Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Finding a Light in the Darkness: My Battle with Depression and Anxiety

You’re worthless. You’re a burden to everyone. No one is ever going to love you.

I’m sure some of you have been a victim to these lies. Throughout much of 2016, these were the thoughts that attacked my mind regularly. I’ve battled with anxiety and depression for years; however, during the first half of this year, the battle was vicious, and I often was left bleeding and broken, desperate to escape these illnesses that haunted me.

Some days, life simply felt dull, gray, and joyless. Other days, I felt immense pain and grief so strongly that it felt as if someone had died. But really it was just a part of myself that felt as if it had perished: the part of myself that could feel happiness and joy.  I no longer saw the worth in myself or in living. With the waves of intense panic attacks and deep depression, simply being alive felt like a daunting task. Everyday felt like I was walking around with a weight on my chest, endlessly trying to catch my breath.  Being alive hurt.

I know some of you, if not many, can understand what I am describing. But many people I opened up to couldn’t seem to grasp what I was experiencing. When someone explains that they are having negative thoughts, people always preach to look at the bright side and think positively. But there was no bright side in my head. No ounce of light could penetrate the darkness that clouded my mind. My depression and anxiety affected me so greatly that I could not differentiate between the lies that they fed me and my reality. Sometimes it was obvious that these lies were not the truth. But other times they came shadowed in thoughts that seemed perfectly normal. The lies merged and weaved themselves throughout the inner workings of my brain so seamlessly that these twisted and dark thoughts appeared to be perfectly sane.  I was no longer apart of reality. I was completely drowning in my darkness, and it felt like no one would ever save me. I decided that, at some point, I was going to end my life.  If I could describe myself in one word, it would be hopeless.

Eventually, I realized that I could not live this way any longer. Truly by the grace of God, I asked for help. Eventually, I was able to pull my way out of the darkness I was so entrenched in.

Since seeking help, I can already see the grace of God in my life. I’ve met so many beautiful people and had many beautiful experiences that I would have missed out on if I had taken my life in my own hands.

With depression and anxiety, and any other mental illness, almost every day is a struggle. Sometimes getting out of bed feels like running a marathon. Sometimes just sitting in class brings unbearable pain with the anxiety it causes me. Every day is a challenge, and I’m not saying that going to adoration or mass everyday will fix a mental illness. But the closer I’ve grown to God, the more I can see His hand in my life, the more I can trust that He has a plan for me, and the more I know that my suffering will not be fruitless. I still have days that I feel extremely depressed, anxious, worthless, inadequate, and that I just honestly would rather not be alive.

But I grasp onto God. I have to trust that I am here for a reason. Trusting in God is extremely difficult sometimes. To me, trusting God can feel like jumping off a cliff into a deep, dark abyss, and just praying He will catch me as I fall. A leap of faith you might call it. But that’s what God is calling us to do. To let go. To leave everything in His hands.

Maybe you aren’t dealing with depression or anxiety, but everyone is dealing with something. Everyone has wounds that are still aching, burdens that feel too heavy to bear. And sometimes the weight is so unbearable, we feel like it is too difficult to go on. That we should give up. That we are too weak, inadequate, or worthless. And, in extreme cases, that we simply cannot continue being alive.

No matter what you are struggling with, trust that God will reach through the thick of the darkness and hold you in his arms. Trust that when you let go, he will take control. He will never leave you. God never lets anything happen that would interrupt his divine plan for you. And no matter how hard it is to believe, he has a plan.  When the weight of the world is on your shoulders, know that you don’t have to carry it on your own.

Have hope. He has a plan for me. He has a plan for you. Trust.

“I plead with you—never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” – St. John Paul II

If you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression, please do not feel like you are alone. There are many resources out there to help, some right here on Franciscan’s campus.

There are two groups here on campus sponsored by the Counseling Center that are designed to help students learn skills to manage depression or anxiety.

