Tuesday, 24 March 2020

How To Be Holy and Happy During the Coronavirus Quarantine

BREAKING NEWS: India has just been put on lock down for the next three weeks, so this post is even more relevant. PS Please ration your supplies!

It's easy to write a post about what NOT to do because all I have to do is take notes from my own life and everybody else I know. But what we really need is a not-too-complicated list of what we CAN and SHOULD do. So here goes:

1. Make a daily schedule! Structure structure structure! Anyone who works from home can tell you the best way to sabotage yourself is to have great ambitions and refuse to put them into a schedule. Spontaneity is all very well for a while, but most of us humans need some kind of rhythm to our life in order to be productive and peaceful. Some of my friends have done this (especially those with kids). It doesn't have to be a tight schedule with every minute accounted for, but it should exist.

2. Get offline for at least a few hours every day! The Online World of Coronavirus News is a disease in itself. There's too much information! It's everywhere! There are gossip, jokes, news, opinions, medical advice, explanations, home remedies, warnings, predictions, but they can leave us sucked dry, motionless, anxious, panicky, or just distracted. You will find you mind relaxing, and your heartbeat returning to normal as you cook while listening to instrumental music, or clean your house, or draw a picture, or play an instrument, or go for a walk (for those who are still able to).

3. Pick two or three online pastimes, but stop there: Apart from Coronavirus news, there's also SO MANY productive options to spend time online - online retreats, online Masses and rosaries and reflections, free audio books, free operas, free concerts, online museums. We're spoiled for choice. We could learn new languages, watch movies, documentaries, learn crafts, research topics we're interested in... but if you're anything like me, perhaps the fact that there are so many options is paralyzing, and it's easier to just keep scrolling through social media feeds and thinking about how many great options there are and perhaps I should do that one.. and that one.. or perhaps that one? Just pick two or three, add them to your schedule, and stop there.

4. Take prayer breaks: Start your day with prayer and coffee, end your day with prayer, but don't forget to take little pauses during the day to pray too. Some people say a Hail Mary every time they wash their hands. I've been trying to do an Examen at least once a day. Say little prayers like "I love you, Lord." "I offer this moment to you." "Jesus, I trust in you." Participate in an online Mass if that helps you. Say a Rosary. My husband reminds me to pray the Angelus when the church bells ring. Pray a Divine Mercy chaplet for people dying alone. It's surprising how these little prayer habits make room for peace in your heart, home and day.

5. Take time alone and together: If you're living with other people, add some alone, quiet time to your schedule. If you tend to do things by yourself most of the time, add some people time to your schedule. Eat meals together and watch a movie. Play board games. Do jigsaw puzzles. If you're living alone, set up a video call to a friend at least once a day. This is a good time to reconnect, to love each other by 'wasting time together'. Don't let the desire to be productive or the temptation to anxiety and panic rob you of family time or people time.

6. Talk about things other than the pandemic: It's already on everyone's minds. But there is more to life than that, and our minds need a break from it. So intentionally choose to talk and think about other things as well - hopes, dreams, plans, memories, ideas, jokes.

7. Rediscover the Bible: Rather than focussing on what we have been deprived of (the sacraments, for a while). let's rediscover the gift and jewel most of us have lying in our homes. Eh. the bible, you say. Approach it in new ways! Start reading one book of the bible, underline verses that stand out and journal about them. (Look up a commentary to help you understand them.) Do a bible sharing with your family every day. Pick one bible verse every day to memorize and illustrate. Play bible trivia games:
- Everyone gets one chapter or book of the bible to read and study, and quiz questions will be asked at the end of the day.
- Everyone gets 5 minutes to study and memorize the names and order of the books in the bible, and then write them out without referring to the bible.
- Pick a bible verse at random and get the rest of the family to guess which book it comes from.
- Find the biblical passages certain famous hymns are based on.
- Choose a keyword like 'light', or 'bread', or 'mountain' and see how many bible verses each person or team can find in 10 minutes.
- Say a bible reference (book, chapter and verse) and the first person to find it wins the point
- Write your own song or tune based on a Psalm. Record it

8. Find ways to reach out to others: Just because you have been asked to distance yourself socially doesn't mean you have full permission to be as selfish and self-absorbed as possible. Ask God to show you how you can still reach out to others. Phone someone who might be lonely. Donate to those who have lost their livelihood because of the shutdowns. Make sure you are continuing to pay your maids, domestic workers, etc who are not allowed to go to work. Check in on your friends. Find little ways to bless your family members or housemates - join them in activities they would prefer, help them in their work, ask them how they are doing.

