Love is More than an Open Door: Chivalry in Today's Culture

I'm going to make a bold statement that some of you may not agree with.  The modern day gentleman who respects women and values human beings for who they are and not what they can give him is out there.

Believe me, I know what you're thinking. Because I thought it for so long as well.

That sounds great, but there aren't any good guys out there anymore. They just don't exist.  If they're out there, they aren't in my life and they probably never will be.  

Well, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong.  They do exist, and not just in fiction or Hallmark Movie Christmas specials.  Instead, they could be on your campus, in your church, in your family or on your way to work.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver (1864-1943); botanist, agricultural chemist, inventor, educator: But in order to appreciate chivalry as a woman, that means that we have to accept the beautiful gift of a man respecting us.  And sometimes that's hard for a generation of women who have been told that their body is the only thing that a man wants, and it's not worth it to have self-respect.

I don't love chivalry because I'm weak, or lack self-esteem, or simply don't have the desire to open doors - but because I'm honoring the God-given position that has been given to the men in my life {whether that be my dad, boyfriend, or brothers in their own way} to lead me to Heaven.  Not because they're better than me, or holier than me.  But because in Ephesians 5, Christ calls men to lay down their lives for the women they love, which speaks of the love story between Christ and His bride, the Church.  Do you know what that love story involved?  Dying.  Stretched out on a wooden beam, heaving for breath, forgiving those who were torturing him, agony and pain.  Out of love for Her.  And out of respect for the amazing plan that God had for Her in the story of the salvation of His people.

Perhaps it is not the chivalry is dead...perhaps it is that we've started settling for a lot less.  A quick look onto the Billboard Top 40 Hits right now is a testimony to the deep ache felt by the general population for something more.  Something deeper.  Something meaningful.  

Selena Gomez is sick of that same old, her body has had enough.  Alessia Cara would rather be home all by herself not in this room with people who don't even care about her well being.  Cam has been sleepwalking, wandering all night, trying to take what's lost and broke and make it right.  And Justin Bieber just wants to know what his lover means when she nods her head yes but she wants to say no.  This culture is looking for a sweeter song - something satisfying.  Yet, ironically, it simultaneously rejects everything that resembles respect for one another as human beings made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father {especially in a romantic relationship, which often sink into utilitarianism} because it's old fashioned and the future has to have something better in store...right?

so many pictures of holding hands in the car and yet they never get old: Maybe I'm biased.  I am exceedingly blessed to have an earthly father who has loved me from day one and never been afraid to show that through his actions.  I am tremendously blessed to be dating a man who constantly puts my good above his own and makes me so proud of him through the way that he loves me.  My little brothers respect me and honor me in their own unique way - which usually involves giving me a Nerf gun before they start firing.  Hey, to each his own.

Chivalry is so much more than just opening the car door or walking on the outside side of the sidewalk. It isn't just giving a girl your jacket or helping her carry things.  It would be a great disservice to the men who practice chivalry to reduce that virtue down simply to the fruits of the actions performed.  Chivalry is a state of mind.  Chivalry is valuing a woman's heart not for what she can do for you, but for who she is integrally.  Chivalry inspires those around it to be more, do more and act with integrity.

                      God assigns to every man the dignity of every woman. (JPII)  

Not just the woman you love romantically.  Not just your mother, or your sisters, or your dear friends.  No, every woman is deserving of respect...especially when she herself has forgotten that she is worthy of a passionate and self-giving love.

Gentleman.  In the amazing and continuously applicable words of Saint Pope John Paul II - Be Not Afraid.  I know, I know, I say that phrase so much, but it is so beautifully encompassing of the point I'm trying to articulate.  There are women who won't appreciate the gift that you're trying to give them through respecting them.  Give it anyway.  There are people who will call you old fashioned and tell you to get with the times when you take the time to go the extra mile in any relationship.  Ignore them.  You're tapping into the greater call of manhood when you respect a woman.  Every woman, regardless of her recognition of the fact, deserves men in her life who respect her as a child of God.  And every man deserves to be appreciated for his effort.  So, for those who don't recognize your acts of chivalry, thank you.  Thank you for putting our good ahead of yours in a very tangible way.  Please, I beg you, continue to stand against the current of the modern culture and show women the love that they so deeply deserve.

Ladies.  If the men in your life are showing you that you are worthy of respect...value them for it.  If the man in front of you at the convenience store or the classroom holds the door - thank them.  It's not because you are weak.  I know you can get that door for yourself.  But your brother is stopping and consciously reflecting the love that God has for you as His daughter.  We can't let that pass us by because we are too proud to say thank you.  The radical feminist movement has ruined a lot for women, but one of the greatest injustices that it perpetrated was the emasculation of the men in our lives.  In their own way, they are sacrificing for you.   Don't let the vicious cycle of use continue in our world.

On Sunday at Church, the priest who said Mass talked about the inherent intertwining that happens with masculine and feminine spirituality.

                      The strength of every man lies in the heart of the woman he loves. 

The interaction between the two sexes while here on this earth is meant to reflect the love that the Heavenly Father has shown and continues to show us.  Don't miss out on partaking in that exchange because of pride...on either end of the equation.

12 Ways to Express Your Love in a Relationship

   We live in a world that reduces love {a beautifully complex process of willing the good of the other above one's own desires} down to sex.  What a depressing concept - to take what is good, beautiful and, frankly, amazing, and have the audacity to say that the only way you can show romantic love to another human being is through physically giving them everything.

   There are a multitude of ways to touch a person's soul and spirit without ever using your hands.  Not that I'm in any way an expert, but here are twelve ways to show your love in a relationship uniquely.

1.

Help Them to Christ
Faith is at the core of a relationship that is Christ-centered.
Whether this manifests itself through a stop into the adoration chapel
at the end of a date, or even something as simple as a rosary walk
or quick prayer together before the night ends, you will not
be disappointed when you let the divine author of Love itself
into your relationship.

2.
Ask About Their Day 
The monotonous happenings of week in and week out living
can result in days blending into each other.  Yet a intentional
question of how someone's day was, or letting them know
that you thought about them while you were away can break
the same-ness of a routine schedule.  


3.

Remember the Little Things 
You know that big promotion that he put in for at work? What about
the new book that she's anxiously waiting for the release of?  Little
details of someone's life might seem insignificant, but remembering
the small celebrations and struggles in the life of the one you love
shows an ability to listen and care about them.


4.
Compliment Who They Are, Not Just How They Look
Words of affirmation are a unique way to show affection
in a relationship.  Don't default just to complimenting someone
on just their physical appearance - although these compliments are not
without merit.   However, you have a unique view into someone's life when
you are in a romantic relationship, and the time spent together reveals
things about the other person that most may not recognize or appreciate
 as you can.  Maybe it's the way she laughs or the way he says a certain phrase.
Don't be afraid to bring attention to the characteristics that you love
 out and compliment them. Additionally, the culture puts an
incredible amount of emphasis on how someone looks, and not
on who they are, their interest or their identity as a child of God.
Don't be afraid to notice the things the world deems as unimportant -
it's okay to be counter-cultural.
5.
Spend Time With Them
This may seem like a very simple way to show your affection for
someone, but the reason that today is called the 'present' is
because your time is a gift.  Anyone can give gifts, money,
or conversations.  When you give someone the gift of your
time, you give away something you will never get back.  You
cannot rewind the clock - once minutes have ticked by on the clock,
they're gone - so don't be afraid to share those with your significant other. 
6.

Read a Book Together

Perhaps this is entirely biased of me - the girl with a stack of books about as high
as she are  that are calling her name over winter break.  But as an avid reader,
there is something incredible about reading a book with someone.
Edmund Wilson once wrote, "No two people ever read the same book."  The
perspective that another fellow reader can bring to the reading process is amazing.
So whether that is opening up a book on a shared interest or delving into fiction
together, open up the world of conversations
that can be ignited through the pages of a book read together.
7.
Put Their Will Before Yours
So often "will the good of the other as other" is tossed around
when the discussion of how to demonstrate love is brought up.  Yet in
practical terms, what does that phrase mean?  It could be on a
large scale, in terms of relationship details unique to each couple.
Or it could be in the simple things - like letting the other decide what
to have for dinner, or which movie to go see.  Will their good and
desires by putting yourself on the back burner for a while.  The result
is a giving of yourself - which is undeniably an expression of love. 

8.


