à tout à l’heure

Well, the time has finally come. I’ve pushed it off, berated myself for needing it, felt silly for thinking it, but have finally concluded it must happen.

I’m taking a blogging break.


But Trista, you may be thinking, you haven’t been posting much, and what you have been posting has been awfully short.


I know, and that’s exactly why I need a break. My brain is turned off. I’m tired.


I’m no more or less busy than anyone else, but I need this break.


Á tout à l’heure! See you soon!

Mel Gibson and Me

TBM Topic 18: Scapulars

“Mel Gibson and Me” by Julie Robison
“I Feel Weird” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Suspicious Superstitions?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

Mel Gibson, hot mess extraordinaire, wears a scapular.

Now, I’m not one to dig into celebrity gossip, but it’s hard not to ignore the facts:

1. Mel Gibson is a Catholic.

“We’ve seen worse.” –The Catholic Church

2. Mel Gibson has said and done some pretty dreadful things since producing The Passion, including divorce his wife.

3. Mel Gibson has [recently] been spotted wearing a scapular.

My personal pet theory is that we’re all living within appalling strangeness of the mercy of God, and Mel Gibson is just another soul in need to redemption, sanctification and help against temptations from the Devil. Everyone Else on the other hand, has taken up drinking haterade around Gibson. Fortunately, Robert Downey Jr. has come to his defense of late, asking Hollywood to forgive Gibson’s trespasses.

But back to scapulars.

I like that Mel Gibson wears a scapular. Correction: I like that the Mel Gibson who has royally messed up his public, private and career life still wears a scapular. If Mel Gibson was still married to his wife and making quality films, everyone would still be mumbling about what a religious fanatic he is. Instead, he’s been labeled a twit.

Romans 4:16 says, “All depends on faith, everything is grace.” That scapular, to me, is evidence of God’s grace still working in Mel Gibson’s life. Is that scapular a fact that grace is in Mel Gibson’s life? No. But we cannot see God’s ways. We can only see the scapular.

Scapulars are considered sacramentals in the Church, and are meant to enhance the faith. Sacramentals come from the Church; they “are indicated by the word Sacramentalia, the object of which is to manifest the respect due to the sacrament and to secure the sanctification of the faithful” (New Advent). Sacramentals are common things (i.e. relics, water, incense) that are another way to help people open up to receiving God’s grace. The physical sacramental (in this discussion, for example, the scapular) does not possess any power. That being said, like all passing things in this world, sacramentals may be occasions for God’s miracles.

There are a number of examples of sacramentals (specifically, relics) in Scripture: the hemorraging woman who touches Jesus’ cloak (Matt. 9:20-22); the use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life (2 Kgs. 13:20-21); sick people cured when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16); and, of course: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sweet baby JC

That being said, sacramentals are easy targets for non-Catholics to “prove” Roman Catholics are heretics, which is why the scapular is such a hot topic. The brown scapular in particular, passed down from Our Lady of Carmel, bears these words: “Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”

Wow. That’s quite a promise. It’s also, however, not an assurance of salvation. The only assurance anyone has of salvation comes in the personhood of Jesus Christ. Scapulars are devotions. Oftentimes, people feel so strongly about their faith that they argue the scapulars’ salvation legitimacy through the Blessed Mother. That argument is a red herring. Even worse, it can distract a truth seeker from the road to Rome, and can distort another’s understanding of Mary’s role within God’s plans for the Kingdom. She only and always points to her son, period.

FAQ: Whenever you (Julie) fly on an airplane, your father insists you wear a scapular. Why do you listen to him?

That’s my discretion. The Church does not have any teachings on scapulars. I choose to respect my father’s wishes.

So you wear a scapular?

Yes. I mean no. Not usually, but yes while traveling. I do carry it around with me too.

Why?

Good question. My answer is not impressive; I enjoy keeping the reminder of our faith close to me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). With eyes so dimmed by sin, the scapular is a reminder to me. I see it and think, My God! Am I prepared to meet you now?

Which brings me full-circle back to Mel Gibson. It’s easy to judge a man by his earthly actions, especially when they have been less than honorable.

