Cootie Shots and Conundrums

TBM Topic 17: Emotional Chastity

“Cootie Shots and Conundrums” by Julie Robison
“Daydream Believers and Emotional Disasters” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Easy Bake Love Story” 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!

In the second grade, I received a cootie shot/ anti-boy inoculation from a retractable lead pencil. Don’t worry, it was given to me by a professional- my seatmate had given them to nearly every other girl in the class too. From then on, I was (mostly) immune to male charms. I was one of the few girls still playing soccer with the boys in junior high. I focused on making good friends, both male and female, in high school. I was realistic about dating in college, following the sage wisdom of my parents: A date isn’t a proposal. A dance isn’t a commitment. Enjoying another person’s company doesn’t mean you’re meant to be together forever.

Emotional chastity is about protecting your heart. It does not mean being unwilling to give it, but rather, give it selflessly, without regard to return. A perfect example of this is Elinor from Sense and Sensibility. She really liked Edward, but when she found out he was secretly engaged to another woman, she protected her feelings and let life play itself out. On the opposite side, her sister Marianne committed crimes of emotional exhibitionism. Fortunately, for us readers as well as both Dashwood sisters, true love wins out in the end.

I’ll give a more probably example: menfolk as friends. I’ve never believed the old adage of “men and women can’t be friends.” I think such generalities are poppycock. Friendship, like love, is a choice and an action. Attraction, on the other hand, is not.

On of the biggest conundrums women face today is the acceptability of “friends with benefits.” Girl meets guy. They become friends. They’re not interested in each other, so they only pursue friendship. Then, something changes. They start to feel attracted towards each other. What then?

One of possibility is to pursue a relationship.

Another possibility is to have a mature conversation and decide friendship is the best course of action.

Then, there is technically a third option. Really, a fraction of a choice, an algebraic mixture of the above: the friendship as the core, plus the heart-break, minus the commitment, and plenty of unknown variables. Friends with benefits is possibly one of the worst violations of emotional chastity. The benefits are purely physical. It is a utilitarian friendship where two people seek something from the other person. Neither party will grow as a human being because humanity needs virtue and goodness, not consensual vices or an emulation of shallowness, to flourish.

Here are two recent Hollywood examples:

Exhibit A, “Friends with Benefits” (2011)

Exhibit B, “No Strings Attached” (2011)

I would like to point out that both movies involve the complication of falling in genuine love with the other person. Do you think anyone would want to watch the movie if the people only submitted to their animalistic natures, opposed to rising above the banal situation towards the true, goodness and beauty of Love?

What a conundrum the modern world is in! Even if one does not participate in the friends-with-benefits arena, watching these type of movies, reading chick lit and endlessly daydreaming about a future with someone you have not had that type of conversation with is hazardous to feminine mental health. The unrealistic expectations set up by thinking about handsome men and allowing one’s mind to wander into fictional romance does not allow the heart to grow towards genuine love, which comes with time, honesty, purpose and virtue.

Self-control, therefore, is what is most needed in emotional chastity. It means not dwelling on the good times. It means not over-analyzing every word a cute guy said to you. It means not planning out one’s future with the man you’ve started dating or just met. It is not easy, and requires constant vigilance. This does not mean one cannot enjoy romance, consider the future or giggle over cuteness. But people want mature love, which can only be achieved through pure intentions and not rushing into emotional bonds.

The best advice I’ve been given on the subject came from my bestie Julia, before I started dating B. It also happens to be the advice I gave her before she started dating her now-husband. To achieve happiness in life, you have to be content with yourself. More importantly, though, you have to be content with your situation.

If you are single and praying every night for love to find you, I suggest praying instead for God to give you purpose in your singleness. This, like most things, may only be a season, and use it as a way to serve God more fully. If you feel called towards the vocation of marriage, God will provide.

If you’re still feeling like you’re in a pickle, I suggest an old-school cootie shot. All you need is a #2 retractable pencil and a second grader to administer a dose of perspective!

Bright Maidens: Sensible, Courageous, and Very Beautiful



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

Topic: “What is the distinction between being sexy vs. being desirable?”

Check out our Facebook page for guest posts!


