Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hot Summer Nights: Share the Love


Marriage -- it's one of the greatest gifts we've been given, yet sometimes one of the things we take most for granted. This July, spend 30 Hot Summer Nights with us as we bring you a different article each day focused on real-life marriages, passion, love, and faith. Many thanks to Jen Frost at the Church of St. Thomas More in Oceanside, California, for bringing me together with an awesome group of cross-country guest bloggers to share our special spin on married love.

Need some ideas for a romantic, fun, silly, thoughtful, or impromptu date night? Visit our Date Night Idea Linkup, where you'll find a ton of ideas for celebrating with your partner. Check back all month long, as new ideas will be posted each day. Visit:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are We Defending the Indefensible?: The Death of DOMA and Proposition 8

"Ding-Dong, DOMA's dead!" trumpeted one of my friends on Facebook at the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional a major part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Another facebook friend posted this picture of the rainbow-hued Supreme Court in celebration of today's two decisions that sounded death knells for proponents of traditional marriage.

The DOMA decision (U.S. v. Windsor) concerned the right of the federal government to define marriage as between one man and one woman for the purposes of receiving benefits under federal law. The Supreme Court held that the definition of marriage should be left up to the states. The second decision (Hollingsworth v. Perry) focused on a California state ballot initiative known as Proposition 8.  Through Proposition 8, Californians had voted to amend their state constitution to declare that marriage should be between one man and one woman. The district court declared Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court, based on technical grounds, refused to revisit the lower court's decision.

What jumps out most in both cases is the refusal of the executive branch to defend the validly-enacted laws. The Obama administration refused to defend DOMA, and the U.S. Congress had to intervene to champion its own legislation. In California, the state governor refused to defend Proposition 8 in court, so a body of citizens stepped in to press the case through the judicial system. By the time they came up for consideration by the Supreme Court, both laws had been abandoned by the governments supposedly in charge of enforcing them. So, from an ideological perspective, the Supreme Court decisions were almost after-thoughts. The battles had already been lost.

The battle may be lost in the court of public opinion, as well. Support for gay marriage has steadily grown over time, at least as measured in the polls, and a majority of Americans now appear to favor same-sex marriage. Take my facebook friends, for example. These two lovely ladies are married with children, and are as heterosexual as the day is long, as far as I know. Firmly ensconced in the middle class, they live in the suburbs. One is married to a lawyer and the other to a government official. They are the new normal.

I don't have any idea why these particular friends disliked DOMA, but they represent the prevailing cultural zeitgeist, at least on the Eastern seaboard. And the calling card of this culture states, "Let them love and be happy. If two people love each other and want to get married, why would anyone want to get in their way?" As some Net pundit opined recently, emotion is everything today. In contrast, the Middle Ages were the age of faith, and the Enlightenment was the age of reason. But modernity is the age of feeling. From the modern viewpoint, love is about mutual satisfaction that can be ours right now, today. It's not love if you can't smell it, taste it, feel it, have sex with it, raise children with it. "Why can't you just be best friends?" a priest once asked a gay couple. They shook their heads, laughing. They wanted more.

This romanticization of love, and of married love in particular, eclipses any other kind of love in the modern imagination. But other loves do exist and ultimately can bring just as much satisfaction. Priests know this, as do many members of religious communities. Unmarried schoolteachers know this, and widowed grandmothers know this. Siblings know this, and parents and children know this. True love doesn't require sex, and neither does true friendship. And marriage doesn't automatically equal true love, unless both people are willing to persevere to the end, even (and especially) when they don't "feel" like it. But in this age of feeling, tyrannized by emotion's fickle inconstancy, we may not be able to convince anyone that "feeling" is not the arbiter of justice and right.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer in the Blogosphere

Now that it's officially summer, it's time to slow down. So, instead of posting twice a week, I'll probably be posting only once a week until September comes. But there are still lots of interesting things in store.

  • Hot Summer Nights: Marriage, Passion, Love, & Faith starts here on July 1 and will last for all of July. I'll be guest posting on St. Thomas More: Love in the Face of Death.
  • My first post on will be appearing later this summer!
  • Manny and I are developing six-week and twelve-week curriculums for our marriage prep/enrichment program. The curriculums will be available for distribution soon.

