Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us! (Pray-Cana Post)

"The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families," said Pope John Paul II.  In 1995, he gave Our Lady the title "Queen of Families," so we should feel comfortable asking for her help with all the cares and concerns of family life.  On today's Feast of the Holy Family, we can ask with special intensity, "Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us!"

We can also ask ourselves how the Holy Family can inspire us to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.  Instead of wondering What Would Jesus Do, try thinking about What Would the Holy Family do.  St. Joseph may be the first place to start.  Jesus was divine, and his mother was sinless, but St. Joseph was an ordinary human being like the rest of us.  How do you think he treated his wife and his son?  How did he lead and protect them in spite of his ordinariness?

Imagine what it would feel like if the Holy Family invited you to their house for dinner.  Picture the table, the food, the expressions on their faces.  Maybe Mary made an excellent meal, or maybe she enjoyed a good laugh at her own expense if she became lost in prayer and overcooked the meat.   Maybe the conversation centered on God and the Scriptures, or maybe on what had happened in the village that day.  Maybe what the Holy Family most wanted was to listen to you and get to know you.  People who met John Paul II frequently noticed that the pope treated them, for those few minutes, like the only person in the world.  Isn't it possible the Holy Family would do the same?  How would that make you feel?  And how would your family feel if you paid that kind of focussed attention to them?  Let these thoughts lead you into prayer, and then back into the world with the resolution to make your family life a little holier, a little more like theirs.

Also, please also don't forget to pray for other families today.  This feast marks the beginning of the U.S. bishops' Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty, which will last until the feast of Christ the King (Nov. 24, 2013).   Today would be a good day to recite with your family The Bishops' Prayer in Defense of Marriage.  May you have a blessed feast day!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Letting Your Past Catch Up to You (Pre-Cana Post)

People pay more attention to what you do than what you say.  How can you tell others to do the right thing, if you haven't always done the right thing yourself?  I know I haven't always done what's right.  In college, I did ... what college people often do.  As a young lawyer in Manhatan, I became a willing inhabitant in Sin City.  Now that I am a suburban housewife and loving mother of six, it can be easy to forget that I used to be a totally different person.  Except for Facebook.

Social media specializes in reconnecting all the parts of your life and the people who shared them with you.  Throughout my life, my social circle has encompassed more types of people than I've lately been willing to admit.  People who have given up a homosexual lifestyle for the sake of Christ, and people who continue living a homosexual lifestyle without seeing anything wrong with it.  Women who have become lesbians because men have hurt them one time too many, and men whose hearts broke when their wives became lesbian and tried to take away their children.  Friends whose marriages have lasted twenty-one years and friends whose marriages didn't make it past the first year.  People who have remarried in the Catholic Church, and people who have remarried outside the Catholic Church.  Atheists, evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Catholics.  I have loved many of these people and still love them for different reasons and in different ways.

And then there's me.  In my ignorance and my arrogance, I have encouraged people who should have been discouraged, and I have discouraged people who should have been encouraged.  To one woman struggling in her marriage, I asked (unhelpfully), "Why don't you just divorce him?"  She responded, "Marriage is a sacrament!"  I had no idea what she meant, then.  Now I do.  Now I teach that the sacrament of marriage is a sign of God's eternal love for his people and his church, a sign that love can last forever.  What right do I have to teach this?  The same right as anyone who has turned their life around, I suppose.  The Bible is filled with stories of people who haven't lived perfect lives, such as the adulteress whom Jesus saved from stoning, and St. Paul, who changed from persecuting Christians to spreading Christianity far and wide.  My life has changed for the better, and that is worth sharing.

In order to share what I have learned, however, it is important for me to remember who I have been and to integrate who I am with who I used to be.  These memories I have been avoiding teach me humility, shame, but most of all compassion and understanding.  No matter how you think or what you've done, chances are that I, or someone in my life, have thought or done the same.  Recognizing and accepting this will remind me that my job is simply to teach, and never to judge.

Art:  Detail from artwork by Marco Escobedo

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yes, there will be a test (Pre-Cana Post)

Recently, one of my friends' daughters became engaged, so I asked her how she felt about attending a pre-Cana marriage preparation course.  She said that, at first, she was afraid there would be a test, and was relieved to learn that there wouldn't be.  Well, I'm sorry to say, there will be a test, but not by the pre-Cana instructor.  All of married life is a test of our ability to love "to the end," as Pope John Paul II was fond of saying.  And we can't love to the end without following the example of Jesus, who did it for each of us.  "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her," says St. Paul.  My husband interprets that passage to mean that his job is to die for me.  How could I not reciprocate?

