Posts Tagged ‘Blessed JPII’

Week 8: The Battle for Purity

September 14, 2011

Last week  we covered: Resenting Chastity

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “The Battle for Purity.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter explains that the word chaste literally means clean – and no that does not mean that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is dirty – it means that being chaste is being in a state of being clean – a state of purity.
Sri explains, “We must see chastity as a positive virtue that enables us to love, and protects love from being tainted by the selfish tendency to use the other person for our own pleasure. Wojtyla says chastity is emphatically not “one long ‘no.'” Rather, it is first and foremost a yes — a yes in our hearts to the other person, not just to his or her sexual values. It is a ‘yes’ that requires certain ‘no’s’ in order to protect love from falling into utilitarianism. “The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex'” (p. 171). This positive, wider context of love for the person is key for understanding the ‘no’s’ of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.”

The chapter then goes on to explain that there seems to be two “battlefronts” where this fight to be pure – to be chaste takes place: the physical realm and the emotional realm.

In most cases men struggle most with the physical realm and women struggle most with the emotional realm.

The chapter then explains that it is natural to experience the initial thrust towards lust whether it be physical or emotional, but that in itself is not sinful.  The problem is when we step over those bounds and ACT on those initial impulses.

The truth is, until one masters these impulses to act, one is controlled by them.  If we do not have power over it, then it has power over us.   Ick!

Don't let lust imprison you!

Our breakout discussion in our small group largely focused on emotional chastity, what it is, and how to know how to apply it without going overboard.  One gal, (I think her name was Lorena), said that her mom’s advice to her was: Fall in love with your head first until you are married, then fall in love with your heart.

The gals in our group also commented that this battle is difficult whether it is for physical chastity or emotional chastity because it comes so naturally from our innate call to love.

In the larger discussion group when everyone came back together multiple people gave the advice of using prayer to assist us in this “Battle for Purity”.  Because our weakness is in chastity (until and even after we master it), it not only is a physical or emotional battle we are fighting it is a spiritual one.  So, it is wise for one to strengthen themselves spiritually with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that we can gain in the sacraments and by saying the Rosary.

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Paragraph 1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

What are the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?
taken from: http://www.prayerfulrosary.com/Prayerful.html

The Fruits of the Mysteries
The Meditative and Soul of the Rosary. Each mystery has a deep meditative virtue or grace associated with it known as the “Spiritual Fruits of the mystery”. When the meditative mode of prayer is developed, the mysteries become connected to the soul which leads to contemplative prayer.

Do you know the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?

Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor, Charity
  3. The Nativity ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty, Love of God
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Zeal for God

Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin/Contrition
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
  3. The Crowning with Thorns ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Courage
  4. The Carrying of the Cross ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance

The Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Hope
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of God
  4. The Assumption of Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Holy Death
  5. The Coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Trust in Mary’s Intercession/Devotion to the Blessed Mother

Luminous Mysteries

  1. The Baptism of Jesus~Fruit of the Mystery: Sacrament of Baptism
  2. The Wedding at Cana~Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary/Gratitude for the gift of Faith
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God/Desire for Holiness
  4. The Transfiguration~Fruit of the Mystery: Spiritual Courage
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist~Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration of the Eucharist

One gentleman commented that it’s much harder to resist something good at the wrong time if you are starving.  His advice (which I think is brilliant!!) is to fill one’s mind with beauty and to work at being emotionally connected with people – in general – so that you won’t be so starved of this beauty and emotional connection that you will grab at it with the wrong types of people.  He commented that he had just finished having dinner with his sister and that  this connection with her helps fill that desire for emotional connection.

Are you starving for beauty and emotional connection?

For many of us, especially in NYC, our family lives far away so this particular example is not available for us.  However, we can create a NYC-family to  have dinner with: a roommate, someone we met at a  MeetUp group, someone we met at a volunteer activity, or perhaps even someone we met at Love & Responsibility in NYC! (I’m just stayin’) 😛

His point was that, “It’s easier to not eat junk food if you are eating healthy food.”  Taking these steps is part of setting ourselves up for success in this battle for purity.

Megan had a similar imagery:  “Don’t date cupcake men.  Date apples and pears.”

Don't date cupcake men!

Her point is that some people look nice on the outside but what’s inside isn’t really good for you.  You should date people who are good for you and who you are good for too!

So yes, the Battle for Purity will be difficult…. but it’s totally worth it! Good luck and see you at the next L&R in NYC!

Week 6: Love… and Responsibility?

August 31, 2011

A couple of weeks ago we covered: The Law of the Gift

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter Love…and Responsibility? (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

Previous chapters have discussed the framework for establishing virtuous friendships, avoiding common pitfalls during the birth of a new relationship, and understanding the dynamic of love. This chapter speaks of what should happen after the relationship (and hopefully true love) has been established. It calls us not only to love, but to be responsible about it:

  • to fully accept the gift of love,
  • to fully trust the person so that they can be free to be emotionally intimate,
  • to resist focusing on our loved one’s faults which would reduce the person to a mere sinful object instead of the human person deserving of dignity that they are
  • to accept our loved one’s shortcomings and to help them in overcoming them,
  • to love them in “good times and bad”,
  • to challenge ourselves to grow from an immature love that looks inward to our own needs, to a mature love that looks outward toward what is best for our loved one.

Ed Sri then goes on to give examples of what a marriage made of mature love looks like and what a marriage made of immature love looks like. One couple had the trial of the wife getting ill with cancer. Faced with a life that he hadn’t planned for, the husband removed himself from the trial and left his wife, rather than deal with having to take care of her through her fight with cancer. (Can you say JERK???)

