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Welcome Back One-piece

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This summer I am welcoming back the one-piece bathing suit. And you can too! It’s not about hiding stretch marks or feeling more confident than in a two-piece (because I do!). It’s about reclaiming modesty.

I think most of us women can reflect on our coming of age years and realize that we hit a certain point––we didn’t want to be “girls” anymore; we wanted to be “women.” We wanted to grow up already. We wanted to wear makeup, shave our legs, and wear two-piece bathing suits (which are essentially a bra and underwear, right?!). We didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. Without knowing it at the time, we were also rushing to give up our modesty and innocence.

I don’t know about you, but that rush into womanhood (as defined by culture) led me down a path away from God and from who I really wanted to be. The culture taught me that my identity as a woman and my beauty was on the outside. I lost respect for myself and for others and that was revealed in my dress–too tight, too revealing, too short. Turns out, this way of living was not fulfilling, nor life-giving.

I suppose this is a prodigal-daughter-like story because God sent a beautiful holy woman into my life to show me what is was like to be a real woman. You might have heard of her, Mother Mary? I came back from a pilgrimage to one of her shrines and my life was forever changed. I first and foremost learned the truth––my identity and beauty came from being a daughter of God and Christ living in me. This changed everything. I gained respect for myself and for others and within six months, I had a new wardrobe.

Mother Mary taught me that her beauty comes from the fact that she loves God with her whole heart. The more I strive to do the same, the more I recognize things in my life that obstruct my love for Him. She has taught me that we must be pure to enter the Kingdom of God. Modesty guards our purity. Our childlike innocence is what lets us see the angels who gaze on God. Mother Mary is the true and best example of womanhood. From her, we can learn everything God desires of us as women.

So back to the one-piece bathing suit. Having learned what I have in my journey and now as a mother of two girls, I feel the importance of this responsibility to show my daughters what true womanhood is. Yes, the culture is still going to tempt them with the rush into womanhood, with manicures at four years old and two-piece bathing suits at five years old, but we cannot underestimate that they still look up to their mothers!

I’m wearing a one-piece bathing suit for my almost three year old daughter. You might be thinking, “She’s three! She doesn’t notice!” but when we went to the beach this past weekend, do you know the first thing she said when she saw me? “Mommy, we match!” as she pointed to her one-piece suit. I smiled and thought to myself, that’s exactly why I’m wearing it. I never would have thought that wearing a one-piece could ever feel so good!

As my daughters get older and we live strive to live the faith, which is often counter-cultural, I hope they always know that I’m on their side fighting with them. That I’m always striving to be a woman like Mother Mary. That they can look up to me. That we match, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

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YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

 

For many years, centuries perhaps, the Catholic Church has gotten a bad rap regarding her teachings on sex. Considered prudish by some and demanding by others, her insistence on purity and chastity has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and ignored by many.

pope-john-paul-iiIn recent years the Church has worked tirelessly to help people understand what Christ, and consequently the Church teaches regarding human dignity, sex, and why it is important to understand how these subjects intertwine. Pope John Paul II began this process with a series of talks that would later be compiled together as the Theology of the Body.

Theology of the Body emphasizes the sacredness of the body and how when we understand the true nature of our bodies- that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that the gift of our bodies have the ability to make visible the invisible mystery of God’s love- we can not only come to know and love God in a manner that is impossible to do in any other fashion, but we can know and love one another in a much deeper and spiritual manner as well.

Continuing Pope John Paul II’s work and as part of the New Evangelization movement, Ascension Press has been active in helping to bring the Theology of the Body to the forefront of Catholic education. Their new program, You: Life, Love, and The Theology of the Body, seeks to remind us that we are worth more than the world says; that we have an inherent dignity that sets us apart and can bring us to happiness, joy, and communion with God and one another.

