Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Us to You!!

  From Our Family ...

To Yours.......  

Merry Christmas
A Very Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"I Gained a Better Appreciation of My Wife": Why NFP?

James and Karen join us this month in a "he said"- "she said" explanation of why they use Natural Family Planning (NFP). Karen experienced bad mood swings on hormonal birth control, which wasn't good for their relationship. Although they originally tried NFP and gave up on it, they eventually returned. Karen enthuses, "It's like a health checkup every month!" and James says that NFP has given him a greater appreciation of Karen -- "not just sexually, but about all of who she is." For more posts in the monthly interview series Why and How Natural Family Planning Works for Us, click here.

Hello, we are Karen and James, and we have been married for 12 years. We tried to use NFP early in our marriage, gave up, then came back to it. Since then, we have been using it for about 2 1/2 years. We have two living children ages 10 and 8 and one in heaven from an ectopic pregnancy. 

1. Why do you use NFP?

K: Health reasons. Birth control does not agree with my body.

J: Health reasons. She was having some health issues and we figured out that the birth control  was the cause of it.

2. Which method of NFP works best for you?

K: Billings Ovulation Method, but with a basal body temperature cross-check. So Billings-thermal. [Editor's Note: The Billings Ovulation Method works by tracking the woman's production of cervical mucus. Cervical mucus looks and feels different during fertile times. A woman's basal body temperature rises noticeably after ovulation, so tracking temperature changes can confirm that ovulation has occurred and the rest of the cycle will be infertile days.]

J: Karen has also used some of the cheap over-the-counter pregnancy kits that you can get on Amazon at 50 for $10. I don't know how reliable the kits are on their own, but they do a good job at confirming the other signs.

3. What are the biggest pros and cons of using NFP, in your experience?


Pros: I'm not crazy or moody or with PMS half the month. When we do get to have sex, it's really good sex. It's nice to know what my body is doing when. It's like a health checkup every month!

Cons: We don't get to have as much sex as we want. It is extremely hard to learn while sexually active, especially if barrier methods are not an option during the learning curve. Girls should learn this as teenagers, before they are sexually active.


Pros: Karen's a lot healthier and doesn't have the crazy mood swings she used to have. It's good to know how her hormones impact her mood so that I can be better prepared. The sex has gotten better, too. It's no longer something we take for granted.

Cons: The abstinence, especially when you don't know how long it's going to be. Also, it can take time to find a teacher you work well with and a method that works for you.

4. What NFP resources does your diocese have?

J: The Diocese of Charleston (South Carolina) is large in area, but has very few Catholics. The Catholic hospitals have classes and some individual teachers teach. The diocese supports NFP, but because it's so spread out, that doesn't mean classes/support/etc. are always accessible.

5. What NFP resources have been most useful to you?

K: The most useful NFP resources have been the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler and our teacher, Kristin Putnam, at

J: Kristin and her husband, Tim, have been extremely helpful. As for other resources, Google is your friend. And if you really want to get in-depth with the science, PubMed.

6. How do you think your marriage would be different if you used artificial contraception instead of NFP?

K: Since making the "switch" we have had better sex, but we don't always get to have as much sex as we want or when we want it. My birth control is no longer making me crazy, which obviously helps our relationship.

J: I have found that I've definitely gained a better appreciation of her, not just sexually, but about all of who she is. The sex is definitely is better—not only is it a lot harder to take for granted when you are using NFP, but the sex we do have is a lot more intimate. Although we don't have any plans for more children, I feel more open to the possibility and that was not the case when we were using contraception.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two Whodunits: The Bombing of Abortion Clinics and The Burning of a Ballerina (A Review)

If you're in the mood for mayhem, author Chéri Vausé has two new books for your entertainment. The first, The Truth and Nothing But Lies, revolves around the bombing of empty abortion clinics whose negligence led to the deaths of several women. The second, The Night Shadow, is a hard-bitten crime thriller, which lacks overt Catholic themes but contains a subtle redemptive message.

The Truth and Nothing But Lies

This issue-driven mystery novel falls within the tradition of pro-life novels such as Elizabeth Schmeidler's The Good Sinner, which centered around the murder of an abortionist. Considering how much the issue of abortion divides our country, it's surprising that more authors don't use it to dramatic effect. I suspect most writers are afraid or incapable of presenting the prolife viewpoint compellingly and compassionately.  Vausé does an excellent job of presenting arguments for both sides through the characters, and then letting the reader decide.  She avoids a preachy tone that would alienate or bore readers and keeps the tension high.

The book contains a great cast of supporting characters, including a modern nun, a corrupt politician, and an ACLU attorney.  Descriptions of the abortionist's office will not appeal to the faint of heart -- they are horrifyingly reminiscent of conditions in the clinic of recently convicted real-world abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The novel also slips sometimes into overuse of extended metaphor and personalization, which detracts from the story's flow. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining and worthwhile read.

The Night Shadow

This film noir style detective novel stars a female, Catholic version of famous fictional private investigator Sam Spade (remember Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon?).  She and her partner are hired to discover whether a young and talented ballerina was burned to death by arson or accident. Central to the story is a mysteriously beautiful blonde, who appears to be both victim and suspect. The setting shifts from steamy Los Angeles to mansions in the Hamptons to roach-ridden motels in lower Manhattan. Although the story lags in the middle and at 400+ pages runs a little long, the last 100 pages were absolutely riveting.

The main characters' Catholicism is understated and primarily cultural. For example, the p.i.'s Las Vegas marriage after a nasty divorce is certainly not sacramental. But it has the gritty realism of people trying to do their best with the sometimes lousy situations life has handed them. And the concluding scene of the extended family praying the rosary together in the hospital was very moving. Again, definitely worth the purchase.

My thanks to author Chéri Vausé for the free review copy. Both books are available at Amazon here and here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catholic Resources on Extreme Parenting (Special Needs, Adoption, Fostering, and More!)

My request for Catholic online and print resources on extreme parenting circumstances got an amazing response, so I'd like to share it with you. There's more on adoption than I thought, including an excellent new resource scheduled to be released by Pauline Books in 2015 (huge shout-out to author Jaymie Stuart Wolfe and the sisters at Pauline). But there's much less on fostering and step-parenting than I was hoping to find.

