I’m more than a number

“I just turned 27 and my friends challenged me to go on 27 dates this year…all with different people.”

“My first challenge to my daughter and her boyfriend was to take a break (taking a break is not the same as breaking up) from seeing each other and date at least ten other people.  I told them they were lucky because Henry and John made me date twenty different women!” – Stephen Arterburn, M. ED., author of Is This the One? Simple Dates for Finding the Love of Your Life.

There seems to be a rising trend in both the secular and more religious areas of dating society to cram as many dates as possible with as many different people as possible into a short period of time.

 Why? To get to know who you really want to marry.

There are many things I can say about this up and coming idea.  Yet to spare you the multiple conversations and choice words, a simply summary would be : I’m more than a number.

Stephen Arterburn founded New Life Ministries, which specializes in faith-based counseling and treatment.  His more common writings include Every Man’s Battle, Every Young Woman’s Battle and subsequent books in each series.
Yet his advice given in the above mentioned newest book misses the mark.  The basis of the multiple dating concept is that marriage is a risky ordeal.  Statistics are in his favor – according to the American Psychological Association, approximately 40-50 percent of married couples in the United States will be divorced.  If this is your subsequent marriage, your chances of a divorce are even higher.

How do you avoid being a statistic?  How do you know for sure that the guy/girl you are wanting to marry is the one?  Can you even be sure?

Arterburn is correct in his assessment that marriage is a huge investment.  In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage by saying, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of of offspring: this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Let’s unpack that definition, since there is quite a bit of the Church’s ingenuity in one sentence.  First, the use of the word “covenant.”  This isn’t just a “contract” – an agreement concerning things for the purpose of a mutual agreement.  If I contract my work out to you, and you hate my work ethic, you can fire me.  You are only held to the contract as long as I do what I promise what I told you I’d do.
No – the sacrament of marriage is a covenant.  Both parties of the covenant are promising to hold up their end of the deal regardless of whether the other person does or not.  If I don’t like how you slurp your cereal in the morning, I can’t back out just because this sacrament is difficult.  
There is incredibly gravity in the two words “I do.” It is forever – the whole of life.  
So yes, there needs to be a sense of commitment and the knowledge of a cooperation with God’s will.  But taking a break from your relationship so you can go date ten other people to make sure your boyfriend is the one?  I’m sorry, no.  Trial relationships?  There is no better recipe for disaster.  Saint Josemaria Escriva had this to say on the subject: 
“Love is a much surer, more real, more human reality.  It cannot be treated as a commercial product that is tested and then accepted or rejected on the basis of whim, comfort and interest.”  
Six of the reasons below are Arterburn’s arguments for on why so-called “Take-A-Break Dates” should be practiced.  Each one objectifies and reduces members of the opposite sex into a product for one to test drive before a sense of commitment can be reached.
Arterburn’s Reason One: “If this is to be the only person you’ve ever dated and you want to avoid the regret of never having been on a date with someone else.”

Call me old fashioned, but I thought that when you made the life commitment to someone in a marriage covenant, your life focus should be on how to get that other person, yourself, and your family to Heaven.  Not to reminisce on what it would have been like if you had went out to the movies with John Smith from your college class.  I can think of no worse way to show disrespect to the person you are with in a relationship.  Instead of focusing on the willing of their good as a child of God, you’re going to “test the waters” with other people?  No.
Arterburn’s Reason Two: “If you have been dating each other so long, the break would make sure you’re not just so used to each other that you’re mindlessly moving towards marriage.”

In no way should the move towards marriage be mindless.  However, if your dating with a purpose, the purpose for which you are dating should be to find a spouse.  I may only be just hitting my early twenties, but I don’t have to time to go out with guys I couldn’t see myself marrying.  What about after you’ve made the commitment to marriage and you get used to each other?  Can you wander around and “test out” other relationships then?  I’m sure Arterburn would answer with a resounding no.  So why should you allow practice for that now?
Arterburn’s Reason Three: If you have some doubts that need to be cleared up before you can move forward.

