A new profile — in discernment

I was blown away over the last two months by people’s generosity in helping me pay off my student loans so I can enter the convent at the end of the summer. So many people have been so incredibly good to me. Now I’m sharing the story of a young lady I recently met who is in a similar circumstance. She hopes to join the cloistered Dominicans in Linden, Virginia, but has to pay off some $30,000 in debt first. I know many people have approached me recently asking if they can help, and I’ve had to turn you away as my goals are met. Would you be willing to consider helping my sister instead? She’ll be doing me and my community and the whole Church an incalculable good by devoting her life to prayer. 

But I’ll let her do the talking. Please help her if you can, and help spread the word by sharing her link, or this post, or both!  

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Maria Gonzalez
I am 28 years old, and was raised Roman Catholic since infancy. I thought about becoming consecrated to God in religious life about 4 years ago, immediately after I graduated college in 2010. Like most college experiences, mine was entangled in worldly distractions. This was because I was not firmly rooted in faith as a youth. I mostly went through the motions while in Catholic School. Therefore, I was easily taken by this current once I entered college at the University of New Hampshire. During this time, I did not have the support of positive influences or that of family, nor did I realize that I needed them. I never gave thought to religious life. I slowly stopped attending mass regularly shortly after starting college because I hadn’t found any Catholic fellowship or support on campus. The friendships I made were merely superficial. This left my heart empty and searching for God, though I was unaware of it. When I perceived it, I thought it homesickness. I tried to correct this through dating. The foundation of these relationships were also based superficially, and therefore destined for failure. God then intervened and moved me by his Divine mercy to the healing of these wounds which I was acting out of.
One particular day in May 2010 while in adoration, I was inspired by the awareness of the mercy of the Holy Spirit at work in my life at this time. I was filled with great gratitude in my heart for this, and I felt moved to offer God my life totally. Immediately upon returning to a life of grace, the Holy Spirit was able to inspire me with God’s will which was given to me at baptism, so I started discerning different religious communities. As my relationship with God grew, so did his grace in my soul and his will became apparent to me in the desires of my heart. I knew that I wanted to give my life totally to God and his Church in union and in imitation of Christ crucified for humanity.
So I started studying and contacting contemplative communities. Through discovering St. Dominic and his spirituality, I discovered myself truly. As of Jan. 2014, I have found my life’s dream in a Monastery of cloistered Dominican Nuns in Linden, Virginia. I am greatly honored and thrilled to have found out about my acceptance this January! The only obstacle before I can enter is having to pay off all my student loan debt. This is because as a contemplative cloistered community, the nuns do not work in the world earning income. Therefore, they cannot afford to take on any debt. A nun’s apostolate, unlike active sisters who work in the world such as social work or teaching, consists in the offering of all of their prayers, works, joys, and sorrows for the Church and the world in solidarity with Christ crucified on the cross, as a Eucharistic offering. This is for the salvation of humanity, the success of the preaching mission of the Dominican friars, and the good of the Church. They are considered the powerhouse of prayer for the Church. As St. Therese of Lisieux put so eloquently, “In the Heart of the Church my mother, I will be love.” Nuns mediate the needs of the world to God, and God to the world through their prayer.
I have been actively fundraising on my own through the generosity of my family and friends through my website: www.youcaring.com/sendmariatotheconvent. I will carefully make a record of what each person has given me and acknowledge it in a thank you letter. I have every intention of making final vows and living out my whole life in the monastery. If for whatever reason I leave at any point, I am committed to repaying everyone the full amount donated who made it possible for me to enter through their generosity.
I would be forever grateful and promise to pray for yourself, your loved ones, and your intentions both now and while in the monastery. God bless you.

 

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Profile in the Gap: Marie Kelly

Profiles in the Gap

Marie Kelly

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Marie Kelly is an accountant who lives and works in Northern Virginia.

Did you expect this time of singleness?

For me, “expect” is the wrong word. Since I have never been technically part of a couple, I have been in a season of singleness for a long time that I did think would end earlier. I am glad it isn’t over quite yet, if I am honest.

When I was 7, my teacher asked her class to draw a picture of what they would like to be when they grew up. My understanding of that question was framed in a vocational reference by my parents. I only knew 3 options: marriage, single life or religious life. I thought through the 3 options for the first time ever, reasoning that marriage didn’t look fun. I knew nothing about singleness so that left only one option: I drew a picture of a nun in her Dominican habit. When the rest of my class showed off their pictures of firemen and ballerinas I realized I felt gypped! I didn’t know those were options since I understood the question differently.

