Ten Ways to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

taming

My hubby and I will be married 25 years in December. While we don’t claim to know everything there is to know about divorce-proofing a marriage, we do have some experience with growing a marriage to its 25th year. Hope this helps.

1. Start by eliminating DIVORCE from your vocabulary as a couple. My husband did this for us when we first got married. He sat me down and asked me to promise that no matter what happens between us, the word “divorce” will never enter our vocabulary. The couple of times it crossed my mind (I blame youth and immaturity and pettiness for that) I didn’t dare say it out loud, because I knew it wasn’t an option, and truth be told, I didn’t want it to be an option for either of us.

2. Borrowing from Stephen Covey: Begin with the end in mind. See yourself growing old with this person you married. It might be morbid, but see yourself on each other’s deathbeds, holding each other’s hands, praying each other into heaven. Hold on to that image. What you do today will determine how that future scene will be.

3. Don’t let the kids come between you. Always strive for a united front. Don’t let them play you against each other. Children are children and sometimes that means they don’t fully understand how marriage works. It is up to parents to teach them that Mom and Dad are of one mind especially when it comes to the most important things. When the kids know this they won’t try and involve you in a tug-o-war. Instead they’ll be your biggest fans and supporters.

4. Surround yourself with successful marriages and families. Seeing and spending time with other couples who are in the trenches just like you, and who are doing well, is inspiring, motivating, and keeps you hopeful when times get rough.

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5. Make God a priority. Prayer needs to be #1 recourse, not the last resort, for husband and wife as individuals, and as a couple. Spend time in Adoration together. Pray without ceasing — when you wake up, at night before bed, at mealtimes, in the car. Say the Rosary as a family. God and Mama Mary will not let you down.

6. Journal the good times. My hubby suggested we start our family journal in 1996. We’re on our sixth or seventh one. It helps to be able to look back, not just at pictures, but things we said, did, first words, milestones, etc. It will help you hold on to happy memories during those moments when life seems to have become routinary.

7. Don’t forget the sex. I asked my hubby what he thought needed inclusion in this list and OF COURSE he said this. I agree. Part of communication in marriage is sex. Total, Faithful, Free, Fruitful. Doesn’t get better than that. And yes, Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be a cross sometimes, but remember that you are carrying it together.

8. Never stop getting to know each other. Keep asking questions. I’m amazed that after almost 25 years of marriage there are still things we can discover about each other. Can’t wait to find out more in the next 25.

9. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Don’t ever criticize your spouse in front of other people. Find ways to compliment and thank each other for the little things, because oftentimes the little things turn out to be the big things. Knowing that your spouse is ALWAYS in your corner, cheering you on, means so much and goes a long way in maintaining an atmosphere of trust, respect and gratitude in the home.

10. Get the communication right. Find ways to speak without making digs at each other and putting each other down. Learn to say what you mean honestly and simply. If we happened to have developed unhealthy patterns of communication from the way we were raised, or our school environment, or our friendships, marriage is the time to put those away and begin anew. Be careful not to let any negativity leftover from those determine how you and your spouse talk to each other.

There are many more, but these are our most basic ones that we return to time and again in our own relationship.

As I click “Publish”, I ask for your prayers for my husband and me, and offer prayers for yours.

May St. Joseph and Mama Mary be our examples of what a holy marriage should be! And if you need more “examples”, get hold of this book. God bless!


Update 06 November 2015


Recently there have been several articles recommending better marriage preparation classes for those wanting to get married. But the reality is that marriage prep begins in the family and not at a Pre-Cana class. Many people are so ill-prepared for marriage because they didn’t see a marriage well-lived at home. People develop patterns of communication and conflict resolution early on, and if they’re not seeing good examples of those, one or two sessions of intense marriage preparation isn’t going to miraculously fill that void. So yes, let’s talk about better marriage prep programs for our young adults, but ultimately what will build solid marriages in the future is US making sure OUR marriages NOW are what they’re supposed to be.

Love and Marriage Sound So Easy: Where Did We Go Wrong?
Will the Synod Replace Pre-Cana With ‘Marriage Catechumenate’?
Can We Do Better Than Just Pre-Cana?
Annulment Questionnaire: The Marriage Prep That Came Too Late

Where There Is Love, There Is No Need for Feminism (An F4L Blogging Event Post)

Feminism supposedly has accomplished much, but apparently, still not enough. When/where does it end?

