Summer Readin’, Having A Blast!

TBM Topic 14: Summer Reading

“Summer Readin’, Having A Blast!” by Julie Robison
“Bright Maidens: Summer Reading” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“In Which I Pretend Perfect Weather Exists” 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!

I wish I could tell you more about my summer nights than the sad fact that I got home from work around 9:30 p.m. last night and was so tired/ too frazzled to write (I write for work; too much typing and thinking yesterday). Alas, my summer days are driftin’ away and oh! Oh, those summer nights… reading late before bed. I recorded a video of me briefly discussing the six books I am into right now. I’m technically juggling more than six books right now, but such are the reading habits of a chronic multi-tasker!

Julie’s book list
Second Friends: C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation by Milton Walsh
Thy Will Be Done by St. Francis de Sales
Departed Angels: The Lost Paintings -by Jack Kerouac, text by Ed Adler
Surprised by Canon Law by Pete Vere & Michael Trueman
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Cardinal Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

What are you reading right now? Tell me more, tell me more!

Bonus: Fr. Schall on why it’s better to read a few authors than to stray through many.

In Which I Pretend Perfect Weather Exists

Summer Reading

“In Which I Pretend Perfect Weather Exists” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

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!

In my mind’s eye, I’m sitting in a bug-free, snake-free meadow, sprawled out in the tall grass, in a light, summer dress circa Anne of Green Gables with a book in my hand. Later, I’ll glide down to the lake and hop in the paddle boat with my musty, bound book and push off into the middle of the water, breaking up the reflection of the puffy-cloud sky.

A breeze rocks the boat as I turn from page to page.

But I don’t live on Prince Edward Island. I live in Richmond where the days are hot, sticky and there isn’t a bug-free, snake-free meadow even in our dreams. We’ve hit 100°F almost everyday for about three weeks here in the former capital of the Confederacy.

The books get soggy with … feminine glow, not sweat … if you try to read outside. The animals laugh at you if you walk out with your book, waiting for the cool breeze.

I’m going to share my resources for summer reading during those “thank you, dear Lord, for whomever invented air conditioning” days. Yes, it’s high-tech and yes, you have to have a computer to read these, but that’s just one more opportunity to be grateful for what we have.

And for what we don’t need to have, namely a sweat-soaked summer dress in a field as we slowly bake to death.

First of all, CatholicFiction.net. Need I say more?

If you’re a fan of all things fiction, but you want to be sure you’re entertaining yourself outside the confines of a harlequin novel or the fiction-version of “Knocked Up,” hit up Idylls Press’ website.

They even provide a list of free e-books, with the suggestion that if you enjoy them and you can donate, to indulge the urge. The next book lined up on my Nook (yes, I’m going new-fashioned. It prevents the soggy-book-effect) is The Innocence of Fr. Brown by G.K. Chesterton.

I know many people hold to the idea that books should have pages that crease and tear and ink that leaks down the page when the crying scenes are just that good, but let me remind you of the beauties of air conditioning…

Give it a chance at no cost to you. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Kobo (as well as many other resources, I’m sure) provide free computer/tablet/smart-phone-based applications
for e-reading. Simply download the application and download the free (or not free, whichever floats your indoor, sweat-free boat) e-books and go to town.

If you are interested in more free stuff, never forget our e-vangelizing tools from my post earlier this year. Make sure you visit FreeForCatholics.com, as well, and peruse some of the free or cheap items that companies and organizations are willing to send to us.

So you want to walk away from this post with some titles?

Spiritual must-reads:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert

  • My review for this book gets a surprisingly high number of hits every week, even three months after I read it. I continue to benefit from the explanations it provided for me and I hope enough teens get their hands on it before they start making decisions that will affect them for the rest of their life.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

  • When a priest suggests a book, you read it. A priest suggested this… it’s time to read it.

To read for fun:

Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • The greatest Austen novel, in my opinion.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • I don’t know that I can back up this book as fine literature or an astute political piece, but it was a relatively safe way to get inside the fictionalized head of someone who found a reason to support abortion and an alternative way of life, in a “mild” way. If you want to try to understand why people disagree with the Church on things like the Sanctity of Life and Theology of the Body, this is a quick read.

