Whom Would Kindness Kill More: Them or You?

TBM Topic 31: Comfort the Afflicted

“Whom Would Kindness Kill More: Them or You?” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
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!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

“Today I told off a cashier who was trashing the president” read the Daily Kos headline. Color me intrigued; I clicked on it. I read it. I cried (figuratively).

The writer was just a member of the site, not an official writer, and proudly stated how he actively listens to progressive radio and keeps up on current events via The Nation and Mother Jones. He apologetically admitted he grocery shopping at Meijer (not sure why, but now I know they’re “Michigan owned, .. unionized and ha[ve] a very respectable selection of organic produce as well as locally baked breads.”)

 He described the cashier as an older white woman who “looked like she’d had a hard life.” The writer, a self-described “very political person,” says he “often feel[s] bad when I see older people still working when, in a just society, they shouldn’t have to. Obviously I don’t know her story but there she was checking and bagging groceries, a job which keeps you on your feet for hours on end, at 8:30 on a Friday night.”

 That was a poignant moment for the writer. He feels a bit of compassion for this woman. But he doesn’t act on that compassion when he hears the older woman say, “Of course Obama says there’s no inflation. I don’t think the man has ever had to buy groceries in his life. He probably gets his employees to do it for him. You know, buy his arugula?”

 First comment: I had to look up arugula. It’s a salad green.

Second comment: It’s a silly connection to make between inflation and greens, but nothing inflammatory. The woman’s point is that Obama is an elitist. An elitist is not someone who is well-off financially; it’s anyone who thinks they know better than you, and worse, wants to make you follow their plan, and not allow for deviation. Progressive liberals can be elitists. So can Republicans. So can Independent voters. It’s a personality trait, usually associated with ambitious people, and not a party line. Obama fits that definition; individual health care mandate, anyone?

The author felt differently:

 My anger was building up to a boil; I mean, I just wanted to get home to that beer and who knows how many people before me had to hear this crap? So after I was all paid up and everything was in my cart I said to her, “I suggest you keep your political opinions to yourself when you’re standing there because you never know who’s standing here. I don’t appreciate hearing my president trashed like that. That’s all I’m going to say.” Her eyes flashed with anger and realization that I must be one of “those people”. She drew in a breath, about to say something and I said, “If you say one more fucking thing I’ll go find your manager and all three of us can discuss this.” At that, she suddenly deflated. Now the look in her eyes was fear. She looked down and meekly mumbled “Ok. Sorry sir.” I left then, proud of myself and still full of anger. 

Wow. Tolerance, much? After that, he felt a twinge of remorse and wondered if he had handled that poorly. He says he realizes she’s probably just a low information voter, only listening to conservative media, like Rush and Sean (verses only reading and listening to liberal media outlets), and then he threatened her job. But he’s glad he spoke his mind; he only wonders if he could have handled that encounter better.

Ahem. This is where I get to my point about comforting the afflicted: they’re not just the physically sick. They can be spiritually sick. Or just lack good manners. I miss the old ladies who would keep order by calling the naughty child’s parents. If you want a much-needed reality series, I think Miss Manners should take to the streets!

Comfort is more than sharing a meal or a beer or a laugh. It means firmly and gently showing people the way. Whether it be a friend giving advice or a offering a stranger a smile, people find comfort in kindness. The author of the above was unkind. No opinions were changed through the experience. No hope blossomed that America’s fractured politics could reconcile themselves. Instead, a man swore at a woman and claimed victory and, worse, the moral high ground.

This post isn’t about politics. It’s about love, peace, and Jesus (who, coincidentally, brings both of those things to the party). The writer is right to say we shouldn’t back down from defending our beliefs, but never at the cost of another person’s dignity. Souls are converted by fellow souls: we must never forget that Christians are the face of Christ for the unbeliever.

As Blessed John Paul II wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus said to the apostles: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Though invisible, He is personally present in His Church. He is likewise present in each Christian, by virtue of baptism and other sacraments. It was usual to say, as early as the era of the Fathers, “Christianus alter Christus” (“The Christian is another Christ”), meaning by this emphasize the dignity of the baptized and his vocation, through Christ, to holiness.”

Dignity isn’t a mercantilism: dignity is for all, and there is an unlimited amount to go around, for loved ones as well every single person you disagree with or dislike. A person’s character is not measured based on the love they give when they feel it, but rather, loving (action verb) when feelings dictate otherwise. It’s those times in which it’s necessary to take a deep breath, smile, and  offer up a situation that is out of your control to God. Every person is unique, and therefore, going to disagree with you on certain points. Offer it up. Do not hurt another person to achieve victory. Offer it up. Let it go.

