Sunday, 27 December 2015

7 Christmas Quick Takes (2015 version)

Last year I did a 7 Quick Takes on Christmas. So because I'm so creative and original, I decided to go with the exact same idea. I'm a creature of habit. Usually bad habits.

---1---

So people keep asking me how my Christmas went. I try to think of something fascinating that happened, and of course, it is, "I decided to be an adult, and made the roast chicken for the first time in my life." My findings:
  • If I had to pick one thing that I had to eat every day for the rest of my life, I THINK stuffing made with bacon, sausage, breadcrumbs, onion, raisins and apple might be it.
  • Stitching together a dead bird might be the grossest thing anyone could do on a Christmas morning.
  • Recipe books are great with the theory, but when you say it'll take an hour to roast, maybe you should mention that in REALITY it might take 2 hours plus some for the bird to actually be cooked through
  • Cutting a whole roast chicken into edible portions is a messy and unsatisfying business for amateurs like myself.
However the delicious meal we eventually ate made everything worth it. (Also helping us practice our 'waiting in joyful hope')


---2---

An Indian Catholic's Christmas differs from an American Catholic's in one major way- we always have our Christmas sweets. Not just Christmas cookies, but a whole set of delicacies like marzipan (sugar and cashewnut), kulkuls (fried and frosted bits of dough), fudge, milk toffee, cheese straws, fruitcake, etc. I assume most of these are Goan Catholic traditions, mostly from the Portuguese? Or a little from here, a little from there? Anyway, it would be a strange, strange Christmas without these Christmas sweets.


---3---

Even though an Indian Christmas has nothing to do with snowmen, pine trees, candy canes, etc, and none of those things have anything much to do with the biblical Nativity of Jesus (unlike the Christmas star and angels), all those things seem to be a normal part of our Christmases here. Kids in school do Christmas arts and crafts which reflect a Christmas from a different part of the world, we cheerily sing 'Let It Snow' and 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas', which almost none of us have ever seen.

And of course Santa Claus appears as the main face of Christmas. Sad but true: Humans of Bombay recorded a little street child selling Christmas decorations, saying, "Every year I ask Santa for only one thing - a way to get myself properly educated. This year I also realised that I want to be a scientist so I'm praying even harder that he makes my wish come true. They say Santa doesn't exist, but I have faith that one day I'll be able to stop working, study and become the best scientist in the world!"

Pray to Jesus, not Santa! (I know for atheists it doesn't make a difference, but as a Catholic, praying to a fictional character from the North Pole isn't exactly the same as praying to the historical person of Jesus who still heals and reveals Himself today. Unless he's really asking for the intercession of Saint Nicholas?)

Anyway, in spite of the randomness of some of our Christmas traditions, I sure enjoy having a Christmas tree and heaps of gifts under it.


Even if it's a fake tree.

---4---

Over the last week or so I have been listening to this song 'Wonder' on repeat. The words are very simple-

May we never lose our wonder / Wide eyed and mystified / May we be just like a child / Staring at the beauty of our King/ You are beautiful in all your ways

A couple of weeks ago in the US, I spent one of the most beautiful hours of my life, sitting in Adoration with a chapel full of people loving Jesus. We sang this song, over and over, and my heart was filled with wonder. And now at Christmas, it makes even more sense.


I think of how Mary must have gazed in wonder at this little creature, suckling at her breast.. The God of the Universe become tiny and weak and helpless, her Creator, and yet her little one. How her heart must have swelled with love, with awe, with tenderness. I catch little tastes of that wonder when I gaze at Jesus in the Eucharist- once again become so small, to be with me. The secret of everything- greatness hidden in littleness.

Bishop Robert Barron says, "How common this is in the Bible: the reversal of expectations, the little giving rise to the great, wonderful things coming where you least expect them. The stuttering Moses speaks up to mighty Pharaoh, the slaves face down the Egyptian army, tiny David kills the giant Goliath..."

In the quiet of my prayer time, in the heart-lifting moment of the Psalm being sung at Christmas Mass, in the the brief moment of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and walking back to my pew, in the few minutes of prayer as my family gathered around my blind and bedridden great aunt, these were the God-moments of Christmas.

---5---

Some Christmas articles and blog posts-

Have Yourself a Broken Little Christmas

We celebrate a Savior who entered a wounded world. And every year we celebrate his birth, we see evidence that our world is still so broken, still so in need of the saving power of Jesus. Our Savior did not come as a king, although he could have saved us in any way he pleased. Rather, he came as a tiny, vulnerable child. He entered our broken, violent, hate-filled world as a tiny, trusting, child, to be with us. 

