Theology on Tap – Lansing Diocese – The Catholic Church and Feminism

I recently gave a talk on the topic of the Church and Feminism in the Diocese of Lansing for their Theology on Tap Young Adult group. We adjusted the title to “Can You Be Pro-Woman and Catholic? Yes.” 

Recall that Theology on Tap talks take place at bars, so the environment is not one where you really want to “teach” as much as just “share” some knowledge. In other words, you can only go so deep with folks. Even though I’m pretty comfortable talking to groups at bars, I much prefer a classroom setting to get into the nitty gritty. But overall, the feedback was very good and everyone really enjoyed the Q&A afterwards (not recorded).

The beauty of recording these is that I get to edit those rambling bits out. Click this link (if you’re reading this in your email) or click the link below if you’re reading this post in your web browser.

However, if you really enjoy watching me from the side, (what a screenshot, right?) and you like my ramblings, go ahead and watch some of it below here:

Happy Easter everyone!

Rediscovering Our Identity

I had the honor of being asked to give a brief talk to a group of women at a parish in Detroit called Shrine of the Little Flower. This was a women’s Lenten Retreat and I was one of three speakers invited to talk to a group of about 75 women in attendance.

What a joy it was to present to these women. The organizer of the event and I thought a good theme for me would be “Rediscovering Our Identity.”

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So the good news is that I did record this talk via my phone but the bad news is that the volume ended up being really low. But the GREAT news is that thankfully, the entire evening was video recorded! As I anxiously await for a copy to upload to Vimeo, I thought I’d at least share the transcript of the talk, although I definitely did not stick to this script completely. The parts in bold are just there to make sure I mentioned them and didn’t forget. Enjoy!


Thank you! So first off I just have to mention that this reminds me of the first retreat I went on as a young adult. It 6 years ago, right around this time of the year almost exactly. Because it was two weeks after my mom passed on March 10, 2013. And on that retreat, I met other young adults, people around my age, who talked and spoke differently. Like they knew God in a different way. I wasn’t intimidated by them or anything. In fact, it’s safe to say I wanted what they had!   I started to go on more retreats and I found these people to be the first ones who really taught me what a real relationship with God is like! They sparked something in me to take a second look at my relationship with God.

And it was on yet another retreat where I was prompted to pursue and study Theology of the Body, which was the main catalyst that brought me to the point where I am today and my relationship with our awesome God.  

Theology of the Body is 600 pages long so I wouldn’t expect anyone here to read it..BUT, if after my talk you are inclined to learn more, I promise there are a ton of digestable resources/videos and books that I can recommend.

For our purposes tonight, I wanted to talk about how TOB helps us rediscover our identity, as it did for me.

I don’t know if you knew this, but we are all daughters of God. I did not see myself or think of myself as a beloved child of God. And I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I did know that we are created in the image and likeness of God, but I had no idea what that really meant.  I didn’t really get that…I think, perhaps like many of you, I believed the lies of the evil one and of the culture in general. “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough to be loved…etc”

Or maybe we believed the lies that exboyfriends or former friends told us about ourselves and therefore we think – this is who I am. Or “I am stuck in this way of life and that’s all there is to it and there’s no hope.”  So many of us are wounded by sin, especially by men, whether that be fathers or husbands or boyfriends.  And that’s really where TOB comes in to play because we can receive healing from it, once we understand why Jesus came. Because He came to heal us, to restore our identity. And that’s really good news!

And He can heal us of those distorted images of our identity.

So one way in which I was able to rediscover my identity is how JP2 unpacked God’s original plan for us.

He took us back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden to show us that look, God didn’t intend for us to have this ruptured relationship with each other and with Him and with ourselves. That’s what sin did, it ruptured these relationships. But if we go back before original sin, we see the real beauty of that original relationship between man and God in the garden. and when man and woman looked at one another for the first time, they knew the truth – that we are made for relationship. That’s what it means to be human – created in the image and likeness of God. And made for relationship. Man discovered who he was in light of woman, and woman discovered who she was in light of seeing him. That the body is sacred. That we don’t have bodies, these aren’t shells – we ARE Bodies. And our bodies speak a language. That the body matters. I wasn’t created to be used by another.

