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Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.  Full stop.  But I believe that there are ways that we can better love and serve the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for posts about the Church’s teachings on gay marriage, Jason Evert has an AMAZING video on this topic.

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

 

  1. LGBTQIA+ suicide and self harm is a pro-life issue.  As a youth minister, I believe strongly that priests, youth ministers, young adult ministers, DREs, and a variety of lay people should be equipped with knowledge of how to help struggling LGBTQIA+ persons.  At the very least, we should know how to help people get the help they need.
  2. We should raise our kids to stand against bullying.  This includes standing up for LGBTQIA+ peers and reporting bullying to trusted adults.  Bullying is not OK.  It is never OK.
  3. Watch your speech. If we want to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we love and care about them, we need to remove “gay,” “fag,” etc as derogatories from out speech and remind others to do so as well.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When we talk about LGBTQIA+ topics, do our words shine with love and the truth?  If not, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Understand where many are coming from.  One thing I’ve seen so strong from people posting about Pride is that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been hurt by (or know someone that has been hurt by) someone who supports traditional marriage.  This hurt could have been in many forms: emotional, physical, etc.  You may not have been the aggressor, but they now associate those who espouse traditional marriage with aggression.
  5. Ask loving questions.  One way that we can approach with charity is by listening first.  Not too long ago I reviewed Everyday Evangelism by Cathy Duffy.  She made the phenomenal point that:“…while an understanding of doctrine and worldviews is helpful, more often than not, the most valuable skill you bring to the table for an evangelistic conversation is the ability to listen.” We are called to become active listeners, because through listening we show that we truly care about the person as an individual.  Duff continues later to say: “Most people recognize that if we really care about someone, we should want to listen to them.  And, conversely, if we don’t care about someone, we convey that message by not listening to them.  The challenge for us is to improve our listening skills…” Before we do anything, we should listen.
  6. Be so careful as to what you post on social media.  I love social media.  But proceed with caution.  What you say is a public pronouncement to everyone and can be so warped out of context.  Fellow inkslinger Maurisa Mayerle wrote an incredible guide to interacting over social media which you can find here.
  7. Stop talking about “straight pride parade.”  This is a specific thing but it’s cropped up this particular pride month.  It feels like we’re drawing battle lines as opposed to forming relationships.   This is not how we show love, or start open, loving conversations.

 

At the core of all of this, sisters, is Love.  During this Pride month, a story went viral.  It was about a man wearing a  “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt (you can read it here).   He shares about people who would come up to him, crying, desperate for that “dad hug.”  So desperate for that love.  It’s heartbreaking to think of someone who feels so hated.  Especially when we all have a Father in heaven who longs to give them the Love that they seek.

Sisters, many of those who participate in Pride truly feel like Catholics hate them, look down on them, refuse to love them.  We are called to re-write that script.  We are called to be the Love.  

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YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

 

For many years, centuries perhaps, the Catholic Church has gotten a bad rap regarding her teachings on sex. Considered prudish by some and demanding by others, her insistence on purity and chastity has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and ignored by many.

pope-john-paul-iiIn recent years the Church has worked tirelessly to help people understand what Christ, and consequently the Church teaches regarding human dignity, sex, and why it is important to understand how these subjects intertwine. Pope John Paul II began this process with a series of talks that would later be compiled together as the Theology of the Body.

Theology of the Body emphasizes the sacredness of the body and how when we understand the true nature of our bodies- that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that the gift of our bodies have the ability to make visible the invisible mystery of God’s love- we can not only come to know and love God in a manner that is impossible to do in any other fashion, but we can know and love one another in a much deeper and spiritual manner as well.

Continuing Pope John Paul II’s work and as part of the New Evangelization movement, Ascension Press has been active in helping to bring the Theology of the Body to the forefront of Catholic education. Their new program, You: Life, Love, and The Theology of the Body, seeks to remind us that we are worth more than the world says; that we have an inherent dignity that sets us apart and can bring us to happiness, joy, and communion with God and one another.

You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

The You program is amazing. With inspirational presenters, captivating visuals, and down to earth advice, You connects with teens and parents alike. The program first builds a firm foundation regarding human nature, love, and responsibility and then tackles the difficult subjects that our teens are faced with today- pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, same sex attraction and marriage, and gender issues. It does this all the while reminding them of Christ’s love for each and every person.

This modern interpretation of age old teachings tie in Scripture references and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a way that makes sense and that will resound in the hearts and minds of all those who watch the videos and read the books. The program consists of 5 DVDs, an instructor’s guide, a student workbook, and a parent’s guide. It can easily be used by schools, religious education classes, youth groups, a homeschool program, or even within a small group setting. Additionally, this isn’t made simply for teens. Adults who wish to learn more about the Theology of the Body would benefit greatly from this course.