You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

The You program is amazing. With inspirational presenters, captivating visuals, and down to earth advice, You connects with teens and parents alike. The program first builds a firm foundation regarding human nature, love, and responsibility and then tackles the difficult subjects that our teens are faced with today- pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, same sex attraction and marriage, and gender issues. It does this all the while reminding them of Christ’s love for each and every person.

This modern interpretation of age old teachings tie in Scripture references and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a way that makes sense and that will resound in the hearts and minds of all those who watch the videos and read the books. The program consists of 5 DVDs, an instructor’s guide, a student workbook, and a parent’s guide. It can easily be used by schools, religious education classes, youth groups, a homeschool program, or even within a small group setting. Additionally, this isn’t made simply for teens. Adults who wish to learn more about the Theology of the Body would benefit greatly from this course.

You is not just another chastity program that says, “Don’t have sex! You’ll regret it!” Instead, it reminds us that human beings are created for love and created for communion. Our bodies don’t make sense on their own, but when we view them in the light of chastity, respect, communion, and love, we can see how beautiful and important the human body truly is.

Our society wants us to believe that what we want right now is all that matters. It has taken the words chastity, purity, and sacrifice and given them negative meanings. Chastity frees us from the attitude that it’s ok to use others and to allow ourselves to be used by others and instead opens our hearts to love- both to give love and to receive love. The You program shows us how living a chaste life, as we are all called to live, can bring us not only happiness but true freedom and love.

For those who are nervous to teach on this subject, You provides everything you need to teach the class. The instructor’s guide is broken down by session and provides notes, prayers, ways to engage the students, ice breakers, different activities to connect with the teens, and for those who need it, a complete breakdown of how to run the class including minute by minute instructions. This program can be used for beginners or veteran teachers alike.

The DVDs are simply amazing. Set against beautiful backdrops, well-known Catholic speakers who are vibrant, engaging, and relatable talk to the teens in a way that captivates them. The videos, while varying in length, seem to always last just the right amount of time. Some are longer (about 10 minutes), while others are short (about 3 minutes). But the message they each carry will speak right to the viewer’s heart.

The student workbooks are engaging and informative. They dive into the topics raised within the videos and they help the teens immerse themselves in a very meaningful way. With encouragement to “take it to prayer”, random tidbits and facts throughout, and review questions both at the end of each section and at the end of each chapter, students “will discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.”

The parent’s guide briefly reviews what the teen will cover in each lesson, provides questions to ask the teens, and family applications to help teens live out the teachings they are learning. The guide is an invaluable source for parents who wish to connect with their teens but may not know how to. .

You impresses upon our teens what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and why this is important. It reminds us that we are each created not only out of love, but we are created for love. It helps us answer the question “who am I?” It tells us that purity “isn’t being numb to the beauty of God’s creation of masculinity and femininity” but instead that purity allows us to see the beauty of masculinity and femininity the way God wants us to- through a lens of true love and respect.

If you are looking for a program that will help you to teach the your teen how to live an authentic life of freedom, love, and happiness; if you are looking to guide your teen through confusing and challenging topics such as same sex attraction and marriage, pornography, and gender issues; if you wish to teach your teen that true love involves sacrifice, discipleship, chastity, and charity, then You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body is the perfect program to try.

If you are interested in this program (and I promise you will love it!), check out Ascension Press’s website. Here you will find this program and many other resources to help you on this journey toward love, respect, chastity, and faith.

created for love

 

I was given this program in return for my honest review. I am not being compensated for this review.

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Woman in Love: An Interview with Katie Hartfiel

 

 

 

Katie Hartfiel is a 29 year-old wife and mother of two.  She and her husband Mark live in Houston where they are both active in ministry.  The story of how they met and fell in love is chronicled in Katie’s new book, Woman In Love.

In the book, Katie writes about the inner struggles brought on by her parents’ difficult divorce.  At age 17, God gave her a vision to pray for her own future spouse.  She began writing love letters to her unknown husband-to-be (HTB), pouring out her heart to him and covering him with prayer.  The book reveals the dual love story that unfolds in Katie’s life, first with Christ, then with Mark, as she moves from being a girl in pain to a Woman In Love.  Katie  challenges young women to begin praying now for their future spouses, and encourages them to write personal letters to their own “HTB” while maintaining a pure, chaste life as they wait upon the Lord to lead them to the spouse He has set aside for them since “before they were knit in their mothers’ wombs.”

