I’ve noticed that there’s still a fair amount of traffic on this blog. I am still posting, but it’s all on my new site now, yesimcatholic.co.uk. All my old posts are on there as well, so please head on over and take a look!
I’ve noticed that there’s still a fair amount of traffic on this blog. I am still posting, but it’s all on my new site now, yesimcatholic.co.uk. All my old posts are on there as well, so please head on over and take a look!
Greetings Earthlings! Sorry as usual that it’s taken so long to update. I can’t believe that I used to post every two days – where on earth did I get the time from?!
This is a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE so please take note. This blog has been re-vamped! Thanks to a very kind friend, it now has its own website (that’s probably the wrong way to say it, but whatever). This can be found at http://yesimcatholic.co.uk/ and I’ll be updating from there in future. This site will be live for a while yet, but please comment and read over at the new one. I’ve not yet figured out how to post automatically on Facebook and Twitter from there, but I’ll get there at some point! It looks all shiny and new and I’m very excited. Yaay!
Right, onto business as usual! A friend of mine e-mailed me a list of questions about dating. She’s about the age of one of my younger sisters and I thought I’d not only reply thoroughly, but post the answers on here because I think they’re relevant to a lot of people – specifically, teenagers beginning to think about dating. There are nine questions and my replies are turning out to be very very long, so I’ll be answering two or three per post.
First of all I’d like to make it clear that while I do have certain qualifications to answer the questions (having got through three and a half years of a Catholic relationship being the main one!), I don’t know everything (I know, shocking) and this is purely my opinion, based mainly on experience. If you have more questions or want more comprehensive answers, I’d direct you to several books, the most important of which is Real Love, by Mary Beth Bonacci. It’s simply a compilation of similar questions on dating, sex and chastity and it’s a very direct and easy read.
1) If I don’t think I’m going to marry him, should I still date him?
This reminds me of a time back in sixth form when a few of my yeargroup were asking me questions about my boyfriend. When they discovered that yes, we had discussed marriage and yes, we were planning on getting there some day if that was God’s will, their reactions were identical. SHOCK HORROR!! What on earth was I thinking? I, being naïve, asked them if they couldn’t see themselves married to the boys they were currently going out with – and was met with laughter. None of them could even imagine it. Not only that, but they clarified that if they were looking for someone to marry, they’d look for far more different people.
That seemed really sad to me. Partly because it assumed a fairly immature attitude to dating and marriage. The thing is, life doesn’t work like a chick flick. You don’t date a series of douchebags, then decide that you’re grown up and magically discover a perfect husband. For one thing, it’s hard to break habits. For another, even if you were young and silly, your past will always affect your future. Of course you can start again, but the fact is that to assume that you can mess around now and have the perfect relationship later is just unrealistic. Like it or not, mistakes cannot always be completely erased.
I’m not saying that you should go out and make sure to find a husband at the age of sixteen. No no. (Though if I end up married to my boyfriend, I’m so telling everyone that that’s what I did.) I wholeheartedly agree that being in your teens is generally just too young to be thinking seriously of marriage. But let me ask you a question: if you don’t see yourself marrying him one day, why are you with him?
And I don’t mean one-day-in-the-hazy-future-that-will-never-materialise. I mean one day fairly soon. Maybe after university. Can you really see yourself marrying him? Even staying with him that long?
If the answer is no, what on earth are you doing?
Your answers could be that you just want to have fun. Or that everyone has a boyfriend and you like having one too. Or that you feel lonely and he treats you well. Or that you just want to know him better. Well, fair enough. But do you have to do all those things as boyfriend and girlfriend?
The purpose of dating, courting as it used to be known (much nicer way of putting it in my opinion…), is to discover whether the two of you are right for each other and for a married life together. End of story. So if you’re at the stage where you think that maybe he might be right for you one day, then fair enough, go out for a few dates, get to know each other. But if you know that he’s not right for you – why are you wasting your time? Can’t you just have a good friendship with him instead of implicating yourself in a relationship that will probably hurt both of you in the end?