Oh, That Final Verse!

If you’re not getting everything you need in this world, if you don’t feel satisfied, if you feel adrift and alone and incomplete, that’s because we haven’t gotten to the end of the song yet. You haven't yet gotten to the final verse, which rescues all the others from fantasy. 

Christmas Isn't Candy Canes—It's D-Day in the War Against Satan

Jesus the King of the Universe entered the territory of the “prince of this world” and began to take back territory from him.  

---6---






 (More at catholicmemes.com)


---7---

And old Christmas stuff from me:


Are You Going to a Christmas Dance? 

7 Christmas Quick Takes 

Christmas Highlights

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To Be Someone's Darling


I'm one of those head instead of heart people. But if you knew your Myers-Brigg, you'd already know that. The 'T' can sometimes translate as hard-hearted, coldly logical, or just not very affectionate. Over the years as I came to know the God of love, and spent time with Christian community, He began to soften my rough edges, move me from hard-heartedness to soft-heartedness.


Still, I often find it hard to show or receive affection. Indian families are not usually very demonstrative, cuddles are unusual, and saying "I love you" as a matter of course is unusual. Add to that the British influence in my family, we can be pretty undemonstrative, more prone to sarcastic dry, witty comments than showering someone with affection. I didn't really think that was a big deal, until I began to wonder why I find it hard to 'experience' God's love (which I accepted intellectually).

I recently attended a retreat where we talked about every human being's desire to be delighted in, to be 'seen', without criticism, expectation, or demands. I knew God loved me, I had seen so many ways He had answered my prayers, begun to change me, save me from my selfishness, bring healing to my relationships. And yet, when I sat down to be with Him in prayer, contemplation- "I look at God and He looks at me' often evaded me.



A few days ago I read this article:

When Being Called a “Child of God” Draws a Blank

For many, Christmas means trying to grasp God's all-consuming love for us, without the helpful perspective of having once been someone's darling.

And this one-

Oxymoron of an Anchoress on a Silent Retreat 

As I sat in the Gaze of Mercy, I felt Our Lord ask “Let me look at you…I love to look at you.” These words were from a shared story, which goes something like this: Each day, after school, a mother would wash and press her young daughter’s uniform. In the morning the child would be clean and fresh for a new day of learning. Before the child left for school the mother would say to her, “Let me look at you” checking her from head to toe, then “I just love to look at you.” 

They struck a chord, even though I have come from a stable family- have never been abused or abandoned, have been protected, valued, loved. And yet, I feel like I have hardly experienced that gaze of attentive, unconditional, delighted love. How few of us have. Brokenness passes from one generation to the next. It spreads within a culture. Our schools and our school teachers reinforce this brokenness. I was with some schoolchildren and teachers recently, and the only way the teachers could relate to the children (whom I know they genuinely care about) was to correct them or instruct them in gruff tones- "Stand straight! Don't stand there! Say thank you!"etc.

I tried to communicate the love of the Father to the students as I did a session about Christmas with them. "God loves you! He looks at you and says, 'How beautiful'" I told them as I put my hand on one student's cheek, trying to communicate God's delight. Her eyes lit up. Who had ever said that to her?

The beauty of existence, loved into it, and through it, pierced my heart. There was joy in knowing what it is to be the child of a parent looking upon you in all your sweet wonders. It is good to be somebody’s beloved daughter. 

But I did know that intimacy. I HAD tasted it.

The author of the articles wrote, 'Being single and childless — I feel curious. Curious enough to ask my friends about it. “What do you, as parents, feel when gazing upon your children?” I have asked. “As a beloved child, when young — or now, looking back as an adult with children of your own — what was in the moments you experienced, that you became aware of such a gaze?"'


I am single and childless, and yet God awakened intimacy in my soul through the birth of my little nieces. I was on the other end of the delight, but I suddenly found parts of my soul I didn't know existed. As babies, I longed to hold them, just stare at their perfect little faces, their curves, listen to their sweet baby gurgles. What contentment as they nestled close against me.


