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

March 31, 2010

The Stones Will Cry Out

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."

He said in reply, "I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!"

As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides."

-- Luke 19: 39-42 (Verses 39/40 were read at the Procession of the Palms on Passion Sunday.)

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for me. I've been watching the news more closely than ever before in my life--between health care and the scandals involving the Church in Ireland and Germany (and now again in the US). Last weekend was a joyful respite from my worries about the Church. With a guest in town, I was too busy to read obsessively the news. But, Monday rolled around and I fell back into the cycle.

When I was in highschool, I was pretty obsessed with Politics. We were an argumentative bunch, and being interested in and to a certain extent involved in politics gave weight to our arguments, and made us all feel like we were part of something more. When I got to college life and literature distracted me, and since then I have spent my time trying to avoid politics like the plague. (Its difficult to do in Washington, but so far I have succeeded.)

Two weekends ago, I felt drawn towards the news about the HCR Bill like a magnet, and thus began the old cycle of obsessively following news until I felt depressed and inadequate to confront the task at hand. Sunday evening at mass I was reminded to "rejoice" and I tried to focus on the truly important things.

And then the shit hit the fan. Major newspapers across the US and the world began a coordinated attack on the Church. And make no mistake--it is a coordinated attack, if not consciously than supernaturally, for there is great good happening in the Church today, and the Devil is surely out to destroy that good.

Make no mistake, the sexual abuse of minors is vile, and utterly reprehensible, and I mourn for the innocence stolen from these child's hearts. There is plenty to fault the Church with in its past handling of the sexual abuse of minors. But we should also credit them with the great good that has been accomplished in rooting out these evils. Great strides have been takes and new measures enacted that will help the Church in the future. Reputable sources have said again and again that Pope Benedict, above all other men in the Vatican, has been responsible for the great work that has been done in rooting out this "filth" (his word).

This, then, is where I am most distressed. Not only do the stories sensationalize and trivialize the real suffering of those involved, and not only do they fail to report accurately on the proceedings of individual cases, but they also slander our shepherd, who is a good man dedicated to serving the Church--and has never minced words with pedophiles (see paragraph #7 in his Letter to Ireland).

Much of my anger about the articles has faded. The facts have been corrected elsewhere (check out my quick list below of sources I consider invaluable)--though they still have not been corrected by those who perpetrated them (especially not the New York Times). And this battle is by no means over--we must be watchful and diligent.

For my part, I can't take the media attention anymore. When Father read the words of the reading from St. Luke quoted above at mass on Sunday, I could hardly hold back the tears. Which the whole word is crying out in anger (some of it deserved), I just want to leap into the defense of Pope Benedict. I'll be that stone, crying out to praise the Lord and thank Him for his blessings.

To that end, I am really enforcing a silence. I am turning off all these outside voices for the Triduum, to allow myself to be free from worry and to really rejoice in the Feast at hand. I encourage you all to do the same.

Essential Sources:

+ As pertains to the Milwaukee Case please read the article written by Fr. Thomas Brundage, who was the presiding judge on the case (and who has not been called upon as a source by any of the major news outlets!!!). (HT: Thomas Peters)this statement from the current Archbishop of Milwaukee

+ For a factual rebuttal of the specific claims of the New York Times article, please check out Fr. Raymond J. De Souza's article in National Review--this includes a timeline based on the documentation between Archbishop Weakland and the CDF.

+ John Allen is the only good thing about the National Catholic Reporter. Read his articles here and here.

+ Furthermore, keep tabs on The Anchoress as well. She is links heavily to real sources, and, as a former viticm of sexual abuse, speaks from a place none of us can imagine, with grace, circumspection, and fairness. This, I think, is the most comprehensive, powerful, prayerful, courageous and hopeful post I've read yet. UPDATE: Read this morning's post too.

Let me close with this quote from Pope Benedict on the occasion of his very first mass as Pope:
My dear friends –
at this moment I can only say:
pray for me,
that I may learn to love the Lord more and more.
Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more
– in other words, you, the holy Church,
each one of you and all of you together.
Pray for me,
that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.
Let us pray for one another,
that the Lord will carry us
and that we will learn to carry one another.

[Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April, 2005]

March 30, 2010

"From the Same Mouth Comes Blessing and Cursing" (James 3:10)

I was out for dinner and drinks with a few of my colleagues last Friday, which I had been looking forward to for awhile. Sometimes we just need to support one another in our work and in persevering when the going gets tough. For the most part it was a really fun evening -- $5 martinis -- who could not be excited? But as the night went on and more people joined us, namely one brother of a colleague, I began to enjoy myself less and less.

Inevitably, whenever I am out at a bar or at a party and people I ask what I do, 9 times out of 10 the conversation is going to stay on the topic of the Catholic Church and her supposed misunderstanding of the human person and the human condition. Sometimes I really enjoy talking to people, but other times I grow weary in explaining the Church since I do it all day long (this is something I am asking Christ to help me with -- never to grow weary of building the Kingdom).

This particular night, the brother of my colleague was very hostile and aggressive in his feelings toward the Magisterium; naturally, he proposed many solutions from his point of view as to how the Church could get it right. Others chimed in to agree with him, and I found myself feeling smaller and smaller. Of course, the conversation mostly had to do with the Church should let people have premarital, extramarital, and homosexual sex, allow contraception, back off of people when they vote, etc. (It's so apparent to me that people really resent anyone calling them to a higher standard of love in their sexuality and that they are arguing from the defensive). Anyway, at one point, my colleague (and someone I consider a friend) said, "It's fine, Julian. You're just a 'crazy Catholic.' We get it. But I still like you anyway." A curse and a blessing. It really cut me. I found myself silent for the rest of the night, not really desiring to joke around even when the conversation left the topic of Catholicism.

