If You Wanna Be My Lover by Ken Fitzgerald

“You’ve ravished my heart, my sister, my bride” (Song of Songs 4:9).  I’ve been fascinated by this line in Scripture from the moment I first read it 12 years ago.  The lover calls his beloved, “his sister, his bride.”  Now, this not Marcus Aurelius’ son in the movie Gladiator, tying to hook up with his blood sister.  This is a man who is deeply in love, who God is speaking through to show us a little somethin’, somethin’ about love.  Let’s dive into this…

For me, the journey started 13 years ago when a beautiful young lady ravished my heart.  I had a big crush on this woman and she knew it.  I went to ask her out and she says to me, no, she will not date anyone until she’s known them a year.  She wanted to be friends for one year before dating.   What?!?  At first, I took this as a rejection, but then as a challenge.  This girl was worth waiting for.

When the year came around, I asked her out.  Again, she says, no, there’s another stipulation.  I have to read the book Love & Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, first, and then she’ll decide.  For real?  Yep.  So I got to work and I’m a really slow reader, but I was motivated like never before and I knocked it out in week.

I can’t tell you how much respect I had for this young lady.  I’m so thankful for her.  She made me wait; she wanted to see if we could be friends first and then possibly build a relationship on that foundation.  In the book, I found out what love is and is not, and what its opposite is:  use.  I learned about the hard-core responsibility one has in using the word love in the context of a relationship between a man and a woman.  I enjoyed having to work for this young woman’s heart.  As it should be!  To a playboy like me, she said, “Prove it, that you really want to love me and that I’m worth it.”  I had so much respect for her, and though we never got married (I decided to pursue the priesthood), that foundation we established has never gone away, and we both, I hope, left each other as better people.

Now a lot of people agree with me on this principle of building a friendship first, but the Scriptures seem to take it a step further and say be brother/sister first before becoming groom/bride.  Ladies, do you feel your spirit jump at the sound of this?  Hopefully!  Guys, are you feeling a little sick in your stomach?  Hopefully not!  This idea is good news, great news!  To learn to express my love/affection for my beloved as a brother to a sister, and vice versa, is a wonderful blessing and a beautiful call.  This is something that will help build a healthy relationship, one that is not based on pleasure derived from making out, fondling, or intercourse, but on care and concern for the other, based on love and service to the other.  It will give you the opportunity to learn to communicate well, the foundation of all relationships.  Learn to have fun together in multiple ways that don’t involve a bedroom.  Learn how each other interacts in group settings, out in public.  Serve the poor, the homeless, the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned, the youth, together, as a couple or encourage the other to do so even without you.  Do things for one another, pray with one another, build each other up as a brother should his sister, and vice versa.  Protect one another from the dangers of this world, and help them be holy because there are only Saints in Heaven.

Man, to view my beloved as sister/brother first and go from there, that’s tough.  It can be, but for God, nothing is impossible.  Come Holy Spirit!  God come to my assistance.  Lord make haste to help me.  And may we always do what love requires.  Amen.

P.S. If you’re already in a romantic relationship, one that did not begin as sister/brother, it’s never too late to put aside the physical relationship and concentrate on the emotional/spiritual elements, learning to love one another intimately without so much the kissing and/or fondling and/or clothes coming off.   Be creative.  “I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me.”  Amen.

On Soulmates by Mary Henriquez

Something horrible happened to me last year.

While sitting in a theology class (that I loved) during the course of my master’s work at a Catholic graduate school (that I loved), one of my professors (whom I really loved) boldly stated that he didn’t believe that God “had someone” for us. To him, the notion that the Lord wills and has in mind a particular mate for those of us that are called to marriage was overly romantic and false. The alternative that he offered was that God’s will is for each one of us to be holy and, if one were earnestly pursuing that, should they choose a mate (and should that mate choose back), God’s blessing would be upon it. However, (as I perceived it, anyway), the specifics of how and with whom this potential vocation occurred were not of huge importance to Him. As soon as the words were uttered, I knew I didn’t like them and a small seed of unease began to worm its way into the previously peaceful soil of my heart.

After class, upon returning to the home I shared with several other theology students, we launched into a heated a discussion about our professor’s comment. After much debate, the majority consensus seemed to be that our beloved professor was correct: God doesn’t have some fantastical soulmate waiting out there somewhere for us. Our mates are our own choice. We are on our own.

My roommates pointed out many beautiful and positive things about this particular worldview on vocations: the obvious respect that our Creator has for our free choice, His unwillingness to corner us into only having a single chance to get it “right”, the beauty in our mates being with us, not because they are supernaturally destined to, but because they choose to be. Yet, despite all of these true and reasonable points, this new reality did not settle well with me. That seed of unease began to beget deep, twisted roots of dissatisfaction and sprout creeping vines of passive panic.

