Love is More than an Open Door: Chivalry in Today’s Culture

I’m going to make a bold statement that some of you may not agree with.  The modern day gentleman who respects women and values human beings for who they are and not what they can give him is out there.

Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. Because I thought it for so long as well.

That sounds great, but there aren’t any good guys out there anymore. They just don’t exist.  If they’re out there, they aren’t in my life and they probably never will be.  

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  They do exist, and not just in fiction or Hallmark Movie Christmas specials.  Instead, they could be on your campus, in your church, in your family or on your way to work.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver (1864-1943); botanist, agricultural chemist, inventor, educator: But in order to appreciate chivalry as a woman, that means that we have to accept the beautiful gift of a man respecting us.  And sometimes that’s hard for a generation of women who have been told that their body is the only thing that a man wants, and it’s not worth it to have self-respect.

I don’t love chivalry because I’m weak, or lack self-esteem, or simply don’t have the desire to open doors – but because I’m honoring the God-given position that has been given to the men in my life {whether that be my dad, boyfriend, or brothers in their own way} to lead me to Heaven.  Not because they’re better than me, or holier than me.  But because in Ephesians 5, Christ calls men to lay down their lives for the women they love, which speaks of the love story between Christ and His bride, the Church.  Do you know what that love story involved?  Dying.  Stretched out on a wooden beam, heaving for breath, forgiving those who were torturing him, agony and pain.  Out of love for Her.  And out of respect for the amazing plan that God had for Her in the story of the salvation of His people.

Perhaps it is not the chivalry is dead…perhaps it is that we’ve started settling for a lot less.  A quick look onto the Billboard Top 40 Hits right now is a testimony to the deep ache felt by the general population for something more.  Something deeper.  Something meaningful.  

Selena Gomez is sick of that same old, her body has had enough.  Alessia Cara would rather be home all by herself not in this room with people who don’t even care about her well being.  Cam has been sleepwalking, wandering all night, trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right.  And Justin Bieber just wants to know what his lover means when she nods her head yes but she wants to say no.  This culture is looking for a sweeter song – something satisfying.  Yet, ironically, it simultaneously rejects everything that resembles respect for one another as human beings made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father {especially in a romantic relationship, which often sink into utilitarianism} because it’s old fashioned and the future has to have something better in store…right?

so many pictures of holding hands in the car and yet they never get old: Maybe I’m biased.  I am exceedingly blessed to have an earthly father who has loved me from day one and never been afraid to show that through his actions.  I am tremendously blessed to be dating a man who constantly puts my good above his own and makes me so proud of him through the way that he loves me.  My little brothers respect me and honor me in their own unique way – which usually involves giving me a Nerf gun before they start firing.  Hey, to each his own.

Chivalry is so much more than just opening the car door or walking on the outside side of the sidewalk. It isn’t just giving a girl your jacket or helping her carry things.  It would be a great disservice to the men who practice chivalry to reduce that virtue down simply to the fruits of the actions performed.  Chivalry is a state of mind.  Chivalry is valuing a woman’s heart not for what she can do for you, but for who she is integrally.  Chivalry inspires those around it to be more, do more and act with integrity.

                      God assigns to every man the dignity of every woman. (JPII)  

Not just the woman you love romantically.  Not just your mother, or your sisters, or your dear friends.  No, every woman is deserving of respect…especially when she herself has forgotten that she is worthy of a passionate and self-giving love.

Gentleman.  In the amazing and continuously applicable words of Saint Pope John Paul II – Be Not Afraid.  I know, I know, I say that phrase so much, but it is so beautifully encompassing of the point I’m trying to articulate.  There are women who won’t appreciate the gift that you’re trying to give them through respecting them.  Give it anyway.  There are people who will call you old fashioned and tell you to get with the times when you take the time to go the extra mile in any relationship.  Ignore them.  You’re tapping into the greater call of manhood when you respect a woman.  Every woman, regardless of her recognition of the fact, deserves men in her life who respect her as a child of God.  And every man deserves to be appreciated for his effort.  So, for those who don’t recognize your acts of chivalry, thank you.  Thank you for putting our good ahead of yours in a very tangible way.  Please, I beg you, continue to stand against the current of the modern culture and show women the love that they so deeply deserve.

Ladies.  If the men in your life are showing you that you are worthy of respect…value them for it.  If the man in front of you at the convenience store or the classroom holds the door – thank them.  It’s not because you are weak.  I know you can get that door for yourself.  But your brother is stopping and consciously reflecting the love that God has for you as His daughter.  We can’t let that pass us by because we are too proud to say thank you.  The radical feminist movement has ruined a lot for women, but one of the greatest injustices that it perpetrated was the emasculation of the men in our lives.  In their own way, they are sacrificing for you.   Don’t let the vicious cycle of use continue in our world.

On Sunday at Church, the priest who said Mass talked about the inherent intertwining that happens with masculine and feminine spirituality.

                      The strength of every man lies in the heart of the woman he loves. 

The interaction between the two sexes while here on this earth is meant to reflect the love that the Heavenly Father has shown and continues to show us.  Don’t miss out on partaking in that exchange because of pride…on either end of the equation.

