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Raising Chaste Catholic Men: A Review

When we only had four little ones!
When we only had four little ones!

As a mother, I am constantly thinking about and worrying about my children. I think about their health, their education, their friends, their religious upbringing, their happiness, their sadness, their hopes and their dreams. I contemplate what kind of people they will be when they are grown, what will their spouses be like (if they have one), and whether or not I am doing a good job raising them. From the very first moment my heart began to long for a child those thoughts have occupied my mind.

I don’t think that I thought much about chastity when I simply had little ones. Instead my days were filled with diapers, naps, crayon on the walls, gum stuck in long, pretty blond hair, broken arms, food on the floor, and Barney- lots and lots of Barney.

As my children grew older and I soon had both tiny kids and older kids who were facing a world that wanted to educate them in a way that I did not want, my mind often turned to questions about chastity and what I wanted them to know and learn. I wondered how I would tackle tough topics, what exactly I needed to teach them, and when I needed to teach it.  Looking back I can see that teaching about chastity began far before I actually thought about it. It began when my little ones were tiny and I taught them about the preciousness and sanctity of their bodies. It began when I started teaching them about the differences between boys and girls and how every person is made perfectly in God’s image.

Today I have 11 children in just about every age range- adult children, teens, preteens, elementary school kids, and toddlers. We are a very open family that can talk about anything. If the kids have a question (and boy do they have questions!) they know they can come to me about anything and I will answer to the best of my ability. It doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t falter or wonder if I’m saying the right things or handling it the best way. But it does mean that I always try to do my best and to welcome them no matter how uncomfortable the subject.

raising-chaste-catholic-menI was recently blessed to review Leila Miller’s new book Raising Chaste Catholic Men. To be honest, I wanted to review the book because I wanted to know what I could do differently to help impress upon my younger boys (ages 10, 4, and 3) what I obviously lacked for my older son who chose a completely different life than we had taught. I wanted to see if there was a magic trick to keeping our boys chaste. What I found out confirmed what I knew all along…

Raising Chaste Catholic Men is an amazing book. To begin with it is a simple conversation between two Catholic moms- Leila and you. Reading the book is like meeting up with a friend, sitting down for lunch, and spending the afternoon drinking coffee (or Diet Coke in my case) , and just talking for hours, so engrossed in conversation that you don’t realize the time slipping away from you. The book is short in length and is perfect for a busy mom to pick up during her hectic day and read. Leila intended the book to be this way. She knew that we have questions, need suggestions, and simply need Catholic support from a mom who has been there and is still knee-deep in the trenches; but she also knew we are often pressed for time. The length of the book and the way it is written acknowledge and respect both our time and our needs.

Leila tackles some truly difficult topics. When my oldest children were little I had no idea that one day I would be talking to them about transgenderism, gay marriage, the demasculinization of our boys and men, or pornography available at their fingertips all day and all night. Raising Chaste Catholic Men doesn’t shy away from these issues. In fact, these and a number of other- masturbation, navigating pop culture, dating, contraception, premarital sex, how to be both parent and friend to your children, video games, computer usage, and how to cultivate manhood- are all part of the book.

Combining Church teachings, the Bible, the Catechism, profound words from popes and other Catholic teachers, as well as a plethora of other resources, Leila helps us understand not only the Church’s teaching on chastity (which is different from abstinence!) but why chastity is imperative to our children’s overall growth and development- heart, mind, body, and soul!

When I finished reading Raising Chaste Catholic Men I felt like I had my own little cheering squad! Despite feeling like there were many times I have failed and even though I have a son who has veered from the path that we have tried to show him, Leila reminded me that all the work we have done has created a firm foundation to which he (hopefully!) will return.  My doubts that I was “doing it all wrong” melted away and I knew that regardless of what our children choose (and they can choose to deviate from what we know to be good and holy) the efforts we put into teaching our children is never lost or wasted. She gave some great lasting advice that I know will help me both now and in the future. It was a message I truly needed to hear.

