Give Me a Rose: Why We Swoon for the Bachelor

   In exactly 20 days, the 20th season of The Bachelor will start.  There are two reactions to this news.  You're either the person on the left, or the person on the right.
                                     WE tv excited not amused the bachelor marriage boot camp

   If you haven't been around for the past twenty seasons, the premises of the show is that one, {lucky?} single guy starts out with having to choose from a pool of around 25 women to go on dates with.  Ultimately, he selects one of them.  Romantic dates, travels and drama ensue and he gives roses to the ladies in the contest who he can see himself with in a relationship.  The end of the season culminates with a proposal and eventual {probably televised}wedding.

   Which would be great, if it didn't involve so much drama.  It can be expected of course, but the amount of tears that are shed and hearts that are broken rack up quite quickly as the season progresses.  

Drama. 
More Drama. 
Oh, and over here I found some more drama.  Imagine that. 

                                       
You may think I'm crazy, but I think that at the core of The Bachelor, the producers are drilling into some deep yearnings of the human heart.

Despite the multitude of overly-flirtatious interactions, hot-tubs, and not-so-upright conversations, The Bachelor, and its counterpart, The Bachelorette, taps into a deeper desire for ultimate love and commitment within a relationship.  Our culture is saturated with sex.  Need an example? Just check out the magazine covers in the grocery store.  Today's culture has told us that a relationship requires sex NOW and commitment way later, if at all.  It's why cohabitation is becoming more and more prevalent, because the safety net of trying things out is directly correlated to our fear of commitment with one person.

Today's culture seemingly offers one option - hang out and hook up.  Articles on why people don't date anymore are run rampant on Facebook.  Culturally, the emphasis has switched from couples to the power that an individual has in their school choice, career path, and ultimately deciding when (or if) they are going to settle down and share with someone else.

The idea of being selected out of a crowd, given a rose, and pursued intentionally appeals to the human heart.  It is intriguing to be seen, found attractive for who you are as a human being, and then be purposefully pursued.  Even a simple thing like someone taking interest in a shared hobby can mean a lot, and being found interesting for who you are inherently as opposed to solely what you look like is rare in the visual world we find ourselves in.

The beauty found in an engagement and marriage – the hopes of relationship reality TV shows like The Bachelor  shows that there is a desire in the human heart for commitment to another, not just interest.  Interest is something that occurs when there isn't something better to do and when it's convenient for your schedule.  Commitment is saying you'll be there, and loving the other as other, not for what they can do for you to return the favor.

Our culture is sick of commitment.  Have you been invited to a Facebook event lately? Long gone are the good ol' days of "No," "Yes," and "Maybe."  Now you only have the option of "Interested" "Going" or "Ignore."

Interested? How much more of a non-committal statement can we get?  The next option should be "I'm coming if nothing else better comes up or cooler people invite me to hang out with them."  Let's be honest and stop trying to sugar coat it.  Instead of seeing events and opportunities to spend time with people as a chance to connect with another human being on the same journey to Heaven, we're reducing people down to the pleasure they can bring us.

Not just sexual pleasure in a relationship, but even the pleasure of a good time, fun conversation or instagram worthy shots.

"Treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love."
- Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

What you'll see week after week in The Bachelor, as Ben goes through girls and tries to discover in a few short weeks the woman he'll be asking to discern marriage with him, is that it will be easy for pleasure to get in the way.  And let's be honest, it's 'reality television,' so there will inevitably be {scripted}drama.  Yet if you are glued to the screen and have a countdown ticking down the days until January 4th, don't miss out on the deeper message that Ben and the ladies are begging for, whether they know it or not.

"A person's rightful due is to be treated as an object of Love, not as an object for use."
 - Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

The Bachelor is popular because our souls were made for ultimate completeness, a desire that can only be fulfilled in God's unconditional, Agape love for us.  The answer to this ache in our hearts that can only be filled with love is not going to be satisfied here on this earth - even if you were picked out of all the 25 girls and Ben chose you.  You've already been seen out of all those who have ever walked this earth and will ever walk it, and God sees and loves you.  And that's better than any bachelor rose can ever be.  


The Ache

My TOB Twin 

Last Thursday night I had the incredible honor of getting to hear one of my favorite authors talk on one of my favorite subjects.  Theology of the Body, Sex and God.  Can we just pause and relish the beauty of that combination and the fact that Christopher West spoke on a stage that was literally less than 30 feet away from me?  Or the fact that I was surrounded by almost four hundred primarily college aged men and women who were striving for sainthood alongside me and were interested in the same subject?

Christopher West spoke on a beautiful variety of subjects, but one that has hit me over and over this week while processing the whole talk was about how we live in a world that tries so desperately hard to distract us.  Christopher talked about a time during his college years where he did a miniature social experiment of his own, and decided to stay sober for one weekend of the school semester.  He wanted to see what his crazy life looked like from an outside objective opinion.  What he saw shocked him.

He talked about how his roommate came home so sick to his stomach from excessive drinking that he passed out in their living room on the floor when he walked in the door.  He talked about witnessing the rape of a young woman and being so shocked at the lack of respect for human beings and their inherent worth that he couldn't do anything about the rape situation...and how he still regrets that to this day.

Striving for Sainthood with these amazing people 

Have you heard Alessia Cara's new song Here? It's relatively new to the music scene and is actually what they call a "sleeper hit," or a song that has had quite a bit of air time but no official promotion or sponsorship.  It's a song that sneaks onto the airwaves and makes a huge wave, despite the fact that no one really knows the singer, but can connect at a deep level with the lyrics.  And boy, does Alessia's lyrics ever hit home in today's culture.

