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. 

NFP as a single, college age girl

You wouldn't think that the words "Natural family planning" and "single Catholic college girl" would work together in one sentence very well. Well, until now that is.  It's not just for married couples - the concepts introduced with Natural Family Planning are concepts that can affect every one's life, regardless of what stage you're at.  So why now? 

Because you shouldn't wait until you are married to start thinking about your fertility.

It's easy to think that the time we have right now while in college is not the time to be worried about fertility and all that jazz.  We're young.  We've got our whole lives ahead of us.  Yet let me tell you something - it is becoming more and more obvious to me that life is literally flying by quicker than I can blink.  My little sister just graduated from high school.  My co-worker just got married and now has a beautiful little baby.  My college peers are graduating.  Life is happening, and snap you're fingers and you'll be at another stage of your life.  Don't wait until you're married to start thinking about how to take care of your health and fertility.

Because you should know where you stand on the issue of birth control before you are in a relationship.

The number one reason marriages don't last anymore? Failed communication.  When birth control was first introduced to the public scene in the early 1960s, it's affect on issues like divorce wasn't something that was on people's minds.  This was about improving marriages! Less stress around pregnancies, littles, and a general well being of the family.  But come in the 1970s, and divorce rates doubled.  And it didn't stop in the 70s  - the number of divorces tripled from 400,000 in 1962 to 1.2 million in 1981.

Why? Because birth control in a marriage says one thing and does another.  Sex, by it's unitive and procreative nature, says "Here is all of me!" but the addition of birth control tacks on "Well, all of me except my fertility.  And our future children."  And that communication can tear down a marriage that is meant to be, according to the Catechism, "ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring" but instead reduces both members down to the sum of their parts.

Because it's not birth control...which is what my doctors want me to be on.

It seems now a days that any medical issue that arises in a girl's life is a case where birth control is prescribed by her doctor.  According to a study conducted in the United States, from 2006-2010, 62 percent of all women in the United states who are of reproductive age are currently prescribed some form of contraceptive birth control.

I've been there.  I've sat down with my doctor and heard how medical issues would be easily, quickly, and painlessly resolved if I would just let her write a prescription for birth control for me.

But there are a lot of risks associated with just the pill - most of which are not gone over in the doctors office when the pill itself is prescribed.  The pill is actually a combination of two different hormonal medications: estrogen and progestin.  Because of this increase in hormone presence in the body, the pill carries with it many side affects, one of them being breast cancer.  Research indicates that the birth control pill itself will increase the risk of a woman getting breast cancer by over 40% if she takes the pill before she has her first child.  After she delivers her first baby though, the chances rocket to over 70% increase of breast cancer risk if she continues for more than four years.

My family has a very high risk of breast cancer on both sides of my family, so taking the pill for me would be not only putting my current health at risk, but also placing the time I spend with my future family at jeopardy
 as well.  Other than just breast cancer risks though, the pill's side affects also include higher blood pressure, heart health issues, blood clotting, a lack of fertility once off the pill prescription, increase of liver and cervical cancers, difficulty breast feeding and a lowering of the immune system to AIDS and HIV.  

On top of all this, the cost of being on the pill for just five years is over $1,000.  I'm in college.  And I drink a lot of coffee.  The budget that I have for medication is very small - and to be purchasing something that acts as a band-aid for the medical issues that I do have, only to increase my future medical risks and costs isn't a cost effective choice. 

Studying the concepts of Natural Family Planning - such as the charting and tracking of fertility - is one way that NFP has been a blessing to me as a single Catholic woman.  Instead of relying on artificial hormones, I'm able to utilize the concepts of NFP to track my fertility and expose a lot of the underlying issues that birth control might have covered up - like the simple addition of vitamins into my diet and a better awareness of my fitness and general health.  

Also, this book was incredibly helpful for that reason.  

Because your body is amazing...and knowing how it works is fantastic too.

Even if you're not married, or heck, if you're in the same boat as me and you're not even dating, it's no excuse to not appreciate how stinking amazing the human body is.  One of my dearest friends is in veterinarian school and sends me facts about the body and the reproduction system and it's amazing. For instance, did you know that, for women, the smell of a newborn baby triggers the same part of the brain reward center as a drug addiction does?  God has literally thought of everything imaginable and to be able to learn about it is the bomb.

Although it may not seem like it, in your early twenties is the ideal time to learn all of this as well.  Down the road you may have a family, a full time career, graduate degree work, or any other number of amazing thing God has planned for you.  Right now is the perfect time to dig into the amazing work He's laid out for us in our creation.

Because life is beautiful no matter what stage of life you're in.