All for the glory of the Kingdom, people.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: New Super Awesome Young Catholic Adult Website Launched

A brand spankin’ new website for young (and the young-at-heart), joyful, orthodox Catholic adults launched today. It’s called Virtuous Planet. Catchy, eh?

Bam. The bomb-diggity of logos.

The list of contributors is pretty rockin’– for example, all three Bright Maidens are full-time writers! As if you could ever get enough of us.

At this time in VP history, I shall be posting on Fridays. Please feel free to e-mail me if you’re interested in reading an article on something. I’ve already gotten a request for scapulars and for me to get my act together and publish my Catholic Sexuality series. But mostly for me to get my act together and stop leaving the state every other weekend for a college friend’s wedding and other nonsense like that.

Here is THE website, THE Facebook page and THE Twitter handle.

Read. Like. Retweet. Repeat!

Also, check out my darling Anna’s first published column in USA Today on the eve of WYD 2011: “For these millennials, faith trumps relativism”!

Today, I went to Mass on purpose and accidentally attended the Mass of Simple Profession of the 16 Dominican novices at St. Gertrude’s on accident. Amazing to watch and partake in, blessed to have such men serving the Church, especially on this, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven – my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

(Will write on that later too…)

Happy Monday! Happy Assumption! Oh, happy day!

Building Up My Excuse Wall Nice And High

Sorry my latest Bright Maidens post is late… again. I wasn’t out of the country this time. I wasn’t recovering from jet lag either. I did drive my brother to the doctor and then to his interview with the Navy, but that shouldn’t have prevented me from posting. My laptop refusing to turn on, however, did.

Okay Julie, you’re thinking. Not a big deal. Just a post. You couldn’t have prevented your computer from deciding to go black and then have little Windows icon to swirl around for hours.

But, I beg to differ. I missed a deadline.

In professional journalism, my past life, that doesn’t happen. You miss a deadline and… well, bad news bears, yo. You’re messin’ with the lay-out folks now. I used to lose a lot of sleep under the pressure of a deadline. It was wonderful and exhilarating. I took pride in it. I liked how hard I could work under pressure, and the beautiful prose tapped out of my fingertips.

As some older readers know, I used to be a reporter. I covered the statehouse and had a jolly good time. Then, for many reasons, I quit, moved home and began writing and researching for the family business. I’m still Arts and Letters Editor of a quarterly, but I’ve mostly hopped off my journalism perch, and am enjoying a more distant view of a business I once thought of as my life.

As Girl Scouts taught me, make new friends, but keep the old

It is amazing what distance will do for perspective. I talked to a good friend last week, and he asked me about what I am up to. The conversation almost made me laugh from glee, that pithy C.S. Lewis line about telling God your plans coming to mind, and I told my friend how much I am enjoying life. We have been friends since college: he knew me when I was dead-set on D.C., saw me lean towards marketing, helped edit my first academic journal piece, and has been a wonderful friend to me. My update was much longer than his, for better or worse. He’s still on the same track: rocking med school.

On one hand, I envy those in medical or law school, those working in their field of choice, those who shaken off the dust of their hometown and have arrived on the scene in the big city. There’s a plan and a path, and the fruit of one’s hard work can usually be seen on a larger scale. They’re makin’ their mark, and they won’t stop until they get there.

But where are they going, exactly?

I find there’s something alluring about striking out on my own path, beating my own drum, figuring “it” out. Belle sings in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast about the provincial life, saying she wants more and declaring that there must be more!

I sympathize with Belle, but only to an extent. I work for my family business. I like it, but sometimes I forget that one must work within one’s postage stamp of native soil to really excel. It takes experiences like talking to good friends to remind me of what I have, and how blessed I am to be at home.

Every choice is a give and take, and I’m freely and no longer choosing the promise of a career over my relationships with people. (Not that other people in their respective fields necessarily are– but I was, which is my point.)

Leaping down the hill in Georgia

Living at home again has taught me how to handle the unexpected. I have to be diligent at work, or else I won’t be able to get my work done on time when my parents need me to take my brother-with-mono to the doctor again.