You know, we are crazy in the eyes of the world. This whole thing that happens in Holy Week looks like folly to others, right? But I've promised myself to Christ, to study and penetrate the depths of the Truth that He proposes and to share it with others. Every human heart needs and wants Him. But my colleague has also challenged me, perhaps unknowingly, to make my silence productive. Am I conveying the joy and peace that Christ brings me? Or am I allowing anxieties to appear so that others cannot recognize it? Is my mouth speaking blessings or curses? Can they recognize in me that I have fallen in love -- yes, crazy love -- with the Lord?

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. -- Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
St. Mary Magdalene, help me rise to the challenge of loving more perfectly and witnessing more purely.

March 29, 2010

Vocation: A Missionary of Love

To be Thy Spouse, O my Jesus, to be a daughter of Carmel, and by my union with Thee to be the mother of souls, should not all this content me? And yet other vocations make themselves felt—I feel called to the Priesthood and to the Apostolate—I would be a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church. I should like to accomplish the most heroic deeds—the spirit of the Crusader burns within me, and I long to die on the field of battle in defense of Holy Church. . . . I have the vocation of an apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But oh, my beloved, one mission would not be enough for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages. . . . Then, beside myself with joy, I cried out: "O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! Yes, I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be LOVE! . . . Thus I shall be all things: thus will my dream be realized"
Happy Holy Week!! I have been reflecting these weeks on the meaning of vocation. You can imagine why - with the whole wedding disaster, I am re-orienting myself on my vocation and asking God for a new direction. I desire still to be married, and I hope indeed that my desire is not in vain. I can only ask God to fulfill it as I seek God's will for me. And even if God still does will me for marriage, marriage is not the only part of a vocation. In that line of thought, this quote from St. Therese's Story of Soul has always resonated with me. I love how she longs for every vocation possible. She wants to be a priest, a missionary, a Doctor of the Church, an apostle. But what she realizes is that each of these longings points her to one thing - LOVE.

I have often heard that we are all called to be missionaries. How? When? Why? To Whom? With every breath, every day, for the love of God, to all we meet. No matter what our vocation - wife, mother, nun, priest, martyr - each of us is called to the vocation to be a missionary of love - ultimately of God who is love. When God gives us moments of realization and clarity of this vocation, like He gives to Therese above, we cannot but cry in joy like her and with her.

This is so much easier in theory than practice. Being a missionary of love in every situation - like when that jerk cuts you off in traffic, or when the person in front of you at the coffee shop takes for-ev-er to order a simple coffee, or your colleagues torment you for your beliefs, get the picture, right? But we can take comfort in those who did it before us and those who do it now. Therese lived but a simple life in the eyes of the world, but through the eyes of faith, she is a spiritual powerhouse who fulfilled every vocation of love. Doing small things with great love, as Mother Teresa says, will fulfill our vocation to love. Or, to put it another way, Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who died in the Holocaust wrote in her diary:
Why is there war? Perhaps because now and then I might be inclined to snap at my neighbor. Because I and my neighbor and everyone else do not have enough love. Yet we could fight war and all its excrescences by releasing, each day, the love that is shackled inside us, and giving it a chance to live.
I know I must work on that. Don't we all. And if Etty, who faced the horrors of the concentration camp day after day still trying to find what was lovable about all people (including her captures), then I suppose we can too. And thankfully, our German Pontiff gives us some encouragement in a recent message to youth. Let us keep him in our prayers and ask for the courage to love, especially during this Holy Week!

March 27, 2010

Retreat Recap

This week I chaperoned my students on a Kairos retreat for three days. I had never been on one of these retreats (although I had been on something similar called Encounter in college). After years of organizing and leading retreats in college, it was nice to have a different role as someone who sits back and is there for counsel should it be asked for. And boy, was it asked for.

I was incredibly humbled that girls came forward to ask to talk to me about their personal and spiritual struggles over the course of the three days. What a great responsibility spiritual direction and counseling is...posing questions to them to make them look at themselves really directly and then look at God's hand in their lives. I couldn't help but thank God for priests, spiritual directors, and therapists who bring their education and wisdom to these very personal and intimate settings of self-revelation. They are really sacred encounters.

Many of my students brought up the following: alcoholic parents, parents who should be arrested for neglect, self-loathing, abusive relationships with name it. I saw real wounds, real piercings of the heart, mind, and flesh. However, it was incredible to watch them be healed by the love of Christ in community, in the sacraments, and in silence. Grace abounded, and the witness of so much healing strengthened my own faith. It was what I needed.

Kairos means "the Lord's time." My own belief in Providence was affirmed and renewed watching the girls be healed, in God's time, over these past few days. When we abandon ourselves to God's time, we get a taste of eternity and the peace that it brings.

March 26, 2010

Teaching, Love, Truth, God

Since two of us sisters teach, and the other works in an educational institution, I have been thinking A LOT about teaching and learning. So, this is a post for all teachers out there. I've been reflecting on teaching as a vocation, and I thought I'd just share my little 'idylls and rambles' with you.

What got me thinking is this. Soon, I'll be visiting with Julian and Agatha! YAY! I cannot wait - this will be our longest reunion ever! Agatha told me that while I am visiting, she will be able to introduce me to the priest who got me interested in political philosophy - Fr. James Schall. He is one of my heroes, and next to the Pope, he is probably one of the only clergy members I simply dream of meeting! Right before a semester begins when I am teaching, I always re-read a little essay of his on teaching political philosophy found in his book On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. I certainly recommend it! I finally get to meet the man who has been my teacher throughout undergrad and grad school. You can imagine my joy!

So that is why I have been thinking so much about teaching. You know, students always complain about their teachers. We all did it, it's true. "Mr. So-and-So is too hard and mean!" "Miss So-and-So assigns too much work! Doesn't she know there is a huge football game this weekend?" But I'd like to remind all students about something. Teachers are simply students who fell madly in love. And the best thing a student can do for a teacher is remind him what exactly it was he fell in love with. Let me explain.

