Thursday, March 31, 2011

When the Holy Spirit V8®-smacked me in the forehead

My sister Christine is a Christian, even with the dog. She is eighteen months younger than me and has always been eighteen times more giving of her love, affection, and generosity than I have.

When she was little and we braved preschool together, she reached out to the "new kids" or the shy kids on her very first day, trying to make everyone feel included. Before she knew much about Christ and the sacrifice on the cross, Christine leaked Christ's Love everywhere.

Tracy, a black lab/German shepherd, is senile and has a hard time going to the lady's room... or more often, she has a very easy time going to the lady's room. Inside the house.

When we don't feed her the food she likes, she refuses to eat for days. Her arthritis is incapacitating her legs and its becoming more and more difficult for her to sit and stand easily. Her solution is to pace all day long.

This dog walks a marathon a day, plopping down randomly with sound like thunder, sleeping for 789 seconds (using the lady's room without her knowledge as she sleeps), and popping up to her feet like we shot a gun over her peaceful head.

Tracy has been in my life for one and a half decades and I love her, but I easily frustrate over her new, old lady quirks. I lose patience with her on a daily basis, though I will miss her when she dies.

Christine, however, treats her like a person. She comforts Tracy when she's at home, she makes trips to the store and restocks her favorite food, she scolds us when we lose our patience with her deterioration, and she shows Tracy the love we abandon from time to time.

I found myself getting frustrated with Christine a few weeks ago. I thought, "You're such a sucker, why put so much effort into being nice to her when she doesn't remember what she's doing?"

The Holy Spirit V8®-smacked me in the forehead.

My sister shows her patience, love, kindness, and effort because she tries to exert the kind of Love Jesus came to Earth to explain. Even though Tracy doesn't have a human soul, she is part of God's creation and is worthy of respect.
(I don't own the rights)

Tracy might claw at the door to go outside, Christine will let her out, Tracy's senility will dissolve any reasoning she had for going outside and compel her to impatiently knock and bark to come back in, all in a span of sixty seconds.

Christine is unfailing and completes this ritual a dozen times an hour, when she's home. The dog doesn't remember Christine's patience, her aide, or her sacrifice, but Christine continues to offer it.

We remember an immeasurably tiny amount of the patience, aide, sacrifice, and gifts of our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

How many times has Satan asked of God, "Come on, just give up! There's no point, see? They don't even notice how much you do for them. Isn't that exhausting?"

He never gives up on us. There's nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He wants us to seek Him, but in the meantime we can witness His sacrifice, aide, patience and clues.

We're prodigal sons and lost coins, even when we don't know it. Praise God and His exhaustive effort to seek all of us!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Less is More

Week Four: Patron Saints

"Less is More" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the fourth post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

A few months ago, Jen Fulwiler created and shared a "Saint Generator" that randomly conjured a saint's name and brief bio for users. She suggested we say a prayer and adopt the resulting saint, giving him or her a little test drive with the impression that we were meant to "get" that saint.

Drum roll, please, I thought. CLICK... St. Thomas More. Hrmpf.

Don't misunderstand: he's a fascinating, intelligent, wonderful man we can all look to for sound words of wisdom. But I already knew about him.

I wanted to get a random saint I'd never heard of and converse with them over their bizarre life. "You had how many animals? And with how many swords did they impale you? Cool!"

Most of my English literature classes in college revolved around the Reformation, so I have read Utopia, heard the story of St. Thomas More from the mouths of secular professors, and danced politely in a discourse with my fellow students about the split from the Church.

St. Thomas More was old news. Or so I thought. In preparing for this post, I realized how my chosen patron saint and this randomly selected adopted saint relate to a recent revelation.

Elizabeth Anne Seton

Like so many things about the beginning of my faith life, I sided with convenience and routine during my confirmation preparation. There is something to be said in support of ritual. 

Even prayers we invent as we lay down to speak to Jesus before we sleep have a pattern to them, all Christians can agree to this. Standing in a circle, holding hands with strangers or acquaintances so that we can join in unity with the words of the Our Father (Lord's Prayer) is a ritual.

Many of you might have chosen your patron saints for spiritual reasons. I picked Elizabeth Ann Seton because we shared two names (cue Anne of Green Gables speech about Anne with an "E").
Statue of Elizabeth. (I don't own the rights)

My name, as the Church recognizes it, is Elizabeth Anne Elizabeth Ann Seton Hillgrove. I received books, medals, and pamphlets all about the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton and what did I know about her after two years of study? 

She was the first American-born saint, her husband died of tuberculosis, and she was the patron saint of widows, against the death of children, and against in-law problems. Dang, I picked a morbid one.

It's possible she will help me with one or more of those (please, with the latter), but the fact that she was a convert from Episcopalian faith begs more of my attention today. This woman faced more tragedy and up-current swimming than many people half as busy as she was.

Her husband died in Italy, where they had traveled to nurse him back to health, and she found herself an Episcopalian widow surrounded by physical reminders of the Catholic Church.

Soon she was inspired, uplifted and felt called to convert, though she would soon be without finances. Her conversion alienated her from the family upon whom she would ordinarily be able to depend.

Liz meets More

Eventually, St. Elizabeth founded the Sisters of Charity and became the first American-born saint at her canonization in 1975. I don't think I knew she was a convert when I picked her for my confirmation, but I'm glad she was.

My "I have this log in my eye..." post addressed my impatience with Protestants. I have a problem and I need God's Grace to reverse it. It's no coincidence that I have faced anti-Catholicism, now I resent it, and both my patron and adopted saint dealt with both sides of the same see-saw.
St. Thomas More (I don't own the rights)

The intersection of my patron and my adopted saint affords me something to reflect upon. How to stand up for the Church, how to attempt intelligent discourse among people with whom I disagree, how to be willing to offer up my suffering or how give my life in martyrdom.

This seems like a coincidence, and of course I'm focusing on this aspect of their similarities, but recognizing the connection between my saints has opened a can of worms. They weave themselves into my day. I'm still learning what this connection means, but I'm doing so with a simple approach.

