Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Graces


I had the blessing and the honor to spend a weekend with 12 beautiful women and their children, some in utero and others in arms, discussing the grit and the glory of the vocation of homemaking. (I apologize to anyone who just spit on their screen) Yep, that's right, I said the vocation of homemaking. Still shocked? Read on.

These women I speak of, they're some of the best and the brightest. We're talking college degrees, Master's degrees, published work... And yet they have taken themselves out of circulation at the peak of their game, electing instead to waste their time at home, scrubbing floors and changing diapers when they could be out curing cancer or balancing the federal budget. How selfish, to remove their talents and their "productivity" from a society in need. To think, a woman with a MA in Divinity and a PhD in biology would be home breastfeeding her newest little one instead of overseeing a UN committee on bio-ethics or fighting corruption in the pharmaceutical industry... Or someone with an English degree, a devastating wit and a knack for the written word, penning bedtime stories for her 3 year old and watching Sesame Street on a continuous loop. What a waste.

These women could be making something of themselves, not spending the 20 best years of their lives smelling of windex and spit up. Leave the breeding and the child-rearing to the peasants, to those who have no greater contributions to offer the world, to the gammas, if anyone is acquainted with this Brave New World we're living in...

I don't mean to discredit the beauty of a single mom who struggles to provide for her family, sacrificing her precious hours with her children in order to put food on the table. Nor do I seek to discredit the struggling two-parent family that sees both spouses laboring outside of the home out of financial necessity. But I do wish to raise this question: why is there such resistance, such opposition to an intelligent, accomplished woman electing to stay home to raise her children?

In every other field, it's desirable to be an expert, to specialize in one's trade. Why then, should we be so averse to the notion of children being raised by the one person on earth who is an expert on them: their mother? It's a unique specialization, to be sure. Some women have to patiently develop their skills, waiting and working for years before meeting and marrying the perfect partner to cooperate with them in the creation of these specific people. Others find their partners earlier on, but are called to make financial sacrifices, struggling mightily to build a comfortable and stable life for their family.

In any case, it's an incredible act of the will to persevere in parenting, especially in this present culture which so vehemently and violently opposes children. Sometimes the opposition is to their existence, (as in the case of abortion and contraception) other times there's a more subversive angle, conveyed by snide remarks in the check out line, (how many more do you think you can handle?) and disapproving family members who crack wise about rampant sexual appetites and an apparent lack of self-control.

It's a new wave of feminism we're riding, to be sure: women fully embracing the nature of femininity, refusing to divorce the intrinsic meaning of their sexuality from their existence, bolstered by an unshakable confidence in their mission. You know what though, there's no other battle I'd rather fight. And judging by the company I kept this weekend, there have perhaps never been better-qualified soldiers to wage the war. I have every confidence in the counter-cultural rebels of this generation and those who will follow. After all, we're just doing our jobs.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Delay of Game

There is going to come a time in your life, perhaps one morning upon waking, or one night just before sleep comes, when you are assaulted with the following jarring realization: I am an adult. I am responsible, uniquely so, for a finite province of existence; namely, my own. Fast forward a couple of years, and I may be responsible for a somewhat-less-finite province of existence, an infinite province of existence in fact. Like, say, the immortal souls of whatever children God may one day entrust to my care...

At this point in my pondering, sleep is no longer a pressing concern. Convenient preparation for eventual parenting, I suppose. But there I lie, awake and alarmed and wondering (rightly so!) do I have what it takes? This is not a crisis of self-esteem or a question of competency, this is an inquiry into the state of my soul, an examination of the formation (or lack thereof) of my conscience. And it is very serious. The weight of responsibility that falls on the shoulders of parents is immense! In what other arena are we called to emulate God more closely? He is not a Father like an earthly father, but rather, my own father is an imperfect and finite approximation of "fatherhood" par excellence: our Heavenly Father.

No pressure, right? I wonder how may one night stands are considered with the real end in mind: if we conceive an immortal soul through our sexual activity tonight, are we fully prepared to address the ramifications said conception will have on eternity? I'd venture a guess that this isn't a pressing concern, what with the proliferation of cheap and readily-available birth control and casual sex.

