OMG[osh], What did she say?!

The Bright Maidens are back and this time we’re talking about … SEX. We discuss sex, virginity, recycled virginity, women, the value of sexuality the value of being a child of God and a brother and sister in Christ, and TOB in terms of respecting life and pro-life issues.

I haven’t listened to this week’s Among Women podcast all the way through yet, so I’m a little nervous about what Pat Gohn edited in and out. Our conversation for Part 2 was about an hour long, but it’s much shorter in the podcast version.

I’m more than a little nervous.

UPDATE: “It’s really hard out there. It’s really hard. To be a virgin in the 21st century takes heroic courage. It takes the grace of a saint to live the life that we’re talking about here.” –Pat Gohn

Let me know what you think!! LISTEN HERE. Our part of the interview is about one-third of the way through the podcast.

Bright Maidens on Among Women, Part 1



Friends, the Bright Maidens have an exciting announcement! The lovely Pat Gohn of Among Women kindly invited the three Bright Maidens (Julie, Trista, and Elizabeth) to sit down with her for the podcast!

As you may know, St. Hildegard of Bingen is the Bright Maidens patron saint, so Pat Gohn shares a great deal of wonderful insight on this powerful saint!

We had so much to discuss that we will be in TWO (count ’em: one, two) podcasts. We get into girl talk, a few points that we believe affect young Catholic women today, and a few… surprises. Check it out! Here is the first installment.

Instruct the Uninformed – 7QT, Volume 54

*1*
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Have you ever been an Extraordinary Minister? What we used to call “Eucharistic Ministers,” we should now call “Extraordinary Ministers.” That is my first instruction in this 7 Quick Takes version of this week’s Bright Maiden’s topic on the first Spiritual Work of Mercy, “Instruct the Uninformed.”

This is a tough task to ask of people trying to attract others to the Faith. To “instruct the uninformed” or to “instruct the ignorant,” as it is often stated, sounds arrogant. As if we must bless others with the knowledge we have and they go without. But how often do we welcome instruction when we really need it?

Isn’t that what all of those college loans are for? Aren’t you glad to learn the tips and tricks you find on how to make life easier on Pinterest? When you’re unsure about something, don’t you wish someone would just set the record straight?

*2*

This is where we come in. Extraordinary Ministers hold the great position of distributing the Eucharist to His people. We actually give Jesus to hundreds of people.

“This is the Body of Christ” — Words of true weight pass our lips for fifteen minutes.

So what do you do when someone approaches you and obviously doesn’t know what you’re about to give them?

In most situations (ie, apathetic teens), we can only instruct with “This is the Body of Christ,” saying it with purpose. However, when someone is chewing gum, they are obviously ignorant of what they’re doing and unprepared to receive the Eucharist.

A fellow EM of mine says that when a parishioner approaches him with gum showing in the corners of their mouth, he leans down and says, “I can’t serve you with gum in your mouth. Go spit it out and then get back in line, please.”

It sounds harsh, but those who chew gum moments before receiving the Eucharist really shouldn’t receive at all. They haven’t prepared for it. However, that moment is a moment wherein this person could completely turn away from the Church out of embarrassment or recognize that this EM is giving them a second chance.

Then they work out the rest with God.

*3*

One of my biggest pet peeves as an EM is a silly little ritual many parishioners at my church go through and I would love your input on how to handle it. Several married couples will approach me together, wait for me to give them both the Eucharist, and then receive it together.

ARGH! I should be concentrating on ministering, and I usually snap back into it. Quite frankly, when they stand side-by-side, I think, “Y’all are consuming the Eucharist! You’re in full Communion with EVERYONE who has ever consumed the Eucharist! You’re in full Communion with Christ! Why do you feel you have to add this extra bit of ‘specialness?'”

I’ve settled on the decision to just administer to the Eucharist to these folks rather than whispering, “I’ll serve you, one at a time.” What do you think we should do in this case, Extraordinary Ministers out there? Is this silly to you or are you ready to throw a punch at me?

*4*


A friend once went to Mass and sat behind a young boy who, upon returning from the Eucharist line, proceeded to rip the Eucharist wafer into little pieces and tossing them into the air. He caught the pieces and threw them up in the air again.

Horrified, my friend’s husband asked the boy if he was going to consume the Eucharist, while the boy’s mom sat a few feet away.

It made no disturbance in the pew, my friend held out his hand as the boy poured the pieces into his hand, and he consumed it.