If you have doubts about your relationship, there are plenty of things you can do.  Ask a trusted married couple for advice.  Look into counselling with your parish priest.  Sit down and hash out what’s on your mind.  Talk to each other.  Take a break from the relationship and do some serious discernment.  But to take a break from each other and go see other people to clear up confusion?  That would only create more confusion.  Is there more than one person on this earth that you can be compatible with and raise a family with?  Yes.  Do you need to go out with each of them to make sure you’re picking the right one? No.    
Arterburn’s Reason Four: If you met someone that just might be more right for you, this is a safe, non-confrontational way to take a break and take the date without deception.

This is probably the worst thing to do to your relationship.  How does this conversation go?  “Honey, I’m not sure if you’re the right one for me.  I want to make sure we’re a good couple, but I’m going to go out with other people to get a better sampling of the buffet.  Oh, and it turns out that I like so-and-so better than you, so I guess that’s it!  We’re not meant to be together.”
Grow up.  If the relationship isn’t giving glory to God and drawing you both closer to Him, then call it out and stop.  Don’t date around under the facade of assuring your relationship status.  That’s not called ingenuity, it’s called selfishness and immaturity. 
Arterburn’s Reason Five: If you feel so confident in your future partner you can take the challenge to prove it is as strong as you believe.

What would our reaction be if a young man said, “I feel so confident in my ability to trust God with my chastity that I’m going to meander around on porn sites to test it out and prove that it’s as strong as I believe.”  

“I’m so confident in my computer’s ability to perform well as a piece of technology that I’m going to submerge it in water, drop it from heights and stomp on it just to prove that it is as strong as I think it is.”  

So if that doesn’t work with other areas of purity and even physical non-animate objects, why in the world would you put a relationship through that?

Arterburn’s Reason Number Six: If you are going to be geographically distant and you want the freedom to at least get coffee or go to a movie with someone else during the separation.  Remember, it is not breaking up; it is simply taking a break.

What happened to good old fashioned commitment?  When being in a relationship meant being in a relationship?

“Well, you’re going to go on an extended business trip, so I figured I’d ask a couple girls out while you were gone so I can have some freedom.”

Break up with him now, honey, he’s bad news.
How can we expect marital fidelity when “taking a break” is encouraged when you’re dating?
Both genders need to have more respect for themselves than this “take-a-break” dating allows.
Girls need to realize that they are not a number.  If a guy asks you out just so you can be number five of his ten dates necessary to find out if his girlfriend is authentic, back away slowly.  No, run away quickly.  If you think you need to go on twenty-seven dates just because you are twenty-seven, you’ve missed the point.  If anything,  as a young woman striving for holiness,  you should be so lost in God that a guy has to get closer to God to get closer to you. 
Guys need to take the initiative to man up in this situation.  Consciously evaluate your relationship and see if it is glorifying God and making you both better versions of yourself.  No?  Then it’s time to move on.  Not take a break, move on.  
Want to ask a girl out?  Then do so only if you can see yourself marrying her. 
Can you find a long-term God filled relationship with the right person?  Yes.  But it is never found by test driving and objectifying other people.  
God bless,
Chloe M.  

What would you like to drink with that book?

The Book:

During the college semester, there aren’t many times I get to sit down and read for fun.  Typically my reading list consists of

textbooks, textbooks and textbooks with a side of textbooks sprinkled with textbooks.  Granted, as a history major, these books are often really quite interesting and enjoyable for me.

But this week I got time to go behind my textbooks’ back and read some non-school assigned reading.

Don’t tell them.

This week’s book selection is The World of Downton Abbey.
This TV show is the bane of my existence at this point – it’s constant presence and my needing to catch up on the latest season frequently takes precedence over my always-due homework.  Curse you PBS and your addictive ability. 