This morning at church I sat behind a family with five littles.  They were gorgeous - all of them under ten and full of life and energy.  And it was beautiful.  Am I utilizing NFP right now to plan my family with my spouse? Nope.  However, knowing how NFP works and the Church's teachings concerning families right now helps so much when both interacting with families now and when I, God willing, have my own family in the future.

God's plan for your fertility doesn't start when you put on a wedding dress.  Or when you are called to start a family.  Or even if you are not called to marriage at all.  Your body is good. It makes it possible for you to be Christ's hands and feet to the world around you.

This weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension - yet another way that Christ tells us that our bodies are important.  He rises, body and soul, and ascends into Heaven.  If the body wasn't important, Christ wouldn't have a glorified one.

So take the time now to learn more about your fertility.  It is never too early to glorify the Lord with your whole self.

For further resources, check out these amazing websites:

Couple to Couple League: A great way to learn the basics of NFP and how they interact in a - marriage.

- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: This website has some great articles about the religious explanation of why the Catholic Church supports NFP.

- Carrots for Michaelmas: Haley Stewart is probably the most incredible Catholic mama blogger in my opinion.  She's sassy, has an incredible sense of style, and, in her own words is a "homeschooling, bacon-eating, coffee-drinking southern girl with a flair for liturgical feasts and a penchant for bright red lipstick."  In other words, who I want to be when I grow up.  She has a fantastic piece on her NFP experience over on her blog.

There are countless of other bloggers who have written on their experience with NFP - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you're looking for some more information on the subject, drop me a note in the comment box and I'll get you set up.

Obsession with Perfection

I find it very easy to obsess over the desire for perfection in my life.  I want everything to be just right.  From my grades and extracurricular activities to my closet and how my car is organized.  My heart to hearts with God are are filled with constant reminders that I need to really align my will with His, and not the other way around.  

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:8

Yet it's easy to think we know best.  We know what would be perfect for us.  If God could only get on the same page that our dreams are written on, things would fall into place.

We don't ask for too much, just perfection, for crying out loud.  We want the perfect school experience.  We want the perfect best friend.  We want the perfect significant other.  We want the perfect littles.  We want the white-picket-fence perfect house. 

Why do you think Pinterest is so popular?  It gives a glimpse, even if it is just a fleeting one, at what life could look like if it were perfect.  If you had time to workout everyday, had the decorating skills to rival HGTV and cooking abilities to shock Gordon Ramsey.  We strive for perfection in almost every aspect of our lives.

Yet the worst place that we demand perfection is with people.  I have found this to be exceptionally true in my life lately.

I want a world without collision.  In a play called "Master Harold and the Boys," by Athol Fugard,  one of the characters compares human interaction to ballroom dancing.  


“Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we're sick and tired of it now. It's been going on for too long. Are we never going to get it right?...Learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of beginners at it?”

But that's the beauty of Christ's work in our lives.  He enters as a savior to a broken world, but not to declare that the imperfections experienced by us are too much for God.  Instead, He sees the mess we've made of things and creates beauty from the ashes.  

Yet how easy is it to demand perfection of others while completely ignoring the struggles in your own life?  To see other's burdens, and instead of helping to lift them, critique them and advise them. 

Then I realize that the things that I'm calling them out for struggling with are the exact same things that eat into my life.

"I would never marry a guy with a horrible temper because I have a bad temper and I need someone to even me out."

"I would never go out with someone who struggles with envy because my struggle is envy and I need someone to tell me that what I have is good enough."

"I can't be friends with someone who struggles with __________ because I struggle with ______ and I need someone to call me out and be accountable with."

I'm desiring divine fulfillment through the channels of other children of God instead of through God Himself.  

We shouldn't be constantly yearning for the perfect girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, best friend or confidant, with who we can finally be ourselves and they can fix everything for us.  We shouldn't be looking for another person to 'balance us out.'  That's not what friendship, accountability, or marriage is about.  


What if we started interacting with people not for how they could 'make us whole' or 'fix our problems' but how we could find someone to struggle towards holiness together?  Instead of looking for the perfect guy/gal, realizing that they aren't out there. There is no perfect match who everything will work out with.  What if we desired to experience the same issues with someone and strive towards holiness with the same goals? To know each others struggles and not condemn, but encourage? To see the beauty in the immortal soul?  

