Allen Ink Slingers Perspective from the Head

What God has Joined Let No One Divide

scan3-77Your Family was started on the day you got married, and after you took your vows.
 The presider may have uttered words similar to the ones above.  It not only applies to you and your spouse, but also to your entire family.  The world many times seeks to separate what God has joined together.  

Living the Life

As our kids were growing up, we got involved in Church, sports and social club activities.  It got to a point that we were busy every night of the week.  I was a member of the church choir, my wife and I were deeply involved in building a Catholic School, three of our children were playing soccer and I was coaching them, and our daughters were members of a Catholic Girl’s club.  In addition to these church and family related items, I worked full time with a bit of travel and even took lessons to become a private pilot.  When a new opportunity for spiritual growth or volunteering came our way, our method of deciding whether or not to say yes was to take a look at our calendar and see if there was any spare time.  If there was, we said yes until every moment of our life was filled with activities.  IMG_2709
Each of the activities we were involved in were good, it was the sheer number of activities that was bad for us.  Looking back on that time in our lives, I don’t think we realized that this constant busyness was unhealthy for our family.  We were just living a full life, volunteering for every worthwhile cause and making sure that each of our children was able have all the fun a child should have.  We were on the road to burn out and to losing touch with our young family.
Then I took a new job and one of the highly suggested activities at my new company was to spend a couple of weeks at our corporate offices helping out in the technical support call center.  It was a great way for a new Systems Engineer to quickly learn the technical aspects of the products while helping out our short-staffed support team.  My wife and I discussed this extended business trip and we decided to buy an RV and make a family trip out of it.  When the planning was completed, I had arranged a trip to California and back that lasted just under a month with stops at customer sites, national and state parks, theme parks and visiting friends and family along the way.  I don’t know that I fully realized the immediate profound effect this trip would have on our family, nor the way it would shape our family life and rhythm for the rest of our lives.

RVLife Lessons from Living in an RV

When preparing to leave for this trip, we had to squeeze 10 people, all our clothing, bicycles, and any personal items we needed for a month into a 31 foot Class C RV with no slide outs and limited storage.  This was a serious exercise in detachment, not only from possessions, but from our normal routines.  I still did my work on the road, but pretty much everything else in our normal routine changed.  We didn’t have any sports, school, social or church activities, we left all that behind when we pulled out of the drive on our way to California, we only had each other.
Our commitments at home weren’t missed, we didn’t long for our things, we had a great time and really grew closer together as a family over the course of our trip.  We ate all our meals together, we visited shrines along the way, attended Sunday mass and an occasional daily mass together, met with friends in different cities, and we explored the beauty of God’s creation.  In summary, we retreated from the world, prayed together, played together and formed closer bonds with each other and with the Lord.  We emerged from our month long adventure a changed family with a renewed focus on what was most important in our lives.  

The Family Mission

God taught us that one of his greatest gifts to us is our family.  Each of our children brings something unique to our family, something we didn’t have before and something that makes our family unit better.  We learned that we really like our kids and they like us too. Our kids didn’t need to be kept busy with tons of activities, they were just as happy, maybe even more so, to simply be with us.  GrandCanyon
Unhealthy patterns had crept into our family, this RV trip was a good exercise which allowed us to take a step back and evaluate our lives and our family routine.  We began to regularly spend time in prayer as a couple and as a family, asking God what our family’s mission should be and where we should be spending our time and energy.  At times this exercise has resulted in minor adjustments, and sometimes  major life changes to our family routine to ensure that we meet our primary goal of leading our family to heaven.
Every family needs to retreat from the world on a regular basis, this can take the form of a family vacation, a family retreat, or just making Sunday family days.  But if you don’t plan for them, they probably won’t happen.  Your family is a great gift from God, be sure to nurture and care for it.  
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5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

Amoris Laetitia continues to be featured in a variety of writings, posts, books, and conversations in the wider Catholic world. That’s good. That’s how it’s supposed to work with the faithful—marinating in Church documents over time, letting them age and evaluating them against the shifting spirits. There should be no “media cycle” mentality here—no quick read, sound bytes, then moving on to await the next thing.