For depression:
Lifting the Spirit
7 week group
Tuesdays @ 6­-7 pm
February 7- ­March 28
Cost: $30
Interested in this opportunity?
Please contact Dan Pinciaro

 For anxiety:
Quenching the Anxious Spirit
7 week group
Thursdays @5:30-6:30 pm
February 9-March 30
Cost: $30
Please Contact Dan Pinciaro

I love you, and I'm praying for you. Remember--you are never alone

Jacque Anderson is a Junior at Franciscan University majoring in English with a Writing Concentration. She has a passion for serving others, especially women, through writing and relational ministry. Some of her other passions include health and fitness, taking photos, and reading. Her biggest role models are JPII, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, and Father Mike Schmitz. You can learn more about Jacque here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Repost: "To Pray Always Is to Desire Always"

      In the wake of Saturday's "Beloved" event, which brought hundreds of women together from across the campus of Franciscan University, and focused on the theme of "Desire," we thought it would be fruitful to share some of Christopher West's thoughts on desire. As we enter into the middle of the week, take some time to reflect on and pray with the words below.
Image source: here

   "Luke tells us that the purpose of the parable we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel reading is to teach us “the necessity … to pray always without becoming weary.” Is this even possible? It depends how we understand prayer.  Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” Let that sink in. The Christian life is never a matter of annihilating our longings. It’s a matter of redirecting them towards their true object. It’s called prayer. To “pray always,” then, as this Sunday’s Gospel admonishes us to do, one must learn how to live within the painful “ache” of constant longing for heaven, for the Marriage of the Lamb. To the degree that we remain “attached” to the pleasures of this world, we have not yet learned to pray. “So brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled,” says Saint Augustine. “That is our life, to be trained by longing; and our training through the holy longing advances in the measure that our longings are detached from the love of this world.” How do we pray always? Augustine concludes: “Desire is your prayer; and if your desire is without ceasing, your prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.” Lord, teach us to pray!"


Christopher West's Blog, and this original post, can be found at:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What is Beauty, Really?

Originally posted on 

What is beauty, really?
Beauty is something good. Beauty is something true. It cannot be without truth or goodness, or it isn’t really beauty.
For example, makeup is a good thing in and of itself. It’s totally fine to wear it to enhance your natural beauty and to feel more confident about yourself. That’s a very good thing. But when we wear so much makeup that we no longer look likeourselves, we become someone we are not. We become a false version of beauty.
Men are great. And if we fall in love with one who helps us to become more of who we are, we win at life. But if we fall for one who leads us down a path that causes us to change in a way that makes us who he thinks we should be, we are no longer ourselves, but rather, a false version of ourselves.
These are the sorts of traps the world lays at our feet. “Be sexier!” “What he really wants!” “If you lost weight you’d be great!” “If you just did this other intense thing you’d be more awesome!” “Make sure you InstaSnapTweetFacebookBlog post every second of your life to prove your worth!” and, sometimes, as a Christian, even: “You’re not praying enough to be pretty!” “If you just went on this mission trip you’d be good enough!” These are the things that supposedly make us beautiful.
But in reality, these are crap lies that need to be laid to rest.
True beauty lies in being authentic. It lies in being true to who we are. And who we are isn’t defined by the world. It’s defined by Christ. Consider him your new Merriam-Webster.
By definition, and according to many great philosophers, beauty is transcendent, meaning that it exists beyond our ordinary understanding. In fact, some would say, that it exists beyond time. The definition of beauty also explains that beauty is something that “pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit” (Merriam-Webster, and, well, I’m guessing Jesus (especially since I have dubbed him our new dictionary)).
Given that it exists outside the ordinary, that it always demonstrates truth and goodness, and that it exalts (i.e. lifts up or elevates) the mind or spirit, I think it’s pretty safe to say that beauty is basically an encounter with God (pretty sure I heard a nun on Oprah or something say that once too, so let’s give her credit. Yay nun!).
Because beauty can be an encounter with the Divine, that also means that things that are beautiful somehow reflect the Creator, just as an artist’s work reflects the artist.
This means that all beauty must be true and good, to really be something that images God.
If we think of it that way, then it makes sense that we don’t want to fall into the trap of false beauty, in men, makeup, extracurriculars, and the like. We want to find the most authentic form of beauty within these things – because, as I mentioned, they are not bad things if they help us to become who we really are.
And that’s exactly what God wants for you! For you to become who you really are! He gives us these encounters with beautiful things to help us come to exactly that: the most true, real, good, and beautiful version of ourselves.
Ultimately, the most authentic form of beauty is found in Christ alone. He is the only real beauty that will satisfy us forever. But he does give us wonderful gifts in the form of people and things to help us to have a glimpse of this wonderful life he has planned for us, and wants us to begin living now.
So at the end of the day, the question really is this: how do I live that out? How do I know if it’s real beauty, and how do I become that? (Because I would hope that we all want to be beautiful, our truest self, and good.)
The answer is more simple than we think. It’s really just this: be besties with Jesus. Read Scripture (so you can hear him and recognize him by coming to know him). Participate in the sacraments (so you have a tangible encounter with him). Pray (converse with him). These are the building blocks of the foundation of any real friendship. Getting to know someone, talking to them, listening to them, spending time with them.
And then, in coming to know Christ, we will love him. In loving him we will want to share that love. And real love forgets about me because I’m thinking more about you. Which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. The author and source of all beauty, became ugly, beaten, bloody, and bruised. And he did all of it thinking not of himself, and whether or not he looked good up there on that cross, but thinking about you and me, and how much he didn’t want to see us up on that cross. He did it in love.
So that’s really it. That’s the answer to what real beauty is, and how to become it. It’s all about getting to know the Guy who designed it all, and sharing him with others. Through that love we become like him, which is what we were made for all along: a life in Christ. For. Ev. Er. How beautiful is that?!
We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.”  St. Clare of Assisi