In my political philosophy classes, I like to share with my students the questions that make me love to study. I ask them to challenge themselves to come up with some answers to the things that are essential, both eternal and human things - even if the answers cannot be entirely found. Fr. Schall's aforementioned book reminds me of this when he writes about teaching students:
Students arrive in inchoate intellectual shape before a professor. They are ritually embarrassed if someone affirms that something can be true or right, that something is evil, that most of the current enthusiasms for which students and politicians stake their lives are ideological in nature. . . . These same students are quite surprised, even sometimes pleased, to learn that the purpose of thinking is not just thinking but thinking about the truth. They are relieved to be told, finally, that the purpose of truth is that we should live according to it, and that we will not be happy unless we 'know ourselves.' p. 117
I love telling my students that truth, goodness, untruth, and evil are real. And the response is that most of them crave to hear those words. They want the truth. And, as Fr. Schall writes, "The truth we know, moreover, is not exclusively 'ours.' When students learn the same truth we have taken so long to learn, we are not less, though they are more." (p. 112) The reason is love. We as teachers fell (and are falling) in love with something that revealed to us the truth, and the reality that we should live by it. God is truth and God is love, and therefore we fall in love with the God who desires us and reveals Himself to us through our studies. And we cannot but share that love because love by its very nature cannot be self-serving. If it becomes as such, then it is no longer love, and the teacher becomes merely an agenda pusher -- and the students can usually sniff out the difference, even if they don't always know how to respond properly.

No teacher can be truly a teacher without love. Teaching is a labor of love, as Pope Benedict reminds us in the his address to Catholic educators when he speaks of the importance of 'intellectual charity':
This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice “intellectual charity” upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience “in what” and “in whom” it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.
As teachers, one of the greatest joys we have is to witness the love we share set another on fire in a totally unique way. That is how students remind us of why we love to teach - they respect our love, respond to it, they seek, they desire. All teachers should point their students inward - to know themselves, and then outward - to seek Him. Teachers participate in God's love in a special way - perhaps by echoing Christ's words in the Gospel of Luke: "I have come to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Lk 12: 49). Let us fulfill Christ's desire for the fire of our love by helping Him to set His people ablaze!

March 25, 2010

Pop Culture (for the most part) Makes Me Laugh

And (for the most part), I hope it makes you laugh too. And I've been looking for things that make me laugh these days. I recently read a silly article in the spoof newspaper The Onion. It makes fun of contemporary man's inability to communicate angst and feelings and starts out:
Stating that she wasn't in the best place right now, and that things have been sort of you know, Belmont resident Megan Slota announced Thursday that sometimes she just feels….

Due to a general sense of…well, it's hard to explain, the 28-year-old dental hygienist reported that she just needed to work some stuff out, and that she would probably be a little I don't know for a couple weeks or so.
Oh pop culture, you are sometimes so funny. What is funnier (or maybe not funny) is that I could relate to this. If you are like me and just want to laugh, read the whole article.

March 24, 2010

Pope's Letter to Ireland

Have you read the Holy Father's letter, released Saturday, to the Church in Ireland? You should. It is amazing. And new. And bold. And personal. And healing.

(Pope Benedict needs a lot of prayers, by the way. This is a hard time for the Church, but thank God he is our Head.)

March 23, 2010

A Thought While on Retreat

Sisters and readers -- I'm on a Kairos retreat with my students until Thursday, but today I wanted to leave you with a simple post to link you to a letter from Archbishop Dolan of New York on the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. It was a real wake-up call for me to prioritize my life and to be intentional in refraining from too much technology, work, or errands on our day of rest. We should not just rest to relax, but rather rest in the Lord. Thank you, Archbishop (and my friends who passed it along to me), for an important reminder. It's really beautiful and worth its length. We are so blessed with wonderful shepherds.

Prayers for you all while I'm on retreat!

March 22, 2010

How Delicious Life Would Be...

....if it were like a Jane Austen novel. Yes, I've thrown those Holocaust books to the side for now, and I am resurrecting my New Year's resolution of reading all the Jane Austen novels. (I'm happy to say that I now have the time and freedom really to do all on my resolution list.) In doing so, I am also heeding the advice of friends to do the things I love in order to heal from my non-wedding, as I now call it. I've now one left to go - and it is a re-read of Sense and Sensibility. Then, I'll have the letters and a biography or two or three...

Anyway, I decided just how much I love Austen. I thought I'd share some of her ridiculously fun humor with you all. Here is a quote I could much relate to from her Northanger Abbey:

"Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love." (Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Chapter IV)

I could not agree more, Miss Austen. The joy of this quote is that when it is uttered in the novel, neither love nor true friendship actually exists. Deliciously delightful.

Another favorite from the same book:

"Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind, is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well she can."
(Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Chapter XIV)

I just had to laugh out loud. How true indeed. Maybe this is the best way to secure a husband, but Austen's characters don't generally follow it. I love it!

And perhaps my favorite one is a description of Mr. Knightley's feelings in Emma, upon hearing the shocking news that Mr. Frank Churchill is marry Miss Jane Fairfax:

"He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery." (Emma, Vol. III, Chapter XIII)

How wonderful is Knightley. What lady would not sigh upon reading these words, wondering where her own Knightley is to be found. From experience, I can say that no one should ever settle for a Mr. Churchill when Mr. Knightley exists.

Oh, if only life were like a Jane Austen novel. Then we'd all marry the right person and live out our lives in wedded bliss. But at least we can laugh with her, as she herself says in a letter to J.S. Clarke:

"I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I would be hung before I had finished the first chapter."

That, Miss Austen, you do quite well. And we thank you for it, because laughing is delicious.