In two weeks, I have a couple book reviews due. I need to plan ahead to make deadline, which includes Saturday Fun (a.k.a. all house clean-up) and washing dinner dishes. I’m helping someone do research for a book: there’s a schedule I have to keep to. I might go overseas again; I play tennis on Tuesdays, see friends and B. through the week, and go on walk-runs with my dog. I’m doing my own research, and writing letters, and writing more articles, including my Bright Maidens posts.

I realized today: I really should plan to publish earlier than the day of. Life happens, but that doesn’t mean writing shouldn’t.

Thus, I am sorry, sort of.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be. Maybe you didn’t even notice, dear readers, but nonetheless, please accept my apology for tardiness and bear witness to my persistence in attempting to publish things on time. I will return to my old habits, mostly.

As Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring (which I am listening to during my daily hour commute, to lessen the time brunt), “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I’m not sorry I’m spending my time with people, but I am for not publishing on time, which is, in a way, an opportunity to spend time and share my thoughts with y’all, as you share back with me.

Here’s something to read in the meantime: Knocking at the Door: Musings on history, philosophy, theology, literature, and culture. It’s a blog by my good friend Mitch, a grad student at TCU studying the Civil War. He also features the above Tolkien quote and offers lovely commentary on things he reads.

Also worth a skim: Holy Women & Everyday Hero Priests -UPDATE by Elizabeth Scalia

Happy Wednesday, y’all! And thanks for reading.

Goin’ to the Zoo-Zoo-Zoo, How About You-You-You?

On Saturday, my mom took five of us six kids (one of my brothers has mono) and B. to the zoo and we had a fabulous time, even though it was packed with people.

Can you spot me?

The real gorillas were easily 5x bigger.

This bird kept crawling closer to my sister’s face and weirdly trying to lick/ eat her arm
The three little kids – the zoo brings family together!
The gang! (minus Mom)
My good friend from college Bess noted last week how, in NYC, there is a call by PETA to retire horses from their jobs in traffic, be it police or carriages. I think this is silly- as long as the horses are treated well and with respect, they do not need to be “put to pasture.” Shouldn’t they have some sort of purpose in their animal lives too? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives (2416-2417).

Happy Tuesday! Here are a few more good reads:
NRO — “Adele vs. Taxes”
NYT — “Exemptions Were Key to Vote on Gay Marriage”
Mises Institute — “The Lovely and Productive World of Thomas”
San Jose Examiner — “Porn Stars Are Abused and are Human Trafficking Victims”
Why I’m Catholic Conversion Stories — “Mormon Convert: Thomas Smith”
First Things — “Illusions of Equality”

Also, the Bright Maidens topic for next Tuesday is TATTOOS. I hope y’all participate! Be sure to post it on our FB wall and on Twitter (hashtag – #BrightMaidens).

The Gucci Awakening

TBM Topic 11: Catholic Modesty

“The Gucci Awakening” by Julie Robison
“Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Be decent to each other” 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!

Joshua also said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will perform wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)

“People in my grade look so much more mature than me,” said my 15 going on 16 year old sister. We peered into the computer screen, and looked at a girl we’ve all known since she was a wee tot, not yet 16, wearing a tight fitting tank top and shorter skirt. I felt a twinge of simultaneously feeling young and old at age 23, wearing a green blouse and blue jumper dress, and then felt sorry for her, so grown up in looks and  not realizing her whole worth, and the need to protect her body, not just show it off.

Two Sundays ago, the head pastor at my grandparents’ parish wrote in the bulletin about proper Mass attire during the summer months. Father wrote,

Once again the summer months are here and we have to remind ourselves of proper Mass clothing. It is hot, and sometimes we don’t give it a second thought, but we should be conscious of what we wear to Mass. Remember our church is air-conditioned. Men and teenage boys should wear trousers and a dress shirt. Women should wear modest dresses that fall below the knee, and modest blouses and slacks. Flip flops, shorts, tee shirts, and any type of immodest clothing should not be worn to Holy Mass. Remember the rule: I am conscious of what I wear to Mass and it is modest for the Holy Congregation. We owe this respect to Jesus and Our Lady, and to each other. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

While I am in complete agreement—perturbed, even, at how people are so casually dressed at Mass—my grandmother, aunt and I said the same thing: good luck getting women to wear dresses that fall below the knee.

Sorry it’s above the knee Father, but I love this skirt.

Today’s retail stores simply do not offer many (if any) dresses or skirts that long at the wide-scale level. Most of my dresses and skirts go to my knee, or slightly above. Pencil skirts notwithstanding, dress and skirt lengths today do not typically go past the knee unless they are going all the way to the ankle. Moreover, length is not the only litmus test for modesty.

