The most important thing to do while you’re single.

A stack of save-the-dates and wedding invitations covers a corner of my desk at home. By March 2015, five more of my friends and their significant others will have wed, while I — now nearly 29 — will have not. That I might witness all their vows without a date doesn’t bother me at all as I write this. That doesn’t mean that how single I am has never bothered me.

“My wedding” sounds to me like the start of something so difficult but so good. In the sacrament of matrimony, we are given to each other by God, and we are given to each other by each other. It’s a miracle, because two people turn into a unit designed to result in the destruction of self-absorption. A marriage is supposed to be a space where we can work together to become holier, and guts are safe to spill, and virtue can blossom, in which love is absolute and unfailing, just like God’s love is for us.

I want that. When I am reminded that I want it, I sometimes start to ache. Continue reading “The most important thing to do while you’re single.”

What I learned about our lives from a lightning bolt.

As the sky darkened, lightning lined distant clouds while my dog — a red brindle longhaired dachshund — crossed the mulch in our back yard. The thunder’s rumble, too far from us to faze to him, warned of an impending storm, a norm for five at night in a Florida summer.

I watched from the porch while Rudy frolicked, and I wondered if we should hurry, ’cause there’s a reason we call where I live the “lightning capital.” He wagged his tail and sniffed the earth with curiosity and bliss and innocence — until the lightning struck. Continue reading “What I learned about our lives from a lightning bolt.”

Step forward (thoughts on Protestants and Catholics).

I missed the quiet years for a minute today when I stumbled upon an abrasive tweet about the pope, written by an evangelical Christian.

The quiet years are the six I spent not texting, the two or three sans social media, the life before my smartphone (which I only have owned since December).

I missed the not knowing what people are saying, the freedom from unsolicited opinions that I implicitly solicit every time I press “follow.” This is because what people say sometimes reminds me of any and all of the times the misinformed mistreated me for being Catholic.
Of being in fourth grade and being told by a pastor’s wife that my church is of the devil.
Of being in fifth grade and being told by my teacher that it is harder for me to get to heaven, because I’m Catholic.
Of being in sixth grade and watching a Protestant pastor tell the student body at my Christian school that the Catholic Church is a cult.
Of being in seventh grade and having to tell my history teacher I don’t worship Mary.
Of being in tenth grade and handing my Church’s creed to my principal and demanding that he show me where it says I worship saints. Of suggesting, when he couldn’t find it, that he replace the history curriculum with one that doesn’t misinform his students. (And he did.)
Oh, the adrenaline. How I would shake.
It’s true, even now, even if the message arrives via tweet, that I don’t really want to be bothered. That eight years (5th grade through 12th) is a lot of years to debate. That I am nine years out of high school and still kind of tired. But hear this:

I would not trade it.
My parents invited me to transfer to public school, but I said no.
I liked my school. The experience.
Much of it made me who I am. It pushed and stretched me. I learned to let go, to forgive, and to coexist. Yes, I was at first the fifth grader whose ex-Catholic teacher told our class how bad it is to be Catholic. But I was also the fifth grader who sat on the couch with my Catholic mom and my Jewish dad and listened to Scott Hahn tapes. I was the fifth grader who sat in the pew and watched a priest baptize my dad, who watched her dad make his first communion.
When I read that tweet today, I shook. Just when I thought we could get along… “Another step back.” But I only missed the quiet years for a minute. I only missed them for a minute because I realized:
One person’s step back doesn’t haven’t to be mine. 
That a person is misinformed or misunderstands doesn’t change the truth about my Church. The misinformed can mistreat me, and it doesn’t change the truth about me. Nobody but Christ can discern my faith as real or fake. I can choose dialogue over debate, love over hate, and to unplug for awhile if what surrounds me is abrasive.
I can invite anybody open to it, to let go, to forgive, to coexist. 
To – like Pope Francis and his evangelical associates – sip drinks and pray and read the Bible together.
To disagree and love and like each other anyway.
To step forward, into something better and closer to whole.