In a world that wishes to strip away what it means to be male and female, Raising Chaste Catholic Men reminds us of the inherent goodness there is to our maleness and our femaleness. We are each perfectly made in God’s image and likeness and while we are made this way, we are also made very differently from one another. This is so that we can complement the opposite sex. We aren’t made for competition but we are created to be one. As Leila so beautifully pointed out, “The reproductive system is the only system in the human body that is completed with someone else.” We are made to complete one another… this is a powerful and important lesson we must impart to our children.

While my way of doing things almost mirrors Leila’s, I will say that even if you choose to do things differently, this book can help you navigate the often winding, rocky path to teaching our children about their sexuality, chastity, and the inherent goodness of their bodies. Building a firm foundation where our children can find peace, hope, love, and joy is imperative. We can only do this if we are willing to tackle tough subjects, keep the lines of communication open, and live a faithful, chaste life ourselves.

leila-millerI strongly encourage you to read Leila’s book Raising Chaste Catholic Men. You will come away feeling empowered and hopeful. Our sons deserve the best we can give them- that means always teaching the truth and showing them the right path. Raising Chaste Catholic Men will help you in your quest to do this.

If you’d like to purchase Leila’s book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men, you can do so here.

Stop by her website as well to check out her other inspiring and thought provoking articles!

 

 

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for this review.

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Current Events Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Interviews Michelle Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth

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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Consecrated Life Current Events Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Interviews Marriage Michelle Motherhood Parenting Priesthood Single life Sisterhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Theology of the Body Congress: Hope for a Broken World

 

theology of the body congress

There is no denying that our world is broken. We only have to turn on the television or read the news online or in print to know that our world is hurting. As a result of this brokenness, we see our society seeking to change what it means to be a family. As concerned parents we have to wonder how we can prepare our families to remain faithful to God’s vision and hope for the family.

Between 1979 and 1984 St. Pope John Paul II began giving Wednesday audiences known as “Theology of the Body”. In his talks he spoke of the beauty and dignity of the human body. He reminded the Church that each person was made in the image and likeness of God and that the human body therefore had a specific meaning- it made visible an invisible reality. Instead of being made simply for personal pleasure or gain, the body was capable of answering fundamental questions about life but also was able to give us the means to love others in the way that God loves us. It is through the God-given gift of our human bodies, made both male and female, that we are able to find true happiness and fulfillment.

TOB for every bodyTheology of the Body is not simply for married couples or for those wishing to teach their teens how to stay chaste. These of course are wonderful reasons to study Theology of the Body, but TOB is made for all people. It is for those who are single, those who are married, for the anxious teen, the celibate priest or religious, for those who are in relationships, those who wish to instruct others, and most importantly it is for families. TOB reaches into each and every facet of our lives and helps to educate us all on the beauty and the sacredness of the human body.

This coming September in Southern California The Theology of the Body Institute will host a Congress to bring St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to all those who wish to discover the joy and freedom that comes from understanding the sacred gift of the human body.

The Institute’s mission reads, “…the 2016 TOB Congress will propose a powerful vision of sexual complementarity that reaches the core of what it means to be human, made in the image of the God Who truly is a Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through presentations from experts in the field of TOB, participants will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving love, which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant be, as well as ways of ministering to the human family on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sociological level.”

TOB

The three day Congress will be led by over 30 powerhouse Theology of the Body experts and enthusiasts including Greg and Julie Alexander, Christopher West, Jason Evert, Dr. Pia De Solenni, Bill Donaghy, Dr. Angela Franks, Matt Fradd, Fr. Sean Kilcawley, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., as well as many more amazing men and women dedicated to sharing the joy and freedom that comes from understanding God’s intent for the human body.

Through keynote speakers, break-out sessions, and panel discussions Congress goers will have the opportunity to hear how TOB relates to numerous topics that affect our lives- pornography, teenage sexuality, infertility, same sex attraction, the struggles of married life, the struggles of family life, teens in a digital age, TOB for singles, TOB for feminists, divorce, and many other issues.

