“The Hardest Thing About Not Having Sex Before Marriage Wasn’t What I Expected”

hardest thing-page-001Thanks as always to the ever wise brother-deacon Greg Kandra on putting us on to an enlightening, frank and ultimately beautiful testimony which I think is actually far more common that most folks believe – waiting until after marriage to have sex.

While society tends to be “puzzled” by such behavior (and I’m being very kind in using that word) more and more couples are actually far more “reserved” with taking the full plunge into sexual intimacy before marriage.

I can say as one who works in marriage preparation as the significant part of my diaconal calling, of those engaged couples who ARE sexually active, they are generally waiting until they are with that “one, true love of their lives” working towards that already-scheduled “full commitment” rather than having it as a standard “hold-over” part of the “dating scene”.

I for one am full of hope and joy for the next generation of married couples . . . deep down inside of us, we do instinctively understand in some small way the beauty and joy of God’s plan for us in marriage . . .

Read the full story HERE.

“Sex Is Kind Of Like The Nourishing Food of Marriage”

untitledRyan Williams has an excellent article over at Aleteia.org which discusses in a beautiful, Catholic manner, what we really believe about sex and marital intimacy. His premise, he states, is:

Marriage counselors routinely encourage couples to focus on what they do out of the bedroom in order to strengthen what they do in the bedroom.  

I’ll argue that the truth is quite the opposite, that sex is the food of marriage, and the principle source of energy and direction for all of the rest of it. Sex does not come as the result of other acts of charity within a marriage, it is the cause of them.

Read the entire article HERE.

“When Something Is Important You MAKE the TIME” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

Okay, I will make a confession here . . . I am a HUGE Star Trek fan.

I have been one since I was so small I can hardly remember, and growing up in the Seventies, Sunday mornings always had two huge events for us every week: 10 a.m. mass at St. Catherine’s in New Haven with either Father Paul Russell or Father Jack Caldwell, followed immediately by Captain James T. Kirk as soon as we got home. Both had influences on me, and I can truly say that integrating them has actually been a far easier process than you might imagine.SOMETHING IMPORTANT

I recently confessed of my love for Star Trek to my parishioners at St. Gabriel and let them in on one of the secret ingredients for many of my homilies . . . a dash of Star Trek whenever appropriate, which not surprisingly happens fairly frequently.

If you hear me quote someone with the lead-in of “a wise man once said” it is probably Spock more often than not. It’s actually turned into a bit of a running gag now as many parishioners are far more Star Trek savvy than I gave them credit for . . . they usually spot my references now without me having to use any of my code-phrases at all.

And so it is that this practice of mine prompts me once again to steal another Star Trek quote for this blog posting, this time from the great James T. Kirk himself:

“When something is IMPORTANT, you MAKE the TIME for it.”

As usual, the great captain of the Enterprise hits it right on the head . . . and the subject he was talking about when he spoke those words is perhaps the most obvious one for us to hear about now in light of the Pope’s recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia . . . the subject of “family”.

Family is something so easily taken for granted; something so constant and necessary for all of us, just like water or air. No matter its shape, composition or condition, family in some manner is an essential need for all human beings . . . a “basic human right” just as important as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And this precious gift of family requires time as its essential nutrient.

Children want their parents to be with them . . . wives and husbands crave time together, both with their children and otherwise. We want undivided attention and conversation with those we love. We want games played and experiences shared. We desire meals together and recreation that is inclusive of all, both of the family we are born or married into as well as those we choose for ourselves: our friends and our communities, most especially our parish communities where we come together to better integrate God into our lives.

Summertime is indeed a great time for family sharing . . . for making experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it be going to the beach or the lake, a theme park or museum, or even just staying home and watching TV together (Star Trek anyone?) . . . nothing cements families together better or more permanently than simple time spent with one another.

Spend some quality time with those you love as often as you can . . . it is indeed worth making the time for. . .

“The Blessings Of The Wedding Day” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

One of the things I often tell couples and families when discussing the subject of marriage is that the wedding is just for a day, whereas the marriage is forever. It is a common saying, and although it is a little bit trite, it is of course true and relevant always.

However, I think I am going to repent of saying that . . . at least for a while.

Why should the importance of the wedding day itself be minimized in any way? When a baptized man and woman freely exchange their consent with each other, Christ comes into their union and forever uplifts it to the level of a sacrament. Why should a moment so powerful, so moving, so special and so without parallel be thought of as competing with its own endurance?

When we reach out to God, we are attempting to embrace the perfect . . . the perfect justice, the perfect mercy, the perfect relationship and the perfect love, along with so many other things. The Church’s Rite of Matrimony is our attempt at reflecting this perfect love in a liturgical and ceremonial fashion . . . we elevate something so important as high as we can possibly reach, just as a child reaches upwards to join hands with a parent. Both are done in love and admiration as well as a means of asking for blessings.

