Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Young Married Woman's Thoughts on Vocational Discernment

When I think about vocations and discernment, I always remember my time studying in abroad in college. The campus is in a small little town in the smaller mountains of Austria. It was a beautiful semester with great friends and a retreat from the real world as we knew it. Though I suppose all of college is like that, especially at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
That fall semester in Austria was crucial to my relationship with, my now husband, Mark. I have been thinking about what it was like that semester not knowing what was going to happen with him. We had met the year before within the first weeks of college, and for me there was a pretty early attraction. There was also the complication of him planning on being a priest. The idea of getting married had never really entered his mind, and everyone expected him to be a priest. People still asked his mother a couple of years after our marriage if he was a priest yet, having not heard the other developments of marriage and children in his life.
By the Spring semester of our freshmen year, our mutual attraction was pretty clear. We were in the same group of friends which spent a lot of time together, eating meals, having prayer meetings, watching movies, and even doing homework. When things finally got to the point of needing to be discussed, it was all clear to everyone that there was something going on between us. The only catch was that he was in the pre-theologate program, which is for men discerning the priesthood.

Coincidentally, things came to a head on the Feast of St. Valentine. We discussed our mutual attraction and decided to put some space between us in our relationship, which meant that within our group of friends we tried to not talk to each other and separately pray about our friendship. He was the one who had to decide the most. I was not dating other men and was feeling ready to have a discerning relationship with Mark as long as he was ready himself. He, on the other hand, would have to make the major decision of leaving his priestly formation program to discern if we were meant to be together. He ended up leaving the program a week later and then we started dating the next day, both at the young age of 18.
Looking back I can see how we rushed into the relationship, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. When the summer break came, however, Mark was not so sure anymore if our relationship was the right thing for him. He felt the need to really make a decision about his call to the priesthood, or at least be at peace with not pursuing the priesthood so that we could pursue a possible future together. When he broke up with me that summer, I decided to pray again about being a religious sister.

I had thought about it on and off for all of high school and throughout my first year of college until I began dating Mark. Being the bride of Christ is an attractive vocation for a young woman seeking to live a holy life, but it never seemed quite right for me. Further, there was not one order in particular that I wanted to look into, which is essential for becoming a sister.

There were some really great sisters that I know in high school, and it was to one of them that I talked about the vocation to religious life. I remember the conversation I had with her, while my heart was aching for Mark, about what being a sister entailed. As we spoke I realized in my heart that I could not let go of hope that Mark would decide to date me again. It was not some great revelation from God that I should not be a sister, it was the person of Mark, whom I cared for and felt drawn to that made me realize that I could not pursue the vocation of religious life.
Then we both went to Austria. We had three day weekends for traveling, and being in the same group of friends, we often were in the same traveling group. The campus was so small and the classes so limited that we had most of our classes together. Mark and I could not avoid each other very easily, and honestly we did not want to. He spent most of the semester trying to decide if he should date me again or not. When you expect to become a priest and everyone else you know has been expecting it for years, it is hard to decide otherwise. He prayed a lot; I prayed a lot.

I spent the whole semester trying to give him the space he needed in such tight quarters as that small Austrian campus. His parents came to visit during that semester and he opened up to them about his discernment. He now describes his discernment that semester as realizing that vocation is more specific than one call or another, but it is to a specific person or in the case of religious life to a particular diocese or order. He could not know that he was called to be married until the person he was to marry was before him, discerning with him.

In the fall semester in Austria there was a Thanksgiving “Ball” where everyone dressed up in traditional Austrian clothes and learned the traditional dances. Mark asked me to go with him, and for the first time it felt like we had chosen something right for our relationship. He had come to the point of being ready to pursue our relationship further. He felt a freedom he had not felt before to discern our future together, and he realized deep down inside that if we did date again that we were going to get married. The ball was a lot of fun, though nothing became official that evening. We were still “just friends.” Two days later he asked me to take a walk with him after noon Mass and on that walk he asked me to date him again.
A year later we decided to get married, and 18 months after our engagement began we were married, 10 days before my 22nd birthday.

