If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year, it’s that plans can change faster than we can blink. I could list example after example of ways my life has changed this year, but nothing has been harder to accept than the change of my best friend entering religious life.
Vocations are something I always knew existed, and something I thought I understood. I was taught there were two paths: marriage or religious life, and I was okay with that because I knew my path. However, I realized in the past few months that my knowledge and understanding of vocations was slim to none.
I’m currently a college student, and at my university, I was lucky enough to meet Rory. We were both on the cross country team and quickly bonded over our love for the faith. Fast forward seven months, and my best friend is pulling application papers out of her backpack to enter with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.
I wanted to write something because I noticed the lack of other people talking about this topic in a serious manner. Supporting a friend entering religious life means putting away your selfish desires and just being there for them, and that is not an easy task to accomplish.
I’ve been through it all, the sadness, the guilt about the sadness, the immense happiness; it’s all a part of the process. Being supportive of your friend starts with getting your own emotions under control. You won’t be much help to your friend if you haven’t given yourself the time you need to accept and pray about this change.
Give yourself time to process the change.
I’m a planner, and when things change, I immediately go into fix mode, but Rory’s decision to enter religious life wasn’t something that needed to be “fixed.” Still, I was struggling with a lot of different emotions. When Rory first told me she was entering religious life, the first thing that went through my mind was the fact that I wouldn’t have a roommate next year. This isn’t exactly the most selfless thing to focus on, but my mind couldn’t stop thinking about everything that would change in my life because of this.
I wanted to be supportive of her decision, but I also knew the next year would look a lot different, and I was upset about that. All these emotions turned into anger that I directed at God. I was confused why He would put this amazing friend in my life and then take her away so quickly.
The truth is, you can’t support your friend until you get your own emotions under control. So, give yourself a break, and give yourself lots of time to pray and process the change. For me, I had to accept the fact that this was something out of my control. I had to accept the fact that this situation wasn’t about me, and pray for the strength to be there for my friend.
Having someone you trust to talk it through is very helpful. On my campus, we have religious sisters, and after Rory told me the news, I got lunch with them and talked through what the next few months would look like with Rory entering. Talking with the sisters gave me a chance to work through all the emotions I was overwhelmed with, and also helped reassure me that Rory entering religious life wouldn’t mean we would lose our friendship.
This time to process and pray is so important. Once you reign in your emotions, you will be more available for your friend. While you may be sad about her decision right now, she will be needing your support and love in the upcoming months. Make sure you are ready to help her and be there for her when she needs it.
Don’t go into panic mode. Make sure you give your friend the space they need.
All those emotions you’ve been feeling ever since you heard the news, your friend has been going through those for months, if not years, and now that they’ve made a commitment to religious life, they probably have a lot on their plate.
Something I quickly learned through Rory is that vocational discernment can be a very hard road for some. The decision to enter religious life does not come without suffering, especially if this is their true vocation.
I know that after learning your friend is entering, there is an urge to try to do everything with them as quickly as possible. All those plans you had together suddenly seem more important, and you almost can hear the clock ticking away, but take a deep breath.
You do not need to make every memory with your friend in the next six months. Once they enter, they aren’t leaving your life. Will your friendship look different, absolutely, but this doesn’t mean it ends the moment she enters the convent. Try not to get overwhelmed with fitting every plan in, and simply enjoy the time you have right now.
Your friend will be needing a lot of support in the next few months. She is going to need you to calm her down when she suddenly panics and starts doubting her decision. She is going to need you to be proud of her, to listen to her, and pray for her.
She does not need you to start planning every weekend full of activities until she enters.
While you may have a lot of questions to ask her, try to give her space. She just made a huge life decision, and she’s probably going to need some time to process it as well. Make it clear she has your support and love, and let her come to you with the rest.
Again, this is when having a mentor or close friend to talk to comes in handy. I asked all my “panic questions” to the sisters that live on my campus. I remember asking things like “When can I visit her” or “How many times a year can she leave the community?” Your friend probably doesn’t even know the answers to these questions yet, so bombarding her with them will just overwhelm both of you.
Pray, research, then pray some more.
I mentioned before that all of my emotions quickly turned to anger and frustration that I aimed towards God. I was truly just upset that I had lost the control on my life I thought I possessed. It took a few weeks of prayer and time spent in adoration to realize that Rory entering wasn’t about me. God wasn’t “taking Rory away” to punish me, he was guiding her towards Heaven, and while I obviously have no idea why God put Rory in my life, I like to believe it was to show me the true beauty of friendship.
The most important thing for you to do through this whole process is to take everything to God in prayer. Let Him know how you are feeling, ask Him for guidance and understanding, and if you are able, just sit with Jesus in adoration. Take this time to deepen your relationship with Christ; you may find yourself in need of His support in the coming months.
Also, don’t be afraid to do some research of your own. Take some time to look into the order your friend is entering, and find some answers to the many questions you probably have. Is the order cloistered or active? What is the order’s apostolate? Finding answers to these questions can help you better understand what the next few years will look like for your friend and will help you fill in some of the blanks.
Once you’ve done your research, pray some more! The best way for you to support your friend is through your prayers. Say a rosary for them, or even offer up a novena for their discernment.
Give it time and respect the process.
When you first learn of a close friend entering religious life, your emotions will be fresh and it may be hard to accept the change. I promise you, with time, it gets easier. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s one of the biggest cliches for a reason. It really will get better.
In the beginning, it’s so easy to only focus on what you’re losing and it’s even easier to fall into a cycle of self pity. However, with time and lots of prayer, it becomes easier to see the beauty in the situation. Your friend is answering God’s call! She is saying yes to Jesus and becoming the person God wants her to be. It is one of the most beautiful and joyous things to witness.
So, respect the process. Let yourself be sad and a little angry, but don’t let it overwhelm and blind you. After all, you aren’t losing a friend; your friendship just became a little more unique.
It’s also important that you respect your friend’s timeline. While you may want to tell everyone the exciting news, she may not be ready. Some people discern out of communities after a year, or may not even get accepted, so she might want to wait to tell others until everything is official.
Having a close friend enter religious life can be a tough change to accept. It can easily feel overwhelming and frustrating, but putting your trust in God and His plan is the key. God has led your friend to religious life for a reason, and He wants to see her fulfill her vocation. Supporting her in this decision and trusting in God will make your friendship that much stronger.
While it may feel as though you are losing a friend, your friendship is actually becoming more holy and beautiful. Even though you will not be able to text each other each day, or get lunch together, you will have a relationship built on love for our Lord, and together you can support each other in your journey to Heaven,
So you want to get married and have children? Good for you! As a woman, you have identified one of the most meaningful goals life has to offer.
The difficult thing about reaching this goal is that you cannot force it to happen. Gone are the days of arranged marriages. It doesn’t really matter how many goats your father has for your dowry, you live in the 21st century and you have to wait patiently for Mr. Right to show up in your life.
The scariest part is wondering whether he ever will.
Why would God make us “sit around and wait” for something that is so good?
Jesus often questioned the faith of those he encountered in the Gospel. Today, he asks you and me, “Where is your faith?” When life is going according to plan, it is easy to tell Jesus we trust in him. The test comes when we are distressed, suffering, or confused.
God is good and he has a plan for your life, however ordinary and unexciting it may sometimes appear. Don’t doubt God’s goodness! Do keep in mind, however, that you have an enemy who wants you to doubt God, just as Eve doubted in the garden of Eden. If Satan can’t get you to be a worldly woman who only cares about herself, he will try the next best thing. He will tempt you to doubt that God will meet the deepest desires of your heart. Remember, this exciting, crazy, terrifying, beautiful life is a testing ground. Will you trust?
