Category Archives: Marriage

My Three Favorite Scriptures

Thanks to Bryan at Calling All Witnesses, I’ve been tagged in a blogging meme! I didn’t know what that was. It turns out that a blogging meme is a topic that is passed from blogger to blogger, sort of like a big game of tag. Each person passes the meme to three others, and so it grows, sort of like compound interest. The theme for this meme is “My Three Favorite Scriptures”

Here are the rules:

  1. Write a post on your three favorite verses from the Bible and why you like them.
  2. Link back to this post.
  3. In your post tag three other bloggers to carry this theme forward, link to you, and tag additional bloggers.

Its been a busy week for me, but now I am all over it. So here are my three favorite scripture passages.

  • The Eucharist
  • John 6:53
    Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

    This is just a snippet of Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist. Once I truly had digested this chapter of John, I wondered how anyone could not see the truth of the Catholic church. “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
    Many couldn’t handle it and left, but Jesus didn’t try to get them back. And he didn’t offer any other explanation for his words, which he would have done, for the sake of his apostles, if it had been merely a parable.
    This is the first verse I had my kids memorize, because if we’ve got the Eucharist, we’ve got it all.

  • Marriage
  • Ephesians 5:25-26
    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

    And this is the ultimate description of the role of the husband in the vocation of marriage. It is a Christ-like role of self-sacrifice. It is a sanctifying role. There are a million little deaths to self that a husband must go through, and this passage inspires me like nothing else. What a calling! What a responsibility!

  • A Blessing
  • Numbers 6:24-26
    The LORD bless you and keep you!
    The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
    The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

    This is the Aaronic prayer or blessing. God gave this to Moses, instructing him to tell Aaron to use this blessing to bless the Israelites. When my oldest daughter was still quite young, I saw a talk by Jeff Cavins (the Great Adventure, Bible Timeline) where he suggested using it to bless your children every night. I haven’t missed a night since, and my kids can’t go to sleep without it.

So there it is. My top three scripture verses. And now I am handing it off to three others.
Here are the candidates. Hope they accept. Even if they don’t, their blogs are worth the visit:
Chris at This Pilgrim’s Progress
Joe at Average Catholic Joe
Kortni at Heart Shaped Stone

A Family Prayer to Jesus. Mary, and Joseph

My priest sent us this prayer. I liked it so much that I thought I would pass it on.

A PRAYER
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Dear Lord, bless our family.
Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace,
and mutual love that You found in Your own family
in the little town of Nazareth.

Saint Joseph, bless the head of our family.
Obtain for him the strength,
the wisdom, and the prudence
he needs to support and direct those under his care.

Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family.
Help her to be pure and kind,
gentle and self-sacrificing.
For the more she resembles you,
the better will our family be.

Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family.
Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents.
Make them more and more like You.
Let them grow, as You did,
in wisdom and age and grace before God and man.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make our family and home more and more like Yours,
until we are all one family,
happy and at peace in our true home with You.

Amen.

How Do I Learn to Love God?

If the answer is to love God more, the question then becomes, “How do I learn to love God more?”
God teaches us how, through the sacrament of marriage. As I discussed before, marriage is supposed to be hard, because in marriage we are learning how to love, and in particular, how to love God. So by looking at how we learn to love our spouse, we learn how to love God.

  1. Knowledge of our beloved
    To love someone, we must know them. Dating is all about getting to know someone, but it doesn’t stop there. Throughout our married life, we continue to share ourselves with our spouse. We talk about the present and the past, learning about our spouse as he or she changes and grows.
    Likewise, we must continue to learn about God. To know Him more and more intimately. We do this primarily through the reading of sacred scriptures, but the writings of the Church and of the saints are essential to understanding what we are reading in the scriptures, fallible creatures that we are. Just as in a marriage we must learn about our spouse every day, in our faith life we must learn about our Lord every day, and if we do so faithfully, we will be shocked at how much there is to know.
  2. Spending time with our beloved
    Time together is critical for a marriage. We spend time together every day, to make sure we are connected. We have dates every week, show how important we are to each other. We have longer, special times monthly or at specific events, to celebrate our love.
    We must do the same with God. We must spend quality time with Him daily, in prayer. We must have that more special extended visit with Him, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, at least weekly. And then there are the feasts, whether they are days of obligation or not, they are opportunities to celebrate with our Lord.
  3. Defending our beloved
    Would you ever spend time with someone who disliked or even hated your wife? Would you stand casually by while a “friend” spoke badly of her? We must give God at least that much courtesy. At least that much devotion. We must make friends that share our feelings about God, and we must stand up to those who would disparage him. Otherwise, we will be prone to assimilating the negative attitudes of those not close to God.
  4. Finding couples to emulate
    If we want a good marriage, we find couples who have good marriages already. We watch what they do and how they treat each other. Likewise with faith. If we want to grow in our love of God, we must surround ourselves with those who love Him, and we must try to emulate them. Otherwise, we will be emulating someone else.
  5. Reflect frequently on how much our beloved loves us
    When we think how much our spouse loves us, we feel emotionally compelled to love them back. This is even more true when it comes to God. When we realize how much God loves us, truly loves us, we can become overwhelmes at the infinite nature of that love. It is love that can bring joy even to a life of great suffering. In the face of that love, how can we not love Him back?

