Seven Quick Takes: Five Years (and Counting) with Lady Philosophy

“[I]t seemed to me that there appeared above my head a woman of a countenance exceeding venerable. Her eyes were bright as fire, and of a more than human keenness; her complexion was lively, her vigour showed no trace of enfeeblement; and yet her years were right full, and she plainly seemed not of our age and time. […]
Even so the clouds of my melancholy were broken up. I saw the clear sky, and regained the power to recognise the face of my physician. Accordingly, when I had lifted my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, I beheld my nurse, Philosophy, whose halls I had frequented from my youth up.” –Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
When M and I were married five years ago today, we joked that he would always have a mistress and that her name was Lady Philosophy. Above is a passage by Boethius where he describes her; many of the virtues and subjects were personified in ancient times, and since we are so into tradition, it was natural to think of M’s area of study as his “mistress.” The great thing about Lady Philosophy is that she encourages my husband to know truth and to be virtuous. And she is really knowledgeable whenever we want to know if some random act is moral or need to figure out what category various  substances belong in.

Us as newlyweds! Photo by Jen Pagano

And now that I have rambled a bit I give you for my quick takes, great things about being married to my philosopher:
1. If he is in the other room for longer than I expected, he is usually perusing St. Thomas or any other text he happens to be reading. I love that I have a husband who gets distracted by books about being and substances.
2.  He always has something to talk about and keeps my mind off things besides diapers, cooking, and whether or not the baby has napped. I confess I will get distracted by the mundane, daily tasks at hand, but he is always encouraging me to think about and discuss ideas.

3. He has been taking out the trash, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing the laundry (even diapers!) the entirety of our marriage. We divided the household chores between us, since we cannot afford to pay a staff, and I am so thankful for it. M is better at his chores than I am, though he often talks about the time when the kids will take them over so that he can read more books.

4. He keeps his commitments and does his work well. Not many people spend only four years working on their doctorate and then land a tenure track position right away. But my amazing husband did. He wrote a paper the week after our first G was born, read countless articles with her on his lap, researched and wrote his 400+ page dissertation in our living room with head phones in while two girls under two played behind him (and a wife tried really hard not to talk to him constantly). He takes his work seriously and he always does what he promises he will do. I am so blessed to be loved by such a responsible man.

5. He is a great father. He is always willing to help with diaper changes, read stories, and have a family bedtime routine. He also dresses the kids and makes them breakfast most mornings. If he is working at home and the kids are napping, he does not mind if I run out to the store (alone!) or go for a run for exercise.

6. He loves me. And I love him. I do not normally get mushy on the internet, but it is our five year anniversary, so there it is.

7. He loves God.  We pray together everyday, with our kids, for our kids, and silent prayer when the kids are in bed. We take our kids to daily Mass, and most days pray a family rosary. God has been the center of our marriage and family life, and because of this we have grown in love of Him, each other, and our children daily.

Happy Anniversary to my dear husband!

(Head over to Jen’s Conversion Diary for more quick takes.)

A Letter to my Four Year Old

Dear G,

Today is the big day; you know the one when I leave you at “school” and trust you to people I trust. Home schooling was supposed to prevent this day from coming so soon, but then our parish announced Vacation Bible School in the bulletin and that there would be a group for four year olds. Are you really old enough already to join the big kids? I have been nervous for a month, and today I said goodbye (for three hours) as a teenager, who I am sure is awesome with kids, whisked you away to color with the other four year olds. It has only been 90 minutes, but I miss you. Thank you for being such a great kid, and one who loves her sisters and has great conversations with me. Thank you for being your sister’s best friend; I am not sure what she is going to do with herself with you not here. Thank you for being so excited to learn about the Bible and Saints with other kids at our parish. I can’t quite pinpoint this feeling I am having about you being on your own at VBS, it is one I have never had before. You are going to be doing all the “firsts” for me as a mother, so I better get used to it. I know you will be your best self, and be kind to all the other children, and I hope you will remember to listen to other adults.

From the moment you were born, our lives have been separating further and further apart. You were inside me, and then you were outside me but always in my arms or next to me, then you sat up and played with toys, then you learned to feed yourself with your own hands, then you started crawling, then walking, then talking, then playing independently. Now you get yourself your own snacks, spend a morning on your tricycle out in back, and can go off with other kids your own age and learn more about the Bible and God which we have taught you about since birth. But you will always come back home and our family is where you will learn to be you and learn to love. And that is what I will remember, that no matter where you go to learn from others, you will always have the foundation we have just barely begun to give you. I love you and am praying for you always!


