The Family and The Mystical Body of Christ

Some days I feel like the entire day is spent encouraging, lecturing, threatening, and punishing kids into applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…When you think about it, families can be composed of individuals who would never choose to live in the same hemisphere, much less in the same home!

I struggle as a Mom. Some days I feel like the entire day is spent encouraging, lecturing, threatening, and punishing kids into applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Knowing my goal is not tyrannical subjugation, but rather a “disposition of reciprocal openness and autonomy together,” I’ve tried every analogy under the sun. The one I use most frequently is that as a family, we are all part of the same team (our younger kids have been around team sports a lot more than they’ve studied anatomy). As a team, we celebrate each other’s victories, because, well, they are victories for all of us. And we mourn each other’s losses because, well, they are our losses too. And most importantly, we build up, we do not tear down. When we build one another up, we are building up the entire team. When we tear down, we are harming the entire team (i.e. the family).

At times, this is easier said than done, given the wide variety of personalities in our home. But apparently, our home is not alone in this struggle. G.K. Chesterton once said,

“The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each of us did on the day that he was born.

This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up.” – Brave New Family, p. 43

Of course that’s true. For when you think about it, families can be composed of individuals who would never choose to live in the same hemisphere, much less in the same home! In The Birth Order Book, Kevin Leman says that if a family is a tree, the children are the branches – and of course, branches grow in all different directions. In fact, Leman says,

“One of the best predictions in life is that whatever the firstborn in a family is, the second born in the family will go in a different (and oftentimes opposite) direction.”

What better soil for the organic development of a healthy and robust Body of Christ? For growing in consideration, patience and selfless love?

Of course, if our family is any indication, sometimes I don’t have much hope for the rest of world. In those moments I’m mediating until my tongue is in knots, or separating a couple of rowdy kids because I fear the damage resulting from being together will out-do the damage caused by being apart. In those moments, I question God’s grand plan for the sanctity of the world. In those moments I would give anything just to walk away from the awesome responsibility of raising saints.

But there are others. There are moments — thankfully, many moments —  that give me hope. Those moments can only be described as sacred portrayals of God’s Holy Will for all of mankind. When one notices a slight, and goes out of her way to offer comfort and support. When another takes his siblings out for dessert in a restaurant, just because. When one repents harmful behavior and seeks forgiveness; but even more, reconciliation, and there is mercy and acceptance and…love. When they help each other with schoolwork, do a chore without being asked. Write a note. Draw a picture. Say a prayer for a family member. These are moments that offer hope for the future. There are moments of heaven in family life – when all the struggles, sacrifices and suffering have their reward.

Even more importantly, in those moments, our family is a family. It is in those moments what God intended it to be. We are one body, united in the Holy Spirit, pouring ourselves out for one another in love.

If we can become one body within the confines of our own homes, beginning in the confines of our own hearts, than there is hope that we can be one unified body in our communities, in our states, in our country, and throughout the world. And that hope is necessary. Because when I watch the news, read the paper or browse through social media, I see a diseased body, contorted and vulgar in disparagement and hatred, inflicting violence against herself. There is no discourse. There are only cancerous walls full of anger and hatred and inexplicable disdain.

I cannot change the world. I cannot heal the Body of Christ. But I can pour my heart and soul into our own little domestic church, calling upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen the cells of this microcosm of Christ’s Body within our home. By God’s grace, perhaps one day our children might be sent out into the greater Body of Christ, full of strength, probiotic in nature, resilient and immune to the cancers of hate and selfishness.  I can keep grasping at those little moments of hope I am privileged to witness every now and then, as my husband and I do our best to infuse our home with the love of Christ, knowing that the infusion is our path to sanctity. Over time, we are bound to witness an increase in the  reciprocal openness and autonomy together, that simultaneous intimacy and dignity which comes from the Holy Ghost. 

In the end, whatever struggles we endure and whatever sacrifice is necessary, we must persevere. For the family is the only hope for the world, particularly as it applies to the mystical body.  As Saint John Paul II said in a 1986 homily,

The family is the “first and vital cell of society”. In its own way it is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church. The future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family.


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Art: The Happy Family by Jean Honoré Fragonard, c. 1775


Sacrifice in the News: Real Love Faces Obstacles – Here’s How One Couple Faces Them

Doctors Told Him to Check His Wife into a Nursing Home; Instead, He Wheeled Her Around the World.


Doctors Told Him to Check His Wife into a Nursing Home; Instead, He Wheeled Her Around the World*


Donna and Andy Fierlit








10 Great Books for Lent That You Won’t Find on Other Lists

Most of us are looking for spiritual reading suggestions that will serve us well during the Lenten season. Of course, there are the tried and true recommendations – Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and  others are amazing choices, and can certainly be read over and over again. But if you’re looking for something a little different this year, I have just the thing.

Most of us are looking for spiritual reading suggestions that will serve us well during the Lenten season. Of course, there are the tried and true recommendations – Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and  others are amazing choices, and can certainly be read over and over again. But if you’re looking for something a little different this year, I have just the thing. You may not find many of these books on other lists. You may not even have heard of them (with the exception of the top two, which I mention in my book and in just about every interview I’ve ever done:)). Regardless, every book on this list is an absolute classic that is sure to inspire tremendous change in your life!

secret diary of elisabeth1 The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) – Marriages seem to struggle more often than not these days. Elisabeth Leseur had an amazing knack for seeing only light in the souls of those around her. Her goodness resulted in her husband’s conversion from atheism to Catholicism. In fact, upon her death, he even entered the priesthood! Rather than pray that others would change for the better, Elizabeth asked only that she could love more, and that the Holy Spirit would use her as an instrument to share Christ’s light with others – most especially those who mistreated her in any way. Read this book if you want to see your relationships thrive. Not only will you learn to focus your eyes on your spouse’s better traits, but you’ll learn to love and appreciate everyone else that God made as well.

trustful surrender2. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure (1588-1657) and Saint Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682) – Anyone who knows me knows that this is one of my all-time favorite books and a life-changing one at that. Having been held at knifepoint in college, I spent years afraid to be alone. Instantly upon reading this book, I was able to hand my life over to God, trusting Him with every moment of my life, and even the hour of my death.Suffice it to say that there is a world of wisdom within the pages of this tiny little companion and it will completely shatter any touchy feely paradigm you may have about God and His Hand in your life.

