How To Survive Valentine’s Day When It’s Also Ash Wednesday

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It’s that time of year again. If you want proof that God has a sick and twisted sense of humor, look at your calendar. Not only does Ash Wednesday fall today, which is also Valentine’s Day, but Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.

For today, I want to focus on how you, fellow Catholics, can survive this day, whether you are single or in a relationship, because Valentine’s Day is hard enough as it is!

  1. If you’re in a relationship, be creative with what you cook for dinner tonight. If dinner is your “big meal,” try making a cheese pizza (no meat) or some nice salmon filets. Or make plans to eat out at a restaurant on Saturday and use today as an opportunity to practice patience!
  2. If you’re single, make breakfast your “big meal.” Having a healthy breakfast will help you have enough energy for the rest of the day.
  3. Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day: water, orange juice, vegetable juice, milk, or hot chocolate if you’re in the Valentine’s mood. Hot chocolate doesn’t count as a meal or a snack, at least not for me.
  4. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, spend time in Adoration today! Check if your local church has the Blessed Sacrament exposed or just spend time in prayer.
  5. Remember that all the Valentine’s Day candy will be very cheap tomorrow. But don’t be a glutton!
  6. Use today as an opportunity to practice charity, which is a higher form of love than just romantic love. Be kind to everyone you meet today, even the person who cuts you off in traffic.
  7. If you’re sick of the Fifty Shades hype, check out Fight The New Drug’s anti-abuse campaign!
  8. If you’re wondering what romantic-related show you should watch today, the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is on Hulu, as well as Sense and Sensibility (mini-series, not the Ang Lee version). You can’t beat the classics!
  9. Enjoy these penitential Valentine cards from Jason Bach Cartoons!
  10. #MementoMori: Remember that death is inevitable, even on Valentine’s Day.

 

Happy VaLENTine’s Day, everyone!

 

Life Unplugged: Lent Progress Report Week 1

 

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One of my Lenten resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I limited my computer browser’s time to just one hour a day using the Google Chrome extension “StayFocusd” and it’s helped a lot. The time that I would usually waste scrolling through my social media feed has been spent going to Daily Mass, Adoration, and working on my novel.

Something I noticed as I considered social activities in town is that while I love having my online friends, I don’t have a lot of friends who live closeby. Most of the time, I would see them during retreats or volunteer with them for young adult events, but I don’t see my local friends more than once a month. And since I’m considering doing another open mic night, I need a bigger crowd of moral support.

Another thing I’ve been learning is that I can offer up my non-traditional fasting (1 hr internet time, waking up at 5:30AM everyday, not reading fanfiction except on Sundays, etc.) for the sake of someone else. I learned this from the Ascension Presents YouTube channel. Check it out:

One thing I learned from fasting from fanfiction sites in particular was a sense of detachment. I’ve grown overly dependent on approval from people, especially when it came to my writing. When somebody gave me a review of a short story I wrote that I didn’t like, their harsh words would wound my heart. I also grew jealous of people who received various awards or a large amount of reviews. In contrast, spending time with my offline writing group helps me receive feedback on my novel that I can handle better. My friends are all writers and whenever they give me constructive criticism, I’m more open to listening to them. It’s helping me build a thicker skin.

At the same time, I actually got a spiritual high from all the time I spent at Daily Mass, Adoration, and in general prayer. Who knew you could get a spiritual high during Lent of all times?! I felt God’s presence in my heart for the first time in what felt like a very, very, very long time. It’s kind of awesome.

Granted, I didn’t start off Lent as well as I am doing now. For the first couple mornings, I slept through my alarm. I had to deal with the death of my grandmother and all the questions that her death brought up. My spiritual high right now is not as strong as it was a few days ago. I still miss my online friends. And unfortunately, news from the mainstream media is hard to avoid, especially when it comes to the fact that they will never understand the church. But I’m starting to discern how to establish my boundaries.  I’m slowly spending more time reading books and improving on my writing.