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12 Ways to Express Your Love in a Relationship

   We live in a world that reduces love {a beautifully complex process of willing the good of the other above one’s own desires} down to sex.  What a depressing concept – to take what is good, beautiful and, frankly, amazing, and have the audacity to say that the only way you can show romantic love to another human being is through physically giving them everything.

   There are a multitude of ways to touch a person’s soul and spirit without ever using your hands.  Not that I’m in any way an expert, but here are twelve ways to show your love in a relationship uniquely.

1.

Help Them to Christ
Faith is at the core of a relationship that is Christ-centered.
Whether this manifests itself through a stop into the adoration chapel
at the end of a date, or even something as simple as a rosary walk
or quick prayer together before the night ends, you will not
be disappointed when you let the divine author of Love itself
into your relationship.

2.
Ask About Their Day 
The monotonous happenings of week in and week out living
can result in days blending into each other.  Yet a intentional
question of how someone’s day was, or letting them know
that you thought about them while you were away can break
the same-ness of a routine schedule.  


3.

Remember the Little Things 
You know that big promotion that he put in for at work? What about
the new book that she’s anxiously waiting for the release of?  Little
details of someone’s life might seem insignificant, but remembering
the small celebrations and struggles in the life of the one you love
shows an ability to listen and care about them.


4.
Compliment Who They Are, Not Just How They Look
Words of affirmation are a unique way to show affection
in a relationship.  Don’t default just to complimenting someone
on just their physical appearance – although these compliments are not
without merit.   However, you have a unique view into someone’s life when
you are in a romantic relationship, and the time spent together reveals
things about the other person that most may not recognize or appreciate
 as you can.  Maybe it’s the way she laughs or the way he says a certain phrase.
Don’t be afraid to bring attention to the characteristics that you love
 out and compliment them. Additionally, the culture puts an
incredible amount of emphasis on how someone looks, and not
on who they are, their interest or their identity as a child of God.
Don’t be afraid to notice the things the world deems as unimportant –
it’s okay to be counter-cultural.
5.
Spend Time With Them
This may seem like a very simple way to show your affection for
someone, but the reason that today is called the ‘present’ is
because your time is a gift.  Anyone can give gifts, money,
or conversations.  When you give someone the gift of your
time, you give away something you will never get back.  You
cannot rewind the clock – once minutes have ticked by on the clock,
they’re gone – so don’t be afraid to share those with your significant other. 
6.

Read a Book Together

Perhaps this is entirely biased of me – the girl with a stack of books about as high
as she are  that are calling her name over winter break.  But as an avid reader,
there is something incredible about reading a book with someone.
Edmund Wilson once wrote, “No two people ever read the same book.”  The
perspective that another fellow reader can bring to the reading process is amazing.
So whether that is opening up a book on a shared interest or delving into fiction
together, open up the world of conversations
that can be ignited through the pages of a book read together.
7.
Put Their Will Before Yours
So often “will the good of the other as other” is tossed around
when the discussion of how to demonstrate love is brought up.  Yet in
practical terms, what does that phrase mean?  It could be on a
large scale, in terms of relationship details unique to each couple.
Or it could be in the simple things – like letting the other decide what
to have for dinner, or which movie to go see.  Will their good and
desires by putting yourself on the back burner for a while.  The result
is a giving of yourself – which is undeniably an expression of love. 

8.


Write Them Letters
Writing down your feelings for someone is sometimes a challenge
in a world that is filled with instant-gratification communication.
The time it takes to pull out paper and an envelope, put your emotions
into words on a paper, and then send those words, full of meaning,
off in the hands of a postman seems to be a concept of those good old days
we always hear about.  But writing a old fashioned letter can communicate
much more than just the words that you put on the paper.  The time, thought
and surprise of a envelope in the mail (that is not a bill to be paid) is a way to
show your affection to your loved one. 

9.
Try Something New Together
From my own experience, it is easy to stay in a comfort zone in your
personal life as well as in the life of your relationship.  Try changing
things up during the time that you spend together.  It could be a new
activity (the last time you went bowling was sixth grade? Pull out those
shoes and hit the lanes!) or a new restaurant, but change things
around and enjoy the adventure together.
In the words of the wise Saint John Paul II,
“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.” 

10.
Take Interest in Their Interests 
This can be challenging – but while your in the adventurous mood,
take genuine interest in hobbies or favorites of your loved one.  You
weren’t a super hero fan before you met him? Ask him to explain
the latest plot of the comic he’s been reading.  Never tried her favorite
drink? Today’s the day then, friend.  It may not end up being a mutual
interest, but the thought behind trying something new for the sake 
of your loved one goes far beyond the shared experience or interest. 

11.
Put Away Technology
Yet another product of our time, the good old cell phone
can distract incredibly from time spent with your partner.  When
you spend time with your loved one, put technology away and
appreciate the genuine face to face time (not Face Time) you can
spend with the person who you love.  

12.
 Pray FOR Them
So often, the phrase “I’ll pray for you” is discounted.
Never discount the incredible power of praying for someone.
Through prayer, you are able to take concerns, struggles, successes and dreams
and offer them up to Christ.  This way of showing love could take various forms.
Perhaps it’s offering up a Hail Mary for your loved one when you wake up
every morning.  Or it could be remembering their intentions during your Mass.
Whatever way this form of affection manifests itself, there is nothing more
attractive than a lover who sees the significance of the eternal beauty of the other’s soul. 


