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Archive for the ‘Marriage and Sexuality’ Category

Being a parent can be an odd experience.

By the very nature of trying to manage a small crew of non-expendables into a squished van or through a crowded parking lot or through a sit down meal….well, in order to do that, a certain amount of coersion is sometimes necessary.

And we end up making a huge deal out of things that in reality are not really a big deal but in order to get the kids to sit down through an entire meal or not kill each other on the van ride to church,  we actually make them a big deal.

(of course the scene depicted below is a very big deal but if you grew up in the 80’s you will remember this commercial and I couldn’t resist putting a picture in)

In other words, we bring up to a moral level rules that in and of themselves are not moral rules…they are rules for managing a house, managing a family.

Parents are more mature than children, there are things that children do that we would never do and yet….

And yet, there are things that we as adults do or could do, that children never do.

Its this strange fact of parenthood that children mess up the “managing the house” rules everyday and yet we, the parents, are the ones who mess up the more serious moral rules.

And so the imperfect parents among us have had the experience of lecturing a child on why oh why can’t he just learn to pick up this thing-a-ma-jigger off of that  diddly-do when in our heart, it feels like we are the ones who deserve the lecture.

For we are the ones more likely to have hate in our heart, to lust after others, to treat a coworker with malice, to gossip, to fail to help the least of our brothers, to worship the gods of power and success more than the Lord God and on and on….

Sometimes, I feel like God the Father uses parenthood as the ultimate prophetic vehicle.  It seems that as the words come out of our mouths to our children…it sometimes seems as if God is really using those words to speak to us, the Parents.

The solution to this awkward experience isn’t to stop telling Brendan not to yell at the kitchen table or to stop telling Jude that two peanut butter sandwiches is quite enough or to stop telling Rachel not to growl at strangers….the solution is to hear the words coming out of our mouths as words that God has meant for us.

Because, as mature as we adults are….we are still children.

God is waiting to lead us.

To a place far better than the kitchen table or a crowded park.

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Classic snippet from my children and from humanity.

Yesterday, at about 7:00 pm, I was a happy man.  I was home with my children, we had just played kickball and nine lives in the backyard, and had come back in the house.  People were happy and nobody was crying.

Nobody was asking for anything.  We were in a momentary state of bliss.

Then the doorbell rang.

Kids hurried down, opened the door and found a huge May Day basket that incredibly generous neighbor had left. Thanks Neighbor!

The large basket contained small gifts for my children. They were wrapped and tagged for each of children.

Pretty awesome right?

Wrong.

My children opened them up to see what they got and then….

….they started comparing what they had.

Four children were happy, two children were miserable….crying, throwing tantrum miserable.

And yet, five minutes before, they were perfectly content…no concerns in the world…had everything they needed to be happy.

And then poof! That contentment was over.

And did it happen because someone came in and robbed them of something?

Nope.

It happened because someone came in and GAVE them something. That’s right. Pretty unbelievable, right?

What a bunch of dumb children, right? I mean, adults would never be so stupid as to be moved off happiness by something like that….would they?

I mean, that’s ludicrous to imagine. Just for a second, humor me. Can you imagine two people, lets say a husband and wife…and lets say they were really happy. Lets say they lived in a really awesome garden, got to eat really good food, and every night, God would come by at the breezy time of evening in order to take a little walk with them.

Let’s say that before this, that the deepest longing in the human heart was only to be able to love and be loved by another. And let’s say that after God gave humans to each other, male and female he created them, lets say after that, the man and woman were perfectly happy…because God had given them everything they needed to be happy.

And wouldn’t the greatest way to screw that happiness be to come in and take the man away from the woman, right?

Nope.

Turns out, the perfect way to screw up their happiness was for some slimy little snake to suggest to them that something else, some other piece of fruit, might actually make them more happy.

Turns out that once they began to think about it, they agreed with that snake….they probably thought to themselves, “Why the heck won’t God let us have that other fruit? What’s he holding back from us? Maybe there is something out there that could make me more happy.”

And then the man and the woman looked at each other and decided that the other person (you know that one that each one of them thought was all that they needed to be happy)…well, that other person was no longer enough…turns out that they thought this other piece of fruit might actually be the thing that Really made them happy.

Yeah, something this silly would never happen to a bunch of mature adults right?

Wrong. My immediate thought when I looked at my eight year old crying was to think “What a fool!”

My second thought was to realize what a fool I am so often.

What my children did wasn’t a kid thing…it was an all too human thing.