12 steps3. The Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1987) – The title says it all. Step by step, you can walk through Lent in a way that will help you to grow in holiness as you unite yourself to Christ. Liguori’s writings cover the twelve key virtues necessary for salvation, including faith, hope, love of God, love of neighbor, poverty, chastity, obedience, meekness and humility, mortification, recollection, prayer, and love of the cross. For those who appreciate practicality, order and simplicity, this book is a treasure trove of teaching that is concise and yet profound.

way to inner peace4. Way to Inner Peace by Fulton J. Sheen (1955) – If you long to be directed in the way of humility, love and service, Fulton Sheen will lead the way. With 59 specific recommendations for practical steps one can take toward inner peace, Sheen offers inspirational stories, entreaties into psychology, theology and good old common sense to lead you to a place of calm contentment, no matter the storms that threaten your progress as you continue on the path toward heaven.


hidden power5. The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik (1962)  – If you’re not quite sure what to do for Lent this year, this book will give you plenty of ideas on how to grow in holiness. No matter how kind you think you are, you’ll find plenty of room for improvement, and you will feel much better for making the effort. Even better, your relationships will flourish and you will wonder why you never read this book before. Be prepared to have highlighter in hand, for every page is filled with practical wisdom and sage advice.

summa6. Summa of the Christian Life (3 Volumes) – Writings of Venerable Louis of Granada (1504-1588) – Beginning with the existence of God and what that means for our everyday lives, Granada’s words direct readers clearly and succinctly toward holiness. His writing is simple yet beautiful. Venerable Louis of Granada was a favorite spiritual writer of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Rose of Lima and many others. You can’t go wrong if you allow this great man to guide you on the path to holiness.

7. Guidance to Heaven by Cardinal Giovanni Bona (1658) – guidance to heavenGuidance to Heaven begins by making clear the purpose of this life in preparing for eternity. Cardinal Bona will help readers to prepare themselves for death by addressing vices with which many of us struggle, and helping us to bring them under control. The jacket of my book says it all and reads in part,

If the reader derived no other value from this book than the realization we are each one going to die – we know not when – and pass to our real life which will last for all eternity, and that our every waking hour of this one should be a preparation for that one, then a reading of this book would have been for him of ultimate value – the best thing he ever did.

jesus of nazareth8. Jesus of Nazareth: The Story of His Life Simply Told by Mother Mary of Loyola (1906) – If you are looking for a book on the life of Christ, this one is beautifully told. Jesus of Nazareth was originally written for children, and I did read it to my kids last year. But it was also re-packaged as an adult book because at 300+ pages and with beautiful language and captivating commentary, this book is a must read for anyone ages 10-110. If, like me, you struggle with imperfect contrition, Mother Mary of Loyola will help you to love Christ implicitly for His simple, yet beautiful goodness, for His loving obedience to the Father and for His great sacrifice, made selflessly for the sake of our eternal union with Him.

counsels of perfection for christian mothers9.Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers by the Very Reverend P. Lejeune (1913) – This is an amazing book for mothers. If you are anything like me, you strive for perfection in so many areas that you sometimes forget to put first things first. Wisely, Fr. Lejeune recognizes this temptation for women, and begins his book with a discussion of the meaning of perfection. Clarifying the only definition that matters – Perfection is accomplishing the will of God in a constant and generous fashion – Lejeune then sets out to direct us on how to actually achieve perfection in that light. Advising mothers on everything from how they spend their time to what they say and how they say it, this book offers a plethora of things to consider in the pursuit of holiness, as well as how to take proper steps to achieve it in our lifetime.

practical commentary10. A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture by Bishop Frederick Justus Knecht, D.D. (1923) – A great way to read the Bible through in story form with commentary that helps you to understand the Faith, as well as practical applications for daily life. I found it to be a wonderful supplement during my time spent reading Sacred Scripture. According to the back cover of my edition,

This book is a great introductory Bible study all by itself – for it brings out the Catholic teachings that are hidden in Sacred Scripture! A famous book – one which received recommendations from 14 bishops when first published and which went through at least 16 editions – this commentary is not a work for scholars; but rather a very practical book for the ordinary Catholic.



Five Ways to Model Your Family after the Holy Family

The Holy Family is the ideal to which all other families should subscribe, if they hope to find joy and fulfillment in this life.

“The triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce

The family is the cornerstone of all the institutions in the world, and yet has suffered from an unbelievable assault over the past few decades; an assault that has produced The_Holy_Family_-_Francesco_Vanniunfathomable damage, including everything from divorce to elective single parenthood, to lower marriage rates and a new definition so freewheeling and loose that the core identity of the family seems to have been irreparably weakened.

Whether due to circumstance or choice, it is true that families come in all shapes and sizes. However, the Holy Family serves as a model of the family that God intended, and the family that until just a few decades ago, was considered standard form in every social circle. The Holy Family is not the Universal family, for there is no such thing. Rather, the Holy Family stands as the pinnacle of all families throughout the history of the world. The Holy Family is the ideal to which all other families should subscribe, if they hope to find joy and fulfillment in this life.

Families matter. And your family can be an incredible light to the rest of the world. Not by being perfect. By being a family. I speak from personal experience. When I was growing up, God used family after family to inspire me to seek His truth. Again, these weren’t perfect families. But they were families. And I’m willing to bet that not one of them has any idea of the impact their faithfulness had on my life. But it did. Families are beacon to the world of the Light of Christ. And the contribution of the family is critical to society. As Saint John Paul II said in Familiaris Consortio, “The future of the world and of the church passes through the family” (75).