Recently, Katie took some time to speak with the Sistas about Woman in Love.

CS:  Katie, you have a busy life as a wife and mom.  Why a book?

KH: I have been sharing this story with the high school girls in my youth program for years. I always thought it was a neat story, and it was great to see so many of my girls start to journal to their “HTB”. However, I never really thought of it as a hugely impactful testimony. That was until Steve Bollman, founder of Paradisus Dei and That Man Is You (and also Mark’s boss), used the story to speak to fathers about the value of purity. Several men approached Mark with positive feedback and one of them said, “Tell your wife to put this into a book so I can give it to my daughter.” The Lord used that moment to put the desire in my heart. The timing has been so beautiful with my recent “retirement” from youth ministry. I am excited to share the beauty of God’s plan for pure relationships as He sees fit!

CS: Katie, it’s so strange to me that during the time when you were going through so much pain, I knew you.  I saw you every week singing in the youth choir.   It was obvious that you were a leader in your group, that you loved being there singing–and that you felt the words deeply.  But (I am sorry to say this) I also remember being offended by your clothing.  You were a distraction–a temptation–to boys and men in the congregation.  I thought about speaking to your choir director about it…but I didn’t.  Now, reading what you had to say about modesty blew me away!  One of my favorite parts of the book was your epiphany of why modesty is so important.

But here’s my question: if you were in Mass today, and you saw a girl much like your own teenage self standing in front of the congregation, how would you respond to her?  Now that I know what you were going through as a teenager, I see how much I could have hurt you by making harsh comments–even if I had good intentions. You’ve been a youth director, so I’m sure you’ve had to deal with this issue.  How do you respond to girls in a loving way that encourages modesty without hurting them?

KH: Honestly, modesty may be one of the less scandalous sub-topics of sexual purity, however it is by far the hardest to express. As I share in the book, I heard an absolute multitude of chastity talks, read many books, and passionately expressed my beliefs on purity all while I was oblivious to its application to my wardrobe. It breaks my heart that you, too, witnessed this naivety! In the last seven years in youth ministry I have witnessed many teenage versions of myself struggle in the same department. Many are teens who are so involved and in love with the Lord yet completely clueless.

As a woman it is just so difficult comprehend the cause and effect of our clothing choices. I saw a quote recently that said, “Men will NEVER understand the agony of childbirth, cramps or removing glitter nail polish.” These are things that cannot be appreciated unless experienced. Similarly, we will never truly appreciate the struggle of men in this department.

I asked several of my teens who exercise modesty where their love and passion came from. I was surprised by their answers. For all of them it seemed that they were given a moment like I had in the dance club several years ago. All of a sudden a switch clicked on and they understood their calling to help men grow in holiness. I sort of relate it to a conversion experience. Someone can explain it all day long, but unless they are open to the Holy Spirit in the timing of God’s plan for them it doesn’t make a difference. Words don’t change hearts, only Christ can do that.

As far as confronting girls about their clothing: personally- I have never called them out individually in that way. I don’t know if that is the correct answer but that is just me. It seems to me that a person who is singled out in that way tends to feel defensive. If an individual isn’t in a position to desire change, they must therefore rationalize their behavior in their mind. They have to either believe the other person is right- resulting in a change in behavior OR become ever more convicted that their behavior is justified.