As they grew older, I loved to hear them talk, every word was greeted with delight. What joy when they said our names (and what jealousy when they said the other aunts' or uncle's' first) We'd get them to repeat words they didn't understand after us- "That's ridicklus!"and just revel in these little creatures who were OURS. Even now as lanky 6 and 7 year olds who can barely fit on my lap, I find such joy in their silly, innocent love for me, the things they want to show me, their observations about life, their openness, their questions, just THEM. Their existence. Their humanity.



I look at them the way God looks at me. The way He wants me to look at every human being, especially my family. To SEE them. And to allow Him to SEE me.

Last night I sat before the Blessed Sacrament with the Christian young professionals' group I belong to, just sat, for an hour, in silence before Him. Allowing Him to love me. Last night I also sat with my mum, as she set aside her to do lists to listen to me, and love me. 'Wasting' time.

It's beginning.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Day I Met A Celebrity

So I'm not the fangirl type. I once met Aamir Khan, and I was like "Eh, whatever. You seem normal." (In my head. I'm not THAT rude.)While other people shrieked and asked for his autograph. My family's proud like that. Or let's say down-to-earth.

But there are a few people that I really look up to, have been influenced by, and would be excited to meet. It's a fairly short list.

1. Scott Hahn- Catholic convert, author with his wife Kimberly of Rome Sweet Home, that sparked my interest in the Catholic Church as a young teenager, author of  A Father Who Keeps His Promises, that opened my eyes to and got me really excited about the continuity and connection between the Old and New Testament (what, Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Abraham and Isaac are not just a bunch or random unconnected stories for kids?)



2. Jennifer Fulwiler- Atheist turned Catholic, witty, insightful, self-proclaimed socially-awkward blogger at Conversion Diary, whom I've been following for over eight years, and often linked to on my blog- while talking about Myers- Brigg, doing Seven Quick Takes, and promoting her book Something Other Than God (that I hadn't even read at that point). She's a pretty big name in the Catholic online world.



3. Simcha Fisher- Another intelligent, hilarious Catholic blogger who is not afraid to be funny and snarky and balanced and real. She writes at Aleteia (now), and National Catholic Register. I used to read NCR only for her, and I'm pretty sure my writing has been influenced by her and Jennifer.



4. Pope Francis- You know.



Him.

LOVE Joy of the Gospel, Papa Francesco! "For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?"

Anyway, back in 2010-2011, I visited the US for the first time as I joined the organization I am now a part of. One of my friends is an alumni of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and a group of us stopped there on our way to the D.C March for Life (yes, we did a road trip from Louisiana to D.C. with a stop at Ohio!). When we were there, we unexpectedly got to drop in to Scott Hahn's home, (courtesy of a common friend) and visit with him. He and Kimberly were so kind to us, and he even shared a little reflection with us about the value of our work. He prefaced it with, "Do you have a moment?" as we were about to exit his home, feeling awkward about barging in. Who doesn't have moment for Scott Hahn?



Then this year, I got the chance to return to the US for some time with my organization. "What if.. we somehow managed to meet Jennifer Fulwiler while I was there?" I said to my old friend T, who is also a fan. Texas and Louisiana are neighbors after all, and who knows?

So we wrote to her, and manged to get our email read via another friend of a friend of Jen's. I played the Indian fan card (sorry, Jennifer). And still, I was surprised when she wrote back, and said she would love to meet us. Ahhh! I was picturing coffee somewhere.. and then she invited us over to her home for dinner!!! Leap of faith on her part. T and I drove 6 hours to meet her and her family, hung out and chatted over wine, got interviewed on her radio show (because of the cool work we do). "You sound like Pope Francis' kind of people,"she told us. A higher compliment I have never been paid. She was quiet and graceful, and her husband Joe was gregarious and animated.

 

Also I was apparently the first person who compared her home to a monastery... in my defence, I was currently living at a base with over 70 people of which over 30 were children...so her six kids wandering around doing their own thing while we could hear ourselves speak was a quiet, peaceful experience.

So yeah, I met Jennifer Fulwiler! You've got have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come truuuueee? (South Pacific, anyone?)



Look out, Simcha Fisher and Pope Francis!

Thanks for being awesome, Jennifer- and inviting two complete strangers into your home. Aren't you glad we didn't turn out to be complete weirdos?



 Relatively speaking, anyway.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Adventures in Mexico

Why, yes,  I DID say I was in the US. But you know, a 12 hour car drive later, and what do you know? I'm in Mexico! My organization takes their new trainees on a 3 week trip to Mexico, and we spend our days visiting little old lonely/handicapped/poor Mexican people in their tiny adobe homes, and doing prayer meetings out in the ranchos in the middle of the hills surrounded for miles by nothing but cactus and cold winds. Also eating a lot of fresh, hot tortillas and beans. Yum.