I know it’s really hard to not have a boyfriend, particularly when everyone around you has one. There’s nothing worse than being told ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find someone one day’ in a patronising kind of way, as if you’ve never had a chance offered you before. Or of watching a couple cuddle up to each other sickeningly and whisper nauseatingly sweet nothings into each other’s ears (what? Bitter? I’m not bitter, I LOVE being in a long-distance relationship… ). But honestly – it’s okay to stand out. It’s okay to tell someone that you like them too but that you’re saving yourself for your future husband and unless they think it might be them, you’d rather not waste their time. They might run away screaming, convinced you belong in a mental hospital, but the important thing is that you’ll be being true to yourself and to your future spouse.
A booklet I have which I also recommend as great reading, A Way of Life for Young Catholics by the excellent Fr Stephen Wang, suggests ‘group dating’ – getting to know one another in the context of other people. If you’re too young to decide to get married, you’re too young to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Just enjoy being in the company of other like-minded people! Why do you need to get serious about relationships yet? That can keep for later. Just chill out!
If, on the other hand, you can see yourself marrying that person (and I don’t mean you have to set a date or anything, I just mean that it could reasonably be a possibility), then maybe you are onto something. But take it slow and be careful. Relationships are delicate, and they’re more important than you think.
2) Should I set boundaries, or is that weird?
My first reaction to this question is nothing is weird, but since that covers rather a wide spectrum of weirdness, I’ll narrow it down a bit. Here’s the deal: if you feel that you can’t say something to him, then I don’t think you should be dating him.
Okay, fair enough, you might be a tiny bit embarrassed about a few things, like mentioning *whispers* the Time of the Month, but the bottom line is that if there are parts of yourself that you cannot be open about, then you’re going to be very handicapped in your relationship.
Like I said, relationships are important. They form the building blocks of your life. And I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché ‘communication is the key’. Like many clichés, it’s overused, but it’s true. If you can’t tell him you go to Mass every Sunday and enjoy it, how are you going to explain the fact that you’d rather do that than go to the cinema? If you can’t explain that you don’t like the way he tells you that you shouldn’t listen to your parents, how are you planning to tell him that the reason you can’t see him on Friday at that party is because they said no? And most importantly – if you can’t tell him that you believe sex is a sacred and very special thing and should be saved for marriage, how exactly are you planning on having a chaste relationship?
Trust me, letting him get so far and then pushing him away because “I don’t think we should do that” isn’t going to get you anywhere.
You owe it to the both of you to say simply and clearly that there are certain things you do and do not want in your relationship. You owe it to yourself, out of self-respect, and you owe it to him because even if he’s a good Catholic boy, he may not know or realise the importance of sexual purity, and it’s not exactly fair to spring it on him just when he thinks things are going his way.
When I first started going out with my boyfriend… ahh, back in the day… I’m pretty sure I literally gave him a verbal list of dos and don’ts. Mostly they were about general stuff, like If I’m crying, I don’t want you to tell me that there’s no good reason to cry or to try and fix it for me, I just want you to pat me on the back and tell me everything will be okay and listen to everything I have to say and nod every now and then. And it worked, because it meant that he didn’t have to try and guess how to act around me, and I didn’t get upset because he wasn’t reading my mind and figuring it out. Not saying that it avoided all difficulties, not at all, but it gave us a good headstart.
The thing about boys, as any of my friends will have heard me say a million times, is that they are not very clever sometimes. Sorry guys, it’s a fact. To be fair, neither are us girls – a lot of the time, we just expect you to figure out all our complicated and insane emotions and then act accordingly. But boys can’t do that because not only do they need to be told what to do, but they need to be told several times. You need to send the message loud and clear: I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE SEX.
I DO NOT WANT TO DO EVERYTHING BUT HAVE SEX.
I WANT A LOVING, CHASTE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.
People will say the word boundaries to you because they’re a good way to prevent heat-of-the-moment slipping. If you’ve agreed boundaries previously and decided to abide by them, you’re less likely to try and push them, it’s that simple. No, it’s not weird – it’s sensible and it’s respectful on both your parts. If he thinks it’s weird, then he doesn’t understand your reasoning and you need to explain things more clearly.
