The Ache of Singlehood

Here’s a throwback for all the single ladies! (and men):

The “Sexy” Hijacking of Halloween

by Leah Darrow and Jackie Francois Angel

I remember when I (Jackie) was in 4th grade, I thought a cool Halloween costume was putting on some overalls and sticking dead leaves in my hair and calling it a “scarecrow.” But, then, in 5th grade, things changed. I wanted to be a French maid. Now, there is a difference between dressing up as a cleaning lady and dressing up as a French maid. “French maid” implied fishnet stockings, a short skirt, and an overall appearance of looking “sexy.” I don’t know how in one year this intention changed from “finding anything around the house for Halloween” to “looking sexy.” But, from 5th grade to 12th grade, the goal for all my female friends at Halloween time became, “How can I dress with less clothes on and get away with it?”

For me (Leah), it really didn’t matter what the costume was suppose to be, adding “sexy” to it made it better. Besides, who wants to be a nurse? That’s a pretty tough job from what I hear, but a “Sexy Nurse” … oh yeah! I remember one of my college friends dressing up as a “sexy homeless person” to a party … nope, not even kidding. People were offended because they thought she was making fun of the homeless, yet, it occurred to me [years later] that no one was offended with the sexiness of her outfit, with the objectification of her body.

At some point, both of us had a conversion, and thus, a change of heart. We both realized that our desire to be “sexy” and “provocative,” was just a twisting of the God-given desire to be beautiful. The desire to be noticed for our beauty is stamped within our feminine hearts. As women, we were created to reveal the beauty of God. Our bodies are inherently beautiful. That’s why you don’t see billboards for beer and cars using men in speedos to sell their product. You see women scantily clad in bikinis or low-cut shirts to sell products. It’s easy to get attention with Saran wrap outfits just as it is easy to pick up the “sexy” Halloween costume. But the scantily clad outfit and the sexy Halloween costume are really both the same thing. They are both costumes – concealing who we really are. Truth is, we are more than a collection of body parts. The culture tells us that this is what real beauty is. But deep down in our hearts, we ask, “Is this what we were made for? For our beauty to be objectified and pornified? To be noticed merely for outward beauty? For my sexual values?”

A huge problem with our culture is assuming that beauty only comes from our appearance. There is nothing wrong with longing to be beautiful! In fact, we desire to be beautiful! But beauty goes beyond our outward appearance. The most beautiful women in the world aren’t the supermodels but the saints. As Leah has said before, supermodels are some of the most insecure women in the world. And no, One Direction, insecurity is NOT what makes a woman beautiful. Holiness is.

Just look at Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta. Her passion for Jesus in the poorest of the poor seeped out of every pore in her body! Every wrinkle on her face testified to the sorrow, the joy, the exhaustion, the pain of seeing people be treated like animals and left for dead in the streets of Calcutta. Yet, Mother Teresa saw Jesus in each one of them. Mother Teresa is one of the most beautiful human beings to ever live. Her beauty didn’t come from her dress or adorning her face with make-up, but from her radiant joy and love for the Lord. Can you imagine Mother Teresa looking in the mirror and thinking she needed Botox or 5 inch heels to get people’s attention? Nope. Not a chance. She was beautiful because she loved, because she was holy.

The culture tells us to be beautiful by exploiting our bodies and dressing up like a “sexy slice of pizza” (believe me—it’s an actual costume). Their caveat, of course, is: Don’t worry; it’s just a costume, I’m not really a trashy gal, I just dress up as one. The Lord, on the other hand, tells us to not listen to the culture and know that our beauty comes from Him! Our bodies are not objects to be lusted after, but glorious indwellings of the Holy Spirit!

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

So, how can we glorify the Lord in our bodies this Halloween? Let your beauty shine through. The beauty of who you are! Are you super funny? Let it shine through your costume, like this chick (who dressed as a third wheel). Are you mega creative? Let it shine. Are you sporty or theatrical or quiet or a bookworm or in love with comic books? Let that shine.

While we’ve created a blog mash-up to inspire your dress this Halloween, the message is pertinent to everyday dress. What we wear communicates to the world something about us. Whether it’s Halloween or a Saturday night out with friends, it is our hope that your fashions be full of creativity, beauty, dignity ¬and knowledge that we belong to Christ and not to the world.

