Monthly Archives: June, 2015

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation


When you travel, do you bring one book with you or a pile of them? Is that pile still a load of paper to lug around, or do you use an e-book reader like a Kindle or your iPad to help carry the load? (Even if you prefer paper, it can get heavy when you’re traveling!)

Great question! I struggle with this concept every time I travel. I don’t travel much, so that helps resolve the twin dilemmas of one versus many and paper versus e-book.

These days, I bring just one book, and it’s a paper book. (It is usually also a paperback.) I used to justify carrying a real book because I didn’t have an e-reader or smartphone anyway, and it doubled as a boarding pass holder. Even after I converted to mobile boarding passes, I still carried a physical book because you could keep reading while electronic devices had to be shut off. Now that that is a thing of the past, and I’m using my phone more for non-reading tasks, I carry a physical book to conserve battery life. Also, I am a creature of habit.

The real problem for me lies in projecting my progress. If I’m almost finished with a book, I want to finish it before I start a new one, but I also don’t want to finish my book too soon and be stuck without anything to read for days. Sometimes, I have to just quell my inner organizer and start a new book for the trip. I rarely quit a book without finishing, so that usually takes care of my trip reading.

A few years ago, I accidentally finished my book while I was home for Christmas, so I grabbed one of my old “off-site” favorites off the shelf and read that! Now that most of those books have been evicted, there are fewer left for emergencies. At least the ones that are left are the good ones.

And yes, not having a book to read constitutes an emergency.

For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Single Life Is Not a Vocation

One of my grad school friends teaches middle school religion. She also has a blog, but hers is a lot more about teaching (her job) than mine is ever about construction admin work (my job). She posted recently about her joyful experience teaching her students about the priesthood. It’s part of the vocations section of her curriculum (produced by the Congregation of Holy Cross, who run Notre Dame, where we went to grad school), and she mentioned that they were covering four vocations.

Single life is not a vocation. I'm single, and I'm okay with that.

Four vocations. That caught my eye. As far as I am concerned, there are only three vocations. I asked a few questions in the comments section1 to clarify and draw out the discussion. She kindly replied to my comment, but my follow-up response got so long2 that I decided to turn it into a blog post instead.

The first three vocations in her vocations unit are the same ones every Catholic recognizes: marriage, priesthood, and religious life. I’m on board with that.

The fourth is single life. That is where I have a totally different point of view. The broader sense of vocation (i.e. anything God is calling you to do) has been mixed up with the narrower sense of vocation. I don’t think single life as a vocation belongs in the same category as marriage, priesthood, and religious life.

As I see it, there are vowed vocations, and then there are all the other kinds of vocations.

What Makes Vowed Vocations Different

Vowed vocations are marriage, priesthood, and religious life. You have to take a vow to enter any of those vocations, so I’m going to make an effort to call them “vowed vocations” from now own. It’s so clever, and everybody loves alliteration.3 None of those vocations become a binding commitment until you take the associated vow. At any point before you take that vow, you can slow down the formation process or completely walk away. Once you’ve take the vow, you’ve taken on a new state in life.

Furthermore, people in vowed vocations all commit to someone else by definition. You can’t get married, become a priest, or become a religious unless another person (your intended spouse, your bishop, or your superior, respectively) agrees that God is calling you to that vocation. Once you take the vow, that person is stuck with you (hopefully in a positive way).

Still furthermore, you can enter vowed vocations without needing permission to leave your current state, and you must have permission to leave them. My friend noted that she and her curriculum emphasize that vocations can change; that’s true, but you can’t just walk away from marriage, priesthood, or religious life. We are all born unmarried, not priests, and not religious (the noun, as in monks and nuns; not the adjective, as in spiritual). If you want to get married, be ordained a priest, or become a religious, you don’t need to be released from single life first. If you are already a spouse, priest, or religious, you will need permission to go back to being single or to take on another vowed vocation. For those reasons, I consider vowed vocations permanent. They last for a lifetime.

The Other Kind of Vocation

On the other hand, since “vocation” means “a call,” you can use the word “vocation” to apply to anything God might be calling you to be or do. If you have a profession or volunteer commitment that helps you grow in holiness and joy, you can call that a vocation. If that profession or volunteer position is made easier by your being unmarried and childless, you might conclude that God is calling you to stay that way. Dawn Eden, a Ph.D-level theology student, writer, and speaker, revealed in her new book that she has consecrated her celibacy to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for exactly that reason. You could also be called by God to be a theologian, writer, and speaker who is married and has children, though. Jason & Crystalina Evert, their six children, and the Chastity Project are my favorite example of that. You could be called by God to work in or run a completely secular business in a spiritually-informed manner. Those are all valid, licit, real, joyful, fruitful, pick-your-favorite-positive-adjective calls from God. In that sense, they are absolutely vocations. They bring life to the world.

