My Veiling Experience

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The first time I encountered veiling was the summer before my senior year of college. I was at Camp ECHO, taking a life-changing dive into Theology of the Body and to be frank, I was irritated at these new friends for veiling.

I was a proud Theology major with a rough collegiate experience as a practicing Catholic and as a result, I was constantly on the defense of the true teachings of the Church. A million angry thoughts flooded my mind:

“Seriously? This can be such a distraction to people during Mass.”
“This is the reason people think the Church is archaic. Good sentiment, bad execution.”
“Way to be holier-than-thou, ladies.” (Now I giggle a little at the hypocrisy of this one.)
“There’s a reason they got rid of those at Vatican II.”

But by the end of the week-long camp, I’d warmed up to the veils a little more and I’d stopped thinking it was a sign of indoctrination that the 8-year-old daughter of the keynote speaker was veiling, too. In fact, I allowed myself to admit to the reaction I pridefully wouldn’t allow myself to have in the first place: the veils were gorgeous and brought out this delicate yet sophisticated feminine beauty in the women that was simply stunning.

Theology of the Body provided a little bit of information on the reasoning behind veiling and I took a dive into some research of my own. It wasn’t long at all before I started to see how it would be an attractive spiritual decision for some people. Naturally, I pondered whether I would ever wear one, and came to the obvious conclusion: heck no.

Fast forward three years to me standing in a Michael’s blankly staring at fabric dyes in a last-ditch effort to make my new experimental tacky-bride-lace mantilla a little more tolerable for the upcoming Lenten season.

I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore the nudging in my heart anymore—nor the incessant veiling blogs that just happened to show up in my newsfeed consistently since Christmas—and I realized I should just give in since God was going to win this fight anyway. I waited until the very last minute before Ash Wednesday to go out and act on my impending Lenten commitment, so my selection of veils was poor and my need to add color was dire.

Despite my very best attempt to give myself a crash-course on dyeing cheap polyester lace—and even though the veil did ended up with the beautiful, deep shade of purple I was going for—I spent the duration of Lent scrubbing a thin layer of lilac from my kitchen and most of my living room. (Word to the wise: when you boil dye, it evaporates with the steam and will color literally everything. It wasn’t until I moved something on my kitchen table and noticed it left behind a silhouette that I realized that my apartment had experienced a sort of lilac nuclear fallout.)

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Actual picture of my first veil. Lenten purple was a huge step up from the white and acted as a sort of self-explanation when people questioned the abrupt appearance of the veil. Nuclear fallout = worth it.

I knew the transition from non-veiler to veiler would be weird for everyone, so I gave myself a few buffer weeks. I decided that—at least initially—I would wait to wear my veil until the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This would give me time to center myself in prayer first, and then slip the veil on during the offertory song while everyone else was shuffling for their wallets, rather than sport a veil before Mass when there was time for people to whisper, point, and further distract others. Not foolproof, no, but a merciful transition for me and—I hoped—the community around me.

I sat down at Ash Wednesday Mass with a strange mix of excitement and utter dread. At the time I was working as a travelling chastity educator and naturally the only Mass I could attend was the student liturgy at the school I was teaching that week. So when the Liturgy of the Eucharist began, surrounded by teenagers who had—until this point—looked up to me and thought I was the coolest Catholic woman they’ve ever met, I got out my dye-scented, Lenten-purple square of cheap lace, draped it across my head, pinned it into place, and bowed my head to pray, silently thanking God that it hid my face from the stares I knew would follow me back from communion. Until then, I had time to get comfortable and meditate on the act of veiling and its theological significance.

When the time came, there was something wonderful about approaching the Eucharist with my head covered. It seemed so right. My heart gave a giddy leap as I walked up the aisle and the veil brushed my cheek. I was instantly reminded of my identity as the Bride of Christ, prepared to receive Christ’s total self-gift in the Eucharist as a bride approaches her husband, prepared to receive his total self-gift in marriage. I was ecstatic and totally focused.

And then I turned around.

There were the faces of the students all staring, nudging and whispering—surely there were a thousand of them, the rows stretched on forever—as I started back to my pew after communion. I tried to focus on the Real Presence now in my body but, under the heat of questioning eyes, that was futile. Instead, I took a vested interest in organ pipes at the back of the church and tried not to walk at an unnaturally quick pace.

The mental battle with myself was—in retrospect—pretty ridiculous.  “Holy crap they were staring.” “Yup, this is countercultural.” “But they’re never gonna listen to your message about chastity if they think you’re a hyper-pious weirdo.” “I’ve been speaking for two years, most of them know me. Besides, I’m gonna have to trust God that—“ “They’re laughing at you.” “…they’re 14, why do I ca—“ “But you do care.” “I never care what people think.” “But this time you do.” “Okay, I do, but that will fade with time.” “BUT THESE KIDS WILL NEVER LISTEN NOW THAT THEY THINK YOU’RE WEIRD.”

This ended in a renewed realization that my chastity ministry is not about me anyway, and that the Truth has its own appeal. Regardless of how it may hurt my pride, I need to trust God on this one and blindly follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Already—within the first hour of veiling—I was getting schooled in humility and obedience.

 

It’s been a full year since then, and the lessons haven’t stopped.

I’ve discovered that children are far more receptive and understanding of my veil than adults are. That first day at school, some of my classes asked me about “the purple thing on your head” and, given an explanation, were accepting of and even inspired by it.

A little later but still early in the Lenten season, my boss’ 2-year-old—who was attending Mass with us and didn’t notice me slip my veil on halfway through the liturgy—turned and spotted it. I fully expected a loud “WHAT IS ON YOUR HEAD?” and for my boss to be irritated that I was wearing something so potentially distracting for children. Instead, a huge smile spread across the child’s face and she very knowingly grinned at me, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world,  and stated “Mary,” then turned back around and kept doing her toddler thing. I was amazed that so many people get caught up in the rarity of a veiled woman at Mass, but her 2-year-old gaze cut right to the heart of it.

Early on, I realized that my decision to veil puts a lot of people on edge, so I made a conscious effort to be particularly warm and welcoming, especially during the Sign of Peace. A genuine smile and a firm handshake from a veiled woman can go a long way in normalizing such a misunderstood tradition. Besides, the last thing we need is for people to think that Catholics are snobby, unnecessarily cold zealots who couldn’t be thawed out by hellfire itself.

By the time Lent drew to a close, I understood the value of veiling (and I’d begun to associate the scent of fabric dye with sanctity) so I splurged and ordered a gorgeous, high-quality veil to invest in for the future (pictured at the beginning of the post). That veil has introduced a whole new level of interesting interactions with fellow Catholics.

When I first arrived in Mexico—where I expected veiling to be more commonplace given the traditionally devout population and the Spanish roots of the mantilla (I was wrong)—I had a woman tap my shoulder after Mass compliment my new veil, and ask in rapid Spanish why I wore it. I had an oft-rehearsed answer prepared…in English. I just kind of stared back and her and stuttered until she understood I was not native and she left me alone.