Young ladies need to hear this – We were not created to be used and objectified. We were created to LOVE. We were created for Union. For relationship. And Love is not using someone as a means to an end, as an object for pleasure and satisfaction. No, that’s another lie of the evil one. That’s what sin does, it distorts and cheapens our true identity.

There’s one particular aspect of TOB that really struck me: JP2 speaks about this “echo” in all of us. This echo of the beginning. That we know deep down that we were made for more. That there is more to life than this. That this, as great as it is, is not our final home. That I was made for more.  

TOB makes it clear that we have ACCESS To that. We have access to God’s original plan for our lives! This is really good news! We can access it by grace and taking part in the Sacraments. I can pray to God to help me be healed of these distorted views and perceptions of myself and OTHERS and of my body, my body image issues that I may have, and I can live my life in such a way that I don’t have to be bogged down by sin.

Yes we are all sinners and yes we live in a fallen world, but that’s not the end of the story. Because, guess what, Jesus came! He came to restore our identities and heal us. In the beginning, it was not so…what was not so? SIN! Lust, divorce, use, mistrust, degradation of the body. We have access to that life before sin distorted everything. We won’t ever be 100% perfect – not until we’re in union with Him in heaven but in the meantime, we can strive for holiness…that universal call to holiness is no joke.

So if you have a distorted twisted or just an unclear view of who you are – if you are struggling with your identity, I would really just pray for the lord to reveal to you the lies that you have believed so you can be healed with the truth.  He is the divine physician and TOB teaches us that yes, with God’s grace, we CAN change, We CAN heal we can Love because we ARE loved.

One last key point – Confession. I don’t think it was an accident that I came back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after being away from it for 23 years at my first TOB course/retreat 4 years ago. Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than walking out of the confessional having been forgiven by God for your sins. Being lent, we’re wearing purple for a reason. Let me just gently nudge you if you have been away for awhile to come back. I love going to confession and I love having a spiritual director – that’s really key for me. 

Let me close with this – Are you familiar with the scripture passage from St. Paul that says  “It Is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me?” I used to read that and not think that it was possible. I thought that was just for super holy people. But you know what? That’s for all of us! And what’s awesome is now I read it and I think to myself – YES that’s me!!! I was lost but now I’m found. My life isn’t perfect by any means, but now I read that line and I get it.

Every day I need the Lord to remind me to put off the old self and put on the new self.  I don’t know if anything I’ve said tonight resonates with you but at least let me close with this – We can all do this with God’s grace. We can change. We don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) content to live in sin. So I hope I have encouraged you to put on a new life in Christ and Rediscover your Identity as a beloved daughter of God.


As you can see from the agenda I shared, it was a great little evening and all three of our talks were very well received and appreciated.

I’m scheduled to give another Theology on Tap talk in the Diocese of Lansing on “The Catholic Church and Feminism” on April 23rd which will be livestreamed via Facebook. I do hope that the video will be available to share afterwards and if so, will upload it to Vimeo as well. Read More »

Love vs. Lust – Fulfilling Our Desires

Is there anything more annoying than people who have a blog but don’t blog a darn thing for several months?

Yes, that would be me. Quite a bit has happened since the last time I posted. I’m not quite sure what is accounting for the lull of writing from me, but perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m a better speaker and talker than a writer. At least when it comes to storytelling.

And that’s where today’s post comes in: I was asked to present a talk on Theology of the Body to the young adult group in my Archdiocese of Detroit for their Theology on Tap series last month. I was ecstatic to be asked and enthusiastically prepped a talk on Love vs. Lust – Fulfilling our Desires.

It seemed to be the best topic for me to present on given that I think all people, but especially single young adults, can relate to the misunderstanding of what exactly is authentic love. There is a lot of confusion today about what passes for love. So this talk aimed at clearing up those misconceptions ,as well as explaining what our faith teaches us about real love, how lust is using someone and treating them as an object, as well as what we can do as Catholic Christians to avoid falling into the trap of lust.

