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

September 30, 2009

The Truth (not Truthiness) Will Set You Free

I'll say it again: I love Stephen Colbert. One of the words that his television persona has coined is "truthiness," as in, "The truthiness will set you free." Although this idea's absurdity is only compounded by Colbert's delivery of the term, I've been thinking about how hard it is to speak the truth with charity.

This week I had to hand back papers to my students. It was their first go around writing a philosophical paper, and some of the girls just could not for the life of them construct a sentence, let alone present an analytical argument that involved thoughts, not feelings. I was honest with them about their strengths and weaknesses, but I would not compromise on their grades despite the waterworks that were turned on (more like the pipes that just burst!). Though the girls can re-write their papers with the help of my suggestions, this was the first time, or so it seemed, that many had experienced a teacher showing them that could not do something on the first try, and that they actually needed to work to learn something. It is hard to be up there with 18-year-old girls, who I usually have in the palm of my hand during my lectures, looking up at me with disbelief (and dislike!). I know in the long run that standing my ground is going to serve them better. It's hard to tell the truth when you know that you will not be met with appreciation (at least not immediately).

I've also had to be honest in the past year with a few friends which has put me in sticky situations: one friend knows the truth that she is called to though she is living a life adverse to it; another whose relationship is really very unhealthy; a third who speaks down to me and berates me when I try to help her. In each of these situations, though different, I try to act as a mirror for them when they ask me for advice or want me to comment on their lives; I try not to speak with judgment, nor to pass it, but rather to hold up a mirror for them to see themselves in. So far, that has been a difficult task, and for the most part, my telling of the truth has not been met with gratitude. In fact, I have lost two of these friendships in the process. It is hard for me to live out the Gospel imperative to speak the truth in charity. Today if one speaks this truth, even with love, he or she is considered judgmental. I wish, somehow, we could separate these two things, as they do not have to go together. I wish it weren't so hard to tell the truth. Perhaps my friends don't want to hear it, or maybe they have cut me out because they did hear it.

In any event, pray for me that I, too, know this Truth and am set free from my own need for approval. Pray that I can perfect pure love for others.

September 28, 2009

More for the Playlist

I feel like the resident music reviewer! I just downloaded the most recent (although about a year-old) album from Snow Patrol called A Hundred Million Suns, and I highly recommend it! I love Snow Patrol for their instrumental versatility, lyrics, and ability to put me in a good yet always-reflective mood. I think they are the perfect soundtrack for any road trip. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. You can tell why giving up music during Lent is a really difficult thing for me!

Read This

What Does Woman Want? by Mary Eberstadt, in the most recent issue of First Things.
The summer marriage wars go deeper than a mere empirical slam dunk about kids and broken homes. . . . It amounts to two charges made repeatedly, almost always by women and with many echoes elsewhere in contemporary sources: first, that the combined pressures of motherhood and marriage and breadwinning are just too much to bear; and second, that many of today’s marriages—that is to say, marriages made among enlightened, older, educated, sophisticated people—are a sexual desert. . . . Perhaps some of the modern misery of which so many women today authentically speak is springing not from a sexual desert but from a sexual flood-a torrent of poisonous imagery, beginning even in childhood, that has engulfed women and men, only to beach them eventually somewhere alone and apart, far from the reach of one another.

At least that way of looking at the puzzle might explain some of the paradox of all that female unhappiness. Between bad ideas of gender neutrality and even worse ideas of the innocence of pornography, we reach the world so vividly described by Sandra Loh and many other dissatisfied women: one where men act like stereotypical women, and retreat from a real marriage into a fantasy life via pornography (rather than Harlequin novels), and where women conversely act like stereotypical men, taking the lead in leaving their marriages and firing angry charges on the way, out of frustration and withheld sex.

September 26, 2009

A Little Bit Random.....

I apologize for a little randomness in my post today. But I had an insight that I wanted to share. Yesterday, I went for a run around my campus, and I was getting frustrated at my so very out of shape body. There was a perfectly in shape girl right in front of me. My thoughts: "I hate this....why do I have be sweating it out, huffing and puffing, while that girl with the perfect body struts confidently right in front of me....ugh!" Then I was listening to Agatha's musical suggestion: Ingrid Michaelson's 'Are We There Yet? Probably not the best kind of song to listen to as I was trying to get motivated to run.

But as I was listening to this song, and remembering Agatha's words about how this song spoke to the sentiments of homelessness so many of us have in out twenties -- it hit me. Homelessness. Is it a single person's dilemma? Maybe to some degree. But aren't we all in a state of homelessness? At the risk of sounding like a post modernist or Heideggerian, let me explain. St. Augustine speaks of this life as a 'peregrinatio' or pilgrimage -- we are never at home in the world, because our home truly is life with God. We are pilgrims going to Rome or to the Holy Land - visiting holy places in an attempt to know God more and more and to seek His face, because it is Him that we seek. Sometimes, we even try to fill our lives with hopeless distractions and things that we think can take the place of we truly seek, and we desperately hope that these will make us happy. So maybe the twenties are time in life when experience this homelessness in a unique way, but I think our homelessness is a perpetual human state - well, at least as long as we are living in this world.

September 25, 2009

Books on Marriage

Just a quick note today-- I will reply to the Male/Female Friendship posts - I promise!! The debate is wonderful! But for now, I just wanted to link a few good books on marriage that I am using to prepare myself and one book that might be great for the male/female friendship question -- and on marriage too! I promise book reviews once I've read them too!

On Marriage

John Paul II's play called The Jeweler's Shop. Recommended by my parents!

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's Marriage: The Dream that Refuses to Die. This one I am just finishing up!! Awesome! Keep an eye out for more on this one soon!

