Thursday, May 26, 2016

Turning Ownership into Stewardship: Marital Finances (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number five in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.



Chapter 5


Turning Ownership into Stewardship:
Six Tips for Trouble-Free, God-Centered Finances 


Marital finances are a hot-button issue for many couples. But frequently couples are fighting over who’s in control and who gets to make the decisions as much as they’re fighting over the money itself. It helps for them to commit fully to the idea that what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. It helps even more for them to realize that everything that is theirs has been given to them by a God who loves them.

We are not so much owners as we are stewards, caretakers of God’s blessings. As Manny and Karee say in Chapter Five of The Four Keys, “An attitude of stewardship can set us free. Good stewardship recognizes that everything we have comes from God, even the talents and opportunities that enable us to earn a living. God gives us these things so we can use them for his glory, not just accomplish our own personal goals.”

In Chapter Five, Manny and Karee use Scriptural quotes and stories to detail six tips for trouble-free, God-centered marital finances:

  • Talk to each other
  • Establish joint financial priorities
  • Plan wisely
  • Save for your family’s future
  • Tithe (or donate a fixed percentage of your income)
  • Pay your taxes (yes, really!)


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going among yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.


1. Do you and your spouse have different spending and saving patterns? How different are they?





2. Are you comfortable discussing finances with each other, or does it sometimes cause conflict? Which financial issues have the most potential for conflict?






3. How important do you think donating to charity is? Which charities do you (or would you like to) support?






4. How often do you pray about any financial worries you might have?






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Monday, May 23, 2016

Turning Meaningless Drudgery into Meaningful Work (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number four in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.




Chapter 4


Turning Meaningless Drudgery into Meaningful Work:
How to Prioritize God, Family, and Work


Whether you work at home or in an office, nobody wants to feel like a gerbil on a wheel. Work is meant to be more than that, and deep inside we all know it. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve worked. Our Blessed Mother Mary worked in the kitchen, and her husband Joseph and son Jesus worked at the carpenter’s bench. Work has always been a way that we humans find fulfillment and purpose in life, a way that we can make a visible difference in the world around us.

A lot of effort can be poured into finding a “dream” job or career, and that’s certainly a worthy goal. But sometimes we’re called to bloom where we’re planted and to recognize that all work has value in the eyes of God.  As Manny and Karee say in Chapter Four of The Four Keys, “The value of our work can be measured by the love and care we put into it. Even the smallest, most mundane task can be a kind of offering to God. Just look up from your work and think silently, ‘My Lord, this is for you.’” Realizing the supernatural worth of our work will help us to prioritize correctly: first, God; then, family; and last, work.

In Chapter Four, Manny and Karee show how hard work can enhance our reputation and self-esteem and how God’s will always has a place in our career decisions. They describe a uniquely Catholic work ethic and explore the special challenges women face in crafting a work-life balance. In addition, Chapter Four will help you to:


  • See work as a blessing, not a burden
  • Make family-friendly career choices
  • Fairly distribute chores at home
  • Work for a higher purpose with God as your ultimate “boss”


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going among yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.



1. What priority does work have in your life?





2. What led you to choose your particular work or career?






3. Do you struggle to balance home life and work life? What strategies have or haven’t helped you find that balance?





4. How did your parents balance home life and work life? Will that model work for you?





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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Winning Essay on Mercy as Lifelong Married Love in Sickness and in Health

With this moving tribute to her grandparents' lifelong married love, tenth-grader Allyson Swartzberg won second place in the Jubilee of Mercy Essay Contest sponsored by the Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University. I'm proud to know Allyson and her parents, Pam and Mark!

When most people hear the word “sick”, they experience many emotions, including sadness, sympathy, and compassion. Sometimes sickness even causes us to be patronizing. Because of my grandparents, those are emotions I no longer feel when I think about visiting the sick. My grandfather, Jim, was an amazing man, perhaps the best man I’ll ever meet. For as long as I can remember, my grandpa had Alzheimers disease. I’ve heard it said time and time again that when someone has Alzheimers, he becomes a different person. In my experience, the opposite is true. When I think of Alzheimers, I will always think of love, mercy, and compassion, and that’s all thanks to my grandma and grandpa.

My grandmother, Diva, cared for her husband at home as long as she could. When that was no longer possible and he moved to a nursing home, my grandma went to be with my grandpa every day. She never once complained that he had forgotten her, nor did she ever decide to stay home and let someone else take care of him simply because it was easier for her. She could just as easily have let the nurses care for him in her stead, but she wouldn’t dream of it. Diva would go and feed my grandpa, even if it took hours. I remember days that my mom would take me to see my grandfather at the nursing home, only to find my grandma leading my grandpa in a slow dance, just as he had once led her. She was never impatient with him, nor was she spending time with him out of pity or to give herself a sense of fulfilling her duties. My grandma went, not out of duty, but because she wanted to be with him. Up until my grandpa’s death, Diva and Jim were the definition of “relationship goals”.

