Live from World Youth Day by Elizabeth Lent

Written by Elizabeth Lent

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wow, what a day.  First thing I learned: do not abandon your group to go join some high school friends you see across the room at the Catedral de la Almudena. Turns out you will most likely not be able to find your group again and become lost in a completely foreign Palacio Real.  Oh yeah, and you don’t realize this until after you’ve already left the high school friends… definitely panicked for a good twenty five minutes before being reunited at last, thank you St. Anthony!

Turned out to be a huge test of faith as well as humility.  But the Cathedral was magnificent and filled to the brim with youth. First thing you would notice? The ceiling.  Arches upon arches with gold trim; the simplicity made the Cathedral seem infinitely high.  Eager crowds which had been rambunctiously waiting outside quickly became a prayerful wave of souls all pouring eyes over saint after saint and then spiraled up a staircase to venerate a pristine statue of the Virgin of Alumdena, displaying their country’s flag on the way for all to see to see.

Next stop, Calle Mayor—a main street which runs right through the center of town.  Walking through many plazas, we were amidst a wave of colors.  Every WYD group was dressed head to toe in patriotic wear and waving flags every which way.  When we eventually reached Plaza Mayor, we were engulfed by singing, yelling, dancing, and chanting—all for the tremendous show of their country’s spirited participation.  The peak of the excitement, or so we thought.  At one point, we turned around to find a group of Italians racing towards us waving flags and yelling, “Italia! Italia!”  The whole experience was really something.

Spending the rest of the afternoon exploring Madrid, we helped ourselves to some Tinto de Verano, or Sangria, and tried our first Spanish tapas.  At 8pm began the opening mass, held at the Plaza de la Cibeles, a massive square…well, more of an odd shaped rectangle.  Now, there were not just huge crowds here, there was a multitude of disciples.  One ten minute stretch to get to the street was the equivalent of a mosh pit—every man for himself.  It was actually insane.  Followed by more singing, yelling, dancing, and chanting (this was the real peak of spirit), the mass began.

I knew to expect tons of countries at WYD, but I never fathomed the spirit and the reality of the faith that these young people literally all over the world are living in their daily lives.  It was comforting and I felt very calm and relaxed for the rest of the evening, knowing that the fight against the secular society will be won.  We are all together in this, we are all member of the One Church and no one can take that away.

Happy trails!


Written by: Elizabeth Lent, Junior at University of Notre Dame and parishioner at Little Flower in Bethesda

Photos by: Elizabeth Lent

A Bishop Speaks To Call His Flock from Sin. Let’s Join Him!

One of the things we have lamented together on this blog is the silence of too many clergy, catechists and parents on the important moral issues of our day. Too many Catholics are uninstructed in basic moral principles.

Surely one of the critical moral issues in our sex-saturated culture is premarital sex and cohabitation (aka “shacking up”). We have discussed this topic on numerous occasions here in order to reiterate the biblical and Church teaching wherein we are commanded to live chastely. For example see:

Fundamentally all the biblical quotes about premarital sex (fornication) can be summarized by this quote from Ephesians:

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph 5:3-5)

Now these are very strong and clear words. Fornication is a very serious sin which excludes one from heaven. Those who die unrepentant of it go to hell.

Yet, despite the clarity and gravity of this, I will say, that growing up in the church in the late 1960s and 70s I cannot recall ever hearing this clearly taught in a parish that I attended. I think we had some notions that adults might not approve of teenagers having sex, but we simply thought this had to do with the fact that they were old fuds who were uptight. Further, they did not listen to Rock music, so what did they know? But no one ever sat down and reasoned with me from Scripture, I never heard a sermon on it, and even my parents, good though they were, didn’t really talk about sex with us, except the “facts of life talk.”

We have to do better. I have tried as a priest to be clear from the pulpit about this. Further, I try each year to talk with 7th and 8th graders about the sinfulness of fornication. Last year I also preached to our local Catholic High School students. And I tried to give them the clear biblical teaching I never got.

More good news on this front is that Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop of Santa Fe has recently issued a pastoral letter on the question of premarital sex and cohabitation (i.e. living together outside marriage). In it he clearly calls cohabitation a mortal sin and instructs young people not to cohabitate. He calls on pastors to ensure proper instruction and formation of young people in this regard

Here are some excerpts:

We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.