Remember this: love is not a feeling. It is a decision and an action. It is something under our control. If we decide to love, and we act with love, the emotions will follow, in their own time. So, to love God more, we simply have to decide to do it, and then act on it.

Let the Light of the Resurrection Shine Forth in Everything We Say and Do

After the long somber and penitential season of Lent, it may be difficult to transition to the joy of Easter. Even the apostles had difficulty accepting it. But transition we must, because in the end, it all comes down to the resurrection. We can fast all we want, we can repent of our sins as much as we want (and yes, these things are necessary), but without the resurrection, it would all be for naught.
And we are not called to be a somber and sorrowful people. When we fast, we are not to let the world know. We are called, especially as parents and spouses, to exhibit the joy of the gift that Christ has given us.
Through His sacrifice, Christ has opened up Heaven for us. Yes, we still have to accept His gift. We still have to carry our crosses and enter our own little Calvarys in order to reach that gift. But He gives us the graces we need to do that.
So in spite of our suffering, in spite of our struggles with sin, we are right to be joyful. Our spouse needs to see it; our kids need to see it; and especially the world needs to see it from us as a family. Let them see the truth of the resurrection in everything we say and do. It is our duty and our privilege.

Why Marriage Has to be So Hard

The Challenges of Marriage, and God’s Sacred Plan

Ups and Downs
My wife and I teach Pre-Cana (marriage prep), and so we’ve had to become comfortable sharing our personal ups and downs both with strangers and not-so-strangers. And there have been ups and downs. Big ones. At one point, early on, we were on the verge of divorce. It was only our parents’ encouragement and the foundation of our faith that saved us. There have been other times when, though fully committed to never divorcing, we did not see how we could ever feel the love for each other that we once felt. And we are not the justice-of-the-peace, living the married-single lifestyle couple that is the norm today. We are serious Catholic who believe marriage is forever. With the help of the church, we have worked through those difficult times, and the love in our relationship now is tremendous.

Every Marriage
Marriage is beset with pain. I believe this is true for everyone, even those who claim publicly that they have never had an argument. No one can hurt you like the person for whom you drop all your defenses. No one can disappoint you like the person in whom you invest all your earthly hopes. Marriages are fraught with arguments, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and difficult negotiations; and that is when things are going well! To keep it functional, to keep it happy, we have to work at it. We have to expend serious emotional effort in communication, in negotiation, and frequently in reconciliation. Without constant vigilance, we find we have “grown apart”. But why? Why does it have to be that way? Why does marriage have to be so hard?

The Hard Truth
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved His Church.” And how did Christ love the Church? He suffered and died for her! So St. Paul, and through St. Paul the Holy Spirit, is calling us to suffer and die for our wives.

Suffering is not something we, as 21st century Christians, especially in the Western church, do particularly well. We run to the doctor with every little ache and pain and sniffle. We complain when we have to wait in a long line for confession, or when the priest’s homily exceeds 20 minutes. We make a big deal about giving up chocolate for Lent; and when we abstain from meat, we replace it with shrimp or lobster.

But when it comes to marriage, we HAVE to suffer, and we HAVE to die to ourselves. It really won’t work otherwise. When we don’t — when we insist on putting ourselves first — our marriages suffer and, in many cases, die. Every day is a fight to overcome our intrinsically disordered, selfish nature, if we want our marriages to last.