March 20, 2010

Health Care Vote 3/21

Please please call or email your Representatives if you have not already and ask them to vote NO on the Healthcare bill. I say this not to push a political persuasion, but because this bill WILL allow for taxpayer funded abortions. YES, it will. Get info here at Americans United for Life - and do your part to save human life, showing true care for health.

March 19, 2010

Calling All Men

Just a quick link to a fabulous read on recovering masculinity in our culture. Men, carry on! (P.S. It's from a professor who I dearly respect).

Thoughts? When work settles down I will write my own!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

St. Joseph with the Christ Child by Michael D. O'brien

The readings last night from Vespers really struck me, as I struggle with the competing demands of work that I love but struggle with, hobbies that I cherish but take time and sometimes feel like work, the chance to lovingly support my friends and family, and, of course, rest. I wanted to share it with you:

Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving.

--Colossians 3:23-24

In the Saint Joseph Novena we've been praying, we're asked to meditate on the Christ Child asleep in St. Joseph's arms. I recently had the chance to hold a friends baby, as she gently fell asleep. I sat there for hours, with her asleep in my arms, and was never tired or anxious to move. I feel like that was the last time I really rested. But, St. Joseph, with the help of this Novena, and Michael O'Brien's painting above, I feel I might be able to regain some of that peace, and finally rest.

How were your experiences with this Novena? Isn't St. Joseph just the best, ever?!

March 18, 2010

Dominican Nuns in Iraq

I'd like to encourage you all to pray for the remarkable Dominican Nuns in Iraq. They have recently been sending word about their situation to different Catholic media outlets. The Prioress of the Adrian Dominicans writes:
As of now, the five elderly sisters who have been holding down the Motherhouse are choosing to remain there because they do not want to lose their Motherhouse to the terrorists. She said most Christians are making plans to evacuate from Iraq and, as a consequence, she does not know what will happen with her Congregation. She said they will follow the Christian people where they go, but where that will be is uncertain.

She asks for help in getting the word out to the media, and members of congress, etc. because this is not being reported on at all. She also asks, most importantly, for prayers.

With passage of the Health Care Bill imminent, and plenty of our own daily concerns, it is easy to forget that there are real Christian Martyrs today, in our time. We cannot forget about these brave women, who stand as witnesses to the truth of our Faith.

Read more about other desert nuns, here (HT/photo: Monales O.P.)

March 17, 2010


A writer once said that angels can fly because they don't take themselves too seriously. Maybe we could also fly a bit if we didn't think we were so important.

--Pope Benedict XVI, in this 2006 interview.

March 16, 2010

So All I'm Saying... that some days at all all-girls' high school would be easier with an adult beverage in my water bottle.

Pray for me!!!


Healing in His Way

Just a little update. Life has been well, better. The pain is still very much a part of day to day life, but I am allowing God in to heal me. I have just started attending a university branch of a group called Communion and Liberation. Have you ever heard of this movement? It is an ecclesial movement within the Church started by Father Luigi Guissani in Milan. He began this movement with a group of young people in Milan. The name 'Communion' and 'Liberation' signifies what they believe about Christian life -- only communion with the One, True God gives authentic liberation to the human person. This very much appealed to me, as I have just left a situation where I had no freedom. True love, true communion is always liberating and encourages us to become the best of ourselves, to become the person God ordained us to be.

The charism that marks the group I can only describe as making the event of the Incarnation truly known in the world - revealing Christ by their everyday witness. Communion and Liberation members do this in a special way every Good Friday by praying the Way of the Cross in major cities throughout the world (e.g. Chicago). It is a witness of carrying the Cross in a place that can be so impersonal, so inhumane, so full of human suffering. You can read more about it here. I expect great graces to come! Thanks for your prayers, and be sure I am offering mine for you!

March 15, 2010

Julian's Thoughts on Rejecting a Suitor

Thanks, Agatha, for a link to Miss Manners and her ideas about rejecting a potential suitor. It's one of the hardest things to do, isn't it? And I think it's something that can create unnecessary drama for women. Goodness, I have a lot to say about it, but I'll keep it concise.

There is no easy way to tell someone that you don't have any romantic interest in him or that you don't share his intentions in your interactions. I've been on both the receiving and the rejecting end for about 9 years now, and I don't think the process of rejection gets any easier with time. Sure, it varies in difficulty depending upon your interest, how well you know someone, what his pursuit has entailed, etc. But there is just no clean and tidy way to say, "Well, I don't like you that way."

In my experience, the worst kind of rejection (at least from the P.O.V. of the receiving end) is the "fade away": a slow and seldom lack of communication from the man. Time gets longer between each contact from him, and you eventually realize that you have been initiating the communication while he merely responds. It takes a few weeks before you realize that he is not interested...perhaps this is your naivete or denial, but regardless, it's a prolonged agony and period of uncertainty that could have been considerably shaved down if he were a bit clearer.

That being said, I am guilty of the "fade away," and it is something that I have been conscientiously trying to stop doing. If a man's intentions are very clear, or even kind of clear, I have resolved to be very honest with him, in as gentle a way possible. It's hard to do without feeling guilty, but I do think we women owe men an honest response to their courage in pursuing someone. We save them time, uncertainty, and money. Now, I think the forum for honesty will depend upon whether your contact has been on the phone, face-t0-face, or through email, but the message of appreciation for their pursuit but honesty in one's feelings has to be clear. I think every women can pull this off with grace and charm (and with the help of a little prayer before doing the deed).

My dear, dear brother, once put it this way to me: "You'll know who you want to wind up with when neither of you would ever think of rejecting the other person." He's oftentimes too practical and very candid, but I think he's right.

March 13, 2010

Miss Manners on Rejecting a Suitor

I have been telling all my girlfriends that we women need to learn the art of saying no. (And it is an art!) Miss Manners agrees:
Dear Miss Manners:

There is a young man I met through mutual friends at college who has been asking me out. I considered him an acquaintance -- an acquaintance I had become increasingly unfond of.

