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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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. 😉

* * *

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 😉 ) 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, it 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 😉

* * *

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. 🙂 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! 😉

Sig

 

“Nothing is so beautiful as spring . . .” (A Woman at Home post)

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. . . or thereabouts, anyway.

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What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of earth’s sweet being in the beginning, in Eden Garden. Have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning; Innocent mind, and Mayday in girl and boy, most, O Maid’s child, Thy choice, and worthy the winning.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring”

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This morning, we drove Lena and our dad to the airport, dropped them off, and drove home under a glorious blue-skied start to a beautiful, chilly March morning. Her visit to Our Lady’s House begins!

Upon returning, I cleaned up a few rooms, made some beds, switched some laundry . . . and then, quite spontaneously, snatched my camera and dove outside to capture some of the “juice and joy.” It was cold and windy, belying all the early-budding trees and flowers. Shivering in my bulky green coat, I only stayed out for a few minutes. But it was so very refreshing. There is intoxicating fun and a strange peace to be found in getting down on your stomach and viewing the world like a baby does.

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I am eighty or so pages into reading aloud The Fellowship of the Ring to my youngest sister, who is still recovering from her cold. This morning, we trekked with the irrepressible hobbits towards Woodhall, evaded the ominous Black Rider, and met Gildor Inglorion together in the quiet sunshine while other family members recuperated with naps from the morning that started in the 5 o’clock hour.

It is a delight: both the story, and reading it aloud to her. Nostalgic in that it brings me back to that time when I was her age (nine years ago!) . . . and new in that the story grows ever stronger and more potent in its images, its themes, its applicability (to use Tolkien’s word) the longer I leave it, like good wine. The Old Winyards, to be precise.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can, pursuing it with eager feet until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet, and whither then? I cannot say . . .

-J. R. R. Tolkien

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Today is First Friday, and Friday of the Second Week of Lent. It’s strange to be praying my devotions and the Mass by myself, without Lena . . . but at the same time, it has its own beauty and stillness.

In fact, the above verse from Tolkien seems incredibly appropriate for today, the more I ponder it. Our paths are branching, little by little. My road is unfolding in one direction; in hers, another. This brings so much joy and excitement, mixed with the natural bittersweetness. All good things come from God, and to be nearing one’s vocation, one’s path of sanctity, to be able to smell it like salt in the air as one approaches the ocean, is such a very, very good thing. To Him be all the glory! We pursue our paths with eager feet!

Look down, O Lord, to help me: let them be confounded and ashamed together that seek after my soul to take it away: look down, O Lord, to help me.

-Offertory, Friday of the Second Week in Lent

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As I continue to pray for the one-day gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, earlier, I was reading this from Dom Prosper Guéranger, “An Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass” and thought it particularly beautiful:

Having made the sign of the Cross, the Priest says the Antiphon: “Introibo ad altare Dei,” as an introduction to the 42nd Psalm. This Antiphon is always said, both before and after the Psalm, which he at once begins: “Judica me Deus.” He says the whole of it, alternately with the Ministers. This Psalm was selected on account of the verse “Introibo ad altare Dei: I will go unto the altar of God.” It is most appropriate as a beginning to the Holy Sacrifice. We may remark here, that the Church always selects the Psalms she uses, because of some special verse which is appropriate to what she does, or to what she wishes to express. The Psalm, of which we are now speaking, was not in the more ancient Missals: its usage was established by Pope Pius the Fifth, in 1568. When we hear the Priest saying this Psalm, we understand to whom it refers:- it refers to our Lord, and it is in his name, that the Priest recites it. We are told this by the very first verse: “Ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.”

The verse here used as an Antiphon, shows us, that David was still young when he composed this Psalm; for, after saying, that he is going to the Altar of God, he says: “Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam: To God, who giveth joy to my youth.” He expresses astonishment at his soul being sad; and, at once, cheers himself, by rousing his hope in God; hence, his song is full of gladness. It is on account of the joy which is the characteristic of this Psalm, that holy Church would have it be omitted in Masses for the Dead, in which we are about to pray for the repose of a soul, whose departure from this life leaves us in uncertainty and grief. It is omitted, also, during Passiontide, in which season, the Church is all absorbed in the sufferings of her divine Spouse; and these preclude all joy.

This 42nd Psalm is an appropriate introduction to the Mass, inasmuch as it in our Lord whom it will bring among us. Who is He that is to be sent to the Gentiles, but He that is Light and Truth? David foresaw all this; and, therefore, he uttered the prayer: “Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam.” We take his prayer and make it ours; and we say to our heavenly Father: “send forth Him, who is thy Light and thy Truth!”

