Thursday, March 25

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After
By Jerome Placido

Coming back after being gone for three years, it was beautiful to see many of my friends being married or engaged to be married. For them I say a special prayer each day because I know that the devil has waged war against the very foundations of married couples for quite some time now.

It’s quite sad to see that over 50 percent of marriages in America “end in divorce.” Sometimes marriage is seen merely a contract or something is done out convenience, physical, material, or emotional, of both man and woman. The truth of matter is that the union of man and woman, husband and wife, is sacred and holy. It should be the source of strength and motivation for both to reach the heights of sanctity.

The bonds created in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, or Marriage, are made by God Himself and “what God has joined let no man put asunder.” (Mk 10:9) Meaning the vows that are made at the altar go beyond mere words and mingle as it were with the infinite, they echo for all eternity. So what’s with the 50 percent divorce rate? We can propose many reasons, and as a matter of fact there are many reasons. But it would do us well to focus on why two should marry to understand why some resort to divorce.

The union of Marriage is not only a celebration of mutual love but we often forget its other essential purpose. Not the tax benefits or being able to wake up next to the person you love in the morning, but the call for husband and wife to bring into this world new life. In other words, the calling of those married isn’t simply to love each other, but to allow that love to bring forth into this world a child of their own.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory" (CCC 1652). The word procreation seems to me the perfect word to emphasize from this excerpt from the CCC. The reason is because God could have, in His infinite power, continued to bring forth man from dirt, or even from pulling people from ribs. But instead of doing things that way, in His infinite wisdom and love for man He preserves the very act of creating new life especially for a man and a woman joined together in Holy Matrimony.

It’s not just any life; it’s a human being, with an eternal soul and a body which will serve as a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is another masterpiece of God imprinted with His very image and likeness. This act is one of the most beautiful gifts given to man and the Church says this is marriages “crowning glory.”

A Catholic author, Christopher West, elaborating on the “Theology of the Body” by Pope John Paul II said, “Divine love is generous, it generates.” To think, of all the people in the world, from the beginning of time, God had in mind you and your future spouse to be intimately connected with each other and with Him. It was written in His Heart that these two souls were to share in the beautiful act of creating life.

To put it plainly, we don’t marry only for our own intentions but we must take into account that singular intention that should motivate all other: Love of God. Yes we should love the spouse we marry, and the Church teaches responsible parenting which means we don’t arbitrarily give have x amount of children to the point where the very livelihood of the entire family is endangered, but we should not limit within the institution of marriage God’s infinite and Divine love.

God truly does write our own individual love stories and if we follow those statues he gives us we can rest assured that this love story has nothing else but a happy ending.

Thursday, March 11

Are You A Little Bit Married?

Are You A Little Bit Married?
How to know if it's time to walk down the aisle or go your separate ways
By Dr. Christine B. Whelan

Matt, 29, and his girlfriend, Kelly, 28, have been dating for four years and living together for two. They were both raised Catholic, attend Church occasionally, and joke about “living in sin” and being “semi-married.” Kelly told me she was OK moving in with Matt because she just assumed that this was a step in the right direction — toward real marriage. But in the last few months, each time she’s brought up the future in some oblique way, Matt has dodged the issue. “I talk to his parents all the time. We spend most holidays together,” she said. “But I’m just not sure where this is going right now, and I’m beginning to get worried.”

Sound familiar?

Back in the day, love led to marriage. Now, for too many couples, sex evolves into love, which leads to about a decade of being “a little bit married” — the long-term, exclusive relationships that we’ve created as a waypoint on the road to adulthood. In a well-researched and cleverly written pop-sociology self-help book, A Little Bit Married, author and journalist Hannah Seligson explains this new demographic trend.

The vast majority of young adults want to get married — and that’s certainly true of young-adult Catholics. But as we navigate our twenties and early thirties, building careers and searching for soul mates, we delay that goal — yet still want to experience intimate relationships. We think of these long-term relationships as “internships” for marriage: You want to test it out, have some of the fun without all the commitment and see if it’s right for you. Maybe you’ve been dating for two years and have decided to adopt a puppy — with no official plans for the future. Or maybe the two of you are planning a housewarming party for your new apartment — with no ring exchange in sight.