“Now the girl is sensible, courageous, and very beautiful.”  
– St. Raphael, describing Sarah to Tobiah
I am not Megan Fox.
When I was in college, a group of guys used to call me “Megan Fox.”  Though they meant it to be flattering, I always felt uncomfortable with the nickname.  “I don’t really look like her,” I’d say with a laugh, hoping they’d agree and forget it.  You see, I’d never heard anyone saying something about Megan Fox’s brain or the tender way she cared for her then-boyfriend/now-husband’s son.  No, she was reduced to one word: sexy.  Or two words: smoking hot.
Did I want to be viewed the same way?  No, thanks!  Although it’s nice to be considered attractive, sexuality has to be integrated and viewed in light of the total person.  It is relational in that way.  Taken apart from the whole person, it becomes objectification, the reduction of a person to one aspect: one’s ability to have sex.

There was another way I wanted to be viewed, though I wasn’t able to articulate it then.  I wanted to be desirable, to be someone described as “having pleasing qualities or properties…worth seeking…attractive.”  (That’s from the dictionary, not a faith book, friends!)  Desirable doesn’t crown sexuality as the most important aspect of a woman, nor does it deny sexuality.  It just integrates it.  You are wanted for more than your body!  You are worth more than your body shape or size!  You’re a woman a man can pursue, not just a woman who can arouse.  


Having Pleasing Qualities.

As Catholic women, we are called to imitate Our Blessed Mother.  In the conclusion of Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II said Mary is the model ” in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ.”  The pleasing qualities we are to have are not based on fashion, technological skill, degrees, or abilities.  We are to be women of prayer, who are full of virtues, and treat others with honesty, kindness, and love.  We are to be totally open to the Holy Spirit, to invite others to be Saints, and to encourage them to union with Christ.


Worth Seeking. 

As Catholic women, we are secure in the Lord.  With that beautiful stability, we do not need to chase men and seek their approval as an affirmation of our lives.  Even when it is lonely, we are content to be women who are worth being sought, so that only the bravest and brightest of men pursue us.  We value sexuality and invite others to do the same.  This is a stark contrast to the hook up culture, where no one, especially men, needs to pursue, discern, abstain, or sacrifice. 
  

Attractive.


It is not our place as friends and girlfriends to be sexually suggesting with the men in our lives.  Men don’t need any additional graphics or words to throw a wrench in their efforts to live chastely.  They need women who respect and aid their desire to live chastely; in turn, they will do the same for us.

This doesn’t mean we have to hide our beauty and our sexuality, either!  We just integrate it and ask others to follow our example.  One day when we’re married, sexiness with be an aspect of our chaste lives, but at this time it has to be kept on the down low.
 

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.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Week Six: Saving Sex for Marriage

“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Julie Robison
“Cut to the Chaste.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Three Strikes, I’m Out!” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the sixth 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!

After my sophomore year of college, I sat on a park bench with three close friends from high school, licking ice cream out of cones and giggling over the stories we told each other. I distinctly remember feeling blissfully happy; the weather was warm and windy, the ice cream was delicious, there were people all around us in the square, and I was reunited with three girls I had been close with since our freshman year of high school.

One of my friends mentioned her boyfriend making pancakes one morning and serving her breakfast in bed. I had the most sheltered college experience of us four– at my alma mater, boys and girls live in separate dorms and there are visiting hours. Without thinking my question through, I wondered aloud how he got into her room so early. Then it dawned on me: why was he in her room that early? With trepidation, I then asked, trying not to tremble as I said the words: “Wait, have you two had sex?”

She admitted they had, in a low, sheepish voice. But the embarrassment soon wore off, as the other two girls chimed in that they had done it too with their respective boyfriends. I had just survived a semester of awkwardness between one boy because I had turned down his request for me to be his girlfriend, because I knew it would probably get too physical, and I didn’t see him respecting me as he should. The rest of the evening was disappointing, as my friends eagerly discussed sex and their various experiences, and I- I could only sit on the bench, and listen.

My three friends are not the only ones; I had many more experiences of home friends coming to me in college to talk about how they did something they thought they would save for marriage. Most of these conversations were them lamenting their disappointment, but most of them also never showed a desire to stop what they had started. I was there to talk them through it, to discuss how things could have gone differently, and how the future is still for the taking. It was a distinct contrast from most of my college friends, who are mostly not sexually active before marriage. I even have friends who did not kiss before they were married, so the contrast I feel, as you can imagine, is sometimes sharp.

Yesterday, MercatorNet published a book review of Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.