   And there are my twelve, perhaps rambling and unconnected thoughts.  Don’t get me wrong – physical expression – appropriate to the level of relationship experienced – of how much you appreciate and desire the good of your loved one is an amazing expression of your emotions and decisions.  However, don’t discount the beauty of expressing your love in your relationship with time, words and actions.  You won’t regret it, I promise. 

Give Me a Rose: Why We Swoon for the Bachelor

   In exactly 20 days, the 20th season of The Bachelor will start.  There are two reactions to this news.  You’re either the person on the left, or the person on the right.
                                     WE tv excited not amused the bachelor marriage boot camp

   If you haven’t been around for the past twenty seasons, the premises of the show is that one, {lucky?} single guy starts out with having to choose from a pool of around 25 women to go on dates with.  Ultimately, he selects one of them.  Romantic dates, travels and drama ensue and he gives roses to the ladies in the contest who he can see himself with in a relationship.  The end of the season culminates with a proposal and eventual {probably televised}wedding.

   Which would be great, if it didn’t involve so much drama.  It can be expected of course, but the amount of tears that are shed and hearts that are broken rack up quite quickly as the season progresses.  

Drama. 
More Drama. 
Oh, and over here I found some more drama.  Imagine that. 

                                       
You may think I’m crazy, but I think that at the core of The Bachelor, the producers are drilling into some deep yearnings of the human heart.

Despite the multitude of overly-flirtatious interactions, hot-tubs, and not-so-upright conversations, The Bachelor, and its counterpart, The Bachelorette, taps into a deeper desire for ultimate love and commitment within a relationship.  Our culture is saturated with sex.  Need an example? Just check out the magazine covers in the grocery store.  Today’s culture has told us that a relationship requires sex NOW and commitment way later, if at all.  It’s why cohabitation is becoming more and more prevalent, because the safety net of trying things out is directly correlated to our fear of commitment with one person.

Today’s culture seemingly offers one option – hang out and hook up.  Articles on why people don’t date anymore are run rampant on Facebook.  Culturally, the emphasis has switched from couples to the power that an individual has in their school choice, career path, and ultimately deciding when (or if) they are going to settle down and share with someone else.

The idea of being selected out of a crowd, given a rose, and pursued intentionally appeals to the human heart.  It is intriguing to be seen, found attractive for who you are as a human being, and then be purposefully pursued.  Even a simple thing like someone taking interest in a shared hobby can mean a lot, and being found interesting for who you are inherently as opposed to solely what you look like is rare in the visual world we find ourselves in.

The beauty found in an engagement and marriage – the hopes of relationship reality TV shows like The Bachelor  shows that there is a desire in the human heart for commitment to another, not just interest.  Interest is something that occurs when there isn’t something better to do and when it’s convenient for your schedule.  Commitment is saying you’ll be there, and loving the other as other, not for what they can do for you to return the favor.

Our culture is sick of commitment.  Have you been invited to a Facebook event lately? Long gone are the good ol’ days of “No,” “Yes,” and “Maybe.”  Now you only have the option of “Interested” “Going” or “Ignore.”

Interested? How much more of a non-committal statement can we get?  The next option should be “I’m coming if nothing else better comes up or cooler people invite me to hang out with them.”  Let’s be honest and stop trying to sugar coat it.  Instead of seeing events and opportunities to spend time with people as a chance to connect with another human being on the same journey to Heaven, we’re reducing people down to the pleasure they can bring us.

Not just sexual pleasure in a relationship, but even the pleasure of a good time, fun conversation or instagram worthy shots.

“Treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love.”
– Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

What you’ll see week after week in The Bachelor, as Ben goes through girls and tries to discover in a few short weeks the woman he’ll be asking to discern marriage with him, is that it will be easy for pleasure to get in the way.  And let’s be honest, it’s ‘reality television,’ so there will inevitably be {scripted}drama.  Yet if you are glued to the screen and have a countdown ticking down the days until January 4th, don’t miss out on the deeper message that Ben and the ladies are begging for, whether they know it or not.

“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of Love, not as an object for use.”
 – Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

The Bachelor is popular because our souls were made for ultimate completeness, a desire that can only be fulfilled in God’s unconditional, Agape love for us.  The answer to this ache in our hearts that can only be filled with love is not going to be satisfied here on this earth – even if you were picked out of all the 25 girls and Ben chose you.  You’ve already been seen out of all those who have ever walked this earth and will ever walk it, and God sees and loves you.  And that’s better than any bachelor rose can ever be.  


Pope Francis opened Saint Peter’s Holy Door yesterday to start the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

I’m torn on how excited I am over this celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of unity and forgiveness and joy concerning the faith and our relationship with others and Christ.  

But the idea of the Year of Mercy makes me very uncomfortable. My very twisted human heart does not want to give mercy to others.

I love receiving mercy myself, but giving it to others who have hurt me? That’s a whole different story.  My selfish desires keep tugging at my heart, whispering “No, you don’t have to forgive.  They hurt you.  Remember what they said? Remember what they did?  You don’t have to give that up.  Just let those wounds sit for a while longer.  You need time to work through that.”  
Ironically, I’ll rejoice and happy-dance my way out of confession, singing “A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains”….yet I’ll replay ways people have offended me a thousand times over, and begrudgingly grasp onto the power and control I feel that I have by not forgiving them. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s quote “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness” is re-quoted over and over and over, but the reason for the repetitive aspect of this saying is that the concept is so applicable to the life we’re living. It is easy to sink into routine, comfort and commonality. It is when we leave our comfort zone that our relationship with God become real and active. 