9. Take time for silence: You don't have to fill up every moment of the day. Take a few minutes here and there just to BE, to breathe, to surrender. It's hard, I know. But in the moments of silence, your soul will breathe.

Are you doing any of these things already? Any other suggestions?

Friday, 20 March 2020

How NOT To Do the Coronavirus Self-Quarantine

Welcome to the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. Most of our cities, places of work and worship, and public areas are closed. We are constantly being blasted with messages to self-quarantine, aka Just. Stay. Home. How do we respond?

1. Pick up your phone the moment you wake up. Spend all day obsessively scrolling through every news article, Whatsapp forward, social media post about COVID-19, and forward them to everyone you know. If you know everything that's happening, moment by moment, you will feel more in control! Right?

2. Spend all day wallowing in indiscipline. Binge-watch another TV series on Netflix. Forget about all your Lenten commitments and fasts. It's a worldwide state of emergency, you are excused from being a productive, or fruitful member of society. Holiness is for normal days, not such strange ones as the ones we live in. God will understand.

3. Get mad at the bishops for suspending public Masses. They obviously don't care about the state of our souls. If I were in their place, I would make better decisions. Somebody elect me Pope! I'll show those cowards how to take care of a 1.2 billion member Church during a worldwide pandemic.

4. Wallow in self-pity. What an unfair twist of events! I had so many plans for the next few weeks that are cancelled or postponed. This was not how my life was supposed to go! Yet here I am stuck in my home with the Internet and food and water and too much free time to know what to do with. How unlucky I am!*

5. Give full reign to panic and fear. Doomsday is here! The end of the world is nigh. Never before has the world been in lockdown! I was right - everything really IS terrible and bad and scary and hopeless! Even if the world doesn't end, a global recession is coming! Unemployment and poverty and homelessness is going to increase! Is God REALLY in control? Doesn't look like it.

6. Go into conspiracy or blame or extreme religious theory mode. This whole coronavirus thing is a hoax created by the sellers of face masks and sanitizers to make a profit. Or it is a punishment by God for our irreligious behaviour. He's angry so He's unleashing plagues like in the Old Testament. But the blood of the lamb is the only vaccine I need! My family and I are safe, nothing will happen to us because we trust in God (unlike those sinners out there who have been infected). If only the world will repent, the coronavirus will end.

7. Ignore this whole coronavirus nonsense and party on. Unexpected holidays? Perfect time to get the gang together, go on a family outing, get some shopping done, visit some old friends, hit the bars. People are just exaggerating the danger. I'm going to be fine. They can't really expect me to stay at home for weeks on end, can they? That's probably fake news.

8. Go into selfish survivor mode. Stockpiling is the only sensible thing to do! There's a pandemic, I'm sure that basic necessities are going to somehow disappear any moment now. BUY ALL THE STUFF! Who cares about the rest of the world? It's each man for himself!

9. Go into fallacious hyper-spiritual blind faith mode. I am a Christian, and I refuse to live in fear! So I will go about my daily life as normal trusting that God will keep me safe. There is no way that going to MASS could be dangerous to anyone. Anyway, which is more important - the body or the soul? Isn't God more powerful than a mere virus? If I really believe that, there is no need to self-quarantine.

Which of these are you struggling with? Which ones have you seen other people doing, and are driving you crazy?

*I assume the people REALLY struggling are not here reading my blog post. 

Coming Soon: How To Be Holy and Happy During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Adventures in Panchgani

Last week my husband and I spent a couple of days in Panchgani, my favourite holiday spot a few hours away from the big cities. It was a special trip with just the two of us as a birthday treat for me – yes, I’m 34! Though a quiet, serene spot in the lap of nature (I sound like a resort commercial), we did not miss out on our share of adventures.

The Prophesying Wife 

I have been known to sleep-talk in the past. I thought I was mostly over it, until our first night in the Panchgani cottage. We had just finished watching a season of Dr. Who, so I was dreaming about saving the universe. In my sleep, I shouted, “Don’t be afraid!”

