O Happy Fault

I can happily say that Audrey Assad was the first artist I ever saw in concert. It was amazing to see her live during her Fortunate Fall tour.

She recently posted on her social media that the short film that she and her husband created can now be viewed on Vimeo. I would do a commentary on said video, but I think it speaks for itself.

 

It’s only up for the week, so watch it while you can!

Historical Fact vs. Historical Fiction: Sons of Liberty, Part 3

The last episode of the Sons of Liberty mini-series begins where the last one left off: at the battle of Lexington and Concord. The militia were able to fend off the soldiers. William Dawes visits James Barrett, who has been helping Paul, John, and Sam, and hides the weapons with the help of the minutemen. Major John Pitcairn, played by Kevin Ryan (Laredo, Copper) raids the farm and turns it inside-out in search of weapons, only to find a musket ball that Barrett claims is a nostalgic token. Revere and the minutemen make their move and send the British running to Boston.

The episode follows two storylines: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the meetings in the Second Continental Congress. At a loss for gaining help from the other colonies, Hancock and the Adams cousins turn to Ben Franklin for help. The four of them realize that they are on the verge of creating a new nation. John Adams, Ben Franklin, and John Hancock talk politics and make deals with the other members of Congress. Sam Adams, however, is restless and impatient.

I was kind of disappointed that they didn’t feature Colonel Prescott in the scene at Bunker Hill. He wasn’t established as a character in the previous episodes, but even the kids shows were quick to point out the real meaning of the battle: that even though the battle was a loss for the colonials, they were able to stand their ground against seemingly impossible odds. And even if Colonel Prescott wasn’t there, couldn’t one of the characters say “Hold your fire til you see the whites of their eyes”?

But like the scene with the First Continental Congress, the scene was more focused on the drama, particularly the death of Dr. Joseph Warren. It’s never stated how Dr. Warren died except that it happened as the British troops were gaining in. Because they included the storyline of the affair between Dr. Warren and Mrs. Gage, General Thomas Gage (played by Marton Csokas aka Lord Celeborn from Lord of the Rings). took it upon himself to kill Dr. Warren and rub the death in his wife’s face, punishing her for her adultery by sending her on the first boat to England. It kind of sucks, in my opinion, that the only prominent female character in this show ends up being a victim in the end. It may be historical fiction, but as long as they’re pushing things, I would’ve liked to have seen Mrs. Gage run away from her husband.

The news of Bunker Hill gets to the Congress. Washington volunteers to lead what will eventually become the Continental Army. Sam Adams, still restless and impatient, walks out about the same time. Hancock begs Sam to stay, but Sam is tired of politics. He rides out, but changes his mind. He also shows that he cleans up very nicely and is able to hold his own politically.

General Gage meets with Washington and politely asks him to let him and his soldiers leave Boston. Washington complies, but plans to follow Gage and his troops to New York City. Even as Boston parties, Revere and Washington know that things aren’t over.

The scenes that follow the Second Continental Congress go by quickly, with Jefferson being nothing more than a quick cameo. Instead, it focuses on John Hancock completing his character arc by taking Ben’s advice to reside over the Congress and Sam Adams completing his story arc by giving an epic speech about the necessity of independence when the idea of declaring independence from England gets put into motion. I understand that the story has been following Sam Adams and John Hancock, but Jefferson was kind of important. Then again, there’s already 1776, which captured the drama of the creation of the Declaration in a poignant, moving way. I would’ve liked to have seen John Dickinson enlisting in Washington’s Army or at least telling Congress of his intent to enlist. They also had the opportunity to have Ben Franklin give his quote of “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I always wondered why, if the finished document of the Declaration was finished and the motion to declare independence from Britain was adopted on July 2nd, we celebrate on July 4th. I found the answer on the History Channel website. It turns out that there is something written on the back of the Declaration, but it’s not a treasure map as National Treasure indicated. Instead, there is just this: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.”

Once the Declaration was finished and signed, Washington reads the most well-known portion to his army. The Continental Army prepares to take on the British in New York City and the episode ends with Paul Revere carrying the Continental Flag as the battle begins. The scene is so epic, it almost makes me forget how the battle actually turns out.