He likes to be argumentative (I am sure he thinks of it more as intellectual debate), and I have actually found him rather offensive (although I am sure he does not know). I avoid arguing or disagreeing with him, and he now thinks that we have everything in common and lots to discuss.

He has asked me out to lunch/dinner, and it has not been easy to say no. He asks things like, are you free anytime this week? How do I tell someone, who may see me on campus not being busy, that I am available never?

On one occasion I made a move to avoid him (I didn't think it was that obvious), and he asked me about it later (I made up some mostly true excuse).

Do I need to tell him I don't like him, not even as a friend, leave me alone? (He is friends of some good friends of mine, and I might have to see him sometimes if I want to see them.)

Miss Manners, how does a lady navigate this situation?

Read Miss Manner's answer here. (Also check out her brilliant answer to a 12-year-old "unpopular" girl.)

Image: 'The Rejected Suitor' by Francis William Edmonds

March 12, 2010

The New Virginity

As I lazily channel-surfed my way up to TLC to watch What Not to Wear, I stopped, for what I thought would be a moment, at VH1. A show called "The New Virginity" was airing, exploring the trend in young Hollywood to profess their virginity and commitment to abstinence. The beginning of the show was true to it's stated summary:

There's a trendy pop culture movement that's burst into the mainstream to take a stand against our hyper-sexed society.It's born out of traditional values and sealed with promise rings, abstinence clubs and purity balls. It stars the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, who've made headlines with their public pronouncements of sexual purity. It's a hip new calling card: virginity.

However, as I continued to watch, the show began to take a turn for the worse. The reporters argued that these young celebrities were actually selling their sexuality by professing their virginity. "As the show will point out, virginity doesn't stop celebs from looking and acting provocatively--playing both sides with impressive marketing results." Young women who have a highly sexualized image while professing virginity wind up appealing to men (in what some say is an even more sexually aggressive tactic as it appeals to men who desire to "conquer" virgins). What was sad to me, though, was that I don't think the reporters were far off the mark with certain celebrities. I find it troubling that young women and men are getting mixed messages about virginity and abstinence. Well, they are getting one message: don't have sex, but be highly sexualized. What we need is consistency between image and action.

This "new virginity" does have a lot of promise. If it is true that youngsters are getting tired of all the unsolicited sexuality thrown their way, maybe we're on the right track. I just think some of these celebrities could use some help with the steering.

March 11, 2010

Here's to Hoping

Dear Friends, Sisters, Readers,
Thank you all for your comments, replies, and posts. While this truly is the most painful of times I've had in my short life, it helps me tremendously to know that I am surrounded by those who love me and are praying for me.

To my dear friend, Emily, thank you! I have always loved being around your luminous personality full of joy and hope! I will try that list making and do as you do each day. Gardenia, your comment, as well as the response of other women I know has made me realize that this experience is not so uncommon as one would think. It's just so difficult. Peter and I were literally 10 days away from our wedding day when all of this happened. It still makes no sense. What a grace that you have never experienced anger toward the person that hurt you. My feelings are all mixed up, between anger, love, heartache, etc. I'm glad to know from others' experiences, such as your own, that the prospects of a marriage are not out the window.

And Julian and Agatha, you two are awesome. I love you. Agatha, I've always wanted to be closer to St. Joseph than I am, and now is the opportunity. I used to be in the habit of praying for my future spouse all the time - then I met Peter, and I thought the prayer had been answered. I don't know why I stopped praying that prayer, but I'll be sure to offer up my novena for that and a myriad of other intentions - including for all of you. Julian, your words are an inspiration from the Holy Spirit. They are all that I needed to hear in a way I never thought. Thank you.

And to my dear friend who called me today after reading my post. Thank you. Your message made me laugh and smile. I needed that, and I need to talk to you too. And I will. The days go up and down, the emotions do too. Prayers are helping me, and I certainly don't want to wallow in my pity party.

I have been fortunate enough to have the friendship of a wonderful priest who was to marry Peter and I. Before I moved back home, I met with this priest and he recommended that I read a book by Fr. Joseph Langford on Mother Teresa called Mother Teresa's Secret Fire. It has been a tremendous comfort to me - and I would recommend it to all of you. It is perfect especially during Lent. Fr. Langford expounds upon the deep theological meaning of Christ's last words on the Cross: "I thirst" as God's profound thirst to love us and be loved by us. I'll close this post with a quote from the book. The quote comes from Mother Teresa's Varanasi Letter:
Why does Jesus say "I thirst?" What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words--if you remember anything from Mother's letter remember this -- "I thirst" is something much deeper than Jesus saying "I love you." Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you -- you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him." p. 56, Lanford

March 10, 2010

The St. Joseph Novena

Next Friday is the feast of St. Joseph, and that means tomorrow is the first day of the Novena to St. Joseph:
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls - Pray for me.

Yesterday, Edith, you asked what you could do to help with the sorrow. You know me--when I am faced with something I don't like I just try to stand up straight and do something about it; but I've never been faced with such a pain as all this, so I don't know what to say! (And I would never know what to do. You have already acted with such courage!)

One thing I do know, though, is that St. Joseph loves you more than anyone on this Earth, and he is weeping for you as if he was your own father. Go to him in your time of pain--since he is the model of manly courage, of steadfast justness, and of truly self-sacrificing love. I'll be praying this novena for you, and I am hoping all our readers will join me!

(And dear, dear readers, thank you so much for your honest hopeful responses to Edith's posts. You are an inspiration to all of us, and we are keeping you in our prayers as well!)