At the same church and around the same time, one of the resident nuns approached me after Mass and told me that when she first saw me she thought I was wearing a crown. She was surprised to see someone my age veiling—willingly, no less—and she seemed proud. As part of her habit, she wears a veil and we bonded over it, creating a sort of friendship despite my terrible Spanish and her inability to pronounce my name. Her observation was interesting to me—after all, a veil accentuates female beauty and evangelizes in part through the acknowledgement of God’s “crown of creation.”

Most recently—at the only English Mass in the entirety of Mexico City—one of the older ladies came up to me and complimented my veil, gushing over how pretty it is and telling me that she still has her old one at home. Then she asked why I wore it, and I gave a brief response and asked why she stopped. She responded simply, “We don’t have to anymore!” I was struck by how poor Catholic catechesis has been for the last century that entire generations of women feel that they had to be “freed” from such a beautiful, rich tradition in the Church.

***

By now I’ve logged a year under this veil, but my journey is far from over. Every Mass is a new adventure in trust and obedience, and every interaction a new lesson in compassion and patience. Despite my initial hesitation, I’ve discovered that veiling really is a beautiful, ancient tradition founded in feminine beauty and divine adoration. It’s rich with wisdom and—as with all things theological—has much to teach us.

If you’re feeling a little spiritual nudge to give it a shot, don’t ignore it. Lent is a great time to start, and if you discover that you aren’t ready for it or it’s not your thing, you can always stop. Besides, you might be surprised what you discover about yourself and your God in the process.

 

Thinking about veiling? Check out this post for more information, or contact me at @foresthempenLooking for a veil? This website offers an enormous variety of high-quality veils.

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The Theology of the Veil

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Source: lovingmantillas.blogspot.com 

So you’ve seen women with weird cloths on their heads in Mass, adoration, or at World Youth Day. They’re not nuns, lace aficionados, or Amish, so what gives?

Despite the impression we get from depictions in popular culture, they’re just normal women who discovered and fell in love with the recently-lost tradition of ecclesial veiling. Wearing veils in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is quickly becoming a trend among young Catholic women and challenging the wide-spread belief that the Church is “out of touch” with younger generations.

There are a great many different reasons that women choose to veil, but the most prominent reasons lie in the theology. Contrary to the claims that veiling is anti-woman—or even just hyper-pious—the reasoning is multi-layered, very beautiful and even flattering.

At the very surface, veiling is a sign of humility before God.

It’s an intentional covering of our human glory before the immense glory of God. This isn’t to say that if we didn’t veil God’s glory would be somehow lessened or outshined—far from it. Instead, it’s a way of acknowledging our lowliness before our Creator, the source of our own goodness, and emphasizing his goodness that much more.

Veiling reveals to mankind the destiny of our relationship with the Trinity.

Since God can never be fully described, our relationship with him can’t either. Instead, we rely on analogies and symbolism to communicate snippets of the divine. The number one most-used analogy throughout the entire Bible—that is, the analogy God Himself uses most often to describe his relationship with the Church (aka us)—is that of bride and groom. Just as spouses vow to sacrifice limitlessly, to love unconditionally, and to give each other their very selves, Christ sacrificed limitlessly, loved unconditionally, and gave his very self for us. Sometimes the Cross is referred to as the “Divine Marriage Bed” because it is the most perfect example of the self-emptying gift that marriage is supposed to be.

Humanity, then, is the Bride of Christ. This analogy doesn’t refer to literal marriage, of course, but instead communicates the reality that Christ looked at all creation and yet wanted to take humanity—broken, sinful humanity—into his heart and home as his beloved. Therefore, the Mass is the wedding feast of the Lamb (Christ), and the Church (meaning the people, not the building) dresses as a bride because she is one. Thus women—who represent this symbolism in a special way—veil as brides on the day of the wedding feast.

By covering our heads as a bride at the altar, we actually uncover for ourselves (and ultimately the world) the most fundamental truth about our divine destiny.

We veil that which is holy, and that which bears life.

Okay, but why veil in the first place? Why is veiling brides even a thing? Like a great many traditions in our culture, the roots are both ancient and beautiful: Ancient nomadic Jews kept the Ark of the Covenant—where God himself was believed to dwell—in a special, doubly-veiled area of the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies, which almost no one was allowed to enter. The intense veiling stemmed from a practical need, but ultimately became deeply symbolic: that which is holy is veiled out of reverence. The divine deserves privacy. Even the angels veil their faces in God’s presence since veiling God himself is impossible.

Additionally, in Christian tradition, we veil that which bears life. This is why the Eucharist is veiled even within the modern-day tabernacle and women—as opposed to men—carry on the veiling tradition.

Thus brides—with the spark of the divine in them as humans, the capacity to bear life as women—veil on their wedding day, as a way of outwardly communicating the inward reality of their dignity and inherent holiness. But women aren’t only human and women on their wedding day, so it makes sense that the tradition be lived out on a far more regular basis.

It’s a way of emulating Mary

It’s important to note that Mary’s veiling was a product of her religion, not of her time (Greek women didn’t veil until married), thus it was no mistake that the Christ child was born to a veiled woman in a community that valued reverence for the holy in such a particular way. God ensured that the womb of Mary—the living tabernacle that held our living God—was veiled, even if no humans realized that’s what was happening at the time. Mary veiled out of humility, modesty, and obedience, and the result was that God Incarnate was outwardly revered in even his earliest, most secret moments.

Granted, none of us are Mary and none of us is carrying Jesus Christ in our womb, but in an effort to emulate Mary and her perfect virtue, veiling can be wildly helpful as a constant reminder of who we are and what we’re destined for.

It’s also really practical.

Let’s be real: who hasn’t been rushing to get ready for Mass with a head full of unruly hair? Bad hair? No problem.

Okay, I’m partially kidding about the bad hair, but also partially not—veils are certainly beautiful and really do accentuate feminine beauty. There truly is something to be said about evangelization through beauty, both evangelizing others and ourselves. It’s nice to hide a bad hair day by feeling gorgeous in a veil, yes, but it also reminds us of our need to cultivate inner beauty and to live as godly women in the world, not of it. When we can glow with the love of Christ, others see it. There you go, falsely attributed quote of St. Francis of Assisi: evangelization without words.

I’ve also found it to be super useful for centering in prayer. Just before I started veiling, I’d noticed myself very consistently distracted during Mass, especially by children (come on, fellow called-to-marriage Catholic women, back me up here). Whether or not it’s intended this way, my veil acts as a set of “blinders” if you will, literally obstructing my peripherals and constantly refocusing my attention on the unfathomably deep miracle of the Mass.

***

When the theology is understood, it’s clear that veiling really is a beautiful, ancient tradition founded in feminine beauty and divine adoration. It’s rich with wisdom and—as with all things theological—has much to teach us. If you’re feeling a little spiritual nudge to give it a shot, don’t ignore it. You’d be surprised what you’ll learn about yourself and your Bridegroom in the process.