Eugene D. Genovese's Miss Betsy: A Memoir of Marriage. This is a memoir of the marriage between Eugene and Elizabeth Genovese written by her husband after her death. What got me hooked on wanting to read this one was this teaser quote "Eugene Genovese confesses that "time does not heal all things," but he also affirms that is was on the day of his "improbable blind date" with Elizabeth Fox that "the Holy Ghost pronounced my sinful soul worth saving.""

And finally -- on the friendship between man and woman (and I am guessing also on marriage) is Dietrich and Alice Von Hildebrand's Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy. Recommended by a friend who read it! I get the feeling this one will help us in our current male/female friendship debates! Lots to look forward to!!

September 24, 2009

The Laws (well, bendable laws) of Attraction

Agatha, I like the "So what?" response to my "What if something develops?" post. It actually calmed me down a significant amount. There really can be no fear about something developing if we are loving as God asks us to love. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Perfect openness to the will of God leaves no room for anxiety. You're right -- my job as a single woman is to try as best as I can to love what God loves and wills for me according to His reason and providence, and that is it.

That being said, I do think that if a single woman and a single man are introduced or meet socially and there is some type of physical attraction present on either (or both) end(s), then the type of relationship which might ensue cannot properly be called a friendship. Even if I were to cast out all anxious hypotheticals in my own head, the fact is that the man is inevitably thinking or feeling either sexual attraction, indifference, or repulsion, and may not be "open to a friendship or open to seeing how things develop." I don't think there is a neutral space in the male-female relationship for friendship like there can be for a female-female relationship. Attraction, and the opportunity or possibility of acting on it, inevitably changes the game.

The "What If?" Factor

Continuing our discussion of friendship between men and women, I wanted to bring up something Julian discussed in her post: The "What If"? Factor. Julian said:
I won't go as far as Harry and say that sex is actually the thing that gets in the way of a friendship, but I do find myself always wondering, "What if?" What if something romantic were to bloom? Could something develop? This happens with men that I meet socially... In my experience, there is always a question of "What if?"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: does it matter? I don't think so.

Ok, obviously it is a problem if the only reason you are friends with a person is because you hope someday he will wake up and realize that he wants to marry you and you can be happy forever having lots of babies and living a life of bliss.

But the vocation (blessing and cross!) of the single life is one of "openness to the will of God." What does that mean concretely? For me, it means going with the flow, pursuing friendships and seeing where they lead.

All relationships have a progression, and part of that progression in friendships between men and women is a possibility of "something more". But I'm also fairly certain that at some point in that friendship you'll realize (pretty finally) that there is no "what if."

(nota bene: I've added a new "tag" for this series of posts. Find them all here.)

September 23, 2009

The Power of Prayer and a Good Confession

This week has been a hectic one - so I am sorry that I have been MIA this week!! I was reading through Agatha's post on sorrows, and it resonated with me especially the part about confession. Well, let me also back up. Today is the feast day of St. Padre Pio, who was one of the most prominent confessors of the twentieth century. So, I thought it might be a good day to reflect a bit on confession in his honor, and in thanksgiving what the Lord accomplished and continues to accomplish through this most powerful saint. So, I too, was able to go to (a much needed!) confession this past weekend. I was running late and rushing, and almost did not go because I thought I'd never make it, but something in me (Guardian Angel, perhaps?) kept urging me to GO! So, I did and I just made it. And golly, did that priest tell me just what I needed to hear.

I am just so grateful for our priests! This priest is a young -- and by young, I mean both in age and in his priesthood -- but God truly gives His wisdom to His little ones. And this priest is so humble and loving - and he just reminded me of the essence of it all - God's love. I left that confession with a feeling of freedom -- true freedom, that I suppose we should always feel whenever we leave confession. I literally could feel the joy of the Holy Spirit returning to my soul in a time when Peter and I have been going through many trials in our preparation toward marriage. And if that was not enough -- God is so good! -- last night I went to a charismatic prayer group with Peter at our parish. Now, I have usually been one to be somewhat skeptical of the Charismatic renewal, but slowly, the Holy Spirit is opening my eyes to understand His power. Yesterday, we prayed for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which renews and rejuvenates what we received in the sacraments of initiation. When the others prayed over me, they gave me the reassurance of God's joy and mirth in my life -- and through me to the lives of others. So here's to the joy of the Lord!! And thank you, Lord, for your bountiful goodness!!

Culture of Life

I wanted to pass along a link from the scholar Helen Alvare, big pro-life and pro-family scholar and lawyer. She just informed me of her website on the Culture of Life. It would be nice to look at and discuss during these 40 Days for Life!

Sorry so short, but I have Back to School Night!

Prayers :)

September 22, 2009

A Short Post

I have been thinking all day of something profound to post or some deep, intellectual article to comment on, but all I have the desire to say right now is that I am content in my vocation.

Well, not in the way that you think, seeing as I still feel a bit restless about my single status. I am truly content and grateful for my vocation to be a teacher. It feels so natural to be in front of students everyday, imparting whatever knowledge that I've gained along my short little way so far. Even more than that I love to pose questions and watch them discover Truth together. It is such a privilege to stand where I do, watch what I do, hear what I hear, and see what I see.

The peace I feel about my vocation, even despite the daily struggles and trials, is providing me with a sense of the freedom that God gives us when we follow His will. I am thinking that I will know this peace in my vocation of marriage. It will not be perfect everyday, probably not any day, but if it is truly what I'm called to and I work within it with a lot of heart behind it, I will experience this type of freedom that I experience now. For now, I ask God for peace within this single state, and for the desire to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

Off to grade papers...

40 days for life starts today!

Just a quick reminder that 40 Days for Life begins today. I don't eat regularly enough to fast, so I am going on a shopping ban for the next 40 days, in honor of 40 days for life.

I'll be adding an image to the sidebar to remind everyone to pray for an end to abortion, for all the women, and families affected by abortion, and for those who witness to the truth of the sanctity of life!

