Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fantine is in Your City-Will You Help Her?

On Thursday, I perused the movie section at the downtown library. My husband was planning on attending an event out of town on Friday night, so I was searching for a chick flick, musical, or random awesome movie to watch while he was gone. I'm very picky when it comes to what movies I watch, so I would pick up a movie, look for reviews on the internet, and put it back on the shelf. And then I came across Les Miserables. Years ago, I had watched--and fallen in love with--the Liam Neeson version, so I wasn't sure if this newer version could hold a candle to it. But, earlier in the week, some of my friends had wholeheartedly recommended the newer Les Miz to me, and hey--it was a musical version of Les Miz, so why not?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marriage Is Not a Checklist

A while back (I think it was last year), there was a meme all over Facebook. It showed a picture of a married couple accompanied by a statistic that stated a lower divorce rate for couples who are together for 2-4 years before marriage. I remember looking at this meme and being shocked. Not only did this image seem to portray the idea that it’s better to be in a long relationship prior to marriage, but it also gave forth the vibe that marriage is a checklist.
In a relationship for 2-4 years…Check! Our marriage will succeed!

But this is an erroneous image of marriage. Just because my husband and I dated for five months before our eleven-month-long engagement doesn’t mean that our marriage is doomed to failure! I’ve known couples who were together for shorter amounts of time than we were and have had beautiful marriages. Marriage isn’t one big “To Do” list where you check items off; marriage is a life-giving, sacrificial, loving, sacramental bond between a man and a woman. A couple can go down their “marriage checklist” (NFP, Pre-Cana/Engaged Encounter, prayer time together, etc.), but if they aren’t seeking to love each other totally and completely, then their marriage will not be optimal. In a similar way, a teenager can go through a “chastity checklist.” He or she can go on chastity retreats, read all of the purity books, and sign however many chastity pledges, but if he or she isn’t chaste in thoughts, words, and actions, the whole “To Do” list is meaningless. We need to stop thinking in a “To Do” list mentality. Yes, all of the external things are awesome, and I highly recommend them. But we can’t reduce love to a mere act of crossing items out in our planner.

 (cue rant on responsible parenthood & periodic continence...GO!)

In a few different classes where Natural Family Planning and periodic continence have been discussed, I have heard the same question come up: What are the grave reasons for abstaining? Now, in a way, this question makes sense. We want to follow what God teaches us through the Church, and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything right, that we’re practicing “responsible parenthood.” But this kind of question can tend to look at the “checklist mentality” once again. I get it. When I first started learning about periodic continence in marriage, I wanted to know the list of “Dos and Do Nots” for abstinence, so that I could be a “good little Catholic wife” someday. But responsible parenthood and periodic continence (refraining from sex periodically) aren’t simply about going down a checklist that the Church has created.

In Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI states that:

“In relation to biological processes, responsible parenthood means the knowledge of and reverence for their functions…[psychologically, when involving] tendencies of drives or passion, responsible parenthood means that necessary dominion which reason and will must exercise over them.” 

St. Paul VI goes on to mention that economic and social conditions must be added to the mix as a couple prudently discerns whether or not to abstain during fertile times. 

Gaudium et Spes also says that “The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.”

Does this look like a checklist that God wants us to follow? Actually, when I glance at these teachings, it seems more like an opportunity for couples to grow in intimacy, trust, and prudence. It's an opportunity for couples to discern--using all of the gifts God has given them--whether to enlarge their family size or not (though God ultimately makes the call, because even couples that don't practice periodic continence won't necessarily get pregnant). Unfortunately, I—and other married couples I know—have gone through the gauntlet of random people asking “are you pregnant yet?” or giving judging stares when you’ve been married several months with no child on the way. I think this can happen because people get into that checklist mentality—they can think that because they don’t see a reason for a couple to not be having kids, the couple should then be having kids. 

Married couples need to be generous regarding the gift of life, and they can’t just live lavish lifestyles for themselves and avoid having children. BUT, married couples need to prudently discern all things. Together. And they need to take into account all of the conditions and factors that surround their marriage. Social conditions, emotional conditions, whatever. A teacher once told me that he knew a couple who, when they got married, practiced periodic continence. Their finances were great, so to some people it may have looked ridiculous for them to be avoiding conception. But, one of the spouses was undergoing severe depression, so they deemed it more prudent to practice periodic continence. They needed periodic continence for the good of the person’s mental health. Other people wouldn't know about that, but that's fine. It's not the discernment of other people, but the couple. 