 

Thinking about veiling? Lent is always a great time to start! Feel free to contact me @foresthempen for support. Looking for a veil? These veils are super popular and very high-quality.

 

How to Engage the Abortion Debate (Without Making Everything Worse)

 

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I went to a Catholic university where actually adhering to Catholic beliefs was practically a sin. (“You can’t trust the Church! It’s social suicide!” – Janice Ian, sort of.) If there’s anything that my not-so-Catholic university taught me, it was how to defend myself logically, respectfully, and thoroughly in the face of heated attacks and furious classmates. It taught me to give respect when it wasn’t reciprocated, how to stand my ground when I felt totally alone, and that really taking the time to understand what’s happening in the heads and hearts of the opposition can be the difference between a constructive, valuable debate and a friendship-ending fiasco that hurts everyone.

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What it felt like being a practicing Catholic at my “Catholic” university.

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but I’d like to think my $160,000 collegiate lesson is worth something (besides a lifetime of scrolling through realty websites looking at the properties I could have purchased with the money I’ll never earn back), especially at a time when the abortion debate has been so fiercely fanned in an already divided and volatile country.

Just so we’re all on the same page to start, I few things I’d like to clarify:

  1. I’m a pro-lifer coming from an orthodox Catholic perspective and as such, I’m writing this article to fellow pro-life advocates who find themselves talking past the pro-choice opposition. However, many of these points could be flipped to suggest ways that pro-choice advocates can avoid talking past the pro-life opposition.
  2. I really hate using the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” as it seems very few people actually find those terms satisfactory, and such labels tend to contribute to a dangerous “us vs. them” mentality. However, if I took this time to unpack those terms and provide alternatives, this would turn into a dissertation and I’d never get to my point. So, for the sake of simplicity, I begrudgingly use “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” and I hope the reader is understanding and cognizant of my hesitancy.
  3. This article is simply about striving to understand those with whom we may disagree. As such, I will not be refuting any of the pro-choice arguments I lay out. Perhaps I’ll pen an article with refutations in the future, but that is not my goal here. We must learn to understand each other before we can engage each other.
  4. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s intended as a starting point for creating real dialogue. As people on both sides who believe the abortion debate has real moral consequences and thus requires defense at a minimum and an attempt to convince if at all possible, the cause is lost if we cannot so much as connect with the opposition. So long as we are working on completely different levels, we can only talk past each other. Until we can understand where others are coming from, we can never hope to truly defend our own position, much less convince anyone. To ensure that I was providing real connections, I reached out to some of my pro-choice friends and asked, “What do you wish pro-lifers knew about your beliefs?” The answers helped shape the tips listed below.

Pro-choicers are not Satan. Stop treating them like it.

Pro-choicers are people and they are loved and cherished by God, just like everyone else. While it’s true that an argument could be made that Satan is behind the prominence of abortions, it does not logically follow that we are debating Satan himself. Please stop treating pro-lifers like evil incarnate. Just like we don’t have everything figured out (no really, you don’t), neither do they. If we truly believe they’re facilitating moral evil, we are morally obligated to call them out on it. But there are loving ways to do so and there are unloving, ineffective ways to do so. Pounding out “BABY KILLER HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN” on the keyboard in all caps with several select emoji’s does not count as loving. (Nor is it accurate. Speaking of…)

Many pro-choicers hate abortion as much as pro-lifers.

I know that sounds backwards, but if we want to truly connect, we need to understand this: Many pro-choicers themselves do not believe that abortion is the best (or even a good) option, and many insist that they wouldn’t choose it for themselves. So how are they pro-choice? Exactly what the label implies: they are proponents of allowing others—who may believe abortion is a good option—to have access to such procedures.

Coming from the belief that abortion is murder, this seems like an impossible position to hold in good conscience. (Allow someone to do something objectively wrong simply because they don’t believe that it’s wrong?! Outrageous!) Maybe so. But, at this moment, the objective is to listen and note logical or moral discrepancies, not to debate. The objective is not to look at this and say, “That makes no sense!” but instead to see that such a position stems from a real desire to protect those who hold different beliefs.  And through this, we can see that pro-choicers really do care about others, even if pro-lifers take issue with the particular way that care manifests itself. The time for listening is now. The time for logical and moral assessment and debate will come later.

Before saying anything else, explicitly state that there’s more to this than the birth canal.

More and more lately, people have been acknowledging  a very important point: the “consistent life ethic” that pro-lifers profess doesn’t say “from conception until natural birth.”

Pro-life is equated with “babies” so often that people think that’s all pro-lifers care about. We fight ardently for every baby to be born, no matter the circumstances, but then many pro-lifers are the same people who appear to oppose welfare, national healthcare, and other programs intended to help those in the very same poor circumstances. This earns us the reputation of “inconsistent” at best and “pro-birth” at worst.

But the reality is that most of those pro-lifers aren’t actually opposed to welfare itself, but rather they’re dissatisfied with the particular form of welfare/healthcare/whatever currently in use. They believe that these programs are broken and in desperate need of fixing or replacing to truly be effective.

The reality is that many pro-lifers do support programs that offer care to both mom and child for for the duration of both lives. The reality is that many pro-lifers do want to find ways to provide help to the unfortunate, provide better support to parents, and much more, they just don’t always believe the government does an acceptable job of executing that task. The reality is that pro-lifers are opposed to assisted suicide, the death penalty, unjust war, sex trafficking, domestic abuse, and many other issues that are related to “protecting all life from conception to natural death.”

The problem is that no one ever hears about these things. It is because of these misconceptions that our support of “post-partum” issues must be explicitly stated. Doing so establishes common ground and makes it clear that—while the two sides have different ideas of how to accomplish it (government programs/private charities, give the child life/don’t expose it to those circumstances etc.)—the goal for pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike really is the best interest of mother and child.

(Note on “consistent life ethic:” Especially in pro-life circles, the term “conception” is synonymous with “fertilization.” Be on the look out for a future post explaining why that is.)

 

Listen to learn, don’t listen to respond.

I seriously cannot emphasize this point enough: nothing will come of our efforts until we really try to understand each other. Understanding is how constructive debates begin. Accusation is how arguments begin.

First, listen to—really consider—what the other person has to say. This doesn’t mean agree; rather, it means to try to put oneself in the other person’s mind and understand where they’re coming from. If something about their logic is confusing, we must ask for clarification calmly and respectfully.

Then, verify that this understanding matches their message. A good way to phrase such things is, “I’m understanding you to mean ______. Is that correct?” If so, the person will say so. If not, keep working calmly to understand their message as completely as possible. This means asking unbiased questions (Example: “Can you explain your position on rape situations again?” not “So you think rape babies don’t matter?”) and not feeding into personal attacks if the other person isn’t being as respectful. (Example: If they say, “Rape victims have a right to abort because I’m not a heartless fetus-lover like you,” just let it go. The mission at this moment is not self-defense. Politely call out their personal attack and request that they be more respectful in the future, sure, but don’t allow the discussion to get off-track by writing a dissertation about the inconsistencies of the phrase “heartless fetus-lover.”)