So, stay tuned for more news and more posts, and enjoy your summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Archdiocese of St. Louis: Why We Fight for Marriage

Meet Amanda Lindley, 26-year-old web content specialist for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She's been married for two years and fasts every Friday for marriage. Amanda told me about the Archdiocese's viral video campaigns for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The newest video is below, together with my interview of Amanda, to kick off the bishops' Fortnight for Freedom starting on June 21. Check out previous interviews in this series in the Pray-Cana section of the blog.

Join the Call to Prayer!

1. Amanda, please tell us a little about yourself.

I am 26 years old and will have been  married for 2 years this September to my supportive and loving husband, Danny.  We do not have any children yet, but we are looking forward to the days when God blesses us with some little ones. Right now we are practicing on our nephew and our two pups. You can follow me on Twitter @ALindleySTL

2. Are you personally participating in the Call to Prayer? Have you been fasting, praying, or attending a local Eucharistic Holy Hour?

Absolutely! I am praying a daily rosary each morning and fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays. 

3. Tell us more about the video. Where is it airing? Has it gotten a good response?

The video was created in house by our Office of Communications and Planning. We have posted the video on our Call to Prayer landing page on our website. It is also available on our YouTube Channel  and we have been actively sharing it through our social media (follow us on Twitter @archstl). The video is really meant to help people reflect on the three key issues of the Call to Prayer: life, marriage, and religious liberty. We hope that when people watch this video, they think of the beauty that each scene represents and that they feel called to pray to protect each of these important issues, issues that help define us as Catholic Americans.

4. How many parishes or individuals in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are participating in the Call to Prayer? When did the Archdiocese start publicizing it?

We are encouraging all of the faithful in every parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and beyond to participate in the Call to Prayer. In fact, we are collecting pledges for people to commit to the Bishop’s Call.  We began publicizing it in early May and it has a special presence on the homepage of our website and our blog site St. Louis Areopagus. Even before the Call to Prayer, we have been working diligently to protect these issues, especially that of Religious Liberty. You may have seen our most popular video "It's That Simple" which completely crushed the HHS mandate in 15 seconds! 

5. I love the Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty t-shirts that the Archdiocese is selling. What do they say on the back? Have they been popular?

Thanks! We love them too! On the backs of the shirts there is catechetical and scriptural information which supports the Bishops’ and Church’s  positions on these issues. They have been very popular!

6. What plans does the Archdiocese of St. Louis have for the upcoming Fortnight of Freedom? 

We will be having a special Fortnight for Freedom Mass on July 3 at noon at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Our shepherd, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, will be celebrating the Mass and we are hoping to have a very strong youth presence as they are truly the future of our Church and even our nation.

7. What is the top reason you think that people should answer the bishops’ call?

Because our bishops’ are answering it themselves and they are asking us to do the same. Bottom line is that these are our spiritual leaders and they are frightened. They are frightened for their flock because of the deliberate negation of our liberties as Catholics and as American people. In response to this our bishops have asked us to join them in prayer for these key issues, and that is why we need to answer. It’s that simple.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Family Fun for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless (A Review)

My kids and I all heave sighs of relief when summer vacation comes. No more homework, no more extracurriculars, just fun. But in case we might want more ideas for summer fun (and what parent wouldn't?), Sarah Reinhard rides to the rescue with her book Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless.

Catholic Family Fun is packed with detailed instructions for nearly 50 fun activities, starting with the silliest ones. Some of the ideas cost nothing and take barely any time, but there are far more elaborate suggestions for the truly adventurous. Helpful sections like "Faith Angle" and "Wider Angle" show you how to add faith to fun activities or add fun to faith activities. Indexes at the back of the book organize activities by how much they cost and how long they last, so you can easily find an idea that appeals to you without searching through the whole book. If you don't know what to try first, Sarah has a whole website full of extra tips at

Much of Sarah's book reminds me of the mom I used to be -- the fun one. Now that I've turned 40, my kids feel free to slap a no-fun-any-more label on me. "Moms don't dance," they chidingly inform me. And when I attempted to demonstrate a cartwheel in the backyard, they gloomily advised, "Don't break a hip." Now that I've got Sarah's book as back-up, I can insist that moms and dads can dance and do cartwheels, too. To wit, "Be 'Crazy'" (crazy dances included) from Chapter 1 and "Backyard Circus" (cartwheels included) from Chapter 5. So there, tiny naysayers.

