Archive | August 2015

Don’t side-step away from “Unconventional Behaviour”

“…There are occasions when girls like Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of unconventional behaviour. When they want to be praised, which is often; when they want to be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want no nonsense, which is seldom… Moreover, by chance or by devilry, the ministrant was antecedently made interesting by being a handsome stranger who had evidently seen better days. So she could not clearly decide whether it was her opinion that he had insulted her or not.” – Chapter 24, Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

As I read this, it struck me as an accurate observation on Hardy’s part. Why do we girls do this?

Women – particularly teens and twenty-somethings-will very often put up with “unconventional behaviour” from others. Why? What is in our psyche that prevents us from drawing the line, calling people out, demanding proper virtuous behaviour towards our person? Mulling it over, I conclude that it is:

A) Insecurities: Often we grow up with insecurities for various reasons. Not being shown the correct form of love from our family (particularly a father/father figure) leads to being insecure in who we are as a woman, and lacking self-worth in the true and beautiful sense. Will I be loved simply for being me? Because of these insecurities, we’ll put up with treatment unfitting of a young woman, because we aren’t secure in our own worth to demand the proper respect due to us as daughters of the King.

B) Fear of Offending: So many of us are ever so concerned with offending others. While I agree that we must be conscious of how our words and actions will affect those around us, I most heartily believe that allowing your fear of offending others to rule over your dignity and self-respect is NOT a feminine virtue to be coveted. As the daughter of a King, you are to be treasured, loved, dignified, sought after, generous, kind, loving, courageous, strong. Do you think your father the King would stand by and watch his daughter treated with a lack of dignity and respect, either physically or verbally? He loves and treasures you too much to allow such a thing. And so, if we value our Father as well as ourselves, we must take care to also uphold ourselves to our station. That means not putting up with “unconventional behaviour” (ie. vulgarities in both physicality and speech, breaking of physical barriers, or any conduct unfit to a particular relationship). And this goes for men, too. Just because you’re a gentleman, does not mean you need to put up with any unorthodox behaviour from a young woman or another young man. Call them out. In all charity and humility, of course. But don’t be afraid of making a situation awkward or uncomfortable. If it becomes uncomfortable, the offending party will also sense it, and this will probably keep them from behaving so in future.

Hardy goes on to say that women will allow themselves to be treated this way when:

  1. They want to be praised (which is often)
  2. They want to be mastered (which is sometimes)
  3. They want no nonsense (which is seldom)

1. It is true, most women like to be praised every now and then, whether it be to our physical, emotional, or intellectual being. It affirms us. Whether you like it or not, women’s nature is to strive to be pleasing to man. This is the reason God made us – to be companion, helper, and comforter to man. He made us from man’s rib: not from the head, that we should rule over man; nor from the foot, that we should be beneath him; but from the side, that we should work alongside him, under his arm that he should protect us, and close to his heart that we should be cherished by him. To be praised by man (in the true sense of the word) is to receive confirmation that we are fulfilling our duty.

But, of course, with fallen human nature comes the lack of ability to seek and work for true praise. We are susceptible to flattery and unrighteous men who provide it (“…made interesting by being a handsome stranger…”) No, it’s not necessarily directly our fault, for the sin of Adam is unmistakably marked on our souls, and we suffer the consequences that come with it. But we do need to strive for virtue and perfection, which means putting aside the emotional delight in flattery from an undesirous source.

2. I have one word for you girls: Submit. Our Lord asks us to submit to His will, he asks us to submit to our husbands. If we don’t have one, we should submit to our spiritual director, our father, brothers, friends, etc. And before you loose your minds and start yelling at the computer screen, hear me out. “Submit” doesn’t mean “be walked on or below another”. It means to put our own wills aside and work for anothers good or desires. Obey without putting your two-cents in. If that goes completely against your nature, you will merit all the more graces for it. Don’t be like every other “modern woman” and scrunch your nose and puff your chest at the word “submit”. Instead, embrace the role God intended for you, and strive for that feminine virtue of docility, meekness, kindness, tenderness, generousity and courage (for indeed it does take courage to submit your will to that of another). Research true submission, as asked of us by God. A very good book I recommend is “The Mirror of True Womanhood” by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly.

Speaking as a strong-willed extrovert, it isn’t easy to submit. I fail at it very often. When I do succeed, I am always happier for it, I see and feel the spiritual benefits of t. It will be a life-long journey, but one I hope to find easier and easier as the years pass. And deep down, it is our God-given feminine nature that wants the man/men in our lives whom we love, to be the strong leader/s whom we can follow and aid and trust.

Is being submissive a new concept to you as a Catholic woman? Get used to it, embrace it, love it, and I promise you will be a more virtuous, happy, and love filled woman for it.

3. Hardy refers to his opinion that woman rarely want no-nonsense, that we enjoy foolishness and non-reality. He’s right about lots of women – the kind that live in an alternate reality without realizing it, who think they should be adored by all men for their mere existence. Or the kind that think men are somehow inferior because they used to “suppress women”.  As Catholics, we should be outside this class of women, striving for sainthood through virtue and prayer. Our head should be grounded in reality, while not being afraid to let our hearts dream and hope.