If you’re anything like me, dear reader, you’re always looking for a suggestion for a good book to read. Rather than making a trip to the store or trusting the Amazon reviews, consider signing up for Library Thing. You can make a list of all the books you can remember reading and filter through the suggestions that like-minded readers provide!

Happy trails! Stay cool…

… I’m off to day dream of a perfect reading corner.

Bright Maidens: Summer Reading


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: Summer Reading

Beloved Reads

One                       Two


Three                       Four


Five                            Six


Seven                    Eight 
  
This assortment of books brings you (one) a retelling of the lives of Jacob, Esau, Leah, and Rachel (Genesis 25 and 27-29) set in Scotland; (two) a heartfelt, heartwarming, and thought-provoking novel of the lives of Mary and Joseph before Jesus (not sure if it’s 100% Catholic); (three) the whimsical, hilarious, and entertaining tales of Norse mythology; (four) a book on the nine Enneagram personality types; (five) C.S. Lewis’ brilliant work depicting a higher-up demon advising a lower-demon on how to tempt mortals; (six) the ever-delightful Harry Potter series, which highlights the struggle between good and evil (and does not, in my opinion, push children to the occult); (seven) play about Sir Thomas More – layperson, husband, father, and Saint!; and (eight) a self-help book on loving those around you.

Currently Reading
The Gift of Faith, by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
Divine Mercy In My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina 
The Host, by Stephanie Meyer 
(er, yes, that Stephanie Meyer!  And it’s really, really good!)
Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly
Siren, by Tricia Rayburn

To Read
Set Free to Love: Lives Changed by the Theology of the Body, by Marcel LeJeune
A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard
Of Thee I Zing, by Laura Ingraham



There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach

TBM Topic 13: Fr. John Corapi and the importance of Christian witnessing

“There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach” by Julie Robison
“Believe Me If You Like.” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“What do John Mayer and the Catholic Church have in common?” 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!

There is something to be said for, what Graham Greene said in Brighton Rock, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has certainly seen its share of sin and scandal in the past 2,000+ years and, most recently, with the latest exposure of John Corapi’s inappropriate escapades, to fuel the opposition’s cackling fire.

In the April 2011 issue of First Things, Gerald McDermott wrote “Evangelicals Divided,” which resulted in many responses, a few of which were published in the June/ July 2011 issue, including from the author himself. Towards the end, he reproached his Papist brethren. “At the same time, I wish the Catholic critics were a bit less triumphalistic,” wrote McDermott. “When the clergy abuse has sent multitudes of Catholics to swim the Tiber away from Rome to either liberal or evangelical Protestantism, and the church is beset with both clergy and parishioners who ignore or defy Rome, one would hope for a bit of ecumenical modesty.” I let out a contented sigh upon reading this- that his protest was but a finger point; in short, our strand of Christendom has its own problems, and gawking is not welcome.

We’re not gawking, we’re taking a break
“Now, it’s perfectly true that in a way this unholiness of Catholics is a compliment to our religion,” wrote Ronald Knox in a lovely volume of lecture apologetics, In Soft Garments. “Because it does mean that a Catholic does not necessarily cease to be a Catholic because he is a rogue. He knows what is right even when he is doing what is wrong. The Protestant as a rule will give up his faith first and his morals afterwards with Catholics it is the other way round. The Protestant only feels his religion to be true as long as he goes on practising it; the Catholic feels the truth of his religion as something independent of himself, which does not cease to be valid when he, personally, fails to live up to its precepts.”

When news first came out about John Corapi, people were wary. This is a sign of mercy, not blind allegiance. He has shown himself to be an amazing defender of the faith; it is a shame to see such a man go wayward.

In Catholic doctrine, the seven spiritual works of mercy are: counsel the doubtful; instruct the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted; forgive offenses; bear wrongs patiently; pray for the living and the dead. How many people remember these when comparing one Christian witness to another? My siblings made a joke in the car yesterday about how ignorant people are “people who know they know everything already.” I thought this an astute observation from a 13 and 15 year old.

As Americans, we should believe that all people are innocent until proven otherwise. As Christians, we know no one can escape final justice. Therefore, as Roman Catholics, all voluntarily professing believers in the same dogma and equal participants in the sacraments, we must especially pray for mercy and grace, for ourselves and each other. Pope Benedict XVI, during his inauguration on April 24, 2005 to become the 265th Bishop of Rome, said, “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

Pray for him! We’re so blessed to have him lead us.

