Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Love Modesty

---by Valeria Marta Sesenna

Lately modesty has gone out of fashion, killed by movies and television that want to convince us that if we want to be noticed we have to be sexy. And sexy means too much makeup and not enough clothes. 

Actually the word modesty suggests not really reassuring images: for me a modest girl used to be someone who dresses like a sack of potatoes. Obviously I was wrong, but I still personally prefer to use the word classy. Coco Chanel used to say, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” It’s the same with modesty: when we dress too provocatively, we distract men’s attention from ourselves and we concentrate it on our body. They will be too busy watching our legs to notice us. And they are right: if we don’t respect our body, why should they? 

Obviously modest makeup is as important as dressing modestly. I think makeup is a very important part of a woman's appearance, both because the first thing people look at is our face, and because dressing modestly will be useless if our makeup make us look like Moulin Rouge dancers.

Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to be beautiful and attractive, but in the right way. We should always look classy and choose very carefully what we put on our face. First of all we must be appropriate. The same lipstick might be out of place in one situation and appropriate in another. Red lips are very beautiful for a party but at the office they can look a little weird. And also the same makeup can look beautiful on one girl and vulgar on another, depending on the shape of face, eyes and lips.

I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t use. I think you have to look at the mirror and try different looks to figure out what you feel comfortable in. 

For my face, I decided to do that for school/office simplicity is the best way: foundation, a matte eye shadow, mascara, and a nude lipstick or a gloss are perfect. I want to feel beautiful but also professional because I’m here to do my job and I want my coworkers to respect me. 

For a special event, such as a party, a friend’s wedding, or a date, I like to use sparkling eye shadows or pink lipstick. If I want to focus on the eyes, I leave the lip makeup very light, so I don't overdo it.

Once the outfit is completed I always ask myself: am I beautiful or hot? Will my dress and makeup make people respect me or will they think I’m inappropriate? Sometimes the answer means that I have to change  something or add more clothes. A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous, not naked or hot. Men watch girls dressed in a provocative way but they don’t respect them and don’t fall in love with them, so modesty is definitely the best choice if we want to be loved and not used.

Valeria Marta Sesenna is Italian, 22 years old and she studies law in Milan. She likes reading and writing about fashion and bioethics.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sugar and Spice: Clare's New Year Letter

Dear beautiful women,

I haven't been around much, I know, and all my thanks goes to all the wonderful contributors on this blog who have kept it alive. Laura suggested we all stop by to write a New Year's letter, and so I'm going to share some of what has kept me so busy lately. 

Here's a hint:

December 2013 I found out I was expecting. So that was how we started our last new year... with happy, happy hearts. 

In January I had morning sickness. And that's that. 

In February we met up with my family at Disneyworld for my younger brother's Make-A-Wish trip. We looked at all the cute babies there and felt we couldn't wait. 

In March we started telling more people our news. 

In April I experienced a Virginia spring and relished all the flowers. We found out we were having a girl. 

In May we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. 

In June we moved out of our apartment into a tiny but cozy log cabin. 

In July we waited f o r e v e r. 

In August my mom came out to help with baby stuff. We went out to dinner a lot, went sightseeing, shopping, walking... anything to help the time pass. 

Then on August 25th, Alice Rosamund was born. 

And I stepped into the hardest, happiest, loveliest days of my life. She's cute, full of personality, makes the best expressions ever, and wins my heart. 

It would be really easy to torment you with dozens of photos of her adorable chubby visage, but I'll let you volunteer for that. I'm frequently on Instagram, and occasionally on my personal blog. Visit there if you want lots of baby stuff. 

I send love and prayers to you all, with hope that someday soon life will settle down enough that I can be with you more often. Many blessings!

In Christ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Love One Another

---by Shannon Riordan

I’ve come to notice more and more how often I catch myself making assumptions and judging not only the people I know, but even perfect strangers! It’s a shameful downfall that I fight against daily and as a result I have learned a very important lesson. 

