Monday, 29 June 2015

You're Beautiful: A letter from men

I ran a workshop recently for teenage girls exploring the beauty of God’s design in creating men and women differently, and how we can be a gift to each other. I wanted them to know that authentic masculinity is not the same as the immature boys who humiliate and objectify them, and to lead them to a place where they were able to see (and desired to treat) the men around them as their brothers in Christ.

As I prayed about it, I remembered the LifeTeen post several months ago in which Catholic guys explained what they really found beautiful in women. This post reassured me not only that I am beautiful because that’s how I was created, but also that there are men who see that. There are men who are looking at my heart rather than my figure, who seek God and holiness above all else and who are passionate about upholding my dignity, and that those are the kind of men who deserve my heart. 

I so wanted the girls I met in ministry to come to the same revelation, so I decided to recreate the concept from the point of view of people I know and can vouch for. I asked some of the very best men I know to complete the sentence: ‘You’re beautiful when…’  

The result blew me away. Brothers, I am so incredibly blessed to know you! Thank you for restoring my hope.

Sisters, as you read each line, allow the truth that YOU are beautiful to sink deeper and deeper in your heart.


You’re beautiful when you find a reason to smile in even the smallest things.

You’re beautiful when you show those close to you how much you love them.

You’re beautiful when you treat everyone with compassion and respect, and always have time to do something that will make someone’s day.

You’re beautiful when you build people up.

You’re beautiful when you share what you truly find rewarding.

You’re beautiful when you prefer to spend more time with Jesus than anything else, even more than with me!

You’re beautiful when you don't conform to what the world has to offer.

You’re beautiful when you choose the way of God and not the way of the world.

You’re beautiful when I see the way you love Jesus and it makes me want to love Him more!

You're beautiful when you accept a compliment gracefully.

You’re beautiful when you accept and are aware of the truth and power of your beauty.

You’re beautiful when you put all your trust in Jesus.

You’re beautiful when you desire to be the best you can be.

You’re beautiful when you recognise your dignity.

You’re beautiful when you detach yourself from what the world wants you to be and you realise the beauty of who you truly already are.

You’re beautiful when you love the person God made you to be, and don’t want to be someone else.

You’re beautiful when you worship God freely.

You’re beautiful when you are brave in your honesty.

You're beautiful when you look at me right in the eye, not because you're trying to seduce me, but because you are genuinely interested in what I have to say.

You’re beautiful when you challenge and call the best out of the men around you.

You’re beautiful when you smile and laugh in the face of trials and difficulties.

You’re beautiful when you step out in faith and trust despite not knowing the outcome.

You’re beautiful when the world can see Christ in you.

You’re beautiful when you believe, even just for one second, that you are a work of art.

You’re beautiful because you’re made in the image and likeness of Beauty itself.


But you are beautiful… always… end of!

You’re already beautiful, and you’re already precious. Don’t change that!

You’re beautiful because it doesn’t matter what I think, only what the Creator thinks.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Where are the men?

    Whenever I read about male or female identity in the way God intended it, something within me comes alive. My heart burns to see those identities restored within our nation and within our Church. I long for men and women alike to truly know their identities in Christ: to know not only the unique gifts that they can bring to the world around them, but also to know that they are gifts themselves. My vision is that by being secure in their God-given identity, these men and women will be able to confidently step into the calling God has placed on each of their lives. 

    Working in youth ministry, I’ve noticed how many of the people in pastoral positions serving as role models for young people, aside from priests, are female. Research has shown that children are more likely to remain in the Church if their father has provided a model of faith, yet a high proportion of the Catholic Church is female. I know the ideal of authentic manhood, I believe it exists and I long to see it in action. But, if I’m honest with myself, there are a lot of moments when the question buried deep in my heart – and I believe the hearts of many of us – emerges: ‘Where are the men?’ I’m disappointed to know that the doubt exists within me, but it’s one which takes determination and a lot of faith to challenge.

