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?

 

 

 

 

 

The Celebration That Never Ends

“Sport is a universal language that brings together peoples, and can help persons meet and overcome conflicts. Therefore, I encourage you to live the dimension of sports as the gymnasium of virtue in the full development of individuals and communities.” – Pope Francis

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It figures.

It figures that the one time my beloved city of Cleveland did something relevant and timely and AWESOME and RARE by winning a CHAMPIONSHIP, I was on a retreat.

Of course I was. Where else would I be?

In my quest to pursue the full certiication from the TOB Insititute, I decided it would be a great idea to take a week-long course for Theology of the Body in Pennsylvania. Day 1 of the retreat started the night of Game 7 of the Finals.

Great timing.

Now this may be starting out as a pity party for me, but hold on.

Yes, I missed out on high-fiving my family members and my friends who were watching the game at home or at bars or at watch parties. I missed seeing the team come home to thousands of people at the airport. I missed the million+ attended parade. I missed it all but there’s something to be said for social media at this point  – the pictures and videos I saw of all of this was a sufficient substitute for being there in person. I was never more proud of my city and fellow Clevelanders. And to completeley honest, I needed to stop idolizing sports. So this was actually a great way to detach from it and realize there is much more to life than sports.

But of course that didn’t stop me from watching the final 5 minutes of the game. 🙂

Those (very few) of us that watched the last moment of the game on our little mobile devices at the retreat center screamed and shouted and celebrated once that final buzzer sounded and the game was over. We remarked how it seemed like we were in disbelief. I know I was! I didn’t really celebrate until I saw about a minute or two of the team on the court. Then it became “real.” But even the next day, so many people remarked on how surreal it was. I myself even posted:

“Is this real life? Did this really happen? We WON something!?”

To the outsider, yes, it’s just sports. It’s entertainment. And those of us who are fans had nothing to do with the team winning this trophy. But when people, complete strangers, are crying and hugging each other and smiling and saying “We did it! We won!” you get this feeling in your heart that says, “We are united in this!” Even if it’s just for this one brief moment.

There are far more important things that will (and have) taken over the headlines in the week since the Cavs won this championship. I noticed one of my friends posted something on Facebook about how this world is so messed up (she used much more colorful language) when more people are celebrating the Cavs win than focusing on gun control in the wake of some recent violence in this country.

(Instead of responding directly I was inspired to write this post. So thank you for the inspiration, friend!)

Of course we should focus on preventing violence, ending terrorism, looking for cures for diseases, feeding the hungry, etc. The problems we have in this world are endless. But can we allow ourselves to celebrate for a brief moment?

Those that just want to despair and complain and lament that this country has its problems and we’re too busy celebrating a silly basketball game to take notice isn’t fair.

Where’s the allowance for joy to balance out all the evil being done in this world? Isn’t it nice, once in a while, to take a breather from the bad to relish in the good?

I think we can use the escape of sports entertainment to briefly take our minds into something “other worldly.” Some that feels like a dream, especially to the fans who live in the city that WINS.  Allow people to be joyful. Allow their smiles to bring back memories for you when you celebrated something with your favorite team or when you were with family or friends at a party, a wedding, a graduation, etc.

And here’s something you may not know: That dreamy feeling does last forever. But only in one place. It’s a place that puts a record breaking parade to shame. A place where the feeling of a championship win occurs every time someone enters there.  Some don’t believe it exists. But many of us do. And that’s what I live for. That feeling of never-ending bliss. That’s what keeps me going.

Dr. Bob Rice from Franciscan University at Steubenville wrote about this place that also served as inspiration for this post today:

Imagine this: You close your eyes for the last time on this earth, and when you open them again, you are in a different place. It is the most beautiful place you have ever seen. Before you is the finish line. As you head toward it, you see deceased family members calling your name and shouting for joy. You see angels and saints clapping and shouting louder and louder. Behind the finish line you see Jesus, with a huge smile and His arms outstretched. As you break through the finish line into his arms, all of creation erupts in song. He then puts you on a pedestal and, in front of all of creation, he places on your head the crown of life. It is the most incredible moment you will ever experience. And it will continue forever.

How beautiful is that?!?

I know not everyone believes. And it’s still hard for me sometimes to truly believe this, too.

But if there are people walking around just assuming there’s NOTHING at the end of life, well…what would be the point of all of this? What in the world are you living for if you don’t think there’s an endgame?

There’s gotta be an epilogue to this life.  That’s how I get through the depressing and dark times and awful headlines that I read every day.

I try my very hardest to live in the moment, knowing the ultimate celebration awaits us all. God-willing, I’ll see you there. And the best part?  EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY!!!

 

The Gift of: Testimonials

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My awesome friends at The Theology of the Body Institute recently shared my testimonial on their blog.

A huge honor and I’m so glad to see it has been shared several times over.