I know that this story may not seem relevant to those discerning vocation who are older and not in college anymore, but I think what M and I discovered about our own vocations can be helpful for those thinking about their own. Whatever God has in store for you, He will be specific about it eventually. We are not called to broad sweeping ideas or vocations, we are called to do specific things. We are called to relationships with specific people, to specific groups of people, in specific places. And that is what we should discern when we discern our vocation. Our vocations are part of us, and God calls us to be the best us. When we discern our call, it will be an organic decision, developing beautifully in our lives.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Five Years (and Counting) with Lady Philosophy

"[I]t seemed to me that there appeared above my head a woman of a countenance exceeding venerable. Her eyes were bright as fire, and of a more than human keenness; her complexion was lively, her vigour showed no trace of enfeeblement; and yet her years were right full, and she plainly seemed not of our age and time. [...]

Even so the clouds of my melancholy were broken up. I saw the clear sky, and regained the power to recognise the face of my physician. Accordingly, when I had lifted my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, I beheld my nurse, Philosophy, whose halls I had frequented from my youth up." -Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

When M and I were married five years ago today, we joked that he would always have a mistress and that her name was Lady Philosophy. Above is a passage by Boethius where he describes her; many of the virtues and subjects were personified in ancient times, and since we are so into tradition, it was natural to think of M's area of study as his "mistress." The great thing about Lady Philosophy is that she encourages my husband to know truth and to be virtuous. And she is really knowledgeable whenever we want to know if some random act is moral or need to figure out what category various  substances belong in.
Us as newlyweds! Photo by Jen Pagano

And now that I have rambled a bit I give you for my quick takes, great things about being married to my philosopher:

1. If he is in the other room for longer than I expected, he is usually perusing St. Thomas or any other text he happens to be reading. I love that I have a husband who gets distracted by books about being and substances.

2.  He always has something to talk about and keeps my mind off things besides diapers, cooking, and whether or not the baby has napped. I confess I will get distracted by the mundane, daily tasks at hand, but he is always encouraging me to think about and discuss ideas.

3. He has been taking out the trash, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing the laundry (even diapers!) the entirety of our marriage. We divided the household chores between us, since we cannot afford to pay a staff, and I am so thankful for it. M is better at his chores than I am, though he often talks about the time when the kids will take them over so that he can read more books.

4. He keeps his commitments and does his work well. Not many people spend only four years working on their doctorate and then land a tenure track position right away. But my amazing husband did. He wrote a paper the week after our first G was born, read countless articles with her on his lap, researched and wrote his 400+ page dissertation in our living room with head phones in while two girls under two played behind him (and a wife tried really hard not to talk to him constantly). He takes his work seriously and he always does what he promises he will do. I am so blessed to be loved by such a responsible man.
5. He is a great father. He is always willing to help with diaper changes, read stories, and have a family bedtime routine. He also dresses the kids and makes them breakfast most mornings. If he is working at home and the kids are napping, he does not mind if I run out to the store (alone!) or go for a run for exercise.

6. He loves me. And I love him. I do not normally get mushy on the internet, but it is our five year anniversary, so there it is.

7. He loves God.  We pray together everyday, with our kids, for our kids, and silent prayer when the kids are in bed. We take our kids to daily Mass, and most days pray a family rosary. God has been the center of our marriage and family life, and because of this we have grown in love of Him, each other, and our children daily.

Happy Anniversary to my dear husband!

(Head over to Jen's Conversion Diary for more quick takes.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Two Reasons that Compelled me to Veil

M and me at G's baptism.
I started veiling the year I studied for my Master’s in Theology. I was regularly attending the (newly named) Extraordinary Form of the Mass and immersing myself in studying for classes such as Christian Liturgy, Vatican II, and the Tradition and the Development of Doctrine. When studying the documents of Vatican II, I wanted to know why so many things had changed in the liturgy itself and in the all the practices surrounding the liturgy. Naturally, the question of covering women’s heads came up. My mom hardly remembers the time of her life before the liturgical changes due to Vatican II, but I know that she did wear a head covering at church until these changes. I was never told why women used to cover their heads and believed that it was something old and backwards that “we don’t do anymore”. It was not until I looked at the history of this tradition and the Scripture that backs it up that I realized that this tradition is one that should not have been lost.
Here are the two reasons that compelled me to wear the veil:

1. It is in Scripture: In my earliest discussions of why women covered their heads in the liturgy for the whole history of the Church until the late 1960s, I was informed that it is in Scripture. I had no idea. Sure enough, I looked up 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and there it was:
 1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head–it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) 10 That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. 11 (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) 13 Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.
I then realized that the reason for women to cover their heads was a theological one, it is about the relationship between Christ and His Church, that of a husband to his bride. And it was not a cultural point of St. Paul’s but one specific to the liturgy: “we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.” And here to the Corinthians, St. Paul is making a theological point that men and women are different and that this difference is important in understanding our relationship as a Church to Christ. Only men can be priests and the priest represents Christ in the liturgy. Women then symbolize the Church, Christ’s bride, and are told by St. Paul to veil their heads because they “are the glory of man.”