Recently, I attended a short evening retreat given by my college campus ministry, focusing on the topic of family. While I was there listening to others talk about their families, something hit me. Everyone has heard of dysfunctional families and how indifference, hate, and absence can destroy a family from the inside out. But what about the families who allow wholesome, courageous, abundant, and strengthening, genuine love to just work passively in their familial relationships rather than letting it actively flourish? 

No matter who you are or how “perfect” your family may seem, there is always someone who is missing the true meaning of loving one’s family. Maybe there is a family member who you love because their family, but liking them is another story altogether. Or the family member who you care for dearly, but from whom you are shown little love in return or are met with total indifference. Or maybe you’re a college student who now that you’re living away from home, no longer feels the need to remain connected with your family except for the occasional holiday break. Or maybe you are enjoying the company of your family, but without fully appreciating their love and support. 

Whatever the case may be, we all struggle with a situation in which we do not fully realize or understand something very integral to family life and the life of a Christian. And that is the fact that God specifically placed you in the family you are a member of. Equally true is that fact that each and every one of us was made in the Image and Likeness of God and therefore, He is reflected in us all. Now we don’t always exude this fact, especially during instances of sin. Nevertheless, what if I were to say to you that in knowing and loving your family more, you were actually getting a fuller and deeper understanding of God Himself?

Imagine that all the people in your life, family, friends, acquaintances, and even all the perfect strangers that you have ever met, were all singularly unique puzzle pieces to the Divine Image to which Our Lord wished for you to see and put together in order to experience a closer, deeper understanding and love of His Divine Being? Did your mind just explode with this amazing realization?! I know mine did when this idea first took root.

This amazingly unique opportunity to love the flaws and singularity of every individual because they are reflections of God Himself, offers us an even deeper meaning to Christ’s command that we love one another; for He has chosen to dwell in each of us.

So instead of assuming and judging others, let us first think what is it Christ wishes me to learn from this brother/sister of mine? Or even better, what is it Christ wishes for me to reveal about His Love to this person? I encourage you to take this idea to prayer and ask the Lord what it is He wishes you to see, learn, and love in each of your family members and all those you encounter. I assure you that you will be astounded by the abundance of grace God will pour on you in reply.

Shannon Riordan is just an ordinary 21 year old cradle-Catholic, sister to two siblings, daughter to two wonderful parents, and college senior still trying to decide what she wants to do after graduation!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life: Sarah's New Year Letter

Dearest CYW Readers,

It amazes me the power of God's grace as it works through... the Internet, of all places.  I have formed many unique friendships through blogging, friends I'd have never known even existed if it weren't for the Internet, kindred spirits I'd have never discovered, places of inspiration, stories, humor, and witness of the Faith I'd have never known.  I am so thankful for each on of you, pray for you often, and want to take this opportunity -- at the very beginning of a brand new year -- to thank you for being here by sharing a glimpse into life as I knew it in 2014.

"I came that you might have life and have it abundantly." - Jesus

This verse, from John 10:10, became one of my favorites this Fall.  A newly minted college graduate and now a young professional, I was being stretched and challenged in ways I had never before experienced -- not in college and certainly not in homeschool.  My shyness once again exhibited itself profoundly and I forced myself to do life anyway.  Tears were shed, confidence was nearly blown, words were misunderstood.  I forced my introverted self to sit down and discuss things with my parents.  It wasn't easy, but it was liberating and even refreshing.  I sat up again and went back to life.  It still wasn't easy, but with God's grace, it was do-able.  Love conquers all.
[my first nephew, march '14]

Let's back up, shall we?  January brought my final semester of college and I busily set to work arranging student-teaching hours, spending too much time on Facebook, and trying to not stress out too much over academics (but, let's be honest: that was to no avail).  Two portfolios had to be completed by April; one of them documented my final semester project that Spring, the other my entire college career, sans some general education credits not directly pertaining to my major.  I shocked myself by receiving 93% on the first one and full credit on the second -- my sigh of relief was probably heard throughout the US!

