November 25, 2015
*The following post was written by Ksenia, one of our monthly contributors here at TFG. 

The first date, even the first few moments, can give you a pretty good sense of where things are going to end up. But sometimes, life throws you a curve ball that you really weren't expecting.

Currently, I'm dating Law School. Well actually, I'm dating an incredible guy. Perhaps a bit of both.
I'm discerning jumping into the commitment of law school, which is a big financial and time investment. I've been humming and hawing, I'm signed up to write the LSAT in a few weeks and I'm studying and praying.

Law school isn't something you decide overnight. How much more should we discern marriage?
The point of dating is to get to know someone, discern whether you connect, agree, or can grow from disagreeing, thrive, and continue unfolding the adventures ahead for the rest of your lives. Did you get that? THE REST OF YOUR LIVES! (If you're married and reading this, don't continue, these are the rambling thoughts of an unmarried woman who doesn't really understand marriage).

Dating isn't marriage, it's not pre-marriage, it's supposed to be a time to discern God's will. Sometimes it seems that in Catholic circles young women tend to think long term right away.

The end goal is marriage and it should always be at the forefront of your discernment, but starting to date someone doesn't mean you will automatically marry them. Also, it doesn't mean that you need to talk about what to name your 15 children, where you will live, and plan ever inch of your life until 85.

Getting married isn't a race! Learn how to be friends with guys, have fun with them and enjoy their company for its own sake. After dating for a while and when you're married, you'll really just be hanging out together. It's not about the whirlwind romances of Hollywood. I'd argue that the ending of those fairy tales is found on every magazine at the grocery store with the exclusive on this weeks break ups and that divorces.

Enjoy dating, meeting new people and getting to know them casually before jumping into dating. And even when you start dating, talk about the next year not the next decade. Sometimes dating can be a discernment of whether you should more seriously date.

About 7 months ago I started thinking about law school. So I started reading about law programs, then after a couple months I spent $20 on an LSAT study book. I think dating is similar, as your relationship progresses you invest more of your time, money, and energy into it. I'm not making the $200,000 (yikes) commitment to law school overnight.

It starts with dipping your feet in with a casual date where you begin exploring your one on one friendship that can potentially blossom into a relationship. Don't go around kissing all your guy friends. If you're interested talk with them, hang out with them with other friends, maybe go to a museum, start a project together, or try out a new coffee shop.

Going for coffee does not and should not end in "I do"; it's just sharing some liquid that keeps most of North America running.

Girls slow down, enjoy yourselves. I know we already have a Pinterest board of our wedding just waiting for the right guy to walk in, but do yourself a favour and don't show him your colour ideas after two weeks. 
November 15, 2015

I waited 10 years from the time I knew I wanted to get married until the day I got married. 

I’ve been waiting over 10 years to have a child.

I’ve been waiting two weeks for a certain package to come in the mail.

I’ve been waiting for a month (and will continue for several more months) for warmer weather to come.

I’ve been anxiously waiting for 24 hours now to hear if a dear friend will pull through a dangerous injury she sustained yesterday. 

I’ve also been waiting for two nerve-racking days to hear if the offer on the house we want has been accepted. 

Sometimes it seems as if life is merely a series of events, with periods of fear and nothingness in between...a “quick succession of busy nothings” (to quote Jane Austen’s character Fanny Price in Mansfield Park).  Sometimes we know exactly what we’re waiting for, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes we’re surprised with something unexpected we never wanted, and have to accept a new reality or wait until “normal” comes back. 

The problem is that the best parts of our lives happen while we’re waiting – while we’re moving from something to something else.  And if we’re not aware of the Lord’s work in our lives, of our surroundings, or if we don’t keep a positive outlook, we miss a whole lot of important, saint-making opportunities in the ‘down time’. 

In his talk entitled “The Spirituality of Waiting”, Fr. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest who lived in Canada, underscored the importance of active and open-ended waiting. We think we know what we want, and we tell God just as we see it.  And then it seems as if we can do nothing but stand by idly and wait.  Not so, says Nouwen.

November 6, 2015
*The following post was written by Ksenia, one of our monthly contributors here at TFG. 

Oh no, not another modesty article. Why do people feel the need to push their prudish perspective down my throat? Like really, I'm not sleeping around, nothing is hanging out; I try to keep it classy. But alas, it's never enough.

We're always told to dress appropriately, but perhaps our modesty goggles should focus more on actions and emotional purity. You can always change into a more modest outfit, but it's much harder to change our emotional habits, and impossible to do it as quickly as simply putting on a different dress.
I can remember being told by my father on multiple occasions to go back to my room and change my outfit, sometimes being instructed to bring back a particular article of clothing which would go straight into the donation bin. I would get so angry, so offended, hot tears would stream down my cheeks and my day would be ruined.