The review began, “It’s complicated. More than a Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated” sums up the ambiguity, fluidity, and contradictions experienced by “emerging adults” in America–at least when it comes to sex and relationships. What’s simple are the numbers: 84 per cent of unmarried, heterosexual, emerging adults (ages 18-23) in America have had sex—a number that cuts a wide swath across religious denominations, political leanings, family backgrounds, education levels, and geographic regions.

Yes, I can think complicated is an apt term for most modern relationships. One of the most interesting parts of the article discussed the very term “premarital sex,” which usually happened before a couple got married- opposed to now, where the couple might not even know each other’s name, let alone stay in a relationship. I am always intrigued when people say that sex isn’t a big deal. Perhaps not to some, but doesn’t an inner crevice of one’s soul want it to be? Theology of the Body teaches that our bodies are modes of communication in this world and that sex is a form of communicating, from the depths of one’s soul. As Catholics, we believe God gave us sex to join two people in a spiritual and bodily communion.

So, of course it is natural to want to have sex! Sex is wonderful and life-giving! Not only potentially to a child, but between the couple. Catholics are certainly not Puritans. We love sex! Which is why we value it so highly and thus, protect it from false forms. The Church says married couples are a visible sign of Christ and his love of his bride, the Church, as are consecrated religious and the chaste single. There is good reason why a Catholic bishops have started to deny communion to cohabiting couples. They are having sex outside the sacrament of marriage, which hurts the sacrament and hurts the sacredness of sex.

Catholics believe that we are masters of our own fate. We are like heat-seeking missals, always seeking truth, beauty and the good. But we have to say yes to choose good. We choose God’s way, and follow the teachings of the Church, which are time-proven and guided by the Holy Spirit. People are happiest when they are inter-relational; living in just community with virtuous people, and can self-preserve these good things through the commitment of marriage, sex and children.

My family!

This is not to say sex cannot be treated otherwise. It is true- a person can have sex with whomever they please. But the freedom to do something and the choice to do something are two different commodities. I can have sex; I choose not to, until I am married. In the Old Testament, one book I especially love reading is the Book of Tobit. It is a really beautiful book and testimony to Jewish piety and morality, specifically to the sacredness of marriage and love. I remember hearing this passage at my aunt and uncle’s wedding; it follows after Tobit’s son Tobiah marries Sarah:

When the girl’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, “My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.” She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.” They said together, “Amen, amen,” and went to bed for the night” (Tobit 8:4-9).

Patheos published a wonderful article yesterday, “Friendship and the Language of Sex” by Tim Muldoon. In using the story of Sarah and Tobiah, he writes,

Today, our common cultural attitude toward sex is that it is a pleasurable activity to be enjoyed by consenting adults, with proper protection. The story of Tobiah and Sarah, however, suggest a radically different model. Their sex is a duet in a story authored by God, made possible by their free and willing response. It is embedded in a context of familial and clan relationships; it is blessed, as it were, by parents and friends. Perhaps most importantly, though, it is sex that is oriented toward a noble purpose, rooted in prayer, expressing a shared desire to do what is good.

… I want to suggest that what the story offers to us is a way of thinking about sex that is rooted in friendship. According to Aristotle, who was active only a couple of hundred years before the author of Tobit, true friendship is rooted neither in pleasure or utility, but in a shared striving for the good. Even if we grant that the reason why many people choose to have sex is because it’s pleasurable, we must ask why people consider pleasure important. The psychoanalyst and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl observed in his landmark book Man’s Search for Meaning that the people in concentration camps who did not survive were those that gave up on meaning, and turned to pleasures shortly before they died. Pleasure, he seems to suggest, is for those who have lost a sense of noble purpose.

What makes Tobiah and Sarah friends is their shared sense of acting in cooperation in the unfolding story of God at work in the world. At the heart of Catholic faith is a profound sense that God reaches out in friendship toward each creature, and that living in cooperation with God enables us to live in cooperation, in friendship, with each other. In the context of friendship, then, sex is to be understood as cooperation with God. It is the shared practice of an intimacy embedded within a larger web of relationships: with parents and siblings, friends, fellow pilgrims. For that reason, the Church has from its earliest days recognized that sex has a social dimension to it. It changes one’s relationship to the other, and the changes the couple’s relationship to the rest of the world.

It is holy ground.