We could all fantasize about whether we would dash into speeding traffic to push our spouse out of the way of an oncoming truck, or give up our seat on the Titanic lifeboat to save our loved one.  But are we willing to die for one another in small ways, every day?  Would we serve broccoli nearly every day because it's the only vegetable our husband likes, even though it has really never been our favorite?  (Just an example.) Would we get up early because our spouse is a morning person, or go to bed late because our spouse is a night owl?  Would we be willing to die to our disappointment when our spouse gains weight or loses hair?  Would we willingly die to our discomfort about discussing the truly important issues, confronting them head on when we know we don't really agree?  Would we give up our home town, our job, our career, our country?

We are all called to die to self, and marriage gives us ample opportunities to be selfless.  Nearly every day we are given the opportunity to decide between ourselves and our spouses.  Each decision point is a test.  Some we will ace, and some we will flunk.  The same is true of our better half.  But if both spouses make the commitment to keep trying, there will always be a chance to retake the test tomorrow.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The "Best" Christmas Concert Ever (Post-Cana Post)

As anyone who's read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever knows, "best" can mean a lot of different things.  In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, "best" meant a pageant where the most unlikely girl played the character of Mary and gave us a glimpse of the very human struggles that must have faced Our Blessed Mother.  My son's Christmas concert this year was also, ahem, very human, but it somehow opened a window onto the divine.

To start with, the number of different notes, chords, tempos and harmonies played all at the same time was truly staggering.  The parents responded, as we should have, with enthusiastic applause.  Is this how God the Father feels about our awkward attempts to praise him?  I sometimes imagine that God masterfully arranges all the songs sung to him and about him into one giant, glorious symphony, the same way a truly gifted piano player can make an out-of-tune piano sound like it belongs in a concert hall.

God can teach us how to appreciate our children, not because of what they have accomplished but because of who they are and how hard they have tried.  God can teach us to be the most loving audience.  When I attended music camp in England, the music coaches strongly emphasized the importance of being a good audience.  At the very least, they said, you can always appreciate and praise the music selection.  As my son and his friends belted and bleated out Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night, Do You Hear What I Hear, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I couldn't stop smiling.   Honest-to-goodness Christmas concerts are a dying breed, being replaced by "holiday" concerts highlighting secular favorites like Frosty the Snowman.   How privileged I am to hear my son trumpeting away on songs like these.  O Holy Night, indeed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vocation of Love (Pray-Cana Post)

We should pray for married couples to live out their vocation of faithful, fruitful, and lasting love, suggest the bishops in their newly recommended prayers for the faithful.   All of us should take this vocation to heart, seeking to live it in our own lives, to encourage it in the lives of those close to us, and to pray for it in the lives of all. 

The bishops' recommended prayers come as part of the USCCB Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty, which begins on December 30.  The bishops encourage that at Sunday and daily Masses the prayers of the faithful include specific intentions for the strengthening of marriage and family life. 

Their suggested prayers for marriage are:

"For all married couples, that they continue to live their vocation of love as an example to their families and to the world of God's faithful, fruitful, and lasting love.  Let us pray to the Lord.
For all those suffering from troubled or broken marriages, especially children, that they will be assured of God the Father's unfailing care for them.  Let us pray to the Lord.
For all those discerning a vocation to the priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage, that the Lord guide their hearts and make His will clear for their lives.  Let us pray to the Lord." 
These prayers provide powerful, public support that is badly needed.  When I asked a colleague for his opinion on why so many marriages, even Catholic marriages, were failing, he said, "In our parishes, we pray for vocations to the priesthood and vocations to religious life, but when do we pray for vocations to marriage?"  Here's our chance.

Please ask your pastor to include these prayers at some point in the coming year, perhaps on the upcoming Feast of the Holy Family or on the last Sunday of each month, when the bishops have requested Eucharistic adoration for these intentions.   The full text of the prayers are available at the following link: USCCB-Prayers-of-the-Faithful.pdf.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The One-Year Itch (Post-Cana Post)

About one year after a marriage begins, the married couple enters a period of disillusionment, says Dr. Phil Mango.  That's when they realize that neither of them is perfect, and one person's faults are reflected in the other person's reaction almost daily.  The same thing happens to newly ordained priests.  After years spent in the seminary immersed in the beauty of their vocation, the reality of today's modern parishes can hit them hard, our pastor tells us.  Our pastor's job at the diocesan level is to support and counsel the newly ordained priests.  But who at the diocese, or even at the parish, serves that function for newly married couples?