Overall, I honestly wish that the Sons of Liberty series could’ve been longer. I liked how the story started with Sam Adams, but the events that follow the uprisings in Boston call for more of an ensemble cast. It was clear that the series was more focused on drama than historical accuracy, but the story is enough to intrigue people to look more into it.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Darrow

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Back when I was in high school, I used to be obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. I got into it when I found out that one of the contestants, Heather Kuzmich, had Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would later learn of another contestant who left the modeling lifestyle and became a well known Catholic speaker. When I first heard of Leah Darrow, I knew her as a speaker, not as a reality show contestant. Later on, I watched her when she gave her conversion story on The Journey Home and found myself fascinated.

After watching her testimony on The Journey Home, I found a video clip of her elimination from America’s Next Top Model. I watched in awe as the judges said that her outfit was more suited for a “secretary contest,” telling her to take off her jacket since she was wearing a tube top underneath. In my honest opinion, she was definitely less “soccer mom” than Tyra Banks declared her to be.

With beauty queens these days showing themselves to be less-than-stellar when it comes to world matters, Leah Darrow stands out as a woman who wears a better crown on her head: the crown that God gives to all of his daughters. And the fact that I first knew her as a speaker rather than a reality show contestant tells me that she’s come a very long way.

What did your time on America’s Next Top Model teach you about being on TV and the “glamorous” lifestyle?
My time on ANTM taught me that there is no such thing as the “glamorous lifestyle” – that’s only something that Fergie and Beyonce sing about. The lifestyle perpetuated by fashion, music, and movies is one focused on instant gratification and constant conformation to a ridiculous standard of beauty and entertainment that one has no control over.
Tell me how you met your husband and how things are for you and your family now.

We were introduced by friends. When we met in 2008, Ricky had just returned from his first deployment to Iraq (he’s a US Army Special Forces Green Beret) and was prepping for his second deployment, so, a “relationship” was a bit out of the question. We started and maintained a friendship, and for the next four years and really got to know each other. In 2011, we just happened to be in the same place, at the same time — and that’s when Ricky knew I was the love of his life and he couldn’t live without me…that’s at least my version of the story.
What advice would you give about relationships?
We are obsessed with relationships today and define ourselves by them. Sadly, we have forgotten the art of friendship. We end up dating strangers and attempt the friendship while we navigate the dating process. Try friendship out first before you go and date a stranger. People who have a strong relationship with Jesus tend not to jump into relationships too quickly because they have a stronger sense of self, worth, and dignity. When we allow our identify to be defined by HIM, we don’t seek it in the world or in others.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty should inspire and empower love. Beauty should not reduce a person to a collection of parts or use. True beauty is rooted in service to another – “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face” Ven. Fulton Sheen.
What is your favorite go-to outfit for a typical day? How would you describe your style?
My favorite go-to outfit for a typical day is something that snot, markers, and banana can be washed out of quickly – my fashion choices are now inspired my daughter, Agnes. However, I’ve always leaned toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. I update them with accessories (jewelry, scarves, jackets, shoes) but rarely go with “trends”. Instead, I stick with what works for my figure and budget.
Who are your go-to saints?
I like St. Theresa of Avila because she’s feisty and she ‘gets’ my lack of patience that I am forever trying to quell, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen because he is a pro when it comes to evangelization with a microphone, and St. John Paul II because, well, he’s John Paul II.
What would you say to girls who want to audition for reality TV shows or pursue a career in fashion/acting?
Don’t audition for reality TV shows. It’s not worth your time and people rarely take you seriously afterward. Just take a look at all the reality TV contestants out there today and their lives – for most of us, it didn’t exactly help our situation in life.
Acting and designing are both amazing creative arts that require God-given talent, time and practice. In either one of those fields, a strong faith community is a must for accountability and support.
To see more of what Leah Darrow is doing right now, go to Leahdarrow.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Historical Fact vs Historical Fiction: Sons of Liberty Part 2

The episode opens up with Sam and his friends preparing for the Boston Tea Party. John Hancock is appalled. The event goes with a lot more drama, complete with a confrontation with British Soldiers. Hancock prevents the soldiers from killing Sam Adams and making him a martyr. (Wise choice, too.) Then the scene transitions to Parliament, where Ben Franklin is discussing the incident with the Prime Minister. I won’t critique Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris’s performance yet, but I will give him points for giving the title drop.

There are two storylines in the episode. The first major story line follows the events that lead up to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (and Samuel Prescott and William Dawes). A subplot of this storyline follows Dr. Warren, General Gage, and Margaret Gage. The second storyline is the formation of the First Continental Congress, which will eventually lead into tonight’s episode.

