Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 9: Unity of mind

Charity

JMJ1

Unity of mind: that deeply peaceful place where two people hold the same virtues as necessary, the same principles as foundational for living, the same Faith as the only truth.

It doesn’t mean they agree on absolutely everything (whether the Christian chick flick I watched last week has any value whatsoever; whether film soundtrack tunes can double for exercise music . . .); but they agree on every absolute.

If there were one thing I could pick as being that one thing I hold most highly in our courtship, it would be unity of mind.

Courtship is a journey

In certain sense, courtship is, at first, precisely a journey to discover if you have solid unity of mind with another person. If you can’t find enough of it, then it’s inestimably better that you move on.

You can have everything else: mutual love and attraction, happiness with one another . . . but if you aren’t continually discovering (or able to healthily achieve) a natural unity of mind, then there’s no lasting foundation, and this lack of foundation will only hurt both people later on.

If and once you discover this unity of mind, though, then courtship transforms into a journey of deepening and developing it: filling it with your complementary but usually very different perspectives and experiences, and strengthening it through the willingness to have constructive conversations through disagreement, and, in the words of Jordan Peterson, to “assume the person you’re talking to knows something you don’t.” It’s a challenging but beautiful journey, and so very rewarding!

Answering a few questions . . .

Sometimes I get the question of how The Dash and I hold one another accountable in our courtship, or how we work on differences in communication skills. There are so many miniature answers and all sorts of details we could both expound on. The main answer to both, however, could possibly boil down to We act in our unity of mind, or we seek to strengthen it in some way.

Unity in accountability

Take accountability, for example. If this kind of question is focused on things such as our physical boundaries, I usually have to pause and think… Accountable?

Of course, because of concupiscence, purity and chastity are a struggle for every human being to some extent. So I would never deny that I have my own temptations to struggle against and pray for grace to overcome in relation to our courtship!

However, one of the very first things The Dash and I established together in our courtship were our physical boundaries–so, really, these boundaries are one of our oldest expressions of unity of mind as a courting couple. We set them, not trying to please others, but simply trying to do the right thing. We mentally and heartfeltly agreed that it was so.

Later on, our understanding of what we’d chosen would be buoyed by Fr. Ripperger, but our unity of mind concerning our physical boundaries has been there from the beginning. Our mutual choice for chaperones (who help us to not be too intimately alone together without some kind of accountability) also arose from our unity of mind. But even regardless of our chaperones, more than anything else, that’s what holds us accountable to our boundaries: our belief that they’re right; our unity of mind.

After all, the alternative is just for me to go to The Dash and say, “I’m so tired of this! Why can’t we just go ahead and [hold hands, or something similar]?” (Which, naturally, I don’t plan on doing! 🙂 ) To which he would probably ask something like, “Well, how can that potential change still align with our principle?”

At this point, neither of us can find a good rational and moral reason to alter our physical boundaries; we possess unity of mind in them. Neither of us drags our heels against what we’ve decided to do. The necessity of a stronger presence of accountability measures between us would probably indicate that we weren’t so unified in mind.

Unity in communication

And in terms of working on our ever-present differences in communication skills, what helps is that we have (you guessed it!) unity of mind in that we should listen, be honest, and ensure our communication is always a means to the end of better harmony of mind and of good decision-making. It’s often a challenge, but we both know an imperfect try is far better than no try at all!

Whether one of us is really wanting to have some set-aside time to talk about heavier stuff, or one of us is tired and doesn’t feel equipped to talk a bunch; whether we’re having a day that keeps us laughing, or one/both of us are feeling low and are trying to figure out how to talk about something potentially confrontational or disappointing . . . every day is different, but it is such a help to have unity of mind in that we need to be honest with each other, we need to talk about the hard stuff if it’s there, and we need to pray together and try and find joy in things. That is our mutual expectation with one another in trying to communicate, and I think it helps more than anything.

Why is unity of mind so important in courtship?