Finally after—and only after—a mutual understanding is established, calmly engage the debate by saying, “Got it. Here is where I believe you’re mistaken…” or “I don’t believe ____ has been accounted for.” Notice the debate is about the topic not about the person being engaged.

And when you do respond, be reasonable.

In a world that has all but abandoned logic classes, it’s not surprising that most debates (especially on the Internet) are riddled with fallacies and consequently go nowhere. Here are a two common fallacies and examples of their use in the pro-life :

  • Red Herring – Using an irrelelvant argument to distract the debate.
    • Example: “Abortions are wrong because they end innocent lives. One of the millions of babies aborted since Roe v. Wade could have been the one to cure cancer.”
    • Why it’s a fallacy: While it’s possible that someone capable of finding the cure to cancer could be among those aborted, that has nothing to do with the original topic. The original claim was that innocent lives are being ended, and the debate is about whether or not that claim is true. Curing cancer—the potential of those innocent lives—is great, but it’s not relevant.
    • How to avoid it: Check that every claim goes back to the original topic. If something doesn’t, either reword it so that it’s more direct, or take it out.
  • Ad hominem – Attacking the person rather than the argument
    • Example: “Abortion supporters really hate moms and babies.”
    • Why it’s a fallacy: Just because someone supports the availability of abortion doesn’t mean they hate moms or babies. That would be like saying that because someone has a lock on their bedroom door, they want to live in eternal isolation. One simply doesn’t follow from the other.
    • How to avoid it: Stay on topic. If abortion harms moms and babies, say that. An abortion and an abortion supporter are not the same. Remember the opponent is a human and deserves respect, even if emotions are very, very high.

Of course, there are many, many more examples of fallacies in pro-life defenses (as well as pro-choice defenses). It would be in everyone’s best interest to study logic so that we can hone our discussions and make our debates worth our time.

 …

After more than 50 years of debate, abortion seems to be this insurmountable issue that has—and continues to—tear people apart. While there is certainly no quick or easy fix to such an intense and emotional subject, it doesn’t have to be nearly as polarizing as it is. If we can at least make a connection and strive to understand each other, even if we don’t agree, we’ll be far better off than we’ve been in a lifetime.

When Life Gives You Limónes

 

I write this from thousands of feet in the air, speeding over states, cities, and families in an airplane bound for Mexico City—my home for the past 6 months. I find it a little easier to think in airplanes; daily problems shrink with the scenery, perspective expands with the horizon.

This post-holidays flight back across the border was a clear but difficult decision for me to make.

When other friends would return from trips abroad and complain about the sometimes debilitating “culture shock” that they experienced, I misunderstood them entirely. I legitimately thought—until 3 months ago—that culture shock was just that: being surprised or shocked at another culture. Big deal. Experience the newness and move on, right?

Nope.

For those who haven’t experienced any of this before: that isn’t culture shock. That’s uninformed tourism.

Instead, real culture shock is a little more difficult to explain and it’s way, way more serious.

It starts with the big stuff—sure—like unfamiliar languages, significant etiquette differences, or unfamiliar surroundings. But it’s absolutely possible to experience shock without any such differences. After all, you prepare for the big things, such as language or etiquette.

Really, culture shock is found in things so tiny and insignificant that it’s impossible to truly prepare for them. It’s little things like how much space people leave between others in line. It’s people walking in the middle of the sidewalk instead of on the right or left side. It’s seeing flat roofs instead of slanted ones and houses without backyards. It’s using unfamiliar currency and feeling sluggish with cash at the register. It’s going grocery shopping without any familiar brands. It’s foreign traffic signs. It’s being constantly on edge because you don’t know safe areas from dangerous ones, whether this dish is going to give you indigestion, or where to turn for medicine when you pick up something too nasty for Advil but not serious enough for an ambulance.

It’s none of these things independently. It’s all of these things together.

They seem so little and so insignificant that you wouldn’t give them any real attention, but they steadily chip away at comfort and confidence. They gradually slip the welcome mat out from under your feet—not quickly enough to be thrilling, but just slowly enough to feel like you’re always about to trip.

Over time, this lack of stability has very real mental ramifications and usually bottoms out in a sort of unofficial-but-super-real depression more commonly known as “culture shock.”

The worst part is, when people ask what’s wrong, you don’t have an answer. Everything that comes to mind is unsatisfactory and frankly, lame. What are you going to tell people? “You seem tired and sad. What’s wrong?”  “People are walking in the middle of the sidewalk!”

Lest unseasoned (or blasé) travelers reply, “Don’t let that stop you from soaking up the experience!” Let me make something clear: you can’t. One of the symptoms of culture shock is a disorienting sensation of disconnect from reality. No matter how hard you try to experience your surroundings, it feels surreal and distant—you may as well be watching someone else living your life through a GoPro.

Other symptoms include excessive sleeping, stress eating, mood swings and uncontrollable emotional reactions (embarrassing example: I broke down in tears during a teacher in-service because we were talking about hugs) —and that’s just from my experience, not to mention that of hundreds of other travelers.

Or, to summarize all of that far more succinctly and poignantly, I’ll borrow the words of a friend’s friend: “It’s like being forced to stay on your tip toes all day, and only getting to walk on your feet when you get back home.”

Culture shock is real, it’s depression, it’s debilitating, and it’s darn good at throwing a monkey wrench into a perfectly exciting experience.

My 2.5-week escape to the States for Christmas was helpful, but I’m certainly still in the throes of the shock. Admittedly, my case is probably worse than most; I’m here by myself with only my sweet but still unfamiliar host family, and circumstances have left me with a nearly nonexistent social circle, limited spare time, disconnected from my faith life, and a very promising relationship now 2,000 miles away that’s only as comforting as Skype dates can be. All that said, I can’t supply answers, but I can offer suggestions for coping the way I have (if you can call it that).

 

Make your space.

Fight back against the disorientation by giving yourself space to reorient yourself. If you have your own room, decorate it as well as you can for the duration of your trip. Bring photos of family and friends, set up religious icons, and prominently display a book you like. On a personal note, I find LEGO’s to be quite stress-relieving (and cheaper here!), so my shelves are covered in completed LEGO kits. They remind me of who I was with when I constructed them and they offer a little entertainment when I’m bored or depressed.

 

Exercise.

This is coming from someone who literally never exercised before going abroad and still doesn’t do anything that would bring me near a gym: just MOVE. The endorphins that your body releases when you do little things—like walking around your block—really, truly do make a difference. Find what works for you. In the absence of a dance studio, I find myself walking around Mexico City’s gorgeous parks. (PokemonGo has been incredibly motivating in this regard—I’m always just 2k from hatching an egg!) Maybe it’s swimming or hiking or going to salsa cafes. Find it and do it.

 

Plan to have fun.