The Simplicity of Pope Francis

Pope Francis in his simple ways reminds me a lot of my grandparents generation, those born during the thirties. I think we have all heard about a friend buying him new shoes as he headed out for the conclave. And his refusal to take on traditional parts of the papal dress, such as the mozzetta, and the fact that he would rather walk places than take a car a couple of blocks. These things remind me of how my grandfather will eat all of an apple, I mean all of it, until there is nothing but the stem remaining, and how he has simple, plain but healthy meals everyday of his life. And his shoes; I am not sure if I have ever seen him wear a new looking shoe in my life. He must buy new ones at some point. In this simplicity, there is a desire to not be wasteful with one’s possessions and to use each possession until it is no longer usable.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if Pope Francis let the papal fleet become a group of well maintained old cars? The simple lifestyle is not just using things until they are no longer useful, but it is also about being a good steward of what one does have. This simplicity is inspiring. Another aspect of his self-imposed simplicity is the fact that Jesuits take a vow of poverty; being pope does not make him no longer a Jesuit or exempt from his vows. Though I do not really know the tradition of how Jesuits lave lived their vow of poverty. And now the pope has decided to not live in the papal apartments. His simplicity in his personal life is inspiring (though I wish he would take his simple personal life and contrast it to worshiping God in beautiful liturgies full of splendor). I think we have a lot to learn from our new pope.
In the first-world, we do live in a wealth that was unimaginable to people even 100 years ago. We have machines for washing just about everything we own, indoor plumbing, electricity, the internet, and our material needs are always met. And when you look at the pictures of the pope’s suite in the Vatican “hotel,” his furniture is still super nice. St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life (I can’t stop referencing him, because he is so good!) talks about poverty of spirit in he midst of wealth. He says:
“ ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.’ (Matthew 5:3)…[Y]our heart be open only to heaven and impenetrable to riches and earthly things; if you possess them preserve your heart from loving them; let it rise above them, and be poor in the midst of wealth, and the master of its riches. Beware of losing the spirit of holiness in the good things of the world, but let your hearts always be the superior, not in them but above them.”
This is exactly is what Pope Francis is aspiring to. He realizes the dangers of being attached to the worldly goods that are so accessible to him and is opening his heart to the riches of Heaven. He has shown us that he is so open to the riches of Heaven in God’s mercy, but also in God in other people. I think he is trying to teach us that what matters more than anything is loving God and loving others. Our worldly possessions should not get in the way of loving others and a way of being detached from them is by having things be simple.
He said in his homily on Palm Sunday, “Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us.” I think Pope Francis is trying to show the Church and the whole world that we can have joy by living simply and loving others. I hope that he continues to embody and hold strong to his simplicity as his papacy continues; and is he persists he will have more of an impact on the world than he has in these first few weeks.

Letting the Kids Into the Shining Barrier

I recently reread A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I read it for the first time when M was on Crossroads and we were considering becoming engaged soon. The book is about the love story of Sheldon and his wife Jean (Davy). The started off as pagans when they met, and had a great love of beauty. When they first fell in love they decided that they wanted to preserve the springtime of their love with what they called the Shining Barrier.  The Shining Barrier was preserved by the sharing, of all ideas and things, and they wanted to defend against what they called “creeping separateness.” To do this they had regular talks about the “state of their relationship” and called each other out to have  total trust. They decided also that having children would destroy the Barrier and cause a creeping separateness, so they weren’t going to have children.

When M and I first read this book, we loved all the elements of it (except for the no children part). Our common studies and subjects made the sharing easy. When Sheldon and Davy converted to Christianity they had were unsure of how to incorporate God into their inloveness, but M and I never had that problem since our common faith was the base of our inloveness. We went to daily Mass together and Adoration daily for our whole 18 month engagement, and we prayed several of the hours together a day. We discussed everything that we read and read many of the same things. In my mind I always felt like we had that inloveness preserved.