First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no third way possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions….

[Cohabitors] should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” – as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith  and awareness of the evil of sin.

Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them – not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same….

Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes – children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths.

The Full Document can be read here Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating

Bravo for Archbishop Sheehan. Premarital sex, cohabitation and other forms of unchastity are just too serious and too common fro us to remain silent or unclear.

I am personally a fan of going right to the Scriptures and reading the texts to young people right out of the Bible. The texts are beautifully clear and unambiguous. To this end, I assembled some years ago a list of New Testament Scriptures on this subject. If it can be of some help to you I have put it in PDF format here: Biblical Texts On Premarital Sex (Fornication).

Please remember not merely to leave this important text to clergy. Clergy count on the help of parents, catechists and church elders to reinforce and personally testify to young people on this matter. Encourage your priests and deacons. Indeed, I would say pressure them, if they are not already teaching clearly on this topic. We absolutely must be clear on this topic and so many others. Consider printing out the PDFs in this post and make use of them in this great task of teaching and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

To Stand Up for Life is to Experience Life!

If you have ever had the exciting privilege of being in Washington for the Pro-Life March you how true it is that  you always leave exhausted, but more alive than you came. The Pro-life March, for a Catholic especially, is really more than just the March, it is  a series of activities. In the days immediately before the March there are usually seminars and other focused gatherings around life and bio-ethical issues. Then there is the great Vigil Mass for Life, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the night before the March. The Great Upper Church of the Basilica can comfortably seat about 4,000 people. But the Vigil Mass for Life brings often 8,000 or more. People are standing in the aisles, the side chapels, in every nook and cranny. The Sanctuary around the High Altar is packed with Bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians from all over the country. Visible in the Church are Religious men and women in consecrated life showing  a magnificent display of diversity in their habits. The congregation is filled with men an women and young people of every age group, and every ethnic and racial diversity imaginable. If you want to know how catholic (universal) the Catholic Church really is, just come to the Basilica for the Vigil Mass for Life!

The bigger picture – There are some who want to describe the Church as aging and of declining numbers. Some want to describe the Church as not being able to connect with the young, or with peoples of non-European descent. Some say her clergy and religious are aging. But come to the pro-life vigil Mass and behold the youthful diversity of the Church! And even if you can’t go, watch, as the EWTN cameras pan the congregation. Most of the religious in traditional habits are young. And there are hundreds and hundreds of them! Watch as the seemingly endless procession of clergy and seminarians enter, again, by the hundreds. And there too, youthful vigor is in strong display! So many are the priests and seminarians that they overflow the sanctuary into the side chapel for the Blessed Sacrament and into the ambulatory behind and around the High Altar. Here is a Basilica, one of the ten largest churches in the world, filled to overflowing with life, joy and worship! Yes, the Church is a bride, she is not a widow!  Indeed, she is the joyful mother of multitudes.

Rally Riches – And this is just the Vigil Mass. The next day, of your pro-life pilgrimage features a youth Rally at the Verizon Center. The doors open early for music and praise. 28,000, mostly young people, pack the place. Music, inspired talks, the wave and ten trillion watts of youthful energy fill the center in one of its largest functions of the year. A reverent but energetic Mass follows, celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl. One of the younger priests of the Archdiocese usually preaches an energetic and youth oriented homily. And then, after the  reception of Holy Communion, concluding prayer and praise, the youthful  congregation bursts forth onto the streets of Downtown Washington to head for the March line-up on the Mall.

Overflow! The number of young people vastly outsizes the capacity of the Verizon Center. This year an alternative overflow site at the DC Armory hosted an additional 10,000 young people. There too, after prayer and praise and the celebration of the Holy Mass the young people and their adult chaperons headed for the Mall to begin the March.

And march itself  is also a remarkable display in diversity. The balance is wonderfully tipped toward a youthful appearance. Here, Catholics join non-Catholics, fellow believers and even non-believers to march in six-figure numbers. The joy, the prayer, the hope and the experience of how right and just it is to support life all fill the air. It is usually cold, but the warmth within the crowd is tangible. And again, it is the youth who so often set the tone. They have zeal and zest as they lead chants and celebrate life.