In high school, my angst centered around desire for freedom and independence. I longed to make my own decisions, go where I wanted and explore the world on my own. My time as a single has afforded me those opportunities. I have grown deeply as a person these years and now have accumulated both knowledge and wisdom to share. As a teen, I hoped to avoid being “trapped” by marriage too soon. Often, this struggle seems unique to my experience.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Yes to both! I selected accounting early on for its unique match of my interests and abilities before I ever knew what accounting entailed. Although I struggled at jobs where I found little purpose in my work, I find great meaning in working for the Church as an accountant. I love being a Catholic accountant. It’s such a unique skill set I can offer in a ministry setting. Often I feel I am helping serve Christ’s physical needs through proper stewardship of donated resources. I feel my job is on the pulse of the Church, as I see the lifeblood of ministry flow through my desk. I love it.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook as a single young adult?

Faith is crucial to me. Without Christ sustaining me day in and day out, my walk would be unbearable. It is so easy to compare, become bitter, just not have a light to offer the world without Jesus. I am very at peace with where God has me today. I passed the 30 milestone and life continued. I see God’s Providential care for me each day. I know He loves me. When He needs me to serve Him in a vocation of love, He will give me the graces for that time of my life. Until then, today is enough.

Profile in the Gap: Blanca Therese Morales

Profiles in the Gap
Blanca Therese Morales
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Blanca Therese Morales is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Check out her blog! Also, be on the lookout for her to appear in EWTN’s new series, “Extraordinary Faith.” She’ll be featured with some friends in an episode later this spring. 
I had always expected to be married by my early twenties. I knew many women who had married out of college, becoming stay-at-home moms in a nice little towns. It always seemed ideal.  However, God had other plans for me.
Since marriage was not to be had, I planned a glittering career in broadcast media. I saw myself living a glamorous life in either California or New York, rubbing elbows with celebrities, attending VIP events and feeling “free” of commitment or obligations.
But God got to me before any of this took place. He let me see that a life without Him would have no meaning, no purpose and no merit. I decided to offer my future plans to him, including marriage. From that point on, every decision had to include Him. I would live my life for Him.
As I offered up a career on TV, God offered me a better career alternative: writing. I had always liked creative writing but never saw myself working as a writer. God led me to news writing and photojournalism, where I learned to hone this skill through experience.
While I had never planned this for myself, God knew what He was doing. This new path helped me to grow so much as a person, and also as a Christian.
I now see that this season of singleness was a blessing in disguise. I have been able to do things I would not have been otherwise been able to do, had I done things according to my own plan. I have had the time to travel, go on pilgrimages, have a career I enjoy, attend retreats, and to learn and grow in so many ways.
God has humored me even further, by letting me go in front of the camera as I had originally planned, except this time the opportunity came not to give myself glory, but to speak about the things that give Him glory.

Profile in the Gap: Marian Keiselbach

Profiles in the Gap

Marian Keiselbach

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Marian Keiselbach is a nurse in the Northern Virginia area.

Did I expect this time of singleness? I don’t know. Depends on when you asked me. When I was eight, I thought that the end of the world would come well before I was 21. When I was 16, I thought I had my whole entire life completely figured out and therefore how could there possibly be gap time. And when I was 21, and my life plan of 16 had fallen through and thrown me flat on my face, I thought the rest of my life would be an unending limbo of fog and unfulfilled desires. I’m 27 now and this “time of singleness” is well upon me, so there is nothing to expect or not expect, there is only the day behind me to be reflected upon and the day ahead of me to be embraced and lived. 

Married, celibately consecrated, or in the grey in between, I seek and hope that l will continue to seek to find my fulfillment in my relationship with… you guessed it…. God. I also can’t help but wonder if I really will feel more fulfilled once I’ve “minded the gap” and entered the train. I know that I’m crazy restless right now, and some of it is from the evil one driving me to despair and some of it is from the Lord urging me toward the Father, but I can’t really imagine that getting married or joining a convent will all of a sudden provide the magic cure for my restlessness. Surely the only true fulfillment will be in heaven. Maybe I will feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in a different manner or a little less, but I think until I’m face to face with God forever I’ll always be searching. And for me this is one of the greatest consolations of this between time. My angst (I think) is not because I’m in the  wrong place or doing the wrong thing or not doing enough, its because Eve ate that damn apple and Adam stood by and watched.  

