Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Root of Indecisiveness in Courtship

By Cara E. Ruegg

Artwork by lisima
It used to be that courtship was quick. He met her; he fell in love with her; he asked her to marry him; they got married. Now, he meets her; he nitpicks; he takes baby steps to this terrifying idea of commitment; he asks her to marry him and maybe they marry, maybe not. This is applicable to both men and women, to relationships in the secular world as well as to relationships in Catholic circles. Commitment has become a terrifying concept in the minds of many youth. Casual dating and testing out living together is a whole lot more common nowadays than it ever was before. 

Where is this fear stemming from? Is it the divorces that seem more and more prevalent? Broken families? The hollywood perception of love as infatuation versus an act of the will? The overwhelming fear of failure? The pressure caring for a family entails? Why is it that so many men and women alike struggle to commit?

It is not coincidence that when marriage is under attack on all fronts with all these perverse movements, the devil would try in a sly way to convince the youth to wait, just wait. Maybe she’s not the one. Oh, did you see how she nagged you then? Are you sure you can take that kind of stress? Suddenly these tiny details become enormous problems, these little disagreements become all-out wars. So you wait, you prolong the courtship unduly. You tell yourself that if you made just a little bit more money, if you were just a little bit more experienced then you’d be ready as if anybody is ever really ready for the huge responsibility of marriage, as if it were solely dependent on our strength alone. Courtship is a necessary occasion of sin, but it is still an occasion of sin. If you weren’t ready to marry, you should not have been dating. If you were ready to marry, why let these fears cripple you? Why prolong the occasion of sin? Isn’t that what the devil wants? If he cannot prevent a good Catholic marriage, he will at least try to get you to sin and tarnish your attempt at a good Catholic courtship that will likely shape your marriage since if self-restraint is lacking in the courtship, if disrespect is prevalent, what is the likelihood it’ll change when you are married? 

Chivalrous men seem to be a dying breed, replaced by cowards or worse: men that do not act like men at all and instead of protecting woman and child, tarnish them. But let us focus on the cowards, since even good men can fall into this category. Because of this lack of chivalry, women suddenly feel the overwhelming burden of taking upon themselves the man’s role, just as they had to during the World Wars. It should be the man assuring the woman that they can make it in marriage, that whatever crosses come, they can handle it with God’s grace. Now, it’s the opposite. Now it’s the woman telling the man how to be a man, tiptoeing around issues because she’s afraid to offend. Some of these men are genuinely certain they are making the prudent decision in holding things off and bringing up again and again, “what if…we need to be prepared for what if”. The devil loves to disrupt our peace. He loves to make us afraid. It takes an act of heroism to commit to marry someone, to promise them “for better or for worse”, not knowing what the worse may be. But that’s just it, we cannot know. Maybe we would do better to wait for that big promotion before marriage, but maybe it’ll never come; maybe, even if it does come, halfway through the marriage, we’ll lose our job altogether. 

Money or lack thereof is actually quite insignificant when it comes down to it. If the man is hardworking and budgets well or is at least willing to learn to budget well, then there’s not much to worry about. It is a worldly mindset to focus too much on providing a comfortable living for one’s family. Feeding them, providing health of mind and body is certainly important, but not as important as raising them as good Catholics. It seems that even amongst Catholics, the financial side of it takes precedence over the spiritual realm, which is probably why there is such a fear to begin with. We are relying too much on ourselves when the spiritual realm is out of the picture, so no wonder we are so afraid. Without God at the center of our marriage, how can we be expected to succeed? Of course it’s too much then. But, as soon as we recognize that God will be at the center of our marriage if we just let Him, the fears suddenly seem very petty.

Saint Joseph and Our Lady were by no means financially well-off and yet they were to have the biggest responsibility of all: providing and caring for a God-child. But Our Lady didn’t tell the angel she’d think about it. She said, “Fiat”. Where is our fiat? Where is our “for better or worse” according to God’s holy will?

Of course, rushing into something is not the way to do things either. Virtue falls in moderation. A pretty girl will not necessarily make a pretty wife. You cannot love what you do not know. But, as common as rash decisions are in marriage, they do not seem half as common as the inability to commit. Both are problematic and both should be avoided. This being said, we need to set our eyes on the example of the holy family. According to the world’s standards, Our Lady probably should never have taken upon herself the responsibility she did. It would’ve probably seemed imprudent for her to just make that decision in one hit, judging by her poor status and her young age. Why are we, as Catholics, allowing the world’s standards to penetrate us so deeply? We shouldn’t be taking caution to such an extreme; we should be heroic; we should say our fiat to God’s will even if the known or unknown crosses it entails are scary. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

I Thirst

“I thirst” (John 19:28) 
An article by Cara Ruegg

image by kevron2001

Our Lord thirst. He thirst physically and He thirst for souls, for our souls, yours, mine, for those souls you might dislike or even hate. He thirst for us. 