The only angry people I met today were the pro-choice counter demonstrators I spoke with. There were about a dozen of them in front of the Supreme Court and I went to each one of them and individually said, as I looked into their eyes, “In your heart you know better, you know abortion is terribly wrong.” I spoke as softly as I could in the outdoor environment with a lot of background noise. I was trying to go right for their conscience, which, though suppressed, is still there. For the voice of God ultimately echoes in every human person according to the Catechism (cf  CCC # 1776). Deep down they DO know that abortion is wrong.

I only got about half way through the group before they surrounded me and began to engage me. Their primary accusation against me seemed to be that I was not a woman. Of this I am guilty, but suggested to them that to determine the wrongness of abortion did not require a womb but, rather, a mind and a heart, something both men and women have! 🙂  They grew angrier with me as I didn’t easily go away but continued down the line suggesting to each one that they knew,  deep down, that it was wrong to abort babies. I wanted to speak this to each one personally. I wanted to try and reach their conscience. Difficult, but worth trying.

In the end they chose to serenade me! And here was the song they sang:

  • Hey Hey, Ho, Ho! Pro-life men have got to go!
  • Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho! If YOU got pregnant then you’d know!

Even here, Life!  Well, I just smiled and prayed, and the ladies in the rosary group behind me redoubled their prayers and I stood there and waited for the counter-protesters to grow tired of singing. I was grateful to suffer for the sake of the Name and to be a “fool for Christ” (1 Cor 4:10). Yes, even this was life giving for me. Dr. King had once said, “If you find a good fight, get in it!” And here I was on the front line, in the forward trench.

Just in the nick of time reinforcements arrived! A parishioner and friend JJ, (and a reader of this blog), arrived. And she’s a woman! I explained how they were singing this lovely song for me and suggesting, in a rather bigoted way,  that my mere maleness rendered me incapable of having a valid understanding.  Their song, (intended to give me the bum’s rush), eventually gave way to exhaustion. I restated my case, appealing to their conscience and introduced JJ, my friend, and pointed out, by the way, that she is a woman. She went to work and gave them the “Come to Jesus” talk!

Yes, even here there was life and the paradoxical joy of being able to suffer accusation and be thought a fool (for Christ).

In the end, to stand up for life is to experience life and to experience it to the top! The March for Life shows the Church fully alive, youthful, joyful, numerous and diverse. We have discussed before on this blog with sobriety some alarming trends and numbers in the western branch of the Church. But this weekend shows once again that the Church is a bride, not a widow. That she remains alive and strong, prophetic and enthusiastic. It shows that her young are still numerous, that vocations are rebounding. It shows that zeal for the truth is still deep in a faithful remnant that is glad to be alive, glad to celebrate life, glad to be Catholic and experience that the Church is catholic (universal). To stand up for life is to experience life. Come next year to Washington.

This video shows some glimpses of the Pro-Life Youth Rally at the Verizon Center. The footage is from

Sober, Serene and Scriptural about Sex

Author’s note: I am away this week preaching a retreat for priests in Connecticut. I may post some new material this week but I also thought in my absence to re post some of my older articles that some newer readers may have missed. Here is one I posted back in Sept 2009:

When I was in high school back in the mid-1970s catechism in the Catholic Church was at a low point. I remember making a lot of felt banners with slogans like “Gather as God’s People” and so on. We also had a lot of “rap sessions.” Now back in the 1970s Rap Music was unknown. So what was meant by a “rap session” in those days was an informal discussion usually conducted in a circle with issues that interested young people. Now a teacher may have tried to guide the discussion, but usually we teenagers dominated the discussion. We often tweaked the teacher by bringing up controversial issues and then taking exotic or extreme positions, meant to shock. We were playing the teacher. But since relevance was so highly touted in those days and adults seemed desperate for us to like them, we played the system and we played it well.

Point is, I learned very little in religious education in the 1970s. We were largely on our own in terms of learning doctrinal and especially moral issues. Among the issues critical to teenagers is sexuality. We got little or nothing in terms of instruction about that. Most of us had some awareness that there were teachings against premarital sex but why it was considered wrong was vague to us. We just sort of figured the Church had “hang-ups” and was in general “hopelessly out of date.” Our parents too were from a different, more repressed time, so what did they really know?  Or so we thought. The generation of the 1960s just before us had blown the roof off everything. They were hip and free. Most of us took our clues from them. After all, when you’re a teenager, you usually look for the more permissive opinions.