We prove we trust God by cooperating with him. There is no “sitting around” involved. An unmarried woman demonstrates her faith in Christ by preparing herself for the gift she believes God will send. This doesn’t mean buying a wedding dress after you have been dating for two weeks!
It does mean that you should use the time God has given you as an unmarried single to become the person God is calling you to be right now—a person who is more equipped to live the vocation God has in store for you in the future.
How do you make the best use of your time now?
The number one way you prepare yourself for the call God has on your life is by becoming who you are called by God to be today. To face each day with the desire to do God’s will above your own.
It is a no-brainer, but let’s face it, sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do, because they are so ordinary, even mundane. Grow in holiness!
Remember, you cannot give what you don’t have. Whether that means being a single person, a religious sister, or a wife and mom, you have been tapped by God to help others get to heaven. Start now to get yourself in spiritual shape for this sobering and awesome responsibility. Pray. Read the Scriptures. Make use of the sacraments. Follow the commandments. Be informed. Practice virtue. Root out sin.
A note on the most important virtue of all…love. (see Colossians 3:14). Learn to love by being a loving person. St. Francis de Sales says,
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.”
You won’t be a good lover in the future if you don’t love those God has placed in your life today.
Reflect on who you are.
Spend time reflecting on what it means to be a woman, the dignity of your sexuality, and your own psychological health.
Expose yourself to the wisdom of the Church in documents such as Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) and the lived experience of holy women throughout history. Where to start? Try My Sisters the Saints—it is a compelling personal testimony of Colleen Carol Campbell. She introduces her readers to several inspirational female saints who helped her on her journey throughout her single life and married life.
Realize we have all been brainwashed to some degree by our God-less culture that does not understand the meaning and purpose of the body, not to mention the act of sex. If you have never been exposed to it, the teaching of the Theology of the Body, given to us by St. Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, is rational, compassionate, scientific, and true.
There are many Catholic resources based on this teaching. You could start with Theology of the Body for Beginners: Revised Edition. Dive into the sanity, common sense, and jaw-dropping insight of the Theology of the Body!
Strive to become a healthy person. Let Jesus, the great and glorious physician, heal you of the emotional or spiritual wounds you might have. If you need to forgive someone in your life, do it now. No one is perfectly whole, but we can all work, little by little, at being as whole as we can be.
Become proficient in the practical duties of life.
(Again, this is what you are called to no matter what your vocation!):
Be fiscally responsible. Learn to spend money wisely, to tithe, and to budget. Financial prudence, so often overlooked by the young, can give you and your future husband the freedom to do what you think is best for your family in the future.
Learn the life skills you need to know to be a good homemaker. Learn to cook (which not only saves money, but allows you to make healthier food), to make a cozy living space in which friends and relatives love to relax and talk, to improve your methods of organization, and to nurture interests, such as gardening or computer-hacking. (You never know when it might come in handy!)
Along the same lines, a single woman should spend some time identifying and using her gifts and talents, especially through doing volunteer work. Focus on giving of yourself to others.
Teach yourself! Read (good) books of various sorts. If you have not had a classical education, consider reading some philosophy, theology, and classical literature. If you are lacking in more practical skills, learn how to change a tire, use a drill, and paint. Believe me, it is hard to learn these kinds of skills when you are nursing a baby, making dinner for a large family, or bathing a toddler! Becoming a well-rounded person means you are becoming a more interesting person. Who doesn’t want to become more interesting? Form good habits of exercise and eating healthfully!
Pray and examine your heart.
When it comes to your vocation, examine your heart and your motives, then talk to God honestly about what your heart yearns for. Don’t be afraid to ask him for what you want. It isn’t as though you are demanding something in the style of Veruca Salt. (Daddy…I want another pony.) No, when we approach God as a loving Father, he is pleased.
Don’t drag this issue to God every time you go to pray, but stay in dialogue with him about it. Let him know how you are struggling and how you are feeling. Then end with, “Thy will be done.” Ask God to give you the grace to accept anything he deems good to give— or not give— you.
And don’t feel like you always need to feel happy about the fact that you have unfulfilled desires. Find a healthy balance of asking, believing, and accepting. Married or unmarried, this issue of unfulfilled desires and grappling with God is a life-long one.
Also, as you pray about your vocation, ask God to help you to put aside preconceived notions about who might be a good spouse for you. True compatibility is key, but we need to be careful we don’t miss a potential husband because we aren’t immediately attracted to him.
Some final thoughts
Jackie Angel, in Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry, shares a healthy perspective on living a single life to the full, while still desiring marriage, “I did not know if my call to marriage would come at age twenty-eight, or at fifty. But I knew I would rather be single and joyful in God than be miserable in a marriage I called myself to. So I waited day by day, doing the will of God and allowing him to satisfy me, heal me, comfort me. And I want every person to know it is possible to be ‘in the waiting’ while also being fully joyful and alive in the present…”
Finally, take heart. The more virtuous and healthy a person is, the more readily they can enter the marriage state when they find a suitable marriage partner. Marriage can sometimes happen fairly quickly between two people who, like good athletes or understudies in a play, are ready to enter a game or take on a role for which they have been preparing.
A time of waiting should be a time of living, fully, in the present moment. It can be a time of personal growth and a time of preparation, though it can be a troubling time as well. Cooperating daily with God, especially when you feel alone, unlovable, and confused, has a unique power to make you a stronger, holier person. It is the kind of growth that never takes place if you just sit around waiting for your life to start.
And your faithfulness says to God:
“I trust you. I know I can count on you to make me happy and fulfilled in your way and in your good time.”
St. Therese of Lisieux once said, “True love begins when there is nothing looked for in return.”
I’m a young newlywed, and I’m madly in love.
People may roll their eyes at this, but there is always more to relationships than the pseudo-romance people see on their Instagram stories.
I’ve been given the gift of a holy husband, and with that gift, God has offered me a taste of what actual love entails in a very short amount of time.
Within a few short weeks of marriage, we found ourselves in mourning.
My husband and I really push ourselves to grasp the concept of loving selflessly, and we do our very best to love one another that way. It wasn’t until we lost our baby that the mystery of loving with nothing in return became our concrete reality.
Strength isn’t always what you think it is.
There’s a certain level of strength women must possess within themselves to go about daily life, strength for the countless moments that they need to endure for the well-being of their families’ and for society. They need the strength of God to carry out His plans in their lives.
I felt very helpless and weak. I love a baby I will never know this side of heaven. I poured my body, heart, and soul into a life that I cannot see, into a personality I’m unable to delight in. (Notice all of the ‘I’s?) I didn’t realize my expectations to be loved back by this baby until we lost him or her. I had expectations of God and of myself. My joy in expecting was speckled with drops of selfishness. I could write for days about the lessons learned regarding love and suffering, but here I want to focus on the importance of strength.
I found myself wondering how I would get through this miscarriage without the weight of grief crushing me. I know God loves us and our baby loves us, too, but I never thought I would go my whole life without seeing it plainly in the physical world.
I needed strength when those moments hit me and still need it every day.
Women are, in fact, much stronger than they think. However, I’m certain the strength I’m talking about contrasts with most women’s versions of strength.
After I miscarried I wanted to be at perfect peace and trust God effortlessly out of the gate. I wanted to handle our loss with grace and pure acceptance. I wanted to inspire others with how fruitful it can be to endure suffering well. Don’t get me wrong, these desires definitely helped me focus on the right things, but I was approaching it with a bit of a perfectionistic mindset.
I had to give myself some grace. This was (and is) hard.
My love/hate relationship with perfectionism.
