marriage as a cross

“I’ll share in your suffering… to make you well, to make you well…” – Phillip Phillips

When I watch this music video, I can’t help but smile. The song dons some pretty idealistic and romantic thoughts. Everything just screams “emotional high! I am in love!” Besides, perhaps, that line on suffering.

You know who the media needs to admire more, though? Not those couples who are “crazy in love” all the time. Instead, I think that the media should admire people who are married and truly fight to keep their marriage strong and alive in good times and in bad. Now those are the heroes of love, the spouses laying down their life for the other, even when that sense of excitement or chemistry is just plain ole’ gone

Still being loyal to the other even when everything feels like it is falling apart. 

Still dying to self for the other even when the other seems to be going cold turkey on you. Nothing could hurt more.

As I prepare myself for marriage, it’s odd thinking of all of the harsh, cold realities that may hit my dear fiance and me. O, and my fiance and I will let one another down at times. That’s a guarantee. One day, it may even feel like there is no chemistry. On either or both ends. What we do at such times will either strengthen or weaken our shared “cross” together. 

Yes, when we get married, we will both  be picking up the “cross” of marriage. This cross will be a joy and a blessing, but also a bearer of great struggle and hardship. This cross will our source of life! This cross will be our way to Heaven! May we always kiss its wood.

sex & sexuality: a gift

Under How Many Suns

Under how many suns have we embraced
In what long fields of flowers and streets of stone
In the strong light of summer, interlaced
And made, like God, a darkness of our own.

Oh when the bitter wind of longing blows,
And all between us seems an aching space
Think that we hold each other close, so close;
We cannot even see each other’s face.

— Gilbert Keith Chesterton

…A poem by the intelligent, witty, and… yes, romantic… G.K. Chesterton.

The first stanza mentions a “darkness of our own,” and I initially asked myself, “What ‘darkness’ does God make? That’s impossible: He’s all light!” I then realized that darkness here does not refer to evil. Rather, “darkness” here is one not only “made” (as Chesterton describes) but begotten: the MYSTERY of the most INTENSE union of three Divine persons in one God!

Yes, the Trinity is the deepest intimacy that will EVER exist: an eternal exchange of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And the Trinitarian mystery of God is “dark” to our unenlightened human mind on this side of Eden.

Similar to the Trinity, my dear fiancé and I have also created a “darkness of our own,” an intimate world such as that to which Chesterton alludes. We, too, are “close, so close,” that our begotten “darkness” is hidden to everyone else, just as the Trinity is to mankind.

The inside jokes. The little quirks we take joy about in one another. Our couple habits, rituals, and traditions. Our shared past-times and interests, the things that only we know about one another. The rhythm of that ebb and flow of our shared days, one after another, marked out by our prayer-life…!

And as a long-distance couple, O, have we known that “bitter wind of longing” and that “aching space” mentioned in the second stanza! Moreover, that “aching space” can also refer to our joint striving towards chastity. 

To be honest, there are indeed moments when we desire to give all of ourselves to one another, body and heart, in the so-called ‘marital embrace’ (a nice euphemism for sex). The relationship’s MYSTERY can just feel so INTENSE sometimes; the other person’s personal mystery can feel so intense, too, that you just want to be one united, body and soul. 

As Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of in the “Theology of the Body,” God has designed the human body and the human heart in such a way that when a man and a woman are in love, they strongly desire, to the core, to gives themselves to one another in totality. Yet a ‘total’ exchange of self to the other can only happen in the context of marriage, due to the unique design of sacramental marriage!

Human sex and sexuality is indeed a gift from God. God wills our good by giving it to us, and it is our privilege and duty to offer it back to Him via living chaste lives as according to our state in life. For instance, chastity looks different if you are dating/engaged vs married.

When my fiancé and I are affronted by that “aching space” Chesterton mentions, we try our best to remember, in joy, that saying a firm “No” to pre-marital physical desires is actually exclaiming a resounding “Yes!” to one another and to God.  

