Who Am I Exactly Again, Anyway?: How I Identify Myself


There’s been a lot of talk about identity lately. My friend Emily Allen recently commented on the “trans” issues and I raised the question “How exactly do we identify ourselves?” Some identify themselves by the race or gender or sexuality of their choice. Others identify strongly with their career choice, the place that they live in, or the things that they love. This post will look into how I saw myself in the past, how my identity has changed over time, and how I identify and define myself now.

Just as a warning, this is a long post. So please bear with me!

Diversity wasn’t exactly a huge part of my early life. My family and I are Filipino. I have a very large extended family and I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating when I say that I probably have about a million cousins. (This video from Buzzfeed is seriously accurate!) My classmates mostly had Italian, Irish, German and Polish ancestry, the kind of kids you’d find in a typical Catholic school. But I didn’t see myself as any different from them.

In fact, I hate saying this, but for most of my life I have never really been the victim of negative racism. Teachers may have thought I was smart because I was Asian, but that’s about it. The only time I felt like I was being attacked because of my race was when an African-American girl from my English class kept making snide remarks and glaring daggers at me because I was dating a black guy.

I consider being Filipino to be part of my identity, but being Filipino was never the whole of my identity at all. The funny thing about being Filipino is that the ethnic identity is it’s a mix of so many cultures: Spanish, Portuguese, American, Polynesian, Malaysian, etc. There’s no such thing as a “true Filipino.” Instead, the Filipino identity is (for the most part) integrated with the Catholic faith, not to mention lots of food and the importance of family.

I was born a female, but my childhood dream was not to become the first female president. Instead, my imagination jumped between daydreams of being Wonder Woman’s cowgirl sidekick, being a scientist (marine biologist, if I remember correctly), and being an astronaut. I never pursued those dreams, however, because I hated math and was mediocre with science at best. Nobody ever said I couldn’t do math and science just because I was a girl, but it wasn’t exactly drilled into my head, either. I always believe that girls should be encouraged to pursue what they want, even when their interests change. So neither my ethnicity nor my gender defined my identity growing up. What did? The kind of job I wanted and the obsessions I had.

The first time I was called a journalist was back in middle school, when the runningback for the New York Giants at the time came to visit my school. I actually got to ask him questions like I was at a press conference. I didn’t exactly know what journalists did, but the idea of being one was definitely cool, if it meant interviewing famous people. I also wanted to be a forensic science after obsessing over the true crime series Forensic Files. This inevitably led to me watching shows like CSI and Law and Order and reading detective novels. So I went from wanting to be a sidekick/scientist/astronaut to being a journalist/forensic scientist/detective/lawyer.

But if you asked the younger me how I identified myself, I would’ve said that I saw myself as a fan of anime. Japanese animation was huge when I was growing up. I mostly saw it in dubbed form, but I loved watching shows like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z and even lesser known ones like Cardcaptors. Eventually, I got old enough to stay up for Cartoon Network’s adult swim block, when they aired animes like Inuyasha and Case Closed. Sadly, I never developed the skills to draw the stuff I saw. Instead, I started writing fanfiction.

Eventually, all that fanfiction led to me writing an original short story in middle school. It was your typical lame Skater Boy inspired story about a boy getting the girl and becoming famous with his cool band, but it was still an original story. I decided, after creating that story, that I wanted to turn that into a novel.

The quest for me creating the next great American novel took up most of my high school life and still continues to this day. Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea of being creative, being a writer, and being an artist as part of my identity. Mostly it was through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Anne Lammot’s Bird By Bird. I learned that creativity was God’s gift to me and that I had to develop it and make it my own.

But given that I was also a very pretentious, sheltered, and naive teenager at the time, my identity also got wrapped up in my social life. I didn’t want to be the cheerleader or the class president. I just wanted to be accepted by my friends. I hung out with people who were also fans of anime and spent some time with theatre people as well. There was also my boyfriend, of course, who was the Angel to my Buffy. By that I mean he brooded a lot and I wanted us to go out on actual dates. It’s no wonder that it ended around the same time that I started college.

College, to me, was the buildup to the major identity change I would have later on. I was 16th percentile in high school, was voted School Spirit, and graduated Cum Laude, but in college, it didn’t mean much at all. I learned a lot of humility in college and about how responsible I had to be for myself. I relearned what I forgot in Catholic school and grew in new devotions. I didn’t have a steady group of friends. Instead my circle of friends consisted of two groups: friends who were devoutly Catholic but didn’t share my interests in anime and musicals and friends whom I shared common interests with except for being Catholic. I was so caught up in my identity of being a student that I completely forgot about my future.

Graduating college was the crisis of my identity change. I expected to have some kind of job, but none came. I didn’t have my friends or my professors. I spent about a year figuring out who I was outside of being a college student. It started with watching movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Princess Bride, and Wreck-it Ralph and eventually led to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I don’t know what it is about Buffy that made it different from all the other Whedonverse works to the point that I can’t imagine my life without it. I loved Firefly, Doctor Horrible, and Dollhouse, but Buffy was different. The last obsession I had that took over my life outside of anime was anything related to Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. But outside of Jesus Christ, Buffy was the only thing I can say that saved my life after my post-college crisis.

It’s been a few years since I graduated college. I’m in the process of going to grad school again. I’m still working on creating and publishing a novel, but I now know that I still have a long way to go and that there are other ways to express myself through writing. I am not as obsessed with anime as I used to be, but I still like it a lot. I no longer define myself by my career because I’m still trying to build that. As much as I love my fandoms, I don’t define myself as a fangirl, either. I don’t define myself by my ethnicity or my gender, or even by the kind of people I find attractive because as I said before, they are all parts of me.

