About Sarah Galvin

I have been married to Gary for 10 years and we have three children - with one on the way. I stay home with the kids and wouldn't trade it for the world.

We have a Vocational Shortage to the Sacrament of Marriage.

I came across an interview with Cardinal Dolan a couple of days ago.  He was speaking about challenges that will await our next Pope.  He says we have a “major problem with vocations  and not just with the priesthood and religious life. … [w]e have a vocational shortage to the sacrament of marriage.”  Cardinal Dolan added that Catholics are marrying at the same low rate as the general population and are divorcing at close to the same rate as well.

Faced with these facts and this obvious reality what are we as Catholics to do? The whole idea of shifting a cultural perception about something as common as marriage can seem insurmountable.  Have we ever been at a time in human history where we more desperately needed to spread the beautiful message of Theology of Body?

This Lent I’ve been reading Kimberly Hahn’s book, Life-Giving Love  Embracing God’s Beautiful Design for Marriage.  She does a wonderful job of explaining the beauty of the sacrament of marriage, and she does it in a way that recognizes the day-to-day challenges of married couples.  I’ve learned a lot from her simple wisdom and would definitely encourage you to read her book.  Even though the book is several years old it is very relevant.  Her advice is timeless.

You can’t read Kimberly Hahn’s book and not come away with a greater respect and appreciation for the sacrament of marriage.  If more people, married and unmarried, understood the true beauty that can come from living the sacrament the way God intended we would not be in the middle of a vocational crisis.  We can save marriage from the attacks of a secular world.  The change begins with you.  With me.  One marriage at a time.  That’s where we have to start.

How Do We Practice Humility in our Marriage?

What does it mean to practice humility in our marriage?  In Fr. Adam’s homily last Sunday he reflected on this virtue and I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week.  One of the first thing that comes to mind as I reflect on my own humility (or Iack thereof) as it relates to marriage is that famous letter from Paul to the Corinthians.  Love is many things but when practicing humility in our love we must be honest about our own weaknesses.  It’s easy to fall into a pattern of judgment within our marriage.  For example, he didn’t do that.  She is mad at me for no reason. This fight was his/her fault.  I think we can all agree that this is not the love and humility that God asks from us when He calls us to the Sacrament of Marriage.

If we are humble, we are more able to love unconditionally.  God created us in His likeness and He wants us to be like Him.  No doubt I’ve said the term “unconditional love” hundreds of times but not until recently did I really think about what those words actually mean.  Oftentimes you hear the phrase that marriage is a “2 way street” meaning that both husband and wife need to give 50% to make a marriage work.  There is definitely some truth that this but when we love unconditionally, don’t we love without demanding something in return?  Isn’t that the way God loves us?  Despite our human frailty and weakness God loves us.  Although he desperately wants our love in return, He places no conditions on His love for us.  So, in our human attempts to love unconditionally – especially our spouses, we shouldn’t place conditions on our love.  In simpler terms, love doesn’t keep score.

Knowing this truth is easy.  It’s putting it into practice that’s hard.  It is easier to give after we have received, and I guess it’s also easier to give when we know we will eventually receive in return.  What about our gift that won’t be reciprocal?  Isn’t this an example of the love and compassion that God asks of us?  Perhaps, God created us imperfectly so that we would recognize that in practicing compassion we most love as He loves.

During lent as we take the time to discern about our faith and prepare ourselves for Easter, we should also take time to reflect on God’s love for us.  For what greater sign of God’s love is there than the gift of His only son to eventually die on the cross and save us from our humanity.  While it is impossible in our human frailty to fully love as God loves, we must remember that He created us to Love like Him.  It is in giving of ourselves that we receive and what better way to give to our spouse than to love them as Jesus would.

Theology of the Body & Some Thoughts on Contraception

It’s a difficult thing to talk about – theology of the body.  For one thing, it’s very complicated and rooted in a deep theological understanding of the Church’s teaching on love and marriage.  But really it is so much more.  I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface and honestly, I dream of the day when I can really study and absorb this beautiful theology.

One of the big challenges with TOB is pretty basic – how do we live TOB in our day-to-day lives?  I attended the Vicki Thorn talk (which Bruce summarized in his most recent blog post) and I left there with a lot of questions.  She talked a lot about contraception.  This is most definitely a hot button issue these days, especially as it relates to the HHS mandate.  What exactly does it mean to be open to life?  What really are the consequences of not answering Christ’s call to this openness?  I thought a lot about the latter after Vicki’s talk last week.  She talked of course about the biological consequences of contraception, but it’s the spiritual and emotional effects, the unquantifiable realities, that got me thinking.