I did record it (audio only) in an effort to critique myself. I edited out the Q&A at the end as well as a chunk in the beginning and it *still* turned out to be quite long.

So I edited out all of my flubs and flaws, took out a really great story at the end, and managed to edit it down to just under 28 minutes.

So how would you like to spend your time in purgatory? Long and drawn out but really entertaining? Here’s the long version:

Or quick and relatively painless and gets to the point? Here’s the short version:

Overall, I’m pleased with how I did despite my obvious fast-talking – although those “young kids” today, none of them said I talked too fast. For anyone under 30, I talk at their regular speed, no joke.

I am hoping to do more talks similar to this and even have another opportunity to speak coming up at a Women’s Lenten Retreat next month about finding beauty in your relationship with Christ.

As more of these talks come up, I do hope to have them recorded and shared on here since the purpose of the blog was and remains an effort to educate, inform and inspire folks to learn Theology of the Body.

+JMJ

TOB and the Interior Life

A week ago today I set off for the Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania to take my 6th course with the Theology of the Body Institute called Theology of the Body and the Interior Life with Fr. Timothy Gallagher.

I had asked Christopher West in a Facebook Chat what to expect from this course, since I felt like I was one of the few Catholics in the world who had not heard of Fr. Tim before. His response was:

“Fr. Tim Gallagher is one of the foremost experts in the country on Ignatian spirituality, particularly what Ignatius called “the discernment of spirits.” It’s going to be a crash course on how to discern the interior movements of our lives — how to recognize the voice of the Lord and any contrary voices in our lives. This is essential for the journey of the interior life, which is essential for living TOB. I’ll be making those connections for the class in particular.”

I’m here to say, Fr. Tim exceeded my expectations and, together with Christopher teaching the TOB specific portion as well as another priest who spoke on the Examen Prayer, this was probably one of the most fruitful and enjoyable courses I’ve taken yet.

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For those unfamiliar with the TOB Institute and the courses that it offers, a little background:

All of the courses take place at retreat centers in Pennsylvania. They run from a Sunday evening until Friday afternoon. They consist of 30 hours of teaching and the rest of the time is filled with meals, mass, prayer and adoration.

That’s the *structure* of it but that’s nothing compared to what happens in your mind and your heart as digest all of this. Because it’s not data or information that you’re learning – it’s so much more deep than that. This is literally life-changing. And it’s because it speaks directly to our heart.

This one was specifically on Discernment of Spirits and the Spiritual Exercises from St. Ignatius of Loyola. For more information on it, I’d recommend Fr. Timothy’s website as well as the *main* website called Discerning Hearts. For those who are more auditory learners, you’ll appreciate this site since all you’ll have to do is click on one of the many podcasts that Fr. Tim has done to really help you understand the exercises.

While attempting to summarize all that we learned in one blog post would be futile, (I wouldn’t even know where to begin!) I would instead like to share the BEST news about this retreat/course based on my last post from just a month ago: My GoFundMe Campaign funded this whole course entirely!

For those that don’t know, I was having some anxiety about paying for this course. I only had 3 courses left to obtain the full TOB certification and after a ton of prayer, I decided to start a Go Fund Me, simply reaching out just once to friends/family via email and posting to social media two or three times. I felt VERY uneasy about this because it’s not in my nature to ask for help, especially financial.

Much to my surprise, within 10 days, most of the course was paid for. Within three days of starting the campaign, the Institute granted me a small scholarship to the class as well. I was shocked and humbled and I’m incredibly grateful! I couldn’t get over how good God was to me with this journey.

I realized on the morning I was due to leave for the course (getting a ride with friends so I didn’t even have to put those miles on my leased car!) I was finishing up the 54 Day Novena for Our Nation. The novena consists of a rosary each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately a rosary each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet.

Well, my petition was for funding for my TOB class. And on the final day of the novena, I was thanking Mary for interceding for me and granting this request. I don’t think this is any sort of coincidence – it’s clearly an answered prayer.