A dear friend of mine lived in the Philippines for a full year and essentially hated it. Culture shock hit her hard and severely tainted her trip. Her main advice to me as I embarked for Mexico was to plan something to look forward to as often as possible. Monthly is good, weekly is better. This helps distract from loneliness, sadness, boredom, and helps create opportunities or orient oneself to new surroundings. Besides, the more familiar you are with your new home, the more invested you’ll be in enjoying it.

 

Escape to home when you need to.

Bring a favorite and familiar book, movie, or album to enjoy when you’re really struggling. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve already read/seen/heard, it just has to be familiar. For example, I started reading the Legend of Drizzt Do’Urden just before I moved to Mexico. It’s a series with more than 10 books. I left off on book 5 and recently picked it back up. While each book is certainly new territory, its setting and characters are familiar. (Millennials: May I suggest Harry Potter? It seems to be a popular choice when us muggles are in need of a home.)

 

Pick up a musical instrument or improve with one you already know.

Don’t worry if you aren’t musical. The point of this isn’t to perform for people; it’s to have a creative outlet that also provides emotional release. I accidentally discovered that ukuleles fit really well into my arms, are surprisingly easy to learn, and create soothing music with almost not effort. I practice for 30 minutes a day, and I’m relaxed, focused, and increasingly at home during that time. Find one that you’re interested in, commit, and invest.

 

Find people with your native language and hang out regularly…

…even if you’re trying to immerse. Spending 6.95 days a week surrounded by the other language and 30 minutes talking to fellow natives still counts as immersion. When I came to Mexico, I thought it would be in my best interest to avoid English speaking communities. I was wrong. While you shouldn’t surround yourself with a ton of English speakers if you hope to immerse, you also shouldn’t isolate yourself in totally unfamiliar territory. This, I believe, caused the bulk of my depression.

 

Tell people about your shock.

No one can help if you don’t let them know what’s going on. Not everyone needs to know, of course, but getting support from a handful of loved ones can make all the difference. My dad was shocked to hear that I’d slipped into an intense depression because all I told him about were the fun places we visited and the fantastic food. But now that he knows, he checks in on me, he emails me pictures from when I was little, and does what he can to be available when I need to vent about people standing too close to me in line.

 

It’s hard to admit to debilitating culture shock, especially when it seems like everyone else who goes abroad has a blast. The reality is that nothing is as perfect as Instagram makes it out to be. Besides, culture shock happens in different degrees. Your friend who went to Austria for a week was only there for a week—it’s unlikely that his 7 days of shock is comparable to your 7 months. Your cousin on her study-abroad Ireland trip might be there for an extended period of time, but she’s also surrounded by an entire group of classmates in a country that shares her language. Don’t be surprised if she returns unacquainted with travel-induced depression.

Culture shock can feel like the end of the world, especially when it hits early and the months ahead seem unbearable. But if there’s anything these past few months in Mexico have taught me it’s that feelings of complete despair can be turned around, and home can be found literally anywhere if you’re willing to look for it. As the locals have never said before, but will when I’m done with them: When life gives you limónes, make  tacos.

Why I’m Voting Third-Party and So Should You

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Appropriately colored red and blue

 

Everyone knows that this election season has been one of the slimiest, craziest, most embarrassing cycles our nation has ever seen. But it seems that almost nobody knows that there are options beyond the Hillary-Trump dynamic that’s been shoved down our throats.

That’s right, here’s the dreaded third-party plug. Why?

Because, Obi-Wan, it might just be our only hope.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against voting third-party. Here are a few:

“Voting third-party is the same as not voting at all.”

“Isn’t it better to put your vote somewhere it will count? Voting for the lesser of two evils will have more effect than voting for some obscure candidate with no chance.”

“Even if a lot of people voted third-party, there are too many candidates. The votes would just get split up, and Hillary or Trump would take office anyway.”

I understand these arguments (really, they’re essentially the same argument), and the authentic concern behind them. But the reality is that they’re defeatist and fail to take into consideration the power of the masses. Allow me to explain:

“Voting Third-Party Is the Same as Not Voting at All”

Any time someone votes, they’re voting. By voting, there is no way someone can fail to vote.

Of course, that’s not quite the point of this argument. Instead, the argument defines the value of the vote by the effectiveness of the vote. In other words, the argument is this: if a vote won’t reasonably result in a desired candidate’s election, the vote has essentially been thrown away. Another way of wording this is….

“Isn’t It Better To Put Your Vote Somewhere It Will Count…?”

…so let’s just wrap the two of them together.

This argument is common, understandable, and even logical. By all means, we want our votes to bear maximum weight during the election. This, however, is no ordinary election. Such an argument fails to acknowledge the desperation of countless people in our nation and power in numbers.

It’s true that if only one person votes third-party, that candidate has been helped very little relative to the vote-bloated giants that are Hillary and Trump, our mainstream candidates. In such a case, the only real effect of this solitary vote will be on the conscience of the voter. He or she can honestly say that (s)he is not responsible for putting a terrible candidate into office. In this situation, it’s true that said vote could have gone to a “lesser evil” mainstream candidate in order to help prevent the presidency of the “greater evil” candidate. While I think that voting by one’s conscience is infinitely more important than any theoretical musings as to whether MY vote put MY candidate in office, I do understand the logic there.

However, this is not a typical election cycle.

If people who don’t want Hillary/Trump are blessings, then it seems that the cup of the Internet overfloweth. Overall, the InterNation is pretty fed up with our current mainstream options. And if the sample on the Internet is reflective of society as a whole, we have one heck of a lot of voting power that’s hesitant to pick a poison.

And that’s why this year is different.

Adults older than me who have voted more times than me (adultier adults, if you will) have said that elections are not always this bad—that this is one of the worst seasons they’ve ever seen. In other words, we’re experiencing a relatively unique phenomenon; a Ticked Off Majority has been born.

If only one person votes third-party, it’s true that the affect will largely only be felt by that individual. But if Ticked Off Majority votes third-party, the two-party system is effectively overcome. This isn’t a promise of third-party success, but it increases the likelihood of a Hillary/Trump-free office by a large margin.

Which brings us to the next argument:

“Even if a lot of people voted third-party, there are too many candidates…”

Theoretically, this is true. But Reality doesn’t often function based on theory. Not all of the available third-party candidates are strong enough to gain a substantial following. We won’t see the Ticked Off Majority going in a hundred different directions—only two or three. As it comes down to the wire and people see the strength of limiting the number of viable third-party candidates, we may even see that number reduce to one or two.

And while the support of the Ticked Off Majority behind one or two strong third-party candidates is by no means a promise of a Hillary/Trump-free office, it will greatly increase the possibility of such an outcome.

Right now, that chance is better than anything else we’ve got.

Third-party voting makes room for miracles. Mainstream voting means picking your poison.

I’ve included a few names of third-party candidates below so that you, dear reader, may have somewhere to start. Research can be hard, but it’s worth your liberty and it is your obligation as an American. Don’t let laziness put either mainstream twerp into office.

Gary Johnson

Jill Stein

Darrell Castle

This list of candidates and the states in which they appear on the ballot thus far

“May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

Why I’m Not So Quick to Reject the Locutions to the World

Locutions to the World header

Header from the website, formerly http://www.locutions.org.