Now, this isn’t to say that a couple should just practice periodic continence because they feel like avoiding children! It’s a loaded discernment (Unfortunately, because the topic is so massive, I’m just lightly touching on it here. JPII writes tons on periodic continence and the virtue of continence, and it would take me a long time and much brainpower to hit on all of his sweet points).

“The use of ‘infertile periods’ in conjugal shared life can become a source of abuses if the couple thereby attempt to evade procreation without just reasons, lowering it below the morally just level of births in their family. This just level needs to be set by taking into account not only the good of one’s family and the state of one’s health as well as the means of the spouses themselves, but also the good of the society to which they belong, the good of the Church, and even of humanity as a whole.” (Theology of the Body audience 125:3)

Love isn’t a checklist. Chastity isn’t a checklist. Marriage isn’t a checklist. And responsible parenthood definitely isn’t a checklist. Just look at all the factors that combine in the realm of marriage and responsible parenthood! Like I said, it’s a jam-packed discernment—for the married couple and God to work together at.
(Since I know some of you are probably thinking a certain question—no, I’m not pregnant. But really, don't even worry about it, when I am pregnant, y'all will be told) :) 

I think it’s super awesome that love, chastity, marriage, and responsible parenthood aren’t all checklists. Let’s be real: To Do lists are kind of predictable, monotonous, boring. (My planner dictates much of my academic life, but it’s kind of dry and bare-bones.) God doesn’t want us to live a humdrum existence; He has crazy plans in store for all of us if we seek Him and His plan with our whole hearts! Holiness isn't just a checklist that you're supposed to go over reach day, but an incredible journey of love, sacrifice, and perseverance towards God. Let’s toss out our “To Do” list mentality, and start living the adventurous epic life of love that God has called us all to!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One of My New Favorite Saints: She's From India, She's Modern, and She's Franciscan

Happy Wednesday, and happy feast of St. Agnes!

This semester, I am abundantly blessed to be in the class, "Eastern Christianity." We talk about the controversies, traditions, and overall wealth of information surrounding Eastern Christian churches. Today, we spent our entire class watching a Youtube video of a liturgy of the Assyrian Church of the East. It's a blast! Being in this class has given me the excuse to research random, awesome Eastern Christian things, because "it's research." So naturally, when I'm blowing off homework by researching cool Eastern Catholic saints, I'm totally justified, right? : P 

I was incredibly excited, the other day, to discover an awesome modern saint. I absolutely love learning about her life, and I would like to share some cool info about her with all of you. Without further ado, let's talk about St. Alphonsa!

1. She was born on August 19, 1910, in the present-day Kerala State (a region of India). And, she was a Syro-Malabar Catholic. (So, feel free to listen to some joyous Bollywood music while you read this post.) 

2. She was baptized "Anna," but her family affectionately called her "Annakutty." Pretty sweet. Her mom died 29 days after giving birth to her, so Anna was raised with her cousins. When Anna was about 6 years old, her grandmother began teaching her about Mary and the saints. Anna's devotion to the saints grew, and she had a special devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux. In fact, St. Therese appeared to her in a vision. How insanely cool is that? 

3. With the appearance of St. Therese, Anna was inspired to be a religious sister. But, her family wanted none of that. Anna had intended to burn her feet a bit on some chaff after the rice harvest, but that resulted in Anna slipping and falling into the fire a bit, which ultimately caused her feet to be badly burned, so that they had to be surgically healed. (Another reason why I love her: I love going barefoot, so I can ask her to help me take care of my feet!) After this incident, her relatives permitted her to enter a Franciscan convent. (Yay! Franciscans!) So, Anna entered the convent on May 24, 1927. On August 2, 1928, she became a Postulant, and took the name "Alphonsa" after St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

4. She experienced many physical and mental sufferings, and offered herself as a victim soul for others. Soon after she made Perpetual Vows (on August 12, 1936), she came down with a severe fever. Her community prayed to the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, and Alphonsa was miraculously cured. She had seen visions of both of these people. (She had two visions of St. Therese in her life. SO COOL!!!!)

5. After a life of suffering (which included a nervous breakdown) and love, Alphonsa died on July 28, 1946. (so her feast day is July 28th)

This chick is so epic. Take a look at some pretty mega legit things she said:

"I had aspired zealously to become a saint. I felt that burning desire after reading the autobiography of St. Little Teresa of Lisieux."