While it remains to be seen how the rest of the funding will pan out for my final two courses, I remain hopeful that God will provide.

For those wanting more information on Theology of the Body, I have updated my “Resources”  page with books on TOB and others.

Other links:

TOB Institute

Christopher West/Cor Project

Theology of the Body – What is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Using my gift of gab for good.

“What am I supposed to do now? Just tell me what to do!”

This is the PG version of my prayer a few weeks ago on the Feast of the Assumption, as I sat in front of the tabernacle at a tiny chapel at my parish. I had just come from the noon mass and attempted to pray in larger day chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, but it wasn’t doing much for me. So I changed venues and went to this smaller chapel (nicknamed the closet chapel because it’s about the size of a walk-in closet).

Gratefully, no one was there. I say gratefully because I proceeded to kneel down and sob openly for about 20 minutes. I had read just a few lines from the PA Grand Jury report the night before and managed to avoid most of the worst headlines from it the next morning. But apparently, the gruesome details I did manage to read by accident the night before crept back into my mind. And I was devastated. And angry. And frustrated. And at a loss for what to do or what to even ASK the Lord in this situation.

Eventually, my feelings of anger turned into actual prayers:

“How can I turn this into something for YOU? What can I do to channel this into something that helps to heal your Church that is going through a major crisis right now?”

It’s basically the prayer we probably all should/do pray everyday: “Thy will be done.”

The answer I received was pretty quick and simple: “Keep going.” 

Keep going with what? With my discernment of my vocation? Keep sobbing in chapels?! Can you give me a bigger hint here, Lord?

But then it became obvious to me: What have I been doing for the past 3.5 years? What  am I good at? What excites me and where do I really thrive? To be honest, as awkward as it is for many people, I actually LOVE to talk about chastity and sex and marriage to complete strangers. 🙂 I know, who woulda thought?

And from the feedback I’ve received, especially this past year, apparently people are responding well to my speaking engagements. You can view one of them here for a talk I did called: Engage the Culture – The Catholic Response To the Sexualization Of the Culture. Unfortunately, you can’t quite see my powerpoint on the screen, but at least you can hear me.  There are more/will be more of these as they are posted on the OLGC channel.

So with that affirmation, I asked what I needed to continue on with my “TOBsessive” practices.

And quite frankly, I need the certification in order to speak well to this teaching from JP2, but most importantly, to be seen as a credible resource.

The great news is that I’m almost done with the certification process through the Theology of the Body Institute: I’m just 3 classes away!

The reality is that the classes are not cheap. I’ve been blessed to be able to take 5 of them without really doing too much damage to the bank account. But these last 3 will be a bit of a challenge.

So after more prayer and wise counsel from people I trust, I decided to ask for help with the finances by creating a GoFundMe page. Several other TOBsessives have done this as well and so I figured, why not give this a shot?

Full transparency: Each class is $1,175 and you can see the price for yourselves right here: http://tobinstitute.org/programs/courses/

If you cannot give financially, I simply ask for your prayers. I know God is faithful and He always provides. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for whatever you give. I promise you I will continue to use the knowledge I’ve obtained from the 5 courses I’ve already taken to promote the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality and always to speak the truth in love. I have seen firsthand and experienced how the power of the Gospel works in everyday lives.

TOB changes lives because it changes hearts. I’m a living testament to that and I would love to give this gift of transformation to others, with God’s help, as best as I am able.

In Christ,

Michelle

Helping Myself To Some Leftovers

aisle-altar-arches-226345Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option – A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, writes a short section on “Love and Support Unmarried People in the Community.”

Dreher correctly writes that the church can me a lonely place for singles.

While it’s correct and right for the Church to affirm marriage and family as the ideal forms of the Christian life, we singles sometimes get overlooked.

What about our witness? What about our lives? And what about those of us who haven’t discerned a call to marriage? It’s not wonder that our nickname is “the leftovers.”

Their status as singles that leaves clergy and parish staff scratching their heads a lot. Where can they “place” us besides babysitters and clean-up crew?