Treat the world to a dignified and creative you; don’t trick them into believing you’re eye candy.

Is Pornography Cheating?

***GUEST POST*** from my fiancé, Bobby Angel:


Is pornography cheating?


Oh, sorry…I guess I need to write more. Well, I guess I can explain it a little better.

Girls can usually see this issue for what it is. We guys, on the other hand, rationalize, make excuses, or are just simply too addicted to our lust to admit what is staring at us from the computer screen.

Pornography is cheating on your family, cheating on your spouse, and ultimately cheating on yourself.

I really believe that pornography is the “silent killer” of our generation, stripping men (and a growing population of women) of their vitality and potency to become the men they’re called to be. We are all the “walking wounded,” having been exposed to pornography in one way or another. Some men and women have been mildly rocked by their encounters to porn, while other marriages and faith communities have been completely torn apart by just one individual’s addiction.

Pornography is inherently shameful because we know—deep down—that something extremely personal has become entertainment. We men don’t hide or check our surroundings when we try to sneak a peak of Home & Garden in the magazine rack at the store, or clear our online browsing history because we spent too much time looking at websites of fishing equipment. We aren’t proud of viewing pornography for a reason. The computer screen becomes a mirror that reveals to us our failure to be faithful—faithful as husbands to our wives, faithful in preparing ourselves to be a gift to our future wives, faithful to our call to be men of sacrifice as Christ was in embracing the Cross.

And we’ve all heard the excuses:

“Nobody gets hurt.” Very few men truly believe in the “nobody gets hurt” excuse of pornography. Many men want to believe this, but deep down they know otherwise.
Just ask any sister/girlfriend/spouse.

“It’s healthy for me!” Pornography re-wires the pleasure sensors of your brain and has been proven to be as addictive as heroin.

“She isn’t a real person.” Yes, she is.

It’s not that pornography shows too much of a person, but that it truly shows too little, and we men, who are called to be protectors of the dignity of the women in our lives, forego our mission for fleeting moments of pleasure. Shame and self-centeredness inevitably follows the repetition of viewing pornography, and—for a rapidly growing population of youth—addiction and acting out what has been viewed on screen.

We’re living in a warped time period where viewing pornography is aggressively marketed as something “healthy” and should even be viewed with your significant other to “spice” things up, as several mens’ magazines are continually promoting (and I’m getting tired of reading). Douglas Wilson said that authentic masculinity is about “sacrificial responsibility,” but pornography robs men of both sacrifice and responsibility. How truly backwards it is that “adult” stores cater to men who refuse to grow up. It took a generation of people understanding how secondhand smoke could be just as harmful as those smoking cigarettes—I wonder at times how many lives have to be wrecked by “secondhand” porn before we wake up as a nation.

I saw my first Playboy magazine when I was about ten, playing hide-and-seek in my uncle’s closet. Waiting for my brother and cousin to find me, the magazine caught my eye. I didn’t open it (somehow I knew this wasn’t a normal periodical), but the way this cover model looked both enticed and instilled a certain fear in me. She seemed angry, and yet alluring (I do remember thinking it was strange that her clothing was falling off). It wasn’t until college, though, and all the “freedoms” that college life offers, that the bell sounded and my personal boxing match with pornography really began. Thankfully, I met some good guys through the campus ministry and we began to hold each other accountable. Deeper purification happened during my time in seminary, and I’m graced to say that I haven’t looked at the stuff in a long time and was purified in many ways before pursuing Jackie.

But the battle isn’t over.

I have to recognize my humanness and be vigilant. There’s a spiritual battlefield happening around me (and a selfishness in my own heart still) with an enemy wanting to tear me down, especially in this time of engagement and preparation for marriage. I’m thankful that the Lord rooted this out of me; I would never want to bring this evil into my marriage. But I also understand the struggle and the humility I’ve learned in passing through what will likely be the major battle of our generation, and the battle our sons and daughters will all have to face. There’s a wealth of articles and information online regarding the evils of pornography and how to overcome its snares, but I want to offer three tips that have worked for me.

