Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waiting for “the one” to find you?

A lot of advice columns and spiritually oriented books advise singles to lay low, send out good energy, and let their spouse find them.

I tried it with the best of intentions. Did it work? I don’t really think so. I mean, my positive thinking may have helped, but the fact is that I thought God was calling me to marriage and I consciously pursued that call.

When we think of marriage as a vocation and calling, pursuing it makes sense. Sure – we may passively await a “call” in prayer and read God’s message to us in our lives, but from my experience, the “God helps those who helps themselves” adage has a surprising amount of truth in it.

So yes, go out and meet people, maybe join dating services, be clear about your desire to have a family. If you take the “let your spouse find you” advice too seriously and too literally, the expectation can be that God will literally send your ideal mate out of thin air to your doorstep. Unlikely! The “avoidance” formula can actually mean that you miss opportunities to meet people and relinquish all responsibility for your own future.

Free will is a beautiful thing! Go out there and get it! Create it!

I have heard that other cultures regard delaying marriage for no particular reason as sinful. I think that is interesting because in communities where young adults are being encouraged to pursue religious life, they may be told, “You know, to not ask God about his intentions for you is self-centered.” Well, what about listening to a call to marriage? A call to have children? It’s no less important. To have priests and nuns, someone needs to raise good children!

There are many philosophies and thought patterns that I see that prevent people from forming the committed relationships they so deeply desire. It could be “My heart is too broken to try again,” or “Maybe I’m just not supposed to marry…even though my heart wants it.” Or, “The world is just too messed up for kids, so why have them?” It's fear based.

If you feel a strong desire to marry and have a family, and your life is pointing in that direction…taking that seriously is the best thing you can do for yourself. Don’t waste time “avoiding” relationships if what you really want is a relationship.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Catholic Singles Feel Angst

Check my article in the Washington Times about Catholic singles!

Through interviews with Washington DC area Catholic singles, this article addresses the problems they face when trying to find a spouse and vocation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Candor

I recently wrote an article for the Washington Times that is slated to appear in the Culture section this Thursday. It's on Catholic singles...surprise, surprise! Through the experience, the theme of "candor," and the power of it, kept re-emerging. The power is there when either positive and negative experiences are shared.

Thankfully, I was supported in this project for the Times by several single Catholics who were happy to talk to me about their experiences. Their openness enabled me to write an article that accurately represented the single Catholic scene in the DC area. The more candid they were, the more powerful the story.

Some of the people I interviewed were very open, but asked to remain anonymous. This can be understandable in some circumstances and depending on what they shared. A newspaper usually demands some background info a general job description or place of residence. Others gave me very spiritual qoutes or explanations of Church teaching...which was not as helpful for the newspaper article necessarily, but interesting.

Many of my single friends will tell me horror stories about their experiences in the Catholic dating community, or explain that they see a pattern, or a particular subject area that is frustrating many people - but this candor can disappear when it's time to tell more than just their closest friends. They may fear hurting a friend, an ex, or causing scandal by admiting that things can go terribly wrong. The Church really needs to hear some of these stories though...because in some cases, the issues are causing people to delay marriage, to reconsider marriage, to give up on something, to live in confusion and depression...

Why the reluctance to share among Catholics, I wonder? You a former Protestant, I remember that sharing was really promoted as a means of communicating what the Lord was doing in your life. People were eager to talk about their relationship with the Lord, their lives, their journey. When I became Catholic, I noticed that folks were more reserved. They didn't "witness" as much.

Also, I notice this because I am a fixer. If I hear about a problem, I want to contribute to the solution. I want to improve the world around me. If I can't eliminate some of the issues, I at least want to give people the tools to make better choices and be more discerning. Not talking about a problem can mean that a solution is never created or tried out.

And here's the deal: the people I talked to from the Washington Archdiocese really wanted to help singles...but they can't know what to do unless people suggest it and are willing to help out! They need people to ask. Out of my years of frustration, I don't think I ever sent in a suggestion or any feedback.

