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The seasons have changed once again–both physically and spiritually.  Summer is my least favorite season; I know that in some places it’s lovely, but I don’t live in one of those places.  It is uncomfortable, often oppressive.  The sun is hot, the wind is hot.  Cicadas fill the air with a drone that dampens other sounds, creating a kind of strange quietness.  Most of the delicate things of Spring cannot withstand the heat.  Clouds and rain become rare, unless a big tropical storm or hurricane spins them up this way–but I don’t want them at that cost.

I know it could also be worse; I don’t exactly live in a desert.  Spiritually, however, I feel like I’m in the middle of a desert.  It’s like a completely different world.  In the Spring, I was grateful that my life had changed with the seasons, but I should have known that Summer would take over.  Somber, oppressive, tiring Summer, and spending it alone in the desert.

The rosy new relationship that had brought so much new happiness and hope has wilted away, its soothing blooms replaced with wounding thorns.  I thought I might be able to hold on to it and maybe revive it.  But it’s proven too difficult and painful.

And I already have other difficulties and pains that I have no choice but to bear.  My loss and grief for my father’s death have increased, along with my yearning for his strong and dependable support and warmth and counsel and reassurance.  April brought the anniversary of his passing; June brings Father’s Day and his birthday, which are now and always will be commemorated in a cemetery.

I know I’m not really alone.  I know.  But I feel alone.  And I am lacking the sense of my own worth that my dad, more than anybody else, gave and reinforced for me.  Again, I know I have worth, and that nobody can take it from me–but I don’t feel it.  My heart is parched and thirsting.  It feels barren.  Everything feels barren.

In the same way, I know that God exists and that He loves me and provides for me.  But the feeling and the certainty are nowhere to be found.

The desert is where faith, hope, and love become acts of sheer will.  It’s a test, a training drill.  I’ve been here many times, in many circumstances, and have come through it with varying degrees of success–but always better than I was.  I understand what it is, and I see the purpose and the ultimate reward–but that doesn’t make it easier.  It’s a place where one must face death.  People and relationships die.  Sometimes, they disintegrate quickly and completely, as with my romance.  Sometimes, they just change so radically and earth-shakingly that your entire life must become re-oriented and re-built, as with my father’s death.

It’s also a “Memento mori” place where you must face your own death that is coming, be it in a very near or still-faraway moment.  While we hope in the afterlife, death is still death, and we will experience it as such–a moment where everything and everybody we’ve ever known falls away from us, we lose every feeling and sense of joy and love, and we are alone.  Whatever eternity lies beyond it, we will experience death as death, even if for a brief instance.  That is part of what it means to be human.  Even Christ, in His humanity, had to experience this, hence his cry, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”

Likewise, Christ spent time in the desert–both physical and spritual desert–in preparation for His life’s work and for His death.  And so, I am hardly alone in this season and this place–all Christians must follow Christ, and the desert is part of this.  I know it’s not supposed to be easy.  But please, in your charity, offer up a little prayer for me to be steadfast of will and keep my eyes on the prize!

(Photo source: Chris Schenk, U.S. Geological Survey)


Just a few months ago I seriously started looking for a relationship with a man again. This is the first serious effort I’ve made since losing my intended husband 6.5 years ago. And, as you may have gathered from some of my recent posts… to say the least, things have not been going very well!

I don’t know if I’ve just had the bad fortune of running into lousy men, or if I am just so rusty with interacting with men that I have been making my own lousy mistakes, or if the rules have changed drastically in the last 6.5 years. Maybe it’s just that I am 6.5 years older now, and decades more mature than a person my age should be.

In any case, it has been so hard not to get utterly discouraged and fall into despair. Yeah, it’s only been a few months, but I’ve gotten quite a few fresh wounds in this short time! My spiritual life has been pushed nearly to its limits as I struggle not to lose hope and patience and trust in God.

However, I have also found great comfort in God and the Church–particularly the Communion of Saints. I have found some novenas that are said to bring wonderful, even miraculous, assistance in finding a spouse:

Novena to St. Joseph

Novena to Bl. Anna Marie Taigi (scroll to very bottom of post)

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Currently, I have just completed the Novena to St. Jude–since finding a decent man and potential husband does seem like a rather impossible cause.