When we were first married, Gary and I didn’t  understand the Church’s teaching about contraception.  Sure, I knew Catholics had big families and obviously didn’t use birth control but I had no idea why.  It wasn’t until I started studying TOB that I even heard the term “openness to life” and it was then that I began to slowly appreciate what that actually means.

As Catholics haven’t we struggled with the “why” for years now?  Isn’t that, in part, the reason behind this New Evangelization that we hear so much about.  Generally speaking, I think we could all agree that Catholics as a whole haven’t done the best job in communicating the “why” behind much of our faith.  Perhaps that’s because we don’t know it?  Or at least we don’t know it well enough to feel like we can talk about it with any sense of authority.  As I reflect on my own formation as a young Catholic, I don’t think I really paid attention to the little details of my faith.  No doubt that we’ve realized that those details matter – a lot.

We live in a secular world full of deviated sexual attitudes that are so far removed from TOB that they pretty much are antithesis to the Church’s teachings on sexual love.  What are the consequences, as a culture – even a civilization, for our failure to understand what God intended about sexual love.  Most importantly what it IS and what it IS NOT.  How do we as Catholic Christians cloaked with the knowledge of TOB communicate this beautiful teaching to a world that doesn’t want to hear it?  A world in fact that believes that this teaching is bigoted and sexist.  When a friend (or acquaintance) tells me that she’s taking the pill, how do I communicate TOB without sounding like I’m judging her or her husband for the decision they made.

The million dollar question right?  A good place to start is just to talk about it I guess, or at least not be afraid to talk about it.  Those taboo topics.  Politics and religion are always off-limits right?  Well – not anymore.  We can’t justify glossing over the “details” of our faith anymore.  Sure it’s a lot easier and certainly more comfortable to blend in but we are called to do more.  It’s always been cool to be counter-cultural right?  Well, here’s our chance.  Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s not be afraid to talk about it.  But when we do let’s communicate in a way that reflects an underlying sense of love.  For that is what TOB is about really.  Love.  God’s love for us.  As we were reminded in the second reading yesterday, “Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I always dreamed I wanted a job, but what I really wanted was a vocation.

As a child we were all probably asked countless times, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Like many of you, my answer changed over the years.  I imagine, like my 4 and 6-year-old daughters, at one time I wanted to be a princess or a ballerina.  As I got older, I can remember wanting to be a doctor, a lawyer and I think even a professional athlete.  I don’t remember all the different answers I might have given, but I can most definitely tell you one thing I know I didn’t say.  I don’t believe I ever said I want to be a wife and mother.  Sure, when I was little I might have said I wanted to be a “mommy” but as I got older I would have never considered either one of those “vocations” to have been a primary responsibility.  Sure, I would have said, I’ll be a wife and mom but my “real” job will be … .

My oldest daughter is a Little Flower at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and I volunteered at her meeting last week.  Her principal, who is a Dominican Sister, spoke about vocation.  She told a room full of kindergarten through 6th grade girls that on a daily basis they witness the two primary vocations for women in the Church.  Obviously, the sister in the habit was an easy one, but the girls were a bit perplexed on the other one.  A priest … one little girl asked.  No, this second vocation is one that these beautiful young girls witnessed every day in the very own families – the vocation of wife and mother.  I came home that night and told Gary that I don’t ever remember anybody telling me as a young girl that being a wife or a mother was actually a vocation.  It wasn’t until we became parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and I started attending the Mothers For Children meetings that I ever heard anybody talk about being a mother as a vocation.  You mean that was enough?  I didn’t have to have some “other” label next to my name to really define who I was – let people know what I really do.

Why was I 30 before I ever even heard the term vocation not associated with a priest or a nun?  I suppose, like much of the moral decline in the country and around the world, it’s in many ways cultural.  I know that’s simplistic and there are many layers to this onion, but it’s the truth.

I am so grateful that my daughters won’t have to wait until they are 30 to understand that being a wife and mother is actually a vocation.  It’s enough.  It’s a calling.  It is arguably why God put us women here on this earth.  Now, that’s not to say that we women don’t have lots of amazing other gifts to offer the world, but if you take a real broad look at civilization and you boil it down to the absolute basics – everything begins with family.  If the center falls apart – nothing else matters.

So, here’s to all those women out there who have answered God’s call and who have decided that being a wife and a mother is their true vocation.  Society might not buy into this one yet, but I imagine that room full of beautiful young ladies I was with the other day will have something to say about that sometime down the road.