Fun things that happened:

1. I almost got arrested at a police checkpoint on our way back from a rancho, because apparently random Indians with nose-rings driving in a vehicle of Americans in the middle of Mexico is an unusual sight. Also, we had forgotten to carry our passports and visas. Oopsie. I also blame team member V who was driving- he is Mexican- American, and has a man-bun. They sniffed his hands, and smelled my breath (that was a first). We were saved by V's cute 1 and a half year old twins who waved "Ola!"from their car seats to the scary police shining a flashlight at them, and broke the tension.


Didn't see THAT coming, did you, Officer?

2. Our van broke down at a rancho in the middle of Nowhere, Mexico at about 8 pm one cold evening... No phone service, and no repair shops in the tiny community. We prayed for a miracle for our van (our organization sees plenty of those), but it wouldn't start. A chilling mountain wind kept us company as we- V, his wife, D and little twin girls and I, took shelter in the tiny chapel. Most of the people who had attended the prayer meeting eventually made their way home, but two sweet Mexican ladies and seven children wouldn't leave us. "Why is God keeping us here?" I wondered, as I amused myself and the kids with my ipod. And then we found out. After an hour and a half of small talk, one of the ladies timidly asked my team mate V how to read the bible we had just given them. He was thrilled to explain. As soon as he wrapped up his explanation, our Mexican friend came in and said "We fixed it! Time to go!"When you ask for divine appointments...

On our way to the rancho

3. I landed up staying at a (semi-abandoned) decrepit Mexican mansion for two weeks- complete with a courtyard INSIDE the house, in the center of which was a stone fountain, a bathroom big enough for ten people to live in, doors from bedrooms leading to surprise extra living rooms, a garden outside with ORANGE TREES with REAL ORANGES growing on them!! (City girl excitement)

 


4. We went out once a week for a morning of quiet prayer to some of the most beautiful corners of God's creations. Who knew Mexico had spots like these?



5. I also for the first time in my life started the grand adventure of... CROCHETING. I used to visualize myself as a very pregnant wife cozily knitting in the comfort of my living room, maybe thinking that was the only time I would have the luxury of doing nothing else. But you know, time is passing, and why wait? A bunch of my community members, from 10 year old girls to mothers of six all started learning how to crochet, so I thought, "NOW is the acceptable time!"(I always think in bible quotes.) So instead of being a pregnant wife knitting in a living room, I have been a contented bundled up single woman crocheting and soaking up the sun in Mexican courtyard on a wintry day, not to mention crocheting away furiously on a loooong road trip from Mexico to Louisiana. And I love it every bit as much as I thought I would. Dreams do come true.

Yes, I crocheted that.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

An Indian Catholic in Catholic America

Did I mention I was Catholic? And that I work with Catholics? And that I'm in the heart of Louisiana that happens to be very Catholic. (Hollywood hadn't prepared me for this.)

So... observations, experiences, thoughts.

1. Mass Etiquette: The Sign of Peace

Well, throughout my life I assumed that the hands pressed together gesture actually was THE 'sign of peace'. I did not realize that it is the Indian namaste adapted for the Church in India. So I come to the US, and people are shaking each others' hands, hugging each other, kissing each other (spouses.. on the lips... IN THE CHURCH.. the horror!) Also a bunch of old ladies make the two finger Jesus-peace sign (as opposed to the hippy make-love-not-war sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll peace sign) to everyone across the aisles.



But apart from repressing the urge to namaste to everyone, the confusing thing is... whom do you hug? (Answer: People you are close to, not perfect strangers... oops) Whose hands do you shake? (Answer: Strangers, and friends who are not into physical affection, or perhaps are more liturgically reserved) How do you know the difference? (Answer: Wait for them to make the first move, and react as if that is what you were planning to do all along. This is a very delicate operation, as you can't wait too long or you'll look like the awkward Indian. Awaiting with reluctance the socially awkward moment when the person I turn tries exactly the same thing, and we both stare at each other, willing the other to make the first move.)

