Category Archives: Virtue & Vice

Book Review – Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin

Ave Maria Press recently gave me the opportunity to read and review Arleen Spenceley’s  Chastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin.  I was given the book free of charge, but the opinions in my review are 100% my own:

 

Arleen Spenceley was a journalist for the Tampa Bay Times when, in 2012, she “outed” herself as a 26-year-old virgin in an op-ed that went viral.  Chastity Is For Lovers tells that story (and so many others), while inviting young people to discover the meaning of chastity in our universal call to love.

I was intrigued to read Spenceley’s book not only because I am a sucker for chastity books but also because it sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy (another thing I can’t resist).  Young spunky journalist writes op-ed about being a virgin and is caught in the midst of a media frenzy—hilarity ensues.

Chastity Is For Lovers did not disappoint, and Spenceley’s unique voice and style of storytelling was a refreshing change of pace on a topic that can often feel over-saturated with voices merely repeating one another.

The risk of a chastity book written by a self-professed “happy virgin” is of course that it has the potential to come off as prideful or judgmental to those who have walked a different path.  Or, to compensate for this fear, often those who preach chastity are so afraid of coming off as judgmental that they end up all but apologizing for their virginity. But Chastity Is For Lovers succumbs to neither of these pitfalls.  Spenceley is bold enough to be authentically herself—neither apologizing for her virginity nor boasting of it.  And it pays off.

All in all, Chastity Is For Lovers is a solid book on the Christian virtue of chastity that I would definitely recommend for young Catholics of dating age, or anyone looking for encouragement in navigating the world of dating.

mary-sig

4 Things I’ve Learned in the “Pro-Life Movement”

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Being that this Thursday is January 22—the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade—I told myself that I’d use this week’s post to talk about abortion.

Easier said than done. It’s hard to write about abortion without feeling like you are just adding to the noise—saying things that have already been said a million times, playing into stereotypes, etc. But it’s a topic that needs to be talked about. Especially as followers of Christ, we have an obligation to speak up for those least among us who cannot speak for themselves; and we need to be unafraid to speak the truth lovingly to those who might otherwise never hear it.

So after a lot of prayer and thinking, I decided that this week I’d just share with you all a bit about what I’ve learned from my experience within “the pro-life movement.”

 

1. I’ve learned that if you’re going to talk about abortion, it is absolutely imperative to speak from a place of genuine love for whomever you are speaking to.  As Saint John Bosco put it: “It’s not enough to love, people have to feel they are loved.”

Something to keep in mind whenever talking to anyone about abortion: it has been said that as many as one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Whether that stat is accurate or not, it is a good practice when you are speaking with someone to consider the possibility that she (or he), or someone very close to her has been personally impacted by abortion. So always, always speak with love and compassion.

2. As someone who has joined with groups in prayer outside of abortion clinics in both the San Diego and Dallas areas, I will say I have never encountered anything resembling the reports you’ll read on sites like Buzzfeed or The Huffington Post about angry mobs of “anti-choicers” harassing clinic workers and patients. The majority of us are there to pray not much higher than a whisper, and may occasionally sing a hymn. One or two people are there as “sidewalk counselors,” who calmly engage those going into the clinics in conversation, sharing literature and just lovingly letting them know they have better options available to them than abortion. It’s all very calm and non-confrontational. [But don’t take my word for it, you can check it out for yourself by signing up for 40 Days for Life].

3. I can’t make it to the clinic on a regular basis to pray. And there’s not always an organized march or protest going on to take part in. But something I can do on a daily basis is pray for the end to abortion. It’s something my husband and I do every night when we offer our family rosary. Admittedly, praying for the same thing night after night can feel monotonous, or even unfruitful at times. But I believe that God hears our prayers, and so we continually offer them for the end to abortion, and for abortion-minded women and men to not give into despair. Which brings me to the final thing I have learned…

4. God is working. Even when we don’t see it, God is working.  And we need never despair, because the battle has already been won.  With abortion as with every struggle we face in this life, all we need to do is continually offer it over to the one who has already conquered death.  He will lead us into His Victory.

mary-sig

Gentleness

Lately I have been feeling the Lord place on my heart a call to gentleness.

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“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25, RSV)

I’m reminded of this calling every now and again when I receive a somewhat disagreeable comment on a past blog post.