It’s normal to be confused by us because really, we confuse ourselves! We’re in our 20’s, 30’s and some of us are nearing our (gasp!) 40’s. More and more people are delaying marriage, more and more of our friends are co-habitating, and more and more of us are getting sucked into the online dating scene or possibly something worse out of desperation to be in a relationship.

We may be succumbing to the hook=-up culture. If you haven’t dated anyone in the past 5-10 years, the dating marketplace has dramatically changed. And if you haven’t dated in more than 20 years, I doubt you’ll recognize single-dom today. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s sad. And it’s lonely.

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Of course, it’s not all bad news. There are still good men and women out there. I picture them all wandering…aimlessly searching for their equivalent. They want someone just to have a conversation with. It’s been a while since they’ve sat down and had an actual conversation face to face. They’re used to 1 dimensional screens. Some of them don’t know life without a smartphone, without the internet.

Most would love to meet someone organically. But lately, that seems to be harder and harder.

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As more and more people become secularized, and more and more people leave the Church, that whole, “Maybe you’ll meet someone at Church” seems to be falling away.

Where are the solid young people, the orthodox Christians and Catholics?

Besides the pews, because I promise you there are some of them there, many of them are hanging out at the Latin Masses, which is growing in popularity, at least in my diocese. A lot of the TLM’s take place in parishes that aren’t your typical Catholic parishes with Bingo and Daycare. It’s usually the larger cathedrals/older churches that still have a Low and a High mass and that’s attractive because it’s different. And for those young adults who desire authenticity, the traditional Latin mass is home to many young adults these days.

There’s also groups like your local Young Catholic Professionals chapter or simply those that attend a Theology on Tap event or Young Adult event. And they may not go just to meet a potential date; they go so they can meet other people, period. It’s an added bonus if they end up dating.

While it’s good to meet like-minded singles, it doesn’t always end up being the case. And it’s hard to meet people at mass when you’re in the pews trying to worship.

So gatherings of young adult singles doesn’t always have to revolve around religion, per se. Recreational/intramural sports leagues and going to the bars for trivia nights and just hanging out in casual social situations is usually enough to meet someone to engage in a conversation with.

But in the meantime, I appreciated Dreher’s advice for the parish community with regards to guiding and mentoring young singles:

All unmarried Christians are call to live celibately. And that can be incredibly difficult in today’s culture. So it wouldn’t be a bad idea, besides a Young Adult Ministry, to “consider establishing single-sex group houses for unmarried members to live in prayerful fellowship.” He goes on to point out that it’s difficult to live chastely in a culture “as eroticized as ours, especially when there is so little respect for chastity. One expects this from the world, but the church must be different.”

While setting up housing may not be an option for your local parish at the moment, there is something you can do, no matter what your state in life, to help with the “leftovers” – encouragement and mentorship.

I’m attempting to do something like this with a 4-week series with the Young Adult ministry at my parish called Dating and Discerning Marriage As A Catholic. We’ll be hearing testimonies from young married couples (some with kids, some without) about their dating experience, their marriage, how they pray as a couple, how they pray as a family, practicing chastity as they dated and now that they are married, the ups and downs of NFP, etc.

It’s going to be a very engaging series touching on subjects like interfaith dating, setting boundaries within friendships, how the heck to practice chastity in today’s world and how singleness bears fruit, despite it’s difficulties.

I’d love to report back on it after it’s over here so look for that in the fall.

In the meantime, pray for the young people who come to this series to have receptive hearts and minds as they hear from the couples as well as myself; that they learn something new and especially for those who have been single for a long time, who desire nothing more than to do God’s will and feel a painful ache to be married, but for whatever reason, haven’t met their future spouse.

Spend some time with your single friends when you get a chance. Ask them how life is going. Don’t pry into their dating life unless they begin that conversation. And don’t pity them. Pray for them and offer any insight you have with them on relationships and marriage. Don’t try to tell them that you know what it’s like, but DO try to share your own stories of struggle and success. Give them hope.

They are not leftovers. They are the future of the Church. And they need our support and our love.