image3Ashley Ackerman
Ashley Ackerman is a daughter, sister, and friend. She loves talking and learning about the mystery of femininity, something she is certain she will never fully uncover in her lifetime. She works as a high school teacher in Virginia, a job that allows her to be her goofy-Jesus-loving-grumpy-without-coffee self every single day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Deeply Love One Another

I've been wrestling a lot in prayer with attachments to others and with relationships. And I've discovered that when it comes to loving others, there are two extremes: to be too attached to people or to be too afraid to be attached to people.

For most of my life, I lived in the first extreme. I cared far too much about what others thought about me, and I placed too much emphasis on my relationships with others and not enough on my relationship with Christ. My relationships, instead of leading me into greater holiness, detracted from my relationship with Him because I gave them a higher place in my heart than Him. There was always a certain grasping in these relationships: it seemed that no matter how much love these people showed me, I was always hungering for more, grasping for things that I didn't think they were giving me, expecting more than was reasonable from them.

But now that I've progressed a bit in the spiritual life, I find myself falling into the second extreme. Every time I feel a deep love stir in my heart for another person, I live in a state of fear that I'm falling back into that first extreme. So instead of examining this love or allowing it to grow, I try to squash it or run from it.

There's this relationship in my life right now that is extremely important to me. This person is a spiritual mentor to me, and she's teaching me so much about what it means to be a holy woman of God. She’s become such a big part of my heart that I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

And honestly? That terrifies me. I live in a state of fear that I'm too attached to her, that my love for her is unhealthy, that our relationship gets in the way of my relationship with God.

When I begin to feel this deep love for her rise up in my soul, my first instinct is to run. Squash it. Root it up out of my heart and throw it far from me. Because obviously this deep and incomprehensible love that I have for her isn't from God--it must be from my own grasping, my own brokenness, my own need that I'm grasping for her to fill.


In prayer, the Lord has been opening my heart more and more to the truth that He wants me to be in this relationship. He wants me to have this deep love for her. He wants to use her love to change me. He wants to use my love for her to soften both of our hearts to His love for us. Through her spiritual motherhood, He wants to teach me more about what it means to be a daughter. And through my spiritual daughterhood, He wants to teach her more about what it means to be a mother.

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer … I give you a new commandment: love one another.” -John 13:33-34.

This is our faith, sisters. It is Incarnational -- He could have saved us in any way, but He chose to come in the Incarnation -- to come as a human person that we could see and touch, to use a human body as the instrument of our redemption. And He chooses to come to us physically in the Eucharist, to give us His Body and Blood in order to continually sanctify us and draw us closer to Him. And just as He wants us to encounter His love in His real presence in the Eucharist, so He uses others to bring us to a deeper encounter with Him.

Faith is not a solitary journey. It's not meant to be. Our God is a communion of persons -- three Persons, one God. And just as the Trinity exists in community, so are we meant to exist in community. We can't go it alone. We need others: friends, spouses, spiritual mentors, teachers, siblings, parents. And when I live my life in fear of being too attached to others, when I try to squash the love that stirs deep down in my soul for others, I miss out on the way that He wants to move through those relationships to transform my life.

Ultimately He is the only one that can fulfill all those desires that we feel so deeply, but that doesn't mean that others aren’t part of His plan to do that. He works through others to fulfill those desires.