Before anything else, I am God’s creation. Which means that when I identify myself, I say that I am Catholic. My faith is so much bigger than anything else. It grows along with me. As I continue to learn about life, I learn more about what it means to be Catholic. It sounds like blind devotion, I know, but I’m going into this world with my eyes open. One thing that I know for sure was that my faith saved me from a lot of things and I owe my life to my Creator. As John the Baptist said “He must increase and I must decrease.” But in becoming more Christlike, I don’t actually lose myself. Instead, I am refined like silver, becoming a better version of myself in the process.

So when you ask me about how I see myself, I would say: “I am Monique Ocampo. I am a Catholic writer slash fangirl. And you are?”

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Jurassic World: Larger than Life, But Needs Some Bite



I’ll admit that while I like sci-fi shows and the occasional horror movie, creature features aren’t usually on my radar. I came into Jurassic World as a casual fan of the franchise, having only seen Jurassic Park and vlogs that ripped the sequels apart. Critics are divided on whether or not this is a good movie, so I wanted to see it to form my own opinion on it.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this movie isn’t perfect, so for this review, I’ll look into the good, the bad, and the overall feel of the film.

The Good


The scale of the movie is amazing. The first scene shows some kind of dinosaur hatching from an egg and the establishing shot of the island is breathtaking. Then, it takes you into the jungle just like in the original movie, but also includes scenes from the park.

I also liked that they got actors like Chris Pratt (from Parks and Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Lego Movie), Bryce Dallas Howard (from Lady in the Water and Terminator Salvation), Vincent D’Onofrio (better known as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin from Marvel’s Daredevil), and Katie McGrath (Morgana from Merlin and Lucy from Dracula) to be in this movie. Dr. Henry Wu from the original movie plays a larger role here as head of the genetics lab.

As far as characters go, I love Chris Pratt’s character Owen. He was a proto-Indiana Jones (which makes sense because Pratt is rumored to be starring in an Indiana Jones remake sooner or later) with a cool head and a carefree style. Owen is a raptor trainer and he has a great affection for his raptor pack.


I liked Claire’s development from being the cold-hearted park coordinator to caring for the dinosaurs to being brave enough to get Rexie (as the original T-Rex from Jurassic Park is called) out of her cage to take on the iRex. The part where she tied up her shirt to look like Ellie from the original movie was a nice call back.

I liked Lowery, the nerdy guy (played by Jake Johnson from New Girl). He seems to represent the fans of the classic movie, pointing out all the things that the fans of the original would also call this movie out on, like the wrongness about creating the Indominous Rex (heceforth called iRex for short).


I loved the part where Gray and Zach find themselves in the original Jurassic Park and used the jeeps from the original movie for their escape. There are a lot of nice call-backs to the original that I’m sure diehard fans will like.

I also liked that Barry, the only black guy in this movie, did not get killed. I just wish he did more in the movie. But for what it’s worth, he was good.

Speaking of, the dinosaurs were, for the most part, amazing characters. It was amazing to see dinosaurs being used in a petting zoo and a show with a mosasaurus that shows her eating a shark (hello, Jaws shout-out!). The iRex is also a very believable villain and it’s implied there is some human genomes in her.


The breakout dinos, though, were Owen’s raptor pack: Blue, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. They started out as the intimidating mad dog back, barely capable of listening to anyone other than Owen, and then turning on the humans under the influence of the iRex. However, the bond that Owen has with them causes them to turn against the iRex.


Finally, the climax of the movie was awesome. Rexie taking on the iRex, Blue joining in on the fight, and  the mosasaurus finishing the iRex off. I was grinning as soon as I saw Claire opening Rexie’s cage and rooted for Rexie as she fought the iRex. The only thing that would’ve made this better is if Rexie dealt the killing blow and pushed the iRex into the mosasaurus tank. But that’s just me.



The Bad


I hate to say this, but the CG is awful in this movie. I was so hoping that they would use the practical effects more, but since I never see the major characters of the film actually being hit by the dinosaurs as they’re running, I knew that it was green screen. The only scene where the dinosaurs felt real was when Chris Pratt was touching a dinosaur that the iRex killed. I also didn’t like how the dimorphodons looked because I swear they could’ve been mistaken for dinosaur hybrids themselves. Granted, I’m not a dinosaur expert, so what do I know?

I was also disappointed with how the iRex actually looked. I expected her to be way big and to have wings, maybe. I didn’t expect some kind of chimera fantasy creature, but from how everyone described her, the result that came out was sadly less than stellar. In fact, I actually hoped she would look like this stark white dimorphodon or something. It was really hard to see her being as stark white as she is described. I couldn’t differentiate from the different raptors, either.

Also, it was really hard for me to believe that Claire could’ve been running in heels for all that time. She must have feet of steel or something because I can barely walk in my favorite pair of pumps, let alone run away from rampaging dinosaurs.

My biggest problem with the movie, however, was how they wrote their human characters. The dinosaurs were awesome, but the characters could’ve been a lot more likeable. The only characters I liked straight off the bat were Owen and Lowery. Owen was a great character in the film, but the subplot of his relationship with Claire was pretty contrived. I also didn’t like that Lowery ended up not getting the girl.

I love Vincent D’Onofrio, don’t get me wrong, but the writing for his character was very reminiscent of Avatar. It’s so obvious that he’s gonna be the villain and in what world would militarizing dinosaurs be considered a logically sound idea?! I kept praying that he gets killed in the movie and actually felt relieved when it happened, although his death was particularly gruesome.


