Kiss the Girl!

TBM Topic 22: The Virgin Diaries on TLC

“Kiss the Girl!” by Julie Robison
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Virgin” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Chastity Carnal-val” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

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



There’s a new reality series in town, and… well, it’s no different than any of the others out there. It’s extremely personal. It’s humiliating. It focuses on the exterior of people rather than the interior. It makes everyone feels awkward. It portrays its subject matter poorly. It makes people and their belief target practice for everyone else, which does not lead to toleration and understanding of others.

The show is called “The Virgin Diaries.” It is on TLC (which should change its name to TMI). A headline from ABC News says TLC is celebrating virgins because losing one’s virginity is a big deal. The show is getting a lot of press, though, with the exploitation of a video clip of the couple whom had never kissed each other before their wedding. It was, to say the least, disturbing. If I had never kissed a person and I knew the cameras would be on me, I would certainly have been more timid.

To write this piece, I’ll make the following three disclosures:
A) I couldn’t bring myself to watch the show, so my critique is general motifs rather than serving as a review;
B) I think losing one’s virginity is a big deal, and TLC has hurt rather than helped hold such a belief;
C) I’m an adult virgin.

That last one felt weird to type since I’m only 23. I hardly feel like an adult, minus the paying for self, school and taxes part of my life. My sex education came from being the oldest of six kids, religious ed. discussions about sex in the 5th and 6th grade, my biology courses in high school and college, and devouring Theology of the Body resources in college. I’ve had my heart broken, but never more than that.

For most, though, that’s enough.

The romance people are looking for in their life is not sex. The companionship people are looking for is not sex. The intimacy people are looking for is not sex. These are, to be sure, all aspects of sex. But sex is an outward sign of something deeper, which is why girls are annoying and want to cuddle after: they want to be held and know they are wanted, and that their feelings are reciprocated. Sex is reassurance for men that they are wanted and needed, but that does not mean that are emotionally (and chemically!) bonded like the girl.

Virgins used to be more revered. In mythology, virgins goddesses like Athena held power because they did not need to sway men by luring them to bed, like most other women in the stories. The vestal virgins in Rome watched over the sacred fire and, freed from an obligation to marry and have children through their pledge of chastity, were considered important and needed members of society.

Beatrice catching Hero from fainting at her wedding.

In Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing, Hero, a female protagonist, is wrongly accused of unchaste behavior. As a result, her marriage is called off, and she dies. Not literally, as the audience finds out later, but her staged death makes her betrothed realize the severe consequences his false accusation (based on false information given to him by a seemingly trust-worthy person).

Even in these sophisticated modern times, sexually promiscuity stays shameful. It may be justified, it may be more acceptable, but it is still something people get a twinge when mentioning, even if flaunting it. People are quick to say, “Don’t judge me!” and yes, no person should be judged by another person. But actions can and should be judged, because they determine a person’s character.

A man who seeks sexual relations with a woman he does not intend to marry is not honoring or loving that woman. A woman who allows herself to be thus wooed by a man is not guarding her heart or her body. There are logical consequences to these nights of passion too, like a rise in abortions, single-parenthood, absent fathers, STDs and other health predicaments, and poverty.

B. et me

What people actually want is someone who loves them for who they are; to love, and to be loved in return. When B. and I were working through a marriage book, we had to talk a lot about our selves, our beliefs, our families, and what we want. It was a very emotionally exhausting exercise, but the fruit produced was worth it: to know that someone wholly loves me for exactly who I am, and to thus love him in the same way in return.

And when the time comes for us to be married and consummate our relationship, there will be nothing more wonderful than knowing we waited to share our bodies only with our future spouse. Perhaps we will both need a lot of help, perhaps we will both be awkward, perhaps we will make the usual rookie mistakes: no matter! We will learn together, we will laugh together, we will love together, and we will share in the experience together.

Melinda Selmys at Sexual Authenticity wrote an awesome post called “Just Sex” on how it isn’t always going to be mind-blowing. But then again, neither is life:

There are two sides to the modern North American hysteria about sex. One is the side that we get to hear about all the time in the Catholic press: the hysteria about how sex is so great, so much fun, so liberating, so all-pervasively important to human life, etc. etc. That is, the hysteria that fueled the sexual revolution. 

The other side of the coin, however, is the Catholic over-sanctification of sex. A problem that I’ve encountered enough times to think that it’s probably a quiet, underground endemic within the Catholic community, is the problems of Catholics – especially Catholic women – feeling that sex is somehow wrong, dirty, or dehumanizing if it is anything less than the scintillatingly personalistic vision of fleshly union that appears in the writings of John Paul II and Christopher West. 

It’s just sex. If you don’t have it, it’s not the end of the world. If you do have it, and it’s rushed, mediocre, and half-asleep, it’s not the end of the world. A lot of the time, you end up with a situation where there is a strong biological imperative to make love on the part of one spouse, and a total lack of interest on the part of the other. This isn’t reductionistic and selfish, it’s just biology.

The Virgin Diaries misses the point about those who hold out: it’s not that we don’t want to have sex, it’s that we don’t want to have sex with someone we are not deeply in love with and committed to for life. All the smooth moves, fancy words and romantic settings in the world cannot make up for a lack of real connection with another person.

Sure, there are some people who may have missed their chance to have sex “that one time” in college. Then there are those crazy religious folks who apparently bring up being virgins on first dates (really, TLC?). But to be chaste by choice? Maybe even wearing chastity rings as a sign of their outward commitment to themselves and their body? Inconceivable! If you don’t have sex in high school, this show says, you’re going to get married a virgin and end up awkwardly sucking face in front of the entire congregation. And when I say awkward, I mean viral-on-the-internet awkward.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Cortona Annunciation” by Fra Angelico

TLC, in an effort to celebrate chastity in an overly pre-marital sexualized culture, gave people another reason to laugh. This Christmas, we remember the birth of our Savior by the Virgin Mary, the most revered woman in Christendom. Hers was not an easy life: she conceived a child before she was married; she lived in total chastity with her husband; she bore a child while a virgin.

Who is laughing now?

Mel Gibson and Me

TBM Topic 18: Scapulars

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

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

Mel Gibson, hot mess extraordinaire, wears a scapular.

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

1. Mel Gibson is a Catholic.

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

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

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

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

But back to scapulars.

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

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

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

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

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sweet baby JC

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

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

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

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

So you wear a scapular?

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

My bestie boo’s husband gives great hugs

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

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

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


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

Suspicious Superstitions?

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

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

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

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

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

Is she unlucky? Or just unwise…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.”

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!

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