Write Them Letters
Writing down your feelings for someone is sometimes a challenge
in a world that is filled with instant-gratification communication.
The time it takes to pull out paper and an envelope, put your emotions
into words on a paper, and then send those words, full of meaning,
off in the hands of a postman seems to be a concept of those good old days
we always hear about.  But writing a old fashioned letter can communicate
much more than just the words that you put on the paper.  The time, thought
and surprise of a envelope in the mail (that is not a bill to be paid) is a way to
show your affection to your loved one. 

9.
Try Something New Together
From my own experience, it is easy to stay in a comfort zone in your
personal life as well as in the life of your relationship.  Try changing
things up during the time that you spend together.  It could be a new
activity (the last time you went bowling was sixth grade? Pull out those
shoes and hit the lanes!) or a new restaurant, but change things
around and enjoy the adventure together.
In the words of the wise Saint John Paul II,
"Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure." 

10.
Take Interest in Their Interests 
This can be challenging - but while your in the adventurous mood,
take genuine interest in hobbies or favorites of your loved one.  You
weren't a super hero fan before you met him? Ask him to explain
the latest plot of the comic he's been reading.  Never tried her favorite
drink? Today's the day then, friend.  It may not end up being a mutual
interest, but the thought behind trying something new for the sake 
of your loved one goes far beyond the shared experience or interest. 

11.
Put Away Technology
Yet another product of our time, the good old cell phone
can distract incredibly from time spent with your partner.  When
you spend time with your loved one, put technology away and
appreciate the genuine face to face time (not Face Time) you can
spend with the person who you love.  

12.
 Pray FOR Them
So often, the phrase "I'll pray for you" is discounted.
Never discount the incredible power of praying for someone.
Through prayer, you are able to take concerns, struggles, successes and dreams
and offer them up to Christ.  This way of showing love could take various forms.
Perhaps it's offering up a Hail Mary for your loved one when you wake up
every morning.  Or it could be remembering their intentions during your Mass.
Whatever way this form of affection manifests itself, there is nothing more
attractive than a lover who sees the significance of the eternal beauty of the other's soul. 


   And there are my twelve, perhaps rambling and unconnected thoughts.  Don't get me wrong - physical expression - appropriate to the level of relationship experienced - of how much you appreciate and desire the good of your loved one is an amazing expression of your emotions and decisions.  However, don't discount the beauty of expressing your love in your relationship with time, words and actions.  You won't regret it, I promise. 

You Deserve More than the Same Old Love

The station that I listen to at work has thankfully not switched over to Christmas music yet, so that leaves us bank tellers dancing to pop music in our down time.  Normally, I'm more of a Folk Music - think Mumford and Sons - or Pop Rock - Ed Sheeran, Ben Rector - kind of gal.  So I'm getting to hear songs that normally don't even touch my playlist.  Last week, the big song that played over and over (and

over

and

over

and

over

) was Selena Gomez's new tune

Same Old Love

.  The refrain is especially haunting.  

I'm so sick of that same old love, that ****, it tears me up

I'm so sick of that same old love, my body's had enough.

Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love.

I'm so sick of that same old love, feels like I've blown apart

I'm so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart.

Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love. 

What if someone told Selena that life, and love, didn't have to hurt so much?  That there was more to life than just that same old love, and that she in fact

deserved and was created for more?

 And that love, if performed in the manner it was created for, could actually be a beautiful NEW love that reflected the unconditional love of a heavenly Father?

"Purity?" They ask.  And they smile.  They are the ones who go onto marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls." - Saint Josemaria Escriva 

Love isn't meant to tear you up, or break your soul, heart and body.  That's not what love was created for.  In fact, God is the author of love and the creator of your soul in His image, so love is supposed to point back to him.  What? God? Love? Yes - He does have a lot to do with relationships and interactions with other human beings...despite the culture that constantly tells us to keep God out of our relationships and out of our bedrooms.

"God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes."

- Catechism of the Catholic Church 1604

We are all called to a vocation of love - despite what "Big V Vocation" we are called to.  That is the one concept that I find the most beautiful in everything surrounding vocational discernment.  No matter what vocation you are called to, you are called to love.  Saint Therese of Lisieux once exclaimed, "My vocation is love!" And typical Saint Therese, she's right.  If you're called to marriage, you get to reflect the love of Christ between you and your spouse.  If you're called to the vocation of religious life, you reflect the love of Christ between you and Him directly.  If you're called to a life of consecrated singleness, you get to reflect love between Christ and others.  We're all called to love..but not the heart-breaking love that Selena pours her heart over.  

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, "Only a chaste man and a chaste woman are capable of true love."  How true - chastity is not something that hinders us from loving freely, but  actually opens the doors for true love to take over.  It's a matter of perception.  Chastity can be viewed as rules that bind us or opportunities to grow closer to Christ and to others.

So if you identify with Selena and are sick of that same old love, try Christ's new love on for a change.  You won't be disappointed.

Holidays as a Couple

Well, it’s that most wonderful time of the year.  (Stop right there before you pull out your Christmas stockings and holly and go read my last post).  But it’s true - Thanksgiving will be here in just a short nine days, and after that, blink twice and you’ll be cleaning up the wrapping paper from your living room. 

Yet for some, the holiday season can become more stressful than necessary due to the s word.  No, not snow.  Sharing.

Sharing the holiday as a couple can be challenging and a new experience depending on how long you and your significant other have been together.  Going through this experience for the first time myself has not been nearly as worrying as I anticipated and it’s for a couple of reasons that I’d like to share with you.

Communication

The way you spend your holidays together starts long before the holiday arrives on the calendar.  Have a conversation with each other about when and if you want to spend the holidays together.  If you're just brand new to dating, it may be spent differently than if you've been dating each other for a while.  You may both have family traditions that happen at the exact same time.  So to avoid the chaos and stress that comes from the holiday season, start talking and opening up to each other about what you would love your holidays to look like together. 
 

Don’t Overload

It's easy once you've talked about sharing the holidays to automatically want to share all of the holiday experiences that you treasure with your significant other.  But if you say yes to doing everything with each friend group, work group, family group, and each other, then you're going to find yourself with a schedule so packed that you're going to have to pencil in time to sit down and catch a breath.  While it's true that the holidays are supposed to be about family and friends and a shared experience, it's also ok to know what level of interaction you're comfortable with.  Also take into account each other's personalities.  If you're favorite tradition is a loud family gathering with all of your twenty-seven cousins (thirty-three if you count the once-removed ones) and your significant other is an introvert, than it is critical that you don't overload him or her with the experience.  Which brings us to the next tip...


Speak each other’s language 

I don't know if you've read Dr. Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages, and if you haven't, grab a copy and make that your holiday reading goal.  In his book, Dr. Chapman reveals the five love languages that everyone speaks.  Sometimes the problems with couples arise when you simply don't speak each other's love language.  Don't let your excitement over the holidays get lost in translation when relating to your significant other this season - especially if your boyfriend or girlfriend's love language is different than that of your own.  So, once again, keep lines of communications open with each other and make sure each other's love tank is full going into the holidays.  It's stressful enough to be in new situations and interacting with new traditions - but you don't have to feel out of of place during them if each of you is aware of the other's needs as part of a couple.

Don't idolize each other


Just like it is easy to idolize the notion of Christmas and the traditions or rituals that go along with them, it's also easy to idolize and idealize the person you spend the holidays with.  Although it is incredibly important to appreciate each other and your talents and shared experiences, it is equally if not more important to remember the reason why you are celebrating - which is Christ's presence in a broken world.  

Turn your joy outward 

C.S. Lewis, you've got to love him.  He has this beautiful quote about love and says, "Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest."

It is easy to make the holiday about yourself and your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Even when you include family in the celebrations, it's easy to fall into the trap of self-absorption. The way to remedy this is to turn your joy for Thanksgiving and Christmas outward.  Maybe that means volunteer work together while you're free during the week.  Or maybe it's taking each other's little siblings outside after dinner and enjoying quality time with them.  It could be pulling away from conversations about yourself and being interested in the lives of those around you.  In whatever way you choose, make sure this holiday season is not about you....it's about how you are Christ to others.

So holidays as a couple are not something to stress over - they are something to enjoy.  After all, the greatest holiday experience is to spend the season with those you love.


So start talking, pull out your planner, take a deep breath, pour yourself some eggnog and Be Not Afraid. 