So this book is a happy medium of being able to sneak into the wonderful world of Downton while still appearing to be studying.  I have a feeling that habit is going to kick me soon.

The Drink:

You will never love coffee as much as you do in college.  There is something about sleep deprivation that increases the flavor of this beverage like none other. 

My favorite coffee and the selection that graces my Wednesday afternoon is a caramel macchiato.  My sister lovingly makes fun of me, since this drink is essentially just “stained milk.”  Say what you wish, barrista sister, but I’m addicted.  I need to find a cheaper addiction. 

The Thoughts: I was at a young Christian adult group this week and the speaker had some pretty powerful thoughts.  She mentioned how young adults in general need to stop throwing themselves headlong into dedication to a non-reality. 

What does this mean?  Basically, if reality TV, Facebook, video games or fiction are taking over your life, than you need to reevaluate.  You’re missing out on incredible opportunities to connect with the people you pass on the bus, sit with in class or work next door to.

And while I completely agree, a very small part of me will forever be matchmaking the characters in Downtown Abbey.  Come on, Mary.  Go out with Charles Blake already, will you?

The Most Misinterpreted Man in the World

According to media sources, the Catholic Church is starting to support Homosexual unions and, most recently, Cohabitation

And who said so?  Pope Francis….

How do Catholics respond?  Will Pope Francis really change things?  What do you say when someone tells you that it’s about time the Catholic Church got with the times?

There are wrong ways to go about responding.  It isn’t advisable to go into Catholic beast mode and slam the breaks on the conversation with phrases like, “Pope Francis didn’t say anything like that at all,” “Is there anything that Pope Francis says that isn’t misinterpreted?” or “The Catholic Church is with the times, the problem is that you aren’t with the Catholic Church.”

Prediction: The conversation on Pope Francis that you are having will not go so hot after that.

Yet if the media and popular belief commentary sways to the side of misinterpretation, what is a Catholic to believe?  How does one go about finding out the authentic core of the Pope’s message, and perhaps even more importantly, communicating the authentic statement with Christian charity?

Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers said, ““Anyone who has kept up with what Pope Francis has said and done so far will realize that we have a much more interesting pope on our hands than the caricature given to us by CNBC and Fox News.”

And oh how true.  Let’s peel apart the above-mentioned two issues and delve into the heart of Pope Francis…and what he really meant.

Gay Marriage:

The quote/action: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers.”

The assumption:  The Catholic Church now believes and teaches that those who wish to participate

in same-sex marriages are completely fine and justified.  How can Catholic judge them for wishing to love each other?

The truth: As explained in an earlier post on this blog, the Catholic Church through her teachings on Theology of the Body states the four characteristics of love as such: Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful.  Gay marriage cannot fulfill these obligations of true and authentic love. 

So what did Pope Francis mean?  That those who struggle with homosexual attraction are called to the Lord, and are called to chastity (Side note: People with opposite-sex attraction are also called to chastity.) All people are called to chastity, and all people who are striving for chastity deserve encouragement, since believe me, it’s a tough virtue to strive for. 

What Pope Francis did not say was that those who have same sex attractions should indulge in this temptation and act promiscuously.   Being attracted to members of the same sex?  Not a sin – a temptation, yes, but not a sin.  Acting sexually on those desires? Sin. Why? Objectification of the human body, damage to the eternal human soul. 

Pope Francis is echoing what the Church has always held as her teaching regarding same-sex attraction.

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.


The quote/action: Actually a very recent occurrence, Pope Francis married 20 Italian couples, some of whom were cohabitating before their marriage.  One of these couples had a child before their marriage.

The  assumption: The Catholic Church believes that it is okay for couples to cohabitate before marriage. 

The truth: Were the Pope’s actions radical?  Perhaps not as much as we suspect. In fact, according to the Church’s teachings on marriage, the best thing for a cohabiting couple (especially a couple raising a child) is to get married.  The graces from this sacrament help tremendously with marriage, and the child benefits from having a stable household with both a mother and a father figure.