That being said, I do love my job. I’m a nurse and I thank God daily for my work. (Although last week when my patient vomited all over my new sneakers,  I believe I may have been a little less appreciative.) My work challenges me, pushes me, makes me more generous, gives me structure and discipline, and provides an outlet for my desire to serve. I’m also fulfilled by my many relationships, and I rejoice that I have time to make new friends and to love and grow with my old ones.

Finally, the life of the mind is another truly satisfying aspect of the single life. If I was married with children or caught up in the responsibilities of communal life, would I have the same luxury of free time to study my Spanish, visit the many museums in the area and of course read, read, and read some more? Probably not. So, although I think it’s about time the Lord revealed His will for grown up me, and if He would move it along a little I would be very grateful, I nevertheless daily thank Him for the wonderful and satisfying things He has given me, and I strive to continue to have as much fun as I possibly can in the meantime.

 

 

February Profile: Mary Powers

Profiles in the Gap

Mary Powers

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Mary Powers lives and works in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the University of Dallas.

Did you expect this time of singleness?  

I did not expect this time of singleness, though I didn’t know what I would expect either. I thought I’d marry just after college (at 25) like my mom. I  kept waiting expectantly when I was in my early twenties for “the one.” While I’m still waiting, there hasn’t been a dull moment yet. If I had had gotten married earlier, I wouldn’t be able to do all that I am doing now, so in the end my singleness has been a blessing. It’s funny, for a while I kept praying for my husband thinking, “There must be something that he’s working through that God hasn’t brought us together yet”…and then a couple of years ago I realized I also had  things to work on, too. So maybe I’m the one God’s still working on! Either way, I know it’ll happen in God’s time.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Yes, definitely.

I work in the pro-life movement in DC, so there’s always something happening that I can help with or work on within the movement. I began working with pro-life students and now work in pro-life politics. Within each area there are such important groups of people to reach with the beauty of the pro-life message. It truly is the human and civil rights movement of our day, fighting for mothers and the rights of their unborn children. Both students and politicians are on the frontlines of the pro-life movement in different ways. Students are working to help their peers choose life on campus, reaching the most vulnerable in their community to show them the love and acceptance they hunger for. Politicians are on the front lines as leaders in their communities, in Washington, D.C., and the media as candidates and legislators working to protect Life at all stages. Each requires unique resources and constant encouragement and support. Even though I’m stuck behind a computer for most of the day, I’ve still assisted them in obtaining those resources in a small way.

I also volunteer in my parish by teaching CCD. I started by teaching 1st grade for two years and then moved over to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who will be receiving their sacraments this year. Even though it’s difficult to give up beauty sleep on Sunday mornings, it’s so fulfilling. Seeing their excitement when they understand a piece of the faith or watching them recite prayers that they’ve memorized in front of the class is just so awesome. The first year I taught, there was a boy in class who was so difficult. My co-teacher and I were pulling our hair out every class trying to get him to sit still and not play with the toys in the classroom while he was supposed to be listening/reading/working on projects. But then, just after Christmas, we took a trip to Church to look at the manger, and as all the kids were battling to view the manger scene, I looked over and saw this trouble-maker peacefully praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I thought, “Wow! Who would have thought?” Ha! God is so good. I never cease to be amazed at the progress each class makes and the knowledge they soak up. People you think aren’t listening the whole year end up answering questions in the end that surprise you. It’s great. It makes the challenges that much more tolerable.

I also sit on the National Alumni Board at the University of Dallas and help coordinate UD activities in DC. It’s so fun to help continue the UD community here and foster relationships between the wise alumni in the community and those who are new to the area looking for work or internships. It’s also great to meet UD alumni doing amazing things—and meeting them in the most random places! I love hearing their stories. It’s always like meeting a friend at the Capp Bar on campus. I will never forget being new to DC, looking for a job, and connecting with a UD alum on the Hill who was a Chief of Staff for a Senator. He was so kind. His door was open and we chatted for 45min about UD and then had a brief conversation about jobs and his thoughts on what I should do. After that, with each new job, his door was always open and I constantly received invitations to his bible study or lunch on the Hill. He has since passed on, but it is my goal to continue his “open door” and be the person that people can go to for help—even if my connections aren’t as big as his. After UD gave so much to me, it’s nice to be able to give back.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

Faith plays a major role in my actions and outlook. Following God’s plan and doing what He wants me to do is paramount. He seems to know exactly what I need all the time! It’s wonderful. I once read a letter in Flannery O’Connor’s Habit of Being where she described the Church as a Mother and said that, because of faith, we can sleep peacefully in our Mother’s arms. This is exactly how I view life. Even in the darkest and most turbulent times, we can sleep peacefully with the knowledge that God has everything in control. We are called to not only live and preach the Gospel, but also to trust in His will. We have so many wonderful resources to use and share as Catholics that it’s hard to stay silent. You just want to keep talking about how awesome life is!

