Tag Archives: Marriage

Love Carries Me

On Saturday, the Lord made a mark on me that can’t be unmade. Saturday was the monthly meeting of our Carmelite Community, but it wasn’t like any other we’ve had this year. On Saturday I received the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and was officially admitted into formation. This signifies that I am officially part of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, I am consecrated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel (and through her, in a particular way, Our Lord), and I am dedicated to imitating Mary in humility, chastity, and prayer; contemplating our Lord. On Saturday, the Lord made me more His own than I already was.

Last week was a little chaotic. Nothing especially crazy happened, at least on a basic level; I was just busy, so I didn’t get to my reading for Saturday’s formation until Friday. Along with the reading were some reflection questions, and one of those questions was simple and to the point; why do you want to be a Carmelite? I knew my answer almost immediately; I want to know Him more, and be more His.

With mixed emotions I sometimes remember when I daydreamed about what my wedding might have looked like. For various reasons, I know that marriage is not in the cards for me. The Lord has other plans, and that’s just fine. After my clothing ceremony on Saturday, which I had with one other woman, several others made their First Promises (which for nuns/friars would be like temporary vows), and one made his Final Promises (which would be like perpetual vows), and I found myself thinking about that like a wedding ceremony.

For me, Final Promises is five years away, and I have so much to learn, but I want that. I find that the closer I get to the Lord, the more I want Him. That seems counter intuitive, but I think it makes sense given that He is infinite Love, and I’m finite. I think I’m finally beginning to understand really that He is my only satisfaction. Every good thing that exists has a limit. Every beautiful, fun, hilarious, heartbreaking, glorious story has an end; eventually the coffee in the cup runs out; my favorite songs fade to silence; one day I will have to return my bird to the Lord. God’s Goodness, and everything that comes with that; His Beauty; Mysteriousness; Faithfulness; Compassion; these have no limit, and my thirst for Him can never really be quenched.

The Scapular I received on Saturday is meant to be an outward sign of an inner change. I don’t feel different per se, but I know that I am different. I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and it wasn’t like I was hit with a lightning bolt on Saturday, but it was like hearing the Lord say, “I see the choices you’ve made for Me. Thank you.” I recently came across an explanation of what it means when Jesus says “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” To deny yourself means to choose what God wants when what you want is something else. I realized that this past year, I’ve done that. I’ve changed things about my life that if the Lord hadn’t called me to Carmel, I probably would not have.

Promises, to me at least, seem very much like wedding vows. I had a thought the other day that I can love the Lord in a particular way precisely because I’m a woman. Obviously men love the Lord, too, but I imagine it’s a love of deep friendship and loyalty. Of course I have these same feelings, but I think because I’m a woman, I can love Him in a kind of romantic sense. There’s so much language in Scripture about the Lord’s relationship with His people being like that of a lover and His beloved. In fact, the Church, is often referred to with feminine language. When the Lord finally comes, there is language in Scripture of a wedding feast.

For a long time, I was wary of this kind of language. I wondered if I was allowed to love the Lord in this way. The fact of the matter is, though, I think I’m kind of supposed to. It’s not a the same as a “normal” or “usual” romance (for lack of a better word) between a man and a woman, but it is a kind of romance. Increasingly, there’s this ache in me because I want so badly to physically feel Him and audibly hear His voice. I want to sit somewhere with Him, and maybe not even talk about anything, but physically see Him with my eyes. Simply put, I want Him.

I’ve been a member of our Carmelite Community for a year now. I invited the priest who suggested I check this out in the first place (Father Patrick), and he came and concelebrated (was a copilot for) the Mass, and I invited my Godfather who came all the way from Maine. I hadn’t wanted to make a big deal of this, but my Community did. I was buried in really wonderful gifts from everyone. People didn’t just give me cards, but people had put thought into the things they gave me, and the things they wrote.