So what better way to affect the future for good than to have a great family?! And where better to seek inspiration than in the Holiest of Families?!

Here are five ways to model your family after the Holy Family:

  1. Be grateful. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my soul rejoices in God my savior…” (Luke 1:46-47). Think about those words every day. We are His handmaids in this family with which He has so blessed us. Rather than think, If only this child would cooperate, or if only my husband would be more patient – thank God for those beautiful, amazing personalities that He has deigned you worthy to serve.
  2. Be joyful. Think of the Joyful mysteries – those mysteries associated with the Holy Family. Mary was overwhelmed with joy when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. St. John the Baptist was overjoyed when he beheld Christ in the womb of Mary, His mother. Heaven and earth rejoiced at the birth of Christ. Simeon was overcome with joy when he held the baby Jesus. And Mary and Joseph were overwhelmed with joy upon finding Jesus in the temple.

    Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (4:4). So rejoice! Your family will love you for it!

  3. Be Absolutely Devoted. From the moment the angel appeared to Joseph and secured his understanding of the situation at hand, Joseph was absolutely devoted to his wife and foster child. He led them to Bethlehem, showing particular care and consideration as he guided his expectant wife to shelter. Shortly thereafter, upon receiving further direction in a dream, he immediately woke his wife and child and led them to safety in Egypt. When the family returned to Nazareth, Joseph devoted his life to quiet, but diligent work in order to serve his family.
  4. Spend Time Together. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were together. Presumably until Joseph died, the three were very much a single unit. In fact, St. Joseph is the Patron of happy deaths; particularly because tradition teaches us that he died in the arms of Mary and Jesus.
  5. Sacrifice. Ultimately, each member of the Holy Family sacrificed his own life for those he loved. Joseph raised a child that wasn’t even his own, while remaining a celibate man for his entire married life. Mary was told from the moment she presented her son at the temple that she would suffer as a result of her motherhood. She didn’t balk. Rather, she loved with a devotion that none of us can fathom. Her seven sorrows were a result of her love, and yet no doubt her love was strengthened in her sorrow. And Christ? Well, in addition to sacrificing his very life for each and every one of us, the God of the Universe lowered himself to the level of a child, and “was obedient” to his parents all the days of his life. If that’s not sacrifice, then I don’t know what is.

The family, as a community of persons, is thus the first human “society.”  — Saint John Paul II, Letter to Families.

Family is sacred. And God is so good that He allowed each of us the privilege of entering the world by way of a family.  Even more, many of us are married and blessed with children of our own. Family is a gift that we must cherish beyond all things. There is no argument that trumps that bond. There is no disagreement, no selfish action, no betrayal, nor any sin that should break that union. Pain and suffering may make it more challenging, but regardless, always cherish that beautiful family you’ve been given the opportunity to love.


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Artwork: La Santa Famille by Francesco Vanni, 1871

Time Magazine, Marriage is a Sacrament – Not a Science

Watch what you read. When it comes to sacred topics – particularly marriage – you may want to seek answers from among the great annals of wisdom available within the Church. For only in union with Christ can marriage achieve its true fulfillment.


I just picked up Time Magazine’s special edition issue on The Science of Marriage.

Interesting take. That is, if you detest the institution of marriage and choose to see it through the eyes of an  impassioned skeptic. Here’s the very first paragraph in the issue:

There’s a reason fairy tales always end in marriage. It’s because nobody wants to see what comes after. It’s too grim. Meeting the right person, working through comic misunderstandings and overcoming family disapproval to get to the altar — those are stories worth telling. Plodding on year after year with that same old soul? Yawnsville.
– p. 6

A few paragraphs later the attitude doesn’t improve:

Matrimony used to be an institution people entered out of custom, duty or a need to procreate. Now that it’s become a technology-assisted endeavor that has been delayed until conditions are at their most optimal, it needs to deliver better-quality benefits. More of us think this one relationship should – and could – provide the full buffet of satisfaction: intimacy, support, stability happiness and sexual exhilaration. And if it’s not up to the task, it’s quicker and cheaper than ever to unsubscribe. It’s not clear any relationship can overcome that challenge. – p. 6

This is what the world is hearing when it comes to the most beautiful and sacred union available to man this side of heaven.

The article goes on to assert that

“It’s not even clear anymore exactly what couples are signing up for. Marriage is the most basic and intimate of our social institutions but also the one most subject to shifts in cultural, technological and economic forces, many of which have made single life a completely viable and attractive proposition.”

Really? I submit that environmental factors have not lessened the success of marriage. Perhaps one of the problems is a mistaken understanding that marriage can be analyzed in the same way that you analyze a science experiment. That it can broken down into individual ingredients recipe-style; measured and stirred to create a concoction of some sort – whether a happy and fulfilling life enhancer or an abhorrently hideous Frankenstein’s monster, depending on the mix.

To be fair, this issue of Time is not all negative. It is primarily devoted to things like How to Make Your Marriage Last, or The (Real) Key to a Joyful Union – The problem is that these topics are discussed on a backdrop of negative commentary. The entire magazine is full of skepticism. Beauty is nowhere to be found. Yes, they talk about happy marriages; but the talk is pretty cheap. These writers may mean well; but it’s as though they are dissecting a dead body to look for its soul.  You will never find the key to marriage by sifting through all the parts. Nor can you relay an image of a true marital union by starting with a contractual understanding of the relationship. It’s no wonder these writers seem flummoxed.

When marriage is described as a crap shoot where you throw yourself in and who knows what you’ll get, it’s bound to draw disdain. But for that matter, if it’s described as a science, wherein you’ll get the outcome you want, provided you do a, b and c, there is something hollow in the advice. Either perspective is a sure sign that marriage has been horribly misrepresented and people are being duped  by the unpredictable “science” of love.

