It’s Human Nature 101: We all have a desire within us to give love and to be loved in return. And while we may seek to fulfill and express this desire in many different ways (some ways healthy and good for us… many twisted and damaging to us) it usually all comes back to this basic principle. We’re human. We need love.
And when it comes to love, there is often a lot of emphasis in our society placed on “waiting”. Obviously at this point I could point to how us Christians talk an awful lot about “waiting” until marriage. After all, true love waits, right? But we also hear a lot of talk about “waiting” in our secular world, too. When things don’t work out with what’s-his-name, for whatever reason, it’s ok, because we tell ourselves that Mr. Right will come along eventually. We just have to wait. It’s classic Disney. “Someday my prince will come.” But until then, I’ll just wait.
This is all well and good. And it is certainly true that love is patient (1 Corinthians 13, anyone?). However, in all this talk about waiting for marriage, and waiting for Mr. (or Miss) Right, it seems we all too easily forget that Love is waiting for us, too. And in this case, a response is required on our part—right now. (And later today. And tomorrow. And every day for the rest of our lives)
You don’t have to wait another minute for your love story to begin, because Love has been waiting for you since the moment of your conception (talk about Love being patient!). This Love waits on you even when you refuse it and turn away from it. This love waits on you even when you spit in its face. The one who created you loves you more than you are capable of understanding. And until we begin to realize this, we’re really missing the bigger picture of this whole “love” thing anyway.
If God does one day call you to marriage, I’m sure that your Mr. (or Miss) Right is going to be amazing and is going to love you more than you even know. But, whether you believe it or not, the fact that God loves you is always going to be a bigger deal. (And the right “Mr. Right” will tell you that himself).
So pray for your vocation. Pray for your future spouse. But most of all, pray that God will open your heart to receive His love, and pray for the grace to love Him in return.
***BY THE WAY…that picture up top? Ya know…The main idea from this post? STOLEN. His name is Tyler, my dear readers. And, well…he’s pretty neat
First, there was the Calendar Girls movie. Then, Dove told us to campaign for Real Beauty by baring it all. Recently, people are asked to wear bracelets with “Boobies” written across them to raise awareness for breast cancer (and who knew that 12-year-old boys cared so much about the plight of women against cancer?). And yesterday, I logged onto Facebook and was met with a picture of a plus-sized model posed discretely nude to help improve body image.
Yes, there is a certain level of marketing genius behind it all (or at least, there was at first). But it begs the question: Size 24 or size 0—why is it that we as women still think we have to take our clothes off to get a point across?
There is a small victory being won here, and that is that women are finally beginning to realize the great power our femininity possesses. There is a line from the movie Eat Pray Love that I have never been able to get out of my head because it speaks so clearly to this:
Julia Roberts’ character is eating lunch with her friend, who expresses dissatisfaction with her body. Roberts, with her newfound wisdom, asks her friend, “have you ever been naked in front of man and he’s asked you to leave?” Her friend of course replies, “no”. Making her point, Roberts says, “Exactly. Because when a man sees a woman naked, all he can think about is how he won the lottery because he has a naked woman in front of him!”
Roberts’ character, and every woman who loves this line so much, has just discovered what we all ought to have engrained in our minds from the time we are little girls. Our beauty is not dependent on what size we are. We have a certain loveliness and grace within us, simply by virtue that we are women, that no amount of pounds or wrinkles can take away (and all of that other, “I am woman. Hear me roar,” stuff).
The problem with all of this is that, even though we have made great strides in realizing the power we possess as women, campaigns that have women of any size pose nude for the whole world to see just show that we have not yet fully realized the gift of our femininity. We’re stuck giggling about it when we ought to be safeguarding it. We undervalue it so much that we treat it as some silly little ploy to gain attention. But it’s more than that. And until we realize that, we are taking one step forward and five steps backwards.
So, women of the world of all shapes sizes, standing up for any and all causes: please, put your clothes back on.