 

Beginning on December 10, 2010, a Pennsylvanian soul allegedly began receiving locutions from Mary and Jesus that were intended for the entire world. The soul’s spiritual director at the time, Monsignor John Esseff—a man with quite the spiritual credentials, having learned under Padre Pio as his spiritual director and having directed Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta—discerned and disseminated the messages via the website Locutions.org, calling them simply “Locutions to the World.” (Here abbreviated LTTW.)

Then, rather abruptly, in late September 2015, the website went under construction and then disappeared altogether, with only two sentences left in its wake: “Locutions is no more. So long and take care.”

Those who had been reading the locutions—including myself—were caught off guard. After five very consistent years of weekly updates to the website (minus a small hiccup a few years prior), suddenly it was almost as if the messages never existed.

So what happened?

Directly before the website was taken down, Mary allegedly began predicting events that would take place during the Papal visit to the United States. There were some pretty significant details outlined in those locutions which, thus far, have not appeared to come to pass.

Within days, the website disappeared.

People immediately tried to contact the volunteer group responsible for posting the locutions via the “Locutions to the World” Facebook page, asking when the website would be fixed. Initially, responses came quickly and promised things such as, “We’re not sure when, but we hope it to be soon!” Since then, the LTTW account has been silent and to my understanding—although I personally haven’t made any recent attempts—private messages all but ceased.

Equally as immediately, however, posts, comments and blogs popped up, calling the LTTW locutionist a “false prophet,” with scathing critiques of alleged revelations that had been either ignored or treated relatively well for nearly five years.

I understand the letdown and even the defensive anger and fear. I understand that private revelation is risky business and a highly opinionated topic. I understand that things don’t look good for LTTW right now.

But I’m not abandoning hope just yet.

There are a number of reasons, but allow me to explain three of them.

To label all LTTWs false—with such limited evidence—is impulsive and logically fallacious.

When I was first introduced to the LTTW, I was very suspicious. I carefully discerned the messages for more than two years. Even after privately accepting them as real, I continued to pay close attention to make sure they continued to be real.

I will admit that this seeming discrepancy between what has been predicted and what has actually happened is alarming, and it has put me back in full-blown discernment mode. Why discernment mode? Because—at this point in time—outright rejection is unreasonable.

First of all, the final locutions only seem to be inaccurate. The financial collapse allegedly predicted by Mary wouldn’t necessarily have occurred overnight. There may be a moment at which collapse becomes evident to the public, but that is not necessarily the moment of the pivotal events, nor the moment of the actual collapse.

That is not necessarily to say that the collapse is still on its way—I cannot pretend to know that. But it’s unreasonable to say that because we didn’t hear about it the event didn’t happen. Further, we cannot eliminate the possibility that we misunderstood or misinterpreted the messages and thus spent the duration of the Pope’s visit “looking the wrong direction,” so to speak.

Secondly, even if the final locutions were incorrect, the remainder of the locutions still hold (or lack) merit on their own accord. The validity of the later locutions is not dependent on the previous locutions, nor vice versa.

While the possibility of messages with inconsistent validity are reason for great caution, it does not logically follow that no validity is contained therein. This calls for painstakingly careful discernment. Ideally, such problems would be dealt with by the locutionist’s spiritual director before they ever reach public ears—a point I’ll tackle in a bit. However, since these locutions are already available to the public, discernment falls on the shoulders of the public.

Those willing to carefully discern the messages should do so. Those unable, unwilling, or uneasy should simply ignore the locutions altogether—after all, private revelation can be rejected unless endorsed by the Church. However, those unable, unwilling, or uneasy should not immediately criticize LTTW as “false prophecies.” Without discernment, such accusations amount to defamation.

Monsignor John Esseff personally endorsed LTTW for a fair amount of time.

This point does not prove the validity of the locutions, but it makes their validity more likely.

Allow me to explain.

Msgr. Esseff is a diocesan priest in Pennsylvania with some incredible theological credentials, as mentioned earlier. The well-respected priest received spiritual direction from Padre Pio, himself acted as spiritual director for Blessed Mother Teresa and her community, in addition to his own accomplishments and winning reputation.

Msgr. Esseff was—for some time—the spiritual director of the locutionist. He originally published a letter on the website explaining his connection to the locutionist and assuring readers of his careful discernment of the validity of each message.

All accounts point to a few basic facts:

  • The locutions were originally intended simply for the community in which the soul lived.
  • In 2010, Mary allegedly told the locutionist to begin publishing the messages for the world to see.
  • Esseff constructed Locutions.org for this purpose, which was served for approximately 5 years.
  • Sometime in 2014, Msgr. Esseff disassociated himself with LTTW, allegedly going so far as to recruit the help of a lawyer to remove his name from the website.

Until the point of alleged disassociation, the LTTW had some pretty substantial backing. To my knowledge, Msgr. Esseff has not issued any kind of a statement regarding his reasons for taking his name off of the website, but it’s fair to assume that it likely had something to do with the integrity or authenticity of the messages contained therein. It’s also fair to assume, therefore, that prior to his disassociation, he approved of the locutions shared on the website. Thus we can conclude with reasonable certainty that Msgr. Essef disapproved of the most recent messages, but approved of the ones issued before his disassociation.

This means that the former should be considered with scrutiny, but the latter should be considered with even more scrutiny. Note that this does not mean that everything the locutionist has ever revealed is absolute nonsense. Instead, we must distinguish between messages and weigh each according to its own merit. Sound like a lot of work? Welcome to the world of actual discernment, thorough research, and authentic consideration—something unheard of in most corners of the Internet.

We must also consider that it is entirely possible that—during the time of his association with LTTW—Msgr. Esseff, being human, could have made mistakes in his discernment of the (in)authentic nature of his advisee’s revelations. However, acknowledgement of human flaws does not in any way eliminate the reality that the clergyman’s discernment was likely Spirit-led over all, thus yielding real fruits at least part of the time.

The locutions appear to uphold Church teaching.

I can’t claim to have read all of the locutions, but I followed for three of the five years that the website was active. In that time, I found little (if anything) that contradicted Church teaching.

One of the main indicators of a “false prophet” is a disregard for things the Church—through the guidance of the Holy Spirit—has already established as true, good, or revealed by God. There may be other reasons to doubt the locutions (which we’ve discussed above), but disregard for Church teaching simply isn’t one; at least, not as far as I’ve seen.

In fact, the LTTW’s compliance with the rest of Christianity (or, more specifically, Catholicism) is, if anything, a point of merit. No, it doesn’t necessitate authenticity, and careful discernment is still critical. But such consistency is definitely an indicator that we’re looking at something benign at worst, and at best, really, really cool.

Skydiving at Sunset: How Jumping Out of An Airplane Taught Me God’s Mercy

I’d like to think that I’m too intelligent and evolutionarily advanced to go skydiving.

Turns out I’m not.

