The Spiritual Lessons learned from “Chopped”

Have you guys ever watched “Chopped”? It is my favorite show on television. And Netflix. And apparently Hulu, too.

It’s a food competition show where four chefs are given baskets of mystery ingredients and only 20-30mins to create something great. It’s amazing. Sometimes the basket things are semi-normal like chickpeas or blood oranges, but then sometimes it’s cotton candy, frozen peas for the desert round, or chicken feet.

Also I realize that the beginning of Lent might be a bad time to post about a tv show and food buuuuut…

The contestants vary in years of experience, location, style of cooking, and backgrounds but one thing is almost always the same. When asked why they want to compete they say, “I’m looking for validation” or “I’m looking for affirmation” or “I’m here to prove x, y, and z to whomever”. All of them are looking for confirmation that what they are doing is worthwhile, that they are worthwhile.

And then, because I get too emotionally involved, I worry about the contestants who are chopped and kicked off of the show. Are they going to be okay? Was their idea of worth riding on this show? What are they going to do now????

And I think it can be easy for me to think, good thing I don’t think that way, good thing I don’t place my worth into food based competitions. While that statement is technically true, I do place a lot of my worth in other things. How successful is my Bible study? How much do these people around me like me? How much have I accomplished today?

As human beings we like to do things that can be quantified so we can evaluate the work we’ve done. But that rarely works. We fail to “measure up” and then we assume that we aren’t enough. That because we haven’t accomplished something, we are worthless.

So I love watching “Chopped” because it’s food based competition and that’s a love language of mine, but also because it inspires creativity and unique thinking. But I also sort of hate watching it because I can’t stand to see people’s hearts break when they don’t win. I want to jump into the tv and remind them that they are still good! Even losers are good!

Our works and achievements and honest attempts and rare successes are important, yes. But why we are doing them also matters. Are we trying to prove our importance, are we trying to earn the love and affirmations of others?

Jesus loves us deeply. He wants us to do well and succeed, but sometimes we need failure to bring us back to reality and back to Him. What propels our actions should be love for Him and love for one another, and not fear of not being enough.

This Lent, I’m continuing to pray about my sacrifices and additions to ensure that I’m doing them out of love of our Lord and not because I’m trying to prove something. I am enough because He has made me good and He wants me to continue to strive to become the person I was made to be.

Happy Lent-ing!

Can I post this quote too many times? No way

Love,

Caitlin

40 days of owning up to having a blog.

I am for sure going to regret this but I’ve decided to write a blog post at least once a week during Lent. I thought about doing one every day but I promise it would be mostly garbage. So once a week it is! You get to hold me accountable.

Most of them will be Lenten meditations and probably won’t be as long as my usual posts but I hope you will still enjoy them!

I realize that if I enjoy writing, and people seem to enjoy reading what I write, and if I feel closer to Jesus when I do, then it should be something I practice more often.

I used to see Lent as a time to just cut back on things and practice self-discipline (which is still good) but now I’m seeing it as another opportunity to acknowledge the Lord’s presence in my life and respond more fully.

Thanks for sticking with us! Also I’m not roping Hannah into this so, no pressure, Hannah.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Love,

Caitlin

In Memory of my Grandma, Joan

I didn’t plan on writing about anything too personal on this blog, but, my grandma recently and unexpectedly passed away this week and I write about it because I would love to ask for your prayers, and because she read every post on this blog.

She was (arguably) our biggest fan. After every post she would send me a short email about which post she read and how much she enjoyed it. She would put in a small message of encouragement, a heads up about whatever weather I was going to experience, and always sign it the same way, “Love, G. Marmie”. 

G for Grandma, of course.

I was thinking about being sad and crying and mourning and all those things and then, of all things, Pinterest supplied me some relief. I came across this pin which, besides being aesthetically pleasing, is a beautiful reminder that Christ took on the fullness of humanity. Even the ugly and messy emotions we all experience.

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I like to think that when we experience death in our lives that Christ cries with us. Death was never part of the original plan of creation. He gladly welcomes His children back home to Him forever, but He knows that we on Earth experience the pain of separation. But it allows us to stop and remember to be grateful for all the time we had, all the time we have with those who are still on earth, and a chance to look ahead with hope for our own Eternal life. 

Thank you for all your prayers and kind words!

Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual Light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

He-Whom-We-Neglect-To-Name

Hello! Well, I’ve missed you all. This is weird now because I’m writing for an audience that is mainly (but not entirely) in NE which is no longer where I reside. It’s very strange.

