Those Three Words (A Series of Haikus)

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The first time I said
those three words to somebody
I was just sixteen

It was my first kiss
Shared with a star-crossed “lover”
Boy was I stupid

I don’t think I meant it
Got caught up in the moment
Summer loves don’t last

I said them again
to someone else years later
I meant it this time

He was a lost soul
Wandering in the darkness
Wanting me with him

But I chose the light
of a bright shiny future
Instead of his love

Out on the dance floor,
I almost said those three words
to a charming man.

His reluctance mixed
with contradicted gestures
He was not my prince.

Caught under a spell
I said those three words again
But I didn’t mean them.

I was not about
To go back into the dark’s
empty promises.

I wish I could say
those three words to someone but,
I must choose wisely.

Someday, I’ll find him
Or he might find me instead
And then I’ll say them

This eight lettered phrase
Those three little words that mean
one thing: “I love you.”

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.

Three To Get Married/In Good Times And Bad

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

The first time that I heard today’s passages, I was at my friend’s wedding. The priest at their wedding complimented my friend on her choice of readings and I couldn’t help but agree with him. It was my first time ever hearing a passage from Tobit, so right off the bat, I knew that my friend and her husband had something different in mind from the typical feel good sentimentality most couples want. 

 

Whether you are single, in a relationship, or already married, I hope that you can find something to relate to in the first part of today’s reflections. Read here for part 1.

 

 

in good times and bad

 

In Part 2, I compare Tobit and Sarah’s wedding party to the Wedding at Cana.

I always felt that if I ever get married, I want the Gospel to be today’s passage from the Gospel of John. I’m not someone who constantly dreams of the perfect wedding (although I do have a wedding Pinterest board like every other girl who uses Pinterest), but I always loved the Wedding at Cana because it’s a microcosm of what I feel life is like for married couples and for those who enter into religious life.

 

What do they have common? Find out here!

 

And finally, I want to share with you the YouTube playlist I created to go with this study:

The Spiritual Journey of "Out of the Woods"

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Welcome to 2016 everyone! Like most people during this time of year, I want to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for 2016. But since, like most people, I watched Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve in anticipation of the countdown, I got to watch the premiere of Taylor Swift’s latest music video “Out of the Woods.”

Out of all of the videos that Taylor has released from her 1989 album, this is by far my favorite since “Bad Blood.” It takes me back to the Taylor I knew: the Taylor who wore long, beautiful dresses and tried to figure out what love meant. The video itself is reminiscent of a spiritual journey.

It starts out with the words “She lost him” and opens with Taylor standing on the beach in a long light blue dress. As the song begins, a forest starts growing around her. This symbolizes the beginning of a spiritual journey, being led into a seemingly dangerous place where wolves (which could represent opposition or anxiety) and tangling vines (which represents sin) are out to get you at every corner. Day turns to night as Taylor weaves her way through the woods and runs from the wolves and through the tangling thorns. In the chase, she falls and her dress gets torn, representing the first stumbling.

All of a sudden, Taylor is on top of a mountain. The wolves are still chasing her. Taylor rips the necklace she was wearing off and tosses it over the mountain. Then she takes a leap and dives into the ocean below. This represents the second part of the spiritual journey: taking a leap of faith and letting yourself be submerged into an ocean of grace. I also saw her taking the necklace off as letting go of what you used to love in order to immerse yourself into a deeper love.

But just as Taylor is in the ocean, she’s suddenly in a desert. She touches a tree and then finds herself frozen in the middle of an icy forest, running from an avalanche. Both of these can represent spiritual dryness. Spiritual highs don’t last long and the dry periods of spiritual life can either feel as barren as a desert or as cold and bitter as winter. Either way, these dry periods prompt us to reflect and have faith in spite of how we feel.

The bridge of the song finds Taylor crawling through a muddy swamp as vines entangle around her in every different setting. This is the fallen state of grace, when we are covered in sin. Like the vines, sin paralyzes us. But as the song transitions towards the last chorus, little lights surround Taylor and even though she keeps getting thrown down and finds herself surrounded by fire, the vines don’t try to entangle her anymore. Instead, she gets up and gets out of the woods. The music video ends with Taylor back at the beach as the forest disappears behind her. Her dress is shorter, but her eyes are so much wiser. She sees her old self looking out into the ocean and reaches out to touch her.

Then these words flash on the screen: “She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.”

The last part of the music video to me represents the sense of renewal which leads to finding the best version of yourself again. You return to where you started because God draws straight with crooked lines.