I just suggest that you recall your patron saint, say a prayer, and click "Show Me My Saint" on Jen Fulwiler's Saint Generator. See what kind of connection is waiting to happen in the Communion of Saints.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I love 1st graders! Week 20

Forgiveness and love: two simple words with humongous baggage.

Today we focused on the seventy-times seven times forgiveness rule and saying we're sorry when we hurt someone. At the beginning of class, they were to take a crayon to paper to color around words on the worksheet that related to "forgiveness" or "love."

One of the words was "sin" and every single first grader asked us what that meant. After we explained it to them a few times, it occurred to me that we just opened them up to committing sin... now that they know that doing something they know is wrong is called a "sin," they can't get away with it using the naive card anymore!

I feel like a terrible person now... but in a different way, I'm glad I got to one of the ones to let them in on that definition.

Perhaps I will pop through their mind when they reflect on the word "sin" when they're driving their hover mini vans through the air, fiddling with the flux capacitor and tasting blood in their mouth rather than yelling at their spouse.

My co-teacher and good friend organized a craft for the day: Forgiveness bugs. "Catch the forgiveness bug!" we wrote on their wings. The kids haphazardly marker-ed all over the little egg carton mounds, designing their own breed of "bug."

I forgot to take a picture of one of the completed bugs, but they looked similarly to this:

They were like this, sans legs. Lady bugs don't even have legs...
When the kids were doing that first worksheet activity and coloring the words related to "forgiveness" and "love," one girl spoke up and said, "Oh no, I just circled sin."

"You can erase your sins, don't you know?" said a little boy who looks like Rolfe from Sound of Music, miniature-sized.

Why yes, Rolfe, yes you can. We can erase the grudges we hold against others as well, just catch the forgiveness bug!

Friday, March 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 21

This week, the Bright Maidens focused on dating and we were humbled by the response, once again! I appreciated support for my commitophobia, which is great because I had already decided to hang on to this quirk :)

This Tuesday we'll discuss our patron saints: how they affect us, why we chose them, who else we have adopted over the years and more. Make sure you don't miss it and LIKE us on Facebook here or over on the right here--->

I'm officially 24-years-old, even though I've been saying that for over 4 months. Something about 23 sounded off for me, so I skipped ahead a little early. I'm going to regret that in thirty years, I know.

I felt so loved (thank you, friends)!

What did I do for my birthday? All of my brain-saver breaks during the work day were spent looking at pictures of my baby cousins. Are they not the CUTEST?

Yes, it's a little lame to direct a whole quick take to another post, but I wanted to make sure y'all saw the review for Jason and Crystalina Evert's How to Find Your Soulmate.

The short version of this review is: you should buy it.

Marc Cardaronella (you think maybe he's Italian?) is a blogger you need to add to your Google Reader. Not only has he been so kind as to plug the Bright Maidens, but he is very active on Twitter and on other blogs.

This week he posted something about a deep fear I have about parenthood titled, "Why Your Kids Won't Stay Catholic." Check it out!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a porn star. Whoops. 

Misleading Easter Bunny has nothing to do with Porn
I found her on Twitter and her story is sad, yet inspirational. Shelley Lubben was in the sex industry for years until she converted both her mind and her heart. 

This former porn star is now married to the son of a Christian pastor and spends her time warning the world of the dangers of this glorified industry.

I feel certain most of the people reading this do not support the porn industry, at least not publicly. 

If anyone who may have stumbled upon this blog because of this misleading picture I posted in this quick take... and you still think pornography is harmless, read some of these first hand accounts from sex industry workers. Warning: short, but graphic descriptions.

Not that I would intend to inspire jealousy in your hearts... but guess which city Jason Evert will be speaking in next week? That's right, Richmond, Virginia.

I cannot wait!


I have a confession to make, y'all: I am so vain.

How vain is she? (Yes, I've seen that show)

I'm so vain that I feel the need to get a tan before the April wedding in which I will be a bridesmaid. Look at this picture (goofball me sent this to goofball bride a few months ago) and tell me I don't need a tan in this dress.

I am half-Irish, one-quarter German, and one-quarter Italian. My skin is pinkish olive: not meant to be pale. I'm so vain that I spent an appalling amount of money on a month membership to a tanning bed.

Serves me right, I got a burn today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: How to Find Your Soulmate

Abstinence, not having sex, has been important to me since childhood. My mom plopped my sisters and me in front of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and pointed out how "the boys sleep in the barn and the girls sleep in the house because boys and girls sleep separately until they're married" at my tender age of three. Boys sleep in the barn, check!

Only in the last year have I realized "abstinence" is not enough. Chastity and the deep love of self that comes from understanding it have been absent from my radar.

The Everts' book, How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul, fills the void often left open by the traditional "abstinence" teaching. The book is for women of all stages of life and I hereby recommend it to all women.

Check the records, Totus Tuus Press, I was one of the first 100 people to order this book on its debut day. Jason and Crystalina joined Brian Butler to write the Theology of the Body for Teens textbook we use for class, so I continued to refresh the page until the "Add to Cart" icon appeared.

When the beautiful book arrived, I dived in and hardly came up for air. The Everts broke up five years of first hand female accounts, advice, and reasoning into twenty-one short chapters outlining the importance of chastity.

Chastity: this is not your mother's "abstinence" talk. This book peels away the layers of justification, insecurities, excuses, and settling that all women use and face. The Everts compiled a book that walks through the mindset of a woman, trekking through her darkest thoughts on the subjects of romantic love and self-love.

Right off the bat, reading the title of the first chapter, "Missionary Dating," made it clear this was not going to be a softball read.

The chapter followed the air of the Bright Maidens' posts about dating, picking out and detailing ten "types" of guys to avoid dating. Among the no-nos were "The Control Freak," "The Smooth Criminal," and "The Fixer-Upper/Problem Child."

It's so easy to let the camouflage cover those red flags when we get attention we've been craving from a guy. This list helps us see A) if we might be settling and B) why it's not worth it to eat from the dumpster instead of waiting for the banquet.

