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

Charity

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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!

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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

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Tiredness

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Just a little sleepy 😉

I am an energetic person by nature, a happy person by temperament (and God’s grace!) . . . but sometimes (like today), I am just tired. Tired and grouchy-feeling. How tempting it is to be discouraged by these feelings of tiredness and grouchiness, to be frustrated when I give into them and consequently don’t have that same I’m-so-happy-to-be-around-my-family shine as I usually do.

What am I doing?! I groan inwardly. I just went to Mass this morning!

And I did. In a little chapel with Lena and three friends and a marvelous priest. Everything was soft and still. Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. What a gift. For a little while now, I’ve been praying hard for the eventual gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, that I can attend every morning. But for now, once a week has been amazing!

I drove Lena and myself home through a light drizzle, the two of us chattering happily. I came in and had my fasting breakfast. I went upstairs and took a shower. And . . . I came out tired.

I’m sure it has something to do with being human. With early mornings, less food, family members being gone, teaching a classroom of girls, running up and down our lane until I can’t breathe (i.e., training for a 5K) and, because of my lack of virtue, so often failing to accept these feelings of tiredness and grumpiness as Crosses, and to embrace them with a joy that radiates to where no one can tell that I’m feeling grumpy at all. I’m working on the joy. Do you know how it is when the smallest acts of simple decent human kindness seem almost impossible to achieve? (I know . . . it’s the signal that I need a nap 😉 I think I will lie down shortly . . . )

My youngest sister has a cold. Lemon and melaleuca are being diffused in the living room. I gave her a mini-concert and played on the guitar, singing songs I’d written, for half an hour earlier. Things are gray outside. Lena is leaving on Friday. A whole week without her is a strange prospect; quite possibly a very light foretaste of the future in which she might be in her house at Ephesus and I’m in my house surrounded by a future beautiful brood of children. Does God intend for the majority of our earthly sisterhood, our close earthly companionship that has been particularly close ever since our early teen years, to be spent apart, joined together by letters and prayers, but by only the barest human contact?

Of course, the thought brings both spiritual joy and human tears. Joy for vocation and for becoming saints. This is what Lena and I want more than anything! But tears for the little daily things that will pass away and leave a void capable of being filled only by God; the countless conversations, the little jokes, the giggles, the hugs, the knowing of what the other is thinking and feeling in a way only sisters can, the shared daily prayers and devotions, Mass together, two white mantillas side-by-side. To some degree, it would still pass away even if we were both married . . . but not as radically as this. The little things will pass for a time, but the love will remain. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. And I am already rejoicing with excitement and gratitude at what God may have in store for my dear sister, and for me, and for our sisterhood.

This Lent has been unlike any other. The fasting is a great challenge; not just the absence of food, but using the absence of food to gain mastery over oneself and grow in virtue. That is the hardest part. It has been exactly two weeks now since Lent began. Three weeks to corrupt a vice, three weeks to instill a virtue. At this rate, I’m 2/3 of the way through corrupting the vice of intemperance . . . and then, after another week or so, I’ll begin to instill the virtue of fasting.

Perseverance!

Fr. Ripperger’s talks at Sensus Traditionis have been one of my mainstays. It is unspeakably consoling to receive truth and guidance in the form of masculine, priestly, fatherly direction. I can’t seem to get enough. I also just finished his “The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy” from Latin Mass Magazine, and this paragraph struck me particularly (no wonder, after having just attended Mass!):

The ancient ritual also gives one a taste of heaven, so to speak. Since the altar marks the dividing line between the profane and sacred, between the heavenly and the earthly, and the priest ascends to the altar to offer Sacrifice, the traditional rite leaves one with a sense of being drawn into heaven with the priest. This feature naturally draws us into prayer and gives the sense of the transcendent and supernatural that are key in the spiritual life. The numerous references to the saints foster devotion rather than minimizing it. The Latin provides a sense of mystery. The beauty of the ritual, the surroundings that naturally flow from the ritual itself (such as the churches that are designed for the ritual), the chant – all of these things lead to contemplation, the seeking after that which is above.