And this relationship in my life? The love that stirs so deeply in my heart, a love that seems to reach into the abyss of my soul, a love that scares me and yet brings me an incredible amount of peace and joy--this is His love. I’m not capable of loving that deeply and selflessly on my own. This love flows from my love for Him. Because I love Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, I am free to truly love this beautiful and incredible spiritual mother of mine as myself. "Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God" (CCC 1878).

And the love that this spiritual mother has for me flows from His love. When she loves me, she is truly and freely loving me, but only because it is His love being poured out into her soul. He could fulfill my desires in any way, but He chooses to do it in an incarnational way--to use her love to show me how deeply He wants to fulfill my desires. When I think of this deep love that I have for so many in my life, I’m reminded of the quote from Les Mis: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Through my relationships, I see the love that God has for me.

Sisters, there is nothing wrong with desiring relationship. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be loved, affirmed, wanted, cherished by others. There's nothing wrong with being attached to others--as long as we're attached first and foremost to Him. When we set our sight on Christ and our focus on our relationship with Him, others are going to come into our lives. He's going to bring other people into our places of need, and He's going to use their love to change us and to show us His own love for us. And what a beautiful gift. What a blessing to know that we do not walk this journey alone, to know that a love that stirs so deeply in our souls is a participation in the love of Christ.

Be not afraid to love deeply, to seek relationship. Just remember that He loves us first and that He loves us most. When we allow this truth to be the penetrating force and guiding principle, we are truly free to love deeply and to love selflessly.

So here's to deeply loving others.


Catie Destatte is a senior Theology and Catechetics major. She has a passion for writing, Mama Mary, ministry to women, and evangelization. Her life motto is Totus Tuus Maria, and she tries to live that out in her every moment. After graduation, Catie will be serving as a missionary on a college campus with St. Paul's Outreach. You can find out more about her here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

We Lost God

Today is Good Friday. Today we celebrate the liturgy of Our Lord's Passion and Death on the Cross for the sake of our redemption.

Being raised in a nominally Catholic household, I never really celebrated Good Friday until I came to Franciscan. Even then, my freshman year I wasn't capable of really entering into the mystery, and my sophomore year, I was in Austria and travel plans fell apart so that my group could only make it to the Easter Vigil. Last year was the first year that I fully entered into the Triduum. On Good Friday last year, I had an experience that shook me to the core. So much so that I know that every year on this day, I will remember this experience and feel the sobering reality of what we celebrate today.

Last year on Good Friday morning, I went to confession and it rocked my world. I felt so ready to go to the liturgy and fully enter into the mystery and receive our Lord with a clean soul, with no sin standing between us. I also happened to be serving as a member of the Liturgy Committee, and because of something that I had to do for committee, I was unable to receive the Eucharist at the Good Friday liturgy.

Now ladies, I can't fully explain what happened next, because a year later, I'm still struggling to fully comprehend it. All that I can say is that being unable to receive Our Lord that day was devastating for me. It broke my heart in a way that I first thought was completely irrational. After all, there have been plenty of times when I refrained from receiving because I didn't feel well or for various other reasons.

But for some reason, this time, I felt as if my heart was being wrenched open. After all of my responsibilities of cleaning up after the liturgy were finished, I made my way to the Eucharistic Chapel in CTK, sat before the empty tabernacle, and quite literally wept.

At first I was frustrated with myself. What the heck, Catie. You need to get more sleep. This is completely irrational.

But then suddenly a line came into my head that I had been pondering for quite a while before this, and the Lord shed a light on the hot mess of emotional turmoil that was going on in my soul.

There's a poem written by Msgr John Duffy called I Sing of a Maiden. The poem is about Our Lady the morning after she gives her fiat and the Word becomes flesh to dwell in her womb. Cardinal John O'Conner, the founder of the Sisters of Life, was so struck by this poem that a line of it is engraved on the medal that all of the sisters wear as a part of their habit.

The line is: "And nothing would again be casual or small, but everything with Light invested, overspilling."

The Lord used this line to open my eyes and show me what a gift He was offering me by arranging things so that I could not receive Him. So I'm going to share with you the insight that I received, in the hopes that it will help you to enter into the full reality of what we celebrate today.

Sisters, the mystery of the Incarnation was an earth-shattering event that forever altered history. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. From the moment that our Blessed Mother gave her yes to the invitation of the angel, our God, the One who created the world and formed each of us in our mother's womb, has dwelt among us, on this earth, forever leaving His presence with us. Since that incredible event, there has never been a single moment when He has not graced us with His presence.