But let the scapular be a lesson in humility to you: there are interior reasons why people wear scapulars.

Behind closed doors, people pray. Behind brave faces, people despair. In moments when life seems like too much, I find myself staring at the crucifix or even just holding a rosary. When I can barely find words, I take comfort in the material reminders of my faith as much as I do a hug from a friend.

My bestie boo’s husband gives great hugs

The scapular is a gift and, aided by a genuine faith, the wearing of such a religious item may lead to a true change of heart for some people. Others may find it a distraction and that is okay; if this is the case, I imagine God would prefer the absence of scapulars rather than a fake piety or bitterness.

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”… And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,13).

I’m pulling for you, Mel Gibson! Praying for you too.


A special guest post by B.! “Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important”

Suspicious Superstitions?

Scapulars
“Suspicious Superstitions?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
Guest Post: Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important” by B.

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I never realized how superstitious Italians and Irishmen are. They are also very proud people, so I’ll be clear: I get to say this because I’m both Irish and Italian (with German, for good measure).

Italians will not drink with out clinking glasses and you must take a sip from the glass before setting it down after clinking. It’s an involved process and must be handled with care. One must never toast with a glass of water in this exchange, however, because that is bad luck and will have a table-full of nervous Italians trading glances.

The Irish believe that a deceased aerospace engineer has it out for them. Edward Murphy, Jr., they say, preys on the Irish through his rule, Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” There are many other superstitions involving bad omens that prey on the Irish. For instance, did you know women with red hair are most unlucky?

Is she unlucky? Or just unwise…

That is, as they say, the luck of the Irish.

Though I think superstitions are mostly silly and pessimistic, many stress that they can be dangerous if one truly believes the minute act causes a rip in the universal order of “luck.” If superstitious people honestly think that having red hair or toasting with water in one’s goblet will result in misfortune, they excuse a certain amount of faith in God and natural order.

This is what makes people so uneasy about the idea of a scapular. The item resembling a necklace, if worn at the time of death, is said to be a “ticket to Heaven.” Using this kind of language closes the proverbial door on discussion because it seems obviously superstitious.

Take, beloved son, this scapular of the order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant” -Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to St. Simon Stock, 16 July 1251

I once wrote it off as superstitious and if I had worn a scapular anyway, I wonder if that would have been sinful. If I’m wearing it with false faith, I’m not really wearing it as a “badge of confraternity,” and I’m therefore trying to avoid the pain of hell without the desire to be in union with God.

A scapular played a triumphant role in my reversion, but that’s another story. When I wore it that day, I wore it with a profound faith that Mary would not have lied if she had made this promise. I was trying to turn back to God and my faith was in faith alone, though I was holding on by a thread.

I understand why people would object to the practice of wearing a scapular. As Catholic Christians, we believe, as the Bible explains, we will be judged for our faith and works (Romans 2:6, etc). It seems almost “unfair” that someone would bypass the system when it seems their only motivation is to avoid hell in the easiest way.

I argue that wearing a scapular with the believe in Mary’s promise is an act of faith, and is therefore an expression of both faith and works.

What other ways do we believe lead us to Jesus’ merciful judgment to bring us into Heaven? We believe our job as a spouse is to bring each other to Heaven. We believe parents are meant to lead their children to a path to Heaven. We believe that absolution of sin heals us as much as we can be healed on Earth, and in effect, if we were to die immediately after leaving a good confession session, we trust we’d go to Heaven.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” -John 14:6

It all comes down to God’s mercy and we should never presume we can limit it by determining we know who goes to Heaven and who goes to hell. We can have faith that our loved ones are in Heaven, but absolute statements about those going to hell take on God’s role.

Discern it, reflect on Mary’s words, and listen to see if God is calling you to wear an outward sign of faith. Perhaps wearing one will be a reminder to behave more like the person God created you to be.

Guest Post: Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important

TBM topic 18: Scapulars

Join the discussion!

Guest post by B.

“Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy Order as a badge of my confraternity, and for thee and for all Carmelites, a sign of grace. Whoever dies in this garment will not suffer everlasting fire. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, and a pledge of peace and of the covenant.” 
–The Mother of God, 1251 AD

Among many Catholic traditions, scapulars have always been a source of confusion. At first, they seemed to me a cop-out. Simply wear this piece of cloth around your neck, and get a free ticket to heaven, no matter what you did in your life! It was an amulet that shielded you from your own crimes. Who needs sacraments when you’ve got a scapular? I never wore one in high school because I decided I wanted to get into heaven based on my faith and works, not on what I was wearing when I keeled over.

However, I later learned a much deeper problem with scapulars. Driving home with a few friends of mine, salvation of non-Christians came into the conversation. One Protestant friend asked if Catholics believed if non-Christians automatically went to hell.

 “No,” I replied, “Catholics believe that if a non-Christian leads a good moral life to the best of his knowledge, Jesus will have mercy.”

 The Protestant then followed up with, “Well, if that’s the case, why would you want to evangelize? If you just let them stay in their ignorance, they’ll have a greater chance of getting into heaven, because if a person doesn’t know about Jesus, he won’t be held to the higher standard than a Christian would be.”

I was confused by this as it seemed quite reasonable. A maximal chance to get to heaven made sense to me. Another Catholic friend spoke up and said, “Life’s not about getting to heaven.”

Whoa.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel: Jesus > scapulars

Life’s not about getting to heaven. I now embrace this idea whole-heartedly. When we’re children, all we understand is punishment/reward. We know if we don’t do our chores, we’ll be punished, but if we do our chores, nice things happen! Later, however, we find out that those chores, be it cleaning your room or washing the dishes, are actually good in of themselves, not because we receive a reward from doing them! We mature and begin to do these things because we want to, not because of a reward we’ll receive.

Life is the same way. When we are immature in our faith, we focus on our reward (heaven) and our punishment (hell). However, as we mature in our faith, we don’t do the right thing so that we can go to heaven; instead we do the right thing because it’s our purpose in this world! We do the right thing because we realize that it’s the best way to glorify God with the life and rationality He gave to us.

Heaven and hell should be the last thing on a Christian’s mind. We need to be focused on why we’re here on earth, and how we make the world a better place than how we found it. Scapulars distract from this as it focuses on what comes after instead of what is in front of us right now. Whatever comes after we die, that’s just extra. We’ll all die someday, and when we do it should be our desire to answer for what we did and what we failed to do. We should be proud to answer for whether we fulfilled our purpose. I don’t want to hide behind an amulet; I want to be exposed.

Judge me, O Lord.

Bright Maidens: Scapulars: I Feel Weird

 
 
The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!
 
Topic: Scapulars
 
Scapulars: I Feel Weird
 

An older lady at a Holy Hour recently cornered me in the bathroom to tell me about her life and Catholicism.  She urged me to start wearing a scapular, and explained how her mother, who always wore one, died on a Friday, which means she was only in Purgatory for one day.  According to this lady, the Virgin Mother visits Purgatory on Saturdays and takes all the souls who wore scapulars to Heaven. 
 
Confession: I have very limited knowledge about scapulars.  I don’t even know if what that lady told me about them is true.  I’ve seen them sold in Catholic stores, and sometimes they come in the mail, but the promises about Purgatory and Heaven?  What is the history behind them?  Where do they come from?   
 
I deliberately didn’t research anything about scapulars before this post because I wanted to present my honest confusion and lack of knowledge about them.  I think other Catholics may have the same feelings, which may be born from ignorance, hearsay, and lack of context regarding scapulars.  This is an aspect of Catholicism that makes me feel…weird. 
 
I’m excited to read and learn more about this topic from my fellow Bright Maidens and contributors.

Pure Desires

The idea of pure desires might sound contradictory to you, but chastity means being sexually attracted, but choosing the greater good for the other.  It means you allow God’s love to permeate your affections.  In order for this to happen, we must first throw aside the false notion that religion and sexuality are at enmity with one another.  Could it be possible that erotic love could be pure?  Could sexual intimacy be sanctifying?  In God’s plan for sex, the answer to both questions can be an emphatic yes!
 
