Everyone Is Terrible At Dating So I Decided To Write This Blog Post

I was recently talking to a male friend about man’s common failure to ask women out on dates.

“Men need to be intentional,” he said. He pointed out that men today hedge their bets when it comes to dealing with women they’re interested in, engaging them casually but otherwise failing to invest.

“But I sympathize with them,” he added. “Men today don’t know how to act around women.”

I had to laugh to myself. To me—a single, 25-year-old, female Catholic—I’ve always thought my expectations were pretty clear and pretty fair. Ask me out on a date. That’s it. And I suspect that most women in my situation would enthusiastically agree.

But somewhere along the way, this simple action became a complicated formula. We could argue it’s not that easy anymore, and point the finger in one of numerous places. We could blame technology. We could blame casual sex. We could blame an increasingly-feminist society that tells us the “male-asking-a-female-to-dinner” phenomenon is sexist.

I’ll be honest: these excuses are garbage. What it all comes down to is rejection.

Fear of vulnerability (and, ultimately, rejection) keeps both men and women from engaging one another at a level that implies a deeper connection. The possibility of putting oneself out there, only to be faced with the other’s disinterest, is far more daunting than the single state we’re currently in, so we hide behind these excuses. We hide behind the complicatedness of texting, Facebook messaging, and dating apps. We hide behind the potential sexual implications that come with a first date. We hide behind the fear that the other’s political views on sex and gender might lead to an awkward shut-down. Nevertheless, that’s what it is: hiding. And friends, it’s time to come out.

I’ve got some thoughts. Here we go:

Men.

1) Always ask. Always ask. Always ask. Should I say it again? Always, always, ALWAYS ask. If you harbor any semblance of interest in a woman and she’s not spoken for, ask her on a freaking date. Here’s the thing: women know when you’re interested. They can tell when you’re giving them more attention than you’re giving everyone else in the room, or when you’re going out of your way to say hello, and it probably got back to her within minutes that time you asked her friends if she was single. Trust me, she knows. She. Knows. Chalk it up to feminine intuition and thank the good Lord for it next time you’re on your knees. Then get up and go ask her on a stinkin’ date.

But what if she says no? What if she’s not interested? Brace yourselves for thought #2, boys.

2) Rejection is a good thing. *Men reading this everywhere flip the table and swear off women for life* You guys, hear me out. Yeah, rejection sucks. It’s maybe the suckiest experience in the history of sucky experiences. Trust me, I’ve been there, as have many who’ve come before us and many who’ll come after. But that’s sort of the point: everyone experiences rejection in some capacity, be it dating or elsewhere in life. If you haven’t, I’d argue you’re not trying hard enough.

Here’s my math on this: God gave us life. He gave us free will. He gave us the birds and the bees and said “go forth and multiply” and set us loose on the earth. But did you hear that? That call to action? “Go forth.” Go FORTH. Pursue that which the Lord’s placed on your heart and proceed with confidence that He directs your path! Because here’s the important piece: a “no” from a person is a “yes” from the Lord. It’s His yes! It’s His “yes” to something else—a plan undeniably better than the ones we make for ourselves. So in those moments that rejection hurts, dig deep. Take it to church. Hear the Lord’s abounding “yes” in one, very small “no.”

And be not afraid, guys. The Lord knows what He is about. He will not abandon you, He will not forsake you. The beauty of the human person is we’re incredibly resilient. It. Will. Be. Okay.

Ladies.

Rest assured I pull no punches when it comes to you, because you’re of my own makeup, and I see what you’re about. You want a relationship, but you’re naturally defensive—as you should be! You’ve got an incredible treasure to defend, and I sympathize with you.

But ladies, be gentle. Our men are not so tough as their external appearances might suggest, and their hearts are affected by us. Here are my thoughts:

1) SAY YES! What the heck are you saying no to first dates for?! Girlfriend, you are very single. You are very sick of being single. You are very much spending Friday nights cuddling your pet and complaining that men never ask you out. So why—WHY—are you saying “no” when good men work up the nerve to actually do it? Say yes! Open yourself up! Stop being so stubborn!
Here’s the thing: men have quit asking us out because we’ve quit saying yes. SO OFTEN, women make snap judgements of men and turn up their noses, because our standards are remarkably high and, in my opinion, vastly unfair. Give him a chance. And don’t give me this “but what about our friendship” garbage. Girl, what use do you have for another friend? While I’m sure this kind male “friend” of yours enjoys listening to you ramble on about The Bachelor and your theories about Jack’s impending death in This Is Us, he actually doesn’t. He just wants to take you out. So please, for the love of all that is good, let the poor guy date you.