The other couple Ed Sri described in the chapter experienced the trial of the wife having M.S.. The husband stayed through the trial and even though the wife lost the use of her arms and legs,  he gave up the comfort of having a larger retirement fund and chose to love his wife by caring for her physical needs.  When the going got tough, he didn’t get going.  (Yay!!!)

As a single person, it’s a scary picture. Finding a suitable or compatible spouse seems like a hard enough task and now their being faced with the fact that even though they may find that man (or woman) of their dreams, the most difficult trials of love may lie ahead of them? I can just hear them saying, “I thought the hard part was dating? now you’re telling us that the hard part is when you love someone in marriage? EEESH.”

As a married person, I can tell you – it’s true. Each state of life has it’s own adventures – it’s own challenges – it’s own opportunities to challenge one’s self to become the best version of themselves. When you’re in the dating world, generally, you can’t wait to NOT be in the dating world anymore so that you don’t have to deal with all of the ridiculousness of being IN the dating world. But when you are married, the adventures (and even some of the ridiculousness) doesn’t end there. There’s a whole new level of adventures and challenges.

The key is to move beyond the immature inward looking love to the mature outward looking love. The more you work to strive toward (or strive to increase) the mature love in your marriage the more able you are able to handle adventures with peace and confidence.

This book and this chapter specifically has been very helpful in my marriage in regards to how I handle those unforeseen adventures. There’s an “adventure” that happened late in the first year of our marriage in which I really had to implement these ideas of not focusing on my spouse’s faults and responding in a way that would help my spouse overcome his shortcomings.  It also properly conveyed that while the matter was serious, my love for my spouse did not waver.

My response must have been thanks to a heavy dose of grace from God because I distinctly remember literally taking a few steps away from the discussion, taking deep breaths, and thinking to myself over and over again, “Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. He was designed by God and has Human Dignity. He is a son of the King.”

20110915-024141.jpg

Beware of immature love's laser eyes!

My husband and I laugh about it now because he could plainly see that at that moment,  while I was faced with this adventure, I was so angry that I was practically on the verge of having lasers shoot from my eyeballs.  But in the next moment, without saying anything, the anger quickly dissipated and was followed by a very calm, peaceful, logical explanation about how his choice had been a poor choice and how to prevent it in the future.

Some of the hardest times to love someone is going to be when we are angry or when someone is angry at us.  The challenge is to diffuse the situation and to give our loved one an opportunity to adjust their behavior from cranky to calm.  I like to think of this as a lob in tennis.

Do you know what a lob is?

It’s where you loft the ball back at your opponent with an upward arcing direction so that it either lands behind them or forces them to back up.  It can be used defensively to diffuse a powerful shot and thereby give you additional time to collect yourself to be ready for the next shot,  or offensively to win the shot by catching your opponent off guard.

Here’s a picture:

Love: Lob your response back when met with anger.

A marriage based on immature love is one where the person returns an angry remark with an angry remark to win the point.  Ewww

A marriage based on immature love might be severely weakened by one  “adventure” caused by a poor choice. A marriage based on mature love (or even simply striving toward it), however, is actually strengthened by the “adventure” as each person sees that their spouse’s interaction and reaction with them is an act of love.

I think that many people stop short in their marriage (or relationship) at this immature love.   They limit the amount that they will love their fiance or their spouse. It’s sort of an invisible pre-nup. “I’ll love him no matter what, except if he cheats on me. Then it’s over.” or “I’ll love her no matter what, unless she gains like 100 lbs. Then it’s over, because I just can’t live with someone who doesn’t take care of themselves.” That love is an icky fickle love.

We are not called to have an icky fickle love. We are called to love as God loves. God loves us when we mess up. God loves us when we’re too skinny and when we’re overweight. He loves us when we are cranky and moody and when we are being totally selfish. (Of course He doesn’t love the crankiness and selfishness – it’s us He loves, not our poor choices a.k.a. sin.)

In fact when I think about it God challenges us to love Him, not just our spouses or neighbors, in a deeper more mature way too.  He challenges us to go from an immature love where we perhaps pray about how God can just help us get out of  a sticky situation to a mature love where our prayers are less about looking at what we want and more about what God wants of us.

Ok, so we’re supposed to love our neighbors with a mature love, but what if our neighbors are creeps? 😛

What do we do when loving in a real mature way is the last thing that we want to do?  How do we treat that stinky, drunk, loud, rude, obnoxious, 7 foot tall man as a man who was created in God’s image? a man who is a son of God? a man who is a prince in God’s kingdom – but who is seriously disguised with all of his troubles and shortcomings at this point?

I came across such a man when I was on the subway about 5 years ago.  It was early in the morning.  I was on my way to work and I was really not in the mood to be faced with someone who must have been drinking throughout the night and into the dawn.  Yet what came to mind were balloons.

It's a boy! or It's a girl! helps us to remember that we are all children of God.

Balloons tied to someone’s front door or someone’s mailbox.  “It’s a boy! Congratulations!” were written on them and they were tied with blue ribbons.  One day, 30 some odd years ago a mother brought that 7 foot man, who was then just a little bundle of joy, home from the hospital.

I think that’s how God sees us.  He remembers us when we were just a little nugget of cuteness in our mother’s arms.

So when you come across someone who is being cranky or stinky or both, just think of the bouquet of balloons to help you see them as God sees them.  It’s helped me many times.

We all have intrinsic value.  We were born with it.  We can’t escape it and no one can take it away.  In fact, during the large discussion group someone asked what intrinsic value was.  Someone gave a great answer:  extrinsic things are things that can be taken from us; intrinsic things are things that cannot be taken away.

God loves us with an intrinsic love.  You.  God loves You – the unrepeatable, unprecedented you.

(That reminds me of a trailer for a movie: The Human Experience   If you haven’t seen the movie…. SEE IT! It’s awesome!)