Through most of this the Church was silent. Not, officially, but at the local parish level little was really done to counter the sexual  revolution that had taken place a mere ten years earlier. I really regret that no one ever took the Scriptures and read me what God had written. I figured there was nothing wrong with premarital sex since God had only said not to commit adultery. I wasn’t married and so couldn’t break that, or so I wrongly thought. I just figured the prohibitions against premarital sex were hang ups of adults and clergy. But that God had something to say directly to me was never shown me. I think it would have made a real difference in my attitude had I seen premarital sex forbidden by God, right there in black and white, in the Bible. But it was not until years later, in the seminary, that I was finally shown such texts.

I would like to exhort teenagers and young adults to be familiar with what God teaches about pre-marital sex (or fornication as the Bible calls it). I would also like to admonish adults who are parents to be sure to teach their children what the Scriptures say about sex and sexuality.  To that end, I have a attached a PDF document (see below) which summarizes about a dozen New Testament texts wherein God speaks clearly to the questions of sexual morality, in particular pre-marital sex. As I have noted, the Biblical word “fornication” is the word that corresponds to what we call today “premarital sex.” Hence, “Fornicator” means one one engages in premarital sex. There are a very few places in the Scriptures where the word fornication (in Greek Porneia) is understood to mean sexual misconduct in general. But usually fornication simply means premarital sex since there are other terms for adultery (moichao);  and homosexual acts (arsenkoites). The passages in the PDF document all treat of fornication (premarital sex) and in each case God spells out very clearly that God it is wrong and a serious sin. Please share these texts:


But why does God say it is wrong? Is he just trying to take away our fun? No indeed. But God is trying to save us a lot of pain and to protect and dignify marriage. Consider some of the following reasons that God’s teaching makes sense:

  1. To Protect Marriage and Family – Sexual intercourse is a gift given to the married. God wants to strengthen marriage with a special gift that only the married enjoy. It is a great pleasure and thus helps make marriage attractive. It also draws the spouses to each other frequently and helps to knit them together in a stronger bond because of a shared joy. But the unique and restricted place of marriage for this pleasure is essential. If this pleasure is made available by a culture before or outside of marriage then marriage is both delayed and threatened by infidelity. Notice how much weaker marriage has become in a promiscuous time such as ours. Thus God wants to strengthen marriage as his first reason to limit sexual intercourse to marriage.
  2. To Protect Children – Children are also protected by God’s prohibition of sex outside of marriage. Obviously children need and deserve to be conceived in an environment that is stable, committed and loving. Marriage prior to engaging in sexual intercourse is a matter of justice and premarital sex is injustice. Children conceived outside of marriage are at high risk for abortion. And, although it reamins true that it is good when life is chosen over abortion, it must be admitted that Children in single parent families are raised in irregular and less than ideal settings. God wants to protect children from all this. And don’t tell me that contraception can prevent all this. Contraceptives have a high failure rate, aside from being immoral. Notice that abortion has gone up, not down since contraceptivces have become more widely available. Likewise, out of wedlock births have gone up, not down since contraceptives arrived on the scene. God wants to protect children and give them the best.
  3. To Protect the Individual – God wants to protect individuals from all sorts of ills. Promiscuity brings all sorts of woes: sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, broken families, single parenthood, broken hearts, objectification of women,  abortion, adultery, Children without both parents,  and on and on. God loves us too much not to tell us the truth and insist we live it.

So, another post that is far too long. I’ll end. But spread the word! God loves us and wants to save us some mileage. If you struggle with sexuality, don’t despair of God’s mercy. But don’t call good what God calls wrong. Repent, try to stay chaste. If you fall, get back to confession and start again. In the end, the truth will set us free.

Here’s a video from Archbishop Fulton Sheen recorded back in the 1970s. Sadly it never made its way to my catechism class. But the video sparked my reflection and memories this evening as I post. In it he explains the need for boundaries and rules.  I post here only an excerpt. The full 29 Minute video where he goes on to talk about sexuality is available here: Bishop Fulton Sheen on Youth and Sexuality

Why am I here?

Last week, a colleague asked me, “If there is one truth that you want young adults to know, what would it be?”