I also pray each day this prayer to St. Raphael the Archangel.

In these and in my daily Divine Office and Rosary, and each time I go to Mass, I pray that I will soon meet a good man to be my husband, and that in the meantime, I will devote myself to growing deeper in love with God and to preparing myself to be a good wife and mother, with the Virgin Mary as my role-model.

I also pray for all the other single Catholic women who are also longing for a good husband and marriage and children.

I offer prayers for my future husband and children and ask that we all be together as a family soon.

I pray very hard for all the single men out there, especially Catholics, that they will fervently and steadfastly and courageously pursue the vocation of marriage and be open to loving women, no matter how many times they may have been hurt or rejected.

I pray that all of my own wounds from the past will be healed so that I can give myself whole and healthy and happy to my future husband.

Overall, I am just trying to put God first in my life and trust that He will richly provide for every need and desire I have. I am trying to be mindful of, and very grateful for all that He has given to me and done for me, to focus on the blessings I have, rather than focusing on what I lack. And I am trying to always remember that I am His daughter, and He is my Father. He loves me, and I love Him, and from that love springs all others.

Whenever I ponder love, I am brought back to this quotation from the film, Diary of a Country Priest:

Priest: We did not invent love. It has its order, its law.
Countess: God is its master.
Priest: He is not the master of love. He is love itself. If you would love, don’t place yourself beyond love’s reach.

Words to live by.

So, for a while recently, for reasons I won’t go into, I’ve suffered frustration, exasperation, and indignation on account of men.  More specifically, bad men.  Men who are bad to women (and who have been bad to me in particular).  Men who are bad in general.  And believe me, I have been wanting nothing more than to vent my rage in some public forum… such as this blog.  To just let it all out and prove, once again, how correct William Congreve was when he wrote:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

But, no doubt due to a God-given measure of grace and self-control, I have refrained.  For one thing, nobody wants to read it–and I don’t blame them.  For another, no matter how justified my anger might be, I would only come across as a bitter, petulant, and overall ugly shrew of a woman–and that is not what I am.  For another, enmity between the sexes only serves the devil–he helped start the whole mess, and he hasn’t ever gotten tired of congratulating himself over it.  And finally… I’m just above that.  My own character demands that I guard my passions and any words that may arise from them.

I also know many more good men than bad.  Men who know my worth and help me to know it.  These are the men who matter.  These are the men I want to write about.  These are the men who bring out the very best in me.

So, here is to all the fathers who have gone before me, from whose lives and blood I have sprung.  Here’s to all the fathers, both biological and spiritual, who have prayed for me and shown me my way forth into the world and toward Heaven, who have protected me and mended my wounds, and cherished me, commending me to the future and to God as a gift and a legacy they are leaving behind them.  Here’s to all the men who have cared more about the future and about their descendants than about themselves and their own interests.

Here is to all my friends–brothers, really–with whom I have grown up and learned.  Here’s to all the men of my generation who have been bold enough to stand firm against the assaults of our culture, those who have refused to dirty themselves and their regard for women.  Here’s to them who have dared to remain pure and honest, respectable and responsible, diligent and dutiful.  Here’s to them who are reviving that rare breed known as the Gentleman and, Lord willing, the Saint as well.  Through thick and thin, these are the brothers who walk by my side.

Here is to all the heroic men who have deemed themselves unworthy, unequal to the responsibilities with which they have been charged, and wrongly believed themselves to be inadequate when in reality, they are just weary from the efforts they have already made.  Here’s to those humble enough to cast ego aside and receive from my lips a whisper of encouragement and belief, or from my hands some small token of support and esteem.  Here’s to them humble enough to regard me as their benefactress, just as Christ regarded Veronica when she gave Him her veil.

Here is to all those men of great stature, and more importantly, great hearts.  Here is to all those men God-fearing and God-worshiping.  Here is to all those men clever, resourceful, and wise.  Here is to those who have allowed me to be daughter, sister, friend, patroness, counselor, teacher, pupil, gift, treasure.  Here is to those who have entrusted to me their love, courage, selflessness, esteem, admiration, respect, and desire–and cherished mine in return.  Here is to those who have been willing to die upon the dread hill, to shed their blood–or time, or money, or toil–that I might live more happily and securely.

