Stirrings of the Spirit

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The beauty of NFP

It is currently Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  There are blog entries all over the place dedicated to this, so I’m just going to throw in my two cents worth. 

Natural Family Planning is a term that refers to a variety of family planning methods that don’t use artificial contraception.  They are methods that have been approved by the Catholic Church in keeping with the philosophy of the dignity of the human person.

Growing up as a Catholic, I knew of the existance of Natural Family Planning.  My dad, in his pro-life involvement, often left brochures lying around about the dangers of the Birth Control Pill, which I would have seen and noted in my subconscious, but no real information was ever given to me about Natural Family Planning.  It was on my list of things that I would learn about later in life.

I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome at seventeen.  The treatment the doctor put me on was the birth control pill.  Even with the dangers of the pill in my subconscious, I went along with it, because I didn’t know any better.  And I stayed on it for the next 10 years, until I became engaged.

My husband and I signed up for a class to learn the Billings Method. It was probably quite confronting for the both of us.  It was very detailed and my husband learnt the names of parts of the female reproductive system that he didn’t know existed.  When we got over the shock of discussing cervical mucus with a stranger, the whole thing was fascinating. 

I learnt how my body worked. I learnt how to know what my body was telling me. For the first time in my life, I finally got it. That even with all the irregularities that my body had, it made sense.  This is the great gift that NFP gave me; that it taught me about my body and how it worked.  Things that had been hidden and disguised for years by being on the pill were now embraced. 

learning NFP has been such an empowering experience for me.  Women around me seem stuck in this trap where their fertility is treated like a disease that needs to be stopped, and turned back on again when it suits them.  Our fertility isn’t a disease. It is a gift to be embraced.  My only regret is that I never bothered to learn about it earlier.  I think this knowledge would have been extremely helpful in the years after my diagnosis in learning about my fertility and the condition I have.

I love that NFP is also completely natural.  With a recent trend with being more environmentally friendly, I’m surprised that more people aren’t making the switch to NFP.  I don’t know much about the production of artificial birth control like the pill or condoms, but I imagine that it probably pumps a fair amount of carbon into the atmosphere, all for a matter of ‘convenience’.   I have several friends who are making the switch to organic vegetables and meat, as its better for the environment, and I’m always surprised to discover they are still taking the pill.  They usually just refuse to try any method of NFP. 

Artificial Birth control has become such an ingrained part of our society, that its the people who aren’t using it that are dismissed as being the strange ones.  On the times that I reveal that I use NFP, I am dismissed as being an ultra-committed Catholic.  I’d love to share my experiences with more people, but I’m usually shut down soon after its brought up in conversation. 

For some other blogs that better describe the awesomeness of NFP try: 

LIberator of Women; a guest post by My Feminine Mind in No Wealth But Life

NFP’s Many Benefits at Plot Line and Sinker

Five Good Reasons You Haven’t Tried It Yet at Engaged Marriage

And there are many more out there


July 27, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Life | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Isidore and Maria – Saintly Marriage

As we prepare for World Youth Day in Madrid this year, I have been encouraging the pilgrims to get to know some of the WYD11 Patron Saints.  Every WYD has a different series of patron saints that usually have some sort of connection to the country, or young people.  Spain is a country of great saints, like St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. But its the lesser known saints that I am enjoying getting to know better. 

Two of this year’s saints are St Isidore the Worker and  Maria of the Head.  The reason I feel so drawn to these two is because they were married. A colleague made a joke when reading the biography of one of them and it stated that he was married to a saint, and this person groaned and said “Can you imagine being married to a saint?” but I pointed out that he was also a saint, so it was probably ok.  They lived their life with simplicity and hard work.

These two are great reminders of the importance of the vocation of marriage.  So often, the most popular saints are priests and religious, living their life in complete devotion to God. It can sometimes be a struggle to relate to that sort of life when you are struggling to balance the demands of your job while still spending quality time with your spouse.  Those moments when you finish work at 7pm and you feel that you should go to Adoration, but you know that your husband is at home waiting for you after not seeing you because you were away for the weekend. 

