Tuesday, December 1, 2015

     Despite the common misnomer, college is probably not the best four (or perhaps five, six, or even eleven) years of your life.  If your ability to learn, develop, think and process declines automatically after an emblazoned diploma is hung in a glass case, then the reason for college has not been fully identified nor tapped into.  Often, parents pack away possessions of their child and remnants of a childhood into Rubbermaid totes and unpack them into an entirely different world.  Eighteen year olds are transplanted into an environment that is seemingly centered on success and class schedules. 

     The new environment of college is one of many springboards to dive deeper into the process of critical thinking, human communication and a process of questioning and determining the truths of life.  However, the college experience is not significant because of classrooms, lectures, paper assignments or group projects.  The experience of college is momentous because it is an environment in which the human experience thrives through a process of questioning, failing and succeeding. 

    The human condition is experienced in the context of emotions, communication and shared experiences.  Human beings are collectively part of a beautifully unique species of creatures.  The separation factor between human beings and any other living being that roams the earth is that humans desire to know the answer to one question: “Why?”  A broad range of contexts for that question exist, but the environment that a higher education presents is one that fosters the questioning and answering process.  The college experience offers its participants an invitation to dig deeper into the meaning of particles, phonemes, the interaction of the neurons of the mind and perhaps the meaning of one’s own place on the earth. 

College offers a chance to question normalcy and look for new ways to accomplish tasks.  Yet, too often, this proposal is squandered and squelched by an emphasis on perfectionism.  The perfect GPAs are awarded scholarships, the top athletes are lauded as heroes of the colleges and universities that they attend.  All the while, the most important lesson that college offers in the human journey is overlooked and often hidden under the rug of worldly success.  The superlative lesson college offers is the mistakes.  The experience of staying up too late after a night out because a paper is due that reminds college students of their time management faults.  The fingernails bitten down to the quick that serve as a road map to the times when the gravity of decisions hit a student like a hammer to his or her chest.  The pile of coffee cups, stained with lipstick, that litter the hallway trashcan because, once again, there were not enough hours in the day.  

     Or perhaps the ever-truthful computer history, besieged with trains of lost thought and distraction that stole away the attention of a student.  These are the lessons that college leaves in its trail, the should-haves and could-haves that keep college students up at night and awake during classes.  The extra push that those mistakes fuel, lighting the fire of perseverance past limits and previous expectations of success from others and oneself.

          The university experience is a chance for some to boldly go where no one has gone before: inside oneself.  College serves as a map, offering a chance to explore the definition of the human condition and to fall deeper in love with the pursuit of knowledge and answers to the constantly present questions that stack up alongside life experiences.  The practices fashioned by a university education cannot be summed up in the transcript that prints at the desk of a future employer, or the countless social media pictures that will serve as a reminder of the experiences during those short years.  College is significant because it offers an opportunity – and the impact that the opportunity creates is left completely up to the human individual who is given the gift.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What I'm Drinking:

Back again at my favorite coffee shop and with my good old regular, the vanilla latte.  Isn't she gorgeous?  Normally the latte art is a simpler leaf or heart, but today's barista went all out with a more intricate, swan like design.  Yesterday was rainy and, due to those darn winter temperatures, a little icy and slick.  There is something about sitting around in comfortable armchairs, surrounded by good music and good company and simply enjoying the day- safe from the rain and icy patches that my natural clumsiness does not function well with.

However, what was better than this stellar drink and warm escape from the winter weather was the great date that and wonderful conversation went along with it - as hinted by that subtle second glass in the picture this week.  So, although Thanksgiving is done, I'm very thankful for not only the {multiple cups of} coffee of this weekend, but also who I spent it with - it was a perfect blend {no coffee pun intended}.

"You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips.  Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs.  But people more than anything else.  You will need other people.  And you will need to be other person for someone else.  A living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things." 

What I'm Thinking: 

Welcome to a new year in the Church liturgy! With the celebration of Christ the King last week, we ushered in a new season of the Catholic Church - and what a beautiful way to start...Advent.  It just seems as if this year has flown by and it wasn't too long ago that snow was on the ground.  Here we are back again though and the readings from this weekend's Mass have beautiful things to teach.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of earth.  Be vigilant at all times." (Luke 21) 

Advent calls us to an adventure away from the anxieties of the world.  Especially in the holiday season, it can be incredibly easy to get swept away in the current of busy-ness.  Presents to buy, wrap and give.  Meals to shop for, prepare, and eat.  Traditions to arrange, anticipate and enjoy.  Don't let the anxieties of daily life keep you from Christ this Advent.

Use these next four weeks to strengthen you heart for the coming of a baby in a manger.  A simple, quiet arrival of a the beautiful love story of God made man.

So unpack your tree, take some time to draw close to Christ through the sacraments and adoration, drink an latte and Be Not Afraid 

Friday, November 27, 2015

1) The sky is blue.  2 +2 = 4.  Monday comes after Sunday.