Most feminism, especially the radical, militant kind, seems to stem from places of anger, fear, and unrest. There is no peace to be found. These women are always waging battles, and more often than not, battle against themselves. There is a disconnect, because in the end, who wins? A woman who is fighting against her own essence isn’t an empowered woman. That kind of life, where one’s identity or purpose or end goal is always in question, doesn’t come across as particularly attractive or inspirational.

Yes, many women suffer deep mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds, and often at the hands of men; healing is obviously needed in those situations. Prevention would be even better.

The whole woman, however, who has not been touched by abuse — rarely, if ever, has the need to be a feminist. When a woman is loved fully, she can be everything God has created her to be. She exercises her free will as it is meant to be exercised — for her own good and for the good of those around her.

Much has already been written about feminism, so this post isn’t scholarly or research-based — but I promise an honest look, even if mostly anecdotal and experiential.

Image Credit:  http://johnthelutheran.tumblr.com/post/16107563572/what-would-mary-do
Image Credit: http://johnthelutheran.tumblr.com/post/16107563572/what-would-mary-do

My mom and I have been fathered by and are married to heroic men, men who aren’t afraid of self-sacrifice. I have many friends both online and off who are in happy, stable marriages. This is what I see: When women find themselves in a place where they are valued for everything they are and what they bring to the table, there is no need for power plays or mind games. There’s no need to tear each other down. I know it sounds simplistic (and given more space and time I’m sure I could expound 😉 ), but I’ve seen it happen too many times to deny that reality.

I have seen many terms thrown around when it comes to women’s rights, issues, empowerment, etc.: patriarchal, sexist, oppression, liberation. It isn’t possible to do a full treatment of all these in this post, but for what it’s worth:

It is not patriarchal to say that women are needed in the home. They are. Ask the numerous children who grew up without a mother. It goes without saying, fathers are needed too.

It is not sexist to say that women have a unique role that only women can play. It’s the truth. There’s a reason we have wombs. There’s a reason our hormones are the way they are. I can’t understand the logic of pro-choicers who say we have genitals because we’re meant to have sex. Well, sure, honey, but by your logic, I could also say, all women are meant to be mothers because they have wombs. I’m sure you won’t agree. But if we were to define ourselves by our sexuality as you want to do, you have to admit our wombs ARE an essential part of that sexuality.

A woman serving her husband and her family is not an oppressed woman. It’s all in the perspective. No, I didn’t say we exist solely to please men. That’s where the message gets skewed. But happy families make for happy children. Happy, of course, is shorthand for well-adjusted, positive contributors to their community, to society, to the world.

Liberation — from what? Is there greater freedom than being free from the fetters of contraception? From dependence on a combo of chemicals designed in a pharmaceutical laboratory, whose owners are more concerned about profit than they are about protecting your body from disease? And when the only way that they could sell it to you is to tell you that the natural function of your body — preparing for motherhood — is a MALFUNCTION that needs curing?

Empowerment is nonexistent where women are imprisoned by language that deceives.

Those of us who are able to embrace our womanhood, every single bit of it — the fact that we are often physically “the weaker sex”, the fact that we have wombs meant to carry babies, the fact that we think and feel and relate differently to people and situations — are happy because we don’t have to be anything other than our authentic selves. As St. Catherine of Siena puts it, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” That’s exactly what Mama Mary did. She was the ultimate pro-choicer AND pro-lifer! She chose to say YES to God’s proposal. She chose to carry, in her womb, God Incarnate! Feminists complain about not having influence and power. Well, what do they think of Mary, who probably taught Jesus to wash his hands after playing and to eat his veggies? They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. In a lot of ways, it’s true. We women are powerful in so many ways — but most of the focus has been on what’s visible, tangible and quantifiable. And that’s where we make the biggest mistakes. Empowering women means more than money, or recognition or any of the other “gods” that are held up these days for us to worship. Real empowerment of a woman means seeing her true worth as God’s creation, as a daughter of the King, as someone whose real home isn’t here on earth but in heaven.


I do have “references”, but they are quite basic:

Mulieris Dignitatem — which apparently is considered a hate document by many feminists,

The Authentic Catholic Woman,

The Privilege of Being a Woman,

and the collective wisdom and example of the moms at our homeschooling forum.

Often, I look to my mom’s example since she IS a happy woman.

And of course, more than anything or anyone I try to look at Mama Mary’s example, and through the years of learning from other Catholic wives and moms, I’ve learned to ask more and more when faced with decisions, “What Would Mary Do?”. There is one definite answer: she followed God’s will.

Homosexuality and Real Solutions

sexualrevolution

In Part 1, I talked about the band-aid solutions offered by popular culture being inadequate to address the prevention of same-sex attraction/homosexuality itself.