1). Get over yourself. The temptation to view pornography usually finds us in moments of inactivity, boredom, or indulgence, and it breeds a cycle of self-centeredness and self-pity that just leads to further porn viewing. Breaking the cycle usually means getting over yourself and going outside of yourself. Serve the poor. Be generous towards your family or your co-workers. It’s not enough to say “no” to pornography—we have to channel that energy towards something positive, and eventually, when moments of temptation stir up again, we can recognize the destructive force that pornography is and can make a more life-giving choice.

2). Accountability. “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man” (Proverbs 27:17) and we men cannot be lone rangers on this Christian journey and expect to rise to each challenge. We need community. We need brotherhood.

The seminary really hammered this point home to me, and to this day one of my seminarian brothers monitors my online activity through an accountability website (www.covenanteyes.com). Basically, he gets a report every week of what I look at, and it’s enough to keep me on the straight and narrow (and he calls me out, even when I’ve happened upon belly-baring pictures of Shakira). Even just having a guy you trust to whom you can say, “Hey man, it’s been a rough week,” and knowing he won’t judge but will support you, makes all the difference. We guys know that looking at porn is shameful, but by bringing it into the light we cancel so much of its power over us. And if we need some stronger remedy, we have to be humble enough to seek professional help.

3). Prayer. St. John of the Cross asserted that the desires of our fallen nature are so strong that we need a love that’s stronger still to conquer them—the love of the Bridegroom, the love of Jesus Christ. We’re called to real love, not quick fixes or counterfeits. Satan delights when we turn our gaze from God and try to quench that “ache” or “longing” without Him. Asking God for help is step #1. We can’t “muscle” through temptation with our own strength—not for long, anyway.

Pray for the healing of those involved in the porn industry, especially all the women addicted to drugs, alcohol, and whatever else may be numbing their senses or imprisoning their hearts. Nothing sobers you up like realizing that the woman in front of you is someone else’s daughter.

Doing a daily rosary really turned my prayer life around as well. If any woman could lay the smack down and rightly order our desires, and teach us how channel them into the life-giving force that it was made to be, it’s Mary. Meditating on her tender femininity is a great antidote for the poison that pornography pushes into our veins. Mary will lead you in purity and lead you to her Son, and kick your butt in the process.

I’ll also go to confession as often as I need it (which is often; my spiritual director once slyly commented as I approached, “Back so soon?”). No matter how long or how deep the snares of lust have entrapped us, Christ can and does make all things new. We just need the humility to know that, despite the mistakes we’ve made, He is still calling us to redemption.

We have been created for real love and for real greatness. We have been made for both sacrifice and responsibility.

Let’s stop cheating ourselves.


The Devil Wants You to Settle in Your Relationship

Besides choosing to give Christ my entire heart and life at 18 (after falling in love with Him in the Eucharist), the best decision I ever made was to wait 28 years for the man of my dreams. There were so many times I could’ve settled for a nice Catholic guy who treated me well and bored me to tears. I knew I never wanted to tell my children, “Well, your dad loved me and seemed nice enough, so I married him.” Ugh. Gag me with a spork. Heck no. I knew I wanted to tell my children, “I waited patiently for a man I was passionately in love with, who led me to holiness, who was my best friend, and who I couldn’t wait to be married to!” Sure enough, when Bobby Angel came along, I knew I found that man.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of confused and conflicted young adults out there who seem tempted to settle for a spouse. There are a lot of people who date because it’s nice to have a warm body gazing back at you. Listen carefully to me: there are tons of holy, attractive, fun people out there. (I know, because I’m trying to play matchmaker and set them all up with each other). Seriously, though, you are only called to marry one of them. You are not called to be a polygamist (thank God!). Just because you date an attractive, holy Catholic doesn’t mean he/she is the “one.” In the past, every time I met a single Catholic guy, my head would always say, “Is this the one? Is this the one?” I was like a hamster on crack (like most single Catholic young adults who see every other single Catholic young adult as a target for romance). I kept rationalizing my good Catholic guy dates, saying, “Well, he doesn’t make me laugh, but I could deal with that,” or “I’m not really attracted to him, but I don’t want to be vain so I could deal with that” or “We really don’t have great conversations, but I could be a like a cloistered wife vowed to silence for the rest of my life, right?”

