Monday, 23 July 2018

The Questions You Always Had about Christian Women’s Households

Many people in India are shocked to hear that I do not live with my parents even though we live in the same city. I live in a flat with three other women (at the moment, it changes), down the road from the school at which my team serves. There are usually amazed questions that we have all faced from people who think only college students would choose a life like that, and can’t imagine what our life looks like. So here you go, some common questions (plus some we made up) and our honest answers.

So… you cook? 

Amazing at it may seem, I am quite capable as a 32 year old woman who has lived away from home for most of the past eight years, of feeding myself and others with REAL food. I can make bhajis and chapatis, rice and dal, and plenty of other yummy dishes too. Somehow people equate being unmarried with being helpless. MY mum was not just cooking for but also raising four young children when she was 32 (the youngest arrived when she was 33). Each of the women in our household take turns to cook. But of course, we do NOT live the life of a typical Indian wife and mom – we do not cook every day. We schedule cooking every other day, and are quite happy to eat leftovers, and do not demand or expect fresh chapatis at every meal.

Perfectly round chapatis are not usually found in our home. Probably why we're still single.

Every now and again we ‘scrounge’ (as I like to refer to it) when there’s no regular food left. I consider hummus with chips a great in-between meal. Or hummus sandwiches. Or hummus with veggies. (We make GREAT hummus.)

And who cleans? 

Once again, we are adult women quite capable of cleaning our own home. I don’t at all judge those who hire a cleaning lady, especially when they have kids or very demanding jobs. But we don’t need to do that, and take pride in being able to work with our hands. Funny story, when I first moved away from home, I lived with an American volunteer who was shocked that I had a maid growing up. “What does Sue have in common with a princess?” she asked, and then supplied the answer- “She has never cleaned a toilet.” Well, that’s changed. We have a weekly chore chart, and while our house is not always pristine, and we do have messy days, we manage to keep it fairly clean.

Do y’all fight? 

Not really. One of the women I live with is my sister, so we occasionally have disagreements that we talk out. But the beauty of being not very young adults is that we’ve learned to extend grace to each other, not make a big deal about small stuff, and assume the best about each other.

What is the best thing about living in household? 

I read some American Catholic single writing about how hard it is to be unmarried – no one to cook for, to come back home to. I don’t know why people assume marriage is the only way to have community. I love that we have people to do stuff for. If I was alone, I probably wouldn’t cook at all, or follow any kind of schedule, and would probably get pretty depressed. I love that I always have someone to talk to about my day (and my dreams), to go to Mass with, to laugh with and to pray with. It's great for accountability and growth in discipline.

Actually one of my favourite moments each day is at about 9 pm when we gather in our living room to pray the Divine Office and sing the Salve Regina at the end. It is a quiet and peace-filled way to end each day.

I asked my household sisters what their answers would be and they said –

The discipline of our life together, combined with freedom. We follow a common schedule, but with large chunks of time to do our own personal tasks. It’s not like being at home a parent telling you what to do, we choose it freely.

The freedom and lack of guilt or blame – even if we occasionally forget our chores, no one makes a big deal about it, but just reminds us.

The conversations – every night we eat dinner together and just chat about everything.

What’s the hardest thing about living in household? 

For me, it’s balancing the needs of the introverts with the extroverts. I am far more aware in household how an extreme on either side can hurt the other members. Even though I am often a chatterbox, I often withdraw into my own world, with my phone or laptop or book. I can do that for hours at a time. But then I realize I haven’t even asked my household sisters how their day has been, and I wonder if they are secretly feeling isolated or hurt by me. At the same time, I can’t do constant long conversations, because I start feeling frustrated or exhausted, and I know other introverts feel the same way. So that’s sometime hard.

For the others- Not having a water heater (aka geyser) or a washing machine. Technically we could buy them, but this is a temporary home, and we try to live simply, or make do, so we are not planning to do so.

For our newest member who has never lived away from home, it is just feeling a little homesick, and not yet finding her comfort zone.

What advice would you give a group of women (or men) who were planning to set up their own Christian household? 

Do it! It is totally worth it! If you are planning to be married some day, this is a great preparation for married life. You have to adjust, and face your own selfishness and temptation to blame and be resentful. But if you’re willing to learn these lessons of love, how beautiful the resulting fellowship is! And if you're probably not getting married, it's a great opportunity to build a happy home.

My household sisters’ advice –

Learn how to do conflict resolution before you move into a household. Most Indians don’t talk directly about issues, but we have to learn how to do it. We need to unlearn unhealthy habits of communication like being passive-aggressive, or using anger or accusation as a weapon, or avoiding issues.

Be clear about expectations and jointly decide beforehand what your schedule and goals are. When people do make mistakes, do not accuse or make them feel guilty, but gently remind one another about the decisions made.

Get to know each other’s likes and dislikes, needs and schedules, so that no one treads on each other’s toes, and each person has the space that they need.

And bonus question that someone actually asked us – what is one old person thing that you all do? 

Well, we’re all deaf. We constantly have conversations that go –


“What? Are you talking to yourself or to me?”