Come Holy Spirit, Creator of all things...You who breathed over the waters at the dawn of creation and brought forth all living beings...You who filled the apostles when the Risen Lord breathed on them on the first Easter night, giving them the power to restore life to those dead in sin...You who, on the last day, will breathe again over all the dead and raise them from the grave--Come! Come and breathe on our world again, immersed as it is in the Culture of Death! Come, O Lord and Giver of Life! Defeat the works of death in our midst, that abortion may no longer stain our land.

We worship You, O Holy Spirit, and we rejoice in You. We know that no matter how strong the forces of death may be, we can still find in You the endless source of life. Renew that life in each of us, and make us worthy apostles of the Culture of Life in our day! Amen

(From Priests for Life)

September 21, 2009

No Sorrow Like My Sorrow

The words "There is no sorrow like my sorrow" have been echoing in my head for the last week or so. All weekend long, I have had that phrase in the back of my head every time I was tempted to indulge in self-pity, or weakness, or laziness.

Sunday's mass, then, was a great relief. I got there late (stupid metro), but they offer confessions at the beginning of the mass, so I was able to pop in during the homily. "I absolve you of your sins." Those are powerful words too, and bring so much peace. In the mass we enter into the sorrow of the Blessed Mother, and indeed of God the Father, who watched his Son die on the cross, and the sorrow of Jesus Christ, who wept for all our sins.

When I got home, I learned of a friend's miscarriage.

"There is no sorrow like my sorrow." It was said of the Blessed Mother. But what of all mother's who loose their child? I can't even begin to understand that pain. And I don't know how I'd bear it without the Cross.

September 17, 2009

A Day in the Life

Thank goodness for (some of) my students. Today, just when I really needed a laugh, the following occurred in my classroom during a discussion about a current event on in vitro fertilization for women past middle age:

Me: ...Well, we'll actually be talking about that when we introduce sexual ethics. We'll talk about something called natural family planning and regulating birth.

Student A: Is that when people eat their children? (Pause, and then the entire class erupts in laughter). Wait, what is so funny about that?

Student B: What are you talking about?

Student A: You know, like Jonathan Swift and the need to eat your babies.

Me: No, well, um, natural family planning is regulating family size and spacing births without using contraception.

Student A: Oh! You said natural family planning, not natural famine planning!

A Soldier's Website

Thank you all for your continued prayers for my friend, Dan. His family and friends are trying to get the word out about this website/blog for him. Feel free to look at it at your convenience. It helps to have a face to a name to intensify our prayers for an individual whom God loves so much. You are all in my prayers as well!

Hard to be a Woman

Yesterday, in my 3 month evaluation, my boss praised me for being even keeled and steady. But today, in a meeting, with an outside consulting firm, I cried.

We were discussing a project I had been working on. I understood perfectly what was being discussed--we needed to entirely restructure the work. I understood that they were not knocking me or critiquing my work--in fact they admired it--but at lot of changes had to be made that I never could have been aware of. And there I sat fighting back tears. Then my boss said: "Are you all right?" and I said "Yes" and he said "No you're not." and then I really started crying.

And then they were all so nice to me for the rest of the meeting.

I cannot honestly tell you why I broke down like that. More than anything I am embarrassed--not to have been seen crying, crying is natural and I'm not ashamed of it--but to have been crying over such a seemingly little thing. My boss, I don't have to worry about; I know he thinks well of my work and is grateful for it.

But the others! Goodness, I already feel out of their league in terms of knowledge and experience. And this project is actually something I know about, and I worked hard on it. But there I am crying like a baby for no apparent reason.

On the other hand, at my last job I never would have cried--I was too angry all the time to cry about anything. I remember thinking again and again: I should cry when I get home. It'll do me good. But I never could.

Crying shows I care. I'll take that. And a kleenex, please.

September 16, 2009

Bills, Bills, Bills

I promise not to link to the old Destiny's Child song in the this post. Instead I want to write about the modern, single woman and her finances. It's SO important to know what is coming in each month, what has to go out for regular bills, taxes, and necessities, etc. I think it's easy to say, "Oh, my husband will take care of that when I get married," or to just pity yourself for having to do it on your own. The reality is, we have to work to support ourselves, there are bills to pay and things to be done, and no one can keep track of your money besides yourself.

I used to be so good at keeping my checkbook balanced, and while I'm good at keeping on top of the checks that I write, I have fallen prey to checking my balance online. I feel less secure not knowing exactly what is coming out of my pocket when I swipe that check card at the grocery store. It's so easy to get into the bad habit of losing track.

Anyway, I'd like to keep a strict budget for the next few months so that I can be conscientious about saving money for emergencies and just to put away. A few questions:

1) Do you use any software or have any organization tools that you use to stay on top of your money?

2) I'm all about clipping coupons. Any other creative ways to save a buck here and there?

3) How do I stay on top of money without becoming frugal? I am averaging being a bridesmaid in a wedding about every 3 months, and I like to be generous with all of the things going on with these events...and I like to be generous with my money with other people. I'm afraid that if I start counting pennies more strictly, it'll lead to frugality, and that is the last thing that I want!

September 15, 2009

A Shocker Over a Women's Magazine

I happened to be in a coffee shop and found a the September 2009 edition of the popular women's fashion magazine Marie Claire (which I don't hyperlink, simply because I could not find an online edition). Anyway, two stories shocked me in a slightly good and hopeful way. One story was just a little bleep about the up and coming trend on modesty in fashion. It featured the program called Pure Fashion, which I had never heard of before. According the article, it is a new movement that targets teen-age girls and is affiliated with a Catholic lay organization called Regnum Christi. I was shocked that the same fashion magazine featuring a spread of Ashley Olson in her undies had such an article -- and spoke positively about it!