Except for those three days between His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

We rejected Him. We condemned Him to death. Because of us, He suffered excruciating torture and carried a heavy wooden beam up a rocky hill, where He humbly and willingly allowed Himself to be nailed and to suffer three hours of the worst pain imaginable.

And after He surrendered His spirit to the Father and died on that cross, we lost Him. For three long days, we were without our God. There was no Holy of Holies, no Incarnate Word. His body was in a tomb, but His soul was in hell, awaiting the moment when He would come back to us and forever free us from the power of sin.

But for those three days, He did not dwell among us.

And the turmoil that I felt not being able to receive, the grief that I couldn't understand, the tears that didn't seem to stop no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of being upset, they were all a gift from Him, for He wanted me to fully enter into the reality of what His death meant for us.

Now, I know very well that even if our tabernacles are empty, He still dwells among us now. In fact, I even know where we keep Him during that time. I know that I will never fully understand the agony that Mary and the Apostles felt for those three days. But thanks to that experience, I will never not understand the significance of this day.

These three days mark the darkest days of history, but tomorrow night, we will celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord, when once more "everything with Light invested" will spill over into our souls.


Catie Destatte is a senior Theology and Catechetics major. She has a passion for writing, Mama Mary, ministry to women, and evangelization. Her life motto is Totus Tuus Maria, and she tries to live that out in her every moment. Along with being a member of Women's Ministry Core Team, she's involved in Capture My Heart Core Team, Liturgy Committee, and Totus Tuus Maria Household. Her five great loves are JPII, St. Peter, tea, praise and worship music, and the ocean. Along with Shannon, one of Catie's roles in Women's Ministry is to run this blog. You can find out more about her here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seven Saints to Help You Through this Year of Mercy

As Uncle Jesse said, “Have Mercy!” 


With this Year of Mercy in full swing, here are some saints to befriend during this jubilee year.

Have you ever completed an examination of conscience with the Ten Commandments? Ever get to “Thou shall not kill," think to yourself, “Didn’t murder anyone this year!” and move on? For some of his life, St. Vladimir could not have said as much. Vlad the Bad was a 10th century Russian ruler who killed a fair share of people. He converted after witnessing the successful spread of Christianity through the testimony of Christians.

Known as the penitent thief, Dizzy experienced firsthand the mercy of Jesus as the two hung on crosses beside each other. Just read Luke 23:40-43--you’ll see what I mean.

5. and 4. Sts. Peter and Paul

This pair needed mercy like nobody’s business. Peter denied Christ three times; imagine how Petey felt when Jesus came back and told him to not be afraid. Paul persecuted Christians before experiencing a conversion and becoming the greatest missionary of all time. These two are perfect examples of how God not only forgives us, but also gives us the grace to become leaders of His Church.

God’s mercy can manifest itself in the relationships we have with one another. For example, when this saint was attacked and stabbed to death, she forgave her assailant. He eventually repented, converting to Catholicism. He was present at her canonization.

St. Augustine’s pre-conversion life sounds like that of a typical rowdy high-schooler. Parties, drunkenness, and impurity enslaved him. Eventually, God’s mercy, the beauty of the Gospel, and the prayers of his mother, St. Monica, led Augustine to the Church. Today, he is renowned as one of the greatest minds in Catholic history.

Divine. Mercy. If you are looking for a best friend for this Year of Mercy, Faustina is your homegirl. Her diary should be at the top of your reading list this year. Venerate the image of Jesus with red and white rays shining forth from his heart, pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet, read Faustina's diary, and you have yourself a solid holy hour.

“‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” – The Diary of St. Faustina

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why I Don't Wear a Purity Ring (But, yes, you'll still see a band on my finger)

A household sister and friend of mine recently wrote a personal blog post about the problems with “Purity Culture”, specifically the “purity ring,” and I wholeheartedly agreed with every word of it. When discussing her post with another friend of mine I couldn’t help but notice the confused look on my friend’s face, even though she shared my mutual distaste for “purity culture.” When I asked her if she was confused by my position she said she was confused not with my negative opinion of purity rings but with the fact that I wear one despite my apparent distaste for them.

“What?” I said, “I don’t wear a purity ring…” but my eyes had already fallen on my left ring finger where the sterling silver ring bearing a heart and a cross that I had received for my Confirmation was positioned.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, “This isn’t a purity ring it’s just…well…actually I’m not quite sure what you would call it.”