Amoris Laetitia is what’s called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which means it was written in response to a synod (or called meeting of a share) of the world’s bishops to discuss a particular matter. In this case it was on marriage. An apostolic exhortation is considered less authoritative than an encyclical or an apostolic constitution, the latter of which have typically concerned theological dogmas, particular practices, and especially organizational forms.

The two synods that prompted Amoris Laetitia were kind of a big deal to those of us who work in the broader marriage business. We prayed, we anticipated, we stared at the list of invitees, we wondered, we tried to figure out best and worst-case scenarios, and then we waited to see what the Holy Father would say. And in early April, he spoke. I remember my first news of it, waking up in a Mexico City hotel to learn what CNN was saying. I gulped hard. I looked around at what else was being said about it, and then went about my business in the confidence that the Church would survive, no matter what. A busy day in front of me, my own examination of it would have to wait. I didn’t think it would wait a few months. But in Catholic Standard Time, a couple months is nothing. Yes, the document isn’t quite what some of us would write on the matter. And it’s not short, at 264 pages and 325 numbered paragraphs or entries. It didn’t need to be that long. But it is, which prolongs the wider digestion of its content.

So here, late but not really, are five ways in which AL encouraged, challenged, and aggravated me. 

First, one of the more noticeable traits of Pope Francis is a very frank style of writing, as if he were sitting in the therapist’s office across from me (on the couch), gently—and sometimes not so gently—coaxing me to sacrifice more, to love better, to reach out. As a scholar who tries to write in a way that is accessible, this is something I can appreciate. And at the same time, it’s a little unsettling to shift gears from JPII’s rich-but- obscure orthodoxy. I consider St John Paul’s going home to the house of the Father the beginning of my search that concluded in our swimming the Tiber. I think his Theology of the Body is dynamic stuff, necessary for the long run. But there’s no denying that Love & Responsibility is tough slogging. (Whenever someone I know claims to have read it, I wince, then privately doubt them, then question my own commitment.) Francis, ever the pastor, has elected a far more plain language—that of the people. Hence when Francis asserts that “…the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity that should have come at the end of adolescence,” I appreciate it. Indeed, I needed to hear that one, in all honesty. Ditto for much of the first several chapters of AL. It challenges me to be a better husband and father.

Second, I resonate with the pope’s worry that the Church is perceived as singing only a few tunes about marriage:

(W)e often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation. Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.

The truth is, of course, that the Church has remarkable richness in its understanding of marriage. It was this that first attracted me back in 2006. But what the Holy Father seems to be saying here is that the Church has been unprepared for the role it needs to take in shepherding marriages in an era wherein no other social institution now esteems or expects people to enter such a comprehensive union. She’s the only one. This is the reality that may haunt the Church for decades yet to come before she comes to the realization that any vibrant marriage subculture in the West is because she has woken up to realize the beggars out there are looking to her for the bread here.

Third, AL hence challenged me to accept greater responsibility for helping build a subculture of marriage in the Church. It would be difficult to find me guilty of doing nothing here, but there is always a temptation to say I’m doing enough, or to presume that any particular effort of mine is meritorious at face value (when it may well not be). As Amoris Laetitia notes, “The situations that concern us are challenges. We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity.” It is time to get creative about changing the narrative around marriage in our midst. It may be too much to hope for, but doing nothing is a far worse idea. Indeed, the Holy Father writes, “…we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.” Moreover:

We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage (40).

But the clergy need help in findings those new ways. In fact, the “missionary creativity” AL speaks of here will no doubt come from the laity.

Fourth, my primary aggravation with AL is its lack of specificity (at times) and—perhaps most importantly—there are some things that are missing from Amoris Laetitia that ought to be there. Language and word choice is sometimes an attempt to speak in the vernacular. But sometimes it’s a simple absence of content. I’m not one who wishes to punish people with the pen, but the lack of a discourse around adultery—even cohabitation is only named a few times—creates odd moments in Amoris Laetitia. If a cohabiting young adult were to scour this document for justification of their choices—and honestly, that’s not how they roll—he wouldn’t find too much to help his case. But nor would he find a great deal to hurt it, either. AL elects to talk a good deal about “irregular” unions, a legal term that hardly anyone uses. Some of you have personal experience with these. Most faithful Catholics who have now look back on it with a measure of regret, and can recall that at some point they were convicted of their objective guilt, not just subtly signaled that their illicit union was “non-normative.” When the challenges around us are numerous, it behooves the Church to speak frankly consistently.