2. Mass Etiquette: Posture and Body Language

In India, it is inappropriate to cross your legs at the knee at Mass. It gives Indians the impression of being a casual viewer, the audience at a movie theatre or a show, not particularly reverent. I was trained into this by my mum who worked hard at getting my siblings and me to 'assume a more prayerful posture' at family prayer as well- no lounging about, feet tucked under us, etc. In Catholic congregations here, many people lean back with their arms around their (respective) spouses, legs crossed. Sometimes there is applause after the last hymn. It definitely makes me feel like we're at a performance.

3. Catholic Dating Wardrobe

 One of the girls living here was going on her first date weekend with someone with whom she had an online long-distance relationship, and invited all the girls in to help her decide what to wear. It was quite the experience for me-about six girls viewing and commenting on each outfit... VERY unanimously. They spoke with one voice. The details of discerning date outfits was something they had obviously worked on many times before.

It sounded from the conversation that every young Catholic woman had the same set of clothes in her wardrobe, which included such items as a flannel shirt, boots, a black dress, dressy sweater, a variety of scarves, black and gray leggings, and such categories as casual but classy, meeting the parents and ordination- appropriate, but also meeting-the-guy-friends-at-the-pub appropriate, Fall-outdoorsy-cute not trying too hard bonfire outfit, etc. Maybe it's because I don't go on dates, or because I have a much smaller set of clothing options (my dress style is 'Gospel poverty' aka shabby/ repetitive), but I have a feeling it would not have taken me that much time or mental energy or friend support to make those kinds of decisions.

4. First All Saints' Day Party aka Holyween.

Super fun Catholic controversy is whether or not Catholics should celebrate Halloween (glorifying evil or 'O Hell, where is your victory, O Death, where is your sting?') My peeps here ignore the whole argument by having a saints dress up party which includes a LOT of candy (known as sweets/chocolates in India). Catechesis plus candy = win-win. We had decorations with lots of saints cards hung everywhere, games, stigmata cookies (not even kidding), etc. I live with about 70 or so very Catholic people, of which about 30 are kids. EVERYONE was very into costume- creating.

So we had multiples of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and Mother Teresa, randoms like Saint Philomena and Polycarp, extremely recents like St. Zelie and St. Martin (St. Therese's parents, canonized a few weeks ago), famous biblical characters like Queen Esther, and assorted animals from Noah's Ark.





And then you had the Lamb of God. She occasionally said, "Behold," and gambolled and pranced a little.


And of course, for my very first All Saint's Day party I went as... 'That Unknown Indian Woman who Made It to Heaven But Noone Ever Officially Canonized Her or Made Saint Cards with Her Picture.' Patron saint of humility. She was so humble, noone ever heard of her.

Whatever. I bin busy.

Anyway I loved that part of Catholic America, remembering and honouring the members of our family who have gone before us. We don't do that much in my Catholic world in India. I'm bring All Saints' Day parties back home!

Okay, more later. Buh-bye.

P.S. Sorry I haven't written in SO long. It's apparently one of the busier times of my life.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

India vs America Diaries

Hey guess what? I'm in the US of A. Or in Umrika as us desi people put it. Hai na? (See how hard I'm trying?) I'm here in the heart of the swamplands of Louisiana with the organization I belong to to get some experience with the yearly training programme they run here, so I can help start something similar in India.

This is my second time in the US, the first time was five years ago when I was a nervous 24 year old who had never lived away from home, never been on a plane and never left the country. When I first came, EVERYTHING was strange and different. *I* felt strange and different, not really like myself. This time I was interested to see what would strike me as different, after having learned to become more comfortable with changes, living in several new homes in the Philippines and India, and then living and working with Americans over the last five years.



Of course I decided to document my observations. You're very welcome.

DISCLAIMER: I KNOW I'M GENERALIZING, BUT THESE ARE JUST MY OBSERVATIONS AND OPINIONS ON MY PERSONAL BLOG, I'M SURE THERE ARE PLENTY OF EXCEPTIONS END OF DISCLAIMER.

----1----

Road Chaos vs Road Discipline

So when I ride my bike in India, I'm a rule follower. Even so, all the rules involved with being on the roads in the US are so confusing to me. Granted, I don't KNOW the rules. But when an Indian sees a space, they go for it. All the pausing at stop signs, slowly circling parking lots, dawdling before switching lanes, well, even the existence of REAL lanes, is befuddling to my chaotic Indian driving soul. Of course it is nice to feel like you don't have to be trying to to protect your life at every moment. But everything takes so much longer when you can't just go from Point A to Point B, and expect everyone to just look out for themselves.