The Church veils things that are important: the tabernacle is veiled, the chalice is veiled, altars are veiled, Moses veiled his face after he had seen God. A veiled woman shows reverence for God, symbolizing the veiled bride of the Church, but also honors herself as a women before God. Veiling is about men and women as different (think Theology of the Body). It goes against a society that tells us that men and women are the same, that there are many genders, and that gender is not important when people want to marry. Veiling is an outward statement against modernity and its lies. A woman choosing to be submissive as a wife, as woman, to her husband is against all that our society tells us about man and woman, but St. Paul talks about women submitting to their husbands, and the Church submitting to Christ. And Christ loving the Church to the point of his suffering and death, and husbands loving their wives in this same way. This is what veiling is about; it is about submission and about love.

And then St. Paul says this, which goes against his culture’s ideas about men and women: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” Christianity has made men and women equal in God, and St. Paul says this right in the middle of the passage where he talks about women covering their heads. It is important to remember that when Jesus and St. Paul talk about women in the Scriptures it is in a new way that was not normal to their cultures. Women veiling is not putting them lower than men, but must be seen in conjunction with men not covering their heads. It emphasizes the difference of men and women, and the symbol they are as the image of God.

2. Women covering their heads in the liturgy has been the continual tradition of the Church, passed down from the Apostles: Truth has never changed, but the Church’s understanding and knowledge of the truth has increased in the last 2000 years. There are certain traditions that have remained the same, and tradition does not develop in a way that changes what truth is. If it is true for the Church of 90 A.D. that women are to veil their heads in Church, true in 875 A.D. and still so in 1954 A.D., then the way the Church develops does not allow for it to be no longer true in 1970 A.D. or 2013 A.D. This was an unbroken tradition.

St. Paul says himself that the Corinthians are to “maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” The tradition of women covering their heads in Church was from the Apostles and it was maintained until the 1960s when so many liturgical traditions were discarded. I do not know what happened, except that perhaps feminism was infiltrating the Church trying to make men and women the same. The 1917 Code of Canon law required women to cover their heads and forbade men from covering their heads.  The 1983 Code of Canon law omitted the passage about women covering their heads, but maintained that men should not. It is unclear why the Code was changed, though it is clear that head covering by women is no longer required by the Church law.  What is clear, however, is that this has been a tradition passed down, and as laity there is no reason why we cannot continue that tradition even if it is not in the Code of Canon law.

When I grasped these two reasons for women to cover their heads in Church, I felt compelled to do so myself. I overcame my ignorance of this issue, and my conscience would not allow me to do otherwise. I started veiling immediately, and it was very awkward for me at first. I first wore a veil to a Novus Ordo Mass on campus at my college. I knew by sight most of the people in the chapel, and they could remember that I had never worn a veil before. The number of women who wore veils on campus was minimal, so they stood out. It took about a week to stop feeling awkward, and then I had to face veiling at home with my family and then at Masses with my extended family during our Christmas travels. It has been over five years since my change in head dress, and I still veil or cover my head whenever I enter a Catholic Church, am present at a liturgy, at Eucharistic adoration, or receive any Sacraments. My daughters wear head coverings as soon as they have hair. It has become our habit, and it is my hope that the laity will bring back this tradition, especially in this time when the difference of men and women has become so confused.

Originally published at Truth and Charity...

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Letter to my Four Year Old

Dear G,

Today is the big day; you know the one when I leave you at "school" and trust you to people I trust. Home schooling was supposed to prevent this day from coming so soon, but then our parish announced Vacation Bible School in the bulletin and that there would be a group for four year olds. Are you really old enough already to join the big kids? I have been nervous for a month, and today I said goodbye (for three hours) as a teenager, who I am sure is awesome with kids, whisked you away to color with the other four year olds. It has only been 90 minutes, but I miss you. Thank you for being such a great kid, and one who loves her sisters and has great conversations with me. Thank you for being your sister's best friend; I am not sure what she is going to do with herself with you not here. Thank you for being so excited to learn about the Bible and Saints with other kids at our parish. I can't quite pinpoint this feeling I am having about you being on your own at VBS, it is one I have never had before. You are going to be doing all the "firsts" for me as a mother, so I better get used to it. I know you will be your best self, and be kind to all the other children, and I hope you will remember to listen to other adults.

