“The Three Do’s”

By McKenzie Gamache

Don’t think of a pink elephant. What did you just think of? Yep, a pink elephant.

Growing up in the Catholic Church, even as uncatechized as I was, I constantly heard the “don’ts” of purity and chastity: “Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t be alone at night with a person of the opposite sex…” I wasn’t a rebellious daughter in middle and high school by any means, but since I heard the “don’ts” without much else accompanying them I tended to stop paying attention and instead grew curious. Later in high school, and now in college, I have found that the “don’ts” have been detrimental for many people, especially myself for years.

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Becoming a Parent

By Rosemary Sikora

Becoming a mom was the best decision of my life. From the first yes I said to my husband to now saying yes to life has brought me closer and closer to God by accomplishing what I have always been called to do. Every day I feel the greatest sense of peace and accomplishment of my life in fulfilling my vocation.

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The First Date

By Veronica Johnson

First dates can be dreamy, disappointing, or straight up awkward—especially if they are anything like mine. Unless there are major red flags on the first date, I would suggest that the first date does not need to be the deciding factor for a potential relationship or lack thereof. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your date the first time around.

I am speaking from my experience of doing the exact opposite. I always dreamed the man I would marry would already be saying “ma’am” and wearing cowboy boots with flannels, ready to swing me around the dance floor. While my man does love a good flannel these days, he does not fit the rest of the mold I had carved for him (the kind that came with a list—pages long—of necessary traits for a perfect husband). I am not saying that young ladies need to lower their standards to find a husband (striving for virtue is non-negotiable), but I am saying we could work on expectation management! At least, if you are anything like me.

Five years ago, I had been talking with a guy over texts and phone calls for a few months. He was a colleague of my brother-in-law’s and from his Facebook pictures, he was extremely good looking. I had met him in person a couple of times at my sister’s house and thought he was nice enough, a little socially awkward, but who isn’t sometimes?

Anyway, I am visiting my sister on my Thanksgiving break and really want to spend some time with this Iowan Marine Corps hottie—oh, I mean, blessed son of God. So, of course I text him and ask if he wants to go for a walk on the beach or something. He says he has a better idea—that he wants to take me out to dinner on a date (men—don’t be afraid of this word—it is a thousand attractive points when used to make plans with a girl!). So I am thinking he will take me somewhere like Olive Garden, you know, with servers waiting on you. Nah, he takes me to Noodles and Company (which honestly is perfectly fine looking back on it, but at the time, it was strike one, because I was—and still can be—a bit high maintenance). I find that he is no conversationalist, but at least he refrains from droning on and on about himself for hours like I had experienced on previous dates. He is way more handsome in person anyway, so dinner goes by more or less okay, thanks to my skills at interrogation.

We then go to the beach for a walk, at my request. We don’t end up doing any walking though, because the dear man can’t handle the cold sand on his bare feet, bless his heart (strike two—cowboy up). Instead, we sit on our jackets to look at the stars, and as soon as we lean back to actually enjoy it, a gigantic monstrous bear (which turns out to be a German Shepherd puppy) comes charging at me and nearly tears my face off (sniffs my head, but I don’t know what is happening—it is dark and I just hear paws and loud breathing coming at me). I jump up with a shriek and my gallant knight laughs (he doesn’t throw himself betwixt me and my foe like my dream Hallmark man would have). He just sits there and acts like nothing just threatened my life. Good thing he’s not a dog lover, because my dislike of the creatures certainly showed that night. I was shaken, to say the least, and definitely feeling pretty stupid.

I am basically ready to end the night at this point, but he tells me he wants to swing by Walmart on the way back. Nothing classier than a trip to Walmart. He picks out a bag of coconut Lindt truffles I am eyeing (good man) and heads toward the office supplies he needs. En route, he sees a bean bag chair that might suit his apartment (which I would later learn was already exquisitely furnished with an air mattress and futon). He tosses it on the floor and plops himself on top. Only, the bean bag chair shoots out from under him and he lands sprawled flat on his back on the floor of Walmart like a helpless turtle (strike three).

I was so embarrassed, I could not end the night fast enough! What kind of guy makes such a scene in Walmart? Although to his credit, he really didn’t make a big deal of it. Nonetheless, I was sure I would never see him again. I took the Miraculous Medal that I had with me and secretly put it in the cup holder of his car. I wanted Mama Mary to watch over this poor guy who needed all the help he could get with girls and was leaving for a deployment in two months. I sure as heck was not going to be the one sticking around for him.

Maybe it was divine intervention, maybe it was the truffles he bought me, but you better believe I am married to that man. I definitely would not have thought so at the time of our first date. After weeks and months and years of his reliable presence and friendship, I am so grateful my thoughts that night were proven wrong. It took a few dates before we actually felt comfortable being around each other and our conversations became more meaningful and enjoyable. I am so glad he convinced me to see him again a month later (he drove halfway across the country to do it!). He continued to impress me with the time and effort he was willing to put in to make our relationship work. We lived in different states—about seven hours apart—until we got married. He would drive up to see me for a weekend at least once a month; if that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is.

If anything can be taken from this experience, I hope it is that not every first date (or any date!) will be perfect. That doesn’t mean this person isn’t the one for you. Relationships need time and effort to nurture and grow. Love is a conscious choice that will sometimes take work! The perfect potential spouse you imagine does not exist in real life. God wants you to deny yourself and choose to love like He does—to love someone else in their entirety, brokenness and all.