When I met Bobby, though, everything clicked. I didn’t have to rationalize anything. In fact, both of us are still in shock that two human beings could fit so perfectly (even in our faults) with each other. I’m sure God watches us stumble through relationships, laughing and thinking, “Oh you of little faith. Why do you not trust me?” Sure enough, when we settle, it’s because we don’t trust God enough. We don’t trust that God is a bigger romantic than we are, that God is the most passionate being there is (in fact, who endured the passion out of love for us), and who wants the absolute best for our lives. When we don’t trust God, we commit the original sin of Adam and Eve all over again: we grasp at the gift of “knowledge” rather than wait for God to give us the gift He’s had for us all along (see CCC 396-397). In Fill These Hearts, Christopher West writes, “That’s pride at its root: we don’t trust in God’s designs, so we choose to follow our own” (p. 112). Remember: God is the one who has amazing plans for us, “plans for our welfare not for woe, plans for a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s the stupid devil who wants us to grasp at relationships and who tempts us to settle for what’s just “okay.”

To me, some of the most courageous men and women are those who break off their relationships out of love for the other. They realize that the other person deserves someone better than them, that they are wasting the other’s time from finding their true vocation (whether be it to another person in marriage or maybe even a vocation to celibacy as a priest, nun, sister, brother, consecrated, or single person), or that they would be settling for a life of eye-rolling and frustration. This is extremely difficult. Bobby and I can speak from experience—he broke off an engagement and I broke up with a man who was a month from proposing. In the end, we were both extremely glad that the Holy Spirit convicted us and helped us have courage (a word that literally means, “to act from the heart”) to do what was best for all.

When I was single, I told myself, “I would rather be joyful and single than miserable with someone.” Why? Because I know that God wants us to be radiant witnesses of his love to the world. When I was single, I was totally free to do this because I had peace and joy founded in Christ who completely satisfied me. When I was in previous relationships, however, I was filled with anxiety, wondering if the guy didn’t get my sense of humor, didn’t like my craziness, didn’t like my love for Daily Mass, the Rosary or Adoration. I changed myself for the guys and didn’t like who I was with them. I knew that the man I was called to marry would not make me feel imprisoned or trapped, but would give me freedom to be my authentic self, freedom to be a radiant witness for the Lord together, and freedom to love God, my neighbor, and myself more authentically.

Freedom is huge in a relationship. No, not the philosophy of freedom given by Wiz Kalifa and Snoop Dogg; their “freedom” allows them to get drunk, smoke weed, and be a player for them hoes. No. Authentic freedom enables us to do what is right. Freedom in a relationship has the signs of peace and joy. A lack of freedom in a relationship gives you that anxiety in your belly, that “icky” feeling, that unrest.

So, my question to you (if you are in a relationship with someone to whom you are not married) is this: Does your relationship help you to be freer or less free? Is your relationship life-giving or life-sucking?

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself.

Some questions are bigger “no-brainers” than others. We’ll start with the “no-brainer” red flags at the top and go to more subtle signs you aren’t free in a relationship to be the man or woman of God you were created to be.

If you say “yes” to any of these questions, you should get out of that relationship:

Does your significant other abuse you physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually?

Do they pressure you to sin or make fun of you for not sinning? (Calling you a “prude” because you won’t do sexual things with them, making you feel guilty for not getting drinking/getting drunk, pressuring you to see a smutty movie or watch pornography, or pressuring you to live with them, etc.)

Do you feel like you are being used as an object for their pleasure?

Are you afraid of bringing up tough issues, annoyances, or frustrations, for fear they might get defensive, lash out at you, or shut down?

Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells with what you say or do for fear they might break up with you (again)?

Are you afraid to show your weaknesses, because they expect you to be perfect?

Do you have that constant pit of anxiety in your belly either when you are with them or apart from them? Do you feel that anxiety when you think of marrying them?

Are you staying with them out of lust, out of fear of being alone, out of security, or out of fear of never finding anyone else who will be with you?

Are you confused about the relationship constantly? Do you go back and forth about whether or not this is “the one?”