Please, please, please if you have more to add to the list, respond in the comments or by email to It's so important to support parents taking on this holy but often incredibly arduous work.

  • Adoption: Room for One More?, by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe (forthcoming from Pauline Books in 2015)
  • Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It, by Dr. Ray Guarendi (St. Anthony Messenger, 2009)
  • Longing to Love: A Memoir of Desire, Relationships, and Spiritual Transformation, by Tim Muldoon (Loyola Press, 2010)
  • While We Wait: Spiritual and Practical Advice for Those Trying to Adopt, by Heidi Schlumpf (ACTA Publications, 2009)
  • Little Lucy's Family: A Story About Adoption, by Eleanor Gormally (ACTA Publications, 2008) (for children)

Special Needs
  • Faith, Family, and Children with Special Needs: How Catholic Parents and Their Kids with Special Needs Can Develop a Richer Spiritual Life, by David Rizzo (Loyola Press, 2012)
  • A Special Mother is Born, by Leticia Velasquez (WestBow Press, 2011)
  • Ha Nacido Una Madre Especial, by Leticia Velasquez (Ediciones Rialp, 2013)
  • Be Not Afraid: peer-based support to parents experiencing a prenatal diagnosis and carrying to term,
  • National Catholic Partnership on Disability, (includes resources on sacramental preparation for special-needs children)

Big Families
    • Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, ed. by Theresa Thomas & Patti Armstrong, eds. (Scepter Publishers, 2013)
    • Table for Eight: Raising a large family in a small-family world, by Meagan Francis (Penguin Group, 2007)



        Thursday, December 4, 2014

        Laughing, Loving, and Crying Through 36 Years of Marriage: 10 Years & Then Some

        Today we welcome Michael and Melanie Jean Juneau to the series How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some. Michael and Melanie live on a small family farm in Canada, where they raised their nine kids. I know Melanie from her excellent work at the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers and through her prolific writing. Today Michael and Melanie explain how suffering doesn't have to crush a marriage, instead it can lead to great joy!

        1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?

        We have been married for 36 years, and we are still in love. Surprisingly, we really have become one, deeply in tune with each other’s spirits. Our tangible joy is inexplicable through secular eyes because from all outward appearances our life together has been a tough journey including poverty, nine kids, overwhelming chores on a small family farm and clinical depression.

        One priest gently consoled us by explaining we have lived through “trials by fire.” Another friend, not given to dramatics, once pointed out to my adult children,“You do not realize it, but your parents have suffered deeply.” I have a running joke on the typical marriage vow about for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I say, "Well, we’ve seen worse, poorer and sickness and we are more than ready for better, richer and health.” Then I dissolve into gales of laughter.

        2. Name 3 things that have helped you to stay married this long.

        The first key we discovered was found by accessing the power in the Sacrament of Marriage. The grace available in the Sacrament of Marriage is not some esoteric theology -- no, it is real and it is powerful. The power available in the sacrament is what kept us together through the rough years. And we both understood, beyond a doubt, that God had brought us together. We never questioned this basic call from God, our vocation together, even during the dark years.

        My second key is a wicked sense of humor. When we could laugh at our foibles and not take ourselves too seriously, problems suddenly shrank and we gained perspective once again. Over-dramatizing conflict is deadly. This is simply a bit of cognitive therapy, taking a step away from each conflict and looking at the big picture, through the eyes of God.

        Surprisingly, my third key to the longevity of out marriage is suffering. Suffering was a gift that unified us because it stripped away false pride and forced us to our knees in prayer.  Honest prayer led both of us to self- knowledge, humility and compassion for  each other. When I asked a priest what my life would have been like if I had not suffered, if I had married a well-off dentist, had 1.25 kids and lived in an efficient, modern house, he put on a phony, pious face, put his hands together in prayer, and said in a high, mocking voice, ”Oh, you would be a nice Christian lady, praising the Lord.” What he meant by that amusing bit of acting was I would be shallow, without depth and strength. Well, when I see the results of a bit of suffering in our marriage, I say bring it on!

        3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?

        The only reason we got married and stayed married is our faith. We are a brother and a sister in Christ, fellow children of God who seek His will together. We have always been on the same page, sensing the next level of growth in our spiritual walk  and changing at the same pace. This has been a pure gift from God.  A growth in maturity, in my faith, healed our marriage. When I quit demanding love from my husband, quit trying to control him, he was set free to love me in freedom and in truth, in the power of the Spirit of God. When I let go and surrendered to God, He blessed me with more than I could ever have asked for in our marriage.

        4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?

        Do you find yourself waiting secretly for your knight in shining armor to whisk you off your feet so you can live happily ever after? Or for a wonderful woman to lift off your depression and sense of aimlessness? Although we laugh at such ridiculous fantasies as the stuff of naïve, lovesick teenagers, we all must face the deep temptation within ourselves to seek out a future partner to fulfill all of our needs. We have been brainwashed by Hollywood's romantic movies.

        If you want to get married, seek the face of God, trust Him and He will drop someone in your path because marriage is just as much a vocation and a calling as Holy Orders. My husband asked God to find him a wife and then forgot all about it as he dedicated a year to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada. Then he spent another year at his local parish where he lived in the residence with an ill priest. Travelling across Canada, stopping in to see a friend who was a parish worker, he read a note on the door explaining that Steve had taken his youth group on a picnic. Michael came over to my house to wait because I lived with Steve's fiance. As soon as Michael saw me, he KNEW I was the one. Michael swears by this method for finding a bride.

         5. What advice would you give newlyweds?

        Society does not prepare people for a Christian marriage. You have to actively seek out help and advice. Read insightful books, go to conferences, retreats, confession, make sure you pray, seek spiritual direction and counselling to help you mature and grow together as one in Christ. As a newlywed, I wish someone had explained to me that in marriage, partners irritate each other by pulling out each other's darkness, bringing their wounds to the surface. Once I understood this spiritual dynamic, I quit blaming Michael and pointing out his faults. The truth is, counter to what secular society would lead us to believe, only God can meet our core need for love.

        Countless marriages end up in divorce because people have embraced the crazy notion that the man or woman of their dreams will completely satisfy and fulfill them. This is a lie. Before I understood this reality, I spent years as a pitiful, innocent victim, crying my eyes out over my plight married to an insensitive man.

        Once I focused on myself rather than Michael, the Spirit of God could finally deal with my own sinfulness and need for healing. If I had thrown up my hands and divorced Michael, chances are the second fellow would have turned out exactly the same. My sinfulness triggered my husband's sinfulness. Period. I had to stop blaming and pointing out Michael's failings if I wanted a great marriage. Instead of pointing out the grain of sand in his eye, I had to allow God to show me the log of faults in my own eye. God designed us so that only His love will fill the desperate desires of our hearts. Once I understood this truth, I could allow real love, respectful love to grow between Michael and myself without making crushing demands on the poor guy to fulfill the role of God in my life.

        6. What advice would you give new parents or couples who are trying to have children?

        First and foremost, if you want  to get pregnant, relax and trust in God and His timing. Numerous stories are told of anxious couples, desperate for a baby, who finally give up, adopt and then when they are relaxed, they conceive. My problem was the opposite, I could conceive days before ovulation. Yet  the answer to both problems is the same -- Natural Family Planning teaches people how to understand their fertility cycles in order to conceive or not.

        We read a homily by Pope John Paul II  whose main premise was that letting go of control and trusting in God was not some abstract principle but a day-to-day practical call that included the surrender of our fertility by not using contraception. Although we could not imagine how large our family would become, his words continued to resonate within both of us. Guilt lifted off and a sense of purpose took its place. Many small experiences kept reinforcing the truth: God calls each of our children into being with our cooperation. We stumbled blindly at times but then a burst of clarity would shine light on our purpose as we lived out our pro-life mission.

        Tuesday, November 25, 2014

        Chastity and Love: Please Don't Let Them Be Misunderstood

        Chastity and love are two of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture today. In her new book Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, Arleen Spenceley does a masterful job clearing up the confusion. About chastity and how it differs from abstinence, she says:
        Chastity neither pretends sexuality doesn't exist nor treats it as if it is the only significant part of a person. ... Chastity infuses sex with love, and love with sacrifice. Abstinence doesn't. Chastity never trivializes sex, and it refuses to use or objectify people, It says we can have what we want when what we want is good for us and it equips us to discern whether it is.
        This explanation of chastity shows how our sexuality fits into our lives. Sex outside the protective embrace of marriage is not good for us. That's why the Church, in its wisdom, counsels against pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Sex inside marriage, when there is a grave reason to avoid pregnancy, might not be good for us either. That's why the Church supports periodic abstinence, or Natural Family Planning, if a married couple seriously cannot handle a child (or another child) in their relationship. Deciding whether to get married or whether to get pregnant both require discernment.

        About love, Arleen says:
        I wanted to get married because married people get to love. And married people do get to love. But they don't have a monopoly on love. What I hadn't grasped yet was that love takes multiple forms, and all of them require sacrifice.  
        Love is not about what you get (or what you get to do between the sheets). Love is about what you give and how you give it. Single virgins don't get to have sex, but they also don't have babies wanting milk from them every two to four hours day and night. It's all a balance. The culture tells us that love means having sex, but sex doesn't mean having babies. Arleen explains that single people love in lots of ways that don't include sex, and married people (in most cases) share love through having sex and having babies. Both single and married people can achieve happiness through loving and being loved.

        I do disagree, however, with some advice Arleen gives on chaste dating. She insists that chaste daters need to keep the bar high, particularly with respect to virtue. She's no longer willing "to date guys who aren't 'it,' in hopes that they would grow on me." But what she discounts is that a person might grow in virtue precisely because she demanded more of him and showed him a better way -- a way to love, a way to faith, a way to God.

        God's love says we can do better and be better. But it's the love of a good person that gives us a tangible reason to try. When I met my husband-to-be Manny, I didn't exactly believe in chaste dating. When he told me that all he wanted was to hold hands, I felt he had rejected me so deeply that a crack fissured right through my heart. But what really broke was my hardness of heart, my misconception that my sexuality and my sexiness was my deepest value, my badly mistaken assumption that if he didn't want sex, then he didn't want me. He did want me, but he wanted all of me, healed by his love, healed by God's love, forever.

        So should chaste daters demand chastity from those they date? Sure. But chaste daters can teach chastity as well. God chooses the one who is "it" for us, even if they have to grow a bit to get there.

        My thanks to Arleen and Ave Maria Press for the free review copy.

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        Monday, November 24, 2014

        How Soon Should He Declare His Intentions?

        My recent post for Catholic Match Institute, The Art of Catholic Flirting (For Ladies' Eyes Only), generated quite a bit of discussion. The most controversial recommendation was #7:

        7. Ask him to declare his intentions. Don’t let him get away with the question, “Would you like to hang out?” Tell him it depends on whether he wants to date you or just be friends. If he’s not man enough to say he wants to date you, what makes you think he’ll be man enough to propose marriage a year or two down the line? If he stutters or waffles, tell him to call you back when he makes up his mind. (Even the New York Times agrees.)
        My recommendation stemmed from the disturbing trend of guys not even bothering to ask girls out on a formal date any more, leaving girls utterly confused about what kind of relationship the guys are after. When my husband and I started dating, he made it very clear that he would not be spending time with me unless he thought we had a shot at marriage. That straight-forward declaration helped us over a lot of rough spots at the beginning of our relationship.

        Some readers had an extremely negative reaction to my recommendation, but others loved it. I'm eager to hear what you think! Here is a sampling of the comments:
        Andrew: # 7 is going to end up disastrous unless the guy is already anxious to get in a relationship. No guy knows right away if he wants to get in a serious relationship because some flirting has happened.

        Carley: I think asking what his intentions are would scare off a bunch of fruitful relationships between men and women. So hang out a couple of times without expecting any type of declaration. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know each other, but if there’s heavy flirting going on then you shouldn’t let it go on forever. Perhaps when you’ve wondered “when is he going to ask me out?” a time or two then maybe it’s time to question his intentions.