Holy people are not exempt from temptation, though they rise above the occasion. Fr. Joseph Esper, in his excellent book Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems*, opens the chapter on “Temptation” as such:

What is the one thing every human being throughout history who has reached the age of reason has shared in common? It isn’t the reality of sin, either Original Sin or personal sin. Jesus and Mary never sinner, and neither was touched by the sinful inheritance of Adam and Eve. No, the one reality we all share is the experience of being tempted to sin. Even Jesus (and surely Mary, although Scripture doesn’t record it) experienced temptation. Three times the evil one approached Jesus during His forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert… In each case, Jesus rejected the Devil’s suggestions. Not only did He wish to remain true to the will of His Father, but He also desired to provide us with encouragement to face and, with His help, to overcome our own temptations to sin.

Corapi, for all his positive work in the advancement of the faith, has reassured me of something with his moral failings and betrayal of his vows: Truth prevails. The Catholic Church is a vehicle of God, not man. His personal actions were sinful, but the Church’s teachings do not change. I am not Roman Catholic because of one man’s persuasiveness, nor do a thousand-billion people’s personal sins lessen the truths given to us by Jesus Christ, the divine revelation from God the Father or the works of the Holy Spirit.

St. Thomas More would know a thing or two about this
As Pope Benedict XVI told journalist Peter Seewald in Light of the World, “But we must also note that in these matter s [sexual abuse scandals] we are not dealing with something specific to the Catholic priesthood or the Catholic Church. They are, unfortunately, simply rooted in man’s sinful situation, which is also present in the Catholic Church and led to these terrible results.”

After all, as Knox later jokes, “If all Catholics were saints, the truth of our religion would become too glaringly obvious, and there would be no real exercise in making one’s submission to the Church.”

In these times, I pray. Pray for mercy. Pray for help. Pray for hope. Pray for repentance. I also stand my ground. This is what witnessing is; no one is convinced by otherwise. I show mercy. I give help. I tell of my hope, and my reason for it. I repent of my sins, in my heart and in the confessional. To witness, one must believe in the tenants of Christianity, which give cause for virtuous actions, and thus the heart will be sanctified, so that the burning love for God will be kindled and the Holy Spirit’s fire will spread to many more, for the glory of the Kingdom to come.

The one fact of life we must never forget is that all people matter; all people have souls worth saving. Corapi’s life is not over in the Church. The one lost sheep is worth looking for; the Prodigal Son’s return is worth celebrating. There is much to feel blessed about, when one sees good come from bad situations, wrongs rightened, and perseverance through the darkness. In that vein, I particularly like this question and answer from Light of the World:

Seewald asked,

The scandal of sexual abuse could cause us to ask about other cases of abuse of well. For instance, the abuse of power. The abuse of a relationship. The abuse of a commission to educate. The misuse of my gifts. In ancient Greece a tragedy was supposed to cause strong emotions in the spectators, a “cathartic” or cleansing effect that made them think in a new way about their life. Only catharsis makes people ready to change their deeply ingrained behaviors. Couldn’t the current crisis of the Church become a new opportunity also?

Pope Benedict XVI replied,

I think so. Indeed, I have already mentioned that the Year of Priests, which turned out quite differently from what we had expected, had a cathartic effect also. That the laity, too, became grateful again for what the priesthood really is and saw its positive nature in a new way, precisely in the midst of the disturbances and the threats to it. 

This catharsis is for all of us, for all of society, but especially of course for the Church, a call to recognize again our fundamental values and to see the dangers that profoundly threaten not only priests but also society as a whole. Knowledge about this threat and the destruction of the moral framework of out society should be for us a call to purification. We must acknowledge again that we cannot simply live in any way we please. That freedom cannot be arbitrariness. That is imperative to learn to exercise a freedom that is responsibility.

