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Meet the Faith & Family bloggers. We invite you to join us in encouraging and helping the Faith & Family community grow in faith!

Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean
Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Though she once struggled to separate her life and her work, the two …
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Rachel Balducci

Rachel Balducci
Rachel Balducci is married to Paul and they are the parents of five lively boys and one precious baby girl. She is the author of How Do You Tuck In A Superhero?, and is a newspaper columnist for the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. For the past four years, she has …
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Lisa Hendey

Lisa Hendey
Lisa Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa is also enjoys speaking around the country, is employed as webmaster for her parish web sites and spends time on various …
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Arwen Mosher

Arwen Mosher
Arwen Mosher lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband Bryan and their 4-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and twin boys born May 2011. She has a bachelor's degree in theology. She dreads laundry, craves sleep, loves to read novels and do logic puzzles, and can't live without tea. Her personal blog site …
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Rebecca Teti

Rebecca Teti
Rebecca Teti is married to Dennis and has four children (3 boys, 1 girl) who -- like yours no doubt -- are pious and kind, gorgeous, and can spin flax into gold. A Washington, DC, native, she converted to Catholicism while an undergrad at the U. Dallas, where she double-majored in …
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Robyn Lee

Robyn Lee
Robyn Lee is a 30-something, single lady, living in Connecticut in a small bungalow-style kit house built by her great uncle in the 1950s. She also conveniently lives next door to her sister, brother-in-law and six kids ... and two doors down are her parents. She received her undergraduate degree from …
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DariaSockey

DariaSockey
Daria Sockey is a freelance writer and veteran of the large family/homeschooling scene. She recently returned home from a three-year experiment in full time outside employment. (Hallelujah!) Daria authored several of the original Faith&Life; Catechetical Series student texts (Ignatius Press), and is currently a Senior Writer for Faith&Family; magazine. A latecomer …
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Guest Bloggers

Kate Lloyd

Kate Lloyd
Kate Lloyd is a rising senior, and a political science major at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. While not in school, she lives in Whitehall PA, with her mom, dad, five sisters and little brother. She needs someone to write a piece about how it's possible to …
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Lynn Wehner

Lynn Wehner
As a wife and mother, writer and speaker, Lynn Wehner challenges others to see the blessings that flow when we struggle to say "Yes" to God’s call. Control freak extraordinaire, she is adept at informing God of her brilliant plans and then wondering why the heck they never turn out that …
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Crazy, But True

An at-home mom examines Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love is yesterday’s news, I know. Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling travelogue, along with the subsequent chick flick released last month, has been celebrated, excoriated, emulated and otherwise dissected ad nauseum.

I’m late to the party, but my appetite’s unspoiled.

You see, that book—and the international fixation it spawned—still gets me. I saw the movie last week in an irritated attempt to rout my own fixation for good, and though I was relieved to find myself yawning (twice!), there’s something about Eat, Pray, Love I can’t quite shake.  Like a familiar old temptation, it still appeals and repulses and frustrates.

The appealing part needs little explanation: for the uninitiated, it involves abandoning a dreary suburban existence for the mouthwatering smorgasbords of sun-dappled Italy (eat); soothing meditation in an Indian ashram (pray); and romance with an oh-so-attentive Brazilian hunk under the swaying palms of Bali (love). If that doesn’t entice you at least a bit, either I’m describing it wrong, or you can stop reading now.

The repulsive part—that Gilbert dumped her husband and their family plans at the start of the saga, had a wild fling on the rebound, secured a book advance before her “search for meaning” even commenced, and then eloquently navel-gazed her way around the world to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars—is also self-evident.

A Gorgeous Lie

It’s the frustrating aspect of Eat, Pray, Love that’s harder to pin down.

Catholics more grounded than I have been able to roll their eyes at the book’s self-indulgence (“I mean, c’mon—Oprah recommended it!” one friend sniffed) and redirect their attention without one backward glance.

Not me. Because while the self-fulfillment celebrated in Eat, Pray, Love is essentially a lie—100-proof narcissism, straight up—it’s a gorgeous, top-shelf lie, with a narrow twist of truth to it, and it goes down easy.

It’s that gorgeous, truth-twisting part that keeps frustrating me: all that beauty … wrapped up in a lie.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” says the Psalm, and the “fullness” described by Gilbert—the entrancing beauty of South Sea sunsets and gelato on the piazza, of delightful new friends in exotic cities, hushed contemplation in unspoiled valleys, and the sensation of falling helplessly in love, is real.  Real and true and unspeakably lovely.  Beauty, in fact, is everywhere in Eat, Pray, Love, and it has God’s signature all over it.