I, like many young adults in their mid-twenties, had been fed years of college campus ministers and well-intentioned speakers on retreats telling me that God had a plan for my vocation. I, like many other young adults, had said goodbye to a life of promiscuity when I heard the Good News at the age of 19 and said hello to a life of righteous, but difficult, chastity. I, like so many others, had began to watch younger friends, non-religious family members, and promiscuous classmates find love, get engaged, and start their happily-ever-afters, while I, who was trying desperately to follow God’s will for my life, remained perpetually single. But I was content. I trusted in the Lord’s plan for my life. When the man that I adored through most of my undergraduate experience told me that he was only interested in me as a friend, I trusted. When I graduated from college without having been asked on a single date, I trusted. When the man on my post-college missionary team took my breath away and then decided to become a priest, I trusted. Through all of my self-discovery and loneliness, through my tears, in the bitterness and sweetness, I trusted. The blessing and the aching of my singleness would surely end in my being rewarded for my stern struggle with a wonderful husband. Every heartbreak and unexpected turn of my life was okay with me, because I trusted that it was all part of God’s Greater Plan to lead me to the one that He always had in mind for me.

To confront the fact that my vision might not be true changed everything.

Were all the twists and turns in my life just arbitrary?

What if no one else ever decided to choose me?

What was the point of persevering along the difficult path of righteousness if it were just as likely to result in loneliness as in      marriage?

How dare God call me to follow Him, make me all these promises, and leave me hanging out to dry?

I decided that, if God wasn’t about to help me out in the mate-finding department, I needed to take matters into my own hands. And since His way of doing things had gotten me a whole lot of nowhere, I was going to do it my way. I rebelled. For the first time since making my commitment to live chastely, I willingly gave into sins against my purity. I gave way to many temptations, I got involved with men that I knew weren’t good for me, and I stopped praying. I was angry with God, but the more I spited Him, the emptier I felt, and the farther I wandered from Him, the more directionless I really became.

At the bottom of my ravaged heart, I knew that I missed the Lord. I found myself in the confessional one Saturday afternoon, pouring out my feelings of confusion and anger towards God. The loving priest’s counsel to me was humbling: He said, “You’re not really mad at God. You’re mad at who you think He is.” My deep, deep discontent wasn’t just about my frustration at still being single. It was at the idea that God didn’t care about my life or my future. The idea that my hurts and hopes, fears and wishes were pretty much irrelevant to Him. The idea that the God Who knew every hair on my head didn’t really give a damn whether I got married or not. The idea that my best friend wasn’t Who I thought He was.

This realization was the beginning of my slow healing, the start of the process of letting God back in. The journey has been difficult and gradual for me, and I’m still in it. I’m still learning to be faithful and learning to hope, but, with the Lord’s patience and grace (as well as the counsel of several holy people in my life), I have learned several important lessons:

  1. Righteous living is worth it for God’s sake.

I was so busy being absorbed in my own misery that I became completely transfixed on the rewards I thought I deserved for being holy. I thought that my pursuit of purity and prayer were going to result in the prize of a spouse, when, in reality, my prize is Jesus Himself. He gives us a model for life because He knows it’s what’s best for us and we should be impelled to adhere to His commandments out of love for Him, not out of earthly gain.

  1. Our God is not a laissez-faire God.

My disillusionment with God began when I started to believe that He was out of touch with my every day and that He was more of a “big picture” type of Guy. I think this bothered me so much because our human hearts innately know that God has created us for deep and loving intimacy with Him. Psalm 56 tells us that “our wanderings have been noted by God” and that our tears are “stored in His vial.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a hands-off policy to me. In my rejoicing and in my suffering, God is before me always.

  1. The Mystery of Concursus

As members of the Christian family, we are blessed heirs to a faith that, at its very essence, is centered on the Incarnation. Our Lord came to earth and was 100-percent God and 100-percent man. Our Sacred Scripture is 100-percent divinely authored and 100-percent humanly authored (the Church calls this the “mystery of concursus”). Our faith is a “both/and” faith. I think it works the same way with our vocations. When I (God-willing, haha!) meet the man I am to marry, God has given me the freedom to choose him of my own volition. He’s not going to be my puppet master about it. However, it will also be entirely His will. How exactly does this work out? I’m not totally sure. As modern intellectuals, it’s often difficult for us to grasp that God’s ways are not always for us to understand in a complete way, but I am growing to trust the truth that He’s got it under control and that part of Christian freedom is not needing to pick apart every single method He’s got going on.

On the other side of all my turmoil, how do I feel about soulmates? I’m undecided. I think God would be a pretty narrow God if He only gave us a solitary chance to choose the right person. I think it’s possible that there are multiple people with whom one could be happy and holy and that God will bless the choices we make if we are seeking Him in the midst of them. However, I also believe that God is good beyond what our conceptions of goodness could ever contain. I believe that it’s totally possible that the Lord knows us and loves us so deeply that He creates us with another in mind. I suppose that I will not know the reality of the situation until I make it to Heaven. That is the one part of His plan that I am certain of. And I will choose to live in the joyful hope that I will see His go.

