The Gift of Good Men

The Gift of Good Men

Good men, the ones who know what it is like to fight the battle for virtue, are deeply hurt when other men don’t see the dignity in women.  I have found this to be true in personal experience and the glimpses of truth that entertainment sources can provide.  Real men value the unique role women have and they do not respect men who fail to protect women.

I was watching a TV show the other day and the plot centered on a woman who was found in a forest, badly beaten.  Uncertain of the ones who committed the crime, the people aiding her were able to find her husband and sent word to him of her location.  The woman revealed, however, that her husband was the one who had beaten her.  The central male character in the show was profoundly disturbed by this reality.  When given the chance to protect the recovering wife, the main character did so.  He was overly vehement in his defense, the protection spiralling into beating the man himself, but that beating I could understand, even if not condone.  Real men want to defend women, not manipulate or abuse them.

The numerous accounts of sexual harassment that have made the news over the past several weeks has been a bit disheartening.  Last week, my class was reviewing an informational quiz they had taken about tech safety.  One of the questions asked them to define objectification.  Many did so accurately, speaking about how it means you treat a person as though they are an object.  Then I asked a simple question, “Do you think men objectify women more or women objectify men more?”  There was no statistic I had in mind; I simply wanted to see what they thought.  Most people said men objectify women more, but some students argued it was equal.

In one class, however, the conversation continued and they began sharing how men objectify women in different ways than women do.  They spoke of unwanted physical contact, vile words in catcalls, and other scenarios.  Several of the young women in my class had situations or opinions they wanted to share.  After a few shared, I began noticing the faces of the young men in my classroom.  They seemed a bit defeated.  I asked the women to pause their sharing for a moment so that some of the men could chime in.  I didn’t want it to be a man-bashing session because good, virtuous men are as appalled by this behavior as women.

More than the words were the young men’s faces that produced an ache in my heart.  There seemed a vulnerability in their faces.  They couldn’t argue for what the men did because they knew it was wrong.  But hearing about man after man hurting women dampened the natural exuberance they exhibited in my classroom.  I was fine with the gravity of the situation, yet I didn’t want them to feel to blame simply because they are men.  Feminism often takes the unnecessary step from desiring to be seen as equal to bashing men.

In social media and in the world at large, young men are seeing many examples of what not to do.  I told them that men aren’t looking very good in the media right now and that it hurts because we know there are many, many good men.  I challenged them to be the virtuous young men that our culture needs.  A world that continues to tell us to “do what we feel” is now experiencing the results of doing what we feel.  Unsurprisingly, most don’t like the results.  I want my students to be the ones who change the cultural perception of what it means to be a man. Continue reading “The Gift of Good Men”

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Advent: What Lies Ahead

Advent: What Lies Ahead

In our culture’s mad rush to start the Christmas season, I am left feeling a bit Scrooge-like.  I like Advent.  The anticipation that gradually builds as candle after candle are lit on the Advent wreath adds to the beauty of Christmas when it finally arrives.  If we jump headlong into Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I believe we miss part of the joy of the season.  Waiting has a sweet longing to it and I want that sweetness for as long as I can have it.

As a child, I remember the eagerness as I would watch the presents beneath the tree grow as time passed.  My younger sister and I would check to find the ones with our names and then try to analyze what was inside.  It was tempting to tear the wrapping off, but we didn’t.  The soft, foldable presents were obviously clothes.  Yet the ones in boxes?  Those were unidentifiable.  We would give them a light shake and then simply wonder about what lay nestled inside for us to discover.  The waiting was half the fun.  Even if I wanted to figure out what the present was before Christmas (my competitive nature desired to win), I also wanted to be surprised.

I won’t argue that I’m extremely patient, however I appreciate waiting for something good.  When I get my mail, I am excited if I find a letter from a friend or a package that I ordered.  Yet I generally open the less fun things first, allowing the excitement and longing for the most desired thing to build.  After trick-or-treating at Halloween when I was a kid, I tried to eat my least favorite candies first, saving the best for last.  Even now, I often find myself saving a bite of the best part of the meal for the end, as if to end the meal on a good note.  Waiting doesn’t change the contents of the letter or the taste of the food, but it seems to add a bit of sweetness as I anticipate what is to come. Continue reading “Advent: What Lies Ahead”

Heroic Action or Infringement of Rights?

