When I review my 20s, I can see how an unwelcome “no” paved the way to a blessed “yes.” Doors we never would’ve closed on our own lead to opened windows, once we pick ourselves up and look around. Sorrow softens us, kneading our hearts into doughier, more compassionate organs.
This long winter has reminded me that I can’t mastermind my future with a spreadsheet and a stopwatch. Life doesn’t unfold in even numbers and rhyming couplets. I’m learning what it means to be open to life, the Church’s charge to married couples, on a broad level.
It can be scary to trust God, to dive headfirst when you can’t see the net beneath you. But I want to operate on grace, not strategy. I’m entering into Easter, the ultimate surprise.
God’s plan for my life is different from mine — and, I have no doubt, better.
If you participate in social media, I’m sure you’ve become acquainted with the viral post “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged When You’re 23.” by Vanessa Elizabeth. Vanessa’s editorial urged readers in their young 20′s to see the world and get to know themselves before rushing to settle down and get married. It’s abundantly clear Elizabeth is enjoying her time as a single girl, traveling the world and gaining new experiences, which she should be – her life sounds pretty awesome. As with most opinion pieces, however, Vanessa’s article has caused quit a stir among those who are- you guessed it, young and engaged (or married, which I presume is the end result of an engagement, unless you’re a contestant on The Bachelor). The rebuttal pieces (much like the one here) all maintain the same belief: that being married or engaged won’t hinder one’s ability to live life and succeed as a person.
I’ve noticed a scary trend among all 20-something women: the categorical division of girls who are single and those who are in serious relationships. The “us” and “them” mentality is perpetuated by both parties, and it’s actually ridiculous. Both sides reserve stereotypes and judgement about the other. The single crowd automatically assumes girls who are married or engaged in their early to mid-twenties are boring and settling. There’s the assumption girls who have husbands and fiances must not also have careers or social lives. On the inverse, there’s the common stereotype of all single girls in their mid-twenties as being spinsters in the making who consume too much wine, imbibe in nights at the bars too frequently, and are too career focused to have a rewarding love life. Is each side relying on the stereotypes and put downs against the other to cover up latent jealousy, fearing the grass may be greener on the other side? If this is the case, feminism everywhere just set itself back about 30 years.
It’s 2014. 60 years ago, it might have been unheard of for a woman to be anything other than a housewife, but that’s because society was also still segregating schools and encouraging homosexuals to stay closeted. We’ve come a long way since then, and the general idea in today’s society is based on the notion you can become whatever you want to be without having to apologize for it, or compromise yourself in any manner. Women should be supporting each other, not limiting one another and dividing themselves into a society of the haves and have nots (husbands, that is). Instead, girls in their twenties are just trying to prove you cannot, in fact, have it all.
But why do we do this to one another? Is it jealousy? I’ll admit this much: if you had asked me ten years ago where I thought I would be at this point in my life, I would not have told you I envisioned myself being a single freelance writer. I used to cringe every single time a new engagement or birth announcement popped up on any number of my social media feeds, and I lived in fear of getting my mail knowing there would be a Save the Date or Wedding Invitation awaiting me. Yes, I was jealous of the girls who seemed to be getting everything I once thought I wanted, but I recently had a realization that put it all into perspective.
My generation has become a pioneering group in many aspects; we’re a generation that hasn’t necessarily followed the timeline or format of our parents. Not all of us are graduating from college and receiving job offers immediately. We’re navigating society with new challenges, technology, and competition unforseen in the past. Because of this, there is no precedent or social norm for any type of timeline anymore: how can someone expect to be married with children by 28 if they only receive their first real job offer at 27? On the other end of the spectrum, who is anyone to criticize the individuals who graduate from college and start full time jobs immediately, and are financially stable and settled enough to actually betroth by 24? We’ve created an impossible double standard in our society; it’s almost as if the women who aren’t in serious relationships prematurely defend themselves by lashing out at those who are.
It is incredibly important for all women to support each other in every aspect of life and not immediately resort to discounting someone’s good fortune as a defense mechanism. By reassuring yourself the girl who just got engaged is now boring and must not have a fulfilling social or career life, you’re ultimately perpetuating the idea that women can’t be both career minded and family minded. Very rarely do men face such scrutiny – I can not recall a time where males have sent group texts saying, “Did you hear Joe proposed?! Kill me, right? Well, whatever, he’ll be missing out on Fantasy Football this year, so it sucks to be him.” Is this because society has long accepted the idea of being able to be a family man and a career man? If that’s the case, why are women limiting themselves by battling one another on the stance of their relationship?
Regardless of what your status is – you should be happy for your friends and all of their accomplishments and milestones in life while focusing on your own. Everyone has their own individual set of goals, and instead of focusing on negating the great things that happen to others, instead, females should be working on being the best version of themselves they can be.
So no, I will no longer be participating in the scathing group texts when a sorority sister of mine gets engaged critiquing the ring and reassuring the other single girls that “they’ll be divorced in five years anyway.” I’m going to enjoy the weddings and the open bars that are in my future. If I meet someone, great, and if not, that’s okay too. I’m not going to put others down in an attempt to make myself feel better, because who the hell am I to tell someone their successes are limited to only one area of life?