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Small things are beautiful; folding a stack of laundry, brewing a pitcher of tea, wiping off a counter, sitting across the table from my mother, faking (very bad) English country accents for hobbit’s voices, kissing a sibling’s hair, praying the Rosary while driving, taking the time to capture moss growing on a log in a certain transformative slant of morning sunlight.

There is a stillness that, eventually, comes with simplicity. I don’t always have it, because I often go about things the complicated and absorbed way. When I have the brains to seek out the simplicity, that disconnecting from noise, and when I begin to hear in my heart a stirring of hope for a future family, a future life, a future culture built around the Holy Faith, around books and conversations and the old-fashioned, simple, homey things–then stillness comes.

The further I travel into this Lent, the more deeply I am drawn towards my future wifehood and motherhood being built upon simplicity and quiet of heart. I am at the very beginning . . . I don’t exactly know what all it entails yet. I’m sure I’ll be constantly learning as the years elapse. For now, I do know it means openness to life and radical unselfishness; it means the family table; it means cooking and singing together; it means reading aloud books together in the evening, discussing all of life’s aspects with enthusiasm and a desire for truth, engaging and building up one another in the warmth of the family heart as our means of recreation and leisure. It means daily Mass (God-willing!) and the daily family Rosary; it means a healthy and wholesome lifestyle of homeschooling and tradition and solid work and pure playfulness, of living in community while protecting the integrity of our family; it means service and sacrifice; it means steadfastness, fidelity, and prayer; it means wanting to be saints and believing that is very the purpose of our lives. A perfect quote from Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children made it into my Commonplace Book the other week:

Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it is one of the things our children already possess. We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering-up. We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that “impractical” spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God. If this is the undercurrent of our existence, then we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.

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Next week, The Dash and I arrive at half a year of courtship! That seems unbelievable! Half a year since I sat in the pew with him, the first Sunday of our relationship, and was greeted by the words of the Offertory:

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!

How overwhelming is God’s goodness! St. Raphael, ora pro nobis.

Smiling, I just now remembered a certain paragraph out of The Wife Desired:

Ordinarily, love begins for a young girl when she becomes well enough acquainted with a young man to develop a spiritual affinity with him. She admired his qualities and abilities. She likes his attitude toward life in general. She begins to feel at ease, at home in his presence. Then other things begin to happen. A simple phone call brings a flutter to her heart. Her pulse quickens when he calls at her home. She has eyes for no one but him.

With reason she wonders whether she is in love. Her doubts will vanish when she reaches the point of growth in love where all her being reaches out for him in the effort to bring him happiness. Her own whims and desires fade into the background. His happiness is her only real concern.

What a beautiful and brilliantly wise description of the God-given journey I am still undertaking! Half a year is a grossly insignificant amount of time when it comes to even beginning to get used to how much God has blessed me with The Dash, and how wonderful, steady and virtuous a man he is.

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The rest of today . . . well, for me, it’s quiet and full of sunshine, carrying the diffused scent of eucalyptus essential oil; I’ve got some tutoring planning to sort through, although that may spill over into tomorrow . . . then there’s the Daily Full Meal (should I trademark that Lenten expression?) and the evening with the family (hopefully Stations of the Cross will be part of it). May the rest of your day be very blessed! Please do pray for Lena as she visits Our Lady’s House 🙂

Sig

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/

Sig

Goals and Guiding Principles for My Future Homeschool, Vol. I :: Sainthood

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This is a potential series, based off more serious thoughts I’m typing up on a semi-regular basis as I contemplate what my future homeschool and its curriculum might look like once I’m a wife and mother 🙂 It may be subject to change as my thoughts fluctuate and I learn more!

This morning, I was reading Mrs. Berquist (Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum) in the quiet before anyone else was up, and as I pondered, agreed or good-naturedly debated with her thoughts, it came to me quite clearly that I needed to start setting down my current goals and guiding principles for my future home and children, especially how it relates to the extension of my future motherhood that would be homeschooling.

    Sainthood

My greatest desire is that everything in my future husband and I’s home will be properly ordered and oriented towards our final end: the glory of God, and our sanctification—a secondary result of which would be the restoration of an authentically Catholic culture.

The world can’t be a guide for us. Recently, I read an article that stated something to the effect of, The world is obsessed with orienting the constant around the transient, when the transient must be ordered around the constant. One of the most important guiding principles, when I consider my future homeschool, would be that of ordering the transient around the constant in our home.