Speaking to those causes listed by the Catholic Medical Association, I’d like to make the following suggestions, based on 22+ years of parenting experience, the collective wisdom of the parents and fellow Catholics I’ve networked with over the years, and books/authors that I’ve/we’ve read and that helped us in our parenting journey.

  • Parents need to learn how to be parents. If you come from a family where you weren’t exposed to positive parenting, network with like-minded parents who can give you information and guidance. Don’t be afraid to look at fruits. If they have kids who are polite, seem to be well-rounded and well-adjusted, have a positive outlook in life, are even-mannered, these are indications that the parents are doing something right. Ask them what they do. Your faith community would be a good place to start networking with other parents. There are family programs out there — look for them. One example is CFC-FFL. If you’ve got a homeschooling network in your community, that may be a good place to start as well; homeschooling parents tend to be very committed to their roles as children’s primary educators. Even if you don’t homeschool, you can learn a lot from them.
  • Parents need to be secure in their own sexuality. Network with parents who are clear examples of authentic femininity or masculinity, and who are not afraid or apologetic about their womanliness or manliness.
  • Addressing physical separation: For Catholics, I think it is essential that we educate ourselves on Catholic Social Doctrine. Children should not have to endure prolonged physical separation from their parents. Unfortunately, many are forced to endure this because of work. I think that one of the solutions we need to talk about as a society is how to bring the parent home. If this is an unavoidable situation, then the parent who stays home with the child needs to find suitable mentors within the community, within a parent network, within the Church, where children can be exposed to positive role models. Of course, this can be tricky especially in the current moral climate, so remaining ever-vigilant is key.
  • Many of the statements I’ve seen from LGBT reveal destructive behaviors of the father — abandoning the family, “starting over” with a second family, being an alcoholic, exposing children to pornography, etc. In one news article I read, a father beat up his own son after the son revealed that he was homosexual. These are parental behaviors that need to stop.
  • Parents, your children need to see you being affectionate with each other. It is in the home that they are first exposed to healthy expressions of love for each other — if mom and dad aren’t modeling these behaviors, where would they learn? We are educating our children with our actions, even more so than with our words.
  • Don’t skimp on physical expressions of love for your children. Hugs are spiritual and emotional vitamins, they need them on a daily basis. We give each other back rubs here at home; they do the spirit good.
  • Don’t forget four essential words/phrases: Please, Thank You, Sorry, I Love You. Say them often, say them and mean them. (If you think about it, these are the same sentiments found in the Lord’s Prayer, except we’re addressing them to our Heavenly Father.)
  • A shoring up of marriage and family is sorely needed. Develop an awareness of what’s happening globally in relation to parental rights and traditional marriage. There are many laws being proposed and advanced that undermine marriage and family. Our help is needed if we are going to stem the tide.
  • The parent-child connection needs to be established early on. One way to do this is to support/practice breastfeeding. Learn about Attachment Parenting. Network/share ideas with parents who practice this as well. Filipinos are naturals at this since it’s usually the way we were raised (family bed, close ties, etc.).
  • Addictions like alcoholism or substance abuse need to be addressed professionally. These are highly destructive to the family and will likely start/perpetuate a cycle that could have dire consequences.
  • Commit to spending time together as a family. Family dinners are a great way to connect with everyone at the end of the day. Guard this time fiercely. There should be nothing interrupting it like social media (cell phones at the table are a no-no).
  • Be picky about your friends and about your children’s friends. There is nothing wrong with this. You don’t choose to be friends with everyone, do you? Teach your kids to choose wisely.
    From Colleen Hammond:  http://www.colleenhammond.com/
    Used with permission, from Colleen Hammond: http://www.colleenhammond.com/
  • Read good parenting books, such as Hold On to Your Kids. More info here. You can listen to the first chapter here. Below are sample videos of the authors. You can find more on YouTube.