A gentleman commented during the group discussion that “we all were created in God’s image – and that we all reveal something about God that no one else can reveal.”  We are different for a reason.

Another gentleman, Mike, reminded us:  God created us, therefore we are good because everything that God created is good.

Some more great comments from that night include:

  • Every moment that we are in is a moment for our own conversion.
  • Loving with a mature love begins with us:  We have to know our own worth in order to value someone else and then be
    responsible for them.
  • Daniela quoted C.S. Lewis, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Treat your neighbor with respect.  We can either help our spouse (or neighbor) to be a monster or an angel.
  • Selfless love doesn’t count the cost.

The last example that I want to point out is one that was given by one of the women in the group.  She told us a story that was similar to the two couples described in the book.  It was the story of her two Aunts.  Both were faced with infidelity by their spouses.  But one handled it with love, while the other handled it with anger.  The “angry” Aunt is now divorced and still angry.  The “loving” Aunt worked hard to keep her marriage together and worked hard to show her spouse that even in a time of severe trouble and distrust, she still loved her spouse.

I’m glad that JPII, Ed Sri, and even people at our discussion group agree:  there’s more to love than just love…. there’s responsibility.

It’s not easy, but it leads to true happiness.  Good luck and see you next week!

Week 5: The Law of the Gift

August 22, 2011

Last week we covered Sense and Sentimentality.

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered The Law of the Gift: Understanding the Two Sides of Love. (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter speaks about the subjective side of love and the objective side of love.  The subjective side of love is what happens inside of us (our feelings, our attraction, i.e. sentimentality, sensuality). To quote the author, Ed Sri, “In other words, on its own, the subjective aspect of love is no more than a pleasurable experience happening inside of me.”   This is the side of love that sort of  happens to us. The objective side of love is that conscious decision to love someone for who they are.  It’s not something that happens to us, it’s something that we do.

That reminds me of a country song that I used to know (I used to live in NC and country music was prolific!):

“When considering the objective aspect of love, we must discern what kind of relationship exists between me and my beloved in reality, not simply what this relationship means to me in my feelings. Does the other person truly love me more for who I am or more for the pleasure he receives from the relationship? Does my beloved understand what is truly best for me, and does she have the virtue to help me get there?” says Ed Sri.

Sadly, I have friends that have married someone who loves them subjectively, not objectively.  When I read, “Or are we really just living side by side, sharing resources and occasional good times together while we each selfishly pursue our own projects and interests in life?”, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and it reminded me of those relationships that I’ve witnessed where the fire of (subjective) love burns brightly at first and then after a while it burns out leaving one or both persons wondering if they were really in love in the first place.

Subjective love is like PB&J

PB&J YUM!

When we were in our breakout groups, our group talked about this dynamic.  I mentioned that I had heard of couples who had been married for 30 years who seemed to stay in this subjective love phase.   “Many couples get divorced and I think that it’s because the relationship never matures into the objective side of love, it stays in the subjective side of love.  Sometimes couples can somehow survive this for 30 years, and then it takes something like a Marriage Encounter retreat weekend to expose them to the existence of objective love – this whole other level of love that is much more nourishing.   It’s like all they know is PB&J – they don’t even know that fillet minion exists!”  I love a good PB&J, but a lifetime of ONLY PB&J would get old quickly.  That’s why, in my opinion, living off of ONLY subjective love doesn’t usually work for very long.  It’s probably why most marriages that end in divorce, do so after 1 to 3 years.

The chapter also mentions that this objective side of love is given freely – it is a free choice to give of themselves.  The “Law” of that gift of self is that the person has to go outside of themselves in order to give that gift.  By forgoing their personal interests or personal freedoms for another, it enriches their loved one’s life and simultaneously their own.

Sri states, “Therefore, while the modern individualist may see self-giving love in marriage as something negative and restrictive, Christians view such limitations as liberating. What I really want to do in life is to love my God, my wife and kids, and my neighbor — for in these relationships I find my happiness.”

I’d come across that modern individualist attitude in some of the guys I dated.  It was sad because they viewed marriage as this THING that imposed a list of “can’t”s onto their life.  They didn’t want anything to do with it because they weren’t ready to give up their single -very-self revolving-lifestyle.

We commented about this in our breakout groups.  Sometimes people ask, “How much can I get out of this?” (subjective love) versus what they should be asking: “How much can I give?” (objective love).  That’s definitely a sign of subjective love, not objective love.

One woman commented: It’s freeing to hear this truth, that if we freely give of ourselves we will attain true freedom and lasting happiness.  

It’s inspiring, but intimidating. 
Another woman commented about objective love: It’s inspiring, but intimidating.  How are we supposed to accomplish this? Isn’t this impossible?

I mentioned that it does sound a bit like we’re asking someone to breath underwater.  It sounds unnatural to ask someone to go outside of themselves.  But, this is why those sentimental, sensual, subjective love aspects are actually important (as long as their within a proper proportion).  The desire for these things – the desire for love that is there innately, gives us the courage to consider it – to be open to doing that which seems impossible: giving up our freedom, to gain it.

I believe that the grace that we receive from God is like the snorkel and mask that allows us to stay immersed in the water and do what we thought was impossible.  God gives us grace which helps us to love others when it requires more that what comes naturally.

God's grace helps us to do the impossible!

The chapter also goes on to describe that objective love is a choice to love , that is freely given (e.g. one does not expect payment in return), and that one has to be free to give this gift.  If something is master of you, then you are not free to love.  That is why self mastery is so important – especially when it comes to chastity.

A woman gave the point that: while as a single person, one might wonder how you can freely give yourself completely to others.  Chastity is part of conforming one’s self as a single person to that ideal.  That one will give themselves completely (sexually) to one’s spouse.  While living as a single person, chastity is a way to achieve that self mastery so that when the situation arises after marriage, one can freely give of themselves and not be overwhelmed and mastered by sexual impulses.