No doubt this secular perspective is the reason fewer Americans are tying the knot (20% of adults age 25 or older have never been married, compared to 9% in 1960). No longer is marriage seen as a Sacred Union, but rather as an individual choice, not unlike one’s choice of career. Gone are the days when marriage is universally presumed to be “’till death do us part.” In fact, this Time Special Edition, while sharing much data that demonstrates the benefits of marriage – greater happiness, health, wealth and stability, child development  (in all areas) – also includes a section called The Good Divorce. Including the words “good” and “divorce” in the same header misses the point of marriage entirely.

If you want to learn more about marriage, focus less on the science and more on the Sacramental. Even the Source and Summit of our Faith – the Holy Eucharist – has been referred to as “a nuptial sacrament,” in effort to illustrate the amazing union it confers between ourselves and Our Lord. A oneness akin to the sacred union that takes place between a man and his wife.

A sacramental marriage is a “fountain of grace,” according to Alice von Hildebrand in her introduction to (her husband) Dietrich von Hildebrand’s, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love:

As a Sacrament, marriage gives people the supernatural strength necessary to “fight the good fight.” Every victory achieved together over habit, routine, and boredom cements the bonds existing between the spouses and makes their love produce new blossoms.

Also, because it explicitly and sacramentally unites the spouses with the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them, sacramental marriage overcomes the tragic limits of natural marriage and achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires. – p. xiv

Dietrich von Hildebrand asserts,

No natural human good has been exalted so high in the New Testament. No other good has been chosen to become one of the seven Sacraments. No other has been endowed with the honor of participating directly in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. – p. 3

And because of this amazing gift, we who are privileged to take part are called to a higher level of sacrifice:

In the supernatural sphere, God gives mankind grace in different measures and demands more from them according to the measure of grace received…So, too, marriage demands more from the husband and wife in the measure that their marriage as such approaches the ideal, and the more they harmonize as characters…

…Every hour they must recall anew the unspeakably precious gift which God has given in the form of the soul of the beloved. Never must they lose their sense of the wonderful mystery that the other person whom they love loves them too, that the other lives for them, and that they own something far above all other earthly possessions. – p. 35

But we get something priceless for all our efforts:

Let us add that Christian marriage also represents for both consorts a way to attain an ever-increasing union with Jesus. As the bond has been concluded in Jesus and toward Jesus, the increase of conjugal love also means a growth in the love of Jesus. The unique abandonment to the beloved, the life of love which one lives and should live, opens the heart and enables it to love more and more. – p. 75

And about the indissolubility of marriage:

It is considered by many as something oppressive and dispiriting, something which deprives love of its wings and gives it a coercive character. They think that love would vanish with the knowledge that the tie is binding whether love persists or not. But nothing is less true. For the real lover, the consciousness of being indissolubly united with his beloved in Christ, of forming an objectively indissoluble community whose validity is beyond all wavering and all human frailties, is a source of the highest satisfaction. For he wants to be one with his beloved, and he is grateful and happy that this unity can be realized to so great a degree and that it rises above all emotional changes. – p. 59

We are human beings. As such, we are bound to be affected by the words we read, as well as the examples we witness. Which words above call you to a higher appreciation for marriage as an institution? Which passages inspire you to love more, to give more? Which passages inspire a profound awe of your God-given vocation?

The bottom line? Watch what you read. When it comes to sacred topics – particularly marriage –  you may want to seek answers from among the great annals of wisdom available within the Church. For only in union with Christ can marriage achieve its true fulfillment, and only an understanding of that truth can allow for any accurate commentary on the subject. Case in point – Archbishop Fulton Sheen so accurately entitled his treatise on the sacramental nature of marriage, Three to Get Married; but if you ever hear that same phrase in the secular culture, you can be pretty sure the reference will be sacrilegious rather than sacramental.

If you’re looking for an accurate view on Marriage, skip the Time Magazine commentary and check out a few of these amazing resources:

Love and Responsibility by Pope John Paul II
Familiaris Consortio by Pope John Paul II
Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love by Dietrich von Hildebrand
Three to Get Married by Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Covenanted Happiness by Cormac Burke

Is Your Marriage Lacking a Certain Chemical Element?

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young fresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun?

Valentine’s Day is upon us again.

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young and marriage paintingfresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun? Where even an accidental touch was electrifying and you called your love 100 times a day just to hear his voice?

If we’re not careful, love can become like a favorite shirt thoughtlessly tossed into the bottom of a drawer. Over time we tend to pile other things on top of it, passing it over from day to day without even thinking until some random thought, word or action sparks a reminder, and we realize that something very special is missing.

When I was in my early twenties, I began a cross-stitch project that I was sure would be a permanent focal point on my wall. It was a huge, colorful piece of country folk art, and it would have been beautiful. Today, six kids and fifty million ideas later, that piece of art has long been abandoned to the wasteland of forgotten projects.

Recently, my daughters and I were digging through my sewing box to find notions for their latest crafts. Sure enough, they found that old piece of material with the beautiful, but unfinished cross-section of a town, all neatly stitched in bright, bold colors. The finished portion would probably fill a 9×13 frame. They were awestruck. “Mom! This was sooo beautiful! Why would you leave it in a box?! Why don’t you finish it? How could you just put this down and walk away?”

How to explain that things came up? That I was too busy holding babies, doing laundry and feeding kids? And as time passed, my obligations only became greater, running kids from here to there. Other goals. Other plans. I never intended to set it aside for good. In the beginning, I only put it away during a busy time in my life. But then along came something else. And pretty soon, it was relegated to an old sewing box as I focused on making new curtains, pillows and bedspreads for our first house. And then along came the children and there were the sports and the play dates and school. There was always something that kept me from picking up that project.

And now?

I’m no longer interested.

Sadly, many marriages end up in the predicament. Sometimes we cast them aside, with every intention of getting back to them “later,” when life calms down. But then things don’t calm down, and our marriage becomes faded and dingy, lacking the bright color and excitement it once had.

