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Alyssa Azul Faith Formation Ink Slingers Relatable Vocations

A Heroine’s Journey

When I grow up, I want to be a mermaid.

That was my dream at five, immortalized in the pages of the kindergarten class scrapbook.

My parents would tell you that I had an unhealthy obsession with Disney’s The Little Mermaid, based on countless rewinds of the VHS tape, and hearing “Part of Your World” on a never-ending loop throughout the day.

If I could ask the child version of myself why Ariel was my hero, she would probably say, with the tiniest smirk on her face, “because she’s pretty.” Twenty-four year old me winces.  Ariel was a naïve teenager who rebelled against her father and put herself and her friends in danger. All for what? A boy? 

Yet, we can’t deny that the story was appealing. Disney princesses tend to dream of worlds away from their current realities. Ariel’s fascination with land had begun when she started collecting human paraphernalia from shipwrecks. She had developed a deep yearning to visit the surface. Seeing a human male in the flesh, Prince Eric, sealed the deal. But alas, as the daughter of King Triton, her options for escape from her reality as mermaid were limited. Ariel knew she had to find a way to be presentably human, even if it meant quite literally, making a deal with the devil (sea witch Ursula). 

We like heroines who bend and break the rules. We are captivated by women who defy the narrative and do not always do as they are told – sometimes going as far as sacrificing a part of their being. Heroes must make ultimate sacrifices in order to achieve the highest goal. If men embark on a journey to discover what it is that makes him human and masculine, then what can a heroine’s journey lead to? What makes us feminine? 

In her book Go Bravely, Catholic speaker and author Emily Wilson Hussem says, “I have found that bravery is the main component required for living as a young woman of faith in our world today. If you want to live virtue and proclaim a wholehearted faith in your words and actions, you have to be bold. You have to be brave.”

Authentic femininity requires fearlessness. So even heroines in secular stories might teach us something about being a woman in pursuit of her destiny in the face of setbacks.

Take Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries for example. Mia Thermopolis is another free-spirited teenager – but this one hailing from New York City.  It is discovered that by birthright, she is next in line for a life of service to a country that she has never been to. She struggles to adjust and prepare, with seething resistance to fitting into the role of a princess. An arranged marriage would surely be in her future. The idea of being put into a ‘box’ that has been created by generations of people before you has to be incredibly daunting, especially for a 15 year old. A decided future or fate incompatible with one’s present values might be a common fear or burden for women and men alike.

Like Mia, Ariel is a royal daughter. She is reprimanded and expected to behave with a level of propriety, which is a lot to ask from a rebellious teenager (er, mermaid) in love. So she sneaks away, chasing adventure, even if danger lurks around the corner. Ariel’s dream, after all, was to live life on land as a human. To do that, she had to sacrifice her most treasured talent, her voice, in exchange for legs, ie. her freedom. All this for the chance to woo Prince Eric. Careless perhaps, but laudable for what it was worth. We are allowed to desire true love, you know.

Pursuing our destinies will almost always be met with resistance or hardship. We will have doubts about whether it is even the ‘right’ calling. We can’t know what that is for certain, but it is better that we have the courage to seek for ourselves rather than to remain trapped by our circumstances. Emily Wilson is correct – bravery is necessary to leading a purposeful life.

Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet is a heroine we see contend with social conventions of women in the Georgian period in Pride and Prejudice. Her defiance against expectations of love, marriage, and success is impressive, which is typical of Austenian protagonists. Elizabeth was not one to hold back her thoughts, and was often prepared to respond to naysayers – some might even say she made sport of it. Her stubbornness suited her when it came to holding herself with dignity in the face of family pressures and condescension. She was repulsed by the idea of marriage as one of convenience, duty, and political or financial gain. In her world, a marriage for love would be considered a ‘privileged’ dream. Still, she wasn’t going to settle for anything less. Characteristic of many heroines, Elizabeth was willing to sacrifice all social approval and marriage prospects to uphold her own values and protect the people she loved. Was she emotional throughout her journey? Absolutely. She expressed pride, sadness and anger in standing up for herself and her family, and wasn’t afraid of the repercussions of her confrontations. Elizabeth often disarmed those she came across – her mystery being a source of interest for a gentlemen of equal stubbornness and intelligence.