  • Be careful what you allow into your home. If you wouldn’t allow a prostitute into your home, there should be no reason you allow pornography into your home. If you are viewing pornography on your computer and you think your kids aren’t seeing you, think again. If you don’t want your child to read a certain book, or watch a certain movie, or listen to a certain song, ask yourself, what makes it right for ME to read/watch/listen to it?
  • Pray, pray, pray. Teach your children the power of prayer. Cultivate the habit of prayer in them by praying a family Rosary nightly, for instance. Say grace at meals.
  • Let them fall in love with the saints. They are powerful examples of people who chose to swim against the tide, often at great odds, to follow Christ. They will not lead your children astray.
  • Protect your child from harmful teasing, either from yourself, from siblings, or from other people. Teasing has different effects on children, depending on their particular sensitivities, personality, temperament. Some teasing can actually be perceived as a subtle form of bullying. Avoid inflicting emotional hurt; often these have the most devastating effects of all. A helpful book — life-changing, really — about learning to be a kinder, gentler parent is The Hidden Power of Kindness. If your child comes to you with a complaint that he is being teased, discuss ways on how he/she can respond; if necessary, talk to the parent of the teaser. That is your job.
  • Learn appropriate ways of expressing anger. I tend to be a yeller, so over the years, I’ve had to learn to tame this monster. I still have occasional outbursts; it’s something that needs to be worked on constantly. For Catholics, prayer, the Sacraments, getting to know the saints, are all immensely beneficial. If necessary, seek professional help.
  • Read up. There’s no reason in this information age not to be able to find help to help you improve your parenting skills. Fathers for Good is a good website. So are Catholic Mothers Online and Catholic Mom. There are many others.
  • Remember that your children are not yours, they are on loan from God. They are not your mini-me, and their personal journey will probably look very different from yours. They will make mistakes, just like you.
  • If you find you need to change something in yourself or your child, focus on one behavior at a time. If, let’s say, you go out and drink on a weekly basis with your friends, consider cutting that time down to once a month so you can spend more time with your children. Parents should ideally be spending the bulk of their time with family anyway, but I see this phenomenon happening everywhere, where parents still act like they’re singles even when there are children needing their time and attention. Know that how much time you spend your children will have lasting effects on their psyche.
  • If you don’t seem to have the communication skills necessary to effectively communicate with and parent your child, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is a classic that has helped countless parents. Some of it will come naturally to you, others will take work. At some point after you practice the skills in the book, you’ll find a way to personalize the techniques and make them your own.
  • When talking to your kids, speak from the heart. Nothing touches your child quite like knowing that you’ve been where they are. Share your sufferings from when you were young, tell them how you coped. If you’ve suffered from same-sex attraction, been addicted to pornography, etc., figure out a time when you can talk to your child about these things — you know best when they’re psychologically, mentally, spiritually prepared for that talk. But don’t wait until it’s too late.
  • Find wholesome ways to occupy your time. Sports are good. If your child isn’t interested in team sports, consider an individual sport like martial arts, where they can go at their own pace.
  • Find out and cultivate your child’s interests. If you can find a common interest you can pursue together, so much the better. In our home, it’s been martial arts and scouting. Find ways to bond outside the home.
  • Demonstrate moderation and self-control; your kids are watching you. Watch for addictive tendencies and behaviors.
  • Early on, encourage a positive view of the human body and sexuality. How you talk about sexual topics will affect how they see things. Catholic parents need to immerse themselves in the teachings found in JPII’s Theology of the Body. Talking about the beauty and sacredness of sex in marriage is not something we should be shying away from as parents, so if we don’t have the language or terminology to address these issues adequately, then this needs to become priority ASAP. There are way too many people out there eager to educate our children on things we are not willing or ready to educate them on.
  • Lastly, unconditional love and acceptance of children. This should go without saying, but sadly, very much forgotten today. Whatever problems our kids have to go through — bullying, a mean teacher, peer pressure, same-sex attraction, etc., we need to establish a relationship with them BEFORE THE PROBLEMS COME, so that WE are the first people they approach for help. We need to be their first line of defense.

Essential Reading:

Gravissimum Educationis
Divini Illius Magistri
Casti Connubii

Related Post: 100 Ways to Rebuild the Culture of Life

Love Means Forgiveness: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

inexcusable

we do not react to evil with more evil.

Need to remember this, especially in those moments when I’m fatigued, and that’s the moment when a child chooses to throw a tantrum, or talk back, or just plain be obnoxious. THAT is not the time to react with anger. That’s the time to take it to prayer. Or at least breathe out a “Jesus, help me!” or “Come, Holy Spirit!” before saying or doing anything I might regret later. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still have those moments when I could have held my tongue or acted more like the adult I’m supposed to be.

blessing our persecutors, we react to something wrong with something good

”If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also. Let him remember that when he says the Pater Noster, every day, instead of asking pardon for his sins, he is calling down vengeance on himself.” – St. Philip Neri

This is a lesson I need to master before I get back to engaging online. In the two years we’ve been battling it out online against anti-lifers, the greatest difficulty always has been determining how to proclaim the Truth out there without making things worse, without pushing people to the point where they just shut down and won’t hear another word, without inciting more anger and hatred. It gets very frustrating and exhausting to try and hash it out with people on Facebook or Twitter, when the minute you mention God or religion a door is automatically slammed in your face and you’re branded a bigot. How do we bless these people? How do we react to it with goodness and kindness? After two years I’m afraid I still don’t have any answers besides prayer. I pray that they get to the point where they are at least open to hearing an opposing opinion once again — especially coming from those who look at everything with the eyes of faith. When the walls come tumbling down, that’s the only time when real conversation, real dialogue, real conversion can happen. And it’s not going to be because WE are right and THEY are wrong, it’s going to be because we helped each other get to the TRUTH.

unlimited forgiveness

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. – St. John Chrysostom

Talk about sainthood!!