The entire day leading up to the jump is best described simply as “exhausting suspense.” At work–as I tried very hard to convince myself that nothing bad was going to happen–a small bit of my consciousness kept faithful vigil, incessantly chanting “YOU WILL DIE” and occasionally knocking over their candles, setting fire to the rest of my brain.

The drive to the dropzone took nearly an hour. My frayed nerves were further exasperated by fierce rain and the thought that my friend in the passenger’s seat might not die from skydiving but from being in my car.

We finally arrived just late for our scheduled slot at 4 pm and after a simultaneously reassuring and terrifying session of ground school (training), we were ready to dive.

Except we weren’t.

We waited 4 hours in a shed at the mercy of the pounding thunderstorm. There was a moment of false hope in which the people from the 2 pm slot dove in open skies before the clouds rolled back in and destroyed our final opportunity before closing time at 8 pm.

By 8:07–nearly 10 minutes after the place was supposed to be shut down–we were pulled aside to reschedule our jump. The pilot and instructors were standing in a circle outside, talking in hushed tones and shaking their heads at the sky.

Trying to make light of the situation (but also extremely frustrated at the turn of events), I commented to the receptionist, “This is something that would happen to me. God’s like, ‘Hey, guys, I’ve got this great opportunity for you! Juuuust kidding. You’re out here so I can eff you over.'” (In retrospect, not something I’m proud of. At all.)

By 8:18, as we were getting our stuff together to leave, the pilot suddenly dashed into the shed shouting, “There’s an opening in the sky and we’re taking it. SUIT UP!!”

What a blessing in disguise it turned out to be. We dove through a beautiful sunset, billowing thunderclouds and, as our parachutes neared the ground, a beautiful rainbow planted itself on the horizon just beside the shed.

***

A while ago, I wrote an introductory blog about a book on forgiveness. I didn’t actually write follow-up posts because I simply didn’t know what to say. It was all so interconnected that I couldn’t even break it into topics or sections. But at the end of that book, it became very clear to me that I needed a better understanding of God’s mercy in order to understand forgiveness and continue my theological growth.

I didn’t even make the connection between my pursuit of mercy and what had just happened until the photographer made an off-handed comment immediately after we landed: “It’s actually really cool that you waited so long to jump. No one ever gets to jump at this time of day.”

Then, all at once, I understood it. I suddenly perceived how completely unfair and immature my earlier comment had been; how totally I deserved to be turned around and sent home without skydiving ever for the rest of my lifeand how utterly illogical and wonderful God had been to me. And it came to me–after all this time of seeking and confusion–like a wordless voice inside my head: “This is God’s mercy.”

Extravagant, over-the-top, exhilarating, illogical, and thoroughly undeserved.

There’s really only one image I can come up with to try to communicate what mercy is and how it works: Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Herold and the Purple Crayon

It’s an old children’s book from the 50’s in which Harold draws an interactive world around himself with a crayon. His creations are just as real as the rest of the world–he can climb on them, travel in them, even eat the food he illustrates.

To a much more divine degree, God has a purple crayon, too. He wants to be close to us so badly that he’s willing to draw any path or create any “loophole” that he needs in order to reach us.

(I should clarify that I only mean that we might perceive it as a “loophole” because it’s something we don’t expect from God. But there won’t be any real loopholes because God cannot contradict Godself or somehow “get around” his own nature.)

This crayon never runs out because it is connected directly to Godself which is, by his very nature, infinite. In other words, there are no limits on God’s mercy.

There are lines from the purple crayon leading from each of us to him all. the. time. Even if we don’t want them or don’t see them.

Better yet, he’s never frugal with his colorful mercy. He’ll draw a million lines, a million engines, a million bridges, or a million miles if it means just having a slim chance of reaching out to you. His mercy is incredibly personal–he’ll create whatever it takes to catch your attention and to draw you in to his enormous heart.

Perhaps there’s no good way to explain it–God’s mercy is really learned best by experiencing it. The mercy, of course, saturates the crucifixion and resurrection in a way that we can still experience 2,000 years later–but sometimes it takes a more personalized, modern experience to really grasp something so abstract, beautiful, and fundamentally divine.

I pray that in time, you’ll be able to experience it and figure it out for yourself–without throwing yourself out of an airplane.

Why Going to a Not-So-Catholic School Was the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Me

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An alternate version of this article was originally published in the online periodical, The Messenger.

I suppose I should start by stating three things. One: I firmly believe that a wholesome, grounded Catholic education is one of the most important gifts a person can receive. Two: I truly and absolutely adore my university. Three: the previous statements are, in the eyes of many, directly contradictory.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve been raised strongly Catholic my entire life. My parents sent my siblings and me to Catholic schools K-12, and homeschooled us when they were dissatisfied with the quality of education in the area. We went to a non-denominational Sunday school for more than 11 years, delving deep into scripture and engaging in intriguing discussion with other denominations.

When it came time for me to pick a college, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to attend a Catholic university. At that point, I’d been heavily involved in my high school’s Confirmation Retreat Team, as well as St. Louis’ REAP Team, QuesTEC, a monk-tastic summer camp (One Bread, One Cup), and was headed off to earn a bachelor’s degree in theology and pursue a career as a theological speaker and writer.

When I was finally accepted into my alma mater, I was ecstatic. I knew it was the right choice. I’d heard great things about its theology program and I couldn’t wait to be at a Catholic university, where people had chosen to go there, so they would be just as excited as me about my faith. I couldn’t wait for all the wonderfully deep theological discussions, the strong community to attend Mass with, the friends who would join me in making nerdy religion jokes, and the wise, learned professors with whom I could explore the Church and soak up their vast, ecclesiastical knowledge.

I was disappointed.

Severely.

Put frankly, my school’s not exactly…Catholic. Sure, it’s in the name and you can bet it’s on my monthly loan bill, but if there’s one thing that the extra $$,$$$ per year has taught me, it’s that “Catholic” has become more of an academic selling point than a way of life.

My freshman year, as the ceremonial incense rose revealing almost nothing of real substance beneath it, my heart sank. It wasn’t just a lack of spirituality—the typical collegiate beer-tonight-Blood-tomorrow spirituality was quite strong and packed the student Mass each Sunday—it was also a lack of Catholic life. It was a lack of Catholic conviction. A lack of Catholic belief, in her Church, her God, and her teachings. If anyone there was Catholic, 167 hours of the week you couldn’t tell it.

I knew that once I left the bubble of my hometown, I would encounter people whose beliefs opposed my own. What I didn’t expect was to be detested for it. The sentiments on my campus towards people with my beliefs were tense to say the least.

In order to not get totally shut down in the majority of my interactions with people, I became a sort of closet Catholic; I held exactly the same convictions as before, I was just far less vocal about it. It worked. People (wrongly) assumed that I was like everyone else: Catholic by title and consumption of the Eucharist, but “enlightened” when it came to the Church’s teachings…all of which I should reject except the teachings on social justice.