My greatest hope for my future children is that they will look upon their lives as gifts from God to be given back to Him, in the way He asks, and that they will waste no time in seeking out His Will for their lives. My hope is that they will give Him their youth (Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam!), and be intent upon not deciding their career, but in preparing themselves for, and discerning, their vocation–and letting everything else be ordered around it.

I want everything that I teach them and help them to discover to, collectively, aid them in self-abandonment to God’s Will, and assist them in the critical period of vocational discernment they’ll come to in early adulthood: priesthood, consecrated life, or holy marriage.

This will require diligent spiritual, mental and physical education in our homeschool curriculum, with great care and attention given to cultivating authentic masculinity and femininity in the hearts and intellects of my sons and daughters, respectively.

    The Mass

by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, available from http://fssp.org.

With this having been laid out, the foundation of my homeschool curriculum would have to be a continual growth in understanding and love for the Holy Mass, specifically in the Extraordinary Form: the Mass of the saints. I want my children to be drawn into these most beautiful mysteries from their youngest years; and, as they grow older, to let the Holy Mass mold their intellect and their understanding of life and its meaning, of the Faith, of their final end. I want it to be the fertile soil in which they will plant the seeds of every subject and thought of their heart, and reap a hundredfold from it.

I want it to be available to them on a daily basis (if not physically, then through internet stream), frequently pondered and deeply discussed as they grow older. In a special way, I want to expose my sons, early on, to the life of the traditional priest and the wondrous calling to the priestly life, through exposing them to the beauty of this Mass which, with strength and clarity, reveals the true nature and station of the priestly role.

Similarly, I want to expose my daughters to religious orders that are oriented around the traditional liturgy. And I want all of my children to see and grow up amid the generous family life that so often teems around the Traditional Mass.

Like orphans who have discovered a rich inheritance, I want my children to delight in this traditional liturgy that is visibly ordered and oriented towards God alone, and in every aspect of it, all of which can immeasurably enrich and strengthen their physical, spiritual and intellectual lives. I want it to shape them intimately and definitively, because more than any other tool, Holy Mass will equip them for discerning and embracing their specific vocation.

  Traditional Theology

If our homeschool is grounded in the Mass and specifically the traditional liturgy, then traditional theology and a proper understanding of Church teaching will naturally spring from it. In this arena of study, my homeschool curriculum will be made up of books such as:

  • The Catechism of the Council of Trent

  • The Baltimore Catechism

  • Butler’s Lives of the Saints and many beautifully illustrated saint books

  • The Douay Rheims and Revised Standard Version of Holy Scripture

  • The 1962 Missal

  • True Devotion to Mary

  • many, many writings of the Saints, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. John Vianney, St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Bosco, St. Therese, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Teresa of Avila . . .

  • books about the Traditional Mass such as Treasure and Tradition

  • A Map of Life and other works by Frank Sheed

  • Catholic Morality; Mass and the Sacraments; Catholic Apologetics etc. by Fr. Laux

  • 2,000 Years of Church History by Fr. Fox

  • The Young Man’s Guide

  • The Catholic Girl’s Guide

These and other books written with an authentic, traditional adherence to the Faith will be the treasures of our homeschool, because they will form our souls and intellects firmly around the good, the true and the beautiful.

   Masculinity, Femininity, and Vocational Discernment

From their earliest years, I want to instill in my sons and daughters knowledge and appreciation of their God-given masculinity and femininity. With prudence and wisdom, I would want to try and keep a healthy and reasonable level of distinction between girl’s work/dress and boy’s work/dress (while taking care to not be overzealous about it, which would only push them away from the very thing I desire them to make their foundation).

I would want to encourage chivalry and a spirit of virtuous protectiveness and provision in my young sons, and nurturing tendencies and domestic love in my young daughters, so that they won’t look down upon one another’s differences, but instead deeply respect and admire them.

As they grow older and as part of daily living, I want to keep up a reasonable resolution to require the boys to do “tougher/dirtier/heavier jobs” and be solicitous and kind towards their sisters and mother (though this must really be something set down and maintained by their father, with me merely reinforcing it), while encouraging the girls to take care of the things that are more appropriate to their girlhood, such as to care for their brothers and father through keeping things clean and pleasant and beautiful, making/baking/crafting things to please others and beautify the home . . . but all of this, without letting either boys or girls be afraid of hard work, of helping one another in necessity, or of joining in the others’ tasks. Reasonableness and prudence in all things!

As they grow older, I want to expose them to books such those by Fr. Lasance, which will begin to give them words to articulate the beauty of their sex and the virtues than need developing in relation to it.

