I’m just a Girl

So I read a blog wherein a woman states that her husband is not her soul mate, but that is cool because soul mates don’t exist. This was shortly after reading an article about Mercy Academy’s anti-fairy tale campaign. At first glance, I can totally get on board with these ideas. I don’t like Disney. I think self-reliance is a great personality characteristic. The trash isn’t going to take itself out after all, now is it?

Before I get too deep into this: whatever I write here is not going do justice to the thoughts floating in my head that a smarter person than I could properly illuminate. (I need to also say that the thoughts aren’t mine, I hope, but those of ancient and modern theologians and apologists.)

There were a number of articles on the Mercy Academy ad campaign and I tried to read most of them, to make sure that I was giving them a fair shake. I imagine the MSM will take this “progressive woman” idea and run with it, just like many of Pope Francis’ statements that have also been taken out of context. The idea of “being a princess” is not something I want to instill in my daughter, when and if I have one. Not because being a “princess” is a bad thing, but because the idea has been made into some kind of cardboard archetype of femininity. It seems to detract from personhood, as though there is nothing else to being a woman than being some “pink version” of feminine, so you can see how this anti-princess attitude might be appealing to a modern woman like myself. After all, “Our message is you are not a princess, you are more.” is exactly correct!

The blog focused on self-reliance as well, from a different but equally important perspective. One of my favorite take aways from the blog was: “My marriage is not based on a set of choices over which I had no control. It is based on a daily choice to love this man…” This statement is entirely true. As is the idea that the point of life is to grow closer to God, not marry a “hott” youth minister who has a million WWJD bracelets. But in this instance the blog left me which the feeling that the “soul mate” has been made into another type of bankrupt archetype, just like “princess.”

The conclusion I came to after reading both, which happened to jump in front of my face on the same day, is that there is an unabashedly American undercurrent of independence emanating from these writings. Independence isn’t a bad thing, after all God himself is the meaning of independent, that is existing of and from himself. We humans are made in the image of God; however, an easily missed reality is that before the beginning of time “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (John 1: 1-2). Before we were made in the image of God, the revealed image of God was relationship of Father to Son manifesting itself in Holy Spirit. This gives a much deeper understanding to: “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27). Man (humankind) is created in two versions: male and female. We are each independently of each other: human, yet each oriented towards one that compliments us.

The woman writing the blog was right to say that our life’s goal is to become more like Christ, and certainly predestination doesn’t mean that God chooses our path. It also doesn’t mean that, as the Deists believe, God watches but does not intervene. Rather, God is always actively seeking us. He doesn’t choose our path and we may not always pick his first option for our lives, but if we turn to seek him, we find that first he was seeking us. I can promise you that my husband was my choice. And just like she said, he was a choice I made when I had other choices. But when I chose him, it was because I was orienting myself toward God. I was open to the path he was placing before me. After marrying my husband I concluded that he was NO coincidence based on my fortuitous choice, but he was placed there to compliment me by a God that had always been seeking me, although I had not always been so open to his advances. He doesn’t complete me, although we compliment each other greatly. Nuns and priests are saving themselves for the true Spouse who completes. But his presence in my life is a work of mercy that continually orients me toward God; one that I would argue was necessarily chosen by a God who is a Father who also knows each child’s particular needs.

This in no way means that the single life, monastic living, priesthood or nunship are bad things, on the contrary! These choices, of saving spousehood for Christ alone, are just that: an engagement in anticipation of the reality of marriage, which is the supper of the Lamb that exists in heaven and Liturgy. Because the religious life saves itself for the Spouse of spouses, it could be easily argued that “celibate” marriage is more real than mine! I am hungry for a renewal of the understanding that marriage is the center of the Church. A plentitude of vocations is a manifestation of the health of the Church’s teaching on marriage. We certainly cannot have plentiful vocations apart from marriages in which life is plentiful, physically and spiritually.

So you can see that although Mercy Academy is totally right to say that we are more than princesses, we aren’t more than princesses in a way that removes our need for salvation. And while that salvation cannot come from an earthly spouse, we must be open to the paths that God places in front of us, because he is in fact always calling us closer to him. Whether our vocation is marriage or the religious life, we cannot do it ourselves precisely because who we are is the image of God, which is family. Focusing on our own self-reliance is a dreaded slippery slope.