This issue also featured a section inspired by the recent murder of abortionist George Tiller . It featured two women's testimonies. One who chose life, even though her baby would be deformed and would die within hours after birth. And of course, one who chose an abortion by none other than the infamous Tiller. I was impressed by the woman's testimony who chose life -- it was beautiful, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. The woman who chose abortion was equally heart-wrenching, although there was nothing beautiful or inspiring about it -- it was depressing. Her baby was deformed with a genetic defect, and she aborted. She was a Catholic from Louisiana -- an extremely Catholic state. Her testimony did not vilify the Church like I expected, but some of her last words in the article were 'I don't even feel Catholic anymore, which another issue in itself." Heart-breaking. Truly, truly heart-breaking.

Anyway, I was surprised with this issue of this typically trashy women's mag. (And what is up with me delving into the typically trashy stuff these past weeks, anyway?) I wouldn't recommend running out to buy it, it still has plenty of trash. But it certainly made me slightly more hopeful that perhaps women are truly starting to change things for the better. I wonder if the recent murder of pro-life activist James Pullion will inspire a follow up for the Marie Claire editors...I am not holding my breath, though.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the Our Lady of Sorrows, and in honor of that day, I want to share with you all my very favorite Marian hymn. It is an arrangement of the Angelus, written by Franz Biebl, performed by Chanticleer on their album Magnificat.And I think it is utterly transcendent. Take a seven minute break in your day and meditate on this:

September 14, 2009

Can Men and Women Be Friends: The Agatha Take

(This is continuing the discussion first posted by Julian about friendship between men and women. Here are the other posts: 1, 2, 3)

When Harry Met by far my favorite romantic comedy. I love Billy Crystal; I love Meg Ryan; and I love the idea that romance blossoms out of friendship. (Emma is my favorite Jane Austen, too. Again: friendship rules.) Should I ever fall in love and get married, I hope I fall in love with my best friend.

You might be surprised then to hear my answer to the question "Can men and women be friends (without "sex" getting in the way)?". Yes. Absolutely.

I saw this from personal experience, but also from an understanding of virtue and chastity specifically. I am very blessed to have a very old very dear friendship with a guy who is as dear to me as a brother. But that's the key: in highschool I remember consciously thinking: "I could have a crush on him. But I don't. And I won't--because I want to stay friends with him." From that point on our friendship took on a fraternal character. It is a deep and intimate friendship, and there is nothing that I wouldn't tell him, but it is a chaste and brotherly friendship. We even talked about relationships--when he was courting his wife he asked my advice about long distance stuff. And when I was in a serious relationship, he wanted to make sure A. passed his test. His marriage hasn't changed anything, either, since I was lucky enough to gain a dear friend in his bride.

He is, perhaps, the exception that proves the rule. But since his friendship is the first I ever had with a boy (we were still kids when we met), it formed me deeply. From that point on, I think I accepted men as friends first and potential spouses second (if at all). I don't want to preach here, but this really seems to me to be the only sensible way. I hate being considered as potential dating material, and then, when found wanting, thought of as a possible friend. And in approaching men as potential friends I have been lucky enough to foster some deep friendships with single and married men alike--and I would be incredibly surprised if they ever turn out to be anything more.

In the hook-up culture, sex really does always "get in the way" because the sex makes you skip all the steps in between. Suddenly you are physically united to someone you hardly know. Or, if you do know them, it will dramatically change the nature of the friendship. (For Harry and Sally--because its a comedy and comedies always end in weddings--sex violated the friendship, but then made Harry realize that he loved her too much not to marry her--and reminded him that sometimes sex does mean something--and then ended up married and happy.)

C. S. Lewis talks about friendship as the one type of human love that is completely a gift, meaning that man doesn't need friendship to survive. We need familial love so that we may survive our childhood. We need erotic love so that we may procreate--these are animal loves (only not, of course, since we are rational and therefore not simply animals, but you know what I mean). But we don't need friendship (or caritas for that matter). If caritas is the theological love, then friendship is the human love: it is natural, it fulfills a deep need for companionship, and it has a hand in every good relationship we have--be it with your colleagues, your classmates, your spouse, your family. Familial love without friendship becomes a distant and lifeless obligation. Erotic love without friendship quickly burns out.

So, can men and women be friends? Yes, absolutely. At some point that friendship will probably change, and take on a new character. For Edith and Peter it is took on a romantic character, and now they are getting married. But that doesn't mean you have to be bothered by the question: what if? Take him as he is, love him as he is, and don't be afraid of who you are, and live chastely. Then the friendship will grow into whatever God wants it to be.

September 13, 2009

The Best Commercial on Televsion

I can't find it on YouTube, but I've seen a commercial on television about three times this week (and I don't watch too much tv!) encouraging parents to talk to their kids about sex -- and to tell them to wait until marriage. The website for this promotion is here.

A little about the group sponsoring it is part of a national public education campaign to provide parents with the information, tools and skills they need to help their teens make healthy choices, including waiting until marriage to have sex. Nothing is more important for a child, pre-teen, or teen than a caring parent. If pre-teens and teens are going to make the choices that will help them grow up to be healthy adults, they need parents to talk with them about important topics like sex and relationships. is meant to give parents the information and guidance they need for having these conversations was written by the Office of Public Health and Science, with expert consultation, and in response to public comment. is sponsored by the Office of Public Health and Science, Office of Population Affairs, and the Public Health Service. "Teen Chat," and "Parents, Speak Up!" guides are the result of a collaborative effort between the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of Population Affairs, Office of Public Health and Sciences.

September 12, 2009

Oh, The Period of Adjustment

They say that when you get married, you go through a 'period of adjustment' when you start to live with another person. I am sure that is true -- but I think that engagement also is a period of adjustment. Things obviously become more serious, and my fiance and I are making an effort to get involved in one another's interests in a new way. For example, my fiance LOVES football, and I could care less. I live in a college town where football literally dictates the schedule of the entire town, well no - the entire state and the lives of everyone from that state. Don't plan your wedding for football season in my state, or no one will come.

