Friday, December 30, 2011

How Things Change

At around this time last year, I was jealous of a co-worker of mine who travelled all the time and had a lot of fun with her husband. They decided after they got married that they would never have kids, even though both of them really love kids. I remember being really envious of them, as I had just started my convalidation process and was really struggling with the no birth-control thing (you know, that little piece of infallible dogma). I was covetous (yes, I have used the thesaurus today) because I felt like they were so free-- they didn't have a Church telling them what they had to do and how they had to do it and when they could do it and how they had to feel about it when they finally did.
My "mantilla friend" from our local newspaper on a story they ran for the
New Translation. www.coloradoan.com

Today, I find myself being more covetous of people in my parish with the big families. The ones with all the kids. Like the family who recently baptized their newest addition, who, from what I can tell is the 6th or 7th (they're not always at Church at the same time, so I can't really tell), who gave their newborn the deliciously Catholic name Augustine James. Or the woman who I call my "mantilla friend" (because she is the only other woman at my parish who wears one regularly), who has 4 sons and from what I can tell, the oldest is definitely going to be a priest. I can tell by the way he's very solemn and serious at Mass and clutches his rosary, though he's probably only 6 at the oldest.
I don't know if this is my biological clock ticking, or my desires becoming more and more ordered. I hope it's a little of both.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Venite Adoremus Dominus

On Friday night we were over at T and J's house for the annual cookie party, and T's mom said "Mary wrapped the first Christmas present!" And for a moment, I thought she meant Mary herself physically wrapped the first Christmas present in her womb, but realized that she meant in the swaddling clothes. It made me start thinking about Mary and Christmas and Merry Christmas and all that jazz.

There's something to be said about Mary wrapping Jesus up in those swaddling clothes, the incarnate God bound; humble, unable to speak, reduced to the state of a newborn child, dependent on His earthly parents for everything, just as we all are. Is it a metaphor for how we are to depend on God? For how humble and silent and trusting we should be? Let us all be like Mary, whether falling to our knees in adoration, or simply allowing ourselves to be "thrones" for our Lord. Let us remember those who are helpless, innocent, dependent, needy. Let us always remember that Christ came in to this world a fragile human being, which is all that we are, and gave us salvation. He made us, and then He made us better.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

News Agencies May Run Stupid Articles, Logic Says



Allow me to quote Charlie Brown: AUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHH! Seriously, Fox News? I mean, I know you’re not fair and balanced, and the majority of the time your headlines read like something from The Onion, but really??
I’m a little confused as to the aim of the article, since I automatically assume that every news agency has some sort of agenda.
1.)    Birth control helps to lower cancer risk, so everyone should take it! (Except the increased cancer risk you get from taking the pill.)
2.)    Not having babies increases your cancer risk (so take the pill, and decrease the chance of having babies!)
I’m confused and annoyed and terribly appalled! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nudge, Nudge

I keep having these dreams on Saturday nights that, for some reason or another, I end up being forced to go to The Other Catholic Church in town. The one that I had to stop myself from walking out of so many times because of awful Protestant gimmicks like youth Mass and drum kits. The Church that literally made me leave The Church.
I always have the same reaction in these dreams, I go to Mass, try to be reverent and halfway through, I'm practically jumping out of my chair (yes, chair) and screaming because I am so distraught over having to be there.
I'm not sure if this is God's (or my subconscious') way of telling me that I'm attending the correct parish and I am right to be outraged over how this particular Church abuses the Mass, or if I'm supposed to be paying closer attention. I should remember that the Lord is present at every Mass, regardless of how bad the music, how irreverent the Parishioners and how ugly the surroundings. Thank God these are always dreams and I am able to wake up and go to my own beloved parish and smell the incense and feel at peace.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Duggars: Calculating Our Demise, One Baby at a Time


I was perusing the interwebs the other day, on my favorite source for blog fodder, Facebook, when I noticed this on one of my friends’ pages. How kind of the 7 Billion and Counting people to make a wonderful judgement call on Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s selfish-ness. Just what we needed! Selfish people calling other people selfish! And they even sent a gift. Precious. Read the comments for a rip-roaring good time!

At least they aren't in the prairie dresses here
So what is so selfish about the Duggars having all these darned babies? First of all, let me say, I’m not one of those people who think the Duggars are nuts. I think they are Baptist and a little weird, and definitely fashion-challenged, but I did watch their TV show admittedly more than I should have while I was unemployed and one thing I can say for them is that you can tell that family loves each other. Frankly, as much as the 7 Billion and Counting people would like me to believe that the Brazilian hooded tree frog (or whatever) is going to suffer as a direct result of the Duggars having another child, the notion is just preposterous! They are practically self-sufficient, and come on, since there are 7 billion people in the world, 20 Duggars really aren’t going to make that much impact. I think the secular “liberals” are the ones that are more likely using all the resources, what with their SUVs for themselves, their spouse and their golden retriever. It’s a lot easier to carpool when you literally lug 7 people with you everywhere you go. The Duggars make all their own clothes or buy them at thrift stores. They have 20 kids! They can’t afford to buy stuff just to throw it away, or drink Starbucks daily and chuck the paper cups or buy new clothes/shoes/cell phones whenever they feel like it. So your argument is a bit thin there, tree frog! If you want to blame anyone for your imminent demise, blame the guy in the Jetta over there with the Free Tibet and Coexist sticker on it. Let’s not forget the couple who want to "save the planet" by not having kids and are therefore throwing latex into landfills and chemicals into the water source because of the hormones leaked out (pun intended) when a woman on the Pill urinates.

No, I think if anything about the Duggars bothers me, it’s the fact that Michelle is getting on in her years and their last baby was very premature and almost died. Michelle also had preeclampsia with her last few pregnancies and could have died herself. I’m all for being open to life, but she should try to be around to see that baby through to adulthood, even if she will be in her 60’s by the time she gets there. I think they have done right by their beliefs in the 19 kids they have, and I doubt God would say to them “Hey, you could get in to heaven, but you decided to practice NFP rather than have that 20th child, so I think you’re out of luck.”  In any event, lay off the poor flipping Duggars! And they think religious people are Holier-Than-Thou. Eeesh. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Performance Anxiety


So, since Katie over at NFP and Me gave me a little bit of motivation, I decided I will write a commentary on last night's Glee episode.
Now, to start things off, I will say that I don't normally watch Glee. I have seen maybe 3 episodes total. I don't follow the story arcs and I know only a little about the overall premise. This is actually kind of surprising since, though I was never a theater kid in high school, I harbored a total theater kid envy and constantly entertained ideas of my whole life suddenly turning into a giant musical number. 
Be that as it may, last night as I was perusing the internet in the evening, I ended up watching the newest episode of Glee. At first I was sort of just having it on as background noise, but I got a little sucked in. I re-watched it tonight on demand, since I had missed some parts of it and I wanted to make sure that I had gotten the entire thing. 

The premise of last night's show was that the high school was putting on a musical- Westside Story (full disclosure: I haven't seen the musical since I was probably in Jr. High and I didn't like it). Rachel and Blaine are playing Maria and Tony and in the very, very beginning of the show, Artie, the director, tells them both that they lack passion because they are both virgins. And while he "supports their strained aversion to fun," they can't really "sell" the sexual awakening as someone who hasn't been sexually awoken themselves.  The rest of the show concerns Rachel and Blaine attempting to lose their virginity in order to perform more authentically. Glee has been pointed at by many in the Catholic media as being a somewhat “damaging” show, if you will, because it is targeted at a younger audience. The main reason for this is because of the gay storyline between Kurt and Blaine. To be honest, this doesn’t bother me at all. There are plenty of young people out there who have same sex attraction, who are ashamed of it, who feel isolated, and who may be bullied or attacked. I think in some ways, it can be good to have an openly gay character on TV that people can identify with and might make them feel less isolated in their own lives. It’s also nice that, based on what I saw in this episode, Blaine and Kurt have a normal teenage relationship and, at least until this episode, weren’t engaging in sexual activity.