Fifth and finally, it’s important to remember that despite whatever misgivings you may have about elements of Amoris Laetitia, we have a Holy Father who advocates for marriage and wants the flock to pursue this vocation. I know, I know, there are legitimate beefs here and there that give experts and pastors fits, but if you step back and glimpse the whole, it is a comforting defense of marriage against the assaults of the “culture of the ephemeral,” a consumer approach to relationships, fear of commitment, “an addiction to television,” “the obsession with free time,” and an approach to relationships that is utilitarian. The pope perceives as well the Western surge in gray divorce, “older adults who seek a kind of ‘independence’ and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another,” (39) and he’ll have none of it:

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life (52).

What Catholics need how to figure out how to learn what it is the Holy Father is teaching us. No, we don’t just do whatever it is the Pope tells us. (If anything, he writes because we don’t.) That’s not how papal authority works. On the other hand, it’s in poor form to openly, publicly criticize or undermine the Holy Father. He’s not your President. He’s not your boss. He’s not your priest, for that matter. He’s your father. He’s family. We owe him our respect, loyalty, love, and ear.


Deeann & MarkMark Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, a research associate of the university’s POPULATION RESEARCH CENTER, and a senior fellow at the AUSTIN INSTITUTE for the Study of Family and Culture. His areas of research are sexual behavior and family formation. He’s the author of two books (2007 and 2011) on the sexual behavior of teenagers and young adults. 

His new research on the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships was published in the July 2012 issue of SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH, and is available HERE. It’s understandably drawn a great deal of SCRUTINY, and so he wrote a follow-up RESPONSE TO CRITICS and made the data publicly AVAILABLE to other scholars. A dialogue about the study’s findings appeared in Slate and is available HERE. Mark has also written several short essays about DATA COLLECTION on same-sex parenting, POLLING about same-sex marriage, new evidence from CANADA, and THOUGHTFUL ASSERTIONS about how same-sex marriage may shape the wider mating market.

Guest Posts Mark Regnerus Perspective from the Head Spiritual Growth Testimonials

It Just Makes Sense (Even as a Protestant)

It Just Makes sense (Even as a Protestant)

My family and I are approaching the five-year mark in the Catholic Church. While my wife may describe her experience differently, I am quite certain that the honeymoon is over. 

My personality didn’t change at the Easter Vigil 2011, nor did my character radically improve. This is solid evidence that purgatory is real, because there’s a clear difference between saintly and saved.

Not that I needed any help believing in purgatory; I had long ago accepted it as a Protestant. I just didn’t call it purgatory, because it sounded bad. People who don’t know much about purgatory associate it with hell, not heaven. Plus, anything ending with those last five letters isn’t going to be an easy sell…conservatory, suppository, obligatory—they all sound bad. But needing purification after death—that has always made sense to me. It’s logical. Too bad people think the gift of purgatory is a punitive thing, though.

Four years in, I now know what “Catholic guilt” means. But I’m convinced my familiarity with the confessional is partly because we converted from Calvinism to Catholicism, and didn’t quite drop the Calvinism thing completely. My wife and I remain convinced of total depravity, not theologically, just on a gut level. You should feel sorry for us Calvinist-turned-Catholics. 

Catholics with our background don’t need convincing that we’re supposed to go to confession. It just feels appropriate.

You know the good, relieved, clean feeling that comes after confession? I like that. When I first converted, the feeling lasted a few days. Post-honeymoon, it lasts for an hour or two. Pretty soon I’ll probably just exit the confessional and get back in line.