After October’s meeting I had a meeting with the leaders of our community who asked if I definitely wanted to continue my formation. I immediately said “yes” because I’ve enjoyed our meetings and I’ve been interested in what we’ve been learning about, and certainly, I’ve grown closer to the Lord through prayer. For a month, at different times I had taken it as a given that I would continue; at other times I was sincerely excited. For a week before Saturday, I had different feelings.

I had the feeling that it was wrong, and I grew increasingly nervous, but I also had the suspicion that these feelings were not natural. I ended up talking to Father Patrick on Wednesday, and he agreed with me that the devil was messing with my head. I mention this because I was incredibly nervous before the ceremony on Saturday, but I knew for sure that it was natural, and after the ceremony, I was, and still am insanely happy.

I think for the first time really, it feels like I know where I’m going. For a long time, that wasn’t the case. If life is a journey, though, I know where I want to get to, I know where I don’t want to go, and now it kind of feels like I finally have a spiritual road map. The crazy thing is, I’ve only been a Christian, let alone a Catholic for seven years or so. What the Lord can do in less than a decade is kind of insane. The beautiful thing is that I know that it’s been love that has carried me to where I am today. At times that’s been the love of learning things, at other times it’s been the blind leap of faith to chase the Lord, and at times, it has literally been Love Himself picking me up and carrying me because there have been times when I’ve needed Him to.

Dress Code

Earlier today I listened to an episode of a podcast that was about how to dress appropriately for Mass. Whenever this comes up it really gets on my nerves. This is partly because, from my perspective, it’s largely a matter of opinion. Obviously there are things that are distasteful or inappropriate for such an occasion, but I’m not talking about that. It bugs me when people are criticized for wearing “casual attire.”

I take issue with this for a few reasons. The Lord said, “Come as you are.” I dislike getting dressed up, so my thinking is that if I had to do so far Mass, I’m not actually presenting myself to the Lord “as I am.” It’s not part of my personality to worry about what I’m wearing. It would be like presenting a version of myself that isn’t the true one. That’s important because a huge part of the Mass is about communion, both with each other, and with Christ.

Some would argue that one gets “dressed up” out of respect for the other. In many circumstances, this is the case because it’s culturally expected. I got more dressed up for my Godson’s baptism than I otherwise would. One has to keep in mind the center of attention. We had Mass before his baptism, and at Mass, Jesus is the center of attention, but the focus shifted a bit afterwards. At the baptism, the focus was still on the Lord, yes, but it was also largely on Max, his parents, and my brother and me (his Godparents). In that instance, to some degree, I was the center of attention.

As I said, in many circumstances, it’s culturally expected to get “dressed up” out of respect for the other. I don’t for Mass, however, partly because the Lord is beyond cultural expectations, and my thinking is that He already knows I respect Him. I don’t have to prove it to Him, and I shouldn’t have to prove it to anyone else. Furthermore, the Mass itself isn’t like a wedding or a baptism, or any secular event. While baptism and marriage are sacraments, and miracles do happen in those circumstances, human attention tends to focus on the humans involved.

An “ordinary” Mass (for lack of a better word) is different because the focus is (ideally) entirely on Jesus. He alone is the center of attention. Because of this, part of my thinking is that I shouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary in terms of my outfit because from a strictly human perspective, what is happening at Mass has almost nothing to do with me as an individual. Mass is about communion. In other words, it’s about sharing of one’s self with other members of the Church and with God, and about the Church sharing of Herself as a collective with God. This means presenting one’s self honestly.

It’s also important to remember that at literally every Mass a miracle is happening. I sometimes have a realization at the Consecration of the gifts that translates in my mind to, “This is literally the weirdest, coolest, most amazing thing ever.” The word “weird” tends to have a negative connotation, but what I mean is that it is the most out-of-the-ordinary thing. It’s always new. If it becomes routine, then I would argue that appreciation for what is really happening has been lost. It’s something that has to be taken on faith, and it’s a huge act of trust and vulnerability to receive the Eucharist.