2) The sky is green.  2+2 = 7.  Monday comes after Thursday.

Both of the above lines are statements.  One of them is correct. One of them is incorrect.  It's as simple as that.

What if I read the second set of statements and responded, "But, for me, 2+2=7.  It's what I feel is correct.  Based on my levels of knowledge and cultural surroundings, that's true for me."  You'd question my sanity, and rightly so.

I cannot say that 2+2=7 and be right as the person who says 2+2=4 is right.  One of us is wrong.  And that one person being wrong scares us in a society filled with relativism. 

Moral relativism says, "You have your truth and I'll have mine.  What's good and true for you may not be good and true for me.  Ultimately, we're more spiritual than religious."

Call me crazy, but I believe that truth is objective, there is right and wrong in the world, and, as much as it stings, not everyone can be right.

We live in a society where people are afraid to have disagreements.  Maybe the concept of political correctness has harnessed our thoughts, but it seems that no one desires to have a good, intellectual argument anymore.  Moral relativism has made it so that no one is wrong...and this conversation is highly relevant to discussions about religion.

But who am I to judge?  After Pope Francis said this, the world exploded concerning judgement of each other, and sunk into a world view where we can't have opinions concerning people's action anymore.  Let's look at the judgmental issue from another perspective.  I can't claim this, it came from a good friend of mine.  Let's say I don't know your grandma, I've never met her and probably won't.  But I want to know about her, so I ask you to tell me all about her.  And the things you say are awesome - she cooks for everyone when the holidays roll around, she calls you to ask you how you're doing with school, and every time you come back home, she makes sure you have enough groceries.

So, based on what you said about your grandma, I'd say that she is a really good person.  In fact, I'll take the information you gave me, and based on her actions, I will even say that she's fantastic.  But wait - I just judged the heck out of your grandmother.  Why aren't you telling me to stop judging her?

All I did was objectively look at her actions and agreed with them.  The difference of the judgement that Pope Francis implied was the judgement of a person versus the judgement of their actions.  I can't judge where a person's soul is going.  It's above my pay grade (thank goodness - I wouldn't trust myself with that job).  However, I can judge a person's actions and based on an absolute truth, I can disagree or agree with them.

“Relativism poses as humble by saying: “We are not smart enough to know what the truth is—or if there is any universal truth.” It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It’s like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master—or if I even have a master. The result is that I don’t have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.” 

- John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

Relativism does not make us, as a societal whole, more accepting.  It actually makes us more passive.  It makes us argument-avoidant and boring.  Yet it is considered trendy to be more in tune to relativism.  And to have a set of moral codes and truths that are correct on an objective stance is just intolerant and unappreciative of the culture.  Yes, our minds are meant to be open....but they are meant to close on the truth.

The Truth. Not your truth or my truth, but the truth.  

“The modern habit of saying "This is my opinion, but I may be wrong" is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me" – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.”

- G. K. Chesterton 

We have to stop being lazy - and prideful - and start digging deeper into the morality of situations.  

"We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

- Pope Benedict XVI 

We can't decide what is right for ourselves.  I wish the world we lived in was perfect and everyone did the just thing.  However, I still lock my car doors when I go into the store.  And I carry a self-defense weapon when I leave my campus in the dark.  I can't trust that everyone's personal moral code lines up with mine.  As it turns out, the golden rule isn't quite as universally practiced as we had hoped.  So, darn it Adam and Eve, sin makes that impossible. 

If your God lets you do anything, act any way or say anything you want, your God is you.  And although I am aware that I am a child of God and made in His image, I also am well aware that I will never be God.  So I'll leave things like creating the world, loving everyone unconditionally and determining right and wrong up to him.  Like I said....it's above my pay grade.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The station that I listen to at work has thankfully not switched over to Christmas music yet, so that leaves us bank tellers dancing to pop music in our down time.  Normally, I'm more of a Folk Music - think Mumford and Sons - or Pop Rock - Ed Sheeran, Ben Rector - kind of gal.  So I'm getting to hear songs that normally don't even touch my playlist.  Last week, the big song that played over and over (and over and over and over) was Selena Gomez's new tune Same Old Love.  The refrain is especially haunting.  

I'm so sick of that same old love, that ****, it tears me up
I'm so sick of that same old love, my body's had enough.
Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love.

I'm so sick of that same old love, feels like I've blown apart
I'm so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart.
Oh, that same old love.  Oh, that same old love. 

What if someone told Selena that life, and love, didn't have to hurt so much?  That there was more to life than just that same old love, and that she in fact deserved and was created for more? And that love, if performed in the manner it was created for, could actually be a beautiful NEW love that reflected the unconditional love of a heavenly Father?