I may have been young when my grandfather passed, but when I think of love, Jim and Diva are the first people that come to mind. Love is selfless, it is entirely self giving, and that is what my grandparents had. From the first time I watched my grandma care for my grandpa, I knew without a doubt what it meant to love someone completely. I learned that love isn’t jealous. It isn’t self serving, nor is it a give and take. True love for others is a complete and total giving of oneself, without worry about what you may or may not receive in return. When you put someone else’s needs before your own, you free yourself from the pain of expectation.

My grandpa spent his life helping others, first as a helicopter pilot in the army and later as a working father of five and loving husband. Not once did my grandpa ask what he would get in return for his support and charity, and because of his selfless love, he was anything but alone at the time when he was most vulnerable. For the years that he was totally dependent on others because of his disease, he didn’t need to rely on paid caregivers to nurse him through the pain; everywhere he turned, there was another family member or friend waiting to help him. He never asked for anyone’s help, but because he had been so loving and selfless to others, he found himself surrounded by compassion, kindness, and tender care.

My grandparents have shown me what mercy really is; love for your neighbor. To show mercy to another is to love another, regardless of whether you’ve known the person for a day or a decade. When you truly love someone, you care not about what you might get, but rather what you might have the chance to give. Jim and Diva showed me what I could only dream was real; they showed me that true love does exist. I know now that true love isn’t just something you see in the movies and that it can exist between more than just a “cute couple”. True love is the ability to know that you may get nothing in return, and still want to give all that you have to another, whether he be a stranger or someone you’ve known all your life. Mercy is love, and if we all show mercy, we can change the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Turning Union into Communion: Loving Your In-Laws (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number three in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.




Chapter 3


Turning Union into Communion:

Extending Your Love to Your In-Laws and Beyond


Marriage is more than the union of just two people. It’s also a union of two families. A married couple needs to craft a delicate balance between two Biblical priorities. First, they are called to leave their father and mother and cleave to their spouse, as it says in the Book of Genesis. Second, they still have the duty to honor and respect their parents, according to the Ten Commandments.

Many couples struggle with learning to love their in-laws. It helps to remember that in most cases what the in-laws really want is for your marriage to be successful, long-lasting, and happy. By loving our in-laws and extended family members, we follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. The more differences there are between the two families of origin, the more difficult it can be. As Manny and Karee say in Chapter Three of The Four Keys, “The two of us have extended families that include Sevillanos, Madrilenos, Colombians, French-Moroccans, Poles, Argentineans, Egyptians, and Virginians. Our family members’ religious affiliations range the gamut from Catholicism to Episcopalianism, Judaism, Coptic Orthodox, and former Muslim.”  When we join our families in a new community of life and love, we fulfill Jesus’ desire that all the peoples of the earth may be one.

In Chapter Three, Manny and Karee show how marriages have a powerful ability to draw relatives closer together and how respectful communication techniques that work for the two of you also work with in-laws. They recount fascinating and amusing stories about relationships with in-laws from the Bible’s Old Testament. Chapter Three also teaches you how to:


  • Draw appropriate boundaries between yourselves and your in-laws 
  • Respectfully listen to your in-laws ‘advice, even if you don’t ultimately follow it
  • Negotiate trouble spots like wedding planning, gift exchanges, and hosting the holidays 



Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going among yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.



1. How would you describe your process for deciding how much involvement your in-laws have in your married life?





2. Can you remember a time when the two of you reached an impasse on this issue? How did you resolve it?






3. How do you handle holidays? Do you see room for improvement?





4. What do you believe is your responsibility toward both sets of your parents as they become elderly?





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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Turning Good Marriages into Glory: Opening Yourself to Grace (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number two in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.




Chapter 2

Turning Good Marriages into Pathways to Glory:
It’s a Sacrament; It’s a Vocation; It’s a Road Map to Heaven!


Marriage can be good. With effort, it can be very good. But it takes God to make the union glorious. The graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony are a powerful aid to couples in their everyday struggles and in times of great crisis.

Nowadays, fewer Catholics are choosing to get married in the Church than at any other time in recent history. Many people don’t realize what a wonderful treasure Catholic marriage is! As Manny and Karee explain in Chapter Two of The Four Keys, “couples united in the Sacrament of Matrimony have been blessed with the grace to take natural love to a supernatural level.  … [T]hey are called and empowered to love to the highest degree, the degree that Christ loved us – to forgive seventy times seven times, to do the humblest chore out of love, and to die to self in order to live and love for others.”

In Chapter Two, Manny and Karee describe marriage’s role as one of the seven sacraments, the difference between a valid and invalid marriage, and the importance of the vocation of marriage. They also reveal how the saints, our cheering section in the next life, are willing and eager to help husbands and wives get each other to heaven. From this chapter, you will learn how to:

  • Seek help from the sacraments
  • Seek help from the saints
  • Discern God’s voice
  • Be faithful in little things and let God turn them into glory


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going among yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.



1. Why did you choose each other? How did you know you had found the “one”?



2. Why did you decide in favor of (or against) getting married in the Catholic Church?



3. How have you seen the graces of the sacrament at work in your lives and in your relationship?




4. Who do you think has an exceptionally good marriage and why? Do you have a favorite married saint who would be a good role model?





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