We all know, at a very, very fundamental level what makes us happy.

God. Family. Friends. Love.

There are other things of course…but even those other important things aren’t the things talked about on death beds.

Its just that so often, we get distracted.

Some piece of fruit…or some bouncy ball that our brother gets catches our eye…and all of a sudden we’ve convince ourselves that there is one more thing that we are lacking for real happiness…and we let it get us down…or, we go looking for that other thing.

Its an addiction, really. The fundamental human addiction.

And God is the only cure.

Oh shoot…I gotta sign off, I don’t want Teresa to get the last piece of chocolate cake.

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My wife Teresa and I get the opportunity to go out and talk to different folks about Marriage and particularly about NFP and Contraception.

Over the years, we have figured out something.  If you believe that the Magisterial Church (Pope, Bishops, Clergy) are generally there to help you achieve true freedom and joy in this life and the next, then you are liable to believe what the Church has to say about something like Contraception.

If however, you don’t trust the Magisterial Church.  If you think that the Church is a bunch of men who are trying to constrict your freedom, to hold you back and punish and scare you, then you are not likely to believe in the Church’s teaching on Contraception.

There will be exceptions to the above rules, but I think they probably hold.

And so here is the Church’s official teaching as written on Catholic Answers website at http://www.catholic.com.

This was reiterated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (CCC 2370). “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception” (CCC 2399). 

The Church also has affirmed that the illicitness of contraception is an infallible doctrine: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative.aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive.aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997). 

This is for many people, not an easy teaching.  Not easy to live out and not easy to understand.  For many people, they hear that in every sexual act, the married couple need to be open to the unitive and the procreative aspects of the sexual act.  And for some reason or another, that just doesn’t convince lots of folks who already approach the issue out of skepticism towards the Church.

Or put another way.  I hit John and John Bleeds.  Hitting John is Bad.  Don’t Hit John.  This is a very easy teaching for folks to understand.  It just feels right.  But the church’s teaching on why Contraception is wrong and what must be present during every act of Marital Intercourse, is different.  Its more challenging to understand.

But after years of talking to people about this issue, many of whom are resistant to accept the Church’s teaching, Teresa and I have decided to talk about this issue in slightly different way.

Human sexual intercourse is different than all other creaturely reproduction in the following matter.  In all creaturely intercourse, there is the possibility that an actual life may be brought into existence.  But only in Human intercourse is there the possibility that a very different kind of life may be brought into existence.  A life that is meant to live forever.

When Human reproduction is successful and an egg unites with a sperm at that very moment, God reaches down from Heaven and creates an eternal soul which God then miraculously unites with the newly formed Human Being.

God joins Human Beings in the creation of new life, and it is life that is eternal.

In all of the Universe, there is only one area where God reaches into the reproduction of His creatures, and then joins them in their Creative work.

And so, in a fundamentally and utterly unique way, God makes Human Sexual Reproduction His Own Work.  The Work of God.

When Abram was truly altered by His Faith in God and had truly become a different Human Being, God renamed him Abraham.  Meaning?  He was now God’s.

When Jacob came to the end of his long conversion process to face his brother Esau whom he had wronged so many years before, he spent the night wrestling an Angel.  By the morning, it was clear that Jacob was no longer the same person.  He was changed.  He was now God’s.  And so the angel renamed him Israel.

And when Saul of Taursas was blinded by the experience of the Resurrected Jesus on the Road to Damsascus, he was forever changed.  He was now God’s and so he was renamed, he was named Paul.

God reaches down into the dirt and muck of the world and decides to join in an activity that is about as nitty and gritty as they come.  Human Sexual Reproduction.  And God absolutely transforms sex.  God makes Human Sex His.  In all the Universe, there is creaturely sex and then…there is Human Sex.  Its different.  Human sex is the work of God.

And simply put, we are called to have profound respect for this Mighty Work of God.  By respecting that in every act of Human Sex, we respect both the Unitive and Procreative aspects of the Act.

You have profound respect for your Grandmother, don’t you?  You act a certain way around her don’t you.  How about God?  How about the work of God?  Human Sex is God’s very special work.  Human Sex demands your Respect.

NFP respects this Great Work of God and works cooperatively with it.  The Way God designed sex, there are some times when it is less likely to get pregnant than others.  If you are trying to avoid a pregnancy and choose to use one of these time periods to have sex when you are less likely to get pregnant, that still respects the great work of God.