The point is this, our decisions, our choices today and tomorrow and next week, they are weighted with unfathomable responsibility, rife with consequences we cannot begin to comprehend. In opening your body to another human being through sex, you are yielding your creative capacity to your Creator, whether or not you "mean" to. That's the whole problem with "unplanned" pregnancy... there is no such thing. All pregnancies are planned from time immemorial, and there are no mistakes on His part. Whatever our intentions, our disposition of heart, our plans, His response to our act of self-giving remains the same. We can lie with our actions, with our bodies, with our words... He cannot, and He will not.

Unfair? You bet.

On our parts, though. Amidst cries of outrage and indignation and sweeping generalizations about "my body" and "my choice", do we ever stop and wonder at the sheer idiocy of these claims that essentially imply self-creation? We perpetuate a myth of control where there is none. Any control we lay claim to is rooted in our free will, and only when properly operated. Some would call this determinism. I guess so, if it's deterministic to put unleaded gasoline into a car in order to drive it.

Sex and its supernatural consequences are a product of His design, and not our own. Any attempt to alter what does not belong to us to begin with will ultimately fail, and so often does. In unplanned pregnancies. In broken relationships. In strained and struggling marriages. In surviving children left with gaping doubts of self-worth and value.

Take a moment to consider the immense import of the decision you're about to make with your body, with your soul. Maybe take a moment more. Maybe (and this is just a thought), maybe try following His timetable, archaic and restrictive though it may seem. Because ultimately our true freedom exists as a freedom for, not a freedom from. Kicking and screaming though we may go, when we decide to follow His path and play by His rules, we've got to go all the way. No exceptions, no exemptions, and no alterations. Anything less is a waste. Pre said it best:

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"
- Steve Prefontain

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Waiting on the World to Change

"It's not that we don't care, we just know that the fight ain't fair, so we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change..." - John Mayer

Our generation has been accused of many things, but perhaps I can add one more item to the litany of complaints: passivity. I don't mean pacifism; I went to public school, I know how well we can do the whole rich-kid-turned-hippie angrily protesting the war in Iraq, clad in Birkenstocks and chugging free trade coffee from a post-consumer recycled paper cup, swearing up and down that we'd dodge the draft if ever it were reinstated, complaining about the rising cost of gassing up the Jetta. We do angry and entitled well. We even do impassioned free speech well. What we're lacking in is the action department.

War torn countries half a world away? We're pissed about that, and we're going to protest Wal-mart to get our angst out. Human rights violations in the Sudan, oppression of women in China, persecution of Christians in Muslim nations... all these issues, pressing though they may be, are far-enough removed from our immediate attention to be passionately debated at a dinner party and then put to rest for the evening while we sleep. It's safe to be disgusted (and rightfully so) by suffering which is removed from our daily experience. We can protest these injustices guilt-free, because hey, we're doing our best. We even bought a T-shirt to raise awareness.

There are areas where we are not doing our best, however. Areas where our best is an abysmal desertion of our fellow man. We have sold out our generation, turned our heads in feigned disinterest or mild discomfort while 42 million of our peers perished. One in four. 25%. Gone before they even got here. These are people conceived at some point during the past 34 years. There but for the grace of God we go.

So ask yourself this question: what entitles me to live? With what particular skills am I equipped to serve society and to advance the cause of civilization? What right do I have to be here? Why me, and not my best friend or my younger brother or my next door neighbor? What qualifies me uniquely for existence?

The balance in my parent's checking account? The number of siblings ahead of me in line? My dad's "level of emotional maturity" and ability to support me financially? My mom's high school soccer career and promising college scholarships? The callous point I make here is this: our existence, the way it is defined by current law, is contingent upon convenience. Someone else's convenience.

But we keep on waiting.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Beautiful Letdown


So what's it all about, this thing we call beauty? This quality, this essence, this ideal we are striving desperately for every day of our lives. Maybe with this product, this diet, this procedure, this outfit, maybe this time...

What is it in a woman that so earnestly seeks to have her physical appearance acknowledged and affirmed? Is there something inborn in us that causes us to strive especially for recognition and reassurance that we are, in fact, something to behold? Where does this come from? What causes us to ask this question, be it with our hair or our makeup, our way of dress (or undress)?

