Category Archives: Single Life

A Lesson for a Chaotic Soul

Recently I learned a hard lesson. It was a concept that I knew was coming, as people close to me had informed me of the changes I needed to make. But because I am basically an infant in the spiritual realm, it took me awhile to really get it. It was worth it though because it could basically change my whole life… hopefully, when I learn to unite with God’s will!

Now I normally don’t like to share my spiritual or life lessons that I encounter because I am very young (23 years old), and I am basically still in the process of learning to walk down the paths that I feel God has set for me. So I always feel that I have little credibility in the words that I write. Even so, I feel that what I have realized is very important for every person, no matter who you are.

In recent years, my life has been pretty hectic. I knowingly chose for things to be this way, but I never anticipated the amount of adjusting that I would have to do. Within the past 20 months, I quit school, got engaged, got married, was blessed with my first child. I’ve adjusted to being far away from any family or friends, and I’ve adjusted to my spouse’s crazy medical school life. I’ve adjusted to being a mother and I’ve taken on all of the changes required for the title. I’ve also adjusted to being in a new and intimate relationship with my husband.

That being said, I may have adjusted but I have not responded to my situations in the holiest way. The way I’ve reacted to my environments and relationships have caused me more anxiety and despondency than I thought possible. It caused me to resent my spouse, have a negative outlook on my life, and worse, it drove a wedge between God and myself. I found myself being overly fearful of the future and I didn’t even want to be open to God’s will. Then I started to be ashamed of myself in front of God, knowing that I was avoiding His gaze. What if God asks me to do something difficult? My spiritual director tells me that her priest says that we can’t reach Jesus unless we climb the cross. Well, the cross freaks me out!

When my husband and I would have a conflict, I would panic, shut down, and tell myself that I couldn’t handle his shortcomings. I would use up so much energy trying to change his perspective and then end up angry when I didn’t succeed. In reality, God was teaching us both a lesson in being patient and more aware of each other on our journey through marriage.

When we needed to consider big life decisions, I immediately assumed the worst and panicked. I scrambled to figure out how I could travel down the path of least resistance, even though we really didn’t know what was going to happen yet. In reality, God was probably giving me the opportunity to trust Him.

See a pattern? I was relying on myself and my will because I felt in control. I was also relying on my husband to be perfect and I expected him to respond exactly how I needed him to when in reality, he was learning as much as I was. And who was I not relying on? God the Almighty Father, who basically has the perfect plan for my life.

Here is my main point: If we do not involve God internally, our external reactions will reflect the chaos of our souls.

So how are we supposed to gain internal peace? That may look slightly different for each of us. For me, it entails the need to heal past wounds so that I am okay with myself as God created me. It also will require that I recognize in His infinite and perfect love for me. I have to be able to trust in His ultimate plan, no matter how hard the lessons of the cross will be.

When this happens for each of us, we will be able to carry the crosses and shortcomings of those we love without losing internal peace. No matter what happens, our souls will remain in an undisturbed state while God helps us to grow interiorly and draw into a deeper union with Him.

Single but Full of Love

photo by Hanny NaibahoJudging by the varying reactions to us women who remain single by choice or by necessity, we are a misunderstood lot.

On the one hand, many people cannot believe a normal woman would be happy neither marrying nor dating — hence, the insensitive questions we endure during family reunions; or the well-meaning reassurances that if we just pray more, wait more, and go out more, we would finally find “the one” who would complete us.

On the other hand, others approve of our single state, but assume that we embrace it because we hate men, children, or both; or because we fear making commitments.

There are also those who assume that the single life is a breeze: having money and time for our bucket-list items and our careers, with none of the encumbrances that our married friends have.

The reality is more complex.

Doubtless some single women loathe men and children, fear commitment, or seek the freedom that they think automatically comes with singleness. But every woman who embraces the single state is unique, with her own reasons, her own story.

Doubtless, too, many single women yearn for husbands and suffer because of the dearth of good men. To belittle these women’s aspirations would be wrong, because the desire to get married and form a family is, in itself, noble.

But marriage and biological motherhood are not the only outlets for a woman’s inherent desire to give herself for the good of another. There is spiritual motherhood.

Spiritual motherhood is a real form of motherhood. Like biological motherhood, it involves nurturing, giving guidance, providing for someone’s needs. Like biological motherhood it demands a lot of unappreciated sacrifices. But it is no less fulfilling, and it is no less needed by the world.

As stated earlier, there are many reasons some women remain single. Some are single by choice; others by necessity. Either way, singleness is an opportunity to serve others, to reach out especially to those whose needs cannot be met by married people who must prioritize their own families.

