I Want to Get My Doctorate but I Also Wear a Veil to Mass: Healthy Traditionalism, Anxiety, and Social Media

I’m a regular on Twitter. It’s a fun place to find quirky community – especially if you’re a tech savvy Catholic. In a smattering of characters, I can lament the lack of convenient daily Mass times or praise the joys of the sacrament of confession. I’ve made many wonderful friends on the platform – friends I hope to meet in person someday.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the Internet – especially social media. My summer job included sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, so I would spend my time clicking through Catholic articles and a multitude of tweets from my “friends” to pass the time. However, at one point in the summer, I became filled with such anxiety that I swore off Twitter for about a day before returning. I took the time to examine why I became so anxious and what we can do about our social media anxieties.

Social Media Anxiety

I don’t identify as a feminist, and as a full disclosure, I don’t believe that “Catholic Feminism” is a real thing. There’s just Catholicism – which honors and respect women (though in a much different way than our secular world does). I don’t suspect that true feminism wills faithful Catholic women to join its ranks because of our opposition to many contemporary institutions such as abortion on demand and artificial birth control. I digress.

However, I’ll say this: A lot of people have a lot to say about what women do or don’t do. This is spectacularly evident in religious circles on the Internet – especially social media.

For example, lately I’ve contemplated my decision to return to graduate school and work towards my masters and doctorate in Applied Linguistics. While I am receiving generous financial aid in scholarship and grants, I am still using some student loan assistance to reach my goal. In the back of my mind, there’s this little nagging voice that says: 

“That’s really dumb, you’re not even thinking about your future kids! What if you want to stay home but then you have to work to pay back your debt? Your kids will have to go to daycare and public school and you’ll just have kids that were raised by someone else. You can’t have everything you want.”

Women Shouldn’t Vote and Our Lady Was a Feminist 

This nagging voice was especially exaggerated by some things I’ve read on social media in the past few weeks (in my own paraphrase):

  • College education is a waste of time for women who want to be homemakers. If something happens to your husband, you can live off of his life insurance.
  • Women who want to be truly modest should never own pants because they are made to show off one’s figure.
  • Women who don’t marry young aren’t serious about their families and are only concerned about their career.
  • Women who take out student loans would rather serve an employer instead of serving their husbands with joy.
  • Women shouldn’t vote because they are inherently more liberal – which is why Obama was elected.
  • “I want a traditional, Catholic wife who is a perfect 10, acts like a whore, but is actually a virgin who enjoys washing the dishes and massaging my feet. I, on the other hand, am obese and live in my mom’s basement.
  • If you send your kids to public school, you’re damning them to hell. 

But, don’t despair, here are some more anxiety-inducing quotes from the other side of the coin:

  • You can never, ever tell a woman what to wear to Mass because that forces her to be beholden to men and that’s not cool.
  • Jesus was the original feminist and if you’re not also a feminist – you hate women.
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was anything but meek and mild. She did what she wanted and wasn’t submissive.
  • Divorce is a holy thing for women and is often the best choice.
  • It’s [current year] and women can do whatever they want to do without the permission of a man – even in the Church.
  • Women who believe that they should submit to their husbands only do so because they are “taken care of” and don’t have to think for themselves.
  • You’re a total queen who doesn’t need permission from anyone to be who you are (even if “who you are” is destructive to yourself and those around you).

It’s probably no surprise that many faithful Catholic women, myself included, are in a tizzy about who they are and what they want to be. I often find myself in a thought loop that sounds something like this: Are my desires and goals in my life from God or are they a result of our modern culture? Does God really need a female linguist that could just stay at home instead? Or do I not possess a healthy level of girl power to trust my instincts?

Where is my place in the world as a young woman who believes she should submit to her husband but also wants to study the social impact of language at the doctoral level? Where are the voices that say that for young women, a solid college education is worth the time and effort, but may not be for everyone (and that life insurance isn’t a permanent solution)? Where are the women who believe in the value of motherhood but also know its okay to share your gifts outside of the home (and that it won’t ruin your children for life)?

In short, where are the sensible traditionalists? 

For me, fighting this cycle of anxiety looked like logging off of social media for a day. It meant talking about my concerns with those far wiser than myself and learning how to employ the “mute” function on Twitter. For you, it may look like deleting your profiles completely and stopping the comparison game. But for all of us, if should mean trusting our gut and ultimately the Holy Spirit – our supreme guide.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing with your friends and family via social media and other platforms. I appreciate your support. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding, basically.

My last activity here was in February. I wrote about finding, igniting, and maintaining your “blue flame.” That is, the passion that makes you feel and become alive – the very thing that makes your heart jump and your soul spark.