Here is to all of those men who have placed themselves before me to show me my own value and worth, my own beauty and preciousness, my own goodness and genius.  Here’s to those who have shown me who I am as a woman and a daughter of God.

There are way too many of you to name–I think, and hope, that you know who you are.  I thank you and love you from the bottom of my heart!  And I humbly call upon you to pray for me, for the healing of my pains, disappointments, injustices, and betrayals at the hands of men, and that someday not too far in the future, I may find a good man, one of your true brethren, to be my husband.


One more thing–because I’m not a saint yet–to all of those men who do not fit any of the descriptions above:  Grow up, grow a spine, trash the narcissism, and stop making excuses.  You’re an affront to both men and women.  And stop making empty apologies to me when you know I can’t do a damn thing to hold you accountable–that’s way too easy.  Instead, try apologizing to God, because He knows full well how you’ve treated me, His creature and His daughter.  Even if I don’t have a man on this earth to stand up for me, God will.  I promise He will hold you accountable and  I shall receive justice sooner or later.

I have of late encountered a great deal of cynicism and argument about an idea I have always considered simple common sense and quite a fundamental principle for life: the idea that we should love people even though we may consider their actions or thoughts or beliefs wrong.  Love sinners but hate sin, to paraphrase St. Augustine.

I lived by this principle when I was not a Christian.  I live by it more  fully now that I am a Christian.  And I am rather at a loss to understand what is so difficult about it.

Sins can always be repented of.

Thoughts and behaviors can always change.

But people are always people.

There is no person alive who is never sinful and never wrong. 

There is also no person alive who is never good and never right.

If we remember these things, then we can very easily know how to hate sins but love sinners.  We can know how to hate certain thoughts and behaviors but still love the thinkers and the doers.

This all seems pretty evident to me.

But perhaps it’s not really a matter of genuine cynicism or difficulty.  Perhaps it is simply a quick and easy defense mechanism to say, “You can’t love me if you think I am so wrong or so bad” or “If you hate what I do/think/believe, then you must hate me.”  Perhaps it is easier than dealing with the apparent paradox of being loved by somebody who also thinks you are wrong.  Perhaps it is easier to resent that love instead of accepting it.

[Apologies in advance for any lack of coherence in this post.  It’s big-time allergy season, and I’ve been rather head-swimmy lately.]

I am still reading Elisabeth Leseur’s diary; the copy I have is My Spirit Rejoices: the Diary of a Christian Soul in an Age of Unbelief, published by Sophia Institute Press in 1996.

Rarely has my soul felt such affinity with another as it does with Mme. Leseur!  Sometimes, in reading her diary, I almost feel like I’m reading my own.  It’s strange, but in reading her self-expressions, I find expression for myself also.  I often feel that she has captured in words things that I wish I could capture in words.

But just as often, however, and perhaps more often, I realize that these words are the words of a far wiser, stronger, more mature soul than my own.  They convict me of my own weakness.  But never in a scolding way… more in an encouraging, exhorting way.  She says to me, “You can overcome just as I have by the grace of God.  You are not as weak as you think.”

Here are some excerpts I came across this morning.  They are from her entries of December 1901 and February and March 1902:

It is a suffering from God, which I offer to Him, that among all the beloved friends surrounding me, I should have no one to whom I might open my heart in saying to him or her, “Look,” and who might understand and help me.

But perhaps to hear one’s ideas and beliefs perpetually criticized, to know them misunderstood, to have prejudice and ignorance against one, is to some extent to suffer persecution for justice’s sake.

A bad spell for more than a month: bodily fatigue, domestic troubles, and, worse than that, a kind of sadness and moral apathy, a lack of the fervor and inner joy that God has sometimes given me so abundantly. And yet not for one moment has my will ceased to belong to Him; duty has cost me dearly, but it has not ceased to be duty.

… Many things to reform: pride, the tendency to delay in getting to work, to let days slip away; to allow myself to be invaded by outward excitements.  And yet I have an immense need of calm and of interior life.  God alone knows what difficulty I sometimes have in overcoming certain physical and moral miseries in order to arrive at that complete possession of myself, at that Christian serenity that nothing can disturb.

