Holy Matrimony, from Salvo Magazine

Unbeknownst to me until after I shared it, the link in the previous re-post “Be fruitful, multiply…and have a good time” came to us from Fr. Richard Doerr, the pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Father Richard must be catching up on his reading, as he has also provided this article from Salvo Magazine.

Holy Matrimony

Though the subject matter, and the conclusions, are similar, comparing Salvo Magazine to US News & World Report is like comparing Masterpiece Theater to Sesame Street.  This is a much more in-depth look at the relationship between one’s spiritual life and one’s sexual satisfaction.  Parts of it are, bluntly speaking, clinical.  It draws from a number of research studies and articles, ranging from The University of Chicago and C.S. Lewis to Redbook, and concludes that piety does not equal prudishness.  To the contrary, the subtitle–The Unexpected Connection Between Religion & Sexual Fulfillment–pretty much tells the story.

For me, the most encouraging part of these two posts, aside from the conclusions, is that we appear to be inching ever closer to the day when we will be able to share actual blog posts from Denise McGonigal and Fr. Richard, two of the most articulate voices in our parish community on the subject of sacramental marriage.  This blog went live back in January with the idea that both would be occasional contributors.  And while this hasn’t yet been the case, we seem to be making progress.  Christians across the globe have been awaiting Christ’s return for two millennia; followers of this blog can easily wait a few more weeks, or months, or years even, for the Holy Spirit to move our leaders to join this conversation.

Robin Phillips is the author of the book Saints and Scoundrels and is working on a Ph.D. in historical theology through King’s College, London.                                                         Robin blogs at http://robinphillips.blogspot.com.

Support Salvo Magazine here.

Be fruitful, multiply…and have a good time!

A recent U.S. News and World Report article offers yet another reason to attend church every week.  Several studies cited by USN&WR staffer Elizabeth Flock suggest that devout Catholics have more and better sex than any of the other demographic groups studied.  Leave it to Denise McGonigal, OLMC’s Director of Adult Religious Education and resident expert on The Theology of the Body to uncover, as it were, this gem of an article.Cute-Romantic-Love-Couple

The research studies themselves aren’t new, one having been published in 1992 and the other in 1994.  For those of you interested in crunching the numbers, you’ll find plenty of links to the studies, as well as the organizations that conducted them.  Plus, there’s a link to the Amazon page for a 2008 book that, were I not already Catholic, might send me running to sign up for RCIA.

Holy Sex!

Critics will contend that the studies are biased, that the sponsors have an axe to grind, etc. etc.  Bah!  The world’s full of critics.  Personally, I’m happy to find a small oasis in the desert of anti-marriage, anti-spiritual popular culture.  We are called to evangelize, and many of us find it hard to do.  Sharing this article with our unchurched brethren may be a step in the right direction.  Think of it as the good news about The Good News.

Here’s the article–

Devout Catholics Have Better Sex, Study Says

Group presents data showing those who go to church weekly have most frequent, enjoyable sex.

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.

Marriage and the Mass

By Christine Burrows

Last Saturday, Peter and I attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s monthly Marriage on Tap event. This month’s speaker was Dr. Tim Heck who spoke, admittedly on a fresh topic for him, about how marriage reflects the liturgy of the Mass. I hadn’t heard anything like this before, so I took some notes. Here’s my summary of Dr. Heck’s message.

Sacred LoveThinking about the elements of the Mass, Dr. Heck took each one and drew a comparison to marriage. For instance, the entrance song at Mass is intended to be a joyful coming together. We sing with enthusiasm and anticipation. In our liturgy of marriage, we should seek to re-enter it with a joyful spirit, welcoming what’s to come. Ideally, we should do this on a daily basis, regularly reaffirming our marriages as a celebration of God’s plan for mankind.

Get it? It kind of works! So, here are the other comparisons he drew:

  • The blessing: As the priest does at the beginning of Mass, spouses should offer one another words and prayers of hope and encouragement.
  • Penitential Rite: As we acknowledge our sins and sinfulness before God, we should pray for the grace to be Jesus to our spouses by being able to forgive at all times.
  • Gloria: Here’s where we give praise and honor and thanksgiving to God. Let’s hear an Hallelujah for our marriages! Shout it out, or at least live it out with true thanksgiving for the sacrament.
  • Liturgy of the Word: Just as we seek to have the Word of God penetrate our minds and orient us toward the eternal, we should seek to use our own words (spoken and written) to inspire our spouses and seek Godliness in one another.
  • Homily: As we hear the Word of God in the readings and Gospel, we turn to the homily to educate and motivate us. Similarly, we should weave God’s language into our dialogue with our spouses.
  • Profession of Faith: When we stand to proclaim our shared faith, we present ourselves as a community of believers. So, too, should our marriage profess our devotion to the sacrament and to each other.
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist: This one requires a whole lesson on Theology of the Body, but, in an abbreviated sense, it’s about physical union. When we receive the Eucharist, we physically bring Christ into ourselves. In the sacrament of marriage, we unite sacramentally and physically.
  • Sign of Peace: We may see this part of Mass as a simple greeting, but it’s also a way of reconciling with one another. In our marriages, we should bring peace to one another; reconcile and forgive often. Say (and mean) “I love you.”
  • Silent Contemplation: As we end Mass, contemplating the greatness of God and the privilege to join with Him in Holy Eucharist, so, too, are we called to reflect on and give thanks for our marriage. Breathe in the grace of the sacrament. 

What do you think? Does it work as a way to consider your own marriage sacramentally? I’m thinking it might be another way to reflect on how our faith and the rituals within it transcend the actions of attending Mass or rote prayer. When we have parallels to think about that tie us back to our “real lives” it often gives us a greater sense of wonder in the routine. I hope next time you’re at Mass, you remember just one of these and think about your marriage, and maybe head back home with a re-commitment your spouse.

God is Love

Do You Need God in Your Marriage?

Posted by one of our favorite guest bloggers, Anne Johnson Slamkowski.  Visit her blog when you have a chance, please.

I was sitting at a meeting the other night and several of the women were talking about how they were doing this “Husband Project” with their husbands (the book is “The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Man–on Purpose and with a Plan” by Kathi Lipp).  It involved following steps and treating your husband with respect (at least that is what I heard them say).  I liked the idea.  It certainly sounded like it was working for the most part for each of them.  It made me think about my own marriage relationship.  I am not sure I need a book to do good things for my husband, but I am also not so sure that Pete wants me to follow a book.  I think the premise is wise, but it might just miss the point of keeping your marriage alive.  There are varying statistics on the divorce rate in the USA, but it is somewhere between 40-60% depending on the area that you live.  That is HUGE – 40-60%.  WOW!

Busy-Parents

Pete and I have spoken at marriage retreats (in fact we are due for a speaking engagement coming up at our own church).  We have looked at our marriage from different viewpoints to see how we can make it better (which by the way, you always can improve upon your marriage).  We recognize that we speak different Love Languages (“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman).  We also admit readily that children thrown in with marriage complicate your relationship in good and bad ways.  In addition, let’s throw in your family of origin (the preconceived ideas that you bring with you into the marriage) and your communication skills, and let’s just say that marriage doesn’t seem to have much of a chance with all the baggage that we overload it with.  BUT overall Pete and I both would agree that our marriage has been strengthened tremendously in the last six years because God has become the center of it.  We finally realized that God must be part of our relationship in order for it to work.  Without God, our love for each other will be nothing but physical.  Mentally, we need God to make it all fall together.  We need God in our individual lives and our married lives in order for this to work.

No books, no steps, no love languages will ever equal what God does for your marriage. healthy habits happy homes Recognizing that God is part of the marriage will give you the mental and physical passion that is needed within the sacrament of marriage.

Colossians 3:12-19   So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

If we are going to fight to keep our marriages together in this country, we must find a way to put God first in our own lives.  We must find a way to put God in the midst of our marriage.  No marriage can survive (at least with joy and happiness) without God as part of it.  The Colossians verse above says, in order to be holy and beloved we must put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  How can we do any of that without God as part of our life?  How on earth can we forgive our loved ones and not hold grudges if God is not part of our life?  It goes on to say, “let the word of Christ RICHLY dwell within you.”  Richly gives me the feeling of soil that is ready to farm.  Once we let Christ dwell within us and get us ready for the seed of Marriage, then we are ready to produce a beautiful family that will survive anything.  If we start with rocky or weedy soil, the marriage becomes a little more complicated.  We have to somehow find a way to fertilize our life with God after the fact.  When we complicate things with pre-marital sex, co-habitation and multiple partners, it is like starting with rocky soil.  I am not saying that if you have made these choices that your marriage won’t last.  What I am saying is it will be more difficult for your marriage unless you fertilize it with God in your life.