My least favorite death, however, was Zara (played by Katie McGrath). Granted, her character didn’t really do much outside of being a beleaguered assistant/babysitter, but I’m a fan of Katie McGrath and cringed as she was killed by the pteranodon and the mosasaurus.

There were also subplots brought up that went nowhere, particularly the fact that Gray and Zach’s parents are getting divorced. They didn’t seem to be having problems at the beginning and they seemed alright at the end.  For that matter, why didn’t the parents go with the kids to begin with? The whole “spending time with kids to inspire the career woman to have a man and babies” is one of my least favorite cliches. I pretty much rolled my eyes at the Owen and Claire romantic subplot because it didn’t feel real to me.


I also didn’t like Zach until he actually started caring for his brother. I hated that he was always checking out girls when it’s established in the beginning that he has a girl at home. He acts whiny and stupid and looks too much like a Justin Bieber wannabe. Gray was okay, though.


And the rest


I will give this movie points for keeping my mother awake, as she usually falls asleep while watching movies. She also finds Chris Pratt attractive and I’m definitely crushing on him myself after this movie. (Still love you, James Marsters!) I will give this movie points for being entertaining and engaging, with lots of call backs to the original movie and some subtle take-thats at the less-than-stellar sequels. I also liked that there cameos from people like Jimmy Buffet (seen hauling margaritas in the pteranodon rampage scene) and that the product placement got some take thats (stores being smashed up and some snark from Lowery).

I also felt that the set up for the iRex felt like a commentary on blockbuster movies as a whole. People will want bigger, scarier monsters  and corporations love cashing in on trends to the point that the soul of the story can get lost in the process.
Overall, the whole thing felt like a semi-B movie rather than a blockbuster due to the way they paid more attention to the dinosaurs as opposed to the human characters. However, I honestly would recommend going out to theaters and seeing it for yourself. You’ll definitely enjoy the ride. I saw the movie in 3D and it was definitely awesome, but not what I consider necessary.


If you want me to review any other movies currently in theaters, please like my Facebook page and comment which movie you’d like me to see and critique!

All images in this blog post are copyright of Amblin Entertainment and Universal Studios and are used for editorial purposes only.

Transcendent vs. Trans: On Bruce/Caitlyn and Rachel Dolezal by Emily Allen



Emily Allen is a Catholic writer currently working on a collection of poetry inspired by John Paul II’s Theology of the body. She loves the Catholic Church, her husband, being Polish, the Office, and mac and cheese.

“What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body?
For God is in love with all these things and He might weep when they are gone.”
~St. Catherine of Siena

To what degree do our physical attributes define us as humans, and to what degree are we defined by common experiences as a result of said physical attributes?
The phrase “appropriation” has been used in regards to a certain Rachel Dolezal, a civil rights leader who has, for years, been “passing” as an African American. She has changed her outward appearance, lied about familial relations, and been the victim of nine racially-charged hate crimes.

Everyone seems to be up in arms about Dolezal: is this race advocate actively living a racist existence? Certainly, if she were living as a black woman for fun, or because she felt she can better represent a minority, this would be true. Or is she “transracial” – no different from Caitlyn Jenner, simply making the changes to be the race she is on the inside?

I mean, if gender is a construct, so is race: it’s an expected set of behaviors, inclinations and values arbitrarily based on outward physical appearance (skin color/hair type/body parts/etc.) that is used to “identify” ourselves. We do not ask to be identified as male or female at birth, this is assigned based on the genitalia we are born with. Likewise, we do not ask to be identified racially at birth, but the doctors check a box based on external traits.The physical traits we carry is “nature” but the attitudes we adopt are “nurture”- based on how we are raised and our own preferences, so wouldn’t it be possible to identify differently from what we were assigned at birth and had no say in?

With that said, this woman clearly believes she is African American (or possibly has a personality disorder) – and has made changes to be so, and has supposedly had hate crimes perpetrated against her so that she shares the common experience of being suspicious of white people and feeling victimized de facto by her “race”- after all, what is the “common experience” she would need to share in order to be “properly” black? Being on welfare? Having a baby daddy? No, African American advocates would argue those are destructive stereotypes. One would think the common experience is being a victim of racism and facing discrimination, which, according to her, she has been.

If saying the common experience of a woman is having a period is being transphobic, and all that is required to be woman is to want to be a woman, then why can’t this woman be black? She clearly desires to represent herself as African-American. With race as a construct, and having shared in the common experience of African Americans, is she really appropriating? Or is she transracial?

If, however, race is not a construct but a fact, if our physical biology is allowed to dictate who we are and what experiences we are allowed to have, what sort of privilege we are allowed, (ie white privilege, male privilege) then gender must also be a fact as well. When we say that gender is a feeling based on interior identity, our humanity and sense of self become entirely subjective. In the same breath, we are rejecting stereotypes with disdain while simultaneously using them as rubrics to form our “new” identities. This is the crux of the matter: the seeking of body/mind harmony is a direct adherence to classifications, not a rejection of it. I feel female so I need feminine parts and must do girly things, but gender is an oppressive construct used to box me in. I feel African-American and must darken my skin and wear a weave and do “black” things, but race is an oppressive construct used to box me in. The mental dissonance required to do this is simply dizzying.

However, for those who celebrate Caitlyn Jenner and in the same breath condemn Miss Dolezal, you need to take a step back and look at what you believe biology dictates in regards to a person. Biology either has some dictates in who we are, in our experiences and in our identities, or it doesn’t. It cannot be true in one case and false in the next.