Isidore and Maria were able to remind me that I was called to marriage, and that it is through my husband, that I am able to find the strength and love to be able to serve God in the way that I do.  Just because it looks different to the way a priest or a nun might do it, doesn’t make that any less worthy. 

The legend behind St Isidore the Worker is the way he united his worklife with his prayer life.  He would always attend Mass before starting work.  The other coworkers reported him to the boss for not doing as much work as the others.  The boss checked up on him and found that although he was late for work, an angel had been doing his work for him. 

These stories have a way of developing over time into something that feels unbelievable.  The other WYD leader working with me often laments with me that angels have shown up to do our job for us, but we usually don’t make it to daily Mass either.  It reminds me of a time in high school where I declared I didn’t have enough time to join the family in prayer that evening because I had way too much homework.  My old aunty was staying at the time, and told me that I would find the time, if I gave some time for God first. So I joined the family in prayer and went off to do my homework, to discover that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I finished in half the time that I had scheduled.  I always try to remember that story whenever I feel that my time management is failing and that I don’t have the time for Mass or prayer.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about these two saints and can’t wait to maybe experience more of their story while in Spain this August. 


June 22, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Saints, Spirituality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love of the Poor

“When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus.  We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus” – St Rose of Lima

Someone tweeted this the other day, and it seemed to be a good reminder for me, of how as Christian we are called to serve the poor.  And while I know this, I struggle with it.  It is something that has been playing on my conscience since getting married and moving into the neighbourhood that we now live.

The week I moved in was the same week that a Meth Lab was busted across the road.  I suppose that set the tone for our time there, and we seem to experience a few things that make very interesting stories in the retelling.  The tenant that lived in the house before us sounds like a lovely woman.  She was happy to have people come to her house, and they would stay in the front yard at times they couldn’t get into the drug rehabilitation centre across the road (seperate to the meth lab).  The neighbours mentioned when I moved in not to be too worried if there were people sleeping in my garden when I came out for my morning coffee, because that’s just what happened.  So prior to moving in, we informed those people there were new tenants, and they’d have to find somewhere else to sleep. 

Its difficult to find that balance between helping the poor and keeping your own safety.  We live less than a block away from the St Vincent de Paul Office, but they usually aren’t open when I encounter these people, so I can’t, at that moment, delegate it to someone else more suitable to deal with the problem. 

On the weekend, I was at a church to practice reading for the Easter services.  A man came into the church looking for help.  I did try to delegate it elsewhere, but with no luck. Everyone I rang wasn’t answering.  So I opened up my wallet and found a $50 note and gave him that in the hope he’d find somewhere to spend the night before seeking help the next day. He said he had lost his job, and as a result couldn’t pay his rent and was evicted on Friday night.  I hope that he found a room at a cheap backpacker’s hostel or something, and was able to sleep safely and comfortably that night. 

I was shocked at my willingness to give, but can only put it down to location. The people that come to my house, sometimes ask for a couple of dollars and I’m always reluctant to give it to them. I instantly shut them out, when I should be opening my heart to them. 

In a conversation with someone recently, I mentioned this struggle I feel, and said that maybe God was giving me these opportunities to improve that part of myself.  The Bishop that I work with overheard me and said that he’s looking forward to see how I go with this, especially after identifying it as being sent by God. 

I should learn to not say such things around him.

The saints are such examples of living and working with the poor.  I try to draw from that example, but every time fail to live up to it.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , , , | 1 Comment

World Youth Day Experiences

My deposit has now been paid to attend the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain and I am suddenly feeling exuberant and alive and excited at the possibilities. Its taken be a bit by surprise, because for the last year or so, I have been tossing up whether or not I should go, and ultimately decided that I wouldn’t.  I have been to three World Youth Days in the past both as a participant and also leading a group.  I wondered if maybe I had gained all I could from the World Youth Day experience and thought I’d step aside and leave the space open for someone else to take.  Also, now that I am married, my priorities are different, and 18 days is a long time to be away from my husband, plus it would put on quite a strain on our budget. 