I would point back to the beginning, reasoning that it is so because it has always been so. Upon their first introduction, Adam exclaims in wonder and relief at the sight of Eve - "Here at last is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone." Gen. 2:23

Adam cast his eyes upon Eve and he knew the intrinsic compatibility they shared, recognized her worth above all other created things, saw in her the goodness of his Creator, made tangible in her familiar- and yet foreign- flesh. Adam saw love, beheld it in Eve's physical appearance, recognizing in the perfection of her body the goodness of her soul. There was no room for lust in this glance, no critical appraisal of fine lines or wrinkles. Eve didn't nervously cover herself, preoccupied with worries of cellulite, wondering if Adam could see that she hadn't worked out that week...

In short, there was, in the beginning, a profound recognition and appreciation of physical beauty. It was - and is - a good thing. A very good thing. Women want to be beautiful, want to be Captivating, as Stasi Eldredge puts it in her excellent book of the same title. The sexes were designed to interest and invite and to intoxicate the opposite; we were made the way we are to effect each other the way we do. But somewhere along the way, things got a little distorted, a little off track.

Beauty has become an end in itself, and, once divorced from the goodness of the person, it is a fragile fleeting thing, endangered by age and weight gain and free radicals. As we struggle frantically against the clock, racing to uphold our sagging skin and to slim our spreading thighs, we throw away precious minutes that could be spent perfecting our eternal beauty, ensuring our everlasting hotness in the hereafter. Beauty really is deeper than skin; it's soul deep, defining us at our very core.

Beauty stimulates a desire for the good, so let your beauty stimulate a desire for the ultimate Good. If you really want to catch Adam's attention, reflect the goodness of his Creator. Nothing could be more attractive. Real beauty draws the observer into a deeper awareness of the existence of God. That's the point, after all, of the existence of attraction: to draw one thing to another. It makes great sense then, that if beauty is both a reflection of and an invitation into Trinitarian love, Satan would do everything in his power to distort it.

Fight for real beauty. Fight against a culture which would have you believe you are not in the right demographic to be considered "beautiful" and fight especially against trends in fashion that exploit your natural beauty rather than enhancing it. You are far too precious to do otherwise.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Time Well Wasted

Imagine you're sitting down with a new book, eagerly anticipating the resultant pleasure and satisfaction that will no doubt accompany its consumption. You check out the front cover, mentally approve or dismiss the image, consider the title, check the back cover and the inside jacket for a brief synopsis or publisher's review, and then you jump in...

If the old adage, "first in intention, last in execution" can be applied to any undertaking one may embark upon in life, than it's true that the end is in sight from the beginning; but is that truly why we begin in the first place? I for one have never settled down with the latest Harry Potter in order to triumphantly proclaim (17 hours and 8 cups of coffee later...) "it is finished!" (Though this undoubtedly occurs, generally accompanied by fist-pumping and cheering) Rather, the primary context for the enjoyment of said literary wonder is in the sweet anticipation of its arrival, the longing and the desire for consummation (which is not exclusively sexual terminology) and eventual possession.

I do not want to use and be done with this thing I have patiently waited for, nor do I wish to be already on the far side of the experience, looking back in fond nostalgic wonder. Rather, I want to be living in the precious present, embracing the experience as it unfolds.

How often do we live our lives this way? Desperate for completion, for finality, for closure... But we forget that closure implies a stopping point, the end of a journey, the completion of something undertaken. One of life's chief bittersweet experiences is, for me, the last page of a book. Turning to that final bit of print and seeing the expanse of white space beneath a single paragraph or two, that's the unknown, the unfamiliar. The familiarity of the characters, the lived imagination of the setting, the flow of the plot and the tone of the tale, it all comes to an end here; and while I am happy, there is still a certain ache which accompanies this small realization of the transitory nature of earthly pleasure.

The book is finished, and that is cause enough for joy, but the experience, even if reread a thousand times over, can never truly be replicated. So when you're reading something for the first time, slow down and savor every syllable. Things will never look quite the same, and you'll never be here again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pure Desire


Chastity is sexy, pure and simple. There is no greater way to communicate the value of another person than by recognizing their inherent dignity as an other, an unrepeatable image of God, utterly unique and endlessly worthy of respect. Chastity is about so much more than sexual avoidance; chastity, rather, is a full appreciation of the person in the totality of his being. Truly chaste love embraces the entire individual, including his sexuality, which is properly understood to be inseparable from his person. Sexuality extends beyond the bedroom walls, coloring every experience and aspect of our lives.