C.S. Lewis once said, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

What about with our relationships? Romantic and friendships? How does an obsession for perfection change those interactions? Matt Fradd had a beautiful photo that he wrote on that summarizes this fantastically:



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"The next date you will go on will be with a sinner, FYI. It’s interesting to me how a line like that—the one I just wrote—doesn't shock us. Nor do people feel ashamed when they say, “Hey, I’m a sinner.” But a sinner is one who sins, right? And I never hear people act so nonchalant about the particular sins they commit, “Hey, I’m a fornicator.” But back to your next date. Swap “sinner” with one of the following and notice the difference in your reaction. The next date you will go on will be a person who is a liar/selfish/arrogant/racist/a glutton/greedy/slothful/hateful . . . See what I mean? Sin sucks." Matt Fradd 

Darn it Adam and Eve, sin is here and will be until Christ comes back.  But that doesn't mean that all is lost.  Heck, we're all in this boat together - we've all sinned and fallen short of the beauty that God orginally had planned for us.  We're bumping into people like crazy down here.  We're bumbling around and trying to dance through life perfectly, but we're too busy yelling at people for dancing wrong to hear God telling us what steps go perfectly in time to the music of His plan. 
Should we strive just for the perfect? Surround ourselves with only perfect people and do only perfect things? You can try, but I'm pretty sure you'll end up discouraged, lonely and doing nothing.  So what is the answer?  Doesn't Christ Himself call us to be perfect?  He says so in the Bible in Matthew 5:43-48 - "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23278AX" data-link="(AX)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23279AY" data-link="(AY)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> that you may be children<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23280AZ" data-link="(AZ)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23281BB" data-link="(BB)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
So are we called to perfection? Not in the sense that we will never stumble, never fall, never collide (if we could, we wouldn't need the sacrament of confession).  
God loves perfectly, with an Agape type love that has no conditions.  He doesn't keep a score card, tallying up the times we were imperfect so that he can punish us at the end of our lives.  Rather, He desires our good and our fullness, and loves accordingly.  
Our love towards our neighbor (ie, everyone in the world) should mirror His perfect love.  It won't be a perfect reflection because our sins get in the way.  But to look at other people and will the good of the other as other? That's striving for loving perfection.  We'll miss the mark.  We'll fall down, get scraped up and have to dust ourselves off.  
But there is beauty in the imperfection and holiness that can arise from the realization of our faults.  
Thank Heaven for a God who can love the imperfect perfectly. 

In Christ,

Chloe 

You're His "The One"

Tonight I was listening to a talk by Father Mike Schmitz about the beauty found in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  This post includes some of Father Mike's thoughts with a little bit of Chloe-isms sprinkled in. 

We're physical beings.  We have bodies that reside here on a physical earth, surronded by things that we interact with through taste, touch, smell and sound.  We connect with the tangible.  Although we have an eternal soul, we are able to experience the goodness God has provided for here on this earth with our bodies.

Including love.  And other people.  As someone whose love language is physical touch, I can so attest to this.  Body language speaks volumes.  There have been times that I have felt loved simply by someone taking the time to put their arms around me and give me a genuine hug.

Physical touch and contact with friends and family is easy to find.  It's there in a romantic relationship too.  But what about my relationship with God?  How does my love language translate into my relationship with the Divine? There have been countless times that I have turned to my girlfriends and said "If only Christ could wrap me in His arms and I could feel his warmth in a hug.  And if He wore cologne." That would be what they call the dream. 

love animated GIF

Luckily, Christ knows the aching of my heart and has the answer (does He ever not?).  He yearns to pull us closer to His heart.  He doesn't want to just be acquainted with us.  Or be there when we need Him.  Or even be really close friends.  He wants to be intimate with us.

Father Mike tackled this subject of the physical desire, and said, "We shake hands with everyone.  There are a smaller number of people who we would hug.  Even a smaller number of people who we'd kiss.  A smaller number still who we'd kiss like that. And only in the sacrament of marriage are we called to give ourselves totally to another physically."

Christ doesn't just want to shake our hands, or give us a friendly nod as we pass Him in the hallways.  He doesn't just want to give us a hug when we feel bad, or a kiss when we need some lovin'.  No - Christ wants to give His entire self to us.  All of Him.  His whole body, and even His very blood.

But to those of us who have been walking around the Catholic block for quite a while, that amazing mystery seems common place.  Going to Church this Sunday to receive the very body of the creator of the universe? Sure, we'll take some of that.  We may or not be more excited for the doughnuts after Church though.

Yet day after day, we spend our lives yearning, aching for the one.  Not just someone, or a one, or anyone, but The One. We love love, and want someone to return the feeling.

Yet when we receive communion, every Mass becomes a wedding between you and the best lover in the history of forever.

A lover who knows me better than I know myself.  Who not only recognizes my hopes and dreams, but has plans to amplify them and sweep me off of my feet...and off the path defined by my will.  I think it's time I got to know that lover better.  He knows the count of hairs on my head...and sometimes I can count the number of times I've prayed this week on one hand.

In the Song of Songs, the story of a lover who desires the good of his beloved is woven throughout the language of a fantastic romance.  But at the core of this is the story of a God who is enamored with His beloved.  You're God's "The One."

Song of Songs 7:10 "I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me."

He desires us...are we willing to make Him our one