How is God making you uncomfortable today?
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your GOD ask of you but to fear the LORD your GOD, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Christ calls us to love Him with a radical love, especially when it is uncomfortable and when He is calling us to something tough. He is calling us to love Him with all of our heart and soul without even the tiniest bit of us left lagging in desire for His will in our lives and in the lives of others.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves other has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Ultimately, Christ calls us to be perfect as His Heavenly Father is perfect. This does not mean that we are going to be perfect in the sense that there is no way we could be better or develop further in our faith life. Our perfection is found when we are fully alive in the person God created us to be. Fully dedicated to His plan in our life, and willing His will above our own.

But that fulfillment of His call for us means that we have to love others like we love ourselves. We’re made in the image of God, and so are those who have hurt us…despite what we think of them or what they’ve done to us.  Without the beauty of forgiveness, we’re owing others the debt of love and denying ourselves the beauty of perfection in a life lived fully in conjunction with Christ and His plan for our lives. Those who have hurt us are still brothers and sisters in Christ…and no amount of pain that they have put us through could ever nullify that identification. They are worthy of an authentic love just as much as people who are nice to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” (Luke 60:30-35). I’m not pretending this is going to be easy for anyone. Honestly, writing this post is like a knife to the heart that keeps twisting around with every additional word that I type.

Forgiving someone and admitting that I’m holding a grudge means having to admit that I’m wrong. And for someone whose biggest struggle is pride, that is not an easy pill to swallow. 

The extreme irony is that by withholding forgiveness from someone, the person who is really taking a brunt of that hurt is ourselves. We’re piling even more hurt, pain, and regret onto ourselves as a result of our pride. We’re withholding ourselves from the freedom experienced after recognizing a pain but not holding that against another human being who is loved by Christ and redeemed by the cross just as much as we are.
Then there is this realization: Forgiving someone does not mean that everything will melt away in a sea of contentment and peace. Forgiveness cannot hinge on a persons’ reaction or lack of acknowledgement of forgiveness. That’s another direct hit to pride – forgiveness of someone who has caused pain may just be between you and God…there may not be closure. Yet if you’re wanting the offender in your life to come to you, say they’re sorry and accept your forgiveness on bent knee, it’s time for a gut check, because you’re not forgiving for the right reason. Instead, you’re continuing the vicious cycle of control found by holding a grudge and forgiveness over someone.
Forgiveness is not as much of a reaching out to another person for closure here on earth, but instead a reaching up to Christ with an acknowledgement of pain and a cry for Him to help with this burden. You fully forgive someone by not just wanting their good but willing their good.

There is a distinct difference in “wanting” someone’s good versus “willing” someone’s good. Let’s put it into a different context and explore that concept real quick.

I’m a college student, here in my senior year, and as can be expected from a perfectionist such as myself, I want good grades.  I like seeing a well-rounded transcript and I track my success in college, however faulty this is, by the number or letter at the top of my papers.  I want good grades.  But I can want good grades and not get them.

Just like the cat that I’ve asked for Christmas for the past 17 years of my life and never got.  I wanted that cat to be under the Christmas tree and was sure each year that this would be the year of the Christmas kitten.  Nope, not yet.  {Cough, Mom if you’re reading this, there’s still fifteen days to fulfill that wish}  I really wanted that cat – yet even that strong desire did not magically make a kitten appear.

Instead of just wanting those grades, or wanting the Christmas kitten, I have to will it.  Will – an active verb which requires action both in the future and the present.  I will good grades – meaning that I have a goal in mind and I’m going to do what is required to achieve it.  Studying, talking with classmates, being present for class, visiting the office hours of my professor, taking lecture notes and turning in assignments are all ways in which I actively will good grades.

That active “willing” applies to forgiveness too.  You cannot passively say, “Yeah, I kind of forgive them and want their good.”  That doesn’t work – quit with the cop-outs that mean nothing but lip service.  And don’t think I’m blatantly calling everyone else but myself out on this subject – this blog post is written to myself just as much if not more than it is written to be read by you.  

WILL someone’s good – that means action.  The action required is forgiveness. Let it go.  His mercy is His to give, and not your’s to deal out among His children. 
“And the land owner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly.  Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage?  Take what is yours and go.  I want to give this last man the same as I gave you.  Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me?  Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20: 15-16).  
If you look inward, you’ll find that you are just as much in need of God’s mercy and love as the person who has hurt you.  You honestly have more in common with them than you think – you’ve both fallen short of the glory of God and tripped yourself up in sin.  The response to that fall is your choice (thank you free will!) and you can hold onto your pride and implode, or you can give that up and watch the trans formative power of forgiveness in your life.
Do not consider yourself to be the one who has worked in the field better or longer than those who have personally hurt you and are in need of your forgiveness.  Do not wish that the person who hurt you to not be treated with mercy because that is not how you would treat them.  In doing so, you completely discount the fact that God can treat your enemies with the same love, compassion and concern that He treats you with, despite all the times that you have personally messed up.
Quit being jealous of God’s generosity in the life of His children.