Alessia sings about her experience at a party that she really does not want to be at.

But since my friends are here, I just came to kick it.  But really I would rather be at home all by myself, not in this room with people who don't even care about my well being.  

How did it ever come to this? I should've never come to this.  So holla at me, I'll be in the car when you're done.  I'm stand-offish, don't want what you're offerin' and I'm done talkin', awfully sad it had to be this way.  

Oh  oh oh here, I asked myself, what am I doin' here? Oh oh oh, here oh oh oh.  And I can't wait 'til we can break up out of here.  

Whoa.  Talk about an honesty hour.

I don't know what your weekends look like.  Maybe they're a lot like mine and involve sitting around with good friends and large cups of coffee, chatting about life.  Maybe they involve hours spent in the library, pouring over that one last final that you are so close to finishing.  Perhaps they're spent distracting yourself from something whose ache and hurt has rooted itself deep within you at a soul level and you just want a moment of relief from it...so that you can not think about it for just a few precious minutes.

If that's where you are at, if you're in the "here" that Alessia sings about and Christopher was shocked to his core about, then the amazingly beautiful thing is that Christ isn't throwing in the towel on your relationship with Him.

That ache that we want to get away from, to numb ourselves from, to escape from, is an indication that something that can fill that ache is out there.  And we spend a lot of time trying to fill an infinitely deep, God-shaped hole with finite substitutes.

“In essence, Christ’s life proclaims: “You don’t believe God loves you? Let me show you how much God loves you. You don’t believe that God is ‘gift’? This is my body given for you (see Luke 22:19). You think God wants to keep you from life? I will offer myself so that my life’s blood can give you life to the full (see John 10:10).

You thought God was a tyrant, a slave-driver? I will take the form of a slave (see Philippians 2:7); I will let you ‘lord it over’ me to demonstrate that God has no desire to ‘lord it over’ you (see Matthew 20:28). You thought God would whip your back if you gave him the chance? I will let you whip my back to demonstrate that God has no desire to whip yours. I have not come to condemn you but to save you (see John 3:17).

 I have not come to enslave you but to set you free (see Galatians 5:1). Stop persisting in your unbelief. Repent and believe in the good news” (see Mark 1:15).” (Christopher West) 

Run to Him.  Get out of "Here" and into His heart.  Find those along the way who are striving for His heart and push you to His side.  Be Not Afraid 

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? 

Sharon Olds penned this poem in 1984...and the haunting verses carry great weight with each stanza.  In the writing, she tackles this question.  How do they do it?  The ones who make love without love?  Is that juxtaposition and irony possible? To move from the phrase 'I love you' to 'I love this'?

People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used. (unknown) 

 Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice.

Performances.  Sex to the elusive 'they,' those who 'make love without love' is a performance - like a dance recital or an ice-skating competition.  

Fingers hooked inside each other's bodies, faces red as steak, wine, 

Here the imagery Olds uses takes a more graphic or violent turn.  'Hooked,' and even her similes are comparisons to raw meat...rawness.  A sense of vulnerability that is still present despite the desire to separate oneself from the bonding that inevitably happens on a spiritual, emotional, physical level in the very act of sex.

Wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away. 
The beauty integrated into the very act of sex - and one of it's purposes? Procreation.  Fruitfulness. 


"The Church, which is on the side of life, teaches that it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.  This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act." (CCC 2366)
.  

Yet these lovers have separated the openness to life away from their love making...if it can be referred to as such anymore.  They're giving that opportunity and openness to life away.

How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them - light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin?  These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah,

Are they really?  Are they better off?  Who is this false Messiah that they are rejecting? The notion that sex means something? Anything?


love the priest instead of the God.  They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure,


To bypass the creator in an attempt to connect on a deeper level with the creation? Yet in the very act of the reduction of another human being, created in the image and likeness of God, down to simply what one can do for another...instead of willing the other's good

"The fact that theology also considers the body should not astonish or surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation. Theology is that science whose subject is divinity. Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door. The Incarnation and the redemption that springs from it became also the definitive source of the sacramentality of marriage…” (TOB April 2, 1980)

they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind,

the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio- vascular health--just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time.

Here is the ultimate price tag - that comes with the use of another person, separate from the self-giving love that sex in and of itself demands.  Alone-ness.


“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” (From the encyclical, Redemptor Hominis — “Redeemer of Man”)

How do they do it?  Or, perhaps the better questions is, can they do it? Can human beings essentially separate the emotion and decision of love away from the very act of 'making love?'  


Appreciating Women

In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it's wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.

The world defines feminism as equality.  Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.

What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?

I believe in the distinct equality of the human person - but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders...not one.

I'm a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut.  I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others.  And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.  

I'm tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I'm giving up on what should be my 'real dreams' if I pursue something so archaic. I'm tired of an angry feminism that says it's my body and I can do with it whatever I want.  I'm sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.

I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women.  For too long, today's culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it's reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look...which is more objectifying than empowering.

In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, "Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic." 

A valuing of women and Catholicism aren't two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman.  The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman's role in salvation history.  Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, "The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind." Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature.  If that honor isn't something that values a woman, I don't know what is.

Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I'm strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.

Being a woman isn't about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life.  It isn't about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders' charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is.  Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.

"It's about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts." Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, "The Feminine Genius."

We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism.  But the culture's answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.

Femininity is not a burden or a set back.  Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ's love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, "The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood.  In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love.  That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood."

The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call - a call to love.  A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.

If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, "We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly.  It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way."

Viva La Difference....Viva La Feminine.