With these heroines we notice a trend; they pursue their dreams, and as a consequence, unlock their freedom. There is often self-discovery and inner healing of sorts that occurs on the journey. Women need the space to be individuals to discover their talents and what bring to the world. As a child, dreaming came like second nature. It seems that as we got older, we either lost that ability, or we simply gave up. We postpone these dreams, which are beautiful and creative expressions of our deepest desires. We can inhibit our own growth by not taking care of these things written on our hearts. In the larger picture, our calling is God’s great dream for us.

Now picture this reality: every young girl will grow up to be her own heroine, starting with a dream. She will discover who she is and what that means for the world. Her journey will involve cultivating strength, intuition, emotional receptivity, intelligence and creativity – all characteristics natural to women which St. John Paul II calls the “feminine genius”. How they’re expressed and lived out looks different on each of us, and that in itself is a gift to others. When women embrace these characteristics, they reveal the Divine, and the mystery of God. Formation of self is key, and who we become along the way is just as important, if not more than reaching our goals. We shouldn’t forget to honour our emotions, which are often seen as a weakness. It’s these emotions and instincts that allow us to make unparalleled sacrifices for others. 

The journey begins with a dream, followed by the bravery to live authentically, ultimately nurturing ourselves towards a unique calling.

In the words of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

A Heroine's Journey
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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah

Dating With Disability

Dating with Disability (1)

As a person with a disability, I can feel lost. Questions run through my head.

What will dating be like?

Will anyone ever love me?

What is my vocation?

Luckily The Catholic Church has always held a universal vocation:

all the faithful, whatever their condition or state – though each in his own way – are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect. (CCC 825)

This gives me peace.

Regardless of my ability, I am called to holiness just like everyone else.

Yet I do feel this call to love another exclusively, intimately and completely.

The Catechism states

The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.

Disability should not exclude me or anyone from pursuing their God-given calling. While I am not married currently, I have been around long enough to confront some common misconceptions about dating and disability.

Here are five common misconceptions about dating and disability.

1. Must date other people with a disability

This began early on in my childhood.

I remember in middle school riding the bus for disabled children.

This year I rode with a young man with muscular dystrophy. Now no offense to this man, I was not attracted to him. Yet all the people on the bus insisted that we were a couple.

This was the first, but certainly not the last time I’d be paired with someone because we have similar disabilities.

I understand the appeal of having similar walks of life. Yet a lot more goes into a relationship such as communication, mutual interests, and attraction. Disability should have very little to do with it.

2. Feeling Like a burden

I’ll admit I have felt broken and inadequate.

I have often wondered why a guy would choose to someone who is, “broken” rather than another able-bodied individual. In these moments, I have felt unworthy of love.

This is the lies of the devil.

The Bible says, “I praise you for I am wonderfully made” Psalms 139:14 (RSV 2nd Catholic Edition).

You are not broken. You are not a burden to your future spouse. Both of you carry the cross together.

3. Can’t have children

One of the requirements for marriage is openness to life. As a person with a disability, society has challenged my ability to answer this call.

I remember my mom had taken me to the gynecologist. She had asked about options to regulate my period. The doctor looks at me and my mom and says, “well she’s never likely to have children anyway so we could just remove her uterus.”

As someone, who has achieved so much already, I refuse to believe motherhood would be an impossible challenge. After all, with God all things are possible.

4. Impure motives

I can tell when people feel sorry for me.

There’s a certain sweetness in their voice that gives it away.

I would never want to date or spend time with anyone, who didn’t see me as a person first. It is true that people taking advantage of people, who are disabled exist. The vast majority of interabled relationships are normal and healthy.

5. Dating disabled is boring

Two of my guy friends and I were at the beach for the 4th of July. We had passed by some jet skis. I had asked them if they had ever ridden one before. They said, “no”

At that moment, I realized that as a person, with a disability, I have had more exciting adventures than two able-bodied men. My life has definitely not been boring.

Yes, there will be something I cannot do or that may be more challenging to do.

I do think interabled relationships have unique challenges. I also believe that it can be rewarding. So if you’re disabled and feel God’s call to marriage, God will make a way.