----2----

American Confidence vs Indian Diffidence

Americans seem to be brought up to be adventurous, to confidently stride into situations and feel like they have every right to be there, and demand the assistance that they require. I don't see Americans (in the USA or in India) self consciously wondering whether they are fitting in. Indians on the other hand- we're so self-conscious! We don't feel like we belong, and we carefully watch to see that we're doing the right thing, not being culturally inappropriate, not sounding ignorant or uncouth. Even in India, when I enter a new situation, I'm not entirely sure if  'it's allowed'. If you're American, the good thing is that you're much more likely to try new things, you have the boundless confidence that all things are possible. You might come across as brash or insensitive though. If you're Indian, you are much more sensitive to cultural differences, but you may never leave your home to find out because THERE ARE SO MANY POSSIBLE MISTAKES YOU CAN MAKE!

---3---

American Courtesy vs Indian Awkwardness

So this is totally a Southern thing, but complete strangers keep asking how I'm doing, and my Indian awkward introvert self isn't sure whether they actually want to know, and even if they do would it be rude if I just smiled, mumbled something and walked away? My awesome friends took me for a girls' trip on Labour Day weekend, and we stayed at a nice resort in Mississippi. But everyone kept chatting to each other. Small talk, small talk every where! In my city in India, we don't even make eye contact when we don't know each other. It's weird to have people so chatty and courteous here, but mostly nice. I'm just not good at responding. Or initiating. It's like everyone wants to be your friend, but I'm all like, "Me? Are you sure you want to talk to me?" I think it's probably connected with the confidence diffidence point above.



---4---

Personal Boundaries vs No Personal Boundaries

So in India, we don't make eye contact or small talk, but we are quite used to sharing our space with a lot of people. We LITERALLY rub shoulders when we're walking on a street, in a shop, travelling by bus or train (well, on a Mumbai local during rush hour you're rubbing a lot more than shoulders. Okay that sounds kinda creepy. But it is kinda creepy.) Now in the US I'm constantly afraid I'm going to get into someone's space accidentally, because when I pass someone on the stairs, with more than a foot of space between us, they say 'Excuse me'!!!!



---5---

Hot Summer Experience vs Hot and Cold Summer Experience

So in India, when it's summer, it's just hot. You wear your thinnest cotton clothes, take a lot of showers and try not to move too much. In the Deep South, it gets hot alright. I was surprised at how hot it was.


But here's the thing- air conditioning is everywhere. So when I dress each day, my body is so confused. Jeans and a sweater? Or shorts and a t shirt? I step outside the house for a few minutes and I'm suffocating. I step back in and I'm freezing. My body can't decide how to adjust!

More to come in further posts. If and when I have time.

What differences have you noticed between Indians and Americans?

Monday, 24 August 2015

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

I came across a couple of interesting articles:

Two Hard-Won Tips For Your Discernment

The whole discernment anxiety thing is largely a Catholic problem- what is God calling me to?

Priesthood or Married Life? Consecrated Single Life or Religious Life? Diocesan Priesthood or Religious Priesthood? Religious Life or Married Life? Pick one! Quick!
Although I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us to stress out about it, I think it's a good sign that singles actually are willing to consider more than the default married and two kids. In Catholic circles where I live, most young people aren't even encouraged to seriously think of religious life as an option. Plus most people are brought up on a steady diet of romantic comedies, romance novels and the expectation that by your late 20s you are going to 'settle down'.

 One way or another

Anyway. Assuming that for some people, through retreats or Christian youth movements, they have come to a personal experience of God's love, and a belief that He cares about their life, the choices they make, and has a beautiful plan for their life, the question is.. what is that plan, and how do they move towards it?

For some, the question can paralyze them- how do I KNOW? If I am attracted to someone, that probably means I am called to marriage right? But maybe I am just choosing the easier path? When do I have to make this decision? Can I not think of it right now? But I need to know! What if I make a mistake? I haven't heard a voice from heaven or anything, so how do I know????

The article gives a couple of cool insights:

God Loves You and Wills Your Happiness. Period, Full Stop. No Matter What You Decide. Always.
God isn't trying to make you miserable, or hiding this SUPER IMPORTANT CODE that you need to unlock the answer to life, the universe and everything. If you sincerely desire to do what He wants, and are being faithful in what you DO know He is asking of you, He'll work it out. Also, getting married or becoming a priest or a nun isn't really the key to happiness. And if you did not discern your vocation, and got married, you don't have to worry that you missed your path to happiness. GOD HIMSELF is the key to happiness. And He can write straight with crooked lines.