To be clear, modesty has never been a subject I have taken super seriously. I mean, I don’t wear clothes that are too revealing; and I don’t wear anything I would be ashamed of my mother seeing (but that’s partially because half of the time my mom has a better eye for what works in a outfit than I do…but that’s another post ). But when it comes to things like a bikini—come on. I live in Southern California. Everyone wears bikinis. And it’s just not that big of a deal…right?
Again I will say it: the Catholic university I go to pretty much rocks. I’ve had an awesome experience here, and for the most part I have embraced the rules and regulations that are in place and have really thrived from them.
The dress code was a different story.
Oh, I complied with it. But I definitely had a section of my closet at home that was referred to as “School Appropriate Clothing” (and it wasn’t exactly the largest part of my closet). Still, that was mostly because I needed to look more “professional” in order to attend class (as opposed to looking like a high schooler in shorts and a t-shirt), which I appreciated. My main issue was the part of the dress code that banned bikinis in the pool at the student apartments and at school-sponsored functions at the beach. I can still remember my thoughts, echoed by I’m sure a handful of other girls at my school:
We go to college in Southern California and they expect us to not wear bikinis? …Seriously?
So, for the longest time, I simply gritted my teeth, found a “modest” (which, in my mind translated to: not-nearly-as-cute-as-a-bikini) swimsuit, and dealt with the rule—but only when I had to. When I went to the beach with just my friends, I wore my bikini and got my tan on.
I don’t know that I can point to a moment when things changed. All I know is that last summer I was in a bikini, and this summer I’m not. Several months ago, I hardly thought twice about what the effect of what I am wearing will be on the men I meet out in public, and now I never leave the mirror in the morning without thinking about it.
I have come to realize that we live in a world in which guys are virtually expected to objectify women’s bodies. Of course, there is a difference between “appreciating” and “objectifying”—one is natural, the other is sinful. But that line is really thin for a guy, and it’s pretty hard to control—especially when he’s walking down the beach on any given Thursday in August.
This doesn’t mean that every guy who sees you in a bikini is objectifying you—it just means that it’s probably really hard for him not to be, at least on some level. From a Princeton University Study:
Another study performed on undergraduate students at Princeton found that when men are shown images of women in bikinis, they associate the women with first-person verbs, such as I “push,” “handle,” and “grab.” When shown images of modestly dressed women, the men associated the images with the third-person forms of the verbs, such as she “pushes,” “handles,” and “grabs.” In other words, the fully-clothed women were seen as being in control of their own actions, whereas the immodest ones were to be acted upon.
But I can’t leave this post without coming back at my most-used argument for why wearing a bikini was ok. It went something like this:
Guys are going to see girls in bikinis anyway, so they should just get used to it.
First of all, this is just not a very nice thing to do to guys we say we care about. It’s essentially saying, “yeah, I know you struggle with this; and even though I can, I’m not going to make this any easier on you”. Talk about selfish.
But more to the point, this argument is right in some respects. There are still going to be women in bikinis out there. For most guys, it’s a struggle to control their glances when they are surrounded by girls in bikinis (and can you blame them? Everything is out on display!). However, if I choose to cover up, then I am inviting the men I am with to be more present with me—not simply my body. Wouldn’t you rather have a guy paying attention to the conversation he is having with you than struggling to control his glances?
Fact: The Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality is anything but popular.
It’s something we as Catholics shy away from talking about. Maybe that’s because it makes others uncomfortable, or maybe because often we don’t truly understand it ourselves. The fact is that I can sit here all day and tell you that my stance against same-sex marriage is not born out of hatred, bigotry, or ignorance, but the majority of people would probably not believe me. When it comes down to it, this issue isn’t going to be solved in political debates. It’s far too personal.
So rather than getting into a lesson on Catholic moral teaching (though feel free to contact me if you want me to cover that later), or talking about homosexuality in the abstract (creating hypothetical people and hypothetical situations), I thought I’d refer you to an article written by someone who understands the Church’s teaching on homosexuality far better than I do, because as a Catholic who happens to be gay, he is choosing to live it.
[I have never met this man. I found the following post on the blog, Little Catholic Bubble. Apparently, though, he recently went public with his own blog, as well.]
