On Drama and Direction (yet another courting post)

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The young man who’d just arrived wore slacks and a blue button-up shirt; the young woman waiting for him wore jeans, a black t-shirt and a hastily tugged-on blue sweater. (The man’s visit was a near-total surprise, which explained the disconnect of wardrobes.)

As he stepped into the living room, he was carrying numerous lilies (which hadn’t unfolded yet) and one red rose. He gave them all to the young woman, sat next to her on the living room couch, and, in front of her whole family but remaining intent on her, explained that the lilies represented purity, while the rose represented the vocation of marriage. It was his sincerest hope for the courtship to remain pure, and for more roses to be added overtime. He asked the girl if she would do him the honor of courting him. The girl (flushed and ecstatic and bashful and delighted) said yes.

That young man was The Dash, and the girl was me, almost eight months ago . . . although I’m sure you saw that coming. πŸ˜‰

* * *

Courtship: the subjective and objective

Occasionally, it’s difficult to me to articulate my thoughts surrounding courtship, especially in real-time conversation. (Blogging is somewhat easier πŸ˜‰ ) But when you consider that courtship is simultaneously an overarching (and counter-cultural) principle, a unique path for a specific couple, a toolbox, and an assortment of actions (or lack thereof) based upon beliefs, it does get a little complicated, even though it is wholly simple in nature.

Being in a courtship means that I have a growing pile of experiences and convictions, but a lack of well-rounded objectivity because I am still a part of the process, as opposed to a product of it. Courtship, as The Dash and I are doing it, is somewhat rare. But of course, that doesn’t make it the only kind of courtship that can be done . . . in a way, it is our courtship, specific to us, to our circumstances, to our stories, to our temperaments, to our families. In a way, it is subjective. But in another sense, itΒ is simply courtship. It is objectively so. Our courtship is unique to us, and yet also a representative of a system, a group of principles, greater than ourselves.

What are these principles? Well, chastity, for one: restricting physical expressions of affection, and for us, involving the presence of chaperones. Building a relationship through prayer, holiness, and sacrifice would be another. So would embracing the family atmosphere and pursuing an honest, intellectual intimacy of mind and heart.

But for me, one especially important principle of courtship in general, and our courtship in particular, is one I haven’t talked about much. It’s the principle of direction. I will get to that below, but first . . .

Why the drama?

That seems to be the question begged by some who are confused or just mesmerized by the concept of courtship. And on the outside, quite honestly, it really does appear to be a lot of drama.

Some people (like yours truly) might think the scenario of The Dash asking me to court him totally charming and perfect; others might think it sweet, but a little too much drama when contrasted with something like how a first date might go. Why begin a relationship with something like a toned-down proposal? Again, why the drama?

After all, at first, it’s simple and casual. The young man and woman meet for the first time–maybe there is immediate chemistry, maybe not. Usually, they build a friendship in group settings through a variety of experiences; their families get together; maybe the young man and woman correspond as friends, gaining a clearer understanding of their respective mindsets and beliefs.

But eventually . . . there comes a point.

The Dash and I met at a combined birthday party/church dance. We danced one time, we didn’t really talk, and so there wasn’t time to form a solid first impression on either end. But then our families got together the next month. We spent a good portion of that day conversing. (Okay, maybe most of the day.) (By that point, I totally liked him, but I digress . . .) We exchanged email addresses and it turned into a friendly correspondence of weekly exchanges. Since he was in school and living in town, our family invited him over for dinner. Shortly afterwards, he made it to Catholic young adult group that my sister and I attended one night, and he drove us home. (I took the front seat…) He came to another dance. We spent more time talking (over very loud music speakers, which I suppose is wonderful training for having conversations over very loud children). Our families got together again. And on it went. It was all casual, polite, and friendly, and yet it hovered in that impenetrable limbo that resides between Guarded and Obvious. (Well, at least he wasn’t obvious. Let me remind you that I took the front seat.)

The feminine heart that is desirous of marriage has a propensity to be constantly curious. Does he like me? Does (this action/word/look) mean he likes me? Would he still be emailing me if he didn’t like me? So on and so forth.

Despite all these interior sighs, I was really determined to guard myself and not assume anything on The Dash’s end. I knew I liked him, but refused to read into him. I believed it was right and intrinsically ordered for a woman to be pursued. I wanted to be pursued. And maybe legitimate pursuit requires a little “drama,” especially when contrasted with the casual, non-committing relationship culture we are surrounded by in our modern age.

And so, as I said . . . there comes a point, for every couple, when you traverse from Guarded to Obvious. In the context of courtship, it does start with permission.

* * *

Seeking permission

In this instance, it was nearing my 21st birthday. We had a small party at home with music and old-fashioned dancing. He and his family were there. Throughout that night, there were a lot of conversations taking place between various family members. Our two families eventually disclosed to each other, and then to us (separately) the existence of mutual attraction between The Dash and I. (He and I didn’t talk about it, however.)

At that point, The Dash made the decision to ask my dad out to dinner, for the purposes of asking his permission to court me. Two weeks later, they met, and that same night, The Dash came to my family’s house with lilies and a rose.

When reading about relationship structures, or about dating/courtship stories I’ve encountered a defense mechanism built in when it comes to girls describing how guys asked their dad’s permission to date or court them.