Give the gift of forgiveness this Advent and Christmas season, truly celebrate the Jubilee year of mercy in your life, and Be Not Afraid. 

The station that I listen to at work has thankfully not switched over to Christmas music yet, so that leaves us bank tellers dancing to pop music in our down time.  Normally, I’m more of a Folk Music – think Mumford and Sons – or Pop Rock – Ed Sheeran, Ben Rector – kind of gal.  So I’m getting to hear songs that normally don’t even touch my playlist.  Last week, the big song that played over and over (and over and over and over) was Selena Gomez’s new tune Same Old Love.  The refrain is especially haunting.  
I’m so sick of that same old love, that ****, it tears me up
I’m so sick of that same old love, my body’s had enough.
Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love.
I’m so sick of that same old love, feels like I’ve blown apart
I’m so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart.
Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love. 
What if someone told Selena that life, and love, didn’t have to hurt so much?  That there was more to life than just that same old love, and that she in fact deserved and was created for more? And that love, if performed in the manner it was created for, could actually be a beautiful NEW love that reflected the unconditional love of a heavenly Father?

“Purity?” They ask.  And they smile.  They are the ones who go onto marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls.” – Saint Josemaria Escriva 

Love isn’t meant to tear you up, or break your soul, heart and body.  That’s not what love was created for.  In fact, God is the author of love and the creator of your soul in His image, so love is supposed to point back to him.  What? God? Love? Yes – He does have a lot to do with relationships and interactions with other human beings…despite the culture that constantly tells us to keep God out of our relationships and out of our bedrooms.

“God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church 1604


We are all called to a vocation of love – despite what “Big V Vocation” we are called to.  That is the one concept that I find the most beautiful in everything surrounding vocational discernment.  No matter what vocation you are called to, you are called to love.  Saint Therese of Lisieux once exclaimed, “My vocation is love!” And typical Saint Therese, she’s right.  If you’re called to marriage, you get to reflect the love of Christ between you and your spouse.  If you’re called to the vocation of religious life, you reflect the love of Christ between you and Him directly.  If you’re called to a life of consecrated singleness, you get to reflect love between Christ and others.  We’re all called to love..but not the heart-breaking love that Selena pours her heart over.  

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “Only a chaste man and a chaste woman are capable of true love.”  How true – chastity is not something that hinders us from loving freely, but  actually opens the doors for true love to take over.  It’s a matter of perception.  Chastity can be viewed as rules that bind us or opportunities to grow closer to Christ and to others.

So if you identify with Selena and are sick of that same old love, try Christ’s new love on for a change.  You won’t be disappointed.

Holidays as a Couple

Well, it’s that most wonderful time of the year.  (Stop right there before you pull out your Christmas stockings and holly and go read my last post).  But it’s true – Thanksgiving will be here in just a short nine days, and after that, blink twice and you’ll be cleaning up the wrapping paper from your living room. 

Yet for some, the holiday season can become more stressful than necessary due to the s word.  No, not snow.  Sharing.

Sharing the holiday as a couple can be challenging and a new experience depending on how long you and your significant other have been together.  Going through this experience for the first time myself has not been nearly as worrying as I anticipated and it’s for a couple of reasons that I’d like to share with you.

Communication

The way you spend your holidays together starts long before the holiday arrives on the calendar.  Have a conversation with each other about when and if you want to spend the holidays together.  If you’re just brand new to dating, it may be spent differently than if you’ve been dating each other for a while.  You may both have family traditions that happen at the exact same time.  So to avoid the chaos and stress that comes from the holiday season, start talking and opening up to each other about what you would love your holidays to look like together. 
 

Don’t Overload

It’s easy once you’ve talked about sharing the holidays to automatically want to share all of the holiday experiences that you treasure with your significant other.  But if you say yes to doing everything with each friend group, work group, family group, and each other, then you’re going to find yourself with a schedule so packed that you’re going to have to pencil in time to sit down and catch a breath.  While it’s true that the holidays are supposed to be about family and friends and a shared experience, it’s also ok to know what level of interaction you’re comfortable with.  Also take into account each other’s personalities.  If you’re favorite tradition is a loud family gathering with all of your twenty-seven cousins (thirty-three if you count the once-removed ones) and your significant other is an introvert, than it is critical that you don’t overload him or her with the experience.  Which brings us to the next tip…


Speak each other’s language 

I don’t know if you’ve read Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, and if you haven’t, grab a copy and make that your holiday reading goal.  In his book, Dr. Chapman reveals the five love languages that everyone speaks.  Sometimes the problems with couples arise when you simply don’t speak each other’s love language.  Don’t let your excitement over the holidays get lost in translation when relating to your significant other this season – especially if your boyfriend or girlfriend’s love language is different than that of your own.  So, once again, keep lines of communications open with each other and make sure each other’s love tank is full going into the holidays.  It’s stressful enough to be in new situations and interacting with new traditions – but you don’t have to feel out of of place during them if each of you is aware of the other’s needs as part of a couple.

Don’t idolize each other


Just like it is easy to idolize the notion of Christmas and the traditions or rituals that go along with them, it’s also easy to idolize and idealize the person you spend the holidays with.  Although it is incredibly important to appreciate each other and your talents and shared experiences, it is equally if not more important to remember the reason why you are celebrating – which is Christ’s presence in a broken world.  