In the coming weeks here at Catholic Sistas we will be featuring interviews with a few of the keynote speakers from the Congress. We are honored to be able to share with our readers the insights these amazing individuals have gained through study, through prayer, and through their everyday lives. Not only have they dedicated their lives to learning about the sacredness and beauty of the human body and how it relates to love of self, love of others, and most importantly love of God, but they also seek to live their lives embracing these tenets as well.

We hope that you will be inspired by their stories and encouraged by their advice. We hope that they will bring hope to you in a time where hope often seems to be lacking.

 

male and femaleOur human bodies are sacred and wonderful. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They can lead us into a fuller and deeper relationship with not only one another but ultimately with God. It is through our humanity that we can come to know God. Theology of the Body gives us the insights and the tools we need to grow closer to one another and to our Father.

If you are interested in attending the Theology of the Body Congress in Ontario, CA from September 23-25, 2016, please check out the TOB Congress website here. You can read about their mission, you can view the complete lineup of speakers and their topics, and you can register for the Congress.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body but can’t attend the Congress, check out the Theology of the Body Institute website here. “The Theology of the Body Institute spreads the life-giving message of Theology of the Body through graduate level courses, on-site speaker programs and clergy enrichment training. Theology of the Body Institue seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for interviews with some of these amazing speakers! I promise you will not only learn about the importance of the Theology of the Body in all aspects of your life but you will also be inspired and entertained!

tob pope john paul II

 

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Conversion Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers Misty Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Seven Things That Are (Way) Better as a Catholic

Having spent most of my life as an atheist (I converted just 13 years ago), I have a good basis of comparison for the difference between Catholic and non-Catholic life. And without a doubt, these seven things are WAY better now that I’m Catholic!

1. WEEKENDS

7thingschristmas
Christmas is just fuller when you get the presents, the decorations, the dinner AND the Incarnation!

My husband and I spent three years as a childless married couple. Weekends weren’t terribly special other than the reprieve they provided from our jobs. Sure, we’d spend Saturday and Sunday sleeping in, but those days were really about trying to finish all the household chores and projects we couldn’t get to during the week. Now, Sunday is a day my whole family looks forward to, because it’s a day of togetherness and REST. In Dr. Timothy Gray’s talk on keeping the Sabbath (which I highly recommend), he talks about how the Lord’s Day is a gift that’s spiritually transformative if you accept it–and I agree. I no longer have that Garfield-like aversion to Monday, because I feel rejuvenated by both the Eucharist and the rest I get (body and soul) on Sunday.

2. HOLIDAYS

As an atheist, holidays like Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s were things I looked forward to because 1) I usually got a day off from work, and 2) it was an excuse to laze around in PJs (and drink). Even after I got married and began spending Christmas with my husband’s family, celebrating the day entirely for secular reasons still left me feeling deflated; despite all the buildup, it just seemed anticlimactic once all the gifts were unwrapped and the dinner eaten. Now, those same days are spiritually rich and fun. Even though the trappings are the same–presents under the tree and chocolate eggs–there’s a deeply satisfying spiritual joy beneath the festivities, because I know that these “holy days” are really harbingers of the eternal joy we’ll share in heaven.

3. SEX

I’ve done the Cosmo thing, and had “no strings attached” and “friends with benefits” casual sex. I’ve done the secular married thing, too, where we were happy to take all the bonding of sex without the nuisance of that pesky fertility (thank you, Mr. Condom!). Now, I do the practicing Catholic thing, where lovemaking au natural is always accompanied by the possibility of bringing a new person into existence. And you know what? There’s no comparison. When sex was all about recreation and performance, it was easy for the novelty to wear off and to get bored with the other person. But when you really take in the spiritual reality of sex: that you’re receiving the full gift of another person (whose riches can never be exhausted) and that you might create a new soul that will exist for all eternity…let’s just say the experience is elevated far higher than mere “fun,” even when it is. And performance? That anxiety goes away, too, when you know the person is there for YOU and not just for the pleasure he can get from your body.