It wasn’t because I didn’t think I was my own person; it wasn’t because my dad controlled my life, etc. etc.

I find it so sad that these sweet girls have been given cause to feel as if they need to defend their (God-given) instinct to look for approval and permission from their fathers in the context of relationships. These days, an awareness of the concept of spiritual headship in families has been greatly lost. If fathers are the heads of their families, and husbands are the heads of their wives (both of which statements are true), then it stands to reasons that fathers have the duty and role of spiritual headship over their daughters, up until it passes over to their new husbands. (Hence why it makes so much spiritual sense for the father to walk his daughter down the aisle and give her to her husband-to-be; so much is symbolized here. Nor does it contradict that both groom and bride still come of their own free will to the marriage, as some might argue.)

Courtship almost always has a built-in step that looks at this reality for what it is: if a man is looking to court, he first seeks permission from the girl’s father (or father figure), before he approaches her. Yes, it has somewhat more drama than does simply asking the girl on a date. And yet it points to something greater than the young man, greater than the young woman: the reality of family order. And in our day and age, it is a step towards restoring this order.

When the young man swallows his nerves, approaches the father, and acknowledges his headship over the young woman in question by asking permission to court her, a truth is acknowledged. Relationships live or die by truth or the lack thereof. The young man takes a step towards growing into a man who can assume spiritual headship, by humbly acknowledging he does not yet have it. This young woman he admires doesn’t live in a vacuum; she is part of a family, and even if she is out of the home, she is still under her father in a special way. No father is perfect, no family is perfect . . . and yet, apart from extraordinary cases that might prevent this action, this step is so important, and it works. A good father is always going to be impressed when a young man has the courage to ask his permission first.

Needless to say, my dad gave his permission πŸ˜‰

* * *

And so The Dash asked me to court him. I said yes; and after that have followed the (nearly) eight best months of my life! And this brings me back to one of the most important principles of courtship, one that I am daily learning to appreciate more and more: that of direction.

When The Dash came and asked me to court him that night, I immediately and clearly was reassured of the direction we would be going in. If our courtship was intended by God to progress, it would end in betrothal and culminate in marriage. If not, we would end it as friends. There was no in-between; no uncertainty. He and I both knew, with no doubts, what we were going to be looking towards.

The Dash submitted himself to the drama both of asking my dad’s permission, and of coming to my house, giving me flowers, and asking me, with an eloquence borne of manliness and maturity, to court him–he honored me, and gave me the gift of direction. He wasn’t going to toy with my heart, and he made sure I knew it. He wanted to discern marriage with me. He firmly pointed me in that direction from Day One of our courtship, and has walked alongside with me in it for these past months. We have always been open to the possibility that marriage would not be our end; like any couple, we have had to navigate differences, stressful and painful situations, and imperfect communication; and yet there has never been aimlessness.

For a woman’s heart, such direction is reassurance beyond price.

A Catholic couple who are dating with right intentions can, of course, establish experience the same sense of direction, depending on how they do it. I guess the thing about courtship is that this sense of direction is built into its very framework. If The Dash had asked me to go out on a date with him, we might or might not have achieved that same sense of mutual direction; maybe on the third, fourth, or tenth date, he would have conveyed to me that he wanted to discern marriage exclusively with me. I don’t doubt we would have gotten to this point, because to be marriage-minded brooks no unnecessary delay, and no lack of commitment; and we are both marriage-minded people! However, dating in itself doesn’t provide the direction, as much as the couples themselves can bring that direction to it, if they so choose. And so this reveals an intrinsic good to be found in courtship: the direction is already there.

The direction that grounded The Dash and I’s courtship from the beginning continues to flower, seven-and-a-half months in. Through the many good times and the various trials and rough patches that The Dash and I have navigated, that sense of direction has, well, directed us. πŸ™‚ We are at the point now where this promise of direction is even more reassuring to me than it was at the beginning (as it should be!). Courtship is not meant to last forever. The direction we embarked on is very grave, because it opens up the possibility of vowing to spend a lifetime with with one another, should we arrive at the end having discerned God’s Will in that. And yet even that gravity holds no fear; the closer we approach it, the more beautiful it is!

* * *

Yesterday, The Dash and I were blessed to attend the wedding of a beautiful young Catholic couple; it was in the Old Rite of Marriage, followed by Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form! To witness their joy together was a joy for us. To listen to the Admonition, to see to their exchange of vows, was not something awkward or nebulous for the two of us. Since Day One of our courtship, I have never once had to wonder if The Dash was thinking about marriage–about marrying me. He has never had to wonder if I would be open to the same. Thanks to the initial “drama” of courtship, we have always had our answer to Quo Vadis? If God so wills (and that comes above everything!), we know where we are going.

And in a very substantial way, that knowing gives us the strength to be chaste, and to pursue both better communication and more wholehearted sacrifice. If you aim high, you grow less and less afraid to climb high. The clearer you begin, the clearer you end. This is why I am so grateful for having been introduced to the concept of courtship as a young girl, and eventually given the chance to participate in it with someone so wonderful as The Dash. Through God’s goodness, courtship gives far more than it takes!

Happy Sunday! πŸ˜‰

Sig

 

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7 Rambling Monday Takes, Vol. 11 :: On Lady Day

MondayTakes

Explore previous rambling installments here πŸ™‚

1.