It is our duty and right to demand the respect owed to us as a woman and daughter of Christ (or a man & son of Christ). Don’t shy away, keep your mouth closed, or allow anyone (be he stranger, friend, significant other, cousin, etc.) to treat you with “unconventional behaviour”/anything in the least way that is unbecoming to yourself or him. By establishing those boundaries, and/or demanding proper behaviour of others, you are doing him, yourself, and Our Lord, justice.

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Life in Perspective

Life is so much simpler then we allow it to be. A problem that makes us grumble is our internet taking longer then 4 seconds to load a page, or opening the fridge and not having a ready made snack available to grab.

We can know these aren’t real problems, and we can try to understand other people’s ways of life. But it isn’t until you experience it first hand that the reality of life sets in and you really do understand the unimportance of our so called “problems”. I just arrived home from mission work in South America, and to be quite honest, my initial reaction when I got off the plane was “what did I get myself into?” It was just like in the movies… shacks for houses, garbage everywhere, dusty dusty dirt everywhere. Of course we are told there are places in the world like this, we see pictures, we see movies, we speak to people who have been. But not until you see it for yourself does everything suddenly become real. Real people live in real shack houses, living on rice and beans, barefoot little children following you through their village.

Where I was, $300 American dollars is what it costs to build a home for a family. The best way I’ve found to describe the homes is a “Gilligan’s Island” house. The floors are dirt, the walls are weaved, and secured to the bamboo posts with wire. I can’t imagine living in those conditions. Yet they seem happier then the majority of North Americans who “have it all”. They have so little, yet are so grateful for the little they have. We laboured and sweat, and were able to build a house in a day. The husband and wife were so thankful to us, and the kids always hung about, looking for anyway they could assist. I had one little boy pass me nails so he felt useful, and we had fun teaching each other words in our own languages. When all is said and done, the happiness of the family and the love they show towards us is, in itself, worth the hard work and long hours to get there.

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We delivered food packages to families as well. $25 American dollars feeds a family for a whole month. The food packages included a bag of rice, a bag of beans, cans of milk, pasta noodles, and cooking oils. The mothers warmly welcomed us into their homes, happily giving us tours of their humble lodgings while the children hovered around the food with smiles on their faces. It fires up the resolve never to waste or complain about food again, let me tell you. Here we open up the fridge or pantry, stocked with food, and complain that there is nothing to eat. Down there, they don’t even have cupboards to be bare. One young mother proudly showed us her home. For a shack with dirt floors, you could see she took great pride and care in her home. She had their meager toys hung on the walls, old stuffed animals hung from the ceiling, with calendars and whatever else she managed to find and save put up as decoration. You could see she put great effort into making her home comfortable and clean. With tears in her eyes, she told us how proud she was to meet us and have us in her home. If I spoke Spanish, I would have told her I was the proud one – to meet such a mother of the most humble means, it was inspiring to witness what she could do with it.

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I think our whole group who went down would agree that the most inspiring thing about the people and their way of life was the love they have to give. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with kisses and smiles. Children grabbed your hands, played with your hair, reached up to be held. Mothers happily handed their babies to us and smiled as we cooed at them, showing them off to the rest of our group.

What I noticed is this: Mothers in trad circles often cocoon their infants from their parish members, hovering over you or timing you if you dare ask to hold their baby. Sometimes we don’t even know what a baby looks like until months after they are born. Not only is this just annoying, but I don’t actually think it is a virtue to be embodied. (But more on sheltering in some other post, another time). Mothers in these villages were more then happy to hand their baby to us, smiling with pride as we sighed and fondled over them. We could walk across the room to show the other girls, and the mothers easily sat back, smiling and telling us things in Spanish that we didn’t understand. Instead of being terrified of the world, of protecting their baby from people and friends they know, these women had a trust, a pride, a desire to spread the beauty and love of a baby, that (in my opinion) many trad moms could learn from.

There were four priests on our trip, and every one of them said mass in different villages everyday. Most of the villages have mass very seldom. One village chapel hadn’t had mass said in it for over a year. The people waited in anticipation as we pulled up in the van for mass. It was a joy to be part of sharing the Latin mass with them. Communion calls were made to the elderly and the sick, blessings and Extreme Unction were given at hospitals, confession line ups were long. The reality of the lack of sacraments in their lives struck me most when an elderly man shed tears of happiness and gratitude upon receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist. Who knows when he last received the grace of Our Lord, body, blood, soul and divinity? And here I take weekly Sunday mass, a request for confession via text, and perpetual adoration three minutes from my house so for granted.

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I could go on and on about this trip. There were so many little details and events to completely change your outlook on life. If you want to know more, or are interested in going on this trip, just send me an email and I’ll happily give you more info! Plus, it’s FSSP – doesn’t get much better, right?!

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(The children and the priests interacting was one of the cutest aspects of the trip!)