Women and Romance

September 19, 2014

Picture cred

I have a secret shame and it’s called “19 Kids and Counting”.  

I’m a big fan of the show.  Don’t judge me - there’s just something so intriguing about the private life of a family with 19 children, and even more so now that the older daughters have started courting and marrying young gentlemen.  I find myself waiting impatiently for the next episodes to come out because Jill’s courtship with Derick and Jessa’s with Ben are so adorably sweet.  They side-hug.  They go out on dates.  There are candlelit tables and jacketed dinners.  There are flowers and invitations and hats off for the women.  It’s all very romantic, even in spite of the fact that there is always a chaperone (the couple is never really alone together before they are married).  

And despite my slight discomfort with a few of their ideologies, I find their way of navigating the highs and lows of love and marriage counter-cultural and refreshing. You might laugh but it seems like the Duggar ladies are the only ladies these days that have REAL relationships, at least within pop culture.   There are beginnings and ends to each stage of their relationships – usually accompanied by a conversation with Jim-Bob and Michelle (the parents) – and then appropriate changes in behaviours from the couples themselves.  “Getting to know one another,” means the ladies get to talk more often with one man than they might talk to other gentlemen.  “Courting” means side-hugs, chaperoned dates and more talk time.  “Engagement”, for Jill and Derick, meant they could add holding hands to the mix.  And marriage means everything else.   There is no ambiguity or doubt as to what the lady or gentleman thinks or “where they’re at” in the relationship.  He states an interest to her father.  If she complies, they move forward.  If she doesn’t, they don’t.  It’s straightforward, simple and it takes the angst out of getting to know someone so that you can - you know – actually get to know someone. 

Yet the world at large has a real hatred for the Duggars.  Even a preliminary look at major news-site com-boxes turns up a surprising amount of hostility and malice for the family, their life choices and a special disdain for their “antiquated and archaic” approach to dating.  And it’s not surprising.  Since love has become synonymous with lust, there is no longer a need to get to know someone – to date or court or romance a lady.  Why bother?  If jumping into bed with them is all the knowledge you need, dates and romance are unnecessary, redundant and expensive.  I imagine watching a couple like Jill and Derick put the sexual aside for their time of courtship, for the untrained eye, must be like trying to communicate a happy feeling to a Japanese Monkey in German - foreign and ridiculous.   

But unfortunately the idea that romance is unneccessary is a prevalent one – and it’s not doing women (or men) any favours.  In fact, I’m noticing now that Generation Y (also called “Millennials” - referring to those born between about 1980 and 2000) is beginning to bemoan the consequences of their lot in life.  The worst part is that they’re not even sure why they’re so darned unhappy; they just know that something’s amiss.  This woman, especially, can’t figure out why there’s no more romance.  There aren’t dates or jackets for dinner anymore.  There’s no door holding or handholding or invitations or flowers or courtship.  There’s little more than a “hey baby, wanna hook up”.   Romantic, eh?  She laments the fact that men don’t ever take the initiative, that they care very little for the women they’re interested in and that they believe women to be replaceable and utterly forgettable.  Dating, in this scenario, means the women must do everything the man demands of her or he will simply move on to the next woman who’s willing and able (and the writer implies that there is a large pool of women from which every man can draw).   Of course, she blames men (and their mothers) – who wouldn’t – for the pitiable situation in which she finds herself and then ends her thoughts by citing a study from the UK, implying that men are immature little jerks that couldn’t approach (or respect) a woman “with half a brain” if they spent their whole life trying. 