That is where the similarity ends. In contrast to vowed vocations, non-vowed vocations don’t require you to take a vow (of course), and you can combine them with a vowed vocation. You can be a spouse and parent who does honest, faith-inspired tech work from a home office. You can be a priest who does public speaking. You can be a religious who grows coffee beans. You can be a never-married single person who is an author. You can be any of those and be a missionary evangelist. If you decide to stop doing tech work, speaking, growing, writing, or evangelizing in mission territory, you haven’t broken a vow, and you remain a spouse, priest, religious, or never-married single. They’re not inherently connected.

Continuing the contrast, a non-vowed vocation can be discerned by one person alone. You might need clients, an audience, customers, readers, or people to evangelize, but your pastor doesn’t need to agree that God is calling you to be a techie/speaker/farmer/writer/evangelist. You identify it, and then you’re in.4 No one is stuck with you as a fellow techie/speaker/farmer/writer/evangelist or your client/audience/customer/reader/student, positively or negatively.

As I noted above, you can have a vowed vocation and a non-vowed vocation. A non-vowed vocation doesn’t usually require you to be married, divorced (with or without an annulment), widowed, a priest, a religious, or a never-married single. It may be easier in one of those states of life, but it’s rarely required. (I was a never-married single facilitating marriage prep. Your oncologist doesn’t need to be a cancer survivor.) Thus, you don’t need to leave your current state in life to enter non-vowed vocations. If you want out of your non-vowed vocation, you might have to find another means of financial support or something else to do with your time, but you don’t need the Church’s permission. You can change jobs or volunteer in another field at any time. Non-vowed vocations come with great freedom.

What to Do with the Singles

Looking at history, most people get married eventually. Some become priests or religious later in life after having never married. But we currently have a larger population of never-married Catholics who aren’t also priests or religious than ever before (at least in the U.S.), and we’ve blurred the line between vowed and non-vowed vocations in an attempt to figure out what to do with them. Some (like Dawn Eden) are intentionally remaining single. They feel called by God to a non-vowed vocation and do not feel called by God pursue any vowed vocation.Some have made promises, consecrations, or private vows to solemnify that decision to remain single for life.5 That is awesome, and I’d imagine it gives them an incredible sense of purpose, clarity, and peace. It does not, however, give them a vocation on the level of priesthood, marriage, or religious life.

The problem is that many never-married people do feel called to a vowed vocation and do not feel called to intentionally remain single. You can be single but plan to (or hope to) be ordained a priest, get married, or become a religious; thus, you’d be single but not feel called to remain so. You could even be living a non-vowed vocation and still be waiting for the day you will take a vow. This is my life. I live in the “already, but not yet.”

I do not feel called to religious life, and I do not feel called to remain single. This is not the time for that story, but trust me; I’m pretty sure. I do feel called to be a reader, writer, and teacher. This blog and my professional and volunteer activities answer that call. I don’t think you can be called to marriage in general, though; you can only be called to marry a specific person. (If you’re already married, that person is your spouse.) So, although I never identify myself as being called to marriage, I hope I will hear that call someday. I don’t have a vowed vocation, but I want to.

This opinion admittedly doesn’t bring much encouragement, but I think it carries much more logic and realism than the other point of view: insisting that being single means you are called to it as others are called to priesthood, marriage, or religious life. It remains possible that I will never marry despite my desire to. It remains possible that I have a “missed vocation.” (I’m still working out my thoughts and feelings on that.) But trying to shove my single self into a sphere where I don’t belong is not going to help. Identifying just three vocations is fine by me.

  1. Hers is usually very quiet, but comments are not dead. I still leave comments. 
  2. Don’t be that person who posts a huge wall of text as a comment. If you need more than one 5–7 sentence paragraph to make your point, be more concise or post it on your own blog. 
  3. The “clever” part is sarcastic. I’ve also heard them called “permanent vocations,” or “states in life” as opposed to just “vocations.” 
  4. Religious communities can be a little stricter. For example, some communities are teaching orders, so if you can’t teach, you might not be accepted into that community. 
  5. You might be wondering about consecrated virgins. That is a public, vowed vocation. Consecrated virgins must be female (as far as I can tell) and either never-married or widowed (a.k.a. free to marry). If they later wish to marry, they must be released from their vows. 