As such, each of have a responsibility in this lifetime to discern and properly seek our purpose, to live according to the Word and Catholic doctrine, and to be a witness for how our relationship with God-in-Three has and continues to profoundly change our hearts and shape our souls. As was proclaimed in the Gospel on Sunday, weeds will grow up beside the harvest, but it is not for us to pick them out before the whole crop comes to fruition. In the sin of scandal, our ruffled feathers help us straighten out our own lives, examine our own actions and thoughts, and more earnestly seek to live more faithfully.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Pope Benedict XVI explained this best in his brilliant Introduction to Christianity, with the reminder to use our fallen natures as the stepping stone upwards to God, for we are not called to a flawless, never-tripping-or-making-mistakes holiness, but perfection through sanctification:

On the contrary, this holiness expressed itself precisely as mingling with the sinners whom Jesus drew into his vicinity; as mingling to the point where he himself was made “to be sin” and bore the curse of the law in execution as a criminal– complete community of fate with the lost (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). He has drawn sin to himself, made it his lot, and so revealed what true “holiness” is: not separation, but union; not judgment, but redeeming love.

Is the Church not simply a continuation of God’s continual plunge into human wretchedness; is she not simply the continuation of Jesus’ habit of sitting at the table with sinners, of his mingling with the misery of sin to the point where he actually seems to sink under its weight? Is there not revealed in the unholy holiness of the Church, as opposed to man’s expectation of purity, God’s true holiness, which is love, love that does not keep its distance in a sort of aristocratic, untouchable purity but mixes with the dirt of the world, in order to thus overcome it? Can, therefore, the holiness of the Church be anything else but the bearing with one another that comes, of course, from the fact that all of us are bourne up by Christ?

No one escapes temptation’s siren call, but how one responds to it determines the course. We should mourn Corapi’s decisions, pray for him, and hope for him, as we should for all people. No one is outside the realm of God’s mercy and we should witness for Christ accordingly, in our unwholly holy way.

So I find words I never thought to speak/ In streets I never thought I should revisit/ When I left my body on a distant shore./ Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us/ To purify the dialect of the tribe/ And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,/ Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age/ To set a crown upon your lifetime’s effort./ First, the cold friction of expiring sense/ Without enchantment, offering no promise/ But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit/ As body and soul begin to fall asunder./ Second, the conscious impotence of rage/ At human folly, and the laceration/ Of laughter at what ceases to amuse./ And last, the rending pain of re-enactment/ Of all that you have done, and been; the shame/ Of motives late revealed, and the awareness/ Of things ill done and done to others’ harm/ Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
— T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”

*This book is perhaps the borrowed the most from me and then subsequently bought; it is really stupendous, and now there is a second volume. Published by Sophia Institute Press.

What Are You Reading?

I’m back, after a loooong time. Can’t promise consistency, but at least content. Volume 21, baby!

one

This week, I bought more books than my New Years’ Resolutions allowed*. I said 3? Well, I meant 8! It’s summer, does that count for anything?

I also renewed two subscriptions (First Things and The New Criterion) and took out a third (Touchstone, because its price was blessedly and severely reduced). I sadly am letting one of my newspapers go, though, and am happy to still have my Wall Street Journal, National Catholic Register, Financial Times, and The Magnificat.

Have you bought any good reads lately? Are you supporting excellent writing and the advancement of intellect?

two

Elizabeth is always marveled by how much I read. I thought I’d share the five books I am currently reading (yes, at the same time; I like multitasking):

I got this one for Christmas and am loving it:

Edith Stein and Companions On The Way to Auschwitz by Father Paul Hamans

This thick one will be finished before the summer is out – fantastic and meticulously written and researched:

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

This one is really interesting and insightful:

Philosophy 101 By Socrates by Peter Kreeft

B. lent me this one, and it is hil-arious:

A Practical Guide to Racism by C. H. Dalton

I am listening to this one in the car, and it is, of course, just wonderful:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

In July, I’m going to start Brighton Rock by Graham Greene for my long-distance book club with Tessa and Brenna! Excited to read more Graham Greene – I love The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory. Highly recommend both as well, if people are looking for summer reading recommendations.

Up next: Christopher Dawson, Zora Neale Hurston, Pope Benedict XVI and some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

three

Here is my blog referral of the week: Born After Reagan

My friend Logan started it a few months ago, and now I am excited for the 2012 election just so I can read what he has to say about it!

Why yes, we did meet Ron Paul together three years ago:

CPAC 2008
four

The topic for next week’s Bright Maidens‘ post is picked! Next Tuesday, please join us in discussing “Catholic Modesty.”