The Pontifical Council for the Family recommended that parishes provide support for people through the first five years of marriage, but those supports seem few and far between.  Most ministries seem targeted at engaged couples or people who have already divorced or separated.  Some laudable ministries try to help couples put the marriage back together after it has started to fall apart.  But we have seen little else, particularly ongoing efforts at the parish level.  My husband and I can attest that it is hard to reach couples in the first five years of marriage.  Especially once children are born, every moment of the day seems packed.  If you're going to hire a babysitter, chances are you'd rather spend that time alone together, rather than in a social setting with other couples. 

My husband and I had a rough first year or two of marriage.  My grandfather died, my husband was diagnosed with his first brain tumor, I became pregnant with our first child, and the law firm where I worked turned down my bid for partnership.  I stopped working as a lawyer and began staying at home with our newborn daughter, and the transition was wrenching for me.  My husband and I went out once a month to dinner at a restaurant, where I talked non-stop about how miserable I felt.  Being a psychiatrist, my husband bravely withstood the flood of misery and the waterfalls of tears.  Eventually, we added a Eucharistic Holy Hour to our so-called "hot date night."  After dinner, we joined other parishioners at our church to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  My misery abated, and my husband and I made it through our period of disillusionment, our "one-year itch."

After experiencing the graces that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament brought to our marriage, I was thrilled to learn that the bishops' new initiative to support marriage includes a monthly Eucharistic Holy Hour.  A Eucharistic Holy Hour provides an opportunity to reconnect with the Lord and each other.  This year is the perfect time to give it a try, if you haven't already.  Call your parish, or neighboring parishes, to see what is available.  Then, go to dinner ahead of time, and get the babysitters to stay another few hours.  It might help you make it through a current period of disillusionment, or maybe prevent a future one.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's Better to Wait

Why does the Church make us wait for all of Advent until Christmas comes?  The kids eagerly count down the days until Christmas in nearly unbearable anticipation.  Advertisements loudly proclaim how many shopping days are left until Christmas.  But still we wait.  Contrary to everything the culture promotes, there's no instant gratification in Advent.

The engagement period is another kind of Advent, another kind of waiting period.  Many engaged couples don't want to wait either.  Most particularly, they don't want to wait for the wedding night.  More than half of couples showing up for pre-Cana marriage preparation classes are already living together.  In this environment, chastity is sometimes treated like a crazy distant relative, who has to be invited to family holiday gatherings, but you hope she sits in a corner chair without making a nuisance of herself.  Chastity is often seen as an unattainable relic of a lost age, not hip, or modern, or attractive.

But there's a lot to be said for remaining chaste and for waiting.  My husband and I waited for each other, despite being madly in love.  Through waiting, I gained respect and trust for my husband.  Respect for his self-control.  Trust that if he could keep himself from sleeping with me before marriage, then he could keep himself from sleeping with anybody else afterwards.  So, my husband and I always introduced Great-Aunt Chastity to the engaged couples we taught in pre-Cana classes.  To our surprise, they kind of liked her.  Even couples who were already living together made the decision to stay chaste during their engagement period to make the wedding night more special.  Instant gratification is here and gone.  But you want to wait for something that lasts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Of sheepdogs and shepherds

Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, but I act more like a sheepdog most of the time, to my regret.  I am constantly nipping at my children's heels.  "Eat!"  "Pick up your shoes!"  "Why didn't you tell me yesterday that you didn't have any clean socks?!?"  The nipping and yipping has little effect, except to make me lose my voice.  Again.  Banging metal objects together to get people's attention works about as well as screaming in the middle of a rock concert.  It's just one more noise in the midst of an avalanche of sound.  Who would be interested in what I have to say, anyway, when my 2-year-old is rolling back and forth on the floor in time with the Little Drummer Boy, and my husband and 4-year-old daughter are showing everyone their new "gymanastic trick."  Never mind that four of our kids are late for school.