Personally, I don’t think there needs to be a dress code for that.

Certain Death

This is a fictional reflection of the Gospel reading from this past weekend: the story of the woman caught in adultery. Most of it I made up since only a small part of her story is told in the Gospel. I just thought it would be interesting to see what might have taken place after she walked away.

We had only just got married, Isaac and me. Then he left. He didn’t really say where he was going. Just on business. He was a merchant: had some things to sell. He was a smart man. He would buy things that smiths and carpenters and other people made or grown, and then sell them for profit, but he had to travel a lot. It made me lonely. So that was how I ended up with Michael.

We were only friends at first, but then we were more than that. People got suspicious since he would come to our house a lot. People started asking questions. I kept getting strange looks in the market, and our neighbors would even avoid me. I could tell they at least thought we were up to something. I told Michael that we had to stay away from each other for a while, and we did. It didn’t really work out, though.

He came to me late one night. We were both feeling lonely. The thing was, he had been set to be married a year before, but his fiance got sick and died. It would have been alright, except that my neighbors were noticing, and that night, Isaac came back. I didn’t hear him come in. I hadn’t expected him to be coming back in the night. He threw Michael out of the house, and he didn’t press charges against him, but he was very angry with me. He slept in a different room, and the next morning, he brought me to the authorities, and they took me to the temple. I was so scared.

There was this new teacher, though who was there, and for some reason, the Pharisees didn’t like him. I was terribly afraid of him because he seemed to have some kind of authority. They said to him that the law said they should stone me, which I knew was right, but they asked what he would say. I don’t know why they asked him, but then he did something scary and weird. He asked me my name. I told him it was Elizabeth. He wrote my name on the ground, and he wrote what I’d done. Then he said that if any of them didn’t have any sins, they could kill me. He gave them kind of an odd look, and I didn’t really know what it meant, but they started walking away. When maybe half of them were gone, he bent down to where he’d written, and wiped it away with his hand.

There were some people left, but they walked away slow, too. When nobody was left, I was still scared. I didn’t know if I should leave or stay or if he was going to do something or what, so I just stood there. I felt pretty awkward, and I was embarrassed of the whole thing, and I kind of wanted to cry, and I didn’t dare look at him. He said, “Hey, look at me.” I didn’t dare not, so I looked him in the face, and he smiled. “Has nobody condemned you?” he said, and I said, “No.” I looked away because I still felt bad. He walked over to me, and touched me, so I looked at him again. He smiled and said, “Neither do I. Now go. Make amends with your husband, and don’t do this again.” I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. I just walked away.

It wasn’t normal, what he’d done. I was still really anxious while I walked home. I had to go through the market to get there, and I hoped I wouldn’t see my husband until that night when he got home, but he saw me at the same time I saw him. We both stopped for a couple of seconds, and then he started walking over. He didn’t look angry. I couldn’t really tell anything by the look on his face. I didn’t know if I should try and get away or wait for him, really. I didn’t have time to decide, though. He caught me, but he wasn’t angry.

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said. “Can you forgive me?”

I wanted to say, “You just almost got me killed!” but I didn’t. I told him what had happened. I said, “There’s a new teacher. He got even the pharisees to go away.”

“Who is he?” Isaac said.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you could ask around and find out.”

“Okay,” he said, and then he said again, “Can you forgive me?”

I thought of what the teacher had done, and finally, I said, “Yes, I forgive you.”

It took us a little while, but eventually, things got back to normal. We found out that this teacher’s name was Jesus, and that he’d done quite a few strange things. I was glad of it, though. They were all good strange things. A few months later, by chance, Isaac had to go away again. This time he said I should stay with a cousin. I thought that was a good idea, so I did. It turned out that my cousin knew some of the teacher’s followers. That’s how I got to know some of his friends, and I finally got to know him.