There are single women who spend time listening to friends who need confidantes; I know one who even spent a Sunday morning accompanying a friend who was alone in a hospital’s psychiatric ward. There are single women who are loving aunts to their nephews and nieces, or loving caregivers to their aging parents. There are single women who dedicate themselves to their careers, giving quality service to their clients out of love. There are single women who fill in for their married colleagues at work who, for example, need to take a leave because they have a sick child. There are single women who undertake projects that serve their communities. There are many other examples of single women who give so much of themselves to others.

Even single women who hope to marry someday should not consider their single state a parenthesis in their lives. I believe the best preparation for a happy marriage is to start living a life of love NOW. For women who plan to get married, the single state is an opportunity to learn the self-sacrificing love that characterizes good wives and mothers.

Whatever reasons a woman has for being single, and whether or not she plans to marry eventually or not, the single state is better spent using one’s talents to serve others rather than lamenting what one lacks. A woman may be single and yet live a life that is full of love.

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This article was originally published at PinayVoices.

Image: Hanny Naibaho

Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

I wonder what you are doing at this moment. Are you studying for finals? Maybe you’re chatting with friends, or are laughingly lost in a field of dandelions.  Are you sitting in Adoration? Or are you thinking of me? I have thought of you often over the years, and not a day goes by that I don’t pray for you. Sometimes this makes you feel so close, even though I don’t know you yet.

I wonder what you’re like. Are you a sugar-and-cream person, or do you like your coffee tall, dark, and black like I do? Or would you prefer tea? Do you enjoy long car rides with the windows down and the wind in your face? Are you sci-fi or action, a comedy or a musical? Do you make cloud-pictures, and have you ever caught fireflies in a mason jar? Do you like to dance in the rain or watch a lightening storm? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Are you sweet or savory? I can hardly wait to discover all the little things that are part of who you are.

Dear sir, I hope you are the man who would help his children build a treehouse wear a baby-pack to keep track of the toddler on daytrips. I hope that you will find a bouquet of sunflowers as beautiful and romantic as I do… or almost as much. I’d find it wonderful if you enjoy all sorts of literature and the writings of St. Augustine, but have a special spot in your heart for Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss. I hope that you will understand that sometimes I need to step away from everyone and relish the silence. I hope that our children will have many memories of your voice singing loudly around a campfire or softly as they drift to sleep. Please remember to remember that the value of a dollar isn’t as much as a single Hail Mary or the laugh of a child.

I pray that someday I will see in your eyes the same love that I’ve always seen shining from my parents’ from across the room. But most of all, I pray that you are a man of God who puts Him as his first criteria in choosing a career or buying a house. In our life together, let’s always put the spiritual well-being of the souls entrusted to our care as our highest priority in making decisions.

I know that all of this is years in the future, but I can’t help thinking about it and I can’t stop praying for you. Dearest, I pray that you are not waiting for me. I pray that you are not watching the clock tick away and the calendar roll past the years. Please, don’t wait for me. Rather, actively prepare for me. Use the time you have now to make yourself the man God created you to be. Learn, grow, and deepen your relationship with Christ. Don’t wait. Prepare in joyful expectation for the advent of our love. Prepare for the family we will have together.

Dear one, I have a song in my heart. Now and then I catch an echo of it, but it has never been played loudly enough for me to hear. Or maybe I haven’t been quiet enough to hear it. Dearest, one day- maybe when we meet in the Confession line, or in some small café, or when you ask me to dance the next slow song- maybe our song will be played. The melody of the deepest echoes of our hearts will begin our score. And we will know it is right. We will know it is time. Until then, please- don’t wait. Begin your life. Prepare for me; for us; for God. Run to him as fast as you can. I will run, too. And there we will meet.

I cannot yet say that I love you, as I do not yet know you. But I will be here praying for you and preparing to see your face for the first time. Because the time will be right.

Loneliness & Communion

Loneliness has two faces. One is human loneliness, and the other is loneliness for the divine. “My heart shall not rest until it rest in Thee.” Human loneliness is painful and tears one apart sometimes, blurring the face of a divine loneliness that Christ sends. Tenderness, gentleness and understanding help us to live in both types of loneliness, but especially in the human one, the ordinary one.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty

What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.
— C.S. Lewis, On Friendship

Eight years ago, I left my parents’ home in Singapore to embark on university life in Brisbane. I spent four years in an Anglican college, after which I spent three years in a Catholic college in Sydney. This has been my first year living in share-house arrangements in Melbourne and in Brisbane, and even though my housemates have been really lovely to live with, sometimes it gets pretty lonely.

Sharing a house just isn’t the same as living in a family. I was blessed to transition from college life to share-housing with two months’ stay at a friend’s family home, where their peaceful family life helped me recover after an arduous final semester.