We have so many trans labels coming out now: transracial, transgender, transabled. transspecied. We are placing so much emphasis on the importance of the body, of our appearance and how it looks that we are forgetting about the soul. Our bodies are not our own toys, but should seek to glorify God: they are a temporal expression of our transcendent souls.

I sympathize with Caitlyn Jenner and with Rachel Dolezal (assuming she truly believes she is a woman of color.) I have not had the experience of feeling foreign in my body to the point of drastically changing my appearance to feel peace. I have not felt that I was limited by my appearance, that I must like feminine things simply because I am a woman, or that I must like Uggs because I am white, or that I cannot assist a movement simply by remaining as I am. I do not know what such things are like, and in a world where we can mold our appearance to our desires, it’s easy to understand why doing so affords a sense of control and relief. I do not envy the struggle they live with on a daily basis.

However, I also believe that our bodies are meant to be an expression of our souls, and that God does not mistakenly place a woman’s soul in a man’s body or vice versa. Our bodies express our inmost being, which is more than inclinations towards sports, or nail polish, or certain clothing. Perhaps harmony can be found by going deeper than those surface desires which are gendered by society. I highly recommend anyone who desires to better understand what it is to be human, what it is to be male and female, and where identity comes from, to study John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

I am not an expert on this subject and I do not wish to invalidate anyone’s experiences. I am simply a woman with access to the internet and an opinion, but I believe we can embrace our bodies even when our mental interior does not match up by looking at the deeper meaning of what we are called to, and- more importantly- what God calls us to. It’s natural to feel some dissonance between the body and the spirit, but the key to putting them into harmony is not by drastically altering them, but recognizing that we are merely temporal stewards of our bodies and giving them over to God in love and obedience.

We are meant to be transcendent, not “trans.”

The Heart of The Matter: How Do We Identify And Define Ourselves?

It seems like the question of identity has come up a lot lately. I’m not going to be commenting on Bruce/Caitlyn or about people seeing themselves as transabled or transracial.

Instead, I want to ask everyone: How do you define yourselves?

The center of all of these current news stories is the question of identity and how one defines oneself.

What exactly defines being male or female? What defines race? What defines sexuality? Does it really have to do with how you feel? How do you decide that? Society’s definition on masculinity and femininity, race, and sexuality has changed throughout the centuries and depends on the culture. 

I recently found this video on YouTube about dealing with identity and while I agreed with some aspects of it, like how our identity is subject to change as we grow up, I didn’t agree with the idea of being the only one in control of my identity. More often than not, I’ve seen people let things like politics and other people have that control over their identity and yes, that applies to religion as well.

But there’s a big difference between gathering labels in order to figure out aspects of yourself and defining yourself by these labels. The major major problem with defining yourself by the labels the world has to offer is that they are limiting. Marc Barnes AKA Bad Catholic has a wonderful series of posts on his blog that delves more into this current identity crisis

The real question I want to ask is why do we choose things such as our gender, sexuality, or race to define ourselves? They are parts of our identity, for sure, but that’s all they are. Parts. Choosing to define ourselves by just one part of ourselves is like identifying all of Picasso’s paintings by just saying that they’re blue, even though not all of them are. Our identity needs to be rooted in something outside of ourselves, just as a tree is rooted in the ground.

I’m not saying that we should let the world define who we are. I’m saying to look beyond the world. We keep looking around the world for ourselves, but we find the world lacking. I’m not asking that you believe me right away. But then again, you don’t have to take my word for it.


“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”- C.S. Lewis

“You have made us for yourself,” St. Augustine said. “And our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

“My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” John 18:36

If you’re wondering where to start searching for your identity, start by asking the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this solemnity. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves echoing Paul’s words:

“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”- Galatians 2:19-20

Okay, So I'm Not So Above It All: On Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee

Swan goals.

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:25pm PDT


I usually don’t care about celebrity news. I avoid anything relating to names such as Kardashian or Jenner or Clooney. But I’m still a fangirl at heart and when something extraordinary happens, I can and will freak out about it.

I may not be someone who keeps up with all the A-list celebrities, but Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee are my exceptions to the rule.

Last night, I was browsing my Instagram for the umpteenth time when I saw the pic that broke the internet. Taylor Swift on a swan float with Scottish musician Calvin Harris. I’ve seen them together before, but given how Taylor has been all about her female friends, I didn’t think much of it. After all, she’s also friends with Ed Sheeran and Jack Antonoff. But now?


(Translation: Dear Lord, let them be married with babies like now!)

Why am I having such a freak-out about this?

For as long as I’ve been a Swiftie, I’ve seen her with a lot of guys. I related to her when she wrote about Sam and Drew in her first album. I was surprised but happy to see her with Joe Jonas, but they didn’t last. I wished that she went out with Adam Young from Owl City, but for some reason, they never got together. Then when she dated John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhall, I refused to believe it. They were way too old for her and it didn’t surprise me that they didn’t last long. I liked her dating Conner Kennedy and was sad that she eventually moved on to Harry Styles. I honestly hated that she dated Harry because he was too young for her. I was all “Thank you Jesus!” when I heard about them breaking up.

But throughout all this, Taylor had plenty of opportunities to share pictures of her with her significant other. Back when Myspace was a thing, people still uploaded pictures (mostly of themselves making duckface). There were also opportunities for pictures through Facebook and Twitter. As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time Taylor’s shared a picture of herself with someone she’s allegedly dating. Granted, they haven’t gone public about whether or not they’re with each other, but as they say “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Calvin is actually the right age for Taylor. Not too young, not too old. I don’t know much about him as a person, but he’s friends with all of Taylor’s friends, which is always of the good. Plus, I did some internet investigating (ie stalking Calvin’s instagram) and found a video of that same swan float as well as a picture of Taylor’s cats. To put it in Taylor’s words “You can see it with the lights out.”

