Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Vacation on the Blog!!!



Summer vacation is fast approaching, and things are heating up on the home front. So I won't be posting on the Can We Cana? blog for the next few months, but there will be some great developments elsewhere. Our packed schedule of summer activities includes:

  • time on the Jersey Shore
  • editing our marriage advice book and polishing it until it shines like the top of the Chrysler building
  • being filmed for next year's Catholic Conference 4 Moms
  • presenting at a diocesan session of God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage, the marriage prep program developed by Chris West
  • attending the Catholic Marketing Network trade show
  • continuing to write our Marriage Rx advice column for CatholicMom
  • visiting a Carthusian monastery in Vermont
  • awaiting the publication of my article on saintly marriages, which will appear in the Catholic Digest special issue on the World Meeting of Families #popeinphilly

So have a great summer, and see you again in the fall!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Upcoming DVD Release of Old Fashioned -- A Love Story the Whole Family Can Enjoy!



My kids loved watching the romantic film Old Fashioned with me, and my daughter Maria keeps begging me to watch it again in our next family movie night. I was excited and honored to be a supporter of the film when it was released in theaters this past February, and I'm eager to announce its upcoming release on DVD on June 16.

Chivalry really makes a comeback in this movie, which shows the healing power of true love and respect. One of my favorite lines (and my daughter Maria's favorite as well) is "The world has enough greatness and not enough goodness." One reviewer of the film disagreed strongly with the message of this quote, arguing that God is both great and good. That review has been making me mad since I saw it several months ago, so I wanted to explain why it's so wrong-headed.

True, God is both great and good, but too many people choose "greatness" over God. God's definition of greatness is just not the same as ours, and oftentimes you don't get to pick both. God, who could have come to earth as a Roman emperor or dynastic king, instead chose to veil his glory behind the guise of a poor peasant.  He remains with us even today under the guise of a small piece of bread nestled within a tabernacle. As St. Josemaria wryly quipped,

That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’ ...? (Furrow, no. 486)
We are foolish when we think our own greatness can eclipse God's goodness. Strong-willed people with a drive to greatness have to remember this most of all, since they're assaulted with fierce temptations to pride. The movie reviewer thought that goodness wasn't a high enough goal, that goodness comes in second place to greatness. But the essential paradox of Christianity is that greatness is hidden in the ordinary things, the little things, the everyday things like the love between a man and a woman.

The story of Old Fashioned tells us that the moral choices we make in our day-to-day relationships are what define us as great or not. What better lesson can we teach our children? So, get the Old Fashioned DVD when it comes out on June 16 and watch it with your children. You won't regret it!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Marriage Rx: My Husband Doesn't Find Me Attractive Any More!

Our marriage advice column on CatholicMom.com continues with some tips on dealing with how aging impacts attractiveness and desire.



Question: My husband doesn't find me attractive anymore and he says that I've let myself go. I know I gained weight with my pregnancies, and my hair is going grey. But my husband is getting out of shape and older, too, and I don't complain! Why won't he show me more love and affection?  It shouldn't be all about him.

Answer: Especially when a couple has been married for a while, their desire for each other can ebb and flow. But it’s healthy for spouses to want intimacy with one another. God wants us to rejoice in one another and make a gift of ourselves to one another. Our marriage should resemble the Song of Songs; we should feel “faint with love” (2:5). You and your husband probably felt that way on your wedding day. The question is how to recapture those feelings.

If you think your husband might find you more attractive if you dyed your hair, why not go for it? Treating yourself with a trip to the beauty salon is fun for a lot of women. Your husband can help by watching the kids while you go and not complaining about the cost.

You don't have to become a high-maintenance fashionista. Just show him he matters by making the effort, and you'll probably get a great response. As blogger Matt Archbold said in his recent CatholicMatch post, men want a spouse who cares about her appearance: 
Men are often accused of being superficial and visual. That’s because it’s sort of true. Men do appreciate a woman’s looks. But here’s the thing: we find the vast majority of women attractive. I’m not kidding, the vast majority. So yeah, we care about looks but we pretty much think you’re all great. [Still,] It’s true. We want a woman who cares about how she looks….

Nobody will look young forever. It’s important for spouses to try to accept the natural results of aging with compassion. But it’s also important to take care of our bodies for our own sakes. We want to stay healthy and strong for ourselves as well as for our spouses and our children who depend on us.