I’d like to assure everyone reading this at this moment that I am not in fact crazy and I really don’t think I’m stupid. But believe me when I say that I never considered this ring to be a purity ring, despite the fact that in hindsight, it probably appears so to everyone I encounter.

The truth of the matter is that this ring of mine represents so much more to me than some trite pledge to remain chaste for my future spouse, but to explain all of that I am going to need to back up a bit and start from the beginning.

I’ve never really bought into the whole “purity culture” thing, even from the beginning. The first time I ever really considered the topics of sexuality and religion at the same time was in sixth grade. But unlike a lot of Christians out there my first intellectual consideration of “purity” wasn’t at some youth rally or church group that was telling me to “save myself” for marriage. I’m not going to lie, I was a pretty na├»ve little sixth grader so if someone had said this phrase to me I probably would have asked what exactly of myself I was supposed to be saving for my future husband (A lock of my hair? My baby teeth?). Fortunately, I had an amazing religion teacher in sixth grade who took it upon herself to write her own middle school curriculum based on the Theology of the Body that had been articulated by JPII (a revolutionary idea at the time because there weren’t really even curriculums out there for high schoolers yet).

But unlike a lot of theology teachers and youth group leaders who only dive into TOB to talk about sex (specifically how you shouldn’t be having it but should rather be “saving yourself for marriage”) I distinctly remember how my teacher chose to introduce our class to the subject. She wrote two questions on the board and had us consider the answers:

Who am I?
Why do I exist?

Good luck trying to find two other questions that are equally important and equally terrifying to a sixth grader.

After posing these questions and allowing us to share our responses, my teacher then began to gradually unfold over the next few weeks the profound truths that can be discovered in JPII’s Theology of the Body. It’s important to point out that the answers she gave to these questions focused on one important thing: Love.

We are created lovingly by Love for love. God is our Father and we are His children. The Love exchanged and shared within the Trinity is so good and life-giving that God desires to share it and let it overflow so He creates us out of love to share His Love with us. And within each human being he gives us the ability to love and to be loved.

I know, there’s a lot of love there, but the important things to take away from all of that are the answers to the questions my sixth grade teacher posed to us:

Who am I? I am “one who is loved and one who loves”
Why do I exist? I exist “to love and to be loved.”

Why am I sharing this? Quite simply, it’s to emphasize a point. In my experience I learned that the discussion about my human identity doesn’t begin with a discussion of my sexuality; it begins with a discussion about love.

The problem with most of the “purity culture” that we find in many Christian circles is that, while it may have good intentions, oftentimes it is no better than the secular world in where it places its emphasis: on sex. This ultimately comes across as a hollow and empty message because sex disconnected from our deeper identity of love is hollow and empty.

Because at their root, the virtues of purity, chastity, modesty, etc. have NEVER first-and-foremost been about sex. They have always been about the human identity which is wrapped up in love. But because part of my personhood (or identity) is embodied (i.e. I have a body), these virtues have repercussions for what I do with my body.

But Satan, along with much of the world, is really messed up because he twists my understanding of love and the body. If my identity is tied up with loving and being loved, Satan is going to do everything in his power to make me feel unlovable and incapable of giving love.

A moment of true, personal vulnerability here: I’ve always really struggled with both of these lies, but I’m going to especially focus on the first one in this blog post. Satan has done a pretty good job of convincing me my entire life that I must be unlovable because despite the fact that “on paper” I seem to have my life completely together, I’ve always had a hard time making friends. Going further and really solidifying this lie in my mind, Satan has never once failed to tell me that I’m clearly unlovable because no man has ever found me lovable enough to ask me out on a date.

Verily Magazine recently posted an article written by a man explaining why he doesn’t ask out the seemingly “perfect” girl that he knows. One of the reasons he gave in the article boiled down to attraction (perfect as she may seem, he just might not be attracted to her). It was a well-written article and the rational part of my brain appreciated the wisdom of his insights. But as soon as I read it I felt that familiar dark shadow creeping into my mind and whispering again and again, “Well there’s your answer: you’ve never been asked out by a man because no man has ever found you attractive.”

Now, I knew that this was a lie of Satan’s the moment I heard it, but that didn’t make it any easier to shake. Weeks and weeks that same lie spun around in my head, inflamed by the fact that every aunt, sibling, parent, hairdresser and optometrist I encountered over the Christmas break wanted to know if I had any romantic prospects looming on the horizon. To have to keep insisting that “No, I have nothing to report,” while deflecting comments like, “That can’t be true, a girl like you surely has admirers!” was a trial, to say the least.