With a Little Help from my Friends: The Need for Authentic Friendship

The culture that we live in defines friendship in very technological terms - especially my generation.  Popularity is based on likes on a Facebook post, instagram picture, or retweets.  Is friendship more than the number on the side of your Facebook profile?  I say yes - but it's a little more sticky than that.

Sometimes the only advice I was given in the formation of my friendship was "Well, to get a good friend, you have to be a good friend."  Which, granted, in middle school was what I needed to hear.  But now, especially with college winding down to a close, what I want to define is what it means to be a "good" friend.  What separates my acquaintances from my friends? My friends from my best friends?  My best friends from my soul mate friends?

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

There are so many factors that go into the friendships in your life - everything from work friendships to knowing which person will be at the end of the line when you need to chat after a life event.  What factors should go into that sorting process?  Here are my suggestions:

Your Best Mutual Friend

"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

Not all of my friends are Catholic, and not all of my friends are Christian - and that's not a bad thing! I learn a lot simply from the different vantage points presented by each one of my friends.  However, my close, core group of friends are cemented in the commonality of our faith.  The mutuality that sparked each one of my best friendships can be directly pointed to our interaction with each through Christ.

They are the girls that make me a better version of myself - who are constantly pushing me to grow in my relationship with myself, others and Christ - who is our biggest mutual friend.

Your Conversations

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:45).

There is nothing I love more than a good heart-to-heart with a close friend.  A level of vulnerability, the ability to admit questions or struggles or even the simplicity of a meaningful and grounded conversation have the ability to strengthen a relationship.  Subjects that are rough to discuss with others are normal fuel for conversation with my close, core friends.  Believe me, I can't even keep track of how many NFP, Theology of the Body and baby conversations I've had with my core friends.  It's in the hundreds.  Those are the conversations that I walk away from feeling stronger in my friendships.

This is not to discount fun, meaningless conversations over the superiority of pancakes in comparison to waffles. (Pancakes - all the way.  Especially if you cook them mixed with coffee.  Or Dr. Pepper). Or the excitement shared over little things like the newest movie to hit the theater or an adorable YouTube video.  But don't be afraid to dig deeper in your conversations with your core friends and show what is on your heart.


Your Accountability

"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each on looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.  Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1-5)

There are sometimes when I talk to my core friends that their answer is something along the lines of "you need to be easier on yourself.'  However, there are also times when the line used is "You're being too easy on yourself."  It's an equal balance, but it's also the ability of an outside source to look at a situation and offer an objective opinion on how to handle it.

It is always easier for me to go to the gym when my little sister knows about my goals.  "Oh, Chloe, it's Tuesday and you said you were going to go to the gym on Tuesday mornings" is what I need to hear in order to drag myself out of bed and onto the treadmill.  But without her knowledge of my goals, she couldn't push me.  Don't be afraid to let your core group of friends in on your goals.  They won't know what you're striving for unless you tell them.  And you may be surprised - a lot of your friends may be striving for the same goal.

Your Lack of Masks
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

A core friend does not come help you hold up your mask because the weight is to heavy for you to bear alone.  Instead, a true core friend comes and helps you put the mask on the ground and walk away from it.  There is no need to be 'perfect' and true friend will push you (accountability!) to not put the mask back on when suffering arises again in your life.

Friends are people who have seen you at your absolute worst and your absolute best and will still love you not for the sum of your weakness but because of the Father's love for you as His child.

Your Sacrifice

"Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the Church." (Colossians 1:24)

There is something incredibly beautiful about suffering.  The Catholic viewpoint on suffering is radical in and of itself - we believe that suffering grants us an opportunity to unite with Christ on the cross and lessen the burden for others.  There is a beauty that is brought about from the ashes and a sense of peace in the middle of a storm.  Suffering binds us to the cross - but that doesn't mean that we have to carry the cross on our own.

Not all of us suffer well - believe me, I'm included in that group.  Some deny the suffering they are experiencing, some mask it with 'joy' whenever they are around others, yet carry a burden in silence and solitude.  Others snap under the burden and lash out in the anger pent up inside.  Yet a friend who not only suffers with grace but pushes you towards that same mentality is priceless.  A friend who suffers alongside you makes all the difference in the world.

And that, my friends, is all I have.  So, find your core group that pushes you to be the best version of yourself (#MatthewKelly) and let's get each other to Heaven.  Keep striving, keep building your friendship circles and be not afraid.

In Christ,

Chloe M.

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?'  


What does Eucharistic Adoration Look Like?

When you get your own adoration hour 

One of my all time favorite forms of prayer is Eucharistic adoration.  It's there that I first really heard Christ speaking to me during some rough times in senior year, and it's there that I have been able to work every hard problem that I've had out with Jesus.

So just what is Eucharistic adoration?  And what do you do during the hour?

There are many forms that adoration is present around the world.  Perpetual adoration chapels in some churches, nocturnal adoration on the eve of the first Saturday of the month, daily exposition and benediction at some parishes.  There are organizations around the world that promote a holy hour, and also availability of a 24/7 adoration chapel where you can stop in when you have time, even if it's less than an hour.

The history of adoration is beautiful though -  As early in Church history as the year 325, around the Council of Nicea, there is evidence that the Eucharist would be reserved in churches, monasteries, and convents.  This was mainly for the purpose of having it available for the anointing of the sick and dying.  Yet the place it was kept was considered holy.  As monasteries and community life were established, the Eucharist held a special place in even the architecture of the church building itself. The place was referred to by many names: Pastoforium, Diakonikon, Secetarium and Protehsis to name a few.  Yet it was a separate room from the Church, akin to the modern day Eucharistic adoration chapel.

But there still wasn't adoration hours or chapels for the community, so when did those come into play? In the late 1000s, there was a movement that stemmed fom Berengarius, a deacon in France, who said Christ wasn't present in the Eucharist at all.  The heresy became so wide spread that Pope Gregory VII told Berengarius to retract his statement.  Pope Gregory VII himself had a deep love for the Eucharist, which was influenced by his time spent with the Benedictines.  In his writings, he said

 "I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin and offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from His side."

Following this statement, and many others like it, the movement of Eucharistic reverence and appreciation began in the Church.  John Hardon, S.J., wrote about what this new found love of the Eucharist looked like.

"The churches in Europe began what can only be described as a Eucharistic Renascence.  Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were instituted; prescribed acts of adoration were legislated; visits to Christ...were encouraged; the cells of anchoressess had windows made into the church to allow the religious to view and adore before the tabernacle."  

So what does an adoration hour look like?  What are you supposed to do in one?  How do you start?  Here are five quick tips if you're new to the adoration scene.

excited animated GIF
When you get your own adoration hour

1) Start off with silence.

The world we live in is crazy.  Noise comes at us from every corner - from our car radios to the constant alerts coming from our phone.  Eucharistic adoration is an amazing time to just go and sit in silence...with nothing to distract you...and just some alone time with Christ.
sadness animated GIF
My favorite quote on the Eucharist comes from a story that Saint John Vianney told.  He went into the chapel one day and and someone came up and asked him what he did all day in adoration.  "Nothing," he replied, "I just look at Him and He looks at me."  That's friendship - the time where it's silent and you don't need to say anything, but rather experience the joy of being with someone who you have a deep relationship with. 
2) Adoration
Well, it is called Eucharistic adoration, so this seems like an obvious one, but what does that word mean?  This is a time where you get to tell God how amazing He is.  A little while ago I wrote about the Psalms, and how they are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.  So take this time to praise Him for who He is.
amazing animated GIF
3) Contrition
We've all messed up, and what a better place to reconcile with the Lord (besides confession of course, which is also recommended) but Eucharistic adoration?  If a friend hurts you, what is the preferred apology - in a text or face to face? Face to face always wins out - there is something about the humility to say you are sorry to a person when you are standing in front of them.  

Cartoons & Comics Disney animated GIF

4) Thanksgiving 

The word 'Eucharistario' means 'Thanksgiving.'  WHOA.  Can you think of a better time to give thanks to the Lord for what He has given you than when you are looking at Him in the gift of the Eucharist?  It doesn't just have to be for the big things in life - like a job interview or a great friendship.  It could be the small things (which I'm notorious for noticing): like how the pothole on your way to work today was filled, or how the wind was blowing while you were sitting outside.  Nothing small goes unnoticed by God - He keeps track of even the smallest of sparrows.  
thanks animated GIF
5) Supplication

God knows what is on our heart before we speak it, but there is something to be said for laying out your concerns and desires before the Lord in adoration.  Asking for advice on what to do, how to solve a problem, or what decision you should make is a fantastic thing to bring to His feet at adoration.  And after you bring your heart's desires before Him, pray that your will be conformed to His through prayer.

please animated GIF
"Jesus has made himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day.  He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to Adoration." Mother Teresa. 