Fellow Swifties will recognize the words from the end of the video as the secret message from the song “Clean.” In a way, this message combined with the music video basically describes what 2015 was to me. I didn’t lose a person so much as ideas on what I thought my life should’ve been. I met with a lot of disappointments in 2015. And yet, through my own spiritual journey, I found myself again. I let go of all of my preconceptions on how things were “supposed to be” and took a leap of faith, entering into this new life where nothing’s quite as certain, and yet my faith and trust in God remain constant.

And somehow, that faith and trust was everything. It led to me making new friends. It helped me to grow as a writer. Most surprisingly of all, I became a more forgiving and hopeful person.

It’s hard for me to choose one word that will be my constant throughout 2016. Mercy is a good contender since this is the Year of Mercy. I’m reading Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light, so light is also a potential word. I’m still on this spiritual journey towards finding my vocation, which makes the word “direction” quite appealing. However, what resonates the most with me right now is love. Bishop Robert Barron said that “Mercy is what the Divine Love looks like when turned towards the sinner.” Mother Teresa was called to be a light of love to the streets of Calcutta. And in this journey that I’m taking, I feel like love will be what will lead me to wherever I end up next.

I don’t just mean romantic love, although I find myself longing for that more than usual. I also want to learn how to balance love of God and love for myself in a healthy way. To be humble but at the same time be self-assured and hold my ground to protect myself from creeps and devils. “Love” also applies to my writing. I want to finish all of my writing projects, pour my love into every single word and share that love with the world. Most of all, I want to be able to get past my cynicism and be able to love my neighbor and see the best in them.

So here are some questions for you: Where are you on your spiritual journey right now? What do you think is your word for 2016?

I pray that God will help lead you out of whatever woods you happen to find yourself in. Happy New Year everyone!

Screenshots from “Out of the Woods” are copyright to Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift, and Joseph Kahn and are used for editorial purposes only.

Gratitude in Everything

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

If you ever find yourself at a time when the attitude of gratitude is just not coming to you, come back to these reflections. There is always a time to find gratitude, even after we acknowledge all the negative emotions that come into our lives. As strange as that sounds, we can even be happy during the times we also feel sad or angry or lonely. The happiness I’m talking about isn’t the excited, bounce-around-the-walls kind of happiness a five-year old has. It’s a softer kind, one rooted in hope for better things. It’s not as bright as the sun, but more like the soft glow of a beautiful star or a small fire. Hope comes to you when it doesn’t really make any sense to have it because that’s when you need it most. Through living with gratitude, we cultivate hope, which nurtures our faith and our love.

Read the rest here!

The Prayers of Ruth, Naomi, and the Woman at the Well

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These prayers are written in the perspectives of Ruth, Naomi, and the Woman at the Well. Dedicated to all women who are searching for something. Offer these prayers to the Lord. Know that He is listening and that he understands your desires. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”- Matthew 7:7

 

Ruth’s Prayer

This is my prayer to a God that I don’t really know.

I am on a journey.

Protect me and guide me as I find my way.

Help me to always care for my family to the best of my abilities.

Lead me to where I can find work and food.

Shelter me in a warm and loving home.

And if it is Your will,

Renew my heart so that it may be open to receive new love.

Be with me as I work and provide and care.

Open my ears so that I can understand what I don’t know.

My heart is heavy at the losses I’ve endured

and yet I want to embrace this new chapter of my life,

so I praise you Lord and thank You for this second chance

and the blessings that will come my way in the future.

Amen

 

Naomi’s Prayer

Lord, I am bitter.

I’m angry.

I’m hurt.

You’ve taken so much. So what more can you give?

My heart was filled with sweetness, joy, and delight.

I led a wonderful, pleasant, and lovely life.

Now here I am, stripped of my identity.

I know no longer what makes me “me.”

I feel as though You’ve slapped me in the face.

Is this my wake up call or some peculiar grace?

I have never felt so alone.

Nor have You ever felt so far away.

Let me get back to where I once belonged.

Take this pain away from my heart.

With this prayer, I plant the seeds of my faith.

I ask You, Lord, to let them grow like fields of barley.

Be my kindman-redeemer and rescue me from this hurt.

Let this new life restore and renew me.

Amen

 

The Prayer of the Woman at the Well

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

I feel so thirsty and dry.

I am an outcast amongst my peers.

Too many men have come and gone in my life

and still, I feel unfulfilled by them.

I am seeking love, never satisfied at what I find.

Always yearning, thirsting for more.

I thirst and hunger for something I can’t name.

Will I ever be satisfied?

Help me to understand this longing.

The pain weighs as heavy as the noonday sun.

My chest carries an empty jar of a heart.