But, when you, through artificial means, seek to prohibit any chance of the Sexual act ending in a child, then you disrespect this great work of God.

Ultimately, Human Sex is a mighty Gift from God to us.  In fact, its such an awesome gift, that I would be totally okay if my wife wanted to enjoy this gift way, way more often. (But I’m not pressing my luck on this)

Instead of doing what our culture does, which is to bring Sex down, to make sex more casual and make it no big deal and make it less….God intended Human Sex to be Super Awesome (fancy theological term).  An image of his own divine love and a participation with God in the mighty work of creating an eternal being out of nothing but love.

So go out and treat Human Sex with the great Respect it Deserves.

Remember, it Belongs To God.

P.S.  Knowing and even Believing the Truth is Different than Living it Out.  I have committed my fair share of sins.  I think we all have.  This isn’t about condemnation.  Its about starting from where we are at, right now, and getting better with the Grace of God.  Jesus may talk about perfection once or twice, but he talks about forgiveness a lot more.  Thank God for That!

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You’ve probably seen this picture all over the web so apologies to whoever posted it first, but its so good that I wanted to use it to.  Its a visual image of the difference between men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, as I heard a guy say it one time.  You know those movies where the safe cracker has the stethescope on his ears and he is listening to the internal workings of the safe while he tries to crack it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes they will show the internal tumblers inside the lock while he tries to find the combination.  And only when all of the different tumblers of the lock line up, only then will the safe open.  This guy used this image to explain how difficult it is to make women happy.

I laugh at both the picture above and the mental image offered by my friend because both are TRUE!

Women are complicated creatures.  Brain research seems to indicate that many different parts of the typical female brain are activity at the same time all the time.  This contrasts with the typical male brain which usually fires white hot in one area of the brain while many other areas are off.

And women have hormonal profiles which shift almost daily depending on where they are at in their cycles.  Men are pretty much always the same.

What does this mean?  Apparently that what makes women the incredible and fascinating creatures that they are also makes them a little…er….frustrating…for men, that is.

And so, things could be going well for a women in 9 different areas.  But if something is wrong in that 10th area, then she could well be affected by it.  Men on the other hand are overwhelmed that a human being can even think about ten different areas at the same time.  The thought is exhausting.

So what does it mean?

That trying to make a woman happy by figuring out how to make her happy in all ten areas at the same time is probably a losing proposition.  Men, give up that fight right now.  Because when pushed to really explain what a woman wants out of a man, most will probably not give you a listing of the ten things they want done at all times.  Instead, a woman will probably say something like “I just want a good man who is good and kind to me and helps me raise our children well.”  And so men, go focus on that.  Just be a good man.  Do your best in the other areas but know this, that some days, she just is thinking about so much and has so much on her plate that she isn’t going to be super duper happy exactly when you want her to be.  Instead, just be good to her and over time, that will make all the difference.

And women, here is the good news.  Its kind of like you are a professional basketball player and you’ve been invited to play in the little leagues on the eight foot rims.  Because making men happy?  Its EASY.  All you have to do is ONE thing.

I know what your thinking and I’m not going there.  Yes, somedays, for your man, it may be THAT ONE THING.  But certainly not always.  But at almost any time, its only one thing.  Just figure out what that is.  Then do that.  He’ll be Happy.  Guaranteed.

Simple, right?

So….don’t complicate it.

 

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Ha!  Wouldn’t it be great to write a blog post all about how women need to act?  Wanted to grab your attention.  This post will be way less courageous than that, and hopefully a bit more nuanced.

My starting point for this post is the following.  That you are a woman who first and foremost desires  a life focused on Christ.   That second, you desire a husband who is primarily focused on a relationship with Christ and who can be a great leader for your marriage and your family.

And so the question is, what can you do to help your husband be the man that God is calling him to be?

You love your husband.  You want whats best for him, that’s what great lovers do.  They will the best for their beloved.  But you also believe that the more your husband is focused on Christ and doing God’s work in the world, the better marriage you will have and the better family you will have.  And so although you first and foremost want your husband in relationship with Christ for the good and joy of your husband, you know that the effect on you, your marriage, and your family will be profound.

And again, your question is, what can I do to help my husband?  What can I do to support him?  Or lets be more plain about it.  You think that right now, you are doing a pretty fair job of making God the center of your life…but your husband?  Not so much.  And you really want to know what you can do to change that situation.  Right?

