Labor of Love
Interview with the Author
The following interview with Agnes Penny, author of the book Your
Labor of Love, was first printed by Zenit.org.
It is reprinted here with permission.
WHITEHALL, Pennsylvania, OCT. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- When Agnes Penny was pregnant
with her first child and experiencing some trials of motherhood, she couldn't
find any spiritual books to help her embrace her vocation better.
After she endured months of sickness and feelings of isolation, and was rewarded
with the joy of a child, she began writing to make sense of it all.
Penny continued writing during her second and third pregnancies and has recently
penned a book of her gained wisdom, "Your Labor of Love: A Spiritual Companion
for Expectant Mothers".
Penny, who is expecting her fourth child in February, shared with ZENIT the
delights and trials of pregnancy as a Catholic mother living in what John Paul
II has called "the culture of death."
Q: What inspired you to write this
Penny: When I was expecting my first child, I felt very sick; I had morning
sickness long after it was supposed to have ended and then I had such severe
heartburn in the last few months that I had to try to sleep at night sitting
up in a rocking chair because I couldn't lie down.
At that time, I didn't have any friends who were expecting and I felt very
alone and very discouraged about this vocation of motherhood for which I had
always longed. It was very hard for me to keep a positive attitude about my
I tried to find some assistance in spiritual books on marriage and motherhood,
but none of them gave pregnancy more than a passing mention. This surprised
me, since the Church encourages couples to have large families, which obviously
involves lots of time being pregnant. Pregnancy is a huge change in a woman's
life; it can be scary, uncomfortable and discouraging.
However, I didn't begin writing until after I had the baby, and the incredible
joy of holding her and caring for her helped me make sense of the sacrifices
that I had made during the previous nine months.
I started to write just to sort things out in my own mind. With the next two
pregnancies, I continued to write as new insights struck me and as new challenges
confronted me -- such as being cheerful and energetic with my toddlers when
I was feeling sick and tired with a new pregnancy. Solving these difficulties
on paper helped me cope with my everyday life.
Q: What is the value of pregnancy as a spiritual event vis-à-vis
a culture that has less respect for the child in the womb?
Penny: Pregnancy is a gift from God and is an unparalleled privilege, for in
pregnancy we cooperate with him in the creation of a new human life with a human
soul that will live forever.
This view of pregnancy is totally denied in today's culture, in which children
are seen as commodities to be acquired at the exact time and in the exact quantity
that the parents choose.
Pregnancy is also a huge responsibility because in each pregnancy, God has
placed one of his precious children into our care, and sadly, this is denied
when women leave their children to work outside the home, when they are driven
not by economic need but by a desire for a luxurious standard of living.
Lastly, pregnancy can be a great opportunity for spiritual growth because almost
all pregnancies involve some kind of suffering, great or small, and learning
to suffer with joy and love is how we to grow closer to Christ. This, too, is
denied by this hedonistic culture, in which any pain or discomfort is to be
avoided at all costs.
Q: Why do expectant mothers need a spiritual companion?
Penny: Pregnancy is a difficult time in most women's lives, whether it is their
first or their eighth. Obviously, there are many physical discomforts associated
Also, pregnancy can bring a variety of anxieties and fears, especially for
first-time mothers, mothers who have had miscarriages, stillbirths or difficult
labors in the past, or any mother who is experiencing financial or medical difficulties.
In order to avoid bitterness or discouragement in these trials, expectant mothers
need a spiritual guide or companion to help them see value and meaning in their
sufferings, and to show them the beauty and importance
of their vocation.
This is even more crucial in today's world, in which human life is not considered
sacred and motherhood is not valued; expectant mothers living in a culture of
death that truly values material goods over people receive little outside support
in their choice to be open to new life.
Q: What spiritual revelations did you experience while being pregnant and
writing this book?
Penny: Although I began this book right after I had my first baby, I did do
a lot of work on it during my next two pregnancies and it was tremendously helpful
to me. It helped me appreciate my vocation as a mother, particularly during
that very special time when I was expecting and I couldn't see or hold the baby
in my womb -- yet I could love that baby and reflect on the wonderful miracle
that was occurring within me.
Also, I learned to grow closer to Our Lady and to other saints who were mothers,
which is vital to the vocation of motherhood.
Lastly, writing this book while I was expecting helped me to identify what
difficulties I was experiencing in my vocation and to come up with concrete
answers that would really work.