Ladies, some words of advice

This kind of thinking is common among both men and women — but let’s be honest: the ladies get to the marriage idea before the guys do. Maybe it’s how we’ve been raised, or our biological clocks, or that it’s the girls that get more pressure from their families. I know there are tons of guys out there who want to make a long-term, lasting commitment (and I’d love to hear your stories!) but when it comes to long-term relationships that seem to go on and on forever with angst and uncertainty, it’s usually because the guy isn’t ready for — or is dodging — questions about marriage; not the girl.

So, ladies, if this sounds like your relationship, some words of advice:
  • After three years, it’s time to make a decision. If you want to get married and have children, spending your late twenties and early thirties with a man who turns on the PlayStation every time you bring up “the future” isn’t a great idea. Peter Pan guys — child-men who can’t commit to theater tickets next month, nonetheless a lifetime commitment to you — may not be the best mates.

    Whether you are saving sex for marriage or totally shacked up, at a certain point it’s time to make a decision: In your gut, in that place where you hear God’s voice calling you, there’s an answer. Is it time to walk down the aisle, or to go your separate ways?

    A Little Bit Married takes a light-hearted approach, weighing the pros and cons of cohabitation, advising women on how to bring up “the future” without appearing desperate or insecure, and interviewing dozens of couples and experts to get the facts on cohabitation and divorce. (Unsurprisingly, the bottom line is that living together does not help your chance of having a lasting, happy relationship.)

  • Talk to each other, people. I mean, seriously, figure out what you want and say it. One of the reasons romantic comedies frustrate me is because if the couple would clearly express how they are feeling things wouldn’t be so complicated. I had that similar anxiety reading the interviews in A Little Bit Married: Men repeatedly told Seligson they “hadn’t really thought about” marriage, kids and the future. Yes, it’s something they want to do, but “later.” This drives most women bonkers. Yet, because the ladies are too afraid to rock the boat, no one says anything. In “Are we there yet?” a news-you-can-use chapter on how to bring up the future, Seligson lays out empowered ways for women to express their feelings.

    Honest communication is so crucial — for both men and women. If you two can’t talk to each other about your feelings and thoughts about the future, it’s time to move on to a relationship in which you can express those emotions

  • The time to talk about your faith is now — not later. In an interview, Seligson told me that for most of the “a little bit married” set, couples simply don’t talk about religion and how religious differences might play out in a future marriage. “Religion just becomes another one of those issues that ‘will work itself out’” later, she said. But by not discussing this crucial issue during what is supposed to be a trial run for marriage, couples are doing themselves a disservice. “You can both be Catholic but have polar opposite concepts of what that means in practice. You can believe it means going to confession every week, and he can think it means going to Mass on Christmas Eve,” and those differences are too important to be worked out in a slap-dash way later on.

  • Don’t move in with him until there’s a ring on your finger. Girls think living together is a sign that marriage is on the horizon, but guys don’t see it that way, according to research by Pamela Smock at the University of Michigan. The vast majority of millennial couples will live together before marriage — and that includes Catholic couples, too. That means that this disconnect in motives will cause a lot of heartache for a lot of folks along the way. And it can be avoided: You can learn his quirks and figure out his internal rhythms by spending loads of time together without giving up your apartment. Premarital sex, cohabitation and “playing house” are not necessary to learn if you’re compatible mates: Spending plenty of time together, sharing hopes, fears, dreams and good communication, however, are necessary ingredients for success.

    Plus, research clearly shows that women who live with more than one partner have double the odds of divorce in the future. And even though you might think that the relationship is leading to marriage, have you clearly talked about it? Are you sure you are both on the same page about your emotional expectations as you move your espresso machine into his kitchen? Whatever you do, please don’t “tumble into” living together — a trend Seligson explores in detail — and then shrug and decide that marriage is the next step because it’s too exhausting to think about breaking up, moving out and dating again.
While A Little Bit Married isn’t written for a Catholic audience specifically, surveys have shown that the behavior, concerns and aspirations of young-adult Catholics tends to mirror the American population as a whole. So what do you think? Are you “a little bit married”? Post your thoughts and comments below — or email me at

The Author : Dr. Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan, is an Iowa-based social historian. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or on the Halo Store.