My husband woke up from a dream where he was worried about the future. “What did you say?”

“Don’t be afraid!”

What I meant to say after that was, “We have found enough traces of human DNA in the TARDIS to reboot the universe,” but apparently that was too complicated for my sleep-addled brain to enunciate. I did half-wake up and realized I was sleep-talking, so then I also tried to say, “That’s good advice no matter the occasion,” but according to my husband, I didn’t actually say those words aloud either.

Anyway, isn’t he privileged to have a wife who gives him solid biblical advice to respond to his nightmares in the middle of the night?

The Drunk Local 

As we walked home from town one evening, we saw an obviously drunk old man weaving his way down the road. The mountain roads were narrow, and with vehicles speeding along them, so we were a little alarmed. “Jesus, please keep this man safe,” said my husband aloud. The next moment a young man on a bike stopped by the drunk man. “Thank you, Jesus, that was quick.”

My relief dissipated in a moment as the old man got on to the back of the bike, and promptly fell off as the bike started moving. The younger man couldn’t have been a relative because he seemed amused. “How much have you drunk?” he said to the man in Marathi. My husband starting crossing the road to help them, and called out in Marathi, “Hey grandfather, hold on tight.” He got on again, clutched the rider tight, and they rode off as I prayed, and my husband’s concern turned to uncontrollable chuckles at the comic sight. I guess the town drunk is funny to everyone else, but probably not to his family.

The Angry Pregnant Lady 

Just next to the cottage where we were staying is a campsite run by my mum’s cousin. We happened to be there at a time when a big group of young people were there for a camp. We passed them playing team building games in a field.

The first afternoon I was exhausted, and fell asleep in the bedroom with the curtains on the big glass windows open. My sleep was deep, but somehow loud voices intruded. Deep in my subconscious I realized someone was intruding, but I couldn’t wake myself up to deal with it. Instead I dreamed that we were sharing the house with a honeymooning couple with all their friends and family dropping in to visit.

In my dream, I kept getting more and more outraged as they overstepped boundaries, used our private kitchen, and talked REALLY loudly and partied in the veranda. I woke up to realize there were really three young people who were not just outside the house talking, but had actually taken over a table in the veranda and were working on a poster for their camp, while chatting away… EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD SEEN ME SLEEPING IN THE BEDROOM.

I’m not typically an angry kind of person, but the righteous anger of my dream took hold of me, and I stalked out and informed them that they were in a private area and that they needed to stay in the campsite area. I’m polite even when I’m angry, but I think the message got across and they soon left. I was fuming! Was it the pregnancy hormones? Oh yes, *I* was the angry pregnant lady. I feel like I would have been even more impressively scary if I had been visibly and heavily pregnant while telling them off.

 A little while later, I heard someone announcing to the kids in the next field, “Please don’t make a noise, there are people staying in the house and they will shout at you.” You bet they will! Grr. In spite of that, a guy and a girl showed up that evening taking selfies in front of the house and seemed surprised when I asked them to take their stuff (that they had deposited again in our veranda) and leave. “Just one more picture.” Some people have no concept of boundaries.

Related Stories 

The Tale of a City Girl in Nature

The Delicate Touches of Love

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

How Do I Know If I’m a Disciple?

A lot of us grew up in Catholic homes, attending Sunday Mass as a matter of course, the same way we attended school and wrote exams and ate our meals – just because it was a part of our life and culture and family tradition. As teenagers or adults, some rebelled or just lost interest and no longer identified as Catholic, while others just continued as a matter of course.

But being baptized a Catholic and growing up in a Catholic family no more makes one a disciple than hanging around in medical school makes you a doctor, or sitting in a car makes you a driver. Becoming a disciple takes intentionality and choice. You can’t sort of drift into a life-changing relationship.

But maybe you’re not sure. “I take my faith pretty seriously. It’s an important part of my life. Am I or am I not a ‘disciple’?”

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself this Lent to know whether there is perhaps a further step God is inviting you.