Next week, I start my renewal of my Consecration to Jesus Through Mary. I’m planning on using St. Louis de Montfort’s method instead of the 33 Days to Morning Glory that I used the past few years. Interestingly enough, the feast of the Annunciation falls on Good Friday. It’s an odd juxtaposition, but at the same time, the death/rebirth theme seems to be a prominent one for me this year.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/shitsuren/8227704742/”>Silvia Sala</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>

Catholic Dating Problem Part 1: Waiting and Finding

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Happy Valentine’s Day! As everyone already knows, single people have a hard enough time dealing with their single status every other day of the year, but there’s something about Valentine’s Day that makes being single even more loathsome. When you’re a single Catholic young adult, the dating scene becomes a lot more complicated and being single is about 10x harder. I shared this article on my Facebook and got the following response:

 

Jillian W.:  I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t understand the concept of a single Catholic man, because they don’t exist. Every Catholic guy I know is either dating, married, or a seminarian. And I don’t get it when people say they are going on a dating fast because how do you get so many people to ask you out that you have to “take a break”. Like, I don’t even know how to get a bloody date in the first place (because there are no single Catholic men, much less ones that have ever shown an interest). I’m not single by choice or because it feels safe, in single because there’s no one to ask me out and even when there are, they don’t because no one is ever interested in me.

 

After asking other young Catholics about their POVVs in regards to the dating scene, I decided that this will be the first of a series called “Catholic Dating Problems.” The first major problem that most single Catholics have when it comes to dating: Finding somebody!

 

Like my friend Jillian, I am not single by choice, nor have I met someone who’s going on a “dating fast.” While I have a good group of single male friends, none of them are interested in me as a girlfriend. Nor do I want them to ask me out because I don’t see every guy out there as potential future husbands. I find it hard to believe that you can just look at a person and just know that he or she is the person you’re gonna be with for the rest of your life. It’s hard enough for me to communicate with someone I don’t know given that I have Asperger’s. How am I supposed to know whether or not the next guy I date is going to be “the one?”

 

One problem with finding the right person is knowing where to look.

 

My friend Clint M. said, “I honestly see a heavily pervasive secular culture influence the way Catholics interact and date. Where some embrace that culture wholeheartedly to the detriment of their faith, others reject it so thoroughly that they fail to provide adequate witness to those who have embraced secular approaches to relationships.”

 

There are a million and one ways to meet someone…the real problem is sifting through all the frogs to find that prince or princess. As hard as this is for me to say, I can’t offer any easy answers to this problem. I do hope, though, that this series will help those who are single deal with the longing that we all suffer with.

 

I  struggle with jealousy whenever other friends talk about how they just clicked with their significant others. I don’t mean wishing harm on those who have what I want. It’s more that I simply want the happiness that people in great relationships have. It’s that old Queen song again: Can anybody find me somebody to love?

 

God can. And no, that’s not an easy answer either. God’s time and will does not bend itself to whatever we want, whenever we want it. I often see posts that say that whenever we feel lonely, it’s God’s way of calling us to be close to Him. And while it helps when it comes to building a personal relationship with Christ, it doesn’t help on Valentine’s Day when we’re watching bad romantic comedies and binge-eating chocolate ice cream.

 

So what can we do when we deal with the Valentine’s Day Blues?

 

Check out this poem about Lent by William Arthur Ward:

 

Fasting and Feasting

Lent should be more than a time of fasting.
It should also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others.

It is a season to turn to God:

Fast from judging others; feast on the goodness in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent: feast on gratitude. 

Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feasts on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that supports.

No matter how hard it may seem, hold out hope that God will lead you to whatever you are called to do. Until then, find the light in the darkness. It will at least save you some calories and hours wasted on bad movies.

Grateful and Generous: Tobit Bible Study Day 10

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

Have you ever wanted to repay a friend for their kindness by giving them something in return? I often try to make an effort to remember my friends’ birthdays without checking Facebook and send them some kind of gift, even if it’s just a birthday greeting or a nice picture. There are many ways to show your friends gratitude for the things they’ve done for you. First, figure out your love language and then figure out which love language your friends would respond to the most. It’ll definitely help when it comes time to get them a present!

Raphael chooses to show his gratitude to Tobias and Tobit by giving them some advice. He reminds them to give gratitude to God, to keep doing good, especially through prayer and fasting, and to be generous through almsgiving.

Read the rest here!

The 30 Day Closet Challenge

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I almost never back down from a challenge. I love doing photo-a-day challenges on Instagram and I do poem-a-day challenges every April. So when Leah Darrow posted about the 30 Day Closet Challenge on her website, I felt called to take it on and write about it.