There is a sense of true belonging when one is with family. In a healthy family, one can share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings. This loving communion of persons engenders a sense of identity and security. One feels truly at home when one lives with people who share your inner life. You can be completely yourself with them.Élisabeth Arrighi Leseur

Servant of God Élisabeth Leseur and her atheist husband Félix loved each other dearly, but it deeply pained her that she could not share her profound faith with him. “I thirst for sympathy, to bare my soul to the souls that are dear to me, to speak of God and immortality and the interior life,” Élisabeth wrote in her diary.

My housemates in Melbourne and in Brisbane do not profess any religion, and while they are splendid individuals who have shared not just dwelling-places but also recreation with me, we are unable to connect in the deep way that I can easily do so with my devoutly Catholic friends. We are not on the same wavelength; we inhabit different realities.

In his 1944 presentation “Is Theology Poetry?”, C.S. Lewis concluded, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It is difficult to communicate, let alone commune, with persons who see the world through the lenses of a completely different worldview.

In the end, one has to remember the words of St. Thérèse: “The world is thy ship, and not thy home.” Even in the most loving of families, or the most observant of religious communities, the members cannot fully know and understand each other, or themselves for that matter. Only God can do that. Only in God will we find our true home.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
— Charles Dickens,
A Tale of Two Citiesanotherworld-c-s-lewis

When the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart [and that’s what I’m urging you to do right now] most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us.
…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

— C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

Images: Signum-Crucis; Charmolypi.

Not Alone: At the House of Mary Near Ephesus

I was a solo traveler in the pilgrimage I joined to the Holy Land and Turkey. Most of the others in the pilgrimage were traveling with their spouses, their friends, or their relatives. Those who were not seemed to have known each other previously. Although everyone else was very nice, fun even, at times I acutely felt the lack of a traveling companion.

Actually, the pilgrimage chaplain was a relative of mine both distant and close at the same time – distant, because he is the third cousin of my mother; close, because he has been my spiritual director for quite some time now. I anticipated, though, that during the pilgrimage he would be too busy attending to the pastoral needs of the group that any chances for uncle-and-niece bonding moments would be out of the question. I realized too that it would not have been right for me to hog his company and deprive the other pilgrimage participants of the attention of the pilgrimage chaplain.

There was neither reason nor opportunity for me, however, to wallow in self-pity over being alone. There could never have been, given the hectic schedule and the good fortune of being in the same places where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph walked when they were on earth.

One of such places we were lucky to have visited was the house near Ephesus where, according to tradition, Mary spent her last days on earth. It is located on a hill overlooking fertile plains and with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Trees abound on the slopes of the hill. According to our guide, a forest fire occurred at the slopes of the hill last year; however, the flames stopped right before reaching the house of Mary.

The place was full of life. I saw birds and squirrels. There is a spring that provides water. The weather was pleasantly windy and cool, at least for someone like me who comes from the humid tropics. I imagined how painstakingly St. John the Apostle must have picked and prepared this spot for Mary.

We had Mass at a chapel located in the grounds, and according to the plan, we were to say the Rosary inside the house of Mary. We couldn’t say the Rosary together as a big group, though, as we might disturb others. So we were advised to say the Rosary in pairs or in small groups.

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After entering the house of Mary, I fished out of my knapsack a special Rosary of mine, a pearl Rosary given to me by my paternal grandfather the last time I saw him before he died. I then commenced praying – alone.

Upon finishing the second mystery, the custodian of the house of Mary requested that we move out of the house to give a chance to others who want to pray inside, since the house is small. We were constrained to finish praying the Rosary at the grounds surrounding the house.

As I was about to continue praying the Rosary, the pilgrimage chaplain – my uncle – approached me, and asked me at what part I was in. When I told him that I was already in the third mystery, he invited me to continue praying the Rosary with him.

Praying the Rosary in front of Mary’s house was very consoling. I felt Mary was encouraging me to tell her about my worries and trials, so that she could make things right. I felt all the more consoled praying the Rosary together with my dear uncle. I had been hoping for some uncle-and-niece bonding moments with him, and here, Mary had arranged for uncle and niece to pray together that prayer she loves so much, by the place where she herself dwelt.

After praying the Rosary, we walked around the grounds for a while, soaking in the beauty of the place. I found myself telling Mary how beautiful her place is, and it was as if I could hear her tell me, “I brought you here because I knew you would like it here, because I know you need to rest.”

Our next stop for that day was the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, which included the ruins of the church where the Council of Ephesus was held in AD 431. There, the dogma of the theotokos – that Mary is the Mother of God – was defined.

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I privately prayed a “Hail Mary” since I know that the title “Mother of God” is the highest honor bestowed upon Mary.

Then, it occurred to me – this same Mary who was declared in this spot to be the Mother of God is the same Mary to whom my uncle and I had been praying to earlier, the same Mary who, just a while ago, had been mothering me and reassuring me that I am never alone in my journey towards God.