Although in the past you may have used your body in a way that drove you and others further from God, you are still made in His image and likeness.  Your body is still capable of expressing the love of the Blessed Trinity.  This is quite a calling.  But you’re worthy of nothing less.
 
– How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert(152)

Cootie Shots and Conundrums

TBM Topic 17: Emotional Chastity

“Cootie Shots and Conundrums” by Julie Robison
“Daydream Believers and Emotional Disasters” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Easy Bake Love Story” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

In the second grade, I received a cootie shot/ anti-boy inoculation from a retractable lead pencil. Don’t worry, it was given to me by a professional- my seatmate had given them to nearly every other girl in the class too. From then on, I was (mostly) immune to male charms. I was one of the few girls still playing soccer with the boys in junior high. I focused on making good friends, both male and female, in high school. I was realistic about dating in college, following the sage wisdom of my parents: A date isn’t a proposal. A dance isn’t a commitment. Enjoying another person’s company doesn’t mean you’re meant to be together forever.

Emotional chastity is about protecting your heart. It does not mean being unwilling to give it, but rather, give it selflessly, without regard to return. A perfect example of this is Elinor from Sense and Sensibility. She really liked Edward, but when she found out he was secretly engaged to another woman, she protected her feelings and let life play itself out. On the opposite side, her sister Marianne committed crimes of emotional exhibitionism. Fortunately, for us readers as well as both Dashwood sisters, true love wins out in the end.

I’ll give a more probably example: menfolk as friends. I’ve never believed the old adage of “men and women can’t be friends.” I think such generalities are poppycock. Friendship, like love, is a choice and an action. Attraction, on the other hand, is not.

On of the biggest conundrums women face today is the acceptability of “friends with benefits.” Girl meets guy. They become friends. They’re not interested in each other, so they only pursue friendship. Then, something changes. They start to feel attracted towards each other. What then?

One of possibility is to pursue a relationship.

Another possibility is to have a mature conversation and decide friendship is the best course of action.

Then, there is technically a third option. Really, a fraction of a choice, an algebraic mixture of the above: the friendship as the core, plus the heart-break, minus the commitment, and plenty of unknown variables. Friends with benefits is possibly one of the worst violations of emotional chastity. The benefits are purely physical. It is a utilitarian friendship where two people seek something from the other person. Neither party will grow as a human being because humanity needs virtue and goodness, not consensual vices or an emulation of shallowness, to flourish.

Here are two recent Hollywood examples:

Exhibit A, “Friends with Benefits” (2011)

Exhibit B, “No Strings Attached” (2011)

I would like to point out that both movies involve the complication of falling in genuine love with the other person. Do you think anyone would want to watch the movie if the people only submitted to their animalistic natures, opposed to rising above the banal situation towards the true, goodness and beauty of Love?

What a conundrum the modern world is in! Even if one does not participate in the friends-with-benefits arena, watching these type of movies, reading chick lit and endlessly daydreaming about a future with someone you have not had that type of conversation with is hazardous to feminine mental health. The unrealistic expectations set up by thinking about handsome men and allowing one’s mind to wander into fictional romance does not allow the heart to grow towards genuine love, which comes with time, honesty, purpose and virtue.

Self-control, therefore, is what is most needed in emotional chastity. It means not dwelling on the good times. It means not over-analyzing every word a cute guy said to you. It means not planning out one’s future with the man you’ve started dating or just met. It is not easy, and requires constant vigilance. This does not mean one cannot enjoy romance, consider the future or giggle over cuteness. But people want mature love, which can only be achieved through pure intentions and not rushing into emotional bonds.

The best advice I’ve been given on the subject came from my bestie Julia, before I started dating B. It also happens to be the advice I gave her before she started dating her now-husband. To achieve happiness in life, you have to be content with yourself. More importantly, though, you have to be content with your situation.

If you are single and praying every night for love to find you, I suggest praying instead for God to give you purpose in your singleness. This, like most things, may only be a season, and use it as a way to serve God more fully. If you feel called towards the vocation of marriage, God will provide.

If you’re still feeling like you’re in a pickle, I suggest an old-school cootie shot. All you need is a #2 retractable pencil and a second grader to administer a dose of perspective!