Saving sex for marriage isn’t the cool thing to do (in the heat of the moment), or the easy thing (when you really like a person, etc.). But as we told my baby sister last night, as she was bemoaning the “awkward talk” her teacher was giving the class on chastity, no one regrets saying no and waiting for sex. We told 11 year old Boo how she was worth waiting for, and if a guy wanted her to commit her body to him, he was going to have to step up and offer her his lifetime commitment, not just a good time. The good times will come, as will the bad, and when/ if I have sex, it will be the most self-giving thing I can do for that person; because I’ll have to step outside my wants, and become a wife, and then a mother.

This sounds old-fashioned, but mankind truly does not change at the evolutionary rate we like to think we do. Aquinas said that reason should be our guide for morality. Natural law, therefore, has very much a relationship to sexual ethics. You shan’t be surprised then when I, budding Thomist that I am, heartily declare that “one should act rationally.” Not having sex when one is not married seems pretty rational to me since I

A) don’t want to be pregnant (yet)
B) don’t want to get any funky diseases (ever)
C) don’t want to be overly emotionally attached to someone I may not marry
D am, in fact, not married (and have you seen the statistics on single parenthood?)

These are all graspable realities which I contend with in my decision. The wide-spread use and acceptance of birth control and legalized abortion seems to cut at each of those barriers. But they do not take them away. Dr. Janet Smith says, “Natural law depends upon such. It rests upon the claim that things have natures and essences that we can know and correspond our actions to.” But I did not need to give you that vocabulary lesson. Somewhere in your mind, you already knew that. I merely put the words there, to remind you. This is the beauty of natural law! It is so natural to the dignity of our very personhood.

CCC 2353: “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”

Catholic young adults are biologically no different than other young adults, but as Christians, we are called towards a higher purpose in all that we do, and that includes sex.

Rolling in the Deep

Hooray for Seven Quick Takes Fridays! I always feel like it’s a giant game of catching up with some of my favorite people. Here’s volume 19, the thick of Julie’s week:

one

I am in love with Adele’s “heartbroken soul” voice. Seriously, listening to anything else pales in comparison. She is on repeat this week.

two

Excited? Oh yes!
I decided that, this week, I needed to take action on a couple things, or else they might never happen. Here’s part of this week’s “Julie is trying to be braver” list:
1. bought my plane tickets to South Korea to visit April (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
2. applied for my passport
3. told Mr. Awkward I was seeing someone
4. didn’t back down from Mr. Aggressive and kept a civil tongue
5. ignored the ticking clock and completed a ridiculous amount of editing and wrote the monthly newsletter; am currently formatting it to send out next week.

Oh, and my Dad let me drive his fabulous little convertible I’ve been dying to drive since he got it. He was so nonchalant about it too- we went downtown, I dropped him off at the tailor’s, then swung around a couple blocks and picked him up for lunch at this fabulous little hole in the wall Italian place that has been around since 1912.

Overall, steady as she goes!

three

Another good week for The Bright Maidens. I really appreciate everyone who has commented on the posts and sent us/ me e-mails. Be sure to like us on Facebook too!

This past week’s topic was our issue(s) with the Catholic Church.

Mine: “Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings”
Elizabeth: “Half measures”
Trista: “The Church’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”

Next week will be just as scandalous: Why we’re saving sex for marriage! (And it isn’t because we didn’t have the chance.)

Warning: I’ve been reading a lot of natural law theory lately.

four

I read so many good articles on this site this week that I just need to plug the whole thing: if you don’t read MercatorNet, you should.

five

With all that is happening in the world right now, I think it apt to share this excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi:

“I will do it. Be made clean”

Like action, suffering [in all its forms] is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today.

Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering. These are obligations both in justice and in love, and they are included among the fundamental requirements of the Christian life and every truly human life. Great progress has been made in the battle against physical pain; yet the sufferings of the innocent and mental suffering have, if anything, increased in recent decades.

Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world’s healing has emerged in history.

(Also, his birthday novena starts today! Join us in praying for Papa B!)

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I discovered the Litany of Humility this week and am intrigued. I think I am going to start praying it, especially since I really struggle with pride. The litany asks for these three graces specifically (although I am sure more will come out of this spiritual exercise as well):

1. to set aside your attempts to make yourself feel “special” through the acceptance and admiration of others;
2. to overcome your repugnance to feeling emotionally hurt by others;
3. to seek the good of others in all things, setting aside all competition, even at your own expense.

