stable and a manger instead of the private room and a cradle. Then again, she would pick up and take her newborn to unfamiliar territory when Joseph said they must flee.

Remnants Remain


Pregnant myself right now, it seems difficult to imagine her position and to see myself in it. Standing by a doubting husband without arguing my case, thrusting my big, uncomfortable self into less than ideal situations without whining, placing my newborn and myself at the mercy of my husband’s dreams without second guessing, certainly my remnants of modern feminism would strike up a cord of rebellion.

But God knew well the challenges that would come, yes He even knew the modern woman with her thirst for self-importance and separate identity. He gave Mother Mary to women of every age and generation, her wisdom and motherly witness are as relevant now as they have ever been.

For her part, Mary relied on God for all things, trusted in His Word and placed herself totally at His disposal. Like a chalice, she was the open vessel into which God poured His own lifeblood. She was receptive to God’s Will, not grasping or wanting, but receiving. Her identity was reflective. Her fulfillment found in mirroring her Creator and in shining the light of her Son.

The Body Speaks The Truth


Woman’s body speaks this truth. We are made to receive, literally. Our womb, like the chalice, accepts and distributes the blood of new life. Our natural inclination is maternal in that we most often seek to nurture and instruct others rather than gain for our own satisfactions alone.

Contraception lured us into believing we could betray our role as receptors with no consequence. We could pop a pill and obstruct the seed from taking root within us. However, true love, agape, is written on our hearts and in our female bodies, we cannot suppress our true nature or substitute our real identity.

Divorce, abortion, depression, pornography, addiction, sexual abuse and the poverty of single mothers are symptoms of the barren seed of modern feminism. In seeking self-importance rather than reflective- identity, we separated ourselves from the source of all joy and goodness. God’s grace cannot flow into a sealed chalice.

Jesus, Himself, gave us his mother from the cross. In the midst of His Passion, He sought to leave her to humanity. Because He knew how much we desperately needed her humble example, her simple, complete faith in order that we might receive the gift of salvation He was pouring out for us.

Mother Mary is the answer to modern feminism, as she is the correction to the error of Eve. Like a mother, she loves her children and wants only our happiness, true happiness that can only be found in union with God and His Will. 
 
Women, we must behold our Mother, the one to whom we were promised by Christ. And she will teach us to embrace our femininity, to relish the gift of our role as subordinates.

Mary, Undoer of Knots: a Novena for All the Knots in Your Life

With seven children ambling on two feet each, I’ve fumbled over countless knots. “Here, mommy, can you get this knot out,” ask the littlest ones as they hand me their shoes with laces in a tangled mess. How easily a misplaced twist or mis-pulled string can create a puzzling weave.

Sometimes life can feel like those knotted laces, our trials may seem endless and our abilities restricted. Some small cross has turned end over end and created a dilemma that feels unfixable. Perhaps, we tug here and pull through there only to discover that our will has created a tighter knot.


But that is precisely when we can turn to our Mama and ask her aid in unraveling our mistakes. The Blessed Mother, under the title of Mary Undoer of Knots, promises to take up our cause and patiently workout our perplexities through her intercession.


Saint Irenaeus, in meditation, made a comparison between Eve and the Blessed Mother. Eve, by her disobedience to God, had tied the knots of sin and sorrow for the whole human race, but Mary, through her total obedience untied the knots. The saint’s meditation became the inspiration for an 18th century painter, Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner, who delicately and lovely depicted the scene of Mary untying a long rope handed to her by angels.


Pope Francis happened upon the painting as a student in Germany and developed a devotion to Our Lady under the title. He carried this devotion back home with him and today Mary, Undoer of Knots, holds widespread popularity in Argentina and Brazil.


So, if you are struggling with knots in your life, perhaps your marriage is in trouble, your children are falling away from their faith, your finances are too short, etc. then turn to your Mama and hand her your knotted up life. Surely, this good Mother will happily accept your offering and lead you to the straightened road.

The Unfailing Novena of Mary Undoer of Knots

Simeon’s Blessing: A Reflection on Loss and Grace

St. Simeon

We were thrilled when my fertility charts unveiled the blessing of a new baby. One of the joys of charting is that we are in tune with our mutual fertility and we are able to express our intimate love for one another while anticipating that that love has the potential to spring forth into a life of his/her own. 

 

Many of my friends know my story about how I turned my heart and fertility over to Jesus through the hands of my Blessed Mother nearly 10 years ago. Greg and I had faced a tremendous trial that threatened to tear our marriage apart and I was confused and frightened and receiving lots of misguided advice. We were already the parents of four living children and one angel, so I wondered whether I needed to “protect” myself by withholding part of me, my fertility. Dropping to my knees and offering it all over to Our Lady was a defining moment in my life and I’ve never been the same since. 

Recognizing Our Childbearing Years Will End

As I get older, I recognize that the day will come when childbearing will be beyond me and so I really took the time to thank God often for this new baby. And of course I have the perspective of having lost Dimitri 15 years ago to remind me daily that life is precious and fragile. When the little discomforts like nausea and fatigue set in it was my opportunity to offer up those small sufferings in a way I hadn’t with other pregnancies. I am so glad.

When I was about 11 weeks along the whole crew of us had the privilege of “meeting” our baby via an ultrasound. I hold tightly to the memory of that little body lying still with heart beating until his siblings entered the room at which point he began to turn around as if he was ready to play with his five brothers and two sisters. I have mixed feelings about ultrasounds, as I think they are too often overused or, worse yet, misused, but this one was to be a great blessing.