These things will be cultivated and encouraged from the time they are very young, and throughout the years when they are both applying themselves to their education and studies. In high school, however, I see an even more purposeful shift: I would want my sons to be guided towards preparing themselves to discern their vocation and to evaluate what academic requirements or work skills that might entail, whether to go into religion or to support a family. My daughters would similarly be guided into subjects that develop their femininity and love of the home, and that stir their hearts into contemplating the religious and married states. The central aspect of my high school curriculum would be one of discussion, contemplation, and initial vocational discernment.

During their younger years, but most especially by high school, I would want to encourage them to maintain a private devotion to St. Raphael, for his guidance in regards to their vocation, and, if marriage, for the protection and hastened appearance of their future spouse in their lives.

By the time of their graduation from high school, my hope is that my sons will have at least the beginnings of clarity of heart and a strong desire to do God’s Will, and be equipped to make a prudent initial choice towards continuing to discern their vocation, whether it’s to explore the priestly or monastic life, or to begin learning a trade or study for a degree that will enable them to support a family. This very possibly could entail the collegiate path, but if so, the preference would be for a community college and for them to not leave home right away as they continue to gain their bearings, deal with a fresh onslaught of the world in college, and grow into men of God, for God.

And as for my daughters, by the time of their graduation, it’s my sincerest hope that they will feel inspired and enabled to pursue their interests, dreams, and their joyful feminine creativity, but always carefully subjecting these things to the priority of their vocational discernment.

If they feel called to marriage, how can they prepare themselves to be good, holy wives and mothers? I would love to read The Wife Desired with them and discuss it. What skills do they need to learn? What hobbies or jobs can they engage in in the meantime that would cultivate their feminine genius, but not hinder or delay marriage once their future spouse appears? Are there healthy ways they can meet like-minded young men and women? And if they are interested in the religious life, what orders are they drawn to? Help them seek out a spiritual director. Enable them to correspond and visit with these communities. Give them time for prayer, frequent Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and encourage them to using their time to serve others and build detachment from their possessions.

But either way, I will not encourage college for my daughters. There is so much they can learn and do that will not accrue debt, potentially delay marriage and waste childbearing years, or delay a possible entrance into the religious life—in other words, hinder them from giving God their youth in marriage or consecrated life, and draw their hearts away from the home and towards a career mindset that only mocks their femininity, or (if they see themselves doing it only until they’re married) takes advantage of it.

This doesn’t mean they can’t study, work, and expand themselves after high school—rather, there is a far more beautiful and enriching way to do all of these things, one that fully enables them to grow, unhindered, into virtuous and feminine women of God.

It would be fruitless and foolish of me to try and build the argument that this is the only way for young women to be happy and become saints, and that if they attend college and marry somewhat later in life, they are destined to be less happy and less successful in their femininity. I know there are many wonderful Catholic girls, or wives and mothers who are devoted to their children and the home, all of whom are simultaneously convinced of the worth of the collegiate path as based on their own experience. So no, I can’t say that this is the only way—but I can say this is, objectively, a more perfect way.

God works for good all things for those who love Him. Undeniably, there are many women who love Him and are trying to please Him, but who have left home and are in college or a career life. Our Lord will certainly work much good out of these circumstances for their sanctification and the fulfillment of their vocation, in relation to His Will and the purity of their intentions.

However, this doesn’t diminish the fact that there is a Divinely established order to things, an order that is obscured, forgotten, and so often perverted in today’s society. There is an intrinsic distinction and complementarity between manhood and womanhood, and an order that follows from it; it spills into the Divinely created order meant to exist in the family, the home, and most of all in the proper roles of marriage. The woman is intended, by God, to be the heart of the home through wifehood and motherhood—or to be “love in the heart of the Church,” through the consecrated life. Objectively speaking, there is very little in college and career life that specifically and necessarily prepares a woman to be the heart of the home, or of the Church—certainly nothing that she can’t easily obtain elsewhere, more clearly and wisely and with less hindrance, for these same ends.

A woman who refrains from college and a career, does so not merely because of these things themselves, but also because of the inescapable context our fallen culture has placed them in, especially in regards to women being established outside of the home. By doing so, she is preparing herself to live out her proper and justly ordered role of womanhood, of helpmate, of nurturer and beautifier in the home or convent; she does it with an ease, clarity, and conviction that’s inevitably unavailable to a woman who is immersed in the demanding and divided lifestyle that results from intensive collegiate studies, in a desk job, or in a career.

So, while God can, and will, work good for women who are in these situations—how much more good will He work for a woman who strives to harmonize herself with the natural order He has set in place since the beginning?

And it is precisely because of this that my post-high school hopes for my future daughters are what they are!

To be continued . . . someday . . . 🙂

Sig