Well, courtship is hopeful discernment and early preparation for marriage. Marriage is one of the most beautiful and holy mysteries of unity Our Lord ordained for mankind. To intentionally focus on seeking out and, God-willing, growing in unity of mind as you walk down the path of courtship towards betrothal and marriage–well, it brings peace, order, life and joy to your relationship, and surely prepares you better for marriage than the opposite would!

How do you discover whether or not you have unity of mind? Now, needless to say, this discovery should certainly begin in friendship, before courtship comes into the mix (in other words, you should have some solid reasons to be hopeful about the person you’re wanting to court!!), but courtship, by its very nature, puts a much stronger focus on exploring and developing unity of mind. How to do this? A sanguine’s response: Talk! Talk about the important topics and issues of marriage and family life, and of life in general. Read or listen to related materials; share your honest opinions on them. Be honest and open; listen. Observe one another and see if your spoken beliefs translates into your actions.

A while back, I posted a “topic list” that The Dash and I hit during the first month or two of our courtship . . . it’s in no particular order and isn’t exhaustive, but it was very helpful and laid out an initial path for us to explore where we were unified.

  • Handling finances
  • Openness to life
  • Marriage/healthy family structure/traditional spousal roles
  • Homeschooling styles
  • Healthcare views
  • The spiritual life
  • Liturgy
  • Corporal punishment/raising children
  • Our past experiences of family/relationships
  • Our temperaments and how we react to things
  • What makes us angry
  • What makes us happy
  • Family traditions
  • Our interests
  • Communication skills and weaknesses

Praise God, we had good results 😉

In closing, don’t underestimate the beauty and necessity of an ever-growing unity of mind during courtship . . . it’s the surest way to obtaining unity of heart, and it brings a particular peace, strength and joy that no other aspect of one’s relationship can provide.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, Which ran down to the skirt of his garment: As the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon mount Sion. For there the Lord hath commandeth blessing, and life for evermore.

PSALM 132

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Sig

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Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 8: What I wish I’d done earlier in courtship

Charity

JMJ1

Perfection.

It’s a beautiful thing . . .

Unfortunately, it’s not me.

One distinct lesson I’ve absorbed over the past few years is that, to varying degrees, most people (including me) care about what other people think of them . . . and yet caring too much is a recipe for nothing other than interior pain and confusion.

Holiness, in fact, lies along the path of losing one’s inordinate fear of human respect. It lies along the path of humble honesty and charity; a lack of duplicity.

And yet I’ve grown up a people pleaser. I’ve liked to be thought well of. Of course, I’ve tried not to be egotistical and to cultivate humility instead, but my temperament in particular is one that likes to entertain and cheer, and yet is non-confrontational; one that is more naturally supportive and doesn’t like to ask much; one that likes to please others, if possible, just for the sake of pleasing them.

I like to be liked. I like to be thought of as sweet-tempered and generous. Certain people may relate more strongly to this than others, but for me, it’s entirely true.

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In the kitchen, back in fall 2016

For my temperament, I’m aware these tendencies can sprout beautiful virtues if I use them correctly. If they become inordinate, however, they choke my abilities to be honest.

Which is not good . . . and has happened plenty of times. Including (or should I say, especially) in courtship.

Being a woman means . . .

. . . being miraculously, mysteriously complicated. Especially when you’re courting.

I know that, for myself, it’s been so very tempting, so many times, to want to be “that perfect girl” who is an angel to her Prince Charming, as if somehow this can be only accomplished by never really expressing that I’m upset, hurt, anxious, or confused because of something he or someone else has said or done, or of a situation we find ourselves in. I think it’s part temperamental weakness, part pride.

Earlier on in our courtship, nearly every time I found myself feeling upset, anxious or disappointed about something in the context of our relationship, I convinced myself (because of my fear of confrontation itself) that I was supposed to ignore those feelings and “be selfless.” This was never demanded of me (quite the opposite!)–rather, I was demanding it of myself. I was loath, LOATH to talk about these kinds of emotions. I was downright afraid of disagreeing or expressing the fact I didn’t like a particular decision or overall situation. I wasn’t terrified of The Dash. I was just terrified of being honest about unpleasant things. The Dash would sometimes have to literally pry it out of me, poor guy.