We recall that this forgiveness is an act of the will which we can control with grace. It is compatible with continuing to feel hurt….

And there’s the catch. Continuing to feel hurt is a human response — it’s natural. What I’m called to do is to reach out DESPITE THE HURT, to go BEYOND the hurt, because THAT’s where holiness is, that’s where LOVE is. When we cross the bridge from “I don’t want to get hurt” to “I will get hurt, but I still choose to respond with love” — that’s when we begin to make a difference. That’s when we show the face of Christ to others. Until that moment, we wear nothing but masks.

If the offender is also trying to live the gospel, he welcomes the admonition (which should be offered gently and be motivated by love). Hopefully he does not explode with indignation (Prov 9:7-9). Each one genuinely listens sympathetically to the other’s view of the matter. They both change for the better. People who are deeply converted live this way.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
– St. Francis of Assisi

Throughout this whole book, I must admit to being a bit frustrated with the way Fr. Thomas Dubay presents marriage. I can’t help but think sometimes — we’re past this. Hubby and I haven’t fought in YEARS. We have disagreements now and then, sure, but nothing that lasts more than a few hours. After being married this long, we’ve both come to the conclusion that some things are just not worth fighting over. Plus we really really like enjoying each other’s company. I also had great examples in my mom and dad. But I can see how so much of this teaching is necessary today. Ten years ago, we certainly weren’t the people we are today. Spiritual maturity is like a ladder, and my husband and I have been climbing it together. Had we not been through the struggles of the previous rungs, we might not be able to endure the kinds of crosses we are asked to bear now. Deep conversion had to happen years ago in our marriage, so that today we can move forward and carry our crosses, individually and together, with dignity and grace, instead of falling apart.

Humility and a Shared Vision: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

shared

Continuing to read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer. Pages

The second main root of conflict is seldom even noticed in our day. It is called illuminism. – emphasis mine

I like to call this form of the aberration the privileged-pipeline-to-God idea.

It is clear that disagreements with an illuminist spouse, relative, friend, fellow worker or parishioner will go nowhere until humility enters the picture — and that requires conversion.

The final root of suffering in communal life is a lack of what the New Testament calls having “one mind”, or as we now term it, a shared vision about the main issues of life: God, religion, why we exist at all, the principles of morality, the nature of one’s state in life and its obligations, a balanced use of money, chastity, raising of children, what real love is and is not.

Saints do not fight at all (in this sense). Once again the New Testament therapy alone works adequately. The conflicts of which we are speaking in this chapter are fully healed or case only when deepening conversion happens.

The gospel picture of beautiful human community is not only largely absent from secular thinking, it is not nearly as prominent in our popular Christian milieu as it ought to be.

Some thoughts to take away from all this:

Humility is key in any relationship.

– I don’t have all the answers.
– I readily admit to the fact that I could be wrong about this.
– I am open to your ideas and new possibilities.
– Just as I seek to be understood, I also seek to understand.
– I try to see things from your perspective.
– I try to put myself in your shoes.

Shared vision is essential.

– We can work on this together.
– If we can’t agree about this now, let’s set it aside and talk about it again tomorrow.
– Where do we see this issue, and ourselves, 5, 10, 15 years from now? How do we get there together?
– What is our ultimate goal here? Let’s not lose sight of that.
– Your ideas and my ideas, put together, can be beautiful, cohesive, exciting.
– Shared vision means we can come to an agreement that works for both of us. And that means we come out of this stronger, wiser, closer. Shared wisdom is also a good thing.
– The world has enough strife. Let’s not allow it to conquer us here. Home is our haven from all that.

“Make Yourself a Capacity, and I Will Make Myself a Torrent”: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

josephmary

Nor do all couples fight — many do and a few do not. What is hellish are marriages in which the spouses are not living according to the divine plan, or they are not deeply converted from their sins, mortal and venial.