No worries, though. The long confessional lines at my parish means there’s plenty of time to accrue more to confess by the time I get back to the confessional. A friend accused me recently of simony—you know, the buying or selling of ecclesiastical privileges—because I said I’d pay to jump the lengthy confession lines. I’ve even come up with a formula of comparing how bad I’ve been to whether I can stand the line length. I probably should confess that, too.

Enough about confession. Another compelling aspect of being Catholic is the communion of saints. The border between heaven and earth seems thinner than it did before, back when death was a more decidedly one-way ticket and conversation. This, too, I was convinced of before becoming Catholic. As Calvinists, we too recited the creeds, for which I’m grateful. But I remember dutifully dismissing the Catholic-sounding aspects of the Apostle’s Creed, including the “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy (small-c) catholic church,” and then we’d say “the communion of saints.” I was convinced this phrase just described the small-c catholic church…comma…which is the communion of saints.

In hindsight my mental gymnastics were almost laughable. But even before we joined the Church, I knew I was wrong and that the communion of saints is not just an adjective for the Church.

The communion of saints also means that the hereafter is closer, too. Not because I’m getting older, but because the dead aren’t as far away as I thought. We pray for them; they pray for us.

I remember the first time a Catholic friend told me—years after my dad had died, but long before we converted—that she would pray for him. I looked at her funny and asked, “Why?” She explained that sanctification can occur even after death. “Huh,” I probably said.

That also seemed logical long before I became Catholic. In fact, this is a perfectly rational practice of Catholics—that of not making premature claims about who is in heaven. I always thought evangelical deathbed conversion stories were a bit optimistic about the deceased’s readiness to be in the presence of a holy God. Fortunately, at least one Protestant gets it–C.S. Lewis explains purgatory beautifully The Great Divorce.

I’ve grown more comfortable with acknowledging the grace of God and entrusting my loved ones to it. But it would wrong to declare my dad is in heaven this very moment, because I don’t know. I can’t empirically confirm it.

My Protestant mother asked a few years ago, “So, you think your dad’s not in heaven?” Talk about an awkward conversation. I responded truthfully, “Mom, relax. If he isn’t yet, he’s still in good hands.”

Another truth that resonated with my prior to conversion is the Church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage. In 2006, I was writing my first book on the relationship lives of religious teenagers. To position the topic, I wanted to include sections on what different religious traditions had to say about sex and relationships. I could write the evangelical one in my sleep and it would be about a paragraph long, because Protestantism doesn’t say a whole lot except “Wait till you’re married. Then…do whatever.” But without crystal clarity from the Bible, the back-and-forth arguments about what God’s laws are about sex and marriage is characteristic of a tradition that lacks authority.

I wrote a Mormon friend for with the LDS section. Then I came to the Catholic section.

“Catholics…OK…they’re the ones against birth control. I should try to figure out what’s up with that.” Pope John Paul II had recently passed away, and in a providential move I had picked up George Weigel’s tome Witness to Hope, about John Paul’s early life and papacy. I looked up “sex” in the index. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the first time I had looked up that term in the index of a book, but that’s a different story.)

Turned out there was no entry for sex, but plenty about “sexuality.” Weigel’s short summary of John Paul’s “theology of the body” mesmerized, stunned, and embarrassed me.

Within a day or two, I’d declared to my wife that the Catholic Church was probably right about sexuality and that Protestants—ourselves included—were out to lunch. She probably responded with something like, “OK, Mark, that’s nice.” To which I probably responded, “Yeah, but it’s too bad they’re so into Mary and saints and stuff, because boy they are really thinking clearly on sexuality. I’ll give them that.”

I had long thought the Catholics were right on the indissolubility of marriage. Deeann and I were always pretty firm on that. We agreed in 1993 to throw away the nuclear option, and not to speak of it, not to use it as a threat. But as Presbyterians we were in modest company on the matter, watching congregations bless marriages, then honor divorces, then bless subsequent remarriages.

But what I didn’t know at that time was that sexuality, marriage, family—all of it was of one seamless weave. I came to see that evangelicals weren’t talking much about some other things, either—things like dignity, nature, solidarity, and the common good—because there were few-to- no verses in the Bible about them. And I started wondering what else the Catholics might be right about. But these things take time—years—to percolate in the head and heart.