Q: How have you found your spirituality to grow with each successive pregnancy?
Penny: When I first began writing, I think my manuscript emphasized the difficulties
and problems that faced expectant mothers more than the beauty of the vocation
of motherhood. But with each pregnancy, I have learned more and more to suffer
the little discomforts with joy and peace because I know I can offer all of
these up for the baby within me -- that gives my suffering meaning.
During my third pregnancy, when I would sit up all night because of heartburn,
I would just smile and talk to Our Lady about the baby, and about the things
I wanted for my unborn child, such as purity, virtue love for the holy Eucharist.
It was so much more peaceful than those restless nights I spent in the same
chair two pregnancies earlier.
Q: How do you think fathers can plan spiritually for their children?
Penny: Most importantly, fathers should work on their own spiritual life, doing
spiritual reading every day, attending daily Mass if possible and praying daily
with their wives, too. The parents are the first and primary teachers of their
children, so the holier they are, the better off their children will be.
Also, their wives will have a lot of needs during pregnancy, so the fathers
can begin tending to the emotional and physical needs of their wives and offering
up what they do for their wives for the salvation of their unborn baby. Encouragement,
sympathy and help with the housework are all greatly appreciated by a tired
or nauseated expectant mother.
Q: What can parishes do to help expectant mothers and fathers?
Penny: First, in the marriage preparation programs, parishes should teach engaged
couples the Church's teaching on sexuality. Instead of focusing too much on
periodic abstinence by offering natural family planning classes to couples who
aren't even married, parish programs should emphasize the joys and advantages
of having children and raising large families.
They should let couples know where NFP classes are available in case they ever
need them, but teach the couples that, according to "Humanae Vitae"
and "Casti Connubii," periodic abstinence should only be used in grave
circumstances; it is the exception, not the rule, for Catholic couples.
Otherwise, when NFP is overemphasized, couples enter marriage ready to use
periodic abstinence with a contraceptive mind-set, which contributes to the
contraceptive attitude that already permeates our society and makes couples
who are expecting feel so isolated.
Also, parishes could offer Bible studies, prayer groups or discussion groups
one night a week for mothers and another night for fathers so that young married
couples can meet other Catholic couples and find the support they need.
It is very difficult for young married couples who are expecting or who have
preschool-age children to meet other parents, and they desperately need the
encouragement and camaraderie that such a program could provide in helping couples
to fulfill their spiritual, as well as their social, needs.
Couples today are intimidated to be open to new life because they are afraid
of the amount of work, the financial sacrifices and the change in their lifestyles
that each new child brings. They need to see other Catholic couples embracing
the Church's teachings and living happy, fulfilled lives.
In this culture of death in which we live, this kind of support could really
make a difference in encouraging Catholic couples to be open to new life and
to appreciate their vocation as parents as a calling from God and as their way
Taken from Your
Labor of Love by TAN Books
& Publishers, Inc.
Table of Contents
1. Love's Great Adventure
2. Discovering Pregnancy
3. Your Changing Body
4. Challenges Unique to Your First Pregnancy
5. Challenges Unique to Subsequent Pregnancies
6. Bodily Discomforts
7. Mood Swings
8. Making Friends with the Blessed Mother
9. Your Great Work
13. You Are Not Alone
14. Seeking Physical Comfort
15. Seeking Worldly Comfort
16. Praying for Your Baby
17. Marital Difficulties
19. A Visit with Two Expectant Mothers
20. Jesus in the Womb
21. Accepting Your Vocation
22. The Vocation of Motherhood
23. Run-Ins with In-laws
25. The Hidden Life
28. Bearing Saints
30. A Long Wait
31. The Approaching Birth
33. Imitating Christ
34. The Privilege of Parenthood
35. A Process of Love
36. Post Partum
Appendix I: Miscarriage and Stillborn Delivery
Appendix II: Sample "Letter to the Editor" on Birth Control
Appendix III: Baptism in an Emergency
Prayers for Mothers
Prayer of an Expectant Mother to Jesus, the Lord of Life
Prayer to Our Lady, Model and Mother of Mothers
Prayer to St. Joseph, Protector of Families
Prayer to an Unborn Baby¹s Guardian Angel
Prayer to St. Gerard, Patron of Expectant Mothers
Prayer of an Expectant Mother on Bedrest
Prayer During a Crisis Pregnancy
Prayer of a Bereaved Mother of an Unbaptized Baby
Prayer of a Bereaved Mother of a Baptized Baby
Prayer During Post Partum Depression
Prayer After Childbirth
Other pages discussing Catholic
doctrine and history:
- Our Lord Jesus Christ
- The Sacred Heart
of Jesus - Learn all about this beautiful devotion to Our Lord.
