Christmas Blessings

I hope everyone is getting to frolic in the snow this Christmas season as we turn toward the new year.


Merry Christmas

The Christmas season has begun! I pray that everyone is home, surrounded by family and friends as we celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the whole year. It’s a season of love and giving and tradition. During the darkest part of the year, it’s a time of light and music and good cheer. May your Christmas be joyous and blessed! 

Dating to Courtship: Romance with Intention

Photo by Rainstorm Photo

Finding the love of your life is something that nearly everyone on the planet struggles with at some point. After one too many failed romances or long bouts of no romance at all, it feels like there are no good options left. It’s a difficult cross for anyone to bear and not one that is made easier by society. 

For those wishing to escape today’s hookup culture the alternative is almost as bleak though it usually doesn’t seem that way at the time. I never had any interest in dating around. I hated the idea of having many boyfriends throughout my life and wished only to find one who would eventually become my husband. I suspect that many people have a similar outlook. However, we’ve been conditioned to keep our long term romantic goals to ourselves until we feel we’ve achieved a sufficient level of emotional closeness with the other person for fear of scaring them off or perhaps ending up stuck with the wrong person. We don’t want to come across as too hasty or pushy and this is where I feel our culture has failed us. 

We live in a society of “let’s see how it goes.” It’s common and even expected in many cases to date someone for years in order to discover every little thing about them that might be a barrier to eventual marital vows. But at what point do you pull the trigger? When do you wake up and decide that you’ve seen and learned enough? In the game of “let’s see how it goes” it’s more than likely that one person in the relationship is ready to go to the altar and say “I do” while the other is still just having fun and wondering if something better might yet come along. Some will call me old fashioned but, in my opinion, dating is a waste of time. After investing years of your life and some degree of emotional and physical intimacy into a relationship it’s unlikely that you’ll be willing to simply walk away upon discovering that their dreams don’t align with yours. 

If at any point in the relationship you don’t feel that you can have a frank and honest conversation about your marriage goals, you shouldn’t be with that person. But if dating is a waste of time, how then do you attract your future spouse? The answer; through proper courtship. In this arrangement it is mutually understood and agreed upon in the early days of the relationship that marriage is the intent and that certain intimate activities are to be saved for after the wedding. For many people this sounds like a stuffy practice and a giant step backward in human history. 

However, the reality is that it actually opens the door to true romance while alleviating any confusion about where you stand with potential suitors. It forces both parties to be original and genuine in wooing the other. There’s no added awkwardness which comes with trying to decide how soon is too soon to sleep together. You’re not in it simply to wear the other person down enough that they’ll agree to be intimate. In fact, the opposite is true. From the start of the relationship you begin to develop a team mentality as you both work together and help each other to stay chaste, something that becomes increasingly difficult as feelings grow. You have to get creative and be very deliberate about how you show affection for one another. If you both fully dedicate yourselves to this kind of relationship, you’ll arrive at your wedding with a mile long list of things you love to do together outside the bedroom and you’ll be thrilled to death at the prospect of spending the rest of your life with your best friend.  

Of course, there’s no single path to true love. I know many happily married couples who didn’t take this courting approach in their early days. It’s not the only way to cultivate a healthy relationship and it’s certainly no guarantee that your next first date will lead to marital vows. However, it does cut away all that wasted time spent dating people who don’t share your values. In my experience, courtship is the surest way to start a heart-stopping, wholesome, old-timey, life long romance and friendship. 