The only problem was that I would convince myself out of feeling a certain way, communicate that I was fine, and then later on usually have to go and cry somewhere without really understanding why.

In The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand writes quite truthfully:

Because of “the meld of heart and mind” which characterizes women, they are more likely to be wounded than men, whose power of abstraction often shields them from negative feelings. Women have much less control over their emotions; they usually have a greater sensitivity, they are more intuitive. Their bodies are mirrors of their psyche and seem to be more closely connected than in men.

In any relationship, there is a difference between being mature and being a machine. Of course, you don’t want to be the one who’s self-centered, always complaining, always crying, always voicing their opinion without any filter whatsoever. You want to be a virtuous and strong woman! But there is a real difference between calmly, honestly expressing and discerning one’s emotions (by which I mean negative emotions), and just stifling them for the sake of being “selfless,” “humble,” or “liked.”

A serious error I’ve made time and again in both of my courtships, but one I’m working to slowly grow out of, is that of emotional dishonesty, because of my fear of possible conflict, disagreement, or even hurt. It’s caused me more distress and anxiety than I needed to bear. It’s caused communication difficulties that need not have happened. It’s possibly extended painful and confusing situations in our courtship. And no one has made me do it other than myself and, when it comes to it, my lack of courage and my fear of human respect.

In courtship, emotional honesty is essential. It sounds so dumb and basic to say, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s very hard for some temperaments and personalities, depending on the situation.

At the start of a courtship, I think it’s hard to fully realize (although you intellectually acknowledge it) that both you and your young man are imperfect, are very different (just by being a man and woman! Men are so different!!!), are going to have misunderstandings and miscommunications, etc. and that you’re going to have grit your teeth a little (or a lot) and work through these things.

(I hear married couples laughing everywhere.)

But it happens.

Women need men whose mission is to help them channel their emotions, to distinguish between those that are valid and those that are tainted by irrationality, those which are legitimate and those which are illegitimate.

The Privilege of Being a Woman

Let’s be honest; sometimes I really, really don’t like to be the one with a legitimate negative emotion. It’s embarrassing. It makes me feel weak to feel upset, confused, or stressed when The Dash is cruising along more or less calmly, considerably less emotional than I, in large part because he’s a man and that’s part of his nature. This is where the rubber meets the road of me humbly accepting my feminine identity: my meld of mind and heart that makes me more emotional than The Dash.

The Dash, of course, isn’t playing the role of a counselor, but he is my loyal companion and friend–not to mention, God-willing, my future spouse and the future head of our family. His essential masculine gifts are intended to bless our courtship, to bless my womanhood. I have never once been disappointed when I’ve swallowed my pride and brought my current emotions into the open air, however afraid I am of just saying them. Simply telling him makes them clearer. Having him listen to how I truthfully feel is calming. He presents a willingness to listen (even if I’m just crying and baffling him) and talk about it. If I’m honest, we pursue a better understanding of one another that would be impossible without such honesty. And it brings such peace and strength to our relationship.

So I wish I would have had the courage to be emotionally honest earlier on in courtship, especially in the times when it proved hardest for whatever reason. But then again, I have a feeling God knew it would take a courtship to teach me how to step past my fears and start tilling the very rocky soil around my little plant of honesty. So I’m very grateful for that!

Sig

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 7: The veil on the shelf (revisited . . .)

Charity

JMJ1

A long time ago (before I knew The Dash), I bought a pretty white chapel veil and put it on a shelf. I wrote about it here and (later) here . . . you may remember the event 😉

My thought process behind this was a little mixed, but despite my mental mixing, I did know I wanted it to be a saved veil . . . saved for, most likely, courtship.

Eventually, this white chapel veil wound up behind the holy card of St. Raphael on our mini prayer altar, before which I prayed daily that my future husband would be ushered into my life.