(Speaking of The Bachelor! It’s like Carly and Evan, you guys. Everyone knows Evan was the sweetest guy in Paradise that season, and Carly vehemently refused to give him the time of day. Then they had to do that weird kissing date, and she got past it, and now they’re the most down-to-earth couple in the history of the franchise. Thank you. I rest my case.)

On to my second point.

2) Put yourself out there, girls. I know it’s tough, and it feels unnatural, and you feel exposed. I know it’s not necessarily the way you saw it in your head. But sometimes, boys just need a little push. And your availability could be that nudge to send them straight over the edge.

What do I mean?

Don’t. Do not. Do NOT. Show up to a social event and stand in the corner talking to your seven girlfriends, leaving the circle only to travel to the bathroom in packs of three. Just, please don’t. Who are you kidding? You’re here to meet men. You’re not going to do it while standing over in that corner, lamenting about the fact that no one will approach you. Go talk to other people.

Don’t leave everything up to the guys. They have to lead, but we have to be willing to follow. Open yourselves up! Let yourselves be seen! And as I told the boys: be. not. afraid.

We have to be vulnerable to love, y’all.

C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

It’s hurtful and it sucks, but it’s a byproduct of the human condition. So what can we do? We can do this: accept it as our cross in the single life, and carry it gracefully. Use it as an opportunity to pray for those who’ve rejected us. Offer it up for your future spouse. Life is long, my friends. But a long life spent with a holy, God-fearing person whom you love is well worth the rejections you might endure along the way.

Survey Series: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party

Forgive me for the long (read: very, very long) hiatus I took smack dab in the center of this series. It was very Mary Kate-esque of me to start my first series and then take, like, a two month break after the first post. *sigh* His power is perfected in my weakness, y’all. Mea Culpa!

Anyway, so: in continuing this series, we come to the second most common response I had when I asked young adults in a recent survey what it was they were looking for from their church communities—and so, here we are: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party.

IT’S COMMUNITY. Young adults are looking for community and fellowship from the church. It’s the reason that young adult events offering free beer, wine, and La Croix (as one survey respondent put it) are typically so successful—not because we’re all like, 25, Catholic, & Here For The Free Alcohol, but because the opportunity to gather around food or drink is the opportunity to gather. Period.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently, both within this context and elsewhere, about the call that each human person has to be a self-gift. In Pope Paul VI’s Gaudium Et Spes, we’re reminded that:

“Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.(2)”

JP II echoed this idea, when he said in Redemptor Hominis that:

“…man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Man must create a gift of himself. We cannot so much as begin to understand ourselves if we do not have opportunities to love in our lives. So where can we find these opportunities?
One of these places, I believe, is in community.

I often think back to college and the emphasis placed on community that most of us likely experienced. College freshmen are encouraged to “get involved”—rush a fraternity or sorority, join a club sport, participate in Newman Center events, and for what? For community.

The Catechism is bursting with good material on this topic:

“The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.” (1879)

But here is where we must return to a post I wrote a few weeks months back: the choice of whom we enter into community with is so, so important.

C.S. Lewis delves into this in “The Four Loves” when he discussed the difference between companionship and friendship. You can read more about that here.
Gaudium Et Spes touches this topic within the context of both public and private life:

“Among those social ties which man needs for his development, some, like the family and political community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights. (4)

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.”

Obviously we see the undertones of public life at play here, but the emphasis on the impact that community can have and the notion of communities originated from free decision are just as important.

If the social environments we’re born into can impact us this much, the ones we choose for ourselves are that much more critical.

And young adult Catholics know this. What’s more, we know ourselves and our faith, and we deeply desire a community that not only welcomes this, but embraces and contributes to it. And we deeply desire to give ourselves back to a community that gives us what we’re looking for.

It is, like so many other things, part of the human condition.

And it’s why we seek it in the Church.

25, Catholic, & Here For The Party

Forgive me for the long (read: very, very long) hiatus I took smack dab in the center of this series. It was very Mary Kate-esque of me to start my first series and then take, like, a two month break after the first post. *sigh* His power is perfected in my weakness, y’all. Mea Culpa!

Anyway, so: in continuing this series, we come to the second most common response I had when I asked young adults in a recent survey what it was they were looking for from their church communities—and so, here we are: 25, Catholic, & Here For The Party.

