© Courtney Wotherspoon

I am a Catholic Feminist.

A Catholic Feminist.

Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not.

There is a preconceived notion that a feminist equates to a raging bra-less woman who refuses to shave or conform to any oppressive ideal that controls the body. While a stereotypical Catholic woman is donning on her floor length skirts, waving around a rosary and bible. Subjected to [in the feminist mind] a patriarchal institution that maintains inequality and thus compromising dignity of persons. In fact, if we were to make this into a social experiment by personifying each of these stereotyped ideals and placed them both in a room. I believe it would be safe to say that neither of them would get along.

It’s these extremist views of what defines a Feminist and a Catholic problematic.

Feminism is far more than just Women’s Rights. It is the argument for equality among all persons. Not just women. It is the push for all oppressed or marginalized persons. If you agree with these statements, chances are you are a feminist and don’t even know it. And yes, it’s not just a movement for the opinionated women of the world.

Guess what else. Catholics believe the same thing.

Let’s observe the mere fact that Catholics are Christ followers. Christ himself was one of the first feminist reaching out to the poor, oppressed and marginalized people of his time.

If you don’t think this is applicable to the current day values of the church, think again. In fact, it was Pope John Paul II who called for a re-definition of a “new feminism” within the church and proclaimed: “Io sono il Papa feminista”— “I am the feminist pope” in his the first papal letter [Mulieris Dignitatem] devoted entirely to women.

Consider the following doctrinal statement:

2334 “In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity.”119 “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.”120

Dignity between man and woman are created and given equally. By the same God in the same image and likeness.

If we are made equal, why is it that we as people build barriers to distance and separate ourselves from one another? Yet we make tiresome efforts to dismantle those walls we’ve created as a society. How is this any different than what we do to “empower” young women? Wouldn’t the simple solution be that we stop creating those walls?

Ladies, I’m going to ask you a bold question here.

What do you envision an empowered woman to look like? Where is this woman’s source of power?
According to MissRepresentation.org, “Girls as young as age six are starting to see themselves as sex objects, based on a combination of media influence, mother’s parenting and religion.”

This is the world our young sisters and daughters are growing and learning in. We are to blame! We contribute to a society that builds on the idea that in order to be successful and powerful you must have: youth, beauty and sexuality.

It’s almost no wonder why women and young girls try to establish her power by using the only power she is taught to have. Her sexuality. Ladies, this is fighting fire with fire. It is bound to blow up in our faces.

Let’s consider the usage of contraception.

Women have control of their bodies! Yes! Now a man can no longer govern the body of a woman! But wait. What?! How does that work?! Shouldn’t the power of a woman’s sexuality lie in her voice and strength? How is it empowering if we put a pill in our bodies? Who dictates that a woman must be the one to change and chemically alter her natural hormonal make up for sexual intercourse? Is it not man? Usage of contraception removes all accountability for actions. It creates a culture that strips away a person’s dignity. A society that says: yes, I want you. Not all of you but the physical body of you. In order to satisfy my bodily needs. I want you, I maybe love you, but I don’t want to create a family or life with you. This is not what God had intended.

Procreation is what our biological make up is intended for. There is no denying that.
Why else would “one-night stands” and “walks of shame” leave a person so emotionally broken and empty? Because without that desired promise or intention to procreate we end up feeling used and undervalued. Why else are women fleeing to spending hundreds of dollars in hair and beauty products? Are we perhaps attempting to regain that sense of self-esteem so easily lost in this culture?
This is empowering? This is suppose to level the playing field between men and women? Sounds a lot like this is just perpetuating the same patriarchal system in a new subtle form, masked as a tool for empowerment.
Instead of trying to demolish what we are continuously building, how about we, *radical idea* stop teaching our young sisters that their value equates to the physical. That it is not found within those various colors of eye shadow, that daily birth control pill or that ‘how to blast cellulite’ section of the magazine. It is found in her own voice. A voice that is equal in power as every other human being on this earth. It is in understanding that we are equally made. In God’s eyes.

Illustration by: © Courtney Wotherspoon

A Change of Pace

Now that I’ve jumped off the “food logging” train, my posts on this blog have become scarce and far in between. Although my focus is still to become healthier, I choose to no longer be hypervigilant in tracking my consumption. I have tried many forms of food journaling (through blogging and mobile apps) before reaching this decision. Like many things in life I have found that an excess of anything (even if it is good for you) can lead to becoming something bad for you. I became overly obsessed with the amount of sugars found in simple carbs. I worried about the total number of calories consumed in a hearty meal. It was in many ways debilitating and I was no fun at the dinner table with all my calorie and carb talk.

So, I have decided (as of a month ago) to still be aware but to avoid becoming overly conscious of my intake. While still being active at least 3x a week. The scale has admittedly gone up a tad bit, but I figured that as long as I roughly monitor where I am to where I want to be physically I shouldn’t gain as much weight as I have when I was at most stressed.

In other news, I was blessed to have attended this years Singles for Family and Life Conference this past weekend. It’s always a joy to be inspired by all the young devout Catholics of the nation’s CFC FFL ministry. When at home in Rhode Island I believe that I have done all that I can to be a practicing Catholic until I compare myself to all these inspiring young men and women and I think to myself: “Who am I kidding?” I’m not striving to be a better Catholic. I’m a Catholic on cruise control.

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A group of the most inspiring people I know at the 2014 SFL conference.

While I have been striving to become healthier, I have slacked in my greater need for the faith. This is something that happens at every cornerstone of our lives. Our goals and priorities change, thus our time and focus shift. God sometimes no longer becomes our #1. Although we may not admit it, our #1 priority shifts to our families, goals, careers, etc…

The ironic thing is that the people and things we hold most dear to our hearts are of this earthly life and thus, temporary. There are several instances where God asks for us to “deny themselves and take up their cross” (Matthew 16:24). Knowing that following Him it won’t be easy. Leading a Christ-like life is placing God (the only source of permanence) first and everything else last. Seen so readily when Jesus was ministering his discipleship:

He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Placing all our hope and efforts in something so impermanent is setting ourselves up for pain without a firm stronghold.

It was in that conference room, that I realized I have gone complacent. I no longer was striving or humble. I choose with good intention, to become more healthy. Which grew into vain pursuit toward outward beauty. Long story short: I was no longer growing in the faith.

There was a workshop at conference that told us that we are to be disciplined people of God continuously striving towards holiness. However, with the added stress to balance everything (i.e. work-life, family-life, health, social, etc) we get lost in knowing what to juggle and what not to juggle.

Many will tell you that in order to balance life you need to learn how to say “no.” Others will help you discern what to say “no” to. But it will be the faithful that will remind you to seek God first, for the wisdom.

Priorities may shift in your life, but always reserve that #1 spot for God alone. The rest will follow. If not, then it is not part of God’s greater plan for you.

 

Be a Good Friend to Yourself

So the other week, I attended a morning yoga class. In this session the instructor said something so profound that made me think. She said:

“Imagine if your best friend talked to you like you talk to yourself. Imagine your best friend beating you up with all her negative self talk. Let go of the negative self-talk. A good best friend should lift you up! Not tear you down. Be that for yourself. Be a good best friend to yourself. Stop the negativity.”

I may have paraphrased a bit here, but you get the idea.

Today, I’ve realized how grumpy I am in the morning before a workout or attending mass during the day. Very irritable, snippy, and miserable. Fair warning to all: don’t interact with me until I have done either of those things in the am. I’m not the most pleasant person to be around.

Many people (my former self included) is often like that with coffee, but since that I have tried to change my lifestyle a bit, my new stress relievers have been either in exercising the physical or the spiritual.

The reason is this: prayer, mediation, running, jogging, breathing… all require full attention to the moment. It’s the one time in my day where I am able to turn off the constant chatter in my inner mind. To turn off the negative, critical, over-thinking, self-talk that I give myself every day. I do this when I drive, work, interact, everything. I’d like to believe that I am not alone here. Perhaps you have your own demons to battle with everyday in your inner monologues.

I generally think about the past, all the things I should have said or done. I think about the present, how I should be doing x, y, and z. I think about the future, how it’s not clear and how this frustrates me. The desire to know what lies before me and what direction I am headed is constantly nagging at my brain every single day. It’s exhausting and discouraging. I am my own worst critic and enemy. I am tearing myself down with all the negative self-talk.

The only time I am encouraging to myself is when I force myself to do something challenging. Whether it be to run/jog an extra mile, to motivate myself to attend daily mass (temptation to skip always weighs me down), to do the rosary even if I am tired and ready for bed.

“You only have .50miles to go… that’s easy. You can do it!”

“If you turn back now, you’ll give up. Don’t give up.”

“You really should get up. You made a promise. You will feel better if you go [to mass].”

“Come on, it [the rosary] will be quick. Only 15mins. That’s all, it’s the least you can do. You can do it.”