As sexual beings, women and men reveal aspects of God to one another which would be otherwise indecipherable, at least this side of eternity. How better to communicate the strength and the protective love of God than through the love of a father for his son or of a husband for his bride? Is there a more profound realization of sacrificial giving of self than in the vocation of motherhood? There are certain qualities possessed by either sex that, while perhaps not entirely absent in the other, may be far less pronounced and perfected. What incredible love and insight must have preceded the creation of the genders, our loving Father anticipating our need to feel a sense of wonder (he's so different) and awe (she's so beautiful) when we stand before the other.

Purity, then, is a symptom of chastity, bred from a true desire for the good of the other over the good of self. Chastity says, in effect, I have such respect for you and for the goodness you possess by grace and nature that I would not think to use you for my own personal gratification or gain. Chastity seeks to protect, to venerate what is holy. We refrain from desecrating artistic masterpieces because they are so good, because they are worthy of reverence and respect. Sexual integrity isn't about avoidance or denial, it's about honest recognition of the worth of that which stands before us.

Sex outside of marriage is sex out of context. The divorce of the spiritual from the physical, it creates a metaphysical rift in the persons who are speaking the language of unity and of eternity with their bodies while denying the security of lifelong commitment to their partners. Sexual union is exclusive by nature: under normal circumstances, it only takes two to tango. Speaking a sexual lie to someone (e.g. engaging in sexual activity with anyone other than your spouse, present or future) is serious for its profanation of the holy, and not for the inherent wrongness of the sexual act itself.

Quite the contrary. Sex is good. Sex is very good. It's God's plan for our salvation, whether it be realized by chaste and total self-giving in the marriage bed or by complete surrender in the convent or monastery. Rather than focusing on avoidance and the suppression of desire, chastity recognizes the beauty and the power of human sexuality. A lion caged is a pathetic and enraged animal, but a lion in the freedom of his natural habitat is one of the most beautiful and powerful forces of nature. So the same goes for sex. Treat your body, the bodies of others, as the sacramental realities they symbolize.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Real Deal


I had the most interesting conversation tonight with a friend who is fighting the good fight in her undergraduate studies, battling from a counter-cultural perspective that will most likely get her car keyed by the semester's end... Isn't it funny how tolerance only seems to extend a line of credit to the limit where ideologies diverge, and then all bets are off and all protocol goes out the window?

She's a rare gem, this girl. A level-headed and faith-filled politico who is trudging through the requisite semesters of lower division brainwashing (ahem, general ed) classes before embarking on what promises to be an illustrious career in legal studies. She regularly voices unpopular opinions in her general ed classes, battling a rising tide of entry-level ire from the freshman and sophomores. This woman has seen more than her fair share of CNN broadcasts, and at 24 she's aware of a broader worldview than whatever current Michael Moore video is spinning on Youtube... But she's terribly unpopular in homeroom, this friend of mine, because you see, she has this nasty habit of calling a spade a spade and bringing common sense into otherwise cogent arguments which balance precisely upon the precipice of propaganda which is so widely available and so readily consumed by a generation of brilliant anarchists...

What is truth, her classmates taunt? Your reality is exactly that: your reality. And what works for you doesn't necessarily work for me, so who are you to judge? Keep your morality to yourself, locked safely behind the closed doors of your place of worship. And while you're at it, keep your ignorant thoughts locked safely in your closed mind. We have no need for your hate mongering here...

Hate mongering. Ignorance. Right-wing fascism. Religious intolerance. These are the slings and arrows of our day, the damning slurs that discredit and demoralize the most logical and lucid minds in our classrooms and on our ballots. An incredible campaign is being waged against truth in the name of tolerance and acceptance. I wonder though, does not the very notion of acceptance indicate that there exists something intrinsically unacceptable? Something undesirable and inaccurate? Something, dare I say, wrong? (gasp)

No.