Being unchaste  is a symptom of the sexual urge having mastery over one’s self.

That struggle for self mastery lies in many things, not just sexuality.  It’s important to remember that while we are striving for this self mastery, we are not yet perfect.  So we may not have every thing mastered yet, but as one person said that night, “At least we are facing the right direction” so that we can walk down the path towards that.

Natalia suggested reading a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  She said that it gives a great example of this objective love and loving someone who has not yet reached perfection.

Read this for inspiration on Objective Love

(The Online Catholic Store describes the book as: this splendid retelling of the biblical story of Hosea, bestselling author Francine Rivers pens a heartbreaking romance between a prostitute and the upright and kind farmer who marries her; the story also functions as a reminder of God’s unconditional love for his people. Redeeming Love opens with the Gold Rush of 1850 and its rough-and-tumble atmosphere of greed and desire. Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child, has learned to distrust all men, who see her

only as a way to satisfy their lust. When the virtuous and spiritual-minded Michael Hosea is told by God to marry this “soiled dove,” he obeys, despite his misgivings. As Angel learns to love him, she begins to hope again but is soon overwhelmed by fear and returns to her old life. )

Another woman advised that, “If you don’t know yourself, you run the risk of losing yourself in the other person.”

I wish I had a friend to tap me on the shoulder and repeatedly remind me of that while I was in the dating scene!

I commented that it was important to note that Blessed JPII had said that our desire to love, our choice to love “limits” our freedom.  It does not squash it.  It’s important to mention this because often I think people feel as if this kind of altruistic love asks them to give up their free will.  One gentleman quickly came to my rescue to help explain that “this idea of compromise or self sacrificing in order to fully love someone does not mean that we compromise who we are or who God is calling us to be.  We do not sacrifice our “non-drug”-self so that we can attend a Rave party and do cocaine.” It’s sacrificing for the betterment of the other person AND ourselves not at the cost of our dignity.

Brilliant!

Advice for men
One group of men shared the list of “how to prepare to be a man who can give themselves fully in love to another” that they came up with in the small discussion groups.  It was priceless!

Get a plant to take care of so you can learn how to love!

  1. train one’s self in forgiveness – be able to forgive others easily
  2. general discipline – be able to keep a schedule/routine and stick to it
  3. get a plant or even a dog  (this was my favorite!) -so that then, you’ll get used to taking care of something, other than themselves, that needs care on a regular basis.
  4. going to reconciliation on a regular basis.  This encourages one to go outside of one’s self, to admit to another that we “messed up” and shows a desire to be stronger in that area.

Another guy, Tom, offered that he often watches the movie “The Nativity Story” during the season of Advent.  This  love story  between Joseph and Mary really displays that objective love – that self sacrificing love- that Joseph has for Mary.  It’s a way for him to be reminded of this good manly role model of how to love rightly.

That’s all for now – see you at the next Love & Responsibility in NYC!

Week 4: Sense and Sentimentality

August 17, 2011

Last week we covered Avoiding Fatal Attractions.

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered Sense and Sentimentality. (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

The chapter starts out with:  “How could Mr. Right turn out to be so wrong?”

All I have to say is: “Word.”

“How could Mr. Right turn out to be so wrong?” was my theme song of my life right up until I met and married my husband.  It seemed like I had a particular knack for finding the Mr. Wrongs of the world.  Perhaps instead of rose colored glasses, I had “Mr. Right” glasses on, preventing me from seeing what was really going on in the relationship.

Are you looking at the relationship through rose colored glasses?

I wish I had read this chapter sooner!  Then perhaps I would have noticed that I was often getting caught up in being overly sentimental about the relationship instead of looking at it in it’s reality.

This chapter explains that often one can get carried away in the idea of a relationship rather than the actual relationship between the two persons.  Sentimental feelings about someone is a good and important thing, but when the sentimental feelings take over the relationship and obscure who the person really is, it’s a bad thing.

The chapter argues (as does Blessed JPII) that women have a particular propensity to fall into this trap of being overly sentimental.  We see a guy across a crowded room and suddenly we find ourselves dreaming up a life with him, when we haven’t even met him yet! Or perhaps we’ve had a brief conversation or a momentary encounter and we think, “perhaps this is the one!”

(It’s not that men don’t do this sort of thing, because they indeed do, it’s just that women seem to be more prone to this.  Men seem to rush into the physical side of the relationship and women seem to rush into the sentimental side of the relationship.)

In a way, I think it’s nice that we as women want to think the best of a man.  Awww – aren’t we sweet?

However it’s not exactly prudent to attribute virtue to a man who doesn’t yet posses it.

It reminds me of a scenario in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  (Insert swooning from the ladies here and groans from the men here.) Elizabeth Bennet has erroneously assumed that George Wickham is an upstanding soldier.  It’s only later that she is informed of his actual character in a letter.  George Wickham is in fact, a scoundrel who has been imposing extortion on various people and has left a string of broken-hearted women trailing behind him.

wicked George Wickham

Why do we see virtues that aren’t there? Perhaps we are longing for the heavenly virtues which we are all called to.  Perhaps we are innately yearning for the union that we will have with God when we are in heaven and that yearning drives us to seek those heavenly virtues and an earthly union.  Or perhaps it’s both, and.  (Which is very Catholic…“both, and”…) Perhaps we BOTH yearn for that union AND we (as women) have a particular weakness to rush into the sentimental swooning over a relationship.

When we got together in our small groups we talked about how we as women can sometimes get carried away as our hopes for that “happily ever after” gets imposed upon someone we may have just started dating or someone we may have been recently introduced to.

One woman commented that it’s interesting that the chapter comments on this dynamic but in essence, “what do we do now? How do we prevent this?”

