Monthly Archives: February 2015

Desiring What God Desires: A Lesson in Humility

Dear Pope Francis,

The spring I turned fifteen is burned in my mind, for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important is that I learned a foundational faith lessons that continues to profoundly shape my spiritual life. It’s this: that God always answers our prayers, sometimes it’s not in the way we want or expect.

I learned this in the context of the death two of my grandparents, both in the spring of 2005, one in April and one in June. In both instances, I prayed for a miracle, by which I meant that they would make a miraculous recovery. Instead, they both passed away reasonably quickly. At first I was angry because God didn’t answer my prayer. But as my mother pointed out, God did. I didn’t get the miracle I wanted, but I got a miracle in that neither grandparent had to suffer, which likely would have been even more painful for everyone involved.

This lesson has been reinforced in every season of my life over the last ten years. Every time it humbles and scares me because it reminds me that ultimately God directs my steps and the events of my life.

This isn’t to say that I become an automaton, and blindly follow what God tells me to do. I can choose whether or not to follow God’s direction, and generally speaking, I know from experience that following God is good idea. It is in moments when I’m either discerning where God is calling me, or struggling to choose to follow God, that I pray that I will desire what God desires for me and from me.

But that prayer, to desire what God desires, is huge, especially when I remember that what I expect from this prayer may not be what God actually responds with. For instance, right now my prayer is centred around next steps, and asking God to guide me to where he wants me to be. I have ideas about where I would like that to be, maybe closer to my parents or staying where I am because I’m settled here. But this doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to call me away, outside of my comfort zone. As Benedict XVI reminds us, we weren’t made for comfort, but greatness.

But even though I know it’ll probably be a little bit uncomfortable, I keep praying that God will grant me the grace to desire what He desires for me and from me. Trust me, it’s a grace that I can genuinely desire that His will be done. To be totally open to His will is simultaneously the scariest and most liberating prayer because it means I need to strip away my plans in order to be open to God. I like being independent, in control, and deciding my own path, but in order to be open to God’s will means that I need to be open to whatever comes, whether or not I think it’s what should happen.

Humbly yours,

Lauren

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Safe Sex: Not an Either/Or Conversation

Dear Pope Francis,

A couple of weeks ago, the provincial government of Ontario announced that it is introducing a new sexual education curriculum that would focus on teaching about healthy relationships, consent and internet safety. In light of some of the big events and scandals that have come to light in the last year alone about sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual harassment in schools and workplaces, these topics seem more relevant than ever. However, in the Catholic world, people are concerned about how healthy relationships are going to be taught, namely that methods for safe sex will be taught, rather than abstinence. As a practicing Catholic with an awareness of the society we live in, I’m struggling to understand why safe sex and abstinence can’t be taught.

I will never forget my ninth grade health class, when my teacher’s mantra was “don’t do it until you’re 47”. She said it several times every class. But, part of the curriculum was to discuss sexually transmitted diseases, their symptoms and how to prevent their transmission, including safe sex. My teacher taught us the curriculum, but maintained throughout that that best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, as well as teen pregnancy, was to not have sex. Basically, without using the word, she was making abstinence a norm as well as giving us the information necessary to make an informed choice about being sexually active. At no point did she sugar-coat the truth. She acknowledged that as teens and adults we would want to be intimate with our boyfriends or girlfriends, but she always reminded that those actions would have consequences. Maybe we wouldn’t get an STD or pregnant, but there could be emotional hurt and/or regret, perhaps in the moment, or perhaps years later.

So, while I affirm the Church’s understanding of sexual intercourse as something to be saved for marriage, and that’s a choice I’ve made for myself, it is an informed decision on my part. I know the risks of being sexual active with multiple partners, both physical and emotional, and I don’t want to take those risks. I am incredibly grateful that I was given the information and then trusted by the adults (most importantly my parents) in my life to make the decision for myself.

I concede that not every ninth grader (or teenager in general) would make the same decision I did. Statistically speaking, many won’t. But that doesn’t mean that teaching about abstinence in a hyper-sexualized world is outdated. I think now more than ever, young people, both teens and young adults, need to be reminded that abstinence is perfectly acceptable, whether or not you are religious. I didn’t attend a Catholic school, so my ninth grade health teacher didn’t base her beliefs about abstinence on faith principles. Instead she used common sense, “if you don’t want to have a child, then why are you doing the action that is properly meant to make a child?”

So am I concerned that abstinence probably won’t be taught at all? Yes. But I don’t think the answer is to only teach abstinence either. It shouldn’t be an either/or conversation. Teaching healthy relationships can, and should, include both abstinence and giving the necessary information for teenagers to stay safe if they choose be sexually active, which includes both the physical and emotional risks associated with having multiple partners. In a Catholic school, this should include the Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex, but the conversation on abstinence shouldn’t be limited to Catholic schools. It is important information for all people to have.

Respectfully yours,

Lauren

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A Year Later

Dear Pope Francis,

Meredith and I have been writing letters to you for a whole year. It was exactly one year ago today that Meredith published our joint letter. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that we’re still going.

It’s hard to say who was more nervous about this blogging endeavour, Meredith or I. I was shocked when I had seriously suggested starting a joint blog to Meredith in January 2014, and more than a little relieved when she didn’t mention it for a few weeks. When it did come up again, I was surprised and worried about writing letters to you every week. I didn’t actually think I’d be able to find things to write a letter about every week.

But, a year later, I’ve found tons of things to write letters about (I’ve included links to some of my favourites throughout this letter). And the ideas keep on coming.

By no means have we been perfect about getting our letters posted on time. There have been typos and grammar errors along the way. But I have learned a lot by writing these letters. Sometimes it has been cathartic; other times, it helped me to figure out what I think about big issues. It gave me something concrete to focus on when I felt like I was losing my grip on life. Most surprising it helped me get comfortable with the idea of other people reading my thoughts and words. Finally, and most importantly, this blog is a fun project between friends that has brought us closer together.

Where will the next year take Meredith and I? Quite literally, God only knows. A lot has already changed for each of us, and I suspect the next year will be no different. My hope is that the letters will continue, that we can continue sharing our thoughts on being young, independent Catholic women in this fast-paced world, and that our thoughts and ideas will trigger conversations with our readers (either online or in person). Personally, I hope that this blog continues to be an opportunity for growth, development, and something to keep me writing even when I’m swamped with other things.

As we set out on our second year, Pope Francis, pray for us, for wisdom, clarity and courage to follow the narrow path that God calls us to walk.

Praying for you,

Lauren

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