Anyway, I have been making a HUGE effort to actually get into football - and it is so hard! In fact, right now, I am sitting with my fiance watching football - but I am writing this blog post. What do you do to get into what your spouse (or in my case future spouse) loves? I am making an effort -- and I am gonna have to be around it for a lifetime, so I guess I should try, right? And he does too. Marriage and prepping for it is a work, but a wonderful one.

I found some consolation in reading a little article about marriage by Louise Cowan. It's called 'Marriage As a Creative Work.' She speaks about as a professor of literature, but the essence of the article really drives home the point about the purpose of marriage. Here's a snippet of what Cowan says:

I am maintaining that this mysterious phenomenon of becoming “one flesh” occurs only in marriage, not in any relation outside marriage. It is not a property of sexual love, then, but of marriage. Marriage is an actual, very real vocation: its task, primarily, is not just the happiness of two people, or the establishment of a family, or even the salvation of two souls; but the construction of an entity, which constitutes a sacred area within society, a territory within which the divine may pitch its tent. (Recall Abraham and Sarah; the Holy Family.)

I find that with all the hum drum of daily life in preparing for marriage, it's so helpful to put into perspective the sacramental aspect of married life, and to remember the purpose of what we are all trying to achieve: salvation.

September 11, 2009

Not Out of the Woods

Please keep up the prayer vigil for my friend who is set to arrive in DC any minute. His poor mother and sister are meeting him, but reports are that his injuries are far worse than anticipated earlier in the week. I literally have no idea how this will play out, so please just pray for his healing in whatever way he needs it, and pray for everyone's consolation. This waiting is so hard, and as I told my friend, this whole week has been like the longest Good Friday ever. I just have no idea how and when Easter will come.

Thank you.


I have a confession to make -- I watched a Sex and the City episode. Now, you might wonder -- 'Who cares?', but for those who know me -- I am known to say that Sex in the City exemplifies and encourages everything that is wrong with women today. And I vowed not watch it -- but I happened to catch an episode called 'Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda' that is all about women and abortion. And it struck me how callous these character were about abortion. Let me give you an example.

In the episode, the high powered career woman Miranda gets pregnant by an ex boyfriend and decides to abort her child. The sweet housewife Charlotte is trying to get pregnant but cannot, so she is devastated when she hears that Miranda is getting an abortion. The writer and narrator Carrie Bradshaw admits that she had an abortion to her girl friends, but won't admit it to her boyfriend, because she does not want him to judge her. The sexpot Samantha admits she had two, doesn't care, and then goes on to gush details of whatever sexual liaison she had the night before. The only redeemable character is Carrie's boyfriend, who thinks it's horrific that Miranda won't tell the father of the baby that she's pregnant and wants an abortion.

But Samantha and Carrie have a conversation about abortion that just knocked my socks off how callous it was. It went something like this:

Carrie: "I had one when I was 18, I mean it was a waiter's kid. Like I could ever have a waiter's kid. I mean, can you believe I could have a 13 year old right now?"

Samantha "Honey, you did the right thing at the time. And you have to think about yourself! Everyone has had one, I mean I had two!"

Carrie: "I know, I guess I did do the right thing, I mean, I simply could not have been the mother to that waiter's child. I mean, it was a one night stand!"

Finally, Carrie concludes this: "As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost. And when that happens, I guess she has to let go of the coulda, woulda, shoulda, buckle up and just keep going."

Wow. Is that the only conclusion? Is Carrie Bradshaw the representatives of most women's views about abortion? Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? I guess to some degree, Carrie is right -- sometimes we do need to let go of those 'might have beens,' but is abortion just one of those things? I certainly don't think so. So, I guess my initial conclusion about that show is right -- indicative of many things wrong with women today....

September 10, 2009

broken promises; so read this

I promised J I would post this week about the question she posed to us earlier this week concerning friendship between a man and a woman. But I have to break that promise, because I just don't have the energy tonight (and I've been writing so much today I don't know what I think about anything anymore). I promise. I'll post it on Monday.

Instead let me direct your attention to two fascinating articles:

1) EPPC Fellow Colleen Campbell wrote a great article about teen-idols and marketing to young girls. She dubs the problem the Britney Spears Syndrome:
Call it the Britney Spears Syndrome: A fresh-faced ingénue with a modicum of talent amasses a passionate following of pre-teen female fans. Parents, relieved that their daughters idolize this tame teen queen instead of her older, raunchier show-biz sisters, buy up the budding star's CDs, movies and themed merchandise. Then, just as they have given their daughters the green light to mimic her every move, the star morphs into a sultry vixen infamous for onstage exhibitionism, striptease photos and misadventures with booze and bad boys.

Given how often this syndrome afflicts young stars who get their start with Disney, it should have come as no surprise when 16-year-old Miley Cyrus, of Disney's "Hannah Montana" fame, appeared this month at FOX's Teen Choice Awards pole-dancing atop an ice-cream cart in micro-shorts and black leather boots.

The stunt was the latest in a series that have eaten away at Cyrus' squeaky-clean image, from her topless photo last year in Vanity Fair to risqué pictures posted on her MySpace page. Some parents have expressed astonishment at Cyrus' transformation from schoolgirl to sexpot, but it is a simple matter of economics. Sex sells. And the sexualization of girls -- from cherubic-faced teen idols like Cyrus to their legions of even younger fans -- is big business in America today.

The same marketing ploys that entice grown women to spend millions on anti-wrinkle creams, baby-doll dresses and fashion magazines touting boyish, pre-pubescent figures as a female beauty ideal are used to sell their preschool-aged daughters thong underwear, padded bras and pole-dancing kits. Grown women feel compelled to look like schoolgirls even as schoolgirls feel pressured to look like grown women. This phenomenon, known in marketing circles as "age compression," has been profitable for the fashion and entertainment industries. But it has had devastating effects on young girls.