Those plans changed.  I will be starting a new job in January, and part of the job description will be to lead the Diocesan group to Spain.  Something that I had dismissed months ago as not being for me, is now suddenly a source of great excitement.   However, keep me in your prayers.  I don’t know if excitement is all I’m going to be feeling over the next eight months.

My first World Youth Day was Toronto 2002.  As a Due South fan, it was always my dream to go to Canada, and then combined with a World Youth Day, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  It was the first time my diocese had ever sent people to a World Youth Day, and I went with two other young women.  It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by so many other young Catholics. I came from a small parish, with mostly older people.  I’m sure its not the only parish in the world like that. Where you are the young person, and the next youngest are your parents.  It came be disheartening at times, but after my first World Youth Day experience, there was no way I could go back home thinking I was the only young Catholic in the world.  That memory will always stay with me.

My next World Youth Day was Cologne 2005.   It wasn’t a good year for me.  I had lost my job in December 2004 due to the small business I worked for going bankrupt.  It was taking longer than expected to find a new one.  I also had to end a serious relationship earlier that year. It was one of the darkest times of my life.  There were moment I seriously thought that God had just abandoned me.  Yet somehow through all the sadness, and a lack of income, I found my way to Germany.  My church community had raised enough money to cover half my costs.  It was an incredible effort, and one that I will also be extremely grateful for. It was exactly what I needed.  I rediscovered the Love of God, and renewed my faith in him, and realised that no matter how dark I perceived things to be, God would never ever abandon me.  That trip also included a pilgrimage in Turkey and Greece.  Neither were places I probably would have gone on my own volition, but they are incredible countries. I cannot wake for another opportunity to visit Turkey and the Greek islands again. 

The last WYD I attended was Sydney 2008.  I led a group from my parish of 20 people.  I probably went into the challenge a little idealise and naive, expecting everyone to get along and behave themselves and not get into any mischief.  Its possible that some people in my group had different ideas.  Once again, the church community played a big role in getting the group there.  As it was in Australia, less money was needed to get people there, so we were able to fundraise enough money to cover all the costs of registration and travel for everyone attending WYD from our parish.  I think that most of the people had a great time. They got to experience that wonder of being part of a global community, and that faith in Jesus conquers barriers such as language and culture.  I had plenty of stressed out moments, but it warms my heart to hear one of them tell me it was the best experience of their life.  I think the lesson I learned from that WYD was that I have something to offer the church.  No matter how small and insignigicant it may seem at times, I have something to give.  Whether it be typing minutes from a parish meeting, leading a youth group, driving someone to Mass, becoming a reader, or praying for someone who is sick, we all have something to give. 

And now Madrid is just around the corner. I’m a little bit wiser this time around, so hopefully won’t make the same mistakes as last time.  I am hoping for another wonderful experience, and wonder what will be revealed to me this time.   I hope and pray that I will be able to facilitate an experience for the young people attending World Youth Day with me, that they will be open to learn their own gifts and the messages that God has for them. I hope that WYD will be as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for me.


December 7, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , , | 1 Comment

I feel this calling inside me.  Sometimes it feels so strong, that it just can’t be wrong.  Other times, I encounter obstacles and I use them to convince myself that I was mistaken, and it was never meant to be.  I have a real struggle trying to work out what God is calling me to do. 

Another opportunity recently showed itself to me to follow this calling that feels so strong inside me, but I was hesitant to follow through with it.  I’ve tried so many times to make this happen, and nothing ever comes from it.  Why put myself through it all again? 

Last Sunday was the canonisation of St Mary of The Cross, Australia’s first saint, along with another 5 saints from various parts of the world.  Mary MacKillop was the founder of the Josephite sisters and encountered plenty of obstacles in the process from many people, prists, bishops and even sisters from her own order.  I’m sure there must have been times she doubted her calling, but she never gave up. 

I think that is such a good example for us all. I need to remember to stay true to myself and my vocation, and not give up, even when things get a little bit hard. 