From then on, whenever I feel alone, I turn to Mary to remind me that I am not. For God in His infinite wisdom gave me His own mother to be my own as well. He knows, after all, that none of us can journey to Him alone, that we all need others to help us, and that we all need a mother especially – all of us, including supposedly intrepid single female travelers like myself.

Your Vocation Is To Love

I’ve noticed that so many young Catholics have an inordinate amount anxiety about their vocations. I definitely put myself into this category. When I understood that my vocation was to the married life, it felt like I spent every waking moment worrying about it. Was this particular person “The One”? Was this other particular person “The One” but we messed it up somehow?  Did I have the necessary virtues to be the best Catholic wife I could be? Where did I need to improve? What else did I need to learn?

I spent so many sleepless nights thinking about these big, important things. “God,” I would say, “this is the most critical decision of my life. This is what You have called me to do when You knit me together in my mother’s womb. So why are You making it so confusing and hard!?”

It was so frustrating to me at times to wrestle with questions of my vocation and to hear radio silence from God about it. Or, even worse, to decide to go down one path that I was sure was His will only to have it end for one reason or another. It gave me so much grief that God was making this all so difficult when all I wanted was to live the life to which He had called me. I would come to my spiritual director with the same worries and frustrations month after month. He would always just smile and remind me of the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “My vocation is love”

We must, indeed, remember that our primary vocation in this life is to love. I had missed that point entirely early on in my discernment and still sometimes do in my daily life. Marriage or the religious life are secondary vocations – but first and foremost is the commandment to love God and others. When I took this to heart, I realized that I needed to stop worrying about my vocation and how it would unfold. I needed to stop questioning God about it and having faith in His timing and His ways. To love Him, to love others, and to give myself to those who needed me the most right now in the present moment. And He would take care of my secondary vocation when the time was right.

So young friends, stop worrying incessantly about discerning your vocations. Stop trying to “figure it all out”. Stop running yourselves ragged. God is not trying to hide His will from you nor is He intentionally making it confusing or difficult. It is all so very simple: just love those whom He has put in your life today. That is all He asks of you. And He will take care of everything else.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” – Matthew 6:25

 

Single on Valentine’s Day? Transform It with God’s Love

January was only halfway over when I saw it: a dismal post on social media about being single on Valentine’s Day.

Being single when so many people have a “significant other” can be very hard. Until I got married a few years ago, I was single. Even though I was not interested in dating for most of my teenage years, there were still moments when I wanted to have that fancy date, romantic moment, or sweet relationship I saw in a movie or at school. Being single is a challenge at times, and when a holiday like Valentine’s Day comes around, it can feel like singleness is painfully being shoved in one’s face. Years ago, I realized that I wanted to avoid the often glum emphasis on singleness around Valentine’s Day, and I realized that I needed to redirect my focus towards something—or Someone—other than myself. I began to ask myself the following question: On an over-commercialized holiday that celebrates love, affection, and relationships, why not actively celebrate God’s sacrificial love?

Yes, receiving chocolate and flowers from that “special someone” is nice, but love goes much deeper than these material objects. The love that God calls each Christian to is more intense than a romantic chick flick or fancy dinner. The love that God desires for us to share in is radical, courageous, and uncomfortable. A prime example of love can be found on a crucifix: suffering, perseverance, and total selflessness. Furthermore, God’s love is not some distant, intangible concept but a reality in our lives. It is our vocation here and now.

In his book, The Forge, St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “The truth of a Christian’s life is this: self-giving and love—founded on sacrifice. Love for God, that is, and, for God’s sake, neighbor.”

Keeping this image of love in our minds, we can change our perspectives and transform how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. When I was a teenager, I developed a plan for my “perfect Valentine’s Day.” I decided that my ideal celebration of this holiday would include Mass, Adoration, possibly Confession, spending time with friends, and some type of ministry that would stretch me in bringing God’s love to others—like visiting a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. While I could not practically enact this plan each time the holiday rolled around, I began to keep this perspective in the front of my mind as February 14 drew near each year. For example, one year, I gave out handmade cards to classmates, then prayed a Sacred Heart novena for their intentions. Instead of concentrating on my singleness, or on all of the dating couples I knew, I tried to focus on bringing God’s love to other people in any way that I could. Finally, one year, I did manage to put my “plan” into action, and it was one of the most memorable and amazing Valentine’s Day celebrations that I have had. It was a beautiful opportunity to fill myself with God’s love, and to then share this love with others at a homeless shelter and on my college campus.