By trying to live chastely, it is our prayer that we are saying “I love you” as the Italians say it: “Ti voglio bene!”—literally, “I will your good.”

basstreble

engaged

[NOTE] Anyone reading this who may think, “Well, it’s too late for me,” remember: Satan lives in the past and in the future, but JESUS lives in the Present Moment, and His love and His mercy extends to us ALL. JESUS wants you to heal, to be integrated and whole!

WHERE ARE ALL THE REAL MEN?: what a WOMAN wants

ImageOK, so recently my girl friends and I… I mean my women friends and I… have been discussing the aspects and characteristics in men that we desire.

Some common aspects (NOTE: by no means is this an exhaustive list) are the following – just thought it’d be fun to write out.

REAL MEN that women HOPE to be PURSUED BY…

Have intention, intention, intention – all rooted in respect! The key foundational words behind real men are “intention” and “respect.” Yes, real men open doors for you. But, they do so much more as well!

COURAGEOUS & BRAVE

FIRST OF ALL, they have the courage to contact you personally (step one), without the help of anyone else, to show you that THEY want to pursue YOU.

They have the guts to fearlessly approach you, taking the chance to be rejected by you, but also taking the greater chance to get to know your GREAT MYSTERY within!

And, if you acquiesce…

They call you up and tell you about where they would like to take you.

When that will happen.

And how it will all go down.

(Ladies, you don’t have to keep looking at your phone wondering, “When will he call / text?” If you’re doing this number, he’s probably not worth your time.)

GOOD DATE-PLANNERS: QUALITY TIME

Real men will take you out on dates that they think you will enjoy.

Moreover, they will have you meet people that they may think will be important to know or have you engage in activities that are personally meaningful. It won’t just be one-on-one mushy time all the time. It will be getting to know their friends and family, your friends and family, and you in all of your various “settings” and “activities”!

Real men plan activities that you can serve others through as well as get to know one another through.

Real men plan activities that you can bond, laugh, smile, and play through – but also seriously see one another’s true colors through.

EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY

Real men will ask and answer questions that they believe will lead you two to become closer.

Real men will be open in conversations, and not want to play games by hiding things, being manipulative, etc. They are healthily assertive, and are not domineering, passive, nor passive aggressive (watch out for all of these!).

Real men will be careful with their words, i.e. the first time they say “I love you” (is it too soon? that could be a red flag!).

Real men will also be careful about thinking about the first time they broach the subject of marriage and babies, as this can REALLY play mind tricks on a young woman.

(Think: oxytocin. Real men respect the oxytocin levels of women!)

Intention… Ah, what an attractive quality for a young man to have! Truly, intention can woo and whisk a young woman away. And respect in that intention is what makes it so golden!

– Get to really know you and have a long term objective in courting you. As illustrated above, real men have gotten to know you well before courting you. Yes – courting, not dating – read on for the difference. Real men become a friend first.

This “friends first” mentality and carefully thought-out courtship, versus spur-of-the-moment dating, helps protect the woman’s heart.

COURTING VS. DATING

Women are emotional beings. When men haphazardly date a woman, emotions usually end up mired and hurt. But when men intentionally court a woman, emotions are better protected and the woman usually feels truly cherished and cared for.

Now, I know this “dating” versus “courting” is a toughie, because a lot of men meet women and are just *taken* by them right away (who can blame them?). Thus, most men start chasing right away.

However, is this really being prudent about his heart or the woman’s heart? How often does this blind “chase” ever end up in a lasting marriage?

Rather, real men woo women by spending quality time with them – and especially in friend and family settings – to really get to know the woman.

What is her character? Her interests? Her hopes? Her dreams? The way she operates? Real men study.

ATTENTIVE NERDS, STUDYING THE ELUSIVE WOMAN

YES, real men are NERDS: they study the woman they love like it’s their job! Yes, even though women seem like all-too complicated, elusive mysteries to men.

The most important questions in her mystery”to be explored may be: “What are her beliefs, values, and morals? In what is her faith? What gets her up in the morning?”