The thing that bothered me was there was no talk as to why the characters were waiting in the first place. It was more of “well, we better be authentic, time to take care of this little annoyance.” At one point, Rachel calls a committee of girls, and they all tell her to wait, except one, who expounds on the fact that she and her boyfriend had discussed it, and they were each other’s first love, and that the moment will always be perfect for her. This is the deciding factor in Rachel’s decision to go for it.
This, to me, is more damaging than anything I saw happen with Kurt and Blaine in this episode. This attitude is so prevalent in today’s society that I fear how it will impact young people. I know how it impacted me.

Maybe I’m just bitter because I didn’t get a chance to discuss it with my first love and have it be a perfect moment that I will remember for my whole life. Instead, it’s a terrible thing that I will always feel ashamed of for the rest of my life. Because I waited, too, just not long enough. And my reasons weren’t well-formed enough in order to stave off advances. When you get to a certain age (which apparently now is senior in high school) in today’s secular society, it’s expected of you to have had sex. And if you haven’t, you’re almost more damaged goods than someone who has with everyone that walks by. I found myself at 20 years old as a virgin and being completely un-dateable. I was not practicing my faith, so what option did I have? I could date Christian boys (which wasn’t an option as I didn’t identify as Christian) or I could date guys who didn’t value me. And what was the big deal anyway? Everyone else had had sex, what difference did it make if I did, too? That’s how it was presented to me, anyway, and I was dumb enough to think that someone who would say that to me actually cared enough about me to consider it in the first place. So what’s the big deal? I mean, if you want to be an actress, you’ll eventually be playing people who aren’t virgins, so you can’t possibly be a virgin and authentically play a non-virgin. It’s only natural, right?

What I would have liked to see, just once, is a character with some moral fortitude- but maybe I’m just looking for something I didn’t have. I would have liked to see someone who maybe thought about it, and then decided against it. Maybe not for religious reasons, but because they decided to be above that. To do something that was right for them. I dunno, maybe I just wanted to see an actual discussion of how many, many girls (and possibly guys, but I can’t speak from a position of knowledge there) feel when they DO lose their virginity, and then go on to be sexually intimate with every person with whom they have a relationship afterwards. I would like to see a discussion of how that impacts their future marriages, their trust, and their self-worth. I would like to see an honest discussion from the flip side. Not just that “sex is good! It feels good, it’s natural, everyone should be doing it—all the time, with whomever they want!” Or even, “sex is a true expression of love for whomever you feel like you love at that moment.” Because, I’m sorry, but this message that is being peddled out to our culture, our young people, is a lie! I can think of only one of my friends who is still with the person she lost her virginity to. And I can remember all the pain and heartache that occurred in the wake of the breakups for the rest of them. Except my own, because I was so messed up, I ended up in a therapist’s office and on antidepressants, so I have no real recollection of it. Even Hubbs will say that when he really thought back on his life, he realized that not one good thing ever really came about from his previous attitude toward sex. It was a lot of selfishness, low self-worth, and somewhat of an addictive behavior. It was also a harbinger of problems in the relationship, especially when it’s compensating for any kind of real intimacy or love.

I know that today’s society has a schizophrenic relationship with sex. We are puritanical in one sense, and over-sexed in another. What I want to see on TV, what I want told to young people everywhere, what I wish everyone would just understand is that we’ve made sex too important. So important that we have tried to downplay it to the extent that it’s mundane. It’s a classic Catholic both/and. But the Catholic Church has made sex unimportant. So unimportant that it’s the most important thing in the world. The Catholic Church teaches us to value ourselves and each other by respecting our basic dignity as human beings. Not animals who have to give in to our instincts, not creatures to use and be used by others.

And would it be so crazy to point out that, since Westside Story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria got married before they had sex? Just sayin’.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stunted

I have so many things that I want to blog about-- half ideas just swarming around in my head, with some things pinned down and other things just mere passing thoughts.
Right now, I am having an ADD tornado of wanting to blog about:

  •  The new law being passed in Mississippi juxtaposed with the 7 Billion people fanatics flipping out over the Duggars having another child. 
  • Glee having an episode about losing your virginity (which I am watching right now) and the mainstreaming of secular culture 
  • The article about the sterilization clinic, and something to do with birth-control

I am still making my way through Discerning the Will of God and I don't really feel any closer. I need to really get my prayer life in order. I have been feeling the need to buckle down and hit a better routine for many aspects of my life, but right now my job is just insane and I come home and find myself just zoning out. Maybe I should start saying the rosary on the elliptical. I am having a dry spell in my spirituality and I hope that everything will get back to normal (or better than before) soon!
In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful song, because my brain is fried.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mondays and Birthdays... Is That How the Song Goes?

Sorry for the delay, dear readers (all 3 of you!) I have been away because last week I celebrated my birthday!

Hurrah.

It was, for some reason, a particularly hard birthday for me. I turned 27 (I know, I know, try 50! Try 78!) but I don't think it had anything to do with the number. I can't exactly explain what it had to do with in particular, though if you read my post Purgatory, you will know that maybe it had something to do with the fact that I have no idea what to do "when I grow up" and I'm starting to increasingly feel as if now I AM a grown-up and maybe I should really have this figured out. It also didn't help that for the hour or so I talked to my mother-in-law, she would NOT stop talking about having children. I'm not ready for that, yet. But then, when will I be ready? In the words of my grandfather, which are so symbolically apropos here "Daylight's a wastin!"

In any event, my darling Hubb's took Christine over at Feminism: The Catholic F Word's advice and got me the book Discerning the Will of God. It just came in the mail yesterday so I am anxious to start reading it. I had been fasting on Fridays hoping to open myself up to hear His voice, but I have a confession to make: I'm really bad at praying. In all the time I took CCD classes and whatnot as a child, I don't think anyone really taught us HOW to pray. So I basically keep an interior monologue to God or Mary or My Great Uncle Jules or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and sometimes I feel like I am going insane.

Anyway, I am going to start reading this book and see where it takes me. I will post as I go through it, if I can.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Feast of Blessed John Paul II


Happy Feast Day of Blessed John Paul II everyone!

It is hard for me to really try to think how much influence this man had on my reversion. He was always just kind of in the background my whole life, all the time.
I distinctly remember when he came to Denver for World Youth Day. I was in Louisiana visiting my grandparents, of course, and my Aunt who had just had my cousin went to one of the events. I remember she bought a t-shirt for one of my other cousins but not me. My grandparents are really Catholic and I remember sitting in their living room of the house on the farm and watching the evening news where they were talking about JPII and what he was doing. I was only 9 or 10, so it's strange that I recall that so clearly.

Even as I lost my faith, I always loved to watch the Pope say Christmas Eve mass and my mom and I would watch it on PBS, even when we didn't actually go to Mass.

When I was a freshman in college, my friend had gone thrift shopping and brought home a plate with a portrait of JPII on it, commemorating his US Visit in the 80's. Even though I wasn't a practicing Catholic, I hung that plate up in my kitchen, and it's still in my kitchen today.

In 2005, I remember feeling really sad when he died. I was fascinated by the conclave, and I didn't envy then Cardinal Ratzinger having the biggest shoes to fill in the world. My mom and I went to Europe that year, and visited Rome and I was overwhelmed by the amount of John Paul II-love that I encountered everywhere. That was when wanting to be Catholic again started taking hold in me. The faith that the people had as they visited St. Peter's, the way people looked when they talked about the Church and the former Pope (and the current Pope), the interest and peace that emanated from the faithful. I wanted that.

I was confirmed the day JPII was Beatified, and I think that was a little wink from him.

I credit Blessed John Paul II and the Blessed Virgin Mary for bringing me back to the Church, in tandem. Working together of course, as his motto was always totus tuus.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

My NFP Testimonial

I wrote this NFP testimonial for The Guiding Star Project. I would like to post more on my NFP experience later on, but for now, I just wanted to post this. It's not quite in the same "voice" that I use on the blog, since it was for the website, but maybe it will be helpful for other women wondering about it. 