But that still leaves an important question


If there is a plan, I've not yet made a decision, how do I know what it is, and how do I move towards it?

There plenty of cool resources, articles and videos, like this one:


I think all Fr. Barron's tips work for any vocation, not just for discerning the priesthood-

1. The test of JOY

2. Pray pray pray- ASK GOD! (He wants to guide you) Ask for signs.


3. Read the bible attentively

4. Go to Mass and be attentive

5. Be attentive to the people who know you well



I would add

6. Be faithful in the little things, the daily duties of your life.

Now supposing, you think you know what God is calling you to, what next? The article says:

A Time Will Come In Your Discernment When You Must Act:
Discernment involves a gradual series of temporary commitments that are intrinsically ordered to the concrete living out of that vocation... 
Like entering seminary or a religious community (making temporary vows), or enter into a courtship. Not just thinking about a vocation, but starting to actually explore it.


 Of course, they add:
Now there undoubtedly many circumstances in which good people may find themselves where they must say, “I can’t even make one of those temporary commitments because of X!” and that can be for many, many legitimate reasons. That’s totally fine, you have to ask for the grace to trust God’s providence that you are where he wants you to be right now.
I think that's where some people I know are at- they are still studying, they can't afford to support a family yet, they don't have a steady job yet. I think that when people are in that position, it's pretty irresponsible to start something they can't finish, or make promises they can't keep. Then also I think some people shouldn't start something because of emotional, psychological or spiritual reasons- like they are not emotionally mature- they are struggling with insecurities and neediness, they are still dealing with major issues like anxiety or anger or depression or addictions, or they have not yet learned how to take responsibility for their own life. All these things can affect their ability to give themselves completely as any lifetime vocation demands.

Obviously no one finishes dealing with all their issues perfectly before they get married. We're all works in progress. But I guess I'm saying we should be 'in progress', not just stuck in a self-destructive cycle that prevents us from loving. Otherwise it's easy to choose a vocation for the wrong reasons (this guy completes me, being in a convent will give structure to my life, maybe having a family will give my life meaning).

But supposing, you're kind of sorted. You are aware of your weaknesses, you're working on them by God's grace, you are living a life in communion with Christ, you are relating in healthy ways to the people around you, and you're done trying to 'find yourself'. And you are ready to give yourself away in a committed meaningful way.

Now what? Make a move! Why does this sound so scary?

Because all commitment, even temporary commitment, involves an element of risk. Our generation hates risk. We are terrified of making the “wrong” choice and losing everything...

But Love is a risk! Always! What do I risk by telling people that I am “discerning priesthood” for example? Pretty much nothing. What do I risk by actually going to seminary? Time, money, my heart, the opinions of others. That’s a lot!

A good litmus test is this: Does my discernment involve a risk to me personally in any way? Is there a chance that this might not work out and I would experience pain? If the answer is no, what we are doing is probably less like discernment and more like thinking and talking about doing something.

So, are you a Catholic man thinking about the possibility of priesthood? Talk to your vocation director about going to seminary! Do it soon!

Are you a Catholic woman thinking about Religious life? Have you investigated good communities? Visited them? If not why not?

Has your prayer led you to a desire for Holy Matrimony? Men, are you asking Catholic women out on dates? If not why not? Ladies, are you open to going on dates when asked? [Read the rest here]


Very related to this, another article that popped up on Facebook was from the Art of Manliness:


Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them

Some good points:

1. She wants you to ask. Most of the girls I know want guys to have enough initiative to just ask. And sadly enough, even with many couples I've heard from, finally the girl got tired of waiting and made the move herself. Didn't do a lot for her confidence or trust in this guy's ability to be decisive. So many marriages where the man chooses passivity, and women feel the need to control.

2. Asking is easy. NOT VIA TEXT OR ON FACEBOOK. This line-
If you’re poking a woman you’re interested in on Facebook, you lose any credibility as a man.
3. Keep dates simple.

4. Prepare for rejection. YES- it's not the end of the world if a woman says no. It's an easy way to know God's will for you. :-) And please please please don't take notes from Bollywood movies and think that persistence (or stalking, or emotional blackmail, or gift-giving in the face of rejection, or being hung up on a woman forever) is the way to a woman's heart. Move on.