Shepherds are meek and gentle, like the version of myself I know I can be.  (Don't laugh, Mom and Dad, I swear I can be meek if I really try.)  Shepherds correct constantly but calmly, without ever raising their voice.  They teach doctrine through songs and stories.  People listen to them.  But even a shepherd loses his sheep sometimes, because sheep have a tendency to go astray.  And a sheepdog's job is to bring the sheep back to the shepherd.  So maybe if I keep telling my kids, "Pray!" and "Go to Mass!" and "Stop hitting your sisters!", Jesus will lead them the rest of the way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Healing Prayer for the Divorced and Separated

Many of us may know divorced and separated people who feel the loss of their families most profoundly during the Christmas season.  If you know someone like this, or if you are someone like this, the following prayer is for you (originally posted by Lisa Duffy on  It's a novena, or nine-day prayer, to St. Francis of Assisi, best known as the patron saint of animals.  St. Francis began his life as a wealthy aristocrat, but gave up all of his possessions to serve the Church and the poor.  As a result, he was rejected by his own family, who should have loved him best.  Each of the daily prayers is meant to be followed by the recitation of one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be, and then a special plea to the saint: "St. Francis, patron of peace and families, pray for us."

Day 1:  "Leave all and follow Me."

St. Francis, God called you to a life of poverty and simplicity so that you might know Him intimately and share His peace that surpasses all understanding with others.  You left everything behind and followed Him.  My divorce causes me to feel connected to you as I have been stripped of relationships, belongings, self-worth, and understanding.  I pray to you now to petition God on my behalf, that He will grant me the grace I need to be a faithful follower during this very difficult time.  I believe in His goodness and I need Him now, more than ever.  Help me to stand firmly on my faith and trust in Him.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 2:  Conversion of Heart

St. Francis, I thank you for the gift of your example to all those who follow Christ.  Your early struggles and later sincere conversion of heart is a great witness for me as I wrestle with my own struggles.  The circumstances surrounding my divorce make me feel imprisoned by anger, resentment, and worry over things I cannot control.  I beg you for the grace to be strong and for the grace to forgive those who have hurt me.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 3:  Disapproved of and Disinherited by His Family

St. Francis, I come to you with a heavy heart seeking guidance and consolation.  Divorce has torn my family apart and I cannot reverse the incredible pain that has been inflicted on those I love.  I look to you, St. Francis, who suffered the rejection and disapproval of your own family as you followed the way of Christ and I beg you to pray for me to God, that He will take this terrible situation and bring good out of it.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 4:  Reached Out to Serve Others

St. Francis, I ask for your prayers to God today on my behalf.  I am so focused on all the worries and negativity of my divorce situation and I need to refocus myself on goodness and love.  You selflessly served others by visiting the sick, cleaning churches, and preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.  Heartened by your example, please ask God to give me the grace to look beyond my sadness to others who might also be hurting or in need, that I may imitate your example of love and service.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 5:  Composed Songs and Hymns to God and Nature

St. Francis, lover of all God's creatures, thank you for living a life of charity and service.  There was no creature too small for you to tend to, and the love you brought to those who were suffering was constant until the day you died.  You lived with the animals and were inspired by the grandeur of nature.  Please pray to God for me as I persevere through these difficult times that I may find peace and consolation through reflecting on nature and all God's beautiful creations.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 6:  Cared for Lepers

St. Francis, you cared for lepers, the people no one wanted to be around or have contact with.  Being divorced can make me feel like a leper at times because of the loss of relationships and the avoidance of people who do not understand what I am going through.  Ask God to grant me the grace to persevere in this struggle and to be more sensitive and kind to others who are going through a divorce.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 7:  Sent Food to Thieves

St. Francis, you served everyone without hesitation or discrimination.  You even took care of thieves by sending them food with the hopes of bringing them closer to God through your kindness.  I am dealing with my own "thieves" and look to your example for encouragement so I can forgive and find a way to be charitable.  Please ask God to grant me these graces I need so badly.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 8:  Bearer of the Stigmata

St. Francis, you loved God so much that you were blessed with the Stigmata.  Although you suffered greatly because of this, you never stopped serving others or preaching the gospel.  Please pray to God for me that I can do the same despite my great suffering.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Day 9:  Imitator of Jesus

St. Francis, you have walked with me these past days and have been a great source of inspiration for me as I struggle with my difficulties.  From today forward, I will continue to look to your life's example, especially in your imitation of Jesus.  Ask God to grant me the graces I need to follow in your footsteps as I continue down this difficult road.  Most of all, I ask for peace in my heart.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santa vs. St. Nick

 Every year, around December 6 (the Feast of St. Nicholas), a friendly dispute resurfaces in our family over who should get more airtime this Advent -- Santa or St. Nick.  It's one of those epic contests, like between the T-Rex and the velociraptor or between the Army and Navy football teams.  Who will win this time? 

My husband is on Santa's side.  Santa is full of fun and magic, toys and good cheer.  Everybody knows and loves him, argues my husband.  And besides, maybe this year our threats of coal in the stockings will actually result in better behavior from the kids, he hopes. 