No matter what your marital status is, I encourage you to place God at the forefront of your Valentine’s Day festivities. Actively find a way to spread God’s love to other people. This could mean visiting a shelter, nursing home, or soup kitchen. It could even take the form of visiting a housebound person. It could mean sacrificing your time to visit an Adoration chapel or to pray with friends. There are numerous ways that each of us can spread God’s love, and each person should find whatever works best in his or her life and vocation. We must remember that God desires to fill each of us with His graces, love, and mercy. Overflowing with God’s love, transformed by His grace, we may go out and bring His love to all people. As Christ said to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska:

My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them. You, at least, come to Me as often as possible and take these graces they do not want to accept. In this way you will console My Heart. Oh, how indifferent are souls to so much goodness, to so many proofs of love! My Heart drinks only of the ingratitude and forgetfulness of souls living in the world. They have time for everything, but they have no time to come to Me for graces.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph #367)

5 Good Changes the Synod Could Make

Questions such as communion for the divorced and remarried, female deacons, and acceptance of homosexual relationships have dominated the media discussion about the Synod that began earlier this month. Instead of adding volume to those debates, I want to point out a few positive things we can pray come out of the synod. The synod may not touch on each of these, but we can all reflect on them to deepen our own understanding, which in turn helps the Church.

A deeper understanding of the Mass without Communion

 

Mass is not just so you get Communion! For hundreds of years, the majority of Catholics did not receive Communion most Sundays of the year but were expected at Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Communion perfects this by uniting us to Jesus, but the Mass has value even if you don’t receive Communion. Being present at the death and resurrection is one of the most wonderful things we can do.

Before we even consider Communion for the divorced and remarried, we have to reflect on the value of Mass without Communion – both as a whole Church and with each individual couple.

Many people, at least in Canada and the USA, think that they cannot participate in Mass without receiving Communion. This is false. Communion perfects one’s participation in the Mass, but one can participate without receiving Communion.

I remember the difficulty of explaining to a non-Catholic child at a Catholic high school what value there was for him to show up at Mass with his class. I understood the reasons, but I still had  difficulty in communicating it clearly. A reflection by the Church on this point would help us all be able to explain this aspect of our faith better.

 

A deeper reflection on single life, especially those called to non-consecrated chastity

 

We have told single people clearly that they need to live the chaste life. However, there is more than chastity. How can their friendships have meaning? How can they serve? What are they called to as single people? What gifts can they offer the Church?

We need to reflect on those who don’t choose singleness, at least directly or initially. We have had a lot of reflection in the Church on those who consecrate their singleness to God — priests, religious and the like — but not much on other single people.

A single layperson can do a lot to build up Christ’s kingdom in ways married people can’t. There is a pragmatic level I think most can agree on: since single people don’t have kids to raise, they generally have more free time. However, I have a sense of a deeper spiritual significance. Unfortunately, I can’t concisely and clearly indicate what this is. I hope that some reflection on this, either inside the synod or outside of it, can help us all express the significance better.

The ones who’ve gotten the most press regarding this reflection are those with same-sex-attraction, but I think it also applies to many others. For example, someone might dedicate themselves so fully to a cause – anything from the pro-life movement to extending our knowledge in some scientific field – that they don’t have much time to date. Another might simply have bad luck in trying to find the right person. Spiritual Friendship has started to pursue this reflection, at least for those with same-sex-attraction, although I’m not sure of every reflection they make. Reflecting more online casino on non-consecrated singleness will help these people be stronger members of the Church.

 

Supporting Francis’s initiative to improve the marriage annulment process

 

Last month, Pope Francis published some norms to simplify the annulment process. I hope these changes help people in this difficult situation and that the synod fathers concur. The rules put forward by Pope Francis might have seemed technical but some of them will have positive impact quite quickly. For example, a friend was telling me about someone who has been waiting 11 years for an annulment because their ex-spouse lives in Russia and the Russian tribunal won’t act. With the new norms, the tribunal here can act without the Russian tribunal because one of the parties currently lives here (before these norms, a tribunal would need to certify other tribunals that could have jurisdiction didn’t want the case before proceeding).

I think we can point to some positive points of the annulment process. For example, John W. Miller wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “The annulment … involves facing what happened, not denying it, and the process includes helping you avoid failing relationship patterns in the future… In my entire experience of getting divorced, the church dissolution was the only time someone asked me that raw and caring question: What really happened?” For him, the annulment process helped resolve issues from his marriage and divorce.

 

Support faith-filled families

 

Cardinal Dolan blogged about the need for us to support “those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.” He also referred to those who give up careers to take care of their kids. These families may not be perfect but represent the ideal we hope that other families strive for. If we want to strengthen families, we need to support these families. At times we can fall into the danger of reaching out to each marginalized group that we forget those in the center. Once we support these families we can often use them as an example for other families that the ideal is possible.

Centering on such families helps us also show that divorce can be avoided and having more than two kids doesn’t make you certifiably crazy. Without witnesses to the Church’s teaching on marriage, few people today will accept that teaching.