Life is beautiful, because God is Supreme Beauty and He provides so many channels of grace for us through the Sacraments, through prayer, through pursuing the virtues. We can all be saints if only we continuously trust and try. Perhaps the tired days are the most beautiful days of all; or they can be, if only I ask for His grace and participate in it with joy 😉 Always and everywhere, Deo Gratias!

P.S. Keep praying for Baby Isaac’s complete healing! https://www.facebook.com/Prayers-for-Baby-Isaac-1977272082313227/

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“For I am the Angel Raphael…” (Of prayers and courtship)

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The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

-Offertory from the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A month and a half ago, if you had visited my little corner of the world, you would have stumbled upon me in my parish church, bent over my missal, sitting and reading this exact verse at the Offertory of the Mass.

It was a mere two days after I had entered into courtship. I was in the pew beside the wonderful man who had asked me to court him, and I was wearing “the veil” I’d kept tucked on my prayer altar near the St. Raphael holy card for months.

The Angel of the Lord . . . The words rebounded through my head, tingling with intense gratitude. The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them . . .

Today, on St. Raphael’s feast day, it’s a struggle to find words to capture the story of his guidance, protection and intercession on my behalf over the past months. It’s a challenge for me to fully absorb the reality that it is his feast day and that my current joys are due in such a special way to his prayers for me! I’m at a loss as to how to adequately honor him, apart from litanies, prayers, and praying along with the Mass of his feast earlier this morning. I have so much to thank him for but feel as though I can only give so little.

Vividly, I remember being at the beach this spring, in the middle of a jumble of vocational desire and discernment. My feet were planted in the sand, my head was bowed over the little book about him while the salty wind buffeted me and made a circus out of my hair (no exaggeration there . . .), and sensing quite strongly that I only needed to climb under the shelter of his wings in order to be lead closer towards what I was so hungry for: my vocation.

Our Lord had allowed my heart to travel a hilly road across the three years since I finished high school, and really, our family trip this spring symbolized a time of rejuvenation and reflection for me, because I had experienced and learned so much–some things through joy, others through pain. I had tucked the aforementioned book about St. Raphael into my tote bag, brought along a newly acquired holy card, and across that week, I began forming a relationship with this beautiful Archangel, thanks to the inexpressible gift that is the Communion of Saints.

For Thy counsel is not in man’s power, but this everyone is sure of that worships Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy. For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: because after a storm Thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping, Thou pourest in joyfulness. Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed forever.

-Tobias 3: 20-23 (Sara’s prayer before encountering St. Raphael and Tobias)

Across the past year, I’ve shared here about my vocational discernment, particularly in my linked article on 1P5. I’ve written about how, all my life, I experienced a real longing for marriage and children, but how it took coming into the Latin Mass for me to be able to unconditionally, spiritually surrender to God’s (unknown) will for my life and, more specifically, for my vocation: to stop being terrified that He might be calling me to something else than what I wanted.

When I finally let His grace enable me to become open to whatever it was He wanted, I was soon given the beauteous peace of interiorly knowing the rose of marriage was in Our Lord’s design for my life. He lifted me out of myself during that time and transformed my desires.

This period of discernment all happened over the summer, after I’d embarked on my devotion to St. Raphael and was praying to him twice a day, every day. The specific words of my intentions varied a little, but they were as fervent as I could make them and were very much centered on my future husband (even if the state of my discernment meant that I was including the caveat of if God desires me to marry), and that he and I would be brought together. Eventually, I got to the point where I was specifically asking St. Raphael, the same Archangel that guided Tobias to Sara, that my future husband would be inspired to pursue me as soon as God’s will permitted, so that we could do all things together for His glory.

The two prayers I was offering on a daily basis throughout this time are copied below. This first prayer (taken from the above-mentioned book) brought me, from the beginning, an indescribable sense of consolation. It instilled in me a deep trust that I and my desires for my vocation and my future husband were all being taken care of; and it became the firm foundation of my little-sisterly relationship with St. Raphael.

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.

The second prayer was sent to me by a good friend earlier on this year in a text message, and I’m not sure of the source (I tweaked one or two words for clarity); but it struck me with its beauty and orthodoxy, and was in a way my first introduction to devotion to St. Raphael.