Boys And Girls

The other day I wrote a post about some Catholic teachings that, though I follow the Catholic faith, I am still somewhat uncomfortable with. The first you can read here. The two topics are, I feel, mostly unrelated to each other, so I decided to separate them. This post is about the roles of spouses in a traditional, Catholic marriage. A rather old fashioned way of thinking about this is that men always have to be the bread winner, and women always have to be stay-at-home moms. This is not what the Church teaches. The priest at my church explained that men and women have different roles because we have different needs. Generally speaking, on a physiological, and psychological level, I think, to some extent, this is true. However, I wanted to stop him, and ask “What would you say to someone like me who, if we’ll permit a little stereotyping here, generally has stereotypically male interests?”

One of the reasons his homily was about this topic, though, was because one of the readings for last weekend was the dreaded Ephesians 5: 22-24, which says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Initially, this rubs just about every woman, myself included, the wrong way. God is the only person I will be submitting myself to, thank you very much. That is my initial, impulsive reaction. However, for a few reasons, live with my parents. The fifth commandment, which could not be spelled out more clearly says that one is to, “honor your father and mother,” so it would seam that I should, in some sense, submit to them, and this is what is pleasing to God. Likewise, God left us his Church, and both men and women are meant to submit to its teachings because really, they are his teachings.

Last weekend, our priest went on to explain that we often neglect Ephesians 5: 25-28, which says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Remember that Jesus died for every individual person. What Saint Paul is saying here is that husbands are supposed to make these kinds of sacrifices for their wives. What is also implied here is that the Church is the body of Christ, in the same way as a husband and wife are meant to be one unified family.

Ultimately, husbands and wives, and actually people who love each other in general, are supposed to make sacrifices for each other. When reading these verses of Saint Paul, we have to keep a few things in mind. He was writing in a certain time period for a certain group of people. He was also writing for us. Love between people is not a mirror. I don’t love my dad in the same way he loves me, nor is it the same for me and my mom. The sacrifices they make for me are not the same sacrifices I make for them. Today, and particularly in the West, men and women are largely on equal footing in terms of the opportunities we have, especially for education and employment. We are to be given an equal level of respect, and when we are not given the same respect, we have problems. This does not change the fact that we are meant to make different sacrifices for different people at different times if we truly want to own that we are Christian.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Day 3

I’ve had an interesting day so far. It technically started before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I lay in bed and made up a weird story for an hour and a half or so. It wasn’t bad for bored-at-two-in-the-morning. I remember a lot of it, but I don’t think I’ll bother writing it down. I think it’ll be my secret insomnia story.

I got up around 10:15 because I was supposed to come up with the lesson plan for today’s CCD class yesterday, which doesn’t take long, but I forgot, so I needed to have time to do that plus eat lunch. That all got done and the lesson itself went swimmingly, although I think I occasionally get a little too complicated for my nine-year-old students. When I was a kid I hated CCD. It wasn’t taught well. I just want them to know Jesus. I definitely didn’t know him when I was a kid.

After my lesson I came home and assessed my mosaic. My dad and I got a lot done last night, and I realized I just need to glue one more design piece down before starting on the background, which is going to be all black tiles. It was cool to realize that I now know how to complete the puzzle. We ended up talking a bit about mosaics in class today because, surprisingly, most of the kids didn’t know what they were. One of the kids asked me what mine looks like. I told him it currently looks like a mess.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do mosaic things, though, because I had to get upstairs before Kathy came over. She was super nice and cool and kind of reminded me of our family friend who lives in Florida. What she told me was so reassuring. I, Katie Curtis, can become a consecrated virgin. I still have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m pretty sure this is exactly what I want, and there’s nothing getting in my way that I can see. She said the next thing I should do is read a document on this vocation that’s provided online and meet with the director of vocations in Boston.