A most blessed feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to you all! How special that, this year, it was moved to just after the Easter Octave, when we are all still filled with the joy of Paschaltide.

O God, Who didst will that Thy Word should take flesh, at the message of an Angel, in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, grant to Thy suppliant people, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with Thee.

-Collect from today’s Mass

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When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heavenβ€”and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In that strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Or your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.

“A Little Litany” – G. K. Chesterton

2.

It’s been months since I’ve done one of these posts! Since January, actually . . .

The day is cool and overcast (though the sun and some blue are poking through now!), in contrast to the lovely warm spring weather we were enjoying only a week ago. I’ve just finished (mostly) planning for tutoring tomorrow; it will be my third-to-last class for the school year. (Time has truly flown!) My laundry is in the washer. The bathroom begs to be cleaned. A workout awaits this afternoon. I’m drained from the busyness of the weekend. In the predawn dark, I hit snooze this morning for ten minutes when my alarm went off at 6, although I had jerked awake at 5:50 and at that moment began contemplating how, precisely, I was going to get up. Not an heroic minute by any means. So yes . . . it’s a Monday . . . but there is beauty to be found, especially in the mundane, and that is a gift!

3.

Saturday afternoon, I listened to four out of eight talks, given by Fr. Ripperger, on the virtue of modesty; which, as you might guess, expands far outside the realm of dress and instead encompasses your entire comportment, speech, and behavior as a person. Scary? Yes. Completely necessary? Yes.

It already has made me rethink, so very much, my daily behavior. And as with any virtue, it will be a long road towards making all those thousand small and large improvements that must be made . . . but with God and Our Lady, all things are possible! πŸ™‚

You can find all the talks on modesty here, towards the end of the “Sermons” section.

4.

Ah, yes, the workout. I was going to run a 5K this Saturday (with The Dash) . . . and now, I am walking it. A teensy story of some ongoing medical symptoms and a gentle Divine demand for humility on the part of yours truly. Fortunately The Dash is totally awesome and doesn’t mind walking with me instead, and has gallantly made it all seem like it’s all better this way, anyway. I don’t know if I will ever be a runner, except for running after my own future children (God-willing), but Saturday should still be fun πŸ™‚

5.

The Dash and I’s families spent the day together yesterday after Mass, celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy. It was a beautiful afternoon in so many different aspects, and it was complete with a pinata (to the euphoria of all the kids πŸ™‚ )!

During the afternoon, The Dash and I and a pile of kids were all sitting on one of the couches. Two of the Dash’s little nephews were busy guessing my age. I shall type down the ensuing dialogue for posterity:

Nephew 1 (around 5 years old): Are you seventeen?

Me: Older.

Nephew 1: Sixteen!

Me: No . . . older! (:D)

Nephew 2 (around 7 years old): Are you eighteen?

Me: Even older!

Nephew 1: Twenty?

Me: Older!

Nephew 2:Β  TWENTY-ONE!

Me: Yes! I’m twenty-one!

Nephew 2: You’re in your twenties! (He pauses, then smiles as if in investigationπŸ™‚ ) Are you married with anybody?

Me: Not yet . . .

Nephew 2: But you’re in your twenties! (turning to The Dash): Are you going to marry with her?

The Dash: I wouldn’t mind that . . .

Nephew 2: (Grinning and rolling his eyes) Ohhhh, no . . . .

The Dash: And then I’ll have kids, and my kids can play with you.

Nephew 2: (Eyes still lifted to heaven) This is going to be one big family!

6.

Later on, our family was leaving. The Dash and I were talking beside one of the cars. Nephew #2 saunters up to us.

Nephew 2: (Big, coy grin) What are you two doing?

The Dash: Talking.

Nephew 2: (Batting his eyelashes) What kind of talk?

The Dash and I: (laugh)

Nephew 2: (Eyebrows raised knowingly, hands clasped behind his back) Is it love talk?

Me: What, (Nephew #2)? Do you think that we love each other?

Nephew 2: Ohhhh . . . (and runs off.)

7.

And how appropriate it is to mention under #7 that yesterday marked 7 months of courtship for The Dash and me πŸ™‚ May God continue showering us with graces through the hands of Our Blessed Mother as we continue into a new month of our journey!

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God bless you all! Be sure to shower Our Lady with love today πŸ™‚

Sig

Children of the Saints . . . or, a glimpse into Catholic courtship :: Part 1

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“For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.”

-Tobias to Sarah (Tobit 6)

* * *

Since last September, The Dash’s and I’s love for one another has been continually growing into an affection and loyalty that’s wholehearted, beautiful, and full of laughter. What else is there to thank for this than God’s abundant grace, and the wisdom and support of our amazing families? We recently celebrated half a year of traditional Catholic courtship . . . as I told him recently, these have been the best six months of my life!

And yesterday, my siblings took some incredibly awesome pictures to prove how happy we are πŸ™‚

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This post has been in the works for a while . . . not that I’ve had a draft saved, or scraps of paper littered around my room. Rather, the words have been tumbling around in my head for some weeks. I’ve written several times here about The Dash and I’s courtship, while at the same time respecting our privacy. That’s something I intend to continue doing. But after half a year, I feel as if I’m able to look back on these last six months and write somewhat cohesively about the process of our courtship (from my point of view, anyway, so it’s only a 50% deal!).