It’s also very strange, and a little terrifying, that my new team here in Pittsburgh read my blog before they knew me. So, I’ve officially made it big. So hopefully they will still tolerate me while I write about all things PA and Carnegie Mellon.

My first week in town we had a dinner party because this is the East Coast (I know a lot of people will say that Pittsburgh is not the East Coast but I ask you, is it farther East than Ohio? Then, in my mind, it’s the East Coast). It was a really great opportunity for me to meet the women of the Newman Center and impress them with how outrageously large our apartment is (no sarcasm, it’s huge) and for me to do some cooking and demonstrate how grown up I am. But honestly it was a great experience and it was a lot of fun!

So there was a student there and as we all were conversing she told us that she was Hindu and, being unfamiliar with all things Hindu, I asked if she would be willing to share a little bit about her faith. She told us about the religious texts of Hindus, the temples they have, how there is a famous one in Pittsburgh, how they have religious individuals that they also call priest, etc. Okay, so keep this story in your mind.

Later in the week, my team was sitting in the UC at CMU (acronyms abound here) and were handing out free cookies for students who were willing to answer opinion based questions (What’s you favorite hobby? Which one book would you recommend to someone? Who is your biggest inspiration?). One student asked me what I believed and I told her, I believe in the Bible, the Catholic Church, apostolic succession, etc.

We chatted for awhile and then she took her free cookie and left. I then realized that no where in our conversation had I mentioned Jesus or a relationship with Him. So, that’s terrible. Going back to our dinner party, I have no idea what kind of relationship Hindus have with their higher powers.

Of course the Bible, the Church, the hierarchy, the Tradition are all very important things in the Catholic faith, but ultimately without Christ none of it matters. So why are we so quick to leave Him out of this? It’s not because the other topics are “easier” or less controversial. I think it’s because there is an element of scandal in the name of Jesus. He was radical in what he preached (praught?) and how He lived His life and He calls us to imitate Him. Most of us are really terrible at it, so maybe it’s easier to leave Him out of it?

Here’s a verse that has been very much on my heart lately:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Cor 1:17

As missionaries, we talk a lot about how winning arguments might seem important, but how rarely (if ever) do people convert because they lost an argument. People see joy, hope, love, community, peace, truth within the faith and desire a relationship with Christ.

Truth and love! It always seems to come back to that.

Reason is a wonderful tool, but it is a weak force for deep change in human beings. Faith, hope, and love are not tools; they are virtues, powerful and exceedingly difficult to embody, and much more efficacious than reason for changing lives. “Forming Intentional Disciples” by Sherry Weddell

New goal: bring up Jesus more, not just things about Jesus, but His actual name.

Peace.

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Merry Christmas!

At the beginning of the Advent season I realized I had never really listened to the lyrics of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. It was just the song that we always sang at Mass before we sang the “real” Christmas songs.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Jesus, come and set the ransom Israel free from the grasp of the tyrannical Satan. Jesus, free us from the exile that we have chosen for ourselves. Jesus, reunite us with our Heavenly Father in Heaven, our true home. Jesus, allow us to be with You for all eternity.

Jesus, come and humble Yourself as a little child. Jesus, come and live a simple life for many years. Jesus, come be mocked and scorned for our sakes. Jesus, come and die on a cross for us. Jesus, rise again to save us all from our own choices.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

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Pain is Pain is Pain

The other day I was engaging in one of my favorite past times: complaining about my life and then quickly regretting being so ungrateful and ending each sentence with, “I know it could be so much worse”.

And then my incredibly wise roommate said, “Pain is pain is pain”. I live with some great people.

So then I was thinking about that statement, and how unfair it is for us to constantly compare our struggles to the struggles of others because we are all different. Yes, being compassionate is always worth it, even if we can’t exactly understand or comprehend what someone is going through.

But we shouldn’t feel guilty about having struggles in our lives, or being frustrated with how things are going. 

We act like there is some kind of cosmic sad formula and if, and only if, all the variables match up, then finally we are allowed to be sad.

That’s not an excuse for letting our emotions rule our every action, or to steep in sadness, or be terrible to our roommates and significant others and friends and family because we are crabby. Obviously these are all hypothetical situations…

So, here are my guidelines for dealing with all that life throws our way.