I made it passed the 12 week marker which is a general relief for pregnant mothers as it usually signals that the baby has a good start and is firmly planted in the womb. But then in my 13th week I noticed internal spotting and a sense of fear and dread erupted. We spent a bit of time trying to discern the best course of action for our baby and so we followed some advice and headed to the emergency room. I had only one burning question to be answered, “Was our baby still alive or had my womb become a grave for my sweet little one?”

The Horror And The Wait

The experience of that day was a horror. Our dignity was disregarded and compassion was no where to be found, but in reflection I simply hope and pray that my witness was of value and that my humiliation was an offering. We learned that our expected child had died while still cradled in my womb and in a moment our dreams and plans for this child vanished.

I had two distinct prayers from that day on, that I could deliver our baby away from the harsh world and that I could be spared from surgery. For the next few days we waited, but no progress was made. 
 

Our wonderful priest called and encouraged me to ask God to reveal the sex of this baby and the name to be given. What a comfort and affirmation of life he offered. 

My attempt to induce labor on Friday was to no avail and so I tried again on Saturday. I was blessed to bring about the dilation of my cervix and on Sunday morning I felt that warm rush of my water as it broke and the gentle release of my tiny baby. I called out to Greg, who joined me as I reached down and lifted our son into the palm of my left hand. So quiet, so peaceful was that moment. I gazed in total awe at him. God answered my prayers. I could clearly recognize that we had another son and I could count his ten fingers and ten toes. He was beautiful, albeit only about two inches long from the top of his head to the end of his tush. His eyes were closed and I could see that he had the special smile of a cleft lip. Like any mother I had to take it all in, every bit of him. 
 

On his backside I discovered the sign of a neural tube defect and I came to better understand that God’s mercy was at work. That is not to say, that we would have wanted him any less if he’d been born with challenges or that God does not have great purpose for children of all abilities and disabilities. There was sadness, but I don’t remember crying much in those early hours because I was overwhelmed by the gift of this brief time with my son, Simeon Christian. 

Finding His Place

The time came when I realized that we needed a place to lay his body until his burial. I was mulling this over when I walked passed my dresser and a long forgotten box caught my eye. It was a little brown box with a cross on the top and, as I discovered when I lifted the lid, a picture of Our Lady was on the inside. Lilia had made it for me, but I can’t even remember when. Now God drew my eye to it and it became apparent that it was meant for Simeon all along. 
 

God had clearly revealed to us that we had another son and now we understood that he was to be called Simeon Christian. To be honest, it was the only boy name that we’d chosen (we had a number of girl names) and we realized that if that was the name intended for him in life it still belonged to him in death. A few days later, I was reflecting on this and I couldn’t remember who Simeon was in the Bible, so I asked in prayer. Not an hour later an email arrived from a friend which told about her recent study of Simeon, the man at the temple who held Jesus at the Presentation. 
 

The second half of Sunday consisted of another trip to the ER where I was allowed to bleed for too long. There was a period of time in which I thought it possible that I would be joining Simeon and I felt a strange sense of calm and peace. I needed only grace and prayed in reparation for my sins and then trusted. God answered my prayer as I was spared from the emergency surgery that had seemed eminent and the hemorrhaging stopped. After a transfusion, we were able to return home.

Memorial Mass

On Monday we, along with our priest, buried our sweet baby in our Marian garden. On Wednesday our priest celebrated a memorial Mass for Simeon at which his brothers served.

Friends have been so generous as to bring us meals which has been more help than they might know as it is taking me longer than I’d hoped to recuperate physically. Emails, cards and a few phone calls have come when I was feeling especially low. Grace and blessings have been poured out upon us for which I am ever thankful.

But it has to be said that the pain and sorrow of losing another child isn’t somehow less gut wrenching because he was so young. I remember well the loneliness of grief when we lost Dimitri 15 years ago. It was a deep searing sorrow I’d prayed would never be revisited, but God’s plans are far above my own and so I must work through it all again. Ten years ago when we went through that first trial, a counselor had me reflect often on a particular verse. In the last week that verse has been presented to me again and again through a variety of means. For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot. Jer. 29:11-14 I’m listening, Lord.

To Be People For Life, We Must Realize Its Connection To Death

Additionally, Greg and I had quietly endured the loss of another baby when we moved to our current home 3 years ago. We’d buried the remains in the Marian garden all alone. I’d felt the baby was a girl and named her Mary in my heart, but I never shared that with anyone, not even Greg. As he blessed Simeon’s grave, Fr. Meares mentioned moving the angel that sits next to Mary because he had no idea. All of this led Greg and I to tell the children about their third sibling in heaven which has been so freeing. I’ve carried around the guilt of never having given her proper recognition. Dimitri, Mary and Simeon are my children and I miss them so. I hold fast to the knowledge that I’ve succeeded in my job of getting them to heaven and in the hope that someday their prayers will reunite us. Until then I entrust them to Jesus and ask their Blessed Mother to hug them often on my behalf.

I understand that it is difficult to know the words to say to us, but all we really need is simple. Ask, “How are you doing?(really doing)” We need to have his life acknowledged. You never had the chance to behold his face, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t here. We need a sincere hug, the kind that melts away the barriers. There may be tears, but tears are part of the process. 
 

To be a people for life, we must remember it is connected with death. We are blessed to celebrate the joy of Easter every year because we first recall the sacrifice and sorrow of the cross. And so it is for those of us who are enduring the loss of a child, we cannot skip the pain and hope to find complete healing. 
 

Thank you, Dearest Jesus, for the blessing of Dimitri Mikhail, Mary and Simeon Christian.