What if someone wants to hear a good story? People need to hear about success stories. Finding people to tell them to you or a large audience can be challenging though! I have observed on at least three occasions, that Catholic lady friends disappeared completely once they founnd a spouse. They didn't pass on any lessons learned, support any of their former girlfriends, or remain accessible. They got amnesia about their previous struggles and got all detached. I know that life changes...but come least tell your good story!

I found a married Catholic woman with grown children to pass on her lessons learned to me when I was dating, and it was extrordinarily helpful to me. She also had remain plugged into the lives of single women in her community and family, so she was knowledgable about a variety of relationship scenarios. Singles need that support, and we can't have it if once we are not longer single....we vanish. and do not talk about our life experiences.

Many times, people freak out when dating, getting engaged, whatever...and they need a married person to help them get through it. I've seen it many times. But this requires candor and openess!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vatican Issues Guidelines for Discernment to the Priesthood

A document titled "Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood," was released Oct. 30 by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

One of my friends who has seen instances of seminary candidates with psychological problems and a generalized comfort with hypocrisy showed me the document.

Happily, the document lists some traits that a candidate should have:

“Some of these qualities merit particular attention: the positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity, and the capacity to form relations in a mature way with individuals and groups of people; a solid sense of belonging, which is the basis of future communion with the presbyterium and of a responsible collaboration in the ministry of the bishop;[10] the freedom to be enthused by great ideals and a coherence in realizing them in everyday action; the courage to take decisions and to stay faithful to them; a knowledge of oneself, of one's talents and limitations, so as to integrate them within a self-esteem before God; the capacity to correct oneself; the appreciation for beauty in the sense of "splendour of the truth" as well as the art of recognizing it; the trust that is born from an esteem of the other person and that leads to acceptance; the capacity of the candidate to integrate his sexuality in accordance with the Christian vision, including in consideration of the obligation of celibacy.[11]”

The document reminded everyone that many mistakes are made in the vocations process.

Section 4 states:
“The document of this Congregation for Catholic Education, A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy, recognizes that "errors in discerning vocations are not rare, and in all too many cases psychological defects, sometimes of a pathological kind, reveal themselves only after ordination to the priesthood. Detecting defects earlier would help avoid many tragic experiences."[16]”

The document also warns of eager candidates minimizing problems to psychologists or other people they encounter in the vocations process. At the same time, some people are overly scrupulous and accuse themselves too much.

“Nor must it be forgotten that there is a possible tendency of some candidates to minimize or deny their own weaknesses. Such candidates do not speak to the formators about some of their serious difficulties, as they fear they will not be understood or accepted. Thus, they nurture barely realistic expectations with respect to their own future. On the other hand, there are candidates who tend to emphasize their own difficulties, considering them insurmountable obstacles on their vocational journey.”

This is all very good.

However, here is my concern. Nothing in the process, as far as I can tell, has really changed. The same psychologists, vocations people, and other “formators,” as the document calls them, will be privately considering a person’s suitability for seminary. They will ask questions and encourage the man to be honest about his strengths and weaknesses. This isolated process can cause a problematic blind spot.

How can it be truly determined if a man’s actions are in line with his beliefs and words if people from his community are not consulted? The fear of accidentally damaging a man’s reputation, or prying too much into his life is more important than doing a thorough job of testing his word. The top secret security clearance process in the government seems slightly more rigorous than this.

Why do I care? I care because I know that as a single Catholic woman, I saw men cherry picked from the Catholic scene who had brought scandal to the community. I also met and interviewed other women with the same stories and observations. When women speak up about their observations, they are rarely taken seriously.

If we want to really reduce the number of scandals among the priesthood, it seems that we really should give people in the community a voice when they have something to contribute to the discernment process.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Life as a Government Gypsy

I am currently working on a book called "My Life as a Government Gypsy" and it is getting some nice PR.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ticket to Spending the Day With Kids

Check out on Tap Magazine for my latest interview with a female bartender.

She reveals which sneakers are best to wear and is very creative with her work schedule. She can work nights and stay home with her kids during the day. How is that for a flexible work schedule?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Look for my articles in print publications

I know the internet is cool, but don't forget to support the print publications too!