Advent: Mini Lent

Although the weeks leading up to Christmas are a time of twinkling lights and joyous carols, Advent is first and foremost a season of preparation for the coming of Christ. Our associate pastor beautifully reminded us of this in Sunday’s homily when he spoke of Advent as mini Lent. Aside from beloved family traditions like cookie baking and Christmas tree hunting, there are so many ways to give a little more of ourselves this Advent season that can be as simple as going to confession or attending mass during the week instead of just on Sunday. How are you preparing for the nativity of Christ?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today, December 12th, many Catholics celebrate the second appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego. Her first appearance occurred three days earlier on Tepeyac Hill where she requested a shrine to be built on that spot to share her love and compassion with other believers. Juan Diego went to the bishop with this instruction but the bishop required a sign  before he would approve construction. Thus Mary appeared again to Juan Diego and instructed him to climb to the top of the hill and gather roses which he then brought to the bishop in the dead of winter as proof of Mary’s apparition. The cloak, or tilma, in which he carried the roses was imprinted with her image which is still venerated by Catholics today. 

The Virgin of Guadalupe was later named the Patron Saint of the Americas. She remains an icon of unconditional love and compassion for Catholics around the world who flock to Tepeyac Hill, now Mexico City, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe every year. 

Hunting for the Perfect Tree

Although I am a happy Hoosier and have embraced life in the Midwest, I will always be a mountain girl at heart. Every year growing up, shortly after Thanksgiving, my family would strap on our snowshoes and set off into the Colorado wilderness to find the perfect Christmas tree. There were of course the obligatory snowball fights and sledding runs that came with each of these outings before we were ready to head home with the tree secured in the back of my dad’s pickup.

I may be far from Colorado and those stunning mountains but I’m so blessed to have found a husband who is happy to help me keep beloved family traditions like this alive. We might not need snowshoes or sleds this year but even in the Midwest we can still go hunting for the perfect tree.

Catholic Daily Dress

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

I’ve written on this subject before in the context of the mass but the fact is there is an appropriate dress code for every occasion. Workout clothes are for working out. Pajamas are for sleeping. Jeans and t-shirts are for grubby errands or work around the house. I realize this is a very unpopular opinion in our casual world. I’m not advocating that we walk around in ball gowns and tuxedos all the time but there is a day-to-day standard of dress which we are called to maintain and which is so often disregarded.

How we look says things about who we are. Fashion is not about celebrating ourselves through a grand spectacle but should instead be an outward sign of our inner virtues embraced in Catholic teaching. Cleanliness, modesty, discipline, humility, beauty, poise can all be communicated and practiced through our daily attire. It reminds us to live out our faith in all situations. 

This is an ideal which should be upheld by both men and women. Unless you’re at the beach or on the verge of heat exhaustion there’s absolutely no reason for you to be whipping off your shirt in public, regardless of gender. It doesn’t matter how fabulous your six pack is. In fact, going around town in little more than a sports bra is deeply uncatholic for men or women. It invites scandal by leading others to sin or have sinful thoughts which damages their souls and is in direct conflict with loving thy neighbor.

Likewise, sweatpants or ratty jeans are not appropriate for a day around town. Have you ever noticed how men and women distinguish themselves when getting dressed up for a formal evening event but in the day-to-day routine everyone starts to look the same? This is my second unpopular opinion for the day. Men and women are different. We think differently, we act differently and we ought to dress differently. 

I’m not saying that women can’t throw on a pair of pants in certain situations. I regularly do it myself. But so often ladies underestimate the power of a nice dress and a sensible pair of heels, just as many men are loath to don a button down and a pair of slacks. We were made to complement each other in distinctly feminine and masculine ways. By embracing these traits in ourselves we become better partners to each other. If you are called to marriage and are on the hunt for a virtuous spouse your first step should be to start looking and acting like one. 

I know there are many people who feel that it’s just clothing and it’s what’s on the inside that counts so let me extend this challenge. Do everything in your power to put your best foot forward this week even if it seems like a waste of time. Perhaps nothing will come of it but we are made in the image and likeness of God in body and soul. How might He begin working in our lives if we all started dressing the part?

Dreaming of a White Christmas

It is officially December and time for snowflakes and warm woolen mittens. Over the course of my first 21 years in Colorado, I have completely and hopelessly fallen in love with white Christmases in the mountains. No matter how dry of a winter we had, there always seemed to be a little extra magic on Christmas day that blessed our home with a fluffy white blanket.