It is in these moments where the dormant part of me comes out, trying to discipline me to ignore the temptation to be lazy, gluttonous, or what have you.

So when people don’t understand why I NEED to go outside or NEED to go to mass. I say, it’s for my health. It keeps sane. It’s the most natural form of anti-depressant. It’s the one time I have to believe in myself and be kind to myself. To experience that positivity even if it is for an hour or half an hour. To be in the present moment with a radiant God and all His creations…that, my friend, is valuable time that goes beyond measure.

So I encourage everyone to try it out. Even for a brief moment, find a way to be a good friend to yourself.

 

To Beat of Your Own Drum

As of recently, I’ve come to terms and have learnt that it’s OKAY to do something “different.” I was never the type of person that wanted to be “different” or to “stand-out.” To me, that was for reckless people. That was for people that gambled their lives way on the flimsy faith that everything will workout in the end. That wasn’t me. I was the quiet one. The one that fell into the background. The cautious one. I was the rational one. I followed structure and guidelines. I was the one that always had a pre-made blueprint of my life and what I envisioned it to be.

But God had different plans for me. God didn’t want me to follow in the footsteps of others. Do what was the “norm.” Heck, without Him throwing me off course I would still be hating God to this day. People often talk about this “reckless abandon” when following God. Sometimes in order to follow God, one must be shown that this worldly life we have created for ourselves is unstable and fleeting.

I was under the impression that all these “safeguards” I’ve created for myself would bring me stability and security (i.e. higher education, internships, relationships…). They didn’t. In a blink of an eye, all that I thought that mattered didn’t matter anymore. They have altogether disappeared or phased out of my life completely. Now, I would be completely lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I was devastated. I was negative, miserable, at times angry and frankly really hard to be around.

Reluctantly, I was forced to throw out all guidelines and structure out the window. I had to just figure it all out. To this day, I am still “figuring it all out.” What to do with my life and what God wants of me.

Whenever I am troubled by this uncertainty, I think about how Jesus appears to the disciples.

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, [a]Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

(Matthew 4:18-20)

The fishermen are out in the waters, doing what they do best. Following what they have been taught. Fully knowing that the day was nearly over and a catch would not be made. It was then that Jesus threw out all their preconceived notions. Showing them that what man can teach them is nothing compared to what God and Jesus can teach us. God can defy all those structures that we have placed before us. Throw away all those guidelines that society tells us.

It’s a radical idea and a reckless notion that Jesus presents to them. To leave everything behind and follow him. It makes me wonder, would I have been so bold? Would WE have been so bold? A seemingly ordinary man is telling you to drop everything you have worked hard for. Everything that gives your life security and safety. Your livelihood. It was their faith that moved them to recklessly abandon all that they know is true of this life.

So, I’ve come to terms that although I may not be rich in material things, not abundant in wealth, nor truly secure in anything (cause let’s face it, nothing in this life is permanent or guaranteed). Despite our wavering doubt, the one thing that remains… is God.

I’ve learnt that it’s OKAY to be “different.” The disciples were “different.” They didn’t follow the status quo. They were reckless in abandoning the roles that society has given them. They stood out. Jesus encourages us to stand out. To be bold. Throw out every rational notion that society tells you and become a disciple of God. Don’t merely be a fan or follower of God. Strive to be disciplined enough to abandon worldly things, desires, and ambitions. Be different and march to the beat of your own drum. Not to the beat of everyone around you.