1) An interview I did will appear in the September 2008 edition of On Tap Magazine. Be sure to get a free copy at your local restaurants! I interviewed a female bartender from Va. who almost made it to the Olympic ski team. She stopped skiing due to injuries and has served drinks for 10 years at Mango Mikes. She is a neat person and her hours allow her to spend time with her children during the day.

2) Ladies, check out Canticle Magazine at It is a print publication especially for Catholic women. I'll have an article in the November/December edition for military wives who have husbands and family members deployed during the Christmas season.

Writing that article made me think of all of the girlfriends who are currently going through deployments too though. Try courtship when your man is deployed for a year! It's happening - and Gen X and Y couples are oftentimes delaying marriage until after the deployment, which is a major change from previous generations. The positive side is that these couples are proving that relationships can flourish without being physical in nature, which adds ammo to the whole cause for chastity.

3) If you miss that one, try to get a subscription to the magazine for Christmas. My tips to finding a Catholic husband will appear in the January/February edition.

What's next?

I am currently working on a piece called the "Secular Sisterhood," which is about how a lot of Catholic dating advice is producing a growing community of Catholic women who are never making it to the altar. Problem is...they say and think they are called to marriage. Stay tuned for my take on the dilemma.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Amy's Quick Tips

I was in the single Catholic community in DC for a few years and during that time, I collected dating tips that I am passing on to you!

I helped coordinate a discussion group about Pope John Paul II's Love and Responsibility for a while at the Catholic Information Center, and through that experience, I was exposed to every Catholic dating book under the sun. Frankly, most of them were for beginners, idealistic, and written by people who had never closed the deal on a real life marriage. While they had some good insights, they sometimes lacked information that was applicable for women who were already established, educated, and maybe even been through a few relationships that did not lead to marriage.

I'll be adding to this quick tips check back soon...

Amy's Quick Tips:

Discern!: Make sure that you make a definitive decision on whether you are called to religious life or married life. Put a reasonable time limit on this process and give yourself parameters if you have been at this for a long time. This process should not take years! I not let this process take forever. God only lets us live this life for a limited amount of time, which means that we need to carefully manage our talents, gifts, dreams, and the vocation/life mission He has given each of us.

Take the Initiative: If you want to explore religious life, make an appointment for a retreat with a convent. If you are called to marriage, go to events and consider online dating sites. The point is: don’t just sit around watch TV.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist: If you are called to marriage, that does not mean waiting to find someone who is literally perfect. By being a perfectionist, you waste time, overlook nice guys, and risk missing the point of marriage altogether, which is patience, generosity, and compromise.

Think Outside the Box: If years are going by and you are not finding someone, take out your list of “must haves” and start editing. It doesn’t take that much to form a valid Catholic marriage and have children.

Article: Breaking the Silence

When Pope Benedict XVI came to the United States in April 2008, his courage, honesty, and sensitivity dominated the news. The introverted Pontiff with a love for Mozart captured the hearts of many people who lined the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Popemobile. His compassion for sex abuse victims and in-person meetings with them provided a moving story of sympathy and healing. When the Pope instructed the U.S. bishops to confront problems within the Church responsibly, he provided a vision for a future free from the oppressive weight of denial and uncomfortable silence. While it is our Holy Father who is empowered to define the overall vision, it is for us to work out the practical strategies needed to make that vision a reality.

I cannot predict who will or will not become an abusive priest, but I can speak about the endemic weaknesses in the vocations process and start a dialogue. Specifically, many men who either go to seminary or who seriously entertain the idea of a religious vocation for prolonged periods of discernment are in trouble. They slip through the cracks and their patterns go unnoticed. They are not emotionally whole, and often leave a trail of victims behind in the form of ex-girlfriends and former fiancées who played the role of confidante, cheerleader, and armchair psychologist. The insights and concerns of the women are ignored and hidden in a shroud of shamed-based silence, or lost in the pile of administrative paperwork.

One of my goals is to raise awareness of this issue and impart a greater understanding of the potential problems that can arise by ignoring the “other victims” and feedback they have to offer. In doing so, I want priests, vocations directors, mental health professionals and educators to acknowledge the situation with a renewed sense of responsibility. They have the power and influence to push for a more rigorous and carefully considered vocations process, and also for more counseling and healing opportunities for men and women who need them.