In a communication meeting with the priests of Roman Parishes, Pope Francis stated that, “Sanctity is stronger than scandal.”

The Bishops of Pennsylvania back in 1991 pointed out in a letter to engaged couples that, “Countless studies have shown that couples who live together before marriage have higher rates of divorce and a poorer quality of marital relationship than those who do not.”

The Church does not condone cohabitation for many reasons – but not one of them is out of hate. 

True love, authentic Christ-imitating love, does not shirk away from responsibility.  It realizes it faults, picks itself up and begins to soldier on the journey towards Heaven. 

True love doesn’t mean doing everything possible to avoid hell and damnation.  On the contrary, it is wanting only Heaven for the other person.  It is an act of self giving, not a feeling.

And the decision to commit to the sacrament marriage is commendable and praiseworthy.  It may take trials and trips to come to the realization of the sheer gravity of this decision.

So ultimately: Remember charity.  Remember that people do not care about what you know until they know that you care. 

Who better to give advice on this subject than the first Pope?  I’ll leave the words of Saint Peter with you:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30440A" data-link="(A)”> to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30440B" data-link="(B)”> that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  ( 1 Peter 3:15 )

God bless!

Chloe M.

His Pursuit

Imagine being with the person of your dreams.  He or she is wonderful. He know how to make you think, but not feel unintelligent around them.  She is beautiful, and never forgets to tell you are attractive to her as well.  He make you laugh, but can be serious when the situations calls for a well-rounded perspective.

Not only loves you – but likes you.  Has made the active decision to be with you totally, freely, faithfully and fruitfully.  You’re always on his mind.  She thinks about how every decision that is made will affect the both of you.

If relationships could be measured by the amount of time spent putting someone else before oneself, this relationship would be a ten out of ten.

Tremendous Lover

Then you ruin it.  You do something unbelievably selfish, burn bridges, and then say it wasn’t your fault.  You didn’t trust them.  You thought you could do better alone.  They don’t know everything.  They don’t know who you really are and what you really need.

Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,

But it doesn’t matter.  They still love you.  They spend night and day figuring out how to love you back. How to save you from the mess you created. How to give you chance after chance after chance to come back and be who you were before you fell away.

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy they beat—and a voice beat more instant than the feet— “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

Yet since you walked away, your vision has been clouded.  You begin to question how in the world someone could love you so much after all of the junk you have done.  You’re not worth it.  So you run not only from something that could give you joy, but you shun it.  Hide from it.  Despise it.

You look for that love in things that will not satisfy. Things.  People.  You invert what love is meant to be.

“People are meant to be loved and things were made to be used.  The confusion in this world is that people are used and things are loved.” This quote is accredited to many people, but it rings true regardless of the origin.

Alack, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, save me, save only me?

That doesn’t hinder your lover.  Even though your lack of interest stabs them through the heart, they still want you – and want you to want them back.

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble the, save Me, save only Me?

This is the love our God has for us.  That God has for you specifically. He has loved you with an everlasting love.  Loved you so much that He knows the count of hair on your head.  Which is a fact that is pretty impressive, given the fact that it is your head, and you don’t even know the count of hair on your own head.

He loves you despite your sin – but even more importantly, He wants to love you out of your sin.  He hung on a cross for you, and felt the weight of all your sin as He struggled for breath.  For you.  While you were still a sinner.

I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years – my mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.

He waits for us to come back to Him after we left.  He never moves – He waits with open arms.  He sends signs of His love for us throughout our day.  Rainy nights to help us fall asleep.  Your favorite song on the radio on your way to work.  A friend stopping by for an unexpected visit.

He pursues you.

Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 
I am He whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.”

Will you love Him in return?

Si vis amari ama,
Italicized quotes from “Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson