Wednesday, September 28, 2016


ARCHIVES: It's been a busy few weeks, so I'm pulling today's post from my college paper archives.  I wrote the following as a theology paper my junior year - turns out I've been analyzing and discussing the roles of men and women in relation to the family for well over a decade.  I hope it doesn't bore you too much.

Our Tridentine High Mass Wedding.
In the very first chapter of Genesis, God creates man and woman to be companions who will together populate the earth and subdue it. They were created equal with different duties to perform within the family. The man is the head of the house, the protector and provider of the family, while the woman is the heart of the home, the nurturer and homemaker. The creation of a family is not possible without both the husband and the wife. The husband’s role is the more external of the two insofar as it is he who must work to support his wife and children as well as protect them from danger. It is the father who goes out each day and earns the income by which he provides for his family’s livelihood. This more external role is depicted in the image of the father as the head of the household. It is the head which makes the decisions which aid the rest of the body as does the husband whose decisions affect the life of his family. The wife’s role, on the other hand, is more internal insofar as it is she who cares for the home and the children. To the wife is entrusted the care of the house, keeping it clean and peaceful for the return of the husband from his work providing. It is she who brings the children into the world and from her that the children first learn the most basic lessons in life. Her more internal role is epitomized in the characterization of the wife as the heart of the home. Just as the heart controls the emotions, the ups and downs of the body, so, too, does the wife handle the innumerable outbursts and disagreements as well as the example of how truly to show love to one another. Thus, just, as a body cannot function without both an head and an heart, only through both the husband and the wife is the family unit able to function. The roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles are equally important although they are most certainly different. It can be seen, thus, that both the husband and the wife have unique duties within the family unit as the head and the heart which work together to bring the family towards its earthly perfection and its heavenly goal of eternal life. 

The role of the husband is that of protector and provider for his family, the head of the household. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul clearly lays forth the essence of this duty: 
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph. 6:25-30
The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church; that is, he is meant to die to himself in order that she might live. This sacrifice of self is accomplished by the husband in his efforts to provide for his family and protecting them from all harms both material and immaterial. It is explained, too, by Pope John Paul II (JPII) thus: 
A man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife, by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.  Familiaris Consortio
Generally speaking, this simply means that God entrusts the husband and father with a very specific and special task of caring for and defending his family, most especially through his labor to support them. This trust is best epitomized by St. Joseph and the Holy Family, as JPII says, “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth.” Redemptoris Custos. St. Joseph labored hard each day in order to provide for his wife, the Virgin Mary, and Christ, the Son of God, both of whom had been entrusted to his care by God. So, too, must the husband strive as he demonstrates his love for his family. Concerning the protection of his family, by far the most important way in which a man does this is through being present in his children’s lives. JPII states, “Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. . . . The absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships.” Familiaris Consortio. It is from the father that sons will learn how to treat women properly and from whom daughters will learn how they should expect to be treated by men. Without a father, or at the very least a father-figure, the children are less likely to develop these all important habits and expectations, leading to a decline of morality and moral standards. He is the ultimate authority in the discipline of the household. Thus, it is the role of the husband and father to protect and provide for his family, depicted as the head of the house. 

Taking care of the house and making sure my husband and future family have a warm, clean, and inviting home is one of the greatest joys of my vocation as a wife and (hopefully) mother.
The role of the wife is that of homemaker and mother. To her is entrusted the care of the home and raising the young children. G. K. Chesterton speaks of the woman’s work saying, “A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.” What's Wrong With the World. Chesterton’s statement easily portrays the vast extent of a woman’s role in the home. Her immediate role as a wife is caring for the house, ensuring that her husband has a pleasant place to which he may return after a long day working to provide for her. This may seem like a rather simple task, and perhaps it is, but when the wife becomes a mother, her most important and difficult task begins. This is the task of bearing and raising the children from the moment of their conception through their most innocent years. Dee Jepsen says, “Women have nurturing and nesting instincts. It is a natural thing for women to desire to make a home.” Women: Beyond Equal Rights. This, then, is the other reason for women to be the homemakers, that they may create a home wherein they may raise their children. Their maternal instinct is imprinted upon their very souls as women although there are some who will choose other ways of fulfilling it such as the consecrated or religious life. For those women, however, who do marry and become wives and mothers, their highest fulfillment is in raising their children and caring for their home, making it pleasant for their family. A mother’s role in her children’s lives is especially important. Jepsen speaks of this saying, “Children need their mothers. Children need time with their mothers. The bonding and emotional ties that develop between them affect children’s personalities, attitudes, and values--greatly influencing the shaping of their character.” Id. The mother has the greatest amount of influence over the children during their most impressionable years. It is the mother who most forms the morality of her children, the future leaders of the world. It is fitting to portray the wife and mother as the heart of the home. Just as the heart understands and explains the emotions of the body so too it is she who understands the emotions of all the family members, doing her best to promote an harmonious household. Thus, the role of the wife is that of homemaker and mother, best exemplified in the analogy of the woman as the heart of the home. 

Together, then, the husband and the wife are the binding force of the family, the head and the heart of one body. Pope Pius XI speaks of their bond in his encyclical Casti Connubii: 
This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof. Casti Connubbii. 
Looking at marriage in the full sense, it is the husband and wife’s first duty to draw each other closer to Heaven and eternal life with God and, secondarily, to conceive, bear, and raise children in good morals. Man and woman, husband and wife, were “made to complement each other. To ‘complement’ means to complete or make perfect. That is what man and woman do for each other - spiritually, psychologically, physically, and sexually.” The Power of the Christian Woman. The distinct roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles, though different, are necessary for the completion of the family unit. As JPII states, “Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. This equality is realized in a unique manner in that reciprocal self-giving by each one to the other and by both to the children which is proper to marriage and the family.” Familiaris Consortio. It is through their specific duties that men and women are able, through union in marriage, to develop a family. Both of their roles are equally important. Just as a body cannot function without both head and heart, so too the family unit cannot function without both the husband and the wife. It must have both in order to be complete. JPII says, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” Familiaris Consortio. Without the family, the human race will cease to exist. It is, thus, crucial that both the father and the mother fulfill their specific roles within the family as they raise their children to live in the truth and follow the good way on their pilgrimage to Heaven and eternal life. It is, therefore, through both the head and the heart, the husband and the wife, that their respective roles are fully completed as their complement each other, working together for ultimate union with God. 

In summarization, the husband and the wife both have unique roles to perform within the family. The husband is the head of the house as he provides for and protects his wife and children. Through his work the husband lays forth himself in self-sacrifice out of love for his wife and family. He must also be a firm example for his children, leading a moral life which they may admire and imitate. The wife is the heart of the house, caring for the home and the children. She cares for the home, ensuring the comfort of her husband when he returns from work, thus showing her love for him. It is also the wife and mother who raises the children through their most critical years, ensuring that they receive a good moral understanding. She, too, must set an example of morality for her children to imitate. Together, the husband and wife complement each other through their individual roles, aiding each other on their journey to Heaven and eternal life with God. It is also only through the union of man and woman in marriage that children may be procreated and humanity continued. Together the husband and wife must raise their children in the truth. It is seen, therefore, that both the husband and the wife have specific and different roles within the family unit which are equal in importance and without which the human race could not continue except for the complementarity of their roles. Truly, the husband is the head and the wife the heart of the body of their family

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Presence of Grace

It's been an eventful first week of marriage.  To those of you expecting Ireland honeymoon photos, please be patient.  That honeymoon got postponed until later this year.  But let me start at the beginning.

I married my amazing husband 11 days ago, and every day since then has been utterly blessed.  The Tridentine Rite wedding ceremony is simply beautiful and filled with prayers and preparation for married life.  Followed by a Sung High Mass, everything was absolutely perfect.  The entire day went smoothly, and I know God's grace was helping in that area.

The day after the wedding, my husband and I were packing for our honeymoon to Ireland when I received a phone call from my father.  My paternal grandfather had just passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.  I fully believe it was God's grace that let me know before I was halfway around the world.  And it was God's grace that revived my grandfather after he was declared dead so that he could say goodbye to my grandmother.

Needless to say, I was in shock.  He was the first grandparent I lost, and I didn't quite know what to do.  Part of me felt we should dutifully go on the honeymoon we had booked, but my amazing husband took one look at me and said "We're cancelling the honeymoon."  In a matter of minutes, he had called the airline, explained the circumstances, and got them to allow us to reschedule our flight for later in the year.  Shortly thereafter, I had cancelled all of the reservations and rentals (and received full refunds, even from the people who wouldn't normally give out a refund).  I was truly touched at how kind and understanding the people I worked with were.

Since we already had the week off from work, we took a roundabout drive to get to the funeral - including a few awesome stops along the way.  I got to meet my friends' new baby (born on my wedding day), show my husband Christendom College (where I went to undergrad), and visit his hometown.  And throughout it all, he was kind, warm, and supportive.  And again, God's grace allowed us the exact time we needed to visit all of the places and meet all the people - it was an incredible trip to take with my husband as we jaunted back into our individual histories.

When we finally arrived at the funeral, I was ready to grieve.  And I'm so grateful that my husband encouraged and supported me to go to the funeral instead of Ireland.  I gained such closure and comfort from actually being there.  And more stories of grace - cousins making flights they should have missed; siblings surviving missing school; family coming together in love and support.  Seeing all of my dad's family together was a moving and wonderful sight.

After the funeral, we celebrated my grandfather's life in true family fashion - a loud, wonderful, crazy get-together at his old camp.  My husband soared far above my expectations and fit right in with my family.  We taught him to shoot a bow and arrow and how to play cards with my great uncles, and he filled our hearts and ears with joy from his fiddle.  My grandmother kept saying over and over how blessed she felt to have that music and how lucky I was to have found such a wonderful and good husband.  And she's right.

Our journey home was relatively uneventful, and we even got to stop and visit with his parents as well.  And, due to our early arrival, God gave me enough time to get our house in order before going back to work.  

I'll miss my grandfather, but I know it was God's timing and God's grace that planned out the events of the last weeks.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Sewing Experiment

By the time you're reading this post, I'll be blissfully enjoying my honeymoon in Ireland (and yes, there will be a post about my adventures there when I return).  In the meantime, I'm sharing my wedding dress experience . . . the good, the bad, and the ultimate triumph.

The Dress

I found my dream dress at a little boutique shop in South Florida . . . there aren't very many wedding dress shops on the west coast of Florida, and I didn't want to drive all the way to Miami or Tampa to go shopping.  So I was extremely blessed to find my dress at the first shop I went to.

I initially thought I wanted a dress that was all lace with a slight mermaid/A-line feel.  As you can see, I ended up with a more ballgown-esque dress . . . but as soon as I tried it on, I knew it was the one!  I loved all of the lace detailing (which I intend to use when I create baptismal gowns for my future children).  I also knew that the dress would need a few alterations: raise the neckline; add wider straps; bustle points; taken in at the sides.

The Alterations: Part One

A dear friend of mine offered to have a tailor friend of hers make a custom-tailored jacket for the ceremony (in a Catholic wedding in the Tridentine Rite, shoulders and back must be covered, and the bust line must be modest.)  Her tailor also took in the dress on the side, so it fit much better.  He also attempted to do the bustle points necessary; however, I ended up taking them out and redoing them myself.  

Here's why.  Her tailor used hook & eye clasps that didn't really blend with the dress and weren't very strong.  I bought some ivory buttons at JoAnn's and used the spaghetti straps from the dress to make the loops.  It took a few tries to get the bustle points in the right place . . . especially since I was trying the dress on myself, guesstimating where the points should go, and then testing my theory while the dress was hanging on my door.

I was quite pleased with the end result.  The buttons match the dress, and the loops blend into the train much better.  And I was no longer concerned that the bustle points would come detached during the reception if someone managed to step on my hemline.

My friend's tailor also made beautiful straps for the dress since I didn't want to wear the bolero for the entire reception.  However, Part Two of the alterations was fueled partially by my priest's request that I raise the neckline a bit more and partially because I felt extremely exposed with just the straps and nothing else on my back.

The Alterations: Part Two

I went back to the drawing board, brainstorming a way that I could make the neckline more modest without destroying the original charm of the sweetheart neckline.  As I was scouring Pinterest, I also began searching for a way to add a more "substantial" top to the dress since my back felt so exposed with just straps.

My final inspiration came from these gowns:


I also scoured the internet and Pinterest looking for a sample pattern for making such an illusion neckline, but to no avail.  Thanking my lucky stars that my mother taught me how to sew at a young age, I began sketching a prototype pattern.  Taking measurements of oneself is a tricky business, and I highly recommend having someone help you if you can.  If not, it's possible to do it yourself . . . just tricky.

Once I had my sketch in place, I went to JoAnn's with my wedding dress searching for a netting/tulle that matched the dress as closely as possible.  Again, I was extremely blessed to find an illusion fabric (on sale, no less!) that matched perfectly and lace that matched the appliques already on my dress.  Armed with my lace and several extra yards of tulle (in case of error on the first try), I returned home.

I taped together some blue gift wrapping tissue paper and drew out my pattern.  I fudged the neckline and the sleeves a bit, and I ended up tacking the sleeves a bit when sewing so that they lay flat.  The neckline ended up a bit wider than I anticipated, but overall I was pleased with the result.