But the ugliness is just as ubiquitous. There’s infidelity, promiscuity, selfishness and idolatry of every kind—all that St. John refers to as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of the world.” Things not of the Father, but of the father of lies.

And yet it is these things the author hails as her salvation.

Salvation Without a Savior

For me, the great tragedy of the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon is that, like every seduction, it makes a promise it cannot fulfill:  A woman overwhelmed by the awful, clawing emptiness of her life sets out on a quest for answers and meaning, and returns with counterfeit solutions: love without faithfulness or sacrifice; forgiveness without repentance; enlightenment without truth, redemption without the Cross, and salvation without a Savior. 

“God” she decides in India, “exists in me, as me,” and that mantra perfectly epitomizes the problem with Eat, Pray, Love: It might sound true … but it’s crazy.

My heart aches for the author, and for her countless admirers who have embarked on replicate searches for gurus and soul mates. They have all been given a stone instead of bread. Because that terrible, infinite, God-sized hole that exists in our lives can only be filled by Something equally infinite. All of the yearning God’s beautiful creation stirs up in our hearts can only find a home in Him. As Simone Weil wrote, “The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the Incarnation [and] the Incarnation alone can satisfy it.”

Of course, I often forget that reality, concupiscent creature that I am. As a stay-at-home mom with wistful memories of my own pre-family travels, I still struggle to accept the fact that my life may never again involve cappuccinos in Rome, baguettes in Paris, hikes in the Alps, processions in Lourdes, or resorts on Caribbean islands.  I miss those things, and I miss them terribly. And yet I am tormented less and less by the suspicion that I am missing out on life by serving my family here in suburbia. 

Because I have found the Bread of Life, and He alone can feed my restless hunger.

Encounter With Christ

I know now that it would be possible for me to travel to India and Bali and every other fabulous destination, explore the wonders of the world till I am glutted, and somehow return even emptier than I left.  That fact hardly surprises me anymore.

What I find endlessly astonishing, and no less true, is that I can encounter the living Christ by merely making dinner for my kids, greeting a neighbor, whispering a prayer, or smiling at my husband—if only my heart is open to His presence. Because of the Incarnation, I can draw near to the meaning of the universe, indeed, the Master of the universe, right here where I am, performing the largely unglamorous routines of work and home and liturgy. And this ongoing encounter with Christ—it alone—has the capacity to become “a spring of water within, welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

To say it is enough to find God in life’s ordinary circumstances is not a smug retort to the likes of Eat, Pray, Love. It is a stunning truth. When, through grace, we unite our hearts (however fickle) and our daily activities (however mundane) to God, the source and summit of all love, truth and beauty, we are allowed to touch something of eternity, something of what it means to “know with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, [and to] be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) 

Only God is enough, as St. Teresa said—and we have Him. When we partake of the Eucharist, we eat, pray to and love the only true Savior, the One who “came that they might have life, and have it abundantly”; a God who pours Himself out in selfless love to the point of death, and shows us we can only find lasting happiness and freedom by doing the same for others.

It might sound crazy … but it’s true.

—Marion Fernandez-Cueto writes from Houston, TX.  She was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2000.


Comments

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Marion:  You aptly summarized the reason I put it down after 3 chapters.  I wanted to like it…..  I have never had any of those experiences having my first round of children at 22 and the last (with twins) at 41 with law school and its accompanying debt in between.  However, now that I have returned to my faith (with lots of help from F&F bloggers such as yourself), I really do not yearn for it. (OK, may be a little)

I know I may be getting this wrong but ...“Seek what you seek but it is not where you seek it” St. Augustine.

 

Thank you, Marion!  I also put the book down about halfway through.  I just couldn’t finish it because it seemed so self-indulgent.  I married young and we’re expecting our second baby in less than three years of marriage any day now.  My worries, my responsibilities, and my definition of “love” were very different from the main character’s.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way; I feel totally content and at peace with my life:)

Most of my married friends had the same reaction; interestingly, many of my single friends seemed to like the book.  Do you all know anyone who liked the book or movie?  I had a few girlfriends who couldn’t put it down.  I will say, having backpacked through Italy right after college graduation:  the Italians do know how to eat!

 

Excellent articulation of all that crossed my mind, too. Could you do that for me on a regular basis?

 

Excellent article. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but the premise does strike me as extremely self-indulgent. I honestly think the reason I have such a strong negative reaction to it is because deep down I think “there but for the grace of God go I.” If I wasn’t religious, or didn’t have a husband and kids, or was as privileged as Paris Hilton, I could easily see myself becoming that self-indulgent. I also married and had children at a young age and haven’t traveled much, and sometimes I struggle with that. Reading this book for me would almost be like someone who struggles with lust indulging in pornography. Like pornography, it takes things that are fundamentally good and makes them into idols.