I don’t think she could be more wrong as the blame cannot possibly belong entirely to men.  Masculinity and Femininity are so interconnected that if one is failing, the other is sure to be close behind.  Fulton Sheen once said that the “level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.”  In other words, as Sheen points out, “the nobler a woman is, the nobler man will have to be to deserving of [her] love.”  If men are messing up, in one sense we have only ourselves to blame.  Women have the cosmic ability (and responsibility perhaps?) to set the standard for our relationships.  I’m not talking about controlling a man’s life but rather I’m talking about a woman’s responsibility to call her man on (or back) to higher morals and principals, to the transcendent truths that should be on his mind, but for whatever reason, aren’t.  We’re beautiful to behold, ladies, mesmerizing even, and that beauty is hopefully joined with a sense of propriety and morality that we must hold on to and cultivate – and then help our men to understand.  Perhaps we won’t change the culture at large by saying no to one guy, but that one guy might remember that one no, amid a hundred yes’s, and begin to wonder.  Wonder can sometimes grow into intrigue, and then a desire to get to know a woman.  And if the man has a healthy dose of humility, that wonder can grow further into respect for a woman, if good explanations are given and unwavering boundaries are set.  A woman is no longer replaceable or forgettable, but rather becomes much beloved and admired.   

And is it really surprising that men don’t take the initiative?  Really?  Feminism has done it’s worst in the realm of masculinity and femininity and has beaten down and ridiculed any man that puts himself forward as chivalrous or noble. This attitude is much more pervasive than you might think.  At the school at which I work the young 19 and 20-something ladies often refuse to be walked home when a young gentleman asks them, even in the dark.   The feeling that men with their strength and chivalry are unneeded and superfluous is prevalent, even amongst Catholic young adults.  And after a certain number of rejections, the guys just stop asking.  Men get tired of putting themselves out there and going unnoticed and un-thanked, yet women still want to expect men to continue to do so.  In other words, women do not want men to be men, yet they still want men to be men.  Hmm.  Tricky.  Our culture has had a big hand in this line of thinking.  Watch just about any sit-com that was put out in the last 30 years, shows like Three’s Company and the Cosby Show all the way up to Mike and Molly and beyond.  Men are the buffoons, tripping and lying their way through life.  Women are the all-knowing, all-seeing, patient, forbearing monsters that trick the men into thinking they get their own way and then pounce on them the moment they screw up.  It’s awful really.  I dislike the caricature intensely.   But it’s the steady diet we’ve all grown up with, and unless we’re vigilant about nipping the ideal in the bud, it’s easy to grow up thinking women rule and boys drool. 

I have no idea if Jill Duggar (now Dillard) and her new husband Derick are actually happy, or whether their marriage will last, or whether the way they courted and got to know each other was the “right” way.  What I do know is that their relationship was brimming with respect for one another, with romance, fun, surprises and interesting dates.   More importantly they made concerted efforts to delight and show love to one another, especially on Derick’s part.  I can just imagine how scared he must have been - having to approach Mr. Duggar to talk about Jill is one thing, but having to do it while surrounded by tv cameras?  That would take a bit of courage, but he must have believed Jill to be worth the trouble.   It just goes to show that there really are a few good men left in this world – they’re “still makin’ them like they used to”, Ms. Martin.  The question is, would you recognize a good man if you saw him?   

Sisters pray for one another

September 10, 2014

I had a lovely, cozy chat with a friend recently. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? Yes, to be sure it comes with its dangers and evils, but if we’re careful about how we use it, there are also many benefits, such as the wonderful ability to spend time with someone who is actually 415 km away.

We are girls, this friend and I (well, women, actually, as we are grown-ups, but ‘girls’ sounds friendlier and less theologically portentous) so our conversation ran from the silly to the serious, and from commiseration to encouragement. Having these moments to check in keeps our friendship going – relationship maintenance.

To someone seeing only the surface of our conversation it might have seemed trivial and bordering on gossip at times. We shared about other people in our lives, their interesting news, what they’ve been up to, their difficulties. During that conversation I realized that talking about other people isn’t always gossip.

Gossip is avaricious – it is concerned with gleaning information about others not connected to me in a meaningful way; it delights in prurient details; there is no empathy, no fellow-feeling, no charity. A gossipy conversation is full of exclamations, like: “No! Really?  I don’t believe it! Then what did she say?” The person doing all the exclaiming is stockpiling information, is happy the news is shocking, and is probably delighted that someone somewhere is behaving badly – but even more delighted that she knows all about it.

Here’s how the conversation with my friend went: “Oh no! How terrible! I will definitely pray for them. Oh, poor them!”  As full of exclamations as it was, the difference is easy to spot: my friend’s response was not to ask for all the gory details, but a promise to pray.