 

Parliament passes what we now call The Intolerable Acts and send in General Gage and his men. They establish that they are here to stay by searching homes and establishments of the rebels. One of General Gage’s men tries to make Sam Adams an offer he can’t refuse, but given that he’s not mafia, Adams refuses the offer. The next day, everyone in Boston is ordered to the town square to watch a public flogging of one of the men who participated in the Boston Tea Party. After the flogging, Dr. Joseph Warren takes care of the man who was flogged and meets Margaret Gage, played by Emily Berrington (whom I recognize as Simone Al-Harazi from 24: Live Another Day). Mrs. Gage is a colonist who married Gage after the French-Indian War.

General Gage seizes John Hancock’s house, which leads Hancock to finally joining up with Sam Adams and his men. Hancock works with Sam and John Adams on organizing the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. While the meeting had a bad turnout, it doesn’t take long before I realized that the scene was really meant to be the establishing moment for the Father of our Country. The soon-to-be General Washington, played by Jason O’Mara (from CBS’s series Vegas) walks in with this very authoritative air that made everyone in the room shut up and pay attention to him. Unfortunately, the Congress decides to create a letter to King George III instead of helping Massachusetts create an army. Washington suggests that Hancock and the Adams cousins create an army of their own. And thus the minutemen/militia was born.

Sam, Paul, and Dawes sneak into an enemy camp to steal gunpowder. The mission is successful, with Paul leaving and lighting a trail of gunpowder to make the rest of the powder in the silo explode. This sends the soldiers for a search-and-arrest mission, with Gage planning to arrest Sam and John Hancock and have them hanged.

Meanwhile, Dr. Warren and Mrs. Gage’s friendship turns into an affair. I checked the official site and Wikipedia. There is no evidence that the two of them had an affair, just that Mrs. Gage might have been a patriot spy and, since Dr. Warren was Gage’s doctor, used him as her messenger. The idea that Mrs. Gage could’ve been a spy is speculative at best and her affair with Dr. Warren is purely fictitious. Yes, General Gage had his own affairs and abused her, but sleeping with Dr. Warren doesn’t exactly make her any better. It’s portrayed in a sympathetic light, but to be honest, Dr. Warren and the Gages are all in the wrong. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like it when adultery is glamorized in media and I apply that to everyone involved.

The last part of the episode shows Paul and Dawes heading off to Lexington and Concord on the famous midnight ride. The two of them split up, with Dawes heading to Concord and Paul heading to warn Sam and Hancock about the soldiers. Unfortunately, Paul gets stopped by soldiers. He fights them off and gets as far from the soldiers as he can on his horse. He makes it to Lexington in time to get Sam and Hancock out. The minutemen prepared themselves for their first battle. The episode ends with the Battle of Lexington and the shot heard round the world.

If the first episode of the series was a lot of buildup, this episode could be called transitional. I’m glad that it focused mostly on the creation of the Boston minutemen and the famous Midnight Ride, but they left out Samuel Prescott and didn’t show Dawes at Concord. However, the site is quick to point out the reality of the situation, so I’ll give credit where credit is due. Just don’t show this series to the kids. The show’s rating is somewhere between PG-13 and a soft R as far as language and content.

Tonight’s episode centers on the creation of the Declaration and the start of the Revolution. What exactly happens then and what happens after is for you to find out. I’ll end my recap tomorrow.

Historical Fact vs Historical Fiction: A Review of Sons of Liberty, Part 1

Here’s something I don’t really tell a lot of people: The American Revolution is my favorite historical era. Growing up in New Jersey, I learned about the Battle at Princeton and watched Liberty’s Kids back when it was on PBS. The only Felicity I knew at the time was the series of American Girl books about a girl named Felicity, who lived in colonial times. Later on, I fell in love with the musical 1776 and always tuned into History Channel whenever they did a documentary about the movers and shakers or events that went on in that era. Although I watched AMC’s Turn, I lost interest in the show when it started glamorizing the main character’s adultery and didn’t really go so much into actual historical events. I wanted Turn to be more like an 18th century version of Alias, not James Bond!

But I got seriously excited when I saw the promos for a 3-part event called Sons of Liberty. History Channel is at its best when it’s doing, you know, actual history. I loved The Men Who Built America because it was history brought to life. It was as entertaining as it was informative. I expected Sons of Liberty to be something similar to that: a documentary with re-enactments of the events leading up to the revolutionary war. Instead, it was more along the lines of Liberty’s Kids, historical fiction that centers more on what led up to the events everyone knew.

