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


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!


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.
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.