Categories
Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Called by Marriage, Not to Marriage

CalledbyMarriageNottoMarriage

A Vocation for Life

After your marriage, your life will change forever. You will change forever. Whatever happens in your life – good or bad, joyful or tragic – you will be married to one another. And nothing, nothing, will ever change that. 

The room rang with the echoes of the priest’s words. My fiancé and I looked at each other a little nervously. It didn’t put us off marriage, far from it, but it made us realise how what we were doing was almost impossible – crazily so – if we didn’t have God’s help.

With our wedding coming up in just one month, I have spent the last year and a half considering my vocation more seriously than ever before. Until recently, it had mostly been presented to me as a series of check boxes. Which of the follow applies to you? Single life, priesthood, religious life, marriage – select one of the above. As though marriage were simply a life event, another sacrament to add to the collection, a stepping stone on the journey to Heaven.

But my vocation, and my marriage, are far more than that. Whilst I have felt a growing call to the married and family life for many years, my wedding is not an event to be checked off the list of life. 

Because as I have been praying, thinking, and trying to understand what God wants for me, I’ve come to understand that my vocation is far more than my marriage. Rather, God is drawing me closer to Him through my fiancé. I am not called to the married life; I am called to God through my marriage.

My fiancé makes me a better person in every respect. He reminds me, not by correction or criticism but simply by being, to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving person. Through him, I know I will grow in my faith and understanding, and become closer to God. I am not called to marriage; I am called to God by marrying my fiancé. 

My vocation won’t be completed in a single day, or even a sacrament. It won’t be complete when we have a ten, twenty, or even fifty year anniversary, nor with the birth of our first child or our last. My draw to God is more than a ring on my finger or a new title or new surname – and to say that my vocation begins and ends with my marriage is to ignore any and all other vocations that God has for me. My desire to care for children, to raise a family of my own, to write and change the world around me for the better – all these vocations are not lessened or nullified by my marriage. Ultimately, it is only by joining Christ and the saints in Heaven can I truly be considered to have fulfilled my vocation.

This understanding comes with it a further revelation – that if I am called to Christ through my fiancé, then he is called to Christ through me. A responsibility, then, beyond ensuring that my husband is well fed, content, and looked after – ensuring that he can fulfil his vocation, whatever that may entail, with my love and support. Once again, I wonder what on earth I’ve let myself in for. The realisation hits me, as it does so often, that what I am about to embark upon is certainly beyond my capability – without the assistance of God.

I have been incredibly lucky in my quest to understand my vocation. Not only have I been set incredible examples from my parents, family, friends, and in-laws-to-be, but I have been blessed beyond measure to begin exploring my vocation with the best man God put on this Earth. In marrying him, I am not fulfilling my vocation – I am taking the very first step.

Categories
Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Navy Wife: An Unexpected Vocation

Navy Wife: An Unexpected Vocation

As I unloaded the dishwasher one spring afternoon, I glanced out the kitchen window to see my two-
year-old son running blissfully from one side of our small backyard to the next, our golden retriever
prancing closely behind – pure joy on both of their faces, sunshine dancing in their hair. The moment
made me pause, not because it was such a precious sight to witness, but because the peace that filled
my heart in that moment was a gentle affirmation of the vocation God has invited me into.

Unlike many of my friends, I never had an overwhelming call to be a mother or homemaker. I knew that
I wanted children, and assumed I would probably have several being the good Catholic girl that I
considered myself to be, but it was certainly not at the top of my priority list. Ask my college self how
my life would unfold and I probably would have mentioned something about graduate school then
work, work, and more work (with marriage squeezed in there somewhere along the way). I love
progress and challenging myself and interacting with the public and staying busy, all of which I would
find in the workplace, or so I told myself.

Fast-forward five years and here I sit, 2,000 miles from home on the Gulf Coast, full-time stay-at-home
mom of a busy toddler, pregnant with another on the way, and proud wife of a Navy fighter pilot who is
gone as often as he is home. I can’t help but laugh when I look at my toy-strewn living room in the
middle of nowhere California. My life is so different than I would have ever imagined it to be at this
phase; truly it could only be the hand of God that put me here.