"Like Veronica, I shall wipe the blood stained face of my Lord, with the silken kerchief of my chaste soul dipping it in the aromatic perfume of love and suffering."

"I have chosen novel flowers of sufferings and mortification to offer to my beloved Lord each day. I shall try to collect more and more flowers daily."

"Was it not aloft a cross that my Spouse did die? I too must die upon a cross of sufferings."

"My beloved Lord is dwelling within my heart. Nobody can take Him away from there."

St. Alphonsa, pray for us!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Divine Mercy and the Awesomeness of Love

Happy Monday! I hope that y'all are doing absolutely, totally, and fabulously wonderful! Here's a fun quotation from the Diary of St. Faustina for y'all to munch on this week:

      "Love is a mystery that transforms everything it touches into things beautiful and pleasing to God.  The love of God makes a soul free.  She is like a queen; she knows no slavish compulsion; she sets about everything with great freedom of soul, because the love which dwells in her incites her to action.  Everything that surrounds her makes her know that only God Himself is worthy of her love.  A soul in love with God and immersed in Him approaches her duties with the same dispositions as she does Holy Communion and carries out the simplest tasks with great care, under the loving gaze of God.  She is not troubled if, after some time, something turns out to be less successful.  She remains calm, because at the time of the action she had done what was in her power.  When it happens that the living presence of God, which she enjoys almost constantly, leaves her, she then tries to continue living in lively faith.  Her soul understands that there are periods of rest and periods of battle.  Through her will, she is always with God.  Her soul, like a knight, is well trained in battle; from afar it sees where the foe is hiding and is ready for battle.  She knows she is not alone – God is her strength." (Notebook II, #890)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Beautiful Wisdom of Teresita Quevedo

Greetings! Happy feast of St. Anthony, the awesome desert monk!

Sorry I've been off the blog for a bit; I've been adjusting to the routine of the semester, with classes and homework (though it really can't be called homework, I mean I get to study Tolkien and Eastern Christian churches and all sorts of fun stuff!). And then, I just discovered that this post was supposed to go up a week ago! Yet another occasion where my absentmindedness kicks in :) So, while I get back into the swing of things, here's a little chunk of fun from Venerable Teresita Queveod for your weekend!

 As I'm winding down with my reflections on the life and awesomeness of Teresita Quevedo, (the first woman I've been studying for my "Modern Sanctity" theme in this liturgical year) I want to present some awesome quotations with all of you. When Teresita was a young teenager, she attended a retreat, and the following are some of her notes from that retreat:

“We are made by God for Himself. What a terrible thing it would be to use God’s own creations to offend him!”

“To reach Heaven I must walk along a narrow road—a road of mortification and suffering. Mary, my Mother, take my hand. Lead me along the narrow path.”

“Purity is my ermine cloak. Charity is my diamond crown. Mary is my Queen. Jesus is my King. I am a princess—a princess who is a slave to the Queen.”

On this retreat, Teresita also formulated her personal motto, a major theme in her life, which guided all of her actions: "My Mother, grant that everyone who looks at me may see you!” 

Have a blessed and awesome weekend!!!!!!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Why NFP is Awesome for Single Women!

Today I’m going to talk about a topic that is very near and dear to my heart: Natural Family Planning. I will be speaking about why it’s beneficial for single women to learn. I want y’all to know that I will be extremely vague in respects to the particulars of NFP, so that no one will feel embarrassed, awkward, or go “stop—TMI!”

For many Catholic engaged couples, there are a few things that must be done, depending on what diocese the couple is in: a pre-marriage inventory, an Engaged Encounter or Pre-Cana classes, and NFP classes. Many couples, when they practice responsible parenthood, talk about how they use NFP to avoid conceiving a child. However, these types of statements do not fully encompass what NFP actually is. These kinds of statements actually refer to periodic continence. Periodic continence is the virtue and act of a couple abstaining during times of the woman’s cycle to avoid the conception of a child. When doing periodic continence, many couples use NFP to figure out when the woman’s fertile times of the month are. St. John Paul II has written many epic things about periodic continence, and I’ll probably blog about it sometime. But for now, I’m talking about NFP.  More specifically, why NFP is awesome for single women. To understand this, let’s look at what NFP is. According to The Art of Natural Family Planning Student Guide, “Natural Family Planning is fertility awareness, the knowledge of a couple’s fertility; it is a means of reading the body’s signs of fertility and infertility.”