I’ve been putting off writing this post because I’ve written a lot lately about how great my marriage and my husband are. One of the things brought up at the forum was other moms’ hesitance to be so vocal about their happy marriages — because being vocal somehow may offend others or make them feel bad if their own marriages aren’t as happy… or it could be misinterpreted as bragging. I do agree there is that factor to consider and I vacillate as well when I make these posts. But then I go back to the 50% divorce rate so often quoted in articles, and I don’t think that muting ourselves is the answer. I don’t think we are doing marriage any favors when we keep quiet about how and why our marriages work.

p. 63

Jesus himself plainly said that it is by our love that the world will come to know that we are his disciples (Jn 13:35). A saint is homilist without saying a word, a powerful proclamation of revealed truth and splendor.

I am reminded anew of a friend’s reassurance that the way we help promote the culture of life is just by living the way we live. If we live lives of authentic love, we can change the world.

Saint Catherine of Siena (in her letter 368) remarked that “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” Saints do indeed light fires — and the reason is the title of this volume.

p. 64, on deep conversion and deep prayer:

They are not merely juxtaposed, one next to the other. Each one helps to bring about the other. The more we are rid of our egocentrisms the more we are opened to the divine infusions of love and intimacy.

why profound conversion? It triggers inexpressible joy. If one doubts this, let him try it.

– LOVE LOVE LOVE this quote.

While I can’t say I’ve been 100% converted (still have a lot to work on obviously!!) I’ve found that the more I commit to following Him the more I experience REAL, OVERFLOWING JOY in my life. It doesn’t happen every day, but I notice that it happens most often when I put Him and His will FIRST above all else.

It is difficult to believe that advocates of abortion do not see that any sin is pro-choice, or it would not be a sin. The rapist is pro-choice, or it would not be a sin. The rapist is pro-choice, and so are the thief and adulterer and the liar.

Genuine love is self-sacrificial.

Genuine love means, “I desire your well-being… and all that that implies.” Lord, help me to live this every single day, and help me to love everyone that You put in my path, with a genuine love.

He is always endlessly lovable even when the neighbor is ugly, hurtful or an enemy.

Oi. I need to remember this often, esp. these days when anti-life people, or even some of the ones close to me, are being petty or whiny or just plain not-as-lovable as other days.

But the supreme example, the matchless exemplar of real love, is Jesus being slowly tortured to death on his Cross out of nothing but a total self-gift for you and me. The Crucifixion and all that went before it is, in our universe the supreme horror and the supreme beauty.

Sigh. Speechless before this Truth.

This too:

Real love is uncommon in our world because full conversion is uncommon.

And this:

The Lord’s statement to Blessed Angela of Foligno applies likewise to all of us: “Make yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent.” With his grace we open ourselves by deep conversion and he eagerly pours out by his Spirit a deluge of love (Rom 5:5).


Two posts/articles today that caught my eye — they both write about how beautiful marriage can and ought to be:

From Leila, who is reading through Casti Connubii, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter:

Husbands: Your wife is making a sanctuary for you, as well as all the other things she does. Your home. This sanctuary is hidden from most. But it is your delight. Belittle this gift at your peril.

Wives: Your husband is making it possible for you to be a maker of a sanctuary, the heart of what you build together. If you tear it down with your own hands, you are tearing out your own heart. (Proverbs 14)

And, like my husband, this guy gets it: I’m a Guy and I’ll Never Badmouth My Wife.

Here’s my challenge to the real men out there; it’s very simple. If you have a good marriage, talk about it.

Unless those of us who love our wives (and thus, our lives) make a conscious change to the way we speak of them, unless we begin choosing to elevate and praise our spouses instead of denigrate, we will be letting an incredibly corrosive self-perpetuating societal meme destroy the very institution that defines our lives.

Yup, he gets it.

Scripture, Beauty, Art, Chesterton: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

Today’s reading was a bit WOW for me, I’m kinda left speechless, so I’m limiting my “response reflection” to music and art.

Here’s where I “journeyed” today…. some of my favorite Scripture verses. I thought it would be interesting to meditate on the beauty of God’s word, both the words themselves, in the Latin, in today’s English, and as interpreted by artists and musicians, old and new.

1 Corinthians 15:55
Ubi est, mors, victoria tua? Ubi est, mors, stimulus tuus?
O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

Resurrection by Carl Bloch
Resurrection by Carl Bloch

Isaiah 9:6
Parvulus enim natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis, et factus est principatus super humerum ejus : et vocabitur nomen ejus, Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri sæculi, Princeps pacis.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”


Luke 2:11
Quia natus est vobis hodie salvator, qui est Christus Dominus in civitate David.
For to you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.