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I was figuring that, as soon as I entered into a courtship, I could start wearing the veil as a token of being under St. Raphael’s protection and having been a beneficiary his intercession.

But then, after days and weeks, probably months of daily devotion to St. Raphael (which brought such peace!), I eventually decided (or realized) that it would be just as appropriate to start wearing the veil as I was . . . because, of course, I was already under St. Raphael’s protection, for whatever relationship might come to me in the future.

Maybe I also wanted to avoid being unduly ceremonious at the start of any future courtship (“I’m courting! Voila! Here’s a new veil!”); as well as avoid the necessity that if the courtship were ended, I would just, well . . . stop wearing the veil. Which would be rather awkward and depressing. This token of my devotion didn’t seem to need such rigid symbolism.

So I went ahead and started wearing it to Mass.

And, literally a week or two later, The Dash was kneeling in the pew beside me, because we were courting. ❤

Of course, there was nothing magical or superstitious about having finally put on the veil . . . But perhaps the beautiful timing of it all was a tiny sign or consolation allowed by Our Lord, as if gently reassuring me that our courtship would not have come about, had it not been for St. Raphael’s intercession.

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Looking back on it, it rather feels as if my (sometimes overly) imaginative mind was just hungry to explore and maybe cultivate some kind of future tradition to do with placing a special chapel veil on one’s prayer altar (foreshadowing the nuptial veil, maybe), near an image of the saint to whose intercession you’re entrusting your future vocation/husband every day; and to wear the veil, keeping in mind that devotion.

It still seems a trifle nebulous now . . . But maybe there’s at least a tiny amount of worth to doing something like this, if done with faith and reason devoid of superstition.

After all, veiling in the Presence of Our Lord is a most mysteriously beautiful practice for women. (Here’s an ancient post from the archives!) Although it can become routine for me to pin it on and walk inside the nave, when I really take time to contemplate veiling, it feels like such an honor. My chapel veil is lovely, an emblem of the sacred, and only worn in the holiest of all places, because I am a woman before God; because He’s made me so.

And, traditionally, a lady’s veil does change as she progresses towards her vocation. A baby girl can wear a little lacy cap. Young girls and young women usually wear shorter, often brighter veils. At her wedding, the bride’s veil explodes in a waterfall of virginal white, as if it were crowning her. And, much of the time, a married woman often proceeds to wear a darker veil (not a hard and fast tradition, but you see it often), which is particularly evocative if you recall she has entered into the Cross in her marriage, and is called to heroic death to self towards her husband and children, every day.

So, if we extend this logic for a moment, a woman’s veil is indeed a special thing: something that is, or can be, in a small way, connected to her state in life, and she can use this connection in some little way to further her devotion.

In any event, that is the logic I used. And now that I’m wearing my white/St. Raphael/now-courting/whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it veil, I thought recently, why not take it to the next level?

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When I heard Robin Nest Lane was closing shop, I went wistfully to her store to admire her handiwork one final time, and the thought gradually arose . . . Why not buy a black veil to wear during my future marriage?

Ahh . . .

So I did. I bought it, it came in shortly afterwards, and I’ve placed it on my small prayer shelf beside my bed, tucked behind a candle and an image of Our Lady of the Rosary (I made my Total Consecration on her feast day).

This time around, the “veil on the shelf” has a more definite purpose! It’s meant to be a conscientious reminder to me of the death-to-self that I’m pursuing as I approach marriage. It’s meant to be a small, visual, symbolic entrusting of my future vocation to Our Blessed Mother, now that such a wonderful man has been brought into my life and we are hopeful of being married in the not-too-distant future.

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Again, it’s just a little thing; but even having written this post, I’m inspired to make myself more mindful of it, and to allow this tiny practice to make me more devout and virtuous in the consideration and anticipation of my future vocation!

Sig

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 6: How did you know marriage was your vocation?

Charity

JMJ1

Friday, October 10th, 2008 . . . I am thinking . . . about how it would be to be married and have kids . . .

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote this down on a sheet of daybook prompts. I was twelve. I can assure you that my hopes to be married had begun long before that day, though.