This is instructing the ignorant.

*5*

On twitter the other day, a self-proclaimed “holiday Catholic” said he was going to get the “crackers and wine” and he needed to find a place to get them and ashes.

Because Twitter is a great e-vangelizing forum, even if our efforts there only plant seeds, I decided to reach out. My first thought on this one was, “Why do you care to go at all if you think they’re crackers and wine?” I corrected him and wished him good fortune in finding a place he liked. These are easy ways to instruct the uninformed because we don’t have the direct confrontation.

*6*

Another Twitter encounter occurred the other day between me, Kate, Karianna, and “Feminist Breeder.” You can see some of those points here and here.

The Catholic Church is not anti-gay, as Feminist Breeder was saying, and we wanted to set her straight. Karianna said, “Anti-gay not fair. Catholicism calls for all singles to remain chaste, gay or not.” Kate followed up with, “And sin is sin, we’re all equally sinful – Church is anti-sin, not anti-gay.”


We need to inform those who think poorly of the Catholic Church as well as those who are tossing pieces of Jesus into the air at Mass.

*7*

I don’t know whether or not my roommate thinks poorly of the Catholic Church, but I don’t think she was familiar with Natural Family Planning methods. The other day, I told my new roommate that I am interested in using NFP as a wife and she said, “Is that like biorhythms?”

Thanks to folks like Katie, I got to explain to her, no, NFP is not like the rhythm method anymore. I explained that the rhythm method was used back in the 1930s and that we know a lot more about how best to avoid or to achieve pregnancy while keeping God in our bedrooms.

I also used the opportunity to explain that most of the methods are at least 97% effective when used properly (which relies on married couples communicating — another benefit), which is far more promising than something like condoms. The error margin of condom use increases exponentially with every use (statisticians, help me learn how best to explain this, please!), while NFP methods remain effective as long as couples chart and communicate.

Every little conversation plants a seed and every little bit of ignorance we can rub out of the world leaves more opportunities for the Lord to work. This is our calling!

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.

She reigns

Feminine Genius: The Interior
“She reigns” 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!

The original Bright Maidens chose this topic to follow last month’s topic (Feminine Genius: The Dress) because of the unexpected blow-up in [uncharitable] comments on Julie’s blog post. We happen to think some of those who commented were misunderstanding her post’s objective, but in an effort to “listen first to understand, then to be understood,” we want to explain our full understanding of the Feminine Genius.

“You ain’t all that, honey, and all the dresses in the world aren’t going to fix what’s wrong with you.” 
-Anonymous Commenter 2

I still laugh when I reread the comments on Julie’s last Bright Maidens post. This offending concluding sentence came at the end of a ramble about good tailoring, an insult to Julie’s friend’s wardrobe choice, and more random explanations about what makes a woman look her best.

Our Patron

The consensus is this commenter was a female. Comments like the above quote prove that she missed the boat on how to make a woman appear in the best light, ie, not eternally insulting and provocative.

We’re all called to serve in Christ’s mission. Our mission is to serve for His mission.

Some have God-given musical talents or use humor to serve Him, while others must assume a role through sportsmanship or writing. We use what He gave us, including the gifts of our femininity and masculinity, depending on our sex. The roles of men and women are simply different, not one better or worse than the other.

One major hang up for non-Catholic onlookers (and for some within the Church), is the concept of the woman in the body of the Church. I’ve heard the lament many times that the Church doesn’t treat women well, the stand out reasoning stemming from the ordination of male-only priests.

Have they forgotten our reverence for the Holy Mother of God? Have they forgotten that we refer to the Church as a female body?

Christ died for the Church, just as men “die” (either literally or figuratively) for those they are called to protect. This doesn’t mean a man is greater just because he is the same sex as Jesus. It means we have different roles with different service opportunities.

As Bl. John Paul II once wrote, God entrusts people to each and every other person. However, the woman is entrusted with the ability to bear human beings “precisely by reason of their femininity” in a special way.

He went on to explain that the “feminine genius” is the effect of the strength drawn from this awareness and this entrusting. It has been this way since the beginning of time, throughout the Old Testament, especially during the Annunciation, and continues today.

“A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God ‘entrusts the human being to her’, always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them ‘strong’ and strengthens their vocation.” -Bl. John Paul II, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year”

The genius of femininity does not take away from the masculine genius anymore than the masculine genius strips power from the feminine genius. The two work in tandem, ideally filling the roles we human beings can possibly fill on Earth. The power is God’s.

