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?

May 14, 2011

It's Been Awhile

Well, as I told Agatha the other day on my porch, it's been awhile since I've posted. I could blame work: stacks of grading just keep getting bigger. I could blame my social life: it's been filled with coffee dates, drink dates, softball games, and work outings. I could blame any number of things. But really, I just have wanted to process my life in silence.

When we started this blog, nearly three years ago, I was just entering the "real world" after graduating with a Master's degree. There was so much to navigate: living in a new city, dating (and oh how funny those stories were), figuring out what a single life was supposed to look like, learning how to deal with bosses and colleagues, and so much more.

But now, as I get older, some of those experiences have given me answers to the questions I was previously asking, so I'm not really asking them anymore! Sure, I'm still single, but more mature and settled in my adulthood. I am still at the same job, but confident in how I have been deepening my experiences there and growing as a teacher and woman in Christ.

After a silent retreat earlier this year, I've begun to wonder whether or not to publicly process my intimate thoughts here. To be sure, I'm taken much more to prayer, and so maybe that is why I have been silent.

So, time will tell whether or not I get chatty on here again. For the time being, I keep you in my prayers!

May 13, 2011

Loves by Scott Cairns

I was introduced to the poet Scott Cairns by a friend and classmate of Julian's who is undergoing a dangerous surgery today. We'd love it, if you can, to say a quick prayer for him, his wife, his surgeons, and his family.

Magdalen’s Epistle
from Loves by Scott Cairns (via)

Of Love’s discrete occasions, we
observe sufficient catalogue,
a likely-sounding lexicon

pronounced so as to implicate
a wealth of difference, where reclines
instead a common element,

itself quite like those elements
partaken at the table served
by Jesus on the night he was

betrayed—like those in that the bread
was breakable, the wine was red
and wet, and met the tongue with bright,

intoxicating sweetness, quite
like ... wine. None of what I write arrives
to compromise that sacrament,

the mystery of spirit graved
in what is commonplace and plain—
the broken, brittle crust, the cup.

Quite otherwise, I choose instead
to bear again the news that each,
each was still itself, substantial

in the simplest sense. By now, you
will have learned of Magdalen, a name
recalled for having won a touch

of favor from the one we call
the son of man, and what you’ve heard
is true enough. I met him first

as, mute, he scribbled in the dust
to shame some village hypocrites
toward leaving me unbloodied,

if ill-disposed to taking up
again a prior circumstance.
I met him in the house of one

who was a Pharisee and not
prepared to suffer quietly
my handling of the master’s feet.

Much later, in the garden when,
having died and risen, he spoke
as to a maid and asked me why

I wept. When, at any meeting
with the Christ, was I not weeping?
For what? I only speculate

—brief inability to speak,
a weak and giddy troubling near
the throat, a wash of gratitude.

And early on, I think, some slight
abiding sense of shame, a sop
I have inferred more recently

to do without. Lush poverty!
I think that this is what I’m called
to say, this mild exhortation

that one should still abide all love’s
embarrassments, and so resist
the new temptation—dangerous,

inexpedient mask—of shame.
And, well, perhaps one other thing:
I have received some little bit

about the glib divisions which
so lately have occurred to you
as right, as necessary, fit

That the body is something less
than honorable, say, in its
... appetites? That the spirit is

something pure, and—if all goes well—
potentially unencumbered
by the body’s bawdy tastes.

This disposition, then, has led
to a banal and pious lack
of charity, and, worse, has led

more than a few to attempt some
soul-preserving severance—harsh
mortifications, manglings, all

manner of ritual excision
lately undertaken to prevent
the body’s claim upon the heart,

or mind, or (blasphemy!) spirit—
whatever name you fix upon
the suppos├ęd bodiless.

I fear that you presume—dissecting
the person unto something less
complex. I think that you forget

you are not Greek. I think that you
forget the very issue which
induced the Christ to take on flesh.