Revelations 21:5
Et dixit qui sedebat in throno: Ecce nova facio omnia. Et dicit: Scribe. Quia haec verba fidelissima sunt et vera.
And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”


Matthew 10:29-31
Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro. Vestri autem capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt. Nolite ergo timere: multis passeribus meliores estis vos.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.


Matthew 19:14
Jesus vero ait eis: Sinite parvulos, et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire: talium est enim regnum cælorum.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Suffer the Little Children by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein
Suffer the Little Children
by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein

Luke 11:15-32
In Latin and English: The Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
The Return of the Prodigal Son
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Mark 9:23 (24)
Et continuo exclamans pater pueri, cum lacrimis aiebat: Credo, Domine; adjuva incredulitatem meam.
Whereupon the father of the boy cried aloud, in tears, Lord, I do believe; succour my unbelief.

Matthew 8:26
Et dicit eis Jesus: Quid timidi estis, modicæ fidei? Tunc surgens imperavit ventis, et mari, et facta est tranquillitas magna.
But Jesus said to them, Why are you faint-hearted, men of little faith? Then he rose up, and checked the winds, and the sea, and there was deep calm.

These aren’t exact matches, but what I often think of when I read/hear these passages.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas Caravaggio
The Incredulity of St. Thomas
Caravaggio
St. Peter Walking on Water Alessandro Allori
St. Peter Walking on Water
Alessandro Allori

John 2:5
Dicit mater ejus ministris: Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite.
And his mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.

The Marriage Feast at Cana Bartolome Esteban Murillo
The Marriage Feast at Cana
Bartolome Esteban Murillo

1 Corinthians 13
In English and Latin

1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13, Custom Calligraphy available at Etsy

cute versions here

One of these days I’d like to design and illuminate my own.


I am spending the rest of the evening reading and meditating on G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man (Part 2, 2 and 3).

Why I Love My Spouse/Why I Love God: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

yesterday's rose (for the 15th, our monthly anniversary), one of countless roses the hubby has given me
yesterday’s rose (for the 15th, our monthly anniversary), one of countless roses the hubby has given me

Years ago, I was in one of those moods, and I asked my husband why he loved me.
His response? “Because you love me.”
I was quite perturbed by his response. “What are you saying, you only love me because I love you? That’s the best you can do?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Well, do you have other reasons for loving me?”
Silence.
“I guess I was expecting something like, ‘Because you make me laugh’…”
“Okay, because you make me laugh.”

I don’t know that I ever got what I wanted to hear. 😀

As I’ve matured through the years, I’ve realized it doesn’t matter what his answer is. I know I am loved, period. I know that he loves me — all of me — my insecurities, my inadequacies, my faults, my quirks.

As I’ve matured, I’ve found too, that I can respond that way now. I love him because he loves me.

Fr. Dubay writes about how conversion happens….

More commonly the path to truth and moral goodness is gradual.

…. and the motivation behind people’s conversions.

That simple fact points to the sheer goodness and beauty of the saints, those who live heroically well what Catholicism is and teaches… Only truth can produce these heroes and heroines with their burning love, radiant chastity, overflowing generosity, exquisite patience and fortitude, all that is lofty and noble. They are prime illustrations of the evidential power of beauty.

Yes, this. I’ve said before that I’m married to a saint, or an angel. He is indeed a beautiful soul, after 23 years I still don’t know what I did to deserve him.

People like Newman who study ecclesiastical history are aware of this symphony of beauty. They are struck with the wholeness, the unity and the inner radiance of divine revelation as it is preserved in the magisterial office established by Jesus himself Honest intellectuals seem especially attracted to the coherence, completeness and consistency of this otherworldly phenomenon.

… which made me think of another quote from another saint:

Late have I loved you, o Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. – St. Augustine

There are many reasons I love God, but I suppose I can’t adequately put them into words either. It’s not just because He’s powerful and almighty and because He’s my Creator and my Deliverer and my King… often, I love Him simply because He loves me. He loved me first, and He continues to love me even when I am at my most unlovable.

And herein lies the motivation: I love because there can be no other response. No other response at all to be made, but that I love Him back.

I could probably write volumes on how God has infused the world with Himself, with BEAUTY. My friend, for instance, found God in a coral reef.

In the next few weeks, as part of my Lenten journey, I will stop and find five beautiful things each day that speak to me of God’s Beauty and Love.