IT’S COMMUNITY. Young adults are looking for community and fellowship from the church. It’s the reason that young adult events offering free beer, wine, and La Croix (as one survey respondent put it) are typically so successful—not because we’re all like, 25, Catholic, & Here For The Free Alcohol, but because the opportunity to gather around food or drink is the opportunity to gather. Period.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently, both within this context and elsewhere, about the call that each human person has to be a self-gift. In Pope Paul VI’s Gaudium Et Spes, we’re reminded that:

“Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.(2)”

JP II echoed this idea, when he said in Redemptor Hominis that:

“…man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Man must create a gift of himself. We cannot so much as begin to understand ourselves if we do not have opportunities to love in our lives. So where can we find these opportunities?
One of these places, I believe, is in community.

I often think back to college and the emphasis placed on community that most of us likely experienced. College freshmen are encouraged to “get involved”—rush a fraternity or sorority, join a club sport, participate in Newman Center events, and for what? For community.

The Catechism is bursting with good material on this topic:

“The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.” (1879)

But here is where we must return to a post I wrote a few weeks months back: the choice of whom we enter into community with is so, so important.

C.S. Lewis delves into this in “The Four Loves” when he discussed the difference between companionship and friendship. You can read more about that here.
Gaudium Et Spes touches this topic within the context of both public and private life:

“Among those social ties which man needs for his development, some, like the family and political community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights. (4)

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.”

Obviously we see the undertones of public life at play here, but the emphasis on the impact that community can have and the notion of communities originated from free decision are just as important.

If the social environments we’re born into can impact us this much, the ones we choose for ourselves are that much more critical.

And young adult Catholics know this. What’s more, we know ourselves and our faith, and we deeply desire a community that not only welcomes this, but embraces and contributes to it. And we deeply desire to give ourselves back to a community that gives us what we’re looking for.

It is, like so many other things, part of the human condition.

And it’s why we seek it in the Church.

25, Catholic & Tryna Get Dates

Well, not just ‘dates’ necessarily—maybe “25, Catholic, & Tryna Get A Good Catholic Spouse” would’ve been a better title here—but like, *clickbait*, ya know? I digress…

From a marketing perspective, it’s definitely stupid that I’m putting this article out as the first of this series. If I had any smarts at all, I’d tease this one in 3 or 4 other articles before posting it, as it’s *undoubtedly* the most appealing topic for single young adults.

(Also BIG shouts to my friends Matt and Allison for letting me borrow their pic for this article. Katherine Salvatori is a Chicago-based photographer and took SUPER beautiful photos of their wedding.)

Just the same, I like to give the people what they want—and it’s very clear based on these surveys (which a group of my young adult Catholic friends completed for me last month, in case you missed that) that young adults want opportunities within the Church to date.

But make no mistake—this isn’t a Tinderesque, Bumble-for-Catholics, “dating for the sake of dating” mentality—rather, it’s an intentional one. It’s a reflection of the desire that devout, vocation-minded young adults have for a holy, Christ-centered marriage—and it’s one the Church should emphatically embrace.

Obviously I can’t speak for men, but I do feel I can speak for women here. Secular dating is really a struggle. It’s really, really, REALLY hard to go into a dating situation knowing there’s a good chance that your opposite will outright reject you when he learns you’re waiting until marriage to have sex, or that you want to use NFP versus artificial birth control, or that you’d like to quit your job to homeschool your dozen kids one day (I’m kidding… jk I’m not). I think many of us have been there, and it’s tough. It presents a major temptation to despair, and ultimately, to settle—because who wouldn’t rather settle than face outright rejection entirely? (That’s a rhetorical question. I’d advise rejection over settling in your marriage any day.)

I know a lot of Catholic women, myself included, who didn’t actually think there was a place in existence that they might find a holy, God-fearing man. Imagine my surprise when I realized the CHURCH was the best place to go looking for those people. And holy mackerel, it’s such a shock when you finally encounter them. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a grown man mention his “chastity” (I was like “wait… your what?”). Yeah, these people exist. Amazing.

Here’s the thing: it’s great to seek dating relationships in places where you’ll encounter people with whom you have things in common. If you really enjoy rock climbing, then sure, join a rock climbing group. But if you do meet, date, and marry someone based on your common interest in rock climbing, it’s possible you’re going to have a bad time. (Of course you could meet someone who likes rock climbing and is also a devout Catholic. I’m just trying to make a point. Goodness gracious, you guys.)

In my opinion, the Catholic Church should be (and in some very lucky communities, already is) in the business of matchmaking. Absolutely, 100 percent, I believe the Church should be actively working to connect good single Catholic women with good single Catholic men. Why? It’s the future of the Church. It’s quite literally a recipe for good Catholic children that will (hopefully, God-willing) grow up to someday be a NEW set of good Catholic men and women. It’s a recipe for an increase in vocations—we need people who will raise their children to discern the priesthood or the consecrated life. And it’s a recipe for MORE holy married couples, because let’s be honest—the world could use an uptick in all of the above!