This isn’t so much about us as a couple, but rather, it’s about the tools we’ve learned to use, and the graces that have come from our having embraced, to the best of our ability, a kind of relationship that’s built on the pillars of faith, justice and self-control.

I’ve never had any experience with dating. Courtship hasn’t left me wanting to know anything else but it . . . and yet, at the same time, “courtship” is a largely lost way of building a relationship between a young man and woman who are discerning marriage together. Our culture trumpets independence and love above all, particularly the physical expression of love. Dating, even ‘Catholic dating,’ is still very different from a traditional understanding of courtship. Courtship, with its traditional reserve, is starkly counter-cultural. However, there are many different modes of thought surrounding courtship and how it should be done. Many people are familiar with the internationally popular stories of the Duggars and Bates families, and there are definitely things to be admired in how they conduct their courtships.

However, traditional Catholic courtship must somehow be different from what are technically Protestant courtships (though they bear many similarities in everything that’s good!).

Catholic courtship must be different, somehow, because of the Sacramental life, because of the Church’s infallible theological understanding of traditional marriage, of justice, of the roles manhood and womanhood, of sexuality, and of the preservation of holy purity . . . and also what can amount to sins against holy purity. The Church is ordered and beautiful; therefore, a courtship can mirror that order and beauty by adhering to the wisdom of the Church.

This courtship of ours is certainly a great process of learning. The Dash and I were both blessed to grow up in families where courtship was the desired process of forming a virtuous attachment to someone. However, courtship involves continual re-evaluation. Why are we doing this, how are we doing this? What are our strengths, what are our weaknesses; how is our relationship growing, how is it suffering? What are our convictions, what are our emotions; how do they function separately, and what happens now that they are combined in this relationship of two heads and hearts? What is God’s Will for us? All these questions must be explored in some way, regularly, for the courtship to eventually achieve its purpose, which is to discern whether or not you are compatible and complementary, whether or not God desires marriage for you: and then to act firmly upon that discernment.

In my mind, there are five basic aspects to any relationship, and so there are subsequent arenas of traditional Catholic courtship related to each of these aspects: 1) the physical; 2) the spiritual; 3) the emotional/temperamental; 4) the intellectual; and 5) the familial.

It’s my hope in writing about each of these arenas, in a general way, that a clearer picture of a traditional Catholic courtship emerges. Objectively speaking, we don’t have the perfect courtship (though subjectively speaking, of course we do!). We are faulty and we are continually learning. We love one another but we are imperfect. The cracks between our ideal courtship and ourΒ realΒ courtship are where God’s grace can pour through and help us in our journey to become saints, if only we permit it.

1. The physical

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Perhaps courtship is best known for its outward appearance of restraint. Courting couples strive after a genuine modesty and a perfect self-control in relation to expressions of affection, especially those that are physical. To avoid the near occasion of sin and to preserve purity are two of the main reasons for this restraint. They are highly important reasons. But, technically speaking, they are not the primary reasons.

In his excellent talk (linked on my sidebar), Fr. Ripperger explains it best. Courting couples are not pledged to one another. Either party can walk out at any time. The amount of love and the amount of time spent exclusively with one another doesn’t matter in this context. Neither person has solemnly promised God to remain with the other person. Exclusive physical expressions of love build accelerated attachments (especially for the woman), leaving either person vulnerable to heartbreak and pain, should the relationship end. So to willingly pave the ground for potential heartbreak for your loved one, simply because you’re unwilling to mortify your desires for physical affection towards them (even if these expressions aren’t mortally sinful), is a sin against justice.

What does this look like? Kissing, holding hands, and frequent embracing are obvious examples. They’re exclusive signs of affection that, if engaged in while courting, aren’t backed up by a sacred bond of justice (either through solemn betrothal or marriage) to remain with the other person. So these would be a sin against justice, because through them, you would be making your loved one vulnerable to pain.

So as you might guess, in our courtship, we don’t kiss or hold hands; we have a brief hug when we’re saying hello or goodbye, just as we would with friends and family (although, logically speaking, we emotionally share a different kind of affection towards one another than with our friends). Leaning-in and side-hugs for photo-posing are about it when it comes to contact πŸ˜‰

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Is this hard? Of course! We’re normal people and we love each other! But we know it is just. And to treat your loved one with justice is a beautiful thing; it rewards you and your relationship with grace, joy and undeniable peace of conscience.

Under this realm of the physical also falls the practice of chaperoning. From the beginning, The Dash and I have been in total agreement to not be left completely alone together, without a family member or a friend close by. This hasn’t been forced on us by our families; it’s something we’ve freely chosen, and they support us in it.

It isn’t that, because we want our purity to be preserved until marriage, we’re afraid that we’d instantly fall into sin if left alone together somewhere. But rather, we submit to this practice out of prudence. We know that the more we were regularly alone, the more we would want to be alone–and very slowly and subtly, the world, flesh and the Devil could use this for evil. We aren’t alone together in the same room, and never alone in the car together. If we want to go somewhere together, we bring a precious sibling along (our siblings have often helped us have some of our best conversations by asking incredibly insightful questions!) πŸ™‚

But . . . this doesn’t rule out private conversations! Private talks on the phone (for a reasonable amount of time), one-on-one talks in a separate room (thanks to my ingenious dad, we have a handy system set up to where The Dash and I are in one room, on video, and are glanced at from time to time by someone in another room with a monitor screen, while we talk undisturbed . . . hilarious but true), or sitting outside while remaining in the sight of other people inside: all these things are fully possible, and are regularly done in our courtship. Too much privacy in courtship is dangerous. But some privacy is needed to start building much-needed communication skills. Some of the most important or tricky things to talk about (such as emotional upsets, miscommunication, family differences, etc.) have to be talked through, fully and honestly, but it would be very stunted and awkward if done in the earshot of the family. Achieving a healthy and functioning balance of privacy while always being “chaperoned” is both possible and vital.