- The Shroud of Our Lord -
Discusses the convroversy over the Shroud of Turin - is it real or a forgery? Evidence points to its authenticity.
- Infinite Mercy of Jesus - Learn how
the Heart of Jesus has a strong desire to love and pardon sinners who sincerely return to Him.
- The Blessed Virgin Mary
- The Blessed Virgin Mary
- Immaculate, pure, and our most powerful intercessor after Our Lord
- The Holy Slavery
- To Jesus, through Mary -- the same way Jesus came to us (through His Mother)
- Edifying and Beautiful -
Learn about God's Providence in regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary, her graces and merits, the details of her life!
- Our Lady of Fatima - Her predictions and warning for the future.
- Saints who Saw Mary
- Tells the story of 17 great Saints who saw and heard the Blessed Mother, whom they were so devoted to!
- History and Culture
- Wearing Pants Incites Men to Lust
- Learn how women's fashions have corrupted, how evil forces are behind most modern fashions, and much more! Includes practical advice.
- How to Run a Catholic Family
- Discusses how to bring the Catholic Faith into family life! How the family can best celebrate feast days, and make use of good Catholic customs.
- A TRUE History Book -
This premise of this history book: The coming of Jesus Christ was the most important event in history.
- Catholic History Workbook -
Fascinating; hard to put down! It makes more sense of History than secular books which explain things in a disjointed manner.
- Homeschooling Workbook -
With questions for every chapter of Christ in the Americas - multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false, and more!
- Crisis in the Church
- Read about St. Athanasius - faithful and courageous, known as the "champion of orthodoxy". One of the 33 Doctors of the Church!
- St. Athanasius - The great defender of the Catholic Faith against Arianism
- Crisis in the Church - How the enemies of God plot to overthrow the Church from within.
- Revolution in the Church - How Vatican II and its aftermath caused a crisis in the Catholic Church.
- Freemasonry - Pope Leo XIII unmasks this evil society, and forbids all Catholics to join.
- Combination of ALL Heresies - Pope St. Pius X unmasks the Modernists, giving us their doctrine and methods!
- Vatican II - Impartially discusses what happened at Vatican II -- mostly quotes from the men that were there!
- Fascinating if true - A man's deathbed confession.
- St. Therese, the Little Flower
- St. Therese the Little Flower - Under obedience, she tells the story of her childhood, religious life, etc.
- Mother of St. Therese - Learn about the woman who raised 5 saintly daughters, all of which entered the religious life!
- Father of St. Therese - Learn about the man who let the holy family of Lisieux so well, that his 5 daughters entered a convent!
- From the Sister of St. Therese - In her biography, she writes many things not found in
Story of a Soul.
- Lives of the Saints
- Learned Mystic and Theologian -
St. John of the Cross suffered greatly, even prison, for the Carmelite Reform. Father of the Discalced Carmelites.
- Beautiful story of a young girl -
Anne de Guigne was clever and passionate, yet practiced humility and all the other virtues -- and she died at the age of 10.
- Refuge for Billions of Catholics -
Catholics have always prayed to these saints in their necessities. St. Blaise, St. Christopher, etc. Includes countless novenas!
- St. Anne - Grandmother of Our Lord -
According to Ven. Mary of Agreda, she possessed all the virtues, especially purity. Learn more about her!
- Young Italian Maiden -
Who suffered the Stigmata every Friday, and was pious from her youth. St. Gemma Galgani, called the "Gem of Christ"
- Heroic Chastity -
Read how St. Maria Goretti had to give up her life to preserve her purity! She is called the patroness of youth.
- All Glory to Almighty God -
Well documented cases of the miraculous taken from the lives of the Saints. Fascinating!
- Defeated Persian Sorcerers -
The glorious life of St. Jude Thaddeus, Apostle and cousin of Our Lord, as taken from ancient Catholic traditions.