Give it a read here.

And give your single celibate friends a big hug afterwards. 🙂

 

The Gift of Woman: In Culture and Church

 

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For those who don’t know, there’s a gem in this little town of Steubenville Ohio called Franciscan University.

Okay so first off, I want to go back in time and attend there.

Secondly, since time travel is not an option, I am determined to have my nephews attend there. The oldest nephew is 13 so this gives me 4 solid years to work on him. Hey, I mean, he’s already seriously considering attending a Franciscan high school so, I don’t think this will be too great a task.

So why mention this university? Well, I recently had the privilege of attending an academic conference there called Woman: Gift in Culture and Church.

Now when most people hear “Steubenville” and “conference” they automatically think of one of these – a teen or young adult or adult conference. But this wasn’t one of those.

This conference was the brainchild of a young woman named Haley Ketschke, an education major. This Friday/Saturday conference was essentially her senior capstone project for the University’s Center for Leadership program.

Together with co-leaders Toni Brown and Marykate Heim, these young ladies put on an amazing and well-organized conference with 4 of the most prominent and popular theology speakers of our time giving their keynote addresses. I was just in awe from start to finish. To think that 3 students put on this conference was just amazing to me.

I don’t have the ability to dissect every session that I attended but I wanted to give a few quick snippets of wisdom that I learned while I was there.


Dr. Pia de Solenni

I attended her keynote called Women in the Body of Christ and in Society as well as one of her breakouts called Maternity and Its Impact on Society. 

Main talking points from both talks:

  • A relationship built and based on love and not one of power, is the goal.
  • No one questions their “rights” and “power” when their relationship is based in love
  • Adam and Eve were promised love but chose power. In effect they lost love and gained power.
  • Motherhood is not something you “do.” It’s who you ARE.
  • Jesus broke ground in several ways with women – Mary Magdalene as the Apostle to the Apostles. At the Last Supper the disciples were asked to do “women ‘s work.” The woman at the well was the only one who gets up and proclaims He is the Messiah. Everyone else questioned him.
  • “Helpmate” – a form of divine assistance; woman was created as a form of divine assistance to man. (Examples – Moses’ sister returning him back to his mother; Judith helping to liberate Israel)
  • “The future of the world depends upon women.” Pope Paul VI
  • Every woman is called to live in maternity – every part of her – spirituality, physicality, mentality
  • We know men and woman can do the same things; the question is about being and how that effects what we do; what does it mean to be a bride? The Church is the Bride of Christ
  • This all points to marriage of some kind. We have the gift of modeling bride- we have the ability of what it means to be Church.
  • We need to keep with the love story, not a story of power. We need to stop asking how we can have better roles in the Church of POWER. This is not what we were created for.
  • Here’s our challenge: How can men and women better live out their vocations outside the 4 walls of the Church?

Dr. Michael Waldstein

I attended his keynote called Where the Order of Love First Takes Root: Woman as Help

The poor guy had to talk after lunch, the most undesirable spot for any speaker anywhere in any venue. But he handled it like a champ and despite his soft spoken and soothing voice, I managed to understand and take a great interest in what he was saying. He gave a great presentation incorporating lines from John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women)  and this beautiful piece of art called Assumption of the Virgin by Titian. tizian_041

It was kind of like art history blended with theology. Really fascinating!

I also attended one of his breakouts called Why the Dominant Culture Opposes the Order of Love which was all about how we have gotten to this point in our culture. He discussed Sir Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. He discussed this ambition for power over nature. It was a short talk in order for him to answer questions instead so we could focus on solutions. One of his answers to “How do we reverse these effects of how the culture has been heading?” was to find like-minded people and to “delight in goodness. See deeply the goodness in people, especially those who serve.”


Dr. William Newton

He was the first keynote speaker and his talk was titled:

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: Exploring the Ecclesial Vocation of the Women 

Key points:

  • The Genius of Woman is not an IQ – it is a kind of intelligence. It allows a woman to read inwardly the heart of the a person
  • She sees the human dignity of each person, the value.
  • It’s written into us as women, like a charism.
  • The family is the most important job for a woman – to build Christendom in the household, this is the goal and it is always collaborative!
  • The mother has a more decisive role in bringing Christendom into her home – Why? Because she is essentially the home. Her womb being the original home.
  • Women evoke love, we kickstart the process of loving, softening a man’s heart.
  • If we are going to live our vocation we need to bring our femininity with us!

Dr. Newton’s breakout session I attended was titled:

Deaconesses in the Church: Why or Why Not?

My notes were super sloppy on this one but he presented both sides of this issue by asking two questions:

  1. Is there any compelling evidence in favor of deaconesses?
  2. Is there any compelling evidence against it?

After addressing these questions he asked if this was of ecclesial or divine origin? He also questions if we then include the deaconate in the Holy Orders.  If Canon Law says it IS a Holy Order, then is the Canon Law infallible?