If you’re a first time participator, all you have to do is write on the same subject and post your response to the topic on our FB wall. Wa-la! If you’re not on FB but still want to participate, e-mail it and we will post it for you to share with the group. If you’re on Twitter, our hashtag is #brightmaidens (with an ‘s’ on the end!) to share posts and tweets.

Also, Bright Maidens refers to we three girls, but we have both males and females participating. The male hashtag on Twitter is #cathdudes if you want to read some some cool Catholic dudes.

A re-cap of last week’s topic, a response to Max Lindenman’s article on “Dating Nice Catholic Girls”:
Elizabeth: On Reading Confused Catholic Writers
Trista: Please Don’t Call Me A Prude
Julie: Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

Elizabeth makes a list of all the contributions too, so please check our FB page later for that!

five

I’ve been home for a week, and am still actively learning to adjust to a new sleep schedule, being back at work, and hearing people talk to me in English. As happy as I am to be home, South Korea was an amazing experience. I’ll give you a sneak peek from my weekend in Busan:

This is a kimbab, and the best thing I ate in South Korea (stay tuned!)
Best bathroom sign EVER.
The Eastern Sea, a.k.a. The Sea of Japan. But they don’t like the Japanese, so don’t call it that, please.
The Busan fish market. I’m going to have a whole post on food.

six

I’m also going to have a whole post on drinking in South Korea. Here’s me trying authentic Korean beer for the first time:

So innocent.
There are so many patron saints of beer; they obviously did not invoke any of them!

seven



I bought Adele’s latest album, 21. I seriously do not know why I waited so long. It is wonderful, soul-filled and beautiful.

Here’s “Someone Like You” with Adele talking about why she wrote the song. Warning: I teared up a bit.

She’s a two months younger than me, too. Gives a girl perspective!

Okay, one more, this one upbeat: “Set Fire To The Rain”

SHE IS SO AMAZING. Buy her music. Make her famous and wealthy, she deserves it. I want her singing forever and ever.

Happy Friday, friends! See Conversion Diary for more. Also, say a prayer for Jen! She’s having her baby on Wednesday!!

*I’ve been miserably failing to follow most of my New Years’ resolutions, actually, which is why I take the book buying limit one so seriously!

Ecce Nostra Feminia

The Bright Maidens‘ Topic 9: Mary, Our Guide

“Ecce Nostra Feminia” by Julie Robison
“Simple Things” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
“Mary’s vapor rub” 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!

Last night, Dad and I went to the grocery store after work, to pick up vegetables, bread, cheese and a few more gallons of milk. We were in the bakery section, and Dad was looking at the bread called “Ecce Panis.”

“Do you know what ‘ecce’ means in Latin, Dad?” I asked.

“What is that,” he replied, humoring me.

“‘Ecce’ means ‘look’ in Latin, so ‘ecce panis’ is ‘look, bread!’ The word for bread looks like it is in the nominative case, but really it’s the vocative, which is supported by ‘ecce,'” I rambled on to him.

“I think it also can be translated as ‘behold,'” said Dad. “As in, ‘behold- bread!'”

I liked that translation, but more because I began thinking about Mary, the Theokokos, the Mother of God.

Behold, Our Lady! Loving and sanguine, I always imagine Mary half-smiling at Jesus at the wedding in Cana, when he told her his time has not yet come, and she, gentle mother, flicking her wrist and saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Just as Jesus is our Savior, wholly part of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, who will come back to earth to judge the living and the dead, Mary is our mother, and de facto, our liaison to God. Her earthly comings are always with the purpose and intent to bear messages from Jesus. She is a reminder of our need for the spiritual, through her vibrancy and consistent persuasion for us to follow her Son, who is the way, the truth and the life. Mary always points towards Jesus, which makes her our own guide in this life, if we are to play the role of Dante.

Marina Warner wrote, in her 1976 book Alone of All Her Sex, “Whether we regard the Virgin Mary as the most sublime and beautiful image in man’s struggle towards the good and the pure, or the most pitiable production of ignorance and superstition, she represents a central theme in the history of Western attitudes to women. She is one of the few females to have attained the status of myth– a myth that for nearly two thousand years has coursed through our culture, as spirited and often as imperceptible as an underground stream.”