At least you got to travel before you had kids! We’ll probably have to wait until our kids are older or grown.

 

Thoroughly enjoyed your article!  Excellent points and very well written.

 

If Oprah recommends anything, I run away from it as fast as I can!!!  She’s the worse secular and cultural influence this generation has ever seen!  And, no I did not/will not read the book nor have I/will I see the movie.

 

Thank you!  I did not read the book, but was well aware of its content.
Your insight is awesome, as well as your ability to bring your thoughts to life!
I attempted to buy the book countless times at the height of the media hype…and I could not.

I am married 39 years come this February, God willing.  Love grows as we grow in the Lord.  Through good times and not so good times….through sickness and aging….I could never have imagined how deeply I love my husband and my three adult children and my two grandchildren at this time.

The more love we give, the bigger our hearts grow….and that love is the first love, Jesus, Our ord and Savior and Mary, Our Mother .

Thank you again…..young people, reading this book will think that it is “cool” and insightful.  Introspection is fine…as long as it leads to love and service of others.

 

Wow…thanks for summing up all of my random frustrated thoughts about this book into an exellent article.  I also was one who stopping reading it half way through, and decided she really needed to change her title to “Pray, Love, Eat”, if she wanted to find real meaning in life.

 

I really enjoyed your article. Well-written. A nice treat in the midst of dishes and laundry:-)

 

The best criticism I saw of it was the premise of another book, written by a guy. “Drink, Play, F—-.” The perspective is the jilted husband of the Eat, Pray, Love woman. So off he goes to party in the sin capitals of the world.
It’s a spoof of course. And no, I didn’t read it. BUT I thought the IDEA appropriately ridiculed the woman’s quest for self fulfillment as the sham it was.

 

I so very much agree.  I finished the book even though I didn’t want to—it was a “fascination with the abomination” moment where I just couldn’t look away.  It was not just self-indulgent and full of navel-gazing; it was the blissful unawareness of all the real problems and real struggles in the world and in the places she visited that drove me crazy.  “Ooooh, poor me, to have a husband who loves me and a beautiful home and plenty of money!”  It started from such an immature, “the world must satisfy ME and MY desires” attitude….ugh.  You said it much more eloquently than I did.  And that spoof book sounds funny, and the title very apt.

 

Great article. The author of the book needs Jesus! Enough said. grin

 

I feel that our society has lost focus on where to find God in this world.  While prayer is a good form of staying the path meant for you, Holy Communion is becoming a part of the one body of Christ.  Attending mass and fully participating in Communion allow a person to become part of the body of Christ.  Looking for God in what He gives you every day is truly divine.  The lashes laying on the cheeks of a toddler sleeping with their head on your chest.  Young children with the buns almost touching the ground as they try to catch a frog.  An older sibling taking the hand of a younger sibling to help them along the way - all are good things and all that is good is God.  Maybe if we spent more time remembering where He can be found, the allure of self-indulgence will fade.

 

So true, Jennifer.  There are miracles at our fingertips, and there is no need to break up families and travel around the world to find them.

 

Thank you = your comment was just what I needed.

 

Excellent article. Didn’t read book or see movie, but your insight is right on. Don’t have to look too far to see the epidemic of self-absorption in our society.

 

A super article ... thanks.

Interestingly, most of the moms I know hated the book.  As one of my friends said, “Anyone can find peace in an ashram.  I need to know how to find peace when I’m picking Cheerios out of the carpet.”  I know exactly what she means, and it’s why I couldn’t make it through the book.  (I got as far as India and then gave up.) 

Another, non-mom friend of mine said she was turned off mostly because the premise of the book seemed too cliched (focusing on food in Italy, spirituality in India).  “Now if she’d done spirituality in Italy and food in India, THAT would be original,” she said.  I couldn’t agree more.

 

AWESOME article!!!  The first time I saw the book I felt uneasy about it, and I didn’t even know what it was about.  Your article summed up why I felt the way I did.  Thank you!

 

I love your article.  I’m a late 30’s single woman who has been pretty much working and travelling around the world for the past 20 years.  And I STILL threw this book out of my window and couldn’t stomach finishing it.  I just couldn’t take the narcissism.. that really got to me.  I wanted to like it, it seemed just my thing, but nope.  So it’s not just the moms wink

 

Brilliant article! A friend recommended the book to me, and I was tempted to see the movie because I adore Julia Roberts, but something in my gut kept me from either reading the book or seeing the movie… Something about the premise just felt wrong and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

And then you did grin
Thank you.


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