After all, Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit to be like God, they were already made in his image! Adam and Eve ate the fruit to be like God, independent OF God, but that path leads to death because it denies the very image of God in which we were created! The image of God is life giving, whether as a Father, a Son on the Cross or the seven Holy Spirits of God, every part of God is relationship.

Stay tuned. I want to get around to why the idea of “soul mate” and “princess” are such a large part of our culture and many other Christian cultures…

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Who is this woman? Who?

The history of the Church is full of symbolism and she herself is referred to as many things:  body, bride, temple, triumphant, militant, suffering; however, my personal favorite image of the Church is the pregnant woman, because she encompasses all these things.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.” Rev 12:1-2

Of course, from a Catholic perspective this is also Mary as ark of the covenant (and there is solid biblical evidence to back this up that isn’t necessary for this conversation) but from the early Church this was also understood as an image of the Church.  Most typological images have a number of meanings, that inform each other and widen our understanding of each aspect, which is also why the Church and Mary can seem often to be two sides of the same coin.  This image works really well for connecting with Protestants, because they join us in seeing this image as representative of the Church.

But in addition to connecting in an interfaith dialogue, this image sums up Catholic tradition and biblical teaching on the Church.  She is pregnant, so of course she must be a bride as she appears in the heavens and there would be no way that a woman in the heavens would be pregnant if she was not also a bride.  She is crowned with the 12 tribes/apostles so she must be a (mystical) body.  But her man child who takes his throne, is “a Lamb standing as though it were slain” (Rev 5:6) or the Paschal sacrifice, so she must also be a temple.

Ok, so cool!  She sums up biblical images, but she also sums up the Church in her various stages as understood in Catholic teaching.  She is pregnant and in pregnancy we can get ultra-sounds of the baby, but the real image of the baby is hidden.  We know that there is a Church Triumphant, but we can’t see it.  We can see the evidence of life in the Church Militant: however, we don’t even see the entirety of the Church Militant! We know it is there, but we can’t see truly the mystery of the Church in its actuality.  The woman is in travail, the Church Suffering, to give birth to the full mystery of the Church that already is but has yet to be shown… a suffering we all take part in as members of the Body, who are baptized in death. In one image all aspects of the Church are revealed. Amazing!!!

I love this image of the hidden Church, in pregnancy.  This really manifests the mystery of God’s love.  Every person has a path.  All paths lead to the Church, because the Church is the bride/body/temple of Christ.  “For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  But we never know where someone is on his path, only God knows each person’s journey.  I don’t even know where I am!!  What a beautiful mystery to know that every single person that we pass on the street is a child of God, that he is calling and our precise role at that moment is to be the light of Christ to that person.  God calls us to be fruitful, which we can not be if we take time to decide first if this person or that is a “Christian.”  We are all called to the baptism of Christ, so as the bride of Christ we are called to imitate him and pour out our lives as gifts for our universal family.  No matter who they are. Ah, one of the many beautiful facets of redemptive suffering and the glory of the cross.

A tidbit from Fulton Sheen:

Since he was known for his generosity, people would often come up to ask him for money, telling him how they were down on their luck. He’d hand them $20. I’d ask him, “How do you know that they’re not putting you on; that they really need help?”

He’d answer, “I can’t take the chance.”

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

World religion classes at the college level are pretty much expected across the board.  I was always struck by how many similarities religions have.  It was, of course, later in life that it occurred to me that this was by design.  God, who is the ultimate reality, has created this reality in which we live.  Our first parents, in introducing sin into the world, ultimately lead us into a great disunity.  God, in his Infinite Mercy; however, continues to pull all people to himself.  In our greatest efforts to define ourselves independently, we are pulled to our points of “coincidence.”

“The number seven was considered sacred not only by all the cultured nations of antiquity and the East, but was held in the greatest reverence even by the later nations of the West. The astronomical origin of this number is established beyond any doubt. Man, feeling himself time out of mind dependent upon the heavenly powers, ever and everywhere made earth subject to heaven. The largest and brightest of the luminaries thus became in his sight the most important and highest of powers; such were the planets which the whole antiquity numbered as seven. In course of time these were transformed into seven deities. The Egyptians had seven original and higher gods; the Phœnicians seven kabiris; the Persians, seven sacred horses of Mithra; the Parsees, seven angels opposed by seven demons, and seven celestial abodes paralleled by seven lower regions. […]  Whence, then, the mystery and sacredness of the number seven?”