There is no truth (except that one). Everyone has a right to their own opinion (everyone but you). There are no absolutes in morality (except the absence of absolutes)... I could go on, but then, we'd all be 18 years old again, sitting in the back row of our freshman-level Intro Philosophy courses, having our minds blown open after years of neglect at the hands of deviant parents and teachers.

Thank God (or whomever) for the opportunity college provides, to put aside our archaic and childish beliefs and to embrace a radical defiance of all that was once held dear. How very rebellious of us, to all reject what we know in anticipation of what we are learning. Sure, we might not have all the answers yet, but surely by senior year...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chivalry on the Gridiron


More women would love football if they properly understood the game. I truly believe this. There are few non-sacramental experiences in life that rival the thrill of a crisp afternoon spent tailgating, and few more enjoyable ways to pass a Monday evening than snuggling in front of the TV to catch a prime time broadcast.

I suspect that more wives would support their husband's weekend football consumption if their husbands took the time to offer a crash course in gridiron basics. There is such a beauty to the sport, such a bring all, leave all mentality to the way the game is played. It is reminiscent of an earlier time, a time in our history when men were called to stand and fight for something, be it to the draw or to death. Modernity has blunted the masculine affect to such a degree that there are few opportunities remaining in which a man can truly "man up". Football would be one of these remaining arenas (pun intended), and when done properly (or at least wholeheartedly), it's a beautiful sight to behold. Proper football, by the way, does not involve performance-enhancing steroid use or post-game parties at strip clubs.

Football done right is masculinity par excellance. A unique glimpse into the masculine heart, pounding with excitement and adrenaline, ready to lay it all down for the sake of a greater good. Admittedly I wax somewhat poetically here, but I believe an analogy can be drawn here, likening the players giving their all for their team to medieval knights who fought under the banner and for the honor of their lord. Glorious modern day chivalry...

Men, step up to the challenge of inviting us into your world, if not for the purpose of direct participation, than at least with the intention of greater harmony and unity. There's nothing more attractive to women than men behaving as men ought; that is, demonstrating courage, perseverance and humility, willingly engaging in necessary sacrifices for the good of the team. We love to see men fighting the good fight; we love it more when we understand what's at stake.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Stand and Face the Cross

“If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Happy Feast Day ... I love that I get that now, the celebratory nature of Catholicism that is so beautifully underscored by a liturgical calendar that gives us reasons to party pretty much every week (excepting Lent, of course.)

What is the significance of this most unlikely celebration of the instrument of torture on which our God was put to death? What is it about Christianity that embraces and exalts that which should be most repulsive? Why the Cross? Suffering sucks, as a wise colleague of mine elucidated during a recent staff meeting. And he's right, it does. It sucks and it hurts, it breaks us and tears us down and leaves us battered and bruised and sometimes barely breathing... But as Catholics we glory in our suffering, a concept the world cannot comprehend. In an age marked by an absence of moral outrage, there is still one recognizable evil from which we recoil in horror, and that is suffering.

Ending suffering, or avoiding needless suffering is the rallying cry for the pro-abortion movement, the driving force behind the push for assisted suicide, and the motivation for genetic testing on the unborn. It's what we live for, this avoidance of pain at any cost. No greater sin exists today than to suffer, or to allow another to suffer. Compassion is synonymous with "putting someone out of their misery", bred from a misunderstanding of the fleeting delicacy of this life.

An honest and all-encompassing view of suffering sees what Mother Theresa saw in the face of her poor, what the world saw in the pain wracked, hunched and aging body of a man we called Papa, and ultimately in "the scandal of the cross", that incomprehensible moment when eternity collided with temporal reality, making all things new.

The redemptive power in suffering is truly released through free will, through a freely chosen and wholly offered gift of self. What an awesome power we've been endowed with; what a tragedy to discard the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. If suffering was the context for His victory, should we expect anything less? And remember, our own crosses are custom-fitted, designed with our particular strengths and weaknesses in mind. We don't choose them; we choose to take them up and follow after Him, and He's not going to give us more than we can handle. . .