What I have done instead is seek teaching moments. I hoped to form the girls to help them determine exactly what to look for in modest dress, rather than just inform them that their current outfits were inappropriate. Some of these opportunities have presented themselves in one on one conversations with the girls, but more often I tried to address them as a group. For example, when one of our choir girls wore an incredibly short skirt and an usher wore a strapless dress, I decided to create a dress code to be distributed to everyone in the ministries. Instead of singling the girls out I wrote a loving letter to all members of the ministries about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and how we should approach our wardrobes as if we were preparing for a wedding. Then I gave specific guidelines (similar to the ones in the book). I also gave very detailed modesty requirements for Confirmation. I didn’t allow shorts on retreats and explained that “too short” was too relative, so I modeled knee length jersey skirts at the informational meeting and told them where to buy and for how much. (This literally started a fashion trend with the high school girls!) Of course I spoke to all of our girls about modesty once a year in our Chastity night at our parish.

That is a really long answer, but a complicated question! I think I am still learning in this area, but I DO know I will have a lot to say to my daughters when they are walking out the door ten years from now!

CS: If you had to sum up the main message of your book in one sentence, what would it be?  What’s the most important thing you’d like your reader to take away?

KH:  This is difficult because there are two main themes 1) praying for and writing letters to your Husband-To-Be and 2) pursuing a lifestyle of purity. However, when I was writing I kept asking myself, what is my goal? My goal is that young women redefine their approach to Christian purity. That their life rely on one thing, God’s will for them. I hope that girls will read this book and desire to become Women in Love with Christ and trust Him to lead them to the vocation He has in store for them.

CS: I mentioned to you that I’d like to share this book with my sons.  I think it would help them to see a girl’s point of view, but maybe even more than that I hope it would inspire them to be that kind of guy that you were praying for.  Had you ever considered that your book would be good for guys?

KH: Several of my teen boys have read the book and enjoyed it. I know it doesn’t have the same impact on them whatsoever, but I hope that it helped raise their standards for the woman they seek and who they hope to be. A friend who is a father of two girls and a teenage son told me the biggest lesson he learned was how he wanted to form his son to be the type of man that a Woman in Love would want to marry. I found that pretty incredible!

CS:  In the book, it was especially difficult for me to read what you experienced during your parents’ divorce.  What would you say to girls who are suffering through a painful divorce?

KH: You are not your mother and your future spouse is not your father. Your love story can end very differently. When your parents fail you, look to the ones who never did, your Heavenly Father and Blessed Mother. Never forget that they are crying with you. Be Christ in your home, even when it seems impossible.

CS:  Not everyone goes into marriage so ideally as you and Mark–in terms of being so fully aware of Church teaching, so chaste, so united in their faith, so equally committed to Christ.  Do you have any words for women who find themselves in difficult marriages?

KH:  In the spiritual life, we find our answers at the cross.  The cross is the rule and not the exception.  Christ honored His promise to His Bride even when she deserved it the least. When His people crucified Him, Christ remained faithful. The fruit of this is the salvation and of us all. I would promise this woman that her endurance and prayers will also bring about great fruit. She may see it manifest or she may not but the Lord will always answer those who love Him. In difficult times one may find themselves echoing his very words, “Father let this cup pass… not my will but Thy will be done.”  Faced with great trials, one must grow closer and closer to Christ.

I know this is easier said than done, but I would advise them to never forget that our wedding vows point toward ourselves and are unconditional toward our spouse’s actions and disposition. As I often remind my teens, “you can only control one person: yourself.” In marriage we promise to honor, be faithful and love our spouse in good times and bad.

CS:  Now that the book is finished, what do you do with all your spare time??

KH:  Through much discernment the Lord has recently called me to stay at home with my two daughters, Maria, 4 and Clare, 6m. It has been SO wonderful thus far and every day is such an experience of God’s goodness! In the meantime I am pursuing speaking engagements and am excited to see what doors the Lord opens for the spreading of the message of Woman in Love!

If you are interested in learning more about Woman in Love, you can check out Katie’s website, www.womaninlove.org .  Copies of  Woman In Love can be purchased on the website by clicking bookstore.   If you do not have a PayPal account, you may pay on PayPal as a guest or call 832-217-4440.   You can also “like” Woman In Love on Facebook to receive Katie’s updates.