1. Stop comparing

Just stop it. I think we should all tattoo the brilliant words of Teddy Roosevelt on our foreheads, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s an easy trap that the devil sets for us. My problems aren’t real because so-and-so is dealing with x, y, and z. I should just deal with it. If I was holier/smarter/wiser/older/younger/prettier like so-and-so I would be able to handle it. Let’s stop doing that. Next time you compare yourself to someone, recall one great thing about that person, one great thing about yourself, say a Hail Mary and move on.

2. You are allowed to cry

I mean like, all out, no holds, snot and sobs, ugly cry. We were given hearts and emotions and feelings and sometimes we need to feel them in order to remember that we are humans. We don’t have to bottle it all up. Let me illustrate this with a slightly graphic analogy. If you had to pee, like really had to pee, would you go just a little bit every 10 minutes? No, you’d let it all out and then be done with it.

So be sad and cry and yell and all that, and then move on. Don’t let your emotions rule you, but don’t pretend like you can wrestle them into some kind of hibernation. 

Cry, say a Hail Mary (or two, or 50) and move on.

3. Be honest with God

I’m so bad at faking this. It’s easy to go to prayer and say, “Hello, I’m really mad today but don’t worry, I got this. Great chat, later.” We’d never do that with other people in our lives (and if we do, we need to have a reality check). Another of my brilliant roommates reminded me that, “Real relationships have real emotions”. Seriously, so blessed.

The other day I made a list of all the things that were making anxious and unhappy. Then I went to the chapel and read them all, and then I ripped them up. It felt awesome. I’m not saying it’ll work for everyone and everything, but it worked for me.

So let Him have it, angry words, ugly tears, frustrated feelings, all of it. He died for you, so He can handle your bad day(s).

4. Be grateful

Be sad, and then take time to remember all the things you are blessed with. Write them down, put them on post-it notes, put them in a jar and read one a day, do something. If it’s hard to think of some, start extremely basic. You are reading this sentence so I can safely assume you know how to read. Praise God. And you have the internet, Praise God. Also, breathing. Praise God.

5. Be realistic

You aren’t perfect and no one (this includes you) should expect you to be perfect. You are going to have terrible days/weeks/months/years but we were made in the image of our Father, and we were made for greatness, and “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son”. 

What a guy.

What a guy.

 

Last night we had a woman’s night at Newman and Fr. asked all the women if they had felt anxious (every hand shot up) in the last few days (all the hands continued to stay up). 

We live in an imperfect world. I stub my big toe on my bed frame practically every morning. If that’s not proof of our being made for something greater, I don’t know what is.

 

So cling to Jesus, put on your big boy/big girl pants and take one day at a time!

Sweet Transition

I think a big problem we have as a society, especially 20-somethings is our inability to enjoy the present moment and becoming wrapped up in the future.

We are so wrapped up in imaging what we will do once we get into the “real world” that we forget that this is our world now…which is real.

There’s a great section in Jeremiah where the people of Israel are in exile and they are all mad about it (understandable) and they are pining and lamenting for their return to the promise land. Instead of doing anything in their temporary homes, they had their eyes fixed on the future alone.

So the Lord tells them:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:5,7

Essentially, do something! He’s placed you here for a reason. Bloom where you are planted.

Be fruitful in this time of transition, waiting, learning, and discovering. Don’t waste this time that the Lord has given you, even if you feel like you are in “exile” and are just waiting for the next part of your life to start. Use this time to do something more productive than burning through an entire series on Netflix or playing 50 games of Spider Solitaire. Or Temple Run. What games do kids play these days? Enjoy those things in moderation, but don’t get caught up in them because it’s an easy fix for being bored.

"Go outside. "

“Go outside. “

The musical group Dawes has a great line in their song “When My Time Comes” that goes:

And if Heaven was all
that was promised to me
why don’t I pray for death?

Praise God that the Lord came so we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We can eagerly anticipate Heaven, but we can also strive for holiness in this life.

So yes keep your eye on the prize (ultimately Heaven) and all the smaller prizes along the way (graduation, grown up jobs, vocations, etc) but also remember that this time is a gift and that we need to invest in it now.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Peace.

(Obscure title is a reference to this song: Sweet Disposition by Temper Trap)

Fingernails, siblings, Syria, etc

I really missed writing but I was coming up dry when I was brainstorming topics. Thankfully, I have facebook and exciting friends who were kind enough to offer ideas.

But instead of making a bunch of post, I’m making one big one. SO GET EXCITED.