PS: If you want something a little bigger and more meditative, EWTN has a big novena, complete with daily meditations. (Image is Giotto's Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Read more about Giotto here)

March 9, 2010

A Response to "Sorrow"

Edith, so many thoughts were buzzing around my head today after I read your post. Agatha and I would give anything to ease your pain and to lighten your burden. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts tonight:

Your Good Friday has already happened -- the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the incomprehensible. Remember what the last word means -- unable to comprehend, to wrap our minds totally around something.

You are in your Holy Saturday of this experience, and there is no telling when God's grace will finally help you to feel the peace of Easter. But stay in this Holy Saturday -- don't rush the healing, don't rush the time of uncertainty. Tend to your wounds like the women tended the body of Christ. That is your vocation right now -- to nurture yourself and to begin, little by little, to remember what it feels like to be whole. You can't relive whatever happened before Good can only be where you are. And God's will for what happened and what is to come WILL be made known to you, as fully or in whatever time is perfect for you to know it. What we know that the women at the tomb did not, is that there IS reason to hope. That itself will make all of the difference in the world, especially on the gray days, the days in which the thought of leaving your bed seems impossible.

All of this being said, it is so understandable that seeing other married or engaged women would hurt you. That will eventually be manageable. What you can do, though, is put down those books, and escape into fiction, pop magazines with little substance, or into a list of the 100 greatest films. Eventually you will want to pick up your books for your dissertation and to get a new, and exciting game plan together. Journal, journal, journal. And as always, Agatha and I are here to help you get your bearings in the meantime.

Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. -- The Shawshank Redemption


Hello Readers. As you may have noticed - my posts have been scarce. I guess I am lacking in inspiration - currently my days are filled with sorrow after my personal disaster. I go from missing the person I thought was my best friend and partner-to-be in life to anger at realizing that it just was not meant to be. I ask 'Why did God let this happen to me, to us?' 'What have the last two years of my life meant then, anyway?' 'Why was he not the one I prayed for, the one ordained for me? It seemed in so many ways that he was! We were that couple everyone wanted to be around (or it least it seemed like we were). Heck, the people at our marriage retreat asked us to join their ministry several times! Where did we go wrong?' 'Will I ever find the right person? Will I ever get married? Is God telling me NO to married life?' 'What am I supposed to do now, with only broken pieces of a life I thought I was supposed to have?'

Every day, I miss my old place - the life I had, the friends, the environment (not to mention the sunshine!) I pretty much want to stay in bed all day long. When I finally do get out of bed to leave the house - like to go to the gym (which I have been forcing myself to do - and that is good), I start crying (yes tears) every time I see an engaged or married woman. I'm trying very hard to focus on me, to put my life in order, to do something to get my mind off of this. But I don't know how. Currently, I've retreated to reading books about the Holocaust. I'm not sure if that's fueling the depression or quelling it. Probably a little bit of both. If I was not feeling so pitiful, this would be laughable. Any suggestions? Help!

March 8, 2010

Cutting Out the Drama

Whenever my students begin to complain about a teacher or a peer and there is a serious hint of embellishment, I say to them, "In the Words of Mary J. Blige, 'No more drama.'" They laugh (most of them ask for the reference to the song which makes me feel old), and then continue on with their story as if it's the most important breaking news. Ah, females.

I can't help but notice at my place of work, an all-girls' school with a majority-female faculty, that there is an unnecessary amount of drama in our daily activities. One misunderstood facial expression and the whole school thinks something is up or so and so really meant something she did or didn't say.

Of course, I am not immune to getting sucked into the trend of making small things seem like great things. But I am getting better at recognizing my desire to do so and stopping myself from participating when others do, which is a good sign. I've been thinking though, that this tendency in women to be dramatic is just slightly off the mark of staying virtuous. Women are given the gift of attention to detail and sensitivity. It can be used for so much good...if only paired with discipline, right attitude, and good intention.

I pledge, with the help of St. Mary Magdalene, to cut out the drama from my life!

Oscars Addendum

Good coverage, Agatha. But I cannot let you get away without acknowledging possibly the most supremely beautiful woman in the biz:

Oscar's Fashion Re-cap

The older women didn't win the statuettes this year. But they won as far as fashion was concerned. To my mind Helen Mirren, Sigourney Weaver, and Meryl Streep were so supremely elegant, and the best dressed of the evening:
Sigourney Weaver rocks the red one shoulder (my very favorite style dress ever).

Meryl Streep looked so lovely, and so comfortable in this wrap dress, with those gorgeous shoulders. I'm not a huge fan of the slit (what's up with all the center slits, people...that' NEVER looks good!), but otherwise, I think it's perfect. Also, mad props for wearing a white dress, and not looking like a bride or a debutante (read: Amanda Seyfried.)

Well, Helen Mirren is a goddess, so, it's no surprise that she looks so radiant here. So incredibly radiant. And dear Christopher Plummer--you looks as handsome and as wise as ever.

As for other favorites of mine:
Sandra Bullock looked gorgeous in this luminous dress, made of vintage lace. I can't tell if the top is sheer, or if there's something underneath, so I am not sure how it counts for modesty points.

Tina Fey totally redeemed her Golden Globe disaster with this lovely one shoulder dress.

Queen Latifah was gorgeous. (And lilac was a big color this year!)

For prints, I gotta tell you, I loved Maggie Gyllenhal's dress. She is always so bold, and always wears prints, which I just love. Beautiful color, broard brush strokes, vibrant pops of colors: beautiful! (Julian does not agree.)

Also...MOLLY RINGWALD STILL LOOKS SO YOUNG! And yes, I loved Cameron Diaz's dress too. And Lenny Kravitz' daughter was lovely. So much better than another Bright Young Thing.

I don't know who Paula Patton is, but I adore her bright orange dress! (and what a cute little baby bump.)

And let's give a quick shout-out to Katherine Bigelow who looked elegant and modern and poised as she won Best Director and Best Picture, breaking that glass ceiling.