And as hard as it may be, our faith helps us to see life in a different way. It helps us never give into the darkness that secularism often brings. I often feel that Winston Churchill’s “never give in” speech explains that well: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Why shouldn’t we give in? Because we have something so much better…and an unimaginably wonderful place to look forward to.

Profile No. 25: Travis Rinn

Dear Readers, 
It has been such a privilege to receive so many profiles over the past month and a half. I never expected this project to turn out so well…and to be so rewarding! I’ve enjoyed reading the stories and reflections of other people living in the gap, and I hope you all have too. While the regular profiles have come to an end, I still have more…and I will be posting them over the coming months. If you haven’t been profiled yet but would like to be, please send me an email (single dot lifeinthegap at gmail). I’m always delighted to get new profiles, and eager to share them. I would also still love to receive good, thoughtful guest posts. Guest posts can be about anything related to life in the gap, as long as they’re told from your personal perspective and describe something from your own journey. 
Starting this week, we’re back to regular postings from yours truly (a.k.a. “Mabel), and maybe we can convince Virginia to share her thoughts with us now and then as well…
The theme for the rest of this month will be seeking the face of Christ, especially in the most vulnerable. With Christmas past and the March for Life almost upon us, it seems like a good time to explore that seeking that should shape and inform our lives. 
I’m looking forward to a great 2014 with this blog, and thank you as always for reading. 
–Mabel
Profiles in the Gap
Travis Rinn
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Travis Rinn is a software developer living and working in Austin, Texas. 
Did you expect this time of singleness?

I always thought I would be single at this age. I had the notion that I should establish a career before marrying.

If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing?

I thought that if I chased wealth first, then the girls would come, and after that I would find a Catholic one and worry about all this God stuff later. As it turns out, the Holy Spirit bonked me on the head in the middle of amassing that wealth, and now my plan is all out of order. So no — it’s not what I expected at all, but what I expected wasn’t what I should have been going after. I guess you could say the change is pretty exciting.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it?

I did seek fulfillment in my career, but I have come to realize that it is only part of fulfilling the role that God has for me. I’ve tried to take a more balanced role since coming to that conclusion.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult?

For a while, it didn’t play much of a role at all. I was the guy who skipped Mass to watch the NFL pre-game show. Later, through the meddling of the Holy Spirit, I came to realize that it was in fact the most important thing and should inform everything I do. I try to put my Faith first in everything now. It makes all the difference.

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

I use my time to benefit God. And in particular, I have given a lot to the young adult community as a leader and coordinator of various groups and projects. I have some software ideas (games and Catholic apps) and no time to write them, and if I didn’t have little concerns like bills and a mortgage, I would love to take a few months off to build one of them. Maybe some day…

Profile No. 23: Will Edmonson

Profiles in the Gap
Will Edmonson
 
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Will Edmonson is a Catholic young adult living in the heart of Dallas, TX. You can follow his personal blog at willedmonson.co or follow him and a group of other Catholic young adults at saintableblog.com.

1) Did you expect this time of singleness? 
No, not really. When I was 19 or even younger I thought marriage was just around the corner and that I would certainly be married by the time I was 25. In my late teens and early twenties, the thought of life after college seemed like a ship leaving port and the safety of a bay that it has known really well over the years; but now the ship has to explore a wider world and expose itself to the dangers that lie in a world somewhat unexplored. I did not see myself being 30 and single. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, though. I’m more comfortable being single now that I was eight years ago. 
 
2) If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? It’s been exciting and sometimes feels like a privilege compared to my married friends because of my availability and openness to what the world offers to me. I can’t sit at my apartment all day because I’d go nuts, so it forces me to get out and be active in the world (hopefully for the better). I recently started a second graduate degree and I’ve taken on more extra activities and responsibilities just because I have the extra time compared to someone with a spouse. Basically I like the breadth of the lifestyle, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve lived into the strengths of being single rather than wallow in what I don’t have. 
 
3) Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? There’s a sharp divide between my day job and what I do outside of that. I read an article that changed my view on all of this, particularly the idea that ideally we need to find our passion and somehow make money at it. Making money at what I’m passionate about somewhat taints the passion because there’s now a business angle to it. I like that I help teach an RCIA class and read and blog and make no money at it because I don’t have to worry about return on investment and meeting certain financial demands at those things. 
 
Basically over time I’ve become more comfortable with having a day job that I love, but it’s not where I find meaning and purpose in life. It’s one of many things, and I find more subtle ways of living out my faith in that environment while having more explicitly ministerial activities in other areas outside of work. The term “career” means much different things to our generation than to previous ones because of how many things we can do from our home, particularly because of the internet. 
 
4) How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? I saw in college a crossroads of growing deeper in my faith or embracing a kind of agnosticism/hedonism that a lot of young adults embrace in our time out of a lack of thinking about these issues or just general laziness (not to say that all hedonists or agnostics are lazy intellectuals, but people seem to lapse into those belief systems when they stop thinking about God). Young adults are faced with a spiritual famine or a spiritual feast, and that starts in college; the choice is made daily on whether we’ll live into that or not. We are highly autonomous, and we have a ton of free time that we won’t have later in life (until we’re retired at least), so the potential to devote that time and energy to our faith can pay huge dividends later in life and in the present. 
 
5) Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear? I’d like to write and create more. I know I waste a ton of time on indulgent things that have no lasting value (Netflix binges, video game marathons, staying out too late with friends). I challenge myself to have a disciplined life, and to keep myself accountable in a way a spouse would notice or anyone I would live with would see. The life of a single adult requires a vast amount of self-motivation to be successful because accountability isn’t living and sleeping next to us every night. 
 
I try to use my time to its most potential. To be honest, in many ways this past year was conquering many of my fears and I see them as nascent attempts at lifelong pursuits of mine, one being my blogging and the other being my participation in RCIA and my teaching role there. It’s been a growing year for me, but before that there is fear that’s hard to overcome largely because of hurts and failures we hold onto from our past. Those are legitimate fears in some ways because failures hurt, but it’s not the end of the world, which is something I learned as I got on with life. 

Profile No. 22: Bill Gonch

Profiles in the Gap

Bill Gonch

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Bill Gonch lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area

Did you expect this time of singleness?  

I expected to be single, but I expected a different singleness.

The whole time I was growing up I was an atheist. I had some vaguely defined plans for what I’d do in my twenties, but they all involved my career, interests, hobbies, fun. I figured I’d get married someday, but I didn’t think too much about the timeline. More to the point, I didn’t think of using my twenties for anything other than whatever I happened to want.

Then, when I was almost 22, I learned that God exists.  I remember one night shortly after that: I was looking around at things in my room, realizing that each one of them was held in existence by a direct, constant act of God’s will. If He stopped perpetuating granting existence to my desk…pop! No more desk!

I grabbed my desk. I don’t want to tell you how long I held it.

You see, when I first believed in God, everything changed. I mean literally everything: every single thing that I could see or touch or smell was a different thing than it had been before I knew that God exists. Before, things were just things—they were brute physical reality, and I thought about them or didn’t depending on whether I needed them for whatever I wanted to do.

But now, every thing that was depended on God’s action for its existence. Every thing is a gift from God: rain and sunrises and scotch tape and earthworms and my sourpuss great-aunt. It was like I’d moved to Mars. (Oh, right, Mars is a gift, too.) I spent my twenties in an entirely different world than I’d lived in as a kid. By the time I’d started exploring the new world—which is the real world—any expectations that I’d had up until that time were gone.

If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 

It’s been wild. I haven’t gotten married, but here are a few things I’ve done.

I’ve met incredible friends—people who are so good that they make me want to be better. Some people I know are so good that it frightens me, the way Aslan frightens the Pevensie children in Narnia.

I’ve sat with homeless men in a park late at night, giving out sandwiches and talking about our families.

I’ve learned—maybe it’s shameful that I needed to learn this, but I’ve learned—that homeless men have families, that they see them and care about them.

I’ve helped a man get off the street and into a homeless shelter.

I’ve learned that the devils who keep men on the street are beyond my power to defeat, and often beyond those men’s power, but not beyond God’s power.

I’ve organized church groups.