The whole discussion was really interesting and although my notes are clear, I couldn’t obviously present his case right here. He concluded, in his own opinion, that there is no compelling evidence for deaconesses and strong evidence against it. But he also said the jury is still not out on this so don’t be surprised if we hear people debating this again soon.


Dr. Deborah Savage

I only heard her keynote talk called The Genius of Man and Woman: Complementarity as Mission

If I had a to pick a favorite, I would say this one was it for me. She had awesome anecdotes, she was very clear about what she was trying to communicate and she was funny!

Some key points:

  • Why did God create us male and female? We have a responsibility to answer this question in order to save the world and fix the culture
  • Creation story – Life forms were created from lower to higher. Women being created “second” to man is not accurate; we were created last! We are on our way up!
  • The word “helper” is not a servant or a slave – We are considered Divine Aid. We are help sent by God, someone who can help men to live.
  • Eve is not below Adam but she’s also not above him – she is NEXT to him.
  • Man knows things that woman does not – he has dominion over the animals. He likes to know how things work, what does it do, what is it for?
  • This is part of his masculine genius
  • He also knows woman is not an object and cannot treat her like the other “things” and animals. It’s a reciprocal relationship from the start
  • Woman Genius  – We are more naturally oriented towards persons
  • Woman sees herself in light of the other
  • The existence of living persons, either in the womb or walking around, cannot be forgotten while we frantically get tasks done
  • We are ordered toward authentic human flourishing
  • Why did the serpent tempt Eve if they are equal? Because she knows very little about the things of this world; she was at a disadvantage.
  • The serpent starts at the top! He knew if he could trick Eve, he could get to Adam
  • Adam failed Eve at the moment she needed his protection the most

There was a Q&A Panel discussion that I couldn’t stay for but I’m sure it was incredibly helpful and informative. It was to be audience-led and I’m willing to bet there were many questions that were addressed that I myself wanted to get answers to. But another conference for another time I suppose!

I will say I left the conference feeling hope for the future. Granted I was clearly one of the few non-students in attendance, it was really encouraging to see so many young people eager to learn how they as women (and men) can be a gift to our Church and how to turn our Culture around from one of death to one of life giving love!

 

The Gift Of: Recovery from Addiction

So this is a first for me: A Book Review!

If you’re a crazy (good kind of crazy) Catholic you have probably heard of Matt Fradd. And if you haven’t, well, now you have. He is a very popular Catholic speaker and apologist. As a fellow student of Christopher West, I found him while studying up on Theology of the Body. He educates and informs his audience on all things Catholic (kind of an important thing for an apologist to do) and he has a personal interest in discussing how people can overcome their addictions to pornography and masturbation.

Say wha???

Quite the curveball I just threw at you, sorry about that.

It makes us a little uncomfortable right? This isn’t exactly dinner table conversation. No one wants to talk about this issue, let alone admit that they might have an addiction to it.

As any good TOB student will tell you, we have to shed a light on these issues instead of keeping them in the dark. If we don’t talk about it, how will anyone know how damaging this can be? Most importantly, how will we ever begin to be healed?

This is where the book review comes in. Matt and his wife Cameron wrote a book that I offered to review for this blog as well as We Dare To Say.  So let’s dive in!


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Restored: True Stories of Love and Trust After Porn

by Matt and Cameron Fradd

In a civilization dominated by images, as ours is today, images have become the privileged vehicle of the ideology of a world saturated with sensuality, which has made human sexuality its favorite theme, detaching it completely from the original meaning given to it by God.  (Virginity, by Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM cap)

I hope it’s not bad form to begin a book review with a quote from a totally different book.  And if it is, well, so be it. But see here what Fr. Raniero describes? Look what has happened to our world when it comes to human sexuality! It’s twisted and distorted! This is where I think we need to begin the discussion.

The secular world loves to detach God from everything. Anything that you or I or any other Christian deems sacred, chances are the world will find a way to twist it and distort it into something vulgar.  For everything that we find to be beautiful, society tells us the opposite is what we really want. Just look at fertility and contraception, chastity and lust, procreation and abortion, marriage and the breakdown of the family, sex and pornography.

So while we can tackle all of the issues mentioned above for days on end, the focus of Restored is specifically pornography and the effect it has on the wives.

Why should you or I care about those who are addicted? Because, as a community, we have a duty to offer our assistance, even if we ourselves don’t have this problem. Also, it would be a good idea to read up on this to be aware of possible warning signs that you, or someone you love, could be developing an addiction.

Even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out with Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography Use in the fall of 2015 which stated:

While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality.

We all suffer the consequences. Every one of us.

How does Restored help? Because when the 10 women in this book tell their story, you enter into their world. You see things through their eyes. And many times, it’s painful to even read about it.

