Resolve to enjoy a ‘Year of Dates’

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shuttershock

Could you make a New Year’s resolution to date your spouse at least once a month this year?

The wide-open sweep of the calendar year ahead is a great opportunity for married couples to plan a year’s worth of date nights with each other. Daytime dates work, too! Setting the intention to spend regular time enjoying your husband or wife’s company builds up friendship and satisfaction, strengthening your marriage.

Stepping out of your everyday routine also creates space for more meaningful conversations. Where are you heading in your marriage? What are you dreaming of for your family? In a 2015 Meeting with Families in the Philippines, Pope Francis said, “You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. … Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!”

The pope continued: “How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!”

Great dates can give you the chance to think bigger about your life together and to discuss your challenges, dreams and goals. Whether over dinner at a restaurant or while jogging for a few miles together stroller-free, these conversations can energize and inspire you to create a common vision for your future.

Other dates create fun memories. Our kids will never forget the morning they woke up to discover the epic blanket fort that my husband and I had created in our living room during a date night in. Strung with Christmas lights and strewn with pillows and blankets, we left it up for the whole weekend.

When planning your dates, try to think of what your husband or wife would especially enjoy, and design your time with that in mind. I don’t especially enjoy playing cards, but my husband does, and he was delighted one evening to discover that I’d set up a card table and snacks for us for a surprise date night at home. (I ended up having fun despite myself.) I appreciate theater and performing arts, and I was thrilled to be whisked away to a marvelous play at the Lincoln Theatre one evening when we lived near Washington, D.C. My husband had planned the perfect evening with my tastes in mind. Putting your spouse’s preferences first is a wonderful way to make a gift of self.

Here are some frugal date ideas to get you thinking as you plan your “Year of Dates.” (Singles can also plan for dates for enjoying their own company and that of God in what St. John Paul II calls “original solitude,” and parents can plan “Daddy Dates” or “Mother-Daughter Dates” with their kiddos.) These can be adapted:

  • Plan a walk, jog or hike in a beautiful park or forest. Or rent kayaks. Revel in the beauty God created here in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Take a weekday morning off to enjoy a Free First Thursday at one of Seattle’s museums.
  • Swap babysitting with another family from church.
  • Read aloud a classic by candlelight while sipping wine. Find literature suggestions on WellReadMom.com.
  • Adoration and appetizers afterwards. A local newlywed couple of my acquaintance met on CatholicMatch.com and began their first date by meeting at church for eucharistic adoration.
  • A date-night subscription box can help ensure regular, creative dates at home without much planning. Read reviews of Date Crate, Date Box and competitors on the blog of The Screenwriter’s Wife.

As you date your way through 2018, may you dream, grow and be blessed with wonderful experiences of the joy of God’s love.

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The Incarnational Power of Theology of the Body

Photo: Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, Luc Viatourbe

Photo: Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, Luc Viatourbe

Christmas celebrates the gift of the Incarnation: the Word made flesh, God himself taking on a human body to reveal his love to us. The body is so important in Christianity. The body matters. The body speaks. Its language reveals to us our call to be a total self-gift in love. That is the central insight of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, a series of teachings on man, woman and love which he gave in the early years of his pontificate.

“The body … alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine,” the pope wrote. In masculinity and femininity, we discover the revelation of God’s image, the call to authentic love, and the true meaning of our sexuality. The implications of this insight have been life-changing for many.

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Windows’ witness

Photo: Psalter of Queen Melisende/Flickr Commons

This November, as we remember our departed in a particular way, it is a good time to remember also that the church offers comfort for the men and women left behind when a beloved spouse dies. Widows and widowers have a life full of dignity, purpose and mission. As Vatican II declared, “Widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation, should be esteemed by all.”

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Pray the Rosary for Stronger Marriages and Families

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This Oct. 13 marks the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fátima. At Fátima, Portugal, Our Lady urged the shepherd children to pray the rosary daily to obtain peace for the world. In this time of crisis in marriage and family life, a daily family rosary — a daily rosary from all Catholics — for the strengthening of marriage and family is a powerful means of building peace in the world.

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A Pervasive Toxin is Attacking Our Kids

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Parents, as your teens head back to school, you should know that this year they are at a greater risk than ever for encountering a toxic substance proven to traumatize the brain, impair concentration, decrease cognitive functioning, induce depression and anxiety, and reduce pleasure in everyday life. Rising in use each year, this substance is attacking our kids’ ability to learn, thrive and be happy. And you are the most powerful force in their lives to protect them from it.  Continue reading “A Pervasive Toxin is Attacking Our Kids”

Grandparents are a Treasure

“Tell me about your grandmother,” the director of vocations for an East Coast diocese asks the young man sitting on the other side of his desk for his initial interview at the chancery. He leans back in his chair to enjoy the response, knowing already what it will be.

“Oh, she is the most incredible woman,” the young man instantly lights up. “My grandmother is really special to me, and she is so strong in her Catholic faith. In fact, I think I owe my vocation to the priesthood to her,” he reflects. The vocations director nods knowingly. Every candidate for the priesthood that has come into his office has said the same thing.