Spoilers ahead!

The first episode centers on the events that led up to the Boston Massacre. The main character of the series is Sam Adams, played by Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian). Sam Adams is the instigator, the firebrand, who makes his “obnoxious and disliked” cousin John (played by Henry Thomas from E.T. and Gangs of New York)  look level-headed by comparison. He’s not a straight-laced hero, but he looks out for others in a really heartwarming way. He gets a word of warning from Doctor Joseph Warren, played by Ryan James Eggold (Blacklist), that there is a warrant out for his arrest for money he has yet to pay the governor. Dr. Warren doesn’t have much to do in this episode, but he becomes a good ally as the movement begins, informing everyone about the recent shipment of soldiers who were assigned to be the governor’s bodyguards and enforcers.

The most surprising character in the series is John Hancock, played by Rafe Spall (Prometheus). Hancock is portrayed as the fence-sitter, hoping to keep the peace in Boston while running his merchant business, smuggling Madeira wine, and keeping good relations with the governor. He is shown as an outsider, wanting to belong with the Boston elite, only for things to go wrong when the governor seizes Hancock’s ships. It was hard for me to believe that the man who would later have the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence started out as an unrealistically optimistic pacifist.

The riots in Boston lead Parliament to pass the Townshend Acts, which affected John Hancock’s business. Eventually, Sam and John begin a reluctant partnership to start a smuggling ring and recruit the help of Paul Revere, played by Michael Raymond-James (Once Upon a Time, True Blood). He creates a coin that the members of the smuggling ring use to inform customers of where the wine can be bought or sold. Unfortunately, the governor eventually gets wind of the ring and most of the distributors get arrested.

The fallout from the smuggling ring leads to Sam Adams planning a boycott, which Hancock disagrees with. (Historically, though, Hancock supported the boycott.) Unfortunately, the mobs in Boston start targeting the Torys, which eventually leads to the death of a young boy. I was very certain that that particular scene was historical fiction because there’s no record of anything like that happening as a result of the boycott, but a recent comment informed me otherwise. Christopher Seider’s death provides the escalation that led to the Boston Massacre.

The episode as a whole shows that the events that led up to the Boston Massacre aren’t as cut and dry as they seem on the pages of a history book or a Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, while the main site has a page listing the historical facts behind the major characters, they don’t have anything that relates to the plot of the episodes. I enjoyed the acting from everyone overall, but have a soft spot for Michael Raymond-James since I’m most familiar with him. (I wonder if there was a blooper of the scene where Paul Revere gets caught by the British soldiers where they ask him what his business is and Michael Raymond-James says “I’m the son of Rumpelstiltskin and I have to get the daughter of Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin away from Captain Hook!) As far as the story is concerned, it was a good combination of historical fact and fiction.

I highly recommend this show to people who enjoy the colonial period and the pivotal players. If you’re looking for something more historically accurate, I recommend a documentary or Liberty’s Kids, which is a very well-written and historically accurate show, even if it’s targeted to children. You can catch up on the series on History Channel’s website or on your local cable or satellite provider’s On Demand service. The series continues tonight and tomorrow and I will be posting my reviews on them this week.

Comedy Tonight: A Review of Galavant

Way back three weeks ago, ABC showed a new promo about a musical named Galavant. With Alan Menken’s songs, how can this girl go wrong by being interested in Galavant? Plus, it had a lot of real cool guest stars. Concept was intriguing by far. Sweet! I tuned in every week. Now here is my critique about the musical called Galavant.

I’ll admit that while I am a sucker for a good musical, I found myself having mixed feelings about Galavant after watching the whole first season. First of all, I thought it was going to be a mini-series. I’ve watched a show where every episode was a musical episode before. The format is a great idea on paper, but there’s one major problem: Musicals eventually have to end at some point. The idea of musicals is to combine storytelling and songs and most of the musicals I love have a wonderful self-contained story. Even musicals like Songs of a New World and Working are considered to be self-contained in spite of the episodic songs because they revolve around a common theme, which you can compare to a short story anthology.

What I liked about Galavant was how it took ideas and concepts that were familiar to fairy tales and lighthearted musicals and turned them on their heads. The titular hero goes from being a self-centered jerk to someone who puts others first. The damsel in distress, Madalena, turns into an opportunistic, Machiavellian woman when she marries King Richard. The evil king gains a lot more sympathy as he is not as ruthless as he seems. The squire is a great source of comic relief and the second princess, who becomes Galavant’s traveling companion, shows that she can hold her own by her wits and cleverness.