Lead me to the waters  of your wisdom, O God,

that I may learn how to truly live again.

Amen.

A Different Kind of Tinder: The Differences Between The Hookup Culture, Friendship, Casual Dating, and True Love

Clusterflunk stock photo.

I practically live on the internet. I wrote a post about how awesome it is to have friends on the internet. I love that I can be open about my faith online to friends and acquaintances who see themselves as atheist, agnostic or “spiritual but not religious” without having any kind of yelling or belittling of myself or my beliefs. But I still have friends in real life as well and while I have a lot of social networks, I haven’t signed up for any online dating sites or installed any kind of dating apps on my tablet. Hypothetically, if I were to ever go out on a date, I’d want to meet the guy in real life, have him ask for my number, and take me out to dinner. It sounds old-fashioned, I know.

One reason I don’t go on dating sites is for one thing, all the good ones are too expensive. I do know people who’ve met and even married people they met online, but as I said before, I’m an old-fashioned romantic. I want to get to know the guy I’m with as an actual person, not just chat with him on Facebook or talk via text messaging. It takes me completely out of my comfort zone, but hey, nothing safe is worth the drive.

There’s an article from Vanity Fair going around called “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.'” It’s a pretty long article that comments on how fast and easy the hookup culture has become with the popularity of apps like Tinder which focus more on getting someone to spend the night with than getting to know a person. But honestly, I don’t see how that’s different from two strangers going to sleep with each other after meeting at a party or a bar. The hookup culture has been around for decades. It’s just that it’s happening faster now.

I don’t blame this so-called “dating apocalypse” on apps like Tinder. I blame the hookup culture. I get the desire of wanting to be with a person, but too many people are accepting of this idea that hookups are okay without thinking of the consequences, physical and emotional. There’s this dizzying, contradicting logic that  people can have sex without consequences and yet somehow still find true love if the person is also someone you want to be with outside of the bedroom.

So why do I cultivate the majority of my friendships online but prefer to find my dates in the real world? To be honest, it’s because online, it’s easier to find people who share the same interests. I can talk about Buffy as much as I want to with my fellow online friends because we all understand our love for the show and the characters. But at the same time, I hope I can meet these friends at a convention. Eventually, even with online friendships, there’s a desire to know the person in the real world. The reason I want to find my dates in the real world is because I’m not just looking for someone I talk about Buffy or Doctor Who with. I’m looking for a future husband.

Casual dating about knowing what kind of person you like to be with and hopefully learning some emotional maturity in the process. Casual dating is not for everyone. For me, casual dating helps me to not get my expectations too high. Love doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. While I’m okay with just getting to know guys and casually dating them without any expectations of a relationship or marriage right now, eventually, there will be a guy who will go the extra mile for me and I’ll want to get too know him more than any other guy. In other words, when it comes to dating, I’m cultivating love with a different kind of tinder.

The tinder that comes with authentic love is loving the other person as a person, not just as a means to an end. I’m not saying to go out on a date and talk about wedding bells and a white picket fence right away. I’m saying that you need to know the person you’re going out with as a legitimate and actual human being, created by God for a purpose. Eventually, the right person will come. But until then, there is no need for the instant gratification of a swipe and the ego boost that comes with a person thinking you look hot enough to spend the night with. I struggle with lonely nights just as much as anyone else, but I also know, that there are ways to deal with my loneliness that doesn’t require an app or an internet connection. I hope that others will come to realize that as well.

Virgin Shaming: It's A Thing That Exists

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Warning: This post is gonna sound like I’m being a bit-ca. Not my usual sweet tone. But that’s what happens when I get on the soapbox.

I will be the first to admit that this country isn’t perfect. We fought over the color of a dress and think that “Deez Nuts” is an actual person that could run for President. We also think that a guy who’s more famous for his hair, beauty pageant and reality show than for any actual actions relating to politics and philanthropy is presidential material. But last week, I came across an article that made me think this country just hit a whole new level of stupid: The Catholic Response sharing the internet’s confused and hateful reactions to Jessica Hayes becoming a Consecrated Virgin.

I’ve written about consecrated virginity on this blog before. Heck, one of my friends became a consecrated virgin this summer. So why is it that the internet is going nuts now?

I guess it’s because Indiana was prominent in the gay marriage debate and Jessica Hayes happens to be from Indiana. But seriously, people, women marry Jesus more often than you think. Most of them do so by becoming nuns. Jessica Hayes, however, chose to remain a lay person and devote her entire life to serving Christ. It’s no different than a man choosing to be a diocesan priest instead of entering a religious order.