1. Do I KNOW Jesus as a person, not just as a concept or name or idea? Am I able to talk to Him intimately every day, and believe that His presence is as real as my family members around my house? Am I able to chat to Him about what is going on in my life, or am I more likely to talk to myself, and remember Him at the end of a formal prayer at the end of the day… ‘in Jesus’ name, Amen.’ Being a disciple is primarily being in a relationship with Jesus, not just following a set of moral teachings.
If you don’t, ask Him to reveal Himself to you as a person, put your phone down, start sitting alone with Him every day for 20 minutes, and be very, very honest. He is more than able to reveal Himself to those who desire to meet Him. 

2. Do I hear God speaking with me regularly? Not as an audible voice, but usually through the bible, through the events and people of my life. I remember once reading my bible on the way to a youth camp where I was a volunteer, and a young man of about 16 asked me why I was doing so. I told him God often spoke to me through the words I read. He seemed shocked. “God actually TALKS to you?”
If you don’t, tell him you’d like to hear from Him, and start reading a short passage from the bible every day. We can’t expect to hear Him if we will not use the means He uses to communicate with us. 

3. Am I aware of my own personal sin? It’s so much easier to be aware of all the other sinners in the world than to take responsibility for my own selfishness, laziness, lack of love, deliberate neglect of God and His invitations and commands. Once you start rationalizing your sin, there is no room for a Saviour in your life. "Those who (think they) are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners." Lk 5: 31-32
If you are not and feel like you’re on the whole a pretty righteous person, ask God to shine His light into every corner of your life and heart and reveal to you the truth. 

4. Am I engaged in ongoing repentance and conversion? It’s not enough to be aware of my sin, to wallow in my own dirt, and to get complacent about the fact that I’m a sinner. ‘Oh well, a sinner I was conceived in my mother’s womb.’ Shrug. I need to be actively fighting the sin in my life, going to Confession regularly, asking forgiveness of the people I am hurting, and allowing the mercy of Jesus to cleanse me of my sin. When’s the last time I asked someone to forgive me?
If you are not, go to Confession, and do a daily Examen. Ask God for a greater desire for holiness. 

5. Do I talk and think more about Jesus than about anything or anyone else? This is a good way to know who or what my passion is. Not that we are not called to have interests, passions and hobbies as disciples, but where do our hearts lie? Who or what do I think of as I fall asleep at night? What do I get into passionate discussions about regularly? What do I promote and want people to know about? Even if we talk more about the Catholic Church, or a particular saint, or our community or organization, or some devotion, or some awesome leader, than we do about JESUS Himself, we’re missing out on the core of being a disciple.
If you do not, ask Him to help you fall in love with Him again (or for the first time). 

6. Am I willing to change my plan when I hear God convicting me to do so? We all have plans, preferences and desires, and we often make our choices based on them. But a disciple brings everything to the Lord and allows Him to direct his or her life. It could mean giving up a plan to emigrate, pursuing reconciliation in a relationship that I’d rather wash my hands off, being open to a spouse and a life in a different culture than I wanted, using my free time for His work, making a career change, and a great number of other things.
If you are not, ask Him for the grace to trust Him more than you trust yourself, to give up the illusion of control, and to grow in obedience and abandonment. 

7. Am I willing to obey the challenging teachings that Jesus gives me through His Church? If the only teachings I obey are the ones I am comfortable with, then I have chosen myself as God, and not Him. Trust includes obedience and humility. Just because I do not fully understand why Jesus asks the things He asks, doesn’t mean He is wrong and I am right. Like a child who takes his medicine or eats his vegetables because Mama says so, sometimes we obey even as we seek understanding. For example, staying away from artificial methods of birth control, accepting that IVF, surrogacy and artificial insemination are not legitimate ways to bear a child, choosing to love those with same-sex attraction while not endorsing gay marriage or relationships, reserving sex for marriage, rejecting abortion even in the case of unexpected or difficult pregnancies, rejecting the death penalty, etc. It also means accepting the smaller but also difficult requirements like fasting for an hour before receiving Communion, not eating meat on the Fridays of Lent, fasting on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, attending Mass on Sunday and other days of obligation without fail, etc.
If you are not able to accept these teachings, ask God to open your heart and help you understand. There are good reasons for all these hard teachings, and we need to be willing to find out what they are. (Links below.) 