Then we graduated and got married. I felt that we still had the strong bond with each other. My favorite time of day was the evenings after dinner when we would sit and read silently, read a play together, play cards, just be together. Then we had our first child. It was an adjustment, but once she was a few months old, she went to bed before us. We still had our evenings. We continued daily Mass. The same thing happened with our second child. We still had our evenings. We have been very possessive of our evenings together our whole marriage. I felt that as long as we had our evenings everything would continue happily. But children get older, don’t go to bed as early, and we had our third child. What used to be three hours of evening alone time has been reduced to about one, once the older kids fall asleep. And the kids are having trouble sleeping at night, unhappy a lot of the day, and begging us for attention. And I realized that Sheldon and Davy were right about kids ruining a Shining Barrier. We cannot continue as we had before. It is surprising to me that it has taken until the third kid to see how we have not loved them as we should have.

G running to the light.

I am not saying that I do not love my children, and I am really happy that I have three beautiful girls. I am just realizing that I lack the enthusiasm to be with my children and devote time to them that I’ve seen holy mothers that I know.  I am not in the habit of giving all my time to them, and in fact I am a little afraid to let go of everything and just love them with my whole life. I know it has to happen, but it is hard to be a mom and a wife and give everything. It also is okay that it did not happen naturally for me; I know that. If it were a purely natural thing, it would be much easier. But to lose oneself for others is a supernatural thing and it requires God’s grace. So I am surrendering to graces urgings and letting go for my children and my husband so that His grace will be the Shining Barrier of our family.

My Tribute to my NFP practioner (who is not an iPod App)

Natural Family Planning has been a big conversation topic lately among Catholic women in the blogosphere and internets. Jennifer Fulwiler wrote on it the other day for the National Catholic Register blog, how more Catholic women are becoming aware of the Church’s teaching on contraception. My friends Mary wrote about an app she has been using. A Catholic mom’s Facebook group I am in discusses it nonstop. I am going to talk about my awesome practitioner who taught me the Creighton Model System when I was a 19 years old and engaged to be married.

Photo by Jen Pagnan

That first meeting with her when I had only been charting four weeks, with my fiance (M of course), was definitely potentially very awkward. I don’t remember any of the details really, except that I was not having normal mucus. (Ewww, I am going to talk about mucus.) Anyway, through her help and through the research that has been done on mucus discharges, I learned to distinguish different types of mucus and follow my cycles. It was not easy and I had to be consistent in checking for mucus every time, EVERY TIME, I used the toliet, showered, went swimming. I charted for 15 months before I got married, and 12 months from the wedding we were fairly certain that a honeymoon baby was in order. She came nine months and a day from our wedding…

Then came the postpartum charting, which is super confusing, especially when you are nursing a baby and have nonfertile mucus most of the time plus not really sure if you are having cycle again or not? My practitioner reminded me to start charting again after my pregnancy, did follow-ups and chart reviews, and helped me understand what was going on with the my body. I can’t remember how many times I have called, emailed, or Facebook messaged her to get advice on whatever I was charting on various days. She always looks into the research and the studies and gives me helpful advice. When I have been so confused and needed support, she has listened to me cry and helped me figure things out.

Last week, we had my first postpartum follow-up after baby F. I had been having some confusing days of charting again, and when she looked at my chart and the research (I had already messaged her about things before the follow-up) she recommended that I go see my doctor for some progesterone to help balance out my hormones. It was then that I realized that I had been having a lot of symptoms of postpartum depression and needed to be treated. If it had not been for my charting and follow up I might have continued to wallow in my fatigued, overwhelmed, unhappy state. Since I was treated just a week ago (with a progesterone injection), I have noticed a huge difference in my ability to handle everyday life. Also, my childrens’ behavior is slowly improving. We are no longer dealing with temper tantrums in the middle of the night or right before bed (though the help of new parenting strategies have aided us there as well). We would not have been able to say calmly, “It is time to be obedient. It is time to be in bed,” a billion times if I had still been dealing with being depressed. It affected everyone in the family, and the fact that I was charting revealed the problem we did not even see. It is worth it not just for knowing when I can “achieve” and “avoid” having another baby, but for all aspects of my health as a woman.

So, not to go on a tangent from the point of this post, but I really wanted to say that Natural Family Planning takes work and effort on your part and you cannot really do it alone. Even the iPod app requires a doctors advice from time to time. Pick a method, find a practitioner, and stick with it. I have a regular doctor I see for my medical needs and for prenatal and postnatal care, my kids and husband have a doctor, I go to a doctor for my eyes, I go to one for my teeth, so why not use an expert to understand my fertility and help me live my life within the moral teachings of the Church which I love so much?