        Kristin: I love #7 especially. I dated for a few years after college and wasted way too much time with guys only to find out they were not interested in me for the long haul. Or they weren’t interested in a long haul anytime soon with anyone. Had I made my intentions clear for them sooner rather than later, I would have saved us both time and emotional energy. When I met my future husband, ... I told him late one night during our nightly phone marathon that if he wanted to date me to see if we were compatible long term, then he needed to ask me not to date anyone else. I must have caught him off-guard because he said he didn’t feel right doing that. ... After another month, ... he then asked me to stop seeing any others so we could see where this could lead. Four months later he proposed and 10 months after that we were married. Now happily married for almost 19 years with 6 beautiful kids. Yes, letting a date know you are dating in search of the “one” versus to have a little fun is crucial – nowadays even more so. All points were awesome! Thx for a great read.

        Thomas: #7 -> YES. Though we already knew each other for quite a while, when I started dating Alicia, she gave me an ultimatum. "I'm not going to drag this out," she said, "I don't want a long distance relationship, and I'm moving back to Florida in three months. If we don't know by then if we're on our way to marriage, it's off." Two weeks from that to engagement. 

        Robert:  Point #7 needed correction and seemed almost anti-Christian.

        What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion!


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        Thursday, November 20, 2014

        No Better Aphrodisiac: Why NFP?

        Kevin and Allison Gingras speak honestly about why they switched from artificial birth control to Natural Family Planning (NFP) after discovering, among other things, how artificial birth control can lower a woman's libido. They also cover topics like the effect of peri-menopause, the benefits to using over-the-counter ovulation kits, and how regular times of abstinence can improve intimacy.

        Kevin and Allison started out as high school sweethearts who went to both junior and senior prom together, and now they've been married for 25 years. They are proud parents of Ian (age 18), Adam (age 15), and Faith (age 8). Faith, who is deaf, was an extra special gift coming to them all the way from China when she was almost 4 years old. Kevin and Allison began using Natural Family Planning over 20 years ago, after reading about a local class in their church bulletin. Allison blogs at Reconciled to You and is a Catholic radio and tv personality as well as an app developer. You can read Faith's adoption story here and find out how God touched Kevin and Allison's heart to adopt even while they were using NFP to prevent pregnancy.

        1. Why do you use NFP?

        Our use of NFP coincided with our reversion to the Catholic faith over 20 years ago. We were at a point in our lives where we wanted to open our hearts to children, after living very self-centeredly for the first several years of our married life! I had discovered the horrific things I had subjected my body to by using birth control pills including their abortifacient effect and the increased risk for certain cancers (no one ever bothered explaining that, and I foolishly never read the lengthy pamphlet tucked inside the package each month). We saw a class being offered in our parish bulletin and signed up to learn more. I particularly loved that this method was not just my responsibility, that we’d be achieving and avoiding pregnancy together – yet of course, always open to God’s will.

        2. Which method of NFP works best for you?

        We were able to rely only on basal body temperature for 17 years, until Allison began peri-menopause. We have now added the Clear Blue Easy ovulation detector along with temperature charting. To be very honest, this new phase of fertility has been incredibly challenging especially in light of how easy it was for us before this change of life.

        3. What are the biggest pros and cons of using NFP, in your experience?


        Allison: The natural breaks of intimacy that come in conjunction with a woman’s fertility cycle has been one of the most powerful marriage strengtheners. When you are able to say not tonight I’m “not safe” without hurting your husband’s feelings, that is a beautiful blessing. At one point in my life, I was in a Bible study with 40 women, and was one of the only women practicing NFP. One night we had an open honest discussion about sex in marriage – more than half of the women complained about always having to be "on" or "available" to their husbands. They spoke of intercourse with their spouses as a task – one most were not interested in - instead of the bonding, procreative gift from God it truly is. I recognized instantly the negative effect that birth control or sterilization can have on a marriage (nearly all of the women reporting an unhealthy intimacy also confided they were either on some form of birth control or one of spouses had received sterilization surgery).

        Another huge benefit, which I never considered when we began our NFP adventure, is being able to accurately estimate the day of conception. This became very helpful when our first child was born 2 months premature – he was such a monster the doctors doubted my actual due date. I told them, if I had time to go home, I would bring them my chart!  After he was born they did the Apgar tests, and lo and behold we were spot on with the gestational age of our little man (who was dubbed as the big man on campus because he was 5 lbs already at only 32 weeks!)


        Allison: Really I had NONE until peri-menopause. While I want with my WHOLE heart to trust God’s plan for us, the idea of being mid-40s with a new baby is terrifying. I remember sitting in the class as a mid-20something-year-old joking that I’d be the woman with the mid-life baby as we covered that in the class. Now that I’ve arrived in mid-life, it is NOT as funny as I thought, nor am I as willing to be that woman as I was 20+ years earlier. So the con is definitely the extended abstinence couples can face with irregular cycles resulting from peri-menopause.

        4. What NFP resources does your diocese have?

        The Diocese of Fall River web site lists two NFP teaching couples in the Massachusetts area. But we have not been able to find anyone (except online) to teach a peri-menopause informational update class. That's what we really need.

        5. What NFP resources have been most useful to you? 

        We received all our NFP resources from Couple to Couple League.

        6. How do you think your marriage would be different if you used artificial contraception instead of NFP?

        Allison: We know what it was like, because we used them for many years. We had needless arguments and hurt feelings when one of us just wasn’t up for intimacy. I also struggled with a very low libido, a side effect of birth control – this also led to a period in our marriage when my husband really wondered if I loved him or if I was even maybe having an affair because of my lack of interest in being intimate. It was only in hindsight did we recognize that all of these issues, which truly threatened our marriage, were directly related to our use of artificial contraception.

        Our marriage with those “natural breaks” that comes from following my cycles provided the healthy balance we needed. It also forced us to learn other ways to express our love and affection apart from having intercourse.  Added bonus, there is -- dare I say -- an excitement that builds with anticipating your safe time together that continues to fan our passion for each other. The grace from being open to life and God’s will are no better aphrodisiacs if you ask me!

        The Gingras Kids: Ian, Faith, and Adam
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        Tuesday, November 18, 2014

        How Do You Say Yes to God?

        In honor of the launch of Lisa Hendey's new book The Grace of Yes, she's asked everyone to flood the Internet with stories and images of how we say yes to God. Naturally, I asked my closest advisors -- my husband and my kids -- for their input. Here are our answers! (If you want to share your own stories or images, just post with the hashtag #graceofyesday. Awesome printable signs are available here.)