8. Have I intentionally placed myself in relationship with other disciples? It’s easy to think you’re being a disciple on your own because there’s no one to call you out, to challenge you when you’re getting complacent or lazy or making excuses, and to encourage you when you’re slackening in zeal. It’s obvious that Jesus didn’t come to save us in isolation, but in community. Unfortunately our parish communities don’t usually offer an opportunity to grow in relationship with other disciples, so we have to be very intentional about fighting our laziness and our fear of vulnerability and either joining some kind of community or creating some kind of community.
If you have not, start looking for disciples and ask them where they find fellowship. 

9. Am I regularly consuming content that remind me of what it means to be a disciple? Whether it is attending solid talks and formation, listing to podcasts, reading spiritual books (apart from the bible), learning about the saints, we need to consume healthy disciple-making food, or our growth will be stunted. I can see the difference when I stop doing that, or when I only consume mindless entertainment – I lose my appetite for God. We are what we eat.
If you do not, Lent is a great time to start! Ask me for recommendations: Abiding Together podcast, any Henry Nouwen or Fulton Sheen or Jacques Philippe, etc.

Related Links

[Video] Why We Don't Use Contraception in Our Marriage by Jackie and Bobby Angel

After the Vows: Sex Within Marriage By Brian Kissinger

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

How To Write a Dating or Matrimonial Profile

As you might have noticed, I have just ventured into the world of matchmaking. Part of the process is inviting applicants to fill in some details about themselves. I don't know if it's because we don't encourage self expression in India, or because written communication is sometimes hard, but many people seem to get stuck at the 'About Me' section. 

Why is this section important? Because you are more than a checklist, more than a list of beliefs of even hobbies. (You are definitely way more than your height, weight, complexion, salary or degrees which is why those aren't even a part of the form.) 

You are a unique, unrepeatable creation of God, and it is that unique person that needs to shine out of a profile. When another person reads that profile, they need to get a glimpse of YOU, not a generic list of traits that could be practically anyone. Easier said than done though, right? 

Here are some tips that might make it easier:

1. Be prepared to write at least two short paragraphs for each of these type of questions (or more, if you feel inspired.) A few adjectives on their own don't say much. Set aside some time to think and prepare what you want to say and how you want to describe yourself. If you don't care enough to work on it, it is less likely that someone viewing your profile will care enough to pursue the person behind the description.

2. Think of some of the words that could describe you. It could describe the work you do, the things you get excited about, your skills and talents, your good qualities, your quirks and oddities. 

3. Ask a close friend (or a few of them) to describe you as they see you, and if their descriptions seem apt, use them. I once wrote a dating profile for a close friend, and she loved it because I knew her well and was able to encapsulate what made her unique and lovable.

4. Be very honest. Don't make yourself sound more or less than you really are. Don't be afraid to be yourself, because it is the real you that you are taking into dating and marriage. Just don't make yourself sound like a paragon of all the virtues, or joke about real vices. 

5. Don't write generic words like god-fearing, caring, homely, etc. Try to find either more specific words or explain what you mean. 'I love cooking and finding ways to care for the people in my family.' 'I value family prayer and always try to do what God asks me to do.'

6. If you're still having a hard time, here are a list of words or phrases as well as questions you can ask yourself that might spark ideas. Don't just pick from this list, but try to be creative in your choice of words, and think deeply about what YOU are like, and what YOU want.

What are some words that describe your personality?

Examples: Funny, loud, adventurous, over-thinker, positive, lively, chatty, easygoing, control freak, hardworking, honest, blunt, serious, organized, ambitious, exuberant, high energy, mischievous, sarcastic, simple, lifelong learner, introvert, extrovert, life of the party, good listener, quiet, thoughtful, always on the move, deep thinker, active, introspective, sensitive, outgoing, quirky, unconventional, emotional, empathetic, compassionate, motivated, competitive, goal-oriented, neat freak, absent-minded, patient, creative, practical, trustworthy, reliable, energetic, loyal, non-judgmental, determined, passionate, persistent, decisive, loner, daydreamer, independent, contemplative, prayerful, lover of people, lover of God, peaceful.

What do you like to spend your time on?