In my opinion, St. Nick is way cooler.  Most importantly, he actually existed as a bishop from the 4th century.  When he gave gold coins to poor families, he saved their daughters from being sold into slavery and provided them with enough money for a dowry.  Definitely, a pro-marriage guy.  But all this history makes my husband start to yawn.

It could be that Santa and St. Nick aren't so different after all.  Even though one wears a bishop's mitre and the other wears a fuzzy red hat, they can both inspire a spirit of generosity and giving.  If the children learn that lesson, then I guess my husband and I both win.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

For Life, Marriage, and Liberty

The U.S. bishops are encouraging all lay faithful to answer their call to prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country.   This prayer campaign is meant to awaken the spiritual stamina and fortitude of the faithful, so that we may all be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope and charity.   Appropriately, this nationwide campaign will start on the feast of the Holy Family (Dec. 30, 2012) until the feast of Christ the King (Nov. 24, 2013).
  • How To Participate: 5 Ways

    1. Host or attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month

    2. Pray a daily Rosary

    3. Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses

    4. Abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Fridays for the intention of the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty
          5. Participate in the 2nd Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013)

In addition to helping the cause of marriage, these practices will nourish our own life of prayer.  A Eucharistic Holy Hour is a beautiful way to spend a quiet and peaceful hour in the church in the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist.  Each daily rosary we recite is like offering an exquisite bouquet of roses to our Lady.  And fasting will increase our self-control and sense of self-mastery.

Details on how to enter into these time-honored practices of prayer will be available at the website

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bishops' Prayer in Defense of Marriage


Check out this beautiful prayer from the bishops to promote and protect the unique splendor of marriage.  This prayer is part of the bishops' new year-long prayer and fasting initiative in defense of traditional marriage.  I'll write more on the initiative later.

Prayer in Defense of Marriage

God our Father, we give you thanks
for the gift of marriage: the bond of life and love,
and the font of the family.
The love of husband and wife enriches your Church with children,
fills the world with a multitude of spiritual fruitfulness and service,
and is the sign of the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, for his Church.
The grace of Jesus flowed forth at Cana at the
request of the Blessed Mother. May your Son,
through the intercession of Mary, pour out upon us
a new measure of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
as we join with all people of good will
to promote and protect the unique beauty of marriage.
May your Holy Spirit enlighten our society
to treasure the heroic love of husband and wife,
and guide our leaders to sustain and protect
the singular place of mothers and fathers
in the lives of their children.
Father, we ask that our prayers
be joined to those of the Virgin Mary,
that your Word may transform our service
so as to safeguard the incomparable splendor of marriage.
We ask all these things through Christ our Lord,
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Grand Entrance to the Heart

Our Christmas must-do list seems larger and more annoying every year.  I rush from day to day, thinking, first I have to do this, then I have to do that.  Advent, which should be filled with anticipation, seems overstuffed with obligation.  Christmas cards turn into a chore, and don't even get me started on how I feel about hosting Christmas dinner.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to do any of this.  I don't think that's what the Bible means when it says, "Prepare ye the way of Lord."

Mary and Joseph didn't get the chance to prepare their house for Baby Jesus' birth.  They were far from home when he was born. But they had already prepared their hearts.  Mary accepted the infant Jesus into her womb and her heart when she said "Yes" to the Angel Gabriel.   Joseph assented to his role as father of the Savior when he agreed to take Mary as his wife, knowing the baby in her womb was not his.  Mary and Joseph both had a chance to say no, but they said yes.  God respects our right to say no, to reject and despise him, so that when we say yes we will accept him with our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. 

This Advent, I want to remember that I accepted all these holiday-time obligations for the sake of love.  Love for God, love for my husband and children, love for our families.  This Advent, I will try to tackle my to-do list with the sentiment of "Jesus, I do this for love of you."  In that way, I can prepare a grand entrance to let Jesus into my heart, again and for always.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Did You Pray Yet?