Most people over 30 are less physically active than they used to be, and inactivity brings a lot of health problems with it. You and your husband would both benefit from exercising together.  An easy way to begin is to take a walk around the block every night after dinner or a longer walk on the weekend.  

Regular exercise also fights fatigue and boosts energy, which is great for enhancing the libido! Couples today are so busy and stressed out from the multiple demands of work and child-rearing that it's hard to find the energy to feel romantic or sexy. Your husband may lack desire simply because he's tired. Or there might be a medical cause like low testosterone or depression. 

Not taking time to nurture the couple connection can also make the spark go out in a relationship. A tried and true solution is to plan hot date nights once a month or once a week at a place you both enjoy. Reconnecting on a level that doesn’t involve the house or the kids can rekindle feelings of tenderness and togetherness.

Praying together will also help reestablish the spiritual bonds you formed when you were joined as one on the altar. Invite God’s love into your marriage and ask that you can see each other as God sees you. Ask God what his will is for your relationship. And rely on prayer to help you both remember that your marriage is a spiritually permanent commitment meant to outlast temporary difficulties.

We welcome your comments. And please email us at catholicmarriagerx@gmail.com if you have a question or idea for a future column!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Way We Met (Through My Husband's Eyes)

Two years ago, in May, I posted the story of how my husband Manny and I met. People loved it then, and I'm sure you'll love Manny's version even more. Add to the fun by sharing the story of how you met in the comments below!



I don’t need to close my eyes, though the image is more vivid if I do. We’re on the lower east side of Manhattan crossing Second Avenue for a quick lunch break when my friend Ayman (recently my friend, truth be told, having discovered that we share a fondness for cigarettes, Spanish culture, and psychiatry) pauses in the middle of the street and with a refreshingly animated air greets a young lady, taking her out of whatever world she was in by uttering her name, “Karee!”

Pleasantries are exchanged, as allowed by the rushed etiquette of crossing a busy street in midtown Manhattan, and the moment passes. Only, for me, it doesn’t just pass. I’m aware of my heart beating faster, harder, more forcefully in my chest as I watch her walk away. “Who is she?” I ask, turning to my friend. “Oh, Karee, she’s a girl I went to college with back at UVA, lawyer now.”  Ayman, secure in the solidity of our friendship but overconfident in the depth of his understanding with respect to my likes and dislikes, immediately blurts out that Karee is “not my type.” In hindsight, though well-intentioned, my Coptic friend could not have been more mistaken.

My curiosity was piqued, however, and I ventured to query my friend in what manner this delightful creature was not “my type”.  Ayman appeared taken aback by the directness of my question, or perhaps there was something in the tone of my voice which betrayed my displeasure with his premature assessment. “Believe me Manny, I know her and I know the kind of girl you’re looking for.  She’s  smart, don’t get me wrong, and she’s a really nice girl, but you two are on opposite ends politically, and let’s just say she doesn’t have the same values you do.” I suspect he was referring to the values associated with my Catholic faith, which were quite similar to those he espoused as a Coptic Christian.

As fate would have it, two years would pass before I saw Karee again. Our second meeting was to occur not on Second Avenue but at my friend Ayman’s apartment in Brooklyn.  In the intervening years, Ayman had fallen in love with a Spanish girl named Eva, an Andalusian  beauty that happened to be my cousin and to whom I introduced him while we were both vacationing in Seville during the famous Feria de Abril (the April Fair which takes place after Easter). As it turns out, Ayman was hosting a party to introduce Eva to his friends in New York.

So, there I was, a third year resident in Psychiatry at NYU staring at her in blissful disbelief.  My eyes were drawn to her lips, her hips, the way she held the cup of seltzer in her hand.  It had been two years mind you, but my heart seemed to pick up where it left off in the middle of the street, beating furiously and demanding that I speak to her.  She was talking to someone, someone I didn’t know, but she seemed to know him no better than I.  Their conversation was short lived, and soon an opportunity presented itself.  She made her way towards my end of the room.

My mouth grew dry as my heart asserted itself within my chest. “Hi, I’m Manny. I think we met two years ago crossing Second Avenue.” Perhaps it was the words themselves or the insistent manner in which I blurted them out, but the look on her face was one of surprise.  Her expression then changed and began to assume a guarded quality, such that I felt strangely like a stalker.  Grasping immediately the need to sacrifice accuracy of recall for prudence, I retracted my statement and assured her that perhaps I was mistaken.  Slowly her fear subsided and the conversation, happily, continued.