My answer?

“God has created me for some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.” -Cardinal Newman

Young adulthood is one of transition, uncertainty, and longing. It may be moving to a new city, searching for employment after graduation, or praying God sends you your spouse…soon!

Many young adults make life decision on their own, determine what success is on their own, pursue relationships with their own criteria without asking what God wills. And often, they end up feeling lost, empty, and hurt.

If young adults (or anyone for that matter) knew in their hearts that God loves them and has a unique plan for them, they could move forward into adulthood with confidence and joy! Here are some tips to consider if you are at a crossroad in your life:

* Remove mortal sin from your life with the help of a spiritual director and/or Catholic psychotherapist. It’s impossible for grace to get in if sin is blocking the way.

* Develop a prayer life through daily Scripture meditation, weekly Mass (or more often), and monthly confession (or more often). Jesus is in the sacraments; go find Him there!

* Learn to correctly discern how the Holy Spirit is guiding you. Recommended reading includes: “Finding God’s Will For You” by St. Francis de Sales and “What Does God Want?: A Practical Guide to Making Decisions” by Fr. Michael Scanlan.

Feel free to share with the blog how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have guided you toward God’s Will!

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” John 14:16

Being a Christian Man

When  I was a growing up my father would often exhort me to “be a man.” He would summon me to courage and responsibility and to discover the heroic capacity that was in me. St. Paul summoned  forth a spiritual manhood with these words: We [must] all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ. (Eph 4:13ff)

But today, too many Christian men are passive fathers and husbands. They have not matured in their faith but remain in a kind of spiritual childhood. They are not the spiritual leaders of their home that scripture summons them to be (cf Eph 5). If they go to Church at all, their wife has to drag them there. They do not teach their children to pray, read them Scripture, or insist that they practice the faith. They too often leave this only for their wife to do.

Gratefully, many men do take their proper role. They have reached spiritual manhood and understand their responsibilities in the Lord. They live courageously and are leaders. They are the first up on Sunday morning leading their family to Church and they insist on religious practice in the home. They intitate prayer and Scripture reading with their wife and children and are vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their family, parish and community. They are willing to battle for the truth and speak up for what is right.

You see the Lord is looking for a few good men. Are you a Christian Man? Have you reached spiritual manhood? This is not the kind of manhood that comes merely with age. It comes when we pray, hear and heed scripture and the teachings of the Chruch. It comes when we couargeously live the faith and summon others to follow Jesus without compromise. When we speak the truth in love and live the truth. It is when we fear God and thus fear no man, for when we are able to kneel before God we can stand before any threat.

Here are two good websites for Catholic Men. Let me know if you know of others.

If you’re a Christian man or aspire to be one, I hope you’ll find this video as inspirational as I did.

Working Hard to Prevent Sexual Abuse – A part of the story that’s not often told.

Twenty-five years ago I had just entered the seminary. It was the Mid-1980s and reports of clerical sexual abuse were emerging. While the vast majority of priests were doing good work, some – even one was too many – had caused significant harm.

I am happy to say that the Archdiocese of Washington was one of the dioceses at the time which took the data of these reports very seriously. Archbishop James Hickey instituted a response in increasing stages to bring about a real prevention of any such behavior going forward. I recall how exhaustive the psychological testing was that I had to undergo before entering the seminary in 1984. Through seminary years careful attention was paid to teaching on the celibate commitment and I remember seminarians being dismissed from Mount St. Mary’s due to infractions of that commitment. Any looking the other way that may have occurred in years past was surely not operative in my seminary years.

When I was first ordained in 1989 the Archdiocese had already instituted a yearly meeting of the priests wherein we were frankly instructed in and warned about any boundary violations and that any credible allegations would be taken very seriously. The attention to this topic annoyed some of the priests who dubbed it the “yearly sex talk.” But it was surely necessary and no one was permitted to miss it. The talks were helpful because they not only reinforced our resolve to ensure safe and proper boundaries in our churches and schools but it also helped us to hold each other accountable and to recognize if brother priests or employees were being inappropriate in any way.