The number one obstacle to my returning to the Catholic Church was its teaching on birth control.

Looking back now, I find that absurd, as I had been known to tell many, many people prior to my return to the Church that I hated birth control and was going to go to my doctor and demand a better option. I had a lot of issues on birth control. I was put on it as a young woman to control my acne. Yes, my acne. The first “pill” I was on made me absolutely insane… it made my hormones spike and plummet and for at least a week every month (not the one where I was on my period) I was cranky, agitated, anxious, overly emotional. For 7 whole days, due to one little pill, I displayed classic signs of clinical depression. After about 3 months like that, I went back to the doctor, who cheerfully told me that there was virtually no shortage of the type of pill I could be on, and they would find one that was “right for me!”

So we tried a second pill, this one made me bleed for 3 weeks straight. A third killed my libido, which was devastating for a newlywed. A fourth gave me intense migraine headaches. I was so fed-up, but had no idea what my options were. When I went in to speak to my doctor again, her next idea was a copper IUD. That was where I drew the line. I am squeamish about a lot of things, one of which is things being inside my body. For this reason, the shot, the ring and the IUD were completely out. But I was allergic to latex and had no desire to have children, so I stuck with the pill.

When my husband and I decided to have our marriage convalidated, this was the bone of contention for me. He had been urging me to get off the pill altogether, he had heard the study about it being carcinogenic and, being a bit of a “natural health” buff, he was very concerned about the long-term effects on my health and fertility. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give up the “control” on my fertility, and I didn’t like what I thought was the Church’s teaching on having to have a bunch of children. I would rather be sick than possibly get pregnant with a man I married for better or for worse. But, we were required to take the class, and we were required to “live as brother and sister” until we were sacramentally married, so it seemed as good a time as any to go off the pill.

nfpworksblog.com
When I received my materials to take the class (we had to take it online because no in-person courses were offered in our area), I opened it with trepidation. As I started to take the class, I got very frustrated. It seemed impossible to remember all the rules, it felt like a sneaky way to make people give up and have 10 kids. My husband embraced it, though and learned it like a champ. He was always the more logical of the two. As time went on, though (and after switching gynecologists to a nurse mid-wife who was helpful), I learned how to chart, I learned how to see the cycles and it made a lot of sense. I feel better than I have in a long time; I’m not bloated, or having headaches or cranky. And, guess what? I don’t have acne any more either!

But the thing I have learned the most aside from the charting and being in tune with my body is that all the things our culture tells us about “the pill” are false. They tell us it will make us free, but we are chained to it because we have to take it every day. We feel like if we don’t, we can’t do anything “fun” without the pesky fear of taking responsibility for our actions looming over our heads. They advertise it to us like it’s this really great thing, telling us all about the awesome side effects it has: lessening PMDD, getting rid of acne and fewer, lighter periods. But they never tell us that it can cause other issues like cancer or infertility after prolonged use.

NFP has opened up many new things for me. I feel like I understand my body so much better now, something that I never knew before. When they teach you in school about your menstrual cycle, it’s more like an advertisement for tampons, they don’t really tell you what is going on in your body. So many women think something is wrong because they have no idea, and their doctors don’t either! (When I went to a doctor’s appointment with a friend the other day, I was appalled when her doctor told her that he was a little concerned about her “white discharge.”) Now, not only do I know what is going on in my body at any given time, so does my husband! There’s a reason why the statistics on divorce for NFP practicing couples is at 2%! I feel freer now, and healthier! I’m also more open to life because I feel like I am working with the rhythms of my body and not putting up any kind of barrier between my fertility, my husband, God and I. We’re all in this boat together, and I have come to value my fertility as a part of me as a woman that, rather than being shamed into suppressing by the culture at large, I am now accepting and in-tune to it! NFP is a wonderful gift that I wish more women would learn and I know so many women could benefit from if only it had the kind of funding and advertising that the pill has. I, personally, try to spread the word as much as I can. NFP is a true blessing in my life and marriage. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Catholicism!

Better than "The Book of Mormon: The Musical" is CATHOLICISM. I could only be more excited about this if it were directed by Ken Burns. Okay, not really!

WATCH+THE+NEW+TRAILER

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Purgatory

I’m having a big problem of late. My usual malaise at typical daily life which has been with me since I could figure out what daily life was seems to be getting worse. Not in the sense that I am depressed or anything, but I am about to turn 27. Now, I have done "the usual" in the sense that I went to college, I got married, I bought a car and a house, children are likely in my not-too-distant future (as in the 3 year plan rather than the 5-to- never year plan). But I still feel like I have yet to figure out what it is I am supposed to do. This isn't troubling in and of itself, this is rather normal, I should think, for anyone who holds a BA. No, I am troubled because many, many times, even as a married person in a happy marriage, I seem to think about how great it would be to be a religious sister. I guess this is because being a religious sister fits the skills I have, and let me tell you, I don’t have many. I’m not saying that to be self-depraving or humble, it’s just the truth. I always had a hard time trying to figure out what my career should be because I don’t have any specific talents other than knowing stuff. When I took one of those career tests in high school, it told me I should be a rabbi (which had two glaring issues being that I am neither male nor Jewish.) Although, rabbis do know a lot of stuff.

Now imagine them in cubicles. 
I work in a dead-end job. Literally. I do data entry. I don’t particularly want to take on a job that has more responsibility because my job affords me a lot of time to listen to podcasts and little stress. I am busy most of the time, but it is feast or famine, and I have very little stress. When I am busy, I am still able to go home at the end of the day, completely sure that nothing I did can’t wait till tomorrow and it’s not going to ruin my or anyone else’s career. I have few deadlines, and I am essentially a minion in my workplace. I like it. I also have a part-time hobby business that I barely have any time for and that is wedding planning. I enjoy planning weddings, or at least I did, before I had a bride that kind of ruined for me and am still burned out from. I liked wedding planning because it afforded me the ability to be the person who knew everything, who got to take charge in a quiet, no-fanfare-needed kind of way. So the other day, when I was informed of an opening at my parish for their wedding and events coordinator/parish support staff I got pretty excited about it. Then I found out how much it paid and that it was part-time, and I got really, really sad because it’s basically impossible for me to take it if Hubbs and I ever want to do anything other than be mid-to-late 20 somethings at the beginning stages of our marriage. We would be basically stuck in the same situation as we are right now until the job either paid more, got more hours (preferably both) or I got so stressed out from the amount of work I had to do for the amount of money and too little sanctioned time to do it in that I had a nervous breakdown and ended up taking another dead-end job. I was sad for a little while and then I kind of realized I don’t really want to do that anyway. Which got me thinking: what do I want to do?

The reason why this whole religious sister thing really puzzles (and, yes, troubles) me is because I wasn’t religious when I went to college. I wasn’t religious when I met and then married my husband. Remember how I am super trepidatious about kids? Yeah, that troubles me too. I keep thinking to myself: what if I was meant to be a Sister? I definitely never discerned anything for myself then, and I have no idea how to discern things for myself now. I keep trying to tell myself that God has a plan, sure, but he also gave us free will which I’m pretty sure means that maybe if I had been religious I would have figured out that maybe I should have run off and joined an abbey, but since I didn’t choose that path, God’s not going to slam the door on me and make the rest of my life difficult, nor would He place on my heart a desire to do something I can’t do unless I completely go against His will. Not to mention, I don’t really want to leave my husband because I think that would make me miserable anyway. I keep trying to figure out what it is about religious life that has me so enthralled and all I can come up with is: you never have to worry about money because you’re provided for--no debt, no payments, no bills, no expensive clothes to buy when your company gets bought out by another one and changes the dress code, no clothes to buy period; Lots of alone time studying and praying; Depending on what order, the chance to share your love of the faith and the Church and God and the Saints—no questions asked because no one is going to argue with a woman in a habit.