There is a Purpose
But why? We are, after all, modern man, with great intellect and a bookstore full of self-help books. We ought to be able to put our heads together, act rationally, and work together at life just the way we work with many co-workers who nominally have much less in common with us than our spouse does.

God doesn’t want us to treat our spouse like a co-worker. He wants us to love her, and not in an “Every Kiss Begins With Kay” sort of way. He want us to love as Christ loves, as God loves: selflessly, disinterestedly, unconditionally, with forgiveness and honesty and devotion. It is a love that is foreign to this world marinated in original sin.

The surprising answer is this: the love we learn in marriage is for more than our spouse, for more than our families. It is for the whole Church. As we learn to love our spouse in a Christ-like way, we learn to turn around and reflect that love on others we encounter in our lives. And that is God’s grand and wonderful and not-so-secret plan for our marriages. In marriage we learn not only to love our spouse and our children, but we learn how to love, period, and love is a pre-requisite for entering the eternal kingdom. Remember, Christ taught us that the commandments boil down to loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

So we, as married couples, have a special advantage in the path to holiness. We have a training ground for love, and a partner to take that training with us. The question is, will we take advantage of it? Will we pick up our crosses and soldier through those difficult times? If we do, the rewards will literally be eternal.

Marrying an Atheist

I ran across this post
Could You Marry an Atheist today and it struck home. My wife – cradle-Catholic, lector, and regular volunteer at Boston University’s Newman House – had planned to do just that – marry an atheist – the atheist in question being me. It was all set to go. We had met with her priest and fulfilled all the Church’s requirements for a mixed-faith wedding. I had agreed to raise any children Catholic, and I respected her faith just as I respected all other aspects of her life.

We had a long engagement during which I lived in Italy for almost a year. During that time, I had a “road to Damascus” moment. God made himself known to me in no uncertain terms. (That is a whole other story.) Atheism was no longer an option. On a cold night – a cold Advent night, as I would later find out – I was given the gift of faith. I returned to the states, enrolled in RCIA, and finally entered at the Easter vigil just months before we were married.
So my wife became engaged to an atheist and married a Catholic.
Not a path I would recommend.

I don’t mean that it worked badly for us. I believe ours was a relationship inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the blessings have flowed from it. But I doubt it would work for others. And most importantly, I would not want my daughter to marry an atheist.

Really, there are only two options. Either the Catholic believes that their spouse will eventually convert (and sees themselves as a catalyst for the conversion), or the Catholic accepts that they will forever be married to an atheist. Both attitudes are dangerous.

As a Pre-Cana couple, we counsel our engaged couples not to think they are going to change their betrothed. Bottom line, changes come from within – or through the Holy Spirit in the case of spiritual changes – they cannot be forced. Believing you will convert a potential spouse is a recipe for disappointment and worse.

Worse yet is the decision to live ones life not only with someone of a different faith, but with someone who actively disbelieves in God. There are more problems with that than I can possibly list, but here are a few that, having been an atheist, are prominent to me. First, each parent has a unique spiritual role in the faith formation of the children. Numerous studies show that if the father is not strong in the faith, the kids will not be either. The father is essential in that regard. Mom is imortant too. She tends to bring in the compassionate side. While Dad may be a by-the-numbers type, Mom is the one more likely to teach the children Christian charity and neighborliness. Every night I bless my children in bed. I frequently lead them in the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. They see me singing at Mass, so they assume they should be singing too. What if they were missing all that?
Second, everyone’s faith goes through difficult dry periods. In our experience, when one of us is dry, the other provides the inspiration to work through it. I know that there are times when the sight of my wife praying pulls me out of a dark place. I know I do the same for her. Without that? How hard would it be for a spouse to keep her faith when her husband is getting along just fine, thank you very much, with his secular humanism that doesn’t require all that silly sacrifice, mortification, and acceptance of suffering?
Third, atheism brings baggage. It usually means a more amoral or immoral background. It did with me. I am still unpacking and disposing of that baggage, and it has caused my lovely wife more than her share of grief. I do not want to see my children dealing with that.

Anyway, I am running out of steam. Sometimes – as in my case – God puts an atheist and a Catholic together with a grand purpose in mind. More likely, however, the marriage is according to a human plan, not God’s plan, and as such will lead down a very dark path.