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 were the basis of my devotion to St. Raphael, but I also read the Book of Tobit and was blown away by the sheer beauty of St. Raphael’s instruction to Tobias and Sara in regards to their marriage. To imagine an Archangel, “one of the seven who stand before the Lord,” so mercifully intervening in the lives of Tobias and Sara and their families, bringing about healing and a holy marriage, was awe-inspiring, and it served as a confirmation that I was, indeed, praying to an advocate who had been made to care, with a special tenderness and power, for holy marriage and for potential spouses being led into one another’s lives.

A few months of this devotion went by; I received clarity as to my vocation and so then fell to praying more intensely; then came a new acquaintanceship, which grew into a friendship . . . and, in early September, I found myself sitting in the pew at Mass, belonging in a courtship: a time of purposeful, mutual discernment of marriage.

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

Our friendship-turned-courtship is a sweet and really amazing story in its own right, but one probably better saved for another time . . . however, the building blocks of it were so beyond me in the most literal sense of the word, so beyond my expectations and my own plans and potential conniving, as to be what one can only term “a God thing.” Or, more specifically, “a St. Raphael thing.” 😉 It all happened so effortlessly and gently; I blinked, and there it all was, laid out before me, its own story, so much better and more special than anything I could have written for myself! And now I am in awe of God’s grace and so grateful for the opportunity to discern marriage with such a good man in a courtship.

And now . . . a little bit about courtship itself, because I’ve been dying to blog about it! “Courtship” is a widely used term with various applied meanings and few if any universal rules. But for us, it’s pretty simple: courtship is a more traditional means of a man and woman coming to know one another better and asking God whether it would please Him if they married. While we don’t presume immediately upon the future and are focused on God’s will, courtship is very intentional and is not meant to last long unless the Sacrament of Marriage continues showing itself as a very possible and desired end for the couple in question.

For us, courtship has so far involved many purposeful conversations about the essential issues of Catholic living, marriage and parenting, and our perspectives and experiences growing up; but it’s also involved simply spending time together and growing used to one another’s temperaments and how we think, act and express ourselves. We have always been reserving our first kisses for our wedding days, and I have consistently thought holding hands would be a fun and sweet way to celebrate an engagement, so our courtship’s physical boundaries are modest but certainly not awkward. We’ve chosen for courtship to involve our being always chaperoned (which probably distinguishes it most drastically from the typical dating scenario) as a means of safeguarding our chastity and purity; and we’ve chosen for it to be very family-oriented, with our siblings, parents, and nieces and nephews around a lot of the time, brightening things up, making us laugh, and quite honestly putting us at our ease!

In short, courtship–while being a tradition both of our families have always believed in–was very much our own personal choice, and something that has since brought joy and healthy growth to our God-given relationship. Apart from our deeper conversations, it also involves him always opening and closing the car door for me, and it involves me almost always saying yes when he offers me something to eat or drink; it incorporates ballroom dancing, football games, skits, cooking and home movies, chivalry and good-natured teasing, prayer and, best of all, Mass 🙂 In my mind, it’s a perfect way for two young people to discern marriage and I wouldn’t have it any other way; and today, St. Raphael’s feast, seems the perfect day to write about it, and all he has done for me, with heartfelt gratitude.

And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?
And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her. All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife. Ask her therefore of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.
Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.
Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will show thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs. And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.
Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.

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7 Rambling Takes, Monday Edition

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When trying to decide exactly how I wanted to ramble about the recent goings-on around here, I decided that the most efficient way would be join in that tantalizing blog post technique known as the “7 Quick Takes,” which you usually find on homeschooling blogs (hence my knowledge of them to begin with).

Unfortunately, that technique has always been designated for use on Fridays . . . but since I have a Monday morning at my blogging disposal, and Friday seems quite a long way away, I think I shall break convention. Oh, and I’ll also be breaking convention because–true to my style–none of these takes are going to be quick.

On second thought, I think I’ll just call it 7 Rambling Takes and make it my own.

1.

We’ve just started the third full week in our new homeschool year, but it’s our first-ever year to use Our Lady of Victory School. Beautiful, traditional Catholic books, largely from Lepanto Press. Sigh. I’ve demanded requested that Mom never get rid of any of them so I can use them in my future homeschool.