Sharing the answers to these questions, and really growing in sharing those convictions and living them out, together, proves for a sturdy foundation that will last.

AIMING FOR A PHD

AND, when real men want to “go in for the PhD” in their woman – that is, when they have really gotten to know her, prayed for and thought about her, and believe she is marriage material – then and only then do they begin to pursue!

Mere “dates” actually turn into a relationship. An already-close friendship is taken to the next level. And that next level is not just a relationship; it’s courtship!

Know how to provide financially. Real men save the courting for when they actually have a steady source of income and/or a career.

Why? Yes, because they want to make sure that they can pay for all those activities and dates. But moreover, because they yearn to support that “long term objective” of marrying the woman they are pursuing!

ACTION PLANS

Real men have action plans about turning a relationship into a courtship and into a marriage.

A steady income, a house, health insurance, a car, car insurance, grocery bills, Internet and phone bills, electric and water bills… the cold hard realities of LIFE are endless.

Real men take these necessities into consideration because they want to make sure their princesses can eventually feel like queens who are well taken care of.

[NOTE: Of course, women often work and pitch in (or are even the main breadwinners), but real men don’t want that to be the case unless the woman has consented and agreed to do so.]

Know how to provide emotionally. I am not saying that a real man always has to “be in touch with his feminine side” or talk about his feelings 24/7.

All I am saying is that women have emotional needs and ups and downs, and sometimes emotional times make a relationship seem like the craziest new roller coaster at the local Six Flags.

Real men know how to ride the roller coaster.

RESPECT, WONDER, & AWE FOR GENDER DIFFERENCES

Instead of just “dealing” with the emotions, and going along for the ride with a groan in his voice, a frown on his face, or a flaring temper – a real man appreciates that a woman is wired differently than he is: including her emotional workings.

Emotions are part of her beautiful design.

Instead of making her feel guilty or inadequate – or like she just needs to “man up” – a real man bears with his woman in patience, fidelity, and love, especially in her most emotional times.

Yes, sometimes she may ask very silly-sounding questions that just beg for some affirmation from her man. But her real man answers promptly and lovingly.

No mind games. No joking. No manipulation. Just love.

– Know how to lead spiritually. Real men are loyal – not only to their woman, but moreover, to their LORD Jesus Christ. [NOTE: Or, to their faith value system of choice. But do bear in mind that this is a Catholic/Christian blog :-).]

There is nothing more attractive than a man who says, “OK, we should start morning prayer!” or “Let’s pray night prayer before we’re too sleepy.”

PEACE OF SOUL

A man who has a close relationship with God has peace of soul.

And a man who has peace of soul is not just a “man.”

He is a man of God.

He is a soldier – a warrior – fighting for Truth and Beauty.

And what is Truth? His Faith.

And Who is Beauty? Our LORD Jesus Christ, but also… his beloved beauty: his girlfriend, fiance, or wife!

There is nothing more attractive than a real man who wants to bring his woman to God – to present her, holy, pure, unblemished! A real man wants to carry his woman to the gates of Heaven, and in the end be able to say:

“Here she is, LORD. I’ve loved her to the best of my ability every day of my life. I’ve tried to place her above me every day of my life. I’ve tried to die to myself for her every day of my life.” What, oh what, is more romantic than that?!

YES, a real man wants to help his woman to be as fruitful as her Creator has designed
her to become.

A real man wants to help his woman to be FULLY ALIVE in Our LORD Jesus Christ.

– Knows how to protect. Especially in terms of chastity. There is no questioning and there is no joking about chastity or “chastity rules”, respectively, for it and they are no laughing matter.

Who cares if the world thinks you two are prudes, or “not in with the times”?

Real men know they have a battle worth fighting for: true love.

Real men know who they are fighting for in this battle: their souls, and the soul of their woman. All for the glory of God: for Love Himself.

NO “FLIPPY-FLOPPY” OR SNEAKY “CONVINCING”

Chastity-wise, in times of passionate encounter (which in any healthy relationship there will be!), real men ask no questions like, “Can I do this?” or “What about that?” re: obviously unchaste acts.