The most helpful thing she said, though was that, while I’m working through all of this, I can say that I’m dating Jesus. It sounds weird, but I’ve been wanting to be able to say that for a long time. I’ve loved him for a long time in a way that has felt more than friendship, and I haven’t known what to call it. It was just this weird in-between thing. I think I’m right. Everything is telling me that I’m right. It’s kind of ridiculous. Right now I’m listening to very weird music that I’m not sure I even really like, and I haven’t got anything done on my Mythology today, but I don’t even care. I’m in a stupidly good mood.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Trust

I trust everyone. Honestly, I assume that everyone has good, or at least mostly good motives, and really does want the best for the world and for others. That’s not to say I trust everyone 100%. I’m not naive. I know people have evil in them, and I know there are dangerous people in the world. I’m just not afraid of them. From my experience, 999,999 out of 1,000,000 are trustworthy. I believe this for a number of reasons.

I’m young and grew up in a safe suburban town, went to school at a Christian college in the middle of nowhere, and still live in the aforementioned safe suburban town. I’m an optimist. I simply want there to be good in people, and I choose to see the good. I’ve never really encountered any truly dangerous people. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I get hurt, I believe that some good will eventually come of it; I’ll learn something from it. I’ve never been disappointed when I give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if I’ve been a little unsure in the beginning.

My contemporaries and I were taught when we were kids not to talk to strangers. We were taught that evil was lurking around every corner. I don’t know when where or why our parents got this notion. To me at least, it seems entirely unreasonable to believe such a thing. You would constantly be living in fear. A friend of mine has told me that it’s better to be a pessimist because you’ll always be right or pleasantly surprised. However, I don’t necessarily view “bad” experiences in a negative light. One must either take responsibility for these experiences, or one must assume that these things were meant to happen and things will eventually get better.

I do believe in destiny to some extent. I don’t think it conflicts with the idea that humans have free will. God has a plan for each of our lives, and we can choose to go along with that plan, or we can choose not to and hope for the best. The trouble is knowing what God’s plan is in a concrete sense, especially in the day-to-day details. It often doesn’t seem to make any sense at all from a human perspective, and the truth is, this can get annoying.

In a recent post I wrote about how I want to belong only to God, and I’ve been exploring the possibility of becoming a Sister or a nun (apparently they’re different). I’ve also been trying to find someone to play music and write with. I’ve mostly been looking on Craig’s list, and haven’t been able to find anyone. I was supposed to meet someone at Starbucks today, but my parents wouldn’t let me. They didn’t trust him for several reasons, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I live with my parents because of my disability, and it would be too much of a hassle to figure out how to live on my own. The fact of the matter is, however, that if I did live on my own, I would have met my potential musical copilot this afternoon.

When I was a kid I liked my quiet neighborhood. I could play in the street with my friends and a short walk around the neighborhood was long enough for me. I desperately want to move to a city. I want to be able to go places without having to get a ride. I want to be able to just wander off with an actual destination in mind when I’m bored and need a change of scenery. I want to be able to actually go somewhere for work. Right now I spend my entire day in my bedroom. I work in here. I write in here. I play music in here. I pray in here. I sleep in here.

A few nights ago I was doing research about religious life and for some reason it was making me anxious. Part of me wants to do this because I want to formally dedicate myself to God (i.e. I want to take some kind of vow), but at the same time, I’m starting to feel like that isn’t the life for me. I’m almost certain by now that God wants me to remain single, and I’m really okay with that. However, now I find myself asking “Why?” If he doesn’t want me to be a “religious” person, what the heck does he want me to do?

I’m still working on finishing the New Testament, and it’s like he’s drilling into my head: “Tell people about me!” I desperately want to, but I just can’t find the right words. People don’t want to hear the same old message. People don’t want to hear for the hundredth time that Jesus saved them from their sins and I don’t want to tell them that. I want to tell them about how I never feel alone. I want to tell them what it feels like to really be peaceful. I want to tell them how it feels to not worry or to not be scared. I just can’t figure out how to put the feeling into words.