- Angels and Devils -
Learn all that Scripture and Tradition teaches us about the pure spirits God created. Fascinating and enlightening!
- Life of Mary Magdalen - Learn fascinating details of her life that you didn't know before! From the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.
- The Angel of the Judgment
- At a critical point in Church history, his preaching and miracles served as a warning of impending chastisement.
- Miracles All His Life -
The miraculous was very common in the life of St Gerard Majella, great saint and Patron of Expectant Mothers.
- Eyewitness to Gospel events -
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich saw so many biblical events in her visions. Be inspired and edified by her virtuous life!
- United with Jesus Christ -
She suffered for souls and for the Church, and received countless visions all her life. One man wrote down her visions for YOUR sake!
- Never a Moment Wasted
- this zealous missionary and client of Our Lady is a model for all Catholics. Read about his saintly life.
- She saw her Guardian Angel
- this innocent girl tells us the story of her saintly life -- beautiful, inspiring!
- Servants of Satan
Establish Paganism - Astrology, witchcraft, and countless systems of idolatry
set up after the Confusion of Tongues.
- Fervent Catholic Indians - Father De Smet was like an Apostle, suffering greatly to bring the True Religion to the Native American peoples.
- Classic Sermons for Lent - On the Last Things, aimed at moving you to serve God even more
faithfully. By St. Francis de Sales.
- Those Who Met St. Padre
Pio - Stories of conversions, miracles, etc. from those who met this living Crucifix. Recently canonized.
- Beat Up by the Devil
- This great Saint had prophetic visions in the form of dreams, and often physically struggled with the devil.
- Life of St Gertrude
- Our Lord appeared to her many times, and she was much loved by Him because of her purity.
- Jesus Dearly Loved Her
- Because of her love and confidence in him, her heart was His favorite place to dwell, after the Blessed Sacrament.
- The Dolorous Passion - Giving never before seen details of Our Lord's Passion! From
the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.
- Braving the English
Torture - St. Margaret Clitherow was a wife and mother - and she kept the Faith even to martyrdom!
- Details of The Good Thief - Learn about his life with a gang of brigands, how he helped the
Holy Family, and much more.
- Classic Catholic Sermons - You won't fall asleep here! Sermons by a Doctor of the Church, filled with energy and the spirit of Faith.
- Miracles Taking Place Today - St. Philomena is famous for the number of miracles surrounding her shrine - here are some of them.
- Isabella of Spain - A holy Catholic queen, and a valiant defender of Christ's kingdom.
- St Anthony - the Wonder Worker - His life was filled with proofs that God was with him.
- St Vincent de Paul - famous for his charities, this great Saint was canonized only 77 years after his death!
- The Cure of Ars - Three of him could destroy the devil's kingdom! Read about his physical struggles with Satan.
- St. Rita - Nothing is impossible with God! Her life is an example for us all, especially to mothers.
- Sermons of St. Francis de Sales - Here he speaks all about the kinds of prayer.
Learn what (and what not) to do!
- St. Teresa of Avila - She founded many convents, which were to adhere to the strict observance of the Carmelite Rule.
- St. Elizabeth of Hungary - Known for her generosity to the poor
- Alexandrina - A victim soul who suffered the Passion on Fridays
- The Spiritual Life
- Jesus, Prisoner of Love
- Meditations on the most beautiful doctrine of the Catholic Faith - the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
- Spiritual Exercises
- Written by a great saint, these meditations have converted millions of souls.
- Manual of the Spiritual Life - Your duties as a penitent toward your confessor/spiritual director.
- Lessons from Calvary - 31 meditations on Our Lord's Passion that will help you to easily avoid sin.
- Finding Peace of Heart
- Only by knowing how to follow God's will, can a person be truly happy.
- Strategy for Getting to Heaven - We must learn how the devil works on us, how to avoid his snares, to win the "War for our Souls".
- How to Fight the Deadly Sins - Timeless advice on how to combat each of the Capital sins.
- A Manual for Confession -
How to benefit from the Sacrament of Penance: common pitfalls, scruples, how to make a good exam of conscience, and much more.
- Seven Deadly Sins -
Learn about the different forms of pride, avarice, lust, anger, envy, gluttony and sloth.
- How to Pray Well -
How we should pray to God - with confidence, perseverance, simplicity. Advice from St. Alphonsus Liguori!