Jason actually uses this dumpster metaphor in a more elaborate description of how this world convinces us to "just do it" and dive in now without consideration for our decisions' consequences. Later chapters like "Grow a Backbone," "Hang Up on Hookups" and "Wear Something Revealing -- Be Modest," weave this concept into the importance of valuing oneself.

Women are not often convinced of their value, at least not until they change X, Y, and Z.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
  • "Once I'm thinner, it will be easier to be comfortable around people." 
  • "When I clear up my skin, I won't be as embarrassed to draw attention to myself." 
  • "If I could just be a better singer, I know guys would like me."
The Everts spend the entire book attempting to realign the damage done by these mindsets. Each chapter builds upon the other, teaching lessons of love, value, and constructing a relationship with God.

All the junk filling our minds separates us from the One who created us. Raking out the junk isn't going to happen in the time it takes to read 300 pages, but reading the tough questions and hard pressing examinations in those pages aims to make us ask: Am I getting all that I can out of my life? Am I free?

Jason and Crystalina gave women the authentic version of Feminine Mystique we've been missing. Near the end of the book, they quote Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste and a woman I had the distinct pleasure of meeting. She wrote:
"A woman with the courage to step out into the unknown, risking temporary loneliness for a shot at lasting joy, is more than a "single." She's singular. Instead of defining herself by what she lacks--a relationship with a man--she defines herself by what she has: a relationship with God." (Eden, 22)
"Abstinence" really means nothing if we don't balance our choices with reasoning. It is too easy to fall when we're standing on a pile of sand. Choose to stand on a rock.

As the Venerable John Paul II once said to an audience of students at Eurasia University in 2001, "Be courageous, fear nothing, and you will not be disappointed."

Consider buying a box of 44 books. Don't faint, the publishers are selling this book individually for about $25 or by the case of paperbacks for $2 per book. The $88 box of books could be a fabulous evangelism tool for any girls, young ladies, or women in your life. I know I will find more than 44 girls who need to learn to love themselves, some for the first time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Christian Commitophobia

Week Three: Dating

"Christian Commitophobia" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

"So you're an actively dating commitophobe who desperately wants to find Mr. Right?"

A friend recently summed up how the world categorizes my dating style. My answer to him at the time was a laugh and a "yes, you got it." But really, the answer is more complicated than that and the end result is: commitophobia isn't always a bad thing.

Break it down:

*Actively dating: yes. I'm getting to know men.

Your mom told you friendship should come first and I think she was right. You know how easy it is to be friends with someone with whom you really connect? Why deprive yourself of the same ease with a significant other? I am getting to know men as friends and taking it no faster than that, for the time being.

*Commitophobe: that's how the world sees me. I have dated several men over the years and I've gotten serious with one of them.

My 24th birthday is tomorrow. This makes me either a late bloomer (first date: age 15 -- pretty early), a weirdo (this is entirely possible, but what would that make you, dear reader?), in a place without a sufficient supply of men (that is not the case for anyone when online dating has graduated to non-sketchiness, for the most part) or a commitophobe.

*Desperately: No. Not desperately. Ouch. If I was desperately searching for Mr. Right, I think I would have found Mr. Okay Enough and married him by now.

Desperation, in this case, would cloud my mind and make me settle because the desperation would be less about finding the right person and more about hunkering down into the idea of marriage.

*Wants to find Mr. Right: check. If God is calling me to marriage, I feel prepared to meet the man I will marry. If He's not calling me to marriage, this post is still a pillar of what I believe about the subject of dating.

I want to be like them

In my teen years and in most of my college years, I felt the ache for the "kind of" companionship I witnessed in couples around me. I liked the idea of holding hands with a nice, cute boy and telling him about my day like the "other girls" did.

To have a male confidant who would be romantic and wait outside of school at the ending bell, leaning against the hood of his car, hand-picked long-stem roses in hand with a poem memorized for recitation... would be divine.

How dreamy this boy would be. He would treat me well, make me laugh, understand my cryptic humor, get along with my family, and respect my boundaries. Finally, the girls at my school would see that someone found me desirable and worthy enough to call me "girlfriend."

Insecurities like this feed like a parasite on most teenage girls. I'm so grateful to have my parents, for without the motivation to remain true to myself, I could have taken that crazy thought train into a premarital, sexual relationship with the first squeaky-voiced, teen guy who would show me any of the affection I craved.

To clarify, I was quite invisible in high school and was especially so in the minds of the the all-boys' brother school down the street. I was invisible, but I still emitted a non-silly air.

Being invisible erases the chance of pursuit by some disrespectful guy, but my demeanor prevented it, as well. A foundation of confidence supported me, though it was hidden under many layers of these insecurities, so the threat of losing myself never followed through.


Naptime with Daddy
My hero, my Daddy, gets to take a lot of the credit for this. He was and is a spectacular part of my life and has built up quite an example of manhood. Any prospects, past or future, tend to pale in comparison.

I dated a few men in college and beyond but I often put the breaks on the momentum of the relationship, hence commitophobe. Of course, this has been an effort to avoid pain but also to avoid dating for the sake of dating.

My father's fervent devotion to our relationship and his relationships with my mother and my sisters prevents me from settling. In fact, he has made finding the right guy nearly impossible because of his example and ability to make me double over in laughter. He's ruined it for lots of men.

Why would I date someone when I can see he doesn't value the foundations that support my father's strong points?

Yes, as my friend from the beginning of the post pointed out to me, it takes a long time to get to know someone. This doesn't mean we launch into an emotional and physical relationship with everyone who shows interest in us.

When we approach dating as a way to get to know someone instead of a mid-life circus act to convince someone to like us, we can reach a level of comfort.

Taking this path allows both parties to "interview" the other in the same way they learn about other friends. If it turns out that there is something missing between you, at least you haven't fumbled through a physical relationship before its too late to get out relatively unscathed.

Another friend once described the ideal relationship between a man and woman like a triangle. As a man and a woman work toward God at the top of the triangle, they're also getting closer to each other.