As part of my field observations (which means simply 'visiting schools'), I was able to visit a Catholic Montessori school & Atrium where I was introduced to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS).  I'd heard lots about it before but had never had the opportunity to visit an Atrium.  My friends, it was true love at first sight.  Once home after that first visit, my Mom said I was glowing and not walking on the ground...  I was truly captivated.  Happily, a dear friend worked there and was expecting a baby in June, so she encouraged me to bring in my resumé when I came to observe.  That took a lot of arm-twisting ;)  Longer story short, I interviewed and, ultimately, landed the job.  My spirits soared, but if I thought I had already found gold, that was only the beginning.  No sooner had I signed the contract when my new Head of School handed me a registration form for training in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  God-willing, I will complete this training over the Summer of 2015.  God is good 
Locks of Love, Summer 2014

Anyway...  I successfully completed my college career, bid farewell to my professors, left my job at my previous Montessori school, and enjoyed a stay-cation over the Summer which included the first half of CGS training.  It further included donating 10 inches to Locks of Love, after which some blogging friends said I resembled Grace Kelly.  I'll certainly accept that compliment; meanwhile, I still was of the opinion that my sister cut my hair too short for my liking.  I'll get over it eventually: it is only hair, after all ;) ;)  Other adventures included going to see Les Misérables LIVE (love.), joyfully anticipating the arrival of nephew #2 (only to have to say goodbye to him 15 terribly short weeks later), my siblings and I treating my Mom to a lovely Italian dinner on her wedding anniversary since my Dad was -- at the time -- in Italy, enjoying a wine tasting or two, and really just savoring this beautiful life.

The new school year began and I simultaneously celebrated my 22nd birthday with a glass of wine and a Grace Kelly movie.  Classy.  I met my little students and immediately began recording some of the little gems that they say.  My personal favorite was a 5 year old girl singing to the tune of Ode to Joy: "God of glory loves Miss Sarah be-cause she is kind to me."  Another 5 yr old girl revealed to me my vocation (*winks*): "Miss Sarah, how do you draw a nun?"  Before I could reply, another 5 yr old girl interjected: "By drawing Miss Sarah."  News to me ;)  

Stepping into life as a young professional was harder than I had anticipated.  A different commute (love.), no homework (love.), but the obligations and responsibilities were... different.  Simple as it might sound, I had to accept that I am an adult.  Letting go is no easy task, and I'm not referring to childish whims.  I think I've grown more in the last semester than I did in all 4 years of college -- and that's saying a lot!

[christmas 2014 with the cutest nephew]

Outside of work, I continued to enjoy life as a young adult.  There were day trips to the Virginia countryside on the weekends and more wine tastings and hiking (though not in that order).  I began playing my instruments again and enjoyed reading a few books (including this one!  There might be a review around the corner).  This introvert basked in the simplicity of it all and thoroughly enjoyed herself throughout.  I do look forward to broadening my horizons in 2015, making new friends (in real life and on blogosphere), and maybe even embarking on an adventure or two -- after all, I need something exciting to write about to keep my personal blog up and running! ;)

If ever we find ourselves sitting across the sofa from each other with hot tea and seasonally appropriate, homemade bread in hand, I'll happily fill you in on all the rest.  But until then, my dear friends, I invite you to continue journeying with me here, on my personal blog, and on Instagram.  Our Lord tells us that He came so that we might have life abundantly; let us be truly glad in His promise, for there is wonderful joy ahead! (ref. 1 Peter 1:6)

With deep appreciation and love for each one of you ~

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

To Set the World Ablaze

Who do I want to be? 

I'm asking myself this question on this night. And something inside me prompted me to write, not quite knowing what I'm going to say.

It started with this post from a recently discovered blog with a similar mission to ours here.

Recently, I have been gracefully blown away by the realization that my Catholic twenty-something friends and peers are changing the world.  They are young, vibrant, radiant people in love with God, who want to share that love with others through their various vocations.  

So begins the article. And before getting any further than these opening sentences, I stopped. This describes my goal in life. Right here.

For the past several weeks I've been in a sort of mental and spiritual slump. Vacation is drawing to a close and I have the difficult task of another semester's worth of work ahead of me. Last semester, I began budding out into volunteer work with my parish, particular with the high school ministry program. And I've met some great people. But I've felt somewhat torn between my secular college life and my new ministry work. I haven't quite straightened out my priorities, where I want to spread my efforts.