Has our love dwindled?


It’s there; but it might be a little lethargic, perhaps suffering from a lack of oxygen.

It might do us good to breathe a little life back into our marriages – both body and soul.

While challenges in marriage can be complicated, the action of loving is not. Love is a verb. And we must take steps to love our spouses, no matter the condition of our relationship. A simple love offering can go a long way toward reviving that spark. Take some time this week to spend some special time together, sans distractions. And make that a habit. Talk. Listen. Pray together. Attend adoration together. And more than anything else, recognize the privilege you’ve been given by virtue of your sacred union.

There is no magic pill that will liven a marriage relationship. Love takes time. It takes sacrifice. And it takes commitment. Here are just six thoughts to keep in mind regarding this amazing sacrament that is marriage on this very special day. Perhaps contemplating the profound nature of your relationship will help to ignite the flame of desire and spark the passion of commitment:

  1. You have been chosen and called, therefore, as husbands and wives to be for one another the living experiential sign and expression of God’s love by sharing with each other the gifts of uncompromising love, unconditional acceptance, ceaseless dedication, total fidelity, and untiring service. These are the signs of God’s love, and this is what makes God present in the Sacrament of Matrimony. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love

  2. How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father?!!! How wonderful the bond between two believers, with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh. In fact, they are truly two in one flesh, and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit. Tertullian, quoted in Familiaris Consortio, by Pope John Paul II

  3. The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love; you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God; you, and me, and God. Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful…Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of self-giving. Love is triune or it dies. —Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, p. 43

  4. In spousal love, the body of the beloved assumes a unique charm as the vessel of this person’s soul, and also as embodying in a unique way the general charm and attraction which femininity has for man, or virility has for woman. Spousal love aspires to the bodily union as a specific fulfillment of the total union, as a unique, deep, mutual self-donation. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy, p. 47

  5. Romance is almost sure to die; love, however, does not have to die with it. Love is meant to mature, and it can do so if that readiness for sacrifice implied in the original self-giving of marital consent is alive or can be activiated. The idea that true love is prepared for sacrifice strikes a chord that perhaps our preaching needs to touch on more. As Pope John Paul II says, “It’s natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person.— Cormac Burke, Covenanted Happiness, pg. 24

  6. Matrimony crushes selfishness, first of all, because it merges individuals into a corporate life in which neither lives for self but for the other; it crushes selfishness also because the very permanence of marriage is destructive of those fleeting infatuations, which are born with the moment and die with it; it destroys selfishness, furthermore, because the mutual love of husband and wife takes them out of themselves into the incarnation of their mutual love, their other selves, their children; and finally it narrows selfishness because the rearing of children demands sacrifice, without which, like unwatered flowers, they wilt and die.— Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes, p. 41-42

  7. Do not forget that true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, but simply loves. – Saint John Paul II, Jubilee of Youth

Guest-Post: Introducing Paula Zwenger

In marriage, those small blessings we can offer our spouse tend to go a long way. Paula Zwenger captures their beauty in her poem, “This Man of Mine”

Recently I camthe_marriage_of_mary_and_joseph-_engraving_by_s-a-_bolswert_wellcome_v0034533e across a poem by Paula Zwenger that really speaks to the subject of sacrifice in a beautiful and inviting way – particularly as it pertains to the vocation of marriage. I wasted no time in asking if she would allow me to post it here. Thankfully she said yes – please enjoy her contribution below:


Easing Into the Ordinary

Who doesn’t love a good party – times when you gather with family and friends, partake of really delicious food, and wile away hours in fun and games? Perhaps you commemorate festivities by exchanging gifts, traditional mementos or souvenirs?

Life is full of reasons to rejoice. We make merry at birthday parties, graduations, or if good health and grace allow, high-number anniversaries in our vocations. We may travel different paths to arrive at our milestones, and express our thanksgiving in unique and creative ways based on our cultural traditions, but the logistics of our celebrations hold a few things in common.

Each one starts with preparation, building anticipation proportionate to the length and importance of the feast. Do you need to choose and send invitations? Are out-of-town guests expected? Where will they stay? Who plans and executes the menus for meals (don’t forget that Aunt Susan is allergic to nuts and Cousin Joe is diabetic)? Is special clothing required? Will there be a photographer? What about decorations? ‘To-do’ lists span columns or pages and require many hands to accomplish.

Finally . . . the ‘big day’ arrives! Everything goes off without a hitch (or not).  You spend yourself in joy, creating memories to last a lifetime. You may even arrive at this day exhausted by your preparations, but still luxuriate in what goes right, and bask in the joy on faces of those around you. This is what life is about – the very feasts that help make life worth living. Gratitude is simple to attain and acclaim in the midst of such blessing!

Then . . . a new day dawns. The party is over. It’s now time for post-celebration clean-up and return to day to day living. No more dancing in the streets, or aisles, or banquet hall – now you roll up your sleeves and return to work.

As Catholics, our faith tradition provides us with a liturgical calendar of seasons which help to focus our prayers, thoughts and actions.  We cherish the beauty of an extended Christmas season, which lasts far beyond the influences of secular society. Yet even with all the opportunity for special feasts and solemnities, we can wax nostalgic for the beauty of the crèche and stockings and beautifully lighted tree as it comes to a close.

In fact, in our house we’ve been known to ‘extend’ this season, as evidenced by holiday decorations, by as long as two weeks into Ordinary Time. If your family is anything like mine, everyone is excited to put up Christmas decorations, but no one is excited to take them down. The house looks a bit empty for awhile when the colors, lights, and precious heirlooms have been stowed away again for another year, out of sight.

This year, once again, I was dreading the chore of ringing out Christmas and ringing in ordinary time. My husband, Patrick, and I had talked on January 6th, the traditional calendar date of Epiphany, about needing to take things down on the following Saturday (the day this poem arrived to be written).