Do you feel relieved when they are gone?

If you say “no” to any of these questions, you should re-think your relationship:

Are you free to be your true self (who you are with your best girl friends or guy friends)?

Do you feel loved in who you are, even in your weaknesses?

Do you feel challenged to be a better, holier person?

Are you free to be child-like, to laugh, to have joy with your significant other?

Do you feel challenged spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically?

Is your relationship healing? Is their love helping you to deal with issues of the past without them being a “savior” to you (rather, they point you to “the Savior” for healing)?

Are you willing to spend 24 hours 7 days a week with them for the rest of your life?

Are they your best friend with whom you have romance?

Bobby and I will be praying for all those who read this blog, that you may truly do God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2)


What Are You Afraid Of?

Some of us may be afraid of ghosts, zombies, and vampires, (especially at Halloween time… especially when they’re in 3D), but everyday many of us struggle with fears that paralyze us and keep us from being the man or woman God has created us to be.

Some of these questions might be the ones you dread answering:

Are you afraid of letting go of certain friends, behaviors, or lifestyle choices because it’s too difficult to live a life of chastity, holiness, or faithfulness?

Are you afraid that if you break off a relationship you know you’re not supposed to be in, you will be lonely or you will hurt the other person?

Are you afraid that if you have high standards and don’t settle, you won’t ever find a spouse?

Are you afraid of letting someone know a hidden secret or sin about you because you think they won’t love you once they find out?

Are you afraid of tithing your money (10% or otherwise) because you don’t think you’ll have enough left to provide for your own family or keep the standard of living you desire?

Are you afraid of leaving the security of your job for one you really desire because you might not succeed?

Are you afraid of standing up for your faith on Facebook or Twitter because people might criticize, mock, or even “un-friend” you?

Are you afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone for fear of rejection or humiliation?

Are you afraid of taking time away from social media to retreat to silence because you might be forgotten?

There are many more questions that could be asked in relation to our fears, but the main question is, “Why are we afraid?”

Do we not have a God that says, “Do not be afraid” over and over again in scripture (Lk 12:7, Is 41:13)? Does it not say, “The Lord Himself will fight for you, you have only to keep still” (Ex 14:14)? Does it not say, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 Jn 4:18)?

Our Father in Heaven is the kind of Father who does not abandon us in our time of need. Rather, it says in Matthew 7:7-11:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

And another testament of how God provides for His children in Matthew 6:25-33:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

And yet another passage of how much God loves us from Jeremiah 29:11-14:

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—says the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me—says the LORD—and I will change your lot.

Fear comes not from who God is or what He has done, but rather our lack of trust in who God is and what He has done. God has created us to be children who will shine like lights in a world that is crooked and perverse (Phil 2:15). He has created us to declare His glory and proclaim His praise (Jer 31:7-9). God did not give us a “spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). Do we know this? Do we believe this? Or do we hear it in our heads and fail to let it dwell in our hearts?

One of my favorite quotations is from Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech in 1994 where he quoted a passage from Marianne Williamson’s book Return to Love: Reflections on a Course in Miracles:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?

You are a child of God, small games do not work in this world. For those around us to feel peace, it is not example to make ourselves small. We were born to express the glory of God that lives in us. It is not in some of us, it is in all of us. While we allow our light to shine, we unconsciously give permission for others to do the same. When we liberate ourselves from our own fears, simply our presence may liberate others.

If you want to apply this to your life and live this out, I invite you to pray a dangerous prayer. I invite you to know that God alone can satisfy the desires of your hearts and He alone can help you with every fear. God is the end and the beginning who created you and gave you every gift and talent, so you may brilliantly shine as the saint you were meant to be. To paraphrase St. Irenaeus, “Be fully alive and you will declare the glory of God!” or, as St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.” I invite you to pray the Litany of Humility.

I used to hate saying this prayer (most likely because of my pride). Over time, however, it allowed me to see that God is and should be my greatest desire and I have nothing to fear with Him at my side (Ps 23:4, Dt 31:6). If I place my trust in who God is and what He has done, I shall never be afraid–even if a ghost, zombie, or vampire come knocking at my door or popping out of my TV screen.