Real men do not finagle their way around their woman’s moral code regarding her physical boundaries.

In the heat of the moment, a real man does not get her to “change her mind.”

BOTTOM LINE: A real man does not want his woman to feel used at any cost!

RATHER, real men know what their physical boundaries are, and they establish them by discussing them with their woman at the beginning of the relationship and all along the way.

MASTERY OF DISCPLINE & SELF-CONTROL

Turn a woman on, and you’re playing with her heart.

Real men understand this and remain gentlemen by not intentionally igniting their woman’s passions in a very tempting way.

Real men always strive to protect their woman’s purity. And when they mess up, a quite human thing to do, they step it up a notch. Pretty simple.

In conclusion…

Real men DO NOT just immediately say (or text, Facebook message, and/or e-mail) empty words of affection to the woman to whom they are merely attracted. Instead, they save that for when they really have decided to love the woman.

Real men DO build up to the point of “I love you” and “Will you marry me?,” so that when they finally do say those words, they mean it.

Real men DO NOT lay around with their woman’s minds or hearts, emotionally or physically. (Kind of a no-brainer.)

Real men DO make sure that they are not careless with their woman’s mind or heart, emotionally and physically. Real men DO truly cherish their beloved woman by saying, “You’re worth the wait.” Real men save passionate sexual expression and sex for marriage for they ardently believe that…

Only a forever vow from a real man can earn a woman 100% body and soul.

Yes, a real man courts a sought-after woman like a real gentleman!

“SHE’S GOD’S DAUGHTER FIRST & MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER SECOND”

And a real man does not think “she’s mine,” but rather: “I am going to pursue this daughter of God in order to earn her. Then, and only then, after my pursuit and my fight for her, do I have the right to call her mine as well as God’s.”

DEVOTED & VALIANT WARRIOR: “MY WOMAN IS WORTH THE FIGHT”

Real men protect their woman, provide for their woman, and love their woman.by devotedly and valiantly chasing their woman as if she is standing at the top of a castle turret! Yes, real men know that they are standing at the bottom, professing their love for her, but moreover, climbing, tooth and nail, to the very top!

[Think: a man literally using his front teeth to climb that stone wall! YES. THAT IS A REAL MAN.]

Real men heroically love their woman by showing her that she is worth being fought for, and earned, via virtue and strength.

Well, I may have missed many things, but…

Real women, I know that you know what your FEMININE HEART wants. Do not be afraid to look for that courageous man who will be gentle with you, respect you, pursue you, and fight for you, every day!

Do not be afraid to look for a man who will be selfless enough to know that love is sacrifice.

In a world of boys, it’s hard to find real men, but it’s worth waiting for that real man. Your dignity and true love are calling.

AMEN.

#TheEnd

lesson from JP2 & Pope Francis: love vs. lust

Bl. JP2 always talked about how young men and women, to their very core (even if they didn’t know it!), really just want to find eternal happiness by giving a total “gift of self [themselves]” to one another…. to others… and most of all, to God.

In “Love and Responsibility,” Bl. JP2 talks about how the core of love is sacrifice. The core of love is giving, not taking! (Boy, the world’s media today’s got that one a little mixed up.) Moreover,  Bl. JP2 expounds upon how lust focuses on “what’s in it for me?” while love focuses on “how does this affect the other person?” (or God, or others, or both of you together).

In the same vein, I recently came across this “Made In His Image” image that says: “Love can’t wait to give. Lust can’t wait to get.” Exactly what Bl. JP2’s “Love and Responsibility” gets at!

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In great serendipity, I came across this quote by Mahatma Gandhi as well:

“There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics.”

What’s interesting is that, immediately after reading this, I equated “religion” with “Jesus” who IS Love (1 John 4:7-8). Therefore, without even thinking, I was translating it into this: There is no such thing as love without sacrifice. No such thing!