Single…and Ready to Mingle?! by Rebecca Barclay

Many people view the single life in one of two ways.  Either the single life is a torturous means of existence to be endured as bravely (quickly) as possible, or the single life is the time of your life free-from-all-responsibility and lending itself to promiscuity.  Naturally the Catholic Church has some sort of answer for all the questions we face (that’s not to say the answers are clear cut or easy).

The two views mentioned above about the approach to the single life could seem like the “Catholic” approach vs. the “secular” approach.  There’s a lot of hype in the Catholic world about the greatness of theology of the body, NFP, and living out the faith in the context of a Catholic family setting.  There’s also the call to the priesthood or religious life, a mighty high calling indeed.  But what about the single life?  Are people called to the single life?  How are Catholics to approach the single life without treating it like torture or utter freedom?

The truth is that all people are called to the single life at one point or another.  How long each person is called to the single life is another story.  If you’re in this gig (the Church) for saint-making (which we’re all called to), then it’s best to figure out how to handle being single (whether or not you want to mingle).

Being Catholic and trying to grow into the saint God wants you to be has a lot to do with our time and place in history.  It does us no good to try to behave in the world the way Saint Ignatius did in the 1st century or St. Theresa of Avila did in the 15th century.  It’s left to us to be a light to the world and salt to the earth in the 21st century.  And frankly, we’ve got our work cut out for us.  We have technology to take up, creativity to baptize, and discipline to learn.  The work place is in dire need of honest, hard working, and just workers.  The family is in dire need of true love and responsible parenthood. The political realm is in dire need of generous and devoted politicians.

Nowadays it’s very easy for us to get caught up in the romanticized version of married love; it’s easy to get caught up in the modern obsessions with sexualized-thinking because everything is sexualized; it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that ‘being married’ will solve all my problems.

The truth is if you’re single, God wants you to be single right now.  God is calling you to something right now that you will miss if you are too busy looking ahead to other things.  If you’re Catholic and you’re single, and you want to be married, you are being asked to trust that God will fulfill your deepest desires better than you can imagine.  If you’re single and living promiscuously, God is ever awaiting for you to turn to Him with your desires for love and fulfillment.

At times I wish I had been married already, or feel like I am just waiting to meet ‘the one’ and then life can start.  But this isn’t the right attitude to have as a Catholic who proclaims a God who works all things for good and whose Divine Providence guides all my half-heartedly devoted actions and choices (using even my poor choices and half hearted intentions for my good).  The longer I am single, the more I realize what a gift of time this is for me right now.  Had I been married at 22 right out of college I wouldn’t have the formative experiences, the learning, or the adventures of the last 3 years of my life.  I’d be an entirely different person.  As a single person you have a gift from God that you don’t know how long will be yours.  You are given the freedom to learn about yourself in a collage of experiences of which the range and diversity depends completely on your willingness and your desires/choices.  You are given the time free of direct responsibility of another, with which you can invest in hobbies, personal interests, volunteer opportunities, traveling, etc.  You are given time alone with yourself, which is vital and necessary for self-awareness and holiness, for finding out who you are.

The following are three things I would suggest to all those who find themselves single and wanting to live well:

Prayer

Learn how to pray.  Learn how you best communicate with God, your maker and the one who has your plans for happiness.  Discipline yourself in your prayer.  Set aside a certain amount of time daily and stick to it.  Not only will you feel an order to your day, but you’ll also find peace in your choices, joy in your state of life, and the courage to do what God sets before you.

Friendships & Adventures

Get out there and meet people!  Do you have something you’ve always wanted to try?  Go out and try it and find a friend along the way.  Be interested in others who are different from you.  And be willing to go on adventures.  Travel if you can and how you can.  Visit your close friends from college.  Make the time to see your family.  As a single person, you only have to juggle one schedule, so now’s the time to really juggle!  Not only do you make friends and good memories, but you also learn about yourself from going through new experiences and trying new things.

Risks

And be willing to take risks.  Don’t like the job you’re at now?  Don’t settle.  Find a new job.  Go back to school.  Take a risk.  The time you have as a single person is, in the basest sense of the word, the time you’re most free to make a job change, to move, or to change your lifestyle.  Don’t let yourself settle into a mediocre or complacent way of life.  Don’t let the modern work-a-day world rob you of your joy or keep your eyes blind from God’s plan for your life.  Your life as a Christian is an adventure but only if you’re willing to let God lead you.  Have you always wanted to do a mission trip? Plan for it then.  It’s far too easy to get caught up in the practical, financially-guided, modern world when the disinterested, free, and holy adventurous life of following the Son of God is waiting for each of us.  Be willing to place your trust in God every day with the small things and when the big decisions in life come along, His peace will guide you in your choices.

God knows how to best fulfill our desires.  Time spent as a single person is not meant to be torturous but is meant to be a time of growth and happiness.  Learning how to live well and be holy should never be separated from your present state in life and your everyday living.