Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Gift of Today

One of my favorite inspirational movies is The Ultimate Gift. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (Just a warning though, it is a tear jerker). It’s the story about a grandfather who dies and leaves his spoiled, rich grandson Jason a series of gifts that lead him to his inheritance and finding the “ultimate gift”. The grandfather teaches Jason many things about life through the gifts which aren’t material gifts but rather an appreciation for the gifts God bestows on us. One of the gifts that Jason is taught is the gift of a day.
I feel like all too often, we move through our days not fully realizing that every day is a gift. We trudge through life waiting for the next big opportunity to come along to make our life just a little bit better, waiting for tomorrow without taking time to enjoy the moment we’re in right now.
I know personally, that sometimes when I get stressed out and am having a bad day I find myself saying things like, “I just can’t wait for this day to be over!” or “This day is awful! Can it please end already?” But thinking back, I realized I was wishing away a precious day that God gave me. Since that moment, I’ve been living with the constant awareness that I need to appreciate every day. The wonderful part is I don’t think I have had a bad day since then. Obviously there still rough days but they don’t affect me nearly as much as they had in the past. Nothing about my life has really changed but rather my attitude towards each day has and I’m realizing that makes all the difference.

So I encourage you, if you find yourself struggling to make it through the day, to take a moment say a little prayer to God thanking him for giving you the gift of today. Next, find something positive about whatever you are struggling with and focus on that rather than the negative.  Hopefully you too like Jason, will come to appreciate the gift of a day.

~ Ashley Tatum

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Catholic Dating Scene

What is the definition of dating??

Everyone is so worked up about what the definition of marriage is (and we should be), but let's go even further than that. What is the definition of dating? What is the absolute, sure sign that you are currently in a relationship?

I have been talking to a gentleman for a while now. (There! I said it!) We have only been talking because I met him online and he currently lives far enough away that we have to strategically plan when and where we are going to meet.

I really like this guy. He's sweet and seems to be a hard-working, honest man of faith. That's all I ever looked for in a man. I really can't wait to meet him face to face, because I really hate phone conversations. I am a visual person. It's difficult for me to talk to him and not be able to picture him in my mind.

So far, I have only told a handful of friends and they have all been really excited, wanting to know more and see pictures.

I was dreading telling my sister. Because I knew, no matter how I phrased this, something negative was going to come out of her mouth. I love my sister and I know that deep down, she says this out of a deep seated fear she has of the fact that I have never before had a serious relationship in my life, so what could I possibly know??

I finally told her today. I wasn't really thinking when I said it. I just said it.

"I'm dating someone."

At first, she acted like it was no big deal. My head was a little busy trying to wrap around the fact that I just said for the first time that I was dating this guy I had never physically met.

But, soon enough, the negativity came. Unlike all the people I had told before, she started saying how I shouldn't call it dating because that was just going to set me up to be hurt.

I told her that we were two people who were really interested in learning more about each other for the specific purpose of finding out if God's will was marriage. That, in my be-it-so-humble opinion, is dating.

Is God calling us to marriage? I don't know.

Are we not destined to be together forever? I don't know.

All I know for a fact is that I really want to find out. 

Why wouldn't that be called dating?

Questions are constantly swirling in my head... am I taking this too seriously? Does he even consider this dating? What would he say when he heard what I said?

I do have a tendency to take things either too seriously or not serious enough. With me, there is no middle ground. But I digress...

What is the definition of dating?

In our current hook-up culture, we are constantly barraged with the idea that dating someone is no big deal. I refuse to believe that. I believe that dating is the path which God shows us our true calling. There have been people who have heard the call to religious life through dating and there have been people who have heard the call to married and single life through dating. So I believe there has to be something more to it. It must be a big deal!

Maybe, if we look further than just trying to define marriage... maybe if we looked into the definitions of dating, relationship, or even boyfriend or girlfriend, we shall find some of the answers we are looking for. Let's go all the way back to the beginning and decide, what it is we want from our dating lives and what they should look like. 

You never know how God is going to use this period in our lives.

God bless.