This is why this matters so much. There’s something really, really right and beautiful about people in their 20s and 30s who’d like to be married, seeking that opportunity within the walls of the Church. How can the Church expect to engage families if it’s not catching the two at the center—the husband and wife—before they’ve made that commitment and built that foundation? Answer: it simply can’t.

Practically speaking, how can the Church go about encouraging these dating relationships and creating an environment that’s conducive to Catholic match-making? Well, there’s a lot of ways. The obvious are young adult social events and straight-forward opportunities like speed dating, etc. But quite honestly, this is part of the reason it’s so important for parishes to engage young adults in general. “So how can parishes do that, Mary Kate?” I’m so glad you asked! I’ll discuss this further in future posts within this series 🙂

As far as I’m concerned, we’ve left things up to chance for far too long (Divine Providence notwithstanding). There’s a market for Church-inspired matchmaking, and we’ve got to make it happen. So for the love of all that is holy, you guys—LET THE PEOPLE DATE.

Survey Series: 25, Catholic & Tryna Get Dates

Well, not just ‘dates’ necessarily—maybe “25, Catholic, & Tryna Get A Good Catholic Spouse” would’ve been a better title here—but like, *clickbait*, ya know? I digress…

From a marketing perspective, it’s definitely stupid that I’m putting this article out as the first of this series. If I had any smarts at all, I’d tease this one in 3 or 4 other articles before posting it, as it’s *undoubtedly* the most appealing topic for single young adults.

(Also BIG shouts to my friends Matt and Allison for letting me borrow their pic for this article. Katherine Salvatori is a Chicago-based photographer and took SUPER beautiful photos of their wedding.)

Just the same, I like to give the people what they want—and it’s very clear based on these surveys (which a group of my young adult Catholic friends completed for me last month, in case you missed that) that young adults want opportunities within the Church to date.

But make no mistake—this isn’t a Tinderesque, Bumble-for-Catholics, “dating for the sake of dating” mentality—rather, it’s an intentional one. It’s a reflection of the desire that devout, vocation-minded young adults have for a holy, Christ-centered marriage—and it’s one the Church should emphatically embrace.

Obviously I can’t speak for men, but I do feel I can speak for women here. Secular dating is really a struggle. It’s really, really, REALLY hard to go into a dating situation knowing there’s a good chance that your opposite will outright reject you when he learns you’re waiting until marriage to have sex, or that you want to use NFP versus artificial birth control, or that you’d like to quit your job to homeschool your dozen kids one day (I’m kidding… jk I’m not). I think many of us have been there, and it’s tough. It presents a major temptation to despair, and ultimately, to settle—because who wouldn’t rather settle than face outright rejection entirely? (That’s a rhetorical question. I’d advise rejection over settling in your marriage any day.)

I know a lot of Catholic women, myself included, who didn’t actually think there was a place in existence that they might find a holy, God-fearing man. Imagine my surprise when I realized the CHURCH was the best place to go looking for those people. And holy mackerel, it’s such a shock when you finally encounter them. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a grown man mention his “chastity” (I was like “wait… your what?”). Yeah, these people exist. Amazing.

Here’s the thing: it’s great to seek dating relationships in places where you’ll encounter people with whom you have things in common. If you really enjoy rock climbing, then sure, join a rock climbing group. But if you do meet, date, and marry someone based on your common interest in rock climbing, it’s possible you’re going to have a bad time. (Of course you could meet someone who likes rock climbing and is also a devout Catholic. I’m just trying to make a point. Goodness gracious, you guys.)

In my opinion, the Catholic Church should be (and in some very lucky communities, already is) in the business of matchmaking. Absolutely, 100 percent, I believe the Church should be actively working to connect good single Catholic women with good single Catholic men. Why? It’s the future of the Church. It’s quite literally a recipe for good Catholic children that will (hopefully, God-willing) grow up to someday be a NEW set of good Catholic men and women. It’s a recipe for an increase in vocations—we need people who will raise their children to discern the priesthood or the consecrated life. And it’s a recipe for MORE holy married couples, because let’s be honest—the world could use an uptick in all of the above!

This is why this matters so much. There’s something really, really right and beautiful about people in their 20s and 30s who’d like to be married, seeking that opportunity within the walls of the Church. How can the Church expect to engage families if it’s not catching the two at the center—the husband and wife—before they’ve made that commitment and built that foundation? Answer: it simply can’t.