My Bucketlist

  1. Save a life
  2. Try a bizarre food
  3. Go hang gliding
  4. Go cliff jumping
  5. Get my Bachelors
  6. Get my Masters
  7. Travel solo
  8. Make a wish on a shooting star
  9. Join an organization
  10. Volunteer for a non-profit
  11. See a supermoon
  12. Go camping
  13. Take a picture by the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  14. Run, walk, or bike for charity
  15. Sleep under the stars
  16. Write a book and publish it
  17. Take a snapshot by the infamous Hollywood Sign
  18. Explore Angkor Wat
  19. Visit the Ancient Ruins in Greece
  20. Do yoga
  21. Ride on a gondola
  22. Visit Vatican City
  23. Go on a road trip
  24. See a lunar eclipse
  25. Swim with dolphins
  26. Take a kickboxing class
  27. See a solar eclipse
  28. Go rock climbing
  29. Go zip-lining
  30. Mentor a child
  31. Donate Blood
  32. Make a difference in someone’s life
  33. Educate someone
  34. Ride a Jeepney in the Philippines
  35. Take a picture of the Effiel Tower
  36. Go scuba-diving
  37. Parasail over the ocean
  38. Run for fun (see “color run” or “zombie run”)
  39. Go thrift shopping
  40. Ride a hot-air balloon
  41. Re-purpose unwanted furniture
  42. Make a wish on the Trevi Fountain in Rome
  43. Find forever
  44. Help rebuild someone’s home and life
  45. Go white water rafting
  46. Live on my own
  47. Interior decorate a room
  48. Learn how to cook
  49. Help someone in a developing third world country
  50. Try food featured on the Travel Channel/Food Network
  51. Buy something extravagant for my parents
  52. Experience Beer Fest in Germany
  53. Own and buy an article of clothing from another country
  54. Own a car
  55. Learn how to surf
  56. Try Gelato in Italy
  57. Visit the Louvre Museum in France
  58. Play paintball
  59. Watch a drive-in movie
  60. Isolate myself around beautiful scenery and meditate
  61. Have my palm read
  62. Have a tarot card reading
  63. Drive across several state lines
  64. Give thanks in the Vatican
  65. Take my mother to the miracle springs in Lourdes, France
  66. Go skiing
  67. Go skydiving
  68. Visit Egypt and ride a camel
  69. Ride an elephant
  70. Go hiking
  71. Defy gravity
  72. Go snowboarding
  73. Have a caricature of myself
  74. Get a henna tattoo
  75. Travel across the nation
  76. Be comfortable with my body
  77. Attend a concert
  78. Have acupuncture
  79. Patch up a lost/broken friendship
  80. Learn how to knit
  81. Sight-see along the Las Vegas strip
  82. Watch the ball drop on New Years in Times Square
  83. Watch a show in Broadway, New York
  84. Do something spontaneous
  85. Perform in a play/production on stage
  86. Share my dreams with someone special
  87. Visit at least 5 out of the 7 continents (II)
  88. Shoot a gun
  89. Attend a harvest festival
  90. Attend a Pow Wow
  91. Go horseback riding
  92. Go zorbing
  93. Fly an aircraft
  94. Be part of a TV audience
  95. Volunteer twice a week
  96. Carve a pumpkin
  97. Get married
  98. Explore a cave
  99. Play airsoft
  100. Dance with my Father on my wedding day
  101. Buy a house
  102. Make something out of scratch
  103. Give Birth
  104. Be a good mom
  105. Pick/harvest fruit straight from the earth
  106. Have a wonderful life story

Healthy Two Ingredient Pancakes

Ever wonder what to do with your overripe bananas?
Overripe bananas can be a bummer. But personally, I get excited when this happens. For years I’ve resorted to making banana nut bread out of ripened bananas. It was late at night and I wanted to make use of a ripened banana I had found. However, I did not want to do the traditional banana nut bread that I usually make. I wanted to follow a simpler yet healthy recipe, without the use of a simple starch like all purpose white flour. I had on hand a limited amount of “healthy” ingredients i.e. protein powders and what-have-you. So when I stumbled upon this article on how to make a two ingredient pancake, I was curious. I decided to try it out, with my own little twist. All you really need is eggs and bananas. Everything else is pretty much added on to jazz it up a bit.
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The Battle Against Our Weaknesses

To live like Christ is never easy. Sure, the guidelines to living a Christian life is fairly simple. But simple doesn’t always mean it’s easy. For those of us striving to live up to the Christian way of living, this can be REALLY difficult. There always seems to be at least one thing that keeps resurfacing in our lives and into the lives of other people. Which prevents us to becoming the best that we can be as a good-hearted Christian.

For me it is my temper. For those who know me I can be particular and OCD-ish in my ways. Which then translates into frustration when things are not done in a certain way or a negative behavior is not corrected. I consider myself a tolerable person, however will bottle up my emotions until I reach my “full capacity” and explode. From the outside I seem quick to anger.
ControlYourTemperThis is a problem and truly hinders me from being all that God intended for me. It also makes it hard for other people to be around me when I am in my state of anger, makes it harder to do my job effectively, adds stress to my well-being and robs us all from joy that this life has to offer.

