punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sisterhood of Lay Catholic Women

If the Catholic Church ever took out an ad that listed its most winning attributes, most people might be surprised to find, “Haven for women seeking earnest, genuine friendships with other women.” Which is a shame really, because for me, in recent years, that’s exactly what the Church has done: it has provided a wellspring of fun, down to earth, Faith filled women of all ages, near and far, that I would never have know otherwise.

Dare I even say it? In the Church, as a woman, I’ve found a sisterhood of sorts with other lay Catholic women.

While I would never suggest that the sisterhood I speak of is on the same level as consecrated religious sisters, there are some striking similarities between the lives of “Sr.” sisters and us, lay woman “sisters.”

Number one: like nuns, we lay women pray.  We pray daily.  We pretty much need to pray or else we’ll die.  The Holy Rosary is frequently our prayer of choice.  We pray for the members of our ‘community’ whether that means other women in our parish, social circles, families or those whom we’ve met online.  After mass today, for instance, I was asking a few Catholic moms to pray for a special intention.

Try going out into secular society and stringing the words “pray” and “special” and “intention” together in one sentence and see how that goes.  In contrast, amongst my Catholic lay sisters, such a request is received as naturally as if you were asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (In fact, asking for a sandwich would be a little more weird, you know, because who actually goes around doing that?)

Number two: we adore Jesus before all others, both figuratively and literally.  And truly, if any of us is being honest, we’re slightly envious that consecrated religious sisters get the spouse who probably would never forget when it’s trash night.

Number three: Our ‘sisterhood’ can be as widespread as any religious order thanks to newer technologies.

Blogosphere sisterhood is a rather recent invention, and perhaps a stretch for the imagination for some, but believe me, it exists.

Like when one blogger’s child is injured and everyone links to her page on the internet.  It doesn’t just end there, you see.  My whole family will take the time to pray for hers as often as we can.  Or when another blogger publishes a book it’s such a strengthening moment for our ‘community’ of lay women everywhere. 

I personally also find it incredibly consoling when a lay women writes about the experience of being a lay woman. Is there anything more freeing for a woman than knowing that her sister’s crosses are nearly identical to her own?  Doubt it!  It’s saved my life to be sure.

Because I have the experiences of other women to bounce off of, I know that for any sort of difficulty I’m having, there’s someone who has ‘been there.’  Heck, she’s probably ‘been there’ several times over and is a bit battle scorched and salty, but hey, that’s the toll that has come from her faithful perseverance.

If I am being very honest, I kind of need her if I am ever to be her to other lay women who, at the end of the day, find themselves thirsting for what all women need on such a basic, primordial level: a friend.  Nay, a sister.

But let it not all be about pain and sacrifice, for, mercifully, Catholic lay women are also ridiculous, crazy fun. This is the last similarity between ourselves and religious that I’ll mention: we too know how to have a good time!

I once shunned the company of women at my parish convinced that I’d be a hypocrite if I approached them because there I was, such a mess and still attending mass.  But now, having gotten to know many of the gals at the parish, and realizing that we’re all a mess in our own ways, it’s been awesome!

I’ve never laughed so hard or so genuinely as with my Catholic sisters.  It’s made me a better person because I’m not staying stuck in my own mind, as is my tendency. Nor do I have to fear them judging me if I do something crazy like regularly attend spiritual direction, participate in a Walk for Life or have a baby.

It was always a challenge making friendships in the secular world as I went about half hoping that no one would notice how much I loved God and His Church.  But such a concern has evaporated now that I know there is a community that I can truly be myself with.   The only way to describe it is a sisterhood of lay Catholic women, all adhering to their Faith, the rock upon which they are building their lives.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How To Ruin Your Family Vacation in Nine Easy Steps (And How the Fruits of the Holy Spirit Can Redeem It)

Having just come off one of our yearly purgatories vacations myself, I hereby submit that truly ruining your family’s time together has nothing to do with poor planning and everything to do with your party’s demeanor

Take heart, though!  We have the fruits of the Holy Spirit to help redeem our getaways. And you might be as surprised as I was to discover how the Paraclete’s fruits seem like they were written with the family vacationer specifically in mind.

Here are nine ways to ruin your family vacation and the fruit that counters it:

1.) Always assume your ideas are better than everyone else’s.  Does someone suffer from a case of I-know-it-all-itis?  Let me guess: you know the best way to pack, what sights to see, and how to do everything better!  Well, keep reminding others about that and when no one is motivated to do anything or help out don’t be surprised.