Seeking to know God helps us grow closer to each other because of the Love that growing close to God fosters.

I have not always agreed with this. In fact, for a time I was pretty cavalier with giving away my kisses and entertaining the idea of dating men who didn't hold value for the walk toward God.

When it came down to it, my deep-rooted "commitophobia" prevented me from ignoring my inner voices and slapping a "boyfriend" label on the relationship.

Now I believe skipping the step of getting to know someone before allowing a physical relationship to try to push it along is counter productive. Kissing is great fun  
because of the chemicals it releases and the bond it creates between two people.

I don't want a bunch of chemicals clouding my mind in the early stage of knowing someone. My mind is cloudy enough. I'm a Christian Commiophobe.

Prepare now

It doesn't take much to set off a teen, but if you wanted to ignite my temper in high school, all you had to do was put on an "Elizabeth's Mom" mask and say the words, "It will happen when you least expect it."

So many other nuggets of my mother's advice have proven annoyingly true, so I've decided to trust that she's right. In the meantime, I'm surrounding myself with a cushion of wonderful, beautiful friends.

My close friends are good, faithful people who help me walk closer to God with each step.

Keeping them around is narrowing my choices in dating even more because I will not be caught off guard or charmed when someone treats me with respect or agrees with my core beliefs. I have a whole pile of those friends at home. Those are now nonnegotiable traits.

This was one of the hardest posts to write and I think it's because these are new conscious beliefs based on the subconscious beliefs I've held my entire life. I've always been a little afraid of getting to close to someone in a romantic relationship.

It has taken years of reflection, but I'm grateful for my commitophobia. I know I won't settle; I know I will attempt to see every friendship and relationship as a journey to Christ and to becoming who I am.

"The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little." -Thomas Merton

Monday, March 21, 2011

I love 1st graders! Week 19

Not only am I surrounded by wonderful, giving, beautiful people, I am surrounded by sneaky people who finally succeeded at a surprise party.

There we were, learning about how important it is to love and respect one another, and knock, knock, knock. My mom and my sister were at the door with the batch of cupcakes they were making before I left for class! They had told me the cupcakes were for some other kind of nonsense, and I believed them.

After years of failed surprise birthday parties, this was a success! I was caught off guard, red as a firetruck, and well-loved. I got to spend my first celebration as a 24-year-old (official birthday: Wednesday) surrounded by people 1/4 of my age and 3/4 of my height. Who could ask for anything more?

On top of that, this was a great manifestation of today's lesson about showing respect and love toward other children of God. Sometimes those of us above the age of reason avoid showing affection or accepting affection when it's offered.
These kids got to see my sneaky friend and co-teacher help my sneaky mom and sister bring a red-faced grin to my face.

They saw us hug and giggle. They also enjoyed one of God's greatest gifts: chocolate cupcakes. Hopefully they hang on and pay attention to these daily displays of love when they leave this blissful stage of childhood.

"...but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' - Matthew 19:14

Respect others and revert to childhood. Love others and let yourself be loved. That is a lesson these kids teach me weekly and I got a healthy dose of it tonight!

I love you, Mommy, Christine and Casey!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Theology of the Body, Week 6

(I don't own the rights)
What is this guy saying?

He isn't saying anything at all. His body is telling you something without words. Because our bodies can "say" things, then they can tell the truth or they can lie.

This week's class was meant to be split up: girls in one room, boys in the other. Just like the third grade cafeteria at lunch time and the sixth grade cotillion ballroom, this was one of those topics with cooties.

For example, teenage boys are unacquainted with the idea of a "frienemy" and when we mentioned this concept to the girls, they all nodded, smiled and giggled a little. They know what a frienemy is and they know their tactics: at all costs, appear to be a friend, while still gossiping, disliking, or otherwise hurting the victim "friend."

This was one of the most on-the-ground topics that the teens could use in daily life, especially in a world that is growing apart from accepting or expecting consequences.

One example the teens heard was that of a criminal. A criminal caught red-handed cannot throw up his arms and say, "Hey, officer, I didn't do it. My body did it." We are not separate from our bodies, we send messages through them every moment of everyday.

Because you can't get more naked than naked with another person, the act of intercourse is your body saying, "I give you all that I have and all that I am." Your body can lie in this case if you allow it to say someone who you are not giving all that you are.
Revisit this post about JP2's play

We didn't discuss it very much, to my disappointment, but the use of artificial contraception is a huge lie we can tell with our bodies (perfect timing for the Bright Maidens topic this week). You're asking your body to lie for you when you make it say, "I give you all that I have and all that I am, but let me put on a condom, first."

We withhold our fertility when we use artificial contraception, meaning we're not giving everything we have. We withhold our commitment when we make love to someone who isn't our spouse.

We lie to ourselves and hurt our own idea of intimacy when we masturbate. Pornography lies to us and we lie to ourselves when we have "intimate moments with a laptop," as Jason Evert says. We lie with our body when we lie with a different person every week.

The goal of this week's lesson is to introduce these teens to the idea of preparing for their future spouse by thinking about this now. If they can commit to loving he or she to whom they will eventually give themselves, they are contributing to the health and strength of their marriage.

In other words: don't be your own "frienemy."

“Man is precisely a person because he is master of himself and has self-control. Indeed, insofar as he is master of himself he can give himself to the other. This dimension – the dimension of the liberty of the gift – becomes essential and decisive for that language of the body, in which man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the conjugal union.” John Paul II (TOB, Aug. 22, 1984).

Friday, March 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 20

Click here to read the original post at

God bless those of you who called the Canadian hospital that was planning to bulldoze and take out Baby Joseph's breathing tube. They released him and Fr. Frank Pavone accompanied him and his father to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. The Catholic hospital is going to take care of Baby Joseph, no matter how long his life is.

If the bulldozing which the Canadian hospitals almost pulled off is any indication of what we have to look forward to with national healthcare (and after the last year I've spent around hospitals, I think it is), it's time to start praying hard.

The Bright Maidens are once again humbled by your response to our series! Keep an eye out because next Tuesday's topic is dating... it should get interesting. I will also publish my review for How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul within a week!