As I discovered, the Church is not just theologically astute on matters of sexuality and marriage. They’re also right. As in, one can see it in the data. Empirically, I mean.

Humanae Vitae was published 47 years ago. Coming on the heels of the Second Vatican Council, I think we tend to underestimate the pressures on the former Cardinal Montini to cave to the remarkable scientific discovery in 1960 of an effective way to control fertility. The Church, after all, isn’t an enemy of science.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that the encyclical’s claims registered in my brain and work. That’s when I first read Nobel laureate George Akerlof’s 1996 argument that the uptake of the Pill led, ironically, to a massive increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing. He wrote that paper with his wife, now our Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. It made sense to me, so profoundly connected was the increase in Pill use and explosion in premarital sex.

And Paul VI prophesied the consequences. He didn’t concern himself simply with whether the Pill was an abortifacient, like so many evangelicals do. He saw what it would do to couples, to fledgling relationships, to persons, and to communities. It would change how they think about each other, themselves, the meaning of sex, and the good of children. It would alter the social reproduction of entire communities.

Akerlof and Yellen, unfortunately, concluded their landmark study with advice suggesting that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” having deduced that it was not only pointless to resist a contraceptive mentality, it would be the wrong thing to do. Instead, let’s push for contraception.

Nearly 20 years later, it’s a stretch to claim the relational world is better, more loving, and more moral than it was before the Pill. Don’t you think?

This article was an excerpt from a talk Mark gave in September 2015 at the Fullness of Truth conference in San Antonio.

It Just Makes Sense (Even as a Protestant)Mark Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, a research associate of the university’s Population Research Center, and a senior fellow at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. His areas of research are sexual behavior and family formation. He’s the author of two books (2007 and 2011) on the sexual behavior of teenagers and young adults. 

His new research on the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships was published in the July 2012 issue of Social Science Research, and is available here. It’s understandably drawn a great deal of scrutiny, and so he wrote a follow-up response to critics and made the data publicly available to other scholars. A dialogue about the study’s findings appeared in Slate and is available here. Mark has also written several short essays about data collection on same-sex parenting, polling about same-sex marriage, new evidence from Canada, and thoughtful assertions about how same-sex marriage may shape the wider mating market.

Abortion Brad Fischetti Faith Formation Fatherhood Marriage NFP and contraceptives Parenting Perspective from the Head Respect Life Spiritual Growth Vocations

Why Is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone’s Business?

“I hope you’re not planning on any more children. Tell Bradley to get snipped, he’s got enough kids. And you better be on some good birth control because we all know the rhythm method doesn’t work.” 

The text above details what someone close to me, said to my wife recently.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business?

The person offered this advice without any provocation and outside the context of a conversation about the subject. My initial inclination was to call that person and offer a scathing response. But after discussing with my wife, we decided to simply pray for that person and leave the rest up to God.

Why is it that the Catholic sex-life is so interesting to people? Why do so many people make it their business? We have all seen a family walk into church with 6, 7, 8, 9, or even 10 kids. And we’ve all seen the looks those families get from many of the parishioners. Granted some looks are those of admiration and respect. But many of those looks border on disgust. The comments, spoken and unspoken, are often times uncharitable and certainly not indicative of a Christian. The lack of understanding and the cynicism is present in many folks in the church, layperson, and clergy. I do respect and understand that for many, fully grasping and accepting the teachings of the Church is a lifelong process. Some may never fully accept specific teachings of the Church. And I think it is safe to say that the Church’s teachings on contraception are at the top of that list. 