Since that day in February, I didn’t write a single word for publication. I thought about it, sure. I started drafts, purchased a nice notebook, tried to take a blogging course, maintained a journal at the turn of the new fiscal year (under the impression that my children would donate my papers to assorted alma maters after I died), and stared at blinking cursors and blank pages. Even when other bloggers offered to feature me on their pages, I hemmed and hawed.

The reason for my silence is that I’m hiding.

I’m hiding in my own frustration at the lack of traction in my own writing – the fact that I feel like I’m just another faith-based blogger shouting into the darkness that we call the Internet.

Nobel Prize or Not at All

I don’t know about you – but when I want to do something, I want to do it well. Very well. I’m a perfectionist of the highest order: neatly written to-do lists, perfectly sequenced strings of a daily Rosary, praying all of the entries of the Liturgy of the Hours, sorting my books by size, straight A’s. It’s no surprise that this bleeds over into my writing habits – a needling sense of perfection. That, if I don’t write the next viral blog post or conceive a memoir worth of the Nobel Prize, then it’s just not worth it.

This is difficult: I want to write. I believe I was made to write, as it’s part of my vocation.

I once read that your occupation is what you’re paid for and your vocation is what you’re made for. If you’re lucky, sometimes the two overlap. In my case – that’s not the reality. I believe I have a way with words, the gift of telling stories that people get. More often than not, my regular readers tell me how much they enjoy my writing and how accessible it is. Yet, to be wholly transparent, I hate how little recognition I receive from my writing. The internet is an information void and I’m one pixel drifting in and out the collective consciousness.

Drive-Thru Writing

When I write, it’s like I’ve prepared this giant, wonderful banquet for my family and friends. Except when they arrive, they tell me that they decided to swing by the McDonald’s drive-thru on their way home and just aren’t hungry right now. It’s deflating to labor on a well-thought out piece, only for it to receive up to 50 separate views on a very good day.

All the while, I see Susan write primarily about her two home-schooled kids and how much those little angels *love* praying the Rosary before breakfast, making paper dolls of the saints and angels, all while her son “plays” the Mass with his toy kit in the well-decorated living room.

“Little Aquinas has discerned a call to the priesthood and he’s only 3 years old!,” says Susan.

I’ve rolled my eyes so hard at these blogs that surely one day my eyes will dislodge from their sockets. Why does Susan gets mega views with her cupcake recipe and I’m over here with 20 views on my post debunking myths believed about Catholicism?

And I get it, Catholic moms are a big audience with many needs. All moms believe that, at some point or another, they’re surely messing up their kids and they want someone, perhaps a friendly blogger, to tell them that everything will be okay. They need a Susan, and for better or worse, I’m not a Susan.

I can’t write about the best homeschool curriculum or the most engaging Advent activities for littles. I can’t tell women that everything will be okay when they’re practicing NFP and found themselves pregnant again. I don’t know how to keep kids quiet in Mass because I don’t have kids to take to Mass.

That’s just not my niche right now.

“Wow Sarah, why do you hate Susans and mommy blogs?” 

I don’t hate women named Susan and I don’t hate mommy blogs. However, I sense that for female writers, especially in religious spheres, she has to tap into the common experience of motherhood and the mundane. Primarily, blogs for moms about sanctifying your time as you wash the dishes or how to pray a chaplet very quickly as your child naps.

My most hurriedly devoured pieces aren’t about explaining doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or why Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation – it’s the posts about what I’m wearing and where I’m traveling to next. Essentially, lifestyle content. Even more discouraging is when I write for other Catholic outlets, most of my pieces are met with a “That’s nice” or nothing at all, all while others are flooded with inspirational comments.

(Full disclosure: My most popular post on this blog is a reflection on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary).

I cringe at these statistics because I don’t want to be just another female blogger who writes about her hair, her shopping trip, or that time she tanned on a beach in Europe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing about shopping, shoes, and sunbathing, but I want to write substantial pieces that challenge my readers’ beliefs in a positive way – even if they’re not Catholic and have no desire to become Catholic. Faith matters, and even if you’re a nonbeliever, faith still permeates all parts of our society despite the growing onslaught of secularism.

There is a joke that says once you convert to Catholicism, you automatically receive a book deal and successful podcast, but it looks like the Vatican, after my confirmation, may have lost my address via the Diocese of Lexington. I just want to know that my writing matters and that it’s worth the time and the energy I funnel into it.