So what I can take away from all of this is: I want to study the faith and share it, and I’m sick of worrying about money. I guess the money thing is my cross to bear, but I can’t exactly figure out how to go about the other two. It’s not exactly lucrative to be a theologian, though with an MA I could teach at the Parish school. So yet again, the devil of money jumps out at me. I guess maybe what I need, before I go out and get an MA, is a crash course in discernment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Interesting

So the blog post that gets the most hits on my blog is the one about tattoos and the majority of them come from google.it. Apparently a LOT of people in Italy want Padre Pio tattoos. Rock on, Italian ink lovers!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Right Words Can Be Comforting

I was dreading going to Mass a little today-- my parish has been all too keen in the past to make Mass into a show of patriotism that kind of gets under my skin. I sincerely dislike the Sundays when we get to sing "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful" in Church. This always kind of bugs me because America, while founded on "religious freedom," hasn't always been the nicest of countries to Catholics, and this random outburst of nationalism seems trite, contrived and a bit anachronistic to me. In any event, it turned out okay. Because today, GOD had a message for us.

While people in Protestant communities across the country were sitting in... pews (folding chairs? Gymnasium bleachers?) listening to what I can only assume was their preacher's thoughts on today's milestone, possibly diatribes about the need to Christianize Western society, Catholics all around the world got this message, from the Book of Sirach (don't try to find it in your KJV):

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail. 
Forgive your neighbor's injustice; 
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. 
Could anyone nourish anger against another 
and expect healing from the LORD? 
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, 
can he seek pardon for his own sins? 
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, 
who will forgive his sins? 
Remember your last days, set enmity aside; 
remember death and decay, and cease from sin! 
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; 
remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
Sirach 27:30-28:7

Now, for those of you who don't know how this works, today was the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Catholic liturgy includes four readings per Mass: one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, one of the Letters of the Apostles and a Gospel reading. These are on a cycle so that the Gospels are chosen from a different book of the Bible depending on the cycle year we are in. This Old Testament reading is one that we have been reading on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time for at least 40 years, likely for centuries. It  just so happens to have fallen on September 11th, 10 years later. 

Perhaps we should all reflect on this passage and really think about it.

...And be grateful that we didn't have to sing "God Bless America" at Mass today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rebels of the Sacred Heart


"Rebels are we! Though heavy our hearts shall always be! Ah, no ball, no chain, no prison shall keep, we're the Rebels of the Sacred Heart!"- Flogging Molly


So, last night I was talking to one of the people in RCIA class about something that I know a lot about: rebellion. As I believe I have mentioned many times, I spent a lot of my formative years rebelling against a lot of things: “class” structure at my school, statistics on single-mom households, religion, football games, studying for the SAT’s, etc. Basically, anything I could get my overly logical brain behind. Most of this was in defiance against something “society” made me do. I didn’t jump around from fad to fad and passionately just believe in it, I did, in fairness, tend to be loyal to my anti-social structure and was properly brooding by the time I was 17. I blame this entirely on my blood, by the way, which is a nice mix of Cajun (also called “The Defiant Ones” by the English when they refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to Queen Anne and the Church of England), and German, who we all know are stubborn as mules—all the ones I know anyway. Which is why, when I came back to the Church it was something I had to laugh about to myself a lot. “Oh, so many people who knew me will think this is so crazy!” I thought to myself, chuckling and shaking my head “they will all think I’ve lost it entirely this time.”
Rights?  I don't own them. Such a rebel!
But last night, as I was talking to this person, I realized something. I think I am drawn to Catholicism precisely because it’s rebellious now. Not only is it rebellious to be religious in a very secularized world, it’s almost a rebellion in itself to be Catholic in religious society. Maybe that’s what drew me back to it in the first place. I studied a lot of religions, as in-depth as I could, starting from about age 10. Deep down, I wanted to belong to a religion, I think, probably just not “my” religion because that was not rebellious. But once I was completely removed from it and had all belief structures at an intellectual arm’s length, I was drawn back in. It’s not rebellious to be Buddhist or New Age! It’s not rebellious to be an atheist or a relativist. It’s rebellious to be a good, traditional Catholic; to actually know something about your faith and not refer to yourself as “recovering” or “raised that way.”
Hopefully this person, who, by the way, is concerned that she will never be able to not disagree with the Church on some things, will see it that way. I wish I had thought of this when I was talking to her about it. Maybe all us defiant Catholics out there just need a change of viewpoint. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just One Quick Take

So.... I was going to do the Blog Meme that Elizabeth over at Startling the Day tagged me in, but I con't honestly answer the questions it had because I only have 16 posts and one of them I was ranting about mail I received. But, since a mild internet "following" fills me with glee (the Hubbs' terminology, not mine), I didn't want Elizabeth to feel like I was ignoring her (which I doubt she would), so I will just give her the shout-out and link. ; ) And try not to post any more run-on sentences.
Everyone who likes this blog, if you aren't reading her blog, go and do it. If you're not already.

Tomorrow, I am going to start helping to teach RCIA/Adult Confirmation classes at my parish! Yay! Hubbs is getting confirmed and I am a little bummed out that he's getting confirmed at the Easter vigil for two reasons:
1. I got confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday and the Beatification of Blessed Pope JPII the Great (or as he's affectionately known in the Deaner household: JP Deuce.) Which was so super awesome. What WASN'T awesome was that I got confirmed at the youth mass where there were guitars and girls in flash-dance inspired get-ups serving as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. And we sang "worship" songs that had no copyrights older than the year 2000. When I left, even though I had been anointed and smelled like balsam, I actually felt as if I hadn't fulfilled my Sunday obligation because I didn't even feel like I had attended Mass. Hubbs will get candles, and solemn singing and probably even some LATIN!
2. This will make the Easter Vigil push the 3 hour mark for sure.

The search is now on for a suitable confirmation saint. I am voting for St. Augustine because of the quote "Lord, give me temperance... but not quite yet." I feel like that sums up Hubbs' spiritual life perfectly. Any thoughts would be awesome, and prayers would be appreciated.

Until next time!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cultural Heaven

So, for those of you who don't know this about me, I have a good bit of clergy in my family. Three of my great aunts were nuns (Sister John Berchmans, Sister Teresita and Sister Veronica), one of my great-great uncles was a Monsignor, and one was a Brother. Yep. Five out of the seventeen kids that made up my great-grandmother's family! That's a lot of vocations for one group!
One of the things that initially drew me back to my faith was my culture. My family is Cajun, and one of the definitions (at least originally) of "a Cajun" was that one had to be Catholic. Heck, that's part of the reason they were expelled from their homeland of Acadia in the first place. I figured, if people in my not-to-distant family were willing to die for their faith, who was I to think I was too good for it?
One of Uncle Jules' projects
In the Cajun culture, Catholicism is everywhere: from the trinity that we put into our food to the traditional Mardi Gras. Even those Friday fish fries or crawfish boils are a telltale sign of a deep-seeded faith that has slowly just become part of who we are, even if it's not always part of what we do. We even have our own Marian patroness: Stella Maris. My  great-great uncle Jules Daigle (the monsignor) made it part of his mission as a Parish Priest in Welsh, Louisiana to preserve the Cajun culture and language. He was very involved with the youth, and I am sure part of what he tried to teach them was to be proud of who they were: Cajun Catholics. Lately I have felt very close to my Uncle Jules and close to his mission. I have been praying to him to help me discern if I have a vocation in trying to preserve the culture as well. (And before any of you freak out about praying "to" my Uncle, let me remind you that we don't pray "to" people in heaven as if they can answer our prayers. We pray to them to pray for us, just like you would ask someone still on Earth, but the deceased have the added benefit of being a lot closer to God than any of us.)
July 28 commemorates Le Grand Derangement (The Great Upheaval) in Canada, and I am thinking about my Uncle and my culture a lot these days. This was the time when the English (and American colonists) went into Acadia (now Nova Scotia) and expelled the Acadians-- sending them across the country, ripping families apart. Catholicism means "universal" and I think about those Acadians, some alone, in their new "homes" going into a Church and finding something familiar and comforting. I see anti-Catholicism everywhere, in benign places that people who aren't Catholic may never even see. I think about my little culture, so misunderstood in the greater American culture today, and the outposts of who we are. I think of the new Evangelical and non-denominational Christianity, widespread across the Bible Belt, seeping into the Cajun Prairie and claiming people as the English once did, using the same vicious rhetoric against us, our culture (French) and our traditional religion. I can't help but draw parallels in the way Hispanic culture is looked at today and see a common denomination in incense, the Virgin Mary, a tendency to insulate against outside influences. I can't help but equate so much of my culture with Catholicism.
I can't speak Cajun. I can speak Provincial French (badly), and I can say a few words here and there. I grew up in Colorado, not Church Point, so I was removed from it. A displaced Cajun displaced further. It is no wonder then, that all I can preserve, in a way, of my tradition is my religion, my faith.This story isn't singular, it is echoed in the lives and words of emigrants from all over the world: Polish, Irish, Vietnamese. Spanning over hundreds of years that is what we, the Cajuns, had, and hopefully what we will always have. I know Uncle Jules is praying for that, as well. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bold and Brazen