Examples:  I love making birthday cards for my friends, you can usually find me playing online word games, I spend a lot of time baking and trying out new recipes for my family, I love talking to people and finding out what makes them tick, I love my job and spend a lot of time learning more about my field, my friends and I put on karaoke videos on Youtube and sing and dance for fun (we are a crazy bunch), I am obsessed with cars and can identify the make and model of most cars as I pass them, I tend to watch a lot of documentaries, I love gardening and have started growing some vegetables, I often go out with friends and listen to their problems and counsel them, I love organizing social events for people to get together, I spend most weekends running or climbing mountains or finding new physical challenges to conquer, I love hanging out with my family and chatting about everything over a cup of tea. I spend a lot of time reading Catholic blogs and study apologetics for fun. I am in a worship band and we get together every weekend to sing God's praises. I tutor underprivileged kids on the weekends.

What are some dreams or hopes you have?*

Examples: I hope to start an NGO one day that reaches out to street children and gives them a safe place to study and play. I am trying to read 50 books this year. I hope to visit all the continents of the world with my family. I would love to learn more about the bible and even teach others about it. I hope to start my own catering business one day (maybe with the help of my spouse). I want to buy a car, have a bunch of kids and do road trips all over India. I would love to be part of a musical. I want to start my own vegetable garden. 

What kind of family and marriage do you hope to have? 

Examples: I want to have the kind of home and family where the poor are always welcome to share a meal. I hope my spouse and I will be able to grow together and learn together about how to keep our marriage strong. I would like to be able to communicate well with my spouse in a way where we both feel comfortable sharing the little, big, and most intimate details of our life. I would love to do ministry with my spouse, reaching out to others and sharing Jesus together. I would like a marriage where we are equals, sharing responsibilities especially in the home and in raising children. I visualize a family that is an active part of a Christian community, not isolated or alone. I would like my spouse and I to teach our children to love God and to be adventurous in serving Him. I want an honest marriage where we are comfortable talking about our past wounds and helping each other heal. I would like a marriage where in-laws and outsiders do not interfere and we make our own choices according to God's will. 

What kind of spouse are you hoping for?

Examples: Someone who listens to and respects my desires and thoughts and feelings. Someone who loves God and puts Him first. Someone who is calm even in the face of trials and provocation. Someone who is financially responsible and willing to work hard for the sake of the family. Someone who is affectionate and loving. Someone who is as adventurous as I am. Someone who supports my desire to stay home and focus on our young children. Someone who is comfortable with sharing household and parenting responsibilities. Someone who is willing to support me in my dreams and career. Someone who does not drink alcohol (or drinks only occasionally in moderation). Someone who will be a good father. Someone who will prioritize family over career. Someone who is willing to be part of the prayer community that I am in. Someone who will love my family as his/her own. Someone who will love me in spite of my health issues. Someone who flexible and adaptable. 

Examples of deal-breakers: Someone who expects me to join the joint family and become like a servant of the home. Someone who will not accept the responsibility of my aged parents. Someone who is a workaholic. Someone who loses his/her temper and shouts and screams when angry. Someone who is very introverted. Someone who will not allow me to work outside the home. Someone who is controlling. Someone who is very conservative or liberal. Someone who smokes or drinks. Someone who only wants one or two children. Someone who cares too much about what people say (or what their parents say). Someone who is not open to my charismatic prayer community. Someone who does not follow the teachings of the Church. Someone who hates dogs. Someone who is too serious and doesn't like to go for movies or parties. Someone who is too frivolous and only likes to play, never pray.

Examples of non-negotiables (this overlaps with deal-breakers): I can only marry someone who is willing to move to my city. I am only open to someone who is willing to prioritize prayer and the spiritual life of our family. I am only open to someone who has lived away from home for some time (for work/studies). I am only open to someone willing to take at least a few months to date/court/get to know each other. I need someone who is willing to accept my choice to live as a missionary. I need someone who is fluent in English/ my mother tongue. 

Picking a profile pic: Let people get a glimpse of who you really are by giving a real smile, taking a close up photo, and removing all obstacles like sunglasses or hats. Stand up straight, no need to pose in front of a car or bike, be casual but alive. A photo says so much. And it isn't too difficult to get good quality photos these days - just catch a friend with a good phone camera, find a nice backdrop (nature is usually great), be willing to pose for a few shots and choose the best one.

Anything to add? Any other ideas or suggestions for writing dating or matrimonial profiles?

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Introducing the Catholic Disciples Matchmaking Service

UPDATED: Here's the link to the Google form to register: https://forms.gle/UjWsqyMBuNe3t8zU9

Are you a Catholic disciple who feels called to marriage but have almost given up hope of finding a like-minded partner? Have you ever wished that someone would introduce you to more like-minded potential partners? Have you ever bemoaned the lack of easy ways to connect with eligible Catholic disciples? Has the traditional arranged marriage system and the casual dating system failed you so far?