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I don’t understand why people don’t give a hoot about the Dalai Lama being celibate but yet want priests to be married. I don’t understand why gays demand to be married in a church that won’t comply to them and sue people who refuse to bake cakes for them instead of taking their business elsewhere. I don’t understand why people aren’t arguing for civil unions. And think of the divorce rates!

It really stems from a misunderstanding of what love and marriage mean. Society these days sees sex as the be-all, end-all with marriage being just a “bonus.” Marriages aren’t about big weddings and exotic honeymoons or even about being with somebody until you can’t take it anymore. Love and marriage are about sacrifice. And love can manifest in a million different ways that have nothing to do with relationships.

Being a virgin isn’t a disease or something to be ridiculed. At the same time, people shouldn’t put such an emphasis on “purity” that they have entire dances revolving around it. Being a virgin means simply to embrace a life of chastity, which means putting one’s desires aside for a greater cause.

 

When I first read about Jessica Hayes choosing consecrated virginity, my first question wasn’t “Why isn’t she getting married to a man?” but “Why isn’t she going to be a nun?” She answers that question in an article she wrote in Our Sunday Visitor.

“Miss Hayes, why did you want to become a consecrated virgin instead of a religious sister?” posed an inquisitive student in my Women’s Dignity class. “Because I wanted to stay with you,” was my immediate and honest response. Without missing a beat, she replied, “We wanted you to stay with us, too.”

Hayes is a teacher. She wants to devote her life to serving the church through her teaching. She’s not denying herself sex or children.  The bishop who consecrated her goes more into this in his homily that you should seriously read. While many, many nuns out there serve as teachers, the life of a nun belongs to her convent first. By choosing to marry Christ and stay a lay woman, Hayes has a bit more freedom than a religious sister. Her time can be her own, to do whatever she pleases. She’s giving her love to the diocese she serves and to the kids that she teaches. I think that pretty much trumps whatever stuff a certain HBO show can come up with in regards to sex in the city.

So yeah, people. Stop shaming Jessica Hayes for choosing to stay a virgin. Learn from her. And learn what love and marriage really mean.

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Images by Joseph Romie. Posted with permission.

 

Can Young Adults Really Believe In Marriage?

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Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us twogethow today.

 

When you’re in your 20s and early 30s, the world of “married life” looks like an amusement park. The newlyweds are on a merry-go-round while other couples are on a roller-coaster and many couples end up leaving the park altogether, choosing to split up after over a decade or so of marriage. It’s one thing to hear about celebrities divorcing, but some people grow into adulthood and watch as friends who married in college decide to call things off. What’s even worse are the couples who marry within the Church, doing the Sacrament of marriage a great dishonor.

So with all the statistics on marriage and the option of cohabitation and “free love” available, how can young adults believe in marriage, let alone start discerning it?

It starts by knowing what marriage is and what it isn’t.

Marriage IS NOT…

1) A Job.

Like the vocations of priesthood and religious life, marriage isn’t a 9-to-5 thing that you can clock out of. It’s a lifestyle, one that demands your all. Being married takes work, but it’s not all work and no play.

2) A Fairy Tale.

Or a Nicholas Sparks movie. Or a romantic comedy. Or a Hallmark movie. Marriage isn’t going to be a story where people will fall in love at first sight or start bickering constantly and end up falling in love with each other. The story of every marriage is different. There will be boring parts. There will be exciting parts. There will be parts that don’t really fit into any kind of movie or “romantic” story. The point is, though, that marriage is the story belonging to the husband and wife and God and as Fulton Sheen said, it will take the 3 of them to make the story a good one.

3) Just About Being Each Other’s Best Friends.

There’s a song by Calvin Harris called “How Deep is Your Love” (no relation to the BeeGees song of the same name) that has a lyric that goes “So tell me how deep is your love, can we go deeper?”

Married love goes way deeper than mere friendship. According to the Theology of the Body, marriage is becoming one flesh with your spouse, giving yourself body and soul to someone you trust with your life and your heart. It’s not always about treating your spouse the same way you would treat a friend. Many of my married friends don’t have everything in common with their spouses. (Example: My friend’s husband watches Game of Thrones while she prefers musicals.)  The friendship between spouses is just as special as “BFF level” friendship. It’s just different.

4) Going to Complete You

Like many young adults, I wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of just having somebody. My anthem throughout college was Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” And I’m very certain many young adults are still singing that as their anthem. Or “On My Own” from Les Miserables. Or “All By Myself.” But here’s the thing, people. Your spouse is a human being. The reason Fulton Sheen says “It Takes Three To Get Married” is because God needs to be a part of marriage in order for it to be complete. The spouses both pursue Heaven together with their eyes towards God and not just on each other.