So good!

I have been reading Judith Dupre’s Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life and give it cannot be more highly recommended. Dupre offers 59 meditations, equal to the number of beads on a rosary. She writes, “This text is a three-part invention: narrative, visual narrative, and marginalia. In the main text, I offer short essays, sometimes personal, sometimes theological or historical, on Mary’s place in our everyday lives. The imagery and captions form a ‘book within a book’ that traces Mary’s influence on Western art. The selections from history, poetry, and prose in the margins offer additional insights into Mary and are formatted after the midrash commentary on the text of the Hebrew Bible, which is used also but to a lesser extent in the New Testament and the Qur’an.”

One of the most beautiful elements this book has truly brought to light for myself is Mary’s ability to penetrate the hearts of many religious traditions. Charlene Spretnak says in Missing Mary that, “Mary saves us from denying the kinship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: All three live in her spiritual presence.”

Though I wrote in my last Mary post that many Protestants reject Mary so as to reject the temptation to idolatry, the very idea that one would idolize such a woman is apt evidence of her power. Dupre writes,

In a 1952 essay, Archbishop Fulton Sheen opined that Mary chose to appear in the sleepy backwater of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 as a “pledge and sign of hope to the Moslem people.” Despite the evangelical nature of Sheen’s opinion at the time is was made, the idea of reconciliation through Mary is worth considering anew. Muhammad, who has tirelessly warned Muslims not to deify him, embodied his faith, virtue, and surrender to God so wholeheartedly that he forged in his own person a living link between heaven and earth. Like Mary, his will was only to do God’s will. At a time when the need to reconcile differing culture traditions has never been more urgent, there has probably been no symbol or concept in Christendom that can mediate and build bridges with more success and amplitude than Mary.

It should not be surprising then that Catholics so whole-heartedly take on a devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother in Heaven. I’ve always been amused by the viewpoint taken in True Devotion to Mary, when St. Louis De Montfort states that the Devil fears Mary more than all angels and men, and in a sense more than God Himself, because it is mortifying to be overcome by such a small woman.

Mary cannot forgive sins, but she teaches us how to live without them, as she did. She guides souls to God by teaching them how to love, and anyone who loves God cannot be taken by the Devil, even if they will be tempted by him. Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil, so, in many ways, our trials are compliments. And Mary is there to help.

Behold, Mary! Full of grace, help us also to be filled with grace, to say “yes” to God, and to accept our trials. Let us never forget that Mary was not spared from the worst kind of suffering, be it scorn from neighbors or watching her son unjustly put to death. Still she stands benevolent, the Queen of Heaven, with her hand outstretched. As the Rev. Patrick Ward said in a 2008 homily, “When Mary says, ‘Let is be with me according to your word,’ what she is really saying is, ‘Lead me on, Lord. You have more in store for me than I can possibly imagine.'” Behold Mary, joyfully and lovingly guiding us souls to God.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgins of virgins, my Mother! To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me.
–The Memorare prayer, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Hillsdating and Other False Realities

Week Three: Dating

“Hillsdating and Other False Realities” by Julie Robison
“Friendship That Lasts” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
“Christian Commitophobia” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” 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!

Where I went to college, there were three prominent types of relationships: there were people who dated, people who were “just friends,” and people who Hillsdated.

Hillsdating, as defined by THE Urban Dictionary dot com, is a “relationship where a guy and a girl who like each other, spend every waking moment together, but refuse to admit or agree that they are dating.”

Let’s avoid this.

Hillsdating came about precisely because, unlike many college campuses, dating is looked at as a step towards marriage- not as serious as courtship, and more commitment than friendship. Dating, rightly understood, is getting to know another person more intentionally.

But a well-known side effect of Hillsdating is regular bouts of awkwardness. Awkwardness is usually caused by emotional limbo, which can only be cured by the boy acting like a man and acknowledging the amorous feelings to the girl’s face.

 Last night at RCIA, we began our discussion on the Ten Commandments. Matt, the seminarian leading the discussion, made an awesome point: God didn’t give us rules to restrict us from doing what we want. He gave us these laws to us out of love, so that we can have a loving relationship with him and with other people. Looking at the natural consequences of breaking the Ten Commandments, our actions would result in offending God and/or hurting the people around us, either emotionally or physically.

