Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

June 29, 2009

Peter and Paul and the Single Life

When I started this blog, and apporached Edith and Julian about contributing, I wanted to do something different from the other "single Christian girl" books and blogs out there--which focused on chastity as the only vritue of the single life. Chastity is important--its a foundation, and for some of us it is the hardest virtue to live with, but focusing in it alone seemed to miss the point. The real question os the single life is not "How long can I wait--do I have to wait--before I have sex?" but "How do I live well NOW?"

Today's readings, for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul really struck me. In the 2nd reading, Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy, he says:
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The real struggle of the single life is to determine God's will for youself, and to give of yourself in a just and gracious way. Then someday we might be able to turn to our friends and say that we have also been poured out like a libation, and kept the faith, but the Grace of God.

June 28, 2009


My apologies for falling off the blogging bandwagon.  This past week I was doing this, and the upcoming week I will be doing this.  And guess who is speaking at the conference?  Immaculee!  I'm in the process of finishing her second book, Led by Faith, that Edith mentioned awhile back.  When I return from Notre Dame I'll be posting up the wazoo about all that I've experienced in the last few weeks.  God has been SO good to me.  Blessings on my sisters and our readers! Thanks for your patience!  

June 16, 2009

More Sad Life News

Yesterday Julian posted a story about a couple suing a pregnancy clinic for not disclosing that their child had Down Syndrome, saying they would have aborted the child.

Now I hear about a young woman who publicly struggled with the shock of her pregnancy, and begged readers of the NY Times parenting blog Motherlode for help with deciding what to do. She writes in her original email:
I’m a 22-year-old college graduate who is about to begin graduate studies at one of the most prestigious and difficult universities in the world. I’m looking at a February delivery — right in the middle of classwork — and by the time I finish my first year, I’ll have a 3-month old. When I start my second year, I’ll have a 6-month old and by the time I finish my program and start looking for a job, I’ll be a 24-year-old single mom...and I’m looking at a very lonely pregnancy.
The post garnered 672 comments, some blunt, others pleading, some sterile, others compassionate. Many urged her to consider adoption, reminding her that there are so many women who are unable to conceive at all. Ultimately (predictably?) she chose to abort the child.

I had two overwhelming feelings as I read this: compassion and frustration. I felt for her. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in that situation: a single woman about to take the next big important step in your life, and it turns out its not at all the step you planned on. I can't imagine being the girl calling her parents to tell her (though I think I can guess how my parents would react: shocked, but generous and supportive).

But I was also frustrated at the false dichotomy in the choice facing her. In her mind she either could have a child she didn't want because she only wants a child when she has a job, a man, better finances or she could not have the child. She did talk with an adoption counselor--so I'm not going to say she didn't consider that option--but even there she couldn't imagine herself giving up something she spends 9 months with and sacrifices so much for. There was no question of life (she even named the Zygote Ziggy--aren't we only supposed to name things when we know them). There was only a question of "do I want THIS life?" She said:
Once I came to the decision to terminate the pregnancy, so much of the guilt and sadness I’d been feeling melted away. I felt happy for the first time since finding out and I feel like my family is supportive of my decision. I’m focusing on the child I’ll have in a few years from now with someone I feel safe with and supported by. The life of that child will be infinitely better than this one and, sometimes, I wonder if such a miserable, lonely woman could even have a healthy child.
I have two things to say: you won't be lonely anymore, and there's only one way to find out if you're up to that challenge. Life is everything. EVERYTHING.

In making the decision she said: "I tend to do my best thinking in the kitchen and my life is currently lacking blueberry pie so I might discuss this matter with a rolling pin and some dough." It reminded me of the excellent film, Waitress where a pregnant Kerri Russel (with an abusive husband) spends most of her pregnancy hating the child, and making pies. The film is a joy. I won't spoil the ending, but I'll promise you it is not a glossy fairy-tale version of this impossible situation. It's rough, its dirty, and, like life, it's beautiful. I pray "Emmie" changes her mind. Because a child changes everything, and that's ok.