My younger brother and sister have their noses to the grindstone, and are pretty much swimming in decidedly “older,” “harder” school work. 8th and 7th grade . . . they really are getting older and, now, are are both distinctly taller than Lena and I . . . my brother is the tallest of all of us four now . . . yes, things are happening. Sniff.

I know Lena and I have both waxed lyrical about being unregretting graduated women at home, and will continue to do so to our hearts’ content, but instead of indulging in that at the moment, I’ll instead talk about tutoring English.

I haven’t really tutored in English until this point, when I decided to blithely offer my help to Mom in tutoring my brother in this particularly dazzling field of study. In fact, I haven’t sat down and read formal English in what feels like decades. The terms are a little mind-numbing, and I actually taught one concept last week which I completely, totally did not understand, and yet he got most of the answers right anyway. He’s got smarts.

Tutoring your brother or sister is surprisingly rewarding, despite the natural ups and downs you can expect to have when you’re dealing with school AND siblings. While it can occasionally be a marvelous exercise in virtue, most often, it’s a perfect opportunity to crack jokes, conjure enthusiasm, and build on your relationships. As an older sibling, you’re provided a chance to encourage diligence and real learning in your younger siblings, as well as an opportunity to realize and navigate temperamental differences (and you can bet there are major differences in our household!), and to grow in patience as well as creativity. Without hesitation, that’s what I’ve enjoyed most so far.

And, if you’re a woman at home (I hope you saw this coming), tutoring is a prime way to practice for when you’ll be schooling your own children as a wife and mother one day. So I’m personally hoping to continue helping out in our homeschool until I’m off and married, or they’re out of school (hopefully the former will occur before the latter, though! . . .)

2.

I just finished reading my favorite book on the planet.

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The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo J. Kinsella is, quite literally, my favorite book. Ever. After my missal, I would grab this if the house were on fire and I only had time for one other item. (Well, okay . . . at least one other book. I won’t pin myself down that much. I have a feeling I can grab a lot, quickly.)

Although I had first resolved to read a chapter a day, and to responsibly meditate and absorb and contemplate . . . I devoured it, and now I’m beginning my re-read.

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While it’s been re-typset (probably independently) and re-published since it’s debut, I hunted down and found a used copy from back in the day, and it’s so charming. It’s little; the pages are yellowed; but it was in good condition (and, of course, considerably cheaper, which is always a bonus).

It caters beautifully to traditional stay-at-home wives (or girls who are aspiring to be so) with both powerful insight and candid humor that makes you chuckle. It has adorable illustrations and the sagest wisdom. It is a handbook. It is amazing. I’m keeping it forever. (Don’t worry, Lena, I’ll buy you a separate copy before I leave.)

It is thoroughly, traditionally Catholic in its perspective (it’s written by a priest, after all!), and yet it almost entirely focuses on the natural gifts a wife can bring to her marriage, in contrast to focusing on the sacramental and sacred aspect of marriage, which it takes for a given. The book is divided into seven chapters. Each chapter hones in on a particular attribute of the ideal wife. (“The Wife Desired is an Inspiration to Her Husband;” “The Wife Desired Has Personality;” “The Wife Desired Has a Sense of Humor;” etc.)

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It has given me so much to ponder and to work on. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to teach me as much as confirm all my current ideas and convictions . . . well, I was in for a surprise. Of course, there was much in the way of confirmation and encouragement for me, but it also drastically illuminated my understanding of, and eagerness for, the best ways I can be a good wife in the future, should that be God’s will for me. It was marvelous.

There is so much practical advice in this book. So many little things that, in my ignorance, I had never really thought about before, at least not purposefully and intentionally. With eloquence and fun, this good priest points out the natural gifts of women, emphasizes their great worth and potential, and then encourages women to use them wholeheartedly in the service of their God-given vocation, for the good of their souls and their husband’s souls. Again, so marvelous.

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I’m planning to use this book as the inspirational basis for writing letters to my future husband, in the style of Woman in Love. Granted, it’s a little hard to get my act together for this practice of writing letters (on the other hand, my sister is almost unbelievably faithful to it), but it’s something I still want to pursue, and this book has given me so. many. thoughts that if I don’t begin writing letters I might simply explode with excitement and eagerness.