Losing Control: Trusting God and Those He Gives Us

When our newest addition was born four weeks ago, my parents came to help with the kids and house for a week, followed by my mother-in-law for another week. They took over many of my normal tasks so I could take care of the baby. And since they left, my husband, Mark, has been doing more than his fair share of the housework. The fact is that there is a lot more to do with a newborn around and for me, it is a lot harder to do my normal daily tasks. It has been difficult to let go of the way that I do things and just be thankful that others are serving me. I know it is a little over the top, but sometimes I just cannot be around when someone else is vacuuming for me; what if they use a different outlet than I do? (And seriously, I know I am not the only wife and mother who worries about these things.) Sometimes my anxiety causes me to wonder if it would be better for me to simply do the task myself than trust someone else to do it even though I truly need the help.
So what is going on? Why is it so hard to accept the aid and love of others? I have realized that as I have trouble trusting others to take care of things for me, I also have difficulty trusting God to care for me. I have found that when I am trusting God, I am happier, more peaceful, and more likely to trust as well. Further when I trust others to care for me, I have more trust in God.

In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Mary spends her time listening to Jesus teach while her sister Martha is preparing food and laboring to serve Jesus and her guests. As a mother, my life is spent being Martha to my children and husband and anyone who comes to my home. Because of this it is hard for me to remember there are times that I am called to be like Mary and to be ministered to by Jesus, be it from others or in a few moments during the day I have to pray. Having three children, one of them a newborn, is teaching me again that I must lose control of things that are less important and to trust God and others. I know that being a parent is continually leading me to surrender my need to control details of life and of my children’s lives. I am learning the things that are important to take care of with precision and the things that do not need as much attention. While the cleaning is important, how it is done is not. While raising children to be independent is important, having to tuck them in multiple times at night is good and teaches them that they are loved. In losing this control, I am learning to be like Mary, to accept from God the love He is giving me, and to not be “anxious and troubled about many things.”

We are all called to learn to be like Mary, no matter what our vocation. Mary is traditionally as seen as representing the contemplative life and Martha the active life, but we are all called to be contemplative to whatever extent our duties in life allow us to be. This is how we learn a true love of God, in trusting Him and learning how to be loved. This is why it is so essential to give control to God, even when life is full of uncertainties. Saints are the people who face the trials of life knowing that God loves them and trusting and loving God through it all, and it is in the little matters of trust that we learn to trust in the great matters.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Baptised at Last: Cradle Catholics

On Saturday the baby was baptised! Alleluia! She also came down with baby acne. I guess 3-4 weeks is about right for that to show up. We had a wonderful crowd of family and friends at the baptism (a great uncle and aunt with their three kids, three of four grandparents, the aunt and uncle godparents, a cousin plus a number of friends), and it was just a fraction of our Catholic family and friends that were present. M and I are both cradle Catholics and so are our parents. In fact our parents were also raised by cradle Catholics, and so on. The line of cradle Catholics goes back to at least my great grandparents on my side and probably further.

I am so blessed that my faith has been passed down to me from the Apostles through the Church and also from my parents and their parents. For all of high school, my grandmother in St. Louis was in my family’s parish. I would see her every Sunday in the front row and then would catch up with her after Mass. It was such a blessing to share this part of life with her. I have always known my mother’s parents, who live near Cleveland, to go to daily Mass. What great examples of holy lives they have given me. I see their marriage and how well they raised their seven children as an example to me of how to be holy, loving parents and spouses. As Catholics, we look to the lives of the Saints to learn how to love God and be saintly; and I feel so blessed to look to the lives of my people in my family to learn about being holy and Catholic.

It is so easy for cradle Catholics to take their faith and religion for granted; we need to realize that while our faith has been given to us by our parents, it is our responsibility to live the faith. We need to seek to have active prayer lives, go to Mass, have frequent Confessions; without these things, especially with the continued secularization and modernization of society, our faith will quickly fall by the wayside. M and I have discussed how many of the converts to Catholicism we know really know the faith and really care to live it well. Is there something about being raised Catholic that makes it harder for us? We could blame bad catechesis as children, but we are adults, so we need to take responsibility as adults. There are so many resources for learning about the Catholic faith, for example the catechism. Or one could look at New Advent for great resources about the Church.

And as a parent raising three little Catholics, I know the importance of teaching the faith to my children from a young age. I need to be an example of what I teach them in my behavior and in my life of prayer. I am so blessed to be continuing the line of cradle Catholics, and pray that my little ones grow up to bring more converts to the Church.