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness. This fruit requires showing kindness to all no matter what, even if their ideas are truly inferior to yours.  Even if Uncle Ernie always packs the food supplies upside-down, and cousin Cletus must see that world famous potato chip for the thousandth time, be kind!  You might just exercise some patience or learn to appreciate something you never thought you would.

2.) Insist on your own comfort first.  If your mantra goes: my space, my stuff, my slightly obese side of the room, my luxurious shower time, then you will quickly learn that the surest way to make enemies is placing your own comfort first. 

Fruit of the Spirit: Love. This refers to a selfless and giving love (caritas) that gives freely without asking anything in return.  Look, everyone wants the same cushy thing, but not everyone can have it.  So share what little space and hot water there may be as to make life a bit more pleasant for everyone.  Because it’s not fair to make everyone else gain brownie points in heaven while you make off like a bandit.

3.) Abide by your own schedule despite your group’s itinerary.  Rule number one: move with the group.  Disregard this if you not only want people to loathe you but also if you gain a weird personal satisfaction in perpetually making others late.

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness. This means committing to something greater than oneself, in this case: the group’s itinerary, which should not be overly constrained by individual needs. If everyone only ate when they were hungry, you’d have seventeen different eating times.  If everyone ‘took their time’ getting ready then you’d always be late to things.  So keep to the plan even if it means taking food to go and speeding up a bit.  Simple.

4.) Disregard the feelings of others. Drive unsafely. Smoke at meals. Play loud music into the wee hours and what do you get?  Well, if you are a Christian, along with a show of some great hypocrisy, your poor vacation etiquette has now made regimented state prison sound like a resort for everyone around you.

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness.  Goodness is close to self-discipline.  So smoke away from the crowd, put on headphones and abide by the rules of the road.  No one likes to feel like they are with someone that just doesn’t care.  So don’t be that someone.

5.) Fight with people.  Wait until the right moment to bring up a past hurt or issue, or even better, create new one that will take weeks, if not years afterwards to bury the hatchet over.  Bonus if you make a family member have to play the mediator because that is exactly what they were hoping to do on their vacation.

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace.  Peace means being right with God through Christ’s sacrifice.  Only then are we able to have and make peace with others. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they show us that everything pales in importance in comparison to truly having peace no matter how your worldly vacation is going.

6.) Over-Indulge. Over sleep. Over pack. Over eat.  Drink to excess. It’s up to you to choose which vice you most want your kids to remember you for (sloth, gluttony, or hoarding, oh my!).

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control.  Enough said.

7.) Stress over the minutia. What?! The kids’ socks don’t match? I know, make a big deal out of it because the world will explode if you don’t. Although, last I checked, it was called ‘vacation,’ which means giving others and yourself a break from worrying about minutia.

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness. This is one trait that St. Paul insists on. So it must be important, right? It is important.  Things happen when on vacation and sometimes socks don’t match. Take it as it comes and don’t let it change you into a monster.  Stay gentle, my friend.  Which brings us to:

8.) Frown. If you are unhappy, be sure to appear unhappy so people know you are unhappy.  They’ll surely appreciate the black cloud hanging over the group and want to go out and explore the wide world then.

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy. Joy here refers to something that is not a human-based happiness.  Yes, there are moments where you probably will feel tired and irritated on vacation.  But let it go of the bad feelings and pray for that Divine Joy that has never been found in human things anyway.

9.) Complain.  When glowering at others in silence isn’t enough, there’s always getting verbal.  Express ad nauseum how everything around you fails to please you and then wonder why no one seems to be having a good time.

Fruit of the Spirit: Forbearance.  Hey, it’s family and you’re stuck (three words for you: let it go.)  Did you really expect them to be perfect?  They’re charged with sanctifying you, and trust me, they definitely will rise to the occasion, especially during your family vacation!

But maybe, just maybe, if you and I and all of us prayed for the fruits of the Holy Spirit while we traveled, we just might gain sanctification without the usual, er, ‘opportunities’ for sanctification.  We just might enjoy ourselves, and allow others to have a great time as well.

And check out this funny slideshow of awkward family vacation photos which prove we are probably more ahead than we think! Stay safe and holy out there!