My pick for the worst dress is Deborah Ann Woll, which is just so much awfullness I don't really know where to begin. Shape, color, slit, neckline, everything....

I am sure it will end up on a lot of worst dressed lists, and I can't really frogive it for being purple, but I kinda like Zoe Saldana's crazy dress. I should say, I like the boldness of it. It took guts to wear, and she wore it with confidence. Sometimes guts really don't pay off, like Sarah Jessica Parker's yellow Chanel gown (it looked like it was attacking her!)

The other horrific dress was Charlieze Theron, who looked like she was being groped by giant rosebuds. It was so close to being lovely, had they just put a few more rosettes on the bust, or changed the placement a bit. Alas...

Finally, I just have to give a little shout out to my beloved, Ed Asner, who looks every bit the gentleman. What a guy.

March 6, 2010

Women and/in the Oscars

Katherine Bigelow on the set of her Academy Award nominated film The Hurt Locker

Tomorrow night is the annual five hour Hollywood film orgy known as the Oscars. With ex-spouses James Cameron and Katherine Bigelow the front runners for both Best Picture and Best Director, there's been lots of talk about the role of women in Hollywood.

Most shocking of all was a recent article on Salon arguing that Katherine Bigelow is a sheep in wolf's clothing. Her film The Hurt Locker is a war movie made by a woman--therefore she is a woman playing at being a man:
Looks to me like she's masquerading as the baddest boy on the block to win the respect of an industry still so hobbled by gender-specific tunnel vision that it has trouble admiring anything but film making soaked in a reduced notion of masculinity.

Her article and argument are taken apart on Jezebel:
It's true that war films have always been an excellent way to get the Academy's attention, though they've also been a good bet at commercial failure. But why should telling the stories of wartime only be a man's provenance? Isn't the U.S.'s engagement in Iraq women's business too?

And let's be clear here: Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron aren't dismissed as unserious merely because they're women making movies about things that supposedly matter to women. It's also because they're seen, fairly or unfairly, as frothily commercial objects, made primarily for passing pleasure. (If we're splitting hairs, I personally didn't find Avatar "serious" and think it should also be seen as a primarily commercial enterprise, but then again the Academy didn't ask me. ...nowhere is there any indication that she's anything but incredibly passionate about both the substance and the creation of The Hurt Locker, or that she's suppressing some sort of innate femininity.

Meanwhile, DC blogger Amanda Hess discusses the argument that the acting awards should be de-segregated. Her conclusion is interesting:
I bristle at the unnecessarily sexist distinction between great male actors and great female actors. But as onerous as a “Best Female Director” category would be, I know that if that category had existed 80 years ago, Hollywood would have actually been forced to support real “women’s pictures” all the way down the line, and today’s great female filmmakers would not be staring down an 80-year legacy of being left out of the show.

This idea of un-sexing the acting Oscars has been floated before, but it seems terribly wrong-headed to me. First of all it rests on the false assumption that the male actors are perceived to be better than the female ones. I don't know anyone who would say this. I don't even know how one could begin to argue this. I looked up the male and female acting categories in Wikipedia. Both Claudett Colbert and Clark Gable won in 1934 for It Happened One Night, and deserved it! Who can say that Joanne Woodward was better in Three Faces of Eve than Alce Guinness in Bridge over the River Kwai in 1957. But ten years later in 1967 both Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter and Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl were much more memorable than Cliff Robertson (who?) in Charly (what?). And in the last fifteen years: the best performance of 1998 was certainly Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful over Gweneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. In 2006? Definitely Helen Mirrien in The Queen, though Forrest Whittaker was amazing in The Last King of Scotland.

All this is to say: best performer might be a fun conjecture, and even a good addition to the awards, but it misses out on the more fundamental aspect of an actors person, their sex.

Even if we allow for a difference between sex and gender (which I don't), let's note that three women have been nominated for cross-gender roles (Cate Blanchett, Felicity Huffman, and Hilary Swank)--but no men have. Frankly, Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan was brilliant. I don't know any male performers that could have taken on that role with such daring and played it so convincingly. (I haven't seen, and have no desire to see, the other films.)

For an actor, sex and gender are a crucial element both to the way they take on a role and to the character they play. Obviously sex is an element in every artists work, because it is integral to our being. But it matters much less that a woman directs a film about a seemingly male subject (war) than that she does it well. Loosing oneself entirely in a role, as Blanchett did, so that the viewers forget entirely who is playing the role, and see only the character portrayed--that is a mark of truly great acting.

I haven't yet seen The Hurt Locker, so I can't speak to the content of the film, but the argument that women should be awarded for "women's films" (aka romantic comedies) is preposterous. (That being said, if a women created a "romantic comedy" of It Happened One Night calibre, I'd be first in line to cheer her on in the Oscar race!) And I can't speak to the acting nods this year, since I've only seen two of the films thus far (An Education and Julie & Julia). Streep would deserve a best all time Oscar for her portrayal of Julia Child, had it been put in a better film (thanks, Ms. Ephron).

Perhaps it's fitting that we end with Julia Child. Her life is, indeed, a testament to the relevance and irrelevance of sex in entertaining: that she was a woman gave her the opportunity to pursue cooking and then the initial audience of housewives. But she was also the first female celebrity chef and therefore broke ground. Furthermore behind the scenes stood her supportive collaborative husband, Paul. She was a phenomenal woman, a great chef, and a find human being--and I don't see why we can't praise her for all three.

(Programing note: we'll be doing an Oscar night Fashion Roundup on tune in!)

March 5, 2010

I Can Only Imagine

I can only imagine what it must feel like to be a mother (or father), and when I do engage my imagination in thoughts of this vocation, I think perhaps the hardest part of it all would be to watch the suffering of your child and know that there is nothing that you can do to take it away. Sure, when children are sick you can comfort them, and certainly a mother never ceases to offer up little and great things for her children's spiritual and physical health. But there are some things that mother's love cannot save her children from, and it strikes me as the most devastating risk in loving another, especially your own flesh and blood, or those whose care you have been entrusted with through foster care or adoption.