Heroic Action or Infringement of Rights?

As much as our world changes and the values and morals alter concurrently, sometimes it is good to see that embedded deep within us is a natural understanding of how we should respond.  Many health situations that create controversy and endless disagreements often start from a good intention that is found within us as human beings.  The push for assisted suicide generally comes from seeing someone suffering and acknowledging that things shouldn’t be that way.  Our desire to eliminate suffering in others is good, but we don’t always pursue the correct course of action.

What this tends to create in society is the belief that each individual should be able to do what they think is best.  As an individualistic society, we are quick to argue that nobody can force their beliefs and opinions on me.  I am free to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  Sometimes we will add the caveat “as long as I am not hurting anyone,” but often, culturally, we see our freedom as the one objective truth.  

Do you remember hearing roughly a month ago about a MLB umpire who saved a woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente bridge in Pittsburgh?  I found the story a beautiful testament of someone caring about a stranger and doing something when others just walked by.  What I find particularly interesting about the story is how it was reported.  People came together to help a woman who was trying to jump off the bridge and commit suicide.  John Tumpane, the man who first started helping the woman, is spoken of as a hero and as someone who saved another person’s life.  These weren’t Christian news agencies, but this event was reported very similarly in several mainstream secular articles.

I agree that he was able to help save someone’s life, but I find the cultural inconsistency obvious.

This woman didn’t want to live.  She made a plan, she started to carry out that plan, and then she was stopped by someone walking by.  Most people will look at this as a positive ending to a story that could have been tragic.  We see someone wanting to end it all and we rejoice that someone noticed and she was able to hopefully receive the help she needed.

In a purely individualistic sense, what I see is a woman who was not allowed to make a choice she wanted to make.  She wanted to end her life, but other people decided that her life was worth living, worth saving.  To us, it is easy to see this as heroism in action.

Why do we as a culture not view this as an infringement on her rights?   Continue reading “Heroic Action or Infringement of Rights?”

Attractive Misery

Attractive Misery

We feel…shame at seeing our misery and our baseness exposed.  Yet this misery possesses the mysterious privilege of attracting our Lord.  This is difficult to understand, yet it is an incontestable truth.  Our nothingness and our misery constitute the force that attracts our Lord.

(Secrets of the Interior Life)

I’ve never really understood this idea of how our misery attracts the Lord to us.  Generally, when I see my own miserableness, it is repulsive or something I want to hide.  It isn’t something that is attractive or pleasant.  When it comes to seeing the miserableness of others, I’m not much better.  My personality is one that desires perfection.  The people around me (including me) are continually letting me down because they don’t live up to my image of perfection.

Yet the Lord uses all things for good.  The cheating incident I mentioned a couple posts back has really pushed my heart.  It made me move from anger to forgiveness.  A few days later when the individuals came back and we spoke, I found great freedom in being able to express how they had hurt me and to hear them apologize.  The relief on their faces was incredible.  It was though they walked into my room carrying a burden and then through the exchange of a few words, that burden was lifted.  My burden was lifted, too.

Strangely, over the last couple weeks, I have found a special tenderness in my hearts toward those individuals.  No longer angry, I am able to love them as they are: flawed human beings.  The Lord knows I have difficulty loving people in their humanity and so I am beginning to be grateful for this incident.  I don’t want to love them only when I think they are perfect, but for the beautiful complexity that is wrapped up within their hearts and souls.  I know myself and so I know I do not want to be loved merely for my seeming perfection but rather in my entirety.  In the midst of this, I experienced for the first time, at least consciously, the way that misery attracts my heart.   Continue reading “Attractive Misery”

“Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week

“Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week

I watched Beauty and the Beast this weekend and I’ve been turning one lyric over and over in my mind ever since.  “How in the midst of all this sorrow can so much hope and love endure?” (from ‘Days in the Sun’)  For several reasons, it seemed to be the perfect phrase to carry into this Holy Week.

In the midst of experiencing again the Passion of Jesus Christ, how can we still find hope and love?  When I read the news, how can I find hope and love in the events of strife and discord?  In tragedy on a personal or community level, how can I wade through the hurt and find hope?