Look to the right (in my sidebar) and LIKE us on Facebook! Julie, Trista, and I thank you!

Consider donating to Caritas Japan. The bishops in Japan have launched an emergency appeal to fund the work needed in the aftermath of the horrible earthquake and tsunami events. I know I don't like donating to organizations when I don't know what kind of work my money is supporting.

Persuasion. This has been my favorite Jane Austen novels (whoops, just lost all the men reading this. Bye, guys!) for years.

It was the last Austen novel I devoured (because how else do you read an Austen novel? These are the original McDreamys) and I've read it twice since then. I realized why I love it so much:

A) I am Anne, especially her faults. Sure, add the blind stubbornness of Elizabeth Bennett to complete the picture, but I am mostly Anne Eliot.

B) It characterizes the kind of commitment to love that the world tells us doesn't exist. Also, we see men with strong reserve for the women they love.

The Crofts have the most amiable and loving relationship of any married couple in the book. Capt. Benwick speaks about a love that would never die and complains that novels illustrate and prove the fickleness of women.
He's hunky, but hunkier in the book.

Anne is quick to point out that those novels are written by men. It's a point that seems to have flipped in this society. We usually hear about the fickleness of men. Maybe we need to start listening to one another more often.

C) Captain Wentworth is a hunk. I mean that in the most respectful and Christ-like way possible....

Thanks for sticking around for that long one. Your reward is 80% off at Ignatius Press.
Cloistered nuns fascinate me. I know our vocations are essentially the result of our life experiences and how we digest them. That's how God says, "Hello? This is what you should be doing. See, I prepared you for it!

I don't own the rights -- these are Christ's brides :)

I have no idea what kind of background a woman would have to lead her to the cloistered nun's life, but I certainly respect it. Kevin has filmed and directed "Cloistered: God's Women of Steel" about a cloister that prays for the world 24/7. Learn more about it here.

This is probably a site built for meditation.... but we can use it for prayer!! When you're at work and you need some time, rather than setting an alarm that is going to mess up your prayer time, try this calming "Do nothing for 2 minutes" site.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When comments haunt your dreams

If you were keeping track, tonight was our sixth Theology of the Body class... but I will publish the write-up on that this weekend. I have something else to share today...

Homeboy McCoy wrote a comment on Tuesday's Bright Maidens post that stirred thought in my mind and the minds of my Bright Maiden cohorts. We think it needs addressing.

Are the three of you currently single? Just to play devil's advocate, perhaps you can invite an unmarried practical Catholic woman in a steady relationship to share her thoughts on these issues. 

I'm reminded of a quote from St. Jerome: "When the stomach is full, it is easy to speak of fasting."

She may have a perspective on the difficulties of remaining faithful to the teachings of Mother Church while grappling with sexual energy. Because love does weird things to your resolve.

My first reaction was a little unfavorable, I must be honest
Julie responded:  
Well, I'll start: No, I am not single and yes, it is definitely difficult to grapple with one's sexual energy when you really, really like a person. But it is possible, as everything is possible with God, and especially when the couple makes communication a priority. It also helps that we are both Catholic (and have the same understanding of human sexuality vs. a past person who liked to tell me how sexually repressed I was because I would not give into his pressures).

I don't really think of single people as having a full stomach- there is an ache to singleness. Love does come with its own complications, but there is a beauty in chaste love that is difficult to grasp when one already has bit the apple, so to speak.

And then Trista responded:  
I agree that it would be interesting to have the perspective of an "unmarried practical Catholic woman in a steady relationship," but that's not needed or a qualifier for the three of us to give our take on contraception and sexuality. ALL of us have sexual energy that we are dealing with and have dealt with in the past, in relationships with attractive, handsome men whom we were crazy about.

(I don't own the rights)
I echo my friends' sentiments. To reiterate the idea behind the blog: we are young, unmarried Catholic women. I love me some mommy blogs, but that's not our niche.

Priests and celibate religious talk about NFP and sex. I teach and write about Theology of the Body on this blog. The teachings on sexuality and contraception are not topics that only people facing temptations can discuss.

I understand the suggestion was to help balance our take on the topic, but I'm here to say I think we have our bases pretty well covered.

We live in a hook-up culture and our age group is most-affected by this moral relativism, while single or within a relationship. I have faced and failed in the carnal temptations in my past. There are mistakes I live with everyday, even everyday I'm single.

Just like a mother teaches her teenage daughter to learn and set up her boundaries on this topic, we must make these decisions before facing those moments of heat.

Loving someone opens a can of wormy temptation; I've lived it. This is precisely why we need to determine our resolve at each checkpoint. The three of us are dating and getting to know men and we have made these decisions about our sexuality, no matter our relationship status.

I really appreciate the devil's advocacy; this is our rebuttal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beyaz Yourself

 Week Two: Contraception
"Beyaz™ Yourself" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day 

This is the second post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

***I'm tempted to not put a disclaimer here. The reason I will disclaim is because I want you to know my intentions are to spread love. "The road to hell" being what it is, I know the diaspora that occurs between intention and effect. I understand many women are on hormonal birth control for medical reasons. Just consider what I'm saying, I'm not attacking anyone... except maybe the interns who concocted this commercial...***

"You know what you want today, but you never know what you might want tomorrow. It's good to have choices..." This is the introduction to the most recent Beyaz™ commercial.

Hey ladies! Life is like shopping! Yeah, in your designer outfits, perfect hair, and thin bodies, you walk around a pale pink store placing life decisions in the shopping cart, one by one!

First stop: grad school. How could you pick up a degree? Well, having sex outside of marriage is a given, of course. Are you expected to complete a degree without the occasional stress release? So, the next logical step is birth control.
(I don't own the rights)

Now, which birth control should I use? According to the Bayer people, Beyaz™ is formulated with a little extra folate. Yup, that's right. Prenatal vitamins built in, just in case you get pregnant.

Good choice! You're hitting the world with a double whammy of responsibility. Wack, wack, take that.