I commented that further chapters discuss actions and attitudes that can help prevent this over-sentimentality, but I encouraged the women in the group to provide suggestions.

Advice for women: get an accountability partner
One woman suggested having a fellow girlfriend act as an accountability partner. (What a great idea! I wish I had one when I was single).  She commented that it was important to “choose an accountability partner who you could trust and one who had the same values as you”, otherwise you would tend to dismiss their advice or their advice might be contrary to your beliefs.  This person could help ensure that you were not looking through those rose colored glasses and that you had a clearer sense of reality about the relationship.  This accountability partner would not be experiencing the relationship emotionally and would be able to give a more clear answer about whether or not the relationship was a healthy one.

Advice for men- how you can help
Once we returned to the group discussion, one of the men’s groups asked, “Well, if women are prone to this, what can we do to help prevent this?”

One woman answered that question quite succinctly:  “prayer.  Please pray for us.  Pray for us to be emotionally chaste.”  Men struggle with physical chastity in particular and women struggle with emotional chastity.  That isn’t to say that we don’t have struggles vice versa, it just means that we USUALLY have a struggle when it comes to these things.

Also, don’t be judgmental.  Yeah – it might be weird for you, as a guy, to witness a girl getting all wrapped up sentimentally with a guy (maybe even you) but don’t label us with terms like, “she’s being a psycho.” 😛 Men and women are just so different that our struggles seem “weird” to the other.

I chimed in with, Say, what you mean and mean what you say.  Don’t just say you “had a really really great time on a date and that you are going to definitely call usjust because you can’t think of a nice way to end a date.  Don’t be nice – be honest.  If you say things that lead us to think more of the relationship than there really is, then it’s no wonder that we’re thinking it!  Also – don’t talk about what particular school your children will be attending, what their names will be, or what kind of house you want unless you want US to be envisioning ourselves in that house.  Don’t talk about your dream life in detail and then expect us to NOT picture ourselves in it.

Don't describe your dream house in detail!

Words are lusty for women
Low cut blouses and short skirts are kryptonite for men; men are prone to lust after the physical attributes of a woman.  Likewise words can be kryptonite for women; women are prone to lust for the sentimental feelings she has when a man speaks to her. Of course every dress is not going to thwart the good natured man and not every word is going to impact a woman to bring her to swooning uncontrollably after a man.  But there are certain key words or subjects that are sure to trigger an emotional response.  Those are: marriage, children (like what their names are and where they will attend school in Westchester County) and house.   (When I think of more, I’ll add them.)  Words can be used for good (like poetry or compliments) but they can also be the triggers that send a woman into daydreaming about a relationship that perhaps isn’t even there yet.  A good rule of thumb is to keep your words level with what sort of relationship you are in.  If you’ve just met, it’s a good idea to avoid describing what sort of house you want to buy “someday” (and what size tv you’ll have in the living room.) If you’ve been dating a while then perhaps it’s time to venture into those conversations which include more details about the specific life you envision leading in the future.

Here’s the thing: it’s not inherently WRONG – it’s just not wise.  See, we gals are like a video game character.  Say the right word and it’s like we just gobbled up a mushroom in a secret world of plumbing pipes and now we are dooo dooo do doooo Growing in Power

SUPER SINGLE GIRL! Now we have super hero strength and are able to leap to a committed relationship – heck, maybe even marriage- in a single bound! (Sorry – I’m sort of drifting in and out of metaphors.)

Super Single Girl! Able to leap to a committed relationship in a single bound!

So – unless you WANT to be out on a date with a slightly psycho superhero, I suggest that you make sure that your words match the type of relationship that you are ready for.

Make sure that you use the “D” word.
Patrick made a great comment:  To avoid all of this, simply state what you mean.  If you want to ask a girl out say, “Hi.  Would you like to go out on a date so that I can get to know you better?”  Be sure to use the word DATE so that she OR you wont be confused about why you’re headed out to coffee.

Patrick went on to mention that he’s noticed that in the Catholic dating scene in New York City, he’s seen a a really big pressure put on dating – that somehow dating someone = marriage.  Patrick noted, “asking someone out on a date for coffee is just coffee, it’s not a proposal for marriage.”  So guys, you don’t have to discern if you are going to marry someone, you just have to ask them out for coffee.  Gals, you don’t have to discern if this guy is Mr. Right, it’s just coffee.

Another guy suggested to keep the conversation on something that is outside of yourselves. I thought that was a good point.  Often first dates we are searching for a subject to talk about and so the conversation often lands on ourselves.  First dates are sometimes like an in person resume and unfortunately sometimes they are disastrously like a police interrogation.

Talk about something outside of yourself, like this tree!

Not fun! So instead of divulging too much about one’s self too early in the relationship, one can attempt to talk about something outside of themselves.  The gentleman that night used the example of talking about a tree.  I’m not sure how long my conversation would be if it were only about trees, but I think it’s a good idea nonetheless.

Another comment was made about prayer.  Pray to God that He will allow you to see the person you are speaking to, how He sees them. Nice.  Short and sweet and much better at making sure that we see the reality of the person not the dreamed up overly sentimental version of the person.

Another suggestion was: Relax.  Dating is a learning process, not a succession of failures.  It’s about getting to know

the other person and simultaneously getting to know ourselves better.  Dating is a way of determining if the match is a complimentary fit, not, is there something inherently wrong with this person that I am interacting with- and how bad or good are they.

I wish I had an easier time remembering this when I was single.  A breakup felt like someone saying, “eww – you’re no good.”  This was probably due to the circumstances of the break up.  Towards the end of my dating career, I realized that really, it came down to whether or not we were a good fit for each other.  Sometimes the guy was a really nice, great guy, but just the wrong fit.