I think that’s enough for today! The next two questions I’ll answer in my next post, which hopefully won’t be too far away but might be postponed because of university and social commitments (by which I mean – it’s Twinkle-Toes’ birthday party this weekend!! Woop!!!). If anyone has any more questions they’d like me to answer, comments, or love/hate-mail, please either comment over on my new page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless!
Reason for my latest delay in posting: THE DREADED LURGY!!!
Tiny Whale, Twinkle-Toes and I have spent the last two days in bed (yes, literally, we all camped out on one bed) alternately being sick, sleeping or complaining about being sick. It’s been a fun bonding experience. Fortunately it turned out to be a twenty-four hour bug so we’re all better now, but I haven’t eaten anything than rice crackers or Skittles for quite some time (oh, wait, I had some fudge too) so I’m a bit lightheaded… if this post is complete nonsense, you’ll know why!
Last weekend at the Invocation event I mentioned was hugely enjoyable and I’m so glad I went, even if I had to endure four and a half hours on a Megabus to get there! (Shout out to my seminarian friend who battled the strong winds and rain to pick me up by car and waited for about an hour!) The Friday night was a reunion for people who went to World Youth Day Rio and some of us who went to Rome this summer, so I got to see some lovely people again and catch up with them. We also had a brief talk by Fr Glenn Sudano, one of the founding members of the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who incidentally is an awesome guy. He had been told very little about us and even less about what to say to us, but he managed to talk to us in both a funny and an inspirational way.
After a night spent on the floor in some parish rooms with no heating (on which I’d rather not expand), my friends and I drove to St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham for the start of the official day, Face2Face. We went into the cathedral first and it was absolutely beautiful – fairly small, but breathtaking in terms of decoration. After saying a quick morning prayer, we trekked downstairs in the continued wind and rain (I don’t know what I expected…) and awkwardly hung around, because it was 8am and the event didn’t start until 10. Fortunately, or not depending on how you look at it, the welcome team saw this as an opportunity to suck us into their clan, and we were offered a free t-shirt if we’d serve tea and coffee and generally help throughout the day. Since this seemed a good deal to us, we accepted, and spent the next two hours making said tea and coffee.
It continued to amaze me how many people were showing up. I’d assumed it would be a fairly small event, but there were around three hundred people from all over the UK just for the one day! It was also rather exciting knowing so many of them due to my various Catholic retreats and events. (Though I do wonder how many people that day got hailed by me and just had no idea who I was.) Everyone seemed so enthusiastic and friendly and in general it was just a great atmosphere to be in.
In the morning we had an introductory speaker, Fr Dermot Donnelly (brother of Declan Donnelly of the famous Ant’n'Dec!), a presentation from Rise Theatre, and a keynote address by Fr Glenn. Sadly I was a bit in-and-out due to being a helper, but I caught the gist of the last talk in particular and got very excited because one of the things Fr Glenn spoke about was technology and how we need to ‘unplug’ ourselves from it. The message I got was that technology is what distracts us from our spiritual lives and from our vocations, and that while it can be a good thing, we rely on it too much and then never allow ourselves to actually think. As someone who a) has grown up without a TV and b) wrote a blog post the other day about the importance of thinking, this was both old news but good to hear. I may not watch TV much but I do spend ridiculous amounts of time on my laptop. Perhaps I need to discipline myself more in that respect.
After a lunch that turned out to be unexpectedly delicious, I managed to go to confession to Fr Glenn. I may have cried on him… which was all the more embarrassing because I actually had no real reason for crying, I was just tired and emotional… *mortified face*. But it was good to go again and to have a brief chance for prayer afterwards. Also I got to have a nice chat with him! I’d like to share my penance from him because it was unusual but I really liked it – to say a rosary of gratitude, i.e. on every rosary bead to say thank you for a thing God has given me. What a great way to be aware of your blessings.
Workshops were next and I went to a Theology of the Body one, which was worth listening to even if I’d heard it a hundred times before – this is what happens when you to to events like this! But there’s always a new point to make or a new way to look at it. The message I got from this one, actually, was just of sheer love. We are made of love and by love and for love; we are nothing without love. I was still all emotional and the two girls on either side of me were hugging me, which just made me even worse because I realised how lucky I am to have so many wonderful friends! God has truly blessed me.
