Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eulogy to a Snowgirl: parting is such sweet sorrow

Dear Everyone,

During Wisconsin's most remarkably warm winter, we were privileged with a single weekend in March of perfect, sparkling, tree-dusting and snow-ball forming SNOW. My friend and I divined an image of the most beautiful snowgirl ever and busily set about bringing her to life! My, she was a beauty, being tall, regal and smiling. She was slightly mixed up about the seasons though (aren't we all this year?), for she begged to wear a sun hat and garden gloves (she couldn't wait to start planting flowers). We tried to warn her, reciting T.S. Eliot poetry that "April is the cruelest month," but she would hear none of it and just kept on smiling in her garden hat and gloves.

How reality must have hurt when she realized snowladies don't belong in 50 degree temperatures. We wished her farewell on Sunday, entrusting her to the care of my mother, who let her take up residence in her backyard. Only three days later, I received this tearful note from my mother, entitled "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

Every time I walked through the dining room on Monday, I caught a glimpse of Eleanor and smiled to myself, remembering how good it was to have you and Mike here on Sunday and to listen to your laughter. However, on Tuesday Eleanor let the warm weather go to her head. It wasn't long before her left eye was tearing up with joy, and then her mascara began running and her eyeball sunk a bit. By the afternoon she had completely "lost her head", poor soul. Today I can't find her anywhere. Just a few accessories...sob, sob.
I forgot to save Mike's email. Perhaps you could forward my condolences to him.
My love and sympathies,
Eleanor, for that was her sweet name, was loved by all who met her. Though we miss her, we are grateful she melted peacefully into the earth. There she will help flowers grow - better than she could ever have perceived to do while above the ground. Tis the cycle of life for the snowman or snowlady. While their existence is a source of joy for those who meet them, their passing away brings new life for green things to grow.

To all who feel caught between the seasons,

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kindling Virtue: The Flame of Chastity

See how the flame dances so freely and merrily on its candle wick, glowing and growing, flickering, producing such light, and remaining upright, forever pointing to heaven.

We need heroes. We need heroines. We need men and women of all ages and stages who are willing to be witnesses to the joy of pure love and chastity. Many people view chastity as a negative thing, as a “no,” but chastity is a virtue; it’s a positive thing. It’s not so much a “no” to impurity as it is a “yes” to loving wholly and freely.

“The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes,” writes Matthew Kelly in his book The Rhythm of Life on how to be the best version of yourself. Anytime we refuse ourselves some perceived good, we do so for the sake of a greater good. Anytime we say no to sin, we are saying yes to life in Christ. So for example, when you say no to drugs, you are voicing a deeper yes to respecting your body and your dignity and living a healthy lifestyle with the body that God gave you. When you say no to sex outside of marriage, you are saying a deeper yes to the permanence and fidelity of marriage. You are saying “Yes! I want to save myself for true love! Yes, I believe I am worth the wait and that my future spouse will respect me and take responsibility in loving me.” We have only to remember that deeper yes and we will find the strength to resist temptation.

G.K. Chesterton refused to view chastity as an icy holding back or as a suppression of affections. The wise Chesterton wrote, “Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.”

In this sense, chastity is a warm fire of sacrificial love, of complete surrender to God, of inconceivable affection. To be chaste is to be aflame with the love of God so as not to be consumed by its counterfeit, lust. Lust flares up, but then after a short while, is snuffed out. The only remnants are black ashes and a pit of darkness. Possessed by the love of God, St. Joan of Arc had the courage to give her life for God and even die as a martyr. After her earthly battles had been fought, she was burned at the stake, consumed by flame. In her martyrdom, she shows us that love and sacrifice are inseparable.

When singles and couples come to Jesus Christ, they find the love they seek and the love which they long to give. In the wood of the Cross, the flames of chastity are kindled. In Christ’s free, total, faithful and fruitful sacrifice, we have the example of “one like a son a man” who has trampled over sin and given us the ultimate victory. “Behold, behold the wood of the cross, / on which is hung our salvation. / O come, let us adore” (Lenten hymn).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being” (CCC 2337). This integration of God’s gift of sexuality within a man or woman is essential to our ability to bear fruit in whichever vocation we are called to. At the heart of every vocation is first and foremost the call to love through a giving of oneself.

How can I give of myself as an unmarried, single person? As a single adult, focusing on small acts of charity within my friendships and relationships, family and work place, I can be a conduit of God’s love. Rather than waiting for some future day to pledge myself to love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, my focus should be on loving like that in the present moment: loving my family freely, being totally the Lord’s, being faithful in my friendships, and bearing fruit in my faith. Thus, we become integrated spiritually and physically in the gift of sexuality.

Each man and woman thus integrated in their sexuality, chaste in their love, fulfill the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”

Tips for Teens on Living a Chaste Life / Saving Sex for Marriage

1. Write love letters to your future husband or your future wife. “I was true to you even before I knew you.”

2. Make a chastity commitment card or wear a purity ring. Commit yourself to living a chaste life. Sign it and have a witness sign it, too.

3. Avoid near occasions of sin. Avoid toying with the idea of sin. Pray to God to be holy and hang out with friends who are also trying to be holy and pure people. Get involved in church and youth group to meet those kind of people.

4. Make a list of the qualities you highly admire in a man or a woman – the qualities you think would make a good, loving spouse and a good father or mother to your children. Then keep that list as your reminder not to compromise or settle for less than the best of what God wants for you. If you really believe God wants the best for you, you won’t settle for less and you’ll be strong enough to avoid unhealthy relationships.

5. Seek a role model, a saint, or someone you can look up to in this matter. St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati are excellent models of purity.

6. Modesty – remember that how you dress and how you present yourself says a lot about who you are on the inside. Girls, respect your bodies. If you do, guys will, too. Like in the movie A Walk to Remember, if you raise the standard, any guy who is really worthy of you will meet the challenge and want to respect you.

7. Finally, “Do not stir up love before it’s time” (Song of Songs 2:7). Focus on your family and your friendships, and growing in holiness and being a saint, which will ready you for the future vocation God has for you.