You can purchase this shirt
Back in November, Fr. Steven gave a wonderful homily that I have been thinking about more and more. He is wont to tell stories in his homilies and is often very funny. This particular one was a story about how he had run to the grocery store still in his vestments because he had a little time before guests were coming over for dinner and needed to grab a desert, and in his rush had not changed. He was standing in the bakery section of the Safeway, in full attire, holding a fruit tart and a package of cupcakes and trying to decide what to get when he realized this man was looking at him and giving him a dirty look. Fr. Steven decided to ignore him, and go on with his decision-making. The man would not stop staring. He said he really wanted to say something, but was quite aware that it would not look good if a Catholic priest, completely decked out, holding a fruit tart turned to your average Joe and yelled “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?!” Instead, he just said “good evening” smiled, took his dessert and walked away. The moral of the story was that we should all be unabashedly Catholic. That we should not be ashamed to stick out like sore thumbs in this world of ours, to be beacons of light, or subjects of curiosity. He said it is of utmost importance because no one else is ashamed of their religion, not the Methodists, not the Mormons, and certainly not the atheists. 

That homily came at a right time for me, as I had recently gotten into a…. discussion on Facebook with a friend of mine and felt ashamed that now everyone knew I was one of those “crazy Catholics.” Sometimes I was even ashamed of being Catholic among Catholics; I struggled with wearing my mantilla at first because I thought people would view me as trying to look more pious than everyone else. I keep revisiting this statement over and over again, whenever I feel like I should bite my tongue so as not to upset or offend someone or back off of my beliefs when I come up against someone who disagrees with them. Not long ago, one of Hubbs’ co-workers (who had at one point straight-up grilled me on my religious beliefs at one of his company functions) called me a “religious fanatic” because she misunderstood something I had told her during the grilling session. Yesterday, my co-worker (who I like very much) made a comment about how practicing NFP couldn’t be good for my marriage. She gave all the worldly reasons “Isn’t it hard not being able to get caught up in the passion of the moment?” “Doesn’t your husband have a hard time with it?” “I don’t understand why you can’t just use condoms” She drew a direct parallel between NFP and my husband possibly cheating on me; she even went so far as to making me feel bad that Hubbs is more open to having a baby sooner rather than later and therefore I was denying him sex because I don’t want to have kids right now. Yikes. I didn’t know what to say. So I told her what I know. I told her the reasons behind NFP, I told her that I feel more respected, cherished and loved in my marriage than I ever did before we started using it, I told her it was a mutual decision entirely, and that Hubbs actually pushed for it more than I did in the beginning. I told her how we have a different level of intimacy because he understands all about what happens in my body now, whereas most husbands only know that their wives are on their periods and therefore can’t have sex (bummer). I felt like I did a good job stating my position and being unabashedly Catholic. I’m not gonna lie: I was totally offended. But I also felt sad that she is so of this world that she can’t even really understand, because she is too worried about her husband’s urges and whether or not he will cheat on her if she doesn’t give in to them. I felt bad about it for about 10 minutes, I really did. Then I was angry, and then I was glad that I stood my ground on it.

Is this what it’s like to be unabashedly Catholic? Do I have to defend myself against people who have issues with my beliefs? It seems so unfair, doesn't it? I’m not running around calling people out on their beliefs, asking them explain themselves, rolling my eyes, crossing my arms and saying “well, I guess I just don’t understand.” I mean, come on, anyone of any other faith system (including none at all) can put out books every single day about how Catholicism is wrong, but you tell someone about a new book coming out called “Why Catholics are Right” and people scoff as if I said “Why people actually have three ears.” But then, only Catholics had their religion illegal in this country founded on religious freedom until after the Revolutionary war. Only Catholics are being accused of allowing illegal immigration in an effort to stage a reconquista and “Romanize” America. Only Catholics are standing out like sore thumbs in a secular world and PC country. So yes, let’s be unabashedly Catholic. Let’s tell people all those “strange” things we do like not eating meat on Friday and practicing NFP and, oh, I don’t know, standing by our beliefs regardless of what people think of us and them. Some of my not-so-distant ancestors actually died for the right to be Catholic, and I am afraid someone will give me a dirty look? If the world has a problem with us, I for one will assume I am doing something right. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Selling God in Sin City

So, after our convalidation, Hubbs and I decided that second wedding = second honeymoon. Being cheap and not having a ton of time off, we decided to go to Vegas. I should add that our first honeymoon was in New Orleans, so we apparently really like debaucherous party capitals as our honeymoon spots. We ate a lot of good food, and it was really, really hot.
One thing that struck me about Vegas was the idea of "sin city." That reputation is absolutely true: almost all the 7 deadly sins are there:

1. Lust: strip clubs, escorts, scantily clad people on every corner
2. Gluttony: did someone say 24 hour all you can eat buffet?
3. Greed: "if I just put one more dollar in this machine, I will hit it big this time!"
I don't own the rights
4. Sloth: you pick: either staying up till all hours of the night and then sleeping all day, OR trying to make a fortune with the roll of the dice rather than work
5. Wrath: I got nothin' on this one... except maybe people being ticked when they lose all their money
6. Envy: Vegas is FULL of very expensive shopping, placed there to wish you could afford it, to get you to gamble more to win the money needed to purchase the items
7. Pride: exclusivity of night clubs, etc.

You would think that Vegas is a pretty Godless city, and indeed I would say it is. Probably no more Godless than any other city in America, but it's all squished into a 50 mile radius that makes it pretty much the center of everything I just listed. You only have to go about 3 steps out of your hotel to have a sin shoved in your face, literally. One night, Hubbs and I decided to go to the Bellagio to see the famous fountains. On every block, there are 2 or more people handing out flyers for strip clubs and escorts. They aren't too pushy, you don't have to talk to them and you can walk past them without feeling like they are going to chase you down or anything. But on one corner there was a gentleman handing out flyers about God.  People pretty much walked past him and didn't say anything, but there was a bit of grumbling. How interesting that people seemed more annoyed with someone speaking about his religion than being handed lewd pictures of airbrushed women. I wanted to stop and shake his hand and tell him to literally not lose the faith. Because the porn and the gambling and alcohol sells itself. They don't need people on the corners handing that stuff out to passers-by, ut I'm sure it brings in business or they wouldn't do it. But of all the cocktail waitresses in their tiny little outfits and spike heels, the Elvis impersonators, the night-shift card-dealers and acrobats in shows, this guy had the hardest job on The Strip. Now, normally, this kind of thing turns my stomach. I will admit to a slightly sick fascination with talking to Jehovah's Witnesses (the ones I used to engage in discussion with when I was in high school still bother my mom from time-to-time) and I love it when the LDS missionaries come to my door, all clean cut and not knowing what they are about to get themselves into. People standing in public areas preaching gets under my skin in a way that I can't really explain, in the same way contemporary worship music and guitar masses do. I think it has to do with that sort of thing somehow always feeling directly contradictory to my Catholic brain. Or maybe because the beliefs they usually profess are thinly veiled threats or outright bigotry. But for some reason, that night, in that sea of all of that, it seemed weirdly refreshing.
It was inspiring to see someone out there, working hard, doing what he felt was right. And I sincerely hope he never loses his hope that people can rise above what is laid out for them as a proverbial banquet and strive for something a little...higher.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inklings...

