Part 1: Pride Goes Before Disaster

“Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be humble with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.” ~ Proverbs 16: 18-19

Other than the theme of love the theme of pride dominates the majority of literature- Hubris. I learned acutely this week: Pride has no business in an intimate relationship.

St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changes angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” So very true. Pride enslaved us to sin and death. Humility freed us from sin and death.

S. Augustine- pride

Within a loving, intimate relationship pride ruins relationships and wrecks havoc. Pride destroys all other virtues and even other vices. Pride denies sin. Pride ultimately means an over-inflated, misplaced self reliance and rejection of our reliance on Our heavenly Father- Our Creator. Pride is like giving God the middle finger. We puff up like a petty, pouffy self-absorbed grouse. But pride makes us feel good or justified or superior. In reality, we reject God, turn ourselves into mini-gods, and reject the people we claim to love. We’re too busy loving ourselves.

Pride manifests itself in many ways within a relationship: lack of communication, resentment, abuse and control, sexual perversion like pornography or masturbation, holding a grudge, inability to think of others, lying, omitting or twisting the truth, blaming others, whining, etc.

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of live, or contentment, or even common sense.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Pride isn’t the same concept as being proud. We can delight in our gifts, talents, and accomplishments barring maintaining healthy gratitude to Our Creator who bestowed us with the capacity. Pride doesn’t mean having unhealthy boundaries, being a doormat, excusing bad behavior, or refusing to cultivate a conscience that delineates between good and evil. Having convictions or a moral compass  is not automatically pride.

Pride prevents reconciliation, humility, forgiveness, freedom, and virtue. Pride tramples faith, hope, and charity (love.) Pride enslaves a person to their distortion of self reliance and prevents freedom in this life and the next. Pride snuffs out joy. Pride destroys peace. Pride prevents communion and union.

“The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1563)

I’m guilty of pride. Pride that hurts others and myself. Daily I struggle with occasions of sin and sin prompted by pride. I struggle to keep prideful behavior at bay within an intimate relationship. Pride can be sneaky too manifesting itself in unlikely manners and places.

What is the antidote to pride? Humility. Not faux humility. Authentic humility. Part 2 of this post will be an exploration of humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

The Space Between

As a child, I couldn’t have imagined the complexities and complications of my twenty-seven years of earthly existence. I had a very active and developed imagination too! As the Jesuits would say, “Life is a Journey.” After eight plus years of Jesuit education, you master the reflective, meditative tone while reminescing on the journey of life and God’s will in one’s life. Many times on this journey, I feel that I slipped into the Space Between.

St. Augustine Quote

Not only the title of an iconic Dave Matthews Band song, but a literary explanation of the middle ground, the grey area, the limbo land, the space between, etc. Etc. When an unexpected turn in an important relationship transpired, I felt thrust back into that space in between. One moment the world finally made more sense. The darkness abated, and the light shone out a bit brighter. The fears and anxieties dimished while hope and joy grew. Someone finally chose me and accepted me as I was. Then life shifted course yet again.

Yes, I trust in God. But saying I trust in God and trusting God are two separate concepts. I’m practicing the latter.

When discerning my vocation, I always felt in “the space between.” As an elementary school child, the obvious vocational path to the outside world was religious life. I spent time at convents and with dynamic religious sisters. But I knew from an early age, no religious order would accept me with my chronic physical health conditions. I spent quality time around religious orders because I recognized the intrinsic beauty and importance of consecrated life regardless of whether that was a viable vocational option for myself.

In my adult life, when religious sisters recruit me for discerning consecrated life, I can smile and laugh with gratitude while thanking them for their kind invitation. Or I ponder quietly and wryly smile when they ask whether I’ve asked God for physical healing. Mhmm.

For similar reasons that would prevent my acceptance into consecrated life, these reasons follow me into dating relationships and the vocation of marriage. These reasons cast an additional layer of gravity on the vocation of marriage and prospect of biological children. At times, I feel at odds against the vocation of marriage too. To find a man, especially an orthodox practing Catholic man with depth of character and virtue, willing to embrace those odds and grow together in love beyond those odds provides a natural filtering method. I’m attempting to sound charitable.

Some may mention the generous single vocational option which I live now. The Spirit still seems to be moving me in a different direction. Jesus, I trust in you.

Today I feel like I’m floating yet again in that space between. The certainites and possibilites of yesterday don’t exist or not in the same manner today. The hope of tomorrow gleams. For now I’ll float on the ocean of God’s mercy. Hoping and trusting the boat will be guided to safe havens no longer adrift in the space between.

Thinking Out Loud

Music can transport and capture in lyrical format a deep groaning of the human spirit. Lyrics are poems. Most lyrical poems capture aspects of human relationships.

I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways

God works in mysterious ways. Women marvel over romantic comedies, but women seek their own love story better and purer than even the best romantic comedy. We don’t want a cinema moment but a real moment. Not a cinema man but a real man. A man capable of sweeping us towards heaven not hell.