There it was – an act of charity, the impulse to help, the response of one loving heart to another in need. Right away I felt the communion we all have as the Body of Christ. Two people – they could be strangers – are connected in prayer through Christ. Though the one doesn’t know the other is praying for her and though they live far apart, God’s generosity is such that prayer is not bound by the laws of time and distance. One benefits from God’s promise to hear and answer our prayers, the other benefits from turning to God no matter how briefly.

Over a meal at Madonna House one evening, the conversation was about the blessing the poor - Madonna House in that instance - are in the world: they provide us the opportunity to give, to be generous, to respond. I think there is a similar dynamic to intercessory prayer in that those who are in need call others to be generous, to respond. If that is true, then it is a good thing to ask for prayer – don’t be miserly! Give your family and friends plenty of opportunity to be generous.

It is spiritually intimate to offer supplication on another’s behalf. We stand before God in their place, holding them in our heart. We may not know the details, but it is as though we had those details in our hands and we stretched our hands out to God, asking for His help. The beautiful thing is though we may not be able to be specific, God doesn’t need us to be. How many times do we pray for “a special intention”? Those prayers are as efficacious as the ones that give all the particulars. It isn’t the facts that are important, but the act of praying itself.

What struck me during that online chat was how concrete an act it is to pray for someone. My friend could have offered to think good thoughts or to send positive energy my way. She could have made sympathetic noises and laid on the usual platitudes – all of which would have been empty gestures, after which we could have moved on to another topic. But her promise to pray is a real thing, an action with profound effect.  We know God hears and answers prayers. Scripture is full of examples, from Abraham on through to the first Christians. Think of St. Monica praying for Augustine, or the roses of St. Therese. If we pay attention we see examples all around us, so it is no small thing to say, “Gosh, I’m really sorry to hear that person is having a hard time right now. I’ll pray for her.”

Here’s something I learned from a friend I consider to be quite a prayer warrior: when he promises to pray for someone, he does it right away. He doesn’t want to make a liar of himself, and knows he is likely to forget if he puts it off, so he says a quick prayer on the spot. Praying a novena or offering a Mass or saying a rosary are all really, really good… but only if you are able to actually do it! Life gets busy and intentions get waylaid, so offer a brief intercession immediately. If you have the opportunity later to do more, then do so with all generosity. Nothing is ever wasted in the Divine economy.

The heart of a woman is attentive to the needs of others. It is written into us to be concerned about the personal, the relational, the heart. When that instinct goes awry we turn to gossip and banter about the misfortunes of other people. When we are in right relationship with God, that instinct inspires true compassion and charity.

Sisters, pray for one another.



(I wonder if in heaven we will know and be able to thank all the people who have prayed for us. I hope so!)


Desire of the Everlasting Hills

September 3, 2014

Several months ago my husband (The Dean) and I went to a work conference where one of the speakers was a priest from Courage - a group that ministers to those with same sex attractions.  He showed us this movie - Desire of the Everlasting Hills - a documentary about three Catholics coming to grips with God, faith and homosexuality.  Needless to say this movie moved me, deeply.  It's less about sexuality and and more about authentic conversion to Christ in the Catholic Church.  It's about an hour long, but worth every minute because it clearly illustrates the fact that we are all restless until we rest in God - that we're all seeking him every minute even when we don't even know we are doing so. We're all in the same boat as these three courageous individuals who are sharing their stories - regardless of what we struggle with.  Take a look.  You won't be sad you did.


St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

August 9, 2014

"We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her a rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century.  It was a synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting…and also the synthesis of the full truth about man.  All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God" 
~Pope John Paul II at the Beatification of Edith Stein, May 1, 1987

Today is the feast of one of our patrons, Edith Stein or Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  I couldn't let her feast go by without honouring her, so pour yourself some coffee or tea and read about a truly extraordinary woman.  

Edith was born into a Jewish Family on Yom Kippur, October 12th, 1891, the youngest of 11 children. Her father died when she was 2, leaving her mother to run the large timber business he left and raise the children.  Somewhere along the line, Edith says she lost her faith - she "consciously decided, of her own volition, to stop praying", and she went on and studied German and history at university. Although German and history were her fields of study, her real love was for philosophy and women's issues.  Edith was very intelligent and after a short stint as a "radical suffragette", she transferred from the University of Breslau to Gottingen University and studied under two different philosophers, Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler, who both directed her, in different ways, to Roman Catholicism.  