And lastly, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel a few days later, while praying before the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, I conveniently flipped to this excerpt from the Book of Tobit in my Bible app:

When Sarah’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah rose from bed and said to his wife, “My sister, come, let us pray and beg our Lord to grant us mercy and protection.” She got up, and they started to pray and beg that they might be protected. He began with these words:

“Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors;

blessed be your name forever and ever!

Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.a

You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve

to be his helper and support;

and from these two the human race has come.

You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone;

let us make him a helper like himself.’

Now, not with lust,

but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.

Send down your mercy on me and on her,

and grant that we may grow old together.

Bless us with children.”

They said together, “Amen, amen!” Then they went to bed for the night.

“Not with lust…” I read the words and I pondered over them. The words brought me such joy, such light. This Tobit knew what would be the foundation for an everlasting marriage bond. Love. Not lust. Giving. Not taking.

So much in our life is about what we want– even the most holy and good things– and yet, if we desire those things in inordinate ways, in all honesty, we are lusting over them.

We should never place anything over Eternal Happiness. His name is Jesus.

Everlasting peace of soul is only to be had from Our LORD– the only One who can offer us anything eternal: solely HIMSELF. We were not made for anyone else, no matter how holy, nor anything else, no matter how noble and pure. Made in His Image, we were made for HIM.

No one creation can compare to the One who created us, the Creator.

It is only when we FIRST give ourselves to Him, and THEN give ourselves to others in His name, including our spouses or perhaps the Church or those we serve (if we are consecrated religious) that anything at all makes sense!

It is so, so, so very easy to fall into the trap of confusing seeking the good, holy, pure gifts of the Giver rather than the Giver Himself. Yet we must detach from everything and everyone but Him. We must even be detached from spouses and children, to an extent, if we are in the marriage vocation. (God shows this with Abraham and Isaac… and Job…. and Jesus, HIS Son, of course! We must be willing to forsake even  mother and father and sister and brother for Him.)

It is so, so, so very easy to have “ulterior motives” but not even really realize it. For instance, do we do good only because of the feelings that doing good begets? Or do we do it because we want to love and to give and to sacrifice, even when it hurts or does not feel good or feels futile, unfruitful, un-returned?

I know I have leaps and bounds to grow spiritually. The tweets of our new papa, Pope Francis, have really made me think twice recently about my intentions of my spirituality. The true core of my spirituality should be to love God first, always, in everything, and in everyone: to give, not to take; to love, not to lust.

JESUS: in others, and alone with just me!

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Jesus.

Name above all names.

Worthy of all praise.

The above is one of the classrooms at the school at which I am a counselor. Saw these window decorations  and I just smiled big.  Jesus. That is the most important thing… er, Person… these kids will ever learn… er, meet!

I honestly believe that I have come to know this this Son of God Made Man, JESUS, primarily through relationships. And yes, starting at a very young age. My grandmother once told me that one day when she was praying the Rosary, when I was three years old, I just joined in with her. I knew every word to a tee. My grandmother was absolutely shocked.

My grandmother should not have been shocked, however. To this day, I remember how she would constantly pray to Jesus… and also, constantly praise Him in her deeds and actions. Yes… I knew Jesus from the fresh age of three because of my grandmother’s vivid WITNESS to Him!

My grandmother had a relationship with Jesus. He was her answer. He was her purpose. He was her love. I could tell this, and I wanted to be a part of it, even as a toddler. I wanted to know Him, too.

Granted, my faith has grown tremendously since then (and thank the LORD! it is all His doing!). Especially in my teenage and young adult years, I have questioned things, and gone astray at times. But I have always come back.

I ardently believe my constant “coming back” to Jesus– and rediscovery of who He is and how He loves me, throughout my life– is a result of purely A) God’s grace and B) my grandmother’s prayers. And not only that: most likely my great grandmother’s prayers as well.

According to legend (or, actual truth!), just like my grandmother, my great grandmother was also a woman of great faith. After my great grandmother raised nine kids and her husband died, she became a third order Carmelite!