“What did you say? What did she say?”

 “She said she doesn’t like mumblemumblemumble.”

“She doesn’t like WHAT?”


“Oh, never mind.”

Well, either we’re all deaf, or we all mumble. Quite possibly both.

Us soon.

The other old person thing that we do is Zumba. Or rather Refitrev. You might say that’s a young people thing. But that’s the point, we look at those videos and try to follow along and start feeling our age.

“Why are they all so skinny and chirpy?” (about the dance instructors)

“No, we don’t want to be your friend. We have enough friends.” (When the dance instructors try to have intimate chats with us at the beginning of the videos.)

Sorry, white women, you don't have a monopoly on this.

“How do they even do that step? I’m too old for this.”

“They’re moving too fast! And there are too many steps. How do they expect us to remember all these steps?”

“Never mind, just keep moving your body awkwardly, the point is to be healthy not be expert dancers.”

“I can do THAT! Thank God the windows are closed anyway.”

“How long has it been? I’m exhausted. Twenty minutes? Yup, I’m done.”

 And that, my friends, is a Christian Women's Household.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Great Indian Road Race

Like most young (I use the term loosely) middle class adults in big Indian cities, I spend a lot of time zooming around the streets on my two-wheeler (aka moped by non-Indians). I have often found myself thinking how well Indian roads would lend themselves to an excellent video game. Now granted I’m not an expert on video games, but I remember riding a motorcycle on Road Rash and kicking my competitors. Just empty roads and speeding along them. How much more exciting and challenging Indian roads are! So for all you game-makers out there, here’s my best shot, and I expect a chunk of the profits.

Level 1: Pedestrian 

This is the underdog of the streets, but we must all start here. As the Pedestrian, you must dodge bikes, cars, buses, and excrement (human and animal) while trying to make it from Point A to Point B. You can choose between the streets or the sidewalk. You’d think the sidewalk would be the better choice, but you would find your way blocked by shop displays, parked cars, sleeping animals and drunk men. If you choose the street, you must face blaring horns, while darting across and swivelling your head back and forth to avoid oncoming traffic who ignore the 3 second pedestrian crossing light. If you miss the light (which you will), you must choose the right emoji to gain the sympathy of passing vehicles long enough for them to slow down and let you pass. You must perform tricky manoeuvres (carefully-used umbrella, to avoid the puddles splashed by rude cars during the monsoons. You get bonus points for not using your Curse Button. If you make it to your destination without dying and with relatively clean clothing, you can pass on to the next level…

Level 2: The Cyclist 

The Cyclist has the advantage of speed (at least over the Pedestrian), but cannot control that speed as well. This can lead to an early demise while trying to cross roads. You as the Cyclist are equally prone to mud splashes, perhaps even more so as your cycle kicks up water. You may be excited by specially designated cycle tracks, but you still have to dodge motorcyclists who THINK it’s a MOTORcycle track, not to mention rickshaws with a slightly unrealistic perspective of their size. You also have to juggle a lunch bag on your handle bars, and occasionally a loved one on the back of your cycle. If you make it to the finish line, you move to…

Level 3: The Biker 

The bikers have the power to zoom, but fear not, it won’t be too boringly easy. Even though you CAN go up to 70 km per hour, you never have the opportunity to because of the crowded streets. Instead of speed, you get to use your dodging, overtaking and slipping through cracks skills. For fun, sweet little puppies will shoot out in the middle of the road, and you must swerve without hitting anyone OR killing the puppy.

Cows chilling out in the middle of the road occasionally transform into frisky running cows being chased by a dog. You must have the balance in case you get caught in the middle of uneven slabs of road concrete, and the good judgment to know where a puddle is not just a puddle but a pothole. Traffic lights must be obeyed, but very cautiously so as not to get rear-ended by a less rule-abiding bus. Bonus points for peer-pressuring other traffic into stopping at lights, slowing down so pedestrians can cross, and not getting splashed by cars. Points will be subtracted if you speed up to prevent Pedestrians from being able to cross the road. Your focus on reaching your destination may be taken away by a Road Accident - all bikers MUST pull over to view the accident, join in the argument or just stare. If you get through this, you will reach…

Level 4: Rickshaw Driver 

You have the super-skill of being able to rotate 180 degrees without needing to back up at all. However you may get delayed by irate passengers who flag you down and then refuse your services just because you ask for an extra fifty rupees for return fare. Also, if you catch sight of an Ola or Uber, all rickshaws MUST stop to get into an argument with their drivers. Even if you skip all these potential hazards, you must screech to a grinding halt if the Rickshaw Union calls a strike. Failure to comply can result in loss of life.

Level 5: Car 

Your aim is to not only make it safely to the destination but also avoid any scratches to your brand-new car named ‘Mother’s Blessing’. You get points subtracted for using your Curse Button on pedestrians or cyclists from the comfort of your air-conditioned bubble. You must try not to hit bikes who have sudden changes of mind about their preferred lanes, while also trying to overtake buses stuck on the wrong side of the road, without anyone else hitting you. You can lose your life by getting in an accident with a Sumo full of men in dark glasses, and foolishly getting out of your car to argue with them.