When World War I broke out, she worked nursing typhus patients in an Austrian field hospital where she struggled with the horrors of war and rampant disease.  After the war she took up her studies once again, passing her German and history degrees with distinction, yet continuing her education in philosophy - writing her doctorate thesis on the problem of empathy.  It was during this time that she wrote about an experience which had a lasting effect on her - she witnessed a woman entering Frankfurt Cathedral for a short prayer. "This was something totally new to me.  In the synagogues or protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services.  Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation.  It was something I never forgot."

Not long after that, a dear friend was killed in action and Edith met with his widow, a woman of faith. Edith wrote that the visit was the moment when her "unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."   

It was shortly after this experience that Edith, while visiting the country estate of a protestant friend, picked up the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  She read the whole thing in one sitting saying "when I had finished the book, I said to myself, this is the truth."  

On January 1st, 1922 Edith was baptized into the Catholic Church.  "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14 year old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God."  Immediately following her conversion she wanted to join the Carmelites, but was urged not to do so by her spiritual director and other advisors.  She began accepting speaking engagements on women's issues and wrote, "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I…thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only.  Gradually, however, I learned that other things are expected of us in this world…I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it." 

When she finally realized that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God", she began to seriously approach academic work again, frequently staying at the Benedictine Monastery in Beuron to gain strength for her work.  In the next several years, she looked for (but could not get) a professorship, but wrote several books in the ensuing years.  Eventually she accepted a lectureship at the University of Munster and in and through her teachings, strove to lead all to the Lord.  

When World War II broke out, the Nazi's prevented Edith from teaching or lecturing due to her Jewish background, and she joined the Carmelite Convent in Cologne after visiting one last time with her mother.  When it became apparent to the Mother Superior in Cologne that Sister Teresa Benedicta would be sought out and harmed by the Nazi's, she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands to the Convent in Echt, but to no avail.  Sister Teresa was arrested by the Gestapo on August 2nd, 1942 and, together with her sister Rosa (who had also converted and was serving the convent at Echt) and many other Jews and Catholics, was transported to Auchwitz and gassed a few days later - probably August 9th.  Until the very end, Sister Teresa Benedicta suffered and prayed for her brothers and sisters, both Jewish and Catholic, and Prof. Jan Nota, a dear friend, said of her: "She [was] a witness to God's presence in a world where God [was] absent." 

St. Teresa Benedicta was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and is co-patron of Europe, along with Benedict of Nursia, Sts Cyril and Methodius, St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Catherine of Sienna.   

"Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all.  I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's Divine Providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes."  ~ St. Edith Stein

**Information taken from Daily Gospel Website and Catholic Online

What I Wore (Last) Sunday

August 3, 2014

I got up last Sunday full of expectations of how the day was going to go.  And it didn't go that way.  I did, however, take the pictures, hoping to link up with Fine Linen and Purple once again, but they just didn't go anywhere after that.  So what follows is what I wore last Sunday.  Hope you don't mind….

Dress - Walmart
Shirt - Thrifted Gap
Shoes - Thrifted Clarks
Earrings - I'm forgetting which ones I wore

I've showed you this necklace (and jean shirt combo) before - I bought the necklace full price at Le Chateau, a place I rarely shop.  And the lady at the cashier, as I was paying said, "Oh my, these necklaces aren't very pretty, are they?"  Uhh…right.  That's why I'm buying one.  Because I want to look not-pretty.  

I disagree.  I love the colour of this puppy.  And the style.  It's sort of got a vintage-ish feel to it. 


On an unrelated note, Tess and I will be taking a bit of time off of blogging in August.  We will perhaps post something here or there, but there comes a time in a gal's life where she just needs some rest, and that time has come for us.  So get yourself some good ol' R&R - go camping, or glamping, or hoteling, or have a stay-cation, and we'll catch you on the flip-flop. 

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