Saturday, September 20, 2014

Half-a-dozen Commandments for Catholic Fangirls

---by Peregrin

I’m not going to lie. I’m such a fangirl, through-and-through. Whether I’m gushing over The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s beautiful poetic writing style, or freaking out while watching North and South, or because Mumford & Sons and The High Kings have such good music, or swooning because Les Mis is on and who doesn’t swoon when it’s on (seriously though?), or dying because I’ve just read an amazing book on the life of soon-to-be Saint Pope John Paul II… (basically, doing typical homeschool nerd teenage girl stuff), I’m into it. Fully. Trying to be fully engaged, fully alive. Trying to love life to the greatest extent. 

But the problem at hand is that when I like, I don’t like. I love. And when I love, few things will get me to change my affections. And this can be hard, because sometimes, it’s quite easy to be smitten with certain people who don’t even know that you exist. I do hope that you know what I’m talking about… 

Anyway. So I’ve been thinking about all of this and I’ve been trying to ask myself… Is there a fine line to the ethics of fangirling over actors and other celebrities? Where could it morph into emotional unchastity? How is what I am doing different from what the screaming masses of stereotypical teenage girls are doing? (To answer the last question, I think that one of the main differences is that I will NOT choose heroes based on looks alone. And I fangirl with utmost great dignity. Well… you know. Not the screaming way, but the philosophical way. *grins*)

Here, I’ve compiled half-a-dozen tips that I’ve been (almost subconsciously) trying to put into good use. Basically, it’s simple. Love your faraway heroes with all your heart, pray for your faraway heroes with all your heart, and remember to be a shining light of grace and beauty for the simpler, everyday heroes in your own life. 

  1. Thou shalt value thy heroes not only for their looks or their talents, but for the full weight of honor that God hath bestowed upon them when He made them in His image and likeness.
  2. Thou shalt do thy research, and based upon the facts that thou wilt acquire, conduct thyself appropriately.
  3. Thou shalt pray for thy heroes often, that they may be the best of themselves and that they may find the path to Heaven, where hopefully thou canst talk with them for eternity. 
  4. Thou shalt use the AMDG test.
  5. Thy heroes shalt lead thee to a better understanding of chivalrous action and the honor of authentic womanhood.
  6. Thou shalt not set impossible barriers for thyself and for any other man.

Now let’s dig a bit deeper. First and foremost. It’s easy to get outraged and indignant when men treat women with little respect. Sadly, it’s even more common for girls to cheapen the dignity of men. Do we look beneath the attractiveness of our heroes to find their souls? The human body, although beautifully made and crafted in the image of God, is but a shell. Really, the soul is what matters.

You could say, “He has gorgeous eyes.” But I challenge you – look through the eyes. If his eyes are that beautiful, then why don’t you stare into them for a moment? The eyes are the windows to the soul. Look at them. Are they filled with a true sense of joy? Are they mocking, perhaps, and a bit despairing, or tired? Does true nobility shine through those depths? 

Point number two. It’s pretty simple. Do research. Is he truly a good man, or is the body beautiful and the soul corrupted and in need of redemptive love? I would seriously never dream of fangirling over a man who had only good looks. For me, his deeds would tarnish his handsome face. 

Point the third. Pray. Pray. My friend and I have a running joke that’s not quite such a joke – we think that some of our favorite actors may just be indeed called to the priesthood. It’s a sweet thing that we talk about often. But… but just what if that’s true? And how awesome would it be? Let’s take a moment and think about JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Both devout Christians, the former was responsible for leading the latter to the realization of Christ and His glory. We all know that God makes everybody for a purpose. Our heroes have a purpose in this life (and the purpose is not exactly running away from that rabid, screaming girls who go far beyond normal to stalk them). Pray that they find that true purpose.

Number four. The AMDG test. (It’s short for the Ad majorem Dei gloriam test, which means “for the greater glory of God”.) When we’re praising an actor, are we giving thanks to God? Are we giving credit to its rightful source? Or are we attributing all goodness to the actor himself? Do we acknowledge that God created all of the Darcys and the Knightleys of the world? Do we keep in mind that all of their talents come from God and should be used solely to lead others to God? We should always be looking for the wonderfulness of the human spirit. Give glory where glory is due. 