I believe this is a serious problem that has gotten too big to sweep under the rug. A high number of women have been harmed by men who not only treat them with disrespect, but who later attempt to be role models and representatives of faith. The hypocrisy can leave broken hearts, lost voices, and deep reservations about Church leadership and social teachings. I want my book to show these women that they are not alone and assist them in spotting red flags early on in a potential relationship. In today's transparent culture, it is vital that we do our best to ensure that our communities reflect our beliefs accurately.

Three Archtypes to Avoid Dating!

Let us visit the neighborhood parishes, Catholic colleges, and campus ministries. Hang out in a large group of young, devout Catholics for long enough and you will see a man who is the epitome of one of these archetypes, or perhaps a hybrid. The main archtypes are “the Weaver,” “Mr. Smokey,” and “the Dabbler.”

1- The Troubled Dream Weaver: Faith can be consoling for people who are dealing with serious psychological issues and mental illnesses. God may seem to be the only person who understands the Weaver, hence, a strong prayer life can support him when he otherwise lacks an anchor. At the same time, the Church clearly states that people with severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis cannot be permitted to enter religious life. Nevertheless, Weavers may continue to discern a vocation and publicly discuss their intentions regardless of mental health problems and ongoing emotional instability.

Since medical files are protected under privacy laws in most scenarios, a Weaver can potentially lead people on about a vocation or discernment process for a long time. Sometimes the medical files won't even help if the Weaver avoids diagnosis or simply does not have the money to seek treatment, which puts more responsibility on the vocations directors and other professionals involved. To add another curveball to the process, Weavers may not have many long term friends to keep them centered and realistic, and a Weaver can float from one burned bridge to a new confidant quite frequently. They tend to be opinionated, and it may be impossible for them to coexist alongside someone who has even a slightly different view of the world.

2-The Smoke and Mirrors Addict: Mr. Smokey sews his oats as a dishonest “player” to build his puffed up ego. In his search for meaning, he starts emotionally charged relationships with women, but does not have the maturity to transition from infatuation to long term commitments. The women are left stunned by his lack of stability, integrity, and moral compass, and even more shocked when he later applies his playing skills to seminary.

These guys are typically emotionally hurting or lost, but rather than address their weaknesses, they re-package themselves for church activities and seminary, misrepresenting themselves with camouflage. This can mean leaving their home state and going to a seminary in another state or country. Although the acceptance process is meant to catch deceitful applicants, it doesn't always work. Mr. Smokey can be very intelligent, calculating, and wear masks with skill. He may aspire to be in a position of authority and be very capable of crystallizing dreams into reality.

3- The Dabbler and Commitment-Phobe: The Dabbler hops in and out of seminary and relationships with women, sometimes for years on end, with no commitment to either in sight. The woman becomes hurt and disillusioned in this tricky dance where a move forward could actually be a move backwards. He is not emotionally mature enough for seminary, but he is accepted with a hero’s welcome each time he returns for another try. These men do not learn to respect women in relationships and they enter seminary in need of transformation. Dabblers are usually educated, pleasant, and attractive to women, so they may waste years of other people’s time and attention. Frequently, they appear so innocent and well-meaning that it is hard for some people to catch on to their pattern and help them. Some Dabblers are aware of their problem and frustrated because they cannot find a decisive solution and declare victory, but others are clueless.

I know that some men pursue seminary with honesty and sincerity, and are worthy of our admiration. It is no secret that many priests are selfless givers who put other people first on a daily basis. The problem is that there are enough men who do not walk in truth that three archtypes became apparent. Unfortunately, I memorized warning signs as a single Catholic woman who, after numerous encounters with confused young men, was determined to avoid these landmines. While the details and characteristics may overlap and vary, I found that picking out these major themes helped me tremendously.

You Are Not Alone!

This website is dedicated to single Catholic women. It will provide advice and girl talk on:

  • The Catholic dating scene
  • Discernment and vocations to marriage
  • Breaking the Silence: My inside scoop on the dysfunctional men we waste time on.
  • Finding the right balance between faith and practical life issues
  • Being empowered and living God's vision for you
  • Books, articles, restaurant, and culture reviews