Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top Ten Ways to Miss Out on Great Friendship

At a young age, we start discerning who we do and don't want to be friends with based on experiences of our past or preconceptions from family, TV, movies and the general culture.  Some things are helpful (I don't want a friend who does drugs...) others are not as helpful...(I won't be friends with someone who doesn't have the most modern cell phone.)
Being asked to give a talk for the local university's Catholic Student Organization about "virtuous friendship" got me thinking about some of these "unhelpful" things we say to ourselves about who we can or can't be friends with and share parts of our life with.  In the end, these ten things might be helping you miss out on a great confidant and friend.

1. Loving your friends as things and your possession.
2. Judging someone on a first impression.
3. Thinking that people have to be your same age, have same interests, live in the same place or be single (insert married if you are married, in college, working etc.) for you to get along.
4. Friends have to be people who agree with you.
5. Friends having to be "Church" people or never making any mistakes.
6. Using your friends as an ego-boost.
7. Keeping your friends in their separate circles.
8. Holding grudges for past hurts done by that friend.
9. Thinking that since you are only in a place for a certain length of time, friendship is probably not possible.
10. Friends go stale, so we need to always be making new friends to keep it fresh.

I could say a lot about each of these topics (and I did at Monday night's CSO meeting..haha) but in the end, the question that arises is, "What is the criteria for a true friendship?"  I think, through experience, I've come to learn the the only necessary criteria is that both parties are open to the truth and want you to discover the best version of yourself--the person you were created to be.  These two parties would fight their whole lives for this discovery and rejoice unselfishly for one another when it's found.  There can be nothing greater than companions on a path to ultimate greatness.

So, with this post, I'm so thankful for the endless faces of friends I've had through the years, have currently and will have in the future.  God's face is an ever-changing Mystery, but He's always been present in a community who loves me and is showing me the way to true happiness.  My prayer is that all people can love and be loved in this way!

Monday, February 13, 2012

What St. Valentine REALLY Wants You to Know...

Just doing a quick search on the history of St. Valentine on the internet, it's actually disputed if there is only one St. Valentine...there may be two! :)  At any rate, St. Valentine (one of them) was associated at the patron of love and happy marriages because he (a priest) was caught sneaking performing marriages to Christians.

But his martyrdom was based in more than that:  He had the chutzpah to try to convert the Emperor of his time--and THEN was condemned to death.  (I mean, he had to see it coming, right?)

So, as we are approaching this Valentine's Day, what does St. Valentine (or any saint for that matter) really hope for us still here on Earth?  

The problem with Valentine's Day is not what it celebrates--love is an amazing, powerful reality that causes lives to change.  Every human person craves love--to give it and receive it.  But we have the tendency to truncate what love looks like (for me, ESPECIALLY on Valentine's Day) by our definition of love--a certain expectation of someone else, a measure of a particular gift or gesture. That if we don't get that one thing or one person...life is crap.  Love continues to be a great Mystery--enough that poets, songwriters and playwrights have used as a muse for centuries.  Love's power in our lives is too big to be reduced as we reduce it.

I remember a very wise man telling me, after I suffered a really, really hard break up, that no guy could fill my heart.  "In fact, Erica, a 100 guys couldn't fill your heart."

This comment really made me want to understand my heart the way this guy did.  What did he see in me that I didn't...because honestly, I was pretty sure THAT guy who just dumped me COULD fill my heart! :)

More and more each day, I see he's right.  And more and more each day, I find a deeper love present in my daily reality than any one human being could have to offer that also transcends to the relationships with my family, my friends, my coworkers, etc.  It was with THAT love that St. Valentine courageously asked the Emperor to convert to Christianity--because St. Valentine knew not only what his heart needed--but that Christ was the answer!

This Valentine's Day, let's ask St. Valentine to really reveal the deepest nature of our hearts, so that we can live open to what satisfies it!

So Happy Valentine's Day!  Like every day, may it be an opportunity for us to accept Love and show Love to all we meet on February 14th!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Women's Rights: The Answer Isn't Birth Control

For me, it all started with the statement made by the Susan G. Komen Foundation when they retracted their plans to quit funding Planned Parenthood with the statement, "We apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives..."

My heart sank...

I was confused why, if the Foundation wasn't funding Planned Parenthood, that meant they weren't committed to saving women's lives.  How was Planned Parenthood saving or helping my life?  Planned Parenthood helps you do just that--plan your parenthood.  They do this by providing contraception, abortions, or other procedures to prevent pregnancy.  However, as Christopher West states in his book Good News About Sex and Marriage "...contraception was not invented to prevent pregnancy.  There already existed a perfectly safe, infallibly reliable way of doing that; it's called abstinence.  Upon deeper reflection, it becomes clear that contraception was invented to indulge sexual instinct."

That's not to say that all people who use birth control are sex-crazed loons.  Please!  We've been raised in a culture that tells us that to be responsible to society is to use birth control, or after you've had enough kids, get a vasectomy.  Just take care of the problem, you know?  We see it in our movies, magazines, TV shows, and now United States law....