I stumbled across this article looking for information relating numerological significance of the number seven to ancient religions.  I was struck recently by a curious “sacred” understanding of the number seven in a non-JudeoChristian religion and it got me to thinking.  Or researching, really.  Why on earth would it be that a religion, in no way connected to Judaism or Christianity, have any special significance regarding the number seven.  It’s a number!

“For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.”  Romans 1:20

“God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities. And furthermore, wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation – he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning.  He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church 54

Of course!  Family, the domestic church, the microcosm of society,  the most basic human necessity.  Family is what we are and ultimately where we are headed.  It makes perfect sense then that a covenantally significant number, such as seven, would be an area of commonality between religions.

The Holy Spirit is so awesome.

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Killing Me Softly

The Pope elaborated on the concept quoting from the first letter of St. John 3, 15 in which he says: “He who hates his brother is a murderer”. We are used to gossip – he continued – “but how many times our communities, even our families  have become a hell in which we criminally kill our brother with words”.

A community, a family – the Pope continued – can be destroyed by envy that sows evil in the heart and causes one to speak badly of the other”. In these days, Pope Francis said, days in which we are speaking so often of peace, we see the victims of arms, but we must also reflect on our daily arms: “badmouthing and gossip”. Every community – the Pope concluded – must live with the Lord and be “like heaven”.

“So that there is peace in a community, in a family, in a country, in the world, we must be with the Lord. And where the
Lord is, there is no envy, there is no criminality, there is no hatred, and there are no jealousies. There is brotherhood. Let this be our prayer to the Lord: never kill your neighbor with words”.

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/09/02/pope_francis:_“words_can_kill”/en1-724883  of the Vatican Radio website

It’s always the little things, isn’t it?  Like Naaman the leper who isn’t satisfied with a few dunkings in the river.  He would have preferred some heroic act of faith and almost didn’t bother with the sevenfold scrubbing that ended up healing him of this scourge.  (2 Kings 5:1-19)   We always feel slighted when the task we are given seems too much like St Therese’s Little Way.  A little death to self here, a little lifting someone else up there.  Sending a giant bunch flowers after a fight seems to be so much more popular on television then making daily little choices to love.

Of course, no family is perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve seen good examples and poor examples in my life.  Happy families always seem to have parents who treat each other with respect.  These parents seem, almost out of habit, to check in, compliment each other and maintain harmony on a daily basis.  Not so happy families seem to have parents that disparage each other, behind closed doors but also in front of company.  Sure, they make up after a while, but it is a cycle that becomes as habitual as the building up of the other parents.  These are always little daily choices that add up, either way.

The weird thing is:  who on earth would want to be mostly irritated most of the time?  But starving the ego is probably one of the hardest things to do even though it is one of the slightest things one can do AND the best thing to do to harmonize a relationship.  Little everyday choices to “be subject to” or “love […] as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her” (Eph 5: 22-25) both build up, by cultivating trust.  Trust (action based on belief in the relationship with another) is just another word for faith.  My husband is encouraged to make any and all decisions for us (aside from where to eat dinner) because I trust in his love.  Does that mean he always chooses what I would prefer he chooses?  Heck no!  But it does mean that when he chooses something that I’m not so thrilled about, I am happy to go along side him anyway, because I know that he picked what he thought was best for us.

Communication is key.  Honest communication, like honest prayer.  I have a hard time telling God what I want because I feel like he knows already or I should just want what he wants.  Often, it’s mainly that I don’t always know if I’m heard or I wish I was a lot more humble than I am.  However, getting back into a routine of daily prayer has certainly opened my eyes to how well I am heard.  Not because I get what I want, but prayerful communication builds up trust through repetition.

It is never all sunshine and lollipops, but as a good friend said:  “It has to start with someone, why not me?”  The starting is the hard part, but the “obedience of faith” (to steal from Paul) can yield great results!

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From: Called to Communion

A Call to Unity

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Hey, What’s The Big Idea?!?!