        (I so totally did not pay her to say that)





        Please join in -- the social media campaign will be going all day long! Plus, bloggers can join the link-up also!

        Wednesday, November 12, 2014

        My Top 10 Favorite Date Ideas from Spouse Dates

        I signed up for an email newsletter called Spouse Dates that arrives in my inbox every week with three or four fun date ideas, including at least one I never thought of and several that we haven't tried for a while. Here are my top faves.

        1. Karaoke Night: Manny and I went to a karaoke bar on one of our first dates together. The only song we both knew was The Impossible Dream from the musical Man of La Mancha. You could hear the sneer in the karaoke emcee's voice when he announced us, then we totally blew it out of the water. Fond memories!

        2. Drive-In Movie: Not every area still has a drive-in movie theater, but they're lots of fun. There's one in Virginia near where my parents live and we try to go every summer. If you're feeling brave (and limber), you can even lie down on the hood of the car together. Just make sure you bring a blanket to get comfy.

        3. Run a Race Together: This idea is especially good for couples who (ahem!) need a little extra incentive to exercise. Our town sponsors a "Turkey Trot" 5-mile run every Thanksgiving. There's also a 1.4-mile "Fun Run" earlier in the day for people who just want to ease into it.

        4. Romantic Scavenger Hunt: My husband Manny excels at scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, you name it -- the more elaborate the better. He recently designed a scavenger hunt with pictures of our April 2014 trip to Spain taped up all over the house and a list of riddles to help me and the kids identify the right picture. A romantic scavenger hunt could include items that are a bit more ... personal. Just make sure the kids don't find them first!

        5. Visit an Aquarium: We've visited aquariums in places from Coney Island, New York, to Lisbon, Portugal. The dim lighting creates a great atmosphere, and watching fish undulating through the water is very soothing.

        6. Local Wine-Tasting Event: You can combine this with help for your favorite charity, if you're so inclined. In the Long Island area, for example, the St. John's Kenyan Children's Foundation holds a wine-tasting fundraiser every year.

        7. Breakfast Date: This works especially well on a day when hubby's off of work, but the kids are away at school. Since my husband works at a Jewish hospital and the kids go to Catholic school, Manny and I are sometimes home together on a Jewish holiday. No need to leave the house for the breakfast date, if you don't want to.

        8. Read Poetry or a Novel Together: Manny likes Shakespeare, I like Chaucer. We could definitely explore both. Great saints have also written poetry, like St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and even Pope St. John Paul II. A novel might be more your cup of tea, but reading poetry together takes a lot smaller time commitment.

        9. Watch a Romantic French Movie: Since Manny and I mistakenly wound up in Paris for our honeymoon (a story for another time), we picked up the habit of shouting "Vive la France!" whenever unexpectedly awesome things happen. Watching a romantic French movie could give us lots of opportunities to shout "Vive la France!" at least as long as the main characters don't drive themselves off a bridge or something. Ever noticed how many "romantic" French movies have very, very depressing endings? Avoid those.

        10. Go Ballroom Dancing: The parents of one of our friends used to go ballroom dancing together every week until she died. So sweet! Restaurants with ballroom dancing often feature live bands, so it's worth trying it for the music alone. You don't have to be any good, since honestly no one knows how to dance any more. Just put your arms around each other and hold on.

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        Tuesday, November 4, 2014

        The Grace of Admitting Our Brokenness

        Even healers need to be healed. Even teachers need to learn more. And even those who advise perfection aren't perfect. If we're willing to admit that, then we have the grace of integrity, explains Lisa Hendey in her fourth book The Grace of Yes, released yesterday by Ave Maria Press. Integrity gives people in authority (including all parents) and people in ministry the strength to face down two equal and opposite temptations. The first temptation is to believe our own press and to think that we can live up to our own airbrushed avatars. The second is to perceive our own brokenness, our falls, and our failings, and then to despair that God can ever spread his word through us. With integrity, we can stare unflinchingly at our shortcomings and preach the good news of love and redemption anyway, knowing that we need it as much as anyone else.

        Integrity is one of the many hidden graces that Lisa introduces us to in The Grace of Yes. Others include creativity, vulnerability, and even the strength to say no to a good that we are not called to do. Throughout the book, Lisa's encouraging voice reassures and inspires us to dig deeper, reach farther, and keep fighting the good fight. Not surprisingly, when Manny and I asked the publisher of our marriage advice book for examples of the warm and personal tone they wanted, they sent us The Grace of Yes. Lisa gives the impression that she has been in the trenches and shared the same journey as the reader, our publisher said, and I agree 100%.

        Working with Lisa through the CatholicMom site, I can testify to the difference that Lisa's yeses have made in my life and ministry. Lisa was the first person to welcome me to social media. When I asked her to stop by and visit my fledgling blog back in 2011, she did. When I asked her to run a press release celebrating my blog's first 1,000 pageviews, she did. When I asked her to endorse my yet-to-be-published Catholic marriage advice book, she did. It's no exaggeration to say that Lisa's generosity of spirit and the vibrant community of women into which she welcomed me have been essential ingredients in the growth of my ministry.

        In gratitude to Lisa, I want to work harder at saying yes to others and at giving thanks when others say yes to me. Lisa's book gives me the tools to turn that wanting into reality. You, too, should read it, implement it, and see how the grace of simple, small yeses can open the door to so much more.

        Lisa's book is available through Amazon here and through Barnes & Noble here. My thanks to her for the free review copy.

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        Tuesday, October 28, 2014

        Blessed Pope Paul VI: Interceding for Life on Earth and in Heaven

        At the end of the contentious Synod on the Family, Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI, who was best known for reiterating the Catholic Church's objection to artificial birth control in the late 1960s. This beatification may signal more about the current pontiff's vision for the Church than his refusal to choose sides in the often acrimonious Synod debates between bishops over cohabitation, homosexuality, and pastoral care for the divorced and civilly remarried. This article originally appeared at Aleteia.