You is not just another chastity program that says, “Don’t have sex! You’ll regret it!” Instead, it reminds us that human beings are created for love and created for communion. Our bodies don’t make sense on their own, but when we view them in the light of chastity, respect, communion, and love, we can see how beautiful and important the human body truly is.

Our society wants us to believe that what we want right now is all that matters. It has taken the words chastity, purity, and sacrifice and given them negative meanings. Chastity frees us from the attitude that it’s ok to use others and to allow ourselves to be used by others and instead opens our hearts to love- both to give love and to receive love. The You program shows us how living a chaste life, as we are all called to live, can bring us not only happiness but true freedom and love.

For those who are nervous to teach on this subject, You provides everything you need to teach the class. The instructor’s guide is broken down by session and provides notes, prayers, ways to engage the students, ice breakers, different activities to connect with the teens, and for those who need it, a complete breakdown of how to run the class including minute by minute instructions. This program can be used for beginners or veteran teachers alike.

The DVDs are simply amazing. Set against beautiful backdrops, well-known Catholic speakers who are vibrant, engaging, and relatable talk to the teens in a way that captivates them. The videos, while varying in length, seem to always last just the right amount of time. Some are longer (about 10 minutes), while others are short (about 3 minutes). But the message they each carry will speak right to the viewer’s heart.

The student workbooks are engaging and informative. They dive into the topics raised within the videos and they help the teens immerse themselves in a very meaningful way. With encouragement to “take it to prayer”, random tidbits and facts throughout, and review questions both at the end of each section and at the end of each chapter, students “will discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.”

The parent’s guide briefly reviews what the teen will cover in each lesson, provides questions to ask the teens, and family applications to help teens live out the teachings they are learning. The guide is an invaluable source for parents who wish to connect with their teens but may not know how to. .

You impresses upon our teens what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and why this is important. It reminds us that we are each created not only out of love, but we are created for love. It helps us answer the question “who am I?” It tells us that purity “isn’t being numb to the beauty of God’s creation of masculinity and femininity” but instead that purity allows us to see the beauty of masculinity and femininity the way God wants us to- through a lens of true love and respect.

If you are looking for a program that will help you to teach the your teen how to live an authentic life of freedom, love, and happiness; if you are looking to guide your teen through confusing and challenging topics such as same sex attraction and marriage, pornography, and gender issues; if you wish to teach your teen that true love involves sacrifice, discipleship, chastity, and charity, then You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body is the perfect program to try.

If you are interested in this program (and I promise you will love it!), check out Ascension Press’s website. Here you will find this program and many other resources to help you on this journey toward love, respect, chastity, and faith.

created for love

 

I was given this program in return for my honest review. I am not being compensated for this review.

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Understanding the Gift of Human Sexuality: An Interview with Jason Evert

understanding the gift of human sexuality

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.

jason-evertJason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.

We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.  

Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.

Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?

The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.

There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.

Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?

Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.

There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.

Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?

We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.

A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.

Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.

An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.

Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?

One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.

Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?

There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.

John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.

This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.

Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?

One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.

The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.

And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?

It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.

Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.

Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?

I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.

Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)

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Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her Soul

Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her SoulA week ago, I shared with my 14-year-old daughter that I live with same-sex attraction (SSA).

Why? Because despite receiving thorough catechesis on sex and marriage (we’ve studied John Paul II’s “theology of the body” for years), she was still struggling to accept that people attracted to their own sex ought to be chaste. While she understood the what and even the why of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, the knowledge was academic for her. (As it should be at that age.)

Years ago, I was sure I’d take this information to my grave. I imagined my adult children finding my journals, articles, and emails after I’d died, and being surprised to learn that their mother had struggled with homosexuality. More importantly, I hoped they see beyond the struggle to its outcome–that through Christ, I had won the battle for chastity. 

Then I witnessed the widespread celebration of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage, with rainbows being touted not just from secularists and (bizarrely) corporations, but from self-proclaimed Christians and even churchgoing Catholics. I saw the vitriol directed at social scientist Mark Regnerus when he published a study showing that children raised by same-sex parents did show negative psychological effects over those raised by a mother and father. I’ve seen states trample the religious liberties of Christian citizens by enacting legislation that makes it discriminatory NOT to participate in gay marriages as a photographer, baker, or civil servant. 

