Don’t Feed the Angels

TBM Topic 23: Angels

“Don’t Feed the Angels” 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!



An important thing to remember about angels is that they are terrifying. I am not sure when angels started to be domesticated, but nearly every time one appears in the Bible, the humans are frightened. So much so that angels had to start saying phrases like, “Fear not!” and “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”

Angels are celestial beings, created as beings between God and Man. They are warriors, messengers, servants and worshipers of God.

Hebrews 1:5-14 reads:

For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”? Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”? And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: “Let all the angels of God worship him.”  

Of the angels he says: “He makes his angels winds and his ministers a fiery flame”; but of the Son: “Your throne, O God, stands forever and ever; and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You loved justice and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions”; and: “At the beginning, O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment. You will roll them up like a cloak, and like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”  

But to which of the angels has he ever said: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

With a modern twist, does not that last sentence remind you of Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life? Clarence, an angel who had yet to get his wings, was sent to help George Bailey see all the good in his life and how his life changed other people’s lives for the better.

Clarence looked like a kindly old man, but still he put shock and awe into the bridge attendant and George himself, who could hardly believe it. Yet, Clarence was an angel. He was a warrior for George’s life, saving him before he attempted suicide; he was a messenger, showing the eternal truth that each man plays his role in this world and thus matters; he was a servant for God, sent from above to talk to George; and he was a worshiper of God, receiving his wings when the bell rang for a job well done as God’s good and faithful servant.

The world is a battlefield between Good and Evil; we must never forget that. Thus, angels move among us humans- be it our Guardians Angels, the one who sits on our shoulder, the ones singing above us during Mass, or the one protecting you in dark times. Angels are not our friends; they are our protectors. They have loyalties to God alone and approach us in His name.

The Bible is filled with stories involving angels; so is your life. How can you tell? Perhaps never, if you’re not inclined towards the mystical. Nevertheless, the one thing a person should never do with angels is to lessen the reverence for them by seeing them purely as shiny halos and fluffy wings. Angels are not so docile. They say, “Hark!”– not “hello” or “hey” when greeting or proclaiming. They demand attention. They demand reverence and respect, because they come directly from God.

So don’t feed the angels; they already share in the Heavenly banquet!

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.

Hillsdating and Other False Realities

Week Three: Dating

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

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

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

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

Let’s avoid this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ten Commandments for Dating

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

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

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

The second commandment: Communication.

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

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

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

I clearly love to talk.

Which leads to the third commandment: Be honest.

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

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

The fourth commandment of dating: Take it easy.

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

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

The fifth commandment: Don’t settle.

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

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

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


The sixth commandment: Give each other space.

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

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

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

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

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

The eighth commandment: Be respectful. 

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

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

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

The ninth commandment: Include others in the dating process. 

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

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

After putting on Midsummer’s Night Dream for our parents

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

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

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

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

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