Throughout my book, “Revealing Faith: Learning to Place God First in Your Life,” I continually stress that my choices were not good ones in my twenties.  Pete and I started with rocky soil.  Although God was present in my life by the time we married, He wasn’t the main focus of my life.  It would take years for Pete and me to build and fertilize our soil so that it would withstand tough struggles that lay ahead.  We even added children into our marriage before we had fully fertilized our life with God.  It was a struggle.  Once we both refocused our life toward God (which we did after a wonderful marriage retreat at our church in Champaign, Illinois), we realized that we were missing a very important person in our marriage: God.  As our individual faith lives grew (over many years), our soil became more and more fertile.  When we finally gave birth to our third child, Katie, we were faced with a tremendous struggle.  Katie suffered from multiple medical problems at the age of one (she suffers from complex partial seizures).  Later we would find behavioral issues and anxiety laced with depression to be part of Katie’s life.  If Pete and I had not fertilized our life with God, I could see where this would have made our marriage very complicated and difficult (and trust me it still is a struggle), but with God in the center of our marriage it all seems doable.  We rely on His strength.  Our kids rely on His strength.  We thank God to this day that He entered our marriage and let us re-fertilize our family with his Wisdom.

My favorite part of the Colossians verse is that we admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Well, Pete and I don’t go around singing to each other (thank goodness), but we do listen to praise and worship songs together, we sing psalms at church together, and we find ways to love each other by sacrificing our selfish desires in order to place God’s Will first.

happy young couple

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz on Love

man and woman“Couples, like individuals, acquire virtues through the repetition of particular practices and behaviors. They make the virtue their own by freely choosing to act in certain ways, every day.”  

Introduction to the “Marital Virtue of the Month” Series By Archbishop Joseph Kurtz   (An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

Archbishop Kurtz continues, “Love, of course, is the more excellent way that includes all the virtues. As a couple grows in virtue they also grow in love. Hand in hand they walk the journey to holiness. I pray that you may persevere in this journey, knowing the love of God, the encouragement of the Church, and the support of the many couples who are walking this journey with you.”H

This up-to-date piece continues the conversation we’ve been having on this site, i.e., the responsibility of spouses not to simply strive for perfection on their own, but to bring their spouse closer to God as well.  We do that not by encouragement/arguing, active evangelization or subtle pressure, but by prayer, by living a committed Christian life, and by creating a wake with the power of our spirit that eventually overtakes our less-committed spouse and becomes irresistible, a wave that can help him along the road to faith.  As usual, we must allow The Holy Spirit to work in our lives and those we love.  And acknowledge that these things take place in God’s time.  Amen.LSE Papyrus logo

Get Connected – Turn Toward Your Partner to Create Intimacy

Cute-Romantic-Love-CoupleHere’s another nugget from John Gottman, courtesy of the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative.  This piece discusses the specific types of connections we make with our spouses, how some are positive and some are negative.  Mastering the art of opening positive connections–leaning in versus leaning away–with your spouse invites a warm, open relationship in which conflicts heal quickly and intimacy is part of everyday life.

Get Connected – Turn Toward Your Partner to Create Intimacy

The story many of us tell ourselves is that our marriages are imperfect, that they are what they are, and there’s no point in trying to re-build them.  But what we also see are research reports, by Gottman and others, that suggest practical techniques for improving our relationships.  That yours, and mine, is imperfect is due to the fact that each of us is imperfect. We are all sinners.   And, therefore, it’s not so much about finding the right person as it is being the right person.  If our marriage appears to be failing, we will be taking some of the reason for that with us in the pursuit of a new, improved marriage.  Logic dictates that even in the unlikely event that Spouse #2 were, in fact, perfect, it would bode poorly for the success of the relationship.marriage-vs-money

Marriage literature suggests that most marriages go through three distinct stages.  Euphoria, that unmatched feeling early in the relationship when it seems the sun, the moon and the stars rotate around your intended spouse.  Disillusionment, when you realize the natural order of the universe and where exactly you and your spouse, and probably children, fit in it.  And, finally, That Third Stage, in which the partners either don’t work it out, manage some kind of peaceful coexistence, or, at best, feed and maintain a relationship built upon respect, trust and intimacy, both emotional and physical, and thank God for that person, for the loaning of your partner’s spirit, if only for a short time, that is at the core of sacramental marriage.

The practice of leaning into your spouse when discussing important issues is what the Masters of Marriage do.  It allows couples to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in marriage quickly and without any need for retribution.  It is a skill, and can be developed by anyone ready and willing to try to improve their marriage.  The story we need to be telling ourselves is that we can improve our marriage if we want to and if we enlist the help of The Holy Spirit.  As Nancy constantly reminds me, “The door is open.”

old-couple in love