Last I checked, we are all sinners, and we all fall short of the perfection we tend to seek in a spouse. So don’t expect to find your knight in shining armor on the first date. He won’t be there. Surrender yourself to the one perfect Bridegroom, Christ, and then give another imperfect person the opportunity to pursue virtue and heaven with you more perfectly each day. “The one” is the person you choose to keep choosing every day for the rest of your life. No marriage can survive without sacrifice, as I continue to learn. So please, reign in those expectations, especially on your first date!

The Power of the Eucharist

By Taylor Fielder

When I was a little girl, my mom would drag my little brother and I to adoration. The chapel was dark, lit only by the candles that framed the tabernacle. While we didn’t fully understand yet what we were experiencing, we knew there was something different about this space. My mom would go before the Lord praying for my dad’s conversion. For eighteen years I watched her fast and do penance so that our family would be unified in the Church. The diligence and manner in which she prayed showed my brother and I that what she was praying for was real. Our Catholic faith was and still is the most important thing to her, and my dad knew that. Before they married, he agreed to raise us in the Catholic Church. I have never been so thankful for a promise kept. We knew he had questions and hesitations about the Church, but he made sure we were there every Sunday as a family, because that’s what he promised my mom. Every day I prayed for my family to someday sit in Mass together.

The summer before junior year of high school I went on an adventurous trip to Colorado with my youth group. I was not one that liked to spend time away from my family, so I dreaded this trip. After about eight hours in the car, we stopped at a little convent in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. The sisters were having adoration before Mass, and we had the opportunity to celebrate with them. We filed into the humble chapel where they were praying before the Blessed Sacrament. From the moment I crossed the threshold of the door I could feel the Holy Spirit drawing my soul in. I believe that time spent in adoration that day is the closest thing to ecstasy I will experience this side of Heaven. Tears overwhelmingly filled my eyes—I was truly in the presence of Christ. It was that day that my love for adoration began, and I understood why my mom had spent so many hours there. After mass we were able to mingle with the sisters. I was introduced to one in particular, and I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. She was the most holy woman I had ever seen, radiant and beautiful. I quickly went out the door and climbed into the van. She followed me all the way to the back seat to speak to me. Knowing that I was moved by our experience, she grabbed my face and said to me: “Sometimes Jesus squeezes the heart.” And He was. I was so humbled. I felt so unworthy to be loved so much.

Junior year of college, I met a boy. Not just any boy, but the one I knew I wanted to marry. He was handsome and charming—everything I had ever prayed for. He was not Catholic, but I was okay with that. I had seen it work with my parents (and seven other couples in my family who married non-Catholics that are now converted and in full communion with the Church). I was working for our football department and he was playing at a school a few hours away. He knew he wanted to go pro and spent lots of time training, so this made seeing each other difficult sometimes. When I missed him, or when we were going through challenges in our relationship, I would go sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and tell Jesus everything. My hurts, my wants, my fears, my frustrations. Sometimes I would go and sob, sometimes I would just sit and feel His embrace.

After college, he moved to California to start training camp. We got engaged outside of the Cathedral in my hometown where we planned to be married—the same church I have dreamed of being married in since I was a little girl. It was the most beautiful day full of blessings and family, and we could not wait to start our future together. We went through our marriage prep, I bought a dress, and I prepared to make the move to California after the wedding. A few months into our engagement, he decided he was unsure about the Catholic Church and raising our family in this way. While I never expected to marry a Catholic, I knew I would never force my faith on anyone either. But I do feel a sense of responsibility to make sure my future children experience every part of our faith—and not be pulled in two different directions. We decided to call off the wedding.

Heartbroken and confused, I ran to the only place I knew to go—the same place I had been hundreds of times. The only place that could heal my very broken heart. I was so angry with God (and I let him know that too). I told him—“If it wasn’t for You and Your Church, I would be marrying the man I love.” How could he give me everything I had asked for and then take it away? Looking back, maybe this was the point. I was stripped of everything I thought I could ever want and was left with no one else to turn to but Him. And I did. Humbly, desperately, daily, I would find my strength in the Eucharist. There were days it was the only thing that got me up in the morning.

Friends, there is power and healing in the Eucharist. As Catholics we have the opportunity to experience Christ in the most intimate way that no one else can! He has made himself present to us through the Eucharist, and there is nothing else like it on this earth. He eagerly waits for us to come be with Him–to share our hopes and our struggles, to weep and rejoice. He is always there and always waiting. Run to Him–He alone will heal you.

Chivalry Is for Women Too

By Hadley Adair

Valentine’s Day was approaching, and I, being the haughty, single woman I was, had adopted a new motto. I began to tell everyone I encountered: “You know, guys cannot complain about being single on Valentine’s Day. That’s all on them.” This phrase led to my reasoning that if they want a girlfriend, then they have the freedom to ask a girl out, but us poor women are simply maidens in waiting. Poor us, striving for authentic, Christ-centered relationships, yet living in a time when chivalry is far gone. I had reduced my vocation to the mere passivity of waiting to receive, while at the same time demanding of men immediate and heroic action.

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