Over the years, I have been tempted by perfectionism, with always being put together and wanting to be in control of my life. I was a straight-A student essentially all the way through college. I like things crisp and clean and organized. I am big into efficiency and time management. If it were up to me, no one would be late to anything… ever. That being said, I’ve been known to wrestle with perfectionism. Acting like everything is great when you’re in the middle of true suffering is not being strong, it’s being unrealistic. It took me a hot minute to grasp this Truth after our loss, but I had to accept that it was time to rethink my approach. I couldn’t be the head honcho of my life anymore (especially now that I’m a wife.) It was time to let go of what I believed strength to be.
Here are a few things I needed to be reminded of:
Strong women cry and then pull themselves off the ground, because they know they don’t belong there.
Strong women lean on the holy men in their lives.
Strong women don’t complain, whine, or snap when they’re struggling.
Strong women ask for help and are patient in their waiting.
Strong women know their holy, beautiful, and immaculate place in this world and don’t scream or scratch for more.
Ultimately, the strength of a woman is precisely in accepting her weakness. That is the secret of feminine strength.
A humble woman knows that her greatness lies in being little.
Our natural desire as women is to run circles around people and prove ourselves. We look for reasons to pick up the slack before there is anything to pick up at all. I discovered a massive hole in this mindset. It does NOT work when you suffer greatly. Suffering is the quickest reality check of our weakness and our humanity.
Being little is hard.
Being little requires strength because it means we are susceptible to being knocked down by the winds of this world. We don’t need strength to be great. We need strength to be weak.
When you are a true woman of littleness and vulnerability, your guard needs to be strengthened so you don’t fall prey to those who will quickly take advantage of you. It may be other women, men, employers, businesses, demons, or tragedies in life. The wicked can smell purity from miles away, and women desperately need strength for the battles of daily life. Innocence and humility are favored by Our Lord. As Padre Pio said, “Holiness means living humbly.“
All we have to do is take a look at the Blessed Mother in all her precious femininity. No woman has ever been smaller or stronger.
This strength may come naturally to many women, but it’s important to know we can obtain and build up this strength in many ways.
First and foremost, we get this strength from God by asking in prayer and through the Sacraments.
We get it from consistency. An object in motion stays in motion, and growth mindsets are a holy habit.
We also become stronger by choosing to. We have the freedom to decide how we will act every minute of the day. Now, women can surely be overcome by emotion and sentimentality, but regardless, we are responsible for our attitudes and behaviors. We have the power to choose strength over inadequacy any day.
We can grow in strength by words of encouragement. It’s powerful to be told that someone believes in you, that living a strong, virtuous life is noble. I am amazed at how much simple phrases have strengthened me throughout my grieving. I absorb every word like it’s my first time hearing it. Things will get better. God has a plan. He will never give you more than you can handle. You can do this. Be not afraid.
A woman’s strength is different than a man’s strength.
I have come to clearly recognize now more than ever how backwards society views female strength.
The “fight for women” isn’t a fight for femininity at all. It’s rooted in despising men who fail to be real men. It’s pure resentment.
When feminists misinterpret humility as humiliating and worldly strength as a virtue, they directly undermine society. Women, more than men, have God-given capabilities to acquire a multitude of graces (creating life in the womb, compassion, submission). Yet, women must rely on men to direct and guide this precious and abundant power. That is man’s great gift: to reason, to be tough, to be in tune with God’s directions, to protect.
When men are removed from the greatness of women, women’s incredible power can be so perverse and misdirected that it wrecks the environment and produces an equally powerful evil. Women can be the greatest creature or the most wretched depending on what they do with the gifts God has given them. With great power comes great responsibility. Every single holy woman that has made it to Sainthood had a holy man leading her. Period.
Strong women rely on holy men.
For women to reach the potential God desires for them, they must be inseparable from their dependance on holy men. Holy men include fathers, spiritual directors, priests, husbands, brothers, and God Himself who takes the Masculine role of Father. Mother Teresa leaned on the priest, Celeste Van Exem, as her spiritual director. St. Zélie Martin was married to St. Louis Martin. Their daughter, St. Terese of Lisieux, absolutely adored her father Louis who called her “his little queen.” Mary Magdalene followed Jesus everywhere He went. St. Clare of Assisi was inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi and followed in his footsteps.
And of course, we have the Virgin Mary as our prime example. She is easily the greatest creature short of Our Lord, and it is evident that her cooperation in womanhood was her channel to heavenly glory as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Jesus was her protector and leader. When she lost Him who was her son, He placed her under the wing and protection of St. John. Holy women and holy men need each other. Women do not need to be “too strong” for men.
Had Mary refused Joseph’s protection during the flight into Egypt, we would not be redeemed by her Son.
She submitted daily to the guidance of holy men.
She submitted when the Angel Gabriel told her of her miraculous pregnancy saying, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”
She submitted when Simeon prophesied of her spiritual pain.
She submitted when Jesus quieted her at Cana though respected her request, and again when she watched him be beaten by soldiers and hung on a cross to die.
She played her part well without interrupting or challenging any of the events that God laid in her path. She had incredible strength simply by accepting her littleness, her holy feminine weakness.
I look to Mary now more than ever. Her little life was her greatest strength. And after all… she lost her child, too.
Not just any man will do, you want yourself a HOLY man.
Imagine if St. Joseph or Jesus ignored her all those years, or poked fun at her purity. It hurts to even think about it, because her innocence and humility are so immense that it goes against any sane man’s conscience to think of her as less than she is.
Mary is like a little child who perfectly and joyfully obeys authority at all times without question or doubt. To treat her as a nuisance or burden is unnatural. St. John Paul the Great once said, “God has assigned as a duty of every man the dignity of every woman.” It is essential for men to love their wives more than themselves, like Jesus loves Mary or Christ loves the Church. It is absolutely essential. Men need to speak kindly to women, listen to them, respect them. Remember, their strength lies in being weak.
If man understood the magnitude of virtue and holiness his wife is capable of, he would do everything he possibly could to support her in achieving sanctity. The problem is that so many men don’t know how to do this or where to start. Man must look at woman the way God looks at her.
Men, think about the things you say to a a woman. She needs you.
How do you view her?
Are you proud of it?
Does it build her up?
Does it support and protect her dignity?
Do you make fun of her or joke around in ways that belittler her womanhood?
Do you cherish her?
Do you strengthen her?
Women truly deserve to be placed on a pedestal, not because they are better than anyone else, but because their frailty and preciousness demand it. If men want to encourage women to be holy, they need to recognize in themselves their own responsibility to preserve, encourage, and nurture the beauty of women’s littleness.
Women so often have a hard enough time recognizing how valuable and adorable their weakness is, that they don’t need others making light of it, too. A woman who is well-loved and secure is far more likely to cultivate strength.
Not everyone will see you the way they should.
So what happens when your beautiful feminine weakness is not protected, recognized, or cherished? It may not come as a surprise to you that there are many days in life you will feel trampled and overcome by the world. Thankfully Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” We will surely suffer in this world when evil seems all around us, and we don’t know where to turn. We may have to suffer alone sometimes when it seems like no one understands or cares. Trust me, I get it.
Our prized weakness may make us feel incredibly vulnerable. But, I assure you we are capable of being strong enough for the battles of this world because no matter how alone we feel, we are never truly alone. All we need to do is contemplate the face of Jesus and ask for His strength. He is ready to give us the strength we need in this life to fulfill the plans He has for us.
It wouldn’t make sense for God to veil women in weakness for no reason and watch them fall. The strength of a woman is all from God. He saturates us in grace and mercy. Because of Our Lord, Catholics can tenderly recall Proverbs 31, “Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.” “She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.”