Let’s look at the feminine genius of three very different women in my life: My mother, my confirmation sponsor, and my cousin.

For more by Elaine Golden, visit her site!

My mother utilized the gift of her fertility to bring three daughters into the world, furthering her own genius as well as bringing more of it to light! She constantly serves us, especially in her sacrifice with her job, which she has held for more than twenty years.

Her avocation was to provide for her family and she sacrificed some of her career happiness for us in that regard. On top of that, she offers each of us tailored emotional support and counsel.

My confirmation sponsor has been a family friend and true role model for me all of my life. My sisters and I are her spiritually adopted children, whom she serves with deep love and devotion, for whatever purpose we may need.

This woman is the one who cleans up the table when she’s a guest at your house, but will wrestle you to the ground to prevent you from doing the same at her house. She is a humble servant of God through the sacrifices she makes for others.

My cousin is only a few weeks younger than me and, likewise, is unmarried. When my grandmother died in April, she was at the starting gate with a tray of sandwich meats in one hand and a hug waiting on the other arm.

She didn’t share blood with my grandmother, but she had grown up with her always present at family events. Her selflessness, helpfulness, sacrifice, and servitude for us during that grieving period was poignantly impressive and a true show of her love for God through us.

As I mentioned in my “Month of the Dress” post, it doesn’t matter how feminine we look, whether or not we have borne children, or how good we look doing it. Our “dress” is our service.

It’s the consolation of a friend in a time when words won’t do the trick. It’s the casserole we made when our co-worker loses a family member. It’s the laughter we share in with those we love.

It’s the glance we posses as we look at the man we love in a way that communicates to him how important he is to our life. It’s the softness of our skin when we sit in a nursing home, 40 years beyond the hustle of motherhood.

Through Mary’s example, let us pray that we women gain the strength to recognize that which God has entrusted in us.

“For her, ‘to reign’ is to serve! Her service is ‘to reign’!” – Bl. John Paul II about Our Mother Mary in Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women.

Instead of a Bright Maidens post…

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, Irene the Mean has prevented our Trista from accessing consistent Internet so we’re postponing until next Tuesday.

As a lame replacement… I would like to introduce you to a wonderful young lady, Dylana. I’ve mentioned her before and I’ll mention her again. Check her out at her blog, “The Pilgrim’s Paean.”

Yesterday, she posted a few questions to gather information to help her prepare for her upcoming confirmation:

Well, this blog has mostly been about myself and my spiritual journey. But I have a question for you all. Well a few… haha! Here it goes:
1) What books have played a key role in your journey?
2) What about the books that have aided your discernment?
3) How should I prepare for my upcoming Confirmation? (Oh! P.S.-I might be confirming early!! Schyeah!)
4) How have you disciplined yourself to grow in holiness?
5) What penances have you employed?

Before I share my answers, please enjoy Julie’s:

1 & 2) Flannery O’Connor’s letters; The Imitation of Christ by St. Thomas a Kempis, Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers, Free to Love by Marcel LeJuene, The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, Introduction to Christianity by Pope Benedict XVI, In Soft Garments by Ronald Knox, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot, and Church Fathers (i.e. Confessions by Augustine)… to start 🙂
3) Discipline yourself in prayer- the Devil will attack and try to separate us from our Lord through hardship, spiritual dryness and other wiles.
4) Charity in all circumstances; constant prayer and petition; reading Scripture; frequent use of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Reconciliation
5) Holding my tongue when I am being wronged, especially if I have already made my defense.

My answers:

Source

1) Hands down, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

2) Fantastic question! I think blogs have had a bigger impact on my discernment because they’re short and always there for me to read. Pray, read, pray.

3) Schyeah! Write hand-written letters to important people in your life and tell them how they have impacted you. They don’t have to be Catholic or even Christian. You never know what effect your words of praise and gratitude can have on someone’s spirituality. Also, ditto to Julie!

4) I’ve surrounded myself with good, holy people and I try to learn from them at all times. Of course, I’m friends with people of all walks of spiritual life and I suppose being around them motivates me to employ that which I learn. All of my friends and family teach me, everyday.

5) Good one, Julie!! I have to agree. One of my biggest faults is the NEED to be right or “justified.” When I remember…. I try to keep my mouth shut and just realize that there is no reason for me to fight. It doesn’t always work (can I get an Amen, family?)