However, as the next shot shows, if you get pregnant, though your baby will have sufficient calcium, he or she will make the diploma fly off into the air to another part of the store of life.

In our walk around the store, we see other admirable life goals like "picnic at a waterfall," "trip to Paris," and "buy a house." People with babies don't do these things. Celibate people definitely don't do these things.

When picking out a significant other, as the label portrays on the shelf, one must choose carefully, but not too carefully. After all, there is a whole shelf of them and you're "protected."

In fact if you had sex and used this birth control, you'll probably go to Paris with the goofy Ken doll you just picked out two tables ago.
(I don't own the rights)
Oh, but watch out. Don't turn down the wrong isle or you'll bump into the stork carrying a purple, heavy-looking sack. Awkward. No need to worry, this birth control is 99.99% effective. Just shake your head at the silly bird and move on.

To be clear, there are no men in the commercial. No wining, no dining, no actual romantic dates, just little miniature ones trapped in glass boxes like action figures.

The women are strolling along, presumably having sex figuratively as they walk in this dream-like state through the store without concern.


Why would a puritan like me disagree with this "freedom" these women have over their own bodies? The world tells us, "Sex is natural" and it is.

Let's talk about what is unnatural. Birth control. Contraceptives. Separating an entire reason for the marital bond in order to use your significant other, husband or wife for pleasure only. That is unnatural.

Literally: look at the ingredients in hormonal birth control or barrier contraceptives, ask a 3-year-old to pronounce it for giggles. Then ask a 15-year-old to pronounce it. After that, try pronouncing it yourself.
Woooo blod clots. Actual Beyaz girl.

Crystalina and Jason Evert break down the carcenogenic that is "the Pill" in this article and I highly recommend it if you're looking for a scientific answer to your question.

As a sneak preview, hormonal birth control can cause heart attack, blood clot, stroke, liver cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, headache, bleeding irregularities, ectopic pregnancy, weight gain, mental depression, yeast infection, changes to the curvature of the eye, excessive hair growth in unusual places, loss of scalp hair, acne, partial or complete loss of vision, and more.

Put that in my shopping cart, right away!

My ex-boyfriend, who is very involved in the pro-life movement, once exclaimed that the anti-contraceptive voices should be detached from the pro-life movement. Detached.

No. The pro-life movement gives away too much when it says contraception is okay.

It means we're okay with irresponsibility. You can have all the pleasure you want without "risk," but if biology WHOOPS gives you a baby, then you have to start being responsible. Let's be clear, a baby is always a potential result of sexual intercourse, even if it's "protected." A baby is never the result of not having sex.

Unless you're Mary.

The only "safe" sex is that between two people who are entirely committed to one another. This doesn't include people who are paying rent together, people who have bought meals for each other, or people who met ten minutes ago. This includes those bound in matrimony.

Two bound in matrimony are not granted permission to lust for each other and "have at it." That corrupts sex. They are invited to share in God's gift of making love, or the "intimate sphere," as Alice von Hildebrand calls it. This is only fully realized when the two unite in pleasure and understanding that a child may result from their physical manifestation of love.

More pet peeving

You know what is most annoying about this commercial? Most of the things that these women are shopping for are related to men. If you're so independent and you haven't been "duped" by your biology like those of us who are oppressed by abstinence, why are you still tied to how a man sees you and how you spend time with a man?

The picnic by a waterfall and trip to the "most romantic" city in the world are certainly supposed to be shared with one of the Ken dolls in an earlier shot. How are you more independent with this birth control?

I was going to share with you the video for the commercial, but it has been removed. I can't find it anywhere. Perhaps they made a sour choice and now they see the backlash?

UPDATE: John Jansen found it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I love 1st graders! Week 18

The Ten Commandments: As drawn by 1st graders

1. 1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.

"That guy has two gods."
Zoom if you must.

2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. The girl who looks just like me drew a picture of a guy with a big blob of brown coming out of his mouth. She said he was being pushing into the ground for saying something bad about God.

3. Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
Impressive, is it not?

4. Honor your father and your mother. The girl who drew this one included a picture of her bearded father and her mother. I've seen them both, it was fun to see them in cartoon form.

5. You shall not kill. The kids were jumping to be the one to draw this one. It's the one they most easily remembered. Heard in classroom 210: "That's a girl who is burying her friend because she killed her." Nearby the grave was a road sign labeled, "No Killing." Obviously the state should invest in larger signs.

6. You shall not commit adultery. Let's not pretend this wasn't a tough one to explain. My brilliant co-teacher decided we would say this means we should value our relationships and be kind to one another.

7. You shall not steal. 

Yellow robber on the right says, "Let's steal." His friend replies, "No."

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. I half expected to see a grizzly bear on the page, but the student did a good job of explaining lying with crayons.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. Another tough one... The boy who drew for this one drew two people saying hello and giving each other bombs... My co-teacher made sure he drew a big "No" and pointed to the less than neighborly gift exchange.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. The boy who drew for this commandment showed two children playing and sharing together. "Thank you for sharing your toys," one said. "Your welsldkfjaljasdf," he replied.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dear Pooh

I haven't stopped laughing since we found my baby sister's journal from her days as a 6-year-old. She only wrote on about 10 pages, unfortunately. I take that back, I would have a hernia right now if she had been a more diligent journal-writer.

The front of the "diary"

Dear Pooh,

Tonight the bizzard stated buy git getting icee a wuel. Jan. 2, 99 Blizzard of 1999.

Oh, we're just getting started.

Dear Pooh,

Today is valentins day I'm pritty icsidid but I'm cinda dicapoitit because I nevr got to do my valintins today. Buy!

That should give you an idea of the Richmond accent, as heard and regurgitated by a 6-year-old.

Dear Pooh,

I am releafed that Elaine is okay. Alex is on our soccer team axsdentlie He kicked the ball into Elaie's face. She got a bloddy nose and I was in goal and I saved the ball with my pinky.

I wonder if Alex really kicked that ball in Elaine's face axsdentlie or not.