All loves are bodily, require
that the lips part, and press their trace
of secrecy upon the one

beloved—the one, or many, endless
array whose aspects turn to face
the one who calls, the one whose choice

it was one day to lift my own
bruised body from the dust, where, it seems
to me, I must have met my death,

thereafter, this subsequent life
and late disinclination toward
simple reductions in the name

of Jesus, whose image I work
daily to retain. I have kissed
his feet. I have looked long

into the trouble of his face,
and met, in that intersection,
the sacred place—where body

and spirit both abide, both yield,
in mutual obsession. Yes,
if you’ll recall your Hebrew word.

just long enough to glimpse in its
dense figure power to produce
you’ll see as well the damage Greek

has wrought upon your tongue, stolen
from your sense of what is holy,
wholly good, fully animal—

the body which he now prepares.

May 11, 2011


I've got a whole pile of links waiting to be posted, so here you go:

Neat analysis of the first of Titian's famous Noli Me Tangere (above) paintings shows that originally Christ was dressed as a gardener, and his back was turned to Magdalene. Read more here.

It was once looked down upon to have a career. Then it was bad to not have a career and have lots of kids. What are we supposed to think anymore? Virginia Postrel discusses this in the WSJ. Related: Is the male-female wage gap a myth? (via First Things)

We've quoted and discussed much of Kay Hynowitz's work before. Here's a interesting interview from earlier this spring about her controversial new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Turned Men into Boys. Related: Read her WSJ excerpt from the book.

Don't blame Ambercrombie if your girls dressing sluttily. The blame starts with the parents who fund them. So argues Pia de Solenni. And while I tend to agree, I don't think they really account enough for the profound influence of advertising and peer pressure. Related: One-third of clothes marketed to young girls are "sexy" according to a Kenyon College Study (via The Atlantic).

Since we've all been a bridesmaid way way way too many times, I wanted to suggest to you ladies this cool new service from bridesmaid company Dessy. Called New Maid you can send in your old bridesmaid dresses, and they will give you a coupon for 30% to 50% off one of their lovely LBDs. Which you really can wear again.

James Matthew Wilson has some thoughts on college administrations counseling students to live chastely.

And, after all that heavy stuff, here's a little fun via the webcomic xkcd:

May 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Jules!

I wish I had something clever to say for your birthday. Let it be simply known that you never fail in generoisty of friendship, we can always count on your prayers, your support, your love. And we're not really sure how we were so lucky to get a friend like you!

--Agatha and Edith

May 3, 2011

Book Review: How to Get to I Do by Amy Bonaccorso

With all the glory and beauty of the royal wedding fresh on our brains, there seems no better time to share with you the latest book on dating and marriage on my shelf. Amy Bonaccorso's How to Get to I Do: A Dating Guide of Catholic Women published by Servant Books is a must-read for our Catholic sisters or any of our sisters who are seeking a God-centered marriage to a good man. I knew as soon as I saw the very name “Bonaccorso” that I would be in for a treat. Although my Italian is rusty, my training in Latin reminds me that "bona‟ means good and "corso‟ means way – so I felt confident that her words would be a "good way‟ to follow. And she did not disappoint, after all she successfully navigated the crazy dating world in DC!

Amy writes a witty, humorous, and very honest how-to guide for young women who are nearly in despair as they face the increasingly insane (and oftentimes seriously scary) world of dating – including Catholic dating. The book is different from other Catholic dating books because it is more realistic, modern, and often has little sections from her husband weighing in with a male voice, which is always helpful for us ladies who are constantly wondering what the men we fall for are thinking! She reminds us that to find a good man, we need to involve ourselves in social situations that will attract them like joining faith-based groups, practicing the hobbies and activities you love, and having no fear to be yourself. She encourages women to be hopeful and courageous, after all God does not want you to be a doormat for men to walk all over (see page 112 for Amy‟s take!)