Level 6: Bus 

This is the highest level and takes the greatest amount of expertise. You will have the bulk but must have the corresponding agility of a very large man tiptoeing through the narrow aisles of an overstocked glassware shop (yes, my own take of a bull in a china store). You have the ability to kill, but not the license to do so. You are also on a tighter time schedule than all the other levels. Although you may think your large and threatening size prevents you from losing your life, this is in fact not true, as you will find when you hit a hapless pedestrian attempting to cross the road, and a violent mob materializes out of nowhere holding iron rods and hockey sticks. Your only option is to take to your heels and finish the rest of the race on foot.

Flash Monsoon Round for All Levels 

The skies open and the rains come down causing all traffic lights to go off, instant traffic jams, immediate increase in the volume and duration of blaring horns, and angry, wet and muddy people, vehicles and dogs to swarm the roads. Each level must improvise to survive. The Curse Button will be disabled for this round for fear of being over-used.

Cheat Code: Call on your guardian angel. Only one provided per player. Guardian angels give advice and can help in sticky situations. However if you ignore the advice of your guardian angel, there are no guarantees for whether or not he will show up again.

Okay, this game is just waiting to be created. While we wait, let’s go for a spin on the streets for a little practise. Hope to see you all again on this side of heaven.

P.S. If not a video game, this could also be offered in real life to tourists as a Death-Defying Adventure Sport on the same level as bungee- jumping and paragliding, but without the safety features and more local colour.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ask Sue - Why 'Till Death Do Us Part'?

So I just started a new feature where blog readers can send in their questions and I do my best to answer them. Questions could be related to faith, relationships, personalities, or anything else I write about here. Just a reminder, I am no expert, so this is just a Woman with an Internet Connection and An Opinion. Feel free to send in your questions as messages as comments. Please ask fun questions too!

Hey Sue, I had a question regarding the wedding vows where people say “until death do us part”. What exactly is the meaning of “death” in case of the union between two people? Is it just physical death? What happens when a couple has kids and one spouse passes away? Isn’t this a case of remarriage too like the ones post divorce? I’ve heard of couples getting an annulment as long as there’s been no sex, else there is almost no or minimal chances of getting an annulment. This is based on what I’ve heard from people, hence, I think that’s how it works, but if there’s something that I’m missing, would be really happy if you can tell me. Also, if what I’ve heard is true, then I somehow don’t feel that remarriage after physical death should be accepted by the church, since it feels contradictory. What are your views on this? :) 

Hi friend,

I can give you the facts of what the Church allows and doesn’t (death does refer to physical death, and Catholics are free to marry if their spouse dies even if they have children, remarriage is not a sin as the exclusive marriage bond does break with death), but it seems as if there are two main questions that you have-

  • Why do we use the term ‘till death do us part’ in a Catholic marriage if it is possible for a marriage to be annulled? 
  • And why should the bond of marriage end with physical death? 

So for the first question- Why do we use the term ‘till death do us part’ in a Catholic marriage if it is possible for a marriage to be annulled?

A lot of people misunderstand what an annulment is. I think most people just think of it as a ‘Catholic divorce’, just a few more hoops to jump through in order to be able to marry in the Church the second time round. But the fact is that the Church believes it CANNOT end a marriage that is valid and sacramental, that the bond that God creates between two people in a valid and sacramental marriage cannot be broken. As this article says, ‘Just as you can’t separate the ingredients of a cake after you’ve baked it, you can’t separate a man and a woman after they’ve been validly and sacramentally married.’

So what’s an annulment then? An annulment is basically saying that the marriage never was a real marriage, (and er… the cake was never a cake, but just bread) because some condition that made it a marriage was missing. There are far more detailed blogs and articles online you can read about it, but I’ll give you a few examples:
  1. One or both of the couple did not freely choose to enter into the marriage. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. Shotgun marriages are not valid marriages. Child marriages are not valid marriages. 
  2. One or both of the partners did not plan to remain faithful or be open to children (planned to use contraception) at the time of the marriage. 
  3. One of the partners had a pre-existing psychological condition that they hid from the other. 
  4. One of the partners was impotent. 
  5. One of the partners hid some important information that could have affected the decision. 

You may notice that all these are pre-existing conditions that nullified the validity of the vows. If both made the vows in sincerity, and one later changed their mind, that doesn’t mean the marriage can be annulled.

What about the sex question? Well, that has little to do with a marriage being annulled. But it is possible for a marriage that was valid and sacramental, but that has not yet been consummated to be dissolved.

Once a couple has been validly married AND consummated their marriage, there is no power in heaven or earth that can break that marriage. Except death, but we’ll talk about that later. So in what seems to be pretty uncommon cases, one or both partners CAN ask for the marriage to be dissolved if they have not had sex.

On to question two: why should the bond of marriage end with physical death? 

