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

May 22, 2011


My students readily laugh at me, and for good reason. The other day we were reading an essay by Gilbert Meilander entitled, "I Want to Burden My Loved Ones," on the question of advanced directives. One sentence just particularly jumped out at me as I was reading aloud to them, and I said, "Do you see now, ladies, why I have a 'brain crush' on this man?" My students all nodded in agreement, and one girl also exclaimed that she, too, was smitten.

To any observer of my classroom, the term "brain crush" might seem like an odd phrase. But for my part in my classroom, I have designated various types of "crushes" that I have.

1 . The brain crush. An obvious admiration for someone's intellect, philosophy, or ability to craft words in a way that rouse the mind and touch the heart. Such examples are: Aristotle, C.S. Lewis, Father Richard Neuhaus, Karol Wojtyla, Pope Benedict XVI, Gilbert Meilander, Charles Krauthammer, and Helen Alvare. My students are well-versed in my "BC's" as we now collectively call them, and I'm proud that we now share some.

2. The spiritual crush. An affinity for another person's spirituality, devotion, or relationship with Our Lord. These crushes manifest themselves in person's writing as well as dispositions in contemplation and action. St. John of the Cross, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Elizabeth Leseur, Mother Teresa, Caryll Houselander all come to mind. However, three priests from my undergraduate institution come to mind, as well as a priest who I work with, the two Magdalene Sisters, and a dear mentor in Opus Dei. My crushes here are numerous, but never fickle.

3. The girl crush. The recognition of the feminine genius manifested in another woman. I have a "girl crush" on all of the women who I work with in the Art of Being a Woman, my godmother's mother, 4 colleagues, my friend from college who is a Dominican sister, my mother, a friend with an ill husband, and even some of my students. Each incarnates gentle strength and beauty in a unique way, and I can only dream of partially reflecting their light. Oh, the Magdalene Sisters go here, too.

4. The real crush. I don't need to define this. And I won't give away who mine are, just yet. :)

Who do you "crush" on?


Margaret E. Perry said...

you forgot about amy adams. total girl crush. ;)

Aaron said...

Somewhat distinct from the these is the "saint crush". That's the guy or gal you might be sweet on if it weren't for the fact that they're before the throne of God and you're on Earth, they may have been in religious life, etc., etc. I think I have two: St. Clare and St. Teresa of Avila.

By all accounts the latter was quite attractive, in the various meanings of the term. As a child she did cute things like trying to go get martyred by the Moors, and as an adult women she inspired men and women alike, among them St. John of the Cross. She was wise in the spiritual life, a talented administrator, an adviser to religious, civic leaders and businessmen. She was bold and humble, smart and funny.

My relationship with St. Clare is more personal. I was born on her feast day. As a boy, this was a disappointment since St. "I'm done on this side; you can turn me over now" Lawrence was just one day before. But living two doors down from the Poor Clares for a couple years opened my heart to a devotion to her. She has taught me about the Eucharist and about Franciscan spirituality, and intercedes for me in heaven. Having no sisters, she is both spiritual sister and mother to me. And maybe a bit of crush too...

Some might call the idea of "saint crushes" frivolous, even dangerous. Should one be indulging the fantasy, however playfully, of romantic attraction to the saints? I think the answer is yes. And I say that because of our nature. Men and women relate to one another differently than they relate to members of their own sex. Men and women admire in one another the feminine and masculine virtues; this is true in marital relationships and the dating/courtship that leads to it, but it is also true of perfectly chaste relationships. Recall as well that St. Francis was devoted not to "Lord Poverty," but "Lady Poverty," his beloved in the chivalric tradition; he recognized in that relationship something of the male-female quality.

Since men and women are different, and that difference is naturally and rightly attractive, I don't see why we should pretend that there isn't some romantic dimension to our attraction to the saints. This ought not become vulgar or unchaste in any way, just as relations between those who are not married should remain chaste, but I think the attraction is simply an acknowledgement of a good. St. Boniface, an Anglo-Saxon missionary who chopped down trees and was martyred by barbarians, is a brother and a comrade to me; but Clare and Teresa? They're crushes.

RAnn said...

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