 My next step was raising the neckline on the dress . . . specifically the dip of the sweetheart.  To do so, I found some beautiful lace that matched my dress and stitched it directly into the neckline.  I also tacked it to the illusion neckline once I was done stitching that into the dress proper.

After the neckline was fixed, I turned my attention to the illusion top.  I stitched the sides together and added the lace to the sleeves.  I had just enough lace to cover both sleeves, and by tacking the sleeves together a bit, I managed to make them lie flat against my shoulder rather than popping up in an unflattering manner.

The final embellishment was stitching a slim, ivory ribbon along the neckline.  One of my favorite things about working with tulle is that you don't need to hem it because it doesn't fray, which means I could have left the neckline plain.  But I wanted to give it a finished look, so I added the ribbon.  I was a little concerned about the flimsy fabric getting away from me, but it went much better than I anticipated.

Once I finished the neckline top, I began stitching it into the dress itself.  Again, more approximate measuring to make sure I stitched in the right place (this project would have been much easier with a sewing mannequin.)  When I finished adding the neckline to the dress, I was quite pleased with the end result.

I was extremely pleased with my end result.
The neckline looked like it was part of the original dress.
Don't mind the unfinished lacing . . . lacing up a wedding dress by oneself is extremely difficult . . . but you get the idea.

All told (since my friend generously paid for the initial alterations and bolero as a wedding gift) I spent about $40 and 5-10 hours on my personal alterations.  I know sewing isn't in everyone's bag of tricks, but with a little trial and error, you can do it!  And if you're budget-conscious, this is much more cost-effective than hiring a tailor or seamstress.  I anticipate posts in the future featuring more of my sewing experiments.

Have you done similar alterations?  Other sewing projects?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Hidden Cost of a Catholic Wedding

From the title of this post, you probably expect me to wax philosophically eloquent on the emotional roller coasters that planning a wedding brings and all of the drama and tears that go into the binding of two people into one.  While all of that is true, I'm going to focus rather on the unexpected monetary expenses that popped up while I was planning my wedding in hopes that future brides won't be caught off guard by the same costs.

So here's a list:

  • Marriage License: You probably know that you need a marriage license in order to get married, but the cost may surprise you.  It's best to check your state's information and requirements for getting the marriage license sooner than later.  Ours ended up costing almost $100 (should have been $60 with a discount from the marriage prep classes we had to take, but the paperwork for that was by no means clear, so we ended up paying the full amount for the license).
  • Pre-Cana Classes: As a Catholic, you're also likely aware that you're supposed to complete marriage preparation with your priest.  In addition to that, however, the diocese may require additional courses such as seminars on Life Skills or Sacramentality of Marriage.  These cost us $150 total and were the courses that were supposed to give us the $40 discount on the marriage license; however, the individual presenters weren't registered with the State, and the instructions on how to get the certificates verified to satisfy the State were unclear.
  • Pre-Marital Inventory: This is essentially a compatibility test that most (if not all) dioceses require when you're getting married.  Typically, I believe, it occurs near the beginning of your marriage prep.  We didn't find out about it until two weeks before the wedding, so that was fun.  Another $25 fee and another test.  Not that expensive, but still unexpected (and when you're trying to keep your wedding as close to your $10k budget as possible, every penny counts).
  • Priest's Fee:  It is customary to give the priest who performs your wedding a small gift/fee . . . the amount may be prescribed by your church or it may be up to  you.  Typically, at least $50.
  • Altar Server gift: It is also customary and nice to give a small amount of money to the altar servers for your mass - $10 a piece is fine.  (Just keep in mind if you have 5+ servers, that adds up fast.)
  • Thank You notes & postage: We all know we need to send thank yous for the gifts we receive at our wedding, but calculating the cost of the notes and postage into the wedding budget doesn't always make the list.
  • Extra Seats at the Reception: As much as I wanted to submit a final number to the caterer and venue of ONLY the people who had actually responded they were coming by the deadline, my wonderful fiance convinced me to add an extra 8 people to the number for the inevitable people who find they can come at the last minute or who just haven't gotten around to responding.  And I'm so grateful he did . . . we already used 5 of those spots.  And the wedding is still 4 days away.
I could go on with all the aspects of planning an international honeymoon (airfare; car rental; car storage at the airport; hotels/bnbs; food; gas; souvenirs; touring), but I won't.  I hope this list helps any future brides or grooms with their wedding budgeting.  Good luck and stay positive!