Many families celebrate Advent with the beautiful tradition of the Advent wreath, with its pink and purple candles and festive greenery.  But Advent, like Lent, is also a time for deepening in prayer.  Do your kids know how to pray to God in their own words?  I recently asked my 11-year-old daughter if she ever prayed.  She said that she thanked God when she found something that was lost, and she asked him for help sometimes during the day.  "But do you have conversations with God, like when you're really sad or really happy?" I asked.  "No," she said, "when I'm really sad, I run up to my room and cry everything into my pillow."  I suggested that she cry to God instead.  "But I like my pillow," she insisted.  "Well, why don't you just let God listen in," I responded, which made her giggle.  Fr. Dubay says that even young children can easily learn how to talk to God in their own words for a minute or two at first, and then for longer.  If you help your children to start a habit of prayer this Advent, it could last their whole lives through.  The best Christmas gift ever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


People have asked me how to start discussions or ask questions on this blog.  Just post your question in the comments below or send an email to the address listed on my complete profile.  I'll write a new post on that topic as soon as I can!

Monday, December 3, 2012

How Did It All Go Wrong

Could divorce be coming soon to a neighborhood near you?  We might assume that divorce cannot touch families who attend daily Mass together or parents who serve as Eucharistic ministers.  But my friend Kristin just told me story after horrible story about serious, committed Catholic friends of hers whose husbands have left them or whose wives have betrayed them.  What could possibly have happened to tear these families apart?

1.  Porn Addiction:  No doubt about it, watching pornography breaches the promise that spouses make to remain faithful, forsaking all others.  Remember that Jesus cautioned us even against committing adultery in our hearts.  Virtual unfaithfulness can easily lead the way to an actual rupture of the marital bond. The website contains resources for those suffering from this addiction.

2.  Adultery:  Adultery can act as the ultimate escape hatch for someone unwilling to confront and solve the problems in their marriage.  Doing something "unforgiveable" may be easier than just saying "I don't want to try any more."  But the new relationship could have as many problems as the old one.

3. Reversal of Priorities:  We are called to place God as our top priority, and then family, and then work.  When the priorities get reversed, families can suffer.  We can drift so far apart from God or our spouses that it seems impossible to return.  But God always welcomes the prodigal son.

Please add to the list and help us explain how things can go so wrong.

Do I have to?

Some engaged couples are on fire with their faith and eager to learn what the Church teaches about marriage.  Some think of pre-Cana as just an item on their to-do list, along with applying for a marriage license and finding a copy of their baptismal certificate.  What would make pre-Cana exciting for engaged couples? 

1.  Give them a chance to get to know one another better.  Couples seem to really enjoy the FOCCUS questionnaire, which asks them questions about themselves and their relationship.  Perhaps giving the FOCCUS results could happen before any formal classes start.

2.  Welcome them into a community.  Sometimes when people get married, they don't relate as well to their single friends, and vice versa.  If they don't already have married friends, the change can be disorienting.  Meeting other newlyweds through pre-Cana provides a ready-made support structure.

3.  Remind them that pre-Cana prepares them for the long term.  Most wedding preparations -- finding the dress, choosing the reception hall, designing the invitations -- center on a single day, the wedding day.  Only pre-Cana focuses on the rest of the couple's married lives. 

I'm sure there are many more reasons, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

USCCB Website Supporting Marriage

Thanks to my friend Alberto for passing along the following.


I want to let you all know about a website that I'm very excited about called It was put out by the US Bishops a year or two ago and I think it is very timely because we all need to educate ourselves and others about the reason that we defend traditional marriage. ...


What is Marriage? Are a man and woman really essential to marriage? What about the child, and the role of mothers and fathers? Is it discriminatory to defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman? What impact does the redefinition of marriage have on religious liberty? These are just a few of the many questions about marriage today. They all hinge upon the first question: What is marriage? When the answer to this question is understood everything else falls into its proper place. Marriage is unique for a reason. We invite you to find out why."
The Marriage: Unique for a Reason website pictures a beautiful mosaic at the top and a welcome message from Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco and chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  Parts of the site are available in Spanish.  It's worth taking a look!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Let's Talk

Pope John Paul II asked families to serve other families.  The best way I know how to do this is to support marriage, as an institution and as a reality.  God has blessed me and my husband with a love that has lasted through twelve years of marriage, six children, and four brain tumors (my husband's, not mine).  We want to share with others what we have learned about marriage and family.  We want to learn from other people the things that we don't know yet.  In particular, we want to reach out and join two important groups -- people preparing to be married in the Catholic Church and people who teach them.  A lot of engaged couples take pre-Cana classes that take place over a weekend, and they don't have a chance to enter into a community of people going through the same joys and anxieties with the same awesome sense of purpose.  A lot of pre-Cana teachers have helpful one-on-one advice that they don't get to share when they are lecturing to an auditorium full of hundreds of people.  With your comments, posts, and questions, you can help create a support structure not only for yourself, but for other couples, and for marriage in general.  Post wisely, and often.