The whole Litany of Humility is here.

“To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.” —St. John of the Cross, The Sayings of Light and Love

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Thanks goodness it is Friday!!!!! Here are 5/6 of the Robison siblings before I had to dash off to class last night:

We = AWESOME

[Update: My not-pictured-above collegiate brother saw this picture and said he was sad he wasn’t there to finish the puzzle. Mucho amor, brother! I’ll post another one of all six of us when he comes home for Muffy’s play next weekend.]

Happy, happy Friday! Thanks for reading; see Conversion Diary for more.

Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings

Week Five: My issue(s) with the Church

“Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings” by Julie Robison
“Half-Measures” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“The Church’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” by Trista at Not a Minx


This is the fifth 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!

In the Gospel reading at Mass today (John 5:1-16), Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he met a man who had been ill for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying on the ground and asked him if he wanted to be well. The man  replied, that he was trying to get to the healing pool. Jesus then commanded him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Later, Jesus met the same man in the temple area and said, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Last Friday, I heard Peter Kreeft say the great line of, “The Church is not the Magesterium.”

To clarify our terms- the Catholic Church ostentatiously has a very extensive and elaborate hierarchical system. In more recent years, the priesthood has come under attack- not only because many priests violated their sacred promises and the laws of God, but because an out-pouring of acceptable anti-Catholicism is seeping into the culture.

It is easy to look at the priests and say, they’re not doing their job. But that would only be looking at the Church by its skeleton, not its body. What of the lay people? Those whom, because they are not bound by Holy Orders, think they know better than the Church. Many think, for example, because a priest does not have sex, he must not know anything about it, forgetting that he lives his life in self-controlled celibacy. Or if he’s a priest, he’s repressing homosexual desires or molesting small children. All of these, even as thoughts, do grave injustice to the honor and dignity of the priesthood.

It is easy to say- priests are just men. But what is different is that they have set themselves apart. They have vowed to live the high road. When one priest does wrong to another person, it affects the entire foundation of the priesthood. When they do wrong, the consequences are clear.

But what about when lay people do wrong? What are the consequences there, when they do not attend Mass every week? What happens when Catholics don’t know their catechism? What happens when Catholic schools don’t teach the faith? What happens when parents and families do not reinforce religion in the home?

Well, fortunately for you dear reader, I can tell you.

I won’t be speaking from statistics, although they’re out there- like Pew finding a decent amount of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence and support legalized abortion. I’ll be speaking from experience as a cradle Catholic: Mass every Sunday with the family, Catholic schooling Kindergarten through senior in high school, and all the high holy days in between.

I’ve encountered a lot of feelings and poor reasoning, which is one reason I am fascinated by Aquinas and canon law. I love reason and logic, and talking about one’s childhood in a high school religion class teaches one nothing of either. It is not surprising then, that I left high school with my Catholic faith not firmly planted, although still a strong aspect of my identity.

I went to a non-Catholic college, where the student population was roughly 40 percent Catholic, 60 percent Protestant. In the first few days of college, I had a great experience of sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommate, also Roman Catholic, talking to the girls across the hall: a Lutheran, an Evangelical Baptist, a Presbyterian (USA) and a non-denominational Christian. The conversation was fun, respectful and informative. I am still friends with all those girls, and very close with most of them. The importance of spiritual friendships in Christ is an essential part of living the Christian life.

The ability to verbalize ones beliefs is not only important for people who share the Christian faith, but those who do not. Richard Weaver said in ‘Ideas Have Consequences’ that, “Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth.”

The Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Jews, Muslims, and, most recently, Atheists. I recently stumbled across a wonderful non-profit resource called “Why I’m Catholic”, which features really great conversion stories. Today’s story is from a former neopagan witch. Yep, you read that right. She used to be a witch, and now she’s a Roman Catholic. Isn’t God’s grace so bountiful?!

Before I launch into my Masters, I help out with RCIA, to get more personal experience. Talking with those people is so humbling and glorious; I love listening to how they found wholeness and truth in the Catholic Church. Many times, it was not an easy decision, and their friends and family do not support them. I became initially interested in helping out at RCIA because of the decent amount of friends I have who have converted/ are converting to Catholicism as well. It is not just reason and intellect which brought them into communion, but cor ad cor loquitur – heart speaking to heart, as it says on Cardinal Newman’s coat of arms.