Value of a Soul

This morning I stopped by my favorite coffee shop for a vanilla latte, a quiet place to write, and the general peaceful atmosphere.  The atmosphere of this particular coffee shop is really neat - it's right off of campus and a general gathering place for some pretty intellectual conversation.  Poetry nights and political discussions are often hosted there and the conversations overheard tend to be interesting.

Today's conversation was between a young man and older gentlemen who were discussing the morality of determining how a person contributes to society.  The younger man said that ultimately we have to decide when to let someone go because, essentially, they are causing more problems than solving them.  Which, from the looks of the body language of the two, didn't set well with the older gentleman.  In all reality, it shouldn't sit well with anyone.

In light of the recent videos released concerning Planned Parenthood's selling of the dismembered parts of aborted children though, this topic seemed highly relevant.

While the news explodes over the death of Cecil the lion in a big game hunt, where is the media outrage over the fact that innocent children, made in the image of God, in possession of an eternal soul were not only brutally murdered in their mothers' womb, but were then dismembered and sold.  To what depths has society sunk in that an atrocity such as that is not greeted with unanimous uproar and demand for justice?

The reason there isn't such a response is because we live in a world where a the value of a human soul in the eyes of their fellow humans is determined by their 'value.'  Not the value of their inherent worth as a child of God, but their value to the societal whole.  What can they do? What are they worth? What is their contribution? Are they 'valuable'?

Yet in order to make these rationalizations, the values system used by society is based on man made notions and significance factors.  Which means that each persons' value placement will vary based on subjective beliefs and conscience formation of those assigning placement.  And in an instant gratification and result driven society, those whose contributions to the greater good is non apparent or whose affect is gradual are considered menial and unnecessary for the 'greater good.'

credit

You can't tell me that this gorgeous smiling girl is less valuable and wanted just because she has a disability.  Or that if someone is down on their luck, they don't deserve a second chance?  The person who is struggling deserves the least amount of attention, because the focus should only be on the success stories? If someone doesn't fit into your box of societal perfection and contribution, they aren't worth having here?  Pardon me, but that sounds a lot like the notions of a certain German dictator.

But in the end, those who place value and judgement based on their own morality are affected negativity as well.  Similar to Ronald Reagan's saying, "I have noticed that everyone who is pro-abortion has already been born," those who claim the authority to decide who is or isn't a contributing member of society primarily consider themselves the cream of the contribution crop and outside the evaluation of their peers for the greater good of society.

Ultimately, the point that I'm trying to vocalize, and tend to ramble on about, is that the value of a person and their eternal soul is something that can only be given through the objective moral compass prescribed by the maker and lover of the soul itself...God.  Who better than the originator?

Amazingly, we have the ability to see how God says each soul measures up.  In fact, He tells us Himself. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God says,  "The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Look at the example of Mother Teresa.  The people she spent her life around, in the eyes of the 'greater societal good' had no value.  The man dying from malnutrition and laying on the road was just seen as taking up space.  The child who had no one to care for him was a waste of effort.  Yet she poured her life out for them.  Why?  Why spend your days in the dredge of people who can never return the favor, and in reality, may not even make it back out of the hospital.

Because they deserve love.  Despite what they can or cannot give.  The beauty of the gift of giving though is that you can never give out of the love of your heart without receiving blessing in return.  "Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself.  Only in Heaven will we see how much we owe the poor for helping us to love God better because of them."  (Mother Teresa)

And even if you look at your relationship with God, you find that God loved you despite the fact that you can never repay Him.  If anything, we owe our lives to Him simply because He gave His while we were still sinners.

God's Love Song to Himself

Oh God come to my assistance.  Oh Lord make haste to help me.

These words have ended my evening every night for almost the past two months.  This summer I've been able to pray night prayer every night with priests, fellow college students, adults on fire for their faith, and high school kids who are eager to learn everything they can about being Catholic.

If you don't know about Liturgy of the Hours (which I didn't until I went to college...and I was homeschooled) you are in luck.   Let me introduce you to a beautiful prayer of the Church.  It's also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God and is the prayer used in the Catholic Church to pass the day around the foundation of prayer.  It is "The voice of the Bride herself [the Church] addressed to her Bridegroom [Christ] It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses the Father."  (SC 84) This is amazing!! Words can't describe how neat this is! (How neat is that?)  The prayers consist of the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.

Just the liturgy of the hours in themselves are amazing.  You get to pray the same prayer that Catholics are praying around the world at all times.  You join in with priests from Africa, sisters and nuns from Europe, your own bishop, and the Pope in Rome.  On top of that, the Psalms were what Christ Himself prayed with during His time on earth.

The Psalms are a book of the Bible that I have slowly but surely begin to fall deeply in love with.  I originally thought they were just David's song to the Lord, which made it a bit awkward to read, honestly. It was like seeing notes that my parents had written each other when they were dating.  Beautiful and awesome, yes, but I still felt like I was intruding on their love story, when I wanted my own.  I felt that the Psalms were a David-and-God thing, and Chloe was the third wheel, reading their love letters of their shoulder.

Then one of the priests with us at Prayer and Action said something one night while explaining night prayer that caught me off guard and made me want to delve into the Psalms with more excitement than I had ever felt about scripture.

The Psalms are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.

Whoa. Imagine your in a relationship and your significant other tells you exactly what to do to make them feel loved and appreciated.  They told you what they liked to do on a date, their favorite food, and anything you could possibly need to know about them.  They know what they like best, and then they're letting you in on it.  You could respond in two ways:

1) Take the information they gave you, treasure it, and then use it to bring about their good and happiness.

2) Ignore it, because you may know them better than they know themselves and want to give things a go with your own ideas and way.

You'd be crazy to not pick option one.  Your loved one has told you exactly what makes them content, and you get to contribute to that.  Welcome to the Psalms.

There is a Psalm for everything.  Psalms that praise God in times of thanksgiving, Psalms that petition for His help in dark nights of the soul.  Psalms for asking forgiveness.  These are some of my favorites from the Night Prayers that I've said this summer:

"In the morning let me know your love, for I put my trust in you.  Make me know the way I should walk; to you I lift up my soul."

"Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me.  For you are my rock, my stronghold. For your name's sake, lead me and guide me."

"My soul is waiting on the Lord, I count on His word. My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak. Let watchmen count on daybreak, and Israel on the Lord."

If you haven't prayed any of the Liturgy of the Hours, I highly recommend them.  There is a website that lets you pray along with them, as well as an app (iBreviary is my favorite free one) that has the readings and Psalms in the order of the day.  Even more beautiful is that these love songs to God can be sang with someone - so join in community and praise Him in the way that He loves best.  

Who are you?

I'm one of those people who can find happiness in the weird, small things.  Some people probably think I'm crazy - but this world is so full of amazing things to like.  I'm very easily excited by a house with a red door, a really great YouTube video, getting to spend time playing outside with a big dog, or my favorite book being in at the library when I hadn't requested it.

I'm a homeschool graduate through and through...I love reading.  Ever since high school, I've read like crazy.  I read the 'normal stuff,' like classics, modern literature, juvenile fiction.  But I also read 'not so normal stuff' too, backs of magazines, Kraft's message to me on the back of their Mac and Cheese boxes and weird non fiction books.  Example: Last summer, my project was a 900 page biography of Ted Williams, a Red Sox left fielder whose son had his remains cryonically frozen.  I couldn't tell you the reason why I picked that book.  I love watching baseball, but I love the game itself and not the teams, and I'm not even a huge Red Sox friend.  But even though I don't know why Ted Williams was my summer reading, I do know that random. weird subject topic reading is fascinating to me.

I love coffee.  I had my first cup at age ten and then after that, forget about it.  I easily drink through a pot a day, and it's probably one of my biggest expenses during the college year.  I've visited every cafe in town, have my favorites, and like to think they recognize me when I walk through the door.  Thanks to my sister's job as a barista, I am pretty well versed in the menu.  That's right, I know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino - be amazed.  I can even make my own espresso.   And I know it's cliche, to be the college girl who likes coffee, but it's me.

I know what I love.  My favorite band, my favorite movie, my favorite ice cream flavor.  I know my passions, my best friend saints, favorite Bible verses, and dog breed.