The day ended with a Mass in the Cathedral by Bishop Mark Davies, which was a beautiful way to wind up the event, and then some praise and worship. Afterwards a large group of us went out for dinner and it was just so lovely to be out with all my friends. The importance of having Catholic friendships is not to be underrated! There is never any pressure to be anyone other than yourself in a group like that.
I think what struck me most about the day as a whole was the strong impression I got of enthusiasm and willingness. Thinking it over, I realised that all of us are at different stages in our lives. Not just in terms of age but in terms of spirituality. We are all pilgrims and some of us are further along the road, while some of us have only just started. For some people there, the Face2Face event was merely an introduction to the Straight and Narrow road; for others it was a continuation of it. But all of us can meet in the middle and share our experiences and our faith. There is no superiority, for no two vocations or pilgrimages are the same and who knows how far each of us may have to walk before we reach the end? What binds us together is that common determination. To keep going no matter the cost. To get up and start again if we slip down the other road. To love God.
All in all, I’m very glad I attended the day.
I’ll now get up in the hope that Tiny Whale managed to fix whatever was wrong with our hot water, but before I go here are your most recent installments in the Embarrassing Life of the Skinny Walrus:
1) On my way to catch the Megabus to Face2Face, I managed to get soaking wet despite my (admittedly puny) umbrella, so by the time I got to the bus stop I’d given up completely and was wrestling with said umbrella, trying to get it into my bag. Unfortunately the strong winds were really not helping. I finally managed to stuff it away and then asked two guys who were standing near (watching my struggles with vague amusement!) whether I was at the right stop. They shrugged and at that moment I dropped my bag and its contents went everywhere. I gave what I hoped was a resigned, attractive sort of smile and bent down to pick it up – and a branch fell square on my head.
Dignity, it seems, is not my thing.
2) I went to have a meeting with my personal tutor on Monday, and went to the humanities building, tracked down door 2.12, and knocked. Silence. I put my ear to the door: nothing. Knocked again. Still silence. Maybe I wasn’t knocking loud enough. I banged hard enough to wake the dead.
Someone in a nearby room came out into the corridor. He was a fairly young man and he looked at me like I was an escaped convict. “Are you knocking on that door?” I nodded. He tried to keep a straight face. “That’s a cupboard.”
Such is life.
I’m off to an Invocation event in Birmingham today, ‘Face2Face’, which looks to be really amazing with loads of other young people from all over the UK. In the meanwhile, here is a fantastic post about being a stay at home mother! Hoorary!
God bless and have a great weekend!
Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:
It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.
Last week, I was at the pharmacy and a friendly lady approached me.
“Matt! How are those little ones doing?”
I don’t know why, but getting into the rhythm of lectures and general university life is a lot harder than I remember it being. I’m already a week and a half into the semester and I still feel like I’m trying to compile a puzzle even though I’ve lost half the pieces.
By which poetic flight of fancy I mean that I’M STRESSED.
It’s just tricky trying to juggle my spiritual, personal and academic lives; whenever I’ve got two of them going well, it’ll be because I’ve dropped the third. I love making time to spend with my friends and boyfriend, but my work has suffered somewhat recently because I’ve been so busy. On the other hand, if I start thinking that I’ve made time for everyone, I realise that I haven’t even said good morning to God. And then, less important but still something I don’t want to forget about, sometimes I need just (oh, cliché of clichés) ‘me time’. Time to write this blog (which will now probably be posting twice a week rather than once every two days); time to read my course literature books; time to tidy my room or do my washing; time to make butternut squash soup (don’t ask, it was an impulse buy)… And time to just chill with my housemates.
I know perfectly well that I have nothing to complain about. I have far less lectures and less pressure than a lot of other courses, notably medicine, I have the most wonderful group of friends, my boyfriend is patience itself and prays for us the whole time… I guess it’s just a case of settling down and getting my routine straight. In the meantime, I can’t help feeling that I’ve let a few things slip through the cracks.
Yesterday the university pro-life society organised a talk which went very well. It was called ‘Why Pro-Life?’ and SPUC sent an excellent speaker to tell us about the real facts behind abortion.