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor 10:13

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Addiction and Grace


Sex addiction. It's the dirty little secret of our generation, the destructive force behind so many crumbling relationships, the resultant fallout from our puritanical past, eliciting snickers of shame when mentioned in most circles. Why the reluctance to discuss this most delicate of matters? It's plastered all over our billboards and splashed across our magazine covers and web pages. What's the big deal then? Every body's doing it, why not get on board and release your inhibitions, renouncing the repressive morality that has enslaved humanity since time immemorial. We're liberated, educated, and entitled to a good time, so go on and live it up. It's the repressive shame and resultant guilt that cause any sexual dysfunction one may be experiencing, right? I mean, sex is a natural good, so naturally it would be good to get as much of it as possible.

Same goes for food and water; consume as much as possible, don't pass up any opportunity to indulge, and for God's sake don't deny yourself an impulse should one occur, for that would be the greatest injustice of all. In a time of immediate gratification and push button satisfaction, there's no reason why anyone should ever be suffering hunger, thirst, or chastity...

If it feels good, do it. Do it immediately and without contemplation or consideration of an outcome or consequence, for in the very act of discernment you are denying that which is yours by birthright, uniquely human of all of creation, the gift of ... instinctive drive. Yes, that's it, that's what differentiates us from the rest of the created world; a biologically based, response oriented system of desires and drives.

Why does this idea ring so hollow? Why are our counseling offices filled with men and women who are battered and broken by that which, properly understood, can offer us the most perfect glimpse of the divine this side of eternity? Could it be that our sexuality is more than just a biologically coordinated system of drives and impulses intended to perpetuate the species and offer pleasure and release for recreational use? Perhaps an indulgent and permissive view of human sexuality, that which has been widely lauded and practiced during the past half century, perhaps this view is somehow inaccurate...

Let's examine the nature of sex addiction, of the divorce between body and soul, driven by a desperate desire for intimacy, perpetuated by intense physiological responses, and widely accepted by a world steeped in moral relativism. Honestly, any real acknowledgement of the damaging effects of sex addiction, of chronic masturbation and pornography addiction and anonymous, promiscuous sexual encounters... just think of the effect such an admission would have on the economy, (to say nothing of the devastation that would befall the 12 billion dollar pornography industry.)

There is such freedom in an authentic understanding of human sexuality, a profound significance to each sexual encounter, an intrinsic dignity of each person in their masculinity or femininity. An adequate anthropology, as JP II would have it, is sorely lacking in a sexually saturated, intimacy-starved world. There must be compassion and honesty and a profound humility in order to face up to this issue, casting it from the shadows so that it can be properly understoond and effectively destroyed. No more hiding, no more shame, step into the light.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Inferiority Context...

I was posed an interesting question today:

Do women feel inferior to men?

I thought carefully about my response, recognizing the earnest nature of the questioner and the gravity of the subject matter, not wishing to flippantly retort with feminist jargon, but to ponder and unpack the meaning and the message behind such an inquiry. My friend was utterly sincere in his questioning, and the longer I reflect upon it, the more logical it seemed that one would ask such a question. After all, the ideals exalted and emphasized by Hollywood and by our culture en masse are, let's face it, not particularly feminine by nature. At the risk of being accused of regressing the many auspicious advancements made by the feminist movements of the past two centuries, may I suggest that in the name of equality, it's been necessary to come to some kind of an agreement on which qualities do, in fact, comprise quality.

So women, I ask you, do you feel inferior to men? Is there a reason why aspects of the human person which have traditionally (and here I'm identifying tradition from a comprehensive social/psycho/biological/spiritual/cultural/all-inclusive perspective) been attributed to the female gender have been repeatedly devalued and discarded by an increasingly aggressive push towards an androgyny more closely resembling castrated masculinity? Let me explain; rather than extolling and upholding the intrinsic differences, the otherness of the sexes, we have seen instead a discarding of the less "desirable" attributes of the human person: motherhood, fertility, gentleness and docility, to name a few. In a misguided quest for equality, we've essentially leached any essence of quality out of anything that history and sanity plainly identify as feminine by nature. I know I'm advancing into hot water now by openly and blatantly admitting such a radical concept as intrinsic differences between the sexes, but, you see, our genders are more than constructs (though any into-level freshman psychology class will have you believing otherwise by midterms...)