Monday, March 8

What about 'Going-Steady'?

The Answer to What about 'Going-Steady'?
Here's an article from 1956 that still rings true in 2010
by Rev. Daniel Egan, S.A.

I have no statistics to prove this, but I venture to say that the very pagan and immoral custom of going steady too early in life is responsible for more juvenile delinquency, more sins of impurity and more unsuccessful marriages than any other single cause. I venture to say, also, that it is responsible for most of the unwed fathers and mothers and, consequently, most of the forced marriages.

It therefore follows that there is something far more at stake here than a mere custom or crazy fad. Some customs, like wearing red stockings or pink stockings or green stockings involve no sin. Some styles of haircuts or teen-age clothing may make a kid look a mess, but of themselves these very "goofy" fads are not sinful.

But when we come to the custom of high school kids going steady without a reasonable hope of entering a happy, holy, successful marriage in a reasonable period of time — this is a sinful custom. And because it concerns God's glory and the very salvation of souls, it is something we can never condone, no more than we can condone or compromise with anything else that is sinful — no matter how many people do it!

The Meaning of 'Going-Steady'

Before we explain the moral theology of going-steady, let's first agree on what it means.

First, it means that a boy and a girl are going together exclusively. And it's still "exclusive" even though they "occasionally" (when they're forced into it!) date someone else. It's "exclusive" as long as . . .

Second, they see each other "frequently" — two or three times a week. By this we don't mean just walking home together or having a "coke" together. We mean that . . .

Third, they frequently visit each other, alone, in a "cozy situation," like in a car, parking, at a "drive-in," baby-sitting, places where they are unobserved by other humans. And it doesn't change the occasion of sin simply because there's another couple present. The danger is still there if . . .

Fourth, they engage in frequent kissing. Though they usually claim to be "in love," it doesn't really matter for this discussion whether they are or not. Many teen-agers frequently kiss their steady, and yet admit there's no "love" between them. So, as long as they engage in frequent kissing, then they come under the category of "going-steady" — if the other conditions are also present.

The Morality of 'Going-Steady'

Now if any boy and girl are dating this way, then they're "going-steady." What, then, is the teaching of moral theologians about such courtship? They all agree that this type of steady company-keeping in itself is always some occasion of sin, and, because it is, the only reason that will permit it is the reasonable hope of marriage in the near future. Even then they must observe all the proper safeguards to avoid sin. Noldin-Schmitt insists that:

"Familiar associations which are called company-keeping per se contain an occasion of sin. If they take place in view of marriage they are lawful. But care must be taken lest lawful meetings become a proximate occasion of sin. The hope of a future marriage is the only reason why these visits are rendered licit.

Furthermore, "going-steady," as we have defined it, is not just an occasion of sin. Theologians usually define it as a proximate, dangerous occasion of sin. Father Connell, C.SS.R., of Catholic University hesitates to declare that juvenile courtships are always proximate occasions of sin, but he does agree with the theologian Damen that "company-keeping is generally a proximate occasion of grave sin (and consequently forbidden under pain of grave sin) when it is practiced without any intention of entering marriage or when there is no hope of marriage in the near future." Therefore, says Father Connell, if a boy or girl have proved that this manner of association is a proximate occasion of sin for them, they are guilty of mortal sin by continuing this type of companionship without any expectation of marriage in the near future. The fact that they have committed grave sin together is a sufficient proof that their steady company-keeping is a proximate occasion of grave sin, and hence must be given up.

Here let's insert a note to priests who hear the confessions of high school students "going steady." It is the commonly accepted theological doctrine, as explained by Noldin-Schmitt, that
when boys and girls accuse themselves of external sins against chastity with a person of the other sex, they are to be asked if they are keeping company (in our language, "going steady") with this person.

If they answer in the affirmative, they are to be asked further if there is any hope of a future marriage. If there is no such hope, and if, a fortiori, there is no intention of matrimony, it is absolutely necessary that they break off the company-keeping, since they are in a proximate occasion of grave sin without a just cause.