2) Kay S. Hymowitz (who I've mentioned before) has another great article, this time on low-income fathers in the workforce:
For obvious reasons, poverty policy has concentrated most of its attention on single mothers and their children. ...Low-income men were another story. They became, in the words of social scientists, increasingly “detached” from the workforce—and increasingly poor. Work is key to keeping men out of poverty, just as it is for women, but by 2005, a mere 16 percent of men below the poverty line were working full-time and year-round, and the majority reported no work at all. Making matters worse, a large proportion of low-income men were noncustodial fathers. ...Yet welfare reform’s methods for encouraging moms to work don’t apply to dads, since, for the most part, they aren’t dependent on government benefits in the first place.

(Read the full article here.)

In the meantime, lets' continue to pray for Julian's friend, for his healing and safe return, for the comfort of his soul and for his family. And especially let us pray to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton patroness of the Navy, who sent two of her sons into the US Navy.

September 9, 2009

More Prayers, Please

Please keep the prayers going for my friend. Things are still critical.

This passage comforts me so much, and I hope it is of comfort to those who anyone who is grieving anyone or anything. Martha's reaction to Jesus is something that I do myself... accusing God of failing to prevent evil. I am always, always comforted by His response. John's Gospel has kept my faith alive in dark times. Thank you, Father, for your Word.

September 8, 2009

Prayer Request

Sisters and readers,

Please pray for a dear friend of mine who was horribly injured in Afghanistan today. He is currently in critical condition and his life depends upon our prayers for his healing, in whatever spiritual, physical, or psychological form that takes. Please pray that God's will be done. Many thanks.

September 7, 2009

On the Friendship Between Men and Women

I absolutely adore this post, Julian! However, speaking experientially, I am not sure that I can agree entirely with your conclusions here. I too, experience great friendships in grad school with married men, but I found these relationships are entirely limited to a professional level. The real friendships I have had is with their wives. I find a cordiality exists between men and women our age, but I am not sure that 'friendship' in the highest Aristotelian sense can exist between men and women beyond a certain age.

When I was young -- and by young I mean in my tweens/junior high, I felt like definitely guys and girls could be friends. I had tons of guy friends, as well as girl friends, and as far as I was concerned, there was no 'sexual tension' that people would always talk about. It struck me as so weird that the 'girlfriends' of my guy friends would actually get jealous, because, gosh, really, we were just friends.

But then, as you get older, you start to learn about guys. And the 'guys' turn into men (or so they should). And things change. I have a theory that no guy wants to be just friends with a girl. He's always interested in something else. He may really want to woo her and win her love. He may, like Harry asserts, just want to sleep with her. But one party or another, I think, always ends up wanting something else. And if she lets him, he might even pretend to be 'friends' just so he can keep the opportunity open. I experienced this first hand with my now fiance. He kept saying he wanted to be 'just friends,' and I was falling deeper and deeper in love with him. He always acted like a man trying to court a woman, but always remained in the 'just friends' category. I tried to be satisfied, really, I did. But I loved him so much, I knew that when he starting dating someone else, I'd be the one heart broken -- so I was prepared to cut it off entirely. Luckily, he decided he really loved me too -- and the ending for us is happily ever after...

But at that time, there was 'another guy' was 'just a friend.' His motives must have been more, because the moment I starting dating my fiance, he stopped all communication. And really, would it have been appropriate to continue the friendship with one party feeling that way? And here's another question (I can give my opinion after I get yours!) -- Can you stay friends with an ex? What about when you start dating someone else? At what point does friendship with the other sex just become inappropriate??

Happy Birthday, Agatha!

Quintian tried to break Agatha's vow of purity by having her live for a month in a brothel. All efforts to dissuade Agatha failed. Despite the pressures place upon her, Agatha survived this ordeal, placing all her trust in the power of God.

The consul then ordered that she be beaten and that her breasts be crushed an cut off. Afterward, Agatha was consigned to prison where Saint Peter appeared to her in a dazzling light and healed her wounds.

At finding her cured the next day Quintian asks her: "Who has cured you?". To which she replied: "I was cured through the power of Jesus Christ". Quintian screams in rage: "How dare you speak the name of Jesus, when you know it is forbidden?". "You can only offer sacrifices to the Roman gods". To which Agatha responds: "Do you think, you fool, that I would adore figures of stone, and deny the God of heavens who healed me?".

O St. Agatha, help us to know the God who heals!! Bless our Agatha on this day of her birth and all days and deliver her in all of her trials! Happy Birthday, Agatha!

All our love,
Julian and Edith

Painting: St. Peter Healing St. Agatha

Dating Dilemmas

I think my letter to Dear Abby would read as follows:

Dear Abby,

I am a 25-year-old female with serious dating issues. This was made apparent again last night after I spent an hour talking to a young man at a local establishment. The upstanding guy was a real gentleman, and I was intrigued by his life story. But when it came time for him to ask for my number, I found myself giving it to him with hesitation. "Oh my goodness. What if he actually calls me? What if I actually like him down the road?" Immediately my head started spinning and I realized that I actually have a fear of things working out with the opposite sex. How weird for someone who also has such a strong desire to be a wife to someone.

This was also made evident to me when I was talking with my mother, who indicated that from the stories that I relayed to her, when any guy I've been seeing or talking to for any length of time really begins to want to get to know me in a more intimate way, I usually find reasons why I no longer want to see him and justify my sudden change of interest. I'm acting like a runaway bride...or a runaway date!

Dating Disaster

...Seriously, I can't figure out why I do this, and I need suggestions how to stop. Does anyone else ever feel this way or pull these stunts?

September 5, 2009

Some More Women Warriors on Abortion and Health Care

Here is great (well, also sad) Youtube video of some women giving their testimonies about the damage abortion has done to them. Fr. Frank Pavone and the Priests for Life organization produced it to give us all an idea of the repercussions that abortion inflicts upon women -- especially in view of what the proposed Health Care Reforms would do for the abortion industry. Let's listen to the voices of our mothers and sisters and inform others to make the right choice about health care reform!