I’ve learned that I’m really bad at organizing church groups.

I’ve learned to pray the Hail Mary.

I’ve learned that one of Mary’s titles is “Exterminatrix of Heresies,” and that there’s a painting of her beating down a demon with a giant club.

I’ve been one of the crazy people who prays the rosary outside of abortion clinics, and I’ve learned that the stereotypes of those people are very far from the truth.

I’ve seen a woman approach an abortion clinic and then change her mind, deciding to bring her child into the world, because of things that my friend said to her.

For three years I lived with the Blessed Sacrament in my house. In my house!

I’ve counted among my friends men who wear brown dresses, giant rosaries, and no shoes. I’ve learned that they’re called “friars,” not “monks.”

I’ve become the godfather of little boy whose soul is immortal.

It’s been wild.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 

I’d have found a lot more if I’d listened to what God was telling me.

There’s a passage in A Man for All Seasons that has been playing in my mind for the past several months. Richard Rich has been seeking a position in the government from Sir Thomas More, but Thomas refuses, believing (rightly) that Rich does not have the moral fiber for an intrigue-ridden court. Instead, he offers to appoint Rich to a teaching position. He says, “You’d make a good teacher, Richard. Perhaps a great one.”

Rich: “But who would know?”

Thomas: “You, your students, perhaps your colleagues, God. Not a bad public, that.”

I came to DC to work in policy two-and-a-half years ago. I thought it was the right move…and at first it was. My employer has an important mission and I work with wonderful, talented people; I’ve learned an awful lot from being there. But it’s been clear for a while that policy is not what I should be doing. For a couple of years now, I’ve felt a pull to return to school, get a Ph.D. and, well, be a teacher. At the end of this past summer the Lord hit me with a series of hammer-blows: it was time (past time, maybe), to apply. Lord willing, I’ll start classes in the fall. It doesn’t feel too good to be in the same spot as the villain in one of your favorite movies. But now, for the first time, I have a strong sense of vocation. I’m finally doing what God intends me to do. That does feel pretty darn good.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

Goodness! You might as well ask, how does oxygen play a role in your life?

I mean that pretty close to literally. Faith gives me joy in good times and strength in hard ones. Faith constitutes the world: by it I know that each person I meet deserves my love and compassion and respect because each person is made in the image and likeness of God. I’m not sure I’d agree that it plays a role in my outlook: it’s more that faith is the very grounds by which other things can play a role. It’s not one of the things out there in the world, but the means through which I understand anything else that’s in the world. Faith is the pair of eyeglasses that lets me see the world clearly, and my soul comes with the same fine-print notice as my driver’s license: “Restriction: corrective lenses.”

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

I’d talk to more people. I’m very shy, and I have a hard time knowing what to say to people whom I don’t already know well. It’s an INFJ thing, I guess. But when I do meet new people, I’m always glad to have done it, so I’m trying to be more outgoing.

I’d write and publish more. Ray Bradbury once encouraged young writers to write a story every week for a year, because “No one can possibly write 52 bad stories in a row.” I’ve decided 2014 will be the year I get my fiction published, so I’ll be writing a lot and submitting things I’ve never submitted before. I’m just hoping I don’t prove Ray Bradbury wrong.

Finally, I’d listen to God more. It’s weird—I listen a lot when I’m talking with other people, but when I pray suddenly I’m doing all the talking. Talking in prayer is easier than listening…after all, if you’re just sitting there listening, pretty soon you find yourself thinking that you need to pick up some chicken cutlets on your way home, and how are you ever going to finish that report by Thursday, and—darnit—you left the dishes in the sink again, and hey, that girl by the Mary altar’s pretty cute. And then your mind’s entirely distracted from God and it’s time to start over on your page of Francis de Sales and see if you can salvage a bit of this Holy Hour for some actual prayer.

But I guess distraction isn’t the real reason I’m afraid to stop talking in prayer. The real reason is that sometimes, when you stop talking, God starts.

Profile No. 21: Dustin Siggins

 Profiles in the Gap

Dustin Siggins

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 Dustin Siggins is a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area. 

Did I expect to be single at the age of 28-and-a-quater? Simply put…no.

I had my first crush in September of 7th grade, and at 15 started looking for the right woman to marry. I figured it would take some time to find the right young lady for me, and by the time I got out of college we’d be ready for marriage.