A Young Married Woman’s Thoughts on Vocational Discernment

It is Autumn again. This time of year always reminds me of the semester I spent in Austria. The campus is in a small little town in the smaller mountains of Austria. It was a beautiful fall with great friends and a retreat from the real world as we knew it. Though I suppose all of college is like that, especially at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

That fall semester in Austria was crucial to my relationship with M. I have been thinking about what it was like that semester not knowing what was going to happen with him. We had met the year before within the first weeks of college, and for me there was a pretty early attraction. There was also the complication of him planning on being a priest. The idea of marriage for him had never really entered his mind, and everyone expected him to be a priest. People still asked his mother a couple of years after our marriage if he was a priest yet, having not heard the other developments of marriage and children in his life.
By the Spring semester of our freshmen year, our mutual attraction was pretty clear. We were in the same group of friends which spent a lot of time together, eating meals, having prayer meetings, watching movies, and even doing homework. When things finally got to the point of needing to be discussed, it was all clear to everyone that there was something going on between us. The only catch was that he was in the pre-theologate program, which was for men discerning the priesthood. Coincidentally things came to a head on the Feast of St. Valentine. We discussed our mutual attraction and decided to put some space between us in our relationship, which meant that within our group of friends we tried to not talk to each other and pray about our friendship. He was the one who had to decide the most. I was not dating other men and was feeling ready to have a discerning relationship with M as long as he was ready himself. He, on the other hand, would have to make the major decision of leaving his priestly formation program to discern if we were meant to be together. He ended up leaving the program a week later and then we started dating the next day, both at the young age of 18.

Looking back I can see how we rushed into the relationship, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. When the summer break came, however, M was not so sure anymore if our relationship was the right thing for him. He felt the need to really make a decision about his call to the priesthood, or at least be at peace with not pursuing the priesthood so that we could pursue a possible future together. When he broke up with me that summer, I decided to pray again about being a religious sister.

I had thought about it on and off for all of high school and throughout my first year of college until I began dating M. Being the bride of Christ is an attractive vocation for a young woman seeking to live a holy life, but it never seemed quite right for me. Further, there was not one order in particular that I wanted to look into, which is essential for becoming a sister. There were some really great sisters that I know in high school, and it was to one of them that I talked about the vocation to religious life. I remember the conversation I had with her, while my heart was aching for M, about what being a sister entailed. As we spoke I realized in my heart that I could not let go of hope that M would decide to date me again. It was not some great revelation from God that I should not be a sister, it was the person of M, whom I cared for and felt drawn to that made me realize that I could not pursue the vocation of religious life.

Then we both went to Austria. We had three day weekends for traveling, and being in the same group of friends, we often were in the same traveling group. The campus was so small and the classes so limited that we had most of our classes together. M and I could not avoid each other very easily, and honestly we did not want to. He spent most of the semester trying to decide if he should date me again or not. When you expect to become a priest and everyone else you know has been expecting it for years, it is hard to decide otherwise. He prayed a lot; I prayed a lot. I spent the whole semester trying to give him the space he needed in such tight quarters as that small Austrian campus. His parents came to visit during that semester and he opened up to them about his discernment. He now describes his discernment that semester as realizing that vocation is more specific than one call or another, but it is to a specific person or in the case of religious life to a particular diocese or order. He could not know that he was called to be married until the person he was to marry was before him, discerning with him.

In the fall semester in Austria there was a Thanksgiving “Ball” where everyone dressed up in traditional Austrian clothes and learned the traditional dances. M asked me to go with him, and for the first time it felt like we had chosen something right for our relationship. He had come to the point of being ready to pursue our relationship further. He felt a freedom he had not felt before to discern our future together, and he realized deep down inside that if we did date again that we were going to get married. The ball was a lot of fun, though nothing became official that evening. We were still “just friends.” Two days later he asked me to take a walk with him after noon Mass and on that walk he asked me to date him again.

A year later we decided to get married, and 18 months after our engagement began we were married 10 days before my 22nd birthday.

I know that this story may not seem relevant to those discerning vocation who are older and not in college anymore, but I think what M and I discovered about our own vocations can be helpful for those thinking about their own. Whatever God has in store for you, He will be specific about it eventually. We are not called to broad sweeping ideas or vocations, we are called to do specific things. We are called to relationships with specific people, to specific groups of people, in specific places. And that is what we should discern when we discern our vocation.