7thingssuffering4. SUFFERING

Despite the modern world’s desperate attempts to stave off all forms of suffering, pain and struggle are simply a part of life in our fallen world. As an atheist, suffering was doubly awful because it appeared to be pointless–I had to go through the pain, but then had the gall of knowing it had no meaning besides making me miserable. As a Catholic, I understand that when I suffer, God is inviting me to unite my pain to that of Christ’s on the cross, which transforms it into untold graces for other souls (i.e., redemptive suffering). When I suffer, God asks me to do nothing less than help Him save the world. If I have to suffer (and there’s no escaping it), then the pain becomes easier to take when I know it’s helping to save someone I love instead of just pointless misery.

5. MONEY

I grew up in a severely impoverished family in southern Virginia; we were even homeless a few times. Going into young adulthood, then, money (and all the cool stuff I could buy with it) became a symbol of security for me. Not to mention a self-esteem boost, because while all people are equal, I knew that in the secular world, being rich makes you more equal. As a Catholic, though, I know that everything I have is on loan from God, down to the health and strength I use to earn the money. It no longer matters whether I have a billion dollars or one, because my self-worth is rooted in God’s unchanging love for me, not in wealth or in things. Knowing that I’m really just God’s hired steward of my money has made me, ironically enough, both more thoughtful about money and less invested in it.

6. WOMANHOOD

As an atheist, being a woman was all about the fight–against patriarchy, against my fertility, against unrealistic societal expectations. Sure, women’s magazines would occasionally pay lip service to just how awesome it is to be a woman(!), but I knew that in the battle of the sexes, men always came out on top. Among other benefits, they got to avoid the bodily discomfort of menses and pregnancy and earned higher wages and better jobs just because. Then I became Catholic and accepted a faith whose most venerated human being is a woman. And whose theology not only calls woman “God’s masterpiece,” but demands that men not only treat us as equals, but sacrificially serve us above even their own needs! My Catholic faith has given me an appreciation for my unique feminine gifts that the secular world never could.

...and then it REALLY begins.
…and then it REALLY begins!

7. DEATH

I had two choices as an atheist: pretend death wasn’t coming or call it out by laughing at its absurdity. Either way, death was something to be hated and avoided at all costs. Why? Because whether it came suddenly in a fiery crash or peacefully during sleep after 100 years, death was going to end my rich and beautiful life on this planet, among all the awesome people I’d come to love. Today, I understand that death is not something to be feared or reviled, but anticipated joyfully, because it’s the beginning, not the end. As a Catholic, I know that however painful death may be, it’s the door to my eternal life of joy with God, the saints, and the angels (and hopefully, all those earthly pilgrims I now love). It’s funny that the very thing I once imagined was going to strip my existence of all its meaning is actually that which will enable me to live my life to its fullest potential.

 What about you, sisters? For those of you who have converted, what part of your life is better now that you’re Catholic?

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Erotica Catholica

Knowing that the words on a page or the scenes in a movie were what aroused my husband instead of, well… me,  would honestly hurt my feelings.  I expect my husband to hold sacred his marriage vows and to honor and cherish me…and  I hold myself to the same standard.  Many women are urging their friends to read erotica or watch titillating movies to enhance marital intimacy.  But that’s like putting a soiled bandage on an open wound.  It covers the wound, but when you take it off, the infection has worsened.

If you find yourself looking outside your marriage for arousal, don’t grab a bodice ripper, instead work on your marriage.  Below are some tips to help you achieve emotional intimacy with your spouse.  The results will be satisfying and long lasting.

FORGIVE – We’ve all been hurt by our spouse.  When you live with someone 24 hours a day you’re bound to be hurt by them in some way.  Maybe they don’t appreciate the work you put into your family, maybe they don’t notice when you need something, maybe they don’t give you love in the way you need it.  There are probably many ways you’ve done the hurting as well.  If you harbor unforgiveness you need to let it go.  Use the Sacrament of Reconciliation often to confess the unforgiveness.  Pray for the desire to forgive.  Ask your spouse to forgive you for these feelings as well.  Discussing this with your husband or wife could open up a door to healing.  What would the result be if you gently approached and said, “Honey, I feel hurt and unimportant to you when you schedule girl’s night/guy’s night without checking my calendar and I’ve had a hard time forgiving you for that.  I’m sorry.”  In my own personal experience, dialogues like this go a long way in creating emotional intimacy.