And we wouldn’t want that.

3.

Continuing on the theme of books, when I’ve been able to pull myself away from the addictive The Wife Desired, I’ve been buried in two other very good ones as well, lent to me by two different friends.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death is definitely stretching my brain. I like to consider myself intelligent (well, doesn’t everyone?) and so for humility’s sake (as well as the sake of actually learning things!) it’s always good to come across a book where I have to be incredibly intent while reading it so as to understand and process the content. It’s a difficult read for me, but at the same time, is fascinating in its premise, charting the differences and development in the mediums of discourse across the centuries, as well as the modern decline of the value of our public discourse through television.

Until I began reading this, I’d never really considered the shift that gradually occurred between some societies’ mediums of discourse; once considering the spoken word to be more trustworthy than the written word, they eventually reversed (it kind of makes me feel guilty for blogging, but oh well), to where a medium that was once believed to give evidence of wisdom and knowledge (such as the memorization of proverbs) became looked upon as childish and ineffective. Neil Postman probes at examples such as this at a deep level; he unearths why and how particular mediums of discourse resonate with different societies, or society in general.

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On the subject of mediums and metaphors in society, one particularly interesting paragraph (I thought, anyway) relates:

A person who reads a book or who watches television or who glances at his watch is not usually interested in how his mind is organized and controlled by these events, still less in what idea of the world is suggested by a book, television, or a watch. But there are men and women who have noticed these things, especially in our own times. Lewis Mumford, for example, has been one of our great noticers. He is not the sort of a man who looks at a clock merely to see what time it is. Not that he lacks interest in the content of clocks, which is of concern to everyone from moment to moment, but he is far more interested in how a clock creates the idea of “moment to moment.” He attends to the philosophy of clocks, to clocks as a metaphor, about which our education has had little to say and clock makers nothing at all. “The clock,” Mumford has concluded, “is a piece of power machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes.” In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences. Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.

A little mind-bending (for me) . . . but it makes sense!

4.

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And the other book! How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. Admittedly, the title is a little misleading in tone, but it’s proven so far to be a thoughtful, thought-provoking read (what I’ve read of it, anyway; I don’t read every section of relationship books such as these, since fortunately, much of the world’s relationship problems/sinful habits aren’t, thank God, applicable to me!).

On a similar vein to The Wife Desired, I’ve thus far found it an engrossing and practical help in examining the natural, emotional, and psychological elements of how to build a healthy relationship, and to thus discern if you and your partner are naturally compatible and–from the Catholic perspective–will find it possible to lovingly and healthily cooperate together in doing God’s will in marriage. I think a book such as this can go hand-in-hand with a traditional Catholic courtship, because it has the potential to stimulate so many worthwhile conversations between partners and aid them in getting to know one another rationally, so they can then better discern if their are meant to share in the marriage vocation together.

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Again, I feel as though I have interiorly focused so much on the spiritual and sacramental aspect of marriage (the most important aspects, of course!) during discernment over the past year, that now, discovering the more natural, practical aspects of building courtship and married relationships has been deeply enlightening, and a helpful preparation should I begin needing it someday.

5.

Now to leave books behind! My family just took a weekend trip to visit my paternal grandparents, as well as my great-aunt and great-uncle on my mother’s side. We had a wonderful time, ate far too much food, talked into the night, and listened to far too much Frank Sinatra on the drive both ways.

After receiving a CD of Frank Sinatra’s as a gift, we’ve become rather addicted to it . . . it’s our “feel good” music, and since we tend to enjoy feeling good on a daily basis, it stands to reason that you will hear the strains of “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in our homeschool around lunchtime, accompanied by a good foxtrot. Ballroom dancing is our noon PE.

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6.

Posture. I’ve been focusing on improving my posture (sitting and standing, but especially standing) for approximately the past four days. I came across a blog post talking about it, and since then, I’ve been trying to stand better aligned. My knees hyper-extend, my shoulders tend to slouch, and if I give in to my habit of putting my weight slightly more on one foot than the other, it tends to give me hip and leg pain (probably remnants from the mild torture I put my body through in ballet) . . . and besides, I think good posture just looks (and feels!) far better.