Marriage is a pretty big deal if we’re looking at it through Catholic eyes. It’s not just a piece of paper, not just a business agreement, not just a social institution. It’s a big enough deal to make a man and a woman choose to make a permanent choice that will affect everything about the rest of their lives.

So if we can so far as to say for the rest of our lives, or until death do us part, why not say forever, or into eternity?

I’m going to say something that might sound very unromantic – Catholics don’t really believe in soul-mates. At least not in the way that Nicholas Sparks and the hopeless romantics of the world do – that one soul you were fated for all eternity to be united with, the other half of our souls, etc. That sounds great, but it doesn’t hold up to logic or reason which is what our faith is based on. God has a plan, but He works with our choices.

So how can we be romantic enough to say ‘till death do us part’, but not romantic enough to say ‘until eternity’?

It comes down to the true meaning and purpose of marriage. Lifelong companionship is beautiful in itself, but it has been lifted to something even deeper, truer and more beautiful. It is a SIGN, a SYMBOL and a PREPARATION for the Divine Romance, the union of Jesus with the Church, and each soul within it. Whaaaa… Yes, I said it and it’s true. Our faith is ALL about romance. Jesus, the bridegroom, and we (yes, even the guys) are all brides! Okay, not exactly… but the terms and the concepts and even the realities of bridegrooms and brides was created by God to give us a glimpse, a foretaste of the reality of union with Him, which is what our entire earthly life is a preparation for.

You shall no more be termed ‘Forsaken’, and your land shall no more be termed ‘Desolate’; but you shall be called ‘My delight is in her’, and your land ‘Married’; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married…and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:4-5

It’s hard to grasp, right? Especially since most of what we have learned about our faith from our childhood has not introduced us to this radical concept. But think about this – the hunger you have felt deep in your bones, even sexual desire, the ache for something more… all that was supposed to point us to a fulfilment that not even the most dreamy spouse could provide.

All that to say… the REAL Wedding Day is the day we are united with Jesus in heaven. If at all we believe in soulmates, then Jesus is that soulmate, the One who completes us, the One our soul has been waiting for, the One who has waited for us for all of eternity. All love stories are a reflection of and a prefigurement of the Divine Love Story that surpasses all earthly love stories.

Does that mean our earthly spouse means nothing to us in heaven? Not at all! If God created such a holy bond and relationship on earth, why would he just throw it away? Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa says Marriage does not come to a complete end at death but is transfigured, spiritualized, freed from the limits that mark life on earth, as also the ties between parents and children or between friends will not be forgotten. In a preface for the dead the liturgy proclaims: "Life is transformed, not taken away." Even marriage, which is part of life, will be transfigured, not nullified.

But in heaven our love is transformed from earthly limitations. It is not possessive any more. So if someone remarries, it could be a genuine gift from the Lord for the remainder of the earthly life, and not a detraction from the goodness of the bond of the first marriage. I hope this makes sense!

Here's a few quick facts, clarifications and thoughts that came up in my (somewhat) extensive research that might be helpful:

  • Children of annulled marriages are not considered illegitimate. 
  • Annulments are not supposed to extremely difficult to get if there are valid reasons, and the Pope has been trying to streamline the annulment process. 
  • Annulments do not need the consent of both spouses. But there do need to be witnesses, people who have been familiar with the couple and their marriage. 
  • Civil divorce is not a sin, it may be necessary in order to get child support etc in the case of annulled marriages or separations. 
  • Although sacramental and valid marriages cannot be broken, sometimes a couple is advised to separate, especially in cases of abuse of any kind. But they are not free to remarry. 
  • It is never a good idea to judge or speculate on other people's broken or annulled marriages, or think it is a reflection of their character or faith, because we have no idea the kind of hell they may have been through. 
  • All marriages are presumed valid until a decree of nullity is sought and approved. So don't assume anyone has an invalid marriage. 
  • If you have any questions out of more than idle curiosity, every diocese has assigned priests and I think canon lawyers who can guide you through the specifics. 

I just spent the last three days reading and researching annulments, throwing around questions and thoughts like ‘What’s the difference between ratified, valid, sacramental, and consummated, and how are they connected to indissolubility... wait, is that a word? How was Mary and Joseph’s marriage a real marriage if they never consummated it? What if two old people who CAN’T have sex want to get married? Can they be roommates without giving scandal?” Such is life and conversation in my women’s household. :-D But that’s my next post.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Why and How to Crush-Proof Your Heart

Ha ha you fell for my clickbait title! Of course you can’t crush-proof your heart. What a ridiculous claim! You may as well say, how to not be human.

BUT from my long and illustrious past as a regular crush-haver I will say that I have definitely seen that I played a major part in my own self-destructive spirals.

Hold on, I haven’t presented why I think crushes are to be avoided at all. Aren’t they just a fun and exciting part of life? You would think so, except when you are smack-dab in the middle of a yet another hopeless and painful crush.