2. The spiritual

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The spiritual aspect of traditional Catholic courtship is, without a doubt, the most beautiful of them all. It brings strength, order, sweetness, unity and peace where nothing else can. If the couple is meant to be married, they have to be unified spiritually in their courtship if unity is to arrive in any other area for them.

Praying daily together is a must, whether in person or over the phone. Pray for one another, for one another’s families, for the protection of purity in the courtship, and ask that God’s grace would be abundant in the relationship so that the couple can develop healthily and discern God’s Will. As Fr. Mawdesly reminded me in his video, nothing good happens without it first being prayed for. Purity, sound communication skills, honesty, humility, charity and wisdom mustΒ all be prayed for if the couple’s courtship is to be held up and preserved by these gifts from God. Frequent attendance at Mass together, frequent trips to Confession, mutual novenas for any need, and a shared desire to grow in holiness are all indispensable! My favorite moments of each week are when The Dash and I attend Mass together and “visit the statues” afterwards, offering our united prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady and St. Joseph.

During courtship is when the man’s spiritual headship in the relationship first begins to flower. I can’t express how important this is! This doesn’t mean that the man needs to have every single idea for spiritual improvement or prayer in the courtship . . . but rather, it means that both the man and woman strive to learn how to do their part in (for the man) leading and protecting, and (for the woman), inspiring and submitting. This paves the way for an ordered marriage in which the husband is the legitimate head, leader, and protector of his wife and children.

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The Dash has been blessed with such strong graces of leadership and I couldn’t be more thankful for this! He often takes the initiative, whether (for instance) it’s for leading me in prayer, or even for letting me out of the pew first but then walking ahead of me towards Holy Communion as the leader in our relationship. Largely because of him, I have learned that the more the woman embraces the role of her femininity, the more she is able to perceive the man’s innate gifts of wisdom, practicality, leadership and protectiveness. To see these masculine gifts acting in the spiritual arena of courtship is most beautiful.

The courting couple should definitely ask saints to become their patrons, and invoke them often! For The Dash and I, our patron saints are Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, St. Raphael, and Ss. Jacinta and Francisco (whose relics we were privileged to pray in front of early on in our courtship). (By the way, Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph should be considered by the couple, as well!) I can’t express the consolation I receive, knowing that we are under the patronage of such loving helpers.

This post will be continued soon . . . but it’s nearly time for our family rosary and I know I’ll never be able to finish this tonight πŸ˜› God bless you all!

Sig

 

Four Necessities for Every Happy Home

Family

I was reading Fr. Lasance’s The Catholic Girl’s Guide just now, in particular his quoted section “The Art of Being Happy,” (which somehow I had never read before!?), by Rev. Matthew Russell. And I was so moved by Fr. Russell’s words in Section II that I had to run straight back upstairs to my computer and post it immediately πŸ˜‰

What an inspiration and a challenge these words are to me. How often I fail in contributing to the happiness and unity of my family’s home. These words reminded me of the vital role I play in securing happiness, or the lack thereof, for my family and our little church–simply by my small choices either to be generous or selfish, pliant or rigid. I pray I’ll be given the grace to obeying Fr. Russell’s words of loving admonition purposefully from my heart . . . and that my future home will be built upon these truths!

What is it that secures happiness in a home?

Before everything, religion: let all love well our good God, let all say their prayers morning and night, let all put their trust in divine providence.

In the next place, union: let the members of the household be affectionate toward one another, having only one heart and one soul, not saying or doing anything that may pain any one of them.

Then again, the spirit of sacrifice: we must be ready to do without something in order to make another member of the family enjoy it, we must give up our own personal tastes to conform to the tastes of others.

Finally, pliancy of character: not to be hard to deal with, touchy, sour, proud, not to be obstinately rooted in one’s ideas, not to grow impatient about mere nothings, but to have a large mind and a generous heart.

A family whose members possess these qualities is a paradise on earth.

May God bless your Monday! πŸ™‚

P.S. And may God reward you for your continued prayers for Baby Isaac! He is improving little by little, so let us all keep storming Heaven with perseverance and confidence for his full healing! Again, here is the link for updates: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Prayers-for-Baby-Isaac-1977272082313227/posts/?ref=page_internal

Sig

7 (Very) Rambling Monday Takes, Vol. 9 :: Christmas, Epiphany, Back to School, and Catching Up

MondayTakes

Explore previous rambling installments here πŸ™‚

My goodness, what a packed couple of weeks these have been! I feel like a stranger to my own blog!!! πŸ˜‰

I’ve just finished catching up on some vital things (it was a super-productive Monday!) and am now currently pinching myself. Blogging? Am I actually blogging? Really? Is it possible?