This morning, however, was a little sadder. I woke up and found out that Christopher Lee had passed away.


To my surprise, I feel a certain kind of sadness that comes only when someone you love has passed away. I feel genuine sadness for the passing of Christopher Lee in a way that I didn’t for Leonard Nimoy or Heath Ledger. I’m only a casual Lord of the Rings and Star Wars at best and I’ve never seen him in Dracula or any of the other Hammer horror films he was in. Nope. I know of Christopher Lee through a video game. Kingdom Hearts to be exact. He played a character named Ansem the Wise who appeared in the second Kingdom Hearts game.

I recognize Christopher Lee because of his distinctive voice. He sang heavy metal, for crying out loud! (And very well, I might add.) He’s an icon for fans of the horror genre and for geekdom as a whole. I love that he actually met JRR Tolkien and contributed his knowledge of the Lord of the Rings trilogy during filming. I loved that he was friends with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, the other two kings of horror and how their lives seem to always revolve around Halloween and all things macabre.

I know that he died at the age of 93, but it still feels too soon. Then again, I don’t deal with grief really well. All I know is that I’m really gonna miss his voice and seeing him

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

(And Lord, if it is your will that Taylor and Calvin will live happily ever after, please let it be done. If not, I will go down with this ship.)


Women of Christ Wednesday: Why Ana Plumlee Remains Catholic

Ana is considered a cradle Catholic, but says she is a revert, because she fell away from the Church for a brief time (still continuing to go to Mass!). Many of Ana’s friends joke that she knows half the priests in her home diocese, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, because it seems as if she knows every priest she meets! She is a Theology major at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, OH. Commonly seen on her college campus (or other places) in leggings and a hoodie and holding a rosary, Ana is a Chai Tea lover, an avid fan of the Harry Potter series, and listens to heavy metal, as well as Matt Maher. She fangirls over Pope Francis regularly. She also enjoys being with friends and family, playing violin, singing, rollerblading, reading, writing, and spending time with her three Labrador Retrievers and her cat. When asked who her favorite saint is, she says, “All of them!” but has a particular soft spot for St. Thomas Aquinas (after whom she was nicknamed, and it stuck!) and St. Pope John Paul II.



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I’m not a Catholic because I was baptized. I’m not a Catholic because I was born into a family that was Catholic. I am a Catholic because I choose to be. I am so blessed to have had parents who decided to have me baptized and raise me in the Church, but it was me who chose to stay a Catholic. I am a Catholic because I belong in the Church. The Church protects me. The Church loves me. The Church, rather than oppressing me as a woman, cherishes and frees me.


I am loved so much that someone died in the most painful way possible, on a horrifying day, killed for doing something that wasn’t even wrong. Someone became sin….my sin. His name is Jesus Christ. He bled. He was whipped, mocked, tortured. But he never fought back. He went to his death…his wrongful death…because he loved me, even before he knew me.


The rules? Yeah, there’s rules. But the rules are freeing. To be bound to be obedient is a very freeing thing. That sounds oxymoronic, but it’s really not. If I’m bound to be obedient to the Church, I don’t have to choose whom to obey….the secular world, or God? Every time, the choice is to be obedient to God. I have a set moral code. Obedience requires me to stick with it.


Not that I’m saying it’s easy. It’s actually really hard to be obedient. I’m not having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude…I’m a sinner, too, and I have broken my fair share of commandments and Canon Laws. I have done so many bad things….and let me say this: When I go to confession, it takes me more than the 5 minutes that I want to give it. I am so ashamed of what I do, because it’s not what God would want me to do. My humanity makes me go off the path, but I can’t use that as an excuse. Confession is when I take things like a woman, and go own up to my actions. Not in a way that makes it seem like I’m proud of it, but in a way that humbles me.


I am a Catholic because I have Jesus in the sacraments. Every time I go to Confession. Every time I receive the Eucharist. When I go to weddings, baptisms and confirmations. I see Christ in funerals. I see Christ at the Mass, during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I could go on and on about the Eucharist…..but I don’t just see him in the Eucharist……Christ is the Eucharist. It becomes him through transubstantiation. Which is a completely humbling and mindblowing thing. When I go to Mass every day, I witness a miracle, daily. Christ literally comes to Earth to dwell in me. Every time I’m there, I am brought to tears during the Consecration.

I am Catholic because I don’t have to search for father figures. Priests have been there for me every step of the way. They have challenged me during my spiritual upbringing. I would be nowhere without them. 

I am Catholic because I have a Mother. Mary is my mother. The Church is my mother.


I’m not a Theology major because I’m a Catholic, nor am I Catholic because I am a Theology major. I am a Theology major because people inspired me, and God called me.


I’m not Catholic because I get what I want from God. I’m Catholic because God gave me his all.

Why Remain Catholic: Voices from the Youth


This is a follow-up to Captain Elizabeth Scalia’s #WhyRemainCatholic challenge.

I’m bringing in answers from some of my fellow Catholic women who are young and young at heart.

Madeleine McIlheranOnce I finally gained an actual understanding of our faith as opposed to the “meh” approach of many Catholic schools, at the age of 12, I KNEW it to be True, and could never again doubt the Truth taught by the Church. As a matter of fact, the assurance of the Truth to be so, was the only thing that anchored me when I was going through my worst bout of depression at 13-15, and it was the only thing that stopped me from attempting suicide. As a person who naturally relies almost entirely on logic, as opposed to emotions or faith, I believe when I know something is the truth, and the Truth of the Gospel is the Most Firm Truth I know of, at least to me.

Mekelle Sofie Cecilia-Thérèse JensenI remain Catholic because if I don’t then I have no hope in anything, and then no reason to live.

Olivia Swinford: Because once I truly encountered Christ in the Eucharist during Adoration, I knew there was no turning back. The Eucharist gives me the strength to get through my week and the reassurance that God loves me so much that He wants to put His grace inside me. Once I went to confession and truly confessed everything I was ashamed of and I felt God clear it all away, I knew there was reason for the church that Jesus started. I stay Catholic because without it, more things don’t make sense. I don’t encounter the fullness of God and Truth anywhere else.

Illyana Joannes Paulus MoralesThe Catholic church is where I found God I feel his presence there in Mass. 
I can’t imagine ever leaving the catholic faith for another place. If I did leave itd be because I don’t believe in him and I do believe.

Shalei Benjamin: One huge reason was because I felt like it was the right thing for me. When I was in grade school and high school (and both were catholic) we had to go to mass every week and had religion classes. While that was great in helping me in my faith, it didn‘t challenge me in my faith. Once I was in college, I was able to be on my own and choose what I wanted to be and I chose to be catholic because that’s what I felt in my heart to be true. And ever since I’ve been out of college, I’ve felt my faith become stronger

Alex ScherbBecause the Catholic hurch is the universal church and the church of truth. If I wasn’t Catholic I have no reason to live.

Elizabeth KirbyBecause, from a purely logical standpoint, my personal beliefs would go between Christianity or complete apathy. I definitely don’t believe in Islam, Judaism, etc., so personally it’s that choice for me. it’s Catholicism or nothing. Historically speaking, the Catholics were the first to put the bible together and the descendants of the original apostles. We don’t edit to fit the times. That is the TRUE faith.

Secondly, even though I’ve come so close to giving up, something always calls me back and the thought of leaving hurts my heart. The thought of ever walking out of church doors and never coming back again is physically painful. Even though I struggle way more than many other people and am sometimes only nominally Catholic, the pull to stay is always stronger than the urge to give up.

Nancy IbarraI remain Catholic because of the significance of the tradition that we have. I used to go to Catholic school and my mom would take me to Mass, but as a child I honestly never understood any of it. I thought I did, but it wasn’t until I drifted far away from my faith that I began to discover the beauty of what we have. 

In college, I began to be exposed to all these alternative methods of thinking in my coursework, and all of it eventually sounded silly. Contemplating on the question “is there a God?” made me realize what people meant by how could all creation start from nothing? From this point, I began to seek meaning in our traditions as Catholics, and what I found was nearly every aspect of our religion is either from scripture or thousands of years of tradition. Very few other religions can claim both of these origins.

Now, I have not delved into other theologies, but there is a presence of love and warmth that I always feel when I learn about Catholic religion that I have never experienced when even speaking to others on their religion. 

Lastly, I believe in “showing, not telling.” Catholic religion believes in this strongly. Thus, perhaps the most important reason for me to be Catholic is that we are called to evangelize in our actions, not necessarily our words. That doesn’t mean don’t stand up and say when something is going wrong. But it does recognize that people are not moved to Catholicism because of the grandiose words said at Mass, but by how Catholics live. How we take Christ’s flesh and blood and are sent forth to share his love to the world. No other religion can claim that one

Emily Allen: I guess the simplest answer is because it’s true. I mean, that seems like a “duh” answer, by I consider myself pretty open minded. I understand not everyone’s experiences match my own, and I always try to sympathize and respect their beliefs. But in all my sympathizing and researching, I have never found anything as true as the church. And like some days I struggle with church teaching on some stuff. Sometimes I only agree and submit to things *because* it’s church teaching. But I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t think it was 100% true.

More to come soon!

On the Nature of Internet Friendship


Picture licensed via corsairstw from everystockphoto.com


The way I make friends has changed since my days of wearing a school uniform and playing out in parking lots. I don’t have the safety net of a college campus and I don’t work in an office, so my circle of friends consists of two categories: People I meet through retreats and church-related activities and people I meet through the internet.

Internet friendship is a tricky thing. On the one hand, the internet gives off the illusion of safety. You don’t have to deal with small talk, it’s easier for you to find people who share a common interest, and since they don’t know the people in your real life, you can vent to them about anything. On the other hand, the internet is also forever and if a friendship goes wrong, it can backfire in the worst ways, such as rumors being spread about you, your secrets being leaked out to complete strangers, and your entire reputation being ruined by posting the wrong picture on the wrong social media outlet.

Usually, when I’m on the internet, I don’t talk about family issues or give away private information. But in spite of the dangers and risks, I still feel close to my internet friends as much as I do to my friends in real life. My fellow Patheos bloggers and I, for example, have an amazing camaraderie. They’re all willing to dispense of advice and I learn so much from them. I also know that I can always count on them to pray for me. The same goes for the Catholics I met through Tumblr and Facebook. Through them, I learn that even though we are Catholic, we may not agree on everything. I learn about forming my own opinion on things and not just go with the crowd the way I did in high school and college. If it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t be writing on this blog or for the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. I’m constantly challenge to learn more and write more through these new avenues.

But the strangest place I’ve found friendship is through my Instagram accounts. Yes, accounts. As in more than one. I’m such an Instagram addict that I have multiple accounts. Tumblr is okay, but I find myself spending less and less time on there because of the hive mind nature of the site. It’s through fan accounts on Instagram that I found a safer environment for expressing my love for my #1 fandom Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Most of the people I’m friends with on Instagram are younger than me and they live all over the world, but we all share a love for Buffy even though we may disagree on minor things. Mostly shipping.