 

Explain the value of commitment to young people

 

Today, the percentage of young people getting married is dropping more and more. Our culture has stopped valuing commitment at all. This can also be seen from a drop in religious life and commitment to the priesthood. I think it would be great to reflect on the value of committing your life to another: whether that other is another person or God himself. Hopefully the synod can help us get away from a temporary culture.

Lack of commitment destroys the family. A family is made by a stable couple that is  fully committing to each other in marriage. Even long-term cohabitation is not stable because at any moment, either one can leave.

The questions dealt with here will be almost prerequisite questions: Why commit? What value does commitment add? Can commitment last a lifetime? Why commit to another person or to God in a vocation? In the past, these questions were presupposed, but they are often not today. The younger generation has certain values it can teach us but it struggles in this area.

Conclusion

This list is obviously not exhaustive. To a certain extent I’ve presented areas I know we can reflect on and improve without certainty on the best route for improvement. I felt that the proposals getting most media airtime either change doctrine or dangerously bordered on doing so. Instead these are five areas that the Church has a general teaching on, but where there is still a large area open for further reflection. All of these improvements begin in reflection and theory but have a concrete and practical application to help the family or those around the family (such as single people). Whether the synod talks about these or not, each of us can reflect on them more deeply and hopefully improve the Church’s pastoral practice.

When Jealousy Threatens Joy

Well folks, summer is nearly over – also known as “Wedding Season”.

Now, I love weddings. The dressing up, the sacraments, the love, the tears.

All good things.

And don’t forget about the post-wedding goodies! Dancing, food, fellowship, pictures, videos, marriage.

Again, all good things.

There are people who would comment that I’m in that stage of life when everyone is pairing and marrying, and to an extent, they’d be right. The mid-twenties: an age where it seems that EVERYONE is getting married.

It’s true, many of my friends have entered marriage this year – I’ve been in three of these weddings since March! Yet, in a way, it feels as if I’ve been in this stage of “marriage is the thing to do” for a while.

I have friends who married young, while we were still in college.

I have friends who married after they graduated, but while I was still in school.

Then there were the friends marrying the summer of our college graduation.

And throughout these three years following college, nearly each season has been filled with friends entering into this next chapter.

I’ve begun to wonder: how does one fully embrace the joy one has for friends entering marriage while feeling the heartache of longing for that vocation?

Recently, I watched the wedding video of a friend from high school. The love he and his new wife share is palpable. I was moved to tears, and I realized that these tears weren’t simply happy ones, but slightly sad ones shed for myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I am overjoyed for each and every one of my friends who have entered and will enter into this sacrament. To witness the love between two people is incredible, so to witness the love between two people you love is overwhelming. It’s truly an honor to share in their joy.

And yet, I feel the twinge of jealousy. Just a twinge, followed by a wave of guilt. What’s wrong with me?! These are my friends getting married!

I try to focus on the joy and ignore the ache of my heart saying “Ah, why not me?”

But pushing down these feelings, this ache, pretending that I don’t feel the way I do…. this doesn’t make it go away. The struggle is real, y’all. I’m convinced that there is nothing quite like the pain of waiting for your vocation, especially when you’re certain of God’s call for you.

I had a moment in prayer weeks ago – while simultaneously driving because, hey, why not make the best of that highway time? – during which I saw this image of when I’m finally married to the man God created for me, and I am able to look at my husband and say “You were so worth the wait.” Many emotions washed over me in my mind’s eye – that feeling of “home” and gratitude for the struggle.

Call this prophesy or a glimpse of my future for the sake of keeping hope alive in my heart, but whatever it was, I’m grateful for it. For the first time, my heart believes that whenever that day comes, when my husband and I are together at last, the pain and longing and tears will all have been worth it.

The Lord has fulfilled other promises He’s made to me, why do I doubt that He will fulfill this one as well? Trust is the only cure and one of the hardest things to develop.

It’s difficult to close this post, because I have no resolution. This struggle between the ache of my heart and the bubbling over joy is an on-going reality.

I will continue to bask in the glow of my loved ones who have found the one for whom their soul longs.

I will continue to allow myself to feel what I feel, yet not dwell on these emotions which crush my hope.

I will continue to cling to the cross, knowing that He will fulfill the desires He’s placed on my heart.

I’m Single and I Use NFP

It was a few years ago when my interest in Natural Family Planning (NFP) was sparked. I was intrigued by the concept of truly understanding your body and its happenings while also being able to identify fertility markers.

But as much as I thought it all sounded interesting, I never imagined that I’d dive into that world until I was close to marriage.

After all, it seems like everyone learning NFP is over here like:

fertilitycarecentersofamerica - Edited

And I’m here all:

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That all changed when I attended the Vita Institute.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Vita Institute, it’s an intensive interdisciplinary training program for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement. A program of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, the Vita Institute was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. Not only was the educational material top-notch, but the community fostered between myself and the other participants is unmatched.