~ Joan Crookston


On Wednesday I had the day off so I went to Walsh University for mass. Across the aisle from me, three young nuns were sitting in full habit. As I glanced their way I sort of signed and thought, “Wow, they’ve given their life for God and there they sit in their simple habits, and here I am in my makeup, jeans, bright green shirt and my flashy red leather jacket from Florence. Talk about a difference in priorities!” Then I think the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder. Wait a minute, why am I comparing myself to these nuns? Yes, they gave their lives to God is a very special way and they’re living it out in what they do and how they dress. But, aren’t I doing the same thing? I was putting myself down for that leather jacket, but wasn’t it my husband who loved it on me and encouraged me to buy it with him on our special trip together? And wasn’t I wearing that makeup and my nice outfit to bring out my beauty for my husband? Those nuns were absolutely beautiful in their total gift of self to their husband, Jesus. As I prayed beside them I was reminded that maybe my total gift of self to Alex might be just as beautiful. And that’s not even all the encouragement I got in that mass. God overwhelms sometimes! Later on in the mass I noticed the old couple in front of me. When it came time for the sign of peace I looked up and caught the look of endearment the wife gave her husband before they kissed. It reminded me of how a bride looks at her husband on their wedding day, and yet more knowing, more full of love that’s grown. I thanked them after mass for their example of a Catholic marriage and she grinned and gave me a hug and said “fifty-eight years!” When I said I have three years, she said, “It gets better.” What a joy to know that when love is nourished, it doesn’t have to fade away, it can get even better.

~ Kathryn Mathis

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spiritual Direction

Have you thought about finding a spiritual director? At first, I tried to make this post on how to and why to find a director. Instead, I'm just going to give you my experience with it.

Not sure why, but ever since I was young I’ve always thought it’d be a good idea to have a spiritual director. Maybe because my mom has one, maybe because I love to analyze the way my brain works (sometimes scary!). At the different retreats I’d been to there were opportunities for direction and I took them. Looking back I’m a little surprised by this because I never really liked taking advice. I guess the Holy Spirit was helping me get over that.

My first attempt to find a regular director was on jury duty. A priest happened to be on the jury and he gave me direction over our lunch break. How cool is that? I was 19 and getting all kinds of negative advice on why I shouldn’t get married so young and I needed help. I think the best thing about spiritual direction isn’t being told what you’re doing wrong or need to do better, it’s being told when you’re on the right track. I definitely needed that and the priest was very logical and comforting. The direction was helpful but due to his schedule it didn’t become a regular thing.

After another failed attempt at a long-term director, my husband suggested one of the priests he knew from Walsh. One of the ways I’m trying to become a better wife is trying to take advice when Alex gives it. I’m so glad I did! I’ve been going to this priest for over a year now and it’s been so helpful.

He’s semi retired so he has the time to meet with me once a month and he’s even expressed that he enjoys being able to meet with me and it’s encouraging for him to see someone trying to grow in their faith. I ask him questions about faith matters, I open up about hurts and struggles, I ask his advice, and I always walk away feeling encouraged. The most helpful thing he does is listen. I can talk to him about issues in a way that isn’t gossiping. Instead, it’s talking through things and getting advice so I can act in the most loving way possible. This is especially helpful when issues come up in my marriage. There are just some things that I feel like I can only tell this priest. He may be a 70 something celibate man, but he’s a counselor at heart and simply put, he gets me. Alex and I even went to him for help with discernment when we had the option to move to Brazil to be missionaries. I thought he’d be diplomatic and give us pros and cons and tell us to pray about it. Instead, he listened to us talk about it and how we felt and he told us not to go. We listened, and I’m so glad we did. Sometimes it’s so helpful to be told what to do!

I guess what my point is here is to tell you that it’s worth the effort to find a good director. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t pan out. Keep trying! It doesn’t have to be a priest, just find someone who is a natural counselor and is firm in the teachings of the Church. It may feel awkward at first but it soon feels normal with the right director. Pray to find a good director and then once you find one, pray for them!

~ Kathryn Mathis