Growing up, I was absolutely, always, undoubtedly the girl of typical feminine fiber who adored romance and wanted marriage and babies, amen, from the time I was old enough to think about it with relative seriousness (and old enough to have desperate crushes, too, but that’s a story coming up in a moment . . . blush).

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Lena (who has a beautiful story of her ongoing vocational journey, by the way) was the one who continuously thought about being a nun. She pen-pal-ed with a nun (God rest her soul!). When we were children, she would garb herself in bedsheets and would have loved to live outside in a hut, Rose-of-Lima style.

This line of thinking never appealed to me. Marriage and babies, please.

From ages 11-14, roughly speaking, I had a few successive crushes on several altar boys/parishioners at our then-current parish. Some of them lasted for a good year or two (or three). One crush in particular was tall, dark, and handsome, approximately four years older than me, and totally fatal to my glasses-wearing self. It was the real deal. Although, more or less, I genuinely was striving to grow in faith and love of God . . . shallowly speaking, he was the reason I went to Mass.

Maybe he would look at me this time . . . Lena nicknamed him Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was because he was tall.

One winter Sunday, while all the parish kids were streaming outside after finishing PSR classes, my dad (with whom I was standing) and his dad were casually chewing the fat about where our respective families got Christmas trees. Before I knew it, he walked up and listened quietly on the conversation, offering the name of the place when his dad couldn’t remember. I nearly died with ecstasy. It was the closest thing to a conversation I ever had with him.

‘Twas not meant to be, of course (thank Heavens . . . no one remotely compares to The Dash!!!) but during that time, all I did was daydream about Mrs.-hood. And attempt to be productive with my life by writing stories, in which, of course, heroes and heroines fell in love.

Around the time I was fifteen or so, I sobered a little and realized I needed to stop frittering away my time (and heartstrings) on crushes and instead be at peace with where I was in life. I still wanted to be married more than anything, but I was striving to be reasonable. After all, I was fifteen, and by that time it had clicked that indulging in imaginative crushes were at least remote occasions of sin at that point in my young teenaged life, so for prudence’s sake, I should cease and desist.

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Me at 18! Yikes, flashback!!!

We moved homes, changed parishes, proceeded on with life. I finished high school at 17 and prayed a novena to St. Anne that she would help me find my future husband. Because, after all, I was done with school for the foreseeable future and about to turn the legal marrying age. There were a few decent fellows (one was noticeably devout and my age) at our current parish, plus the possibility that some handsome stranger would walk in for Mass one day. It was perfect timing.

I entered my first courtship (although it was missing some key factors of courtship I now know to be essential; it wasn’t our fault, we just didn’t know!) when I was 18; it was long-distance with a good young man, but ended when I was 20. Just like any relationship, it is heartbreaking to have something like that end after the investment of time and heart with another person. I made a lot of mistakes. Looking back, I see with undeniable clarity how very, very much I had to learn–God knew this!

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Me at 19

During that time, I totally consecrated to Our Lady. Immediately afterwards, I went through a period of regrouping, journaling, prayer–all the things that are perhaps natural to do in that situation. It felt like everything I thought I knew was turned upside down–in the sense that you come home after a long journey, and are tired and stunned to silence and just need to think.

This was when I went through what I consider intentional vocational discernment.

Up until then, I’d known what I wanted. But I hadn’t been silent. I hadn’t unclenched my fists. I’d been consumed with the desire to be married and to be a mother. I’d been inwardly terrified that maybe God would be calling me to the religious life instead.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote in an article that was published at OnePeterFive:

When I was a teenager, and when it came to considering the state of life to which God was calling me, I had strong, gripping hopes and dreams for what I wanted to do – but an even stronger, more gripping fear of letting my soul be silent. A fear of simply listening.

In my own imperfect way, I loved God and the Catholic Faith and was trying to grow in holiness…but I was, nevertheless, terrified of letting my soul be still, to the point where I could let go of my desires and wait to hear Our Lord’s voice telling me His designs for me. That might have required me giving up everything I wanted (that is, marriage and motherhood in the home). And that felt physically impossible for me at the time.