There are so many different types of thirsts. One of the most relatable is a thirst for what we desire. We thirst for love, a family. We have this ideal picture in our head of how we want our life to be. We thirst for money and fame. We misidentify our thirsts and go after things that give no satisfaction and may even be sinful. We don’t realize the only water that will quench our burning throats is God. It is not a child for the barren; a spouse for the lonely; a job for the homeless. It is God. He is the only love, the only companion, the only purpose that will fully satisfy us. These finite things we go after we go after only because they reflect in some way God. We see God in the kindness and attentions we might receive from a loved one; we see God in the satisfaction of a duty well done. Nature was perceived so beautiful by saints such as Francis of Assisi and Therese of Lisieux not simply because of the variable colors of the flowers, but because its beauty reminded them of God. 

We need to stop going after these finite things as if they were our end, because if we don’t cease chasing the speckled dots of sunlight when it is really the sun that we should be after, the warmth that we gain will be temporary and ultimately unsatisfactory. God is our end. These specks of light are meant to turn our attention to the sun in the sky, to Him. He thirst for us, He loves us with a love that is infinite. A child, a spouse, a friend can never give us that love we desire since they are only finite, imperfect, limited beings. God alone can love us with a limitless love, can give us a purpose, a peace that will be true and lasting. 

Today, Good Friday, let us turn our gaze upon the wounded, bleeding Christ that thirst for us and let us, in turn, thirst for Him. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Mother's Sacrifice: A short story

A Mother's Sacrifice: A Short Story
By Cara Ruegg

Her hair was the color of wheat in the summer; her eyes the color of the gray Atlantic; pictures of yellow daffodils danced down her dress, as she gathered the blankets from the clotheslines, folded them, and set them gently on top of her twig-woven basket.

My shadow, which was previously hidden behind the blanket, now lengthened to the tips of her sandaled feet. Her eyes focused on the spot, and then looked up at me, standing there with my fingers fidgeting with the collar of my shirt.

“Oh, Thomas, I didn’t see you!” She waved me over, smiling. It was a smile that told memories – the same smile that greeted me after a long day at school, that said goodnight as I lay in bed, that comforted me after a fall.

I had to tell her. It would break her heart, I knew, to have her little boy, her only boy, leave her. She had always wanted me to do something noble – become a doctor or teacher, do something, anything that would make a difference, but there had always been limits to that request and, by my decision, I had just crossed those limits. 

“Ma, I have something I gotta say.”

Her gray eyes met mine; they were still soft and gentle, but there was also a hint of worry in them. She knew she wouldn’t like it, whatever it was. 

“What is it, Tom?”

“I’m…it…well…” The words stuck to my throat like glue. I wanted so much to say them, just get it over with, but seeing her eyes so intent on mine made it nearly impossible. I’m leaving you, Ma. I’m leaving you. 

“Cat got your tongue?” She playfully nudged me with the basket. “Come on, get it out, will ya? You know I lack patience.”

“I…well…I don’t know.”

“Tom, come on, you can tell me. I’ll understand.”

“I’m leaving.” The words hung in the air for a long time it seemed, replaying again and again in my jumbled mind. “I’m, uh, I’m going to the missions to be a priest in Africa.”

The basket dropped with a thud; it was the first thing to break the heavy silence between us.

“Africa? A priest?” She threw her head back in an attempt to keep back the tears that were already getting caught in her eyelashes.

I swallowed the stupid knot in my throat. It was too hard. I couldn’t do it. God couldn’t be asking such a sacrifice from us. It was just too much. I was all she had left in the world. Pa had died a long time ago. There was no one left to take care of her but me, and she needed me; I knew she needed me.

“Don’t cry.” I reached to touch her shoulder, but she dodged my grip, lowering herself to the dusty ground. I watched as she gathered the blankets and put them back into the basket with shaking hands. Once she had finished, I waited for her to rise, but she didn’t; she just stayed there, motionless, with the blankets sitting there, a now ruffled mess held down by her pale hands.

“Ma.” I crouched down next to her and leant my weight against her shoulder. “I won’t leave.” It seemed so easy to say it, to even want it. 

There was a long pause, a great span of unbearable silence, before she said to me, “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.”