June 15, 2009

Let's pray...

...for the change of hearts of the parents and for the child who could feel so unwanted.  And let's pray for all of us who have ever felt unwanted.  Readers and sisters, much love in Christ! 

June 14, 2009

Corpus Christi and the Single Life

Today is the beautiful feast of Corpus Christi - the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Our blog is a forum to think about what it means to be "single, lay, Catholic, and modern," so I wanted to muse about what the body and blood of Christ has to do with the single life.  

If there is one thing that I feel is certain about the single life, that is that there is no real palpable sense of "home."    Singles tend to work or study in various locations...big cities, suburbs, some domestically and some around the globe.  Many of us work to support ourselves.  We have the luxury of specialized study, the ability to think about what we want to do opposed to what we have to do.  We have no real roots down anywhere because we don't have obligations to others besides ourselves.  I've already moved twice since graduating from college, and in reality, I have no real ties to any one location.  All of this "rootlessness" is for better and for worse, though.  To be without obligations is a blessing in that we can serve the people that we're called to serve in our work and social circles, but it is really difficult in that we have no one at home asking of us and for us each day or night in an intimate, familial way.  When we return from work each day, do we really feel like we can put our feet up and feel secure, safe, and wanted?  I don't know about you, but I long for a sense of home on a daily basis.  Today, on this feast, I realized that when I approach the altar, I am going home.  There my king welcomes me with joy and love every time I approach Him there.   When we received the Eucharist, we find our home.  

The other thought that I had about this feast day in relation to the single life is that lay, modern, Catholic women ARE the corpus in the world.  We have the freedom, the time, the energy, and the opportunity to make Him present to others who need Him.  And that includes making Christ present to married people, to clergy, to religious, and to our fellow lay men who are all seeking gentle compassion, intelligent discussion, warm hospitality, and honest observation from women.  Single ladies, be the Body of Christ today, and know what we all have a home at the table.   

June 12, 2009

Internet Recommendations

I tend to be behind the times on good website finds, but I wanted to give my recommendation to two that have become relative staples as I begin summer clerical work.  The first is Catholic Exchange, which provides lots of interesting links, but one especially that helps me focus at the beginning of the day: the daily homily link.  I have to say that the "virtual Adoration" opportunity is not something that I'm going to try, but it is nice to be able to read the Gospel, read a concise homily on it, and get my day going - especially when I can't get to Mass. 

The other website, Pandora, has taken off already, but I wanted to say how great it is to be able to listen to music at work.   They do a really decent job of picking music that I would like based on personal favorites, so I've been exposed to new musicians and composers without my active research.  That, in turn, provides me more time to actually do work than to waste time on the computer! :)  

June 10, 2009

that's what she said

Julian: When I have my own place, I do want a dog. But I guess I should get a husband first. He's a higher priority.
Agatha: Oh, I don't know; you can buy a dog.
Julian: Maybe I can buy a husband.
Agatha: Oh yes, Russian MALE-order brides...

June 9, 2009

Summer Project #1: Purging the Closet

As a teacher I'm rewarded with a few months off in the summertime to relax.  However, I don't do well with "down time," so I've created several "to do" lists for myself, which span from reading lists, sightseeing destinations around the city, improving my teaching lessons/keeping current on material, and home organization.  The latter is the most pressing as I look around my room, and so I'll start there.  