In South Korea, women do not show their shoulders. They may wear very short skirts and high heels, but their chest area is completely covered. A lot of summer dresses in the States have skinny straps and lower fronts (and sometimes lower backs as well). I wear cardigans to work almost every day, especially if my dress has no sleeves. But what of the dress’s fit? I tried on a dress last week for an upcoming wedding. It wasn’t tight, but it was fitted, and made me self-conscious of my figure. I asked the sales ladies for their opinion.

“If you’ve got the figure, wear it!” was the consensus. I did not buy it. Besides the color being too muted for my Irish skin’s liking, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that this dress would fit me so well. Clothes should fit, but there is a line between fitting and fitted. I do not like being stared at, or wearing something that I know will prompt stares. I was stared at a lot in Asia because I was usually the only Caucasian walking around, but that was different than prompting men to give you the once-over.

Totally normal, every day activity

Ephesians 5:1-4, 15-16 says, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. … Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Since we are now under a Democrat president again, there has been a lot of Bible thumpin’ across America, calling for a revival, religious and political. Take back America! But what are we exactly taking back? We do not live in the Founding days of the country. Since the major wars, women’s fashion has used considerably less fabric. The sexual revolution during the 1960s helped confuse the meaning and understanding of the word “decent.” Sex has become less sacred and more socially acceptable to talk about in common venues. Sex, as a symbol, has become an esoteric subject more related to fashion and less to the family, where, when sex happened, so did kids.

Jennifer Moses, in her May 19 WSJ op-ed “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, asked the tough questions: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

She writes,

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn’t have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.

If you have a problem with the way I dress, says the Modern Woman, you’re an old fart.

No, no, says the Modern Man- you keep wearing the short skirt and showing me your cleavage. More power to you!

Fine J-Lo, you can be a Mom AND wear Gucci

R.R. Reno, the new Editor in Chief of First Things, wrote in the June/ July issue about “The Preferential Option for the Poor.” His answer to our poverty problem is not only that there is not enough money going around. He writes about today’s “Gucci bohemians”:

A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial; the most serious deprivations are cultural, not economic. Many people living at the bottom of American society have cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and some of the other goodies of consumer culture. But their lives are a mess. 

And why? It’s a complicated question that I can’t convincingly answer here. But I want to end with a suggestion, if not an argument. 

On the question of social justice, Pope John Paul II once wrote, “The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich.” For most of my life (I was born in 1959), the rich and well-educated in America have desired nothing more than the personal freedoms of bohemian liberation. The rich, we must be clear, include the secure and successful academic and professional upper middle classes. I am not talking only about people who live in penthouses, but about people like us and those we know. 

This bohemian liberation has involved the sexual revolution, of course, with the consequent weakening of the constraining and disciplining norms of a healthy culture of marriage. But the ways in which the rich have embraced their freedoms hasn’t involved only sex and marriage. It also includes the verbal antinomianism typified by George Carlin’s campaigns to normalize obscenity, suburban librarians insisting on the right to view pornography, tech billionaires who dress like dockworkers, a feminism that mocks the social mores that make women ladies and men gentleman, and many other attacks on older notions of bourgeois respectability.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society,” wrote St. Francis of Assisi. The return of modesty comes with singular witnesses dressing appropriately and stylishly. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, for instance, was beautiful as it was modest, and millions of people saw that, and loved it. I couldn’t walk through a grocery store without seeing magazine covers oozing over her and her dress, right next to a picture of an actress falling out of her own respective garments.

Classy, beautiful, simple and modest. So fetch.

Reno went on to say,

The bohemian fantasy works against this clear imperative, because it promises us that we can attend to the poor without paying any attention to our own manner of living. Appeals to aid the less fortunate, however urgent, make few demands on our day-to-day lives. … Want to help the poor? By all means pay your taxes and give to agencies that provide social services. By all means volunteer in a soup kitchen or help build houses for those who can’t afford them. But you can do much more for the poor by getting married and remaining faithful to your spouse. Have the courage to use old-fashioned words such as chaste and honorable. Put on a tie. Turn off the trashy reality TV shows. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Stop using expletives as exclamation marks. Go to church or synagogue.

I quote him at length not only because he says it well, but to show that this problem is not generational for the Catholic Young Thangs. But it’s our cross to carry, and our creative outlet. We are blessed to uphold beauty and goodness and truth for the Church, and we get to show it through our dress as well as our actions and words. Modesty is not only about covering up – it is about acting, speaking and thinking in a way that is considerate of others, as well as one’s one being. Otherwise, the immodesty of one creeps into the others, inwardly and, soon enough, outwardly.