Do you?

Do you know who you are? Who is your identity?  What is your story?

Know who you are - your identity in God.  But know who you are, not for yourself or for your own benefit, but so that you can be a gift.  

Whitney Houston sang this song called Greatest Love of All.  And in it, she sings, "The greatest love of all is easy to achieve  - leaning to love yourself is the greatest love of all."

Sorry to break it to Whitney, but you were wrong.  It's not the love of yourself that will fill your heart to bursting and make you want to sing to the world about how great life is.  John 15:13 says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  Great love - no, the greatest love?  It's selfless.

Love is sacrifice - and that involves a sacrifice of yourself.  So don't know who you are so that you can keep it to yourself.  Know who you are so that you can connect with others and than bring them to Christ.  Know yourself so that you can form friendships that are Christ centered, but are also common-centered.  Being passionate about something opens your possibilities and your awareness that, frankly, this world is amazing.  And God-filled.  And awe-inspiring.

If there is something you do this summer...live.  Explore.  Fall in love with God and ask Him who He created you to be.

Pope Francis told the youth of a Roman college "You were made to live...not just exist."

Sounds like a good life motto to me.

There Be Dragons

One of the many amazing things about this summer is how much my friendship with the saints have grown.  I love getting to know these Heavenly brothers and sisters, and how much I am able to relate to their stories.

One of my summer reading projects has been The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila.  Ironically, while I've been gone, one of our parish priests has been using the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila as material for his morning mass homilies! Great minds think alike, I suppose.

If you don't know much about Saint Teresa, let me introduce you to her.  She's pretty amazing.

She was born in 1515 in Spain, and even from a very young age showed great devotion to a prayer life.  She would go on silent retreats as a child, and was always known for giving away her things to the poor.  When she was five years old, she told her little brother she wished to go fight the Moors and be a martyr.  Her mother and her grew very close, but her mother died when she was only a teenager.  At that point, she dedicated herself to Mama Mary as her mother, a relationship that continued throughout her life.

She went to a convent-run school at age 16, but later became very sick.  Yet she used her time as a patient to grow in spiritual reading, and favored medieval mystics - most of whom Ignatius based his spiritual exercises off of.

In 1535, she entered the Carmelite order, but quickly became aware of the worldliness that had seeped into the order.  High name society visited often, and luxury instead of poverty reigned.  So in the early 1560s, she founded new monasteries and convents that followed the original, stricter rule and embraced the vows of poverty.  Her reform movement sparked concern and she was then investigated during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, but charges were not followed through.

She wrote some amazing pieces on prayer and spirituality and is now a Doctor of the Church - one of only four women to be honored with that title.

It is her work, The Interior Castle that was my adoration hour companion this morning.  Although I am a pretty speedy reader, this book is something that is being very slowly consumed.  I had to share this passage in light of struggles I have had recently and the culture that surrounds us today.

"But we speak of the other souls, who finally enter the castle, because, though they are very much entangled with the world, they have good desires, and sometimes, though rarely, they commend themselves to the Lord, and consider what they are, though not very thoroughly.  Perhaps they pray several times a month, yet with many distractions, since their minds are almost always occupied with business, and because they are so attached to it, their heart is where their treasure is.  Sometimes however, they disentangle themselves, and self-knowledge shows them plainly that they are not in a good way to reach the gate.

Finally, they enter the first room on the lower floor, but many reptiles enter with them, and they do not permit them to either see the beauty of the castle, or to find repose in it; it is, indeed, much that they have entered at all."

- The Interior Castle, First Mansions

That passage hit me like a ton of bricks...mostly because I discovered that I was reading the description of my life.  How easy it to read about the Lord, talk about the Lord and never once have a legitimate conversation with Him? To let prayer became mundane, a duty that is often shirked for 'better things to do' and then simply counting actions as prayer instead of sitting and listening to God.

And I think the biggest culprit is the lack of knowledge on how to structure a prayer life.

And the second biggest culprit is the access that I give the world into my life.  And how much I enjoy it's presence there instead of being ok with the knowledge that this world is not my home, and Heaven is my end goal, not a fleeting sense of 'happiness.'


There be reptiles.  There be dragons.

How do we fight them?

For me, today, it was deleting a lot of social media apps off my phone, and then committing to not checking it nearly so often during the day.  Because the reptile of social media plays a pretty darn large role in the blocking of my view from the beauty of the castle inside my heart.  Maybe it's removing a deadly friendship that is in your life, or picking up the Bible at a set time each day and not letting that slip.

Mother Teresa once wrote, "Be careful of all that can block personal contact wit the living Jesus.  The Devil may try to use the hurts of your life, and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you.  This is a danger for all of us.  And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting to tell you..  Not only that He loves you, but even more.  He longs for you.  He Misses you when you don't come close.  He thirsts for you.  He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy.  When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes.  He is the one who accepts you.  My children, you don't have to be different for Jesus to love you.  Only believe - you are precious to Him.  Bring all you are suffering to His feet - only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are.  He will do the rest."

If the goal of this life is to know, love, sand serve God and be ultimately with Him in Heaven, then I think my life could use some simplifying.  I think the world could use some simplifying, in all honesty.

So, hopefully with a little help from my Saintly friends - especially Teresa of Avila, this journey into the interior castle can begin.

#Lovewins

Love.  It's a four letter word that appears quite a bit in our daily vocabulary, and frankly, in close to every other post on this blog.  Love plays a pretty large part in our lives. Yet what is love?  The world seems to have been asking that question a lot longer than Haddaway penned the words in 1993.

Real sex, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work. It's not easy. But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."


Let's start off by what love isn't, especially in the light of the Supreme Court decision this past week.

Love isn't use.

We're called to love people and use things, but very often in today's world we see others doing the opposite, and sometimes are guilty of it ourselves.  Steve Gershom, a Catholic who struggles with same sex-attraction, wrote this on the subject on his blog.

"Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I'd tell them: that's not what eating is for; it won't nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn't let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her -- I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.
So the Church doesn't oppose gay marriage because it's wrong; she opposes it because it's impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe -- made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit with the rest of the picture, and we're not about to throw out the rest of the picture." 


It's about not using others for pleasure.  It's about not using ourselves, or letting ourselves be used.  And that saying 'no' to the culture of use (as pointed out BEAUTIFULLY in Laudato Si, Pope Francis's newest writing) applies to all people, who are all called to love.

Love isn't a trend or a passing emotion 

We toss around the word 'love' quite a bit in our daily vocabulary.  I love T-Swift's 1989 album.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love German Shepherds.  But this is love-as-a-passion, which can be pretty darn emotional most times.  It passes.  Next year at this time, T-Swift may not be my favorite.  I may get an inkling for Rocky Road ice cream.  And a chocolate lab may steal my heart.

But a virtuous and giving love doesn't pass.  It bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things.  And a good romance has a mix of both.  But it isn't solely one or the other.  Love as an emotion or as a feeling can't be used to define love.  Then you will constantly be in search for the next place to find your warm-'n-fuzzy fix.  Love is a decision, that sometimes has to be made on a day-by-day (heck, sometimes on a minute-by-minute) process.

Love isn't sex. 

This is perhaps the hardest to swallow, especially because it is the lie that is most promulgated by society today.  "If you really love me..." implies not how much one person is reflecting the light of Christ in the relationship, but if they are ready to take their relationship to the next level.  We live in a world where love = sex and there is no difference.  Adam Levine sings "Your sugar, yes please, won't you come and lay it down on me?"  Sam Hunt wants to just take our time and Taylor Swift says that boys "only want love if it's torture."  Um...what?  That's not love.  That's an idolization of sex and an application of it towards the concept of feeling wanted.

According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people are called to chastity.  Not 'people who are attracted to the opposite gender are called to chastity" or "people who are attracted to the same gender are called to chastity," but "PEOPLE are called to chastity."

"All Christ's faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his effective life in chastity."  (CCC 2348).  Our very Baptism urges us on in this quest against the cycle of use, and the reducing of the beauty of authentic, Christ-inspired love, simply down to the singular issue of physical sexuality. 

So what is love?

Love is sacrifice

Mother Teresa one said, "Love to be real, it must cost - it must hurt - it must empty us of self." True love looks like a God coming down to earth, pouring himself into a human form and loving us despite knowing that He would hang on the cross because of the weight of our sin.  True love is stripped naked, hands splayed out on wooden beams, awaiting the piercing agony of nails being driven into his wrists.  True love?  True love is sacrifice.