Turn your joy outward 

C.S. Lewis, you’ve got to love him.  He has this beautiful quote about love and says, Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.”

It is easy to make the holiday about yourself and your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Even when you include family in the celebrations, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-absorption. The way to remedy this is to turn your joy for Thanksgiving and Christmas outward.  Maybe that means volunteer work together while you’re free during the week.  Or maybe it’s taking each other’s little siblings outside after dinner and enjoying quality time with them.  It could be pulling away from conversations about yourself and being interested in the lives of those around you.  In whatever way you choose, make sure this holiday season is not about you….it’s about how you are Christ to others.

So holidays as a couple are not something to stress over – they are something to enjoy.  After all, the greatest holiday experience is to spend the season with those you love.


So start talking, pull out your planner, take a deep breath, pour yourself some eggnog and Be Not Afraid. 

With a Little Help from my Friends: The Need for Authentic Friendship

The culture that we live in defines friendship in very technological terms – especially my generation.  Popularity is based on likes on a Facebook post, instagram picture, or retweets.  Is friendship more than the number on the side of your Facebook profile?  I say yes – but it’s a little more sticky than that.

Sometimes the only advice I was given in the formation of my friendship was “Well, to get a good friend, you have to be a good friend.”  Which, granted, in middle school was what I needed to hear.  But now, especially with college winding down to a close, what I want to define is what it means to be a “good” friend.  What separates my acquaintances from my friends? My friends from my best friends?  My best friends from my soul mate friends?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

There are so many factors that go into the friendships in your life – everything from work friendships to knowing which person will be at the end of the line when you need to chat after a life event.  What factors should go into that sorting process?  Here are my suggestions:

Your Best Mutual Friend

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

Not all of my friends are Catholic, and not all of my friends are Christian – and that’s not a bad thing! I learn a lot simply from the different vantage points presented by each one of my friends.  However, my close, core group of friends are cemented in the commonality of our faith.  The mutuality that sparked each one of my best friendships can be directly pointed to our interaction with each through Christ.

They are the girls that make me a better version of myself – who are constantly pushing me to grow in my relationship with myself, others and Christ – who is our biggest mutual friend.

Your Conversations

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45).

There is nothing I love more than a good heart-to-heart with a close friend.  A level of vulnerability, the ability to admit questions or struggles or even the simplicity of a meaningful and grounded conversation have the ability to strengthen a relationship.  Subjects that are rough to discuss with others are normal fuel for conversation with my close, core friends.  Believe me, I can’t even keep track of how many NFP, Theology of the Body and baby conversations I’ve had with my core friends.  It’s in the hundreds.  Those are the conversations that I walk away from feeling stronger in my friendships.

This is not to discount fun, meaningless conversations over the superiority of pancakes in comparison to waffles. (Pancakes – all the way.  Especially if you cook them mixed with coffee.  Or Dr. Pepper). Or the excitement shared over little things like the newest movie to hit the theater or an adorable YouTube video.  But don’t be afraid to dig deeper in your conversations with your core friends and show what is on your heart.


Your Accountability

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each on looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-5)

There are sometimes when I talk to my core friends that their answer is something along the lines of “you need to be easier on yourself.’  However, there are also times when the line used is “You’re being too easy on yourself.”  It’s an equal balance, but it’s also the ability of an outside source to look at a situation and offer an objective opinion on how to handle it.

It is always easier for me to go to the gym when my little sister knows about my goals.  “Oh, Chloe, it’s Tuesday and you said you were going to go to the gym on Tuesday mornings” is what I need to hear in order to drag myself out of bed and onto the treadmill.  But without her knowledge of my goals, she couldn’t push me.  Don’t be afraid to let your core group of friends in on your goals.  They won’t know what you’re striving for unless you tell them.  And you may be surprised – a lot of your friends may be striving for the same goal.

Your Lack of Masks
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

A core friend does not come help you hold up your mask because the weight is to heavy for you to bear alone.  Instead, a true core friend comes and helps you put the mask on the ground and walk away from it.  There is no need to be ‘perfect’ and true friend will push you (accountability!) to not put the mask back on when suffering arises again in your life.

Friends are people who have seen you at your absolute worst and your absolute best and will still love you not for the sum of your weakness but because of the Father’s love for you as His child.

Your Sacrifice

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the Church.” (Colossians 1:24)

There is something incredibly beautiful about suffering.  The Catholic viewpoint on suffering is radical in and of itself – we believe that suffering grants us an opportunity to unite with Christ on the cross and lessen the burden for others.  There is a beauty that is brought about from the ashes and a sense of peace in the middle of a storm.  Suffering binds us to the cross – but that doesn’t mean that we have to carry the cross on our own.

Not all of us suffer well – believe me, I’m included in that group.  Some deny the suffering they are experiencing, some mask it with ‘joy’ whenever they are around others, yet carry a burden in silence and solitude.  Others snap under the burden and lash out in the anger pent up inside.  Yet a friend who not only suffers with grace but pushes you towards that same mentality is priceless.  A friend who suffers alongside you makes all the difference in the world.

And that, my friends, is all I have.  So, find your core group that pushes you to be the best version of yourself (#MatthewKelly) and let’s get each other to Heaven.  Keep striving, keep building your friendship circles and be not afraid.