    In my ministry I have the privilege of visiting a lot of different parishes around the country, and witnessing a pretty good cross-section of the Church. At times it’s naturally easy to be critical of the church set-up and in particular the gender balance, but right when I need the reminder, God always points me towards the signs of hope that, in my cynicism, I overlook. 

    Not long after I joined my Catholic community, around 15 of the men in the community staged a flash mob of ‘Let It Go’ in bold, deeps tones during a talent show to support a couple of nervous little girls eager to showcase their favourite song.

    A few months ago I had a really fruitful conversation with the assistant head of a school my team were going to be visiting, standing in the porch after mass whilst his 3 year old son clung to his leg and his 18 month old daughter used his shoulders as a climbing frame.

    The other day I noticed a man sitting a few rows in front of me in mass with his hand outstretched on a piece of paper for his 2 year old daughter to draw around (or more accurately scribble over!) whilst listening intently to the homily. It struck me that he seemed to be depicting the ideal of manhood within the Church: whole-heartedly seeking the Word of God whilst being a strong, calm presence providing love and security for his child. 

    This is fatherhood. This is man as he was created to be. These are men of God, and men of the Church. They are models of leadership within their families, teachers of the gospel to their children, servants to their community and defenders of the faith. Above all they are sons who know their sonship, and they are beacons of hope – both in our Church and in my heart!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Worshipping in the Pain

There have been times when I’ve felt like I’m just a gigantic ball of pain. In those moments it feels like I’ve taken blow after blow from every angle and I fear the next one will be the one which knocks me out. My reactions are over-sensitive, everything hurts more than it should, and nothing seems able to pull me out of the pit I’m in. And I’ll be honest: in those moments I’m furious at God!

One evening recently I went into the chapel and yelled at Jesus in the tabernacle. “Patience, child” didn’t cut it with me this time – I wanted more from Him. I wanted explanations and outlines of His plans because the details I’d figured out for myself made no sense. My resolve to trust Him in all situations had broken, and the anger was seeping out. I didn’t want to be patient. I didn’t want to have to trust. I wanted something tangible to take strength from.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry at God, as long as you share that with Him. Get mad at Him, yell at Him, but PLEASE don’t turn away from Him. Cry out to Him. Actually cry if you need to. Sit with Him in the pain, the confusion and the doubt. Tell Him how you’re feeling if you can find the words, allow yourself to be silent if you can’t – He knows it all anyway. Know that when you’re empty, that’s when you’re the most able to be filled with His Spirit, love, mercy and grace.

“So please, even though it hurts, don’t be afraid of the pain. It’s the Divine Artist’s tool to carve in you more room for himself, to prepare the bridal chamber.” Katrina J. Zeno: Discovering the Feminine Genius
Something I’ve been challenged by this year is learning to worship in the pain. The times when I’m hurting are often the times when the last thing I want to do is hand over control to God, but I know they’re also the times when it’s the most important to do exactly that. For me that means learning the self-discipline it takes to choose to stand in worship when everything in me wants to run away. It means grabbing my Bible instead of curling up on my bed. It means admitting I’m broken so that Jesus can build me up again. It means letting Jesus into the wounds even when in the moment that seems to hurt them more.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

If we allow our suffering to separate us from God then the enemy has won. If we allow it to draw us closer to our Saviour then we ultimately reap the benefits of the victory which he’s already won. We sometimes suffer without an end or reward in sight, but we trust that it’s there. We trust that to suffer with Christ is far more of a blessing than we can possibly understand. Our faith is a choice: one which we must make again and again with every breath – the breaths that revive us and the breaths that strain us so much that they feel like they could be our last.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

We’ve been given the promise of future glory. We can choose to claim it even when the lies try to drown it out. We can chose to live in it even in our current suffering. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel – Jesus: Light itself. When we realise that, any amount of suffering becomes a route to JOY.

So worship Him in the pain. Look at His cross and know with deepest certainty that He knows it, He feels it with you, and He will lead you out of it.