So don’t seek out a relationship just because you want to have somebody or you want to have the experience of going out. A friend of mine recently started dating again for the first time in years and while she’s having a great time going to new places, she genuinely likes the guy that she’s going out with. She’s not using him as a meal ticket or a placeholder until a better guy comes along.

5) About What We Want

Marriage isn’t what we get out of it. It’s about serving each other. I’m pretty sure all of us, married and unmarried, have rolled our eyes whenever we heard this passage from Ephesians.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

But look harder. It’s not asking for a woman to be doormats and for husbands to be dominant. It’s a passage about mutual surrender. Christ gave his life to His Bride, the Church, and the Church ideally does the same for Him. This mutual surrender is a part of being married. “You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.” (That’s from Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.)

So what is marriage then?

1) It’s more than a wedding.

I have a joke that I’m saving for whenever somebody says that Catholic weddings are too long. “Honey, Catholic weddings aren’t too long. It’s just that every other wedding is too short.” I get the appeal behind having the perfect wedding. But life goes on long after two people say “I do.” Marriage is a path to sainthood, just like every other vocation. Which means that there will be times when you find yourself screaming “This is the last time I’m asking you this, put my name at the top of your list.” There will be times you’ll want out. There will be times when the two of you will fall apart. Fight for each other. Ask God to help you fall back together. Whatever problems you have, you’ll come out stronger and more in love than ever. That beats a million dollar wedding anyday.

2) It’s a matter of fidelity.

We don’t just choose our spouse when we enter into a relationship and eventually say “I do.” No matter how hard we may crush on celebrities and athletes, the fantasies have to be put aside for the reality that is our spouse. A happily married actress (who’s been with her man for over a decade and married for four years with him) said “The grass is greener where you water it.” Cultivate your marriage and let it grow. When God enters into the marriage, faithfulness to Him can increase faithfulness between spouses. (Results may vary, of course.)

We choose our spouse every day when we choose to stay with them over the cute hired hand or a fictional character or the young intern in the cubicle next to us. We choose them when we stop thinking about “What if I was married to so and so?” We choose them when we let ourselves be vulnerable to them and let our armor down.

3) It’s just as much about children as it is about each other.

Ideally, marriage is about creating a family. Some couples aren’t blessed with children, but can be called to adopt or become foster parents. Then, of course, there’s the old Catholic joke about having 7 kids and homeschooling them until college. (Rebecca Frech, I am looking right at you, sister!)  But it’s not just about procreation. Mark Hart and his wife still go out on dates to renew their love for each other. There needs to be just as much investment in each other even after kids come into the picture.

4) It’s going to be different from every other relationship.

I’ve said before that real love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. It’s not going to be the teenage love where we feel like our significant other is all we know and we would die without them. Love isn’t obsession or something where we lose ourselves in the other person. We mutually surrender to our spouse and make ourselves vulnerable, but that love should not come at the cost of losing our souls. Real love is something that leads our souls closer to heaven.

5) Marriage is beautiful.

We all stand in awe at the sight of a bride in white. There are many words to describe her, but beautiful is the one that comes to mind the most. Couples out together, parents with kids, families with babies in church? All of these things are beautiful as well. And it’s through the beauty of marriage that we can evangelize to the world.

Fr. Robert Barron said that it’s hard to resist the power of a beautiful thing. When we are drawn to a beautiful thing, we want to be a part of it. It starts changes us. The more we understand the beautiful thing, the more we understand what makes it beautiful (the goodness of it) and eventually, we find the truth.

Funny how that sounds so much like falling in love. Marriage starts with finding a beautiful person. The more we get to know a person, the more we understand what makes them beautiful and eventually we find the truth that we want to spend the rest of our lives with this person.

Through the beauty of marriage, people will wonder “how do they do it?” Through understanding marriage, people will realize what makes marriage good. And eventually, the truth comes out: real marriage is about the other person and about God.

There are so many books and resources that can give you advice on what being married is like. I found this wonderful list from Word on Fire while working on this article. I also recommend studying the Theology of the Body and reading The Jeweler’s Shop because that play captures love in all its stages and kinds. If you want to find examples of good marriages, there are saints out there who were married, like St. Gianna, or the soon to be canonized Louis and Zelie Martin.

But even with all this knowledge, we ultimately won’t know what marriage is like until we are married. Deciding to get married is the biggest leap of faith, the same kind of leap of faith it takes to enter into any vocation. Because it takes a leap of faith to fall in love with anything in the first place. That leap of faith, though? It’s a very beautiful thing.

So can young adults really believe in marriage? Yes.