Praise God for making me just busy enough that I usually cannot reply to comments in the moment or moments immediately after first reading them.  Admittedly (and maybe not so surprisingly), my initial reaction to argumentative comments is to be argumentative right back—seeking to craft the wittiest response that explains oh so clearly and succinctly why I’m in the right.  These responses may not be outright rude, but they certainly fall short of aspiring to the kind of gentleness that the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul in his letter to Timothy, calls me to in the above verse.

Thankfully when it comes to crafting a response, I usually have the time to take a deep breath, examine my motives, and finally ask God, “What would you have me say in reply to this?” (<— that should be my FIRST thought!)

What I have learned is that God more often than not calls me to be even gentler than my first, sometimes even second or third, “draft” of gentleness.  I’m discovering that God really wants gentleness and charity to be what guide my discussions with others—especially when those discussions are about Him.

It’s not about proving that I am in the right; it’s about leading others to Christ because I want them to understand and share in the love that He has given me for Him and His Church.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t defend my God or His Church or even myself when attacked; it just means I have to check myself to assure that my responses are motivated from love and not from pride.

It’s a work in progress 🙂

mary-sig

 

 

A Letter to Students Headed Back To School

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My nieces and nephews are starting school this time of year.  They’re all little guys, but each year when they start heading back to school it always gets me thinking about what I’d tell myself if I were still in school.  So I wrote you all this letter:

Dear Students,

Another school year is beginning, and I remember those first day of school jitters I used to get without fail every year—the ones you might be experiencing now.  The excitement over picking out that first day of school outfit, getting super organized with back-to-school supply shopping, and of course day-dreaming that this could be the year I’d meet “the one.”

If there’s one thing I want for you to know as you begin this new school year, it’s that nothing within those four walls of your school has the power to define who you are.

In school you may find that there are a lot of things competing for your attention; so many things begging you to invest your whole identity in.  “I am an ‘A Student,’” or, “I am a ‘student council member,’” or, “I belong to this group.”

Your grades are important, and I do hope you try your hardest.  Sports and activities are great ways to get to know people and to have fun, so I hope you put yourself out there and try new things.  The friends you make during your school years matter and they will certainly influence the way you think and act, so I hope you find good ones—and try to be a good one.

But most importantly, I hope you remember that you are not your grades.  You are not the sport you play or the activity you choose to participate in.  You are not even the friends that you hang out with.

You are God’s beloved, God’s soldier—God’s precious child.  Nothing you do will ever change that, and nothing you learn in school will ever be as important as knowing and believing that.

As you begin this new school year, I invite you to make the prayer of Saint Francis your prayer for this year.  Just imagine if our schools were full of students seeking to live this out!

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

God Bless you as you start this new school year!  You are in my prayers!

mary-sig

What You Believe Informs Who You Are

 

I was perusing Pinterest the other day and came across this little nugget:

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“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person; your behavior does.”

It’s a sentiment I’ve come across before.  What you believe doesn’t matter so long as you are a “good person.”  I guess I get the underlying message.  If you say you believe in charity and peace towards one another but your actions don’t reflect that, then you don’t get to call yourself a “good person.”  You have to live it out.

The problem is that’s not what the statement actually says.  It’s not “your behavior should reflect your beliefs.”  The underlying assertion here is that what a person believes doesn’t matter.  As if you could believe in murder as a virtue, and you’d still be a good person so long as you didn’t actually get around to acting on it.

I’m sorry but I just can’t agree with that.  And it makes me wonder we as a society are collectively forgetting what “belief” in something actually means.

Beliefs matter.  What a person believes necessarily informs everything about the way that person understands himself and the world around him.  Your behavior stems from your beliefs.

This also means that your behavior reveals your true beliefs.  If you say you believe in something, but your actions consistently don’t reflect this belief, eventually you’re not even going to claim to believe in it anymore.  Because if you truly believe in something, your actions are in accordance with that belief.

That’s what it means to believe in something!

If I truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—that He came to this earth out of love for me and for all humankind, to save us from sin— that is going to have an immense impact on every one of my actions.  First and foremost, if I say I believe in Jesus, I’m going to strive to keep His commandments.  If I say I believe in what He taught, I’m going to strive to treat my brothers and sisters with love and compassion.  Belief isn’t a game.

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So let’s stop perpetuating this “beliefs don’t matter” nonsense.  What you believe informs who you are.  I’d say that matters! 🙂

mary-sig