Modesty reminds me of when “Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

It’s time to awaken our inner beauty, and seek virtue through the presentations of our bodies. It is written in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Modesty: the best policy! 

Glorify does not mean hide away in a brown sack; rather, the body can be used as a means of praise. By not using the body as a temptation, it is an opportunity for we Christians to preach the Gospel without words, helping attract people to God through our sanctified bodies and souls, and to show the goodness that is the Lord. Modesty is a person’s expression of this, and is a gift to all who come into its sight.

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!

Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

The Bright Maidens, Topic 10: “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” by Max Lindenman: a (delayed) response

“Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!” by Julie Robison
“On Reading Confused Catholic Writers” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Please Don’t Call Me A Prude” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite

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!

Is it wrong that every time I tried to write this response post, the Beastie Boys’ lyrics kept playing in my head? “Her pants were tight/ and that’s okay!” they chorus, and I know Mr. Max Lindenman agrees, even though he scathingly used the adjective “tight” three times in his Patheos article “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” in reference to three different girls’ bottom apparel.

The Beastie Boys, on girls: “I like the way that they walk/ And it’s chill to hear them talk/ And I can always make them smile/ From White Castle to the Nile.”

Later in the song, however, they lamented what happened during a walk down to the bay: “I hope she’ll say, “Hey me and you should hit the hay!”/ I asked her out, she said, “No way!”/ … So I broke North with no delay.”

Mr. Lindenman, I’m afraid dear readers, also broke North with no delay. His sub-byline is misleading, a backhanded compliment of “No hook-ups but no long-term ego-busts; nice Catholic girls teach tenderness and the valuable security of the everyday.”

Within the article, he confused readers by first he accusing the JPII generation of women of being “godawful” teases like Sexy Puritans (a.k.a. attractive Christians), then admiring his ex-girlfriends’ sunny dispositions and adherence to Catholic sexual morals before sharply criticizing those very virtues within the same page, and, the worst of offenses, did not properly fact check. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae as our dating guide? Please. That encyclical is for married folk. Nice Catholic Girls read the Theology of the Body lectures first!

Mr. Lindenman does address an excellent topic though: how can girls only cuddle? How can they not succumb to their desires for more intimacy than handholding and playing footsie? If kissing is okay, why not taking a few tips from the Kama Sutra?

In the 2007 film Juno, after the 16 year old main character Juno MacGruff tells her father and step-mother that she’s pregnant, her father says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.”

Juno replies, “I don’t know what kind of girl I am.”

I found this part of the movie incredibly honest, and a good reflection of how sexual education is addressed in America. My own began at home: by the time I had my first sexual education class in the fifth grade, my parents had given me four siblings, with one more to come. My parochial grade school education was all scientific explanation of sexual intercourse, with a dose of religious reverence. My parents were extremely upfront about sex not happening before marriage, and God’s plan for sex within marriage. It was easy to see why saints had died for their virginity, and why they offered it up to God.

But there the formalities stopped. We spent one week in Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) lectures my freshman year of high school, and barely skimmed the touchy subject in Ethics my junior year. I made friends with many boys, took boys to dances, and occasionally went on dates, but avoided more intimate relationships. When I did go to college, I was completely unprepared for the advances of some boys and, all I can say at most is that I am glad the teachings of the Catholic Church were so firmly pressed upon me and my conscience, because my emotions would have dictated me astray.

Catholicism’s response to the sexual revolution

I didn’t learn or start reading about Theology of the Body until after my junior year of college and into my senior year, giving me now more of a foundation for what was only a protest before. As Juno later and quite aptly said, there were times when I was “just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”

Through all of it, I valued honesty, whether the guy bravely breached the gap or I had to step up and address the awkward silence of unsaid triflings. My heart, therefore, sank a bit deeper into my chest as I read Mr. Lindenman’s belittlement of such an effort.

He wrote, “My nice Catholic girls were completely different animals. Straightforward and unaffected, they sent no mixed signals, crowned their bedposts with no negative notches. In their orgies of chaste snuggle-wuggles I see evidence for a startling truth: where sexuality decreases, tenderness and sensuality increase.”