When my fiancĂ© and I first started attending NFP classes early in our engagement, I was blown away by all of the epicness that was taking place in my body throughout the month. Discovering how God wired my body was amazing! I learned why I would feel different sensations throughout the month, and I would be able to have a good idea—in advance—of when certain parts of my fertility cycle would happen. Whether you use Creighton, Marquette, or Sympto-Thermal, to name a few, the woman/engaged couple is learning about the woman’s monthly fertility. How awesome is that???? 

It seems that NFP classes are always centered around engaged or married couples. And while it obviously is very important for these two groups to know in depth, what about the single women? I mean, is there anything about knowing your fertility that should be restricted to engagement or marriage? If you are a single woman, isn’t it good to know what your body is doing every month? When I started learning NFP, I often thought, Man, I totally could have been doing this for at least the last year of my life. Let’s be honest: When a woman gets engaged, life is crazy and exciting and her fertility signs can go whacko because of added stress or excitement. Thus, at times, charts come up inconsistent and weird. Why not start charting when life is somewhat normal and uneventful—thus giving you an opportunity to really learn about how your body works?

There are some awesome resources about NFP out there. I’m extremely partial to the Sympto-Thermal Method (because it involves monitoring three fertility signs, where most other methods I’ve seen only look at one or two) so I recommend checking out the Couple to Couple League for information about that. Also, Haley Stewart has a series about NFP on her blog, in which various women talk about the methods of NFP that they use and testify to the awesomeness of NFP in their married lives. I encourage reading, reading, and more reading! 

Finally, I highly encourage talking with friends who use NFP about it. In the year 2014, I was approached by several women—engaged and single—who all wanted to know more about NFP and my experiences with it. When I would get an NFP-related Facebook message, I would usually smile to myself and think, My poor, dear friend is going to get more than she bargained for…and proceed to type of several paragraphs about NFP in general and my experiences with the Sympto-Thermal Method. Yes, you may feel a little weird asking a friend about NFP, and that's okay. Talk with people you are comfortable with. Ask someone you trust and are close to, or find out who the local NFP teachers are (you may want to call your parish office to ask if they know) and ask them! Our NFP teachers are awesome, and even though they have eight kids and life is busy, they make themselves available to talk with us whenever we need to about anything. If any of you have questions, feel free to contact me using the message form here on the blog, via Facebook, or in person. 

Ladies, do not be afraid to learn about the epic body that God has given you! 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sacrificial Love in Action: Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid"

Much of my spiritual journey and vocation has revolved around the quotation from St. John Paul II that stands at the top of this blog: “Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” These words are simple, profound, and very true. Love and sacrifice cannot be separated. Even though I did not come across St. JPII’s quotation until I was in high school, this truth has surrounded me my entire life. One of the ways in which this truth entered into my life—besides through the lives of Jesus and the saints—was my all-time favorite fairy tale: The Little Mermaid. I’m not talking the animated Disneyfied musical that’s titled The Little Mermaid; I’m talking the Hans Christian Anderson story of sacrificial love in action. The story that grabs the mind and heart with love, sacrifice, sorrow, hope, and redemption.

I loved reading fairy tale books from the library (still do; I read parts of three different collections of fairy tales over the weekend), and one day when I was a young girl, I found a beautifully illustrated copy of The Little Mermaid. The illustrations were either watercolor or something similar to watercolor, and these images resonated the beauty of the story. Over the years, friends would talk about the Disney movie and sing the music, and I refused to watch the movie. How could I, knowing that Disney contorted a beautiful tale of sacrificial love? Well, when I was 17, I finally saw the movie at a sleepover, and I enjoyed the music and had a fun time. However, it’s not anywhere near the level of epic that the true fairy tale stands at. Sometimes, when I’ve asked people if they have actually read the original story, they’ll say, “Oh, doesn’t she just turn into sea foam in the end?” At which I usually do a mental face palm, and then try to explain the story to them.