More thoughts on Love, Husbands and Fatherhood:

Fathers
Happy Father’s Day and A Short Tribute to Two Fathers
The Forgotten Paternal Instinct

and a couple of threads from our homeschooling forum that I was reminded of as I wrote this post:

HELP! Marriage Stories of HOPE, Please
husband as best friend

Soulmates / Soul Mates in Catholic Doctrine

Our online pro-life group started a discussion over the weekend on “soulmates”. It took several interesting turns, and many participated, but I don’t know that we completely addressed the gist of the OP’s question:

He asked:

The popular saying goes: may nakalaang tao ang Diyos para sa iyo (in the romantic sense). In other words, soul mate. Question: is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?

There are actually three questions being asked here.

1) Did God plan for a special someone for you, in the romantic sense?
2) OP: “In other words”, soulmate?
3) Is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?

I will not address the first question in this blog post because I think it deserves its own post, but I’d like to address the concept of “soulmate”.

Soulmate, wikipedia tells us, is “a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity, similarity, love, sex, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, or compatibility.” Urban Dictionary provides us with several user-submitted definitions. The Marriage section at About.com offers several fascinating, albeit strange, ideas. And XKCD, one of my daughter’s favorite humor sites, debunks the whole concept mathematically. (ETA: Oh, and there’s a really funny video that explains the whole thing “musically”, if you would prefer that.)

The term is obviously prone to a number of interpretations, as seven people in our close circle came up with seven different answers:

When I think of soulmate, I automatically zero in on the word “soul”, and knowing what the Church teaches on marriage, I have no problem thinking of my spouse as my main soulmate. However, I also recognize the presence of several souls, past and present, in my life, who have helped/are helping me in my faith journey, and so I cannot completely discount the fact that we make our way to heaven not just with the help of one person, but many persons, including the saints, who continue to be part of the Church even after they’ve left this earth. The people at XKCD, of course, do not share this view.

But OP asked, “Is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?” The answer is YES, and because the question of soulmate takes on greater importance for people who are either still searching for a life partner or are considering settling down, I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief compilation of what the Church has to say about this.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1643 “Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.” (boldface mine)

That comes directly from Blessed JPII’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, where this specific quote begins beautifully with

Like each of the seven sacraments, so also marriage is a real symbol of the event of salvation, but in its own way. “The spouses participate in it as spouses, together, as a couple, so that the first and immediate effect of marriage (res et sacramentum) is not supernatural grace itself, but the Christian conjugal bond, a typically Christian communion of two persons because it represents the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and the mystery of His covenant. The content of participation in Christ’s life is also specific:

In Familiaris Consortio JPII speaks several times about the soul and this union of souls in marriage; I highly recommend reading the whole thing. There are two sentences that move me particularly:

As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.

On human sexuality and the use of NFP:

In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension, and is never “used” as an “object” that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.

In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of love and the problem of language:

Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word “love”: we speak of love of country, love of one’s profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbour and love of God. Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison. So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities? (boldface mine)

And this! This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the unity between spouses, bodies and souls:

This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. The epicure Gassendi used to offer Descartes the humorous greeting: “O Soul!” And Descartes would reply: “O Flesh!”. Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love —eros—able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur. (boldface mine)

It is good to reflect on the profundity of that statement and on how it emphasizes the sacredness of the marriage bond. Even if a soul could “love” another soul, such love can only ever be an un-whole love, since fidelity in marriage demands that the WHOLE person, BOTH body and soul, love ONLY ONE.

And then of course, there’s Pope Pius XI’s Casti Connubii:

By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life. (boldface mine)

There are other sublime messages from Venerable Fulton Sheen and Tertullian.

And so while we do not find the exact term “soulmate” in Catholic teaching, we are taught nonetheless that in the Sacrament of Matrimony there is a knitting of souls, a joining, a uniting. I am therefore compelled to conclude that there *is* such a thing as a Catholic concept of soulmate, different though it is from what the secular world assumes it to be. I realize this is not very helpful to one who is still searching, as this joining of souls happens in the Sacrament itself.

Thankfully, Jason and Crystalina Evert of chastity.com, took this concept and developed it into a book, which might be helpful for some. Now I have not read the book, and I have no idea if they even address the Catholic-ness of “soulmate” within it, so I’ll leave it up to readers to figure that out. Here’s the accompanying study guide for Crystalina’s book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul.

And since we’re talking about souls and soulmates, I’ll end with this song that my hubby says is his song for me 🙂 .

LOVE always trumps “right”.

This is something my CFC-FFL sister Cynthia shared with us last Sunday. It’s particularly apt for me as I work on being MORE LOVING this Lent, and less exacting.

It’s a reminder I need for my everyday dealing with family members, with extended family, with friends online and off, and yes, even with strangers. Even the one who cuts me off on the highway.