        The Church canonizes a pope, not a papacy, as the saying goes, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the man from the office he holds. Pope John XXIII’s canonization seven months ago amounted to a public declaration of the worth and validity of Vatican II, with which Pope John XXIII was so strongly identified. And when Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI this past week, it was as if the current pope put to rest all doubts about the Church’s continued adherence to Pope Paul VI’s most infamous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which affirmed the Church’s stance against artificial birth control.

        The timing of the canonization could not have been more powerful. The Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which took place from October 5 to October 19 in Rome, brought us images of cardinals raising their voices, challenging each others' views and intensely debating issues that to many of us seem undebatable – the Church’s doctrinal opposition to homosexual acts, sex outside of marriage, and divorce and remarriage outside the Church. In his closing speech on October 18, Pope Francis complimented the bishops for speaking their minds and criticized both “traditionalists” for their “hostile inflexibility” and “progressives” for their “deceptive mercy.” In light of calls for the pontiff to pick a side in the debates, he pointed out what he saw as flaws on both sides equally.

        But Pope Paul VI’s beatification, which took place at the closing Mass of the Synod on October 19, displayed unity and unalloyed respect for a man labeled as a traditionalist and a progressive – a traditionalist for his proclamations on birth control and a progressive for his support of Mass in the vernacular.

        “Few people understood how comprehensively he saw things,” noted Deacon Scott Dodge of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. At Pope Paul VI’s beatification, Pope Francis praised his predecessor’s heroic virtue in “hold[ing] fast with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter.” If the beatification signified anything about Pope Francis’ plans for the future, it signaled an intent to stay the course, and not change what cannot be changed.

        Similarly, the final report of the Synod mentioned the need for a positive reception of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, a reception which few Catholics have been willing to give it. One man who was ahead of the curve in this respect is Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who has based his entire medical career on answering the call of Humanae Vitae.

        While a senior in medical school, Dr. Hilgers read the encyclical and became an “instant convert,” as he explained to me in a videoconference from Rome where he had participated in the beatification ceremony.

        At the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Dr. Hilgers vowed to create an institute that bore the late pope’s name – the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction. In 1985, Dr. Hilgers broke ground on the institute. And this year, he was invited by the Vatican to read the prayers of the faithful in English for an audience of more than 300,000 attendees at the historic occasion of Pope Paul VI’s beatification.

        What impacted Dr. Hilgers the most about Humanae Vitae were the calls to action to medical professionals and men of science, encouraging the development of modern methods of natural family planning. Dr. Hilgers went on to create the Creighton Model of fertility care, which blends family planning with reliable diagnosis of reproductive disorders, and NaPro Technology, which provides moral medical solutions to those disorders. He dreams of one day finding a cure for infertility based on these methods, he said.

        Despite having trained more than 600 doctors through his fellowship program and having established over 280 fertility care centers across the country, Dr. Hilgers claims that educating the medical profession is not enough to create the health care revolution he yearns for. “This is a revolution that will occur not because of the doctors, but in spite of the doctors,” he told me.

        “People are getting hurt” by modern medical agendas fueled by the culture of death, stated Hilgers, and the proof is widely available. “The data is there,” he explained, “the sociological data of destruction – abortion, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases.” According to Hilgers, the downhill trend started with the advent of the birth control pill. When the medical profession began prescribing the birth control pill not only for contraception but for numerous gynecological disorders, it started down the path of masking symptoms without treating the underlying problems, he explained. 

        “We’ve wasted 36 years of really good research capability” into curing things like post-menstrual syndrome, post-partum depression, and infertility, he lamented. A lot of research money has been poured into the technologies of in vitro fertilization, which lead to many more embryos being destroyed than being implanted in a woman’s womb and still don’t solve the root causes of infertility. 

        Hilgers’ research, on the other hand, has been dedicated to discovering and fixing underlying reproductive disorders. By learning how each woman’s cycle functions, in a way as unique as a fingerprint, Hilgers has been able to detect hormonal problems that can be corrected. In developing laser surgery of the reproductive organs that leaves minimal scarring, he has made great progress in surgical methods of overcoming fertility problems. But “there’s an enormous amount of work that still needs to be done,” he acknowledged.

        A lot of that work amounts to education in overcoming biases against natural family planning, which has often taken on the connotation of the old and ineffective “rhythm method.” Education about the benefits of natural family planning “has to start with very young people,” Hilgers said. Dioceses could also throw themselves more wholeheartedly into promotion of NFP, according to Deacon Dodge, who is an NFP instructor himself. Most dioceses require engaged couples to take a three-hour introductory course in NFP as part of pre-Cana instruction, but a full course lasts several months, in order to enable couples to analyze data from several cycles. Some dioceses do require a full course as part of pre-Cana, but others are faced with a shortage of NFP teachers, stated Deacon Dodge. For such a requirement to work, most dioceses would need to train more teachers, he added.

        The most pressing need, according to Dr. Hilgers, is to “develop the richness of Humanae Vitae – not the words of Humanae Vitae, but the values of Humanae Vitae.” In the last 40 years, we have descended to a “great depth of spiritual poverty,” he said. But in his practice, he has seen patients come back to the Church because they are “overwhelmed by the goodness of this teaching” on life issues.

        The beatification of Pope Paul VI sends a strong and beautiful pro-life message. The miracle required for beatification was in fact a pro-life miracle – the healing of an unborn baby in the womb. Pope Paul VI’s intercession in that case demonstrated his love for life extending beyond the borders of heaven. Pope Paul VI, enthused Deacon Dodge, has proven himself to be a “powerful intercessor on behalf of life and on behalf of marriage and family.” Blessed Pope Paul VI, pray for us!


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        Thursday, October 23, 2014

        Catholic Author Jean Heimann of CatholicFire Tells Us How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some

        Following up on last week's blog tour where I reviewed Jean Heimann's new book Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, Jean and her husband Bill return to Can We Cana? for some advice on How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some.

        1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?

        Bill & Jean:  We have been married 22 years and have no biological children. Bill has an adult son from a previous marriage, which was formally annulled by the Catholic Church prior to our marriage in the Church in 1992.