Dear Journal,


Rain is such a funny thing. Too much of it floods, too little of it drought. That's we're going through right now; a drought. Tonight it's powring and it looks as if our coldosack is Lake Michigan. Since its so dark I'm pretty scared.

We lived in a cul-de-sac.

When my parents got home, if I had been wearing black and white I would have looked like a sun-burned penguin. g2g (got to go),


Friday, March 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 19

Click here to read the original post at

...because Kassie and Eli are going to join the Church at the end of this season! Yay!!

Tina from Vita Consecrata is on her way to a discernment weekend with an religious sister order in Tennessee! I'm so happy for her! Send your prayers her way. I know this week was slow for her and I know she'll have a fulfilling and FUN weekend!

The ladies of Bright Maidens are truly humbled and appreciative for your attention to our first posts in the Lenten series. If you haven't seen them yet this is Julie's, this is Trista's, and this is mine.

The NC Register posted a link to each of our posts, as did the Stacy Trasancos posted excerpts and links to our posts, as well! We're very humbled!

Next week's topic is CONTRACEPTION so please come back on Tuesday and stir the pot with us. Then comes dating, patron saints, our issue(s) with the Church, saving sex for marriage, and finally, a surprise post!!

Got writer's block? Get some brain Drain-O.
(I don't own the rights)
If Pandora, a neurologist and a psychologist (walk into a bar... no, wrong line) sat down together with some ice cream sundaes, this would be the result. That may be how this was born, who knows? All I know is, I'm running low on songs that I won't skip on "shuffle" and this refreshes my musical palate.

A friend of mine who is a devout and practicing Catholic at Harvard University (you thought such people didn't exist, didn't you?) sent me this poem by T.S. Eliot, "Ash Wednesday." He instructed me to "read it, several times."

So I say to you: read it and read it again.

I've gotten a few comments on this blog, through email, and in person that concern me...
This picture is a lie.

I'm sorry to report that I did not actually swim in the Beijing Olympics. But in the same vein, I'm happy to say that my Mac did such a good job superimposing the picture of the pool that I fooled you all! Muhahaha...

At one point, the Beijing Olympics were my goal. I can't say I got very close, but I aimed for them.

Spring is coming.

(I don't own the rights)
As a spring cleaning goal and a Lenten goal, I'm going to take a look-see at these prayers, transcribed in English and Latin.
In nomine Patris
et Filii
et Spiritus Sancti. Amen

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grandmother Kaleidoscope

Week One: Women and Their Relationship to the Church

"How It Feels to be Catholic Me" by Julie at The Corner with a View
"A Relation of Love" by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
"Grandmother Kaleidoscope" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day 

This is the first post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Also, today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day! May we all rejoice in our feminine vocation, and properly appreciate the males in our life too.

This whole series was born of the idea that non-Catholics, and some Catholics, believe women in the Church are repressed or oppressed. People say women are under-represented or not represented at all.

These people are telling me I am a part of a faith that wants to tie an apron around my waist, prevent me from seeking independence from pregnancy, and stay put in the kitchen, silent and subservient.

A) If you try putting me in the kitchen, you're only punishing yourself.
B) No one is going to be able to silence me. I have no intention of becoming silent and
C) The Church's teachings do not "condemn" women to these seemingly inescapable futures. We're going to discuss it over the course of Lent (and beyond, I hope).

The strongest arguments I have to refute this stereotype are the examples of my grandmothers, two cradle Catholic ladies who never met.


My maternal grandmother was a cheerleader, a charmer, and a funny, independent woman who asked my grandfather one day, "Emil, don't you think it's about time we get married?"

I learned a lot about my strong maternal grandmother Thelma when my Emil Daddy joined my sisters and me for dinner one night, scrapbooks and anecdotes in tow. He spent hours relaying stories and opening up wider than he'd done our entire lives. It was obvious the 50 year old scar burned in him by her death was still tender and pink.

Thelma had ulcerative colitis, which confined her to bed when she wasn't in class in her teens. She was a cheerleader, against the will of her doctor, and she participated in other traditions ingrained in the small Catholic high school experience.

At this, my alma mater, my grandmother was a "sponsor" for my grandfather when he was a senior at the boys' Catholic military school school down the street. This "sponsorship" duty was very time-consuming for someone who was supposed to be in bed, but she was determined. As a sponsor, she served as the female presence for the company of young teenage boys that my grandfather led.

I have a yellowing newspaper clip from our local paper titled, "And a kiss too." The picture frame hugs two figures, my grandmother and my grandfather, as my grandmother broke military protocol and planted a kiss (with her foot popped) on my grandfather after he won a military drill competition.

To remain sane when her parents managed to keep her resting in bed, Thelma would make rosaries for people she loved. I have a little cardboard box filled with the silver wire, beads, and a few of her finished products. She created the delicate plastic rosaries I can hold in my hand today.

Her job as an X-ray technician gave her independence and she kept it after she married my grandfather. Her Mary Poppins spirit didn't fade. She pushed through a debilitating disease, charmed my engineering and very German grandfather into a love that survived the 50 years he lived without her, and lived her faith through her infectious personality.

Her choice to conceive children was ill-advised, according to her doctors. The strain would kill her, they said, after a lifetime of ulcerative colitis. I can imagine her eyes rolling and a flick of her hand as she said, "I'm having children, don't be silly."

She chose to raise her children in the Catholic faith. It was a decision she discussed with my grandfather when her children were toddlers before the last six-month journey to her eventually lost battle with colon cancer, at the age of 27.


There were more women than men at the foot of the Cross. Jesus revealed Himself to the woman at the well as the Messiah before He said it to others and Mary Magdalene was the first person to see and speak to our risen Lord on the third day, Easter Sunday (for more, see this article).

"Feminism" has nothing to do with it. Just like the apostles were ordinary men with great faith who spread and fostered an entire Church, these women were faithful and wholehearted followers of who they knew to be the Son of God.

My "Gramma," the strongest woman I've ever known, was not oppressed simply by being born a female.