Practically speaking, how can the Church go about encouraging these dating relationships and creating an environment that’s conducive to Catholic match-making? Well, there’s a lot of ways. The obvious are young adult social events and straight-forward opportunities like speed dating, etc. But quite honestly, this is part of the reason it’s so important for parishes to engage young adults in general. “So how can parishes do that, Mary Kate?” I’m so glad you asked! I’ll discuss this further in future posts within this series 🙂

As far as I’m concerned, we’ve left things up to chance for far too long (Divine Providence notwithstanding). There’s a market for Church-inspired matchmaking, and we’ve got to make it happen. So for the love of all that is holy, you guys—LET THE PEOPLE DATE.

25, Catholic, & Super Stressed Out

As I write this, I’m sitting in a French bakery in Lakeview East, eating a croissant and drinking a latte and wishing I were in a real Parisian bakery instead of this one in Chicago. I’m not well-dressed for the present low temperatures, a million chores demand my attention at home, and currently, my car is waiting for me in a tow lot on the north side.

For the sake of context, I feel compelled to add this is the second time my car’s been towed this month.

I like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten better at handling and managing stress. I didn’t freak out this morning when I realized my car had been towed (although I wanted to), and I managed to keep my wits about me as I was forced to carry on with my day. Well, I thought to myself, what’s done is done. “No use crying over spilt milk,” as they say.

Nevertheless, this bitter development in my weekend seemed to be the cherry-on-top of a stressful week. This past month shaped up to be one of those moments in life that brings to the forefront many questions—where am I going? How am I getting there? Who am I bringing along for the ride? Toss some parking tickets and a car tow (or two) into the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a full-scale meltdown.

But see, us Catholics—we’re lucky. Moments like these that could so easily knock down persons with lesser faith are actually big opportunities for us. They’re a chance, given by God, to really choose to believe in Him. That moment I pulled up to where I’d left my car and realized it wasn’t there anymore? An opportunity for surrender. I try so hard to remind myself of that.

Mother Teresa had this mastered. She once said:

“Every day we have to say yes. To be where He wants you to be. Total surrender. If He puts you in the street—if everything is taken from you and suddenly you find yourself in the street—to accept to be put in the street at that moment… To accept whatever He gives and to give whatever He takes with a big smile. This is the surrender to God. To accept to be cut to pieces, and yet every piece to belong only to Him. This is the surrender. To accept the people that come, the work that you happen to do. Today maybe you have a good meal and tomorrow maybe you have nothing. There is no water in the pump? Alright. To accept, and to give whatever He takes. He takes your good name, He takes your health, yes. That’s the surrender. And you are free then.”

I was discussing with a close friend earlier this week how very emotional people (specifically, people like the two of us) can go about keeping their cool in relationships. I realized as we were talking that moments I’ve been especially emotional (within the context of romantic or friendship relationships) have often been a result of a loss of control. In the past, I’ve responded to a loss of control by grasping. I’ve reacted emotionally when I’ve lost a grip on the situation and recognized the outcome as being out of my hands. But this is a God-complex, and it’s a sinful attitude to take—especially toward the people we love.

Just as in the case of relationships, we must keep this mentality in the case of life across the board. I’m simply not in control. It’s what Mother Teresa says in the quote above: “today maybe you have a good meal and tomorrow you have nothing.” I live at the whim of the Lord. When we’re able to truly recognize this Truth, receive it in our hearts, and apply it to our lives, it’s liberating—because in knowing we’re not in control, we surrender our lives to God. And if we surrender our lives to God, we’re forced to rely solely on Him. Here is where we find peace—in this place where we know that our Lord keeps His promises.

Consider this comment by St. Teresa of Avila:

“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing scare you. All is fleeting, God alone is unchanging. Patience everything obtains. They want nothing who possess God; He alone is enough.”
I’ve tried very hard to make a practice of giving everything back to God. I’ve tried to practice, in both good and bad, offering every moment in life up to Him as an opportunity to do His will. Missed the bus on your way to work? It’s Yours, Lord. Burnt your dinner? It’s Yours, Lord. Get your car towed twice in one month? Still, yes. It’s Yours, Lord. Do everything in life for Him, and be filled with the peace that comes with surrendering your life.

In the book Love & Salt, one of the writers comments that the unfortunate part of being Christian is that we don’t have the luxury of giving up, because there is always hope in the resurrection. I believe she’s exactly right. Doesn’t it feel some days as though it’d be easier to just give up? To abandon our goals and our convictions for the sake of some instant, momentary satisfaction? Of course. But we can’t. Because through the resurrection, we know there are better days to come.