Sometimes, I open up about my faith on there and everyone was surprisingly okay with it. Nobody judged me or saw me as being closed-minded. And I’ve even said that I was against gay marriage and followed all the teachings of the Church. In spite of whatever differences we have in our beliefs, I’m always there for my friends and whenever I need them, they come around for me.

It was through my internet friends that I managed to get out of an anxiety attack that I had a few months ago. Granted, Tumblr (and college campuses everywhere) have turned the phrase “trigger warning” into an excuse to make everything into a Political Correctness case, but many people talk about their serious and real anxieties on the internet because they have nowhere else to go. My anxiety got triggered because someone I used to consider my best friend tried contacting me again.

I used to think that having a best friend meant having someone you can talk to about everything and go places and do things with. But that’s not always the case. The person I used to consider my best friend had their own problems and ended up almost dragging me down with them. Worst of all, they act like everything’s fine and nothing ever happened even though I’m still left with the emotional scars.

It’s a bit like this awesome Taylor Swift song:

And yes, Taylor, band-aids don’t fix bullet holes. Real friends do.

When I had that anxiety attack (the first time in almost two years), my internet friends from Patheos and Instagram came to my rescue with prayers and reassurances. I prayed harder than ever in spite of my entire body shaking and knew that I wasn’t alone. Some of my fellow Patheos bloggers understood the pain because they’ve experienced it before. My Instagram friends said that I was brave to walk away from that toxic friendship. A few episodes of Buffy and a major stream of prayers later, I calmed down and found peace.

A few months later, one of my Instagram friends opened up about being cyber-bullied and shared a picture of himself crying. I gathered my fellow Instagram friends to show him our support and asked some of my friends online to pray for him. The prayers and emotional support paid off as my friend came back, undeterred by the cyber-bullies.

I don’t exactly evangelize on my fan Instagrams the way that other Catholic Instagrams do except for when I post on my personal Instagram, but I still feel like I’m reaching out to my internet friends in a way. The internet and our fandoms bring us together in a reflection of the Mystical Body of Christ and someday, I hope to see them, either in real life or in Heaven.

The Eucharist Is Calling You! Come to Him!


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So I was browsing my social media feed when I saw this on a nondenominational Protestant’s facebook page.

Sometimes I just wish Jesus would appear in the flesh so I could see Him and touch Him and look into the face of all certainty, you know what I mean?

For the intents of this post, I’m gonna address the following to “Lady” because the page belongs to a woman who works in women’s ministry.

Dear Lady:

“How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.” – St. John Chrysostom

You can find his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist, dear sister in Christ. I know that you’re so used to the whole “faith alone” concept. It’s hard for most of us to believe that what looks like a piece of bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ after  But it takes just as much faith to believe that Christ is there in the Eucharist as there is to know that God is everywhere. In fact, it takes a lot more faith in my honest opinion.

When Jesus said “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life,” he meant it. He was also being real when he passed the bread and the wine to his apostles saying “This is my body, this is my blood.”

But how can this be, you ask?

Paragraph 1380 of the Catechism says: “It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us “to the end,” even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love: (669, 478, 2715)

Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”

Dearest sister in Christ, when you are craving Jesus’s physical presence, know that He is calling you to come to Him! If you ever pass by a Catholic Church, I dare you to stop by their Adoration Chapel or just sit inside and recognize His presence in the Tabernacle. He is there in the Eucharist and He wants to be with you!

God bless,


P.S. There is also an image of Jesus’s Most Holy Face and a devotion to it. Look it up!

Arriving at Amen: A Review With Prayer Perspectives


Yesterday, I featured my friend and fellow Patheos Catholic blogger Leah Libresco on my Women of Christ Wednesday segment. One perk about working for this site: Free books. I read through Arriving at Amen in about a week’s worth of time. I cringed at the math metaphors used throughout. Being the Former English Major that I am, I am highly allergic to math. Yes, I did well in my high school Algebra and AP Statistics classes, but I still hate math with every fiber of my being. However, Leah balances out the math metaphors with references to musicals, dance classes, and learning languages, which definitely appealed to me. Overall, reading this book put a whole new perspective on the prayers that I grew up with. I’m gonna do a chapter-by-chapter summary, comparing my perspectives on the prayers Leah offered in this book to Leah’s own prayer journey.


I was surprised to read that the very atheist Leah was drawn to Javert in Les Miserables given how holier-than-thou he acted. When I watched the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables, I fell in love with Eponine, who I still feel sings to my very soul. But at the time, Leah was operating on the idea that moral laws can exist without God. Given that I was very much an honor hound back in my adolescent years, I could understand why the similarly honor-hounding Leah would love a character who made duty an idol, even at the expense of his own life. Eventually, however, Leah came across one flaw in her personal philosophy: the development of a moral conscience. Using proof of contradiction, Leah realized that there was a gap between the morality that she wanted the world to have and the philosophy she had come to live and breathe by.


I’ll admit that petitionary prayers are sort of my go-to prayers. I memorized the basics of my childhood, but being the writer I am, most of my prayers are created from the top of my head. Leah saw petition prayers as “tattling” until her boyfriend at the time gave her a different perspective: that it’s hard for the antagonists of your life to be angry because it takes away from them being happy. Leah started to imagine that there was a better version of “Madison”  and chose to direct her prayer towards healing the breach, healing the anger and fear that existed between her and her antagonist.