On the Morality of Wearing Makeup

Update July 24, 2018:
I have a complete opinion on this matter that I wrote last December.

She came back from the job interview with a job offer in hand. As I talked to her about the student work position on our college campus, she mentioned that her new boss told her that she would be expected to wear makeup at her job. While I knew that women often wore makeup to work, I had never been required to wear it to work. I felt a little upset for my friend who sat through being told by a man that she — a young, pretty woman — had to wear makeup while men who worked in the same workplace had no such requirement.

Up to this point it had seemed normal to me that one would choose to wear makeup in a professional or formal setting, but when it was imposed on my friend I started to feel that there was a problem with it. With so many women coming out with their stories and accusations of men treating them with impropriety, we need to dig deeper into the causes of this problem. The expectation that women use cosmetics is just one of many contributing factors our society’s tendency to reduce women to objects to be used rather than human persons to be loved.

Read the rest here.

Lately, I have been thinking about the morality of wearing makeup. As in all moral questions in this household, St. Thomas Aquinas gave his opinion from the Summa Theologica first. If you don’t want to read the questions linked, I will make a brief summary.

In the first article he asks if there can be “virtue and vice in connection with outward apparel”? He answers that the vice one could have from outward apparel comes from the person using the apparel immoderatly, 1) being contrary to the customs among those whom one lives and 2) by having immoderate attachment to the apparel. Under number two one can have these vices a) dressing to seek glory, b) too much attention to sensuous pleasure (only focusing on the bodies pleasure in dress), and c) being too solicitous in regards to one’s outward attire. Thus, one must seek the virtues of humility and contentment to overcome the vices of immoderation in dress.  While one can be too focused in this way, one can also be deficient.  In neglecting one’s outward apparel, one can also be seeking glory by giving the appearance of being in the service of God, thus deriving glory from others’ opinions. But one can also be deficient in the social customs of dress and neglect to have the correct knowledge of how one is to present oneself. One last point is that one should dress according to one’s station in life so as to be truthful in how one presents oneself.

So, how does this apply to makeup and cosmetics? The second question is “Whether the adornment of women is devoid of moral sin?”

Okay, I am not trying to make anyone angry, and I am not trying to offend anyone. Part of being a Christian is examining our lives and choosing to live morally. I am simply trying to examine the morality of wearing makeup which is so culturally expected and in many cases required of women. Be prepared for a shocking response….

St. Thomas says that a woman should dress so as to not lead others into sin. That sounds about right. He also says that a “married woman can adorn herself to please her husband without sin.” So, if one’s husband prefers it (and it does not violate moral law), she should please him! What if one is single? If one has no wish to marry, then it is wrong to wear things that incite men to lust, especially if that is one’s intention.

St. Frances De Sales says in Chapter 25 of Introduction to the Devout Life, that “a wife may dress to please her husband, and that it is lawful for a maiden to dress to please her friends.” He explains that “propriety in dress consists in material, fashion, and cleanliness.” And as “to the material and fashion of clothes, propriety in these respects depends on various circumstances such as time, age, rank, those with whom you associate; and it varies on different occasions.” This sounds reasonable and even very practical. One dresses nicer for a wedding than for everyday occasions. And it would be silly to paint the house or scrub the floor in my best clothes! Once again one is to pay attention to the social acceptability. When considering cleanliness there is frequent bathing (which is often hard for mother’s of young children) and maintaining other hygienic habits.

One thing I want to say here is that the social customs, no matter how prevalent, do not usurp the moral law. And while I will not list them here, there are a number of common social customs that are clearly in violation of the moral law. That being said, it is possible for social customs to be wrong.

Now we come to Question 169, Article 2, Objection 2 (links and text from the source linked above at Cyprian says (De Habit. Virg.): “I hold that not only virgins and widows, but also wives and all women without exception, should be admonished that nowise should they deface God’s work and fabric, the clay that He has fashioned, with the aid of yellow pigments, black powders or rouge, or by applying any dye that alters the natural features.” And afterwards he adds: “They lay hands on God, when they strive to reform what He has formed. This is an assault on the Divine handiwork, a distortion of the truth. Thou shalt not be able to see God, having no longer the eyes that God made, but those the devil has unmade; with him shalt thou burn on whose account thou art bedecked.” But this is not due except to mortal sin. Therefore the adornment of women is not devoid of mortal sin.”