Contraception was not invented to prevent pregnancy. We already had a 100% reliable way of doing that - abstinence. In the final analysis, contraception serves one purpose: to spare us the difficulty we experience when confronted with the choice of abstinence.
“St. John wrote that ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ I submit that the history of contraceptive birth control movement may illustrate the opposite, namely, that allconsuming fear casts our love.”—John F. Kippley
@ConversionDiary (Jennifer Fulwiler) with 5 (secular) reasons to avoid living together before marriage
Most of the religious couples I know adhered to the idea that they’d never date someone whom they weren’t interested in marrying, at least not for long. A friend once mentioned that she had a very nice boyfriend in college whose company she enjoyed, but when it became clear that they weren’t meant to be together for life, they mutually and immediately broke it off. When I first encountered that idea it seemed unnecessarily strict, but now it makes a lot of sense. Marriage is the most life-changing commitment you’ll ever make, and so it makes sense to order your entire dating life toward that goal. When you’re paired up with someone who is not ideal for you, you are missing opportunities to meet the person who is the man or woman of your dreams — and living together makes it hard to extricate yourself from lukewarm relationships, much more so than if you’d maintained separate residences.
As the exact opposite of a morning person, this indiegogo really gets me going. A sensor that measures your BBT in your sleep and auto synchs to NFP/FAM phone apps so you can kick your groggy search for your thermometer— that without fail ends in you dropping it on the floor into a massive pile of laundry— goodbye? YES PLEASE (as in, yes, I just put myself on their early-bird list).
As Stein notes, one’s singlehood might not be deliberately chosen. But one does have freedom in the face of it. Father Jacques Phillippe writes in Interior Freedom, “We need to understand that there is another way of exercising freedom: less immediately exciting, poorer, humbler, but much more common, and one immensely fruitful, both humanly and spiritually. It is consenting to what we did not originally choose.” Certainly the single life is not the only time for a woman to learn what it means to surrender to circumstances we wish we could change. But it can be viewed as a special gift of time given to us by God to practice the feminine gifts of receptivity, openness, and a willingness practice faith, hope, and love. It is also the time to learn the art of being a woman in everything, from how to dress so as to bring beauty to the world, how to manage finances (a practical skill for one’s lifetime), and how to be gracious in accepting or refusing a date while affirming a man. It is a rich time for learning about oneself and about how to relate to other people.
This period of life is an opportunity for discernment of a personal vocation and mission that God designs specifically for the heart of every woman. While the world encourages us to make our own success, the Catholic woman should quietly and prayerfully listen in order to be led. Certainly God will work through her natural desires, her temperament, and the opportunities He places in her path to reveal to her His mission for her and how she is to love. But she must be disposed to listen. A quieting of the heart is also essential to hear the voice of God. Stein asks, “What does to be called mean? A call must have been sent from someone, to someone, forsomething in a distinct manner.”
Sign the petition to add Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to the US Liturgical Calendar!!
"The faith given to me in baptism suggests to me surely: by yourself you will do nothing, but if you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal." -Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
“The chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment: it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen, Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming like Joan of Arc. In a word, God paints in many colours, but He never paints so gorgeously — I had almost said so gaudily — as when He paints in white.”—G.K.Chesterton (via josephmaniaci)
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”—Bl. Pope John Paul II (via rciamusings)
“Yes, it is so true that it takes courage to form a family. It takes courage! And your question, young spouses, is linked to the question of vocation. What is marriage? It is a true and authentic vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized the call of the Lord in their own love story, the vocation to form one flesh and one life from two, male and female. And the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony envelops this love in the grace of God, it roots it in God himself. By this gift, and by the certainty of this call, you can continue on assured; you have nothing to fear; you can face everything together!”—Pope Francis on Marriage
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”—(Ps. 119:9–11)
“To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something beautiful for God. Purity is the fruit of prayer.”—Mother Teresa
Chastity was once a virtue I dismissed as something that applied to “those religious types” who were brought up in the Church. I conjured up every reason imaginable to excuse myself from its demands. I told myself that purity was abnormal, and I settled for living a life that deadened me within. I saw the way that our Lord was calling, but I ran away.
Now, many years later (and three days away from my wedding!) I recognize that I’m marrying my best friend because God opened my eyes to the value of purity.
Yesterday, I was praying at a chapel alone. I was very distressed and sad. I cried out to Jesus that I can’t manage with certain things anymore. I said: “Jesus, I know that you are very busy with real serious issues, but, please, if you could come and hug me. I know that I’m unworthy and have no right to ask for this, but I need you!”. A minute later, a young girl came in. She asked me to pray together with her. She took my hand and we said “Our Father…” together. And then she hugged me very long and tight. And afterwards she said: “God can do more than a man can do”. I whimpered like a baby…
St. Josemaria Escriva:Many live like angels in the middle of the world. You, . . . why not you?