I was briefly mad at God this afternoon. I was mad because he made me the way I am and landed me in this town. Being angry about it isn’t helpful, though. It doesn’t change anything. Because I live in this town I belong to the church I do, and I love my church. I love the people there, I love the priests there, I love teaching and volunteering there, and I love all the quirks that come with it. My church is definitely quirky. If I didn’t live in this insufferable town I wouldn’t have the friends I do. We wouldn’t have perfected our epic commiseration skills, and we wouldn’t be the people we are today. If I wasn’t born with MD, I most likely would not be nearly as empathetic as I am. If I didn’t live in this town I would have never discovered the culinary masterpiece that is Colombo’s Pizza. Actually, I probably wouldn’t be a confirmed Catholic. It was my music teacher who unknowingly convinced me to go through with it, and I wouldn’t have met him if I didn’t live in this town.

As I said, I trust people, but it’s way more important to trust God. I might just have to accept the prospect of never having a musical copilot. I don’t intend to make music a career, anyway. There’s no point in being mad at my parents either. I just started doing research to start a business with my dad. I think we will work well together. I’m learning a lot about the business world, and I’m finding it surprisingly enjoyable. I’ve hit a roadblock in my novel, and I need to do some reading to help me with that. Strangely enough, I’m finding that I’m busy lately even when it feels like I’m getting nothing done.

The future actually seems much more certain than it did last summer. In May I will have been out of school for a year. I still don’t entirely know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I have a much better idea. I can comfortably say that I’m an artist, and hopefully I’ll be able to say that I’m a successful entrepreneur in the next few years. Time is a weird thing. It feels like it’s dragging on slowly until you look at it in retrospect. It’s taken me almost a year to get to where I am now, in terms of what I want to do. Realistically, that’s not a long time.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Logic, Faith, Homosexuality And World Peace

I don’t know if I’m exactly Catholic anymore because I’ve deviated from quite a few beliefs that are traditionally Catholic, but I still pay attention to what happens in the Catholic Church, and I really like Pope Francis a lot. I guess it’s just nice to have a professional opinion to go off of. I especially like what he said recently about gay priests. He said that he cannot judge gay men who chose to remain celibate in the pursuit of God. Apparently he still does not condone gay marriage, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

I know it’s not exactly orthodox, but I believe that gay marriage is just as sacred as a marriage between a man and a woman. In almost every way, it’s the same. 2 people love each other and vow to be together in sickness and in health until death do they part. True love, I believe, transcends gender. If homosexuality was dangerous it would be another story, but there’s nothing dangerous about it. The biggest problem about it is that it has been stigmatized into something that must either be hidden or eradicated, which only causes hate and violence.

At one point in time it was believed that people were disabled because either they or their parents were sinners. I recently went to a presentation by some students at my school about what they, some professors and I believe a couple doctors thought about disabilities. Before a discussion session, they showed a video, and one professor that I actually had the semester before said she believed that people have disabilities as a physical representation of the evil in the world. People like me are just randomly picked to carry the burden of the rest of the world? I think not! People like me are brought into the world to make life a bit more interesting. My disability has brought me closer to my family and friends and closer to God. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be a Christian if it weren’t for my circumstances. I might not even be a songwriter. Everyone is made a certain way for a reason.

It is still believed by some that homosexuality is a disorder, therefore, the same stupid argument could be applied and therefore, I think that homosexuality is no more sinful than Muscular Dystrophy. God makes each of us special, and I think that if he didn’t want there to be homosexuality, he wouldn’t let it exist. I also believe that sexual orientation is not a choice, and therefore it is not a matter of free will. If it is not a matter of free will, it can’t be inherently sinful. I like boys, and I would never be able to convince myself that it’s wrong or that I like girls. It’s just not how my brain works. It’s the same for a friend of mine, only she likes girls.

Furthermore, homosexuality is not a problem that politicians or the church should need to worry about. They need to be focusing on real problems like terrorism, hate, poverty and starvation. If people were just willing to accept each other for their differences, they would see the similarities among all people and their capacities for innovation and love and they would work together instead of bickering over technicalities and tiny details.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!