Another Bright Maidens Post-- to shake up the views being posted.


Heart Grenade
I have three (count 'em) three tattoos. I got my first one on my 21st birthday, after going through what I pray was the roughest emotional period in my life. It's a heart grenade a la Green Day's American Idiot, and, at the time, I felt like it was the best symbolization of how I felt and what I was going through. It's the only tattoo of mine that anyone can see, and that's only if it's summer time and I am wearing anything shorter than a pair of jeans, and it's not very big. I got the next two within the next 6 months. One is a Flying V guitar with the words "In Love With Rock n Roll" that I got after having a dream about it and going through yet another awful break up and the third I got after a guy in a bar in Rome told me that it was bad luck to have tattoos in even numbers. She's a red-headed pin up girl named Debra Jean. Both of those are completely covered most of the time and sometimes you can see half of Debra Jean if I'm wearing a swimsuit.
I don't regret any of them, and I actually love them. Not surprisingly, though, I have the most emotional attachment still to the first one and the complicated, sometimes convoluted philosophy behind the symbol and what my poor, sorrow-addled heart felt at the time. I don't identify with the feelings anymore (thank God), but I can look back on it somewhat fondly in the way you can look back at a picture of yourself in Jr. High and know you look a little dorky but can always say "that was the style!"

People sometimes ask me what the Catholic church's philosophy on tattoos are, and I usually shrug and say "not a sin, but not recommended." The book of Leviticus advises against tattoos, and Orthodox Jews will not get tattooed. They are actually not even allowed to have them or they cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries. This rule is not enforced in Catholicism, and tattoos aren't really talked about all that much.


When I was taking my courses for my Religious Studies degree, I took a class called Religion and Society. We had to write a paper on something that bonded people in a similar way as a religion, but wasn't one. I chose tattoos. I walked around town and interviewed random people about their tattoos and what they meant to them. Almost everyone had a beautiful story behind their tattoos. Some were memorials to loved ones, some were names of their children or beloved pets, some were symbols they felt close to: of their familial heritage, their religion, their lives over the years. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirits and anyone who has ever been to St. Peter's in Rome can tell you that temples to God are always adorned with ornaments and reminders of why we are there. Sure, there are some awful tattoos out there-- some lame and ill-advised tribal suns, Playboy bunny symbols and bad art. But there are some really beautiful ones that people feel strongly about, and feel connected to. In a world where not everyone has a religion to fall back on, they bind people to the things they feel strongly about. There are Catholics that wear scapulars, Miraculous Medals, crucifixes, saints of every shape and size around their neck day in and day out. It's an outward sign of who we are, where we come from, and hopefully where we're going. What do people without these comforts have? Tattoos: four-leaf clovers, roses for their mom, rosaries around their ankle. Religious people can have a myriad of respectful, beautiful tattoos that can bring glory to our beliefs and history. Anyone who has tattoos will eventually be asked about them and so they could even be used as an evangelization tool.
St. Padre Pio. I don't own the rights, but the artist's name is Alex de Passe.
Sure, tattoos in society might be more trendy than anything, they might still be maligned in general society, but they can't ever truly be discounted.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Modesty: Unveiled

I drafted this post some time ago and posted it finally in order to contribute to a topic prompt by the Bright Maidens. I highly recommend reading them if you have any interest in what it's like to be young, female and Catholic!

Disclaimer #1: I hate the word “modesty.” I feel like it only applies to women and has no real basis in reality with respect to what one can actually find in stores. I am not one to advocate the wearing of floor-length prairie skirts and turtle-necks. Mainly because I really think they are a fashion faux-pas and if that makes me a materialistic secular person, so be it. That being said, I am going to use the word modesty for- literally- lack of a better word. I am using it to mean…basically… um…. Not slutty. I guess? Semantics tick me off.

There has been a bit of buzz lately about modesty in the Church.  There are two forms of modesty rules that women are to follow. One is sometimes referred to the Fatima rule, which was codified by the Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XII in 1956. Distilled, the rules are: no shirts cut lower than two finger widths below the hollow of the neck, sleeves to the elbow, skirts below the knee. I’ll add for good measure: head covered in the sanctuary. Many women do not follow this rule, because, come on. Why would you? But some still feel compelled to, and, power to them I guess.
The other one is the more modern rule, which is shoulders covered, thighs covered, cleavage covered. This is the rule that you will run into if you ever go visit any great Cathedral in Europe. At the Vatican, they have these paper towel type things that they hand to women in spaghetti straps to act as makeshift pashminas for all those American tourists in their Miley Cyrus tank tops. Don’t even get me started about Americans dressing like this in Europe in general, regardless of trying to get into a Catholic Church.

I find that modesty is a complicated thing that you can’t ever quite pin down, and it varies based on who you speak to. I look at it akin to the veiling of Muslim women: some Americans (or Westerners) look at it as oppressive, sexist and backwards. Some Muslim women look at it as an equalizer, something that frees them from being judged on their bodies or looks. In the Catholic modesty debate, I tend to fall into the equalizer camp, though it’s not really that cut and dry.

Disclaimer #2: one of my favorite and least Christian pastimes is to look at (and, admittedly judge,) people’s clothing in Church. To be fair, I do it everywhere anyway. I literally balk each week at the things people wear to Mass, and, more importantly, the things people allow their children to wear to Mass. Since I felt compelled to start veiling at Mass, I find this has started to lessen quite a bit, mainly because I know I am in the minority and I am getting stared at as well. I also think the veil helps me to be more pious and remember why I am at Mass in the first place. Added bonus that it still smells like the chrism from my confirmation.

Okay, so here’s a list of things I really, really dislike seeing at mass: teenagers in flash-dance inspired off-the-shoulder sweatshirts with their bra straps showing; flip flops; teenage or young men in basketball shorts or anything that resembles workout clothing; anyone in holy pants/shirts/tennis shoes (just ‘cause they’re holy doesn’t mean you can wear them to church ba-dum-ching!); women in mini skirts; women in leggings with tops that don’t cover their butts; kids in things that resemble Halloween costumes; anything you would conceivably sleep in (i.e. pajama pants, flannel shorts and oversized t-shirts, frequently splashed with the name of some “fun-run” you participated in); and last but not least teenagers in mini skirts, cheerleading hoodies from their high school *and* flip flops (minus 10,000 points if this outfit is being worn in January, February or any month in which the temperature does not regularly soar over 50 degrees). I’m not super concerned with your shoulders being covered (necessarily, I feel like sleeveless tops are modest and fine), or your knees showing, or your hair being exposed.
The Amish. Keepin' it modest since 1693