25 & Catholic In The Age Of Pornography

I posted a video on my Facebook page earlier this week in which I argued that pornography contributes to the sexual violence that’s so rampant in our culture today, and was met with significant resistance from a handful of the men who follow me.

Their reaction reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend just over a year ago. He’d told me, laughing, that Barstool Sports had announced they’d hired a former porn star for a spot on their most popular podcast. When I didn’t laugh in response, he became defensive. “Porn isn’t really something that falls within my sense of humor,” I told him.

“Yeah, you and every other girl on the planet.”

Well, yeah, no kidding. Porn just isn’t something that appeals to the average woman, necessarily. Not to say that there aren’t women who watch porn, and definitely not to say there aren’t women who suffer from porn addictions—nevertheless, it tends to be a man’s interest (as men are visually stimulated and have a higher sex drive). And in today’s world, where it’s so easily accessed and considered such a commonplace consumption, men have very few reasons not to watch it.

I can recall another time that I was out with friends on a Friday night, when we wandered into a local tavern in a quiet neighborhood in Chicago. We approached the bar, looked up at the numerous televisions hung across the wall, and were shocked by what we saw: hardcore porn. It was apparently “chicken & porn” night at our nearby watering hole.

Porn isn’t something people sneak a peek at in the dark quiet of their own homes anymore. It’s out in the open, in the public square, free to be consumed by anyone who stumbles upon it. I can think of many more instances—a party in college where it played in the background, sitting next to a man at Starbucks who was watching it on his phone—in which I was confronted with porn without ever seeking it out. Truly, it’s everywhere; we can’t get away from it.

This is one of those 25 & Catholic posts that, inevitably, I can only write from a woman’s perspective. As a single, 25-year-old Catholic woman, it’s so difficult to date and uphold high standards for men when porn is so common and accepted. The mere mention of porn in a passing conversation strikes fear into the heart of every woman—what if he watches it? What if he watches it a lot? How will he react if I ask that he stop? If given the choice, which would he choose—me or the pornography?

It might sound dramatic, but it’s not. It’s such a real fear for women, which begs the question—why? Why, if society says it’s okay, do so many women feel so deeply that it’s not?
Pope John Paul II, then still Karol Wojtyla, said in his book, Love & Responsibility:

“The human person is ‘a good’ towards which the only proper attitude is love.”

Matt Fradd—Catholic founder of The Port Effect, says of this quote:

“That’s either true or false. I do think that most people think it’s true. When we do think that it’s true, we don’t think we’re committing the error of speciesism, right? An unjustified bias in favor of one’s own species? We just think that it’s a fact. So then the next question we need to ask is, what is love? Well, in his book Love & Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla would argue, as St. Thomas Aquinas once did before him, that to love is to will the good of the other. So, in other words, if I want the other as a good, which is a fine thing, but if I want the other as a good without willing the good of the other, then this isn’t love. And, in the words of Karol Wojtyla we should agree that it ought to be avoided. I think when we look at pornography—I know when we look at pornography—what we find is not this.”

JPII also said that “the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is use.”

And this, I think we can all agree, is what we’re doing when we’re looking at pornography.

But let’s not make the mistake of assuming that it’s only the men and women participating in the production of pornography who are the suffering souls, here. Exposing ourselves to pornography does major damage to our ability to emotionally connect with other people—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Fight The New Drug is an incredible resource for information on the data behind the effects of pornography. The site emphasizes that our brains are “wired for companionship, with neurochemicals released in response to intimacy—even if you’re alone, staring at pornographic images on a screen.”

“In that moment, the brain’s powerful machinery kicks into gear, bonding us in different ways to images on the screen. Studies show that over time, many can develop a compulsion to pornography, causing them to need more of it, more often, and more hardcore versions just to feel normal—just like with mood-altering drugs. The amazing brain, in other words, can be hijacked.”

I remember in one of my communications classes in college, we studied the psychology behind parasocial relationships. The term “parasocial relationship” refers to the one-sided relationships that we often have with celebrities, characters on our favorite TV shows, what have you.

Consider what level of parasocial relations we might experience in watching porn. We’re engaging in an incredibly intimate act—arguably the most intimate act a person can ever experience in his/her lifetime—with people on a screen whom we’ve never met. It’s simply impossible that we won’t be affected, or that our other relationships won’t suffer as a result.