Every single gal needs to purge her closet(s).  I'm sure the statue of limitations on how long one should go before doing it anew varies from girl to girl, but let's face it, there are certain things that we really can live without.  I'm going to take a little tour of my closet and see what needs to go: 

1.  Shoes.  First of all, I need to organize them by season.  There's no need for me to grab my knee-high black boots this time of year.  My second goal is to say goodbye to the shoes that are worn beyond repair.  Now, when I wear shoes, I wear shoes.  Mine rarely last beyond a season because I only ever buy a few, relatively practical and classic pairs for work that also carry me into the nightlife. This continual usage combined with standing for 6 hours straight as a teacher and walking in a major metropolitan city pretty much means wear and tear on the heal, the sole, and the width of the foot.  My goal is to part with the shoes that I simply can't wear for the next fall/winter season, and to make a list of the colors and styles I'll seek at summer's end.  I'm toying with the idea of having one of them repaired.  Any suggestions on when to say goodbye versus holding onto hope? 

2. T-shirts and gym clothes.  I have ENTIRELY too many of these, and as a single woman in an apartment, there simply is not enough room for them.  I don't know why I'm holding onto so many, because only two old t-shirts have sentimental value, and I rarely pull out about 2/3 of my shirts and shorts for running or going to the gym.  It's time to donate those or make them into dusting rags (thanks, Mom).  

3.  Bridesmaid dresses.  Now, I don't have a collection of 27, but I do have quite a handful.  I really don't care what anyone says, but you do not wear these again (and who ever shortens the long ones?).  Let's face it - if you were to wear one again so some hypothetical fancy event, wouldn't you think that everyone knew you were wearing a bridesmaid dress?  I know men don't understand why this matters, but it does.  My memories of the weddings are in my head as long as I have the capacity to remember, and even if that goes, I have plenty of pictures.  Time to donate them to young girls in need of prom dresses, no? 

4.  Skinny jeans (or "fat" jeans).   No, not the style of jeans, but those clothes that fit into the category of "When I lose 10 pounds or if I happen to gain 10 pounds I'll wear these again."I really only think that women need two, maybe three pieces that fit into either of these categories.  The average twenty-something is probably going to be steady in her weight as long as she is active and working.  Those jeans that I wore at college orientation didn't need to account for the childbearing hips that I've since accrued by age 25.  Even if they are only a size or two smaller, my body's shape has drastically changed into that of a woman (from that of a teenager).  Even if I happen to lose weight (and I do fluctuate), I still need to buy clothes that will flatter a figure with different dimensions.    

5.  Trendy pieces.  Trends change faster than they ever did.  In the Twitter Age, it's hard to keep up with just about anything.  My personal rule is to continue to buy classic pieces that never go out of style, and to only spend $15-20 on an occasional trendy piece of clothing.  Those pieces take up entirely too much space in my closet or in my dresser (including some of those "puffed sleeve" blouses from two seasons ago.  I loved them so much, but I'd look ridiculous wearing one out today).  I think it's best to dress up classic clothes with fun jewelry than to waste time or money on pieces that will be history by the time I get to the register to purchase them.  

That's it for now.  Other suggestions are welcome! 

June 8, 2009

Seeing Red!

Because we can't talk about serious stuff all the time, let me just say:

Red Lips Are In.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, I *love* red lipstick. I just don't like other people loving red lipstick. I like being the only girl on the block wearing it--especially because, honey, it looks great on me.

If you want to try the trend, start with these. My favorite: Bobbi Brown Lip Color in, you guessed it, RED.

(Photo by the magnificent and elegant fashion photo blogger, Garance Dore)

June 6, 2009

According to Your Will

I quit my job yesterday.

I slept in till 11, and haven't left the house.

I'm going to a party tonight.

I look pretty awesome. But I feel blank.

(Lord, please help me make all this turn out right.)

June 5, 2009


I wish I was a writer. A writer of fiction, I mean. I would create love stories for all the people I love, and make them work out. Then I'd be an "Emma" only I wouldn't hurt anyone.

I think most women have a bit of the matchmaker in them. I can't claim any real successes--but I can't claim any disasters, either. There are certianly people I was pulling for to get together that did, and are now happily married , with little ones bouncing on their knees. But I'd be lying if I said I had anything to do with it.