The short answer is that it is difficult to do, but it must be possible.  It isn’t a matter of denying the pain or sorrow.  The Lord knew we would experience pain.  He understands the depths of feeling forsaken and abandoned.  His closest friends fell asleep during His moments of great agony.  When soldiers came to arrest Him, the apostles all fled.  Jesus isn’t asking us to deny pain or to act like it doesn’t impact us.  Rather, He is asking us to choose to find the Resurrection in the midst of every crucifixion.  Or, at the very least, to acknowledge that there will be a Resurrection, even if death seems to be victorious right now. Continue reading ““Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week”

My Seeking Heart is a Sought After Heart

My Seeking Heart is a Sought After Heart

This blog is entitled “Seeking After His Heart.”  Ideally, I like to think of my life as a pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Yet sometimes I overlook the fact that it is really about the Good, the True, and the Beautiful pursing me.

God initiates all of our encounters with Him.  If He did not reveal Himself, we would not know Him.  If He did not allow us to perceive Him, then we would be completely unaware of His presence.  Even prayer, which can sometimes be viewed as something we do for God, is actually something He does for us.

In conversation with my spiritual director, he told me to not overlook begging Jesus for the grace to go to Him in prayer.  And sitting in the adoration chapel the other evening, I reminded myself that I was there simply because I responded to God’s grace.  I mean, it kind of felt like it was purely my choice, but I knew that it was God offering His grace and me, finally, responding to it.

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This initiation on God’s part is timeless.  All of the Old Testament covenants are made because God interacts with a human person and desires to be in relationship with them.  They don’t start the process.  “Hey, God!  I’d like to be a part of Your family!”  God reaches down to us and adopts us as His own.  Even greater still, He enters into the human family so as to bridge all gaps between us.  There is nothing left for us to do but to respond.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman with simple words, “Give me a drink.”  He seeks her out, He encounters her, and He asks her to enter into relationship with Him.  Yet I love the way that the Lord does this.  He reaches out to her and expresses His thirst for her. Continue reading “My Seeking Heart is a Sought After Heart”

Jim and Pam

Jim and Pam

I have a tendency to resist liking things that other people like simply because other people like them.  Make sense?  Of course not.  But I learned that “don’t give into peer pressure” thing really well in elementary school and it just maybe turned me into a bit of a contrarian.  In elementary school, I was pretty adamant about not liking any of the boy bands or Britney Spears.  I was a sharp critic of modern fashions and I was never the first to have anything trendy.

I like to think I have balanced out a bit and that I allow myself to like things that other people like.  Nevertheless, I do like to go against the flow and not adopt things simply because lots of other people do.  So I’ve heard people talk about “The Office” for years and I was never really interested in learning more about it.  I watched “Parks and Rec” because my housemates were into it at the time, but that was one of the first TV series I had invested in.  When I got around to watching “The Office,” I was surprised that I enjoyed it, once I was familiar with the characters.  And, being the romantic that I am, I fell for Jim and Pam’s relationship. Continue reading “Jim and Pam”

Today

Today

Today was a good day.

I slept in later than I should have and rushed to get ready in time.  Rushing around, I didn’t eat breakfast and threw a bagel in my lunch bag.  Preparing to submit my grades during my lunch time, I completely forgot to eat my lunch/bagel.  A student asked me why we don’t have a class that covers all of the bad things Catholics have done in the past.  And my supervisor mentioned (in a kind way) that I never date.  (I had noticed.)

But today was still a good day.

I met this morning with lovely young ladies and we talked about preparing ourselves for the relationships for which we all long.  I had multiple times today where I would realize, “Hey, I’m doing this teaching thing!”  A couple moments with my seniors resulted in laughter, partly because I am less defensive than I’ve been in previous years and I was able to take things in stride with a smile.  Today, I laughed: when a student flipped his pencil to the ceiling (and looked like he surprised himself), when a student asked if I would take them all to walk the Camino (my answer: I don’t think we would all make it to the end alive), and with various friends during conversations.  I had a cup of coffee in a mug decorated with pictures from a trip my sister and I took.  During school, I prayed the Holy Sacrificed of the Mass.  I made Thai food.  I read more in my current book.  I was able to talk about art and martyrdom today and feel passionate for the topics even if my students appeared less than excited to hear about them.  One of my housemates shared her leftover cheesecake.  And I can hear a couple of my housemates trying to figure out the suspenseful show they are watching.