I liked some of the episodes I saw more so than others. The problem is that the episodes don’t flow together all that well. I also didn’t like the finale as it was clear that it was more interested in getting a second season than keeping everyone in character or having anything make sense. If you want spoilers, you can find them elsewhere.

What I will say is that I liked the acting overall. Joshua Sasse can’t carry a tune, but he gave his best. Mallory Jensen had the most range in the show overall and she made her character’s transitions fun to watch. I was always surprised at how devious Madalena could be. The same can be said for Timothy Omundson, who you may recognize as Detective Lassiter from Psych. He was always fun to watch and he balanced the transition from seemingly ruthless tyrant to unexpectedly sympathetic villain really well. And as stated before, Luke Youngblood was great at providing comic relief, but also showed Sid’s vulnerability. But, by far, my favorite character is Princess Isabella, played by Karen David. She had the most to work with. She wasn’t just a sidekick. She was the brains of the group, but also hid a lot of feelings. It’s what the writers did to Isabella at the end of the first season that made me disappointed with it.

Overall, I’m glad I gave Galavant a chance, but I wish that they made it a mini-series as opposed to a comedy musical series. I hope that things turn out for the best.

Young and Catholic: It's Not an Oxymoron

So almost as soon as I came on this site, I was linked to two articles concerning the lack of young adult participation in their local church or parish activities.

I acknowledge that this particular aspect is a problem. I may have gone to Catholic school for most of my life, but not all the friends and classmates I knew stayed with the Church. And while there is a young adult group at my local parish, I am not able to participate in it because I have a prior commitment to teaching second graders Catechism every Wednesday night and don’t want to spread myself too thin.

However, I do give my time to young adult retreats in my diocese and have attended some retreats in the past few years. Every time I volunteered at or attended a retreat, I saw a lot of young Catholic faces, some from high school and others from college and others like me who are figuring out what to do next with our lives.

While young adult participation in local churches is definitely a problem, it’s hard to say that there’s a lack of young adults in the Church as a whole when I saw thousands of them in the EWTN coverage of the March for Life and saw these pictures on my Instagram feed.

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Photo courtesy of Ashley B., 19, Wayne, PA.

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Selfie courtesy of Ashley B, 19, Wayne, PA.

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Photo courtesy of Lizzy D., 16, De Moines, Iowa who says “The Church is young, and boy, is She alive.”

I think that the Catholic faith is alive and well in the young adult community. But you don’t have to take my word for it! I asked around the interwebs for opinions from my fellow Catholic young adults and here’s what they have to say.

“I think that a lack of participation does exist. Not everyone who is confirmed does stay with the Church during their teen and young adult years, and some may not ever come back. Even though this exists, there is still a great percentage of young adults who participate fully in their parishes and events as such. Since I go to Franciscan, a faithfully Catholic university, I see the young adult church at its strongest. Personally, when I am not at school, I stay actively involved with Choir at mass, our Festivals of Praise, and actively volunteer with our youth ministry. I have many friends that do the same and love and live their faith as much as I do. Some events and such may not be attended by young adults for many reasons: school/college, prior commitments, or other events. The current society also downplays the importance of religion in daily lives, so once Catholics receive all of their sacraments, they may choose to never go to Mass or any religious event again simply because it isn’t  ‘cool’ or a norm of society. The foundations of a strong young adult ministry begins, I believe, with a strong youth foundation through high school. And a young adult community must be willing to “keep up with the times” in a sense. The YA ministry at my parish hosts a Theology On Tap program at a local pub. I have bounced between parishes and the parishes that I have seen with a strong YA ministry are those with good youth programs that want to make them come back and be interested in their faith.”- Ashley B., 19, Wayne, PA

“Some of my friends who have left the Catholic faith did so simply because they were lazy, and the root of the problem is that they don’t see the practice of faith as important anymore. My friends who are daily or weekly Mass-goers practice the Catholic faith because they find it enriching to their lives. Yes, young people are leaving, but those who stay do so because they genuinely want to, and they’re the ones who will build the future Church.”- Justin B, , 19, Hong Kong, China