In the last few years I've begun to think seriously about my vocation, specifically that of marriage -- though I'm not quite sure that is where God is calling me just yet. However, with that mindset, I've finally realized I've been keeping on hold, waiting. As if, I'll know that I'm called to marriage by the appearance of my knight in shining armor. That when I meet him I'll know that God wants me to marry and begin a family and live happily ever after. So I've held my breath with almost every guy I've met, analyzing, wondering if this is the one. Even clinging a little too tightly to some of them, waiting just a little too long, hoping just a little too much.

But I cannot live my life on hold! I do not have a man waiting for me. I'd been letting the prospect of marriage shape my whole future, when I haven't even known for sure that marriage is my vocation in this life. I've held back in my ambitions after college, because a career would not be entirely practical for a married woman with children. I've fretted and worried that I need to get more experience that would be useful in homemaking, not studying those things that are my passion -- particularly science and music. I've come up with loose plans for the directions I may go after graduating in a year and a half, but always keeping the plan of marriage in the back of my mind.

And it's suffocating me: I cannot live my life on hold. If I do, however will I be able to share my love of God with others through my vocation? However will I truly blossom? How can I minister to the kids in my parish when I'm worried about other young men in my life, wondering what they think of me, and fretting over personal matters? How can I discover what I'm truly passionate about in this education that I am so lucky to receive? How can I come to know and love God truly, for the merciful, compassionate, and generous Father that He is, when I'm always worried about where He will send me, and how to make my own desires fit into His Will?

It is impossible. 

I've been hiding a lot over my vacation. I haven't been productive because I've been relishing the relaxation a little too much. I haven't wanted to think about real life and all my worries, so I've spent entirely too much time online (*ahem*) watching pointless TV shows and reading frivolous stories. I've wanted to feed my desires that I haven't yet been able to achieve.

But tonight, I've awakened something in my heart. I desire companionship, human comfort, God's love. And I will not get all of those things if my life is on hold, constantly waiting and doing nothing. No. I must live. I must fly. I must find my passions, and through them, discover an even deeper and stronger love for my God. He will allow me to blossom into His beautiful creation if I do so, if I let Him lead, and if I become radiant with His Joy.

If there is a man for me, so be it. He will come even if I stop pining over the would-be's in my life. He will come especially because I stop pining.

And so I will make mistakes. I'll make discoveries. I'll love God more than anything. I'll get off my lazy bum and try to accomplish something worthwhile, something which will help my endeavors (though I will admit that productivity is the largest hurdle to overcome).

I think that is why I so desperately wanted to write this down. To remind myself that I am not in a slump; that I do have passion remaining in me. That I do trust God's plan. That I do have desires, but I don't want them to control me.

If I have one thing as a New Year's Resolution, it is to be in more control over my life. I don't want my academic schedule to control me until I suffocate. Instead I want to make smart choices about how I spend my time and what I do to learn and discover every day. But, I want to be in control of my life by letting God control, and yielding to His will. Only then will my plans actually work because they will be His plans. In my humility I will blossom.

I am a Catholic twenty-something, and I can set the world ablaze with God's love.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Turning the Page: Laura's New Year Letter

Dear CYW readers,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, my sweet friends! I'd love to share with you a little bit about my year and the things I'm looking forward to this coming year. I hope in the comment section you might share some of your own joys and struggles of 2014 and your hopes and goals for 2015!

This has been a beautiful holiday break for me. I mean, hey, it's 1:15pm and I'm in pajamas, cuddled in my chair with coffee, the Little Dog, and a Christmas quilt. Does it get any more cozy than this?

Quiet simplicity and time for reflection. My soul is happily expanding.

I'm reflecting on 2014. And looking ahead at 2015. I'm thinking about all of you. Some of you have been with me the past several years since I started writing for CYW...maybe even some of you know me from my personal blog. You, too, have caused my soul to expand with your own stories, your comments, your love and encouragement. God uses everything. Even (especially?) the internet. To connect His children. The kindred spirits I'd never have known if it weren't for my blogs. So thank you. For being with me on the journey.