As our sophistication and resourcefulness in this new area began to grow, The Archdiocese of Washington began to expand this training beyond priests and school leaders to increasing numbers of lay leaders and employees. For a number of years we have in place a very expansive program called VIRTUS which you will see described in the CBS video below. It trains anyone in the Archdiocese of Washington (paid or volunteer) who has substantial contact with children to both recognize, and even more importantly prevent sexual abuse. No one is to work with minors unless they have been trained and had criminal background checks done.

I say all this with some pride because I think the Archdiocese of Washington was a leader among other dioceses in this country in the education and prevention of the sexual abuse of minors. We are all well aware that some dioceses did seemingly little in response to the growing crisis. But the Archdiocese of Washington was surely proactive and expansive in its response. Cardinal Hickey was quick to recognize the problem and took it very seriously. He set in motion a process to vigorously address the problem and protect the young. He is gone now but the legacy of his action lives on the programs he initiated long before the Dallas Charter of 2002. Ask any priest of this Archdiocese and they will tell you, we’ve been going to classes and meetings for a mighty long time.

Most recently our efforts have expanded to teach young people carefully on these matters and to give them the comfort and capacity to speak out if they are in any way troubled by the boundaries or behavior of others in this regard. Creating safe environments for children means that it is essential that they feel free to report anything that may concern them in this regard. In the past shame and fear limited reporting. We are trying to eliminate that and keep the door open to any who may wish to express concerns. The Web Page for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Protecting our Children Program is here:

Last night, CBS news ran a story which detailed not only one man’s story of abuse, but also of the Church’s efforts to prevent this sort of thing going forward. (While the news story says these are “new” programs, they have been in place for several years and similar programs are in place nationwide.) In this sense the story is fair. There are real victims who still have a lot of pain. But the Church has responded in many ways and that too is part of the story that needs to be told.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Marriage and Womanhood

This blog is a complement to Msgr. Pope’s January 4th blog, Marriage and Manhood. There, he laid out some ground rules for men concerning marriage. Fabulous blog, in my opinion!

As a follow-up, I felt the need to encourage women to do their part as well. So with my own experiences and the input of a single marriage-minded man, I’ve compiled this list.

1) If you are interested in attracting a man, look the part: choose feminine dresses over androgynous pants; fitted contours over ill-fitting clothes; enhancing colors over plain blacks; natural, youthful makeup over heavy, concealing makeup; and always choose a smile over a blank stare or a scowl.

2) Never ask a guy out! If he is interested and is a real man, he will ask you out. If he doesn’t ask you out, he either isn’t interested or isn’t a real man. This point could not be more clear or more important.

3) Do not have an intimate friendship with a man who is not dating you. If you are hoping that someday he will date you, it’s very unlikely. (Sorry, Taylor Swift.) This can also be a red flag that this man does not have intimate friendships with other men. This is a problem since men need other men to be real men.

4) Ok so you’re on your first date, and this guy starts sounding an awful lot like your ex…give him a chance! If you start projecting your ex’s worst characteristics on this new guy, you are inviting your own disappointment. Each man is unique, so give him the respect he deserves. It has been said that a man’s desire for respect is comparable to a woman’s desire to be cherished.

5) Once a man initiates a friendship, continue letting him pursue you as you get to know each other. Let him plan the dates. Let him pick you up. Let him pay. Let him set the pace. Let him be the first to use the words relationship, dating, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Follow his lead, and don’t make assumptions.

6) Dress modestly and act chastely. Despite what television and commercials tell you, seduction is entirely unnecessary! Your beauty and the fact that you are a female is enough.

7) If a relationship doesn’t work out, don’t let that affect your relationship with God or your appreciation of yourself as a woman. (I just got on a proud-to-be-a-Catholic-woman kick. Above my bed is a recently-purchased painting of the Blessed Mother and baby Jesus, and on my bedside table is my rosary and my current pile of books: “The Privilege of Being a Woman” (von Hildebrand), “Woman” (Stein), “Theology of the Body for Beginners” (West), “Graced and Gifted” (Hahn), “Introduction to the Devout Life” (de Sales), and “The Soul of Elizabeth Seton” (Dirvin). This is new venture for me, but I can tell you that so far it’s been entirely enriching!)

Try all 7 of these guidelines, and let me know how it works for you! And if you’ve been grazing in one pasture for a while, try a new one! God never promised that your future husband would live within a 20 miles radius.

God bless your journey toward marriage!

“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” Proverbs 31:10