When I attended in June 2014, one of our lectures was given by Suzy Younger, MS, FCP of the St. Joseph FertilityCare Center. Suzy’s lecture was one of my favorites. The way in which she spoke of NFP as a key to understanding the mystery of the female body hooked me.

Following that lecture, I decided that I needed to learn how to chart via Creighton. I know a bit about most NFP models, but Creighton was the one that has come most highly recommended from friends and family.

And so, in February of 2015, I began to meet with a Fertility Care Practitioner (FCP) to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I’ve been charting for about 5 months now and wow. So cool.

My reasons for learning Creighton stemmed from past complications in my cycle and the desire to learn more about my fertility. When I was in college, my doctor decided to put me on the pill because my irregular cycles were due to a lack of ovulation. Yet, the pill suppresses ovulation. Hormonal birth control is often prescribed to “fix” a problem, when it actually just masks it without digging to the cause.

Additionally, I know many couples who had a quick engagement and between preparing for marriage, planning a wedding, etc., they also threw learning NFP into the mix. More often than not, I’ve seen friends either stressed by the pressure to learn NFP in a short amount of time, or neglect their instruction amidst the buzz of planning.

Basically, I don’t want to do that. I have no idea when marriage will become a reality in my life, and I also have no idea if my future husband and I will have grave reasons for avoiding pregnancy. Regardless, I intend to enter into marriage as prepared as possible. I desire to be equally spiritually, emotionally, and fertility-y prepared for marriage.

So, this is for any single lady who’s been thinking about learning an NFP method, or anyone who thought that NFP was only for married people. I’ve been in both camps and I want to make a few points.

1. Reading about NFP methods online and from friends is not sufficient for effective use.

I have friends, married and single alike, who haven’t been formally trained in any particular NFP method, but “get by” with borrowed materials from friends and/or online research. From my experience, you will never be able to fully learn any NFP method without formal instruction. I went into my first appointment with my FCP thinking that this would all be a piece of cake. But several follow-ups later, I am convinced that having a practitioner who gives me, my chart, and my questions individualized attention is much better than any Google search.

Do yourself a favor and seek out an instructor before teaching yourself a wonky version of NFP.

2. It IS NOT unethical for unmarried women to learn NFP.

This question was asked in a Facebook group for unmarried ladies who are interested in NFP. Considering that NFP is often misjudged as “natural birth control”, I can understand the worry that using NFP will only encourage promiscuity.

But truly, all NFP methods are focused on learning the unique rhythm of each woman’s body. While you are taught how to identify days of fertility and infertility, NFP is NOT natural birth control. Creighton, in particular, is taught in a way that is cognizant of the human person as mind, body, and soul. NFP sees fertility as a part of health, not a disease to be fixed. Learning NFP can also help to identify biomarkers of abnormalities, which are useful for any woman.

3. Learning NFP is worth the investment.

I’m not familiar with what cost is associated with learning NFP methods other than Creighton, but I’m sure there’s something. It’s my understanding that each instructor is responsible for setting their rates, but I could be wrong. Additionally, I’ve heard multiple instructors say that they never turn away someone because they can’t afford the session fees.

As a single lady trying to live my life off of one income, the price tag attached to learning Creighton was daunting at first. But ultimately, I know that whatever I need to pay to learn Creighton is an investment in knowledge for the rest of my life. After your first year of instruction, follow-ups are more spread out and the majority of the cost comes from materials (once every 6 months).

Additionally, depending on your health care plan, you may be able to get reimbursement for out-of-pocket charges through a flex-spending account or the like. Look into how you can make this work! Giving up Starbucks twice a week would cover my follow-up fees, and isn’t that worth a lifetime of knowledge?!

4. Why wait to learn something that you can implement today?

Sure, NFP is an awesome tool to be utilized within marriage for family planning. However, there is so much more to learning NFP than just knowing when you could make a baby.

Through the observation you’re taught, hormonal imbalances, issues like PCOS or endometriosis, and more is able to be detected. In this information-obsessed society, it seems natural that women would want to know as much as possible about their own bodies as possible. For me, I was interested in learning Creighton so that I can detect potential fertility issues now rather than down the road whenever marriage comes into play.

5. The human body is AWESOME.

How incredible is it that without any high-tech tools, I can monitor where I am in my cycle and my current fertility? Like, talk about being a crunchy hippie. I’m serious about my faith and chastity, but it’s still fascinating to know on certain days: “Huh, my body could maybe make a baby today.”

Just by learning how to make observations and evaluate them, you can take charge of your fertility. NFP gives patients the chance to have a hand in understanding and tracking their health, something that most modern medicine cannot say.