What if they insist on "going steady" in a way that is a dangerous, proximate, unnecessary occasion of sin? "In that event" says Connell, "the priest must forbid the company-keeping and must deny the absolution if this condition is not accepted. At most, a date in the future could be permitted on rare occasions on condition that they are not alone at any time.

Admitting that "going-steady" is, at least, always some occasion of sin, when does it become a proximate one? The theologian Wouters insists that "as soon as the company-keepers have sinned gravely, the occasion has become proximate, and must be treated as such by the confessors."

Now once the "going-steady" becomes the proximate occasion of grievous sin, then "whosoever does not want to give up a proximate free occasion of sin cannot be absolved. This is true even if the penitent is willing to try to make the occasion remote by means of prayer, etc."

So there you have it! Now it was necessary for me to line up the opinions of all these moral theologians to show that the Church is not mixed up. If some few of her very human teachers are confused, it is only because they are not following the best opinions of her moral theologians, or, knowing these approved teachings, they water them down in the face of growing custom.

'Pagan' Thinking and Acting

I said earlier that "going steady" as we have described it, without reasonable hope of marriage within a reasonable period of time, was "pagan." Any solution to a moral problem like "going steady" that is based on the opinions of the "crowd" and not those of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is a downright "pagan" solution!

But the shocking thing is that practically all our Catholic youth who "go steady" in a way that is sinful look at the problem just as if they were unbaptized pagans! Simply because "everyone else does it," it's o.k.! Simply because some careless, ignorant or stupid parents "think it's cute," it's o.k.! Simply because it's "an easy and convenient way to get a date," it's o.k.!

When St. Paul said "let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus," he meant just that! He dared us to be different. But in the solution to this problem too many of our youth would rather be wrong than different. Is their thinking in tune with the thinking of Christ? Must they "go-steady" simply because spiritually stupid "specialists" in teen-age problems assure them that it's normal and natural? Don't they recall what Christ said about avoiding occasions of sin?

"If your eye scandalizes you, pluck it out! If your arm scandalizes you, cut it off! for it is better to go into Eternity without an eye or without an arm than to go into Hellfire with both!" By this Christ didn't mean we should ever cut an eye out or an arm off. Rather, we should have such deep hatred and fear and disgust of sin that we would cut out of our lives any and all occasions of sin that are dangerous, proximate and unnecessary. "Going-steady," as we have defined it, is just that — unless there's a reasonable hope of a happy marriage in the near future.

Popular Objections

But suppose a young couple were to claim that "going-steady" is not a proximate occasion of sin for them — then what? My first reaction would be to judge that they're not normal. How could two normal teens see each other frequently, alone, in cozy situations, kissing, and not experience the physical effects of such lovemaking?

Those natural, physical sensations of sex pleasure that normally accompany frequent kissing are rewards that God intends only for marriage, as a sacred "bonus" for parental burdens of dishes, diapers, bills, sicknesses and burping the baby at two in the morning. But to deliberately seek or consent to the slightest degree of sex-pleasure outside of marriage is always a mortal sin.

Even if kids do not seek or consent to such pleasure, moral theology states very clearly that no one may even run the risk of consenting to passion without a proportionate grave reason. Now "going-steady" because "everyone's doing it," or because "we don't mean no harm to nobody," or because "it's a sure way to get a date," is not a proportionate grave reason of entering such danger. And as far as girls insisting that "nothing else happened, Father — we just kissed a few times and that's all" — you wonder how utterly stupid some girls can be! "That's all?" Most normal boys experience physical reactions to kissing that might shock an emotional, romantic girl!

Charity and justice demand that girls do all in their power to avoid arousing passion in a boy. They must do this because the darkness of the intellect and the weakness of the will that resulted from Original Sin makes it very difficult for a boy not to consent to such pleasures. From God's point of view, the only reason that would permit a boy and a girl or a boy or a girl to experience such pleasures (they may never seek or consent to them in courtship!) is the reasonable hope of a happy marriage in the near future.