        2. Name 3 things that have helped you to stay married this long.

        Jean: Our strong Catholic faith bonded us from the beginning and has kept us together over the years. We are “equally yoked” as the Protestants say. We were both actively involved in leadership roles in various ministries prior to our marriage (and continue to be) and saw eye to eye on the important issues that face engaged couples: openness to life, putting God first in our lives, serving others, stewardship, our roles as husband and wife. We were highly compatible from the beginning and continue to remain that way. We both view marriage as a covenant bond and as lifetime commitment and plan to remain together until death do us part.  Second, I believe that while I tend to expect perfection from myself, Bill has never expected that from me, probably because he knows how truly imperfect I am. He is very understanding when I fail or make mistakes and also very forgiving. Forgiveness is essential in marriage, as there are times when we disappoint or fail our partner. If Jesus can forgive others, we, too, need to be able to emulate that quality. Third, a sense of humor along with a strong trust in God during trials and times of difficulty keeps us on the right track. Bill has taught me how to take myself and situations less seriously. He knows exactly what to say to make me laugh and how to help ease the tension during stressful times.

        Bill: When we were married, it was Bill, Jesus, and Jean who were joined in union in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Jesus has always been at the center of our marriage. Jean and I make time to pray together every day.  I always remember the saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” We pray the Night Prayer, the Rosary, a daily prayer to St. Joseph, as well as our Family Consecration prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We were prayer intercessors for a diocesan prayer group before we met and we continue to pray for the needs of others. I am fortunate to work at a job where I am able to recite the Rosary and I often offer up my Rosary for Jean’s special intentions. I know that Jean prays for me every day and she encourages me when I am going through tough times – that means a lot to me. Due to my work hours, I am only able to attend Mass one extra day besides Sunday, but it helps to know that I have a wife who attends Mass daily and is offering up prayers for me at Mass. Second, our love for one another is a permanent, lasting commitment. We are growing old together and are blessed with one another’s company. Third, listen to one another. It’s important to have someone there for you who will listen to you and encourage you.

        3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?

        Jean: Our Faith has sustained us in numerous trials: illnesses, long periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, inability to have children of our own, deaths of family members, and many other sufferings we never anticipated. God has blessed us with abundant graces to sustain us and even transcend these trials. All these sufferings simply make us stronger and help us grow closer to one another and to God, if we surrender them to Him.

        4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?

        Jean: Be yourself. Don’t ever compromise your values to please the other person. Be chaste. Save your virginity to give to your spouse as a wedding gift on your wedding night. Be honest and sincere with yourself and with the other person about your expectations in marriage. Don’t be afraid to discuss all the “hot button” issues that you will be facing in marriage. When you have found that special someone, schedule an appointment with a priest to prepare yourself and your partner for marriage.

        5. What advice would you give newlyweds?

        Jean: Be patient with one another. Never go to bed angry. Pray together every day.

        6. What advice would you give new parents or couples who are trying to have children?

        Jean: Learn about Natural Family Planning and practice it, if necessary. It is natural, holistic, healthy, and a practice in partnership. It creates a natural bond between the married couple, drawing them into a more intimate union. Avoid artificial means of contraception, which separate the sexual act from pro-creation. The Church disapproves of these because they block the self-giving relationship between husband and wife, which should be a natural part of marriage, but they also are very unhealthy. They can endanger the woman’s health, cause an early abortion, and eventually ruin the couple’s love life.

        Be aware that there are many methods of helping couples who are infertile today. I had been diagnosed with endometriosis ten years prior to our marriage and had three surgeries performed by a Catholic gynecologist for it. When we were married, I was told that I had a 50-50 chance of conceiving, but it never happened. I was devastated until I accepted the fact that it was not God’s will for me. Today, there are more effective methods for helping couples conceive that coincide with Catholic teachings, such as the CREIGHTON MODEL FertilityCare™ System (CrMS) and the new women's health science of NaProTECHNOLOGY.  [Editor's Note: For my interview of the founder of the Creighton Model and NaProTechnology on the occasion of Pope Paul VI's beatification in Rome, click here.] There are also now a number of support groups, including some that are Catholic, for those who deal with difficulty in conceiving a child. There are also now Catholic clinics, such as the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women's Health in Omaha, Nebraska.

        ~ copyright Jean M. Heimann October 2014


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        Monday, October 20, 2014

        Sex and the Synod: What Women Think

        In talking to my sources on the Synod, I noticed many of my emails beginning with "Dear Gentlemen." So I set out to discover what women think of the Synod. To my pleasure and surprise, I was able to interview Prof. Janet E. Smith, known for her expertise in the Theology of the Body, as well as marriage policy expert Maggie Gallagher, and my friend Sr. Anne aka "nunblogger".  Here's what they had to say in this article that originally appeared at Aleteia.

                  Although the Catholic Church has often faced accusations of waging a war on women, many intelligent, successful, and accomplished women strongly support the Church’s countercultural teaching on marriage, family, and sexuality. Confronted with secular voices falsely depicting the Church’s teaching on sexuality and forces inside the Church pushing the Synod fathers to overturn settled doctrines, women like Prof. Janet Smith, Sr. Anne Flanagan, Maggie Gallagher and others stand firm.

        Married Sex and the Synod

                    Many eyebrows were raised when a lay couple from Australia told the Synod fathers, in explicit terms, how important sexual intercourse was to their marriage. NBC’s Ann Curry characterized this “sex talk” at the Synod as a stunning contradiction of the view within the Church that married sex is only “’ an imperfection that is permitted.’”  But Theology of the Body expert Prof. Janet Smith explained that Ann Curry got it wrong. If any Catholics have gotten the impression that their religion barely tolerates married sex, “that means they have been taught badly,” said Prof. Smith. 

                    Curry’s stereotype expresses a “reductionistic view of what the Church teaches on sexuality,” agreed Dr. Deborah Savage, professor of philosophy and theology and Director of the Masters Program in Pastoral Ministry at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. “The old and somehow lingering perception that the Church thinks sex is bad” is positively “medieval,” she continued. “It made me laugh!” Pre-Cana programs like the Archdiocese of New York’s teach instead that “when two people totally give of  themselves” in free, faithful, and fruitful married love “they image God,” explained Marga Regina, Marriage Preparation Coordinator for the Archdiocese.

                    These days, it is “unlikely anyone ordained” – particularly the bishops at the Synod – “would not know about the beauty of the marital act and the importance of marriage as a vocation,” stated Dr. Savage.