Can Men and Women Be Friends? More Thoughts...

Lest I be accused again of not actually getting the conversation started (that's for you, Agatha), I'll post my thoughts on the matter.

In my head, the question has two answers: 1) yes and 2) no. I'm going to be speaking from experience, because, really, that's all I've got here.

In graduate school I was blessed with two really great friends who were both married men in my program. Now, if Aaron Spelling had gotten a hold of this plot, I'm sure it might have gone in another direction than it actually did. (Of course Aaron Spelling would have had to know what theology was!) From the get-go there was never, ever, any question of lines and boundaries. Perhaps because I have been blessed with an older brother, these two gents became like brothers to me, and I was able to talk about anything with them...even my love life! To this day I can still call either of them (and of course their wives!) and talk for a long time. It's been such a huge blessing in my life.

However, I have to say that my experience with single men is another story. Now, I won't go as far as Harry and say that sex is actually the thing that gets in the way of a friendship, but I do find myself always wondering, "What if?" What if something romantic were to bloom? Could something develop? This happens with men that I meet socially, but still happens with some of my single friends from college. In my experience, there is always a question of "What if?" Now, I also don't agree with Harry that it completely ruins the prospect of a friendship. I think it just adds a dimension that doesn't arise in female friendships. Not that one is better than the other, they're just different.

September 4, 2009

Lesson in Our Roots: American Catholicism Part I

As promised, I am going to write a bit on the history of Catholicism in our country -- and cross reference it with some political history. I think a good place to start is with the very first bishop of our country: John Carroll. He is one my favorite historical figures, and vastly under-acknowledged. I did a term paper on him one year in grad school, and I was so impressed by his work.

He was born into a fairly aristocratic family in 1735, and one of his cousins, Charles Carroll, actually signed the Constitution. John was not the most political man, but he did accompany the US ambassadors to Canada to gain support for the Revolution. But Carroll put all of his energy into the building the Catholic Church in America. He used his own resources and land to set up missionary Churches (because there were not Churches), and he worked tirelessly to build up a system of Catholic education. We owe the institution of Georgetown to him.

One of the most important things he did for American Catholics was to help them gain the respect and equal status of citizenship with their Protestant compatriots. He did this by writing extensively on the Church's stance on religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience were some of the most important issues for the American founders, and many did not believe that American Catholics would be able to support them. So Carroll wrote pamphlets and letters to defend Catholics and Catholicism in our nation. For example, in one pamphlet, he writes:

When men comprehend not, or refuse to admit the luminous principles on which the rights of conscience and liberty of religion depend, they are industrious to find out pretences for intolerance. If they cannot discover them in actions, they strain to cull them out of the tenets of the religion which they wish to excluded from a free participation of equal rights. . . . I am anxious to guard against the impression intended by such insinuations; not merely for the sake of any one profession, but from an earnest regard to preserve inviolate for ever, in our new empire, the great principle of religious freedom.

So Carroll challenged American citizens who were not Catholic to lay aside any ignorance as to the ability that Catholics would have in accepting religious freedom and freedom of conscience, assuring them that these were a proper expression of the Catholic faith, not inimical to its precepts.

When I first learned about Carroll, I wondered why no one has taken up his cause for sainthood--after all, he was a great friend to our own St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (who I will write on next!) I am sure they pray for us and for our country from above. Let's ask them to help us rediscover the greatness of our nation and rediscover the great responsibility we have because we have the liberty to worship, praise, and adore our God any way we wish.

The Bishops on Health Care

Here's a link to the USCCB's website on Health Care Reform. I think it's so helpful. Keep informed!

September 3, 2009

Add to Your Playlist: Ingrid Michaelson "Everybody"

One of my favorite artists, Ingrid Michaelson, just released a new album called "Everybody" last week. I was introduced to her years ago, and I'm so excited that she's doing well. I just bought the new cd, which I think is even better than her third album, "Be Ok." Anyway, one song called "Are We There Yet?" really moved me, as I think it describes my feelings about the twenties. I often write about feeling "homeless" in this stage, and this song puts words and a melody to some of these sentiments. Here is a video and the lyrics to the song. Enjoy!

They say that home is where the heart is
I guess I haven't found my home
And we keep driving round in circles
Afraid to call this place our own

And are we there yet?

They say there's linings made of silver
Folded inside each raining cloud
Well we need someone to deliver
Our silver lining now

And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
Home, home, home
Home, home, home

They say you're really not somebody
Until somebody else loves you
Well I am waiting to make somebody
Somebody soon

And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
Home, home, home,
Home, home, home

Where you will lie on the rug
While I play with the dog
And it won't be too much
'Cause this is too much
'Cause this is too much for me to hold
This is too much for me to hold

Home, home, home
And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?

Home, home, home
Home, home, home, home

And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
And are we there yet?
And are we there?


40 Days for Life

If you're like me, just about the only real public Pro-Life activity you engage in is the yearly March For Life in January. Certainly, I pray for an end to abortion and for those considering abortions. I complain about abortion and politics. But I don't have the courage (or really the calling) to stand in front of abortion mills, nor do I have the opportunity to concretely work for a better culture of life, except in trying to life well myself.

Which is all well and good. But how often do we only think of Abortion in January, and when it is in the limelight. Are we out there fighting every day, or are we sitting back and letting the world pass by?

Enter, 40 Days for Life. Started by David Bereit, 40 days for Life is a twice- yearly 40 day vigil (one in lent, and one in the fall) based on prayer and fasting, and offering a chance for public witness through a 24/7 vigil in front of abortion mills, and lots of community outreach.