I’m going to take that opportunity.  I don’t know where it will lead me, and maybe it will go nowhere once again, but no one can say I didn’t try my best.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Faith | , , , | 2 Comments

A bouquet of prayers

The Rosary is a prayer that I grew up with.  We used to pray it as a family every night.  My sister and I had a roster of whose turn it was to lead each night.  We weren’t always fans of saying it, and we quite often tried to get out of it, or rush our way through it so that we could start our evening of TV watching.  My dad always insisted that we would pray it, and we’d usually comply. 

At some point, I became aware that this family Rosary time wasn’t exactly ‘normal’.  If friends came over for dinner or to sleep over, we still had to say the Rosary, which would be an interesting and new experience for them, that usually painted an image of my family as ultra-religious.  There was a joke in my class that I bathed in holy water.

During High School Religion classes, people sometimes asked questions about the Rosary, that not even the teachers could answer, that I knew the answer to.  It seems that the prayer so popular in my parents era had slowly faded out into obscurity.  I’m not a regular Rosary prayer now, but some people see me as some sort of Rosary ‘expert’ due to my past experiences. 

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Rosary is an ancient prayer that started with the monks praying the 150 psalms.  Locals were enchanted with this form of prayer, but it was difficult for them to learn the pslams as there weren’t many printed copies and not everyone could read, as well as being quite lengthy to remember.  The people would replace this with 150 Lord’s prayers, using a pouch of 150 pebbles to keep count.  For practical reasons, some people changed to a string of 150 knots.  Over time, the Rosary evolved into what we have today.  The Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries were developed to use as a reflection on different parts of the life of Jesus.  in more recent times, Pope John Paul II also added the Luminous Mysteries. 

I was recently asked to do a workshop on the Rosary at a gathering of young people.  I agreed to it, but I didn’t think anyone would be very interested in it.  One person immediately expressed interest as soon as she heard about it.  When it came time to sign up to the workshops, I was surprised at how eager people were to sign up to the Rosary workshop, especially considering the much more popular people leading the other workshops.  I got concerned when a nun signed up for my group.  I was worried that maybe i didn’t have enough experience, and i wasn’t sure why I would be asked to run the workshop when it seemed there was a spare nun around who could do it.  Apart from the nun, everyone else in the workshop had never prayed the Rosary before.  some of them owned Rosary beads, as it was a typically Catholic thing to be associated with, but none of them had ever used it. I explained the history of it, the prayers used and the order of the prayers before praying five decades together as a group. 

I was grateful to have the nun with us as she shared her own experiences of growing up praying the Rosary with her family.  She told how her family would go to the movies every fortnight, and all the kids would sit in the back of the utility, and have to yell out their responses very loudly so their parents could hear them.  I imagine it would be quite a site for those they passed in traffic.  She said that it was a very special moment for her, after her life time of Rosaries, to pray it with a group of people saying it for the first time. 

At the end of the day, people were asked to share their highlights of the day, and quite a few people explained that learning the Rosary was something very important to them.  One young woman explained how she had always seen her grandmother praying it, and now she had felt she could share that with her.  I got another email on the weekend from another girl who had participated in the workshops saying that she had started a Rosary prayer group at her school.  It seems that young people have a huge desire for this style of prayer. 

I claim that I’m surprised by it, but a couple of years ago, I had a similar experience. The group I went with to World Youth Day in Sydney 2008 were always very excited to pray the Rosary together.  One night, one of the girls in the group decided to listen through the adjoining door, to hear what boys talk about when girls aren’t around, and was taken aback to hear them praying the Rosary.  On returning from World Youth Day, some of the group had started praying it together.  One of the guys stated he was really excited that the Rosary wasn’t just a prayer for people like his Grandmother and her friends. 

The Rosary is a great comfort to me when I want to pray but don’t know what to say specifically.  Its also a great way to connect with others in prayer.  It seems that young people have a strong desire for this format, and its been dismissed for far too long as being ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘too traditional’.  Young people obviously long for all styles of prayer, but the Rosary is something that has stood the test of time, so maybe we should give it some more credit. 