"There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice"
--Pope John Paul II


Love is hard work.

Love is willing the good of the other as other and wanting to see them in Heaven and spend eternity praising God together.  And being that selfless goes against every fiber of our being.  Instead of wanting what is good for us and what makes us feel or look good, we have to put ourselves third, with first place going to God and second place going to others.

And because love wills the good of the other as other, it wills the good of both the body and the soul.  It realizes that true love, authentic love, can't be engaging in the physical engagement of homosexual relationships.  It wants the good of the other's eternal destination...and doesn't want that person in any place but Heaven.  That's true love.

#Lovewins.  

Yes, dear hashtag...it does.  But not in the way you think...or the way that today's culture says it does.  No, #Lovewins because of this reason: "Love never fails.  Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled.  There this knowledge, it will pass....and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).

Love wins because love doesn't end.  True love is what Heaven is going to be - true love is the very essence of a God who has no beginning and will have no end.  True love is beautiful and amazing and something that every human being is called to take part in through Christ.

Love is the answer.  God is the answer.


Need

More than I ever thought it could have been, my dating fast has been such a blessing - irony of ironies -  becuase it has let me really focus in on what relationship looks like with an objective point of view.  I was thinking about this quite a bit today while I was running - because, face it, the best thinking is either on the treadmill or in the shower.  Let's be real. What are some of these thoughts then? 

I don't want a man to need me. 

I don't want to be the reason a guy goes to Church.  I don't want to be the middle man (or lady) between a man and the Lord.  This isn't to discount the beauty of marriage and willing the good of the other as other.  But to be needed? No thanks.  It sounds harsh, but let me explain. 

Let's say a man needs me emotionally. What would happen when he doesn't need me anymore? When I'm not the reason that he's standing, he can lean weight back on his own two feet and I become the pair of crutches that he needed until things got sorted out and healed? Or if a relationship with me is the substitute for what he really needs?

Because he doesn't need me.  He needs God

I'm not the one who has seen him at his worst and still can make him whole.  I'm not the one who created his soul and who began his existence in his mother's womb.  I'm not the one who can forgive all his sins with a single word, and welcome him with open arms and unconditional love.  But you know who can fulfill all of that and more?

Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.



"For in Christ all the fullness<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29504P" data-link="(P)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of the Deity lives in bodily form,
 and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness.
He is the head<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29505Q" data-link="(Q)" style="background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">
 over every power and authority."

Yet not wanting to be needed is a two way street - I don't want to need him either.

Whether that be the elusive him, the could be, who I 'need' in my life before I grow in my faith life...or the actual him who pursues me.  I want who I am as a child of God to be defined without him.  Because when two incomplete, half-people marry each other, they don't complete each other.  They are just two halves that are struggling to find out who they really are.  I don't need someone to complete me, because that is my maker's job.

I don't want to be defined by the need to be needed.  My definition of who I am is found in the fact that I am child of God. 

What does this all boil down to? A healthy relationship is a relationship that is built on the basis of an identification in God.  You are not defined by who you are with or who you aren't.  You are not the sum of your failures, weaknesses or needs.  You are summed up by the Father's love for you. (JPII).  Don't fall in love with the idea of being needed by someone.  Don't be in a relationship just because you don't want to not feel lonely. The healthy relationship is one that works like a triangle.  You're common need is not each other, or affirmation, or affection.  Your commonality lies in the common goal of God and eternity with Him. Each side of the triangle (both the guy and the gal) are working towards a commonality that is not themselves and is not each other.  Instead, they are working together towards a greater good that is outside themselves and requires sacrifice.  That's what marriage is - not someone fulfilling your needs, but instead you both bringing each other closer to the one who is the author of love.  

Don't need someone.  Don't be needed. Instead, find your identity in the unmovable.  Feelings change.  Needs Change.  Wants change.  But the Lord? Not so much.  In fact, Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  That sounds like a constant to me.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think on the subject.

In Christ,
Chloe 

Christ's Wedding Day

Good Friday.  The day we set aside once a year to commemorate the death of Our Lord for our sins and the opening of the gates of Heaven for our salvation. We remember God, who took on human nature and all of it's messiness in order to spend eternity with us, His beloved children, and His beloved bride, The Church.

What if we thought of Good Friday as a a wedding feast in conjunction with Christ's sacrificial love?  In his book, Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Brant Pitre examines the actual event of the crucifixion in the light of historical Jewish wedding.  He places Christ as the Heavenly bridegroom and the Church as His eternal bride.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how Christ yearns to be intimate with us, emptying Himself into something so simple as bread and wine so that He can physically be within our very bodies.  In Mass tonight, the Homily focused on Christ's desire for us to know God - to be intimate with Him.  Not just to know about Him, but to really know Him as the most important thing in our lives. 
In Biblical terms, the phrase "to know" indicates a physical relationship, or an absolute knowledge of the other. The Hebrew word is "Yada."  John  W. Ritenbaugh in his study of the old testament Hebrew language wrote, 

"At times, the Bible uses "to know" as a euphemism for sexual intimacy. Paul is not saying here [in Philippians 3:8-10] that he desires sexual intimacy with Christ, but that he greatly desires spiritual intimacy with Him. He wants to be so close to Him that he experiences the same level of life as Jesus did—even to the point of suffering or dying as He died, if that is necessary to be made like Him in every possible way. He desires to glorify God in every aspect of his life just as Jesus did."

 In Joshua 23:14, Joshua gathers the people to tell them about their relationship with the Lord.  "Behold this day I am going into the way of all the earth, and you shall know with all your mind that of all the words which the Lord promised to perform for you, not one hath failed. " 

In Luke 1:34, Mary's eternal virginity is emphasized with her lack of previous intimacy and full knowledge with any man. "And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?"

Christ desires to be intimate with us.  To have absolute knowledge of us.  In John 17:3-4, He prays to the Father before His passion. "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do."  
And what is more physical than Christ's passion and death for our salvation?  He is betrayed with a kiss from a close follower, and then goes through the most physically excruciating death imaginable for a person in the fist century.  He is covered in His own blood, the physical life of His body (and the spiritual life of ours), and drags a wooden beam through streets crowded with the jeering of the souls He is on His way to die to save.  His body is fastened and hoisted in the sky, where He physically must thrust Himself up to fill His lungs. 
All the while, He thinks of you.
And when the crowds yell at Him to come down from the cross and prove that He is God, He thinks of you.  "I can't come down from the cross.  I have to stay up here for (insert your name) because one day, even if it's over two thousand years in the future, they are going to need me.  And how can I teach them of the beauty of suffering if I give up now?"  
And then, "It is finished."  There is a spear thrust into His heart that is so full of overflowing love for our soul despite how much pain we have caused Him that blood and water flow from His side.
Brant Pitre points out the significance of this final physical aspect of Christ's death. "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took out one of his side (Greek pleura) and closed up its place with the flesh; and the rib which the Lord had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to man....so too Jesus falls into the sleep of death, and blood and water flow from his side (Greek pleura) And just as the miraculous creation of the first bride from the side of Adam is the foundation of marriage of man and woman, so the miraculous flow of blood and water from the side of Jesus is the origin and foundation of the marriage of Christ and the Church."
So Christ pours out His very life on the altar of the Cross on Good Friday, that supposedly dark day that ushered in the redemption of our souls from a debt that we could never pay off.  And the Catholic Mass taps into the eternal sacrifice at Calvary.

 In The Faith of Millions, John A. O’Brien said, "The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the cross in the sense that it offers [Jesus] anew to God . . . and thus commemorates the sacrifice of the cross, reenacts it symbolically and mystically, and applies the fruits of Christ’s death upon the cross to individual human souls. All the efficacy of the Mass is derived, therefore, from the sacrifice of Calvary."

What will your wedding gift to Christ be?  A Sunday morning hour when convenient for you? He sacrificed His entire life for you...are you willing to do the same for him? 

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

Goodbye Comfort, Hello Greatness

Lent.  We all know it, we all have mixed feelings about it.  But the truth of the matter is that, in a mere thirty five minutes, Lent 2015 starts.

What's the point?  Why not eat meat, give extra money away, pray more and toss the Alleluia and Glory to God out the window?

We'll walk around with ashes on our heads and a little spot in our hearts wishing that Easter was already here so we could indulge in that chocolate that we've been craving all week.  And let's not even talk about the Catholic phenomena about how McDonald's hamburgers never sound good until a Friday during Lent.