 ALWAYS ASSUME –   I know the old adage about never assuming, but there is one exception to this rule.  Always assume that what your spouse says or does has a good intention.  Adopting this attitude is helpful in avoiding misunderstandings.  You don’t really want to be at odds with your spouse, do you?

ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE VULNERABLE – When you close yourself off to pain, you close yourself off to joy as well. Many of us have past hurts that we are healing from.  Because of this we’ve built a brick wall around our hearts, not allowing anyone in, afraid to be hurt again.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Hey, you!  Tear that wall down!”  If you have childhood wounds, allow yourself to feel the pain and let them go.  Find a good therapist and work through it.  Visit the Blessed Sacrament often and sit in the presence of Our Lord and ask Him to heal you.  If you can, conjure up the memory of the incident and invite Jesus into it.  You will be amazed at how healing this can be.

LEARN YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE – Everyone has a love language.  When our spouse learns to speak our language we feel loved.  Some people feel loved when their spouse performs acts of kindness.  This is me.  I always tell my husband, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like taking out the trash.”  For some, like my husband, it’s words of affirmation.  To satisfy his need I text him throughout the day and let him know how much he means to me.  (Thanks for making my tea this morning or just a simple I love you.)  The book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an excellent resource.  I would suggest taking the quiz, determining your love language and then reading the chapters that address you and your spouse’s particular love language.  It’s a small exercise that will have huge results in your marriage.

PRAY – Invite the Lord into all aspects of your marriage.  Pray for your spouse.  Pray with your spouse.  Pray before sex.  The prayer that Tobias prays before he makes love to his wife Sarah is an excellent way to begin intimacy.

Now Lord, you know I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose.  Call down your mercy on me and on her and allow us to live together to a happy old age.  (Tobit 8:7)

Pray during sex.  The simple prayer, “Lord, help me to make a gift of myself to name,”  will help you focus on your spouse and not yourself.

Pray instead of gossiping.  Men and women alike will complain to their friends about their spouse’s shortcomings, which creates animosity in a marriage and fuels the fire of unforgiveness.  Instead, use a prayer journal and pour your heart out to the Lord.  Then ask Him to heal these areas of your spouse’s life and pray for the desire to forgive.  Wouldn’t this do more for your marriage than texting your BFF or posting a passive aggressive status on Facebook?

PRACTICE CHURCH TEACHING IN YOUR MARRIAGE – Church teaching…it’s not what you think it is!  Many people assume that the church is oppressive and prudish when it comes to sex.  Guess what?  They’re WRONG!  When my own marriage was lacking,  the book Holy Sex!  by Dr. Greg Popcak made all the difference for me.  It took Theology of the Body and put it in practical terms that were extremely simple to apply to my marriage.   Christopher West’s Heaven’s Song was the book that made it all click for my husband.  Remember, God created sex.  He wrote the manual.  Use it!

We have used these principles in our own marriage.  When I  see my husband loving me to the best of his ability, making sacrifices for our family, and taking on the role of the spiritual head of the household, that does much more for me than any book, movie or cyber dude ever could.

Marital intimacy is something that grows from a deep emotional bond.   Humility and selflessness are the seeds that grow this bond.  True intimacy doesn’t start in the bedroom.  It begins the moment you open your eyes in the morning.  Focus on your relationship with God and fulfilling your spouse’s needs.  When both a husband and wife focus on God and each other, everybody wins.

 

Sometimes marriages need some extra help. Retrouvaille is a program to help couples who are considering divorce. Marriage Encounter is for couples who have a good marriage, but want to create a deeper bond. And many marriages suffer because of the effects of pornography use or past sexual trauma. Recovering Hearts is a counseling service which specializes in these areas.

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