But here is where we get back to my supposed “purity ring” because every time that the lie that I was unlovable popped into my head, I would glance down at the ring I wore on my left ring finger.

You know, I didn’t always wear it on my left hand. Until about a year ago I had always worn it on my right. I only changed it last spring after going to confession with a little Eastern European priest who was the spitting image of Padre Pio. He told me that at the heart of my spiritual battle was the struggle to remember and trust that Jesus loved me despite my imperfections. He told me to wear a piece of jewelry to remind me of that truth whenever I began to doubt it. I walked out of that confessional and slipped the ring from my right hand to my left and haven’t looked back since. Before that moment it had always been just a pretty piece of jewelry, but after that moment it became an important symbol of truth in my life.

You see, this ring for me is NOT a purity ring because I don’t wear it to remind myself that I’m waiting for the love of the perfect man. No, I use this ring as a constant reminder that the perfect Man already loves me.

Satan’s lie that I’m unlovable is just that, a LIE, because Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried for me. He descended into Hell for me. And on the third day he rose again from the dead for me. This isn’t some fairy tale or analogy that Christians made up to feel better about their lives. It happened, and I profess this truth every time I recite our Creed.

But because I’m not just a spiritual being it sometimes takes more than words to get this truth to sink into my thick skull. Remember, I’m an embodied creature and so sometimes it takes visible, material, embodied things to get through to me. That’s why Jesus gave us the Eucharist, as a physical reminder of His love for us. But because we can’t physically carry the Eucharist around with us all the time (darn!) we sometimes need even more material reminders of spiritual truths.

Think of scapulars, Marian consecration chains, saint medals, prayer cards, rosaries, crucifixes, and sacred art. These remind us of already existing realities. They aren’t just some visible way to show others about some resolution we hope to complete in the future. They’re not conditional like a purity ring is (if I remain chaste until marriage then I will be pure) but rather unconditional (Jesus can and has purified me despite my sins and the lives of Mary and the saints prove it). While purity rings focus on the past (what you have or have not done) and the future (what you can expect as a result) sacramentals show us all of time in one eternal moment (whatever you’ve done in the past or will do in the future, Jesus loves you then, now, and always and He gives you eternal life to live with Him in Heaven forever.) Sacramentals, like my ring in this instance, remind us of our profound dignity and worth because they remind us of the love God has for us right now.

Knowing then this profound dignity and worth that I possess, I am given confidence to demand that others treat me (which includes my body) accordingly. The virtues of purity, chastity, modesty, etc. are then the natural conclusion to the thesis of love. If I believe that I am loved freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully by God then I will seek to live out this perfect model of love (after all, God is love) in all my interactions with others. When I begin my self-understanding with the understanding that I am made to give and receive the perfect love that is modeled by Christ, I won’t want to settle for anything less.

Thus, purity, chastity, and modesty make sense and flow naturally from this true understanding of love. They are not some arbitrary dictum handed down by power-mongering old men in funny hats who think sex is bad and we need to “protect” people from its corruption and temptations. People who think this is the Catholic Church’s understanding of human sexuality have clearly never read a word of Pope St. John Paul II (or St. Edith Stein or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John Chrysostom or anyone else for that matter).

We shouldn’t begin our discussions of the human person and their sexuality talking about sex or abstinence or modesty like the “Purity Culture” does. We shouldn’t do this because the Christian exhortation isn’t to go forth baptizing all people in the name of the purity ring, the pledge to “save ourselves,” or the slogan that “modest is hottest” (honestly, anyone who utters this phrase, let them be anathema!) The Christian exhortation is rather to go forth baptizing all people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Christian mission is Trinitarian, and what is the Blessed Trinity but a Communion of Love. Christians are not called to build up a “Purity Culture;” we are called to create a Civilization of Love.

Because ultimately people, they’ll know we are Christians by our Love, not our purity rings.


Alyssa Snyder is a Junior studying Humanities and Catholic Culture, Theology, and Philosophy. She is a native of Texas where she lives with her family in a blue-roofed house on top of a hill. She is passionate about the Truth of the Lord's Incarnation and loves spending time discovering and discussing ways in which others have incarnated the Gospel in film, history, literature, politics, and art. Her favorite saints are St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena because they both personify St. John Paul II's "feminine genius" in her mind.