I have a great task before me, and nothing human to help me fulfill it.  Perhaps one day I shall have the great joy of seeing my faith, which is my whole life, understood and shared by those and by him whom I love so much.  As it is, all that my soul holds of desires, fervor, and tenderness much remain enclosed within itself and poured out only before God.  Whatever suffering this entails, I offer for the souls who are so dear to me.  Nothing is lost, not one grief or one tear.

When I read these passages, I could feel and recognize and understand the sufferings Elisabeth must have been experiencing.  That loneliness and isolation from others, that helplessness to reach them, and that malaise that tends to flood in as a result.  The fact is that such difficulties are part of a Christian’s life.  We are in the world, but not of it.  Many of our loved ones, unfortunately, are perfectly content to be of the world.

Not long ago, I was trying to tell a dear loved one about difficulties I was having in my life, specifically about difficulties I was having in persevering in my faith.  This was somebody who does not share my faith, but to whom I am very close otherwise.  Somebody I deeply trust and can generally talk to about anything.  But when it came to matters of faith, I felt like there was such a brick wall between us!  I needed so badly to share my experiences with another person–but even the closest and dearest could not understand or empathize with me.  It was like a sword through the heart!

Her response, which is only logical for someone who does not understand and share my faith, was simply:  “If it is so difficult, then why don’t you give it up?  Find some other way of living that will make you happy and put you at ease.  Why waste your time and energy on something that doesn’t make you happy and that causes you so much pain?”

At the time I was utterly nonplussed in trying to respond to that.  To explain why I couldn’t simply give up on my faith even if it wasn’t easy to live with at times.

An analogy crossed my mind: that of giving up on a spouse or close relative or dear friend when he or she became difficult to live with–even if the difficulty was fleeting.  But then I realized that in our society, people seem pretty comfortable with doing just that!  Summarily giving up on others when things stop being lovey-dovey and happy-clappy.  Abandoning duty in favor of comfort.  All you have to do is look at the ruined state of marriage and the family to see how such ideas have permeated our society.  And if people are quick to give up on other people, then they are even quicker to give up on God and the faith!

I realized how vastly different were the worldviews of this dear person and myself.  And in the end, all I could do was cry to God.  Cry to Him and at the same time reaffirm my dedication to Him–my duty to Him.

Elisabeth often writes of duty.  Duty to God, and on account of that duty to God, duty to other people and to society as a whole as well.  Perhaps the most pervasive problem with our society is that it has lost all sense of duty.

Coincidentally (if there is such a thing as coincidence), this evening I was unwinding with some food and watching some anime.  I’m in the middle of the series Samurai Champloo.  And at one point, one of the characters utters this line:

When duty goes out of style, the world will be nothing but darkness.

I think it’s a very fitting summary for my above ramblings, and so I will end on that note.  :)

This is the first Wednesday of the month, which our noble and heroic brethren in the e5 movement are dedicating to prayer and fasting for womankind.

Let us, their lady beneficiaries, remember them and support them with our own prayers.  I can certainly use the extra infusion of grace and blessings… I think all women can.  No matter what the feminists say, women need and deserve such heroic deeds and sacrifices from our men.  They help us, in return, to entrust ourselves to men and their care without fear.  We need and deserve that kind of security.  We need and deserve Christ-like men.

So, a heartfelt thank you to our e5 men!  May their efforts bear much good fruit for all women and men.

And a heartfelt thank you to all the good men I’ve been blessed to have in my life.  Especially my dad–I don’t think I would be the same without him.  My life and my very person would definitely be missing something.

In this fair month of May when we celebrate motherhood in a special way, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which I have been realizing and experiencing my own maternal nature and instincts.  It wasn’t until quite recently that I have thought of myself as having motherly qualities and indeed being a mother in spirit.  It has come with my maturing in the faith, with understanding who I am and who God created me to be, with learning what it truly means to be a woman, with developing a closer relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and taking her as my model, and with coming to a real appreciation for how very precious life is and how very good God is.

For many years, I had no wish to be a mother.  In fact, I was often quite hostile to the idea.  There was a time when I would sooner have had a abortion than had a child.  And yes, I would have considered it my right, the safeguard of my freedom.  How very deceived I was!  How very ignorant and at war with my own nature.