There are qualities, aspects of reality, and very essential specializations that can be broadly identified and assigned as either male or female; not for the purpose of deconstruction, but with a profound respect and appreciation for the genius of the other. Feminism has not left us liberated, not in the fullest sense. True liberation has its root in a Christian understanding of a freedom for, and not in a freedom from. And what have we broken ties with lately, ladies? What freedoms have this past 30 years afforded a generation of enslaved and oppressed second class citizens, identified as such by nothing less than their very chromosomal makeup? Nature has screwed us, effectively, if gender deconstruction be our battle cry, because what the world has been shouting all this time can be summed up rather simply: equality with masculinity! We can never get there, and God only knows why we desire to in the first place. Who decided that childbearing was distasteful and oppressive and decided to instead promotethe very "liberated" concept of abortion? Whose idea was it to created a pill that chemically alters the physiological makeup of the human body, suppressing and potentially causing long term damage to an entire organ system? Who decided that true glory can be achieved only on the gridiron, or on the trading floor, or in the board room?

We're asking the wrong question. It's not a matter of whether or not women can succeed at an equivalent level in the aforementioned arenas, but rather, how have these arenas been designated as particularly worthy? Even the concept of cut-throat competition and success-at-all-costs is, to a certain extent, a learned concept for many of the fairer sex. Not to suggest that women are not instinctively competitive by nature, (ask my football coach) but that perhaps there are areas of specialization unique to either sex, things we can learn from each other. Things we can teach each other. Like maybe an appreciation for the differences that go deeper than our sex organs, differences that engender the very soul of the individual man or woman, unique and separate in their personhood, and equal in the fullest sense.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A lifetime's not too long...


I love my life, I love the amazing friendships God has blessed me with, and I love that anywhere in the country you can drop the term "Steubenville" and be instantly and intimately connected with someone you just met in a bar, and not in the usual connotation which that scenario brings to mind. I am humbled by the possibility and the gift of friendships based solely upon a mutual desire to assist one another on their sojourn to eternity, and I'm learning (albeit slowly) that true compatibility is not found in a bottle or a classroom or a party, though it may very well begin to reveal itself in those locations.

True compatibility begins with a mutual desire for the good of the other, made incarnate by a disinterested willingness to sacrifice, made observable in moments of trial and hardship. Real friendships, the ones which inspire epic ballads and the penning of heartfelt lyrics, these are not commonplace, not to be confused with the ordinary, but to be exalted into the realm of the extraordinary. Think Sam and Frodo; think Harry, Ron and Hermione; think Lewis and Tolkein...

True friendship is the clearest evidence to me of the existence of God. There is a beautiful reassurance in the goodness of creation when we exercise free will to freely will the good of one another. This is the stuff rock solid marriages are built upon, the glue that binds siblings together during familial crises, the bond between college roommates who shared a futon for an entire sub-zero semester...

Thank God for good friends.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ridiculous Mercy

I adore Catholicism for a number of reasons, but one aspect of the Faith that especially appeals to this romantic and feminine heart is the indulgent mercy of a Father who, let's be honest, totally "spoils" us every chance He gets...

I can't think of any more astonishing example of love than the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come on, I mean, unlimited and unmitigated forgiveness of sins? Not only forgiveness but forgetfulness, a complete tableau rosa each and every time we stumble and reach up for His hand. What's the catch than? Why aren't we lining up in droves? Could it be our own pride which holds His grace and mercy just out of our reach when we are most desperate for it? The love that floods a human soul, the grace and mercy and capacity for real charity that the practice of frequent confession fosters, this is a force to be reckoned with. . . this is a force capable of altering the course of history.

God is a lover, first and foremost, and He searches for opportunities to manifest this love to us tangibly, sacramentally. The sexiness of Catholicism, if I may correctly apply that modifier, is in its incarnational reality, the "smells and bells" that we sometimes mistakenly dismiss as human accouterments; these are the aspects of life that inspire and enliven faith, indeed, that make faith more believable, more possible. We have the reassurance of human touch which transmits a deeper reality when words are inadequate; it's not enough to possess intellectual knowledge of spousal love, and so we have the marital embrace. It's not enough to read and to hear that God loves us and desires total unity with us, and so we have the Eucharist. And when we fall, when we turn away in shame and sin and can't look up at Him, can't hardly look at one another for shame or sorrow at our shortcomings, we have Confession.
Thank God.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Modestly Speaking

I am quite content with being invisible. In fact, I wouldn't mind remaining invisible to 99% of the world's population, at least as far as sexual attraction goes. I'm not saying I desire unattractiveness, nor do I relish the prospect of inspiring revulsion in the opposite sex. I'm simply expressing my contentedness with going incognito, at least in the area of physical provocation in dress. I really don't mind that when I'm walking into a gas station, across a parking lot in the mall, or through a hallway at school, most people (read: men) don't give me a second glance unless we actually know each other (imagine that.)