I soon became convinced that lectures riddled with “Catholic teaching aside…” were the only way some professors put the Church in the classroom at all. The only teacher who taught me truly engaging theology (beyond the surface-level, politically correct fluff) was a Sunni Muslim who often found himself defending Catholicism to his Catholic colleagues.

Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t completely off base on everything. After all, if one is looking simply for a school with strong convictions to volunteer service, that place is the jackpot. But there were enough anti-Catholic sentiments floating around—especially in my own department—to make me seriously question what I was doing there.

And seriously question I did.

I wanted to transfer pretty badly, but such a move would have been financial suicide. Instead, I took a deep breath and went back for a second year.

And Praise. Be. To. God.

Now, an adult in the working world, I see how overwhelmingly blessed I have been. I’m extremely grateful that I experienced a severe letdown and such strong resistance in college. As I pursue my dream as a theological speaker, it’s critical that I am able to foster healthy relationships with people who strongly disagree with me, even—and especially—when their actions are far from reciprocal.

It was far better to have reality mow me down in the relatively stable environment of college than in my first year on the job.

I’ve learned to acknowledge that tragedy and beauty inevitably accompany one another. I’ve grown to understand how people on the other sides of arguments think, what their logic is, and exactly why I disagree with it. Most of all, by the time I’d graduated, I’d fallen in love with my school all over again. My fantastic, challenging, and imperfect school.

Being a Catholic in a not-so-Catholic school was an enormous challenge and while it’s definitely not for everyone, I’ve discovered that shying away from the obstacles God confronts us with can be even more hazardous. After all, gold is proved worthy in fire (1 Peter 1:6-8). Through this fire, I fell deeply in love with God’s plan for me, God himself, and my incredible calling—whatever it may be. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

“Spiritual But Not Religious” Is a Fancy Way of Saying “Deist”

When someone tells me that they are “spiritual but not religious,” they unknowingly make three things instantly clear:

  1. At some point (probably recently), the very foundations of their birth faith were shaken, most likely in an academic setting
  2. They picked up this label from someone else without investing any critical thought
  3. Thus far, they are either too lazy or too overwhelmed to put any real effort into the development of their spiritual life.

Allow me to explain:

  1. No one is raised “spiritual but not religious.” People are either raised in a belief system and pick up this title because they’ve fallen away, or they are raised without a belief system but find the idea of spirituality to be vaguely interesting and worthwhile.
  2. Somewhere along their journey, a peer/colleague/professor/college application proposed “spiritual but not religious” as a valid category of faith affiliation, and the individual picked it up. To the typical wandering faith-seeker, the title seems both intelligent and noncommittal, making it an attractive alternative to frighteningly clear-cut major religions.
  3. It’s clear that the individual in question has not put any sustained effort into the reestablishment of their spiritual life, because if they had, they would not have chosen such a ridiculous descriptor. “Spiritual but not religious” just doesn’t make sense.

And here’s why.

Of course the individual is spiritual–everyone has a spirit, thus everyone is spiritual. One’s personal conviction about whether or not they have a soul/spirit doesn’t change the fact that they actually do.

Before we go around claiming whether or not someone is “religious,” let’s take a moment to understand just what “religious” means.

“Religious” is an adjective (that is, a descriptive word) stemming from the word “religion.” Religion is simply a system we use to try to understand our spirituality. Religion is typically a group effort because it takes a lot of people, thinking, and trail & error to understand something as complex as the soul/spirit.

This is somewhat comparable to the term “medical.”

“Medical” is an adjective (that is, a descriptive word) stemming from the word “medicine.” Medicine–referring to the study, not the specific drugs–is simply a system we use to try to understand our physical bodies. Medicine is typically a group effort because it takes a lot of people, thinking, and trail & error to understand something as complex as the human body.

“Religious” means “relating to religion.”

“Medical” means “relating to medicine.”

There are many different religions–that is, specialized and differentiated approaches to spirituality that adhere to a specific system in order to function.

There are also many different forms of medicine–that is, specialized and differentiated approaches to the body that adhere to a specific system in order to function.

A person could absolutely reject medicine altogether–that’s his or her decision–but it would be pretty foolish and short-sighted to totally disregard everything human history has gathered about the human body. In fact, this basically never happens. When people split from established medicine, they usually develop their own system based on ideas/processes/whatever that they find important. In other words, they’re developing their own form of medicine.

Similarly, a person could absolutely reject religion altogether–that’s his or her decision–but it would be pretty foolish and short-sighted to totally disregard everything human history has gathered about the human soul/spirit. In fact, this basically never happens. When people split from established religion, they usually develop their own system of beliefs based on ideas/processes/whatever that they find important. In other words, they’re developing their own religion.

So, at the end of the day, saying that someone is “spiritual but not religious” makes about as much sense as saying that someone is “physical but not medical.”

In theory, we can splice spirituality and religious nicely apart, but in real life–especially for the authentic faith-seeker–the split is essentially impossible.

If someone hasn’t put enough thought into their self-applied label to realize such a glaring discrepancy, it’s doubtful they’ve put enough thought into their spirituality to really say they believe much of anything. For those who did put in real thought and still came to an extremely vague conclusion about the nature of spirituality, I offer two more accurate and internally consistent labels for you to consider instead: deist or pantheist.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

(Quick response to the stop-comparing-science-and-religion refutation that will inevitably arise: Correct, science and religion are different. They are different by virtue of their subject matter and methods, but identical in their mutual quest for understanding. The subject matter of science is physical and often visible. The subject matter of religion is spiritual (even metaphysical) and often invisible. With different subject matter, it’s reasonable that the two require different methods. Science relies on experiments and theories (theories = educated beliefs; no true scientist would ever say something is totally “proven”), and religion relies on revelation and faith. Both are merely systems of beliefs about respective subject mater as can be obtained from respective methods.)

11 Satisfying Moments for Starbucks Baristas

*Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated with Starbucks or any of its franchises. This is an independent article.*

1) When you’re low on milk mid-drink and the amount left in the carton = the exact amount you needed.

meant to do that bowling oops thumb stuck strike

2) Telling customers that Happy Hour is over.

llama sorry not sorry

#sorrynotsorry

3) Turning off the lights/locking the door the very moment the clock strikes close.

degrassi and stay out door tie night

4) When the contents of the tea shaker fills the cup exactly.

I meant to do that awkward guy red

5) That rare occasion when something goes wrong and Frappuccinos are temporarily unavailable.

robert downey jr. i aint even mad

6) Getting the Flat White dot EXACTLY right.

That went well gif dark room long blond hair guy

7) Perfectly clean counters.

the matrix morpheus at last stormy night

8) Realizing there’s backup mocha.

office relief phew

9) When a customer gets upset over something petty and they exclaim that they are never coming back.

willy wonka stop dont come back sarcasm white room

10) That beautiful moment before open when everything is totally stocked and perfectly clean.

Scrat acorn collection 1

11) When customers admit that being a barista is a high-stress, often overwhelming job, and you’re rocking it (even when it doesn’t seem like you are).

Tina fey relief phew