Monday, December 10, 2012

Choosing the Rite Outfit


Until about 4 years ago, I usually wore jeans and a hoodie/sweater to Sunday Mass. After all, jeans were nicer than my usual soccer shorts or sweatpants, and I was comfortable in that. I figured that the point was not what I wore to Sunday Mass, but rather that I was there every week, participating fully, actively, and consciously. My parish seemed to be on my page, wardrobe-wise. Some people dressed up, but most people dressed casually, and it wasn't uncommon for some kid to show up in his or her full soccer uniform, right down to the cleats. "Come as you are," was my policy and that seemed sufficient.

Junior year of college, I transferred to a school where everyone dressed up for Sunday Mass. Girls wore skirts, dresses, heels, cardigans, and jewelry. Boys wore dress pants and collared shirts. A guy in a tie and blazer would be much more on the bandwagon than a guy in a tee shirt. It was different than what I was used to.

It made me think, though. Which is better? "Come as you are" or "Bring your best to God"?

Both.

...Kind of. I thought a lot about appropriate Sunday Mass wardrobe and here's what I've got. There are pretty much 3 basic questions I ask:

Is it modest?
This is the most basic one. If my clothes invite anyone to lust, then it's not appropriate to wear anywhere, including Mass. Disqualifications include skin tight, too short, featuring cleavage, or words on the butt.

Does it reflect the importance of the event?
When people do or attend something important, we dress up. Think of an audience with the Pope, a graduation, a wedding, meeting the President. The most important day in the liturgical calendar is Easter Sunday, and we've always dressed accordingly. Every Sunday, year round, is a "little Easter." Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent because we are celebrating the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a re-celebration of Easter Sunday. That's a big deal, so I wear something nicer than I would wear if I were going to the mall or a friend's house.

Is it reverent?
What the heck is a humeral veil, you ask? It's the cloth over Pope Benedict XVI's hands in this picture.
What the heck is a humeral veil, you ask? It's the cloth over Pope Benedict XVI's hands in this picture.
Mary, Jesus' Mother, always magnifies the Lord and leads us to him. John the Baptist announces and prepares the way for Jesus' ministry on earth: "He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease." Did you ever wonder why priests wear a humeral veil during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament? Part of the reason priests wear that when they handle a monstrance that holds Jesus' Precious Body, is to draw attention to the Eucharistic Lord and away from themselves. We are all called to direct everyone's attention to Jesus, and what we wear speaks even when we're silent. If my clothes will encourage anyone to look more at me than at him, I won't wear it to Mass.

The end result is that I wear a dress or skirt (sometimes dress pants/dress shirt) Sunday Mass. Cardigans are key. My shoes are a little more casual: usually Toms (not flip-flops), and sometimes I wear heels. If, due to some unfortunate, unavoidable, unforeseen circumstance, I am not able to dress up for Mass, then I go with the "come as you are" principle (For that reason, I give people the benefit of the doubt. For all I know, they were out of town the night before, had car trouble, couldn't get home to change before Mass, and can't go to any of the other Masses because Great Aunt Ruth needs their help all day.).

In closing, here's an interesting video about what priests wear to Mass, what the vestments symbolize, and what priests pray when they vest. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxxYLmD8T_U&w=560&h=315]

Do you have any tips on Mass wardrobe? Is appropriate attire for weekday Mass different than Sunday Mass?



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Modesty Matters: Humility


Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on how leggings can’t replace pants and bikinis encourage lust that we forget why modesty matters. Following specific rules when getting dressed is great, but styles come and go, so I stick to principles that I can apply no matter what. I’d like to share some of those principles, beginning with (drum roll, please): Modesty is part of humility.
Conquering my desire to be desired is, for me, the most challenging aspect of practicing modesty and chastity. Wanting to be wanted is not bad: it helps us seek and find community, experience intimacy, and be drawn to the Lover of our souls, who desires us more than his own life. Only the divine can fulfill our desires. Everything else the world offers, even good things, leave us wanting more. Nothing finite satisfies us because we were created for eternal life. Therefore, all of our desires must be oriented towards holiness, or we’ll never actually be satisfied. Humility is seeing myself as God sees me; no more and no less.
Inextricably linked to confidence, humility flies in the face of “flaunt it if you’ve got it” as well as the lie that I am unworthy of love. A humble person knows that she is a wonderful reflection of Beauty himself and does not need to prove it by exposing her body. She knows that the gift of her sexuality is so precious, that the only person to receive her must first lay down his life before God and his Church, and she refuses to cheapen that gift or allow anyone else to preview it. She does not compete with others for attention because she is secure in who and whose she is. Want to be humble? Check out the Litany of Humility.
Prom Pick: I love bows, pink, and other girly things, so I love this dress from Delia's! If you have long legs, it might be too short, but their return policy is pretty good. $39.50
Challenge yourself. Ask why you want to wear that dress, tell that joke, discuss that topic, or buy those shorts. Is it to draw attention to your body? Turning heads is not bad—you’re beautiful!
But showing too much of your body can distract others from seeing the rest of what makes you wonderful: your smile, sense of humor, silly expressions, compassion, strength, etc. It is tempting to choose clothes that show off your body, but I urge you- overcome that temptation! Humility is dignifying, pleasing to God, and reveals your unique beauty in ways immodesty simply cannot.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