Great fit for someone else, but not a great fit for me.  It didn’t really make sense until I met the man who became my husband.  Each day that I interact with him, I’m reminded what a good fit he is for me.  I’m so glad that I was able to learn through the dating process, what type of person would be a good fit for me.  It helped me to not get stuck in the trap of being overly sentimental and helped me to see the relationship and my sweetheart, in reality, not in my imagination.

As, I said before and as many other women in these discussion groups have commented:  I wish I had read this book sooner!

More to look forward to in further weeks!

Week 3: Avoiding Fatal Attractions

July 19, 2011

Week 3 of  Love & Responsibility in NYC was all about “avoiding fatal attractions”.

(Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter is all about the dynamics of attraction and  in particular how to avoid the attractions that end up being destructive.   It talks about the components of attraction:  the sexual urge (the initial stirrings of attraction to the opposite sex – talked about in the previous chapter and previous blog post), sensuality (the physical attraction) and sentimentality (the emotional attraction).  It talked about the importance of all of these components but warned that if one became the dominant dynamic, it would lead to the destruction of the relationship as it would lead to one if not both of the parties being treated as an object.

This chapter also brings up the touchy (no pun intended) topic of pornography, it’s power to enslave those who use it and it’s power to harm those who are  victims of it.  It was careful to note that there is a big difference between the naked sculptures in the Vatican museums and the pictures in Playboy.

I was surprised to find that in my small group discussion all of the women seemed to be very well versed on Blessed JPII’s Love and Responsibility.  It seemed to be a younger, very vibrant group – a good example of the “JPII generation” that I’ve been hearing about.  (The JPII generation are those who were born and grew up during the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II who have benefited from his writings and implementation of World Youth Days throughout the world.)

I commented that during the reading what really struck me was that in my life it seemed that I fell victim of falling into sentimentality about a man whom I had just met and that possibly later it would blossom into sensuality whereas for the man in my life it seemed to be the reverse (sensuality possibly blossoming into sentimentality).  I just figured that this is what most gals and guys experienced.

My sentimentality went something like this:

The wedding of Mr. Darcy to Ms. Bennet

the silent (yet secretly generous, thoughtful, kind, romantic) gentleman is swept away by the strong outspoken young lady who in turn is softened by his gentleness and kindness.  It was someone’s kindness and generosity that would grab my attention first and then lead me to think them more handsome than I had originally noticed.

Whereas guys, it seemed, would notice a woman’s body first and then be drawn to her through her funny personality, generosity and kindness.

I was intrigued when a woman in my small group revealed that for her it seemed to be the reverse – that for her, she experienced sensuality first, followed by sentimentality.  So if you are reading this and feel like it’s reversed for you – know that you aren’t alone 🙂

We also talked about ways women could help men avoid being stuck on sensuality.  We talked about how dressing modestly can help men see women in more than a sensual way.  I admitted that when I first began dressing more modestly I was concerned that men in today’s society were so trained to see only the sensual side of women that they wouldn’t see me at all if I didn’t reveal that side of me.    Sadly, I can admit that when I felt lonely because I didn’t have any dates lined up, I would resort to dressing more “sexy” so that I would get noticed.  Of course, this gave me all the WRONG sort of attention from the WRONG sort of men.

One of the other women in the group added that as she had grown in her faith through college she became more and more aware of the importance of not revealing too much in the way that she dressed.  She said that she felt awkward at first because her friends were wearing shorter dresses or lower cut blouses, but later she began to see the freedom that it gave her.  She felt more free to be herself, especially around men, who had less of a temptation to objectify her because she wasn’t putting her body out there on display.   Now she’s so accustomed to dressing modestly that she almost doesn’t notice it at all – it’s just what she does.

Another lady commented that she was actually on a date when a crowd of scantily clad women walked by.  Her date turned to her and said, “gross – that’s so tacky.” So at least in her experiences she is seeing that men already notice and prefer women who are dressed more classy and sophisticated.

Perhaps modest sophisticated fashion fit for a princess is the new in thing?

Modest Fashions fit for a princess is the new in thing!

When we all gathered for the group discussions/reflections one of the first comments was about the bar scene in NYC.  The question had been posed: “What is something we can do to guard ourselves against being looked at in merely a sensual way?”  One’s group suggestion was to look at what how one is socializing with the opposite sex:  is it at a bar scene where the music is so loud that you can’t even hear the person speaking that is standing next to you? If all you know about them is how they look, then are you really attracted to them – their personality- who they are as a person? or merely to their physical body?

“Wow,” I thought.  I had never thought about that.  I had never thought about NYC as being full of No-talking-so-I-can-just-focus-on-your-body-bars.  But it totally makes sense.  As people in NYC focus more and more on physical attributes and sensuality in a hook up culture, there would be less and less of a need to increase the sentimentality or attraction to the personality of the person.

Cheers! Where everybody knows your name

versus

NYC club where nobody knows your name...because they can't hear you say it. 😦 booo buuuu

I also shared with the large group discussion that one thing that I had heard at a  “Theology of the Body in Art” lecture by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB, MA (who I believe was an Art professor before he entered the priesthood.) He said that pornography focuses the viewer’s attention on one part of the body so that instead of seeing the whole body, the viewer’s eye rests and fixates on one body part.  Whereas beauty – as seen in a naked body (or barely clothed body) in sculpture, painting, or photography draws the eye of the viewer around the subject so that it sees the person in it’s entirety.  It is not nakedness that makes it “bad” or wrong or demeaning.  It is the focus on that one particular part (usually a sexual part) that makes it impossible to view the whole person because it turns the person into an object to be seen, not a person to be known.