Do you know people like that and wish you could help them out?

I’m here to help! (God willing) I’ve been pondering a matchmaking service for a while – but one with a difference.

First of all, who am I and why do I think I'm qualified to run this?

My name is Susanna, I'm a 33 year old (almost 34) Catholic disciple who has been working with young people for over a decade. I've run across the same problems and struggles again and again - disciples who feel that they have no options when it comes to looking for a good spouse. I've had my own struggles, but last year MY matchmaker (aka God) worked things out beautifully and I married another Catholic disciple and have begun to live out my vocation with him (fun read: one year ago I wrote 'What It's Like To Have a Catholic Boyfriend'). I'm based close to Mumbai, but I'm originally from Pune. My only qualification is that I feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to do this, and I don't know anyone else in India who is doing it. I've written a lot about relationships, dating, courtship, etc, and guided some people in real life too.

Second, what does ‘Catholic disciple’ mean?

Catholic – Faithful to all the teachings of the Church including the tough ones, willing to learn and grow in knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith, openness to and love for Mary, the saints and the sacraments; and committed to the Catholic understanding of marriage and family.

Disciple –  Committed to doing the will of Christ, trying to walk with Him every day, having a personal relationship with Jesus through a prayer life, dealing with personal sin, pursuing holiness, willing to ‘go wherever He asks you to go, do whatever He asks you to do, say whatever He asks you to say, and give up whatever He asks you to give up’.

Here’s what Catholic disciple does NOT mean: Perfect in every way, no longer struggling with any sin, only interested in talking about religious topics, extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of the Catholic faith, fanatical about all things Catholic. Yeah, no.

So how is Catholic Disciples Matchmaking Service going to work? 

1. Interested people fill in a Google form to help me get to know you better. It will include a photo, a bio, and a bunch of relevant questions. Job, salary, height, complexion, educational qualifications are NOT asked here. (If those are important to you, this is not a good place to join. You will eventually learn these thing after meeting someone, but they are not the most important things.) Instead, there will be questions about your interests, priorities, spiritual life and hopes for a spouse. The form should include a name and number of a priest you know who can vouch for you if necessary. Members pay a one-time registration fee.

2. As matchmaker, I personally will go through each member’s profile, and match members. I will send the photo and profile to two matched people, and if they both say yes, I’ll give them each other’s email ids to start a correspondence. If they feel comfortable doing so, they exchange numbers and eventually meet. There will be certain dating guidelines that all members should agree to – for example, that they should try to meet in person within a month of communicating (even if they’re from different cities), that both agree that no commitments or promises are implied in agreeing to go on a date, that they will maintain good boundaries, etc.

3. Once the two members have met in person, they will each debrief with me, and let me know what they thought and if they want to move ahead. Dating and courtship guidance will continue for those who want it.

4. As matchmaker I’m here to help and facilitate, but I am ultimately not responsible for your choices. It is up to each member to take this seriously, to be holy and responsible and prudent in the way they go about this process.

5. I hope to eventually add relationship advice videos and posts which will be available to members only.

What kind of attitude should a potential member have? 

1. Openness: Don’t come with a cardboard cut-out of the perfect spouse, or over specific ideas of how gorgeous they are, or where they are located, or their cultural background. Let God surprise you!

2. Adventurousness: You have to be willing to take a risk , to be courageous, to meet more than one person who may NOT be right for you. If you aren’t willing to take a risk, how can you hope for something amazing to happen to you?

3. Patience: It may not happen immediately, and it may not happen in your expected time frame. Some people take longer than others to know for sure. Marriage is a big enough commitment to merit investing time and patience into the search for the right spouse.

4. Willingness to step out of your comfort zone: Whether it means travelling to a different city for a date, or learning about love languages and marriage preparation and discernment, or more about your faith, or trying out spiritual activities that are new for you, or just learning to communicate with a completely different person, you can’t play it safe, or protect yourself completely. Be a learner! Whether or not you land up marrying that particular person, God can teach you a lot through the process.