There’s very little hope that I’ll do an adequate job of catching up on such an enormous amount of events in one post, but if any post series could come close, it’s 7 Rambling Takes . . .

Where to even begin, though?!? Christmas? All right, Christmas!

1. Christmas Eve

The week before Christmas, we decked our halls (while keeping the beloved Christmas lights unplugged). I tried my first true eggnog (that is, with the Something Extra in it), and after the first sip decided that it tasted like Tamiflu. Ugh. Three sips later, and I willingly sacrificed it to my parents and The Dash. For the first time since we’ve lived in this house, we decorated the area above our kitchen cabinets with garland, lights, red ribbon and our nutcracker collection (we’ve accumulated more than a dozen over the years). And then there was the tree, the Creche, the mantle, the banisters for our stairwell, and the other little odds and ends that are part of Christmas in our household.

A few days before Christmas, right after a wonderful, full day of learning how to make tamales from The Dash’s family, I came down with a cold . . . and felt awful, in more than one way. Physical awfulness doesn’t approach I-might-not-be-well-enough-for-High-Mass-choir awfulness. That is mental torture!

It was as if last year (back when “last year” was 2016 . . .) were happening all over again: the cold and the croakiness. I was having visions of becoming The Frog once more. I bore down on essential oils, some other medicinal remedies, and rest, diffusing and applying and swallowing . . . hoping and praying that my voice would be saved even as I moaned and sniffled in the middle of my vast throne of tissues, reading my favorite parts of The Fool of New York City. When I had the energy, I wrapped presents and made cards, these endeavors punctuated by frequent nose-blowing and coughing.

How many times, on this blog, had I mentioned choir work for the approaching Christmas Eve High Mass? Well, more than once, anyway! The music was so beautiful. I was beyond excited. We were practicing every week . . . and Lena and I would have impromptu practices with our friends in choir every time we saw them (which was often). The plaintive 15th-century chant, “Angelorum Gloriae;” the sublime, “Dies es Laetitia;” the playful, haunting, beautiful, “Personent Hodie;” and so much more.

Well . . . the eve of Christmas Eve came. And I felt precisely the same as I had on the eve of Christmas Eve 2016. My voice was as wobbly and as sputtering as a drunken propeller plane (not that I have experience with drunken planes . . . it just seems an apt analogy.) I flung myself onto my bed (sort of) and cried for a little while out of stubborn human resentment, and, sniffling, poured out my woes to the very sympathetic Dash. And then I resolved, as best I could and in order to not try Our Lord’s infinite patience any longer, to cheerfully and humbly accept my fate as to my upcoming role (or lack thereof) in choir for Christmas Eve. I ate countless spoonfuls of horseradish in order to relieve my congested sinuses. It did help some to release those excoriating fireballs into my skull. Agh. But I digress.

Christmas Eve dawned. I woke up achy and sweating, and running a low-grade fever (was an overdose of horseradish to blame?). I took a shower, dressed, and eventually felt somewhat more human. By that point, I decided that I wouldn’t be able to sing at all during the morning’s choir practice (how wonderful to have to go to Mass twice in a day! I wish it happened more often!), if I were going to have any hope of singing anything that night. So I sat quietly through the practice (that is, whenever I wasn’t in the back of rectory, blowing my nose).

Once we got home from the morning’s Mass, I changed into the most comfortable clothes I owned, ate something, began coughing more and more . . . and The Croaks set in by mid-afternoon, despite all the remedies I tried.

And so it was with an air of subdued acceptance that, as the time for High Mass approached, I dressed in last year’s Christmas Eve outfit. Black blouse, cherry-blossom skirt, black flats. I even recreated the same hairstyle I’d done. It prevented me from having too think too hard about what I was wearing, and instead think aboutΒ How much am I going to be able to sing?

We arrived at our parish with time to spare. It was freezing. The Dash made it at the same time we did, however, which improved my spirits by 200%. Inside, the choir loft, nave, narthex and sanctuary were decorated so beautifully. Lights, garland, trees, ribbons, poinsettias, a glowing Creche scene.

I knew I was going to have to sit out (like last year) from the pre-Mass carols, except for “Verbum Caro Factum Est: Y La Virgen Le Decia,” since it was a two-part piece (all of which pieces I’d committed to at least trying to sing). However, right when they were about to begin the carols, Our Lady (no doubt) sent me the most wonderful grace of deciding that, if I couldn’t sing the carols, I would lip-sing them with a big grin on my face. And so Lena and I stood together, using the same hymnal; she sang like a bird while I cheerfully mouthed the words. And, how that brought on a holy Christmas joy in my heart!

I wobbled softly through “Verbum Caro” with the rest of the choir, and then High Mass began. My younger brother was one of the acolytes–his second time to serve as a High Mass acolyte since Easter–and I was swelling with pride just at the sight of him processing in with his brothers. The Mass was beautiful beyond description. Even if I had to go down to the bathroom and blow my nose several times during it.

Surely Christ’s gift to me this Christmas Eve was humility (which I, erm, prayed for throughout all of Advent . . . sigh, must prayers be answered? πŸ˜‰ ), joy, and an opportunity to participate more interiorly in the High Mass. It was really hard not to be able to sing the glorious Mass IV (its soaring Sanctus and Agnus!) and most of the other hymns; however, I was able to sing “Personent Hodie” without absolutely crashing, and that was also a gift, since it was my cherished favorite of all the two-parters! Everything else, however, I wound up having to stay silent on . . . but I lip-sang and smiled while holding Lena’s hymnal, and the special sisterly joy we shared over the Nativity of Christ was something I’ll always remember, particularly in light of how it might have been Lena’s last Christmas with our family, depending on what God has in store for her this year.