If you are interested in learning the Rosary yourself, or helping someone else to learn, here is a great resource to use. 

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Prayer, Spirituality | , | 2 Comments

The Book of Jonah

Jonah is one of the minor prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It narrates the story of the adventures of Jonah who tried to disobey God’s command.  Jonah did not want to follow God’s command that sent him to Nineveh.  After a series of dramatic events, like being eaten by a giant fish, Jonah reluctantly obeys.  Jonah goes to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Israel’s deadly enemy, and preaches that God is aware of their wicked ways (Jonah 1:2) and that in 40 days Nineveh would be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).  This led to the people repenting, changing their ways, fasting and wearing sack cloth as penance.  God showed them mercy, and did not destroy them, which leaves Jonah feeling angry.  Jonah goes to sit on the outskirts of town to see if God does destroy the city and God makes a plant grow over him for shade.  The next day, a worm attacks the plant and it dies which upsets Jonah.  God uses this as an example of the love he feels for the people of Nineveh.  “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

The book of Jonah is somewhat familiar to me, due to him being swallowed by a ‘whale’ but I never really explored it in much depth before, and upon reading it, discovered many layers to it.  Ultimately, it portrays God as loving and merciful who would rather forgive and save people, rather than punish and destroy them.  It shows the unconditional love and guidance that God gives us, no matter how far away we wander from His will.  We never know what our own role will be in leading others towards God.  Like Jonah’s message helping turn the people of Ninevah back to him, our own actions can inspire the people in our lives to make a change for the better.  Also, the Book of Jonah is a reminder that God is always providing us with opportunities to turn back to him, no matter how many times we turn away from him.  Jonah tries to run, but God never gives up on him, or any of us.

The book of Jonah contains many important lessons that can serve as timely reminders of God’s love and mercy for each of us.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Scripture | , , , | 1 Comment

Being a part of the Body of Christ

Recently Anne Rice declared on her Facebook and twitter that she had decided to ‘quit being a Christian’.  She went on to say It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group

I find it very sad  that is has come to this. My experience with Christianity and Christians in general has been a rather positive one, but I know that is not the same for all people. 

At the same time as announcing leaving Christianity, she has also said that she remains committed to Christ.  But is it really possible to be committed to Christ while not being  a part of Christianity.  Christianity isn’t just another group or a club or an organization.  You can’t withdraw from its membership while still believing in its ideals.  Being a Christian, and being committed to Jesus, means being a part of his mystical body.  This is shown in scripture when he addresses Saul on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Jesus does not separate himself from his people.   Its also highlighted in Matthew 25:40 with ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Jesus connects himself with all of us, and as a result, we are all connected to Jesus.  Its more than a club, it’s a living organism that continues to grow and evolve.  This is the body of Christ.  Is giving up on the Body of Christ really showing commitment to Jesus? 

In the name of God, many people have committed many harmful actions, or made harmful statements.  But God became flesh and lived with similar people who continue to cause us frustration.  Each of us, in our imperfection, contributes something to the Body of Christ and through each other Jesus reveals a little more of his own perfection. 

I will be praying that Anne Rice, and other people who feel the same, find the healing they need and can be welcomed back home to Christ

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Scripture, Spirituality | , , | 2 Comments

Official Song of Mary MacKillop’s Canonisation

Gary Pinto has written the official song for Mary MacKillop’s Canonisation.  Gary Pinto also co-wrote Receive the Power with Guy Sebastian for World Youth Day in Sydney 2008.  You can check out the song and its film clip here. 

My favourite Gary Pinto song was the one he wrote for World Youth Day in Cologne, that we sang for Australian gathering. I wish i could find that to share with you all.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | Spirituality | , , , , | 1 Comment

Never see a need without doing something about it

After learning the story of Mary MacKillop, a friend commented to me that they don’t make Christians like that anymore.  I think that these stories of amazing people only come to the attention of the general public, long after they are gone.  There could be someone somewhere, truly living the life that God has called them to in a way that changes the lives of people around them for the better.  I wonder in a hundred years, what people from this era will be used as an example. 