Call your mother.
Like Mary, I encourage you to rest easy knowing that God’s got it. He always has and will not abandon you when you feel too weak to tackle the little (or big) moments that pop up in your daily life. After all, He gave us his own mother to look to. She is our beautiful model of femininity and loves us deeply.
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55
The only thing more unfamiliar to a Californian than snow-days is the concept of modesty.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area where Catholic culture was spat on, crumpled up, and thrown into the wastebasket. I grew up a simple girl who didn’t care about how I dressed, nor did I feel any desire to present myself as feminine. If I could get away with just slipping on a t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and throwing my hair up in a messy bun to start my day, that is what I did. But after I graduated high school, I dropped my faith. Quickly, I transitioned into wearing thinner, tighter, and less clothing because it was my interpretation of adulting.
My journey towards feminine modesty was not one that I was pressured into by anyone, but merely a curiosity and calling that I felt compelled to entertain. This journey has utterly changed my perspective on the world so deeply that the only thing I regret about it is not starting it earlier. However, arguably the greatest of its effects have directly impacted the way I view my faith and what it means to truly strive to be like The Blessed Mother, the female role model who perfectly embodies feminine virtue.
A fundamental piece to the topic of feminine modesty that is often forgotten is a proper understanding of femininity.
Femininity is not merely dressing in a way that is considered girly with bright colored clothes and lots of accessories.
While these things can be a material way of expressing one’s femininity, they are not the core of what it means. In fact, femininity is not even the opposite of masculinity. Rather, it is the result of embodying virtue. Consider the adjectives that are used to describe Mother Mary: she is nurturing, tender, loving, humble, and protective. These contrast from the unfeminine vices of jealousy, pride, selfishness, and the tendency to gossip. By striving for feminine virtue, modest dressing naturally follows because a truly virtuous woman does not want to attract attention to herself through ways that can harm another persons’ soul.
Arguably the most controversial aspect to modesty is how feminist culture claims that modesty standards take the blame of sin off men and burden it onto women. From first glance, I sympathize with how many modesty talks can be perceived in this manner. However, what I realized is that this understanding completely misses the point of modesty.
Modest dressing is not about the man nor even the woman. It is merely about protecting the soul.
My favorite way of viewing modesty is by imagining that my clothing is a veil. In Catholic tradition, we veil what is sacred, and so when I wear a modest outfit, I am essentially acknowledging and protecting the sacredness of my body. In no way am I blaming myself if a man chooses to lust; rather, I am doing my part in setting both of us up for success in our journey towards sainthood.
Before I became intentional about modesty, my mindset behind my wardrobe came from a place of selfishness. As many girls do, I grew up very insecure about my weight. If I wasn’t worried about the shape of my waist, I was obsessed with trying to close my natural thigh gap. Peaking at nearly six feet tall, gaining weight was an ongoing battle for me. My solution to compensate for this was to use my body as a means to get validation for my appearance since I certainly wasn’t going to feel validated by myself. Never once did I consider how the way I presented myself affected other people, nor would I have cared even if I knew. This was the case up until the point of my reversion.
New lifestyle. New wardrobe.
During my second year of college, I answered God’s call to enter back into the Church. At this time, I felt my perception of the world shift dramatically.
Suddenly, the lifestyle that I was living out was no longer appealing to me. I quit the party habits I had become enslaved by, and eventually, I felt convicted over my dressing habits as well. I struggled with the transition phase I found myself in because even though I was experiencing an internal change, I still had the same friends from before. If quitting my recreational activities didn’t create enough social tension already, switching my wardrobe from club clothes mixed with androgynous outfits to dresses made me ultra self-conscious of how my peers would perceive me.
Thankfully, my friends didn’t seem to mind that I was transforming my entire lifestyle. They respected that I wanted to be sober, feminine, and take back my faith despite that they weren’t making the same changes in their own lives. But deciding to adopt a new way of living is one thing; knowing how to take the steps to achieve it is another.
The Virgin Mary: Your loving guide to feminity.
Once I fully embraced my reversion, I still had never received any guidance on what it meant to be feminine. While surfing through YouTube, the algorithm led me to a channel known as “Mrs. Midwest.” I remember the particular night that I stumbled upon her channel. I was sitting in my dorm alone, and I began to binge-watch videos that explained how to get in tune with my femininity. Within a week, I changed my wardrobe into skirts and dresses because I assumed that femininity equated to feminine clothing. After nights of prayerful consideration, I soon realized this was a major misconception.
Feminine modesty is not merely a configuration of the wardrobe, but rather it is a disposition of the heart. A woman can outwardly dress modestly, but if she does not strive for virtue, her actions will be just as immodest as the girl whose clothing exposes herself.
As I grew in my relationship with The Blessed Mother, my eyes had been opened to how my dressing affected the souls of those around me. While it is true that each person ultimately decides to act on temptation, as humans with intrinsic dignity, we have a duty to look after each other and not act in a way that can potentially put another soul in jeopardy.
This became especially important when I started sharing photos of my friends and me with my boyfriend from before my reversion. I made it a conscious effort to consider how my outfits in the photos could affect him because it is of utmost importance to me that he is not scandalized by my pre-reversion self. Even if it requires some major lifestyle changes, it is essential to remember that the purest way of demonstrating love and care for someone is through willing their good. This, however, does not mean that girls need to dress in a way that makes us less attractive to our significant others. God intentionally created women to be beautiful and we don’t need to hide that. The key piece we need to consider is if the way we are dressing respects our dignity and the dignity of the people around us.
Women are a beacon of beauty
Another realization I encountered is how women have a lot of power to persuade others. This power has often been used for personal gain, however, we are more than capable of using it to better ourselves and our communities. Men are often initially attracted by appearance and then by a woman’s character. In contrast, women are often first attracted by a man’s ability. This includes his masculine disposition, intelligence, and physical health. As a result, we tend to be more discriminant than men when choosing a partner.
The way we dress is often a filter that further narrows down the pool of men who are likely to reciprocate our attraction.
When we as women dress modestly, we often attract men who are inspired by our virtue and who are less likely to let themselves cave into concupiscence.
In other words, femininity inspires a man’s desire to intentionally live out the virtues of masculinity. These virtues are the foundation for healthy fatherhood, which then helps raise children in a virtuous manner, and thus the cycle repeats.
While I’ve been actively pursuing feminine virtue for almost a year now, I still have a long journey ahead of me. Each day, I need to make an intentional effort to reflect on what I am doing to become more like the perfect female role model: the mother of Christ.
If I could share only one piece of advice to a woman who is feeling called towards this journey but is also feeling intimidated by it, it would be to pray about it. It sounds so simple, but it is a necessary action in every major change someone makes in their lives.
Ask God to cleanse your mind of the fear of standing out by living a virtuously feminine life.
Ask Mary to hold your hand in this journey that appears to be rejected by secular society. She wants to support you while you make these changes; she is only a single prayer away.
Lastly, remember that while the path to embracing femininity looks different for each woman, it is all the same in that it always leads to a more fulfilling life.
The Biblical and historical ideal of genuine, beautiful femininity—a mixture of noble character, a determined spirit, wise discernment in running a household, and feeding and clothing those she is responsible for (to name a few aspects of true femininity)—is under attack.
So-called ‘advocates’ for ‘reclaiming’ genuine femininity do not focus on what it means to be a virtuous woman. Instead, they focus on the lie that true equality and success only occurs when men and women regularly perform the same role in society.
Though men and women share a common human dignity:
“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He [and she] is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead […] man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.” 