Bonaccorso starts with an interesting distinction between "dating‟ and "courtship.‟ We often hear courtship praised by many of our Catholic and non-Catholic Christian compatriots as the only redeemable way to meet your future spouse. After all, isn't dating for the promiscuous, secular world? I've even heard that if you don't have sex after the third date, a man will dump you. Why should he pay for all those dinners and not get something in return? Isn't that the dating mentality? Mrs. Bonaccorso doesn't think so (that's right, she's a recent Mrs. who wrote this book to let us all know the secrets that do in fact work in finding Mr. Fabulous!) And for the record, I don‟t think dating necessarily promotes promiscuity either, but it can be tough and discouraging to see so many men who do and who seem to expect sex in return for dinner (seriously, I've met that guy).

What Amy does not like about the courtship mentality is that it often relies on fathers to choose what man they should marry regardless of her age. According to Bonaccorso, this simply is not realistic: “A thirty-five-year-old professional woman has every right to ask her father‟s opinion about a man, but she has no business asking to him to manage her relationships for her.” (p. 7)

Although I am still unsure on the actual distinction that Amy is making between "dating‟ and "courtship‟ I think I can see the point here: the courtship mentality, at least in my experience, can sometimes lead to an over-idealistic and often time unrealistic view of marriage that can actual destroy a relationship because of unfulfilled (and unfulfillable) expectations. But she is adamant that your family and friends should have no objections to your potential spouse and that he should be incorporated in your social circles of friends and family and vice versa. After all, if he isolates you from those who love you, that is a major red flag and you should run away as fast as you possibly can.

Amy also gives touches on some subjects that we don't think about don't like to think about, like: don't be afraid to attack the issue of finances with a future spouse. What's your debt and his? What would it be combined? What's your plan for paying it off? Let's be honest, many marriages end tragically because of financial struggles. She minces no words: you must be assertive in asking your future spouse about this aspect of your lives. I could not agree more. When I was engaged (and thank God I did not get married!) I found out only weeks before the intended marriage that Peter had very staggering debt. If we had married – that would have ruined our combined credit and set us up for a lifetime of hardship (not to mention the fact that he was not honest about it in the first place!)

So much of Amy's book resonated with me – even at times bringing me to tears. For example, she tells us to beware of certain "types‟ of men who prey on good women like "the dream weaver‟ who is hypersensitive, always makes you feel like you need to walk on eggshells, or seems mentally unstable. (Could she have described my ex-fiance any more accurately?) She warns of deceptive men who pretend to respect and uphold your chastity but actually seek to break you down. She experienced them and so have we. But Amy hopes that by following her advice we can recognize these ones before becoming emotionally invested. If only I'd read this earlier…

One slightly peculiar note about Bonaccorso's advice is her positive endorsement of the online dating world. Since she met her husband this way, I suppose she should certainly feel positive about it. She writes, “Online dating is the new equalizer. All are equal in cyber space: men and women, introverts and extroverts, and people from different geographic locations. Online dating makes it possible to become acquainted with individuals you never could have met otherwise.” (p.20) Amy was so insistent that the positives outweigh the negatives of online dating, that I actually tried one for a month, but was only contacted by very old men and very strange age-appropriate ones. One of them with a very scary picture sent me a message that read only “Marry me now.” Totally weird. But Amy's experience was very different and I am sure that if I tried it for a longer duration, I may have found a diamond in the rough. But for now, I am satisfied with the traditional ways of meeting people, which Bonaccorso also covers extensively.

In the final sections of the book, Amy gives advice to the newly-engaged and marriage-preparing couples. I really appreciated her take on co-habitating since so many of our generation (so frustratingly) seem to think this is a necessary pre-engagement transition. Not so! “Don't allow the pride of some co-habitating couples to sway you. Remember that people who themselves cohabitate will secretly admire your strength for living independently.” (p. 137) Bravo! She admonishes brides not to become selfish Bridezillas who think the day revolves around them. It does not. It involves not only your husband-to-be (yep, remember him?), but your families and the entire Mystical Body of Christ. We need to treat the day as such, and moreover, treat the marriage as such as!

In short, I found How to Get to I Do an engaging read with advice I wish I had earlier and am relieved and excited to have now as I re-enter the dating world stronger, wiser, and more confident about who I am and what I want. Get yourself a copy and then get one for a friend, and be confident that Bonaccorso's wise words will indeed lead you on the "good way‟ to finding your good man.
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