I also have a list a mile long, both sexes, of people I want to see married. Of the men, I wish I could marry them all--they are so great! Of the women, well, I just don't understand why men aren't knocking down their doors. And yet none of them really match up with each other.

All the same, I have embarked on a little matchmaking project, and I am happy to say, I think it might work out. It certainly adds up on paper. And the more I think about it, the more I enjoy the idea. If I were a writer, I'd write the ending now. But this is real life, so I won't dare.

June 4, 2009

Mama Mia

I had promised a month or two back to provide some more notes from the ENDOW conference that I attended on the New Feminism, and now that the school year is ended, I can sit and share some things.  

During one point in the conference we were permitted to pick a "mock ENDOW study" of our choice.  I believe one was called "Knowing Your Dignity," another was on Mulieres dignitatem, and the third was a study of Redemptoris mater, or John Paul II's encyclical on Mary, mother of the redeemer.  I opted for the third talk as I had studied M.D. in depth and was pretty confident in my own dignity.  What I received was a brilliant, albeit concise, study on the Blessed Virgin.   Though the study spanned an hour and a half, I'll just provide two main ideas which are very similiar. 

The first thing that was said was that to the modern woman (that's us, folks), Mary can be a confusing figure.  How can she relate to us in the twenty-first century, with our crazed lives, many demands, stress-induced jobs, and quest for purpose and meaning in postmodernity?  Moreover, the modern woman is told that obedience is equated with subjugation and a threat to our dignity.  Here was this young virgin who says, "I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your Word."  Where's Mary's autonomy?  Is she merely obeying out of some subservient, handmaid-y attitude? 

 The answer is no.  To be a handmaid in the Old Testament was to participate in God's unbreakable covenant.  A covenant is never-ending and involves the mutual protection of the parties (and here, since God's pretty set on his own self-protection, Mary's got a good gig going).  It's a good move on Mary's part...a beautiful move...a courageous move.  Moreover, obedience never means subjugation if the person in authority (or the person asking) is loving and wise (in Mary's case, Charity and Wisdom itself!).  To obey, in Latin, means to hear or to listen.  Mary is listening to a call, and she is autonomously responding to it.  God never infringes on her free will.  It's as modern as you can get! 

The second theme that the leader picked up on was that Redemptoris mater primarily defines Mary by her faith.   Though Mary is born without original sin, she is thoroughly human in all other things.  We tend to stop at the Annunciation after Mary makes this grand "yes" to God entrusting her.  But what follows this "yes" is a series of paradoxes and contradictions in her own life that must have made her question that "yes" and the covenant that she made with God.  And if she didn't, then she is a better woman than me (well, of course she is).  Mary's faith, in all of is humanness, was tested immediately after the Annunciation.  She conceives Jesus and while 8 or 9 months pregnant, has to travel (sans SUV) to Bethlehem.  Once she gets there, there is no comfortable place to rest, or to give birth, and so I can just imagine her (this is me projecting me onto Mary!) looking up to heaven and saying, "You want me to give birth to the Christ where?!?"  How confused Mary must have been after her "yes."  After the birth what does she have to do?  Just travel with a newborn to Egypt to flee death and persecution.  Life continues and when her son is in his thirties, his life is threatened as he preaches God's word.  And finally, what must Mary have been thinking as she walked with her son to Calvary?  Would she not have demanded answers from the Father?  What did her "yes" mean then?  Christ asks if He had been abandoned...would not Mary's cry have echoed that, too?  I can't imagine her life, faced with so many paradoxes and contradictions. 

The modern woman, whether single, married, or consecrated, faces such similar experiences everyday.  If we have been privileged enough to listen, hear, and respond to a call from the Father, how often do our lives turn out how we think they will after our own "yes"?  Hardly ever, in my experience.  My own projection about my life looks very different from what is unfolding.   Mary is the model for women in all eras and ages, to trust that when God calls us, He means it, all the way to the end.  