Let’s imagine for a second that what your husband wanted more than anything in the world was the love and affection of his wife.  He dreams about having a wife who thinks the sun rises and sets with him.  You would point out that this is disordered.  That his ultimate goal shouldn’t be what may or may not please him.  Rather, the main goal of his life should be what may or may not please God.  And…you would be right.

However.

I think many women completely underestimate how incredibly inspiring and motivating the love and affection of a good woman can be….to a man.

I love the old Dr. Phil cliche.  “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be effective?”  I’ll assume for a moment, that you Mrs. Woman, want to be effective.  And so for a moment I want you to put aside the following.   “he should know better”.  “he should want to do that all on his own”.  “if he is just going to Church/praying the rosary/spending time at Adoration etc… to get rewards from me, then he is doing it for the wrong reasons”

Let me suggest to you, that the only way you don’t want your husband to do these things is with bitterness and resentment.  And even then, I would argue that the transforming love and power of Christ can do its work.  I do think you  as the incredible woman you are can be effective at motivating your husband to do any or all of the above and do it in a spirit of love and appreciation.  And I would argue this, if your husband starts to pray, attend daily mass, spend time at adoration (and he does all of this from a starting point of thankfulness, eagenerness, and joy)…then watch out.  Christ will take hold of that man, wrestle him down to the ground, and re-name him for himself.  Your husband’s life will change forever.

Your husband will eventually begin to seek Christ out no longer for you…but for Christ.

So please don’t assume that your husband needs to start out wanting Christ in order to eventually want and desire Christ.

What would be so wrong with your husband starting out by doing these things to please you, to gain your love and admiration?

And so my proposal is the following.

Find out your husband’s love language.  There is a way that your husband desires to be loved by you that he has expressed to you many times throughout the course of your marriage.  What is it?  I don’t know…but if you don’t know by now, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Does your husband want a wife who throws her arms around him and tells him how awesome he is and how much she loves you?  Does doing that make you want to puke?  Well, get over it.  If that’s what he wants, then do it.  And especially do it in such a way that rewards or encourages him to pray, to center his life on Christ.  I don’t need to spell it out for you, you are smart so figure it out.

Or, maybe your husband loves when you keep a clean house (I couldn’t care less about this but maybe some guy in the world cares).  Or maybe your husband loves when you arrange to have time alone just you and him.  Or maybe your husband loves when you compliment him.  Or maybe your husband loves when you fix him awesome meals.  Or maybe your husband loves it when you (fill in the blank).

I don’t care what it is…but it…is something.  Figure it out.

Men might frustrate you.  And if that’s the case, I have no sympathy for you.  You women, are, compared to us men, brilliant.  Brain studies consistently show that women have all sorts of areas of their brain firing all the time while men in comparison look like pre-historic animals.  And what amazes me is how an entire group of people (women) who are so darn smart find it so difficult to understand the simplest creatures on earth (men).

All you have to do with men is find that one thing.  That one way in which they would love to be loved by you.  And then?  Go do it.  Do it with joy.  Do it with the knowledge that you are encouraging and rewarding your husband towards Christ.

Once Christ consistently gets his hooks into your husband, then…well, forget about it.

God Bless You

P.S.    Men are searching for God in much of what they do. Athletics, achievement, money etc… All of it, is in some way an aspiring towards something great that will give them some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. At different stages of life, the above may provide some fulfillment. But ultimately, all of it…every last ounce of it…is shallow compared to God. 

Only in God, will Men find their true home and contentment. So guess what?  You as wives need to do a better job of encouraging the right kinds of behaviors.  Don’t encourage the race for monPey, for possessions, for power, for achievement.  Neither you nor your husband will be able to take any of that to Heaven with you.  And some of it can derail you from the path to Heaven.  Instead, carefully and thoughtfully encourage and reward your husband’s good behavior.  Reward and encourage him to be a great husband, a great father, a great follower of Christ.

 

 

 

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My wife and I don’t think that Catholic schools should share the most intimate details of sexual activity with primary grade school children.  We believe that should be left to parents.  Parents know their children best and are in the best position to figure out at what age and in what way this most sensitive material should be shared with children.

I believe strongly that children have an innocence.  And its an innocence that should be protected as long as is possible and parents, not school authorities are in the best position to make that judgement for individual children.

Now, my wife  and I may be wrong. 

However, when we looked to Church documents for guidance on the matter, our gut feeling on the matter seemed to be confirmed.  The documents we looked at certainly suggest that Church and Church schools have a role in properly forming children in the virtues concerning the arena of sex but the documents also consistently point out that parents are the first and primary teachers of children and that the most sensitive information regarding sex should be reserved for parents to teach to their children at the time and in the manner that they parents think is best.