If I ever sensed a type of spiritual silence descending on me (whether it was in Adoration, at Mass, or in bed), I would panic and chase it away. I was so immersed in this fear of God’s will that, now, I can only imagine how worn and unhappy I must have been, without even realizing it.

I desire you to be a consecrated virgin. I ask you to be a nun for My sake. Fantasies of hearing those phrases ring out clearly in my soul were paralyzing. If I felt “a silence” coming, I would immediately begin convincing myself – “I’ve always wanted to be a good wife and mother. That means God gave me the desire from the beginning – that means it’s my vocation.” Essentially, I had my spiritual hands clapped over my spiritual ears.

That description is unfortunately very accurate. I was afraid. Terrified that I wasn’t meant to be married.

Being introduced to the Latin Mass, particularly Low Mass where silence reigns for much of the time, brought me into a “courtship” with silence and with liturgical awe of God. It was something of a gradual process, but my fears eventually died down and I began trying, on a regular basis, to make acts of perfect surrender to God’s Will. I can’t recall if I’d ever previously done something like that in the context of my vocation. Time and time again, I renewed my efforts to, in prayer, completely let go of what I wanted my vocation to be, and to tell Our Lord that all I wanted was what He wanted.

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Me at 20

I still had the same desires to be married, although they were calmer and softer (for lack of better words). I still noticed and thought about some great Catholic guys I knew. But I also took time, for example, to go out and thoughtfully look at the website for the Nuns at Ephesus and read about their spirituality. It was beautiful and entirely different from anything I’d considered before. I didn’t feel an urging to explore beyond that, but I made these kinds of deliberate acts to combat my old terrors of Anything Other than Marriage. In my mind, I termed this period of a few months as “living in the quiet.”

Now granted, I didn’t go and visit any communities; not because I felt repulsed by the idea, but because opportunities didn’t really open up, nor did I feel a strong stirring to go. I spoke to a priest about my journey over the past few months, including my desires for marriage, and he encouraged me to bring all my desires to God and prayer, to trust Him like a Father, and to be at peace. During this time, I was praying to St. Raphael for my future husband, but I also wondered if I should stifle any desire for marriage altogether so as to truly give God my interior silence as part of my discernment.

This brought me back around to another novena to St. Anne . . . already, it was summer again. I wrote a post here called The Rose (Or, Desires and Analogies), which was a pivotal “diary entry” in which I tried to express myself and my calmer, still existing desires for marriage, as well as my desire to give God my total “vocational openness”; and immediately after that, I also wrote about my novena to St. Anne and what happened on the last day:

At the end of my novena, I’d been given the gift of clarity to see that I should be giving my Lord what I have–and not emptiness. I saw that giving Him my desire for Marriage as an actual gift was not closing myself to His will; but rather, it meant trusting Him all the more with my life, my future, my salvation.

The relief and joy was palpable; it was a moment of true grace. I feel I can now embrace whatever God’s will is for my life, and also yet embrace my hope for the Sacrament of Marriage wholeheartedly, and to pray for my future husband, as I believe now there is one. There is no longer a contradiction between my two desires.

It was at this point that I was able to indeed embrace the hope of marriage as my vocation, having finally gone through the silence and surrender. My love and perception of marriage as a vocation was purified and distilled in a way it had never been before. Although my courtship with The Dash has matured me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, that time of “living in the quiet” and coming to these realizations through God’s grace was a time of unique and intense maturation that will always stand out to me.

And it was during these formational weeks that I first met The Dash and began spending time with him (and began gently, happily falling in love with him). The timing was something only Our Lord can achieve!

Us

And so, now I’m here.

The Dash and I have been blessed in our courtship for over a year, and Our Lord has used this wonderful man in so many ways to enrich, improve, and support the woman I’m still becoming. He truly is my best friend and I’m immeasurably blessed by his heart and his virtues every day ❤

18-21 were chiaroscuro years; up and down, adventurous, intensely formative. To be 22 and to have been blessed with the graces necessary to make that surrender and then be showered with gifts beyond my imagination . . . it’s a sweet and precious place to be!