So, O Kind Reader, if you desire to hear about the awesomeness of the True Little Mermaid, I invite you to pick up a version of the fairy tale, or if you know the general story, just follow along (I’ve included some direct quotations to give you some of the beautiful language of the story itself. The direct quotations from the fairy tale are selected from Fairy Tales and Stories, by Hans Christian Anderson. The MacMillian Company, 1921.).
So there are six mermaid princesses. And the youngest is—you guessed it—the Little Mermaid. When a princess turns 15, she is allowed to journey up to the surface of the ocean for the first time ever. So, the Little Mermaid hears the stories from her older sisters, and finally journeys up there herself. This happens to be the same day as the prince’s sixteenth birthday, and he’s having a party on his ship. When the storm comes during the party, the Little Mermaid witnesses the frantic scurrying of all those on board the ship as they tried to save themselves.

“She looked particularly for the young prince, and when the ship went to pieces, she saw him sink into the deep sea. At first she was very glad, for now he would come down to her. But then she remembered that people could not live in the water, and that when he got down to her father’s palace he would certainly be dead. No, he must not die; so she swam around among the drifting beams and planks, quite forgetting that one of them might have crushed her.”

So can we just stop right there and think about the sacrifice of the mermaid right here? “Quite forgetting that one of them might have crushed her.” She doesn’t even know the prince, but she sees him, thinks he’s handsome, and then decides to risk herself by saving his life. This is extremely awesome! She then brings the prince to shore, and leaves before he can see who his rescuer was. In the coming days, the Little Mermaid comes up to gaze on the palace quite often, and begins to love the race of human beings. She’s intrigued by the beauty and overall awesomeness of humans. Sweetness. She then questions her grandmother about humans.

            “’If human beings are not drowned,’ asked the little mermaid, ‘can they live forever? Don’t they die as we die down here in the sea?
            ‘Yes,’ said the old lady. ‘They, too, must die, and their life is even shorter than ours. We can live to be three hundred years old, but when we no longer exist here, we become only foam on the water, and have not even a grave down here among those we love. We have no immortal soul; we never receive another life…But human beings have a soul which lives forever, lives even after the body has turned to earth…just as we rise out of the water and see the human countries, so they rise up to lovely, unknown places, never to be seen by us.’”

So the Little Mermaid thinks this jazz about an immortal soul is awesome. She gets really sad, and asks why she can’t have an immortal soul—because she would gladly sacrifice her three hundred year life span to gain a soul and someday reach Heaven. Her grandmother tries to dissuade her from such thoughts, by explaining:

“Only if a man were to love you so that you should be more to him than father or mother; if he should cling to you with his every thought and with all his love, and let the priest lay his right hand in yours with a promise of faithfulness here and in all eternity, you would receive a share of the happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and still keep his own. But that can never come to pass,” she states, mentioning how humans think the mermaid fishtail is ugly. The grandmother then beckons the Little Mermaid to a court ball that evening, trying to distract her granddaughter from thoughts of an immortal soul.

Court ball vs. immortal soul? The Little Mermaid easily sees which is better. She leaves the ball and travels to the dwelling of the sea witch—which terrified her—because she is willing to risk and sacrifice all things for the prince and an immortal soul. So she goes to the sea witch, and sacrifices her tongue for a potion that will turn her fishtail into human legs. However, the sea witch points out, her new legs will be painful.

“It will seem as if you were cut with a sharp sword…you will keep your graceful walk; no dancer will be able to move so lightly as you; but ever step you take will be as if you trod upon sharp knives, and as if your blood must flow.”

The sea witch then explains that if the Little Mermaid does not win the prince’s love, on the first morning after he has married another woman, she will become sea foam. Despite her fears, the Little Mermaid thinks of an immortal soul and the prince, gladly sacrifices herself. She becomes human, and the prince becomes her dear friend. He does not know that it was she who saved him, and he “loved her as one loves a dear, good child, but it never came into his head to make her his wife.” Ultimately, the prince meets a princess and falls in love with her, and as the Little Mermaid holds the bride’s train at the wedding, she can only think about how this night would be the last of her life. As she stands on the ship where the after-wedding party and dance is taking place, the Little Mermaid cannot partake of the festivities.

“She knew this was the last evening on which she might see him for whom she had left her people and her home, had given up her beautiful voice, and had suffered unheard-of pains every day, while he was utterly unconscious of it all.”