Mass ended. The Dash and I went and prayed in front of the Creche, St. Joseph’s altar and Our Lady’s altar. We all attempted a few brave minutes out in the freezing night air to wish all our dear friends a Merry Christmas . . . but then we had to scoot. We all drove home and, at long last, ignited the Christmas lights and enjoyed some snacks and the simple joy of all being together, before putting our stocking stuffers in one another’s stockings and heading off (exhausted) to bed around midnight.

2. Christmas Day

Christmas morning, I was the first one awake, probably from excitement. I prayed in the quiet and sat waiting for my youngest sister to wake up and spread her ebullience through our room and, eventually, the house. After a while she woke up and we chattered until it seemed a decent time to rouse everyone else. We went downstairs and I did dishes (insatiable domestic . . . but they did need to be done!) while the coffee brewed and everyone else slowly woke.

At last, we gathered in the living room, offered a few morning prayers (I think . . .), and sang “Happy Birthday” to the Christ Child, like we’ve done since time immemorial. My ambitious Latin-geek self daydreams of how my future kids might sing “Adeste Fidelis” (in Latin) to the Christ Child on Christmas morning, but we’ll see πŸ˜‰ We did stockings first, and we all took turns: my youngest sister, my brother, Lena, myself, The Dash (his stocking was hanging from the shotgun barrel, my Dad’s idea, quite naturally πŸ˜› ), Mom and then Dad. For my part in the stocking stuffers, I’d enrolled everyone in the FSSP Christmas Novena and given them their own cards (my siblings and The Dash got holy cards, too), and I also took advantage of the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society and enrolled some of our deceased friends and family members, especially as a gift to Lena, Mom and Dad. But in everyone’s stockings were fun treats (like chocolate and fig bars) and thoughtful, useful little gifts (including my brother’s annual gift of new wall calendars)!

Once stockings were done, we ambled into the kitchen and cooked breakfast: a friend had given us homemade cinnamon rolls which simply needed to be warmed up; we also had eggs and sausage and put together a few things for the Christmas lunch we’d be having at my grandmother’s. It was all incredible (if something of a sugar overload.) And after eating, it was time for presents!

My youngest sister had drawn me this year πŸ™‚ She got me a beautiful, feminine floral wallet, with all sorts of convenient pockets and zippers and cardholders. I would never have thought how much I would enjoy a new wallet until I had one!!! She also got me a new makeup pouch/small bathroom travel case, which is already coming in so handy. From Dad came a concealed carry purse. It is brilliant. I’ve had my license for a few years and have been making do with other purses. This one, however, is perfect, with a built-in holster and a zippered side pouch . . . the works. It’s also much roomier than my former purse (which was a great thrift-store find, even if not perfect), and this fact alone is destined to make a girl happy. From Mom came a stun gun (a total surprise!). I feel I am surely one of the most ultra-protected females alive.

From The Dash came particularly amazing dark chocolate (all of it has been gone for some time πŸ˜‰ ), a (very appropriate to our relationship) Frank Sinatra Christmas CD, and–most amazing of all–a letter from himself to me, for each of the twelve days of Christmas. This particular gift left my sanguine self absolutely wordless and speechless. A more unexpected, touching and beautiful gift couldn’t have been contrived. Just when I thought traditional Catholic courtship couldn’t get any better (and when I thought The Dash couldn’t get any better) . . . it did (and he did).

I would love to go through everyone’s presents, but just realized am only on #2 and amΒ alreadyΒ at nearly 2000 words! (Gasp!) Once all the presents were opened, we got ourselves ready and went to my grandmother’s house for lunch and her gifts to us. She has such a generous heart and always showers us at Christmas. This year, we siblings gave her three gift ideas for each sibling. Accordingly, I received a new copy of my beloved Sophia House (which I’d owned at one time but gave away to a friend πŸ™‚ ); an FSSP 2018 calendar; and some new crocheting yarn which I am going to make into a baby blanket for a pregnancy center, hopefully starting this week. My grandmother also gave me some precious pictures from when I was younger, as well as a knife that belonged to my late grandfather. It was all so special.

After visiting with her, The Dash took my brother and I to his family’s house for a few hours . . . I was so very touched they had a stocking for me, too! It was full of some delicious treats and beautiful things like holy water, a rosary, and a homemade necklace . . . as well as an awesome collection of brightly colored Sharpies! It may sound a little silly to be so excited over colored Sharpies. However it was a perfect gift and something I would never think to ask for. They have been so useful, especially as I get ready to start tutoring my Grammar class tomorrow and I’ve been prepping some last-minute displays. I get excited just looking at them πŸ™‚

The three of us arrived back home after dark (having to listened to some of our favorite songs on Spotify) to roast beef poboys and Christmas cake. We settled in to watch Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn . . . and that was our Christmas! The loveliest, best and most blessed one yet!