For those outside Australia, the story of Mary MacKillop might not be as common. 

Mary was the daughter of Alexander and Flora MacKillop, both originally from Scotland, and the eldest of their eight children.  It seems the children had a rather unsettled childhood, due to the many failed business dealings of Alexander.  As the eldest, Mary had a responsibility to help provide for the family, and started working at 14. 

At 18, Mary moved to Penola, South Australia, as a governess to her younger cousins.  It was here that she discovered a desire to educate others, especially those living in poverty, and it wasn’t long until she was inviting other children to attend the classes she was giving.  This work eventually led her to the local parish priest, Fr Julian Woods. 

Fr Julian and Mary both shared a desire to help the poor, especially their educational and spiritual needs.  The colony of Australia was expanding, and more children were growing up in rural areas.  Together, with the help of some of Mary’s siblings, they opened a Catholic school by transforming an old stable in a class room.  With her brother John now able to provide for her family, Mary felt for the first time that she was able to give her life to God in the way she truly desired.

My parents took my sister and I to Penola in South Australia, when we were children, and we were able to see the buildings where all this started. 

Mary, and her sister Lexie, eventually discarded their secular clothes and started dressing as religious postulants.  Fr Julian achieved his dream of starting a religious order of nuns for Australia, and with the approval of Bishop Sheil, Mary became the first sister and Mother Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  By the end of the year, another 10 women had joined the order. 

The school they ran was revolutionary at the time, as it accepted and educated all, without distinction.  Both those who were able to  pay and those who could not.  She taught her students important life skills, such as writing a letter, or adding up a grocery bill, as well as religion, in the hope that they would be able to use this education to improve their lives. 

Soon, the Bishop of Queensland, James Quinn, invited the Sisters of St Joseph, to set up in Brisbane.  By 1871, 128 women had taken vows, averaging 23 years of age, living and working in remote parts of the country.  Mary knew each sister by name and wrote to them all regularly, to empathise with the challenges they faced. 

After a while, Fr Julian was on the brink of breakdown, and was no longer capable of leading the sisters as their founder and mentor.  Mary had to deal with this and the other displeased priests, and unhappy Bishop Sheil who ordered a commission to examine the lives of the sisters. One of the recommendations from that commission was that each convent be placed under the authority of the local priest.  This went against everything that Mary and the other sisters had worked so hard to establish, and Mary took a courageous stand and shared her concerns with the Bishop.  This resulted in her being excommunicated.  Five months later, Bishop Sheil lifted this as he approached his death.  Still facing opposition from other bishop’s who wanted to change the order to a Diocesan one, Mary traveled alone to Rome, to seek formal approval for the Order.  She returned to Australia with 15 new Irish postulants, and a letter from Rome approving the Central government style of the order.  This brought with it a series of trials that would continue for the years to come.

In 1901, Mary MacKillop suffered a stroke, after deteriorating health for some time. While recuperating, she kept in touch with the sisters through letters and sometimes visited the children in the schools and orphanages.  She entered her eternal reward on 8th August, 1909

Cardinal Moran remarked on his last visit to her before she died, “Today, I Believe that I have assisted at the death of a saint”.  At the time of her death, 750 women had taken vows, 117 schools had been opened which taught to 12 409 students.  Those seeds first sowed in Penola had changed the nation. 

I attended Mary MacKillop’s Beatification in Sydney in 1995.  This October, Mary’s Canonisation will take place in Rome. 

The Church does not make a saint – it recognises a saint. Canonisation is the act by which the Holy Father declares in a definitive and solemn way that a Catholic Christian is actually in the glory of heaven, intercedes for us before the Lord and is to be publicly venerated by the whole Church.

Canonisation is a double statement – about the life of the person and also about the faith of the people who are alive at this moment. They are as much a part of the canonisation as the person who is being recognised.

A lot of the information in this post is from Please check it out for further information. 

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Spirituality | , , , , , | 5 Comments