My Gramma Tappie is my only grandmother I've met. My mom was a toddler when her mother died, so Gramma is also a mother to my mom. The old stereotype about evil mothers-in-law never made sense to me because the example I grew up watching was one of love, albeit a firecracker, spunky love.
I repeat: firecracker, spunky...

The one-liner queen of the East Coast, Tappie's wit flicks tension out of any room. I don't know where she found that wit because I hear her father was a troubled and abusive man and her mother remained faithful to him, even when his tempers got the better of him.

Tappie found and married my grandfather (the other grandparent I've never met) in her late twenties and began a life with many challenges. For years, Tappie had to make less than $8 last a week for her four person family.

At one point, Tappie had to step into the role as the protector in order to fulfill her motherly duty of keeping her children safe and well-loved when she packed up her two sons and their suitcases.

By the grace of God, that phase of their life did not last long and the two spouses united again. I'm convinced her strength in that moment, which could only be motivated by God due to the lack of support from friends and family, is what turned the situation around.

The importance of a Catholic education superseded Tappie's desire for comfort or little luxuries, so she saved every penny to pay the nuns running the grade school and high school (the same boys' Catholic military school down the street from my grandmother's, my mom's and my alma mater).

I've watched her sacrifice and do work for others my entire life. Now, when she cannot do much for herself and I can contrast her helplessness with her formerly active lifestyle, I see that she was even stronger than I thought.


Mothers would traditionally teach the kids... therefore popes had their starts under the tutelage of their mothers. Women are cornerstones in every single parish I've ever visited, teaching, organizing, and selflessly giving to maintain the breathing life of the parish. You're going to tell me women have no influence on the Church?

My grandmothers were abnormally vocal, stubborn, and decisive for their era. They alone debunk the submissive stereotype for Catholic women in their person. But their examples also raise the awareness for the vast impact women have on the Church.

They chose their role as mothers, though both actually had trouble with pregnancy because of medical reasons. They were determined to raise their children in the Catholic faith, even when trials in their path made the easier, secular option more appealing.

Their husbands were in awe of them. They were partners, but these women were the foundation for my parents' childhoods. They are the foundation for my adulthood.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I love 1st graders! Week 17

A few blurbs from this, the pre-Ash Wednesday 1st grade class:

*"But why do they call it Good Friday when they killed Jesus that day?" -- This is the same girl that sparks almost every 1st grader post I write.

*There is a copy of the Crucifix of San Damiano on the wall in the room.

We start talking about Good Friday and how they hung Jesus on the cross.

Teacher: "Do you know what they put on Jesus' head before they hung Him on the cross?"

1st grade boy having a seizure with arm in the air: "Uh, a... sun... thing?"

* We went into the church to learn about Ash Wednesday and they knew they were going to be crossed with ashes on their forehead. This is the South, not very many of these kids have more than a gas fireplace. The concept of "ashes" is almost foreign to them.

Over heard:
* "They're going to burn paper in church."
* "Are the ashes on my head going to be hot?"
* Teacher: "Does anyone remember which color we use during Lent?" 1st grader: "Black?" Pointing to freshly crossed forehead.
* Teacher: "If we we wanted to draw a drawing to show Easter Sunday, what would we draw?" 1st grader I: "A cave" 1st grader II: "Jesus going up to Heaven." 1st grader III: "A big rock." 1st grader IV: "Jesus, on the cross, inside an Easter egg."

They were really good today and I would love to do a full post about it, but I have to get ready for the BRIGHT MAIDENS series for tomorrow! Remember to click over to Julie's and Trista's blogs for their version of tomorrow's (today, if you're reading this on Tuesday) theme: Are women in the Catholic Church oppressed or repressed?

Friday, March 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 18

Click here to read the original post at

You have something to look forward to.

Not only will you get the annual meditations and beautiful traditions and scriptures of Lent, but you will also see a new series with Julie and Trista.  

What does it mean to be a woman in the Church? 

Keep an eye out on Fat Tuesday. 


Many of you are joining me from Conversion Diary (Hello to those who are new!), so it's likely you're Catholic, blogging, and ready to mingle in this cyber-Community we are developing!

The Venerable John Paul II pointed out the need for the New Evangelism and social media is a spectacular, effective, and cheap way to be a part of this movement. A new resource has popped up to help you make the most of the new media and your Catholic (or non-Catholic Christian) faith. Drum roll please...

(I don't own the rights)

Give it a look-see.

If you noticed... good job!

If not, let me point your attention to... exactly where you're looking. I changed the design of my blog because, apparently, a dark background is a turn-off for blog readers. I think it's cool, but I'm bending to the will of the people. I'd love some feedback!

I also bought and redirected this to my own domain. Soon I will have a less "Blogger" layout... if only I could physically paint or draw these designs. I'm not very handy with the digital art.

You may find this hard to believe (you shouldn't), but I only miss the dorky stuff about college:
(I don't own the rights)

*I have yet to meet another person who enjoys finals week (um, excuse me. At what other point in your life will you have ONE purpose: surviving while studying? College kids complain, but their lives are easy). 

*Academic writing. I had the formula down pat and I liked trying to create a new thesis statement. 

*The enclosing feeling of standing between two library shelves, the books on which haven't budged in 5 years.

However, I do miss looking forward to spring break.

My skin smells like chlorine and it might as well be crack-cocaine.

After a 3 month hiatus from the pool, I swam this week. It wasn't a long swim, but it was beautiful and helped me clear my head. As I've mentioned before, my natural state is in the water. I need to avoid forgetting that again.

When I got home, I went through my old photos of when I swam in the Beijing Olympics. I hope you enjoy them:
Overlooking my turf.

Getting mentally prepared.
You have to relax sometimes when you're kicking butt.

Ahh what a satisfying world championship.

You may have seen this post about my weekend with teens preparing for Confirmation. I'm curious about what YOU were thinking on the retreat prior to your own Confirmation. If you went on a Confirmation retreat, tell me about your experience!

This little boy was born in LA, adopted by Filipinos, and grew up in the Philippines.

It goes to show you that color ain't no thang.
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