White Rose
Wild Rose

Maybe just the touch of a hand

There is an exorbitant lack of gentle affection depicted in media. Most sexuality is violent and aggressive or “passionate.” A gentle kiss on the forehead or caress of the hand is more loving and affirming than being bashed up against a wall or slammed onto a table in an intense make-out session (yes, I’m recalling certain movies in my latter description.) Not long ago, a touch of the hand was an act of bold affection, especially in public.

Maybe it’s all part of a plan

The love between a man and women is a part of God’s plan. Sexuality is good. Perversion of sexuality is bad. The love shared between a man and women reflects the exchange of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Marriage, the marital embrace, and procreation mirrors Trinitarian love and provides a glimpse of divine love here on earth. Sadly, most relationships don’t reflect this reality.

Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day

We desire affirmation in our relationships. We do want our significant other to affirm us and choose us on a daily basis and for a lifetime not in an utilitarian but unconditional manner- a Christ-like manner.

Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen 

Ah! The refreshing, lasting beauty of a pure soul. What a desirable and attractive quality! Men and women flock towards those clad in virtue and sprint to the holy altar of matrimony! Yes, that was sarcasm. Virtue isn’t hipster. Religion, let alone holiness, “cramps” Friday night enjoyment and socializing. People find holiness uncomfortable or embarresing. But the soul is evergreen, everlasting. The light of one’s soul should be #1 on our list of attractive qualities.

And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory

Love begins with a smile. St. Theresa of Calcutta always taught the importance of the smile.

Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart

Have you ever listened to your beloved’s heartbeat while resting safely in their arms? The reassuring, rhythmic thumping of a heartbeat is soothing and bonding- alive and life-giving. Though the metaphor pales in comparison, listening to your beloved’s beartbeat in their warm & safe arms is similar to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary with us.

But don’t mind me. I’m just thinking out loud . . .

 

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you”

Song of Songs 4:7.

 . . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.

Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger.  . .

Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.

Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.

Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.

snowflakes
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . .  The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.

In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.

Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.

Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.

Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.

 

 

 

“And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts did thou first fall in love with me?”

This exerpt comes from Much Ado About Nothing, Act VI, Scene II which means more than a witty Shakespearean comedy but a former dramatic production I participated in as a high school sophomore. The dialogue is an exerpt from the humorous and witty banter between eventual lovers Senor Benedict and Lady Beatrice. Unlikely yet likely lovers engaged in a battle of wit and avoidance of each other until both fall hopeflessfly in love.

But an exploration into the merits of Shakespearean comedy and the two protagonists aren’t my goal. I’m focusing on the actual line, ” And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts did thou first fall in love with me?” This line transported me to other scenes within my own life. We all have our good qualities and less than admirable qualities all of which enter into a dating relationship. I’m not advocating for tolerance of bad behavior nor avoidance of growth and maturation beyond bad behavior and poor character. Virtue should be pursued both individuals.

Most romantic comedies don’t highlight the nitty, gritty less than cinematically pleasing moments of an ordinary yet extraordinary love story that makes a lifetime not a fleeting screen moment. When I recollected Shakespeare’s line about loving all your bad parts, I didn’t mean you or I are bad, but those aspects of ourselves that illuminate our weakness, fragility, and mortality. The aspects of ourselves we keep private and hidden either to protect ourselves from harm or out of embarrassment. But when you enter into an intimate relationship, at some point in time, the cat is out of the bag. Then both individuals are faced with a choice to flee or not. To choose each other or not.

Obviously, the title of my blog is Chronically Catholic for various reasons one highlighting young adult life with chronic illness. To the outside world, I’m a vivacious, healthy, accomplished, and somewhat fearsome sight to behold and interact with. Yes, I am all that, but the wold rarely witnesses the me behind closed doors. When a man witnesses the me behind closed doors, he must choose to stay or flee. Most have fled for various reasons, and it’s just as well for their sake and mine.

Yes, he must chose me not only at the height of my glory and prestige but at the height of my suffering and weakness. He must chose me in my moments of intellectual greatness and my moments of intellectual demise. Either we both choose to fall to our knees together in moments of struggle or we chose to turn inward and cower.  You can’t peiecemeal a person. You can try certainly but the end result is less than helpful or lasting. Relationships challenge and define aspects of a person. Do you fight or flee? Choose or abuse?  Suffer with or suffer without? Love all or love some? Take the narrow road or not? Am I a tool or a person?

 

 

 

Musings on a Bronte Love Story . . .

My relationships tend to mirror the ethereal and tumultuous love of story Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester versus the formal and idealized love story of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Though both men look dashing briskly and thoughtfully traipsing through the misty moors with the appropriate amount of masculine chest hair peeking through their slightly unbuttoned shirts, the ever elegant Mr. Darcy traipses elsewhere leaving behind the wounded and troubled yet fiery, passionate Mr. Rochester seeking respite from life’s experience and misery. Before him, he witnesses an angel drawing the moth to the enduring flame of purity and virtue. For the angel he desperately pursues to restore and revive him after years of decay, misery, and hopelessness, a passionate and intriguing web of convoluted intentions awaits testing her moral fiber and threaten to clip her angelic wings. After months of hardship, loss, and suffering and once the proud and mighty crumple to their knees do the angel and scoundrel enjoin in a lifelong relationship beyond literary description.