Now, I’ve been pro-life pretty much ever since I can remember, and I’d actually seen this talk before. But that didn’t stop it from hitting me really hard.
Those of you who know me will know that when I see a baby, a little switch goes off in my head and I turn into a zombie, only instead of wanting brains I want baby. And from that moment, I won’t be happy unless said baby is being cuddled and kissed and talked to by me. You will also know that I have a tendency to mother anything, from baby Christmas trees (we’ll get to that later) to every single one of my friends, particularly if they are sick or tired or upset. It’s a very emotional response – I’m not hugely practical, I’m bad at being logical, and I cry ALL THE TIME, but the one thing I am good at is caring for people and making sure they’re okay.
(Yesterday my housemates were playing Articulate and Tiny Whale said: “This is what Skinny Walrus wants to be.” Immediate unanimous answer from everyone: “A mother.” This is how bad I am. Heartfelt apologies to anyone I have recently bossed around.)
So being shown all over again the reality of abortion and the children it murders just made me want to cry. My immediate instinct is to hug somebody. I want to go to all those whose lives have been affected by the tragedy that is abortion – the mothers, the fathers, the siblings, the unborn children themselves - and give them a massive hug. I know that wouldn’t do much, but it’s my way of saying that there is something wrong here. Women are suffering. Men are suffering. Children are dying.
There is no quick-fix solution to abortion. We’ve always known that. But to me yesterday it seemed unfair that something like a hug won’t solve it – because ultimately, it’s about all I can do. I can stand up at fairs and hand out leaflets and answer rude questions with a smile and a nod. I can pray at vigils outside abortion clinics when I’ve not got more pressing engagements. I can attend talks and try and help others see that the babies and their mothers need help, and I can pray for the silent holocaust to end: but often it feels like none of that will make a difference. And the worst thing is that I know I could do more – I could make it my life’s work and it would be a worthy goal, yet I won’t because I have too many other priorities.
So I came home feeling both hopeful and depressed, if that makes sense. If the talk I attended made a difference in the lives of those who listened, great. But there remains the fact that this isn’t something we can just brush aside and eat some chocolate and forget about. If I’m to be a mother one day, I need to be able to remember all those who have either deliberately or mistakenly forgone that path, and to be able to reach out to them in the small ways that I can.
One of which, incidentally, is these earrings. I bought a pair for myself yesterday and one for Twinkle Toes’ birthday (she knows, don’t worry, it’s not a massive spoiler!) and it made me feel a tiny bit better. Who knows, maybe someone will ask me about them and I’ll get to tell them about being pro-life!
Ah yes, about the Christmas tree. I have someone I’d like you to meet.
This is Firgus. Tiny Whale and I adopted him from Lidl recently because he looked lonely and also was selling for only £1.29… We’ve had a lot of harsh judgements directed at us because it isn’t even December yet, but we’re standing strong and we know that we did the right thing.
We were considering dressing him up in little ribbon/thread bows, but our other housemate stopped us on the grounds that it was cross-dressing and not how he wanted our son to be brought up.
(We still might though. Firgus is fabulous. And he is rockin’ those sunglasses.)
P.S. That’s a piece of pancake on the table next to him. Don’t ask. I genuinely have no idea.
Coming to university has been a very interesting experience in terms of the beliefs of those around me and how they fit (or don’t) into mine. Also in finding out how my faith is received by those who do not share it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I found school hard because a lot of the time I felt fairly ostracised, due partly to the nature of my character (I’m just a tad weird and awkward, meh) and to my religion. My school was Catholic, so naturally I assumed that university would be exactly the same only ten times worse since there was no official religion.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Firstly there was the comfort in finding the Chaplaincy and CathSoc where people were just like me and did equally crazy things, like have a social minus alcohol or decide to spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament; then there was the amazing discovery that actually, most people I met were either very respectful of my religion or wanted to know more about it. There is nothing I appreciate more than a friendship where the other person privately thinks you are absolutely mad, but never allows that opinion to influence their behaviour towards you; and that is the kind of friendship I’ve found here.