As fate would have it, not only did I happen to be reading a short story by the great Russian novelist, Tolstoy, but the mere mention of this fact ignited a spark in our conversation. Soon, I was describing the scene in the Kreutzer Sonata which deals with the serendipitous if not fickle nature of love, or that which we fondly call "falling in love."  Her laughter invigorated me as her eyes reflected an understanding that at once made me feel intelligent and inspired. (It was most assuredly an impossibly happy coincidence that she was not only a science fiction geek but that I had a unique ear structure reminiscent of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.  My friend Tom pointed this out, after discovering that Karee was a fan.)

The rest of the night was magical. We all drove into Manhattan and had a few drinks at Iggy’s, our favorite local watering hole.  I impressed her with my pool playing, and as the night wore on she seemed to re-enact a scene from Cinderella, suddenly stating that she had to go. “Wait a minute!”  I thought to myself. "Something’s missing. I forgot to do something." As if assuming a life of its own, my right hand rose slightly and as I called out to her my index finger curled itself repeatedly, indicating that I needed to speak a final word to her before she left. She smiled, perhaps thinking to herself, “It’s about time” as she walked slowly towards me. Opting for what seemed at the time the safest request, I asked for her email address, and she scribbled it on a napkin as I inwardly shouted, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”  As she walked away and then out the door, I glanced down at the treasure in my hand and gently folded it, careful to place it safely in my pocket.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Trust God like St. Therese

Following up on last week's post on How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some by Dan and Connie Rossini, here is my review of Connie's excellent first book Trusting in God with St. Thérèse.


Can we take the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a 19th century Carmelite nun, and apply it to our lives as 21st century wives and mothers? That's the goal of Connie Rossini's Trusting God with St. Thérèse, and she nails it.  With evocative word portraits of each stage of St. Thérèse's life and heartfelt personal stories from her own life, Connie shows how trust in God is the key to progress in prayer and holiness. And deeper trust is a path open to all of us.

St. Thérèse featured prominently in my own conversion to the Catholic Church. Her relics went on display at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City around the time I was exploring the thought of converting. Huge crowds spilled out of the massive building and thronged around it in an impromptu parade, singing hymns as they waited their turn to brush their fingers across the box that housed the relics. The jaded police officers assigned to patrol the event looked at us in wide-eyed delight. They had not been expecting this sweet-faced saint to generate so much devotion in the hearts of ordinary people.

When it came time to be confirmed and enter into the Catholic Church, I chose Thérèse as my confirmation saint. My spiritual director was taken aback and somewhat disgruntled. A hulking and manly priest, he had decided that St. Elizabeth Seton should be my confirmation saint. St. Elizabeth Seton was a former Episcopalian, as I was, and a wife and mother who overcame significant odds to establish the backbone of the American parochial school system in addition to a new religious order after her husband died and her relatives deserted her. This priest's top choice for me was not St. Thérèse, who did not have a single worldly accomplishment and whose diminutive nickname was The Little Flower.

But St. Thérèse gave me hope precisely because she didn't have any worldly accomplishments. The role of a wife and mother is not to accomplish, but to serve. We lose our names when we take our husbands'. We become known as so-and-so's wife or so-and-so's mother. We step out of the limelight in order to encourage those we love into it. After a lifetime of receiving, it becomes time to give it back, to pass it on, to retreat into the house as if it were a convent, to wake every few hours to give love and comfort as if the cry of a hungry baby were chapel bells calling us to prayer, to smile gently when the personalities, the emotions, the mistakes and the flaws of the people closest to us squeeze our hearts as if they were in a vise. This was St. Thérèse's Little Way, and I can't imagine a better way than that for wives and mothers.

Through her beautiful book, Connie taught me something I didn't know about St. Thérèse. She taught me that littleness needs trust as a companion. Littleness means humility, an acceptance that we are weak, imperfect,  not the center of the universe and never meant to be so. But the other side of the coin is an acceptance that God is powerful, God is perfect, he created the universe, and with him we can do anything. An acknowledgement of our littleness turns easily to despair if we don't trust God to forgive our weakness, to make up for our lack, to kiss us gently when we fall and when we fail, and to set us back on our feet to try, try again.

We trust God like St. Thérèse when we say to Our Lord, "I am little, but you are great. I am weak, but you are strong."  We trust God with St. Thérèse when we pray in her words, "I am not always faithful, but I never get discouraged; I abandon myself into the arms of Jesus."