Okay, here’s the bullet point list.
  • Crushes are not based on reality. So the more often you are consumed by a crush, the less you are able to live in the real world. '
  • Crushes can tempt us to treat people as objects. Crushes are ALL about ‘the way you make me feel’, not about the actual person.
  • Crushes can be dangerous, because they lead us further and further down a path of attention-seeking and thrill-seeking. 
  • The bigger we allow a crush to become, the less we are able to love and focus on real relationships and human beings in our lives. 
  • Crushes way too easily turn obsessive. You know it’s true, all you Facebook stalkers out there!
  • Crushes can be freakin’ painful. Maybe not heartbreak painful (he loved me and left me types), but most definitely heartache painful. And not a suffering that comes with truly loving someone, but self-inflicted wounds that play on our insecurities, fears and unfulfilled desires. 

Convinced yet? Even if you are, you are probably very skeptical of your power to prevent any of that pain. Crushes just happen, right? Well, partly. Attraction just happens. Not all attraction has to turn into a full-blown crush. So here are my best tips to strengthen your emotional boundaries, and replacing infatuation with a more authentic brand of love.

1. Accept that this is a long process of retraining your emotions. There is no shortcut method.

2. Quickest, most brutal but most effective method - stop feeding on emotional candy. Romance novels, chick flicks, listening to ‘Perfect’ on repeat, cutesy #relationship goals memes, romantic fanfic, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran music videos. If you aren’t willing to significantly cut down on that, you are most likely doomed to live this way forever. I’m not saying NEVER watch a romcom, just know yourself, and pace yourself. If you need to do a movie fast for a while, do it! Replace these things with good books, classical music, world issues, biographies, sci-fi… the world is full of interesting things!

3. Start looking at the opposite sex with new eyes. You are only going to land up with ONE person (hopefully). That means everyone else should be a brother or a sister. Girls, can you decide to look at every new guy you meet as a brother and a friend, not a potential spouse or boyfriend for you or your best friend?

4. Look at people as they really are, and get to know them, warts and all. Spend real time with them. Ask them questions. Usually people are annoying enough and REAL enough that once you get to know them, the rosy crush glow starts fading away. Then either you have a REAL friendship based on accepting and liking the person for who they are, or you er.. don’t. I read somewhere ‘The more you talk to a person the more you either love them or hate them’. That’s how I got over most of my crushes. :-D

5. Absolutely NO Facebook stalking! Or any other type of stalking. Don’t go down that road.

6. No keeping of souvenirs, photos, clothes belonging to the crush. Don’t feed it! Self-control! You’re better than this! Do you really want to become the crazy girl from The Crush? (Watched it when I was 12, scarred me for life.)

7. Keep your mind and your heart busy. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop – it’s not just a saying our parents came up with to make us work harder. Find ways to fill your days and time with projects that excite you and stimulate your mind. Organize an after school activity for underprivileged kids! Write a book! Paint a picture! Start an NGO! Look for a different job if all it does is bore you and keep you dreaming about a person you don’t have.

8. Invest in the relationships you already have. Love is NOT just a feeling, and it is definitely not anywhere close to an infatuation. So train yourself in real love by learning the love languages of the people around you, and using them!

9. Don’t obsess! I don’t know if guys do this, but we girls love to sit and talk and talk about our crushes, reliving and analyzing every word or action, feeling the feelings all over again. You may feel attracted to someone, you don’t have to immediately talk it out. Most times what may have passed easily gets blown up into this BIG THING.

10. Attraction is not always romantic. The next time you feel drawn or attracted to someone, look at them, and say “I am attracted to the goodness, beauty, kindness of this person because it reflects the goodness, beauty, kindness of God.” You can feel drawn to someone without needing to own them, or needing them to prove that you too are attractive. It’s kind of like what we joking call man-crushes or girl-crushes… but let’s expand it to all people of both sexes. That way, when you ARE in a relationship, you are still able to relate to people who are not your spouse. Did you know married people still have crushes? No big deal… as long as they don’t act on them. But even better if we can all train ourselves to look at people differently, not as objects of our emotional or sexual fantasies, but as PERSONS with innate value and dignity quite apart from the way they make us feel about ourselves.

11. Invest in healthy friendships with people who love and value you so that you are not constantly looking for someone to validate you or give you attention.

12. Change the channel when you start day-dreaming. You can’t prevent a sudden thought from barging into your mind, but you can sure as heck show it to the door. Why yes, fantasizing about kissing someone is a way of objectifying a human being.

I wasted a LOT of my younger years obsessing on one crush after another. Of course it was occasionally exciting when someone I liked seemed to like me back, or even paid me the smallest amount of attention. But the result of a crush-heavy life was that I was sad a lot of the time, because those crushes were visual representations of unfulfilled desires. I would go on family holidays, ignoring my family, and walk around depressed because I just wished I had a boyfriend. What an idiot!

Thankfully in my early 20s God gave me a loving but firm wake-up call, and I stopped being bored and boring and started LIVING my life. I have still had crushes after that, but they have been far less frequent, and not as powerful or painful (with a few lapses for shorter periods of time). I still feel the feelings, but my emotions don’t control me. I am far happier with who I am (SINGLE AND 32 WHAT WHAT!) and am able to have healthy and good relationships with most people I meet.


Kidding. Just kidding.