Catholic Family Fun also includes new ideas I'd like to try. Arts-and-crafts scare me, as my friends all know, but Sarah advises courage. Acknowledging the high likelihood of giant messes, Sarah offers to "curl up in a fetal position with you if that causes you stress and anguish." But with a little music or gamesmanship, even cleaning-up can be fun, she says. So the kids I might try making placemats out of left-over posterboard and contact paper. The kids love to draw, after all. And Sarah's suggestion to include words for prayers on the placemats is genius. What better way to help the kids learn "Bless us, O Lord, in these thy gifts," or the "Hail Mary," or even the Act of Contrition if someone's preparing for first confession.

So, pass this book around the kitchen table, get coffee stains on it, write in the margins, but most of all have fun with it!

To purchase a copy of this book online, please click here.

Thanks to Sarah for providing a free review copy of this book.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Experienced Catholic Psychiatrist Joins Me as Co-Author

And he just happens to be my husband! Manny and I started teaching pre-Cana classes for Fr. George Rutler's parish in New York City back in 2003. Manny's training as a psychiatrist always provided valuable insight into the challenges couples faced before and after marriage. So, I'm thrilled that he is joining me as a co-author on my book, now our book, explaining the Catholic Church's beautiful teachings on marriage and family.

After graduating from medical school, Manny trained at the famous Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. He later established private practices both in New York City and in Long Island. For almost fifteen years, Manny has been helping Catholic (and non-Catholic) couples over rough spots in their relationships. In 2011, he began performing psychiatric evaluations for the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of New York to determine whether there were any mental health grounds for granting certain petitions for annulment.

In his psychiatric practice, Manny strives to take into account the central role of spirituality in an integral understanding of the person.  He has brought healing to those who have suffered depression as a result of the abortion of their child and to those struggling to break free from addictions to pornography or serial adultery. He has counseled couples who are negatively impacted by sexual misconceptions and neuroses and haunted by specters of past sexual abuse.

In addition to his professional qualifications, Manny is a wonderful husband to me and father to our six children. Please welcome him to this important project.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Abortion Has to Stop, Says My Second-Grader

My 8-year-old daughter Maria knocked my socks off when she came home from school with an essay entitled, "Abortion Has to Stop." My husband Manny and I both participate in pro-life efforts, but we don't preach about it directly to the kids. As a Catholic psychiatrist, Manny has assisted in Project Rachel retreats for post-abortion healing. He also counsels post-abortive patients, some of whom experience psychiatric complications decades after the fact. 

For those patients who are wracked with feelings of guilt, my husband always advises that they receive God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of confession. We learned from Maria's essay that our kids listen to us more than we think. Here's Maria's explanation of why she "won't stop fighting until abortion ends."


Abortion is a very bad thing. Almost 1,000,000 babies die from it [in the U.S. per year]. You cannot just say that you don't want your baby. You could send the baby to an orphanage. But you cannot kill them.
Babies are living people. You cannot throw them away like broken toys. God made these babies. God will not be happy with you. Imagine if your parents didn't want you, and they said "I want this baby to be aborted." Imagine if they killed you. You wouldn't be here right now. Do you really want to do that to someone else? Think about what they're doing. Think about what you're doing.
I get a say in this, and I say abortion has to STOP! Say no to abortion. If you had an abortion go to church and confess what you did. You have a say in this too. Make the right choice. Make a difference in the world. I won't stop fighting until abortion ENDS.

by Maria Santos, age 8 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Perfect Body of the Virgin Mary

Which woman has the perfect body? Unquestionably, it's the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is "the masterpiece of embodied creaturely existence," according to Donald Calloway's The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body.

This idea is logical, but it sounds strange to us. What most people mean when they talk about a perfect body is a body that is the ultimate in sexual attractiveness. But a human body is much more than that. To reduce the body's value to sexiness alone diminishes its true worth, not to mention the worth of the person to whom the body belongs. We need to alter our concept of the perfect body.

This doesn't mean we should all remain virgin. If we did, the human race would quickly die out. So how should people, particularly married people, imitate the virginity of Our Blessed Mother? Should married people just shrug and assume it's an irrelevant theological detail, or does it reveal something crucial about our married vocation?