I admit, I found myself cringing at times when I would read what these men did to feed their addiction. I also found myself on the verge of tears as I saw the pain and the hurt as the women struggled to understand this betrayal. But mostly, I found their stories to be quite beautiful. You can see them start the healing process as they sought out our Lord and went to Him at Adoration and Confession and by praying to Him. Their spiritual journeys are amazing and I found myself cheering them on at the end. I don’t even know these couples but I found myself praying for them and their relationships. I began to relate to them, albeit in a small way.

For the women, I could understand how they may feel like a failure because their partner sought out satisfaction from some thing or someone else.

From the men’s point of view, I know how it feels to be addicted to something that you don’t think is a very big deal, or even particularly sinful. “Everyone else is doing it, is it really that bad?” “I’m not hurting anyone, what’s the big deal?”

Soon, you start to lose control. You are actually hurting yourself when you give in to these disorders desires. Lust can quickly dominate your heart and your mind as I will be the first to tell you. (another blog for another day). But it’s one surefire way to start down the road to addiction.

You can quickly find yourself going further and deeper into darkness, as many of the husbands did.

Here’s part of one testimonial from one of the courageous women named Christina:

Addiction is a progressive disease. What was a fun way to

spice up our sex life turned into a nightmare. My husband’s

need for sexual stimulation grew until pornographic pictures

could no longer satisfy his lust. He sought out real-life pornography

in the form of our extra partner and his affair. I have

known other sex addicts who started out with pornography

and, as their disease progressed, began having affairs, picking

up prostitutes, and even experimenting with homosexuality.

Without help, this disease only gets worse. – Christina 

It’s probably helpful to mention here that the book is not meant to condemn or shame anyone who has this addiction. And it’s not meant to make you believe that you have a problem if you have seen porn once or twice in your life.

It’s meant to shed light on pornography addiction, address how much damage it causes, and start the conversation to heal.

Restored gives women, in particular, hope. All of the women mention their OWN recovery and healing and how incredibly helpful and necessary it has been for them. All of the women mentioned fellowship with other wives as being their life-preserver, in a way. It seemed to be the most common theme throughout all of the testimonials.

Having fellows takes me out of my own head and my own

problems and reminds me that I’m not the center of the universe.

My fellows ground me, reminding me that there are

people who are hurting just like I am and that together we

can recover from the effects of sex addiction. I don’t have to

do this alone. – Christina

One again, this just proves that we need community so desperately these days, especially as we go through a difficult time. Who else to better understand the pain and heartache than other hurting wives?

Was I willing and able to forgive my husband? With God’s grace,

absolutely. Even as Ryan confessed to me, through my hurt

and anger, the thought never crossed my mind that this was

the end for us. In my storm of emotions that night as he told

me about his pornography addiction, I never stopped loving

him or caring about him or his soul. We made a promise to

God—a promise to work unceasingly on getting each other

to heaven. We had built a family together, and this entire

problem was something that, with God’s grace, we were going

to not only survive but come out of with a stronger and

healthier marriage. – Ana 

Did you catch the keyword there? God’s grace. If heaven is our ultimate destiny, and I would hope it is, how can we get there if we don’t address the sins that are holding us back?

My absolute favorite part of Restored was that all of the women said how they absolutely needed to Jesus in their lives in order to fix their marriages. They needed prayer. They needed Adoration. They needed to put on their armor for this spiritual battle.

I started learning more about prayer, and I had a new way

to intercede. I began daily to take my fear, anger, and woundedness

to the cross in prayer. I started praying for my husband

to have a changed heart. I stopped asking how he was doing

with his struggles and instead I asked how he was feeling and

what he was thinking. I listened with a God-given detachment

to his fears about work, our marriage, and the kids. I

was able to care for his wounds, because I had given mine to

Christ. –Elisa

These are real stories of hope and redemption. I believe it’s incredibly inspiring for these women to speak up and break the silence and put their stories into a book for the world to read. As I read story after story, I truly felt like I was experiencing their heartache, their embarrassment, their anger, their hurt.

These brave women speak to you, the reader, as if they are right next to you and they say, “Sit down and let me tell you my story of how the devil tried to destroy my husband and our marriage…and how God and I worked to save it.”


 

All married couples should give Restored a read. We all admit, at least I do, that pornography is not the easiest subject to casually slip into a conversation. How about mentioning the book to your spouse to get the conversation going? Especially consider this if it’s something that’s been weighing on your mind and you don’t quite know how to bring it up.

If you’re just dating someone, you should also read it. Why? Because if you’re a couple trying to be chaste before marriage, chances are you are struggling with it. This book can serve as almost like a “marriage prep” lesson for you to understand how our disordered desires won’t do us any good, especially trying to get our future spouse to heaven.

And to my fellow single friends – you should read it to. If you hope to be married someday, you will definitely want to do your part and research this topic.