I’ve gradually watched the chilling effect of political correctness that arose in my own Generation X evolve into what can only be called ideological despotism, with pro-gay marriage supporters willing to virtually crucify anyone who even thinks it’s wrong. And I know it’s only going to get worse as her generation takes up more positions of authority in society, as nearly half of Millennials believe the government should have the power to stop people from saying offensive things about minority groups, according to a disturbing Pew Research Center study. 

I prayed about whether to share such information with my daughter for a long time. I talked to my husband, and sought the counsel of a dozen close Catholic friends. Though a few believed telling her at 14 was unnecessary or premature, it was the words of a seasoned mother of adult children whose hard-won wisdom articulated my own deep fears and motivations:

My husband and I have found that the outside world becomes much louder than our quiet voices when it comes to matters like this. We’ve always taught our children that homosexuality is not a sin in itself. but when acted upon is a sin. Then our oldest children went into the world and others began telling them how wrong we are, some pointing out that they are living a homosexual lifestyle and they are “just fine.” Because we weren’t very vocal, nor did we have the experience to back up what we were saying, our oldest children don’t believe the Truth about homosexuality. The reality is, if the world gets to your daughter first, she may shut out your experiences because she will have a plethora of others telling her differently. 

So I decided to tell her. I waited for the Holy Spirit to provide the right time and then it arrived one night when the two of us were alone in her room, having good conversations over tea, with hours ahead of us before bedtime. Even though my daughter is one of the kindest souls I know, my heart still beat painfully as I prepared to tell her.

I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to talk about this part of myself with her. Not because I carry shame about it; I’ve long since accepted that my SSA is simply the wound God allows to keep me close to Him. But I’ve listened to straight Catholics who don’t know about my homosexuality talk about “those people” with obvious disgust. They see diabolical agents of Satan where I see wounded souls. I’m discriminating about who I tell and so far, everyone has responded kindly. (Eventually, it’s a non-issue because mature Catholics understand that everyone is broken in some way.)

But this was my daughter, the beautiful child I’d loved as soon as I’d known she existed. I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with her (yes, even at 14) and I was scared she would see me differently and that closeness would be damaged. This was a bell I couldn’t unring. But I’d decided that shoring up her faith was worth the risk to me personally. Finally, I just told her:

“I need you to know something important about me. You know I treasure your father and we have a wonderful marriage. But if he died tomorrow and I was single again, I would probably define myself as a gay Catholic woman.”

Her eyes got round with surprise. She cocked her head to the side. “Does Dad know?”

I almost laughed. No, I’ve hidden this from your father–my best friend–for 20 years. I thought I’d share it with my teenage daughter first! But instead I just said, “Of course.”

It ended up being a beautiful, heartfelt conversation, as those orchestrated by the Holy Spirit usually are. She asked me about when, and how long, and who. And if I’m still tempted. And why. 

“Yes,” I said. “But not as strongly or as often anymore.” I explained that the strongest temptation comes when I neglect my relationship with God. “When I rely on Jesus to give me the grace to remain chaste and faithful to my marriage, it’s just a teeny tiny struggle for me,” I said. “That’s one important reason I try to stay so close to Him.”

After many tears (mine) and much discussion, she looked at me with a dawning awareness. “I get it, Mom…you don’t expect anyone else to do something you aren’t living out yourself. Even if they choose not to, you prove that it’s possible to be chaste.” I could almost see the Truth sink from her head down into her heart and take root there. Then my tears were happy ones, as I realized why God had prompted me to take such an intimate, scary risk. (For the record, things are still normal between us.)

My daughter is young; there’s no guarantee she’ll remain faithful to the Lord for the rest of her life. She may move away and reject the Church’s teaching out of a misguided attempt to avoid hurting her gay friends. If that happens, I’ll have peace that I did all I could to help her accept the truth about human sexuality. I’ll have hope, too, that one day the seeds of Truth I planted the night I chose to be vulnerable for her sake can still one day bloom into a sincere and lasting faith. 

 

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Being Formed

BEING FORMED

Being formed–it shapes us into who we become. God shapes us, and it is our choice though to cooperate with His will, being obedient, for our Lord is the potter; we are the clay:

“…there was something wrong with the pot. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. With his hands he shaped the pot the way he wanted it to be… from the Lord …you know that I can do the same thing with you. You are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter.” Jeremiah 18: 4-6

This is what I have learned over the years, to be obedient and seek the Lord’s Will. Being a team, a team who discusses decisions to be made and making them as one. The families we were raised in, the experiences we have lived, the jobs we have taken, our friends, among many others factors, have formed us. But, we are not meant to do this alone. God provides, he offers assistance in a “helpmate”.