In Christ,

Chloe M.

What I’m Drinking: Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” I wholeheartedly agree with him, except in the case of coffee.  With the huge range of fall coffee drinks available, I still tend to end up drinking my dear old friend, the vanilla latte.  There is something about sitting in a coffee shop, listening to live jazz music and sipping one of these gems.

 With that being said, next week’s goal is to branch out a little and try something new.  We’ll see how that goes – I may end up back with my old favorites.  But Oscar Wilde also says that “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.”  Life motto right there, friends.

What I’m Thinking: Sports.  Don’t read this wrong – I am not the definition of a sporty person.  Actually, if you were to look up sports lover in the dictionary, the antonym would be “Chloe Mooradian.”  It could have something to do with the fact that I haven’t played an organized sport since 2nd grade community league soccer, which wasn’t that great of an experience.

I broke my wrist the day of our last game, and I only scored two goals that season – both for the other team, who jokingly said that I was their MVP.

Typical Midwestern that I am though, I love watching baseball.  Out of all the sports that are out there, I understand the concept of baseball.  Hits, pitches, runs, and strikes are all words that I can gladly define.  I don’t have a certain team that receives all my loyalty, and I’ll watch just about any team.  However, I’m also a Kansas girl, and that spells some good news this weekend.

                                                      Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) snags an out on Seattle Mariners' James Jones in the ninth inning during Wednesday's baseball game on September 23, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, let me catch you up to speed.  The Kansas City Royals are a team that haven’t done so hot in quite a while.  Actually, let me throw down some statistics for you.  The Royals were founded in 1969 and as a team, they were pretty decent.  In fact, between 1976 to 1985, the team actually qualified seven times for the playoff seasons.

In 1985, the Royals won the world series and then after that, things took a turn for the worse.  For 28 seasons from 1986 to 2013, the Royals did not place high enough to play in the postseasons.  This statistic meant that the Royals had one of the longest postseason droughts in the wild-card era of baseball teams.  Not a number we’re proud of.

But then 2014 hit – and we all partied like it was 1985.  The Royals made it all the way to the end, playing against the Giants in the World Series, but the crown was not meant to be Royal, and they lost.  
2015 rolls around and here we are again, in the nicknamed oKCtober fall season – and the Royals are again in the final two teams to play against each other in the World Series.  Fans sit on the edge of their seat with bated breath, anxiously waiting for Tuesday’s game  – the first in a seven game series.

This weekend at Mass, our priest had a brilliant quote.  “Am I as excited and energized about winning the prize of Heaven as I am about the Royals winning the World Series?”  How true.  Seats at the Royals games are selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Seats at Mass – the sacrifice where Christ’s body and blood is made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine – those seats are free thanks to the grace of God – and also completely empty on the night of the game.  At a parish near my house, the parish mission on evangelizing and the Catholic faith was cancelled because the event couldn’t compete with the Royals game on television.

What game are we concerned about?  Are we pouring our energy and time into a game as temporary and fleeting as a baseball game instead of putting time and effort into things like our prayer life, the state of our eternal soul, and our relationship with Christ?  
Virtue stands in the middle – a balance between an enjoyment of the world God has given us as well as an eye towards the end goal.  Who are you cheering for?
Enjoy life.  Go Royals, Praise God for every blessing – including baseball, and Be Not Afraid. 

Juggling an Addiction

When I was nine years old, I learned to tread water.  I was an awkward kid (I’m an awkward adult, who are we kidding) so coordination and sports-like activities were not my forte.  I struggled and struggled to pull my head above water as the seemingly endless depths loomed underneath me.  Visions of sharks and fish – who are still my greatest fear – danced in my head as I clenched my fists and pushed to make it just past that one minute mark that the test required.

Eleven years later, I’m still learning to tread water.  Do you know someone who is addicted to something?  Well now you can add one more person to that list  – yours truly.  I’m addicted to busy schedules.  And before you laugh, let me explain what that means.

I hate the quiet.  That may partially be due to the fact that I grew up in a family of ten and noise is normalcy.  I can’t study without a little bit of music playing, multiple conversations going at once do not phase me, and my ears are probably adjusted to the noise levels of a jumbo jet thanks to the joyful shouts of my little siblings.  I don’t know what to do in the silence – I start to go crazy.

The Entertainer by Robby Cavanaugh, 2011.   Only when I dropped a ball, because it wasn't working for me anymore, was I capable of responding to what was going on in the realities around me. I was not being myself, and myself is excessively responsive.: This applies to the physical silence of no audible noise – but also the silence in a life schedule.  I go stir crazy on school breaks and summers drag on and on without a set schedule to follow.  When school rolls around, I take a minimum of 15 credit hours just to keep myself busy.  I start stuffing things into a schedule – cramming my days so full that I fall asleep utterly exhausted at 3:00 am, still upset that everything is not done yet.  And despite that cramming and self-awareness of knowing that my schedule is getting to the max, I’ll still say yes to mostly anything asked of me.

I always imagine myself as a circus juggler, adding more and more balls into my act and seeing how close I can creep towards the edge of dropping them all.  And one by one this semester, they began to fall.  And I began to loose it.