Month of the Dress

Feminine Genius: The Dress
“Month of the Dress” 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!

This post is one month in the making: one month of flowing dresses, feminine prints, and (shocker) thinking about outfits and make-up. For the last thirty days, I promised myself that I would wear a dress or skirt at every opportunity. I only failed once.

Before the Month of the Dress, I was a frequent skirt-wearer. Of the things women complain about, dresses should never be on the list.

I don’t own the rights.

I expected to come out on the other side of the Month of the Dress a new woman. I would be well-rested, prettier, empowered, a better chef, able to speak to small cartoon animals, and sing a high F.

Expectations being what they are (generally wrong), I learned something unforseen: I’m already the woman those characteristics represent.

Half way through the month, this empowered woman got a flat tire and had to [call my beau to bring his fancy equipment to take off the bad tire and] go to the mechanic for a replacement. I was dressed for the gym, ie running shorts and a t-shirt, when I walked in the doors of the mechanic’s.

I don’t have to go all the way to Mrs. Manners’ reaction because I know my Gramma was looking down screeching, “You look like a rag-a-muffin!”



I became very aware of my informal wardrobe, though any other month of the year, this would be a standard outfit for a trip to the mechanic. In the first two weeks of the dress experiment, I lamented the fact that I didn’t notice much of a difference in my behavior or manner after fourteen days. Then there I was, in public for the first time without a skirt on and I felt exposed.

Lest you think one shorts-clad trip to the mechanic flipped me into an anti-pants woman, I will tell you I am donning a pair of six-year-old running shorts, a t-shirt with paint on it, and my hair in a messy bun at the moment I write this.

After my uneasiness at the mechanic’s wore off, I realized it wasn’t the dress itself or the fact that women “are supposed to” wear dresses that caused discomfort on the day I “failed” at the Month of the Dress. But what was it?

At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel hails Mary and calls her “full of grace.” In his apostolic letter, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote that the dialoge from the Annunciation reveals the “supernatural dimension” of the event. 

Grace never casts nature aside or cancels it out, but rather perfects it and ennobles it. Therefore the “fullness of grace” that was granted to the Virgin of Nazareth, with a view to the fact that she would become “Theotókos”, also signifies the fullness of the perfection of” what is characteristic of woman”, of “what is feminine”. Here we find ourselves, in a sense, at the culminating point, the archetype, of the personal dignity of women.”

A woman was the only being on Earth capable of being the mother of God, the person to bear Him, or the first to touch Him. The feminine “mystery” is a confusing concept, which is so evasive and inexplicable, one wonders if we are just repeating a buzz word that has been used for centuries.

John Paul II’s deconstruction of the Annunciation shows that the “mystery” of a woman is the fact that she is more than utilitarian or for objectification. As Mary is the archetype of the personal dignity of women, she is our example.

In a later letter, John Paul II writes, “The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the ‘feminine genius’ and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ (Lk 1:38)” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women).

My wearing a dress or skirt for thirty days made an impact on my routine. I spent more time on looking nice, which made me more present when interacting with others outside of my home. I made the effort to be creative when selecting outfits, since the limited wardrobe bound me to repeat them.

I attempted to put on an aire of grace in the form of a dress, in communion with my feminine identity.

However, it was the commitment to the arbitrary thirty day rule that caused the abiding change I underwent this month. Why is a dress the outward appearance of femininity? Does that apply to every woman? How does this relate to my faith?

The Church finds in Mary “a source of constant inspiration” because she was obedient to the Word of God, choosing to use the gifts He gave her for His plan, unselfishly. She served God and in doing so, served others: “a service of love.”

“Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic ‘reign.’ It is not by chance that she is invoked as ‘Queen of heaven and earth.’ The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their ‘Queen.’ For her, ‘to reign’ is to serve! Her service is ‘to reign!'”- Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women

That’s the real “dress” for a woman: service.

Good thing, because as much as I praise dresses and their ease, I’m going hiking next week. I cannot think of a more unfeminine thing than me sweating and pulling on a skirt that clashes with my hiking boots as I walk up a mountain.

“I think you look good in shorts, too, though,” said my beau. I’ll learn to cook a recipe that I know he’ll like. And I’ll wear my pink bermuda shorts and a blue t-shirt while I make it.

UPDATE: A friend randomly read this passage from 1 Peter 3:

“Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.”

How perfect! This is not a condemnation or an outlawing of the “adornment,” but an emphasis that “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition” is “precious in the sight of God.”