Fr. Robert Barron on Sex, Love and God

We bring you a YouTube video featuring one of our favorite pastors, Fr. Robert Barron, who offers his counter-cultural thoughts on three of our favorite topics.  Here is a little about Fr. Barron from his Word on Fire site, for those of you who have not experienced him:

Father Barron is the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award winning documentary series about the Catholic Faith. The series has aired across the country on PBS and EWTN (and here at OLMC) and has been seen and broadcast in parishes, universities, schools and media outlets throughout the world. The documentary received a Christopher Award for excellence. Father Barron and Word on Fire will be releasing a highly anticipated new documentary “CATHOLICISM: The New Evangelization” in 2013.

Father Barron currently serves as the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary University of St. Mary of the Lake. He was appointed to the theological faculty of Mundelein Seminary in 1992, and has also served as a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was twice scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican.

Take nine minutes out of your life to appreciate the video.  And God bless you.

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Faith and Our Families of Origin

I recently shared a witness about conversion with our bible study group, reflecting on God in skyhow my faith journey got off to such an inauspicious start.  In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict encourages us, in studying the word of God as it relates to conversion, to examine a person’s upbringing, in order to understand his faith or lack thereof.

What about our social context?  The conditions of our birth and upbringing?  Many believe that, for most people, the die is cast by the age of three.  That how we relate to others as adults is determined early in our lives.  Those others, presumably, include Jesus Christ.

I grew up in the DC area, the only child of a vaguely Protestant mother and a father who was, technically, a Jew but who had adopted Presbyterianism because he enjoyed the homilies of a Scottish minister in northeast Washington in the 1950’s.  Dad’s mother was a Polish Jew, his father one of those guys who wore orange on St. Patrick’s Day.  Probably due to the tenor of the times, dad’s parents decided against raising him a Jew, or perhaps his mother did not observe her own faith. 

My mother felt I should have some religious training, much as she felt I should attend Cotillion, when I was 13.  One had no more impact on my life than the other, although I recall being more traumatized by having to touch girls at Cotillion than I was about having to attend weekly confirmation classes or church.  My best friend’s family was Lutheran, and Bobby would routinely pass out in church, being forced to sit in the front row, with its thin air and glowering ministers. 

I never had any such angst.  My parents were indifferent to religion, and therefore it was easy for me to blow it off.  I felt a certain disdain during my confirmation in 1965 in that I knew nothing about my faith, couldn’t recite two lines of the Creed, and yet was welcomed into the fold as a full member.  As soon as I was no longer forced to attend church, I stopped.  Unwittingly, I had adopted Groucho Marx’s quip that I wouldn’t join a club that would have ME as a member.  That club, for me, was the Presbyterian Church.

In a larger sense, that club was Christianity.  It took the Holy Spirit most of 30 years to put me on the path to becoming a functioning Christian.  It took 30 years of Nancy praying for me, as I was unwilling to pray for myself.Christine#1 image

If we are at a different place on our spiritual journey than is our spouse, the strategy is to reach for a place in which each partner is free to observe his or her beliefs with the full support of the other, if not participation.  For families with young children in which only one spouse attends church, it should be clear that the loving response of the spouse who chooses not to attend church is to take care of the children—all of the children if necessary—while the worshiping spouse prays for your soul and thanks God for the hour of peace, prayer and solitude that you gladly make possible.

But, as we’ve observed here before, we are called to help our spouses grow close to the Lord, not to grow perfect by ourselves.  

I entered into marriage as a spiritual savage, while Nancy entered into it as a closet Catholic.  We were products of our upbringing, but we did not think of these differences as issues that would threaten our marriage.  I didn’t, anyway.

Nancy’s growth along her own journey has had the effect of lifting me up, without my having felt lifted, feeling instead as if I’ve lifted myself.  Whether this was her intent, or whether she simply gave the entire mess up to The Holy Spirit, I don’t really know.  But the bottom line is that she has helped me grow closer to the Lord.

If differences like these are causing issues in your marriage, and you are the more spiritual one, it is up to you to pray for your spouse, to pray for your own unbelief, and to pray that God’s will, and The Holy Spirit’s design, is for the two of you to eventually travel on your spiritual path together.  In God’s time.

Stained GlassBe clear that you cannot make your spouse more religious.  The best you can do is to pray for him, and to help create space for The Holy Spirit to come into his or her life with an elbow or a shove.  Providing help in taking the first step toward reconciliation, with you and with God.

Exploring the faith beliefs you and your spouse brought into your marriage is kind of a fun way to spend an evening over a bottle of Cab Sav.  Understanding one another, at the most elemental level, is about understanding your spouse’s beliefs about God and Heaven and Hell and good works and tithing and raising kids Catholic and sacraments and religious freedom and right to life and about 100 other important subjects.