Yes, if just one person reads what I’m writing here and finds faith in the Lord Jesus – it’s all worth it. Sure, I don’t need human recognition for anything to matter, but knowing that the big literary meal I’m cooking up will soon be devoured by a hungry audience is a good motivator. I don’t want my blue flame to fizzle, but without a clear purpose, it seems like it might extinguish at any given moment. I don’t want to be salty, but honestly, I’m feeling very salty.

But for now, I’ll linger around, try to pull myself out of hiding, and keep clacking on my keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settling: Notes on Putting Down Roots

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

As I write this, I am somewhere over the American midwest, headed towards Dallas, Texas. If I had to guess, my plane is cutting across the sky where Tennessee and Missouri meet. Below me, I see a river and patches of farmland.

I am on the road again.

This time, I am flying from Kentucky back to New York City at the conclusion of a much-anticipated winter break. After a delay at my airport of origin, I am experiencing a reroute through Dallas in order to return to the Big Apple. While it’s totally out of the way to travel southwest with a destination in the northeast – I don’t mind. I love travel, especially by air. I love the vibe of airports, the anticipation of boarding a plane, the suspension of everyday life as the aircraft takes off and soars through time. I love the movement, I love the adventure.

Before moving away to college, I lived in the same house for 18 years. For me, moving away to college was an adventure akin to getting on the plane – the vibe was right, the spirit of anticipation was there. As I studied to become a teacher, I thought of all of the school districts in Kentucky where I could teach. From the far Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River – my opportunities were endless. I thought I would find myself teaching in the hills of Eastern Kentucky one year and in the Western Coal Fields another year. The idea of bouncing around the state was met with anticipation –  another sense of adventure.

After graduating from college, my living arrangements shouted “adventure.” I lived in South Korea with a Korean family for a year, taught in two separate school districts in Western Kentucky, and taught for three years in my own home county. My homes included an apartment situated on a busy main street, an apartment nestled between two retirees, my parents basement, and another little house. Now, as a New York City resident, I find myself living in an all-women’s living residence on the west end of the famed 34th Street.

However, between the movements, I found myself growing weary of the constant moves and change in jobs. Some changes were not my own choices, while some were. Yet, I longed for the days when I lived in the same little house on the same little farm. The adventure was fine, but it was beginning to grow old.

After moving to Manhattan, I started to make an effort to establish more roots in my local community. By nature (or social construction), New York City is an ever-changing place. One doesn’t move to Manhattan to settle down and raise a family – he or she moves there to say they lived in the heart of one of the best cities on the planet. It’s not a place of permanence for most people who live there. Instead, it’s a constant revolving door of people and ideas.

Despite the built-in opposition, I wanted to make Manhattan a home – if but for a little while. For example, many Catholic young adults who take their faith seriously want to find a parish in which they can connect. This can be tough for a myriad of reasons. I am no exemption, and in college, I was a notorious church hopper. However, after my first few weeks in my new home, I made an effort to register at a nearby parish. This was one small step to creating a home, to establish roots.

Finally, in big cities, the temptation to “wonder” is at an all-time high. I would wonder what it would be like if I lived in another borough of the city, if I had another job, if I could go and do so many other things. Yet, as I wrap up my first six months living in New York City, I found this “wonder” mentality detrimental – I couldn’t enjoy my blessings without wondering about everything else around me. This tiny shift in mindset alone helped me root my mind and heart in my current location – instead of allowing my mind to wander. Day-by-day, I root myself in my own reality and enjoy the city as it bustles and grows. The city is more vibrant, the world becomes a lovelier place to live.

Rootedness in our own culture is tough – we are always promised that something bigger and better is around the corner. We are encouraged to move around – to find what’s out there. Ambition is the new king of our hearts.

I encourage you, especially if you are making a move to a new city or new home – think about how you can cultivate rootedness – even if it is temporary. Maybe this looks like registering at a local parish or church, joining a social group, or intentionally making friends with your neighbors. For each of us, this looks different. However, I recommend that we all be still, if but for a moment, and reflect on how we can create homes and sanctuaries, right where we are.

Myths About NYC Living

Often, when I tell others that I live in Manhattan, I am met with wide-eyed amazement. For many, the New York borough of Manhattan is the place where dreams are made. If you think about it, most television shows we watch are centered in Manhattan. Random photos of city scapes we see in magazines are from New York City. Everyone can recognize the New York skyline in any given moment.

Yet – some people know about visiting The Big Apple – but few people know about living in The Big Apple. As a New York City resident for nearly four months, I’d like to address a few myths that many have about those of us dwelling in the mystical New York metropolitan area.