It seemed that everything I was passionate about was slumping.  My school was overwhelming.  My family’s health was a mysterious turmoil.  My spiritual life hit rock bottom and I went weeks without even desiring to pray.  I cried in my friend’s kitchen and poured my heart out to a God whose plan I didn’t even care to understand.  I was drained.  I was walking around campus and my job with a haze covering my heart, making it incredibly hard to be energetic about anything, especially around those I loved the most.

There were so many nights that I crawled to adoration just begging God to show me how to juggle.  How do I balance everything and not disappoint anyone who was counting on me?  How do I keep that ‘It’s fine” mask on as it got heavier and heavier, and people started to glimpse the struggling, broken, fallen me?

And He didn’t teach me how to juggle – He taught me how to let things fall, and then fall into Him myself. 

It was then that peace started flooding into my life like an ocean of mercy.  It was then when I finally was able to stop and listen and not only tolerate the silence, but enjoy it, search for it, yearn for it.

In 1 Corinthians 4:8-9, I was comforted by a God who was by my side even in the turmoil of life’s ups and downs.  I was held by a Savior who knew that my faith and self-esteem and sustainability was shuddering and that it seemed that at every corner was another trial.  I was supported by a God who knew that one more thing that I took on could be that straw that broke my back.  I began to slowly rely on His amazing and unending strength, and realize the frailty of my own heart without Him.

In 1 Peter 5:10, I was amazed at a God who called me to greatness and was going to let me suffer.  Not because He didn’t love me…but because He did.  Who was going to restore me in Himself and His amazing grace and not only help me with my burdens but restore me and make me strong again in Him.

In Zephaniah 3:17 I was strengthened by a Warrior God who stood by me at all times.  He was proud of my desire to be His hands and feet in the world, and knew the ache of my heart and weary soul.  He was surrounding me with a love that did not rebuke, and was rejoicing over me with singing.  

And in 2 Corinthians 12:9 God shocked me. He not only told me that His grace was sufficient, but that my suffering was a way to glorify God.

My suffering was a way to glorify God – it was in my weakness that highlighted and accented Christ’s amazing power that was making me whole and pointing the world to His amazing love and concern and goodness.

Perhaps one of the most quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV sayings is: “The world promises you comfort but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”  

GREATNESS.  Not exhaustion.  Not existence.  But greatness – which comes with a price.  Great lives call you to great challenges and great changes.

It’s okay to not be okay – it’s all right to feel the end of your rope and run to God for the strength to just keep going day by day, sometimes minute by minute.

Here I am at the end of me, trying to hold on to what I cannot see.  I forgot how to hope, the night’s been so long.  I cling to your promise that there will be a dawn. (Superchic[k] “Beauty from Pain”)

Yet it’s not ok to sit in that place of struggle and wrestle alone.  It is there in the struggle that Christ calls us to lean closest to him.  There in the deepest valley He is able to reach us at our most vulnerable points. You never know God is all you need until God is all you have to cling to.

So cling to Him.  Run to His heart.  He made your very being and soul, He knows your deepest desires and dreams.  I don’t know what your struggle’s name is…mine is packed schedules and a fear of silences.  Yet whatever you are struggling with right now, know that He is bigger than the pain.  And He gives you nothing that you cannot conquer…with His help.

Stop Existing.  Start Living.  Break free from the chains.  Be Not Afraid.  

What I’m Drinking: Once again, the amount of coffee that has been consumed this week is borderline addiction level.  I’m averaging a good five cups a day, and that doesn’t count the two cups I usually have at night.  I heard on the news today though that coffee is just as good for you as water, because it is in fact 97% water.  But then they dropped in the line about how this only applies if you drink your coffee with no sweeteners, so that comforting statistic quickly dropped out of the window for me.

The convenient store two minutes from my house put their coffee on sale for ninety-nine cents for any size cup.  That’s a disaster waiting to happen for me – it’s been two weeks since this sale started (which will go ’til the end of January) and the clerks already know me by name and face.

             

So my coffee for the past week has mostly consisted of the above, and I’m not complaining. Coffee for the week and under $10? Nope, not a complaint at all from this addict.
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What I’m Thinking: How interesting is it that everyone puts up a facade of ‘having it all together’ for each other?  We go about our lives with the phrase “I’m fine!” as the response  to anyone asking us how we’re doing, and we may not even have anyone in our lives who really asks us “No, how are you really doing?”

It’s okay to not have it all together – believe me, I’ll be the first in line to say that I am falling apart.  Some days I’m making it minute by minute by the grace of God, held together by Him and a bunch of good intentions.

Yet what is even more amazing than the solidarity found in this day-in-day-out struggle is the beauty of a God who has been through our experiences and has remained steady in the face of adversity, hardship, and temptation.  The readings this weekend were on point for this subject.  The first reading was from the book of Isiah, and check these verses out:

“Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he was put to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”  (Isaiah 53:10-11).

Then, the relate-ability of Christ to our struggles was magnified in the second reading from Hebrews, where Paul wrote,

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confessions.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we,  yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

It’s ok to not be ok.  It’s also highly recommended to draw near to the one who has it together at all times – Christ Jesus.  People will disappoint us.  Friends and even family will come and go, creating ripples in our lives.  But Christ?  He’s the steady one who we can lean on – he’s not going to shift with time, but instead promises to be a presence

So lean on him.  Don’t loose hope or get lost in the struggle.  Go get yourself some ninety-nine cent coffee.  Be Not Afraid.