I also loved that she prayed for fictional characters. It gives 2013 me something to smile about, given that I prayed for Lydia Bennet to be okay after Wickham wrecked her in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I also loved that she relates more to fictional characters than real people and eventually learned to pray for anyone who may be struggling with the same problems those fictional characters have.

She also learns about the blessings of intercessory prayer as a way of connecting to others and how asking for a saint’s intercession helps to remind her that she is not alone. The chapter ends with a humble admission that introduces Leah’s relationship with the Blessed Mother. Like me, Leah has dry periods, but we both pray (to put things in Jesuit terms) for the desire to have the desire. And sometimes, that’s enough.


I love the sacrament of Confession. If it were up to me, I’d go more often than just once a month. Like many people, Leah initially believed that if she talks about going to Confession with people, they would wonder “What did she do that she needs to confess?” She also initially put off confessions which ended up making things worse. She also admits that a lot of her sins, like mine, are inward ones. Confession behooves both of us to be more specific in knowing our sins.

She also points out two cognitive biases that tend to keep people away from confession: the sunk-cost fallacy and loss aversion, which basically boils down to being blind to your mistakes to avoid the short-term pain and dealing with the consequences of not getting what you used to have back. But the sin isn’t being repeated just because we acknowledge its existence. We all tend to minimalize how bad our sins can be, but in the end, we have to own up to our responsibilities no matter how much they hurt. I also love how Leah describes the beauty of the brokenness that comes from going to Confession and the nature of the church as a whole. And in the end, Confession helps us unite ourselves to Christ.


Note to self: Find Timothy Gallagher’s The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today. I used to do the examen in this order: I would think about the day, then write about what went wrong, what I could improve on, and end with gratitude. I have recently switched things to the order that Leah puts in this book. She also talks about discerning and imitating virtues in the examen and seeing how she can better serve others. I hope to apply these perspectives in my own examen journal.


I learned how to pray the Rosary as early as second grade. My teacher was a nun and I remember a few things. Mostly: Don’t play Cat’s Cradle or Chinese Jump Rope with it and don’t wear the Rosary as a necklace. I stopped praying the Rosary sometime during my desert period and relearned it in college. I gained a real appreciation for the Rosary in my college days and I love Leah’s perspectives in this chapter. Like me, she tended to hold grudges and imagined the antagonists in her life to be outright villains. But praying the Hail Mary helped her learn how to be more charitable. She uses ballroom dancing as the metaphor for improving on how she prayed the Rosary, which I loved.

She starts with the Sorrowful mysteries, in which she places herself in an outsider perspective. In the Joyful Mysteries, Leah places herself as someone playing a supporting role, such as Elizabeth or Joseph. She notices in these mysteries that God’s grace expands as the mysteries progress. Leah found it hard to meditate on the Glorious Mysteries  at first, so she imagined the places and the direction that the mysteries took place in, eventually leading her to follow Mary to Heaven. With the Luminous Mysteries, Leah meditates on how Jesus establishes the sacraments, transfiguring and elevating the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Divine Office

In spite of my Cradle Catholic upbringing, I only learned about the Liturgy of the Hours in recent years. My online friends and I used to do video conferences and pray the Compline together. This later prepared me for when I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours during vocations retreats and come and see events. I still love this particular part of the Compline: Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace. 

The Liturgy of the Hours gave Leah some structure to her day, even on days when she wasn’t commuting. She compares this kind of structure to computer code. Then, she goes into how the cyclic nature of the psalms connects her to her future self in a Timey Wimey Ball kind of way. She also learns that not all the psalms will relate to what she’s going through at the moment, but they do apply to someone, behooving her to pray for that person in a very emphatic way.

Lectio Divina

Like the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina is relatively new to my life. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it properly and make it part of my daily prayer. This chapter gives me some help on it. My reading style is similar to Leah’s: I either devour books or analyze them as if for a research paper. I still have the perspective that the Bible has lots of advice if I could find the right quote, but that’s not always the case. Leah compares Lectio Divina to learning a new language, which for her meant immersing herself in this form of prayer.

BTW: I squeed at the Buffy shout-out towards the end of the chapter. She basically explains why I love Buffy so much when comparing it to Cabin in the Woods, which I have yet to see. (Look for a review this October.)


I’ve been going to Mass for as long as I can remember. In Catholic school, I learned about the prayers said during the Mass, but never once did I consider the Mass as a whole to be a prayer until very recently. Leah originally observed Mass as if she was doing a nature documentary. Leah continues her language metaphor in this chapter as she immersed herself into the Mass. I love her perspectives on the liturgical calendar and how she notices the change in vestments more than I did as a kid. She also uses some math metaphor to explain transubstantiation and how Mass brings Heaven and Earth into alignment. I can’t do that explanation justice, sad to say.

The book ends with Leah comparing herself to Peter, who constantly messed up in spite of his good intentions. I was surprised that Leah didn’t list Peter as one of her go-to saints, since she says in her conclusion that she adopted him as the unofficial patron saint of her prayer life. Throughout my college days, I described Peter as thus: “Open mouth, insert foot.” And yet, in this outro, I understand what motivates Peter: a love for Christ that goes beyond what he can comprehend. Peter wants an all-or-nothing relationship with Christ, which often leads him to say stuff or do things he will regret later on. Peter may be thick-headed (why do you think Jesus changed his name from Simon, which meant “listener”?), but his heart is always with Christ.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to newcomers to the Church and cradle Catholics alike. We can all use new perspectives on prayer. But to my fellow English majors and people with math allergies: proceed with caution. You’ll have to deal with the math metaphors in order to find the beauty of Leah’s perspectives. It’s worth it.