Tonight is the kick off fundraiser for DC's 40 Days for Life (event info here), but it is not to late to get into the action wherever you are. Check out the 100 + List of Locations sponsoring 40 days for Life activities. And even if there isn't a location near-by (hard to imagine, given the list!) you can join in prayer and fasting, one of the three components of the mission of 40 Days for Life.

September 2, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

A few months ago I broke down and joined a gym. Well, not really broke down. I had thought it about it for awhile, as I was getting uncomfortable using our high school's gym which, while free, meant that I would be working out with my students. Anyway, one day I literally stumbled upon a local gym and on that day they were waving the enrollment fee and waving monthly dues for the entire summer. It was too good to pass up. And while I've had to overcome certain small things that bother me like the fact that people try to pick each up other between gasps on the elliptical and that some people are just very comfortable with themselves in the locker room, it's been really good for my anxiety to be able to exercise on a regular basis.

Yesterday I decided that I was going to give a step aerobics class a try. Now, I am really uncomfortable working out in front of a mirror as well as working out around other people in front of a mirror (not to mention the fact that the name of the class brought back memories of my mother's Jane Fonda VHS exercise tapes), but I gave it a go. And let me just say...that was a workout! For only using weights and a single raised step, I am sure feeling it today. I recommend it to anyone who wants something that is easy on the knees but good for the heart.
Does anyone have any other recommendations for types of exercise that would put a little variety into my step? Pun intended, but still sincere. :)

September 1, 2009

Woman Warrior of the Month: St. Monica Part 3

She was trained 'in your fear' by the discipline of your Christ, by the government of your only Son in a believing household through a good member of your Church.

In his Confessions, St. Augustine gives some of the most beautiful portrayals of his mother, St. Monica -- this month's woman warrior. Augustine describes his mother as woman who was able to win people over because of her gentleness and patience, and her reputation as a peacemaker. We know that she endured an unfaithful, pagan husband -- who could be gentle or violent. She prayed for his conversion, and she gently shared the Word with him. On his deathbed, he was baptized. She endured the wayward life of her son, Augustine -- about whom St. Ambrose famously told her "A child of this many tears will never be lost."

One of the most beautiful passages of Monica is the account of her death in Ostia - the port city just outside of Rome (which the picture above depicts). While Monica was on her deathbed, she and her son had a conversation fit for these saintly souls. Their conversation about the after-life led them to "the conclusion that the pleasure of the bodily senses, however delightful in the radiant light of the physical world, is seen by comparison with the life of eternity to be not even worth considering." They contemplated together that eternal wisdom that is the Word itself. And when Augustine writes that he 'closed her eyes,' we know that that the Lord took her soul directly to His bosom.

Thank you, Lord for this wonderful woman. May you teach us how to emulate her virtues of perseverance in prayer, patience, gentleness, and the ability to endure the crosses we are given in this life. St. Monica, pray for us!

Woman Warrior of the Month: St. Monica, Part 2

(I wanted to title the post "Locksmiths are expensive, or: My goodness, I wish I had St. Monica's Patience." but I went with the more prosaic title above. It's probably for the best. Anyway...)

Continuing our Women Warrior of the Month series, in Septmeber we are honoring St. Monica. And I certainly was glad for her advocacy last night.

You see...I've been borrowing a friend's car while she's home taking care of her family. And I had to pop out to the store to get some munchies for a dinner party Julian and I are going to tonight. I was lazy. I drove. And then I locked myself out of the car.

3 hours, 15 calls to the locksmith, and $179.00 later, I was heading home. Instead of checking off all the things on my to-do list (including writing an eloquent and delightful post about St. Monica) I had sat on the street for so long the ants and crickets thought I was part of the scenery (and welcomed me heartily to the neighborhood).

But as I sat there, remarkably, I didn't fret. $179 (that I could have used for the furniture that my bed room so badly needs!) wasted--but what could I do; it's only money. 3 hours flying by, but what could I do; it's only time. I said a prayer for St. Monica--ever patient--and sat and waited.

I know. Waiting for a locksmith is nothing compared to waiting for your son to quit galavanting around, stealing pears, courting women, and picking new philosophies every few years. But who could possibly endure that trial without the grace to endure every little matter that comes in front of you in day to day life. St. Monica had both a difficult marriage, and a difficult motherhood, but she endured it all with patience, and her time of waiting bore great fruit.

St. Monica: thanks for helping me to be patient last night. Give me the courage to face each new obstacle with patience and prudence, and to both look for God's will,a nd hope for the time when I shall know why each trial has been given to me.

St. Monica, pray for us!

Woman Warrior of the Month: St. Monica Part 1

Today we are each writing a post in honor of September's Woman Warrior: St. Monica, whose feast day was August 27th. This woman and sister in Christ is so incredible that she really could be every month's nominee. I could go on and on about her, but I will just tell you a little of why she is so important of a model to me.

We are taught by our Church that the pinnacle of femininity is reached in motherhood, that the "crown of a marriage" lies in children, or the visible fruits of the love between a man and a woman. I tend to stay in the shallow end of the teaching and focus on the procreative part of the feminine vocation and the married vocation...stopping at the conception and birth of children as if that is the fullness the Church is speaking of.

St. Monica's fruit was St. Augustine, but not Augustine as an infant. The fruit of her femininity was the same fruit of her labors of prayer, fasting, and modeling the faith - it was Augustine the man, the scholar, the preacher, the convert, and the saint. St. Monica is the exemplar of receiving the task that God has given you and laboring until you have made it worthy enough to glorify Him. How often do I do a mediocre job on things that are in front of me? How often do I fail to really work at my vocation of singleness? Will I accept a satisfactory job this school year as I prepare to teach young high school women, or will I pray, study, and fast so that their souls are opened to the Lord?

Thank you St. Monica, for your beautiful example.

And as a sidenote, thanks for teaching me that it's okay to love wine...just in moderation.

(Picture found here)
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