But if it's all just mortification and the ever present message that we're going to die some day in the not-so-far future, why even do Lent?  It can be depressing, and the weight of the sacrifice can feel incredibly heavy sometimes.  And if it's all for naught anyway, why even bother.

I'll let someone with a much more rich theological knowledge help out:

"Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God" - Pope Benedict XVI.

The Deepest Hunger.

But how true!  We hunger for food because in this world there is food that will fill our stomachs and stop the hunger.  We thirst because in this world there is water (or coffee, whatever the case may be) to quench our physical thirst.

We crave love because there is an infinite and fulfilling love out there, ready to take our souls by storm and turn our lives upside down with His passion for us.

A passion and desire that God has for us to be with Him that is so great that he He wants to consume our very lives with it's power.

Not just six hours of our lives until Easter.  Don't let your lent become something you do when it's convenient or when you happen to be at Mass on Sunday.

God is crazy in love with you.  And not the feel good warm fuzzy love.  The beaten to an inch of his life, thrown down and nailed on a cross, take every sin that was and will be onto his soul and lay it all out for YOU.

God thinks you are worth pursuing.

And what a beautiful opportunity Lent is - the chance to connect your suffering to the cross and relieve the burden of sin from Our Lord's back!  The beauty of a crucifixion that exists outside of the human concept of time is the ability that we have to connect our suffering to Christ's as He hangs on the cross for you.

Don't let this Lent pass you by.  Don't sit in the pew on Easter morning and think "Man, Lent went by fast this year!  I missed the chance to do anything...again."  Seize this Lent as a chance to become a better version of you (thank you Matthew Kelly) and become fully alive.

"The world offers you comfort but you are not made for comfort.  You are made for greatness." - Pope Benedict XVI.

Let's make this a GREAT Lent.

Justin Timberlake and Love

This morning my little six year old brother Liam rushed into my room, waving a Valentine's Day card from our grandparents.  He was ecstatic, but also a little frustrated.  

"They spelled my name wrong!! My name isn't spelled L-O-V-E! It's spelled L-I-A-M!"  

And while this super adorable little man is needing some spelling lesson improvement, he's actually got a beautiful life lesson wrapped into his ability to only recognize the letter 'L'.

Although those in our family know us by our name, what we define as important, our passions and our jobs, we are so much more than that.  And we're more than our plans, hopes and mistakes.  

Because when God looks into your contrite heart, He doesn't see what you think makes you.  Your trip ups, your failings. He sees love.  He sees you - His Child and His creation...and His good.  But sometimes that unconditional and infinite love can be scary.  So we huddle in our plans and hide behind our will and what we perceive as our good.  

It's safe, and it's secure.  And when you take a break from all the security, you realize you feel completely and utterly alone.

And that's now how you were created to be.  Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  You don't have to impress people. We strive to follow and obey, and, in essence, fall in love with God.

There is a song that explains this b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y. And it's by Justin Timberlake. Didn't expect that combination, did you?

The song is called "Mirrors" and while it is regularly sang by a gentleman with a certain lady in mind, but my challenge to you tonight is to read through the lyrics and read it as if God and you are singing it to each other.

Aren't you somethin' to admire?

Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."'

'Cause your shine is somethin' like a mirror
And I can't help but notice
You reflect in this heart of mine


Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them"

If you ever feel alone and
The glare makes me hard to find
Just know that I'm always
Parallel on the other side 


Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin."

'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go .


Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"

Just put your hand on the glass
I'm trying to pull you through

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

You just gotta be strong
'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me. 
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is the space that now you hold 


Romans 8:38 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

Show me how to fight for now
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy 
Comin' back here to you

John 14: 1-3 "
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."


You were right here all along
It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me. 

Colossians 3:10 "And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator"

I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making two reflections in one 

Song of Songs 2:13 "Arise, come, my darling;my beautiful one, come with me"

'Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.
Aren't you somethin', an original
'Cause it doesn't seem merely a sample
And I can't help but stare, 'cause
I see truth somewhere in your eyes


I can't ever change without you
You reflect me, I love that about you
And if I could, I would look at us all the time. 



Romans 5:8
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."


'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul

I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go.

Romans 8:31 "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"


Just put your hand on the glass
I'll be tryin' to pull you through
You just gotta be strong


1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is a space that now you hold


Romans 5:5 "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Show me how to fight for now.
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy
Comin' back here to you once I figured it out
You were right here all along.


Luke 15:20
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."


It's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me.
I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise


2 Peter 1:4 "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

That we're making two reflections in one.
'Cause it's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.

Yesterday is history. 

Psalm 103:12 "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."


Tomorrow's a mystery

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I can see you lookin' back at me.
Keep your eyes on me

Baby, keep your eyes on me. 

Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-14101A" data-link="(A)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> I will not be shaken."

Now you're the inspiration for this precious song.
And I wanna see your face light up since you put me on


So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone
And I can't wait wait wait wait to get you home
Just to let you know, you are, you are the love of my life.  


You're my reflection, all I see is you

Songs of Songs 8:6 "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."


My reflection, in everything I do. 
You're my reflection and all I see is you. 

My reflection in everything I do. 

God has loved you at your darkest.  Your brightest.  Your best and worst.  And despite seeing you at both ends of the spectrum, He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.

Will you open the door to your heart and let His love into your life?

Will you love Him in return?

Honesty Hour: It's Porn.

We hide things that we know aren't right.  It's human nature.  It's Adam and Eve hiding in the garden after they had sinned.  It's a child will hide a bad report card, or avoids talking about something that went wrong . 

"In an early preview of the sex-filled film '50 Shades of Grey' for a 'Today' show audience, the daughter of actor Don Johnson and actress Melanie Griffith nervously said, 'I don't want my parents to see it.'"

"I don't want my parents to see it."

Why would she hide her part in a blockbuster film?  Wouldn't her parents be proud of her fame?  Her accomplishment? Her acting abilities?  How she had followed in their footsteps into the entertainment industry?

She doesn't want her parents to see it because "50 Shades of Grey" -  regardless of how it is portrayed by celebrities, social media or reviews, is pornography. 
And we hide the things we know will disappoint the ones who authentically love us.

If you don't know much about "50 Shades of Grey," one of my favorite Catholic speakers and all around man after God's own heart, Matt Fradd, tells you 50 things about it that are quite good information to have. 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okcS6IW9VF0&w=320&h=266]

100 million copies of this book sold.  100 million souls looking for love.  LOVE.

How twisted is it that as a society, we are entertained by watching a man physically use a woman with skills he had to learn by visiting a sex dungeon.  On top of that, these were skills that himself was so ashamed of that he had to go take a shower before touching his wife and newborn child.

His wife and newborn child. 

To be living in a sacrament where you go home and you are called to sacrifice for your wife and for your family as Paul instructs in Ephesians 5:25 when he says "Husbands, love your wife just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her."

Yet to provide for your family you are participating in an entertainment source in which objectifies both men and women and distorts the something so sacred - human sexuality - the very act that brought your newborn child into existence is now perverted for the world's entertainment source.   

The closest human beings can come to on earth to reflect the Trinity is through sexual intercourse...so why wouldn't that be the thing that Satan attacks most viciously?  One of the most beautiful reflections of God's love for us, cheapened.

If we truly knew how sacred sex is - instead of the view that "50 Shades of Grey" tells us what sex "should" be. 

According to that book and screen play, sex should be controlling.  Manipulating behavior. 

That is the opposite of the beauty of sex that God created it to be.

Free.  Total.  Faithful.  Fruitful.

"50 Shades of Grey" paints a stark contrast.

Free?  Both the characters are held captive by their lust for each other's bodies and the pleasure they can give each other. 

Total?  How can you love the other totally when all you look to them for is what they can give to you - not how you can serve them? 

Faithful?  Christian talks about how many other women he's already been with....why should Anastasia be any different? 

Fruitful?  Is this relationship drawing both of them closer to Christ and His selfless love?  Is it open to life?  In fact, the relationship is draining the lives of Christian and Anastasia with each dip into further and further sin and damaging objectification.

A view into the destruction that can sink into lives ruined by abuse and objectification is found in the main character, Anastasia, who can be found on her bed in the last chapter of the book, crying because she has given her heart and body to a man who just wants her body.