That morning he, an early riser by nature, held to his usual schedule while I slept in.  I was upstairs longer than usual, puttering around and reading online articles while listening to the local radio station, not looking forward to the chore ahead.

As it turns out, a plan beyond my own was already in motion. You might say I had a little ‘epiphany’ of my own about easing into the ordinary – which prompted the poem below.

This Man of Mine

I’ve never fully understood, not even ‘til today
how bonds we formed so long ago have blessed us both to stay
It’s got to be a gracing, giving strength beyond our own
that holds this love together all through choices we have grown
You take two different people and conjoin them up for life,
a model tried through centuries, this husband with his wife

He’s not given to praising and perfection’s not his game
but oh, he works in many ways at loving, just the same
Today, for instance, when I rose, ‘to-do’ list on my mind
I came downstairs with heavy sigh and what gift did I find?
The tree and lights, near put away (Epiphany now passed)
he did a chore I didn’t like without it being asked

Some frown at my believing and they wonder at my hope
yet every day, some way I’m blessed with gifts that help me cope
My answer is in trusting full that come good days or bad
this sacramental bonding tarries not as passing fad
It’s choice each morn on rising new to honor and to bless
in ways the other may not know, or ever even guess

I don’t pretend all answers in this riddle that we live
but time and time again it seems we get more when we give
I share with you if you are blue that times can turn around
not Pollyanna pandering but truth that I have found
I’ll write the blues when they appear but sunshine rays this day
right now it’s time to ‘walk my talk’ with no more word delay

I’ll find the chore that blesses him and makes for brighter day
I’ll love it into being and amend my past delays
When gratitude is lacking I will turn my heart to prayer
And offer even that to God who meets me in His care
There’s nothing that I cannot do when guided by His call
In loving you, in loving Him, whose mercy saves us all



Paula Zwenger
is a wife, mother, and grandmother who, upon finding herself an empty nester, tried on the hat of rhyme loving writer. It fitted very well. Her joy manifests completely while taking the ups and downs of life and wrangling them into poetry. She also has a passion for creating rhymed treasure hunts with a Catholic flare to celebrate the faith and learn a thing or two along the way. You can find her musings at


The Real Value of Work

We learn through work that patience matters. That, eventually, given great effort day after day, year after year, we’ll see results. Through our experience in work, we can deduce that that progress in the spiritual life is slow, but that it will pay off. We learn that we don’t necessarily have to see the big picture in order to know it’s there.

Recently I heard some horrific statistics regarding young men and their participation in the work force. The host of a national radio program cited an article from The Washington Post 800px-gustave_courbet_-_the_stonebreakers_-_wga05457that referred to recent research demonstrating a growing tend in America. Apparently, not only are about 20% of young men between 21-30 years of age out of work, but they aren’t too upset about it. Instead, they are finding satisfaction in video games, computers and television, while living in their parents’ basements. Most in this group have not held a job of any kind in at least a year.  Staggering. As such, this is the first generation to feel no guilt about a virtual no-show in the work force, or about being dependent upon parents or the government dole.

While this news is shocking, the astute have been warning about this problem for the past several years. In Bill Bennet’s, The Book of Man, published in 2011, he quotes another author,

There is trouble with men today. For example, after studying today’s workforce data, author and commentator David Brooks observed that “in 1954, about 96 percent of American men between the ages of 25-54 worked. Today that number is around 80 percent. One-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up  and going to work.”

There are many reasons for this change in society. Bennet, himself, cites video games, single parenthood, corrosive entertainment and a lack of religion, among other things.

Whatever the cause, I want to discuss one particular concern among the many overwhelming consequences this lack of discipline and drive among our young men will reap on their souls. One young man profiled in the Washington Post article – who holds an Associates Degree, by the way – had some words that should give us great pause:

 “When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

That quote got me thinking about the true value of work.

Of course, there are the obvious things. Work is necessary in a civil society, allowing us the ability to support ourselves and our families – as such it is often the conduit through which God provides our daily bread. Work is good for us both physically and intellectually. God called man to work, telling Adam, “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19).

But what concerns me most is how much work provides for us spiritually, how perfectly our experience with work can reflect our spiritual journey, and how this disconnect with work is will result in an even greater disconnect with the spiritual in our young men.

Labor is a physical manifestation of the spiritual effort we must continue faithfully throughout our lives in order to obtain union with God.

Just as the carpenter must continue to hew the wood, patiently carving, hour upon hour, day by day, seeing the end product only in his mind’s eye, so too, we must continue to pursue heaven, trusting that, indeed, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for the who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Just as the bricklayer lays brick after brick, taking care to place each and every one exactly to plan, not seeing the end of his work, but only trusting in the plan of the architect, so we, too, must continue to pursue excellence with every step, trusting the architect of our lives to create something magnificent from the application of our best efforts to some of the most mundane tasks, day after day after day.

If the carpenter quits before seeing the final product, it will be forever hidden within the confines of the wood. In that case no one will ever see the beauty hidden within. And the wood will never realize its intended end.

If the brick layer allows himself to get tired on the job, his work will be sloppy, and his building will not be up to par. The plan may have been correct, but the brick-layer’s carelessness will cause problems for him, for anyone who works beside him, or anyone who plans to use that building that he so carelessly built. We, too, must apply the utmost care every step of the way, for our work affects those around us in ways we may never witness.

In our vocations as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, priests, consecrated singles and others, we must not simply plod along, but rather work with passion and purpose – and great care – from hour to hour, day to day. Never mind the monotony; never mind the challenges; never mind the tiresome little crosses we must bear.

We learn these things through a consistent experience with work. Not necessarily paid work. As a stay-at-home mom, I certainly see the connection between my work life and my spiritual life. I toil day after day, trusting in God’s plan for my children. I see glimpses here and there, but so often as a mother, I am tempted to throw my hands up at what appears to be the futility of the work. I’ll never be able to do this job right. This is too much. It is too thankless. It will never be finished. Too often I fail to see the fruits of my labor.