The newest mandate about the new health care laws (making ALL the headlines these days) require providing women with birth control and other contraceptives as "preventative services for women."  The other services on HHS’s list seek to prevent serious disease – breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS.

We've been told that babies are a hardship, a disease.  Male and female's power to create life is a force to be stunted.  But, come on.  Life is not a disease.  My capacity to create life and nurture life in my womb is not a problem.  You don't take medicine when you aren't sick, and my fertility is not a limitation that needs prevention.

Way back in 1951, Fulton Sheen wrote in his book Three to Get Married that "A wife who had a young tree planted in her garden would not go out each night with a scissors and cut off each new branch that might grow upon the root.  She knows it is normal for a tree to sprout branches..."  But we want to control when the "branches" sprout.  It's a "woman's right" to have that control of her body.

But look at how we live.  We seek to control EVERYTHING...our jobs, our friends, our family members, our security, etc. How many times have we been WRONG in situations?  ...we thought we had control of something and didn't OR it didn't go our way and actually turned out for the better?  Daily life is a constant reminder that we aren't in control.  Every day in front of fourth graders is a reminder I can't control life.  Contraception, too, is an illusion...we're in control, but really, we're afraid of what sex is--what it could lead to.

I've heard on several news reports that what's at risk are women's rights: "If I can't control this part of my body, and my future, I'm doomed or I can't succeed in the world domineered by men."  Christopher West again speaks directly to this in his same book, "Contraception is actually opposed to women's equality.  It seeks to turn her into someone God didn't make her to be--that is, the kind of person who can have sex without getting pregnant--in order to be 'equal' (read 'the same as') men."

Sex and its openness to creating life are inseparable--that's the whole point.  There is a 100% way to assure ourselves of not getting pregnant which is to not have sex.

But this requires another kind of control almost scarier than birth control--SELF-control.  And not being married, I have no room to talk on this abstinence during marriage thing.  I'm VERY sure it's falls into the category of "easier said than done."  But, I could talk about not being married and wanting to have sex!!! :)  In all seriousness, I do have the experience of withholding from something I wanted so badly I thought I couldn't make it, and I did!  The happiness and freedom in that moment!  That I didn't become slave to my passions/desires!  Talk about my right as a woman!  My right is to be truly free!

I know plenty of couples who are married without using contraception who inspire me to live in a way that reduces nothing of my truest womanhood.  If you want more information on responsibly planning a family that is still open to life in every way, see http://nfpandmore.org/ or I can refer you to a friend who advises couples specifically on this! 

In the end, our rights as women aren't realized by taking something that reduces the greatest gift that makes us women.  It's time to live life without the brakes and see what beauty becomes of it.

*Reason for this specific blog post:  I'm a 28 year old girl living in the humble state of Indiana...but through this blog, I guess I do have a little voice.  Mother Teresa encouraged us to do our best with the little corner of the world we have, and this might very well be mine! I wanted to respond in some way to all the news I've been hearing lately and the attacks on the Church's views on human sexuality.  I hope that people in our world can see the fullness of their humanity without reducing it in any kind of fear!  To truly LIVE TO THE FULLEST has always been what this blog (and my life) is about.

**There is plenty of literature on this topic of contraception, specifically the reasons behind why the Church teaches what it does.  You can find the books I've referenced, or find something on your own to answer your questions. Also, this site is pretty full of stuff to read! http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/

***More information on the latest government laws that would require all health care plans to provide funds for contraception: 
Bishop Dolan's Address

(We run the risk of saying, "Well, the Catholics believe that, and it's okay for them, but I need this!"  In the end, the Catholic Church promotes a universal truth whose fruit lies in its moral opposition to contraception--and its proposal of life is for all, not just those who take "Catholic" as their religious faith.)

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him we humbly pray and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, but the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Year of Zumba!!

The official date I started Zumba was January 22nd (I only know that because I joined the YMCA the same day.)  so I'm a little behind on the one year anniversary, but I had to dedicate at least one post to this newest (most surprising) hobby of mine.  I don't exactly like to exercise, but I know it's good for me.  But I LOVE to dance..enough to do it in my free time.  So, I found a mixture of both!

Zumba is defined as a Latin-dance fitness class that uses Latin rhythms and beats as its base music and movements also inspired from that culture.  You sweat.  A lot. You smile.  Usually.  And it hurts.  All the time.

I've had a lot of fun trying to make my own dances, but find that I'm actually probably a better follower than a choreographer...and end up learning my moves from the DVDs the Zumba Network sends me (pretty sweet, huh?)

I figure like most fashion trends, Zumba has only a short life...but we live in the present, so why not lose some weight, have fun, and DANCE??!!

I've also seen this activity bring great unity to my staff at St. Susanna, as we have class together two times a week.  It's a gift to be able to get together in a way that ISN'T about test scores, logistics of running a school, or to complain.  We're trying to lead healthier lives while trusting each other to look RIDICULOUS doing the dance moves that we do! :)

So, whether this little hobby continues for a year or twenty years, at least I can say I've experienced Latin dance in its most interesting of moments!