I actually forgot to mention to the group that Fr. Loya also mentioned that 1.)  trained artists learn how to use light and form to move the viewers eye around the canvas (etc.) so that they are able to capture the true beauty of the body in it’s entirety.  2.)  An image doesn’t have to show the body naked to be pornographic – the body shown may be “fully clothed” and still (through it’s light, shape, and form) focus the viewer’s attention to the sexual part of the body – thereby making the image pornographic.  It is an image which incites lust not love; an image that creates a hunger for consumption of the object.

One comment was made in the audience by a guy that one of the ways that we can avoid fatal attractions is by not entering a dating situation with someone who doesn’t share your views about saving sex for marriage.  For him it seems to much of a temptation – that the other person will just tear you down from your goal to have a pure relationship.

A few other comments were made and then I brought the conversation back to this comment.  In my opinion, while on the surface, the above advice sounds like a good idea, I would propose that it is just simply quite impossible to do in real life.  MOST people in New York City have never even heard of the word “chastity” before.  I commented that “just because you are struggling with chastity does not mean that you are not datable.”  People are in different points along the faith journey that each one of us has in life, likewise people are in different points along the journey to chastity.

We can’t control other people.  We CAN however, control our actions. So our first goal should be one of self-reflection.

We must first reflect on ourselves.

Are we doing our part in making sure that we avoid fatal attractions; are we making sure that we are not falling into a purely sentimental or purely sensual attraction with someone? Are we really focusing on who someone is, not only how great they look? Are we truly seeing the person? Are we doing our part in not encouraging someone to use us? Are we dressing beautifully and  modestly? Are we using our way of dress to manipulate the opposite sex so that we can have a power over them?  Are we wielding this power?

After the group discussions I chatted with the gentleman who had made the comment above about avoiding those who have not achieved chastity.  As we were chatting he admitted that what he was truly trying to say was that if we were in a relationship with someone who was actively trying to knock us off of our goal of chastity that we should remove that person from our lives.  (ie if they were saying things like, “oh you’re so stupid for doing this chastity thing” or “you’re so naive, just wait, I’ll show you how wrong you are”) I completely agree with this statement.  If someone is being disrespectful to us because of what we believe then we absolutely want to avoid contact with the person, unless they can begin to act towards us in a respectful way.

One of the reasons why I feel so strongly about not avoiding people who are not yet on board with the idea of saving all sexual activity for marriage, is because I’m married to one. 🙂

My husband was present at this group discussion and stood up and commented on this subject.  He said, “When I met Genevieve I was sexually active and contracepting.  I had never heard the word chastity before.  So while I agree that life would be simpler if we could all just date people who are chaste – like how the other gentleman is proposing- I just don’t think that’s how it plays out in real life.  Look, we’re all struggling with something.  I was struggling with the idea of chastity.  Genevieve was struggling with other things. ”

After the evening ended and while we were on our way home, my husband and I continued to chat about this subject.  One of the things that I remembered was that when I started dating my husband, I was very up front with him about what the Catholic church teaches about chastity and about the fact that chastity was what I wanted in any relationship that I was involved in.  It was a HUGE pill for him to take.  But it was important that he know exactly what he was signing up for and that I felt so strongly about it.  My husband had been baptized and raised Catholic, so I took that piece of information and asked him to consider what that meant.  I said something along the lines of, “look, I know that some of these ideas are really new to you, but even on the most simplest level: if you are Catholic you need to be going to church on Sunday.  I want to be in a relationship with someone who has a relationship with God.  If you want to have a relationship with someone, then you need to spend time with them – so spending time with God needs to be important for you.”

I knew that a simple chat from me or a handy book on The Good News About Sex and Marriage was not all that it was going to take to really open my husband to the idea of chastity.   He needed to hear the Truth from someone otherthan me.

Excellent explanation of the Catholic church teaching on sexuality

I also shared with my husband that I thought that it would be beneficial for him to go to confession.  I explained that I had felt the healing graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that I thought that he could really benefit from it too.  (With his permission to reveal this ) I’m happy to say that although he hadn’t been to confession in many many years, he considered it and went.  It made a HUGE difference in his life and in his perspective on God and how he was to live his life.

So, while I don’t think that we should exclude someone because they aren’t on the same chastity page as we are, I DO think that we need to challenge others.  I think that we should challenge others by asking them, “What do you believe? Why do you believe it? If you have a problem with the Catholic church’s teaching on sexuality, have you done any reading recently on the subject? Have you listened to any lectures or talks on the subject? or are you making your decision without much information on the subject?”

In short the chastity message says: save sexual intimacy for your spouse and only your spouse.  That’s before AND after marriage.

If someone doesn’t feel that you should reserve sexual intimacy for one’s spouse, then why would they reserve sexual intimacy for their spouse AFTER they get married? simply because they said the words, “I will” honor and cherish this person until death do us part?  What does sexual intimacy mean for them?

Allowing a person to focus solely on one’s  sensuality, causes a divide in who they are as person.  We as persons are more than just the body.  We are  mind, body and soul.  When someone only sees one side of me and they get stuck or refuse to go beyond that and see me as a whole person of mind, body, and spirit, they cause me injury.  They reduce me down to only a 1/3 of who I am.  Ouch.

That is why, in my opinion, they are called “Fatal Attractions”. The attraction becomes destructive.   Instead of seeing the whole person, only 1/3 of the person is focused on.  The remaining 2/3 is ignored or discarded.   😦

So in the final words from that night of my husband, “These are very tricky situations and it’s good to keep in mind that the journey will be difficult.  So good luck everybody.”

I’m looking forward to the next L&R in NYC discussion group in a couple of weeks – it should be interesting!

Week 2: Beyond the Sexual Urge

July 8, 2011

Week 2 of  Love & Responsibility in NYC was all about living “beyond the sexual urge”.

(Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

In short, it acknowledges that often dating relationships (or even friendships) start out with a basic attraction and that is due to an innate sexual urge that we humans have.   It explains that in reality it’s not an abstract sexual urge that we experience, but an attraction to another person.  It’s not an attraction to blonde hair per say (because being attracted to just a wig would be strange!), but it’s an attraction to a person who has blonde hair.  The chapter encourages one to go beyond the sexual urge to SEE the other person.

(See – this blonde hair piece just isn’t that exciting when it’s all by itself!)

blonde hair by itself = not so hot

The chapter goes on to explain that if we allow ourselves to remain in relationships that are based merely on the sexual urge we end up using each other.  This refers back to week 1 where we talked about Utilitarianism.  Blessed JPII goes on to describe that these utilitarian situations develops into a dynamic of fear and insecurity.

One of the breakout questions asked, “Why do people in utilitarian relationships feel so much insecurity and instability?”  We discussed it in our small group and commented that because it’s a relationship of use, as soon as the use ends – or it becomes clear that it’s no longer useful to one of the persons, then the relationship fizzles.  Basically there’s nothing there to hold it together.  I think that’s why so many women live in a state of uneasiness – they know deep down in some small way (or sometimes in a big way) they are being used – and they are afraid of being dropped like a hot potato.

Girls: don't let yourself be a hot potato!

One of the women commented that she thought that it also worked the other way around; people that are insecure often enter into a relationship that is insecure.  This seems to perpetuate the cycle.  They feel insecure beforehand, they allow themselves to be used, they fear being dropped when they are no longer “useful”, they get dropped like a hot potato, and then they feel even more insecure.

Then someone in the group asked me,  “What was it that led you to have such a good marriage? Was it prayer?”  My response was: “Well, yes, I guess that prayer played a part.  But it wasn’t the foundation of the marriage.  Honestly, it was Chastity and our struggle to achieve Chastity.  Striving for Chastity enabled us to NOT use the other person.  We avoided having a utilitarian relationship by striving to be chaste.  The good outside of ourselves that created the Virtuous Friendship was that we didn’t want to use each other.  There were times that we fell and that was tough because we actually admitted to each other, “I’m sorry.  That was NOT our plan.  I’m sorry that I used you.” Thankfully we had the grace of the sacrament of Reconciliation which picked us up after we had fallen and encouraged us to continue striving for that Virtuous chaste Friendship.  It was hard, but it was worth it because our relationship is strong and has an awesome foundation.”

The last question of chapter 2 is: “What does John Paul II mean when he says the sexual urge can provide the raw material for love? How is this so?”

I think my story above is a witness to the fact that it is good to be attracted to one another, but I believe it’s the act of moving past that that allows you to SEE the other person, to stop the cycle of using each other, and to create a wonderful strong foundation for a Virtuous Friendship that blossoms into True Love.

Later in the large discussion group I mentioned that while I am blessed to have a virtuous friendship as the foundation of my marriage, I have to daily take steps to ensure that I don’t fall back into use of my spouse.  For example:  My husband has awesome cooking skills.   Coming home to a hot dinner that my Handsome Husband has finely crafted is easy to get used to.  So on the days when he was tired I caught myself being a little miffed that dinner wasn’t already ready.  “Boooooo” 😦  As a way to combat thinking of my spouse as merely my private cook, I made a conscious effort to thank him for cooking.  In thanking him I was able to look past the action that he was doing and SEE him – the person that he is and that his act of making dinner was how he was loving me.  Likewise even though I may not want to get up and go to work in the morning, my husband has made a special effort to thank me for going to work.  That little action of thanking each other that helps keep us from using each other.

Yummy Thai Hot Soup with Pineapple thanks to my fabulous spouse

Later in the evening a comment was made by a woman in the large discussion group.  She brought up the issue that when it comes to living ‘beyond the Sexual Urge’, often men get a bad wrap.  She commented that often women complain about men not getting past the sexual urge.  She gave a great quote:

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”
Max Lucado

Her advice to the women in the crowd was that they should grow deeper and deeper in their relationship with God.  That closeness with God will be the draw for men to go out side of themselves.  Their holiness will attract men and actually assist them in seeking God and living Beyond the Sexual Urge.

On the dance floor, beyond the sexual urge, and beyond the Lindy Crush.
On the dance floor we are also called to go beyond the sexual urge – beyond that sexual attraction- beyond the “Lindy Crush”.  I first heard about the term “lindy crush” after I had only been dancing for about 2 months.  Someone flippantly said, “oh have you danced with Mr. x? I soo have a Lindy Crush on him.  He’s a great dancer.  You should dance with him.”  For a moment I wondered, “am I 15 again? did she just say crush? and what’s a Lindy Crush anyway?”  So when I asked for some clarification she explained that a Lindy Crush is where you have this great connection on the dance floor, you have an amazing dance, and you feel this euphoria and you think, “Wow. That guy is dreamy.  I think I have a crush on him.”

Go beyond the Lindy Crush!

Actually, when you have a Lindy Crush, it’s more like a crush on the guy’s dancing, not him.  You might not know him at all – whether he’s got a girlfriend or if he’s single, what his interests are or what his background is and yet you still feel as if there’s this great connection (off the dance floor) and any moment now he’ll be asking you out on a date and soon after you’ll be living happily ever after.  It’s tricky because when you are dancing you are close enough to pick up on the guy’s pheromones, so it’s even more difficult to work past the sexual urge

So my advice to women is:  enjoy the dance and then resist the urge to day dream.  Get to know the guy on and off the dance floor.  Don’t look at a guy’s dancing expertise and stop there.  Look beyond to SEE the person and to get to know them.

My advice to men is:  work hard to go beyond the sexual urge.  Resist the urge to day dream.  Get to know the gal on and off the dance floor.  Don’t look at a woman’s physique and stop there.  Look beyond to SEE the person and to get to know them. (We women notice it and appreciate it!)