Five. When I swoon over the Tom Hiddleston quote that says that women should be respected, it also galvanizes me (well, as soon as I recover from the swoon, that is… *smiles*) to delve deeper into the meaning of true womanhood as set down by Mary’s example and Pope John Paul II’s words. If I want men to read that quote and put it into practice, I guess that I want to be a better girl as well. Otherwise, the guys in my life will read that quote and dismiss the idea of truly living it out because, really, why should they if I’m not being the lady that I should be? Do we look to our heroes as inspirations? Do we admire their chivalry in the right context? Does it make us long to become more ladylike and Blessed Mother-like? 

Point the last. It’s important to remember that we don’t actually know these men very well. In fact, we don’t know them at all. We can admire things that they say in an interview and we can appreciate the little things that they do on camera. I could look at you and tell you that so-and-so went to Cambridge, and so-and-so knows how to speak French, and I-have-no-idea-who used to live in wherever, and on and on… And sometimes I’m dumb enough to think, “Wow, we need more people to be like him.” Or else my thought process goes something like this. “1. Goodness, he’s amazing. And noble. 2. Too bad he’s in England.” 

But really, if you think about it, I don’t know him. At all. And I don’t feel the need to know him, no, not when I’ve been blessed to know so many wonderful others. And all that information? It’s all trivia. Trivia about a glamorized man. So don’t go about thinking that in real life, he’s perfect and so much better than the people that you may really, truly know. 

In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara fell in lust (because I’m not going to say that she “fell in love”; if anything, it’s the exact virtual opposite) with a man named Ashley Wilkes. She was captivated by him because he was so different from the rest of the county swains. He seemed to be nobler, of a loftier dignity. She had already made up her own mind about the type of man that she would be willing to fall in love with – Ashley came along, and she smacked her aspirations and dreams onto him. 

“He never really existed at all, except in my imagination. I loved something I made up, something that’s dead. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn’t see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes – and not him at all.” (~ GWTW, 816.) 

Oh, Scarlett – you turned down the prospect of true, thrilling love for a dream. “So do I marvel at you, who have bartered heaven for earth.” (Anton Chekov, “The Bet”) She missed true love. It went on its course, it departed from her, all the while when she was moaning over Ashley, straining to sit by him, doing little things like that to satiate her lust. She was wallowing over something impossible and dead while life coursed by her. 

Wow, I’m in no way saying that we’re all like that. (I know I’m definitely not like this, and I believe you aren’t either. Which is good, right? *smiles*) 

The whole world isn’t composed of our lofty heroes. Every single man out there is definitely not your favorite actor. (Wow, think about that – that would be a bit creepy, yes?) Nor are they all JRR Tolkiens. (Or Combeferres.) Mainly, the world is composed of good people. They’re not flashy. They’re not famous. But they’re true. They’re the determined men with the “plain, decent, everyday common rightness” (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) Like Samwise Gamgee. Unassuming. Simple and good. 

Never forget that.

The sixteen-year-old young lady who goes under the nom-de-plume of Peregrin (variation of Latin for "traveler", "foreigner") is ever searching for the good, true, and beautiful as she journeys back to her true home.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Announcing...Our Book!

Thank you for your gracious responses to the launching of our CYW Book Club! I'm so excited to build community with you lovely ladies as we read, sip tea, and chat over this book together.

Which book is it, you ask??

Girls, this book is gorgeous, inside and out. I've been wanting to read it for a long time, so when the publicist at Image Catholic Books contacted me, it felt like a grace moment. I believe the saints are such a gift to us from God, and even more specifically women saints who understand both the unique blessings and struggles that come with being a woman! So often we place them on pedestals instead of seeing them as friends. We have more in common with these holy women than we think--they are simply a few steps (or maybe more!) ahead of us on the journey, praying for us and offering their encouragement and friendship.

You can read more about the book here, including stamps of approval on this book from trustworthy Catholic names such as Father Robert Barron, Christopher West, Ralph Martin, and Bishop Charles Chaput,

I know the Holy Spirit will be present in our reading and in our conversations. May our Mother Mary send us many graces from her Son as we begin this time together!