What I Wore Sunday: Waterproof


Another week, another whirlwind period of dressing for Mass. This week, I had to contend with a surprise thunderstorm rolling through town. I’m not a fan of platitudes, so I’ve never bought into the “wait five minutes for the weather to change” line. Yes, the soaked concrete dries out with alarming speed, but the shifts are no more dramatic than any other place I’ve lived.

Thus, when I realized that I couldn’t check the heaviness of the rain by looking out my window (because my privacy screen was too water-spattered), I prepared for a soggy day. Nothing fancy and nothing that can’t get wet (like those lovely lace shoes I wore last week).

What I Wore Sunday, June 14

Uh, let’s say my umbrella lying on the floor there is a dramatic prop.

Top: Target
Skirt: Mossimo for Target
Shoes: Old Navy
Necklace: holy medals

Recent storms aside, it really doesn’t rain here often, so I don’t have a solid sense of which outfits are rain-friendly and which aren’t. I ruined my last pair of white lace flats by walking across the Notre Dame campus through a sudden summer storm, so at least I know that much. I wasn’t sure that this skirt would take raindrops well, but it did. I know because I accidentally dumped a bunch off my umbrella pulling it into the car behind me.

True to the radar, the storm was moving north, and I was driving south, so not only did I make it safely through the storm, I was on time, I didn’t hydroplane, and I confidently left my umbrella in the car. (My coat went inside with me, though. I’m no fool.)

One of our deacons (not the usual tall one) gave the homily. He spoke a lot about parents watching their children grow like the sower tending his plants. He offered watching a work project progress as another example, presumably for those without children, but that seemed like stretching. The one point that stuck out to me was that apparently the mustard seed is not the smallest seed nor its final plant the largest shrub. Way to burst our bubble, deacon!

I say that not to criticize our deacon (who I know in another context, so he’s quite nice) but to demonstrate that, some Sundays, my inspiration does not come from the homily at all. It comes straight from the Spirit.

Many of my friends have recently shared happy news regarding weddings, new babies, home purchases, and career moves. I’m glad I can share in their joy and pray for them. That wistful feeling is hard to shake, though: the feeling that I don’t have a lot going for me right now. I have all the basics: a home, health, family, friends, a job. I even have some fun sparkly parts: declining debt, my new hobby, another out-of-town wedding this fall. Yet I found myself down on Sunday evening. As I prayed before Mass, I concluded that I could use a win.

Then I thought more about the gospel reading. What stuck out to me in my pre-reading was that the sower goes about his work while the seed grows. He’s not doing anything special or out of the ordinary, yet great fruit comes forth. Some great fruit comes from quiet growth, small wins, quiet wins. I was asking for a win. I think God was telling me that small victories are what I’m getting now. There might be big wins in my future, but I’m not the one bringing them to fruition (see what I did there?) He is.

What are your wins lately? Mine was not in avoiding hearing “We Walk By Faith.” That makes a terrible recessional hymn, by the way, if you wondered.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

7 Quick Takes on Harry Potter, Bedtime, Dance, and More Dance


— 1 —

A friend and I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this week. She is a mild movie talker, as am I, so it was delightful commenting on bits and pieces as we watched. The good conversation made up for the hit parade of bad child acting.

I mentioned that I follow the Harry Potter feed on Buzzfeed to nourish my need for ongoing fandom. When I said that, though, I realized that I am really behind on all my feeds, so I hopped in to check it out.

In a list of Marauders headcanon (unofficial/fan ideas about the lives of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs), I came across this gem:

Does that not break your Harry Potter-loving heart? (With a little commandment-breaking, but still.)

— 2 —

In other life news, I broke a nail last night. I know, “I broke a nail” is the epitome of vapid things that vapid girls say, but I broke mine making up my bed (jammed it on the wooden frame of my box spring), and it really hurt.

The occasion inspired my first ever use of emoji. I think I get it now. Those little musical notes were just what I needed. Sesame Street for life!

— 3 —

I have been working hard this month to establish a bedtime. In the past, it has been really difficult for me to go to bed on time. I feel like a middle schooler when I go to bed before I’m good and ready. (For comparison, my last high school started at 9:30 a.m.) It’s a blessing that I have no trouble at all falling asleep or staying asleep, but I struggled with getting to “head to pillow” at the time I wanted (let alone the time I should be there).