 “But, Miss Holier-Than Thou Catholic,” you may say “why should we be concerned with modesty in the first place?” Short answer: respect. Respect for you and for the the fact that you are at church. I don’t buy that oft-repeated crap about how women should be modest so that we don’t incite lust in the menfolk at church. That’s a load of BS, if my scoop neck top is lower than 2 finger-widths than the hollow of my neck and you glimpse my sternum and get yourself in a tizzy and think an impure thought and can’t receive communion that’s your problem. Because really, where are we to draw the line? Thanks to pornography people have access to all kinds of pervy things that make them aware of fetishes and the sight of an earlobe or feet could make someone get all hot and bothered, and neither I nor the Vatican is calling for a Catholic burqa. I really, truly feel that modesty is at least 90% in your mind and in your character. We’ve all known women who could cover from head to toe and somehow come across as well… skanky. And we all know women (and I hope I am one of them) that can wear tank tops and shorts above their knee and still look modest. I think most women fall into the modest camp. There are some that think women shouldn’t wear pants to church, which doesn’t make a darn bit of sense to me because pants actually cover things up, and as long as you can’t read the date on a dime in someone’s pocket, I see no reason why a woman can’t wear them. I happen to wear dresses to church (as well as a mantilla, as I mentioned) but that is me, and it’s not required nor would I want anyone to do it if they didn’t feel called to (or at the very least prayed about it beforehand). I also frequently wear skirts and dresses as street clothes and so it’s really just more my style than anything else. I wear lower cut tops because I feel like since I don’t have cleavage, I’m golden. I think the motivation for being modest should come from within, and the closer I get to my faith the more modest I become unconsciously. I hate being told what I can and can’t wear. The owner of my company is LDS (Mormon) and we actually have a “modesty” rule in our dress code, which is almost word-for-word the modesty rule they teach their daughters. Even though I wasn’t ever planning on wearing short shorts and tube tops to work, the fact that that rule is in there ticks me off (again, it doesn’t really apply to the male employees) and makes me want to push the boundaries. I guess that’s a rebellious part of my nature that no amount of incense and Magisterium documents can squelch. That being said, I think the rule to anything should be “appropriateness.” It is appropriate to wear a bikini to the pool or beach, it is not appropriate to wear a bikini to mow the lawn. It is appropriate to dress as if you are attending church, it is not appropriate to attend church dressed as if you are attending a sleepover. See? Modesty issues solved.
Back to the respect thing and modesty outside of Mass, though, I think Blessed John Paul the Great (That title is just so fun!) said something along the lines of (my paraphrase here) “you should dress in a way that incites a man to LOVE you, not to lust after you.” If women really want to be treated as equals in society today, I think we need to give more thought to how we’re dressing and what it says about us. Just as I dislike the whole “dress modestly so as not to lead your brothers-in-Christ to sin” thing, I equally dislike the whole “I’m a woman and I can dress however I want because this isn’t the Middle Ages” thing. Because, really, aren’t they two sides of the same coin? No matter how much you may think that wearing shorty shorts and a halter top is for YOU and not for men, it’s really for men, isn’t it? Whether you are trying to attract them or not. Because if you were straight up honest with yourself (and you’re anything like me) you would go everywhere in yoga pants and a long sleeved t-shirt, right? Because that’s way more comfy than shorty shorts and a halter top. But women these days are taught, nay, brainwashed to do everything for men, even in this post sexual revolution society (case in point: look at the cover of any “women’s” magazine…the entire thing is about men and how to please them). You’re either dressing modestly for men, or you’re dressing immodestly for/to spite them. So here’s my advice: dress modestly, but do it for YOU. Dress modestly because you care enough about yourself to do so; because you respect yourself enough to know that what matters is the brain in your head and not the skin on your thighs. And think modestly, too, because if you think modestly, in the long run, it really won’t matter what you wear. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh, Baby...?

Sorry for the very, very long delay in posting. I have been going through a pretty rough emotional time that had a little bit to do with my faith journey.
You see, I'm terrified of babies.

Almost a month ago, a good friend of mine had a baby girl nearly 8 weeks early (she was born Feb. 26 and was due April 23.) She is doing alright, remarkably well from what I can tell, but prayers are still needed and appreciated. Basically, once that happened I had a complete and total emotional freak out and have been torturing myself ever since.

This all started back in... I would say July, when Hubby and I started looking at our options to validate our marriage. I don't want this post to have too many tentacles, but for those of you who don't know what that means, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, because we were civilly married and not married by a priest, we aren't sacramentally married and therefore not married at all. That's actually what drove me to start this blog, initially... I had some... let's say issues... with some of this teaching and it took me a while to make a decision about what I wanted to do.
One of the big issues I had was the baby factor. The Catholic Church's teaching on this is very clear. Sex within marriage (which is the only kind allowed, of course) has two purposes: unitive and procreative. Anything else is lust. Using your spouse for pleasure only is just as wrong as using your spouse only to fulfill your desire to have children. In Catholic marriage vows you actually have to say in front of the priest, your spouse, all your friends and family and God that you will be open to any children that God sends your way. This is such a big teaching in the Church that it reaches into teachings on IVF, birth control, abortion, etc. In fact, according to the Catholic church, if you feel you aren't "called" to having children, then you aren't "called" to marriage, because that is the #1 purpose of marriage.

When we decided that having a sacramental marriage was something we wanted, one of the first things Hubbs and I had to do was get off of birth control. Which scared the ever-living crap out of me. Not because I love birth control, I actually hated it with a passion (as did my body) but because I had to relinquish control over something. We took the required class on NFP and started with it. It was around this time that I started to slowly panic about all of this. See, I really dislike kids. I'm serious and I'm just being honest. I never baby sat as a teenager, and I am an only child. My main experience with kids is the ones that scream in places I am trying to think or enjoy myself, like at Mass or at restaurants. I bristle from kids crying and fussing in grocery stores, and teenagers just give me the creeps. I hated college kids even when I was in college. When Hubbs and I married, we both had a general feeling of "meh" about having kids. Neither of us were very attached to either idea, and we figured we could discuss it more as the landscape changed.

As time went on, I could tell that Hubbs was leaning more and more toward having children, whereas I was staying more or less the same (as in "most likely not unless something drastic changes in the deep recesses of my brain and/or heart.") This started to scare me enough as it was, and then I was suddenly faced with this situation of "you have no real choice in this matter." I was devestated. Why would God put in me such a distaste for children if He wanted me to just accept that I should/would probably have some? Why should the Church tell me what I can and can't do with my own body and my own life? Who are they to tell me that I HAVE to have kids and can't use contraception to over-ride that particular function of my body? It's not like I can just lie, and unfortunately, if Hubbs decides he wants kids and I decide I don't, that's not exactly something that can be discussed and then move on. It's sort of a non-negotiable, right?
Mix in JB telling me (blissfully) that she was pregnant, everyone at work starting to suddenly ask me about when I was going to have children and you have the recipe for a complete emotional breakdown.
Which is basically what I have been doing for the past 3 weeks. I hate change, and I hate making decisions. And I feel like I have no choice, which sucks. I mean, sure, I know that I could just discard this altogether with a big percentage of your average Catholic population and go my merry way, but again, this isn't just the Church-- this is my relationship with my husband in a lot of ways. And besides, I told myself when I went with this that I wouldn't do it halfway, I was going to do it all or nothing, because otherwise, I wouldn't be living with any integrity whatsoever.
So basically, I have been trying to change my perspective. Sometimes I feel really great about it, and I am excited about the prospect of being a parent someday, and I think about holidays and fun vacations and all that lovely crap that everyone tells you about. But sometimes the idea of having kids (ever) makes me sick to my stomach to think about: all the things that could go wrong, how you influence so many things and can mess them up forever, my mother in law thinking she can tell me how to parent, etc. not to even consider the things that can happen ahead of all of that as I have been witness to with JB's teeny tiny little miracle baby.  I have been praying A LOT. To any and every Saint who I think can help me, as well as the BVM and hoping that my heart will change for the better. I keep trying to remind myself that I also never wanted to get married at one point, until I met Hubbs and then it seemed like the most logical and natural thing in the world (before that my plan was to have about a billion cats or become a nun--and I wasn't even religious at the time). I have no REAL reasons NOT to have kids, other than the fact that I don't like the idea all that much. In the end, my reasons are pretty selfish. I am fully aware that I can't really have kids at the moment (as in, we don't make enough right now as well as not really having a place to put a kid and we have to stay in our place at least 2 more years or we have to pay $8,000 back to the government...) so I know I have a little more time to get used to the idea that eventually, Hubbs and I will be someone's parents.
I know this sounds stupid to most people. I am aware how silly it really sounds, even as I type it. Because I am sure to a lot of people this would be simple. But as I said before, this is not just the Catholic Church. I think, in the end, the hardest thing for me is that it should not be something that I go back and forth on. It seems to me most people either know they want to have kids or they don't, end of story. It's hard for me that I don't feel strongly about it one way more than the other.
I am trying to be a really good example and accept whatever is in store for me and realize that it's entirely possible that I may never have kids. But then I get scared thinking about that, too, thinking maybe I am cursing myself and I honestly think I might be completely devastated if, say, I'm infertile and can't ever have kids. See my conundrum?