So I still insist, if they're normal, it's a rare thing that any young couple can make "going-steady" for six months or more, as we have defined it, a remote occasion of sin. But suppose it really is? Suppose they do not engage in repeated prolonged kissing ("necking"), which theology considers to be usually a mortal sin, suppose it is pure and chaste, and there's very little danger of it becoming a proximate occasion of sin?

America's leading moralist, Father Connell, insists that even in this case, where there is no hope of marriage within a reasonable period of time, the company-keeping must be reckoned a venial sin, inasmuch as the couple are frequently a remote occasion of grave sin without a sufficient reason. Furthermore, such steady company-keeping helps to promote a custom that is surely dangerous to the younger generation in general.

This is the opinion of most moral theologians.

Confusion on the Issue

It is difficult to understand, then, how anyone knowing their theology and knowing human nature could ever teach youth that going-steady is an indifferent act. How could it be an indifferent thing to freely enter an avoidable occasion of serious sin? Whether they have sinned or not, it is still a remote occasion of sin to go steady without a sufficient reason. But the only sufficient reason, as we explained before, is the reasonable hope of a happy marriage in the near future.

And yet in the face of all that moral theology teaches, I have been in cities where priests themselves were adding to the confusion by telling kids there was "nothing wrong in going-steady as long as no sin is committed." No wonder parents are confused! And no wonder kids are confused! Are our spiritual instincts becoming so dead that we think nothing of venial sin?

Even the most "innocent" type of going-steady without a reasonable hope of happy marriage in the near future is a venial sin. Is venial sin something trivial? The Bishops of Canada considered it so serious that they openly condemned the practice in their pronouncements of 1953. But kids from Canada tell me it's far worse here in the States than in their country.

Making a Virtue of Necessity

We have stated repeatedly that the only reason that can permit going-steady is the reasonable hope of entering a happy and holy marriage in the near future. If this reason is present the "going-steady" becomes, as it should be, an immediate prelude to engagement and holy marriage. It then becomes an unavoidable, necessary occasion of sin. Yet, even here, the young couple must prudently avoid those places and situations that are dangerous and unnecessary.

Prayer, sacraments, and devotion to Our Lady will never go against human nature. Therefore, even though a young couple are going steady, they are still bound to do all in their power to make the courtship a remote occasion of sin.

Again, it may be necessary to go steady, but it is never necessary to enter dangerous, avoidable situations — like parking, "drive-ins," "baby-sitting" — that usually result in sin. If, then, the couple are prudent, and if they frequently pray, receive the sacraments and cultivate a strong and tender devotion to Christ and His Mother, they will remain chaste. Though temptations often assail them, and they feel more and more their human weakness, they will find all their strength in frequently, daily if possible, receiving together Our Lord's Own Body in Holy Communion.

Though "three's a crowd" when dating, the couple always will bring Our Lady with them as the third party on every date. In her presence, they will make every kiss a reverent expression of pure affection. It will well-up from heart and soul, and never become just physical lust that is chained to the body.

A Call for a United Front

Here then is one issue about which we must present a united front. For those who are necessarily going steady, because they have the reasonable hope of entering a happy and holy marriage in the near future, we must do all in our power as parents, priests, and marriage counselors to encourage them with the highest ideals of modesty and chastity in courtship.

In our lectures, teachings and pre-marriage forums we must help youth to ruthlessly guard against "falling in love" until they have some degree of moral certitude that once they've fallen it will end up in a successful marriage.

For those who are "going steady" without the reasonable hope of successful marriage in the future, we must spare no hurt to force them to their senses. Parents, priests, educators — all who in any way work with youth are bound to know the true teachings of moral theology and make no compromise in applying its principles to such a sinful custom.

Editor's Note: Keep in mind that the above article was written in 1956. But everything it asserts about morality and sin hasn't really changed in the last 56 years.
Have a prayerful reflection on this dated article. God bless you.


Discussion Questions

Describe the type of "going-steady" that is condemned in this article.

How can parents help their children withstand the present-day current which makes "going-steady" an acceptable, even a laudable, practice?

Why is the custom of "going-steady" without a sufficient reason morally intolerable?

What is the sufficient reason which justifies steady "company-keeping," and, even where that is present, what precautions must be taken by the young couple?