From the moment you were born, our lives have been separating further and further apart. You were inside me, and then you were outside me but always in my arms or next to me, then you sat up and played with toys, then you learned to feed yourself with your own hands, then you started crawling, then walking, then talking, then playing independently. Now you get yourself your own snacks, spend a morning on your tricycle out in back, and can go off with other kids your own age and learn more about the Bible and God which we have taught you about since birth. But you will always come back home and our family is where you will learn to be you and learn to love. And that is what I will remember, that no matter where you go to learn from others, you will always have the foundation we have just barely begun to give you. I love you and am praying for you always!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Seven Quick Takes-Friday, June 2

1. I have been off the blogging train for too long and the motivation to write anything is really low; not to mention that I have been getting used to living in a new house and getting back into the rhythm of daily life with three little ones. I was hoping to write during naptime, but no one is napping right now. The baby is not quite there and L is having trouble falling asleep. Though that just reminded me that I should put the baby down now, because when I wait for her to be ready it is a lot harder... brb.

(30 minutes later...) Okay now I have two nappers and a quiet timer all in their normal places. I guess I will give some highlights of the last two weeks:

2. The day of the move: everything went great! We pushed the move date back several times, the last time being less than a week before the move. It turned out to be a really good choice since we spent most of Sunday doing the packing of all the final things. We had some really awesome help from extended family and friends and got everything loaded and unloaded with a break for lunch in 6 hours! M and I then spent every moment of non-childcare time unpacking until he left for his 48 hours overnight seminar for work. There are a few stray boxes that will be unpacked eventually, but for now we are pretty much unpacked. It takes a lot longer the more kids we have to pack and unpack. :)

3. Mark's seminar for work: I had my first overnight with the three kids alone. I think G and L finally understand when I tell them that I need them to be quiet and stay out of the room when I give the baby a nap or put her to bed at night. I got mostly normal sleep that night, but appreciated more than ever having a husband who is a great help with the kids. The second night he was gone we had our WI relatives come and hang out with the girls and me. The oldest cousin was doing a daylong workshop at the home school conference in town. The kids had fun with the boys and I had some much needed adult company. I think that is the hardest thing when alone with kids is the lack of other adults even just to talk to.

4. New neighborhood: There is a large Catholic church a mile away from us, and the priest there seems pretty solid. There is also a perpetual adoration chapel. There morning Mass is 7:30am, which we have managed twice already. It is not too bad since we are already used to going to am 8 am which is 15 minutes away, a one minute away 7:30 am is not bad at all. We will still attend St. Agnes for the most-part, but for daily it is nice to have a nearby option. We tried the new library the other day, and I found it to be fairly kid friendly. They had all of our favorite authors and it was about 4 minutes away. Another thing about this neighborhood is that I have seen at least five different very pregnant mothers going speed-walking in the last two weeks. I have heard there are a lot of Catholic families in this part of the Twin Cities area, and it makes me wonder if these pregnant ladies are evidence of that... not that only Catholics have babies, but they do more often...

5. I mowed the lawn last week for the first time in my life. I used our reel push mower. The grass had gotten about 5 inches tall and was wet. It was hard work, but I feel like a real grown up now. I am going to try out the mower again with shorter dry grass and I am sure it will be a breeze.

6. My new oven is AMAZING! I made my tried and true brownie recipe in it the other day and the brownies were perfectly baked, so evenly baked, and so deliciously wonderful. I am going to make a cake in it today for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. I am so blessed to have gotten to choose my own stove and for us to have the money for it after buying a house. :)

7. And finally, I really do like our new house, but it feels still like we are on a vacation or something. It takes time to get used to new neighborhoods and grocery stores and churches. We only moved 8 miles, but I think I am still going to need time to adjust. But I love the hardwood floors, all the wall colors we chose, the new furniture we bought, and the laundry chute. I can only hope the children's enthusiasm for cleaning up dirty laundry lasts for many years to come.

For more quick takes head on over to Jen.
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