The Wisdom of Mother Teresa

“God hasn’t called me to be successful. He’s called me to be faithful.”

Mother Teresa left us with many inspirational thoughts, but this one really struck me for some reason.  I recently attended a Parish Mission at Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Father Ron Hoye.  On the night I was able to attend, Fr. Ron talked about discipleship.  He asked us to reflect on our own discipleship and specifically asked us to reflect on how we can offer the many beautiful gifts God has given us back to Him.

My faith journey has helped me realize that part of being “faithful” as Mother Teresa suggests, is about being “faithful” to my vocation as wife and mother.  As Father Ron mentioned during the Parish Mission, God does not ask that we be perfect disciples.  There is no such things as the “perfect” marriage or the “perfect” family, but He does ask that we at least try to be his disciples.

So what does that mean that I need to be the disciple God has called me to be?  How does that alter how I live out my life as wife and mother?  I certainly don’t have the answer to those questions and probably never will, but in my simple reflection I keep coming back to one word – love.

So, how can I as a wife and mother give back to Christ the beautiful gifts he has given to me?  Love.  Love my husband.  Love my children.  Love Christ.

A challenge

I came across an interview with Christopher West the other day.  He was asked a question that I am sure many parents struggle with – how do you introduce Theology of the Body to your children?  His response was profound.  Among other things, he said, “we can’t give what we don’t have. As parents, before we can pass the TOB on to our children, we have to immerse ourselves in it.”

His answer really struck me.  Gary and I cannot teach our children this beautiful theology until and unless we truly embrace the TOB – together.  As married couples and parents we cannot give to our children what we don’t already possess ourselves.  As Christopher West describes, evangelizing the TOB to our children is so much more than “the talk,” we must witness the TOB to our children.  As if parenting wasn’t hard enough!

Recently, the USCCB had its annual General Assembly.  In Cardinal Dolan’s address to the bishops he said “[w]e cannot engage culture unless we let Him first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us.”  He added that what is wrong with the world and what is wrong with the church “is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming … [w]hat’s ‘wrong with the world?’ is just two words: I am.”  Wow.  Very powerful, especially when we remember that Cardinal Dolan was speaking to a room full of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Dolan did not speak these words in the context of the TOB, but doesn’t it make perfect sense?  Take a minute to think about the secular meaning of sex and sexuality in our culture.  Let’s be honest here, most of us buy into at least part of it don’t we?  So, as Cardinal Dolan suggests, the true evangelization begins with “me.”  We must first allow Christ’s message of the TOB into our hearts.  If, and only if, we open our hearts to the beauty of Gods true love can we begin to evangelize to our families, our communities and the world.

Is your heart open?  Mine is … I think.

Saving Marriage

The recent election will have countless consequences, some of which we can anticipate and others we cannot.  One thing we know for sure is that as Catholics and Christians our religious liberty is most definitely under siege.  This administration has made it clear with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and its HHS mandate that it does not intend to afford Catholic institutions the religious freedom they deserve under our Constitution – and notably the religious freedom intended by our founding fathers.  Unfortunately, our Supreme Court and most specifically Chief Justice Roberts have given Catholics little hope that the ACA will be overturned in the Supreme Court.  Hopefully, as the specific provisions of the ACA come into practice there will be additional challenges to its constitutionality.  We can only hope that perhaps it will be struck down as unconstitutional on other grounds.

Recently, George Weigel wrote a compelling piece suggesting that Obama’s reelection has “created a crisis for the Catholic Church in the United States.” Weigel specifically addressed the attack on the Catholic institution of Marriage and provided a unique and compelling response to what he believes will be a full-out governmental attack on traditional marriage. He suggests that there should be a “serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not pre-emptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.”  He adds that “[m]any thoughtful young priests are discussing this dramatic option among themselves; it’s time for the rest of the Church to join the conversation.”

No doubt that in theory Weigel’s proposal makes sense but in practice it might prove to be a difficult move – and one that would certainly garner vicious criticism from our secular media.  However, I agree that the Church would be wise to anticipate the legalization of gay marriage and plan accordingly for its specific response and reaction.  Perhaps, as with the HHS mandate, Catholic Clergy will be forced into civil disobedience.

The New Evangelization means many things, but at its core doesn’t this “movement” call each of us to witness and evangelize the beauty of our faith to the world.  How can we do that if our religious liberties are being stripped from us and we are prevented from practicing our faith the way Jesus instructed us.  Complacency is NOT an option.  The stakes are too high.