Their story of how they found their way back to the Church is not one, however, that only non-Catholics can experience. I too came back more fully into my Catholic faith in college, literally diving into its rich intellectualism, long history, Church Fathers, consistency, and promise to uphold and defend justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and the Gospels, as well as the countless witnesses and conversations with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Furthermore, I love natural law, and I love the reasoning behind Church teachings, many of which can be supported using non-religious defense.

But I also hold very strongly to the belief that belief is a choice, and that, every day, I have to choose God, as he first chose me. To follow Christ, you also have to want to be cured, like the beggar. (Spiritually cured, of course, although physical cures are miraculously possible as well.)

Last night at RCIA, Fr. George asked me to talk about reconciliation, since one of my Lenten spiritual practices is going to Mass more than once a week and going to confession at least once a week. One of the most important reasons to frequently take communion and to go to confession is because it will heal you. Through God’s grace, the sacraments endow the recipient with the grace and moral courage needed to face an unloving world and desires not in your best spiritual interest, even if it is what you think you physically want.

Libby Edwards, the lady mentioned above, who converted from neopaganism to Catholicism said it best: “Witchcraft offers incredible freedom, but oh, it’s a clever lie.” This is why the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel asks him to “protect us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

The priest said during the homily today that it is not just physical ailments which keep us down- it is spiritual ones. Things we don’t want to change about ourselves. Maybe we don’t want to stop swearing, or drinking a lot, or dressing a certain way, or using contraception, or doing whatever we want, whenever we want. It’s our life, right? But, oh! How even some of the Catholics closest to me have forgotten that we are not our own; that we were bought at a price.

 I take issue with the namby-pambiness I have witnessed among fellow Roman Catholics: be it from parents to teachers, from the community of believers to the individual, from the rectory for the home- there is a need to call for more faithfulness among the faithful. I have encountered too many feelings, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much fear, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much ignorance, and not enough faith. It is the promise we make at Confirmation to be soldiers for Christ- but how can we fight for truth if we do not follow our own leader?

Venerable John Paul II said, be not afraid. This is why he started the New Evangelization movement at the start of the third millennium. Modernity and people want to be different and counter-cultural, but they miss the point of life when they dress alternatively, or act scandalous, or listen to hip music. To truly be counter-cultural, one takes up the cross to follow Christ. The Catholic Church was established by Christ, who gave us the sacraments, to sustain us with grace and faith; the hierarchy, to ensure apostolic succession; and the laws, to survive faulty human judgment.

The Catholic Church survives and flourishes today, even after 2,000 years human fallibleness. The Catholic Church is more than bad priests. The Catholic Church is more that wayward lay people. The Catholic Church is just one part of the communion of saints, which is filled not only with the faithful believers, but the saints and the angels, those in heaven and those in purgatory, and a living, viable Trinitarian God. My issue with the Church isn’t the Church itself – it is the people within and outside the Church, wasting their earthly opportunity to find true happiness and joy.

I remember reading a book in my Intro to Western Religion class, where so many of the theologians’ final question was this: they wanted to know what happened to Paul on his way to Damascus and what he saw. I don’t think it matters specifically to them- I think we’re all walking to Damascus. If God hasn’t done it already, he just might knock you on your back if he has to get your attention. Or maybe, if you’re struggling with something, then hold on to God and wrestle him like Jacob, until you extract your blessing.

We all have a role to play in this life; may we find the moral courage to answer the call! The Catholic Church is here to support us through this life, to help us reach the next life, if we only let her.

And as a final hurray for the Catholic Church, here is a Eucharistic processional through the streets of NYC. I get chills every time I watch this:

“Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don’t be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life. Changing the course of American culture seems like a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling us to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him.” 
-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

I Feel Like The Maid! I Just Cleaned Up This Mess!

Week 17:

 

one

This Lent, I’m going to confession at least once a week. It is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

First, I have to find time to do it. Confession is offered in the evenings on Wednesday and on Saturday morning and afternoon. The opportunity is there, but the schedule fills up fast. Knowing I have to go makes me plan my time better.

Second, I am much more aware of my thoughts and actions because I know I will be talking to a priest within days of sinning. How humbling! “Bless me Father, for I have sinned… it had been one week for my last confession.” Fortunately, no priest has said (yet), “Seriously? It’s been a week?” The Dominicans are kind and firm. Confession is a dialogue. I’m not just ticking sins off my fingers, I’m really talking them through with the priest. It has been so rewarding and enlightening, and I always catch myself smiling as I say my penance.