                    “The problem is people have convinced themselves that all the Church gives is rules to follow” about sexuality, said Savage. But particularly through Pope St. John Paul II’s groundbreaking Theology of the Body, the Church offers a complete understanding of what it means to be human, created by God in his image and with the ability to generate new life through the sexual act.

                     “At least in the United States many bishops have held sessions for their priests on the Theology of the Body and Natural Family Planning. I suspect they are very accustomed to speaking frankly about sexuality,” Prof. Smith opined. Most U.S. seminaries are now doing a good job educating future priests on these topics, according to Smith, who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. “The Institute for Priestly Formation has formed a large portion of the recently ordained and they speak freely about sexuality and provide an excellent formation based on the TOB. The Theology of the Body Institute [also] has first rate programs for priests and laity,” she continued.

                    John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body may not be as well known outside our borders, however. “It does seem to me that the Theology of the Body is much better known in the U.S. than in other countries,” stated Smith. “The predominance of speakers at international conferences are Americans, though some countries, such as Ireland, Portugal, Australia, some places in India and Africa, have strong programs,” she added.  Moreover, the 2014 Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia, where Dr. Savage delivered the keynote address, had attendees from 18 countries. So interest is definitely spreading.

                    Greater dissemination of the Theology of the Body should go a long way to correcting any false views that linger in the way sexuality is taught, according to Prof. Smith. The Synod fathers could help by encouraging Catholics worldwide to take greater interest. “My view is that if the Church made wide use of the materials already available we would make rapid progress,” opined Smith.

        Homosexuality and the Synod

                    In an effort to put pressure on so-called “anti-LGBT bishops,” the homosexual advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) has organized a series of vigils called "Pray, Listen, Discern" to take place while the Synod is occurring. HRC’s stated goal is to convince Church leaders to "recognize our humanity and our right to seek civil recognition of our relationships and our families." Such tactics have become the norm, according to Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. Advocacy efforts previously targeted at the “mushy middle” are now being directed at Christian churches and communities, she said.

                    In HRC’s fact sheet about the Synod, the group claims that 71% of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage and 60% favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.  Although Gallagher emphasized that “polling on gay marriage varies depending on the wording of the question,” she noted that other polls have also found that at least a slight majority of mass-going Catholics now support same-sex marriage in the United States.

                     “The cultural pressure to conform is very strong,” Gallagher continued, “and I suspect Pope Francis’ call to us to show mercy is getting translated [into] ‘standing down in anything that smacks of culture war’ in the minds of many U.S. Catholics.” She nonetheless sees nothing wrong with HRC’s hope that the Synod could secure "the baptismal sacrament for children of LGBT Catholic families." Caring for a “child’s immortal soul” does not amount to political support for same-sex marriage itself, Gallagher said.

                    To avoid misinterpretation, however, it is important for the Synod to confirm “the complementarity that characterizes men and women,” who alone can cooperate in procreation, stated Dr. Savage. The purpose of sexuality is not only to unite the couple, but also to result in new life. By removing the possibility of procreation from their sexuality, practicing homosexuals show a “confused understanding of what their sexuality is for,” explained Dr. Savage. If the Synod doesn’t come out with a clear restatement of Church teaching on the meaning of sexuality, “it will only add to the confusion,” she warned.

        Communion for Divorced and Remarried

                    Prominent American nun Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, formerly with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently cast her lot with Cardinal Walter Kasper who has repeatedly urged the bishops to find a way to allow the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Holy Communion. The Synod “dare not do nothing,” Walsh argued, or the Church will face a wave of dissent similar to that following the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld Church teaching against artificial contraception despite broad public expectation of doctrinal change.

                    “Nonsense,” responded theology professor Dr. Savage. “The Synod is under no obligation to change doctrine.” Moreover, Humanae Vitae’s dire predictions that greater contraceptive use would lead to more infidelity and less respect for women have been proven to be prophetic, in her opinion. “People were upset about Humanae Vitae, but they were wrong,” she proclaimed.

                    Prof. Janet Smith, who has authored several works on Humanae Vitae, was likewise undaunted by implicit threats of dissent. “There is much more fidelity in the Church today than there was at the time of Humanae Vitae. We have had over 40 years of struggle within the Church and fidelity, in important ways, has won out over dissent,” she said.

                    One of Walsh’s proposals resembled a sort of do-it-yourself annulment process, in which individuals “convinced that their first marriage was not sacramental [can] approach Communion according to their own well-formed conscience.” Rejecting that proposal out of hand, Prof. Smith declared that “marriages are governed by law not by conscience. A well-formed conscience would want to submit to the Church.”

                    Sr. Anne Flanagan, known as “nunblogger” to her more than 15,000 Twitter followers, similarly looked askance at Walsh’s proposal. “Even in ordinary human matters, we are often quite blind to things we really ought to know about ourselves. How can we appraise our own spiritual condition, especially in matters of the heart?” asked Flanagan. She emphasized that reception of the Eucharist involves much more than the individual’s personal relationship with God, because it is also a public act of communion with the Church.

                    “The communion issue is so huge for people today … because at this point, Catholic life has been reduced to Sunday Mass,” continued Flanagan. “Fifty+ years ago, it was not odd to see five or six people remain in a pew at Communion time, and communicants had to awkwardly step between kneelers and legs to get to and from the aisle.  … While frequent Communion was the ideal, it was not a given as it is now.” She mourned a lack of vibrant parish life that could fully welcome people in social and communal activities outside of Mass. 

                    Dr. Savage similarly sympathized with the divorced and civilly remarried, seeing them as “victims of a culture that has taught them that marriage is a convenience.” But she cautioned that we must “be realistic” in our hopes of providing them with a warmer welcome without breaking with the history and traditions of the Church. The Synod “isn’t a Vatican Council [such as Vatican II]. We need to peg our expectations to the forum,” she stated. The Synod’s role is merely to advise Pope Francis.

                    Observing that not all Catholics run in the same circles, Dr. Savage noted that “some people are anxious for change, and others are hopeful that the Church will stay the course. I’m with [the latter group]. I see the Church as the last bastion in pushing back the tides of secularism.” There’s a tidal wave of cultural collapse looming, she predicted, and “there’s one wall left.” That wall is the Catholic Church.