“There are young people who do say that no one ask them to step up when it comes to the church. Therefore they feel like they cannot contribute to the ideas that older people have. the church does need young people. they have to take the first step in saying ‘What can I do for my parish?'”- Julie C., 26,  Houston, TX

“In many churches, there’s not much for the young adults. They don’t have any way to get together and talk about their faith. I really feel like if many churches had events for young adults or even had a mass for young adults once in a while, that there would me more involvement. I try to get involved in many of the events for the youth and I’ve tried to help volunteer as well. like for example, last year I was one of the team members for life teen. I’m also thinking about helping out with children’s liturgy. And for me, I feel like I’ve become stronger in my faith since being in college. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school, so while it was good to have that religious education, I feel that I got so much more out of it when I was on my own and had to make my own decisions. It just seemed right to me to continue being Catholic, which also caused me to want to learn more about being Catholic.”- Shalei B, 23, Indianapolis, IN

“Young adults are here. We have so much to give. We have so much to say. The Catholic Church is our foundation but we are underutilized. Parish communities have abandoned us just because of our age. We don’t want the monotony of living out our 20’s going crazy, so invite us in because we want to come home.”- Ally G, , 21, Katy, TX

“I think that young adults who aren’t participating should be encouraged to find avenues within the church that align with their interest, whether that be art, service, social justice, education, etc. I enjoy doing service events and contributing to area food shelters or pregnancy centers when possible.” – Mercedes V., 22, Maryland

“I think there are multiple reasons that young adults seem to be missing and that has to do with the church encouragement and our society. Our society now tells us that its all about us and we can do what we want without consequences. I see many non-Catholics and even Catholics who are trapped in the party scene. Partying, alcohol, and smoking and other drugs are what’s important to the 18-22 yr old and some don’t grow out of it. This is not true for all, but our society tells us it is. Also going off of the growing up nowadays, it seems we don’t have to until our 30s, which is part of the young adults age group. When you turn 18, you’re suddenly an adult with responsibilities. Many high schoolers aren’t mature enough and they’re okay with it because society says we’re not capable of better.”- Illyana M, 20, Keller, TX

“I would say look at New Catholic Generation, look at the Stuebenville conferences, look at Catholic social media accounts such as @catholic_teen_posts on Instagram. The youth of  the Church is really active on social media. That’s where I got my start, particularly on Twitter.” – @cathlete4christ, 18, Denver, CO

“On the one hand I am constantly engaging with young adults who are actively participating in the life of the Church, young people who are generous with their time and talents, who courageously follow Christ, are nourished by the cycles, sacraments, and community of the Church,  and try to live and spread the message of the Church in society. On the other hand it seems that many young adults are also leaving  or falling away from the Church. I don’t know if this is so much because they aren’t participating enough, but because the Church hasn’t reached or connected with them enough. Most young adults don’t stop participating abruptly but slowly slip away. Perhaps they get caught up in their lifestyle’s, or they disagree with aspects of the Church’s teaching, have been hurt, disheartened, or just didn’t really feel like they connected/ belonged.” – Eliza M., 23, Perth, Australia

“You can’t force people to go to Church. You have to invite them to it, not force them.  They have to come out of free will to open their heart to Jesus and get interested or they will fade away from it to look for something else to fill their craving.” – Matt F., 28, Houston, TX

“One of the most attractive parts of Catholicism, in my opinion, is the tradition. The unchanging faith and morals to hang on to in this rapidly changing society. I know I am not the only young adult who thinks this way either. I remember my first Traditional Latin Mass, when the procession started along with chant and church bells, I started crying because it was as if I’d just entered heaven and the angels were singing. This difference, this archaic tradition brings you out of modern day life and reminds you of what’s really important. In our effort to bring people up to heaven, we shouldn’t be trying to bring heaven down so that it will be more relateable. At my parish, people of all ages come; we usually have 10 altar boys, give or take, ranging from around 10 to in their 20s.” – Mary B., 16, Calgary, Canada

“It is unfortunate that many Catholic youth aren’t participating, but there are so many that are on fire for their faith. I have hope that this generation can be groundbreaking for the Church. I myself converted as a high schooler and I’ve watched 4 kids be drawn to it and go through RCIA or are currently going through RCIA. The Church is attracting so many kids. It’s truly remarkable. Youth ministry makes a huge impact. If it weren’t for youth ministry and the power of the Mass and Adoration I never would have converted.”- Gabby G., 18, Edwardsville, IL

Chasity Is For Lovers: A Review

First of all, I think a really good alternative title for this book could be: You Say “Virgin” Like It’s a Bad Thing. I’ve read books about finding love and the standards one should have when it comes to relationships, but the best thing about Arleen Spenceley’s Chastity is For Lovers is that it provides a lot of perspective on being single.