- Marriage & Family
- How to Raise Good Catholic Children - With examples from the saints and wise and thoughtful commentary - a must-read for every parent!
- Haunted by Children She Aborted - Testimony from her own mouth: how she had 7 abortions, and how her life changed afterward.
- Catholic Doctrine on Marriage - Common sources of marital strife and how to avoid them, the differences between the sexes, periodic abstinence, and more.
- Your Labor of Love - The author talks about isolation, sufferings, the modern culture, and more.
- Spiritual Growth during Pregnancy - How expecting a child can bring a woman closer to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Includes much practical advice.
- St. Joseph
- St. Joseph - After Our Lady, the holiest mere man who ever lived
- Privileges of St. Joseph - Why St. Joseph receives so much honor in the Church
- Novenas to St. Joseph -
Universal Patron - Pray to St. Joseph for all of your needs - Jesus, now in Heaven, still listens to him as a father!
- The Last Things/Afterlife
- Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven - The Saints always thought about their last end, and so should we. Brings the reality of eternity before your eyes!
- Life Everlasting - Discusses death, judgment, heaven and hell; also the vices and virtues
- Beyond the Grave -
What we know about Purgatory from sacred history and the lives of the saints.
- Peaceful Rest or Almost Like Hell? - Discusses the two opposing Catholic viewpoints on the subject of Purgatory.
- Purgatory - Learn what the Catholic Church has always taught on this subject.
- What Will Hell be Like? - Discusses the sufferings of Hell in detail.
- Eternity of Hell - Including a story from a soul who was sent there!
- Catholic Doctrine and Dogma
- What is Sanctifying Grace? -
Learn all about the nature of Grace, what it does for us, how to increase it in our souls, and its importance.
- Catholic Dogma of Grace - God's grace vs. man's ability to merit for his actions.
- Sin and Forgiveness - True Catholic doctrine with quotes from Scripture and the Fathers.
- The Intellect of the Angels - What Catholic theology says about the angels.
- Simple Easy-to-Understand Catechism - For Catholics to better learn their faith, or to give to possible converts.
- Sodomy Condemned -
The Catholic Church has always condemned this unnatural vice - see proofs from the Magisterium, Church laws, Scripture, canons, and more!
- The Mass Keeps the World in Existence - and other lofty considerations; helps Catholics
appreciate the real value of the Mass.
- The Catholic Mass - Why it is so priceless; relates actual events which prove it!
- The Catholic Faith - Easy to read and follow, using the most solid Catholic doctrine. Very thorough.
- What Does The Bible Say About Marriage? - Find all Bible quotes about "Anger", for example, gathered into one page.
- Defending the Faith/Apologetics
- The REAL Luther - From the pens of Protestant historians, and Luther's own (foul) mouth -
learn about the real man.
- The Faith of our Fathers - A topic-by-topic explanation of what the Catholic Faith teaches. Great for apologetics!
- The Bible Explained - Why were all those various stories placed in the Bible for us to read? Here is why!
- How Christ Changed Society - Compare the ancient world with the world influenced by Christ.
- Scripture Alone for Salvation? - Even the Bible itself denies this! Read 21 compelling
reasons why Tradition is also necessary.
- The Bible is a Catholic book - Convincing arguments show clearly that criticism of the Catholic Church has no truthful basis! Excellent apologetics based on history.
- Defend Catholic Dogmas - Find rational arguments for what Catholics believe.
- Theory of Evolution
- Evolution Hoax Debunked -
A learned scientist discovers that there is no evidence FOR Evolution, but plenty AGAINST it!
- Proofs against Evolution -
Plenty of evidence against Evolution is out there, but it is often ignored by the media. Fascinating!
- Evolution is a
Fraud - So say countless biologists and scientists! Read more...
- King of Jerusalem
- Balwin IV of Jerusalem leads the Crusaders in this exciting novel.
- Exciting Adventures
- Tom Playfair and his friends at a Jesuit boarding school. Exciting, Catholic, fun!
- More Catholic Adventures
- written by Fr. Finn - Percy Wynn meets Tom Playfair and friends, and enters the boarding school (St. Maure's).
- Perpetual Motion Boy
- The Fr. Finn boarding school universe expands with Claude Lightfoot and other interesting characters.
- That Football Game
- written by Fr. Finn - Which is more important? English class, a math competition, or an upcoming football game?
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