In The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism, John Zmirak quips:
I've always been confused by priests who held up the Holy Family to ordinary couples as a model of behavior. What can a regular Joe Catholic husband really gain from imagining that his wife is a sinless virgin and his kid is the adopted Son of God? What part of that is supposed to be helpful?
Very funny, but not so enlightening. I think the answer lies in the theological meaning of virginity. (See my earlier posts on the topic here and here.)

New Advent suggests that virginity is a sign of perfect chastity. Obviously, a person who remains virgin is not necessarily chaste. Someone who engages in "everything but" intercourse or someone burning with lust and resentment, while still remaining virgin, is not exactly demonstrating the virtue of chastity.  But Our Lady had perfect chastity, not only because she remained virgin, but also because she successfully integrated her sexuality into her marriage with St. Joseph -- "into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman," which is how the Catechism defines married chastity. (Catechism, sec. 2337) Mary and Joseph didn't try to push the line, see how far they could get, or slump grumpily around during the endless succession of  "not tonight, not ever" days. Every day they must have searched for ways to be a gift to one another.

They had a perfect marriage, because their hearts and minds were totally united to each other and to the will of God. As one, they gave themselves totally and completely to God in their virginity and thus became a perfect symbol of married life and religious life at the same time. Pope John Paul II in the Theology of the Body stated:
The marriage of Mary with Joseph ... conceals within itself at the same time, the mystery of the perfect communion of persons, of Man and Woman in the conjugal covenant and at the same time the mystery of this singular "continence for the kingdom of heaven."
This perfect union bore incredible spiritual fruit; it led to the incarnation of the Son of God. Their physical virginity thus symbolized their spiritual rather than biological fruitfulness. (TOB, 75:3) This reminds biological parents that we must be spiritually fruitful, also, taking care of our children's souls as well as bodies. Far from being irrelevant, Mary and Joseph's example can teach us to be perfect parents in addition to perfect spouses.

The Catechism also sees in Mary's virginity "the sign of her faith 'unadulterated by any doubt,' and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will." (Catechism, sec. 506) This is an example anyone would do well to follow, married or not.

Mary, Queen of Virgins, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nuns, Temptation, and Mystery (A Review of The Case of the Haunted Chapel)

I never met a habit-wearing nun I didn't like. After decades of religious sisters wearing street clothes, members of many new, devout, and growing orders are once more donning the habit, providing visible, positive role models of what it means to be a bride of Christ. So, upon seeing the cheerful illustration of nuns in habits gracing the cover of Karen Kelly Boyce's Sisters of the Last Straw:The Case of the Haunted Chapel, I was utterly charmed.

The Case of the Haunted Chapel is a mystery novel written for children from the third to fifth grade. It contains exploding kitchens, animal chases, angry neighbors, and a possible haunting. In short, there's something to entertain every kid. Lurking under the entertainment are more serious moral themes. Each of the sisters struggles with a severe character flaw and a temptation to commit a particular sin. This is why their order is called Sisters of the Last Straw.

One sister struggles to break her habit (pun intended) of blurting out curse words. Another is addicted to smoking cigarettes, a kind of intemperance or gluttony. Although these themes add depth to Boyce's work, they might not resonate with all children. Perhaps because of our family's vicinity to Mayor Bloomberg's New York City, where smoking is banned in all public buildings and even outside in parks and on beaches, my children have never seen anyone smoking a cigarette. My kids would likely puzzle over a religious sister who enjoyed cigarettes so much that she couldn't quit.

These moral themes leave ample room for development in later books of the series. The simple vocabulary and short length (76 pages) of The Case of the Haunted Chapel works well to introduce readers to the quirky and lovable Sisters of Last Straw. But I would hope to see more sophisticated vocabulary and character development appear in later books. The current difficulty level of the series seems geared more to third-graders, or even advanced second-graders, than to fifth-graders.

The second book in the series, The Case of the Missing Novice, came out earlier this year. I'm eager to discover more exploits of the sisters. A fifth-time published author, whose other books have won awards, Karen Boyce is fully capable of delivering a winning series that meets or even exceeds its initial promise.

If you wish to purchase Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Haunted Chapel from Amazon, click here.

Thanks to author Karen Kelly Boyce for providing me with a free review copy of the book.