Over the next several years, I was met with disappointment after disappointment. Starting in February of 7th grade – 1999, which was when the aforementioned crush and her boyfriend of several months broke up – a string of failures found me at every turn. At one point I was 0-17. For you non-sports fans, that’s zero “yes” answers and 17 “no” responses to my asking girls on dates.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I analyze. A lot. More on that later.

Finally, for a period of approximately eight months, good luck was mine. I dated a young lady for a month – she was vacationing for the summer in my hometown – and then dated my then-best friend for several months. The end of this latter relationship left me quite depressed for months, a state of mind that was finally broken by the stress and distraction of Basic Training after high school graduation.

I entered college quite optimistic about dating. My string of bad luck was over, if the prior year was any indication! Alas, by the time I graduated college I had dated one young lady for a month, and that was about it. Turns out, being an abstinent, pro-life, weekly attending Catholic made me a radical even among my fellow Catholics.

Thus it was that by the time I was a junior in college my regular commentary on dating was that I had accepted that I was going to be the 80-year old virgin. I told people I would make a movie out of it, and make lots of money – the PG version of “The Forty-Year Old Virgin.”

When I came to D.C. my optimism had rebounded, especially as I learned how culturally and geographically unaware I had been. Here I was not a radical, extreme Catholic – who knew the Northeast was more liberal than the rest of the country? Not me, at the time – and I hoped I had matured enough to change my dating luck around.

Again, luck was not mine. Turns out women don’t like it when a guy shakes hands on a first date (something I have remedied since). The Southern women found me a bit…blunt…and too intense. And despite my preference to become friends with a young lady before formally pursuing a relationship, my personality was putting me so far in the dreaded Friend Zone it was like being in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by sharks. With chains.

In other words, women liked being my friend. But not my girlfriend. (Though this has its own advantages – the benefits of friendship, the benefits of hanging out with very attractive women, and none of the emotional stress of trying to date said friends.)

In 2011 I utilized online dating for seven months, and finally started “playing the field.” Effective though these tactics were, they never felt comfortable, though online dating did lead to a short-lived long-distance relationship. And then, finally, luck was with me as I dated a woman for almost five months and almost fell in love with another later in 2012, despite the brevity of the second relationship (two months). In early 2013, one of my closest friends and I discussed dating, but because of our religious differences we decided to simply maintain a very close friendship.

So where does this leave me, as 2014 nears? It’s been a tough year, I’ll admit. My younger siblings are both getting married next year. The average age of marriage for men is 28, which puts me behind the eight-ball, and for most of my life I’ve thought that guys who are unmarried in their late twenties are losers or have gigantic personal flaws. And the constant discussions of discernment in the Catholic community mean the subject is dating is always on my mind.

However, tough times allow for growth, and this year has also been one for large personal growth in certain areas. They include:

  1. A priest told me in July that our goal in life is to be a saint. Everything else helps us on that path. It was a good reminder about priorities.
  2. Despite rumors to the contrary, I talk far less than I want to. The filter between my brain and mouth is gigantic – which should scare those of you who know how much I talk. I find this filter necessary to strategize how best to talk to people in life, especially since my default setting is to be extremely choleric, and this can alienate people. However, a friend recently told me I should not worry about filtering because of what other people might think. While we all have our flaws, by being so tactical, I am not being who God designed and intended for me to be. To a degree, I’m letting the flaws of others dictate my behavior, which is not productive for anyone.
  3. Clearly, I am someone who analyzes and thinks a lot. While this is naturally part of who I am, and thus does not paralyze me as it might others, it can also create an inefficient style of behavior. As my friend Isaiah once put it: “Dustin, I love you, but you have got to learn to take yourself less seriously.” To put it another way, by thinking and analyzing so much, I’m essentially trying to control my life to a fault, instead of putting it in God’s hands.

In short, I need to learn to relax and go with the flow instead of always trying to create the flow. For example, my one romantic idealistic trait – wanting to be one of those old couples that’s been married for 70 or more years – may need to take second-fiddle to the rest of my life. And rather than get frustrated when people who don’t follow key Church teachings get engaged and married, while I follow them and remain single, I need to remember being a saint is the first and foremost goal.

Marriage is not a competition I have to win. We’re trying to be saints. Comparing myself to my siblings, or the average age of marriage, is to miss the forest for the trees.

So where am I as we enter 2014? Frustrated, absolutely. Recognizing that even at the age of 28 – a full-fledged adult – I have a lot of growing up to do? Grudgingly, yes. I’m trying to not miss the forest for the trees, and remember that people mean well when they say contradictory things like “Be yourself, but be low-key,” or the falsely uplifting “The right girl is out there for you!”