5. Openness to God’s guidance: Commit to daily prayer for your future spouse, try out a novena or ask for a particular saint’s intercession and help, get your spiritual life in order, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you at each step. Trust that HE is your ultimate matchmaker.

Interested? Have suggestions? Have ideas about how to publicize this service? Shoot me an email at solosenilejive@gmail.com. The Google form should be live in a week.

P.S This service is mostly aimed at people in India to make real-life meeting more possible, but if you have the possibility of visiting India regularly (like our many Indian friends working in Middle-Eastern countries), you are welcome too.

UPDATED: Indians from other countries have expressed an interest too, so go ahead and register wherever you are, and if God sends other people from your part of the world, I'll set them up with you. If you are in the US, I'd suggest you look up Emily Zanotti, the Catholic Yenta, who is doing something very similar there.

P.P.S. Please share this blog post in all the Catholic disciples' groups you can think of, and ask individuals to spread the word too! 

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Five Hacks to Be More Disciplined and Productive

Hello to all the undisciplined, lazy, unmotivated, negative people out there! This is for you. You’re not alone, you’re not a complete failure, and things CAN and WILL get better.

1. Stop telling yourself you are undisciplined and have no self control and you can’t help it: Like my dad keeps saying, “It’s all in the mind.” Well, maybe not ALL, but a lot of it. If you put yourself in a box, and slap a label on it, guess what, you’re going to stay there. It’s okay to admit it’s a struggle, but remind yourself it’s possible to change, even if it happens one small habit-changing step at a time. Think of the other areas that you used to struggle with ten years ago that you no longer even think about. Also, stop celebrating laziness and indiscipline and making jokes about it. It’s holding you back.

2. Acknowledge the main areas of indiscipline in your life: When it comes to time-wasting, you know I’m talking about your phone. You’re not alone. Apparently a LOT of people are struggling with phone addictions, but not everyone knows they are, or are willing to do anything about it. How do you know your phone use is becoming a problem? When you can’t go anywhere without your phone, when you automatically reach for it as soon as you have a minute free, when you return to social media sites just to refresh your feed, when you haven’t read a book in months or years, when you are in the middle of a conversation or a movie or even a book and you reach for your phone again… I’m here to tell you – YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Another typical area of indiscipline is going to sleep on time (connected with phone use) and eating unhealthily. If you don’t acknowledge where the problem lies, you cannot move forward.

3. Place some obstacles between you and your favourite areas of indiscipline: I don’t have Facebook and Youtube apps on my phone, I have to go the browser and find them. I used to have to put in the password every time I used Facebook. I don’t allow notifications from any of my apps, so I basically don’t allow distractions to pop up in my life screaming “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!” Choose certain hours of the day where you and your family members place your phones out of reach, and choose to talk or read a book or play a game instead. Just physically putting it out of reach helps. Don’t buy the junk food you want to avoid. If it is in your house, guess what – you’re going to eat it in a moment of weakness. You’re a lot less likely to go down to the shop and buy snacks than just pull it out of the kitchen cupboard.

4. Take the drastic step of deleting accounts or subscriptions or games: Whenever I feel like something is going out of control, when I know I can’t rely on my own sense of balance and will-power to help me use that thing well, I have to be ruthless. After messing up several times, I realize I cannot have Netflix or Amazon prime or anything with TV shows on my phone. So I finally just deleted my subscriptions and we currently live in the olden times and watch DVD movies for movie night. I feel stupid that I can’t keep it under control, but you know, maybe I have an addictive personality, and I’m much happier with zero TV shows in my life than with non-stop obsessive TV show bingeing. (Also, long-duration entertainment (aka TV shows) sucks the depth out of your spiritual life.)

5. Give yourself positive achievable goals to replace bad habits: Fill in the empty spaces with good goals and make them easy to achieve - place good books by your bed, fill your home with fruit and healthy snacks, take up a hobby, start listening to a good podcast. Sacrifice has to be for some purpose. Decide what you REALLY want, and make a list and a plan to fill your free time. Celebrate small victories, and get someone to celebrate with you. Basically, set yourself up for success. Once you taste success – you finished reading a book! You lost some weight! You wrote a story! You created art! You woke up in the morning feeling rested and energetic! – you will want more of it. And then you will be able to take on slightly harder goals.

Alright, guys! What other hacks have worked for you?