I love that she saw her dating history as a series of learning experiences. Yes, she cried and racked her brain trying to figure out what went wrong, but she eventually learned from her relationships and in my opinion, she has a wonderful, healthy, honest perspective of them. The entire chapter about dating is worth the price of the book alone because it reveals the actual purpose of dating. Dating isn’t about having fun or riding on the emotional highs of attraction, but about finding a spouse and gain learning experiences. And I mean learning experience, not sexual experience. She emphasizes the importance of having boundaries and standards, but never in a way that shames the reader.

Next to the dating chapter, the chapter that deals with the concept of purity has got to be my favorite. I still have bad memories of seeing rants and raves on Tumblr about the concept of purity, smashing of patriarchies, slut-shaming…you know, the usual Tumblr stuff. I want to share this book with those people in particular because purity is a very, very sad misconception. I might start calling the ring I wear on my left ring finger a chastity ring as opposed to a purity ring now.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for people who want a different perspective about relationships. I also recommend this book for people who have misconceptions on purity and abstinence because chastity is very, very different. Bust most of all, I recommend this book for us single ladies. Whether we are single by choice or by circumstances or because we’re all socially awkward, we need to at least appreciate that being single is a blessing and this book will show you why.

Interview With Arleen Spenceley

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Photo courtesy of Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

What was the inspiration behind
Chastity is For Lovers?
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs.  In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.

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The Story of Monica Summers: Secret Agent

(based on a true story)

It was a cold November afternoon. I was out with my handler on a routine mission to retrieve the large amounts of TTPh and drop it off at the designated location. TTPh was a powerful chemical that induced sleep and in the wrong hands, it could be used as a knockout gas or poison. I was given special gloves so that the chemical wouldn’t get on my hands.

The mission started with a stakeout in the distribution center. I passed the time by reading the latest installment of the Joan and Randy detective series. Finally, I saw a window of opportunity.

But just as I left the car, my handler and I were ambushed. We had been made. Enemy spies came out of nowhere. My handler and I fought them off as best as we could, but I got knocked out. When we woke up, I found that all my spy equipment and my personal belongings were gone.

We reported back to the Cathedral Agency Base to fill out the paperwork and make sure that all the info on the spy equipment was erased. But I wasn’t out of the woods quite yet. I was called to the conference room for a debriefing. A tall, stern-looking woman stood at the head of the room.

“Mother,” I said. Mother was her code name.

“We hit a problem,” Mother said. “The tech we can clear out, but they can still trace you. You have to go into hiding.”

“Where am I gonna go?”

Another woman entered the room. I recognized her face from the newspaper stories. It was The Anchoress, the head of the undercover ops division, code name PathCath.

“Mother has informed me about the situation, Monica Summers,” The Anchoress said. “You’ll stay in hiding with us for now.”

“Will I ever go out into the field again?”

“Not for another 60 days,” Mother said.

I looked to Mother and then to The Anchoress. I decided to go with the undercover ops training.

PathCath was a completely different world from my usual grab-and-drop missions. But somehow, it felt so much like home as soon as I got there. I spent the next few months training, learning various techniques, and getting to know my coworkers.

I immediately hit it off with two spies codenamed Super 8 and Mutant Enemy because we were all admirers of the best covert spy team in the world: The Slayer and her partner, Captain Peroxide. The Crescat was a talented sketch artist and profiler and her partner, DeusEtMachina was the gadget-making genius. We hit it off because we were both fans of a spy novel series from England, chronicling tales of The Doctor and The Companions. The Dark Lord and his partner Fisch were master interrogators, able to get a rise out of the most hardened criminals. I joined them on a mission to capture a conspiracy theorist and enemy spy codename The Whirlwind, who targeted the head of the midwest division of the undercover ops, codename Firestarter. I also kept tabs on the Deacon and on The Traveller, who were both out on field missions.

After the 60 days passed, I was finally cleared to go back onto the field.

“So what’s my mission?” I asked The Anchoress.

“Your mission is to gather information and report it to us,” she said.

I nodded and smiled as she gave me my ID with my new code name: The Storyteller.

“I’m on the case,” I said.