However, the surrender doesn’t stop. I’ve learned that, just because I made acts of surrender way back when, I’m not exonerated from the need to do so now, in countless situations. Just because I’m peacefully assured that I am being called to marriage doesn’t mean I’m still not asked for daily vocational surrender. Surrender in the little things; surrender of my selfishness. Sometimes that is far harder to do than just surrender my ideas about my vocation!

One of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary (Our Lord is the one speaking) sits on top of my desk, and has done for years:

Entrust yourself completely to My will, saying, “Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me.”

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A recent haircut . . . it doesn’t happen often, so a picture was in order 😉

I pray that I will be able to surrender to the Will of God more perfectly with each day that passes, especially now as I wait to enter the vocation of marriage. Again, it is a sweet place to be.

Sig

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 5: Answering more questions

Charity

JMJ1

What are your best tips for someone about to enter into a courtship?

Wow, what a good question! Sigh . . . as I’ve said before, I’m only half of the courtship equation here, and who knows, maybe one day The Dash and I can write a post together that will be immensely more helpful and enlightening than anything I can write on my own! The Dash is my better half here . . . which means you all are missing out on my better half . . . for which I apologize . . .

But in the meantime, these are things I personally feel someone about to enter into a courtship should be prepared to do:

1. Make time for daily prayer together. Pick a patron saint (or multiple patron saints), and pray to them that God’s Will is done in your relationship. It sets the tone, right from the beginning. Pray for specific graces; obviously for chastity and purity, but also for graces to be truthful and wise, and to be able to seek the other person’s good as you discern your compatibility as potential spouses.

2. Make sure your intentions are clear and mutually expressed. It’s a simple thing, but courtship is fundamentally about discerning marriage with a specific person. The pacing of the relationship is up to prudence and God’s timing, but that presence of mutual interest and the solid intention of discerning whether or not to marry one another should definitely be clear and mutually expressed, because it gives direction, purpose, and exclusivity to the relationship. These elements are just, and should absolutely be present. If it seems too much to enter into something so serious, then the couple should really consider extending their friendship and waiting on courtship until they both are ready.

3. Take it slow when advancing in romance/emotional intimacy. I realize this can sound like advice straight from Johnny Raincloud . . . but it’s so important! Whether the courtship is going to last three months or eighteen months, it doesn’t need to start off heavy on the emotions; it honestly needs to be the opposite to ensure that you’re thinking clearly while discerning your compatibility. Every couple’s journey is different, but The Dash and I’s courtship lasted 3-4 months before we started using endearments or telling one another “I love you;” that was the pacing that seemed appropriate for us and how our relationship was progressing.

But with that being said, trust me when I speak from experience as the (sanguine, emotional) girl in this courtship . . . a little goes a long way! You will be so happy even if things are emotionally low-key to begin with. Having experienced both sides of the fence (rapid and slow emotional progressions in two different courtships), I can truly say that a slow, discerned progression of emotional intimacy is so much healthier and brings much more peace and long-term stability for both the man and woman. And it’s still fun and exciting! You’re still a couple and you’re growing together!

The very fact that a good man is exclusively pursuing you with the thought of marriage brings so much happiness and excitement already. The better you get to know one another, something so small as a little compliment, a smile, or a shared joke enriches the bond you’re forming more than you might guess at first. When the time is right and more significant amounts of romance and emotional intimacy start emerging in their proper order, they will be infinitely worth the wait.

4. Talk about important things as well as small things. Try to be intentional in keeping conversations well-rounded early on; make sure that you’re investing time to get to know one another’s thoughts and convictions on anything that could potentially impact you as a married couple . . . finances, children, child-raising, homeschooling/public schooling, family backgrounds, family mindsets, family differences, liturgy, healthcare, balancing work and home life, technology in the home, etc. etc. The list goes ever on and on. These should take front-seat early on in the courtship (because otherwise, to be frank, what’s the point?) while still leaving time for laid-back conversations about little things that still help you to get to know one another better.