Evolution of painting fingernails

I finally found a semi-respectable web source that confirmed an interesting factoid I heard many moons ago about fingernails. There are very specific rules about the treatment of fingernails in Jewish tradition which, according to this website, is because “according to kabbalah, Adam was created with a hard shiny membrane covering his whole body. When he ate from the forbidden tree Adam lost this covering, but it remained on the tips of his fingers and toes.

(Oh, happy fall! ALSO, have you listened to Audrey Assad’s new album? Stop reading this and go do it, and then come back and finish reading this post).

Apparently women have been painting/tinting/artistically enhancing their nails since as early at 3000 BC in China. But it didn’t hit the US until automobiles started getting painting and then women were like, we should use that for our nails (feminine genius). Fast forward, Rita Hayworth made it popular and then young people jumped on board and, voila, modern day nails are a normal fashion.

Joel

Joel is my youngest brother, he just turned 12 and he is adopted from South Korea. He is 100% the best part of our family and everyone agrees with me.

Here are some quotes from Joel:

*A text message from Joel via my mom’s cell phone*
“I don’t get why Aragorn is always wet. Is he old or just sweaty?”

*Another text*
“I’m really good at kick the can because LOTR helped at my tracking skills”

*Talking about his new teacher*
“She’s cool, she knows how to lay it down”

*Talking about my friend from Vermont*
“She’s cool in a jazzy kind of way. Like…smooth and jazzy”

He also wanted the school uniform to be cassocks.

He won an award at school for Model of Christian Charity, which we aren’t sure what that means.

He once shouted in a grocery store and asked my Mom what oriental meant (on a package of Raman noodles) and then my Mom cried because she thought it was so hilarious.

He’s the best.

SYRIA

In a shocking turn of events, I do not know much about Syria because I am an uneducated college student who detests the news because I can’t read something that isn’t biased (either way) and it makes me raaage.

But here’s a semi-unbiased article about Syria: 9 Questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

But here is my opinion: I dislike all this drone nonsense that the Obama Administration is all about, I have always disliked it and will continue to. I need more time to read and learn, but if you tell me in comments that you’d like me to write a post about Syria, I will do that.

Feel free to submit suggestions in the comment section.

An Interview with Hannah

hjb

It has come to my (Caitlin) attention that people besides my beautiful mother read this blog. And by other people, I also mean people who don’t actually know us in real life.

Praise God!

So, we wanted to take some time and allow you, our beautiful/handsome readers to get to know us!

1. So, Hannah, you came up with the idea of twocatholicgirls, what was your inspiration? Why on earth did you think we should do this?

To be honest, I think it was sort of a random shower-inspired idea one day. I like blogging and have for a while (thanks to you, Caitlin, who introduced me to the hilarity of the Internet long ago) but never really thought about it as an evangelistic tool I could use for the benefit of others and myself. And to be honest, I never thought people would actually read it. So it was more of a spiritual exercise for myself rather than the beautiful thing it has become.

2. You’ve written a lot of thought provoking and spiritually stimulating posts, out of all of them, which one was your favorite to write? Or, perhaps, which one was the most difficult to write but in the end the most rewarding?

I think my post about Leggings Are Not Pants has to be my favorite and was the most difficult at the same time. I had a hard time writing the post because, I honestly see why women wear them and why it is difficult to not go along with what everyone else is doing. But, I knew that someone needed to really delve into WHY there are legitimate reasons not to wear them. It was spiritually and emotionally taxing to write because I knew the responses weren’t going to be the most positive of all of my posts. But I completely stand by what I wrote in that post and I’m happy I got the feelings off of my chest.

3. Who is your favorite saint and why? Please answer in complete sentences

Easy question – St. Kateri of Tekakwitha is by far and away my favorite saint. I’ve had a special devotion to her (you could say I was a hipster fan, because I liked her back when she was a Blessed…teehee…) since I was young, and she’s been one of my best friends ever since. She is the patron saint of a Catholic youth camp here in the diocese of Lincoln, and so I got to know her going to summer camp there, and just haven’t been able to know enough about her since. She quietly models what I want to be as a woman – natural, honest, humble, and completely devoted to loving Jesus and bringing Him into my life, no matter the cost. She’s one of few saints from the Americas, too, which is great – and I just get really excited even thinking about her. I feel like I can really tell her anything, and I like to think we’re going to give each other big hugs when I get to Heaven (God willing). She’s awesome and you should all investigate her.