I have no doubt that my faith (which I am still ardently working on day by day) is a gift from God (not earned) and a fruit of the intercessory prayers of my grandmother and my great grandmother. Moreover, I have no doubt that I have come to know Jesus through relationships with others who have borne witness to Him! As a kid, I knew who He was; and yes, I loved Him. But it wasn’t until college that I really met Him in a deep, personal way and realized that He loved me far better than I could ever love Him.

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Fast forward to today, and I believe that I am coming to know Jesus– Who He is, and also how to follow Him– in my courtship with my dear boyfriend, or “Saint Joseph,” as well. My boyfriend is teaching me Who Love is; and our relationship is teaching both of us how to love with Jesus’s love– side by side.  🙂

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What’s beautiful, however, is that although Jesus has met me through all of those relationships, it is ultimately those intimate moments, with just He and I, that shine the most! However, I truly believe that you need both type of experiences to meet Jesus: through His image and likeness in others’ and their love stemming from Love, and through encountering Love Himself, Jesus, one on one.

Jesus.

I am still trying to wrap my head around Who Jesus is. I am still growing in my faith tremendously. Our relationship will forever be “forming” one way or another! Deeper and deeper, I will meet Him, every day that I live.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… with nothing to do, nothing to lose.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… and I don’t know why. But I can’t keep my eyes off of You.

–Lifehouse

Jesus. 🙂

a Light bearer I know

Have you ever met someone filled with Light… and when you meet them… you just know?

You just know that that person has a deep trust in Our LORD Jesus Christ, and that that person derives his or her joy from Him.

You know from that person’s glances, words, and actions.

You can see it in his or her eyes, and voice. You can see it in everything he or she does.

Christ is his or her light. He or she is a Light bearer.

Such a person I know is my boyfriend.

“Glory and praise to Our God! Let us sing glory and praise!” I’ve never told my boyfriend this, but when I hear this song at Mass, I think of him. I’ve pondered why, and concluded that it is because I can tell that this is exactly how my boyfriend feels about life– about his purpose and meaning– at the core of his heart. My boyfriend has a joyful, grateful heart, filled with the Light of Christ. I know that my boyfriend lives to give glory and praise to Our Lord.

Well, tomorrow is my boyfriend’s birthday, and I’d like to say that I am so blessed to be best friends with such a Light bearer. I am so very blessed to share that purpose and meaning with him.

Christ, be our Light! Shine in our hearts; shine through the darkness.

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Found a picture of some WYD Madrid 2011 pilgrims. Can’t you tell by their smiles that Christ is in their hearts, and is their joy and meaning? Fellow Light bearers of my generation! (c) piercedhearts.org

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Amen!

being in love is…

“….If you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. ‘What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?’ My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.” Song of Solomon 5:8-10

Another family party tonight. I smiled as my family teased me for my “first love” syndrome. When people ask me about my boyfriend, I cannot help but smile, because I definitely know that I am one blessed young woman.

I am not afraid to say that I love the most loving, caring, self-sacrificing young man I have ever met!

And as evidenced in Holy Scripture, I love how God knows exactly how I feel, emotions-wise, about my dear boyfriend.

I mean, this is the way God feels about me. He’s “sick with love” for me. I stand out “among ten thousand”– even if all ten thousand are His children! How humbling.

In His eyes, there is only one me, and His Fatherly heart cannot stop rejoicing over how I am His one daughter, just this way, that can never be replaced! How flattering.

Divine love is such a gift. And what does it look like? Not just emotions, but also decisions…. sacrifice.

And human love is also such a gift; it is truly a gift from the Divine! Therefore, although the emotions may come in abundance… I too must remember that my human love necessitates decisions and sacrifice to be brought to the level of Love.

Being in love is so exhilarating emotionally! I smile at just the though of my dear “ruddy and radiant” boyfriend.

However, being in love also teaches me so much about Christ– and about how “being in love” emotions-wise isn’t enough… deciding to love and sacrificing is what really matters most. Decisive and sacrificial love: now, this is love that has been brought to the Cross.

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Amazing book. Stumbled upon it by accident at UCLA when I was 18 wandering the research library. I was hooked… and never the same after I read it…

“Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” Pope John Paul II