Luckily, you need not agree on these issues.  It is in your interest, however, to understand your own values and those of your spouse.  Unlike on Capitol Hill, where compromise has become a four letter word, in marriage the art of leaning into one another to effect compromise is a grace from God.  In sales, the expression is “keeping score raises the score.”  In our faith lives, the simple act of asking for God’s forgiveness raises us nearer to Him and brings us closer together as husband and wife.holding_hands

Do it for the Kids

Written by Christine Burrows

In this age of divorce, we hear lots of talk about staying together (or not) for the kids. I say we not only stay together, but work on making our marriages true sacraments for our kids’ sake. Each generation deserves an opportunity to be better at Christian living and growing in God’s favor.

CBurrowsphoto #3So, why not use our own marriages to help our kids make it to heaven? Just as we try to advance a culture of marriage in the wake of a rising tide of divorce and casual sex, we owe it to our children to establish this culture at home so that they see strong marriage as the norm, aspire to enter into a holy marriage one day, and see such a blessed union as a step toward heaven.

How do we do this? While I’m certainly not a pro, I’ll throw out some ideas to ponder:

  • Make your faith part of your family identity. Go to mass as a family. Regularly receive the sacraments together. Pray together. Read about saints and discuss the mass readings. Make sure your children know what it means to be a Catholic Christian so that they can explain it. And, just as importantly, try to help them see the marriage and the family as the core unit of their faith, and part of the larger community of the Church. This will help them begin to see faith as a central characteristic of their future spouse.
  • Talk to your children about sex and the church’s teachings on sex.  Do not leave this up to others – educators, friends, or the media. You will earn major points with your children even if you simply share with them the biology of their bodies BEFORE they learn it in health class. But, don’t stop there. Teach them about the beauty of marital sexuality so that they don’t become lured by extramarital sex and view birth control as normal. You don’t have to answer personal questions about your own sexuality, but do spin marital sex and the creation of babies as a true gift from God.
  • Be physically affectionate with one another in front of the children. I’m not suggesting groping in the kitchen and then running upstairs while the kids sit down to eat dinner. But, it’s certainly good for kids to see their parents hug, kiss, touch as a healthy way of being affectionate – versus witnessing on TV or in movies non-married people, sometimes even strangers, jumping into bed with one another and calling that affection or love.CBurrowsphoto #2
  • Encourage your children to think about their calling. It’s important to think of marriage (or religious life) as a vocation–something God has a say in– not just an event they get to participate in.  Speak openly with your children about why you got married to one another, and on what part of that decision you consulted God. If they think of marriage as a calling (not just a wedding day), they may begin to view dates and crushes as potential spouses who they might want to run by God before moving forward.
  • Surround yourselves with other married friends. Do this not only for yourselves, but for your children. Feed the culture of marriage so that you feel bolstered in being part of a community of people who believe in marriage and want to see marriages survive. As far as the kids go, they should see that there are plenty of married people whose marriage might look different from their parents, but are still clinging to one another. They also need to believe that marriage doesn’t put an end to friendship and fun.

CBurrowsphoto #1I have great hope for my children and their generation. While statistics don’t favor their ability to get married and stay married, I see a beautiful trend among them as they seek to find more meaning in their lives. They crave true intimacy and are beginning to see that casual sex isn’t the way to get there. So, let’s all join forces and give them some real inspiration – some hope in marriage that can reflect God’s true love for us through the gift of our spouses.

Let’s do it for the kids!

Don’t Ignore the Greatest Gift Given to Us – Love

And the greatest of these is love”.  This was a verse from the second reading of our wedding and most likely it was the second verse from your wedding too.  This verse comes from 1 Corinthians 13:13 when St. Paul explains that “Love never fails” and love is the greatest gift God gives us.

Recently, I came across a recent blog post by Fr. Robert Barron’s website, WordonFire.org titled “Sex, Love, and God: The Catholic Answer to Puritanism and Nietzcheanism”.  Fr. Barron starts off describing the shift in sexual morality in today’s society indicating that it is clearly declining and begins referencing the Book of Genesis and that God created us to love and be loved.  Think about it for a second.  Think about all the people you love and those that love you.  As humans it is engrained in our DNA to want to be loved and to love another.  No gift in the world and no other feeling can top the feeling of love.  So as I read Fr. Barron’s article I had to stop and reflect on how God’s gift of “love” is truly the greatest gift of all.

So how come love gets ignored in many sexual relationships?  Fr. Barron explains it as “The goodness of sexual desire is designed, by its very nature, to become ingredient in a program of self-forgetting love and hence to become something rare and life enhancing.  If you want to see what happens when this principle is ignored, take a long hard look at the hookup culture prevalent among many young — and not so young — people today. Sex as mere recreation, as contact sport, as a source only of superficial pleasure has produced armies of the desperately sad and anxious, many who have no idea that it is precisely their errant sexuality that has produced such deleterious effects in them. When sexual pleasure is drawn out of itself by the magnetic attraction of love, it is rescued from self-preoccupation.”

If we ignore the greatest gift given to us by God and only strive to “feel good” then we are truly missing out on something so wonderful that no one can describe.  So I hope you enjoyed Fr. Barron’s article and I hope you stop for a moment and experience the chills or goose bumps of being loved and loving.

God Bless.