3. Octave of Christmas

I spent the Octave of Christmas getting well rather slowly. We all really just rested for the first few days, padding around and eating and reading things (and I got to read a new letter from The Dash each morning, which was indescribably wonderful!); but then things started picking up because a family we knew was putting on a formal Christmas Ball on the 29th, and had kindly invited us! So Mom hemmed our dresses and was, in many senses, our angel for a few days πŸ™‚ I had been on the fence about what to wear.

An ivory-colored dress my mom had worn at 17 fit me perfectly, but a little too perfectly and was rather cumbersome (including puffed sleeves . . . ), and while I really loved the nostalgia of it, after some deliberation it was decided that it wouldn’t be the best thing to wear. So we’d gone to the thrift store, where we found my youngest sister a perfect formal copper-colored dress with a sheer black sweater (she was so lovely!), and a long, simple, shimmery navy-blue dress for me. That was what I wound up wearing, and it was honestly perfect in terms of comfort, dance-able-ness, and just feminine prettiness.

The ball was lovely, beautifully decorated and with delicious food that our hostess had made, and we all had a wonderful time . . . so many dances including plenty of waltzing, a Virginia Reel, and music to dance the Laendler to. My youngest sister and I were ecstatic to be able to dance what we’d learned of the Laendler together! And, of course, I got to dance quite a lot with a certain someone, which made for such a lovely evening πŸ™‚

The next day we had The Dash’s family over for a laid-back Christmas celebration. We sang Christmas carols, talked and enjoyed one another, and I got to snuggle my Godson (I was finally well enough!!!); I’m pretty sure that his all coos indicated that he wanted to take me to the next Christmas Ball and have me on his arm. I happily complied.

4. Epiphany

New Years’ found us all home, as it’s been absolutely frigid (in the teens and twenties) for most of last week, with it only now starting to warm up, and as some of us were still sick in varying degrees and it wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation (something I only realized on New Year’s Eve!), we felt it would be prudent to stay indoors. The rest of the week was pretty quiet, but Saturday was Epiphany! The Dash, Lena, youngest sister and I went to Confession and Mass early that morning, followed by choir. We are learning the Psalms for Holy Thursday Mass . . . sublime.

We came home, had lunch, and revealed our secret Kris Kringle roles. Lena had drawn me (which I had guessed, since I was being peppered with holy cards πŸ™‚ ) and I had drawn Mom. It is so hard to do secret things for one’s mother! I wish I could have done more! But she was so sweet and very appreciate of the meager things I’d actually been able to do.

I placed my Magi with the rest of my small German Nativity set (which I’ve had for, goodness, several years now) up on my prayer altar . . . they had been “journeying” on my desk ever since I set up the scene to begin with, which was (shamefully) a day or two after Christmas . . .

Later that day, The Dash, Lena and I went out bowling with our good friends to celebrate Epiphany and the end of college break for the two oldest, and we had a fantastic time! I came in last place, as is my bowling tradition . . .Β cest le vie. However mildly embarrassing this may be, I am deeply happy to be that person who prevents everyone else from coming in last place. Leave it to a sanguine to not minding being the source of good-natured laughter πŸ˜‰

We all groaned at the ghastly music (ghastly) and laughed at how much we wound up needing the bumpers. Afterwards we had supper together and played Scattergories and Taboo while listening to Hans Zimmer on Spotify. A wonderful time of celebrating our friendships in Christ!

5. Tutoring

I begin tutoring my Grammar-level class of ten girls at the Catholic co-op tomorrow! It’s a paid position, and as I’m picking up in the middle of the year, I only have two semesters and so it stretches through May. I’m so excited! I spent most of today getting the last bits of curriculum in order and organizing all my notes and moving parts . . . while I’m, naturally, a little nervous since this is rather brand-new to me, I’m more eager than anything to bond with the girls and enjoy helping them to learn (and learning with them)! It helped that I was blessed with such a productive day. Feeling more prepared equates with slightly less nerves πŸ˜‰

But if anything would reassure me that this is part of God’s Will for my present life, then it would be the fact that the first bit of Latin I’ll be teaching them are the words, Benedic, Domine, Nos. I was floored when I realized it was part of the Week 13 curriculum! Isn’t that amazing!

6. Back to School

At home, my younger brother and sister started back school today, so it was back to English and literature with my brother this afternoon! Back toΒ 180 Daily Teaching Lessons,Β back to memorizing the Last Gospel. Being finished, our beloved Men of Iron is now replaced with Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery. I received permission from my brother to attempt English accents . . . no German accents, though. Alas.

Even though it’s challenging for everyone, it is so good and rejuvenating to be back on routine. Something clicks and the day whirls by before we know it. Prayer and work! (We are back to Sarasota’s 8am Mass as well, which was so delightful. Their chapel is beautifully decorated for Christmas!)

I am so thankful for the blessing of a homeschooling environment, and especially for the blessing of being able to live in it past my high school graduation! I am just itching to help create my own homeschool one day πŸ™‚ I feel this tutoring experience will be wonderful practice and a perfect opportunity for me to grow!

7. Four Months

And finally, today marks four months of courtship! I am so grateful to God for all the blessings and graces he’s showered upon The Dash and I’s relationship, especially through Our Lady. May God’s holy Will be done in all things!

Have a blessed remainder of your Christmas season! It’s lovely to be back πŸ™‚ (And congratulations: if you’re reading this, you’ve survived a 3200 word post.)

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