Mark and I met when we were 18. We both had come from similar families ~ a Christian home, parents still married, and were encouraged to achieve in what we chose do. And each of us had one sibling. We were blessed to be born into calm, stable homes. We were just two teens starting at a Christian college in suburban Chicago. The world was our place to explore now.

It was a colorful four years of dating, occasional surprises when Mark decorated my dorm room with hearts and random bouquets of flowers, dates to downtown musicals, along with a few breaks from each other. A month after graduation we married. Of course we thought we knew a lot, thinking we were “ready” and formed to marry, but there was far more shaping to be done, formation of the “helpmate” in each of us. A great adventure had begun, with many highs and plenty of lows. Did we fully understand what a “helpmate” meant, this new role of being a spouse to the other? There was a lot to learn, learning what it meant to be one, no longer two. Our decisions needed to be one, being a team. We did not know then the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it so beautifully states:

“Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” CCC 1605

Over the next 10 years we experienced those peaks and valleys. We moved to North Carolina for Mark to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for graduate school. Then we became parents to two beautiful children, lost both of our fathers, and moved to Michigan and then Texas. These two teens had now become adults who by selection and choice had to be “one” to survive. We had each other, we knew that. As we like to say, the key to the “back door”, divorce, was thrown out when we married and we would find a way to make it work. We were working on it, our clay pot was being formed, shaped.

Mark’s research started off in the study of religion and the affects on society. A trip to Malawi, Africa for research gave birth to new interests in international research for Mark. He discovered he could actually do it and enjoyed seeing other societies on the other side of the world. More opportunities came later–Israel, Mexico, France. After experiencing three miscarriages, we then had our third child, what a joy. The two were one, trying to navigate, helping one another through the highs and lows.

There was an unsettledness though in our faith life. We had been attending a Presbyterian Church (USA) since we arrived in Texas. We grew frustrated and attended a Southern Baptist megachurch for a year. But, our hearts were still restless ~  “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” St. Augustine. With two upcoming teens in our home, we saw the need to seek a true church home. Together we discerned to look at the Catholic Church and enrolled in an RCIA class. In April of 2011, we joined the Catholic Church, where we have found the fullness of Truth and the source of strength for days ahead. We were starting to understand who our Lord is, what our role as a married couple was, and how we were one and one another’s helpmate.

Mark, the non-professor, who cleans the dishes from dinner most every night, gets the children ready for bed, cleans out the cat box, reads the Little House series to our youngest, navigates amazing ventures for our family, takes care of both his mom and his mother-in-law with love, works with fervor, and has a servant heart, was about to be persecuted. The helpmate of mine was about to be attacked.

Mark had conducted a study that surveyed over 15,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 39. I vividly remember him sitting at our kitchen bar, while I was making dinner, and he told me how stunned he was at the findings in the study after doing initial data analysis. There was no massaging of the data–it was there–adult kids whose parents had had same-sex relationships were more apt to struggle. So, he wrote “The” article and the summer of 2012 arrived and started a litany of persecution, nothing what we expected. What I will say is that Mark was, still is, so inspiring to me in that he did not lash back, even when it was very warranted. He was always professional, spoke the truth, stood behind his data, research, analysis, and writing. When you’re telling the truth, why would one waiver? My role seemed unclear, but what became clear was that God called me to be the prayer warrior, on my knees for him and the whirlwind of challenges it brought. God protected us, but there are scars and still wounds, but we know God is the potter, and we trust His shaping of Mark, and me, is with His intent and purpose.

Our Hope is in the Lord, who made Heaven and earth! As Isaiah so beautifully reminds us, He leads:

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:19-21

Over the past four years, adversity has been ever present, but there is a peace that passes all understanding. With the joy of watching the production of Humanum, showing the beauty of marriage and family and the start of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, there is hope. The clay pot is being shaped by our Lord into what He wants it to be. Mark has been cooperative, obedient, and of course still learning. He is still teaching at the University of Texas, he recently finished a book, has maintained old friendships and made some new, we are still married, seeking to be one~a team, our children are growing and learning, we have learned that  “It is not good that the man should be alone” but that we are to be each others helpmate through all seasons of life “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” Not only does Mark study and write about marriage and family, but lives this marriage vow with me, his “helpmate”, who is given by God in the sacrament of marriage.

Deeann & Mark

Deeann is wife to Mark and mom to three amazing kids. Her love for her family is immediately known by anyone who knows her and she spends considerable time praying for her husband’s work and her children’s endeavors, all while exuding a cheerfulness about her that is so infectious that you will want to know her better and learn how she does it all. I am so blessed to call her my friend. ~ Martina