While there were certainly times that I have felt alone or even a bit resentful because my husband’s
career has pulled me away from family and friends, forced me to leave jobs that I enjoyed, and put my
plans of going to grad school on hold, God quietly and patiently softened my heart overtime to unveil all
of the beautiful opportunities this unusual lifestyle can provide. Not only has being a Navy wife
encouraged me to stay home to raise my babies, which has been the best unexpected blessing of all, it
has given me so many occasions for evangelization. We have lived in three states over the past five
years, met countless people from across the country, and been active in several different parishes. What
a fantastic blessing it has been to be a witness for Christ by inviting new friends to attend Mass with us,
introducing people to Natural Family Planning, and showing others what it looks like for two young
Catholics to strive to live out the vocation of marriage, especially during the difficult times life in the
military can bring.

Even sweeter, it has given me the gift of time. Time to slow down and pray. Time to participate in
Church activities that I was too busy for before, like Bible Study and teaching CCD. Time to be present
with my husband when we are together and more generous with my fellow Navy-wives who need a
helping hand when our husbands are gone. Time to put my vocation of wife and mother before myself.
Moments come when I miss driving to work with my latte every morning, or I feel the sting of jealousy
as I see peers on social media sharing the highlights of their professional lives, but the Lord never fails in
giving me dozens more moments of grace that I know I would be too busy to soak in if I was living the
life I intended instead of the life he has called me to. I’ve traded my lattes and paychecks in for sticky
hugs and mommy devotionals, and because of that, my heart and my home have experienced a peace
I’ve never known before.

Thank you, Lord, for your unexpected, ridiculous invitations and the grace to say “yes.

Categories
Annette Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

Sanctifying the Ordinary

Sanctifying the Ordinary

I have been changing diapers for the last 14 years of my life- a task that I first approached with a mix of apprehension and excitement as a new mom. It wasn’t long though before it evolved into a task I often dreaded, and I’m not ashamed to admit I sometimes begged my husband to complete for me. It always seemed that the baby in question would need changing at the most inopportune moments – when I was about to leave to work, in the middle of Mass, while I was helping an older sibling with homework, and it sometimes involved me changing outfits as I was heading out the door, or changing the baby again after I had already done so. It was a task that, I’m ashamed to admit, I would fulfill begrudgingly, because I had to, because I was the mom. There seemed to be no end in sight. I have five children, and right when one was getting out of diapers, another baby was arriving.

A priest once told me that there is sanctity in our ordinariness. God calls us to holiness right where we are, even in the midst of changing diapers. Going about my daily duties as a mother gave me a myriad of opportunities to serve the Body of Christ, beginning with my family. I had never really realized how all the “chores” I have to do on a daily basis serve a higher purpose. Every day, God gives me the opportunity to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, several times a day, sometimes all day with so many kids in the house. I instruct the ignorant as I homeschool my children and help them understand what happens in the world. I counsel the doubtful when I answer their questions or boost their confidence. I admonish sinners when I warn them about the consequences of their actions. I attempt to bear wrongs patiently, something that is often challenging for me. I forgive offenses willingly and comfort the afflicted every time that I break up an argument and deal with the “he did this, and he did that.” We pray together as a family, for each other, for our world, for our friends and relatives, for our leaders, for the living and the dead.

Tasks Can Transform Us

Changing diapers, a task I loathe, is a task that has the power to transform me, to strengthen my spiritual journey. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds me of this. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese details how she regularly performed tasks that she did not necessarily enjoy, like peeling potatoes or doing laundry while another Sister splashed dirty water on her. Instead of complaining or acting annoyed, like I sometimes do, St. Therese would thank God and embrace the “treasure” that God had bestowed on her. My vocations as a wife and mother, and all the sacrifices and tasks that they entail, are truly treasures God has given me. They are my road to sanctity, and through the little everyday challenges, I have the opportunity to grow closer to our Lord and experience the joy that comes from fulfilling God’s will. I begin my day with this Morning Prayer written by St. Therese:

Morning Prayer by St. Therese of Lisieux

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest
works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting
them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly
Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may
one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.
Amen.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe the lie that you have to do something extraordinary to serve God or become a saint. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:40 that “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Every diaper I change, every right I wrong, every mouth I feed, every tear I wipe is a chance to serve Jesus. What a different attitude I would serve my family with if I remembered His words. For now, I’ll welcome every opportunity that God gives me to serve, whether it be in little ways or big ways, and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide me in finding joy in all things.