Matt Fradd writes, "Some say, 'Yes, but being dominated and threatened is so much more exciting than faithful marital sex,' to me, that’s analogous the meth-head who thinks normal, un-high life is boring. In both cases I just want to extend sympathy."

Even the title of this book trilogy has two coins to it.  The first is a play on words from the last name of the main character, Christian Grey.  The second is more profound.

Anastasia claims the world isn't black and white.  It's surrounded by different shades of grey.

What does Christ say about that?  Is it really subjective to look at something like "50 Shades of Grey" and decide for yourself whether it's bad or good for you?  In 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul writes, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

But the so called love on this screen is glamorous!  It's popular!  It's exciting! An escape from reality! Society raves about this new "Mommy Porn" as it's frequently dubbed.

It is unfair to demand that for all to guard their eyes against the harms of lust and visual pornography, and then retreat to erotic entertainment and the manipulation of emotions, hidden under the guise of "Romance" and a "Love Story."

All should be appalled and sickened if we overheard a conversation from people glorifying visual pornography.  If playboy magazines were strewn over and written into screen plays and people proudly downloaded pornography

That is a double standard and it needs to stop.  Right now.

Porn is porn.  Abuse is abuse.  Objectification (of both sexes) is objectification.

Seems pretty black and white to me. 

14 Days Into the Journey

Well, it's been two weeks since the dating fast started.

It has been a crazy ride in such a short period of time.

When starting out the dating fast, of course I entered with visions of grandeur, a clean and tidy dating fast in which I would automatically fall more in love with God.  I mean, how could you not?

Little did I count in the fact that my emotions are at sometimes, ok, fine, all the times, crazy.  

This is basically how my dating fast prep went:

The month before the dating fast started:  Ah, this is going to be the best thing ever for my spiritual life. How have I not done this before?  Get to know people without tons of relationships expectations, and just relax.  Cannot wait for this dating fast to start.

The day before the dating fast started: Holy canole.  What in the world am I getting myself into. I'm in college.  If I don't meet someone now, it is only going to get harder.  This is huge.  This could be the semester where I meet someone.  And I'm going to have to say no because I'm on this dating fast.

Day 1:  I got this!  Heart to heart talks with God, some scheduled time for the Bible, this is great. This is better than great.

Day 5: Ok, it's hard.  In fact, it's really hard.  I'm surrounded by available, great guys everywhere I turn.  In class.  In the library.  When I go to dinner.  At work.  In my social groups.  Can I just join a convent?  This would be much easier if I could do a dating fast with no men around.  I feel like the only safe guys to talk to are those who are related to me and seminarians/deacons/priests.  I'm so in trouble if this is how it's going to be for the next four months.

Day 9: Ok, how have I never noticed all these couples before?  They are literally everywhere?  That kid is in 4th grade and has a boyfriend?  What am I doing with my life?

And then I caught myself.  Because I'd fallen (again) into the trap that what I needed so badly was a relationship with a guy.  I was getting tripped up by guys because I was hoping that there was some potential there somewhere.  And frankly, that's pretty darn selfish.

Things went from:

"Oh! What a great guy! He opens doors and doesn't cuss and is super into his faith."

into

"Hmm...what would our relationship look like."

Instead of 

"Thank you Lord for a man of God who serves you with His heart.  Strengthen him on his journey and help him do Your will."

There is a great story about three men who go out for a walk on a summer evening.  As they stroll through the park, they walk past a young woman in a revealing top.  The first man immediately averts his eyes, doesn't acknowledge the woman's presence at all and continues on the walk.  The second man indulges in the beauty of the woman for his own good, and cranes his neck to stare at her as she walks past.  The third man acknowledges the woman with a friendly smile and continues on the path, and takes a moment quietly pray Psalm 84:1 - "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!"

This can be applied to dating fasts too.

The first approach is to totally avoid guys at all costs.  You can't date 'em, you don't even want to see 'em.  This results in always wearing earbuds and sunglasses and may or may not include frequent midnight McDonalds runs for food incognito.

The second approach is to go all out.  You're on a dating fast, but dating is flirting.  Dating isn't texting.  You're just lining the options up for when you are done with the fast and in for the feast.

The third option is acknowledge the beauty that God has created in this world (including guys in your life) and thank Him for them.  And then, continue along the path.

So, that's the goal for the remaining weeks.  Acknowledge and appreciate, then find total fulfillment in God alone.  Pretty lofty goals, but with God all things are possible.

Any thoughts? Tips or hints for dating fasts? (pass them over, I will take anything you can give me.)

God bless!!

Chloe

Falling in Love with Authentic Love

I love love.

Romantic comedies, Disney movies, life chats about relationships, engagement stories, wedding pictures.

My soul sister is Anna from Frozen because of her jump-in-head-first love mentality. (spoiler, that doesn't end well for her.)

disney enchanted true love cinderella Giselle snow white anna frozen kristoff

So it may come as a shock that the idea of a dating fast has been on my mind quite a lot recently.  And that this semester I'm going to begin a search for authentic love.

And that doesn't just mean no dating.  It actually entails a lot.

Whoa.  Giving up going out? Flirting? Stalking a guy emotionally (and on Facebook)? Giving up planning out your future children's names and how they will look so cute in baby blazers and chuck taylors? Deleting that secret Pinterest wedding board?

frustrated animated GIF
What will I even do with all my time now?

I spent my last two years of high school anxiously waiting for college to finally get here just so that things could be different.  I spent freshman year with my fingers crossed that if I could get the right friends, do the right activities and be at the right places at the right times, things would change for the better.

A.K.A., I'd get a date.  Let's be real here.

Family gatherings or life chats with friends quickly turn to a potential relationship discussion, followed by questions about when I was finally going to go out on date.

parks and recreation animated GIF
"Don't worry, you'll find someone someday sometime" 

I was living in a little world where I was looking for just the right guy, and in the mean time, I was an incomplete person, waiting for my better half.  I felt as if something was missing - something from my life was not there, and when I found that one piece of the life puzzle, it would all fall into place.

And I was right.

But it wasn't a guy who was going to turn things around and lead to sunset-gazing, hand-holding, long-walks-together wonderfulness.

It was the guy.

Or specifically, this guy.

Because I had quickly forgotten in the span of my freshman-sophomore years that I am a daughter of God who is beautiful, unique, and worthy of love.  I had forgotten that I was worth more than I could ever imagine.  "More than how many girls wish they were me or how many guys wish they had me.  Regardless of who I thought I was, the reality was is that I deserved someone who would give up their life for me." (And if you ever need a pep talk this is the one.)

And I had Him.  But I'd just brushed Him off into the corner to pull out when I felt like it.

I had let my "God journal" become my "Guy journal."  I had so many talks with God on the walks back from class about if He could just work this one out than I would for sure make my daily Bible reading a priority again.  And I just needed a spiritual guy leader in my life to help me out.

The one day, I heard a question that shook me.

"If the guy of your dreams were to walk into your life right now, would you even be the kind of girl that he would be looking for?"

And I honestly had to say no.  I had spent so much time creating a list of characteristics that I was looking for that it had skipped my mind that I should be working on those virtues too.

 Enter the dating fast.

No dating for this Spring 2015 semester.  No mentally stalking guys.  No pinterest binge nights and rants on how I had everything ready for my future wedding but the guy (which, it turns out, is a pretty important part).

I'm giving God this semester not because I've given up on being found by a great guy.  Not because I've dated guys a lot during high school and college and have been burnt by it. Not because I've broken up with the concept of love.

parks and recreation animated GIF
Nope, not the reason 

But because I want to first fall in love with the man who died to get to know me.  Because I'm tired of walking into Mass and scoping it out for potential guys of interest.  Because I want to know what an authentic God filled relationship would look like.

Because my life needs some silent time to find out what the voice of God even sounds like...so that when He says "There's the one" I know who is talking.  Or that if He says that and points to His son, I can respond without hesitation.

I am in no way saying that dating is a bad thing.  In fact, it's very good.  You usually can't end up with a great person unless you go on some dates with 'em.

But I don't believe I'm going to be looking back on this fast in five months and saying "Darn it, growing closer to the Lord and treating people like brothers and sisters in Christ was such a waste of time.  Wouldn't do that again."

Is it going to be tough? Heck yes.  But one of my favorite women of God, Saint Catherine of Sienna, once said, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."   

No one one their death bed looks back and wishes they hadn't gotten to know God and His children better.

So, what are your thoughts?  Have you, too, struggled with emotional chastity and dating obsessions? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Chloe