Saint John Paul II:Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of truelove.
John Henry Cardinal Newman:Purity prepares the soul for love, and love confirms the soul inpurity
Bl. Mother Teresa:To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something as beautiful for him.
Saint John Paul II:Deep within yourself, listen to your conscience, which calls you to be pure . . . a home is not warmed by the fire of pleasure, which burns quickly like a pile of withered grass. Passing encounters are only a caricature of love; they injure hearts and mock God’s plan
“Lenten practices of giving up pleasures are good reminders that the purpose of life is not pleasure. The purpose of life is to attain to perfect life, all truth and undying ecstatic love – which is the definition of God. In pursuing that goal we find happiness.”—Archbishop Fulton Sheen (via catholicsoul)
“Men and women will never find a significant other who completes them. A fling, a fantasy, a boyfriend or girlfriend—even a spouse—is not going to satisfy what has gone wrong in you. Only Jesus will do that. Because your heart is broken. You need a Savior, and no one person can fix it.”—(via childaftergod)
Now, I personally know couples who contracept who are beautiful people…they just don’t know the truth. They don’t know the harmful side effects of the pill, or that NFP is actually 98% effective (more effective than the condom or the pill) at avoiding pregnancy, or that couples who use NFP have a divorce rate of less than 2% (compared 50% of the contracepting population). They may also not know the spiritual ramifications of contracepting their union (that contraception trains our hearts to fail to love the other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, and is a grave sin). I feel like if they knew the beauty, truth, and goodness of how God designed sex, they would never use contraception.
"1. Refusal – you just heard about this whole fertility charting thing, but you know someone who knows someone who got pregnant using it and the ‘rhythm method’ is way too risky. Nice try, FAM, I’ll stick to my pills/patch/ring/IUD etc.
2. Curiosity – Ok, so maybe you were a little interested in the FAM thing. The idea of charting your fertility seems a little cool, they have apps for it. It can’t be that hard. It’d be nice to see what I feel like off of these hormones…
3. Realization – THERE’S SCIENCE ABOUT THIS. If you know what you’re doing and follow the rules, it can be just as effective as hormonal birth control! Why doesn’t everyone know about this? How come I never knew about this? Sex ed you failed me – I’ve been in this body for x (insert your age) years and I had no idea all of this was happening inside my ovaries.
4. Research – I want to know everything about this as humanly possible. Read all the books, follow all the blogs, listen to all the podcasts. You feel like some female body wisewoman. You had no idea you could even know this much!
5. Evangelization – You talk about charting the majority of the time. You tell your girlfriends about your cervical fluid and how cool it is to know your body. Most of your girlfriends do not care. Maybe one considers ditching her pills, but nah. Too much work. Temping? Every morning? You start a blog, you start a support group, you start a Twitter account. You do find the NFP/FAM community, but they are small. Maybe a few people reach out to you wanting to “make the switch” into charting. You guide them, give them Taking Charge of Your Fertility and proudly review their charts every month. You’re making a difference in the world! You even go so far as to make a documentary for your senior thesis movie in film school. (That is, if you’re in film school.)
6. Rejection – Except you face a lot of opposition. Some people have no interest whatsoever in charting their fertility. Either because their periods are too painful, or the thought of not using any form of protection is terrifying, or they just like their hormonal birth control. They won’t budge and think that your FAM obsession is super weird. Catholics criticize you for trying to relay information that should be exclusively “for married people only” and secular people criticize you for having an agenda to convert everyone to Catholicism.
7. Dejected – Does anyone care about this? Am I crazy? Hormonal birth control really isn’t that bad, after all. The amount of hormones are minor compared to the xenoestrogens from our environment. And some people need it. Ok, fine, I’ll stick with my charts but I suppose I’ll just be here in the corner – all by myself.
8. Acceptance – Ok so there’s still a criminal lack of education on fertility awareness. We’ve sent men to the moon, we have devices that fit in our pocket that connect us with virtually anyone in the world, yet the majority of people have no idea what a woman’s fertile window looks like. The fact that women see cervical fluid and think that it’s an infection is a huge problem espoused by education and society. So maybe FAM will never be the popular choice – but women and men should still know what a fertility chart is. When we get educated on how to brush our teeth, to wear deodorant and wash our face, we should learn that ovulation and periods happen – regardless of the family planning component. So I’m not crazy. I’m just the minority. And there are women who are eternally thankful for FAM. I’ll keep my blog, keep my books, keep making my movie. If women discover FAM and want to start the journey, I’ll be there in a heartbeat cheering them on. I’ll still fight to help the women who want it. Because FAM isn’t always easy and those women need all the support they can get.
So maybe your story is a little different. But that’s mine.”
Discernment is a word Christians often use instead of “making a decision” or “picking a choice,” although it means more than that. Discerning something means taking the choice to prayer and asking where God is leading you. Taking time to pray over a decision instead of shooting from the hip is vital for larger, more important decisions, like which job to take, whom to marry, or whether should you go on a mission trip. In those situations we want to ask God what he’d like us to do. And for that, here’s a handy guide.