We have a few weeks until we begin (October 2), but you can use this time to look around and find your copy of the title. Buy it, borrow it from a library, share it with a friend and join the club together. If you plan to buy it, you are certainly welcome to shop around your favorite local or online bookstore, but Image Catholic books is releasing it in paperback (lower cost than the hardcover) beginning September 23rd, and you can pre-order it now through their website here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Called to Love Christ through His Children

excited and nervous
for Back to School Night
I didn't begin to consider a college major as a "calling" until recently.  Well, January.  Actually, I can pinpoint the exact time because it was during a particular conversation with a lovely lady with whom I now work and, in fact, happened during this visit.  Anyway... For most of college I considered a major to be more or less of a label: this person is math or science, this person is English, this person is Music, this person is Education, etc.  When I chose my major I did not approach it as something to be discerned, I simply wanted a major that would directly relate to whatever my vocation is, and I ultimately chose Education; specifically, Early Childhood: if religious life, many orders teach or, if marriage, how much more self-explanatory does it get?  But since then and -- truthfully -- post the aforementioned conversation, I've begun to realize that teaching -- as well as all other college majors -- is a calling.  And the more I pray about my own education and my current employment, the more I realize that it is what I'm called to do at this time in my life.

The school where I teach hosted its Back to School Night at the end of August and I had the opportunity to meet many of the parents whose children I teach.  As I shook one Mom's hand and she mentioned her daughter's name, I instantaneously said, "Oh, I love her so much!" (background: she's a returning student who I met during my weeks of subbing at the very end of the school year).  This Mom was so touched and said something that amounted to: "It is such a great blessing and a joy as a parent to know that those who are teaching my child really and truly love my child."  I hadn't even thought of that, but realized that my reaction had been that genuine.  This Mom's affirmation gave me food for thought.

I do love these children and am sooooo thankful that I'm now teaching in a Catholic school.  I don't have to remind myself to not verbally praise the Lord in any way, shape, or form and that is seriously a great blessing.  The first time I visited, I left marveling at what a difference there is when God is allowed into the classroom.  It makes sense: 1 John 4:7-8 states plainly that God is love; excluding God from the classroom and the school at large is the equivalent of excluding love... and suddenly Mondays sound so much more miserable than they already {sometimes}are!

I suppose it's completely natural for a 22 year old Catholic young woman like myself to be considering her future and part of me is tempted to believe marriage or religious life will "fix" everything (I don't actually believe that at all, but I'm sure many single ladies out there will be able to relate)...  So last week, as I cleaned and refilled small bottles that the children will use for their polishing work, my phone vibrated to alert me of a new text message.  I opened it and read...
"Where God has put you, that is your vocation.  It is not what we do but how much love we put into it." -- Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
I've already clearly said that I firmly believe God has called me to work at this particular school now;  it's exciting to remember that God is using this moment to prepare me for the future, but to also remember that He has called me to this moment and used my experience with homeschool and college to prepare me for now!  The smallest things like this text message remind me that even cleaning a bottle of polish for the child's later use is something beautiful when done with love.  And now when -- at the end of each school day -- I make my way around the classroom to tidy things, I pray for the children who make the classroom room experience the amazing, beautiful thing that it is.

Life is full of beautiful -- if little -- lessons and I truly believe that each one is to prepare you for the next.  Although choosing a major for college is a big thing, it's still smaller than discerning one's vocation.  I'm so thankful and happy to work in a Catholic school, to celebrate the Liturgical year with children, and to embrace all the goodness, simplicity, and beauty that comes with it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Get Ready for This...You're Gonna Love It.

so true!  excuse me while I go make myself a cup of coffee and get my book ;)

Hello sweet sisters in Christ! September is here and autumn is fast approaching (or perhaps already arrived in some of your states!). Many of you are back to the books, whether you're in high school, college, or perhaps a teacher yourself. Though I'm in the working world, half a dozen of my friends are teachers so I feel the end of summer keenly as they busy themselves in the classroom!