But even if marriage is not your calling, I would consider reading Restored and then sending it to someone you know who could use a little help in this area. Perhaps a married couple close to you is struggling with this problem but is too embarrassed to admit it. Let them know that they don’t have to bear this cross alone!

This book can be the gift that they need right now!

Lastly, for those who are looking for hope and healing due to their own personal struggle with pornography, consider buying Matt’s other excellent book entitled Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity.

And please, always remember: There’s no sin too great for God’s mercy.

 

 

The Gift of: Life Renewed

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A picture of my favorite Saint posing with my favorite TOB Teacher, who will probably be a Saint someday. St. John Paul II, pray for us both!

Well this was unexpected.

It’s not everyday you hear that your mentor is coming to a chapel near you to give a talk about God, Sex, and The Meaning of Life.

But this evening I found myself driving speeding just a tad to hear Christopher West give a talk at Walsh University, just a little over an hour away from me.

Never mind the fact that I’ve read 3 of his books and attended TOB1 last summer. Never mind that I attended yet another course in August on Catholic Sexual Ethics and plan on attending TOB2 in June this year. Never mind that I am currently facilitating an Intro to TOB DVD series with over a dozen women from my parish. And never mind that I tend to introduce myself as “a crazy TOB gal” upon first meeting anyone with even an inkling of knowledge about our beautiful teaching. And did I mention that I’m pursuing the full certification so one day I can teach TOB?

Clearly, I am not ignorant to Theology of the Body.

So why would I skip out of work an hour early (sorry boss!) to drive an hour away to hear a talk on a subject I clearly know quite a bit about?

Because I can never get enough. And, as much as I think I know, there is ALWAYS more to learn.

I was thinking about this as I made the drive down there to North Canton tonight. I was grinning ear to ear, SO excited to get there and take it all in.

“Who in their right mind would be this ecstatic to hear a chastity talk?”

Probably because it’s SO MUCH MORE than a chastity talk.

And it hit me, sitting there in the pew tonight, listening to Christopher speak:

It takes your breath away.

And it hit me, on the way home, thinking and reflecting on all the changes that have occurred in me since last spring:

Theology of the Body healed me.

Why would I not be excited to hear about the very thing that cured me?

It never ceases to amaze me that I prayed for healing, I cried to God (sometimes out loud and in front of the Blesses Sacrament), to help me.

And it takes my breath away when I realize the work He did in me.

And it takes my breath away when I think,  “If He has the power to convert a huge sinner like me, then there’s hope for every person out there.”


There’s not enough space (and you, dear reader, don’t have enough time) to read about how much TOB changed my life. I’ve written bits and pieces here and here if you’d like to read just a taste of it. (Or, simply search “Theology of the Body” within the blog to find the rest).

The fact that I changed my blog to it’s current name should give you a pretty good indication that this was more than “just another book” that I just happened to read last year.

TOB saved my life, and I don’t know how else to summarize it better than that.

I know that doesn’t really tell anyone anything specific, and that can be frustrating.

But I always remember that Catholicism is a proposal. And TOB is a proposal. And so I can’t force you to learn it, but I can INVITE you to learn it.

So I invite you, whoever you are, wherever you are at in your journey, to take a look at TOB.

It won’t be easy because, after all, this is all very heavy and intense and uncomfortable sometimes. But that’s why we have some great resources to help us in our time of need.

The first is Jesus. (Duh) He’s our first “emergency contact,” if you will.

But sometimes, you need to talk this stuff out with people who are wise and considered the experts.

Your local priest will also be a great resource and can definitely help you navigate your way into the TOB world.

But for those that prefer to remain somewhat anonymous or like reading more than speaking:

This is where I will give a shameless plug to Christopher’s Cor Project and the TOB Institute.

These websites are the go-to sources for every body. Every state in life. Every budget.

  • The Cor Project is fantastic and well worth the $10/month investment to be a member. As a member you have access to his talks that you can download online and SHARE with your friends and family (Hello! Evangelizing for the modern world!) You will also get emails from him on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  They include short YouTube videos as well as quotes and blog posts.

I spoke to a few people tonight at the talk who didn’t want to join because they “already have so many emails coming in each day.”

As a daily email addict myself, I found a solution to this problem: Make the emails part of your daily prayer. 

What I mean by that is if you don’t want to stop subscribing to other email lists like The Catholic Company or the USCCB or uCatholic or Matthew Kelly (I told you I was addicted), pick one to focus on in the morning. Even if you’re daily prayer is only 10 minutes, you can still find that time to be useful if you’re really reading and investing time to reflect on the message.

I’ve even watched his video’s during Adoration (headphones in of course) and THAT has proven to be very helpful.

  • The TOB Institute provides all the courses/retreats to the general public so you can become an addict like me further your own personal journey. I wouldn’t be doing a good job of spreading the message of TOB if I didn’t promote the courses. You don’t need to be a religion teacher or a parent or a priest to appreciate these courses. As you have heard it said repeatedly: Theology of the Body is for every body. Yes, that includes those of us who are single! This isn’t just for married folks, folks.