 5. Just do it, damn it. Well, pray about it, ask a good friend for advice if necessary, then if you feel at peace, go for it! [Read the rest here.]


Guys, you think this is tough? For girls, it's probably ten times harder. You know what we have to do?

Wait.


Yeah. At least if we want the kind of guy who is brave enough and sure enough to pursue us.

Okay disclaimer: All this advice is great when you actually have the kind of options you are looking for. It's much harder for a guy to ask if he hasn't met any girls who are on the same page when it comes to faith. It doesn't make that much difference if a girl is open to going on a date, if the guys  asking are very far from what she ever could have imagined as Catholic husband material. What if you feel called to religious life, but you have never come across a religious community in your area (or country) you feel attracted to at all? What if the idea of priesthood appeals, but none of the orders you've seen has the fire and holiness that attracted you in the first place?

I guess we go back to praying, and trusting that God's got it. Thankfully, God alone really IS enough.



Related Posts:

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For)

Life Begins when You Meet the Man of Your Dreams

9QT: 9 Things Christian Singles Are Secretly Afraid Of

7QT: Courtship, Wars and Links

Thursday, 20 August 2015

You Know You Live in a City in India When....

 
You are visiting one of those few oases of green, a garden, hoping for a little fresh air, silence, and solitude, but every single one of the benches lining the avenue is taken by couple of all shapes and sizes and head coverings, who snuggle into each others' arms, getting closer, closer, more entwined until FWEEEEEEEEEET! The security guy/watchman blows his whistle to announce that SOMEONE has broken the rule: 'Thus far and no farther.' They then spring apart as all eyes are turned on them. But even the potential shaming doesn't stop the next couple, and the next. This really happens.

**************

You read news articles where police are quoted as saying "In true Indian culture, love is not for display at a public place or garden. Hugging and kissing at a public place is not our culture and therefore we are also opposing Valentine's Day. If love is real, you do not glorify it by kissing each other at a public place, but you do it within confined space of four walls."


*************

There is nowhere, nowhere within the city you CAN be alone with your beloved (except in your home, which for most people wouldn't be alone anyway) without the danger of being mugged. This drives all dating couples to leave the city perched on two wheelers, and head for the nearby hills and forts. Where all the other couples head on weekends too. Oh well, you tried. And you could get mugged there too.

*************

You and your group of friends have all gone on multiple monsoon treks to the hills, where you got muddy and exhausted (because that's the only exercise you've done in a year), but felt really cool and adventurous and brave when you reached the top of the hill. (Wait is this only a Pune thing?)


************

You hear a screech of tyres, a clash of metal, on the road nearby, and everyone falls silent, straining their ears for the probable sounds to follow- raised, angry voices, getting louder and angrier, with more joining in, until a fight breaks out. That's because more often than not the driver of a vehicle that causes an accident is beaten up by a mob. If you hold your breath, and the sounds fade away, you heave a sigh of relief.

************

Your eyes are scanned for the mangled bodies of dead dogs on the road. Because you have seen them too often. Even if you aren't an animal lover, you are hoping hoping those dumb dogs pick up some survival skills and stop stumbling around in the middle of the street waiting for someone to kill them.

************

You get on your bike to ride somewhere, see maybe fifteen other vehicles on the street and perhaps twenty pedestrians and think, "Wow, the streets are empty today."

 An empty street

*************

I you are a girl on the street, either pedestrian or bike-riders, you are swathed in scarves that render you faceless. This has multiple possible reasons: to protect your hair from getting greasy with pollution, to lessen the amount of smoke you inhale, to protect your face from pollution- and dirt-induced breakouts, and of course to make sure if any aunty from your neighbourhood sees you clinging to some guy on a bike, or talking to a guy on the street, she'll never know who it was, so she can't go and complain to your parents about your indecent behaviour.

**************

A tiny percentage of bike-riders are actually wearing helmets. As we said, the girls wear scarves, because their complexions are more important than their brains. The men now... many of them carry their helmets... on the crook of their arms, as they ride. Or locked on the helmet lock on the back of the bike. Maybe a few will actually wear one... with the straps undone. 

 The minority

*************

You ride on the streets like you expect everyone to try to kill you. This is the only way to survive. You have very low expectations of everyone else's common sense, desire for your survival, and even desire for their own survival. Defensive driving is a finely honed but essential skill.

*************


The End. For now.