So what should I expect out of life right now? I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions,” as self-improvement should be a continuous process, but I think I’m going to prioritize a few things this year:

  1. A friend gave me a piece of advice recently that I’m going to take into consideration: Rather than focus on multiple aspects of life at the same time, try to focus on one aspect to make it as successful as possible. She suggested one’s career path, and indicated this would be a good idea in order to be happier, and happiness is attracting to the opposite sex. I think I’ll take her advice, with a twist – prioritize everything but dating, and let the dating happen as it will.
  2. I’m going to work on being more aware of why I act as I do. I always apply my friend Ben’s advice – “Don’t care what people think, but don’t give them reason to think badly of you” – but I’m going to try to keep the latter mindset balanced with greater emotional awareness.
  3. A retired priest advised me to just be Dustin. Let’s see what that looks like, rather than being “Dustin who’s constantly being hard on himself.”

In the end, the goal of every human being should be to walk on the path God has for us, and be happy regardless of what life throws at us. We should be whole people as much as we possibly can – and, in my case, if a cute girl walks across my path, life’s a little more attractive right now. And if she becomes my wife, my ability to walk on the path of God’s Will will be more complete than it was before our paths crossed.

Profile No. 20: Arleen Spenceley

Profiles in the Gap

Arleen Spenceley

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Arleen Spenceley is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and author of a forthcoming book about love, chastity, and sex, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.

 

Did you expect this time of singleness? 

Ultimately, yes. In short spurts (mostly while getting to know guys I thought were good for me), I might have expected to be married, or engaged, or at least in a marriage-bound relationship by the time I turned 28. But if I put a lot of thought into how I’ve spent my 20s so far, that I am single today was pretty predictable. It was college first, and then grad school, and then the book I’m writing now. Since grad school, I’ve found myself saying “THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been,” and saying it with increasing intensity with every passing semester: “No, THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been – for real, this time.” That isn’t to say people can’t meet and love and marry each other while they’re busy, but that I didn’t go a lot of places where meeting a guy was likely. One semester, I worked 32 hours a week for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor, took one or two graduate level classes, and wrote a book proposal, while living, working, interning, and going to school in four different cities. It is solely the result of how awesome God is that I survived that, and for the best from a bunch of perspectives that I didn’t try to date on top of it.

If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 

This season of my thus-far single life is not what I expected. It is way crazier and more fun and scary-in-a-good way than that.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 

I do find fulfillment, in part, in my career. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from theologian Frederick Buechner. It says, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” Writing is my passion, and there’s a lot of fulfillment found in getting to do that professionally, and in doing what I can to learn how to get better at it. What makes it better, though, is getting to merge it with the world’s greatest need. What I see as the world’s greatest need is an education in a better way to live, as modeled by Jesus, who makes living a different kind of life worth it.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

There is a stigma attached to single life sometimes, as perpetuated by single people and by people who think everybody’s supposed to be married, and just as erroneously, that everybody’s supposed to be married by a certain age. My faith is the umbrella that covers everything in my life, which is why I’ve averted adoption of these attitudes. An old, viral article about early marriage I read once said marriage is a formative experience, in which spouses grow, and grow up. I think the article implied that people who don’t marry particularly young forego that growth, but I totally disagree. Every day is a formative experience. We’re all going to grow, no matter our states of life, if we’re willing.

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself?

For various seasons in my single life, I have challenged myself to go without stuff that previously had been staples for me. I called 2010 “My Sugar Free Year” because I gave up all food that had added sugar in it (with the exceptions of bread and condiments). I spent several years without Facebook or Twitter or texting. I probably will come up with a year-long challenge for 2014, but I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do or give up. I really, really, really like a challenge, especially if it requires asceticism. Voluntary self-denial is good practice for parts of life like work or marriage or parenthood, in which we have to put other people’s needs before our own. Plus following Jesus always requires self-denial, and this is kind of a way to improve my ability to do that.

If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

I think I worry about fear itself more than I worry about failure. The part of the fear of failure that stops us from pursuing stuff isn’t the potential for failure, but the fear. I hope in my life to do a lot of what Harriet Lerner writes about in her book The Dance of Fear: “When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties are apt to worsen over time…. If you fear rejection, you may indeed need to accumulate more experience being snubbed.”