If you can only attend one in your entire life, you must make it to TOB1.  Period. Nuf said. Just go.


My life, in the past year, has totally changed. I remarked to Christopher as he was signing that picture of St. Teresa of Avila, (drawn by his 15 year old son, by the way):

“You know YOU started this Christopher. You did this to me!! You made me into this crazy TOB chick!”

I think I said Thank You. But in case I didn’t:

Thank You! I’m forever grateful for my new life.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Prayer

monstrance1

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.”

— St. Therese of Lisieux

Since my life-changing experience at the TOB retreat in PA in June of this year, I’ve been attending Adoration several times a week in addition to daily mass.

And something awesome has been happening.

My prayers are being answered.

This shouldn’t surprise me. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has faith.

But without fail, every single time I read something that strikes a chord in me…

…or I come across a scripture passage that speaks to me

…or encounter someone who says exactly what I need to hear at that moment

…or I see someone so strong in their faith…

I am left in awe at the power of my small prayer.

I literally sit there in front of the Blessed Sacrament beaming, grinning from ear to ear.

If I’m at home or at daily mass, I catch myself smiling when I think about how every time I may have a moment of doubt, I am ALWAYS proven wrong. It’s almost like God is saying, “Why do you doubt me? You know I got your back.”

These are no huge miracles.  These things are really nothing to make a big deal about. But to me, they HELP reinforce my faith that all this praying isn’t all for nothing. It really is tangible. It’s real. He’s real.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Just two days ago, I received a letter in the mail saying my Medicaid had been terminated because I hadn’t sent in the correct information. Just reading the word “Terminated” was enough to throw me off my game and send me into a panic. I’m on a very expensive medication that I receive every 8 weeks thru an IV. So of course, after reading this letter, I immediately panicked and worried and prayed for a solution. That night, I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted some part-time work to help my financial situation. (He had no idea about the letter obviously, he just knows I’m always looking for extra funds to help pay down my debt.)

I had to smile…I think I even laughed as I listened to his voicemail.

“God’s got my back.”

I called the case worker the next morning to ask why it was terminated when in fact I DID send in the information that was requested.

Without even waiting more than half a minute, she said, “Oh you were approved 10 days ago. Disregard that letter. It was sent by mistake.”

After an entire day and night of panicked prayer, it turned out I worried for nothing.

Once again, I had to smile and laugh.

God has my back. All the time.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Prayer isn’t magic. And contrary to what I believed for a very long time, it’s not something that you do only when you need something. It’s something, I think, that you need to keep up with.

Some nights I don’t feel like going to Adoration. Some days, I’m just not in the mood to go to mass. Sometimes, I’m really tired and all I want to do is sleep instead of doing an Examen of Conscience.

But, without fail, every time, even if it’s just a short prayer to God asking for strength, I always feel immediately better. (The website I link lists 10 super short prayers. Even gives the estimated time it takes to say them; some of them under a second!)

I swear by it.  I live by it. And now I’m writing about it: This prayer thing?

Yeah…it’s the real deal. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Help Me To See

I’m not blind, but I’ve experienced “sight” twice in my life that I feel compelled to share.

The first was when I was taken to the doctor for an eye exam in the 4th grade. I had no idea I couldn’t see the chalkboard; it was my teacher who told my Mom that I was squinting to see it. When it was clear that I could barely read the eye chart at the doctor’s office, we went to get a pair of glasses.

I’ll never forget sitting in the chair at the optometrist. Before he came in, I looked into the holes of the giant machine that he would use to ask #1 or #2, #1,  or #2. (Anyone who’s been to the eye doctor knows all too well this process, it’s kind of comical).

Anyways, I took a peek and I remember telling my mom, “Wow!!! There’s a dog on that wall over there!”  I think she said something like, “Yes, that’s a picture of a dog, what’s the big deal?”  And I replied something like, “But…but…it’s DIFFERENT when I look through this thing. It’s like it’s magic! I can see the dog! I can see him!”

Having never had a need for glasses, she couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. I was trying to tell her that I could see every DETAIL of this dog. I will NEVER forget that dog. The picture is ingrained in my memory forever and the first image I saw clearly.  I recall thinking this machine that I was looking through must have been magic. I honestly didn’t understand the concept of SEEING CLEARLY.

After the appointment we went to LensCrafters to get my glasses. I remember picking out pink frames, thinking they were the “cutest” looking glasses, although I was dreading wearing them. Glasses, at age 9, were not “cool.”

“Do you see what I see?”

I will never forget walking out of LensCrafters to the car. I recall it was fall and the leaves were starting to change color.