  1. We do New York “stuff” all the time. The average New York resident does NOT do New York stuff. You know – visiting the Empire State Building, journeying to the Statue of Liberty, or going to Times Square (avoid at all costs). If you were born in the tri-state area, odds are, you’ve probably been to these places once, twice, or three times at the most. It’s just not what city dwellers do. We usually leave those sites for the tourists. Oh, and visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
  2. Life is always glamorous in the city. Watch any television show or movie about New York City – and you’re presented a glittery, and cozy, image of Manhattan. Every window has a skyline view, people always eat leisurely brunches in sidewalk cafes, and Central Park is never crowded. Alas, New York is like any other city on the planet. Once you cut through the tourist-y veneer, New York is found to be dirty and crowded. At the same time, it’s an amazing city in which I feel instantly at home.
  3. New Yorkers are rude. It’s a common misconception that that New Yorkers are rude, crass, and will run you over without a moment of hesitation. I, however, have found this to be largely false. In many moments, New Yorkers have helped me find my way around a crowded subway system or have pointed me the way to the right city bus. Sure, if someone bumps into you, they won’t say “Excuse me,” but that’s normal here.
  4. It’s expensive. Sure, lots of places in the city are pricy – thanks to tourist demands. But, if you know where to look – you can find $1 pizza slices and $1 hot dogs on the same street. You don’t have to break the bank eating in NYC, and it’s easy to find cheap eats. Likewise, you’ll find that many museums have pay-as-you wish or totally free admission. Entertainment in the city is often cheap, but you just need to know where to go. With a little research, NYC can be done well.

It’s not just New York City that has it’s myths. If you live in a rural area, there are many misconceptions about those places as well. Do you live in NYC or a major metro area? What are some common misconceptions you’ve experienced? If you live in a more suburban or rural area, what are your experiences? Let me know below.

As always, may God bless you and thank you for reading.

10 Quotes from St. Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Women”

Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Pope John Paul II. Like many young Catholics, my first experiences with the papacy included this dearly beloved saint. Though I was not Catholic during John Paul’s pontificate, I did appreciate the impact he had on the world around him. Now as a Catholic, I have admired his Letter to Womenpublished on June 29, 1995, prior to the Fourth World Conference on Women.

For those who argue that the Church is behind the times in matters of gender and sexuality, they would be hard-pressed to find any signs of the oppression of women in this historical document. Rather, the Letter to Women is a vibrant celebration of women from all walks and stations of life. In honor of St. Pope John Paul II, here are ten great quotes from his monumental letter (bold text mine):

  1. “Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.
  2. “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a womanThrough the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”
  3. “Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness. In this way he honoured the dignity which women have always possessed according to God’s plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this Second Millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: how much of his message has been heard and acted upon?”
  4. “We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift.”
  5. “The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.”
  6. “Were I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless.”
  7. “It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the ‘genius of women‘, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church.”
  8. “The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth.”
  9. “…from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history.”
  10. “Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives.”

St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Start Acting Like It

This was originally posted on my personal Facebook account. In light of recent events, I believe it’s a timely reflection on the state of the Church and what can be done about this deviant scourge in our midst. 

Some thoughts:

I am currently reading the grand jury report regarding the sickening Catholic clergy sex abuse case coming out of Pennsylvania. I’ve always been of the opinion that when it comes to convicted child abusers, ESPECIALLY sexual offenders, that the best justice is street justice. But, for better or for worse, we don’t necessarily live in that type of society.

In spite of all of this, do I plan to stay Catholic? Absolutely.

In no other church do I have access to the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus through Holy Communion.

There will always be scandal, there will always be sinners, there will always be passively, polite people who stand by and let bullshit like this happen because they don’t want to disturb the (false) peace. That’s because people are people: that includes you, me, and everyone else kneeling on the rail on Sundays.

But…

You can speak out, stand up, keep going to Mass, keep going to Adoration, keep praying and praying, keep serving your parish, and making your voice heard when something doesn’t seem right. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “[right now on Earth,] Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet..but yours.

So start acting like it.

The Webster Apartments: A Review

When I was 11-years-old, I made my first journey to New York City with my mother on a school trip. Though I was born into a rural community, I’ve always been city(ish) at heart. Without a doubt, the trip was magical and I was stunned at the big city: the lights, the sounds, and the never-ending hum of activity. Shortly after, I told my mother I was moving to New York. Like many young pre-teens with dreams, I wasn’t for sure I would actually move to the Big Apple. But, after meeting my Long Island boyfriend (now fiance) and securing a teaching job in the city, my long-held dream of living in New York City, specifically Manhattan, has come to fruition.