Lisieux, France. St. Therese, pray for us!
This past year was full of sunshine and storms and much grace. The beginning of the year found me lost in Paris. No joke. Stranded alone at an airport without a working cell phone and only a French phrase book to guide me. Pretty much an emergency course in trusting God's providence and protection. But all is well as I sit in my American home a year later, realizing with His help I conquered the metro system and my fears.

February found me turning 27 and reeling from a second break-up with my now-fiance. Even on heart-sharing blogs, there must be some things kept in a private corner of the heart. So though I want to share more details, and certainly would if you were across from me with your own coffee mug in hand, I'll simply repeat that God uses everything. I never doubted P.'s love for me, but both of us painfully separated to figure out what God really wanted from us. What a time of surrender and being covered by grace. Of being stripped of everything but the present moment. Of learning to pray with an open hand and heart, confused but earnestly desiring God to make His plan known whatever it might be. If you're going through your own storm right now, my heart is with you. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because hearts that have been broken love best and care most. Lean into Him, friend. He is enough. He does love you and has not forgotten you, even when you don't understand His ways.

I resigned from my manager position with the crisis pregnancy center this spring. It was a difficult decision (to put it mildly) but seemed best when I looked at the neglected areas of my life due to a too busy and stressful schedule. I'm still able to volunteer for them and have more one-on-one contact with clients, including performing ultrasounds-- my true passion. So though I miss the leadership role, I think this current role is perfect for this season and I look forward to how the Lord will use all my experiences in the future to promote a culture of life. I'm excited to share my passion in this area with my fiance, who is the Respect Life coordinator for our diocese.

The summertime found me traveling to Tennessee with a carload of 6 girlfriends en route to our cabin in the mountains! We called our Facebook planning group "Epic Tennessee Adventure" and looking back, I can't think of a better description! It was an adventure, and it was epic. I learned how to cook on a charcoal grill, prayed devotions with the girls on our cabin deck, braved class 4 white water rafting, hiked the Smokies, and soaked in a hot tub with my sisters while Dollywood shot off fireworks in the distance. Traveling is such a bonding experience (and it can bring out the worst in us, too, haha!); this trip was a treasured gift and memory.

Then in October, there's this fairy tale where the dragon is slain, the forests are navigated, and all of a sudden I have this diamond on my left hand, the man I love before me, and overflowing joy in my heart. It's humbling and crazy and amazing and messy and indescribably beautiful. Our time apart has solidified our foundation in Christ and I am forever grateful. For all of it. Our God is in the business of redeeming everything we give Him...especially ourselves.

So this 2014 stuff: lost in Paris, then found in Tennessee. A broken heart then a heart that overflows (Psalm 45:1). What can happen in a year...let us always surrender to the grace and plan of our Heavenly Father, who is with us in every moment.

Now I'm turning the page. 2015. Marriage. Moving. Life as I know it is changing. Will you stay with me, my friends? You who have traveled with me, who send emails and comment love, who remind me time and again how beautiful are human hearts? I invite you into my journey of 2015, my heart and my life. I hope you will let me walk with you, too.

My precious Catholic sisters, it's such a joy to write for CYW. I've been more talkative on my personal blog than here these past couple months, but I so enjoyed our Fall book club together! I hope to pop in much more often to CYW this year. Our community here is a gift. Thank you for being a part of it! May God richly bless you and your family with His peace, joy, and hope. May our beautiful Mother guide you and teach you this year to become more and more the woman God has made you and is calling you to be.

Sending a hug across the miles!

Grace upon grace,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Short Fourth Week of Fasting

Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor. 



Those who are fasting with us are invited to refrain from using negative words this week.

Intention: all deacons, priests, and religious.

Please don't make personal adjustments as necessary ;-)

The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord is on Thursday, therefore the fast ends on December 24 as Christmas celebrations officially commence.  However, we encourage you to continue forming a habit of using negative words sparingly and speaking only kindness to those around us. *grins and winks*

Since it would not be appropriate to fast during the octave of Christmas, we will be back with another of these posts beginning January 3rd or 4th of the new year.

How can we pray for you this week?