I think that overall the whole culture, both secular and religious, has too easily believed the argument that as much information delivered as early as possible is automatically a good thing for young people, especially in the area of sex.  I disagree.  Completely. 

Anyways, some parents were telling us about a school a few years ago where sex education was taught to fifth graders.  Some parents had complained about the program but the program persisted.  Anyways, a young priest came by at some point to talk to the children.  And somewhere along the line, the priest brought up the fact that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.  That at one time the children probably believed in such a thing but in point of fact there was no such thing as Santa.  (I don’t know why exactly he made this point only that he did).

The backlash against the school and the priest was apparently fierce.  Apparently, some of the fifth grade children still believed in Santa Claus and there were several parents who were outraged that the school would have the nerve to decided that these particular children needed to hear the truth about Santa Claus.  These parents apparently thought that it should be up to the parents to decide at what age and in what way they would tell their children the truth about Santa Claus.  The school assured these parents that this unfortunate incident with Santa Claus would not happen again.

Oh, did I mention that this priest told them about Santa Claus within the sex education class?

And the parents were outraged that the school had the nerve to tell their children the truth about a jolly, bearded fellow who slides down chimneys and rides flying deer around the world in one night.

I think this counts as Ironic.

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marriagecovenantIn moving from tumblr to wordpress, this post got left behind. I republish it now, thanks!

Throughout History, God makes promises to people and seals them with Physical Signs:

1) God to Noah – Promise? God will not destroy all creatures by the waters of a flood – Physical sign of this promise? Rainbow (Gn 9:11-17)

2) God to Abram – Promise? God is giving Abram the Land of Canaan as a possession – Physical sign of this promise? While Abram is in a trance, God, represented by a smoking brazier and flaming torch, passes between halves of animals (Gn 15:1-21)

3) God to Abram – Promise? God will give Abram many descendants and Abram will become the father of a host of nations. Physical sign of this promise? Every male, eight days or older must have the flesh of his foreskin circumcised. (Gn 17:1-27)

4) God to Moses and the People – Promise? God will be their God and they will be His People. Physical sign of the promise? After the people heard and accepted the book of the covenant, Moses took bull blood and sprinkled it on the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these works of his.” (Ex 24:1-11)

5) God to the people through Jesus – Promise? The Kingdom of God is at Hand (God is close) through this man Jesus and people can get close to God through Jesus. Phsyical sign of this promise? The Last Supper where Jesus breaks bread and drinks wine and says “Take it, this is my body” and “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many”. (Mk 14:22-25)

6) God to the very first human couple – Promise? To solve the problem of original loneliness. Physical sign of this promise? God creates man and woman for each other “and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2:4-25)

Human sex then becomes the original anthropological covenant between God and Humans. God promises us that he will give us “all that we need to be happy” and solves the problem of our original loneliness. The physical sign of this promise, is the body of the man and the body of the woman. The man and woman ratify this covenant with God every time they have sex. And the man and woman honor God and this covenant when they honor the sexual act itself. For God loved man and woman so much that he gave them a distinctive gift. The Human Sexual act is the power to join with God to create something eternal out of nothing. No other creature in the universe shares this power. Humans are extraordinary, privileged, blessed. God has given us a legacy that he has not even shared with the Angels. As a result, some of these Angels have rebelled out of Jealousy. These Jealous and Fallen Angels do not want Man and Woman to Honor this extraordinary Power of Creative Love. These Fallen Angels do not want Man and Woman to Ratify this Covenant to Each Other.

Today, these Fallen Angels want us to think things like “I need sex between me and my wife to be exciting and different….I need random sex with other partners….I need sex without the fear of a child…..I need, I need, I need….” But of course, in the gift of that Man and Woman to each other he gave them the unique power to be Like God; to be in a relationship of Creative Love. Thus God gave us All that we Need to Be Happy.

So, God makes promises to us and throughout History he has established physical signs of these promises. There is no more fundamental promise then the promise of our creation; that God is a good and loving God and he has given us all that we need to be happy. And having Sex with our Spouses in a way that Honors This Awesome Creative Power? It’s how we Ratify this Covenant Promise!

So, next time your wife is tired, tell her that when God gave Her to You He gave you everything you need to be Happy…..and that you would like to go Ratify a Covenant with Her 🙂

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