Today was a good day.  The Lord used the nothing that I had and He brought about something.  It wasn’t perfect and it probably could have been better if I had given more of myself.  Thank You, Jesus, for this day.

Not Too Holy

Not Too Holy

“I want to be good!  I want to be good!” my nephew exclaimed a couple years ago, near tears.  He had been caught, doing again, what we had recently instructed him not to do.

“Then be good!” I replied.

It seemed simple.  We were very specifically asking him to not do something and he would go and do it again.  It was amusing, though, to hear those words come from him–a proclaimed desire to be good while yet desiring to do the same things again and again.

Don’t we wish we could say that was a problem simply for the young?  Too often I am encountering the Lord saying, “I want to be good!” yet lacking the desire to do what is necessary to be good.

“If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.” William Law

The first time I read this quote, I was a bit surprised.  I found myself wanting to argue but all arguments dying within myself.  It is true.  If I truly wanted to be a saint, I would be one, or at least I would be far closer to one than I am right now.  God’s grace is sufficient: what is lacking must be found in my own desire and willingness to receive His grace.

There is a healthy sadness within myself when I admit that the plan God has for my  life does not match up with my own desires.  I say I want to be a saint, but my actions have a voice that speaks to the contrary.  Because being a saint does not mean to strive to be better then most.  It doesn’t mean to work so that others think you are saintly.  The quest to become a saint is one of the few things in life that cannot be determined by your placement to others.  Even the witness of other saints, while inspiring, cannot tell you if you are the saint you are called to be.  If Bl. Teresa of Calcutta spent her whole life comparing her mission to that of St. Therese of Lisieux, she would have missed the mission to which God was uniquely calling her.  We, too, will get confused if we routinely use others as a measuring stick for our own holiness.

Unlike a credit score or an ACT score, being a saint isn’t boiled down to being in the top 10%.  In high school, it felt like I was one of the only ones who cared about my faith.  I would look at the choices my classmates were making and I would see the choices I was making.  I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I felt pretty good in terms of faith.  And people seemed to recognize that I valued my faith and thought of me accordingly.  When I got to college, I was surrounded by people who were deeply invested in their faith.  I had good formation from my parents, but I remember freshman year looking around and thinking, “Oh, no!  I’m way behind!”  While I was coasting in high school (feeling like I was the only one who cared), these people were going deeper in their faith.  It was a good wake up call, but I was still dealing with it in terms of where I ranked in comparison to others.

In many ways, I am still fighting that battle.  Sometimes I find myself wanting to not get too holy.  It honestly shouldn’t be a concern of mine, because that is a distant dream, but I understand why I think that way.  The closer one gets to Christ, the more one realizes the failings of this world.  The more we act like Christ, the more we run the risk of making others uncomfortable.  What if I get too holy and just being myself makes other people uncomfortable?  I bet some people left dinners early when Jesus would show up.  “Ah, there’s that guy.  Something about him makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Instead, I find myself wanting to be “just holy enough.”  Holy enough that I’m following God, but not so holy that others really notice.  Not so holy that I actually suffer for it.  I want to be called and chosen to live a life of sanctity, but one that makes me well-liked and a perfectly balanced introvert-extrovert.  Oftentimes I romanticize sanctity and assume it means that there will be no problems other than surrendering to God’s will.  People will be wonderful, beautiful beings and my encounters with them will be filled with a gushing of God’s love.  Isn’t that silly, though?  I seem to think holiness will make life easy.  Jesus, however, speaks of picking up a cross and following after Him.

I have several reasons that I am not yet a saint.  One of which is because I fear the persecution and loneliness that will come from selling all my pearls to buy the one of great price.  I worry that putting God in an undeniably central place in my life will make other people step away.  And if you ask me if I think Christ is sufficient, I will say, “Yes, Jesus will fulfill all my wants and desires.”  Yet if you ask if I live like I believe that, I must admit I do not.

I want to be good.  I want to be a saint.  But I do not want it entirely.  Otherwise, this holiness thing would be far closer to being a reality.  If I compare myself to others, I will always be able to find a reason to justify my present state, there will always be motivation to say I’m good enough.  But if I use the correct measuring stick, then I will always see the need for growth.  If I ask, “How closely do I conform my life to the cross of Christ?” I will see the areas of disparity.

Clearly, I am not “too holy.”

Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…