A few specific things have been helpful:

  • I made note of how long it takes me to get from “time to get ready for bed” to “head to pillow.” Right now, I’m not working on speeding that up. The key is acknowledging the actual time it takes instead of how long I wish it took.
  • I picked the time I wanted to be in bed based on a realistic number. Incremental changes seem to work best for me.
  • I set a bedtime alarm. I use Google Calendar and sync it with my phone, so when it’s bedtime, my browser gets hijacked and I hear the chime. It forces me to acknowledge what time it is and that, if I stay up any longer, I’m only hurting Morning Lindsay.
  • I obey my bedtime alarm.

That last thing is the new one. I have had my bedtime alarm for months, but I was treating it like a guideline instead of an actual rule. I noticed that, when I obey it, I can actually reach “head to pillow” a little bit early. When I snooze it, so to speak, I have to rush. I hate being rushed.

I’ve noticed that my body is getting the hint because I start to feel sleepy as my alarm time approaches. Now if only I can get it to stop feeling sleepy when I need to get up, I’ll be golden.

— 4 —

Back in my first month of social dance classes, I spotted someone I know from trivia in the studio. She was having a private lesson when I was on my way to my group class. I didn’t want to interrupt, so I just smiled to myself and kept going.

Last night, she finally spotted me back. Unfortunately, I was running later than usual and had already missed the beginning of the warm-up dance, so I couldn’t stop to chat. It is a lovely thing when worlds collide.

— 5 —

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am taking West Coast Swing classes. This is my third month. I think I chose well because everything I see, read, and experience proves that WCS is one of the hardest partner dances to learn; i.e. it’s the best focus for me right now.

In every other partner dance I’ve tried, the follower’s moves mirror the leader’s. Not so with WCS. I do have to pick up on my leader’s signals so as not to run him over, but there is much more freedom for interpretation and/or potential for stumbling along awkwardly. I’m slowly getting better at experimenting with the former and avoiding the latter. I’m also getting better at the principle of “just smile and keep dancing” instead of apologizing all the time.

— 6 —

I’d like to take regular classes in other dances, too, but in the meantime, I need a more budget-friendly option for branching out. I invited a friend to Newcomer Night in May, where I learned a smattering of Jitterbug and foxtrot to add to my tiny repertoire. Newcomer Nights include entry to the regular weekly social dance, which was perfect because I was already warmed up, in the mood to dance, and capable of the basic step in two more dances than I’d known going in.

It was at that social that I first encountered Triple Two-Step. I had literally never even attempted it before, which I admitted to the lead who asked me to dance. He was undeterred and showed me the basic step. He then proceeded to lead me despite:

  • our distinct height differential (I’m pretty tall for a woman),
  • my zero level of experience, and
  • my struggle with regular Two-Step, as well as every progressive dance (the kind that moves in a circle).

Nobody fell down, nobody got injured, and we both survived until the song ended. Wins all around!

— 7 —

My old piano teacher came into town to visit last week, so we went to dinner. Since I was already out, I decided to go social dancing again. This was the first time I’d gone by myself and not for a class.

I had such a good time! At this point, I still need the comfort and small size of my studio environment. I’m not ready to be released into the wild. I don’t need a buddy, but I do need to feel safe.

I found myself following yet another dance I’ve never done before (merengue) and with another short leader. I am always impressed when men who are substantially shorter than I am are comfortable asking me to dance. It doesn’t bother me; I can follow any height. They have the tough part learning to lead spins around my head, way up high. Many have learned to lead spins around my waist, but I haven’t noticed that being taught in any of my group classes at this studio, so I don’t know where they learned it.

I was feeling so bold that I asked a few men to dance myself. It’s not an old-school TOB thing or a fear thing that keeps me from asking more often. It’s that I am not very good yet and that I am basically giving him a job. But the only way to learn is to practice, and I haven’t been turned down yet. That first rejection must be coming, but I am choosing to think happy thoughts, like Fraulein Maria.

We have confidence, and we are awkward together. It's cool.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Booking Through Thursday: Magazines


What magazines do you subscribe to? Personal ones? Professional ones? Or do you only/mostly pick up your periodicals at the newsstand? How do you feel about digital editions versus print? Do you save the old copies after you read them or promptly recycle them?

I like that this week’s prompt offers so many follow-up questions. Most of them are yes/no/list-type questions, but there’s enough to inspire writing and reflection about reading, which is the reason I participate.

I am not a magazine kind of girl. When I was a kid, I read American Girl Magazine sporadically, and I think I had a Highlights subscription for a while. (Highlights might make a good gift idea for my godson, come to think of it.) As a teenager, I read Seventeen, Teen People, and CosmoGIRL religiously. I wasn’t going to church at the time, so I guess it was even more than religiously! I stopped reading the latter two before they went out of print, letting my subscriptions lapse when I went off to college. I had been reading them cover-to-cover, like books. No time for that when there were actual books to read!