Thoughts on Lumen Fidei: “Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted.”

pope-francisFriday, the Vatican published Lumen Fidei, a papal encyclical initiated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and brought to fruition by Pope Francis.
A papal encyclical is a letter written by a pope that regards Church teaching, is authoritative but not infallible, and is appropriately followed by #BOOM when referenced on Twitter, ’cause popes are brilliant and what they write routinely blows my mind.
Lumen Fidei – the light of faith – is written to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and the lay faithful. This is code for “everyone who is truly Catholic.” But in reading Lumen Fidei in full this morning, I have come to this conclusion:
Every Christian, Catholic or not, ought to read it.
Lumen Fidei clarifies faith for us while we live in a culture that muddies it. Pope Francis defines faith and dissects it, connects it to our senses and to hope and truth and love, and puts the rumor to rest that Catholics believe we are saved by works (Spoiler alert: we don’t!).
Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
  • “…faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances toward full communion with God.”
  • “Faith is linked to hearing. … Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a ‘Thou’ who calls us by name.”
  • “…faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope.”
  • “Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols ‘have mouths, but they cannot speak’ (Ps. 115:5).”
  • “Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes; it is a participation in his way of seeing.”
  • “Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God. those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable even to keep the law. They become closed in on themselves and isolated from the Lord and from others; their lives becomes futile and their works barren, like a tree far from water. … As Saint Paul puts it, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God’ (Eph. 2:8).”
  • “Unless you believe, you will not understand.”
  • “Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age. In contemporary culture, … truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. … In the end, what we are left with is relativism, in which the question of universal truth – and ultimately this means the question of God – is no longer relevant.”
  • “Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centeredness and towards another person. …”
  • “Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives.”
  • “Joined to hearing, seeing then becomes a form of following Christ, and faith appears as a process of gazing, in which our eyes grow accustomed to peering into the depths.”
  • “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.”
  • “Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light.”
  • We “cannot truthfully recite the words of the creed without being changed.”
  • “Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. it makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love.”
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Click here to read Lumen Fidei in full.

[Guest Post] Should Catholics only date Catholics?

Guest blogger Anthony Elias and his soon to be wife, Jackie!

When I was enrolled at my evangelical Protestant seminary, I knew it was important for me to date and eventually marry someone who was of the same evangelical (“non-denominational”) Christian faith. Pastor Mark Driscoll had even persuaded me that I needed to find someone who was of a similar evangelical flavor (“it doesn’t make sense to have your wife praying in tongues at the dinner table while you’re trying to cast out her demon.”)

After emotionally leaving the seminary because I wanted to become Catholic, there was no doubt in my mind that if God did not call me to become a priest, I would marry a Catholic. If Jesus Christ and His Church were the most important things in my life, how could I even think about marrying someone who wouldn’t share that same joy with me? sounded like a fantastic idea, and I was beyond blessed to meet Jackie within days of being on the site (she’s the greatest blessing of my entire life and we’re getting married on June 1).

I’ve been surprised to find a different mentality among many faithful Catholics in the pews. Several young women have asked me if I converted to Catholicism because of Jackie and are disappointed when I say no because, they say, “my boyfriend is non-denominational and we’re trying to figure out what we would do with kids and going to church and stuff.” I like to call this the most predictable problem ever. Many seem to think that if cupid points them to someone with good vibes and they “fall in love,” then that person is the one, no matter if he or she is of the same religion or even has a basic belief in God. Others don’t think very hard about the fact that dating can lead to marriage (“I just want to know them a little better,”) and are eventually confronted with “the most predictable problem ever.”

Instead of being a typical overzealous convert and answering the post’s title, “Yes, of course, and no amount of inspiring stories would convince me otherwise,” let’s see what the Catholic Church says. (A caveat: the following is for Catholics who believe that Jesus Christ founded his Church and gave the apostles and their successors the authority to proclaim doctrine and practice. If these are “man-made rules” to you, I would recommend “What’s Your Authority” and other articles about apostolic succession on

from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Paragraphs #1633-1637 in the Catholic Catechism address what is called “mixed marriage” and “disparity of cult.” Mixed marriage is a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic Christian, while “disparity of cult” describes a Catholic marrying a non-Christian. As long as the couples are marrying in the Catholic Church and are willing to raise the children in the Church, mixed marriage and disparity of cult are not explicitly forbidden, though disparity of cult is especially discouraged. However, as you can read below, the “difficulties of mixed marriage must not be underestimated,” and the marriage can lead to “religious indifference” (all religions are the same, right? How important is the Eucharist?).

In conclusion, should Catholics only date Catholics? The Catholic Church does not give an unequivocal answer, so I can’t say more than that. However, the Church does say, IT MAY BE A BAD IDEA, THINK HARDER ROMEO, and that’s advice we all could use.

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About the blogger: Anthony Elias writes at . Feel free to contact him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.