Imagine seeing leaves for the first time. I know it’s hard to picture seeing something that you see every day but just imagine never having seen the leaves on a tree.

I could SEE! I could see every single leaf on the trees that we were walking past! And the concrete – I could see that too!

I was literally looking down at my feet walking on the sidewalk and noting to my mother, “I can see!! I can see the sidewalk!! I can see the leaves!!! Do you see them? Do you see that?”

I wish I could remember her reaction. I wish I could ask her if she remembers that day that I got my sight.

But most of all, I WISH I could have every person I know experience this newfound sight. It’s like being born again. It’s like realizing you are alive when this whole time before, you had been dead.

I recently came across a video from a popular speaker named Nicky Gumbel, and he discusses how he got glasses as an adult and HIS reaction is very similar to mine.  (Fast forward to 12:30 to SEE what I mean.)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

I mentioned I gained sight twice in my life. The most recent time I found sight had nothing to do with a new pair of glasses. It has everything to do with looking at life through a different lens, a different perspective.

This “secondary” sight occurred when I read Theology of the Body for Beginners just 8 months ago. I knew something was happening to me as I read this book and took notes on it, which I have NEVER done while reading any book as an adult. I felt compelled to reflect on these words this man Christopher West, was writing. It was another experience of saying to myself, and sometimes to others, “Wow, NOW, I can see! I see things the way they REALLY are! THIS, this is what is truth!”

It was a few months later in June that “the scales fell off my eyes.” I had heard this expression before but never truly understood it until it actually happened to me. This experience took place during a week-long course through Theology of the Body Institute.. I recall telling myself and others, “I cannot un-see what I just saw. I can’t un-hear what I just heard. I will never be the same person I once was. I can see again!”

Where I once thought I saw love, I see lust.

Where I once saw truth, I now see the lies.

Where I once saw friendship, I now see possession.

Where I once saw harmless entertainment, I now see abuse.

Where I once saw freedom, I now see impurity.

But don’t get depressed and discouraged! There’s Good News to share:

Where I once saw rules, I now see freedom.

Where I once saw archaic teaching, I now see beautiful meaning.

Where I once saw restriction, I see chastity.

Where I once saw punishment, I now see blessings.

Where I saw an aged, celibate, old-fashioned man in Rome, I now see a Saint that I want to embrace in heaven and thank him for helping me to see.

Thank you God for my sight. I never want to be blind again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Sexual Ethics Summary

About two months ago I attended a week long course through the Theology of the Body Institute called Catholic Sexual Ethics. It was an amazing experience, similar to my first encounter with TOB 1 but a little more academic considering the subject matter.

I have sent friends who understand TOB this summary below and thought it was time to share it here because these teachings are not something many people are aware of nor have time to read all this material. I have the time and the means, so here you go!


Prior to the course we were required to read several vatican documents: Casti Cannubii, Dignitas Personae, Familiaris Consortio, Humane Vitae, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Persona Humane, and Donum Vitae.(these are all available on the vatican website for anyone to read.) www.vatican.va

The speaker/professor was Dr. John Haas. He is the President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. (http://www.ncbcenter.org/)  This man was amazing. He was clear, concise, funny, respectful, everything you want in a professor. Here is his Bio.

The NCBC has SO much great info and for just $10 a month you can get their newsletter and a free book each year, I believe. Definitely bookmark that page!

We were also made aware of several other websites that I would like to share:

http://couragerc.org/ – Support for Catholics struggling with SSA as well as Parents/Family and Clergy. From their website: Courage serves as a spiritual support system to assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love. There are more than 100 Chapters and… “In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Church’s teachings, especially in the area of chastity, Courage extends the Church’s invitation to a life of peace and grace. In chaste living, one finds the peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity.”  Many people at this retreat had heard of this group so it was encouraging to see the support for it.

http://anonymousus.org/ – How often do we think about the children conceived from a donor of an egg or sperm? How often do we think about what their life is like after they find out they were conceived due to scientific means? In most cases, they have no idea and will never know who their parents are.  And what about donors who donated so much that it’s possible they have fathered several hundred children? Will these children ever meet their other siblings? What if they fall in love and want to marry someone and it turns out to be one of their siblings? While we all understand the desperation to have a child, where is the line drawn when we try to play God?  This website invites all participants to submit their story anonymously. Donors, donor-conceived, parents who are considering IVF or Artificial insemination or donation, doctors of fertility, etc all are able to submit their story. This completely opened my eyes to this issue that no one seems to talk about.

http://onemoresoul.com/ – This site is dedicated to “fostering God’s plan for love, chastity, marriage and children.” Good resources for Natural Family Planning such as NFP instructors, Sermons available to download on the church’s teaching, resources for couples, infertility links, etc.

Speaking of infertility and science, NaProTechnology was mentioned on a few occasions. Here is a link to that as well: http://www.naprotechnology.com/ I’m interested in exploring this further -According to their website – “Natural Procreative Technology is a new women’s health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health. It provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system.”  Definitely bookmark this one!