This can be a remarkably painful experience for a woman who’s witnessing her boyfriend or husband’s affinity for pornography. Oftentimes, she can feel like a third-party outsider in her own relationship. Because the Lord made us for monogamy and real, true, reciprocal love, a man who’s in a relationship and also consistently watches porn could find himself feeling torn between the two—even if he doesn’t recognize it.

So now we come to my two cents.

Here’s the thing about millennial Catholics: we are too insightful, too innovative, and too well-informed to deny that pornography is a problem. In fact, it’s a BIG problem. And it’s something the whole of us cannot deny any longer.

We need to be bolder about starting these conversations.

25, Catholic, & Seeking Holy Friendships

‘The Four Loves’ is one of those books that totally changes your life.

It’s the kind of book you can’t hardly put down once you’ve picked it up, and when you finally do, you feel like you’re looking at the world with an entirely new set of eyes.
It discusses the philosophies and greater meanings behind the different types of love we experience throughout our lives, in a way that’s both thoughtful and practical—which I’ve found is remarkably useful material to delve into when you’re in your mid-twenties (and Catholic, obviously).

I look back on my time in college and see that some of the relationships I invested in were notably shallow. One of the greatest wisdoms I’ve taken from ‘The Four Loves’ is the realization that there’s a stark difference between “companions” and “friends”—and most of the people I spent time with in college were, I now see, better-described as drinking companions than true friends. It’s a phenomenon that I think is relatively common amongst college students, especially within sorority and fraternity life. While I always had people to binge drink with on the weekends, there were very few people I could call for coffee and good conversation.

This matters.

C.S. Lewis says that while affection and eros—romantic love—are “too obviously connected with our nerves… tugging at your guts and fluttering in your diaphragm,” friendship love—“that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen”—is “a relation between men at their highest level of individuality.”

Was this confusing? Maybe a little. Consider this:

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumbling or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”

The key here, in “friendship” versus “companionship”, is a shared truth. Whereas lovers face inward, looking to one another, friends stand side-by-side, facing some external truth.

“The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends. Where the truthful answer to the question, “do you see the same truth?” would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend”—no Friendship can arise (though Affection of course may). There would be nothing for the friendship to be about, and friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.”

But why does this matter? What’s wrong with companionship in the absence of friendship?

Nothing, necessarily. But the absence of good character can become a source of temptation and occasion of sin. So we see in Corinthians:

“Do not be deceived; bad company corrupts good morals.”

Or Proverbs 13:20:

“He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

And Proverbs 27:17:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

As human beings, we’re made for relationship. We’re made to love and be loved, be it within the perimeters of a charitable relationship, a marital relationship, a friendship, what have you. The Lord said in the creation story, “it’s not good for man to be alone,” and this is true. As the Lord is a communal being, and we are made in His image, so we are the Body of Christ.
The temptation within relationships can be to forget Christ and indulge in one another, but ultimately this can’t be allowed to manifest. All love and relationships should be for the greater glory of God—and this goes for friendships as well.

25, Catholic, & Finding Peace In Aloneness

Around this time last year, I traveled to Italy alone for one month. And when I look back on that time, there’s a lot that I can say I gained—spiritually, figuratively, what have you—from the experience. One of those items is a immense appreciation for dining alone.

It’s something I’ve come to relish in. Almost every payday, pending other plans, I treat myself to a meal out all by myself.

That’s not to say I don’t love socializing or crave quality time spent with good people. In fact, I’ve found that on a more permanent basis, I don’t do quite as well alone. A talker like me wasn’t made to spend 12+ hours a day by herself. Just the same, I relish in that time spent enjoying a meal alone.

It’s amazing what quiet can do for our thoughts. And not so much a physical quiet—I don’t necessarily seek restaurants that are especially lacking in noise, if you will (do those even exist?). I’m referring more so to a mental quiet. There’s so much to be gained from stepping away from friend chatter, social media chatter, the chatter of the world—and receding back into a quieted mind for reflection and conversation with God.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said once:

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

I think that many people make the mistake of equating aloneness with loneliness, but the two are not the same. One can find quiet solitude with God and not feel loneliness; just the same, one can feel very, very lonely in the midst of constant noise. While loneliness is an undeniable cross (Mother Teresa often called it the worst of all poverties), solitude with the Lord is not just a luxury, but a necessity.

I’m of the belief that spending time in silence with the Lord is critical to our ability to know ourselves. Who am I in the absence of other people? Where do my thoughts wander? What emotions am I feeling?