Now everything is so different.  I see womanhood and motherhood being so intrinsically linked.  I may not have children, but I still have many ways of expressing, exercising, and exploring my own motherhood.

I am not one of those people who think that animals can substitute for children, but I have learned some valuable lessons from caring for my two cats.  Lessons of joy and being childlike of course.  Also lessons of selflessness, patience, and forbearance.  There’s nothing like coming home after a long, stressful day and just wanting to kick off your shoes and collapse into your favorite chair… only to find a great big yucky hairball on your favorite chair.  And better yet, to get one mess cleaned up only to have another pop up somewhere else.  But you look into those little green eyes and somehow you manage to just overlook the messes and the tiredness and the drudgery.  Poof! They vanish.

Oh, and the expenses these little furballs can incur–I often feel that I spend more money on them than on myself.  That can cause some dismay… for a moment.  These little ones have nobody else on whom they can depend, apart from the good Lord Himself.  When I think of how well He has provided for me, who am I to begrudge what I have, even to lesser creatures?  God is much more superior to me than I am to my cats.  At least the cats and I share the status of corporeal, mortal, finite creatures.  If God loves, has mercy upon, and provides what is so small, should we not do the same?

Sure, animals aren’t people.  But in our interactions with them and attitudes toward them, we can learn how to be human, how to love, how to be motherly and fatherly.  As I wrote to one of my friends/commentors on another post, if we can’t love in small ways, how will we ever learn to love in great ways?  The smallest acts of steadfastness, patience, self-giving, tenderness, empathy, and intuition can bear good and lasting fruit.  They can grow and flourish and spill over into our relationships with other people, and with God too.

How often do I meditate upon the Incarnation and the Nativity of the Lord and picture my Lord, God, King, and Savior as a tiny, helpless babe.  How often do I long to cradle Him in my arms.  Or even when meditating upon the Passion and gazing upon the Crucifix, how often do I wish I were strong enough to bear away some of His pain and agony.  Of course, it’s all I can do just to bear the much smaller and fleeting discomforts of my own unarguably comfortable life.  Oh, and nothing is so dear to me as receiving Him in Communion!  How often am I lost in wonder at the blessed union!  For those precious moments, I can experience bearing Him in my own body just as the Blessed Mother did!  All I want is to offer Him a good, pure, and loving place within me.  No filth of sin, no weakness of constitution.  Just a beautiful, firm, and worthy sanctuary within.

I think back also to October 2007, when I spent time caring for my parents.  It was truly such a privilege for me.  It was an act of filial love, but also drew upon my maternal instincts as well.  I was actually quite nervous going into the situation.  Worried that I would be inadequate.  I mean, me caring for the two people who have always cared for me and given so greatly and freely of themselves to me my entire life… that was a huge deal, and a huge first.  But something within me responded… something graceful, peaceful, and self-assured.  A well of calmness and understanding.  It bore me up whenever I felt overwhelmed.

I feel it stir within me pretty often, when I think about it.  I often lie awake late into the night, thinking of family, friends, and other people in my life.  Sometimes I feel consternation because I don’t know what I can really do for them… other than pray.  So I do pray.  And that well comes bubbling up, reassuring me that I am doing something for them, that my love and concern are not bound by the material world with its time and space, they are not limited to sheer physical action.  And sometimes the best thing we can do is simply entrust our loved ones to God.  After all, none of us belongs entirely to each other; we all belong to God.  I have learned this from my own parents.  My own mother and father have been in situations when they could only pray and trust in God.  Situations I put them in.  And pray and trust they did.  And their prayers have been answered, perhaps more abundantly than they ever expected.  Their prayers and trust in God have helped to give me new life, and I trust that my prayers and trust will do the same for all of my loved ones.

Since returning to the Church, I have developed a particular love for our priests and seminarians.  I’ve been blessed to get to know and interact with a number of these gentlemen, each his own unique person, yet all of them among the brightest, kindest, most dedicated, most courageous, and most generous people I’ve ever known.  I can’t help but be impressed, and really quite proud!  I certainly regard them as my fathers and brothers in spirit, but I also feel a certain kind of affection, concern, pride, desire for their success, and longing to provide them support which I can only describe as “maternal.”  With priests, of course, a lady must observe a certain prudent reserve, out of respect for their consecration to the Church and for the sake of their purity and good reputation, as well as her own.  I suppose it is not too different from the more reserved love and admiration a mother feels for an adult son.  Oh, I would be so happy to see any biological, adopted, or spiritual son of mine join the ranks of the priesthood!  In the meantime, it gives me joy to support all of our current and future priests (as well as those who may be in Purgatory) with prayers, letters, attention, and when possible, the odd bit of material assistance.