To quote one of the wisest and most inspirational woman (I think):

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. Anger is only one letter short of danger…Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. He who loses money, loses much; he who loses a friend, loses much more; he who loses faith, loses all.–Eleanor Roosevelt

This has been a struggle for me in being the best person Christian I can be. For me, having prayer time and silence with God is necessary. Without it, I am easily annoyed and quick to temper.
I have nothing to say that He does not already know. Often times when I pray to God, I sit in silence. I try not to think of anything else but that moment with God. To let Him wash His loving peace over me so that I may walk in peace. A peace that can carry on throughout my day. I would be lying to say that I ALWAYS remember to make time for God or that EVERY TIME I do is wholehearted and devoted. But in those rare times when everything falls into place, where I make the time and truly focus. Something amazing happens. The Holy Spirit resides within you if you allow it. No distractions. If you open up yourself and display your weaknesses out before God, he will lift them up and replace them with peace. Peace in your heart and mind. That will allow you to carry out and live for Him. In Christ-like love.

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
  2. Honor your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Respect your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Honor your Feelings without using Food
  8. Respect your Body
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
  10. Honor your Health

While looking through the notes app on my phone, I stumbled upon this list of 10 principles to intuitive eating. I thought it would be nice to share it here.

Learning to make peace and honor my feelings without food is something I am working to do more of. And still am struggling to manage without depriving myself. After a long day of work and stress it is almost natural to crave for chocolate or something sweet (my ultimate crutch) by the end of the night. Usually always around 9pm. They say “DESSERTS” is STRESSED spelt backward, which maybe right. But that isn’t honoring your feelings without food. Hey, it’s a work in progress. But I think that these principles will help me get to my happy weight, so I am using it as a platform. For which I will continue my journey toward a more healthier me!

Book Recommendation:

I’ve posted on instagram of my new found love of this spiritual book: “Rediscovering Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly. I stumbled upon this book at daily mass one day on their “book remittance program” at the front of the chapel.

Needless to say I was instantly drawn and intrigued by the questions it posed in the back cover. Questions like: “Are you happy? What does it mean to walk with God in the modern world? Why have so many people rejected Catholicism? What is God’s dream for your life?”

All these things I wanted answers for, but sought them in vain. Left unsatisfied with what the world had to offer. Until I read this book. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is still this undeniable thirst for more of God’s love. But this book has given us a taste of what we ought to strive for. A direction in what we ought to search for.

The relevancy of this book and the potential impact it can have on the Catholic practice is truly invaluable. It makes you reassess yourself in what you are doing to become better as a Christian, Catholic and as a person on a whole. It gives a new perspective of the Catholic traditions in a simple straightforward text that we all can relate and benefit from. None of this overly complicated verbose theological back story that many of us shy away from.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find this book in any religious stores in my area. But I highly encourage everyone to order this book if you haven’t done so already. On the plus side, they offer great deals for bulk orders so you can buy one for yourself and your friends!

The Rosary is Relevant.

20140405-224533.jpg Why pray the rosary? Why is it important in my busy life to do the rosary?

From a worldview, the rosary is considered a time-consuming task for all of us in our daily lives. We have so much to do on our daily agenda that making time to do a 15 minute long prayer is just downright absurd. A waste of time! Time is money. Right?

Well consider this,

You pray the rosary, great. Now let’s self-reflect

When researching online for “the Rosary” I stumbled upon “Real Men Pray the Rosary” a pretty awesome non-profit group that advocates for the extension of the Holy Rosary practice to all Catholics.

 

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“Running Your Best Race”

With the New Year upon us, I have reluctantly made goals for the year 2014. I say reluctantly because I was encouraged by a spiritual sister to make one despite my views of our culture’s fad on a “new year, new you.”

We called it “Running Your Best Race.” That, this and every year you are aiming to across the “finish line” (whatever that might be for you) at the end of the year/race.

We focused on three things primarily that encompasses one’s whole life. Knowing your VALUES that you intend to give the utmost importance for this year. Setting GOALS that take you from where you are to where you want to be. While building those HABITS that allow you to achieve all that you aim for this year.

I’ve placed all of my values, goals and habits below. Hopefully this will inspire you to think about making one yourself.

Top three VALUES:

  1. To increase my faith in God.
  2. To strengthen the relationship with my family.
  3. To obtain fulfillment in my career path. Through career advancement or job placement.

Five GOALS that take me out of my comfort zone:

  1. Try new things. Complete more items on my Bucketlist.
  2. Be more engaged in my faith.
  3. Go to graduate school.
  4. Get a new or second job.
  5. Be able to run 5k with ease. Sign up for a “physically challenging” race.

Five new HABITS I plan to build on throughout the year:

  1. Be less critical and be more patient.
  2. Dedicate at least an hour or so to God everyday.
  3. Read more spiritual books. More non-fiction, less fiction.
  4. Stop spending and start saving.
  5. Get active. Eat healthier (80% of the time).