Recommended reading:

Fill These Hearts by Christopher West
How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love 
Guys, Stop Texting Girls! And Other Super Helpful Advice for the 'Good' Guys

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Different Levels of Conversion Needed in the Church

Sherry Weddell in a book called Forming Intentional Disciples wrote about how many Catholics who were involved in church activities and service didn’t seem to be intentional disciples. I think it’s obvious to most Catholics that just being baptized on its own doesn’t seem to form a recognizably Christ-like human being. Cooperation with grace is needed. But then again most Catholics don’t seem to have a good idea of what it DOES mean to live as an authentic follower of Christ aka a disciple. We are all called to ongoing conversion, and these are some of the levels people often need to get past.

The Malicious Schemers, Manipulators and Abusers 

Okay to be completely honest, as far as I know I have never met anyone like this. I believe they exist, the people who KNOW they are wrong, but put on a front to deceive others, while continuing to choose evil. The truly twisted and depraved, most likely with troubled childhoods. I’m thinking of Fr. Maciel and other abusers within the church, those with their own agenda, and unscrupulous methods to cover up their evil acts. Brr. One day they will have to answer to God for their actions. But most people don’t fall into that category. We have far more of

The Politicians and Diplomats 

While I realize there is a need for diplomacy and tact, I think many in the church have forgotten that they are called to be prophets first and diplomats second. Such Christians seem to live to maintain balance, worldly accolades and the good reputation of the Church, while forgetting that the goal is heaven. Sometimes smooth-talking and double-faced, they also often scheme and manipulate, but they believe they are doing the right thing, and that the ends justify the means. They usually don’t have much room or interest in the work of the Holy Spirit, because He might just upset the apple-cart.

The Bitter Cynics 

To be honest, most of these guys don’t stay in the Church very long. They have seen enough of the first two types to be very mistrustful of anyone who represents the church, and by association the Church and of course Jesus Himself. They assume the worst about every religious person, read up on every anti-church conspiracy, and assume everyone in the church is either a villain or an idiot. While themselves hurt, these guys have built a fortress of pride around their hearts and minds and have stopped seeking truth and seeing goodness.

The Puffed-Up Clericalists 

At the forefront of every religious function, they love the authority and the power that comes with some of the structures of the Church. They are quite happy to hold up the hoops that people have to jump through. They are often sharp or abrupt, the power they wield corrupting their own perspective of themselves. They seek visible roles and recognition, and forget that all those who lead or work in any capacity in the church are called to be servants of all.

The Superstitious Idolaters 

Since ignorance is usually at the root of the casual idolatry we see among certain baptized Catholics, it may not be the most evil of sins. It is however deeply sad- these guys often live under fear, trying not only to appease a distant and unapproachable god with rituals and traditions, but keep at bay all the other evil forces by following every other religious tradition they come across. They often have giant statues of Mary, and not even a picture of Jesus. They do novenas, but won't go to Mass. They are not aware of a personal God and a faith and tradition based on reason.

The Well-Meaning Unevangelized Uncatechized 

Now these guys just want everyone to get along, and think that in order for that to happen they need to accept all the ‘nice’ truths, and none of the inconvenient ones. They will have a hard time admitting that maybe Jesus meant what He said when he said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But they are kind to people, get along well with people of other faiths, and in general try to be a good person. They are not malicious, but have just never been introduced to a very personal God of Love, and the freedom-giving truths He gave us through the Church. They are susceptible to any and all lies masked as ‘inspirational’ or ‘spiritual’ gyaan (knowledge). On the other side of the spectrum are

The Catechized Unevangelized 

These guys are often armchair apologists, who know the Catechism and documents of the Church inside out. Unfortunately they are also the people often straining a gnat and swallowing a camel. They are legalists, and think that if everyone just read the CCC and follow the liturgical norms, and perhaps went back to the Latin Mass, the world would be changed. They know the truth, but often it seems that they do not know the Truth-giver. They feel very uncomfortable with any terminology that sounds 'Protestant' to them, like a familiar way of talking to or about Jesus. But they consider their bitterest enemies usually

The Unevangelized SJWs 

Unlike many, I don’t think the term social justice warrior is derogatory, but if you subtract a saving knowledge of Jesus from their hearts and minds, then these guys turn into activists who consider the Church an archaic institution that needs to get with the times. Church teaching may not hold much weight with them, as they prefer to acquire teachers and theologians who tickle their ears with more ‘accepting’ teachings. Once again, pride holds sway, as a healthy desire for justice turns a disciple into his own god. Humility seeks to understand why Jesus said what He did, and why His Church has held the same position for centuries.

The Uncatechized Evangelized 

Such people have often attended a retreat (or many retreats), and have fallen in love with Jesus, experienced freedom from sin and darkness in their lives, and believe that only in Christ can they live a life of freedom and love. But many of them have never set down roots in the unchanging truths of Christ given to the Church, and so they have a hard time with sustaining a life of discipleship. When glib teachers use the bible to prove a point, they are often swept away from the Eucharist, the life-giving source of grace. Or they fall for the prosperity gospel, and crumble when God allows suffering.