The Four Major Hurdles to Marital Happiness, Part Two

Our previous post explored the challenges that children bring to a marriage, and some of the financial implications of living together as husband and wife.  This second piece focuses on two other subjects that married couples need to resolve lovingly, those being sex and the equitable sharing of household tasks.

About Sex

The Church’s teachings on sex and intimacy in marriage have evolved greatly over the past 25 years.  Historically, it was one of those things Catholics just didn’t talk about, as you could even get in trouble talking about it in some places, such as parochial schools.

Since the publication of Theology of the Body and the books that discuss it—The Good News About Sex and Marriage being first and foremost—there are many Catholic resources out there for couples seeking both physical and emotional intimacy in the marital bed. 

The Love’s Sacred Embrace retreats at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are centered on Theology of the Body, on connecting the physical and spiritual aspects of our marriages with Christ’s marriage to His Church.  If we ignore the spiritual side of our marriage, it’s easy to get caught up in the secular elements—the ones that come at you in the hundreds—that put a serious strain on relationships.

There will be plenty more posts on the topic of sex within sacramental marriage.  For now, let us simply acknowledge that our physical relationship with our spouse is a gift from God, an integral part of sacramental marriage.  As Catholics, we are called to celebrate our marriages—to our spouse, and as part of the Body of Christ—fully in both their spiritual and human aspects.

Last word on this subject—it’s okay to have sex with your spouse.  In fact, it’s VERY okay.  It is a living re-presentation of your marriage vows.  And do you even KNOW what The Touch of Eden is?  You’ll have to attend a retreat at OLMC to find out! 

About the Division of Labor

The commentary on the Mass two weeks ago addressed an idea that has been floating around in my head for awhile, but one that I’ve never been able to adequately express.  It is the Servant-Leader, and its importance was immediately visible to me as regards marriage enrichment.

Clearly, the commentary was focused on Jesus as the ultimate Servant-Leader, the savior who came to earth not to be served, but to serve.  This model, of service to the ones we love, is a perfect template for bringing harmony to our marriages.

The Division of Labor argument typically finds both spouses feeling put upon and unappreciated for all they do, and usually provokes some form of hostility.  In the background of this argument is the suggestion that neither spouse wants to do a heckuva lot more than what they’re already doing to keep the wheels on.  It is this orientation, which is completely human and understandable, that must be re-examined in order for couples to escape repeated instances of this dispute.

As with most things Christian, the answer is paradoxical.  The answer is to seek opportunities to serve your spouse, above and beyond the call, so to speak.  Volunteer to take early duty with the kids on both Saturday and Sunday one weekend.  Play checkers with his dad while he goes to a pub on Sunday to watch the Colts.  Come home early and make dinner for her book club.

Jesus was the model of the Servant-Leader, and we as husbands and wives are called to serve one another.  The side effect, of course, is that both spouses are happier, and a cycle of service can help these small acts of service become a way of life.  One that works both ways.  Not-so-random acts of kindness that anticipate needs and are offered up without being asked.  Leaning into one another, in small ways, rather than leaning away.

For those with too much to do, the answer is to seek one’s partner, and volunteer to do more.  Negotiate where the time will come from.  Seek “Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Appreciation” for your efforts.  Enlist the help of The Holy Spirit.  Your spouse will usually reciprocate, and offer to help you in some way, almost always without being asked.  Repeat, and repeat again.  Release the power of your faith.  Give it up, and see if The Holy Spirit doesn’t lighten your load.

Summary

If you and your spouse are spending a great deal of your time arguing, it may be that you could benefit from some coaching in some common areas of discord. The marriage enrichment ministry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel wishes to be a resource to help improve your marriage.  Our bi-annual retreats and monthly Marriage on Tap events are great places to meet other Catholic couples with similar concerns and an interest in creating an environment that supports marriage in our community.

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If things in your marriage have moved too far along for the kind of informal support we provide in this ministry, we recommend you seek help from Third Option, a Catholic support group for marriages in trouble.

It Takes Three to Marry – A Sermon from Fr. Barron

The readings from this past Sunday , October 7, 2012 reflected on love, sexuality and marriage. These readings are essential teachings on sex and marriage for our Catholic faith. Our parish priest, Fr. Adam, gave a wonderful homily about how we live in a culture with TV shows like “Modern Family” and “The New Normal” and it is up to the parents and their community to teach our children what a family and marriage is meant to be.

Oftentimes I listen to Fr. Barron’s sermons too on his website, WordOnFire.org on Monday while in the car or at home. His sermon for this past Sunday is titled “Sexuality, Love and Marriage” and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a 15 minute sermon and if you have a smartphone you can listen to it while on the go.

Listen to the Sermon’s MP3

Some major points that Fr. Barron includes in this sermon are:

  • Catholic are not against sex. It’s just the opposite.
  • There is nothing dirty about sex.
  • The physical pleasure of sex is our way into the scripture.
  • Love is what God is.
  • Everything in creation comes from love.
  • There are three to get married and if the third is eliminated then the marriage will dissolve.
  • Children are the fruit of all this.

I hope you enjoy listening to Fr. Barron’s sermon and when you are done with that you might find yourself getting deep into the valuable information he has on his website.

~God Bless~