One of the most daunting tasks of moving to a new city, any new city, is finding a place to live that is affordable, in a great location, and safe. Unfortunately, apartment searchers often have to compromise one or more factors in order to find a place to lay their head. Thankfully, before moving to NYC, I came across The Webster Apartments, a short-term, women’s only residence in the heart of Manhattan. Thankfully, when I applied for a room, there was an opening in early July. After nearly 12 days of living in Manhattan, specifically at the apartments, I want to give you the grand tour of big city life, offering the pros and cons of my new living arrangement.

The Pros

  1. Location: The Webster Apartments are located on West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan. This is a prime location, just a short walk to multiple subway stations and Penn Station, a hub for travel from New York and beyond. Just down the street is the flagship Macy’s store, alongside a Target and Kmart for your grocery needs. Just a few blocks away is the Empire State Building, Koreatown, and a variety of other attractions. It’s nearly impossible to say you’re bored while living at the Webster.
  2. Affordable: Compared to other apartments in Manhattan, the Webster Apartments is a steal. In your bi-weekly rate, you receive two meals a day, weekly housekeeping service, free wi-fi, and 24/7 security at the front desk (among other services). While this sounds like a recipe for terribly expensive for living in NYC, the rent rates are dependent on how much you make before tax. The minimum a resident can make and live at the Webster is $30,000, while the maximum is $80,000. For reference, I pay around $1400 a month in rent. Some women pay more, some pay less. Thankfully, the Webster understands that starting a new job in the big city doesn’t always accompany a big paycheck.
  3. Safety: The Webster does not take the safety of its guests lightly. All visitors are required to sign in and the front desk is staffed by security personnel 24/7/365. Moreover, as part of her applications, a prospective resident must consent to a very detailed background and credit check. One cannot simply apply to live at the apartments with a criminal record an/or a poor history of repaying debts. And while the Webster does not keep tabs on when its occupants come and go, women are to scan in upon entering the building after a day of work or leisure. Also, for better or worse, no men are not allowed above the first floor. If you want to show your dad or boyfriend your room, you both must be accompanied by a Webster staff member. Personally, I think this is a great policy, as it cuts down on tomfoolery. But, if you have a boyfriend or fiance, he can visit with you in one of the many beau parlors (read: small, decorated rooms with a TV) on the first floor. Finally, any male guests you have can eat with you to the dining room for a small fee.

The Cons

  1. Community is hard to find: Contrary to what you might think, living in the Webster is not like a college dorm. Most women here to work, eat, and sleep. This contrasts with a college dorm, where many young women are eager to make friends and connections to sustain them through the college experience. Therefore, at the Webster, there’s not many guests sitting together at lunch and dinner. Most eat and leave, not saying much to anyone else. At night, you won’t hear loud music or boisterous laughter. Most women are turned in by 11pm. As an introvert, this vibe at the Webster doesn’t bother me. I’m fine to come in, go to my room, and sit in solitude. But, if you’re looking to make friends right away, you may have to work at it.
  2. The Food: Honestly, the jury is still out on this one. The food here at the Webster is unique, has variety, and one has plenty of options to choose from. There’s always two meat-based options and one choice for vegetarians. For example, tonight you can choose to build your own taco and burrito, with a wide range of toppings. Veggies are always available as a side dish and there’s a salad bar once you go through the line. However, I would say that the food is lacking in the flavor department. Maybe I’m just used to down-home cooking where cooks use something called salt to season up their dishes. Here, far north of the Ohio River, it doesn’t seem that they’ve received the memo. Overall the food is edible, but don’t expect Michelin-star quality.
  3. Restricted Appliances: My one reservation about moving to the Webster (though not a deal breaker) was that guests are not permitted to have big appliances in their rooms (mini-fridges, coffee brewers, etc.). I understand why this is a rule: the building dates back to the 1920s and too many extra appliances plugged in to outlets could cause a shortage, or even worse, a fire. But, I had grown attached to my Keurig brewer back home. It pained me to know I would have to leave it behind (a total first-world problem), but I did. Guests are permitted to have a small cooler, which they can fill up with ice from the ice machine on the 2nd floor. While it doesn’t quite function like a mini-fridge, it can keep foods cool as needed.

Life at The Webster Apartments has proven to be a fun, convenient, and exciting way to encounter life in New York City. I highly recommend this living arrangement to any young woman looking to relocate to the city for work or internships. The Webster provides a nice place to live and thrive, and acts as sort of a safety net as you make your way into the hum of the Big Apple. For more information on The Webster Apartments and its eligibility requirements, click visit websterapartments.org.

All the best,

Sarah

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Though my review of The Webster Apartments is favorable, this post or blog is not sponsored or affiliated by the Apartments.