No matter. I am only called to lay the bricks according to God’s plan. I must trust that He will work everything out for the best. Day after day, I must rejoice even in the mundane. I must bring my all to the job that, frankly, doesn’t always offer positive feedback. But there is one way that my experience differs from that of the bricklayer. The architect may not be standing alongside the bricklayer, assuring him and encouraging his progress. In our case, Christ is with us. He helps us to lay that brick. He applies the mortar so all our efforts build toward the finished product, which is the eternal happiness of heaven for ourselves and our families.

If we ignore the architect, if we lose faith in the finished product, if we try to follow our own plans, we will look back and wish we would have paid closer attention, that we would not have trudged along with such half-baked effort. For our lives will be scarred reflections of our own sloppiness, our lack of patience, diligence and discipline.

We learn through work that patience matters. That, eventually, given great effort day after day, year after year, we’ll see results. Through our experience in work, we can deduce that that progress in the spiritual life is slow, but that it will pay off. We learn that we don’t necessarily have to see the big picture in order to know it’s there.

Ultimately, work gives us evidence in the physical realm of what religion can do for us in the spiritual realm. According to Saint John Paul II,

(9) Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being”. – Laborem Exercens

To the extent that our young men are not “achieving fulfillment” as human beings, we cannot possibly achieve fulfillment as a society.

Even more importantly, if we do not teach our young men to have patience to perform a good job in pursuit of long-term satisfaction on earth, how will they ever be able to pursue the long-term satisfaction of heaven? If the immediate feedback from a video game trumps the long-term satisfaction of a job well-done, how will they ever be willing to do the work necessary on earth now, that one day they might hear these glorious words from heaven:

Well done, my good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.”



The Unholy Family

Most of us were born into an unholy family. Actually, that family – unholy as it may be – is the best way for each of us to make our way in this world, the greatest vehicle known to man for our sanctification.

What do you get when two fallen people fall in love and commit to spending the rest of their lives together, struggling through this thing called life, climbing, stumbling, and familyclimbing again; pulling each other up when we fall, sometimes tripping over each other along the way?

You get the precious seed of a holy family.

Your marriage may not be perfect. No worries. So long as you remain committed through the ups and downs and ins and outs of your relationship. Because the commitment itself will provide you both with the room you need for that seed to take root and germinate.

Marriage gives love the structure, the shelteredness, the climate in which alone it can grow. Marriage teaches spouses humility and makes them realize that the human person is a very poor lover. Much as we long to love and be loved, we repeatedly fall short and desperately need help. We must bind ourselves through sacred vows so that the bond will grant our love the strength necessary to face the tempest-tossed sea of our human condition. – Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love

And what do you get when those two people give themselves completely -at least to the extent that two fallen human beings can give themselves – to one another in love?

This is when love can produce life, and through this act that delicate greenery breaks the surface of the ground, growing more beautiful by the day through the waters of baptism, the nutrients of love and sacrifice provided daily by the parents, with the light of Christ shining down from above in grace and mercy.

This is when you get a family.

You may be thinking, My family doesn’t come close to that image. When you look at your family, you may be discouraged by what you consider to be an infestation of individualism and idiosyncrasies. No one seems on the same page at the same time and polar opposites can be found in every corner. You may be worried that your family may never blossom.

Yours may not be a holy family.

In fact, yours may be an unholy family.

That’s OK.

Most of us were born into an unholy family. Actually, that family – unholy as it may be – is the best way for each of us to make our way in this world, the greatest vehicle known to man for our sanctification.

The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial…

…The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down the chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day he was born.

This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up…

…When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family, we step into a fairytale. – G.K. Chesterton, On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family

But how, given the widely varied personalities involved in a family, the different values and goals, the wild adventures and the unknown outcomes, do we grow holy in that environment? How can we begin to turn in the same direction, linking arms as we walk through this vale of tears, climbing together to the summit of heaven?

We sacrifice.

We serve.

We let go.

We love.

(15) The human family, disunited by sin, is reconstituted in its unity by the redemptive power of the death and Resurrection of Christ.[37] Christian marriage, by participating in the salvific efficacy of this event, constitutes the natural setting in which the human person is introduced into the great family of the Church.

(21) Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life. But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of “reconciliation,” that is, communion reestablished, unity restored. In particular, participation in the sacrament of Reconciliation and in the banquet of the one Body of Christ offers to the Christian family the grace and the responsibility of overcoming every division and of moving towards the fullness of communion willed by God, responding in this way to the ardent desire of the Lord: “that they may be one.” -Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 

So we keep working. In our roles as parents, and in our roles as children, we sacrifice. We serve. We let go. We love.

And when we fall, we get back up and we begin again. Through reconciliation.

Through the life-giving love of the sacraments, the nutrients of our daily sacrifice, and by the grace-filled rays of Christ’s mercy, little by little, our families can become holy. That is when that tiny seed, planted in marriage, germinated in love to become a family, will begin to bloom. And the fragrance will intoxicate the world with its beauty.

But for now…

Face it. Your unholy family is the most amazing adventure you’ll ever find in this life. And the more wild the adventure and the higher the mountain you must climb together, the sweeter the victory when you reach the top.

Let us be grateful for our unholy families, and let us pray that we can unite ourselves to His Cross; that the Blood of Christ will wash away our sins, our pain and our tears along the way. Ultimately, may our families experience the joy of a love that is absolutely and completely self-giving, and together may we find the fruit of salvation through the embrace of the cross.




An Open Letter to Engaged Couples

You’ve been dreaming of this day for so long, and now it’s only a heartbeat away. No doubt at least one of you has spent countless hours working out every microscopic detail to ensure that your amazing day is everything you’ve imagined it to be. But while all the particulars have their place, your special day will be gone in the blink of an eye. After that, you will stand hand in hand, looking down the winding road that is your future, ready to travel every step of the way together. “If true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears.”