After the party, the ship falls silent and the prince and his new bride go into the bridal chamber. The Little Mermaid stands on the ship’s deck and waits for her death at the rays of dawn. All of a sudden, her five sisters rise up in the water. They explain that they have sacrificed their long hair, giving it to the sea witch to save the Little Mermaid’s life. They toss a knife up to the Little Mermaid, and explain that before the sun rises, she must stab the prince’s heart with it and let his blood fall onto her feet. Then, her fishtail will grow back, and she will become a mermaid once again, to live for three hundred years with her family. The Little Mermaid takes the knife and walks into the bridal chamber. She looks upon the prince and his wife sleeping together, and—after struggling with herself—walks away, flinging the knife into the sea. The Little Mermaid has sacrificed her desires to be a selfless, loving woman. The sun rises and the mermaid throws herself into the water, feeling her body dissolve into foam.

But she’s not sea foam.

The Little Mermaid doesn’t feel pangs of death, and instead rises up. She sees hundreds of transparent beings who speak with a beautiful, spiritual melody. They explain to her that she is now one of them, a daughter of air. These beings do good deeds for three hundred years, and then receive an immortal soul and have eternal happiness and joy. The daughters of air tell the Little Mermaid that, since she had striven to sacrifice herself and do good deeds her whole life, after three hundred years of continuing this, she will gain an immortal soul and eternal life & joy. 

“And the little mermaid lifted her bright arms towards God’s sun, and for the first time she felt tears.”

I hope that you can see just how cool the original Little Mermaid is. Ariel may have cute red hair, but the true Little Mermaid has the guts to sacrifice her entire self for the sake of love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do You Have Statisticsphobia?

How many of you, at some point, have heard a phrase similar to the following: 
"Graduate from high school, and go to college--after all, do you want to be flipping burgers for the rest of your life?"

According to a the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011-2012 academic year, 81% of high school students graduated on time with a diploma. So that leaves 19% who did not. I'm sure many high school students and/or their parents don't want to fall into that second statistic. So they find themselves motivated by the presence of the negative statistic and get their work done to graduate. 

When I was a freshman at Franciscan University, I heard a few times--from different students--that a study on marriage and divorce rates had supposedly been done. According to these students, 50% of marriages of FUS students who graduated ended in divorce; hence, what good can come of FUS students marrying each other before or after graduation? While this statistic is totally unfounded (one of our instructors last semester mentioned that he did a study which debunked this rumor), it points to an interesting reality: we let ourselves be ruled by a fear of becoming negative statistics. 

When I was an engaged nineteen-year-old, a few different people--thinking of only my best interest--would tell me about the higher divorce rates and presence of abuse among young married couples. So, they would try to ask me if I really should get married as a twenty-year-old. I mean, look at the presence of divorce out there! Look at the life of so-and-so who had an abusive, young marriage! Why would I want to marry, when I could become yet another negative statistic? 

But if we live in fear of becoming negative statistics, what will our lives look like? Because vending machines killed 37 people between 1978 and 1995, does that mean we shouldn't go anywhere near the machines? Since 41.5 people, on average, die a year from skiing and snowboarding, does that mean we stay off the slopes? The odds of dying due to choking on your food are 1 in 4,404, but does this mean we should stop eating? Just because a person is more likely to die from falling out of bed, a chair, or other household furniture than while traveling by train, should we avoid relaxing on furniture altogether? Statistics can be good; they can help us see areas where we should put forth a bit more care and caution. But letting ourselves fear being a negative statistic, and guiding our lives by this fear, isn't really living. We need to let ourselves be ruled by Someone stronger than this fear of failing, this fear of becoming one of the negative statistics out there. God gives us the strength, wisdom, and grace that we need to go through all sufferings, trials, and challenges. Yes, we fail at times--but God will always pick us up again. 

Don't exist in fear, but live your life in love, courage, and hope! Don't let any ol' statistics keep you from doing the will of God (like getting married young)--prove those statistics wrong! Above all, keep in mind the awesome First Reading from Mass today: 

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another. 
No one has ever seen God. 
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit. 
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. 
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God. 
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world. 
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (emphasis mine)
(1 Jn 4:11-18)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How Single Mothers Have Inspired Me

Since I’ve been on a month long break from classes, I’ve gotten to watch different movies with my husband (when classes are in session, movie nights come on an infrequent basis). Recently, we watched Mom’s Night Out, which was hilarious! It was a fun movie to watch, with several memorable characters. As you can probably guess from the title, the movie focused a lot on motherhood and the dignity of mothers. One of the major characters that the movie focused on was a young single mother. I was super excited about this fact, because throughout the movie, you see different sides to her character and motherhood. I feel like many times, in daily life and conversations, you don't get a very positive image of single moms. Watching this movie spurred me to reflect on the handful or so of single moms who I have known or worked with over the past several years.