Last but not least, there are the souls of the little innocents, those tiny victims of abortion.  Since becoming more involved in the pro-life movement, I have thought a great deal about those little ones.  I sense their presence around me sometimes, like little starbursts of pure light and life and love and warmth.  No poor, unhappy, desolate souls, these!  They live in the presence of God and His mother, amid the angels and the saints.  It’s a marvelous example of God transforming evil into good.  We may mourn, but they do not.  Still, I feel like they do love, appreciate, and respond to the maternal and paternal love of we who live on earth.  They love being loved by us.  They love being regarded as the eternal children they are.  And what joy they give in return, and what encouragement!  This blessed army of little souls will help lead us to victory.  And they will plead on our behalf when we reach Heaven, just as we’ve tried to plead on their behalf on earth.

Wow.  Taking time to write all of this has made me even more aware of how very rich and blessed my life is.  When my dear Patrick passed away a little over 4 years ago, I thought my life was over.  Part of mourning my loss of him was mourning my loss of ever becoming a mother.  Motherhood was narrowly defined as conceiving and bearing and raising a child of my own.  But as you see, motherhood is something much greater than that.  It is something every woman has simply because she is a woman.  Of course, having children of one’s own is a very special blessing.  But we needn’t feel bereft or inferior or desolate if we don’t have biological children.  There are so many people who need our special kind of love and devotion and nurturing and womanly genius, and even other creatures and God Himself are not beyond the sphere of motherly love!

Oh… life and love and humanity are truly wondrous and endless treasures!  We have only to open our eyes, hands, and hearts!

good-shepherd-glassMy Lenten Lesson for this year was to be sheepish:

Not in any bad sense.  Just trusting more in our Lord’s mercy.  Putting myself in His arms.  Not chasing after my own designs so much.  Being more genuine.  Being more humble.  Seeing in greater clarity my weak humanity and all its struggling and suffering… and not freaking out about it as if I’m supposed to be some other creature.  Just today alone, I’ve come to realize that sometimes I think I’m supposed to be God–I’m supposed to be the infinitely strong, mighty, wise, and merciful one–to the point where I don’t feel like I need to turn to God or entrust myself to Him.

I guess there’s something in all of us that craves to be in control at times.  I know I can be a control freak now and then.  But that’s not who we are, that’s not how we’re made. We don’t thrive that way, nor do we learn anything.  We need God to be God, and us to be ourselves.  We need to be the rescued wayward sheep at least sometimes.

I had a feeling that it was going to be challenging, and it has been.  But I feel it has been a success!  It’s hard to go through and enumerate all the steps in the process, but I do feel I’ve learned and changed.  I have put myself more in God’s hands.

It has taken some discipline, but in disciplining myself, I feel I have been much kinder and gentler to myself.  If that makes sense.  To put it another way, I’ve always been my own harshest and most unreasonable critic.  When I am able to just put myself in God’s hands and look to Him for my needs and for solutions, I always find that He is infinitely gentler and more forgiving than I am to myself.  The same is true with other people, even.  When I look outward and when I trust God and others, I find so much more love than when I look inside myself.

This Lenten Lesson was partly about learning to see myself more the way God does, and the way other people do.  And treating myself more the way I would treat others.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about laxity.  This isn’t about letting myself slide or take license.  It’s just about compassion… happiness… not agonizing over things to the point where it’s really hard for me to appreciate how good life is, how good God and other people are to me.

Most of all, I feel like I have received a great deal of healing this Lent.  You know, the last several years have been so hard and brought about so much change… not all of it good.  Even though I can’t help it that my fiance died, even though it was so completely out of my hands and my control… being single and alone again has been such a huge, painful blow to me, to my confidence and to my sense of my own identity and value.  It has made me self-reliant in a positive way, but it has also turned me inward on myself to a very unhealthy and unhappy degree.