Jane Eyre

I’m still unfamiliar with the happy ending part. Pride reigns as the supreme unwavering and staunch victor where the protagonists choose themselves and their personal or influencing expectations over one another. I consider myself unusually blessed when a relationship mirrors a Gothic British literature novel like Jane Eyre versus Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I’ve been in relationships with a Pip, Estella, Catherine, or Heathcliff: calculated, manipulative, fickle, and selfish. I cringe when watching my Jane Eyre crumble into a Great Expectations.

At the end of the day, I’m a hopeless romantic. I’ve concluded we need more Mr. John Thorntons and Gilbert Blythes and Reepicheeps and Samwise Gamgees. These complex, yet simple male characters embody a certain heroic virtue, kindness, loyalty, and compassion who uphold goodness and defy everyday and extraordinary evil. These are worthy gentlemen (fine, one is technically a mouse.)

Jane Austen’s female characters can speak in petty, witty, and gossipy cringe worthy tones. Jane Eyre embodies simplicity and goodness despite adversity plus a sincere and authentic tone. The relationship of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester speaks to me. I identify with it. I understand the bewildering and passionate nature of their relationship, the continued devotion beyond all odds, the inability to waver on virtue and personal ideals, and the constant hope beyond reasonable hope.

 

Catholic Romance Stories . . . Christmas

Our First Christmas Gift Exchange:

christmas-mother-teresa-of-calcuttaTwas the Night of New Years and all through the house three creatures were stirring including the cat. The tree gleamed bright and cast whimsical colors and shapes on the walls and the windows. With my family snug in their beds an earshot away, only he and I remained in the soft Christmas tree glow while the cat never ceased staring in her watchful vigilance. All prepared and excited my festive wrapped gift lay upon the coffee table alone. No gift joined it’s side. I stared in astonishment and wonder. My mind buzzed and blew with more thoughts than Christmas ornaments. With each moment my brow furrowed and lines etched my face like stringed lights on the tree or lines on a stocking. My thoughts mirrored twinkling light colors all fuzzy and bright. Still no gift appeared and my heart lept in fright. Despite being seated by my side, I strained as his words floated in and out one-side. I heard. I processed. But it all seemed too bizarre. The words seemed too light and the meaning too dense like snow in a blizzard one moment fluffy and the next moment sleet. Bracing for a gift packed like a wet snowball, I quietly closed my eyes. The Christmas light glow matched my thoughts. Breathless I awaited.rings

Some rustle and bustle. A pause. A disclaimer. My breathe became frosty and slow. As I opened both palms to receive the gift, my brain turned to meringue while my hands trembled like tinsel. The cat kept her perpetual gaze while I stood frozen awaiting. A coolness brushed my palm and settled for landing. Daring to open my eyes, I peeped down. My thoughts exploded into fireworks while my vision turned into sparkling cider. Little bubbles floated up and up and up. Everything suddenly stopped. All fireworks and cider bubbles screeched to a halt. Numbness settled in and the void of pure silence settled. He waited for a response. A noise. A sign. A reaction. Anything.

A warm glow washed over me like candlelight Christmas Mass. The lights refocused as I peered below and sighed.

A ring box peered upwards while my gaze focused ever more sharply as the ivory coating glinted in the low light. Opening the box, my muscles eased. A warm, serene calmness flushed over me replacing the frigid tinged of panic.

To be continued . . .

Faith Should Be A Love Affair

St. Augustine 2

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” G.K. Chesterton

After talking to my beloved I said:

Religion should be a love affair. Faith should be a love affair. We all desire love, but most of us are afraid of the greatest love and love affair we could ever experience. A love that demands all but gives all too. How many times a day do you and I verbalize our love? How many times do we tell Jesus we love him?

Deep in my heart, I know I don’t tell Jesus I love him enough. To a degree falling in love with my Faith is disconcerting. Do I dare give all to gain all? Some days yes and other days no. Usually during the blossoming stages of a serious, intimate relationship or even a mature intimate relationship, you express affection and love in various unabashed manners. What if our faith was more like our love affairs? Well, minus the sinful and ungodly tendencies.

Wisdom comes from an understanding and acceptance of the metaphysical intangibles, i.e., the undefinable and not quantifiable yet concrete truths surrounding us. What is the metaphysical? Meta and physical- beyond the physical. . . love, truth, beauty and faith to name a few. Faith isn’t just a theory filled with facts and figures, but a love affair. Sure religion is comprised of certain standards and divine inspiration/guidance, but at the heart exists a love affair.

Like a simple forehead kiss that sends tingles to your toes, faith should too. Instead of wooing the fake counterfeits present everywhere, why don’t we woo Jesus? A love affair doesn’t mean that all feelings and emotions will evoke rainbows, butterflies, and happy-go-lucky feelings. No, a real love affair withstands the test of time, the bleak and dark feelings and emotions, and the strain of sin while focusing on a profound and lasting joy and life eternal.