I get it. It’s not unreasonable to think, “What’s so bad about a condom?” or “Why is it the Church’s business?” Those are fair questions to ask. And I think it’s important to ask questions as long as we are willing to dig deep for the answers. As Catholics, we look to the Church as a guide for subjects related to morality. The Church is our teacher, our Mother who enlightens our conscience to discern right from wrong. As Catholics, we are called to accept ALL the teachings of the Church. Nobody said being Catholic was easy. Some may say it’s even burdensome. The Church takes the hard stance on the hard issues. And I say THANK GOD FOR THAT. We live in a world where our morality is constantly being put to the test and bombarded with influences contrary to Catholic teachings. Our society, and even some churches, bends and forms and capitulates to the strains and whims of what’s normative. The Church doesn’t waiver. She stands firm as a beautiful beacon of hope and trust and of sound Christ-centered guidance.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business? 2So what is so bad about a condom (or contraception in general)? And why is it the Church’s business? First, it’s the Church’s business because the Church is our authority on morality. Period. And a condom itself is not inherently bad or evil. However, the Church teaches us that the use of a condom is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that every action, which renders procreation impossible, is intrinsically evil {2370}. Wow. That’s pretty heavy. The Church teaches that using a condom is not only unacceptable but also evil? In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI writes that contraception “contradicts the moral order” and is, therefore, “unworthy of man” {14}. The Church teaches us that our intimate physical relationships must be open to life-giving and love-giving.

Contrary to what some may believe, the Church does encourage us to exercise responsible parenthood. How does one exercise responsible parenthood without the use of contraception? First things first – self-control. Are you in control of your desires or are your desires in control of you? James Chapter 1 states: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” Sexual desires aren’t bad or evil, but natural and good. The problem arises when we cannot control our desires. The Church offers a wonderful way for us to exercise responsible parenthood while maintaining, “respect [for] the bodies of our spouses” and encouraging “tenderness between them”. It’s called Natural Family Planning (NFP) and we’ll dig a little deeper below.

But first let’s break down the advice offered to my wife.

Part 1 – “I hope you’re not planning on any more children.” & “He’s got enough kids.” 

The Catechism states, “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity” {2373}. Children are a gift from God. You don’t need to read that in a book to know it’s true.

Part 2 – “Tell Bradley to get snipped”

Have we no more dignity than a stray dog or cat? A good friend of mine with six children often responds to similar comments with, “Sorry my husband is not a dog.” First of all, I can’t imagine voluntarily allowing a doctor to use a scalpel or laser “down there”. Beyond that obvious craziness and the possible risks associated with a vasectomy, the Church teaches us that sterilization is morally unacceptable. That’s enough for me.

Part 3 – “And you better be on some good birth control because we all know the rhythm method doesn’t work.”

This person is referring to NFP. NFP is not just a way to plan out pregnancies but actually is used to achieve pregnancy because it tracks and identifies ovulation. NFP is VERY effective when used correctly. Even the U.S. Government has a study that proves that a method of NFP is as effective as birth control pills and more effective than barrier methods in planning pregnancies. The beauty of NFP is that it is morally acceptable, free of cost, and poses no health risks to either spouse.

Many people don’t realize that several forms of birth control methods, including many birth control pills, sometimes work by preventing a newly conceived child from attaching to the uterus and, therefore, causing a first trimester abortion. Further, birth control pills and devices have potentially harmful side effects including an increased risk for breast cancer, blood clots, and toxic shock syndrome.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business? 3Sure NFP isn’t easy and certainly will require serious effort and diligent work. But it’s worth it. Studies have shown that couples that use NFP are far less likely to divorce {p.12}. Certainly those using NFP must have a very open line of communication and the comfort level to discuss some very intimate details. Such conversations and trust can only lead to a stronger marriage. 

I am still learning. My desire is for my intimate physical relationship to be pleasing to God. I am not judging or condemning. I’m only trying to offer a glimpse into what the Church teaches and to respond to what was said to my wife.

I am so grateful for the Catholic Church and her teachings on morality. Just imagine what we could accomplish if more Catholics had large families and raised their kids to be dedicated Catholics. What would the country look like if Catholic values were prominent in every facet of life?

Thank you Lord for your Church. Thank you for inspiring Her and for allowing Her to sustain for more than 2,000 years. Thank you for Her teachings on everything important.