I think it has left some chinks through which some remnant of my old feminist and atheist attitudes have seeped back into me.  There’s been this nasty little voice saying,  “You don’t need a man.  You don’t need anybody.  And you definitely don’t need some god in heaven.  All the power you need is in you.  You are in control.”  And it ignited in me some awful need to overcompensate for my loss and cope with all the change.

I guess some part of me still found that more attractive than accepting the truth of the matter, that sometimes I need somebody greater and more powerful than me to help, to provide, to heal, to comfort, to control, and to fight for me.  I need to be carried sometimes.  And that’s not a put-down of myself, nor is it self-pity.  It’s simply the truth.  And right now, that Somebody is God.  My parents and other relatives and friends and Church communities help a lot too!  But mostly, it’s just me and God.

Not me or God (as that nasty little voice would have me believe).  But me and God.  He has blessed me with many abilities and strengths… and weaknesses.  Most of all, He has blessed me with Himself!  When I accept and receive Him, I also accept and receive my self.  He gives me my self in all authenticity and truth.  He looks upon it with love, and that makes me more capable of doing the same.

I still have lots of questions about how to be myself and exactly who that is right now.  About how I am different than in the past and how I’m still the same.  I have things to learn about how to interact with people too.  Lots to learn and explore.  There is nobody who can give me more answers than God can.  Nobody knows me or my questions better than He does.  I don’t even know how to ask them–but He knows what they are.

So I need to keep on building upon my relationship and partnership with God.  And with other people too–because they will always be part of my life and who I am.  I know God uses us to help each other.  But honestly, after almost 4 years, nearly everybody around me either 1) doesn’t realize all I’ve been through, or 2) assumes that what happened then no longer affects me, that I am “over it,” not to put it too bluntly.  I don’t hold that against anybody.  There’s no way they could still be as aware of my difficulties as I am.  But that’s why I say it’s mostly just me and God for now.

The Lenten Lesson has helped me see how close He is to me, all the time.  And that He is there for me.  I don’t need to try to shoulder anything alone.  I don’t have to accept the little voices that lie to me and try to build walls between me and Him.  I now recognize them for what they are.  And I no longer want anything to do with them.  I just want Him.  And I just want to be whole and live well, with as much happiness as possible.

Not happiness as defined by the world, but happiness as defined by my soul’s relationship with God.  Whether it is the relationship between Father and daughter, Shepherd and sheep, King and subject, Teacher and student, Master and handmaid, Creator and creature, there is no shame in it.  God’s love and devotion gives it worth.  And that is where happiness is born.  That is where our selves are most true: in His love.

(Image is a detail from a photo by Flickr user Lawrence OP)

Well, my dating polls generated quite a bit of discussion!  I had thought that they might, but even so, I was pleasantly surprised.

As of right now, the results are as follows:

Question 1: Is it proper for a woman to ask a man out?

Yes: 36%
No: 23%
Maybe/It depends: 41%

Question 2: Should Catholics only date Catholics?

Yes: 25%
No: 24%
Maybe/It depends: 51%

So… it seems that for most people, these are much more complex than yes or no questions.  That’s pretty much what I expected, hence the “Maybe/It depends” option.

One of the complicating factors is simply that this is not a perfect world.  In our society, man-woman relationships have been damaged, distorted, attacked, or never taught to begin with.  Feminism, the sexual revolution, casual dating, sexual hook-ups, contraception, cohabitation, divorce, abortion… you name it, man-woman relationships suffer from it.  Another problem for Catholics is that “Catholic” doesn’t always mean “Catholic.”  So, you may meet somebody who calls themself a Catholic, but they may not actually share your beliefs!  On the other hand, you may meet non-Catholics who actually do share and support most of your beliefs.

Another complicating factor is simply that there may be mystery in why we are attracted to whom we are attracted.  I’ve known plenty of cases where Catholics and non-Catholics have dated and married, and far from being damaged by their lack of common faith, they have grown together in faith and raised children strong in the faith.  I think very different people are sometimes brought together so that they can transform each other.  God may have special ideas out of the ordinary for some people.  He may purposefully unite them with unlikely people, and bind their hearts together in surprising ways.