I'm revealing this little bit of information partially as a PSA and partially to serve as my own personal edification, as it is a counter-culteral move (to say the least) to refute and to overtly reject the notion of sexual approval and encouragement of physical attractiveness based on the perceived or actual approval of the opposite sex. The bottom line is this: while I don't relish the idea of living into bachelorettehood and watching the best years of my life pass me by while I "waste the pretty", I do see a certain advantage over the ups and downs that accompany the alternative arrangement of cycles of seduction and attraction, followed almost inevitably by boredom and betrayal. I don't mean to suggest that immodesty in action and dress yield an inevitable failure in romantic relationships; I only mean to say that no woman or man who sets out to love from a purity of heart and a nobility of intention will ever, ultimately, come up short.

By pulling our shirts up and our skirts down, by focusing the attention of our peers on our brains rather than our breasts, we're really doing everyone a favor in the long run by circumventing any confusion due to false advertising. If you're looking for love, don't advertise yourself for a one-night stand. If you're looking for a marriage partner, don't act or dress the part of a prostitute. And you know what? The more women and men who put their foot firmly down in refutation of the insidious uncovering of the feminine mystique and the female form, the further we advance in a truly integrated respect and reverence for human sexuality as a whole. It's easy to devalue what is commonplace; it's rarity that inspires real reverence, and scarcity that drives a man to true appreciation for the gifts he's been given.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Surrendered and Sanctified


"I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God..."

~Romans 12:1



What's the deal with motherhood? What use has this modern world for an antiquated, oppressive institution that would seek to enslave roughly half the world's population to a life of drudgery and slavish carpooling and diaper-schlepping, in exchange for a thankless existence largely devoid of social interaction? I guess I'm wondering why some of us choose this path, willingly laying down college degrees, career paths and impressive salaries for a life of comfort and ease... But then, is that all there is to the daily existence of a domestic goddess?

Most women would attest to the discrepancies that exist in the workplace, from salary brackets to sexual harassment in the break room, there's something to the expression "it's a man's world." But of course, it's far preferable to the drudgery of domesticity, to the slave quarters that the home has come to symbolize. The game plan for success? 4-6 years of college, 2-5 years in the workplace, a couple of feverishly paced, meticulously planned pregnancies followed by the obligatory 6-week maternity leave, all so that by age 45 we can look back at the balance in our joint checking account, long-depleted by the cost of daycare and therapy for our maladjusted, under parented teenagers, and surveying the frenetic wreckage of our family life, declare with a measure of disbelief and false pride, "it was all worth it."

Ladies, this is a lie, and it's damnably stupid one at that. Pursue a career by all means, if that be your calling, but put your whole heart and soul into it. And yes, homemaking is a career unto itself. How would the world measure the success of a lawyer who pushed 70% of her caseload onto the desk of a paralegal and spent the better part of her workday pursuing her second career? Motherhood is a vocation for warriors, not a prolonged vacation from "the real world".

Who on earth is doing nobler work than forming the hearts and minds of the future generation of humans? What greater responsibility can there be than the formation and education of immortal souls? What a tremendous responsibility we've been given, what an ennobling task we've been called to, what an impossible mission we've been sent on... How can anyone argue that a particular mother is not the most singularly qualified individual to raise the exquisite and unique child that God has entrusted to her? I argue not against those women who are selflessly serving their families out of necessity in the absence of paternal support or adequate financial means, but against a society that profanes that which is most sacred and most worthy of praise. Women, you are chosen and called to raise a generation of kings and queens, destined from all time to eternal glory or damnation... what will you do with the time you've been given?