I encourage anyone who’s even remotely interested in learning more about NFP and how to begin learning to check out some of the resources below. And if I didn’t convince you to dig deeper, maybe Kelly can.

Creighton Model

Billings Ovulation Model

Sympto-Thermal Method

Marquette Model

Originally posted at Follow and Believe

Keep Your Emotions In Check

“Become the woman of your dreams, then you will attract the man of your dreams.”

-Sarah Swafford 

Emotional chastity is not to prevent love, it’s to give you authentic love.

Emotional chastity, like physical chastity, requires discipline. We all have sexual desires, but by living out the virtue of chastity, we don’t let those desires control us. Since we aren’t just bodies, but also hearts, minds, and souls we are called to practice chastity in all those areas. Emotional chastity means guarding the gift of purity of our hearts and minds.

It is very easy for woman to fall into this emotional mind game, especially when it comes to guys. You see some random (cute) guy at church and you start planning your wedding colors. You are introduced to a great Catholic guy and you start putting your name with his last name to see how it sounds.

Many of us have been guilty of this and when we first think of it, it may sound just like innocent school girl fun. But what begins to happen is that we start to no longer see them as a whole person with a mind, a heart, and a soul. We only see them only as a physical being, we begin to see only their body. An object.

“You can never use another person as a means to an end.”

-Pope John Paul II in Love and Responsibility  

We may at times, before even meeting this guy, create in our mind this perfect person from his personalities to his looks. We have created this character that only belongs in a Nicholas Sparks film, not real life. Nothing against chick-flicks, I am admittedly a huge fan. But don’t let your Pinterest-filtered mind take over reality, because that is dangerous for your heart and soul.

So far, what does all this mean? It means no imaginary boyfriends or comparing your actual boyfriend to a fictional character. It’s understanding that relationships is the uniting of two sinners, so there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.

You want to cultivate a pure heart for your future vocation. For those called to marriage you want to be able to give your whole self to your future spouse in both your body, heart, and soul.

Use this time that the church calls remote preparation, as a time to grow in virtue and knowledge.  A time to understand who and what God wants of you. Then when He sees fit, He will reveal where and who He wants you with. We will receive many more graces when that does happen if we take the time now to sanctify ourselves in body, mind, and soul.

“Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of real love.”

-St. John Paul II

Created to Be You

“So they’re both napping?” asked my husband, incredulous, “Can you nap?” Quiet time has been pretty rare around my house since my eldest abandoned naps a year ago. Nevertheless, I cheerfully replied, “Nope, I’m going to bake some cookies,” because I knew that doing something I loved and making something for others was the best way for me to recharge.

Now the me of three and a half years ago would never have been able to confidently decide what to do with an hour or two of freedom. As a new mom, I was so worried about following the right advice and doing what moms should do, that I didn’t stop to consider what would help me to be the best version of myself. So, of course, I often wasted nap-time doing neither what I was told to do, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” or what I wanted to do, but generally stressing myself out no matter what I chose.

I have spent a lot of time trying to be the perfect wife and mother. I have pored over blogs and articles outlining the best way to run this or that aspect of a household. There are a thousand different “perfect methods” for every part of parenting, marriage, and spirituality. Trying to follow them all can be exhausting, disheartening, and downright impossible. After time and again failing to be “the perfect mom,” I finally realized that the right mom for my children was the one God had give them: me.

God did not create me to be someone else, whether it is the crafty mom on Pinterest or the fit movie star mom or St. Joan of Arc, if I spend my time worrying about why I am not her, I am wasting it. He has given me vocation, my family, and my personality. I have been created, as Queen Esther said, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). When I work with my natural temperament and in my personal situation, instead of measuring myself up to another’s, I can begin to become the wife, the mother, and the woman my Creator meant me to be.

littleflower

I recently took one of the Myers-Briggs personality tests that are all the rage and disappointingly found the result different from what I would have guessed. You see, I wanted to be the “fun” person, the spontaneous one that treats life like a musical. Sometimes I am! But I am also a list-maker, a rule follower, and a protective little mama. I enjoy creating order in my little home and taking care of everyone. Even though a simple description of a personality type could never embrace everything that I am, the sooner I accept the personality that I actually have, the sooner I can navigate its positive and negative aspects to become the best possible me.

This is not to say that “just being you” will solve your problems or stand in for morality; every personality type and every person has unique challenges, faults, and attachments to sin. Knowing what they are is part of knowing yourself and beginning the work of becoming the saint God made you to be. Ultimately, God does demand perfection. Conformity to holiness, however, does not look like a dull uniformity, but rather a dazzling rainbow of distinctive souls serving Him in their fullness.

God created you to be you, the perfect addition to His Heavenly family. The next time you feel like a poor imitation of someone else, the perfect whatever-they-are, hear the voice of your Father saying, “You are enough” and when you are not, “His grace is sufficient.”