The 30 Day Closet Challenge was prompted by Leah’s friend Sarah Kroger who talks about why she started the challenge on her blog. I can identify with that #firstworldproblem she tweeted of staring at an entire closet filled with clothes and still feeling like having nothing to wear. I work from home, so more often than not, I write while I’m still dressed in my pajamas. Whenever I know that I’m going out, though, I have a hard time choosing what to wear just like every other girl.

As the weather transitions from summer to fall where I live, people have to be ready for the weather to be constantly changing. As I’m typing this, it’s raining outside. It could rain like this for the rest of the day or it could get worse or it could be sunny. You never know what to expect when it’s hurricane season. So this challenge isn’t just a fashion thing for me, but an exercise in thinking ahead and making sure I’m prepared instead of constantly forgetting things like I’m prone to do.

When people think of “fasting,” it’s usually associated with food. However, this fashion challenge is another form of fasting and one that even a girl with food allergies can participate in. Other forms of fasting include fasting from social media for a certain amount of time, fasting from saying bad things, or avoiding images that are pornographic in nature. All of these different fasts are ways of redirecting our thoughts and desires towards something bigger than our urgent needs.

If you feel like you’re up for the challenge, follow Leah Darrow and Sarah Kroger on their Twitter and Instagram profiles, and use the hashtag #TheClosetChallenge in your #outfitoftheday posts. I’ll be doing the same on my Instagram. Let’s see how it goes!

Leah Darrow: Twitter, Instagram

Sarah Kroger: TwitterInstagram

Lent Day 1: Growing Pains

Although I love Lent’s emphasis on prayer and almsgiving, I have a problem with fasting. Mostly that fasting for me is harder than most people. And it’s not just because I snack a lot. It’s because I have food allergies.

Most people would think that I would use food allergies as an excuse to opt out of the “one large meal and two smaller meals” clause that comes with fasting. But what can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t like getting “special treatment” or opting out of something because of my allergies. Besides that, I can still eat tuna and cod.

What makes fasting hard for me is that it forces me to think outside of the box and makes me all-too-aware of my growling stomach at 3PM. And yeah, as a chronic snacker, fasting is hard. Ultimately, I choose to fast today because want to prove to myself and to God that I can fast. I managed to cook up some tuna steaks and onions for breakfast. I plan on drinking juice, water, and tea throughout the day whenever I feel like snacking.

So now onto my photo of the day.

I decided to take part in Catholic Sista’s Lenten Instagram Photo-a-Day Journey since Busted Halo’s challenge goes against my Lenten resolution. However, I highly encourage that you participate in either one or both. I also want to promote Busted Halo’s Fast Pray Give calendar which provides a lot of mini-challenges for those who are too intimidated to do a big thing for 40 days.

Today’s prompt in the CSLentIPJ is “symbol.” I decided to take a picture of the bamboo plant that my father gave me for Valentine’s Day. I hated how small it was, but he said that he got that small plant for a reason. He wanted me to take care of it and watch it grow alongside me. So this bamboo plant is a symbol of how I start Lent: small and dealing with growing pains.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

February Progress Report

I didn’t update this blog as often as I thought I would due to sickness and me realizing that I needed to take things into a different path. I want to be more open about my faith on this blog, especially with Lent coming up in a week. So after my Four Loves Friday post, the next time you’ll see me update this blog will be on Ash Wednesday.

Lent has always been a tricky thing for me, even back when I was a kid. I hated fasting because having food allergies made giving up meat every Friday even harder than it already was. And when I got older, fasting also meant eating just one meal during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent was also emotionally grueling because it was often a time that I was spiritually and emotionally tested. Last year was bad because of a serious bout of emotional distress brought on by Pope Benedict’s resignation and the betrayal of a friend. I spent the rest of the year recovering from my friend’s betrayal.

Now that I feel that I have recovered from the trauma, I want to focus on discerning my vocation. So I will be using this blog as my Lenten journal. The posts will feature the following:

1) My 365grateful photo that will undergo a Lenten theme

2) A link to Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections (If you don’t know who Fr. Robert Barron is, he is a priest/vlogger who creates videos that comment on current events, movies, and pop culture and talks about them through a Catholic perspective. Look him up on YouTube and then check out wordonfire.org. He is awesome!)

3) Any sort of thoughts I have about the day in general.

I am also planning on praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen as part of increasing my prayers.

So what am I giving up, you ask? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided on limiting the amount of clothes I would wear for the duration of Lent.

Come back here on Friday where I reveal my favorite CS Lewis quote and go into what it means to love selflessly.