I, in turn, see evidence of confusion. Chaste snuggle-wuggles (hereafter known as “cuddling”), for starters, are the antithesis of orgies, which are unrestrained and excessive sexual activities. I submit as my thesis that in a pre-marital, non-sexual relationship, sexuality does not decrease, but remains consistent, in check, and in anticipation, as well as increasing tenderness and sensuality, not to mention creativity for fun and romance.

One topic not addressed by the author is the difficulty for a Nice Catholic Girl to find a Nice Catholic Boy.

Nice, of course, means more than pleasant to be around and no less than respectful in words, actions and thoughts; it is a vague word that indicates the virtues of men and women are being honed and prepared for delivery when called upon or needed.

Well, says the dear readers, maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place.

But would two people sitting feet apart, refraining from most contact, cultivate anything but sexual frustrations and tension? Holding hands would perhaps alleviate that, without overdoing it. To avoid temptation, one must avoid the near occasion of sin. But if two are both committed to not sinning, does proximity of one’s bodies determine the occasion?

I am not prepared to address every specific situation a couple may face together, but I think every situation can be correctly handled according to the Church’s teachings and without the tease of a Puritan courtship. This is where I quarrel with Mr. Lindenman.

Say what?!

He tells a tragic tale of woe: of Melissa, his former girlfriend, the nursing student. She was beautiful, but either didn’t know or didn’t care. She could draw parallels between saints and X-Men characters, participated in Eucharistic Adoration, and was courageous enough to ask Mr. Lindenman via e-mail postscript if they were dating since, apparently, he failed to properly ask her out.

He said his security was Melissa, and that he inadvertently told her he loved her during a hike. They talked long into the night, but the nuances of their relationship began to haunt him, like Dimmesdale’s guilt in The Scarlet Letter. Unlike Hester, however, Melissa did not keep things secret in the crevices of her heart. She was kind and open with all she met and knew, and her “buoyancy, the way she revealed herself as recklessly as a patient on a couch, worked on me like a stimulant.” But in the end, instead of admiring this trait, Mr. Lindenman “cooled off pointedly.”

No reader was shocked when Melissa broke up with him. He said, “That was Melissa: scrupulous in honesty and generosity, a nice Catholic girl to the end. …There’s a great deal to be said for nice Catholic girls: the up-front quality, all those depths made visible, like the ocean in a color-coded map. Even the prudery has its advantages. Getting kicked to the curb by a girl you’ve never slept with means never having to wonder whether you’re a bad lover. That cuts the ego’s recovery time exactly in half.”

I am sorry Mr. Lindenman did not take more time to “recover” from this relationship, or rather, reflect. Melissa was no prude. She was not shocked nor did she shun the topic of sex. She discussed it, and at length. She did not physically give her body, but she opened up her soul. This can be more terrifying than being physical with another person, because it requires a different kind of affection that people crave more than touch. This kind of affection has fewer lines, and allows for more creativity. To say I Love You is one thing; to show it is another.

“For God so Loved the world that he sent his only Son,” says John 3:16. Good experiences and good memories only really happen once. Nothing in this world can be repeated, even though it can be done again; the world writes its history based on the choices of individuals. Sex is a choice every person faces, and the idea of chastity is a contradiction to modern sensibilities, for which freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants to do, opposed to the freedom to do what one should do.

The bomb-diggity.

This is exactly what John Paul II persuasively argues for in his Theology of the Body lectures. The Catholic Church preaches authentic freedom through Christ, which leads to an authentic love. To love someone is to recognize their dignity. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 7).

In this same thread, dating a Nice Catholic Girl or Nice Catholic Boy is about seeing the other person as a whole person: not just someone to have sex with, not just someone to pass the time with, not just a possible vocation, and not just because they’re Catholic. The intimacy two Catholics seek in a relationship is beyond a want of sex. Of course they both want it, but they’re willing to acknowledge its significance, which is a true bond, but not as the pinnacle of the relationship, nor an indulgence for one’s own gratification.

Mr. Lindenman sees all the accidents of Love, and none of the essence. He gets distracted by the tight pants and sees pious hypocrisy in that same girl if she wears a mantilla too. He thinks not having sex is a decrease in sexuality, and downplays the honest desire to get to know another soul before allowing the bodies to join. He relishes in the feminine touch, but rejects its liberality if it won’t go beyond the cuddle.

Well, he can write his bishop about the tight shorts all he wants, but I think he’s missing the Church’s point. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.” Catholics know how to have a good time, and do. Just because we’re not having sex before marriage doesn’t mean we’re prudes or Puritans. It means we bring the party when the time is right, and give the perfect gift too.