As I reflected on these women, I’ve come to realize just how amazing they are. I’m not saying this to glorify fornication; I know and believe that sexual intercourse is made for marriage, and it deeply saddens me when anyone has sex outside of marriage. (Though I need to point out that we can't automatically assume that every pregnant, single woman we meet willingly got pregnant out of wedlock. Abuse and rape are sad realities for many women). I think a lot of times, though, people get all weird around single women who are pregnant or have young children. It is one thing when people are praying and talking with women outside an abortion clinic, but when single mothers wind up in our classrooms, parishes, and workplaces, many people can interact with them inappropriately. Either trying to do a “standoffish” approach or a “let me reminder you continually that fornication is a sin” approach is completely out of line and uncalled for. Single mothers are living, breathing, human beings—why don’t we act like it more often? I think it’s important that we reverence and recognize the beauty, sacrifice, and love that many single moms possess. I want to share with y’all some of the different ways in which single mothers I have known have inspired me:  

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's the First Monday of 2015!!!!!!!!

Happy Monday! I hope y'all are doing awesome and having a great start to the year 2015. I usually don't get that excited about the whole "New Year's celebrations" thing (I mean, it's also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which is way cooler) but it's still exciting that we have put 2014 behind us and have a whole new year, laid before us as a blank slate, waiting to be filled. I've noticed that everyone seems to fill the internet with reflections of 2014, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. So how about I just provide a random smattering of thoughts and events from this Christmas break? 
  • First off, Merry Christmas! Yes, I know what you may be thinking: "Dude, the Epiphany was so yesterday. Christmas is over!" Actually, Ordinary Time doesn't start up again until one week from today (the day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord) so keep up the Christmas music, parties, and music!! 
  • You know what's really cool (though at times, confusing) about Catholicism? Living with a foot in each world sometimes. Or at least, that's what it can feel like. On Saturday evening, Jacob and I rearranged our nativity set, so that the Wise Men were with the Holy Family. On Sunday morning, I woke up and prayed Morning Prayer for the Epiphany. And then Jacob and I went to Low Mass, where we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (the Epiphany is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form on January 6). It was another one of those times where I do feel that I have a foot in each world. But we're Catholic--we're universal! It's exciting to take in all the rich awesomeness of the Faith!
    Photo is from
  • You know what an amazing movie is? "The Hundred Foot Journey." Just watch it. But don't read the book. I only made it to Chapter 4 or so of the book, then threw it down because of all of the graphic, gratuitous sex references and scenes. But the movie is awesome. It blends Indian culture, amazing food, romance, rivalries, deep themes like discrimination, and family into a beautiful, timeless film! And it's completely appropriate for the whole family. How cool is that? 

  • Speaking of food, my husband made me the coolest present ever for Christmas: A giant peanut butter cup!!! I'm not kidding, it weighed a couple of pounds. He used about two bags of chocolate chips, half a bag of powdered sugar (I think it was a 2 pound bag) and a whole jar of peanut butter! We've been eating a little of it each day, and we've only eaten about half of it so far. 
Right after I opened it!
  • Games are awesome. Despite the fact that for the first few days of Christmas I continually lost and failed at games, I now am at the point where I've been winning bunches, which makes it all more exciting. More on the topic of games will come at a later date. Until then, look up "Innovation." It's an awesome game. 
  • Our Epiphany/Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus celebrations yesterday were fun, involving many great things! The Muppet version of "A Christmas Carol" is wonderful. I can't believe that yesterday was only the second or third time in my life to watch it. Such a great movie! Beignets are delicious, fairy tales are great, and Celtic Woman and Seraphic Fire both have fabulous Christmas albums. 
  • My husband and I jokingly talk about how there's only cold weather when non-commuter students are in town. Towards the end of the semester, it got really cold. As soon as students left, we had about a month of flip flop weather (seriously, it felt like Fall for December and the beginning of January!). But now that students are coming back, the weather's gotten cold again. And for the first time since the end of November or beginning of December, I'm wearing socks and shoes. Oh well, I guess it's redemptive suffering? : )