Monday, May 14, 2012

Masturbation: What's the Big Deal?


As the Creator of sex, for which I think we’re all grateful, God knows the absolute best way to use it. When we choose to express our sexuality as it is intended to be expressed, tremendous graces and blessings enter the world.
Sex is the marital vows, translated into body language. My anatomy expresses the reality that I am someone’s gift. Sexuality is not meant to be self-serving. Sex is designed to be a complete, life-giving, faithful, free gift of self, and its purposes are the built-in results: babies and bonding.
Masturbation, however, turns sexuality in on itself. Masturbation is all about me: my pleasure, my desires, my loneliness, my stress, my sleepless nights, my gratification, my “whatever.” Masturbation is incompatible with love (doing what’s best for the other person), and that is why it’s a mortal sin. There is momentary pleasure, but no openness to life, no giving, and no receiving. It is a band-aid approach for whatever struggle the person hopes it will relieve him or her. What appears to be a remedy only brings shallow and temporary relief, but never healing.
In fact, it usually deepens the wound, especially because masturbation is so addictive. Addiction is an assault on freedom. Between fixes, an addict (to drugs, masturbation, cigarettes, pornography, alcohol, or anything) may feel stressed and on edge, consumed by her craving and anxiously seeking an opportunity to get the next fix. An addictive behavior limits a person’s ability to love, because she cannot give what she does not possess. Until she dominates her own desires, they enslave her.
If you are struggling with an addiction, talk to a counselor or priest who can help you overcome it. You are not a freak, a loser, or a lost cause. You are also not the only one who struggles with your addiction. God—who desires to free you from every entanglement so that you can experience true love, joy, peace, and happiness—loves you. God’s grace is bigger and stronger than masturbation and/or any other addiction we face.
 
 
Although I don’t struggle with the temptation to masturbate, it has burdened friends I love very much, both male and female. For added perspective, here are some other Catholics who are talking about this issue:
“Natural” by Steve Gershom
“Light of Hope” by Steve Gershom 
“Love Life Podcast – Not Quite Sex” by Matt Smith at Life Teen

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh, the humanity!



(HUNGER GAMES SPOILER ALERT. Skip to the  next paragraph.) During the tribute interviews leading up to the Quarter Quell, the audience in the Capitol is an emotional hot mess. The same spectators who have gleefully taken pleasure in 74 years of watching tributes murder one another are crying, fainting, and calling for change.


Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video, posted to YouTube March 5, 2012, has garnered more than 86 million views and a passionate, albeit rash and emotionally driven*, response from many people (especially teens and young adults). As the video points out, technology enables us to see and connect with people all over the world, in ways we never previously could, and allows us to come face to face with people who had been “invisible” to us. Many are shocked by and distraught about the plight of child soldiers in Africa and, although they don’t know how, want to do something to save them.

 Trayvon Martin is a seventeen-year-old boy who was recently shot and killed. The case was under investigation for awhile, because law enforcement that acts first and thinks later is usually more dangerous than it is protective. However, the case elicited an interesting cultural reaction: people began donning hooded sweatshirts to rally one another to consider Trayvon to be “one of their own” and see from the perspective of Trayvon’s family members. Bloggers and reporters insist that if our children are not safe, no one is.

So, what do the Hunger Games, Kony2012, and Trayvon Martin have in common?  When people recognize someone’s humanity, they do not tolerate his murder.

Some folks argue that a baby isn’t a person until implantation, or until after 120 days, or until he/she can survive outside of the mother, or even until some time after birth, but scientific advances are making it harder and harder to deny that life begins at conception. That is why ultrasound technology is such a key player in the pro-life movement. An ultrasound reveals not a clump of tissue, but a little human being. Upon seeing her baby and hearing his or her little, beating heart, a mother’s anxiety is often overshadowed by awe, respect, protectiveness, compassion, or love.