Men and women are not the same:
“Man and woman were made ‘for each other’ – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be ‘helpmate’ to the other, for they are equal as persons (‘bone of my bones. . .’) and complementary as masculine and feminine.” [bold added, 3]
In fact, the Catechism of Trent (following St. Paul’s teaching ) clearly defines the most common role of a woman, being a wife, as subject to her husband:
“the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles: Let wives be subject to their husbands that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of their wives […] To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention.” 
So how does a woman surrounded by differing opinions of how to live her life figure out what in the world is right?
This article debunks the plenitude of incorrect assumptions and pressures society places on women and discusses how women can instead nurture a genuine femininity and embrace the traditional, beautiful role for which God created women.
Logical Fallacies…oh Joy
Let’s get this out of the way first. For those who discredit this article or topic because it is a ‘patriarchal construct’ or because the men who run Catholic Late Night, Patrick and John, ‘can’t have an opinion on what women should do,’ I urge you to think about the last time you told any man in your life what to do.
Arguing that the Truth is reality only when a person of the ‘oppressed’ sex discusses it is an example of the Identity Fallacy. “In this fallacy, valid opposing evidence and arguments are brushed aside or “othered” without comment or consideration as simply not worth arguing about solely because of the lack of proper background or ethos of the person making the argument, or because the one arguing does not self-identify as a member of the ‘in-group.’” 
A Catholic wife: ‘You can’t get a vasectomy simply because you want to. It isn’t for medical reasons and it’s against our faith.’
Her Catholic husband: ‘It doesn’t matter if that’s our faith. You can’t have an opinion on that, because you’re not a man.’
Above is a clearly immoral and problematic example made worse by the husband’s inability to make a logical argument for getting a vasectomy. And yes, the rationality of arguments does matter. Logical fallacies ruin nations.
Again, the Catholic Late Night motto comes to mind here: We are not telling you how to think, we are telling you that you are not thinking enough.
Patrick and John are in fact men. And they’re going to debunk what society says about women and talk about the role women really have!
Let’s get to it!
How Does Society Define Femininity?
Spoiler alert: some pretty rotten stuff
Your physical appearance affects your value. Are you a 10 or a 4?
Women are baby killers. Women’s marches and feminists declare that abortion is a ‘Human Right,’ implying (and often stating) that women (and men) who fight to protect unborn babies are patriarchal, dangerous, and oppressive. 
Men and women are the same. Men aren’t even necessary for society.
Women make better sandwiches than men. This one is purposefully derogatory (and oftentimes untrue—my husband prides himself on his toasted club).
These are some of the expectations and ideologies being pushed on 21st-century women. In order to discuss how a woman should act, we must make it clear how women are different from men! So what is one obvious thing that only women have in common? Their biological makeup!
How are Women Different from Men?
While even this is being called into question by our corrupt postmodern society, logical people guided by the Truth will always accept this reality: a woman has two ‘X’ chromosomes and most of the time (barring rare genetic defects, injuries, etc) has the sexual organs naturally occurring in females (vagina, ovaries, and uterus to name a few).
Another biological difference between men and women is how our brains function. Though scientific research is ongoing and, realistically, not a whole lot is known about our ability to think, perform tasks, etc., anecdotal evidence suggests many differences between men and women.
There is widespread acceptance that women are better at organization and multi-tasking, whereas men are more single-task oriented. Though there are exceptions and gray area for different personality types of both of the sexes (lofty women and detail-oriented men), it is commonly understood by the sexes that if a man wants to do something, he is probably focusing on that one task.
Women are often less aggressive. They overwhelmingly choose work fields in which they help and care for other people—mothers, nurses/doctors, teachers, and lawyers.
The book Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham and Bill & Pam Farrel has plenty of other examples of the differences in decision-making/tendencies between boys and girls. 
The norms for the ways men and women’s brains functions are not the rule. They are important to contemplate, however, because when one acknowledges the differences between men and women, one gets closer to understanding that men and women are complementary.
God did not create humans man and woman simply so that they could procreate. God created Eve as a helpmate for Adam, a woman who would embrace her femininity and the gifts God gave her in order to unify herself to her husband and their cause—caring for the garden!
Why is knowing why and how the sexes are different important?
When you understand how the opposite sex functions, it helps you to understand how to lovingly and effectively interact with your parents, friends, colleagues, fellow parishioners, and your future spouse!
Women bodies are amazing and very sexual in nature. Just ask Jim Gaffigan:
He talks about the awesomeness inherent in the female body’s ability (and purpose) to house and grow a life. Men are only involved (biologically) for minutes in the creation of a child, but women’s bodies are designed to house the conception of a human life, to grow that life, to give birth to him/her, and then to nourish that life with the milk their body creates!
It’s an incredible privilege that God allows the location where an eternal life is created to be inside the body of a woman (even though much of society treats bearing a child as an unmentionable burden—brainwashing children and adults alike that ‘unprotected’ sex is ‘unsafe’ as if becoming pregnant in wedlock is going to ruin the spouses’ life!)
Another aspect of feminine sexuality is a woman’s natural receptivity to men.
For married couples, the conjugal embrace (having sex) is a physical posture of the husband giving his gift of himself and the wife receiving that gift.
On the romantic side of things, a husband’s sex drive is highly effective at encouraging him to pursue the wife. In a complementary way, a woman’s sex drive often naturally increases during her fertile times and is open to being wooed and chased.
Modern society would have you believe that men are naturally overly-sexual, but their role in chasing the wife is important! In this interplay between men and women, most of the time the man is driving the boat—making it obvious that he is interested—and the woman will (in a moral, healthy scenario) either follow along or give a legitimate reason why she does not wish to have sex.
It really is a win-win for both parties.
Let’s Get Physical! Feminine Physicality
The “Golden Ratio” of phi proportionality in women’s faces and their hip to waist ratio affects men’s attraction to them . Although there are many other factors involved in a man measuring a women’s attractiveness to him (her soul, societal expectations, and his personal experiences to name a few), there is one thing we don’t need scientists to prove to us: men enjoy appreciating women’s bodies!
There is nothing wrong with a husband appreciating his wife’s body. The science of attraction is complicated, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter…if God creates somebody to be married, they will find somebody who loves the way they look.
The Golden Ratio is helpful when examining art and the ideals of physical beauty over time mainly because it is interesting in its socio-economic context. For example, many works of art and fashion deemed beautiful in the 17th century look atrocious to modern, untrained eyes.
As previously stated, women’s bodies are not only beautiful and useful as a house for their intellect and will but also as a means of procreating and sustaining life. A dramatic difference between men and women comes in her ability to grow a child in her womb and nurturing the child once it is born.
Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset.
The natural process her body begins at conception continues throughout the child’s life—women’s bodies were created by God to best fulfill the role of mothering. Men’s bodies were created to be strong enough to protect their wives and to work every day to support their families.
It is not an inherently evil thing that men see women as beautiful. Jesus does warn men to be vigilant that they do not sin in their appreciation of women:
28 But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. 
Women are called to support men in their chaste and modest respect of them by wearing modest clothing (but that is another topic!)
So, let’s get to answering the million dollar question:
Who is the Best Example of Genuine Femininity?
The ideal of womanhood is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Catechism of Trent (1566) clearly declares that Mary is “the instrument of The divine goodness in bringing life and benediction to the human race.” Mary played a crucial role in our salvation and is often called the ‘new Eve.’ Sounds like a pretty good role model to me.
Just as “the Apostle sometimes calls Jesus Christ the second Adam, and compares Him to the first Adam; for as in the first all men die, so in the second all are made alive”
“the Virgin Mother we may also compare to Eve […] from Mary we have received Jesus Christ, and through Him are regenerated children of grace.” 