Looking back, I think that the most concerning of those exchanges was not the clothing itself, but my attitude to honest correction. How often are we offended and angered by a person's well-meaning comments? Sometimes we need to swallow our pride, but I think we often need to check that we are truly being charitable when pointing out someone's immodesty to them.

Modesty is an intensely personal matter. It is the proper veiling of our most private and vulnerable selves, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. We don't want people telling us what what we should regard as private. It's demeaning that someone else thinks that they know better than you what is most precious and hidden in your very being.

I think that we all get so offended when corrected in the modesty area because it's like being told you're committing a sexual sin. It's personal and intertwined with who we are. Although we should evangelise and lead our brother's and sister's to holiness, we should consider that commenting on someone's modesty is like commenting on their sexual habits. We should point it out to those with whom we have a close enough relationship to comment on such sensitive matters.

I'm not here to say that a hem length or dress style is the cut-off for modesty. On the contrary, I see clothing as a very minimal part of the issue. I think that we should focus and teach girls and women to be modest in speech, in emotional bonding, and in my opinion, social media exposure.

Oversharing is a true modesty concern. Our selfie culture is extremely immodest. Note: taking a selfie and posting it on Facebook/Instagram is not immodest - posting 25 selfies in a day/weekend is when things are getting a little ridiculous. Also, when that is your source of self worth, we're getting worried.
It's not that there's anything wrong with your body, with pictures of your pretty face, or sharing your feelings. They are all beautiful, God made treasures. In reality they are so fiercely special that that they should not be shared with the world to access whenever. Not everyone carries an Hermes bag or a Cartier watch, because few are willing to invest that much into a single luxury item. You are so much more beautiful and valuable than a $100,000.00 piece of jewelry.

Make sure that the people you share your intimate self with (physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially) are making a Valentino commitment and investment to you. Don't ever sell yourself short, you're worth more than any Versace or Dolce & Gabana handbag. God doesn't make Wal Mart people.

November 1, 2015
Still Life with a Skull by Philippe de Champaigne, 1671

God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy.  Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labour and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness.  There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited.  ~St. Ambrose

Many years ago I spent a few months in Europe on an exchange program - in Austria, to be specific.  November 2nd, or All Soul’s Day, is a big deal for much of Western Europe.  In fact, it’s something akin to our Thanksgiving.   Many living away from home travel home for meals and prayers and an assortment of special traditions, one of which includes a trip to the local graveyard to leave candles and flowers on the graves of loved ones who have passed away.  I remember visiting the graveyard on that day years ago.  I’ve never seen a cemetery look so beautiful.  It was a sea of stones, flowers and twinkle lights.

It was a striking contradiction - something representing the permanence and cold finality of death being decorated to look so beautiful and inviting. But it was, and is, a really good metaphor for the liturgical reality we’re celebrating today.   

October 19, 2015

Today, October 19th, is the feast of the Canadian Martyrs.  

In the mid 17th century a handful of French Jesuit Missionaries – Rene Goupil, Isaac Jogues, Jean de Lalande, Anthony Daniel, Jean de Brebeuf, Noel Chabenal, Charles Garnier and Gabriel Lalemant - made the harrowing journey from France to New France (Canada) in order to minister to the Huron Wendat peoples of Central Ontario and Upstate New York.  While there were some converts to Christianity, the lives of these Jesuits were fraught with difficulties here in Canada.

Rene Goupil was a deaf surgeon who had volunteered to serve the Jesuit Fathers as a lay missionary in 1639, leaving for New France in 1640.  His work was primarily with the sick and wounded at a Mission site near Quebec.    While travelling to the Huron mission, Sainte Marie, in 1642 Rene was captured by the Mohawk Iroquois along with 40 other Huron and Jesuits, brought to present-day Auriesville, New York and tortured and martyred.  Goupil is said to be the first of the 8 Canadian Martyrs. 

Isaac Jogues joined the Society of Jesus in 1624, being inspired with missionary zeal throughout his studies.  Given a dispensation to cut his studies short, Jogues was ordained a priest in 1636 and set sail for New France, arriving in the village of Quebec in late May.  He was captured by the Mohawk Iroquois in 1642 and tortured, but miraculously lived and served the Mohawk (as a slave) for several years, eventually making his way back to France at one point.  Jogues was again captured several months after his return to New France in 1646, and died on October 18th from a tomahawk to the head. 