We celebrate the sacrament of matrimony in God’s house because the highest form of human relationship – matrimony – wishes to be blessed by its author who gave it to us at the very beginning. Pope Francis spoke so very beautifully of this quality of marriage in Amoris Laetitia when he said “The sacrament [of matrimony] is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses.”

God’s blessings come during the wedding itself . . . and while they are intended to last a lifetime of course, the ceremony itself is indeed a unique and beautiful blessing all on its own, worthy of celebration. May the wedding days of all these many couples listed in this Bridal Edition experience God’s fervent and fruitful blessings . . . both forever, and on their wedding day itself as well.

“Reaping What We Sow” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

Every year at this time, I dream of corn on the cob . . .

It sounds kind of silly I know, but it was always in early August when the corn would “come in” as we used to say.

I still remember picking bushel after bushel of Silver Queen corn in both my parent’s and grandparent’s gardens growing up. There was always just a tiny number of days when the corn was perfect . . . sweet and juicy and you had to hit it just right or it would be hard and chewy. I’ll never forget those special years when we got it perfectly on time.

My record is eating 14 ears in one sitting which I accomplished on the back porch of my grandparent’s house in Howardstown so many years ago . . .

Yes, those were the days.

This is the time of year when many of us think of reaping what we have sown. Harvest is upon us as we plan for a new school year, as our vacations come to an end and as the days begin their slow shortening. Ordinary Time is with us and green vestments are the norm. This is a time for us to hear of parables and of miracles; Christ’s message takes front and center in our liturgy during these warm days of plenty. Hopefully, we are able to take some time to reflect upon how we are integrating his teachings into our families and our daily lives . . . making them a part of us as he intends us to do.

As harvest happens around us, we also remember that our time is always short. We are only given so many days here on this earth to make a difference for those in need. Just like with the corn, we ourselves have but a tiny number of days ourselves to “get it right” or “do the right thing.” It is so easy for us to miss opportunities or not to notice the days fly past. Harvest time is a time of plenty to remember and to share . . . something we do every time we gather liturgically in fact. Every mass we celebrate is a harvest . . . a sacrifice of sharing, of plenty and of remembrance.

As summer rolls on towards its ending . . . as we gather the fruits of the land into our barns and make our plans for the upcoming seasons . . . let us remember those who lack, those who yearn and those who need. Let us be the gift of plenty to all those we encounter . . . and let us widen our circles to encounter as many as we can.

“The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few” . . . let us try and field a few more workers this harvest season into the vineyards of the Lord.

DEACON SIGNATURE

 

“In Praise of Natural Family Planning” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

One of the greatest joys of being the Director of Family Ministries for the Archdiocese is the ability to connect with so many couples on the road to marriage. It is an awesome responsibility that I take very seriously as we try and help those who are about to make the biggest decision of their lives understand just a little bit better the wondrous sacrament in which they are about to partake. And as you might suspect, no topic that we discuss generates more questions than the Church’s teachings about marital intimacy and sexuality in general . . . and Natural Family Planning in particular.happy-family-23

In spreading the gospel of Christ, there’s almost nothing more effective than the testimony of a joyful witness, and it is this approach which we very deliberately take in discussing Natural Family Planning (NFP). My wife Susan and I are but one of the many married couples who help personally spread the joy and the truth about NFP at our Foundation for Marriage preparation sessions. All of us who present are practitioners of one of the many NFP methods available, and we all speak clearly as witnesses to both the effectiveness of the methods as well as the empowerment which we find in expressing our married lives together through them. We are constantly amazed at how misunderstood the subject usually is for couples before they hear our presentations, and we are also very gratified at the positive response we almost always hear expressed as this beautiful truth is properly explained and witnessed for the next generation.

NFP is a blanket term for a number of natural and proven methods which married couples can choose as safe and effective ways of undertaking their God-given and Church-supported right to plan their families as they think best. NFP allows couples to be able to do this in ways which embrace fertility as a reality to be lived, not as a problem to be solved.

NFP methods are different from and better than artificial contraception because they cooperate with, rather than suppress, a couple’s fertility. They can be used either to achieve or to avoid pregnancy but perhaps most importantly they call for shared responsibility and cooperation by husband and wife. Spousal communication is enhanced by practicing NFP, as any couple who practices it can tell you, as is respect for and acceptance of the total person. The fact that these methods are both eco-friendly and organic are bonuses to the primary benefit of uniting the husband and the wife in both planning their families as well as better achieving the oneness which God proclaimed to be the purpose of marriage since the very beginning. (The two of them become one, Genesis 2:24)

National NFP Awareness Week this year is an opportunity for everyone to better learn the truth about the goodness and the effectiveness of Natural Family Planning. NFP is something which is so often misunderstood by so many and now is indeed always the time for us to better learn the goodness and truth about it.

The Family Ministries section of the Archdiocese of Louisville website has many local resources, and the USCCB website has an enormous amount of content which dispels so much of the confusion on this subject. Both of these sites can help both educate the general public, as well as better direct those who might be interested in learning more about joining so many of us who already find such fulfillment in living out God’s plan for oneness with intentionality in their married lives.