The Catechized Evangelized Black-and-Whiters 

Now these guys have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They know the teaching of the Church well, and love it as the truth. But they often have a hard time accepting that God can work outside the lines He created. They can sometimes tend towards generalizations, and being judgmental or suspicious, and perhaps being ‘more Catholic than the Pope’. They may find it difficult to accept human weakness, the slow work of the Holy Spirit, the many, many areas that the Church leaves to our prudential judgment, and the many, many different ways that God calls and uses people.

The Catechized Evangelized Undiscipled 

These are the guys who have a genuine love for Christ, a pretty solid understanding of the teachings of the Church, but when it comes to living it out in their daily life, the rubber has a hard time hitting the road. Whether it’s their love life, their use of finances or spare time, or their relationships, they have just not gone all the way in living out the marriage with Christ, not just the romance. They are in need of the next step of conversion, walking with other people who are willing to guide and disciple them.

The Catechized Evangelized Comfort-zoners 

Similar to the last category, these guys have taken the big step into the household of faith, but then they got really cozy in one corner of it, and fell asleep. They forgot they are supposed to be in an army, not a luxury cruise (sorry, too many metaphors in one paragraph). These guys need to be converted to their mission- of loving till it hurts, befriending and lifting up the poor, and bringing to others the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

So what is the final stage, the stage hopefully we are moving towards? Who are the missionary disciples? Who are the saints in the church today? 

I have met a few of these guys. They are not perfect, but they are in love. They know and walk with Jesus, and you know they do because they are open to people. They are not suspicious or fearful, but open to the working of the Holy Spirit in people and events. They are convicted, but they are humble. They have their weaknesses, but they are willing to listen to feedback, and reorient themselves. They hold fast to the truth, but are willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. They are kind. They are willing to take unpopular stands, but not just on the internet – they personally walk the talk. They are committed to Christ even when it costs them. They pledge and live unreserved obedience and faithfulness to the daily will of God.

I’m not really at the final stage. Well, sometimes I am, and then I take a detour back to one of the other stages. But that’s why we are called to ongoing daily conversion. Let us begin again, and pray for renewal in our Church and in ourselves.

Related Reading

Joy of the Gospel

The Two Big Missing Pieces of Our Catholic Faith

Rad-Trads, Liberals, and Finding Balance in the Catholic Church

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

If My Friends and I Were Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation…

In those days Sue set out after procrastinating for a few weeks, obsessively checking ‘what to expect in your first trimester of pregnancy’, and (over) packing her bags accordingly. She got to the house of Zechariah, and before she could even greet Elizabeth, she flopped into a chair, and exclaimed, 

“Oh my gosh, girl, have you any idea how bad the roads to Judea are? My legs are killing me!” 

“I know exactly what you mean! Man, pregnancy at my age!” 

“Which is SO cool by the way!” 

“I KNOW, right?! God is good! Who could have imagined! You should hear all the other old cats talking about it, I’m the talk of the town.” 

“Oh yeah, people love to gossip. At least you’re MARRIED! I thank God for Joseph – he has been a GEM, so discreet. But let’s get down to business. I need some tips for the morning sickness! And is it normal to have cramps? What has it been like for you?” 

“Well- OH!” “What? What happened?” 

“Oh my gosh, put your hand here! Can you feel that? Baby just jumped for joy! I think he KNOWS!” 

“WOW! So exciting. And yet.. so scary! What lies ahead? Where am I going to give birth? I hope my mum will be there. Can this baby really be… the son of God? I mean, I know it’s true, but it feels so unreal! How am I supposed to figure this all out? It’s not like angels come visit me every day, telling me what the next step is! And Joseph has been so great, but I’m sure he has the same questions too. I’m sure he thinks I’ve got it all figured out… but I really don’t! Why wouldn’t Gabriel give me a slightly more detailed plan? Maybe even a five year plan. How am I supposed to mother GOD? Does that even make sense? Do you think God accidentally picked the wrong person? Maybe Gabriel was supposed to appear to my neighbour, Miriam- there's a nice, composed, holy girl for you. Gaaah! These hormones are making me crazy! Or maybe that's just me. I love my sweet tiny baby already, but how can it be, that I can be so protective of my Protector? How come I’m in charge of this tiny human?” 

“You know, Sue, technically, God is still in charge.” 

“I KNOW. But STILL. He seems to expect a lot of me. He definitely seems to trust me more than I trust me.” 

“I often feel the same way. You know, Zechariah STILL can’t speak? I know something crazy happened that day in the temple, and he has been so tender and reverent since that day. But he can’t speak! Why would God have cursed him and blessed me? How does that even make sense? What if he never speaks again? What if our child never hears his father’s voice?” 

“Life is pretty confusing sometimes. I suppose God will work it all out. Anyway… is it okay if I take a nap now?” 

Yeah, so I noticed when I was reading Luke's account of the Visitation just how different my approach to life is from Mary’s. Basically, no matter how great the blessings, I will still land up talking about all the challenges, the potential struggles, the doubts and questions, the anxiety I feel, and the many, many things that could go wrong. Of course, it is good to be honest.