Abortion ends the lives of three to four thousand little kids every single day in the USA, and that will continue for as long as we tell ourselves that they are not people. 

“I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” – Mother Teresa
*I am fully in favor of rescuing child soldiers, but for reasons I do not wish to get into here, I don’t think Kony2012 can accomplish that.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

This one's for you girls...


I've been asked so many times about what "guarding your heart" means, how you do this practically, especially if you're in a relationship that could lead to marriage, etc. etc.

And, although grad school and life just seems to have gotten in the way of me coherently gathering (and blogging...) my thoughts about this and many other things, it's a question that still catches my interest. Here's something to think about:


"Eventually I questioned the premise that 'to love' was equivalent to 'giving one's heart away.' . . . . We needn't be afraid. The flutterings of the heart that we experienced in that relationship that ended have taken away nothing. To give our hearts and our love to our husbands never meant to give him the sentiments that come with package but in the end are only incidental to True Love. Giving our hearts to our husbands means giving him a heart that is fully immersed in God's."

"Above all else guard your heart, for in it lies the wellspring of life." - Prov. 4:23

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sticks and Stones Build Churches


From the HHS Mandate to Nicki Minaj’s Grammy performance, Catholics have a lot of reasons to be offended these days. I guess, even after 1982ish years of it, we still haven’t warmed up to being the community punch line. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against us, but dang- it won’t be for lack of trying.
My twelve college roommates would attest to the fact that I’m pretty laid back, I have an overactive sense of humor, and it takes an awful lot to offend me. That changes, however, the moment you start talking about my Mama. Malicious comments or disrespectful jokes about Holy Mother Church just don’t tickle my funny bone. Too personal, you know?
If you’re an offended Catholic, be assured that I am right there with you. But please do me a favor: stop babbling about how these things would never fly if they were offensive to Muslims. Of course they wouldn’t—mocking someone’s religion is always out of bounds. Don’t waste another moment pointing to another kid on the playground and wondering why no one bullies him. Once you’ve gotten over that, bust out your Bible and catechism and make sure you know how to respond to people with bogus ideas about the Church and her teachings. We have their attention! Let’s use that!
In and through the Sacrament of Confirmation, you accepted as your own the mission of the Church and received the Sacramental grace to carry it out. That mission is basically this: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). You know the peace, joy, wonder, and awe that come from being in a relationship with Jesus. Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from revealing the beauty of Catholicism to others.
“Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:13-17

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Susan went from being "single" to "in a relationship."


One of the girls at your lunch table is dating a jerk. They’ve been together for a while, but everyone knows she’s too good for him and nobody understands why she puts up with him. You tell her, “He’s just using you,” and “You deserve so much better!” but to no avail. She defends his antics, assuring everyone that he’s not as bad as he sounds, and “If you guys knew him like I know him, you’d understand.” Everyone sympathetically shakes their heads and sighs as she stares at her phone again, wondering what he really meant by that text message.

Then one Friday, purely out of the blue, she marches to the lunch table, plunks her lunch tray down on the table, and declares, “I’m done. It’s over.” Jaws drop, eyes widen, and everyone scoots in, eager to hear more. “The things he says and does are not okay, and I am sick of enabling him. From now on, I am only dating guys who respect me and what I stand for.” You and your friends devote the rest of the day providing supportive text messages, warm hugs, and declarations of “I’m so proud of you.”

In English class, you whisper to another friend, “So, do you think it’s too good to be true?” She shrugs and whispers back, “Let’s just do whatever we can to help her see that this really is what’s best.” You invite your group of friends over to your house for a girls’ night in her honor and all seven of you stay up talking, laughing, and eating ice cream until two in the morning.

Sunday night, you log onto Facebook and before you even get a chance to upload the album from Friday, you see that nasty little heart announcing to the world that they are in a relationship. “Cute,” you think, “18 people like this.” You scroll over it and, sure enough, all of his friends and their girlfriends are thrilled about it. You click over to her profile and your stomach knots as you read her status: “Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I’m so sorry I made you doubt my commitment. Thank you for always forgiving my stupid mistakes. 10.18.11 <3 Together forever <3” 16 people, who clearly aren’t clued in on the situation, like this.

I was disappointed, though admittedly not shocked, when Susan G. Komen for the Cure publicly apologized for having the prudence and courage to withdraw their financial support of Planned Parenthood. I had hoped that we could make Komen feel right at home “on this side of the fence,” but they have abandoned their bravery and “gotten back together” with an organization that pretends to help save lives but, in reality, ends life. Maybe in the future, with our support and encouragement, Komen will do what’s truly best for women by using their grants to fund health instead of homicide.