Allen Domestic Church Homeschool Parenting Perspective from the Head Vocations

Courtship is not the Answer

I absolutely love the courtship approach to dating for my children, but it isn’t enough.  Courtship is the idea that young people should only enter into an exclusive relationship when they are ready to get married.  I have discussed in a previous blog post exactly what Dating with Purpose looks like, so go check it out for more details if you wish. In short, Courtship, or Dating with Purpose, establishes a set of guidelines or best practices that should be followed to avoid the near occasion for sin during dating and foster the right environment for two people with noble intentions to discern whether or not God is calling them to marry each other.

Family: Boot Camp for Healthy Relationships

healthy-familyThe building blocks for a successful marriage and family life are healthy relationships.  Indeed, the fundamental call of Christianity is to engage in healthy relationships with everyone we encounter on our journey through life.  When we are young, our relationships are immature, often characterized by extreme selfishness, also known as being childish.  If we don’t get our way, we throw a temper tantrum hoping that the person telling us “no” will be too embarrassed, too tired or too weak to stand their ground and thus give in and let us do what we want to do.  Most people grow out of this stage somewhere around age 7 or 8.  During the next few years leading up to adolescence, our goal is to teach our children, through the use of their new-found reason, to be obedient because it is the right thing to do.  We also teach them self mastery and respect for legitimate authority.  These basic skills are essential to building healthy relationships later in life as they search for their vocation (marriage or religious life).

We have a large family (nine children), so being selfish is just not a viable option for our children; we don’t have to do much to teach our children that they won’t always be able to get their own way.  There is not enough money, space or time to make everyone in our family happy.  I was raised in a much smaller family and thus it was easy for me to be selfish, and I was until I got married (and perhaps for even a few years into it).  Selfishness and marriage don’t go very well together.  Luckily God gave us children and the more children you have the less selfish you will be.  It is not impossible to teach selflessness within a small family, but you do have to make a plan and work at it, especially if you are financially blessed.

Desiring the Best for Another

Photo by quinn.anya

Healthy relationships are not just important for your marriage, but are essential for leading a successful life.  It doesn’t matter if you like someone or not, you have to treat them with respect, even if the other person doesn’t try at all and may even be trying to take advantage of your kindness.  This is what we call being Christ like.  God loves us no matter what.  We can be mean to Him, ignore Him, hate Him or love Him, yet He will still love us and desire the best for us and treat us with respect.  We are called to do the same in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in the human race.  

couple arguing photo
Photo by soukeina.felicianne

We are called to be honest, truthful and have empathy for others, we are expected to do what we can to help them when they are having difficulties, and to rejoice with them when they have success.  We shouldn’t view other people’s success as threats to our own happiness.  There is plenty of success to go around for everyone.  What a world we would live in if everyone did their best to help other people achieve their full God given potential.  

Courtship is Not Enough 

So back to my main point: courtship is not sufficient to ensure a successful marriage or family life for our children; we must teach them to be good human beings first, to rejoice in the success of others, and to be confident in their own self worth as a child of God.  This may sound like a very tall order, but this is why God gave us the gift of family life.  The family is naturally designed to teach us how to have healthy relationships with other people.  

The Courtship model can be a way to help the potential spouses our children bring home encounter healthy relationships.  Unfortunately not every family seeks to raise well formed children and thus there are some who need to discover what a healthy relationship is when they are far beyond the age at which this should have been learned.  It is at this point that the whole family can be an agent of mercy to help the potential brother or sister in law to enter into a Christian way of life.  But there is nothing magical about this approach. There will be some suitors who find this way of living too odd or too difficult, but that is part of the beauty of the courtship process.  It is not up to your adult child to weed out every bad apple or redeem every lost soul; the rest of the family can help too.healthy-friendships

The goal of any dating or courtship relationship is to help your adult children find their spouse for life.  A successful marriage is much more than just good feelings and if the family is blessed with children (and perhaps lots of them) a healthy relationship between a husband and wife is even more important.  We never stop learning how to be a better person, or a better spouse or a better father or mother, family life ensures that this task of being a better Christian is a life long work in progress.  If we provide a good foundation for our children, their marriage and family will be stronger from the start and they will be better prepared to weather the storms of their family life.