Because Jesus was made incarnate in the Virgin Mary’s womb, the world received salvation.
When searching for what it means to be a woman, look no further than Mary’s perfect example . Through God’s grace in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, she was saved from the stain of all sin (not even original sin!) so she could physically carry and give her DNA to the Christ Incarnate, fully God fully man.
Mary was a devoted wife, mother, and apostle of Jesus Christ. Her humility in obeying God is exemplified in her own words, the Magnificat:
“46 My soul doth magnify the Lord. 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
51 He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: 55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.” 
Now let’s get into some specifics of Mary’s example as a trusting wife.
Perfect Mother and Spouse: The Holy Family
Mary and Joseph’s decision-making process in the Bible serves as a wonderful example of married couples’ roles. Joseph respected Mary before they were wed and did not wish to publicly shame her when he heard she was pregnant (which could have resulted in her being stoned to death).
He faithfully trusted St Gabriel when the angel told Joseph that Mary’s child is God. Joseph found them shelter in Bethlehem when Mary was going to give birth. Mary trusted Joseph that they needed to flee to Egypt with the young baby Jesus. 
Mary trusted that Joseph would provide for her. The point isn’t that Mary or women nowadays are incapable of fending for themselves or making decisions.
The point is that Joseph allowed Mary to focus on the health and nourishment of their child while he figured out where they would stay or how to get to Egypt. He trusted God and led his family wherever they would be most safe. They divided responsibilities effectively.
The Holy Family
Keep in mind:Most Catholic men and women are called to marriage. Vocational options are marriage, the priesthood, or entering the religious life. (Contrary to popular opinion, the single life is not a vocation [unless specifically consecrated, which usually means the spiritual life] .) If a woman discerns that marriage is the vocation God is calling her to, when she enters into a relationship, it must be God-oriented and headed toward marriage.
Just as Mary and Joseph’s marriage centered on God’s salvific plan, so too are modern couples called to discern whether they are ready to vow their devotion to the other following the Church’s teaching on submission and sacrifice in the household.
By marrying a man, a woman trusts God that her husband is the man God has given her and allows him to lead her through life.
Leadership is not dictatorship! A husband’s leadership must be sacrificial.
In Ephesians 5, St Paul lays out how wives should be subject to their husbands. A woman should be subject to her husband, not because she has complete faith that his intellect and will is perfect, but because she trusts God to guide his decisions.
How Should a Woman Live in this World?
A woman is the center of the family’s home life. Remember that men and women’s roles are complementary. While men are leading the family in faith and providing for their needs, women are running the household; including, but not limited to, cooking and cleaning, creating children in their body, educating children in the faith, and ensuring they are nourished.
Through women’s efforts, the home is a wonderful place. Don’t believe me? Go compare female and male college dorm rooms and tell me which ones feel more like a home.
Many women are gifted with the drive to make wherever they are living more comfortable and hospitable. Healthy men are driven to provide for their families and make sure they are physically spiritually, and financially safe.
A Real-Life Example
A great example of a woman’s role in raising a family, comes from one of Catholic Late Night’s hosts, John, discussing his parent’s division of responsibilities and understandings about their respective roles.
“My mom taught me to trust in God because of how she trusted my dad. My mom and dad basically made a commitment at the beginning of their marriage that my mom was gonna be a stay-at-home mom no matter what.
And sometimes that meant my dad had to do some crazy stuff to pay the bills.
BUT he did it, and my mom didn’t work and she stayed home with the kids and because of [my dad working] it was a great thing for our family.
My dad prayed to God that God would bless his work. My dad actively trusted God that He would give him the money for the work that my dad was doing to take care of my family. My mom passively trusted God that He would lead my dad and provide for the family.
My mom wasn’t working because that wasn’t her role. Her role was to trust God and my dad. [To trust] that God would lead my dad and my dad would let himself be led by God.”
John’s story beautifully articulates the roles of a husband and wife. The familial model all Catholic families should follow is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph, Terror of Demons.
The husband sacrifices himself by being willing to provide for his family, undertaking that burden of their safety, and by working for a living.
A wife self-sacrifices primarily in childbirth—one of the most painful things in life—and by raising the children and running the household.
Catholic Femininity: The Stay-at-Home Mom
In our society, stay-at-home moms are often treated as pariahs: some working women are jealous that they get to spend so much time with their children, other working women believe it is weak and foolish for a woman not to get a full-time job, still others feel forced by financial struggles to continue working outside the home.
The lie that women need to ‘establish a career before getting married’ runs rampant in Western civilization, but is absolutely contrary to Catholic teaching on the matter: “To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out” 
There is nothing wrong with continuing education and having goals for oneself as long as they are consistent with the doors God has open for you.
In fact, is a great blessing to be called by God not to go to work. It is the curse of Adam that he must toil in the fields. If by financial necessity a woman needs to work (she is unmarried and needs to support herself, her husband loses his job, financial strain, etc), the Church says it is acceptable for her to do so as long as it does not interfere with her primary obligations—loving God and her family.
Whatever situation a family is in, the ideal is this: women raising their children in a stable home as a guide, educator in the faith, and nurturer.
This post does not condemn women who work outside of the home and have children. On the contrary, the purpose of this section is to point out that mothering in conjunction with a 9 to 5 is not the ideal situation. I'd wager that most married/unmarried, working women with children would agree that if they could have stayed home with their children raising them and pursuing their hobbies and passions on the side, they would have preferred it.
In our non-ideal world, many women are forced to take on a job to maintain a financially safe household. The two-income household is a plague on our society, and it has become an unfortunate necessity in many families’ lives.
A Two-Income Family Scenario
If you remain unconvinced that a woman cannot have a full-time job and properly catechize and raise her children without a lot of difficulties, picture this scenario:
A 1st-grader goes to elementary school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. His mother has a 9 to 5 and his father is a firefighter (on-call), so that child goes straight from school to daycare or an after-school program. His mother finally makes it back into town after rush hour traffic around 6:15 p.m. and picks up the kid.
She gets home just a little after her husband does (he has been working all night putting out fire call after fire call), and he has started on dinner. They give their kid a snack and turn on the T.V. to keep him busy while they cook. It is now 7:30 p.m. and dinner is ready, but the father is called back into work. The mom and kid talk about their days and she gets him ready for bedtime at 9 p.m.
Rinse and repeat Monday through Friday.
Sound familiar? During her workweek, she will only see her child for an hour as he gets ready for school and about three and a half hours after she gets home from work.
It’s heartbreaking that so many women are forced to be away from their children for so long every day. It’s no coincidence that the phrase ‘what are they teaching in school these days’ has become so commonplace.
Not only do parents have less say in the education (academic and moral) of their children but they also do not have much time to counteract the immoral and even dangerous beliefs or lifestyles their kids encounter.
Children are ever-increasingly not being raised by moms and dads, but by strangers.
How to Live in Genuine Femininity
The idea has been sold to women that they are less than men if they are not doing the same things as men. Society tells us that a woman going to an incredibly time-consuming job (and becoming dependent on that job for income) is somehow better or more meaningful than having the care of a human being (that they brought into existence with their body), fostering that life, and watching it grow into an adult with an eternal soul.
G.K. Chesterton (utilizing Birth Control as an example of the dangers of women losing their femininity to militant anti-patriarchal-ism) puts it best:
“[Birth Control] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.” 
As if making money is more important than being with your family. Again, I understand that there are extenuating circumstances, but there are (especially right now) thousands of jobs which can be completed from home or part-time without sacrificing necessary income or your child’s well-being. **
Here is another topical quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” 
Basically, women’s ability to demand more from men (charitably) is a natural role that women have to craft a world with higher standards.