I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?
When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I’m gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say ‘locker room’? What were you doing in the women’s…oh.) I’ve always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.
Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first — who doesn’t like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? — but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn’t mean I’m special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, “I guess if it wasn’t that, it would have been something else.” Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: “The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?”
Ok— maybe I’m not honestly planning on having 17 children. Actually, I’m not thinking about having children at all right now (due, of course, to my unmarried state).
I do, however, come from a family of 5 children—which for many people is a lot of children, especially given the fact that we are all within 2 years apart from one another (though honestly, I think a few more brothers or sisters would’ve been cool). Every one of my 4 siblings is married with at least 1 child, giving me a grand total of 8 adorable nieces and nephews. And wanna know the “crazy” thing?
None of my siblings (nor my parents) practice artificial birth control. And if/when I get married, I won’t either.
Call it what you will. Irresponsible. Insane. Outright disturbing. I’ve heard it all before, and it only makes me more proud to be a part of a family that lives out and takes seriously this most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s not that I enjoy controversy for controversy’s sake. No—it’s that I wholeheartedly believe that a fuller truth, a truer happiness, and a more authentic love are on our side when it comes to the stance my family takes on using artificial contraception.
Why? Because I believe in marriage, and I believe in love. I believe the most perfect expression of the love between a husband and wife is the sexual union. And I unreservedly reject anything that seeks to cheapen or distort that expression of love and turn it into something it is not. To me (and I believe to anyone who really sits down and reflects on it with an open mind for some time), contraception is one of those things.
My family believes (as the Catholic Church teaches) that the purpose of sex within marriage is twofold: 1) for the unity of the couple, and 2) for the procreation of offspring. Don’t misunderstand my meaning. This DOES NOT mean that I think every time a married couple has sex that they need to be intending or trying to have a child. It simply means that the married couple needs to be open to having children as a result of their union.
It’s pretty clear why the unitive aspect of sex is so important to a married couple; but to our modern society, it’s far less clear why it matters that a couple be open to having children every time they engage in sex. Simply put, the reason is: love.
Life-giving Love: Sex is supposed to be a total gift of yourself to your spouse. The act of sex renews the wedding vows, to hold nothing back from your partner. Using contraception, we close off a part of ourselves from our spouse, cheapening the authentic expression of total, life giving love that sex is meant to be.
Respect: Because contraception rejects the life-giving aspect of the sexual union, I believe that it is a form of disrespect to the body—making the body little more than a mere instrument used for sexual pleasure. Of course, it is not at all that I think that most couples that use birth control are doing so with the intent of using one another, but I do think that, over time, it can be an unintended, and undesired effect (even if the couple cannot specifically point to birth control as the reason for their eventual emotional distance).
Come on, Get Real
I do realize (as does the Catholic Church) that often times there are legitimate reasons to space out or delay pregnancy within a family. In those cases, it is still not ever a good idea to contracept, because all of the negative effects that come with it still apply. However science has made great strides in a natural way for couples who need to either delay or achieve pregnancy. It’s called Natural Family Planning, and it has a near 99% success rate.
Rather than unnaturally altering or inhibiting the proper functions of the body, NFP requires the couple work with the woman’s body to achieve the desired result (it involves charts and temperature taking and all that jazz. Of course I’ve never done it, so I can’t really tell ya from experience). I can tell you that couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate less than 1% (fact). Though it’s important to realize that it’s not necessary for every couple—I believe that if you have the means to support a family and don’t have a good, non-selfish, reason for delaying children, there is no need to practice NFP in order to delay pregnancy. Love can’t be selfish, so neither can sex, right?
A Final Word on Children
People are uncomfortable with large families and lots of kids. I’ve never understood why. Though children are often messy and difficult to control, any mentally stable person who has children will tell you without hesitation about the joy that children bring to a life and to a marriage. Is raising a family easy? Hardly. Does the love they bring to a family make up a hundred fold for all of the struggle? Drawing from my own experience growing up in a larger family and from literally anyone I have talked to about their children, you better believe it does.