However, there is always going to be a slight conflict of interests in befriending non-Catholics. Not because they’re not good people or anything remotely like that – but because two things war within me: the instinct to urge people to convert, to turn towards God; and the instinct to not spoil a friendship with constant argument, even under the less hostile label of discussion.
Here is the bottom line: I believe that the Catholic Church speaks the truth, completely and absolutely; and by extension that the Catholic faith is the best and truest way to reach God.
But before you accuse me of being closed-minded or judgmental etc etc, listen to my justification of that statement. If I didn’t believe that, wholly, why would I follow the Catholic way of living? Let’s face it – my faith is not the easiest way to live, nor the most popular. Let’s go back to the Bible: Jesus told the disciples that ‘”anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”’ The disciples’ response? ‘”“This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”’ Many of them even deserted Him because they found His teaching too difficult. If I didn’t believe Jesus spoke the truth when He told us that no one can come to the Father except through Him, why would I continue to live my life in a way that makes me unpopular, or even hated? In case any of you are under any illusions, it’s not easy to pray, or go to Sunday Mass, or go to Confession – but I do it, because I believe that it is the best way to get to Heaven. Not necessarily the only way – but the best.
So from that premise, I should want to convert everybody. I should want everybody to see the way I do, and I should seize absolutely every opportunity to further God’s cause by constantly arguing with others and getting them to change their minds.
But I don’t like that idea. It just seems too harsh and too mathematical – it doesn’t take into account either the emotional nor the spiritual side to faith.
As it stands, my attitude towards anyone who is not Catholic – whether they are Christian or Muslim or agnostic or atheist – is one of (hopefully mutual) respect. I refuse to walk up to anyone and tell them they’re wrong – not because they might not be, but because it is not my place to make that decision. I love finding out how and why people think and how that influences their lives, and in return sharing my own beliefs. This doesn’t mean, in any way, that I do not want to convert others to Catholicism. What is does mean that instead of trying to push them to see my point of view, I’ll simply live my life in a Catholic way and explain it when I need to.
Why do I think that this is the best way? Because faith comes from the inside. It doesn’t matter how many times you show them the logical reasons behind something – it won’t mean anything unless they decide to accept it. Only God can inspire faith.
And it’s not just a facade – I genuinely do have respect for other schools of thought. What I DON’T have respect for, though, is when people have absolutely no rationale for their belief, whether that is atheistic or not. If you have really considered and researched and questioned and you still conclude that, actually, you can find no evidence that a God exists, fine. I might want to show you a few routes you haven’t considered, but I respect the fact that you have made a clear and relatively informed choice. If on the other hand you’ve never even sat down to really think about who you are, why you’re here, where you want to go in life, and so on, then I will feel a little dismissive towards your attitude – particularly if you feel that religious people are not worthy of time or respect themselves.
In one of my recent lectures, we got told that we are expected to do twelve hours of work a week on that particular subject: two of seminars, five of critical reading, three of actual textbook reading, and two of simply sitting and thinking with nothing in front of us but a blank sheet of paper. Thinking is important. We shouldn’t just take life and our decisions for granted. If you have a view on life and God, then have that view with conviction. If you are Catholic and say the Creed, then say it with conviction. If you believe that there is no deity of any kind, have a reason for that belief and invest yourself in it. Don’t be lazy. And never stop asking questions.
This week has been a long and hard one but I think things are finally settling into place. I had my first lecture of creative writing this morning which I enjoyed hugely – I can’t believe I actually get to do something that I do for fun as a module! I am also currently suffering from a severe case of The Dreaded Sniffles (TDS) which means that I have a ‘man-voice’ right now and a horribly sore throat. This is possibly due to the weather, which has been terrible; the kind where you get constant examples of the Awkward Umbrella Dance, or AUD. This is where there are so many people on a pavement holding umbrellas that in order to get past each other, you have to perform a series of awkward manoeuvres with your umbrella – up, down, sideways, oh no I accidentally hit him in the face.
Anyway, other than constant sniffling, I’m rather enjoying a return to routine, even if I suddenly have ridiculous amounts of work and not much time to spend writing blog posts.
Not that any of you are complaining, I’m sure….
God bless, and I hope anyone suffering from TDS gets better soon!