I’ve been evangelizing my family members about it and they’re probably tired of it by now.

7.

Last night, my entire family took the temperament quiz at Temperamentquiz.com. It was a hilarious but nonetheless revealing hour. It turns out we have three choleric-sanguines (no surprise there; I predicted those in advance), one phlegmatic-sanguine (ahem, me), one choleric-melancholic, and one melancholic-phlegmatic.

And those are my seven rambling takes! Time for the Angelus and lunch 🙂

A blessed feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal!

Sig

More Than Anything (a Woman at Home Post)

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What is time? It has been given
That we may work and merit heaven

Anonymous

Well, I turn 21 next month (at this point, I’m contemplating occasionally drinking a little wine if I like it, but I’m not feeling very adventurous yet 😛 ); I’m not in school, not away from home, not in a relationship, not actively feeling called to pursue the religious life. Presently, my whole life (or maybe, my interior life would be the better phrase) feels enveloped in this huge cloud of quiet. On the outside, I have some pet projects and obligations I keep busy with; I have wonderful friends whose company I just love; and am blessed with the most beautiful family and a life that offers no lack of color, variety and opportunity to find God and clumsily grow in virtue. On the inside, though . . . it’s quiet.

And it’s the holy Faith that keeps me alive to these beauties surrounding me, and the beauties that are still yet to come. I could have nothing at all, except Our Lord’s Church, her liturgy and her Sacraments–and I firmly believe, I know with all my heart I would still have everything to live for.

I find this time of my life humorous, in a way, because a few years ago I was convinced I’d already been through this exact phase and that I knew God’s will for me. Well! How very little I knew–and how little I still know now. At eighteen, I honestly had been through nothing but a phase of contemplating my personal desires, praying that the things I wanted to happen would happen, and arriving at the conclusion that I knew God’s will. That’s not quite the same thing.

Maybe I should call this present phase living in the quiet. In many ways, I feel I have been through various bouts of high waves, sometimes storms, in one way or another, but particularly over the past few years. They certainly were all part of God’s designs for my soul; and even in my cloudy, limited perception, I can see that they have been transformative on me in many respects. I’ve arrived at the point where I barely recognize the child, the girl, the young woman I used to be, before this all happened. In some ways, it’s a really strange point to be at. This isn’t to say I don’t have the same struggles and flaws that I’ve always had (ah, if only!), but rather, I’m in awe at the grace of God, and how He has enabled me (especially through Our Lady’s intercession) over the past year to see life more clearly, in particular the end and purpose of life more clearly . . .  and, at last, to be quiet.

I think it just may be part of growing up. I asked my mom something to that effect a few nights ago while doing dishes after supper. (Washing dishes with your mom or a loved one present in the kitchen is a wonderful way to unload your weary mind and may save you psychologists’ bills.) Have you ever felt . . . different? Like you’re not who you used to be, and you don’t exactly enjoy reflecting on how you used to be, but you’re grateful for where God has brought you now?

Like all mothers, she knowingly said, Of course.

Living in the quiet has meant, for me, being showered with grace to where I am enabled to earnestly say, “Do what You want with me, when You want it of me.” And then to be still: to not be afraid of whatever it is He’ll ask: but, perhaps even more importantly, to not be afraid of the silence indicating He is not going to ask me yet, but for now is content, for His own mysterious but perfect purposes, with where I am–a young woman at home.

One of my most favorite passages from the side notes in the 1962 Missal speaks of Holy Communion in this way:

We should open our will to Jesus Christ as we open our lips to receive Him, leaving Him free to act in us and accepting in advance everything His grace will ask us to become. We consume the Sacred Host, asking that we be consumed by His Divinity. We receive Him physically, that He might receive us divinely into His sacred activity, and transform our life and action and desires into His.

We should receive Him as the Blessed Virgin received Him at the Annunciation, concerned only with leaving Him free to act, with a will to conform to His will for the Redemption of the world.