That’s why when a woman settles for a mediocre or low-effort boyfriend, she is actively enabling more men to get away with treating women in a mediocre way! Just look at the ‘sexual liberation’ in our society:
Many feminists simultaneously want men to treat them as humans with respect and dignity (morally sound) and pay for their drinks in exchange for a one night stand (morally dangerous).
If every girl agreed not to talk to or put up with loser guys, men would be forced to step up! Men would have to take care of the women they are interested in. Isn’t that the standard women should hold men to (and men to women)?
Genuine femininity means understanding the balance between having standards for the men and your life and submitting to their God-given leadership role. I am not saying that women should defend oppression, evil, or suppress their unique personalities.
Women should and must embrace their beauty, personality, role, and God-given talents.
The reality is, men and women need each other. God created Eve as a helpmate for Adam which is clearly exemplified through women’s physical abilities, sexual drive, emotional strengths, and so much more. Only when both sexes embrace God’s true plan for the order of our world will men and women find any fulfillment and peace on this earth.
Otherwise, women will forever be demanding more and more from men (feminism), but never holding men (or themselves) accountable for their standards of virtue and dependence on God.
If you’re a woman, accept your God-given role as wife or in the spiritual life. If you have not yet made vows in a vocation, seek guidance from sisters or married Catholics whom you can trust and learn from.
Hold the men in your life to a high standard of leadership, sacrifice, and courage without undermining their God-given authority. Appreciate the things men do for you and your family and encourage them to achieve the highest form of masculinity. Regain the willing submission to men in your life so that they can sacrifice themselves for you!
If you’re a man, you need to regain your masculinity. What aspect of your life do you need to incorporate/work on to attain the ideal of masculinity and holiness for the women in your life? Be the man that God has created you to be. Stand up for the Truth of the Catholic faith and let go of addictions that prevent you from becoming the man that you are supposed to be.
With the prevalence of divorce in the world today, many young people ask themselves: ‘Why should I get married young?’ Their concern often hinges on the assumption that the younger you get married, the greater the chance your marriage flops. But where is the logic in that?
Divorces do not happen because of the age at which people get married. Real reasons people choose civil divorce include peoples’ unwillingness to grow with their spouse, not knowing their spouse well before marriage, or their spouses lied to them before they were married (like carrying on an affair or never really intending to have children; often grounds for annulment).
This post will explore the decision to marry young and answer questions like:
How young is too young to get married?
Should I get married in college? (Should I even be in college??)
How long should somebody date before getting married?
If you are discerning marriage with your significant other or looking for a Catholic argument for marrying young, you’ve come to the right place!
How Young is Too Young?
The Catholic Church declares that a “man before he has completed his sixteenth year of age and a woman before she has completed her fourteenth year of age cannot enter into a valid marriage.”  The average age of (first) marriage in the US in 2019 was 28 for women and 30 for men. 
So what’s with the huge gap?
It’s all a matter of priorities.
If a woman wants a high-profile career and to avoid having children, what is her incentive to get married?
In our corrupted society in which sleeping around and cohabitation before marriage are widely normalized, marriage is put on the backburner—even for Catholics who deny the hook-up culture. (The “average age of first marriage for Catholics is 24.” )
(Though 14-year-old girls and 16-year-old boys are still in high school in westernized culture, in other cultures [and historically in the west], by this age men have begun to learn a trade. I’m not saying that people who are genuinely too immature to marry should do so. I am saying that there is a possibility that two individuals could be ready to marry that young.)
That is the key to knowing whether or not to marry: are both parties ready? The Church and American law have clear rules for issues pertaining to blood-relations (no-go in either case), homosexual unions (the Catholic Church declares rightly that this is disordered), and marrying after civil divorce (a marriage must receive an official annulment before somebody can marry another person validly [which means marriage for the first time, since annulment means the ‘first marriage’ was never valid in the first place]).
The moral law is simple and clear, the tricky part is discerning if you want to spend the rest of your life with another person. After the age set by the Catholic Church for moral and physical reasons, age does not really matter in the decision to marry.
The timeline set by our present secular society—college, then career, then marriage after 27 years old (possibly having children)—has too easily bought out Christian young people. The university system has convinced the country that the only way to earn a livable income is through earning a college degree (something that has not been and will never be true).
One of the first lies society flaunts is that marrying while in college is too young and a terrible idea…
In the often-toxic college culture filled with drunkenness, hook-ups, and sexual assault, dating can feel like a dangerous game. Obviously, it is a really bad idea to get married to somebody immediately after a one night stand (also a tremendously bad idea). Most of the time, shotgun marriages do not end up well and they are invalid according to the Church’s standards.
On to a more realistic scenario…if you’ve found a virtuous guy or gal, way to go! It is still tempting (and often encouraged) to only consider marriage once both parties have graduated from college.
Whether it’s a matter of paying for the wedding, parents not trusting that their son or daughter will finish school, or a sense of ‘what people are supposed to do,’ many young adults are pushed to obtain their (often worthless) degree before entering a marital union.
This is an absurd perversion of priorities! Consider how many young people are presently feeling a sense of dread and discouragement about what they are meant to do with their life. Even people who know what they want to do—graduate from college, and get that big engineering job— start to wonder what their piles of money mean without a companion share it with!
Why did our grandparents and relatives before them marry young and not go to college? They had their priorities straight!
In 1960, about 8% of men and women 25 or older had completed a Bachelor’s degree or higher . “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are” —that is an incredible decline.
The majority of adults as recent as the 1960s did not go to college and were married. The idea that one needs a college degree in order to financially provide for a family or even to pay for a wedding is ridiculous and should be heavily scrutinized by discerning couples.
For one thing,
Weddings are way too expensive nowadays. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the US is $35,329…yikes!  That is a sizable chunk of change that would be better utilized on a new car, house down-payment, or starting an investment account (basically, anything else).
Don’t use the cost of the wedding as an excuse not to vow your lifelong commitment to the love of your life. Find discounts, ask family for help, or get free/used things!
Carl and Ellie married young! According to Disney, Ellie was 19 when they were wed.
My husband and I splurged on a couple of nice things for our wedding because of the type of party we wanted to throw. The total cost of our wedding was not even close to a third of the American average! Weddings are about the Sacrament of Matrimony, not the after-party. Young couples need to focus more on their call to marriage as a vocation and less about their schooling and the cost of wedding planning.
Our culture pushes off marriage to prioritize a career. First comes love? Not anymore!
First comes college, then comes marriage, then comes setting up a 401(k) and financial security before I can even ethically think about having one child.
Long story short: if you are going to college and absolutely need a degree to be hired in the field you feel called to, go for it. In that case, if you are in a relationship with somebody you would like very much to marry (and are compatible—spiritually, mentally, and have physical chemistry), don’t just push marriage off until post-graduation!
There is grace in the Sacrament of Marriage. A good spouse will not hamper your ability to ‘be yourself’ or get straight As, they will encourage you and help you de-stress! Also, the cost of college is cut tremendously when your spouse makes little to no money.
Marrying during college helps you succeed and saves you from taking out thousands of dollars in loans based on your parent’s income.
If you are getting a pointless degree (you know who you are), stop going to college. In the 60s, they didn’t have information readily accessible at their fingertips to teach themselves (like we do now!) andthey chose to pursue their vocation before their career.
As an English major from Texas A&M University, I can honestly say that earning my degree was the most expensive dating service out there. I met and married my husband, read some publicly accessible books, research studies, and essays, and spent thousands and thousands of dollars.