There are boundaries to every relationship, which protect the dignity of each person as a whole. Married people are faithful to each other; single people are faithful to God; friends are respectful of each other. In addition to these boundaries, God is just asking you to respect your fellow humans, so as to avoid any awkwardness (“er, sorry I lied to/ cheated/ stole from/ killed you”). He’s just being honest! Can’t fault the guy for being straight-up with his people.

Which brings us back to Hillsdating, which is not just a phenomena of my alma mater, but really, an extension of the hook-up culture. Even though most Hillsdating couples might resent me saying this, because most of them really are chaste relationships, emotional limbo can be worse than dating badly.

Fortunately, this is why my Father is the best man I know: he has always been completely honest with all his daughters about males. He set our expectations not to look for Prince Charming, or Mr. Charming, but just Char, who will make us laugh, and make us think, and love us for who we are, just as we will love him for being him.

Dad definitely knows best, and his wisdom and advice to his four daughters through my 23 years of existence has led me to pen these:

The Ten Commandments for Dating

The first commandment of dating: Like a person for who they are now, not who you’ll imagine they’ll be, or want to be, or aspire to be.

This means getting to know a person, spending time with them in different situations and around different people. Dating, in its purest form, is just getting to know another person. Wishing a person had different interests, or different thoughts, or did things differently means you’re more concerned with the idea of that person, and not the actual person.

Evey Hammond, in the opening lines of V for Vendetta, says it best: “Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot… But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them… but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love… And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a man… A man that made me remember the Fifth of November. A man that I will never forget.”

The second commandment: Communication.

Gentle lads, let me clue you in: if you like a girl, I bet she knows. For example, I am a decently oblivious person. I can look back on my college experience and regularly face-palm myself for not properly understanding a boy’s motives for talking to me more than usual until the situation was at an extremely awkward place. Therefore, bring it up. Tell her you like her. Then ask her what she thinks and stop talking.

Yes, it really is that easy. This can only end well:
A) She likes you back. Hoo-rah! Y’all can now discuss pursuing a relationship.
B) She likes you back, but you’re not going to date for x, y, or z reasons. A happy, chaste friendship can properly begin if the boy can first honestly admit his feelings. If the girl is too immature for such a friendship, then good riddance.
 C) She doesn’t like you back in a more romantic way. Oh well! At least you’re able to start the healing process that comes with rejection and your confinement to Afriendistan.

I really cannot stress the importance of this enough. If the boy does not step up, some kind of awful awkwardness is going to happen. My sophomore year, a guy friend of mine and I were getting really close. I knew we weren’t going to date, but the awkwardness was getting too obvious for comfort. After he finally brought up that “people say ‘just friends’ like it’s a bad thing” (and I heartily agreed!), he admitted he thought I was going to cry. I told him he could cry, but I was fine. See? Communication, people. As the Godfather says, it’s not personal, it’s business.

I clearly love to talk.

Which leads to the third commandment: Be honest.

There is nothing worse, in my opinion, then when you’re out with a person and you can tell they are trying to say what they think you want to hear. But if I am going to actually like you, it is because of you and your own beliefs, not you and my-own-beliefs-repackaged. Also, it tells me that you don’t trust me with your thoughts. I’m not a delicate doll; be honest with me and we’ll have a nice conversation, regardless of how I feel about the subject.

Jack Kerouac, in On the Road, wrote, “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk–real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

The fourth commandment of dating: Take it easy.

Don’t stress! Dating should be fun. Don’t think about whether or not you are going to marry this person tomorrow. I realize that the end of the world is scheduled for May 21, 2011 (and 2012?), but if you’re meant to be with the person you’re dating, you will, because it’ll be right in your heart and the other person’s too. If it doesn’t work out, that just means God has something else planned for y’all. It’s not personal. It’s not “what-could-I-have-done-better,” it’s “what-does-God-have-planned-for-me”! Marriage is a vocation, so take it easy and take it slow. Once you’re married, it’s for the long-haul, and there is no need to rush into that.

Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) says to his patient, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray), in the fantastic movie What About Bob, “Baby steps, Bob! Baby steps.”

The fifth commandment: Don’t settle.

Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, “She’s beautiful, and therefore to be woo’d;/ She is a woman, therefore to be won.” Dating is a two-way street. Just because a guy likes you does not mean you have to date him, and the same goes for guys. There has to be interest on both sides, and not just out of convenience, but a desire to commit.

Therefore, again, this is where males will need to step up and act like gentlemen; if he is actually interested, he will. If he’s not, you (the girl) do not have to put up with it. Even in modernity, there are certain boundaries and expectations, and not unreasonable ones either. Opening the door for you does not mean he thinks you can’t handle yourself in the real world: it is just a nice and respectful gesture, as is paying for your meal. Not necessary, but certainly appreciated.

Also remember, as my parents said to me after I was lamenting accepting an invitation to a dance, “It’s a date, not a wedding proposal.” Give the person a chance (or two), but going on a date does not mean you are dating or in a relationship.


The sixth commandment: Give each other space.

In a poem called “Separation,” America’s current poet laureate W.S. Merwin wrote, “Your absence has gone through me/ Like thread through a needle./ Everything I do is stitched with its color.” Spending a lot of time with your significant other is a good thing, in the sense that you are able to observe them more and get to know them better, but don’t lose perspective.

Stay involved with things outside your relationship with that special someone. If it doesn’t work out, your entire world isn’t shaken up, for one, and two- who wants to be with a person who has no interests outside spending time with you? Not me. What would we talk about? What would we do?

Relationships should push you to better become the person God intends you to be, not be stagnant, and that means living in the world, not your own happy-cuddly corner. Too much time together can also be overload: everyone needs alone time to re-charge their batteries. Besides, as Clucky says to Maid Marian in Disney’s Robin Hood, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder!”

The seventh commandment: Don’t date for the sake of dating.

Dating is a discernment period. If you’re dating a person just because you want someone’s time or affection, you’re wasting both your times. That person could be with someone who actually cares about them, and not someone who just wants a free meal. Elizabeth says you should know whether or not you want to pursue a relationship with someone by the third to fifth date, and I agree. Don’t drag along another person past that point! It’s not considerate to either party involved.

The eighth commandment: Be respectful. 

This includes in conversation, in actions, and in intimacy. If someone is sharing their thoughts and opinions with you, do not shoot them down, make fun of them, or be overly critical. Be grateful that they feel comfortable enough to talk to you about something personal.

Don’t disrespect people’s personal bubbles! Get to know them first, and observe their body language. My best friend from college, for instance, does not like being touched, while her sister gives the biggest and best bear hugs ever. I don’t mind being touched, but I do get very uncomfortable when people start to overly touch me, especially when I do not trust them with my heart. For example, I freely hug my family, my friends who are girls, and my few excellent guy friends, but not most guys (if that makes sense).

Sexual ethics aside, chaste dating relationships are important because pressures from girls and boys can lead to disappointment and a break in trust. It also opens up more avenues to get to know a person, to pursue romance, and leaves the relationship free from complications which come with premarital relations.(Cue the Venerable Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body!)

The ninth commandment: Include others in the dating process. 

Family and friends is the obvious solution to this one. You and your “special friend” are not living on an island by yourselves. At the risk of getting overly attached before y’all can properly discern where dating is leading you two, it is important to get feedback from the people you trust most, which is typically family and good friends, especially since they de facto have known you longer and, ergo, better.

Besides, who doesn’t want to get to know my quirky family? I mean really, let’s just get it all out there:

After putting on Midsummer’s Night Dream for our parents

If someone doesn’t get along with my family and friends, I’d say that’s a decent indicator that the relationship is not going to develop in a romantic fashion. We’re a pretty fun bunch.

And finally, the tenth commandment: Include God in the dating process.

Dating someone makes me pray more. It makes me ask for help from God for wisdom. I ask that my heart be protected; I ask that the guy I’m seeing properly discerns where this is going; I ask for God’s blessing and that his will be done.

He is, after all, God! Our God loves us and wants the best for us. Offering up your thanks, questions, discernment and sorrows gives due respect and honor to him. In trusting God, who knows and wants the best for you, you will be more easily lead by the Holy Spirit in your actions, thoughts and words. Involving God is the best way to give a solid foundation to any type of relationship. 

“Let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:8-11)