I speak of my imagination insofar as I have two students, whom I dearly love and care for, who are carrying such great burdens that I cannot carry for them. While I am so incredibly humbled and blessed that they (and others) find that they can confide in me, it feels like a great responsibility to have the knowledge I do about their lives. I have been wondering, "Is it possible to feel TOO MUCH?" Compassion means to "suffer with." But what (if at all) are its limits?

Rest assured, I'm not locking myself up in my classroom and crying, paralyzed in sadness for them. I just feel their agony with them, very deeply. I have been ever grateful to the Lord for this capacity to feel things of others quite profoundly, but I always have to remind myself that I am NOT Christ. Lord, remind me that to be a Simon of Cyrene is not to be a savior.

Image found here.

March 4, 2010

Guillame Dufay "Inclita Stella Maris"

March 3, 2010

Witness and Love

Oh Edith, you are such a good witness for us. It has been so hard for Julian and I, separated from you as we are by thousands of miles, to know how to show our love. For my part, quick text messages and little offerings of prayer throughout the day hardly seemed worth it--they were so not enough.

But yesterday you reminded me that every pain and every cross, born well, for the sake of Christ, has ramifications for the entire world.

When I first heard the news, all I wanted to do was run to church...but there was a blizzard outside, and I couldn't get out. In my sadness, I turned to our old friend, Francis de Sales, and found (and posted) this quote:
Never think that geographical distance can ever separate souls whom God has united by the ties of His love. The children of the world are separated one from another because their hearts are in different places; but the children of God, having their hearts where their treasure is, and sharing only one treasure--which is the same God--are consequently always united and joined together.

You reminded me yesterday that not only are friends united in Christ through our love of God--but all those who suffer and are in pain are united as well. It is easy to be overwhelmed by sorrow, but Christ has conquered that sorrow and redeemed it by his blood.

I think of our patron, Magdalene. She loved Christ so fully and completely. In the painting above (by Masaccio) we do not even see her face--she is so overcome with sorrow that she cannot even stand. But she is there, and she never gives up.

March 2, 2010


Thank you all, dear readers, for your words of love, prayer, encouragement. Trust me, I know your prayers are helping me. I will say this to all considering married life: self-knowledge. Two must be two, and a strong two, before they can become one flesh. Of course, you continue to grow together as one - but you have to be two first. I hope that makes sense. I'll write more as the pain subsides. In the meantime, there's lots to offer pain for: Here are just a few different things.

March 1, 2010

Love Poems to God

Dear Edith --

I let the poet Rilke speak some words for me from The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.

I love you,

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth --
it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it's you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

I, 17

Because once someone dared
to want you,
I know that we, too, may want you.

When gold is in the mountain
and we've ravaged the depths
till we've given up the digging,

it will be brought forth into day
by the river that mines
the silences of stone.

Even when we don't desire it,
God is ripening.

I, 16

Edith's Silence - Explained

Dear Sisters and Readers,

As you all well know, one month ago, I was the blissfully and happily engaged-to-be married Edith. I had two beautiful diamond rings, and happily looked forward to gaining my third one. I was planning colors, flowers, lace, music, and food. As I was picking out crystal goblets, wedding clothes, and jewelry, I was secretly hoping that our guests might purchase that beautiful (but expensive) china we registered for so that I could use it for a St. Joseph’s feast day party after the wedding. I had a beautiful crystal bowl that would make the perfect center piece! I knew one of my friends was planning on buying me a beautiful pink mix master – which is a kitchen essential in my favorite color! I could not wait!! I was bubbling with excitement as any bride-to-be should be. I anticipated the life I would have as a happy wife with a loving husband, with whom I would help to build our beautiful and holy marriage.

About a week after that, my life changed drastically. I did not get not married, and I am not getting married. Something so catastrophic happened that I cannot even say with detail what it was. Suffice it to say that what occurred ruined any chance we had at marriage. Maybe one day, I will share some of these feelings with you. But right now all I can say is that I am in pain so unutterable, and that pain explains my silence on our blog this past month. But I know that when I am in pain, the Lord weeps with me. I know that His Spirit walks with me daily, each moment, and I will heal eventually. I fight bitterness, anger, rage, depression, regret for what was and sorrow for what should have been, with each moment of each day. But I also know this:
I have been deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is and thought, 'My lasting hope in Yahweh is lost.' Bring to mind my misery and anguish; it is wormwood and gall! My heart dwells on this continually and sinks within me. This is what I shall keep in mind and so regain some hope: Surely Yahweh's mercies are not over, his deeds of faithful love not exhausted; every morning they are renewed; great is his faithfulness! 'Yahweh is all I have,' I say to myself, 'and so I shall put my hope in him.' Yahweh is good to those who trust him, to all who search for him. It is good to wait in silence for Yahweh to save.
Lamentations 3: 18-26

Ignatian Retreat Blog

Several Jesuits (David Paternostro, S.J., John Brown, S.J., Deacon Kevin Dyer, S.J., and Fr. Chris Collins, S.J.) have started a lenten Ignatian Retreat Blog with daily meditations from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola:
The ultimate goal of this blog is to help anyone who reads it to grow in their love for God our Lord, and to better discern His will in their daily lives. We would encourage you to let that goal of growing in the love of God be the one measure you use to determine how much or how little you make use of the materials provided here, and how much or how little time you spend in prayer. Let all things be Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam- for the greater glory of God!

They have guidelines on "Total praying", and Examining your conscience, as well as the daily meditations. They're only on day nine, so there's time to catch up.

HT: AmericanPapist
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