We also discussed infertility in more depth, transgenderism, sterilization, and of course, abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Here are some things I found particularly interesting/thought provoking:

—-Planned Parenthood admitted that Abortion: “kills the life of a baby after it has begun, It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it. Birth control merely postpones the beginning of life.”
Plan You Children for Health and Happiness newsletter 1968
This was in response to the question of: “Is birth control an abortion?”

—-The Pill is categorized as a carcinogen according to the World Health Organization

—-To the people who argue “Where in the bible does it discuss contraception?” You can answer them, “It doesn’t appear in the bible. This is because to be barren was a curse and to have a child was considered a blessing.” (Some theologians quote the story of Onan as a contraception story/lesson) But it was interesting to ponder that today, we could say this thinking has reversed, hasn’t it? Children are the burden and to have no kids is a blessing to some people.

–After finding out facts about surrogate mothers, IVF, donating eggs/sperm, abortion, I came to the sad conclusion that has been echoed by many: “Children are now seen as commodities.”

With all this depressing news, what about the good fruit that came from this course?

-I got to meet and talk to 110 other fans of TOB which is always a blessing!  But not only that, we all got to witness 23 participants graduate with the full Theology of the Body certification. This means they have taken all 8 courses and are now certified to teach TOB in whatever ministry they are a part of at their parish/in their community. This was course #2 for me so I have 6 more to go!

-For me personally, I have joined the pro-life movement 40 Days For Life. I now pray outside Planned Parenthood with others and offer up my prayers for all the babies that are being aborted there (and everywhere). If I can’t make it to the abortion clinic, I spend some time with Christ in front of the Blessed Sacrament and say a rosary for these women who are faced with this difficult decision.

-I am considering how I can volunteer/donate to my local pregnancy crisis center called Womankind. I don’t know if I’d be good at counseling pregnant women (they offer training) because I think I’d be nervous and would say the wrong thing. But I’m hoping there’s something I can do there that would be a way to help save some babies.

-I have added many books to my ever growing library so I can speak well to RC doctrine and teaching such as “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” by Austen Ivereigh, I now listen to EWTN Radio and TV to get the news that matters to me and tells the truth that you won’t get from the secular media.

There’s plenty of other things that could be shared here but this was just a quick summary. More posts to come soon focusing on just one of these subjects so be on the lookout for those.

In the meantime, I hope you visit the websites I have mentioned in order to gain some perspective. Also, take some time to read some of those vatican documents. They are relatively easy reads, you don’t need to be a theologian to understand them.

Living In The Ache

The mystic is the one who allows himself to feel the deepest depths of human desire and chooses to “stay in the pain” of wanting more than this life has to offer. For the mystic, the true pleasures of the world are a welcome but only dim foreshadowing of the ecstasy that awaits him in the life to come. He can live within that “ache” (what the mystical tradition calls “the wound of love”) because of his living hope that his “soul shall be satisfied as with a banquet” (Ps 63:5), a banquet that lasts forever and will fulfill his every desire beyond all earthly imaginings.

The truth is, we’re all called to be “mystics.”  – Christopher West – Fill These Hearts – God, Sex, and the Universal Longing

I guess I’m a little crazy because, I for one, am longing to live in the ache. As soon as I heard it and read about it, I decided “This is ME! This is for me. This is what I am called to do.”

I didn’t always feel this way of course. I never even believed we are all called to holiness. I thought that sounded like a bunch of garbage and just something “really holy people” say to us sinners to trick us into going to confession. So when my buddy Dan got up to speak in front of bunch of us at a retreat and said that God calls us all to holiness, I started to think, “But how? How are you people attaining all this holiness?! What makes you so special?”

Turns out, most people don’t know this truth because they were raised as either stoics or addicts. Probably not 100% true stoics or true addicts in the sense that you’re probably thinking. But stoics as people who were told that their desires or urges were bad and they should be repressed and shoved down into the depths and never spoke about or felt. Addicts were taught that you only live once so you might as well act on those urges and desires as much as you can. But by the way, this doesn’t guarantee happiness. It rarely does, actually.

So where’s the middle ground? Mystics. We need to aim to be more like them. The mystics directed their desires to God. Away from earthly things and towards the heavens. It may seem impossible, but I would offer myself as living proof that the power of prayer makes all things possible.

Desire is the faculty that not only pines after the divine gift, but also receives it when it is given, so the wider our desire, the more capable we are of receiving. Christ wants us to be as wide open to his gift as possible, stretched in our desire unto infinity, because that’s what he has to offer us: the wild ecstasy of infinite bliss. – Christopher West – Fill These Hearts – God, Sex, and the Universal Longing

Wild ecstasy of infinite bliss? Now that’s some good news.