So yeah. Hence the long delay in posts. And sorry I'm so rambling... I just need to get it out somewhere I guess.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And What Kind Of People Are Those Exactly?

 I am snarky today. You have been warned.

Ever since I registered as a member at my local parish, I noticed an increase in flyers from other faith communities in my mail. My personal favorite came in the mail today. Again.

It's a very sharp-looking, very shiny, card for some church and it reads "A Church for People Who Aren't Church People." What the heck does that mean??? I honestly read it about 4 times trying to figure it out. A Church for people who don't like to get up on Sunday mornings, act reverently and adhere to religion?  A Church for people who like Christ, but not Christianity? I guess I am at a loss to figure out what kind of people these would be. As I see it, why go to church if you have no interest in church? A look at the website says that one of the core values for this faith community (I won't call it a church, I wouldn't want to drive away all those non-church people from going), is flexibility, meaning (and I quote) "adjusting our methods along the way."

As a Catholic, this kind of talk sends me into a panic.

And I still can't figure out what kind of people these are!? Last I checked, Church for Non-Church People was shopping, or football. Or... sex. To be honest, this kind tactic screams "Neo-Progressive-Social-Justice-Cum By Ya- Hand-Holding- Christianity" to me. Which, if I were not a church person is precisely the kind of church I would avoid. I would just join Amnesty International. I hear Bono likes them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rules for Rules Sake

So today at work, as I was simultaneously (accidentally) breaking my penance that I said I would do in order to be able to eat meat tonight, I was eating a cinnamon gummy heart and dreamily posited "do you think gelatin counts against my meat abstinence on Fridays?" My former Catholic and MS Lutheran (best friends with a Catholic nun) co-workers said that no, it did not. I googled it. It doesn't.
But it got me thinking about rules and following them just for the sake of following a rule. The meat abstinence is was actually revised in the 1970s to say that it had to be some for of penance rather than just not eating meat (except during Lent-- then you can not eat meat on Fridays). I am guessing this had to do with cultural changes that increased numbers of vegetarians as well as people who ate less meat for health reasons. It then became an idea that you could not eat meat on Fridays, or do some other form of penance. Many Catholics continue to abstain from meat, as it was easy to remember and most didn't do it anyway.
The thing about this rule-- like most things in Catholicism-- is that it's all about intent. Doing the penance is supposed to make us think, but what if you're following the rule and not thinking? We're supposed to remember the Passion and Good Friday and also be participating in redemptive suffering, but can we do that when we're just not eating meat because we're "not supposed to?" For example, down south, they have these huge fish fries and everyone gets together and eats fish and hangs out on Friday evenings. Not much of a penance, is it? My grandmother tends to opt for a ham sandwich and a can of soup on those nights. She is sacrificing her fun night out. Up here, The Hubbs and I could easily opt out and have a lobster dinner, but that is not sacrificing anything-- it's a bit lavish and decadent in the name of sacrifice. I actually find that I tend to focus more on what I am supposed to when I mess up on my abstinence or feel like it's not worthy penance.
So the question is, do you follow a rule just to follow it? Or is it more important to embody the spirit of the rule and not the letter? I think some people would argue that following the rule is important, but I think in this case, I will take the Lutherian position that the spirit of the rule is what matters. What's the use of doing something if you don't know why you're doing it, or it's not doing anything for you spiritually? If you can use the rule to bring about a positive change, then how does it matter if you're eating meat or not?
This is a rule I really try to follow, but I really try not to be scrupulous about it. I also know why I'm doing it, so I feel like there is wiggle room. But I really think this is something that can only be absolved through better catechesis all around.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nun-sense

I read recently that, despite what the media (secular or Protestant) might lead you to believe, there is actually a boom in vocations. That is, more and more young people are becoming part of religious orders.
I have done some thinking about this, and I think I know why: our generation needs the stability. So many of us were raised without any real religion, but rather a cafeteria spirituality that told us to be good people according to our own definitions of "good." We were made to grow up quickly, but coddled so badly to where it rendered us almost unable to grow up at all. We were told that we were the most important things in the world, and that if we got bad grades, it's because the teacher wasn't teaching to our personal learning style-- nevermind that she had 24 other students to teach as well. We were products of divorce, of single moms and dads who worked so hard to make our lives comfortable. No wonder some of us grew up, got put on anti-depressants at the first sign of adversity, blamed society at large for all of our problems and then got religion. I think some of us are just comforted by the rules and rigidity that comes with it. Catholicism, at least.
In my family (my great-grandmother's side), I had 3 great-great aunts who were nuns, a great-great uncle who was a brother, and one that was a monsignor. That's a lot of vocations for one family (even though there were 17 kids). When I was a kid, I used to want to be a nun. A lot of this stemmed from movies-- Julie Andrews was a nun, after all. But as I got older, before I shunned all ideas of God and anything that resembled Him, it was something I really thought about. It wasn't a calling, per se, but as a kid it's hard to ignore. I'm married now, obviously, so this is not an option, but I often think of those aunts of mine and think how happy their lives must have been. Modern women, women of my generation (and I would count myself as one of them in some ways) say "women should want more than that for themselves." But my great aunts had college degrees in the mid 1920's-- something very few women had back then. And some orders of nuns now are called to serve their communities through social work and teaching. But what's more, they have time to pursue the things that make them happy: learning and reading and prayer and teaching and travel. Many of them are theologians who research and write. They're academics who don't need grants!
I think our modern sensibilities are scandalized by the idea of nuns. They are so unlike the "modern woman" and yet, I think they are, in some ways, the most feminist women out there. They don't wear makeup, or worry about their hair or clothes or their weight. They can't be materialistic, and they don't worry about men! They live according to their own wills, with educations (most require you to have a BA before you can profess) and assuredness in their life choice. They don't do what society tells them to do and they aren't the woman society tells them to be. And isn't that the true definition of feminist?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rosary Madness!

Here is the second rosary The Hubbs and I made. This one is for a friend of mine who is not technically Catholic, but I think she might be more Catholic than at least a few people who attend Church at my Parish. I chose red because it looks like her, and also it is the symbolic color of the Holy Spirit. I got her a little pamphlet on how to pray the rosary, but I am looking forward to teaching her as well. Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We May Imitate What It Contains, and Obtain What it Promises

I love rosaries. My grandmother taught me how to pray the rosary one summer shortly after my uncle died in 1992. She was serious about the rosary, and still is. It's something that she gave me besides her smile and impeccable fashion sense. I have actually started to collect rosaries because I love them so much. I like old ones, with interesting beads, the kind that look like they might be worn down from years of thoughtful prayers throughout a person's life: for a good husband, a better job, enough money to buy a decent car, to help their loved ones get better, to have a healthy pregnancy, for the repose of the souls of family members who have died,  for comfort in their last days. A person's entire life could be prayed out on a rosary.
The rosary is a Marian devotion, a meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ. I find it helps me think about Jesus and his Mother, it comforts me, and it never fails to put me to sleep. But the rosary is powerful, too. Mary has never failed to answer the prayers I have placed as intentions for a rosary, and if those answers are slow in coming, she has always given me patience and peace in the meantime.
Recently, I thought it might be fun and interesting to make rosaries. There are so many beautiful crucifixes, center medals and beads to put to together and so many saints to make chaplets for. As I have mentioned before, I am notoriously un-crafty. I have many, many creative and crafty ideas, but no real talent for their execution. So when Hubbs gave me a rosary making kit for Christmas, I was a bit nervous. Turns out, I need his help (I can't get the loops to be equal-sized) and he needs mine (he can't get the chain onto the beads), so it's a team effort. We finished it tonight, and I am hoping to make many, many more!