4. What is your favorite liturgical season?

Ohh, good question. I would say that Lent is probably my favorite liturgical season, just because I feel like the most movement and growth in my spiritual life happens during Lent. I absolutely love praying the Stations of the Cross, and can’t get enough of all the different spiritual readings and reflections out there for us to meditate upon. I love spending 40 days meditating upon how much our Lord was willing to suffer so me, a sinner, could be with Him forever someday. Also, redemptive suffering is totally worth it.

5. Why do you think things like blog posts and podcasts (new media platforms) are so effective in the New Evangelization?

I think they are effective because young people are the ones who are searching for truth, and they are the ones most present on the internet, using blogs and podcasts not only for entertainment but also for educational purposes. I think it also has a bigger impact than people expected because of its accessibility. Before the internet (a time which I don’t really know), it had to be somewhat difficult to find modern people speaking about Catholic things – or perhaps you just had to try a lot harder than you do now. Any time I want to, I can download Fr. Mike Schmitz’s homilies and listen to them while I work out, access the Vatican website and read the Pope’s daily addresses, or subscribe to a great Catholic blog and get emailed every time they post (wink, wink). It’s just so right there and ready for me that it gives the average student/young adult absolutely no reason not to investigate their faith and learn more about it.

6. If you could have infinite knowledge and research abilities (also, more time) what would be your dream blog post? The “white whale,” if you will (English major allusions).

This is such a hard question to answer. I think if I had infinite knowledge and research abilities, I would want to write a condensed version of every philosophical proof for the existence of God. I’m not a philosopher, nor have I ever studied philosophy more than surface deep, so a post like that would take a ton of research and time to make sense of it myself and then convert it to blog form. I’ve had many priests and teachers give me basic run-downs of different proofs for the existence of God (St. Thomas Aquinas’ 5 proofs, for example) but never had to convert them to my own thoughts and processes to relate them to someone else. I would want to make it the post of all posts, though, not just do one at a time, so that if someone searched on the internet for a concise summary of the Catholic proof for existence of God, they could find it and read it in 10 minutes and be convinced (ideally, of course). But like I said, that would take a ton of time and brain power that I don’t have right now (school, work, and prepping for a wedding are kind of time-suckers).

Thanks again for reading and commenting!
C + H

What is Truth?

The other day I saw this sign outside of a church:

“God doesn’t question your existence!”

Which I find very interesting for a couple of reasons.

1. I’m pretty sure if God ever questioned my existence I would cease to exist. I only exist because at every moment God is thinking of me and loving me.

2. My God doesn’t question my existence because He is an omnipotent, omniscient being…and I am not.

3. But, gosh, why is it so wrong to question the existence of a Creator? Why are our questions so often stifled? There is something engrained in us as humans to ask questions, to wonder and imagine. Kids ask why the sky is blue, which is an excellent question and I’m still unsure of the actual answer (something about…reflection and prisms?) and then when we get older we ask what the meaning of life is, what’s our purpose here, what should we do with our lives?

I feel like our society is full of such apathy that we are totally fine accepting what is broadcast as truth so we don’t have to put forth effort to discern its validity.
Let’s start with a rather silly example: awhile back there was a video on Youtube of a hawk swooping down, picking up a toddler, and then dropping it back down, unharmed. Now, in our rational minds that doesn’t seem like something that would actually happen, however, because it was on the internet, on youtube, and fairly well-made, people believed it (it turned out to be a special effects project some kid did for a class, so hopefully he got an A).

Like I said, this is a pretty harmless example, but I think it leads to a serious issue. We are no longer taught to question, and I mean really seriously question things. I feel like this is especially true in college and even more so true in certain classes (religion, sociology, philosophy, English, etc). The opinions of the teacher are often taught as fact and students are not encouraged, and often penalized for questioning.

So if we aren’t taught to question, we accept things at face value. Furthermore, what happens when what we believe is questioned? We either end up sounding unintelligent or we doubt our own beliefs.

And then we get trapped in the vicious trap that is moral relativism; whatever is true for you is true for you, but not for me. Don’t question my truths and I won’t question yours. It echoes Pilate’s question before Christ, what is truth?

But, there is objective truth and we should always be striving to find it. We should never reach a point in our lives, especially our faith lives, where we are no longer growing or improving. We should always fight the good fight and have a hunger for truth.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

“As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.” – Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, VERITATIS SPLENDOR