Want to be more educated without wasting so much time on essays and studying for tests? Lookup class syllabi and read the materials yourself! Nobody is stopping you. You could probably even contact field professionals if you wanted to learn more about a topic and they would be glad to guide you to more resources.
Heck, you could contact that same professor and ask them to send you their lecture notes for $350. That would still be cheaper than paying the university middle-man.
How Long Should I Date Somebody Before Marrying Them?
If you are not in a position to get married within about 2 years of beginning to date someone, don’t start dating.
When you become emotionally and spiritually interdependent with another person, it is incredibly difficult to break off that bond.
When dating somebody, you must take the time to get to know them and learn if you enjoy spending time with them (in stressful times and happy times). This should not take 15 years to do. Here’s a secret: let God into your relationship, and He will help you decide if it is going somewhere or not.
After a couple of years, there is a good chance that romantic partners will be more and more willing and nonchalant about fooling around (‘well at least we are dedicated?’ No. 👎). You will also begin to rely on that person (and even their family) emotionally.
Once bonded for so many years, you might get to the point where you think ‘I need to break up with this person.’ And then you realize ‘It will break me to break up with this person!’
Humans are designed to bond with others. The longer your lives are entwined, the more devoted you are to that person. Without the surety of marriage vows, however, a break up is a phone call away. Trust me on this one.
Don’t waste your precious (and more marketable!) time on somebody with a bunch (or any) of red flags. Don’t wait for years and years for somebody with bad qualities to change for you. You’ll only end up getting hurt! If somebody is not on track to be a better person (they don’t have any inkling that what they are doing is bad, for example), they’re not worth your time.
Instead of wasting time on a toxic relationship, you could be single and spending time with your family and friends, or finding and dating the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with!
We know God’s will by what is in front of us. There is not just one ‘soul mate’ dedicated to you by God. You must prayerfully consider with God if a person is the right man or woman for you. For most people, there is no set amount of dating time (1 year or 12 years) that after completing the idea of being dedicated to that person for 60 years feels 100% secure and comfortable.
Mixed with your own conversation with God, find a spiritual director who can help you hash out this potential spouse’s good things and bad things and let you know of any red flags they perceive.
Remember that it is not about the people you are at this moment. The person you marry will change for the better or the worse over your marriage.
Discerning marriage is simply a matter of making sure that person is somebody you can make a vow to be faithful to, that they will do the same, and that you are compatible.
‘Until death do you part’ is a big commitment. The younger you are, the higher the chances that you have not figured out what career you wish to have, where you want to live, or established your living habits/preferences.
This is actually a great benefit to marrying young! The less ingrained your partner is in their habits, the easier it will be to meld your way of life to one another when you are wed.
For example, imagine a Catholic woman who is 32 and has always (in her adult life) watched TV while going to sleep. This is perhaps something that did not come up during marriage prep and they did not cohabitate before marriage (👍), so she did not know that her new husband must not hear any sound while he is sleeping.
This could be a difficult situation to compromise and would be made much less difficult had she not been in the habit of falling asleep with the TV on all those years. Imagine all of the other little rituals that people establish and that newly married couple has a whole lot to argue about for the rest of their life.
The flip side of this is that the younger somebody is, the less experience and maturity they have. You will not be the same person when you are 20 as when you are 35. BUT, just because you are not wizened and war-hardened at 18, does not mean you should not get married at that age!
One of the greatest gifts of marrying young is dedicating yourself to another person with whom you will grow in holiness.
There are qualities that matter more than current habits. Just because a man you meet is not attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day, it does not mean that he is not able to be disciplined in his faith.
Look to the current actions and words of a potential partner to gauge whether they are somebody who could (in maturing in the faith, by God’s help) become a more holy individual. Ask yourself, is that potential partner on track to be faithful, or more humble, or to work hard, etc?
It is crucial that you think about whether that person is willing to grow in his/her faith because there is no such thing as a Catholic divorce. There are annulments which means that the marriage never occurred due to invalid circumstances, but there is no separation outside of death.  For somebody who has only been coherent on this earth for about 15 years, the rest of your life is a really long time.
The love story at the beginning of Up is beautifully crafted. Their consistent fortitude and love throughout life’s struggles are inspiring.
Make sure that the person you want to commit yourself to for the rest of your life does not have any expectation that there is an ‘out’ for the marriage. It is incredibly important not to assume that they agree with you on this—always ask!
A final expectation to consider:
Be on the same page about your roles as a husband and wife.
Ladies, find a man who understands that his dedication is first and foremost to God, then to his family. Careers are fleeting, but faith transcends time. Part of the formula for a strong Catholic marriage is a man who pursues God and encourages his family to delve into their faith. Neither party should make excuses for this item. It is huge.
Men, find a woman who you feel called to care for. Somebody who is a good companion and encourages you in your good deeds. A lady who has passions and hobbies and is willing to be the Church to your Christ!
In both cases, a potential partner will not be perfect! 🎶Nobody’s Perfect 🎶(including Miley Cyrus). People make mistakes and have sins that they struggle with. Just make sure that they are fighting to choose good and discerning enough to tell the difference.
Life is filled with solving issues and repenting of sins.
A spouse will be there for the rest of your life to assist you in doing so.
Parents and Young Marriage
Parents are a good resource in gauging who you should marry, but their advice should always be taken in context. Some questions to consider:
—Are my parents pointing out red flags? What are these flags and are they actually a problem?
—Are my parents reliable and trustworthy people? Do they understand the Catholic teaching on marriage and the family?
—Are my parents just worried about superficial things (i.e. finishing college before marriage, starting a career, ‘you’re too young’, how somebody dresses, getting pregnant in your 20s)?
Many parents push their children to achieve greater things than them. Some parents even try to live vicariously through their kids. It is very important to listen to your parents’ advice about a potential spouse, but theirs should not be the only counsel you seek! As stated previously, find a trusted spiritual director to bring up all your parents’ questions and concerns about marriage and marrying young.
In the end, however, it is not any of these other people who will be marrying your potential spouse! You must trust yourself and God in making this decision, and then do it!
It is a yes or no situation. Do I want to marry this person? Can we marry (legally)? Should we marry (morally)? Do I want to spend the rest of my life with him/her?
[ ] If yes, propose! Plan a wedding!
[ ] If no, seriously consider breaking off the relationship entirely.
If you don’t make Christ the center of your relationship, none of this will work!
Break up with your significant other if you would never want to marry them. Get back on the market.
Or…Propose to the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life!
Not sure what decision to make? Check out Father Mike Schmitz’s video on Ascension Presents called: 4 Helpful Rules for Discernment. Make a decision based on God’s will:
Is this a lawful decision? (God has not already spoken out against it—sorry, no marrying your sister.)
Is this an open decision? (The “door” has not already been denied and you could actually walk through it.)
Is this a wise decision? (Think about the present. Will this marriage help me live the life and be the person God wants me to be?)
Is this a decision that I want? (Free will! Do I want to be with this person for the rest of my life?)
Did you know you could watch this episode on Youtube?
Grace Brown, convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, military wife, and jazz singer is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s in English, minor in Performance Studies. She has written and researched extensively how Catholic theology relates to works written by authors such as Charlotte Brontë, Aphra Behn, and Mary Shelley, culminating in her Senior Research Thesis entitled “On Miltonic Hierarchy in the Paradisal Marriage of Adam and Eve.” Today, she is a full-time writer and supportive wife to her Marine Corps husband, currently stationed in Virginia. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.
Love and Responsibility —Karol Wojtyła (more commonly known as Saint Pope John Paul II)