No matter where we find ourselves this season, it's always a time for learning. We never outgrow books, do we? I've treasured books since I first learned to read and continue to have a stack by my bed, on my couch, and on hold for me at the local library! What a great gift it is to read, and even more so when the books we choose help us grow closer to Christ and His Church!

Because of my great love for books, I'm ridiculously, over-the-top excited to be sharing with you something new on the horizon for The Catholic Young Woman. In October, we'll begin our very first CYW Book Club! We'll meet up here each week to read a chapter and discuss it via the comments feature. I'll share my own reflection on the chapter as well as some questions to help you reflect and share your thoughts. I hope we can get to know each other better over the pages as we share our hearts and maybe a cup of tea together.

In a couple weeks, I'll announce the title we'll be reading, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Active Participants

Hi ladies! I'm going to try something different. I'm a member of the New Catholic Generation, and thus I {sometimes} make YouTube videos about Catholic things. I'm particularly pleased with the message I was (trying) to convey in this video and I wanted to share it here with you all.

I would give my spiel about how you all should go subscribe/follow me/etc, but I really don't make videos often enough for that. ;)

I hope this video blesses you! God bless.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Together with Mary

Pour forth, we beseech thee O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts,

That we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, 

May, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of His resurrection, 

Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen. 

Have you ever stopped to think about that second line of this prayer of the Angelus: That we, to whom the Incarnation was made known?

The other day, I was struck by the fact the word we was used there. We all weren't there personally when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. It was just Mary alone. And the prayer doesn't allude to the fact eventually the whole human race knew about Jesus, but that we were made aware of it by the message of an angel. How can this be if we weren't there?

The prayer reminds us that we are all united under Christ's body. Mary was a real physical person who was assumed into Heaven, and she remains connected, of the same body under Christ, as each of us. She was the fully human link for us to her son Jesus, and thus to our Heavenly Father.

So, in essence, the Incarnation was proclaimed to each of us, through Mary. And through our union with her, we are able to be that much closer to her son Jesus. This is why Mary is such a wonderful friend to have -- not only because of her exemplary traits of femininity and maternity, but because she was God's mother and knows Jesus most intimately. She can share her intimate knowledge of Jesus with us, and then we can only know Him more closely by clinging to His mother.

God wanted all of us to know the message of His son through the Angel Gabriel, and then also through turning to His mother. What a wonderful blessing to be part of Christ's body on earth, united with His body in Heaven, including His Blessed Mother.
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

God's Promises

There are a lot of promises from God and our Blessed Mother. The two most obvious that come to my mind are the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart and the 15 Promises of the Rosary.

Jesus revealed these 12 promises to all those who kept devotion to His Sacred Heart:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.
5. I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place in which an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced..
12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
And Our Lady revealed these 15 promises to all those who prayer her Rosary faithfully:
1. To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.
2. Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some special grace.
3. The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.
4. The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
5. Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.
6. Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.
7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
8. Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.
9. I will deliver promptly from purgatory souls devoted to my Rosary.
10. True children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in heaven.
11. What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
12. To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
13. I have obtained from my Son that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have as their intercessors, in life and in death, the entire celestial court.
14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
15. Devotion to my Rosary is a special sign of predestination.
Reading these lists gives me a feeling of peace: all I need to do is pray and maintain my devotions and all my problems will be solved. And truthfully, it is this simple.

Lists such as these may make us superstitious, or develop the mindset that we must do certain things in order to gain these protections from God. That's definitely not what God wants from us though. He just wants our trust, and these promises all boil down to one: God will not abandon us when we need His help. He won't let us struggle beyond our capabilities. Every difficulty that befalls us is for our greater salvation or the salvation of others.

It's hard to put all our trust in God. We are rational creatures and God is not a rational being -- His logic is far beyond our grasp. It's nice to know that if we pray Jesus and Mary will take care of us. These lists of promises are tangible reminders of all the graces we receive every day that we remain in God's favor.

I've been reflecting recently about how I can tangibly add more prayer to my life, and small, solid ways to do that. All God wants is to spend time with us and from there all His graces flow. He bestows even more promises than these.