"Purity?" They ask.  And they smile.  They are the ones who go onto marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls." - Saint Josemaria Escriva 

Love isn't meant to tear you up, or break your soul, heart and body.  That's not what love was created for.  In fact, God is the author of love and the creator of your soul in His image, so love is supposed to point back to him.  What? God? Love? Yes - He does have a lot to do with relationships and interactions with other human beings...despite the culture that constantly tells us to keep God out of our relationships and out of our bedrooms.

"God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 1604

We are all called to a vocation of love - despite what "Big V Vocation" we are called to.  That is the one concept that I find the most beautiful in everything surrounding vocational discernment.  No matter what vocation you are called to, you are called to love.  Saint Therese of Lisieux once exclaimed, "My vocation is love!" And typical Saint Therese, she's right.  If you're called to marriage, you get to reflect the love of Christ between you and your spouse.  If you're called to the vocation of religious life, you reflect the love of Christ between you and Him directly.  If you're called to a life of consecrated singleness, you get to reflect love between Christ and others.  We're all called to love..but not the heart-breaking love that Selena pours her heart over.  

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, "Only a chaste man and a chaste woman are capable of true love."  How true - chastity is not something that hinders us from loving freely, but  actually opens the doors for true love to take over.  It's a matter of perception.  Chastity can be viewed as rules that bind us or opportunities to grow closer to Christ and to others.

So if you identify with Selena and are sick of that same old love, try Christ's new love on for a change.  You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holidays as a Couple

Well, it’s that most wonderful time of the year.  (Stop right there before you pull out your Christmas stockings and holly and go read my last post).  But it’s true - Thanksgiving will be here in just a short nine days, and after that, blink twice and you’ll be cleaning up the wrapping paper from your living room. 

Yet for some, the holiday season can become more stressful than necessary due to the s word.  No, not snow.  Sharing.

Sharing the holiday as a couple can be challenging and a new experience depending on how long you and your significant other have been together.  Going through this experience for the first time myself has not been nearly as worrying as I anticipated and it’s for a couple of reasons that I’d like to share with you.


The way you spend your holidays together starts long before the holiday arrives on the calendar.  Have a conversation with each other about when and if you want to spend the holidays together.  If you're just brand new to dating, it may be spent differently than if you've been dating each other for a while.  You may both have family traditions that happen at the exact same time.  So to avoid the chaos and stress that comes from the holiday season, start talking and opening up to each other about what you would love your holidays to look like together. 
Don’t Overload

It's easy once you've talked about sharing the holidays to automatically want to share all of the holiday experiences that you treasure with your significant other.  But if you say yes to doing everything with each friend group, work group, family group, and each other, then you're going to find yourself with a schedule so packed that you're going to have to pencil in time to sit down and catch a breath.  While it's true that the holidays are supposed to be about family and friends and a shared experience, it's also ok to know what level of interaction you're comfortable with.  Also take into account each other's personalities.  If you're favorite tradition is a loud family gathering with all of your twenty-seven cousins (thirty-three if you count the once-removed ones) and your significant other is an introvert, than it is critical that you don't overload him or her with the experience.  Which brings us to the next tip...

Speak each other’s language 

I don't know if you've read Dr. Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages, and if you haven't, grab a copy and make that your holiday reading goal.  In his book, Dr. Chapman reveals the five love languages that everyone speaks.  Sometimes the problems with couples arise when you simply don't speak each other's love language.  Don't let your excitement over the holidays get lost in translation when relating to your significant other this season - especially if your boyfriend or girlfriend's love language is different than that of your own.  So, once again, keep lines of communications open with each other and make sure each other's love tank is full going into the holidays.  It's stressful enough to be in new situations and interacting with new traditions - but you don't have to feel out of of place during them if each of you is aware of the other's needs as part of a couple.

Don't idolize each other

Just like it is easy to idolize the notion of Christmas and the traditions or rituals that go along with them, it's also easy to idolize and idealize the person you spend the holidays with.  Although it is incredibly important to appreciate each other and your talents and shared experiences, it is equally if not more important to remember the reason why you are celebrating - which is Christ's presence in a broken world.  

Turn your joy outward 

C.S. Lewis, you've got to love him.  He has this beautiful quote about love and says, "Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest."

It is easy to make the holiday about yourself and your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Even when you include family in the celebrations, it's easy to fall into the trap of self-absorption. The way to remedy this is to turn your joy for Thanksgiving and Christmas outward.  Maybe that means volunteer work together while you're free during the week.  Or maybe it's taking each other's little siblings outside after dinner and enjoying quality time with them.  It could be pulling away from conversations about yourself and being interested in the lives of those around you.  In whatever way you choose, make sure this holiday season is not about you....it's about how you are Christ to others.

So holidays as a couple are not something to stress over - they are something to enjoy.  After all, the greatest holiday experience is to spend the season with those you love.

So start talking, pull out your planner, take a deep breath, pour yourself some eggnog and Be Not Afraid.