St. Thomas responds to the objection with this: Cyprian is speaking of women painting themselves: this is a kind of falsification, which cannot be devoid of sin. Wherefore Augustine says (Ep. ccxlv ad Possid.): “To dye oneself with paints in order to have a rosier or a paler complexion is a lying counterfeit. I doubt whether even their husbands are willing to be deceived by it, by whom alone” (i.e. the husbands) “are they to be permitted, but not ordered, to adorn themselves.” However, such painting does not always involve a mortal sin, but only when it is done for the sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God, and it is to like cases that Cyprian refers. 

It must, however, be observed that it is one thing to counterfeit a beauty one has not, and another to hide a disfigurement arising from some cause such as sickness or the like. For this is lawful, since according to the Apostle (1 Corinthians 12:23), “such as we think to be the less honorable members of the body, about these we put more abundant honor.””

The main objection is that when one puts makeup on a human face, one is creating a falsehood by presenting ones made-up face as one’s own face, and further “assaulting” the “Divine handiwork.” These are strong accusations and I have already heard several reactions to them.

1) These statements were made for that time and not our time. I do not see this a a good objection. Women throughout history have always worn makeup and covering one’s face in the past is not different than covering one’s face now.

2) Makeup is to accentuate one’s beauty and does not cover up God’s creation except the blemishes which St. Thomas says is okay. I think this is a valid point and can see how makeup does not cause one to counterfeit one’s appearance.

3) What about social custom?  It is socially prevalent, and one person compared it to “shaving legs.” Another person pointed out that there is a material difference between removing body hair and applying layers of chemicals to one’s face creating a sort of mask.  Another point is that are the social customs just adding to the objectification of women? If a woman does not wear makeup in the workplace is she seen as less? Is expecting woman to wear makeup making her lower than men? (I have heard from a trustworthy man that he has heard many negative things about women who don’t wear makeup from other men). If a woman in Western society does not wear makeup, is she deficient in the social customs category? Does it depend on how socially acceptable her natural complexion is?

These are all questions that have disturbed me while considering the morality and I really am not sure how to answer them. If you have an opinion, I would love to hear it. Please comment here so as to keep the discussion in one place!

One thing is clear to me, and that is if there is vanity and lack of humility in one’s personal wearing of makeup, then it is sinful to do so. The points about seeking glory, seeking pleasure, and inordinate attachment to are applicable to wearing makeup. Can one also be deficient?

The Examined Life

Between Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life by Giuliana Pelluchi, and Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers, I have had time to reflect on sainthood and the call every person has to it.

Merton reflected that every person is different, yet we are all called to be like God, and when we become holy we become like God; each individual person reflects God in a different way. We can all become super holy, be like God, but also be entirely different from each other! Which makes a lot of sense when you look at the variety of saints we have out there. Though they all have in common, a strong love of God and others and a life of prayer with loyalty to the Church and her teaching.

So, what can we learn from all these Saints. When I think about Saints, I often look at the seemingly glamorous things they did, by glamorous I mean attractive because they were super holy and beyond what the average person does, i.e. stigmata, martyrdom, extreme poverty. Then I think, wow my life is pretty boring and slow-paced compared to that, there is no way I could become a Saint. Plus, I fail at living up to my calling everyday; I sometimes think the only way I could be super holy is to experience extreme persecution or start having super mystical experiences. Seriously, that is the stuff you here about in the lives of the Saints that inspires you. When you read the little bio in the breviary or missal, you generally ignore the “she lived a really holy life” and skip straight to the she had her breasts cut off and they grew back and then she was martyred. But if you think about it it really was the holy life before these great acts of holiness that made them a Saint. St. Gianna already lived a saintly life before she gave up her life for her child. Thomas Merton had potential to become a Saint in his striving to become holy day by day and eliminating his tendencies to sin. Space Vulture could have become good if he turned from his mortal sins.

St. Francis de Sales lays out the framework for holiness in his book. He explains that to be holy one has to live an examined life–every detail surrounding sin must be explored and weeded out. It is a tedious process, and it is difficult, but with grace we all can become saints. It is the daily choice all saints make to pray, to love God and others, to grow in virtue, to embrace one’s state in life.

I feel very fortunate that my desire to be a wife and mother has been fulfilled so early in life, and now I am realizing that it is a day by day choice to love and serve. By doing this and by seeking God’s grace in all I do and allowing him to work through me; that is how I will become a saint. Pray for me.