June will soon be upon us. That means wedding planners are working overtime, brides are getting overwhelmed as they count the days and grooms are looking forward to the honeymoonhoneymoon. Or at least that’s how it was 21 years ago when I got married. Could be that these days grooms are getting overwhelmed and brides are looking forward to the honeymoon (I did hear the term “groomzilla” for the first time this year).  Most likely it’s a little of both.

Whatever the case, this letter is for you – the bride and groom. You’ve been dreaming of this day for so long, and now it’s only a heartbeat away. No doubt at least one of you has spent countless hours working out every microscopic detail to ensure that your amazing day is everything you’ve imagined it to be. Perhaps you have Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings DVR’d and your reception hall on speed dial. And if the days leading up to your wedding are anything like ours, you must be up to your veils and bowties in flowers, programs, music and invitations.

But while all the particulars have their place, your special day will be gone in the blink of an eye. After that, you will stand hand in hand, looking down the winding road that is your future, ready to travel every step of the way together.

Your final destination? Heaven.

Whoever said life is about the journey is wrong. Life is about the end game. Your mission in marriage is to lead each other to heaven. And along the way, that winding road may lead you in directions yet foreseen.

Twenty-one years ago when I married my husband, we were excited, joyful and madly in love. Could we have imagined what our lives would bring over the next two decades? Surely I could never have guessed the joys and wonders that would more fully unite us as we were blessed with six amazing children to raise. But intermixed with the joy came job loss, financial strain, the grief of five miscarriages, the death of friends and family members, our crazy spur-of-the-moment decision to homeschool in a world of two incomes (to date we’ve persevered for 14 years), living in four different states, and hanging our hats in seven homes thus far.

But much to my surprise, every challenge has produced increased joy and a stronger commitment to one another. I was surprised because, you see, unlike my husband, I did not grow up with two parents who were married for the entirety of this earthly life. While I had the best of intentions,  I had no idea what marriage was supposed to look like. Chances are, at least half of you are in the same spot. It is for you that, in all humility and openness, I’d like to share an experience I had with my husband many years ago, before we were married.

Shortly after our engagement, I was concerned because my then fiancé was not overly affectionate with me. We rarely held hands and we behaved more like close friends than the adoring lovers I’d seen in the movies. I raised the issue with him. Almost pouting, I asked (in all sincerity), “If this is how affectionate we are now, imagine what things are going to be like in twenty years?  I mean, this is supposed to be the most romantic and wonderful time of our relationship – when it’s new and exciting!  Love only goes downhill from here.”

I can still see the expression he gave me.  One of puzzled amusement.  His eyes sparkled and his mouth turned up slightly as he took my hand.  “Vicki,” he said.  “My parents have been married for nearly forty years.  They are probably more affectionate now than they have ever been.  Now that the kids are grown and they are each other’s sole companion through life.  I absolutely guarantee you that they love each other now a thousand times more than they did when they were first engaged.”

He must have seen the doubt in my eyes, because he took my other hand too, before he continued.  “Think about it.  My parents have raised children together.  They’ve watched neighbors experience the tragedy of losing everything they had through the eighties when farming was at its low. They have been through good times and terrible times.  They have gotten to know each other’s families in an intimate way so that it’s not just the two of them, but a web of relationships that solidifies their own.  They have seen each other at their worst. They have seen each other at their best. They have forty years of memories together, both good and bad.  They buried a baby together.  They can honestly say that they know each other better than anyone else in the world.  That in itself ties them together.  I can assure you that my parents are absolutely one hundred percent in love, and they would take their relationship today over their little flirtations forty years ago any day of the week.

I knew, listening to my future husband in that moment, that I was learning something new.  Something I’d never heard before, but that was absolutely true.  I had been raised to believe that love was about emotion, not experience.  That love was about affection and not comfort.  But I knew that he was right.  I knew that when he married me, his love would only increase over the next forty years.  That, in itself, was a lesson I have carried with me through more than twenty years of good times and bad. Through moments where we were so annoyed with each other that I looked forward to his going to work, and I’m sure he looked forward to going. But despite the space we needed to work out our frustrations, we both knew that the tension was only temporary. (Very Important Note: That realization in itself is enough to dissolve most issues before they have a chance to dig in.)

You will love your spouse more over time, not in spite of your problems, but because of them.  Because you, too will each know going into this mystery that is Christ’s love, that your commitment is for life. And it is by sharing this life’s struggles that you will help each other to the next.

The greatest means of accomplishing your goal? Without a doubt, remember always that this relationship must find it’s security in the Love of God, Himself. For without God’s grace, the selfishness bubbling within our hearts from the sin of our first parents leaves us helpless to offer ourselves as a perfect sacrifice.

And sacrifice is the key to a happy and long-lasting marriage.

Recently I heard a speaker mention the following exhortation, so I looked it up. Before Vatican II,  this exhortation was read at every Catholic wedding. In those days, the priest did not take time in the Mass to offer a homily about the time he’d spent with the bride and groom, or make jokes about marriage preparation. Instead, he read the following. It is straightforward. It is a little scary (note how many times the word sacrifice is used). And it is A LOT beautiful.

Most importantly, it is true.

Exhortation Before Marriage
(All italics mine)

My dear friends: You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God himself. By it, he gave to man a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. And in this way he sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under his fatherly care. Because God himself is thus its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self. [But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for his Church, that is, for the people of God whom he redeemed by his own blood. And so he gave to Christians a new vision of what married life ought to be, a life of self- sacrificing love like his own. It is for this reason that his apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern.]

This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future, That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.

Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import, you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that he gave himself for our salvation. ” Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears.

The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs, he will pledge you the life-long support of his graces [in the Holy Sacrament which you are now going to receive].

God’s blessings upon you as you embark on this exciting journey together. Decades from now, may you look back on this time in your life and smile at the love you shared today, knowing that it has grown exponentially every day since. I can promise you that life will not always be easy. But in the profound words we just read, if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears.

In Christ,
A Fellow Traveler



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