I really encourage all of y’all to make the time to go to confession. I know the longer I wait to go, the more dread I feel. But God already knows your sins! This is you owning up to them, which, admittedly, is the hardest part. But pray for peace and pray for wisdom, and God in his mercy sees your heart.

If anything, think of confession as the “spring cleaning” of your soul!

two

Archbishop Timothy Dolan is the bomb-diggity. Seriously, the Catholic Church is so blessed to have such a man serving us, let alone as our current USCCB president. He gave a kickin’ interview on CBS then wrote this fantastic piece called “An Airport Encounter” after a man approached him, asked if he was a Catholic priest, then said all he can think of are the words “sexual abuser.” The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s an excellent part: 

“Well then, why do we only hear this garbage about you priests,” he inquired, as he got a bit more pensive. 

“We priests wonder the same thing. I’ve got a few reasons if you’re interested.”

He nodded his head as we slowly walked to the carousel.

“For one,” I continued, “we priests deserve the more intense scrutiny, because people trust us more as we dare claim to represent God, so, when on of us do it – even if only a tiny minority of us ever have – it is more disgusting.”

“Two, I’m afraid there are many out there who have no love for the Church, and are itching to ruin us. This is the issue they love to endlessly scourge us with.”

“And, three, I hate to say it,” as I wrapped it up, “there’s a lot of money to be made in suing the Catholic Church, while it’s hardly worth suing any of the other groups I mentioned before.”

Elizabeth Scalia wrote a great piece called “Church is Holy, Scandals are of Man” that is also fantastic! May the Church continue to be blessed with such faithful members and defenders of the faith.

three

These lines from Arrested Development have been making me giggle all week:

 Lucille: Buster can do it. He’s had business classes.

Buster: Wait, 18th century agrarian business. But I guess it’s all the same principals. Let me ask you, are you at all concerned about an uprising?

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NPR’s ‘This American Life’ had an AMAZING story- listen here for this true act of heroism and redemption.

Synopsis:

James Spring read about two missing girls, thought to have been abducted to Mexico by their parents who were wanted for murder. Spring had wanted to do something that helped someone else, as he turned 40 years old. He decided to try to rescue Viana and Faith Carelli in Baja. He helped return them to their grandparents in Soquel, but the story is more complicated than that.

five

I was recently asked if I was in Debate or if I studied speech at school.

“Nope,” I replied. “I was raised by a lawyer.”

Dad and 3/4 of his daughters

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Join me in:
–Praying for the situation in the Middle East, especially the Christians being martyred.
–Praying for Japan and all people affected.
–Praying for 40 Days for Life, which is happening right now. (And probably in your area! It is Day 17 and 132 lives have been saved! Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!)
–Praying for my family, who are all still grieving the death of my aunt, while dealing with family politics.
–Especially praying for the souls in Purgatory, including my grandmother Jean, great-grandmother Tillie, Aunt Ann and Aunt Tracey.
–Praying for all those struggling to conceive, that adoption may be a viable option.


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Last but certainly not least, this week’s Bright Maidens’ posts on dating exploded across the internet. As of this morning, my “Hillsdating and Other False Realities” has flown over 600 views, which, I admit, surprises me. I did not think this would be a popular post. I was obviously (and happily!) wrong. I think I got the most glee out of all my fellow Hillsdalians full-on support and hilarious comments to me; yes, this is the real world, folks! One friend even offered to print it off and stick it under freshmen doors, as a preventative measure.

Many thanks to Tito Edwards for featuring Elizabeth’s “Christian Commitophobia” (my life story?), Trista’s “Friendship That Lasts” (amazing and Aristotelian) and my 10 Commandments for Dating to The Pulp.It and National Catholic Register! Also, many, many thanks to the numerous other plugs (shout outs to Tony and Marc!) we’ve got this week, and to Peter, et al. for asking me out via the internetz. Thank you!, but I must decline. In a slight twist of fate, today is also the birthday of the guy I am seeing; I think it would be cruel and heartless of me to accept such an invitation on his birthday!

As a consolation prize, you can like The Bright Maidens: Young Catholic Commentary on Facebook. If you like me, like us!

Happy Friday! See Conversion Diary for more.