Jean de Lalande was a 19-year-old lay brother sent to New France to serve the Jesuit Fathers.  While accompanying Isaac Jogues to the Mohawk Mission, Lalande was one of the group of 40 Huron and Missionaries that were captured by the Mohawk Iroquois and taken to present-day Auriesville, New York.  He was tortured and martyred on October 19th, 1646. 

Anthony Daniel joined the Jesuits in 1621, and in 1632, two years after his ordination, sailed to New France.  In 1633 Daniel joined Champlain in his travels to Quebec, and ministered to the people there for several years, translating prayers into the Wendat Huron language, and teaching young boys.  While at one of the Huronia Missions, the Iroquois launched a surprise attack in 1648 while the Huron men were away trading.  Fr. Daniel, after giving the women, children and elderly general absolution and quickly baptizing the catechumens with his handkerchief dipped in holy water, he took up a cross and walked straight out into the middle of the advancing Iroquois.   Temporarily stunned, the attackers stopped for a moment, before firing on Anthony Daniel and raiding the fort, throwing his body into the burning church.  But Fr. Daniel’s quick thinking allowed for most of the Huron to escape and he was later lauded by a fellow priest as a “truly remarkable man, humble, obedient, united with God, of never failing patience and indomitable courage in adversity”. 

Jean de Brebeuf had been in the Society of Jesus for 8 years before he was sent to New France with Charles Lalemant.  Having an aptitude for languages, Fr. Brebeuf quickly became proficient in the Huron language and worked to translate Catholic prayers and catechism into the native language.  The summer of 1629 brought Champlain’s surrender to two Scottish merchant brothers, and Brebeuf was sent back to France for a few years, only to return to New France in 1633 to continue work in teaching and translating, working towards the singular task of converting the Huron peoples to Christ.  Jean de Brebeuf was captured, tortured and finally martyred on March 16th, 1649, when the Iroquois destroyed the Huron mission village of Sainte-Louis.

Noel Chabanel entered the Jesuits at 17 years old and was highly esteemed for virtue and learning.  He was sent to New France in 1633 but had a hard time learning the Algonquin language, felt useless in ministry and had a strong repugnance for the native way of life.  Despite these things and the constant threat of martyrdom, Chabanel vowed to stay with the Huron until his death, which occurred on December 8, 1649, by what has been described as a “renegade” Huron. 

Charles Garnier was ordained a priest for the Society of Jesus in 1635.  Initially being forbidden to travel to New France by his Father, Garnier eventually made the trip in 1636 where he spent the rest of his life ministering to the Huron peoples.  He was considered the “lamb” (opposing Brebeuf’s “lion”) and was greatly influenced by his fellow Jesuit.  Garnier was killed, by the Iroquois on December 7, 1649. 

Gabriel Lalemant was one of six children, five of whom entered religious life.  Two years after joining the Jesuits, he vowed to devote himself to the foreign missions and eventually arrived in Quebec in 1646.  Little is known about him except that he was of a frail constitution.  He ended up replacing Noel Chabanel at the mission of Sainte Louis, and was captured in the same skirmish with the Iroquois that saw the death of Anthony Daniel.  He was taken, with Jean de Brebeuf, to the nearby mission of Sainte Ignace and tortured and martyred on March 17th, 1649. 

We can learn so much from the examples set by these Martyrs – perseverance, charity, courage, and patience amongst many other virtues.  And each one of them has something a little bit different to offer us.  I myself was heartened to read that Noel Chabanel experienced uselessness in his ministry (what mom doesn't feel unneeded or useless once in her life), yet still vowed to stay with it, and that Gabriel Lalemant suffered with ill health but was devoted to the foreign missions.  Sometimes the stories of the saints come to us so sanitized, almost artificial, biographers sometimes omitting that which would make the person seem real and, in one sense, human.

But there was nothing sanitized about the lives of these 8 men.  The lives they lived in New France were brutal from start to finish.  But it becomes obvious when reading their stories that each missionary was inflamed with that zeal, that unquenchable flame of love for Christ that burns hotly for souls.  It was written that Jean de Brebeuf converted a mere 14 people after 10 years of ministering to the Huron people, but the man never gave up.  He continue to work tirelessly, even in the middle of torture, concerned for the souls of the Native converts.  Oh that we could experience even a drop of that kind of zeal for Christ. 

These 8 martyrs were canonized on June 29th, 1930 by Pope Pius XI.  Their feast day is celebrated on September 26th in Canada and October 19th in the USA and they are (secondary) patron saints of Canada. 



What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here at The Feminine Gift we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. So welcome! Grab a cup of something hot and say hello.


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