I should say that my parents are a “mixed marriage”–Dad is Catholic, Mom is not.  To my knowledge and memory, difference of religion has never caused any conflicts.  I was raised Catholic, and Mom was always there for first Sacraments–she even made me a beautiful white dress for Confirmation.  She attends Mass more frequently than many professed Catholics.  She was happy and relieved when I came back to the Church.  She is proud of my strong Catholic faith.  She was even supportive when I was considering the consecrated life.  I can’t say how my life may or may not have been different had she been, or become, a Catholic.  I don’t care.  I’m glad my parents married each other.  I’m glad they are still together, unlike so many parents these days.  I’m so grateful for my family, and can’t imagine it being any different.

So maybe there is no “right” answer.  Maybe, at least to an extent, it can be different for each of us.  So long as we seek and discern God’s will, of course.

For myself, I long for a man who will take the initiative and the risk to ask me out.  For my part, I try to be inviting and courteous toward men, never hostile or haughty.  I am quite an introvert, but I when I like a man, I always try to let him know.  I smile, I try to make conversation, I try to be winsome.  I try to subtly encourage him to approach me.  If he doesn’t, I tend to assume it’s that he isn’t interested, or isn’t interested yet.  Maybe he is shy, maybe he is worried about rejection, maybe he isn’t ready yet, maybe he’s been scarred by bad women.  I sympathize with that.  And I try to give him every encouragement and opportunity to see that he has nothing to fear from me.  I want to inspire men to greatness.  And show that not all women are evil feminazis or spoiled divas.

Since my Catholic faith is one of the things I talk most easily about, I tend to connect most easily and be most myself with other Catholics.  Non-Catholics, or Catholics-in-name-only tend to be impatient, bored, combative, or put-off when I talk about the faith.  My modest conduct and adamant stance against casual flings tends to put them off as well.  I’ve never really been able to bond with non-Catholic men.  I have many non-Catholic, or formerly-Catholic friends and associates, so it’s not that I have anything against them, or can’t get along with them.  Indeed, I love many of them dearly, and would give and do anything for them.

But a spouse is much different than just a friend.  When it comes to one man with whom I am intimately bound for life, I am going to need somebody to support and help and cooperate with me.  And not just where material things are concerned.  I will need somebody who will support me in my faith, who will support my efforts to live it faithfully and well, who will support me in raising and teaching my children in the faith, who will support my mission as a Lay Dominican.  And I need somebody whom I can support in turn, in much the same ways.

Let’s just say that I would be quite shocked if I met a non-Catholic man who could handle me and my faith!  Actually, I would be quite impressed to meet a Catholic man who could handle me and my faith!  Because it’s not only a matter of the faith itself, it is a matter of where we are in our faith, and where the faith fits into our lives and our very selves.  Personally, I would be nothing if I weren’t Catholic.  Truly nothing.  I would not be myself at all without my faith.  My entire life would lose its meaning, its core, its direction.  If a man were to think that sounds crazy, that would be a major deal-breaker.

“But–” you may rightly be saying, “but people change!  Non-Catholics become Catholics.  Bad Catholics become good Catholics.  And good Catholics become bad Catholics.”  Yes, after all the change I’ve been through, I understand that all too well.  What is important is that we relate to people as they are at every given moment.  We don’t relate to the people they might be in the future.  We don’t relate to them as they were in the past–although the past will become present in some ways and to some degree.

So, say I meet and fall in love with a non-Catholic.  If I am going to marry him, I must marry the non-Catholic him, not some possible future Catholic him who may or may not ever come to be.  And if I meet and fall in love with a good Catholic man, I must marry the good Catholic man he is, without fearing that he may one day become a heretic or apostate.  If he does become a heretic or apostate, he will need me and my dedication more than ever.  And if I meet and fall in love with a bad Catholic… well, that would be the most insurmountable situation of all, I think.  A bad Catholic would be most likely of all to consider me and my faith crazy.  Again–major deal-breaker.

There is more that could be said on this topic.  It’s an important topic.  I think I’ve said enough for now.  ;)

I try not to be worried or anxious about dating and finding a husband.  I just try to be open and good to everybody who comes into my life.  Try not to have too many expectations.  And try to be patient and trust in God’s will and providence.  He has never let me down yet!

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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