There are lots of other things I could expound upon (such as spending time with one another’s families, etc.), but I feel those are the most important things to start out knowing.

Did you ever have a list of necessary requirements for/in a future spouse?

Oh . . . you bet I did! 😉 Often I wrote them in conjunction with Lena and we had endless conversations about our lists . . .

While I can’t remember every detail from every list I made, I do remember recurring elements like Catholic (naturally), mature, has a hard work ethic, humble, chivalrous, manly, intelligent, good with kids, someone I find attractive, someone who makes me laugh, someone I can be myself around, someone virtuous who upholds and respects the Faith, and who is open to life, homeschooling and the traditional lifestyle. Things like that 🙂

If only I knew who I would be getting! ❤ Do I need to mention The Dash checks every box? Plus he cooks and dances . . .

However, a pitfall I sometimes fell into with these lists was overthinking personalities and temperaments and making some sweeping generalizations for myself that just weren’t necessary. Of course, you’re not going to have chemistry with every person. But for a while, I assumed that I would not be inclined to be in a relationship with anyone quieter than I. (Insane. How would we function??) This came from a profound lack of self-knowledge of just how chatty I am. Sigh.

So while I would certainly encourage others to make lists of requirements for a potential future spouse, I would also encourage open-mindedness when it comes to the potential temperament or personality of their future spouse. This isn’t to say that you are just as likely to get along well with two wildly different people. But rather, it’s just to be open to the possibility that all the necessary qualities and virtues you’ve listed can be present inside a temperament you would never have guessed you would find so attractive; one that enchants and completes you in a way you didn’t think was possible. Ask me how I know.

Do you have a “true love waits” (or similar) ring?

Yes! I received one for my 16th birthday from my dad, so I’ve had one for six years now. In fact, Lena and I both do. The funny thing is, we switched our rings a few years ago, because due to a fluke of nature, we discovered each other’s rings fit our hand better than the one we had 😀 Mine says, “True Love Waits” and I’ve usually worn it on the fourth finger of my right hand. It’s been blessed as well.

ring

Ironically, it’s reminded me just as much of the necessity of overall patience as well as chastity in our courtship! “True love patiently waits until it’s the right time to get engaged . . . true love patiently waits until I get to see The Dash again . . . true love patiently waits until we get to talk on the phone in approximately four hours . . .” Yeah.

Do you have a favorite future spouse prayer?

St. Raphael to the rescue!!!

Dear St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead me by the hand towards those I am waiting for, and those who are waiting for me. May all my movements, all their movements be guided by thy light and transfigured by thy joy. Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request I now address to thee at the feet of Him on Whose unveiled Face thou art privileged to gaze. (Mention your request.) Lonely and weary, deeply grieved by the separation and sorrows of earth, I feel the need of calling out to thee and of pleading for the protection of thy wings so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy.

Remember the weak, thou who art strong, whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God. Amen.

And . . .

St. Raphael, loving patron of those seeking a spouse, assist me in this supreme decision of my life. Find for me as a helpmate in life the man whose character reflects many of the traits of Jesus and Mary. May he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with chaste and unselfish love, we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children entrusted to our care.

St. Raphael, angel of chaste courtship, bless our friendship and our love that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely that our future home may ever be most like the home of the holy family of Nazareth.  Offer thy prayers to God for the both of us, and obtain the blessing of God upon our marriage, as thou wert the herald of blessing for the marriage of Tobais and Sara.

St. Raphael, friend of the young, be a friend to me, for I shall always be thine. I desire ever to invoke thee in my needs. To thy special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future husband. Direct me to the man with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s holy will; with whom I can live in peace, charity and fidelity in this life, and attain to eternal joy in the next. Amen.

These prayers brought me so much consolation back when I was wanting so much to meet my future spouse. And through them, St. Raphael brought me The Dash. The timing was inarguable and beyond wonderful.

Sig