BUT like Mary and Elizabeth, I think I would like to spend a little more time and focus on just reveling in the Lord’s goodness, remembering the good things He has already done, and entrusting the unknown future to Him. It's a little less melodramatic and leaves less room for self-pity. It may be less funny than humorous re-tellings of my mishaps and trials. It may take a conscious act of the will to change the obsessive, overthinking habits of years. But sometimes I just need to stay in the moment and sing my own Magnificat.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The INTJ’s Guide to Not Being a Party Pooper

1. When people get really excited about completely impractical and unrealistic ideas 

a. Do NOT say, “That is a completely impractical and unrealistic idea.”
b. DO summon up a little excitement and interest and find something at least not negative to say.
c. Although it may be too much to expect you to say, “What a great idea!” sincerely, at least do NOT say “What a great idea!” in a sarcastic tone.
d. Instead try, “That’s very interesting! What made you think of it?”
e. Or “Yeah, that could work! Maybe if you just (add something to make it slightly more practical).” f. At worst, just think of follow-up questions so you don’t have to provide an actual opinion.

2. When people throw you a surprise party 
a. Rearrange your facial expression from horrified to mildly excited.
b. Do NOT say “I totally knew about it. There were clues EVERYWHERE! I’m too smart to be lied to.”
c. Instead say, “Wow! You guys!”and imply the line “I had NO idea!” without actually saying it, to save your integrity.
d. Don’t hide in the bathroom for more than ten minutes.

3. When people stay too late at a party you are hosting 

a. Do not disappear and hope everyone will just leave.
b. Do not get grumpier and grumpier and quieter and quieter.
c. Instead, at 9 pm, stand at the door and cheerfully say, “Well, THANK YOU guys for coming!” (It'll take them a few years to catch on to this trick.)
d. If they don’t get the hint, ask people how they’re planning on getting home, and arrange rides for them. e. If they absolutely refuse to leave, you have permission to disappear until they do.

4. When someone comes up with a spontaneous plan 

a. Do not list all obvious flaws in the plan (it’s too hot, there’s no way you’ll get back in time, you haven't factored in naps, etc)
b. Do not convince everyone else they shouldn’t go.
c. Instead smile and say, “You guys have fun! Thanks for inviting me though!”
d. If they get annoyed, just be self-deprecating- “Aw, you know me – boring and old!”
e. Do NOT be annoyed with them when they actually go and all the predicted problems occur. Swallow that 'I told you so.'
f. Remind them to invite you four days in advance next time they have a ‘spontaneous’plan, and allow you to help with the planning.

5. When at a party 

a. Do NOT verbally critique the social dynamics, the lighting, the food, the music and the clothes to your neighbors.
b. Instead use your mastermind powers for good – organize games, initiate conversations or introduce people to defuse awkward social situations.
c. Once everyone is having fun, go hide somewhere and check Facebook or take a nap without guilt. 

6. When in a conversation 

a. Do NOT use your phone to fact-check more than once.
b. Practise saying, “I guess there’s more than one way to look at it.”
c. Remind yourself that conversation is for getting to know people, not making a point.
d. Remember the last time you had a conversation with another INTJ – how annoying it can be to be with someone who HAS to be right all the time.
e. Listen to understand, not to reply. Do NOT dominate the conversation. Even if you have the perfect factoid, perspective or anecdote, hold it in. (Blog about it later.)

7. When someone comes in for a hug 

a. Do NOT run in the opposite direction.
b. Do NOT awkwardly high five instead.
c. DO allow yourself to be hugged.
d. Soak in the human connection for a few seconds, then smoothly disengage.
e. Pretend it was not awkward that you didn't hug back.

8. To prepare for the day 

a. Go to bed on time the night before. Stop reading comment sections, articles and blogs. Stop feeding your brain and get some sleep.
b. In the morning, repeat the INTJ bible verse: And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge... but do not have love, I am nothing.1 Corinthians 13: 2
c. Repeat “I do NOT have to be God today. God is God, and I am not. I do NOT have to save the world all by myself.”
d. Repeat “There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I know I sometimes cross it. Keep me humble today, God.”
e. Practise getting rid of your generic resting face 'How could anyone be that stupid?' facial expression. Lift those lips, unroll those eyes, and un-scrunch those eyebrows.

9. During the day 

a. Sing at least one song aloud. Bonus points if you join somebody else who is singing aloud.
b. Stop and smell the roses. Or look at the sky. Or go for a walk. Just stop staring at that screen!
c. Every time one critical comment escapes your lips, add two affirming or positive comments about the same person/incident/topic.
d. Walk into a room and say something fun and positive – “What a gorgeous day! How’s everyone doing?” People may be a little shocked at the beginning, but they’ll get used to it.
e. When people ask you how things are going, discard all low-key complaints or hopeless analyses, and think of one exciting or good thing that is happening in your life or the world.

You can do this, INTJs! Go be awesome! And kind! And joyful!