She took a deep breath before turning to me so that her forehead was against my own. “You need to go, Tom. I want you to go.”

I quickly stood, and turned, and ran my fingers through my hair, and looked up at the sun that temporarily blinded me. I breathed in. I breathed out. I tried not to focus on the stupid aching feeling inside of me. She was making a bigger sacrifice than I was, giving me her blessing, letting me go; now it was my turn to actually do what I told her I was going to. 

When I finally mustered the courage to turn around and look at her again, she was standing and smiling that beautiful, loving smile of hers. 

“I gave you my blessing. Don’t go be a coward now.” She patted my cheek, and then let the palm of her hand rest there for a while. “We aren’t really leaving each other, you know. We’re actually coming closer, joined always in His Sacred Heart.”  

It’s been a long time now since that farewell, but I can still see her face: wet cheeks and a smile, that same smile I imagine the Madonna had when she said farewell to her son as He sorrowfully trudged toward Calvary, the smile of a mother sacrificing her son for the glory of God. It’s that smile of hers that gets me through the unbearably hot nights, the rampant diseases, the lack of food, and the disappointment of lost converts. It is her smile that reminds me to smile in gratitude for the crosses God asks of me. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Through Thorns and to His Heart: A reflection on the Cross and Suffering

By Cara E. Ruegg

Beautiful Sacred Heart of Jesus by Theophilia; you can view her artwork by clicking her name

I have come to realize in life that the only way to immerse yourself deep in the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to penetrate through those thorns that surround His wounded heart. You can’t get to His heart, you can’t immerse yourself therein without likewise taking up your cross, be it great or small, and following Him.

A great story cannot be great without a climax arising from or after a trial. The prince and princess who meet, fall in love, and marry would not win our hearts if the prince did not have to first slay the dragon or the princess overcome a family crisis. You can’t take an elevator up Mount Everest and then claim you’ve climbed the mountain. You can’t love without sacrificing yourself.

Joy is made so much greater after suffering is experienced. The prisoner who comes out of his prison cell and gets to breathe the fresh scent of pine cones and grass likely appreciates it much more than the person who has never gone without. The girl who worked several jobs to pay for her education will likely walk up that stage to receive her diploma with much greater pride than the one whose parents paid for every cent.

No matter how naturally appreciative we are, we will undoubtedly be tempted to take things for granted, things that others are praying to have. Instead of shunning our crosses, whether they are those everyday tiny disappointments like being rained on or getting yelled at or running late for work, or if they’re those great crosses of losing a loved one or suffering an incurable disease or dealing with severe depression, we need to reflect on where these trials should be taking us and that isn’t toward self-pity and negativity and bitterness, that is inside the Sacred Heart of a loving God who suffered for us greater than we ever could for Him.

Love makes all burdens light.


Some direct inspirations for what was written:

Marlan Rico Lee's famous quote:

“Be grateful for the things and people you have in your life. Things you take for granted someone else is praying for”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Women, Do not Settle for Less than Your Knight: A Letter

Dear Women,

You deserve to be sought and pursued and treasured. You deserve a man who sees how blessed he is to have you and who reminds himself every day, especially on the hard days, why you are so special, why you deserve so much of his love, how you are beautiful and talented, how you get him to smile, how he can confide in you better than even some of his best blokes.

You deserve to be loved and made to feel like you are loved. You deserve to be loved even on days when you’re broken, not just on the days that you make him happy or the days you’re in a good mood. You deserve a man who will sacrifice everything to make sure you are okay, who will never leave you alone, who will check up on you later in the day multiple times if he by chance has to work and cannot be by your side.

Women, do not settle for less than your dreams. Do not settle for men who do not recognize your worth or will not act. You deserve to be pursued by a knight; you do not need to settle for a man who doesn’t want to fight for you, who’d rather it be easy. You want a man who will work for you and run through fire for you and not count the scars.

You deserve a man who respects you, who will treat you like a queen, who will protect you not only from his own sinful inclinations, but even from those around you. A real man will not let even his friends get away with belittling you or making you feel at all uncomfortable. The man you want will shield you from danger, will take you out of tempting situations, will suggest you stop watching a movie or show which he perceives harmful to your virtue.

A real man will pray with and for you. He will prove to be that sturdy pillar of Faith, which is an essential foundation to a good Catholic home. He will help you be a better woman, by gently (keyword: gently), pointing out things you need to work on in such a manner you will not feel discouraged and in such a manner you will, rather, feel encouraged to strive for even higher.

Together, in the fire of God’s love, you two are meant to be shaped into the image of Christ.   

Your friend, Cara