Now, living in the quiet doesn’t make my waiting always easy or effortless, or even painless for me. I desire so much to know God’s will for me and to enter into my vocation: my specific path, my soul’s joy, my crucible and my ladder for Heaven. I’ve experienced a lifelong interior tug towards marriage and family; I’ve been given a strongly maternal heart that craves babies and loves the company of children; I find myself naturally desiring the leadership, love, and assistance (both temporal and spiritual) of a good husband; I dearly love the thought of being a mother in the home, schooling my children, making my family’s home a church in miniature through prayer and traditions . . . but as good as these things are, I’m prepared to surrender these ‘wants’ of mine if God asks me to, and to go down the road to a vocation that doesn’t initially satisfy my first desires, though it most certainly will be most conducive to my eternal salvation (which is what I want more than anything!).

In fact, yesterday I was reading Fr. Lasance’s thoughts on the unmarried, virginal life in the world. He was speaking in the context of young women who desired life in the convent, or the married state, but for whatever reason weren’t able to fulfill those desires, and so were consigned by God’s will to living a secular, chaste life alone. His words struck me as being incredibly perceptive and wise.

It is no small trial for her, and many a secret tear does she shed because God has seen fit to refuse her the object of her ardent desires. Ought she on this account to be disconsolate? Certainly not; for God orders all things for the best. But why did He implant a longing {…} in her heart if this longing was never to be satisfied? It is plain that He acts thus in order to increase her merits. To find herself obliged to relinquish all hope of attaining the desired goal is the greatest and most painful of sacrifices. If she makes this sacrifice for the love of God, resigning herself to His will in a spirit of childlike submission, and striving to serve Him faithfully {…}, how great is the store of merit she lays up for herself in eternity!

Now, I’ll be honest. As unbelievably hard as it was once for me to be open to the religious life–to be open to being alone in the world, all my life? That was ten times as unthinkable and made me shudder with plain dread.

But now . . . God has helped me to see, quite plainly, that Heaven is all that matters in the end. Traditional Church teaching is clear and true: any state of life will not do for any soul, nor is it a matter of little consequence which state we enter into. If we follow our own will instead of God’s in deciding our state in life (whether it’s consecrated, married, or virginal in the world), we endanger our salvation, because God has fashioned us, has searched and known us, and He has ordained, in His wisdom, which individual path is best for the salvation of our individual souls.

So, much as I might be tempted to, I can’t shudder with dread, even at the thought of being single for the rest of my life. Do I anticipate this being God’s will for me? Well . . . not currently 🙂 But it might be. What matters is that I want His will more than anything. What matters is that I spread my hands, open and empty, before Him every day, and offer my life to Him without any reservation. What matters is that I am malleable, willing, soft and fresh in His palms. What matters is that I tell Him (as often as I think of it) that I’m ready whenever He is, and that I’m happy with whatever He wants.

One thing I’ve learned: the more I think about what I want, the less at peace I am. The more I pray for the things I personally desire (even if they’re good things; actually, especially if they’re good things), the less open I am for the better things He desires. The more I contemplate my invisible future with anxiety, longing, or impatience, the less receptive I am to His grace for the present moment, for my present sanctification. I can’t serve two Masters: my will and His will. I can’t simultaneously pray, Dear Lord, this is what I really, really, REALLY want to happen in my life . . . butThywillbedoneofcourse. Amen. It isn’t a prayer; it’s a contradiction, and it erodes my interior foundation, my charity and my self-surrender.

So again, I’m so very grateful for this period of living in the quiet. I’m grateful for the grace I’ve been given of largely letting go of my own desires. Yes, there are hard days; I fail, and I never have perfectly good intentions in anything I do. But those hard days are given to me so that my merits might increase, my desires might be purified. My failures and sins are opportunities for me to return to God with a humbled and contrite heart, so that He can embrace me in His Fatherly arms and give me renewed strength for the combat here below.

And so whether there’s a wonderful young man somewhere who God sees would make a spot-on husband for me one day; whether there’s a convent full of beautiful nuns with an empty place awaiting my arrival; whether there’s a small house in the world where I will eventually live out a virginal life of charity, kindness, and service to others . . . in the words of St. Gianna Molla, Whatever God wants. And that’s enough for me; it’s enough for all of us.

(Woman at Home Series: 1234)