Marriage.  Everyone is talking about it.  “People aren’t getting married anymore!”  “We only want traditional marriage!”  “Let’s have marriage equality!”  “50% of marriages end in divorce!”  Marriage, marriage, MARRIAGE!!!

What does marriage matter?  When I was younger I would have said: Thems the rules! That obviously waaaay over simplifies the issue and frankly, I was good with catechism (all Baltimore, all the time), but I wasn’t really taught that all things are really the same in different ways.  By that I mean, all “rules” to me seem to have a common underlying purpose which is Trinitarian communion. Everything springs from and pulls to that. (Also, I guess that answers the question on a grand scale as well.). Today I would say:  What does marriage not touch?  Give me one thing.

So why does the Church have such specific rules about marriage? *ahem*  everything.  I hear this a lot from friends. Legalism. I think the other day the Pope talked about ideology, but perhaps legalism would have been a better word. I read the article, then reread it thinking legalism instead of ideology and it made a lot more sense (personal opinion.)  Perhaps with the modern negative subtext of ideology, it works just as well.

There is a lot of speculation about the new possibilities with pastoral care for marriage and individuals in special situations from the upcoming Synod. Having taken a pre-Cana class (in the past three years), I can attest to the continued need for a deeper understanding of the theology of marriage.  I learned about money management as it pertains to sharing, NFP and personality types and appreciation.  What I didn’t learn was anything about why on earth all of this “til death do us part” actually matters.  I don’t even think that I’ve heard this deep theology explored in homilies.

Ideology (negative subtext) or legalism effectively kills the heart of a living thing, by reducing it to an equation. Does this means rules don’t matter?  Quite the opposite.  I understand the desire to educate persons looking to marry or needing care with marital problems as to the “Catholic way” of being in a sacramental marriage, but this is not what reaches the heart of people.  This is not what causes a person to ache for unity.  What reaches the hearts of people is WHY the Catholic Church has so many “rules” about marriage.  Rules mean nothing without a why and make any attempt at how nearly impossible!

The institution of marriage is of no small importance.  It is in fact (and holy orders should be included as a type of marriage) the closest thing to giving one’s life for one’s friend (short of martyrdom.)  As Paul states this gift has the same salvific effect:  “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband” (1 Cor 7:14)  Why:  “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting.” (John 12:49-50)  How:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it:  That he might sanctify it” (Eph 5:25-26.)

So the heart of marriage is conforming to the Trinity, as Christ said:  “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)  And the Trinity is what we are created to participate in:  “And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God” (Rom 8:17)

So, why does marriage matter?

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Love and Marriage

I’ve got marriage on the brain.  Maybe it is that I’m married.  Maybe it is that I’m going to a million weddings this year.  Maybe it is that the Pope is talking about marriage and the family next year and it is going to be a huge deal.  Maybe it is that I’m in a mixed marriage and I am starting to understand the gravity and sadness of the Reformation.  But honestly, it is probably all of those things.  Also, Brant Pitre’s new book about Christ as the Bridegroom is coming out next March and I can’t wait for that either.

Whatever the specific reason at the time, this is an issue that makes up most of my perspective.  For this reason, most of my dabbling into theology and apologetics is from the angle of:  all roads lead to the Catholic (universal) Church because it is the Church that was instituted by Christ.  This however, doesn’t mean that anyone needs to badmouth other theological systems or be disrespectful of God’s time in bringing people into full communion with him.  Why?  Because if priests, bishops, cardinals and popes represent Christ the Bridegroom, then every single person is part of the bride that they are seeking.  Coming from a number of divorces in my own family, understanding that everyone has some guilt and love heals all wounds, covenant triumphs all.

So I’m thinking about the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the family (Oct 2014) and how timely it is with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (Oct 2017), and I ran into this PDF:   Conflict to Communion, which is a report of the Lutheran (Roman) Catholic Commission on unity. Of course, I have a toddler, so what could be better to read from 11:30-midnight. It was a pretty engaging half document (I couldn’t stay awake for the rest) pointing towards an increasing desire for visible unity as a Church.  This is something I can really identify with.

So, was the Church meant to be visibly united?  I mean from the start.  Were we all meant to always be one?  Is there on?  Is it invisible?  What I can tell you is this, I never tire of seeing my husbands wedding ring.  And no fighting is ever more important than that he is my husband.

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