June 3, 2009

that's what she said

Agatha: I bought my first boots at that Lord & Taylor
David: Were they hooker boots?
Agatha: No they were riding boots.
Cecilia: that doesn't answer the question.

June 1, 2009

ToB and the Single Life

Julian, thank you so much for your follow-up on Christopher West--I think the questions you raise are essential, and really reach at the heart of why I wanted to start this blog. In the small Catholic world, especially among college age kids, I saw time and again young woman who idealized sex and marriage because of a (I think faulty) reading of Theology of the Body, largely fostered by JPII Lite. They idealized marriage and sex, talking about it in such lofty theological terms, that nothing could live up to their expectations. This always bothered me; their romanticism was toxic--perhaps it was not perverse sexual fantasy, but it was still fantasy.

I always wanted to hit them on the head and say: Sex is messy; marriage is messy and full of pain (and wonderful in spite of that!); life is messy. If you are lucky, you will marry the best man you have ever known, and he will be your Christ-bearer--bringing you closer to Christ. But you won't marry St. Joseph, and if you expect him to be St. Joseph, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

It struck me as an odd point of view because Theology of the Body isn't really about sex and marriage. Ok, it is--but it is about sex and marriage because they are part of a much deeper inquiry, and inquiry into what it means to be a human, and to live out your vocation, and what that vocation might be based on. These questions are fundamental, regardless of whether you are married or not. And this is what we single girls must take away from ToB: how do I live a good life, and answer the "universal call to holiness." And then we have to go out and live those messy uncertain blessed lives that God has planned for us.

Woman Warrior of the Month June: Immaculée Ilibagiza

This month, I'd like to introduce the Woman Warrior Rwandan refugee, and now American citizen Immaculée Ilibagiza. I don't know if you have ever heard of her, but she's been a media sensation since her book Left to Tell emerged last year. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the media has not featured two new books by Ilibagiza: Led by Faith and Our Lady of Kibeho, who appeared in Rwanda just before the genocide began.

If you have never read Immaculée's story, do so! She survived the genocide of Rwanda in the early 1990's, while her entire family - parents and all her brothers -- were brutally slaughtered by people who were at one time close family friends and neighbors. She was hidden in a tiny bathroom for months with seven other women. Immaculée found the strength to pull through and forgive those who murdered her loved ones. Her weapon of choice: the rosary. There are two particularly moving passages in her story Left to Tell. First, the story her brother's martyrdom at the hands of the Hutu murderers. It's reminiscent of St. Sebastian's death. And the story of her confrontation with those murderers: she forgave. What a woman of strength!!!! Here's a description of her story from her website:
Immaculée's life was transformed dramatically during the 1994 Rwandan genocide where she and seven other women spent 91 days huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's house. Immaculée entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family - she emerged weighing just 65 pounds to find her entire family had been brutally murdered (with the exception of one brother who had been studying out of the country).

Immaculée credits her salvage mostly to prayer and to a set of rosary beads given to her by her devout Catholic father prior to going into hiding. Anger and resentment about her situation were literally eating her alive and destroying her faith, but rather than succumbing to the rage that she felt, Immaculée instead turned to prayer. She began to pray the rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was building up inside her. Immaculée found solace and peace in prayer and began to pray from the time she opened her eyes in the morning to the time she closed her eyes at night. Through prayer, she eventually found it possible, and in fact imperative, to forgive her tormentors and her family's murderers.

Immaculée's strength in her faith empowered her to stare down a man armed with a machete threatening to kill her during her escape. She also later came face to face with the killer of her mother and her brother and said the unthinkable, "I forgive you." Immaculée knew, while in hiding, that she would have to overcome immeasurable odds without her family and with her country destroyed. Fortunately, Immaculée utilized her time in that tiny bathroom to teach herself English with only The Bible and a dictionary; once freed she was able to secure a job with the United Nations.
If you are interested in hearing about this story from Immaculée herself, you can find a list of her public appearances here.
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