I often think of a scene in Bride Wars that expresses this thought. Yes, you’re thinking of the right Bride Wars—the one with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway. At the beginning of the movie, Hathaway’s character comments that a person’s ability to be alone with his own thoughts is a reflection of whether there’s peace in his life. And toward the climax of the movie, as Hathaway’s character experiences an increasing discomfort in her engagement, she notably starts wearing earbuds on her runs—an indication that she’s uncomfortable in the silence of her own thoughts. This is a very honest premise.

Busyness serves as a distraction in our lives. There’s something to be said for a person’s ability to just sit and “be”—be alone with himself, alone with God, alone with the thoughts and prayers “in the quiet of his heart.”

This is especially important as single people in our twenties who’re preparing for a vocation. It’s especially challenging as well, however, because loneliness does sometimes creep into our aloneness as a single person. Bobby Angel addressed this well:

“A dear seminarian friend told me that “loneliness is just God asking you to spend time with Him.” Pope Benedict (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote that “the Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” St. Teresa of Avila also wrote that God hears us “not with noise of words… but with longing.” If you’re waiting on the Lord for your vocation to be unveiled, waiting for an answer, waiting for Godot, or waiting for your rocket to come, have patience. Enter into that solitude, that stillness, that stretch. Allow God to transform your ache. Don’t run from it—own it. Become a longing.”

If aloneness draws you into loneliness, enter into it. Accept it. Embrace it. Take up your cross, and know that God is faithful, and He is walking alongside you. And in the meantime, dive deep into the silence of your heart. Confront the deepest musings of your soul with courage.

And spend some time in the quiet.

25 & Catholic: Finding Peace In Aloneness

Around this time last year, I traveled to Italy alone for one month. And when I look back on that time, there’s a lot that I can say I gained—spiritually, figuratively, what have you—from the experience. One of those items is a immense appreciation for dining alone.

It’s something I’ve come to relish in. Almost every payday, pending other plans, I treat myself to a meal out all by myself.

That’s not to say I don’t love socializing or crave quality time spent with good people. In fact, I’ve found that on a more permanent basis, I don’t do quite as well alone. A talker like me wasn’t made to spend 12+ hours a day by herself. Just the same, I relish in that time spent enjoying a meal alone.

It’s amazing what quiet can do for our thoughts. And not so much a physical quiet—I don’t necessarily seek restaurants that are especially lacking in noise, if you will (do those even exist?). I’m referring more so to a mental quiet. There’s so much to be gained from stepping away from friend chatter, social media chatter, the chatter of the world—and receding back into a quieted mind for reflection and conversation with God.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said once:

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

I think that many people make the mistake of equating aloneness with loneliness, but the two are not the same. One can find quiet solitude with God and not feel loneliness; just the same, one can feel very, very lonely in the midst of constant noise. While loneliness is an undeniable cross (Mother Teresa often called it the worst of all poverties), solitude with the Lord is not just a luxury, but a necessity.

I’m of the belief that spending time in silence with the Lord is critical to our ability to know ourselves. Who am I in the absence of other people? Where do my thoughts wander? What emotions am I feeling?

I often think of a scene in Bride Wars that expresses this thought. Yes, you’re thinking of the right Bride Wars—the one with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway. At the beginning of the movie, Hathaway’s character comments that a person’s ability to be alone with his own thoughts is a reflection of whether there’s peace in his life. And toward the climax of the movie, as Hathaway’s character experiences an increasing discomfort in her engagement, she notably starts wearing earbuds on her runs—an indication that she’s uncomfortable in the silence of her own thoughts. This is a very honest premise.

Busyness serves as a distraction in our lives. There’s something to be said for a person’s ability to just sit and “be”—be alone with himself, alone with God, alone with the thoughts and prayers “in the quiet of his heart.”

This is especially important as single people in our twenties who’re preparing for a vocation. It’s especially challenging as well, however, because loneliness does sometimes creep into our aloneness as a single person. Bobby Angel addressed this well:

“A dear seminarian friend told me that “loneliness is just God asking you to spend time with Him.” Pope Benedict (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote that “the Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” St. Teresa of Avila also wrote that God hears us “not with noise of words… but with longing.” If you’re waiting on the Lord for your vocation to be unveiled, waiting for an answer, waiting for Godot, or waiting for your rocket to come, have patience. Enter into that solitude, that stillness, that stretch. Allow God to transform your ache. Don’t run from it—own it. Become a longing.”

If aloneness draws you into loneliness, enter into it. Accept it. Embrace it. Take up your cross, and know that God is faithful, and He is walking alongside you. And in the meantime, dive deep into the silence of your heart. Confront the deepest musings of your soul with courage.

And spend some time in the quiet.