Full Story

Christian Courtship

It's different from the dating game

By Henrietta Gomes

In a society that glorifies lust and encourages instant gratification, it is hard work to engage in a faithful and chaste relationship, but it is possible.

After one has discerned that it is God’s will for them to enter into the sacrament of marriage, the Church calls for an honorable “courtship,” (CCC no.1632). The fact that “courtship” is not often heard or implemented in the secular world might make it seem heavy or even rigid at first glance.

“It tends to get a negative reaction because it sounds old-fashioned,” said Mary-Rose Lombard, who serves as the diocesan coordinator of Young Adult Ministry and Family Life Enrichment.
However, Lombard said, “Courtship is an exclusive relationship that keeps marriage in mind.” The most important aspect of courtship, she said, is first having a relationship with Christ and receiving the sacraments regularly.” Lombard also noted that any relationship must first begin as a friendship, and then possibly “graduate to courtship.”

Christian courtship is different from what the world considers dating. The dating culture evolved from what was once known as courtship, prior to the invention of the automobile, said Father Jerome Magat, parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth Church in Colonial Beach, Va., and St. Anthony Mission Church in King George, Va.

Father Magat, who recently gave a talk on courtship at Theology on Tap, said a young man would usually spend time with the girl in the presence of her siblings, cousins, and even her parents at their house. With the accessibility of the automobile, the priest said, “it totally changed the dynamics … and modified dating.”

The couple would go out and “one of the fruits was they were able to spend time alone with their potential spouse and talk about things they might not have been able to around younger siblings.” The downside, however, the priest said, was that it often “led to an occasion of sin.”

Fast forward through an escalation of moral depravity over the years, and now dating for some has become a mere hobby, said Father Magat. “Some people just enjoy the chase with no eye toward marriage.” Catholics who enter into relationships, he said, “must enter with marriage in mind … and change ‘dating’ into a more chaste experience.”

When entering into a courtship or “dating” the priest said, the man or woman must have a list of “non-negotiables.” One must also ask themselves if the other person is the kind of person they could potentially marry. Some questions might include, “Is this the kind of person who would put their vocation over their career? Would this person wake up in the middle of the night to change a diaper?”

Due to the often promiscuous nature of dating in secular society it often leads to cohabitation, said Father Magat. Aside from going against Church teachings, there are many perils of cohabitation. At a superficial glance, moving in together before the wedding may seem appealing to some on a few levels. Some say they want to “make sure we’re able to live together when we’re married,” or “we’re getting married, anyway.”

However, cohabitating lowers the chances of a healthy, stable marriage. According to studies, couples who are living according to Church teachings have only a 5 percent chance of divorce, whereas once the couple begins deviating from the Church by using contraception, it “balloons up to 53 percent, and if couples have been cohabitating it adds on another 40 percent chance of divorce,” said Father Magat.

If couples are cohabitating before marriage, “they are not really getting married with the sacrament in mind,” he said. “It undermines the marital vocation. Trial marriage doesn’t work because it’s not a life of sacrifice. The couple just indulges each other … it’s a dead end, road to nowhere. It’s not consistent with sacramental prep. In fact, it’s virtually impossible for sacramental prep to take place.”

Cohabitation, contraception and other sexual sins are a result of a thwarted understanding of the human person. In the late Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, he tells his audience that the truth of God is revealed through the human body, and that the very meaning of life is inscribed in the human body.

The Theology of the Body “came at a time concurrent with the cult of the body,” said Father Magat. “The advent of the Theology of the Body as a school of thought couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a response to the cult of the body.”
He explained the “cult of the body” as the obsession with the body and forgetting about the soul. With the rise of “spas, gyms, Botox, silicone, diet pills, Viagra, Levitra … people think they’ve discovered the fountain of youth,” the priest said.

People often mistake the endorphin release during exercise and caring for the body as “spiritual well being. You could be endorphed up, but still be in mortal sin.

The human person is a body and soul composite, so one should not take care of one at the expense of the other,” he said. When one properly understands the meaning of the body, one will be able to become “a gift to each other,” which is what John Paul says in his writing.