These days, I don’t read entertainment magazines, and I don’t pay for any subscriptions. I read my alumni magazines from Maryland (TERP Magazine) and Notre Dame (Notre Dame Magazine) and the financial advice magazine published by my bank (which recently went digital after years of print). That’s it. When I’m finished with them, they go straight into recycling. I made an exception for a few issues of ND Magazine that had some exceptional art, but I should really just cut out those pages and pitch the rest.

I am usually ambivalent about print reading versus digital. The one place I draw the line is when magazines produce digital versions that are laid out for print. My bank’s magazine is like that, and it’s super frustrating. I completely understand wanting to reduce the costs of print and mailing, especially for non-profits. But if you’re going to make me read online, don’t make me awkwardly pan through and zoom in and out of pages. Run it like an e-newsletter, with teasers that lead to full articles. The Catholic Education Resource Center does a spectacular job with that strategy.

Digital is the wave of the future. Old-school collages and scrapbooks made from a stack of magazines and a trusty pair of scissors? Those are bound to be a thing of the past.

For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

What I Wore Sunday: Buy 1, Get 2 Free


I spent Sunday night working on a presentation about Augustinian spirituality, Monday night giving it, and last night watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a friend, so I have no regrets about the timing of this post.

What I Wore Sunday, June 7

Dress: Mossimo for Target
Shell: Be Precious
Shoes: Fergalicious
Necklace: Charming Charlie

I really need to work on my Sunday timeline, guys. I had a mid-afternoon meeting, so I had to get started with my day early. Yet I was still a little bit late for the meeting (in my defense, I went to the wrong house; same number, next street over, ridiculously similar name). It ran so long that I was, yet again, in a rush to dress for and drive to Mass. There’s got to be a better way.

I am glad that the rain has abated and the sunshine seems to be sticking around. It’s warm enough to transition into my summer Mass attire, so I pulled out this gem. My friend Sabrina was wearing a similar dress in black. She inspired me. I’m also delighted to be able to pull out these white lace ballet flats again. They are currently my favorite summer shoe. I bought some silver and white gladiator sandals that I hope can replace my $5 Old Navy flip-flops, but I haven’t worn them yet.

At Mass, we had a visiting priest from Ghana making a mission appeal. When he announced at the beginning of his homily that he would be combining his appeal with his regular homily, I was a tiny bit skeptical, but you never know. Guys, he nailed it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better combination of announcement/appeal and catechetical homiletics. Snaps for Fr. From Ghana.

Connecting this week’s Solemnity of Corpus Christi with Trinity Sunday last week, he noted that we think of the Eucharist as only the True Presence of Jesus, but it’s really all three persons. Since the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit are one, we receive all three when we receive the Eucharist. It’s like a “buy one, get two free” special. (His idea, not mine!) That’s a perspective I have never heard before (or at least not in a long time; since college, maybe).

In describing his childhood in Ghana, our priest spoke about receiving the Eucharist for the first time. He asked a friend if he felt satisfied (as in, not hungry). Neither of them did. It was only later, when he expressed this to a wise adult, that he learned the Eucharist is not meant to satisfy us physically. It is the only thing, however, that can satisfy us spiritually. Physical food transforms our bodies, giving us strength and health. Spiritual food brings us eternal life.

What did you hear preached for Corpus Christi? Personally, I am loving the new perspectives I’m hearing at Mass lately. It’s like a long, slow retreat that’s rejuvenating my faith.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

Love Seeking Justice and Mercy (Review: “Change of Heart”)

I do not support the death penalty. I don’t think any Catholic ought to, although I respect the option Catholics have within our tradition to do so. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that, in the modern world, sufficient means exist to contain dangerous criminals indefinitely without ending their lives, so the cases in which death is the only way to ensure public safety must be few (see paragraph 2267). I don’t have any personal experience with death row, though, and I can’t even begin to try to place myself in the shoes of the perpetrators of capital crimes, their families, and the victims’ families. It’s a blessing that I can’t relate to them.

Change of Heart: A Review at

Jeanne Bishop can, though. In 1990, Bishop’s brother-in-law Richard Langert, sister Nancy Langert, and their unborn child were shot in their home in an affluent Chicago suburb. Their murderer, David Biro, was arrested shortly thereafter; he was a high school student whose family Bishop’s knew. Although she had every reason to write him off to his death sentence and go about her grief and her life, she found herself discovering new faith in Christ and embarking on a difficult path to true healing, forgiveness, and working for justice. She details her story in Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

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