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Wine Out of Water

Photo: Courtesy Carrie Anderson

“We had been craving community at St. Monica [Parish on Mercer Island], just wanting some kind of couple’s group,” Bill recounted. “Father Freitag was talking about the dissolution of marriages. … Divorce after divorce. It was on his heart that we need prayers for these marriages, and they need help. So it was something that was on our heart,” he told me.

Inspired during eucharistic adoration together, Bill and Carrie Anderson gathered a group of six couples from the parish to meet regularly for dinner about two years ago. They share wine, laughter and fellowship. After dinner, they pray a rosary. They meet in the spirit of the wedding at Cana, as indicated by their name, WOW: Wine Out of Water. (see John 2:1-11)

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Godparents and Grandparents, Give Gifts that Grow Faith

Photo: Janis OlsonPhoto: Janis Olson

When I was a little girl visiting my wonderful Catholic grandmother in Edmonds, she would often send me home with the gift of a few volumes from Father Lawrence Lovasik’s Books of Saints series. I would pore over them, admiring the color illustrations of the holy men and women. I took note of their feast days and areas of patronage.

My grandma still never fails to give meaningful and beautiful Catholic gifts for all her family’s baptisms, first Communions and confirmations. These gifts have blessed our domestic church and inspired our spiritual life. With Easter, first Communion and Confirmation season upon us, I offer a collection of faith-building gift ideas for grandparents and godparents, aunties and uncles, catechists and parents.

The feasts and seasons of the church year provide a wealth of opportunities for godly gifts. Kate, our second daughter, often receives a religious, Christmas-themed picture book sometime between Advent and Epiphany from her faraway godparents. Our oldest daughter, Clare, received a Kurt Adler magnetic Nativity Advent calendar from her godparents when she was about 4 years old. It has become a treasured and Christ-centered part of our family’s annual Advent preparations. I try to give my own godchildren at least one faith-inspiring gift per year. One past gift, the picture book Brigid’s Cloak by Bryce Milligan, is equally appropriate for Christmas or for St. Brigid’s Feb. 1 feast day. Lives of the saints collections, like my grandma gave me, are great year-round.

Here are seven Easter gift ideas for the Catholic children in your life:

  1. Resurrection eggs make Jesus’ paschal mystery come alive for young children in a fun, hands-on way. Crafty grandparents or godparents could create their own set with directions from CatholicIcing.com. Ready-made sets are also available on Amazon.
  2. My favorite picture book for Lent and Easter is Peter’s First Easter by Walter Wangerin Jr. It is out of print, but you can find it used on Amazon.
  3. A home paschal candle makes a great gift or craft project to do with the Catholic children in your life. Make a cross on a white pillar candle with beads or a glue gun and rhinestones. Mark the five wounds of Christ by placing five red beads on the cross’s ends and center while praying: “By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us.” For directions for marking the Alpha and Omega as well as the calendar year numbers on your candle, check the Shower of Roses blog.
  4. A giant Lamb of God coloring poster from IlluminatedInk.com arrived in our mailbox one year from 5-year-old Beata’s godparents. The poster was a huge hit for the whole
    family — all the sisters had fun coloring it in together, and it adorned a bedroom door throughout the Easter season.
  5. A spiritual bouquet is an offering of prayer. In the Easter season, a single chaplet of Divine Mercy or the whole Novena of Divine Mercy would make a fitting gift presented with a lovely notecard describing the offering. Crafters could accompany the card with a bouquet of tissue-paper flowers to represent each prayer offered.
  6. Peg dolls for Passion Week. I’m thrilled to try CatholicIcing.com’s printable decoupage peg doll Passion Set this year as a gift to my own children. Little hands can use the dolls to act out the Stations of the Cross or the events of Holy Week (perhaps in a “Jerusalem” they build with wood blocks).
  7. Glory Stories CDs. These are family favorites! Each story features great voice acting, rich catechesis, background music from the saints’ cultural and historical settings, and a compelling, well-written script. The stories of Blessed Imelda, the patron saint of first communicants, St. John Paul II, St. Faustina, all available from HolyHeroes.com, are perfect for this time of the liturgical year.

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The Liturgy of the Hours in the Domestic Church

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Photo: Shuttershock

After turning off the lights in the kids’ rooms at nighttime, Andrew Casad and his wife, Michelle, pray their own ad hoc version of the Liturgy of the Hours’ night prayer together with their school-aged children, Miriam and Joshua. It is the last thing they do together as a family before the children go to sleep. Andrew observed that he and Michelle found, accidentally, that this family prayer ritual “can create a sense of structure.” Night prayer imparts a peaceful, calming sense of closure to the end of the day. Continue reading “The Liturgy of the Hours in the Domestic Church”

Couple Prayer with Scripture

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Photo: Shuttershock

Two couples share about the power of praying together with the word of God.

You never know when a tentative new habit of couple prayer will turn out to be a lifeline. A reader recently sent me the following:

“About a year ago, shortly after our 49th wedding anniversary, my husband and I began somewhat hesitantly to pray a kind of evening prayer together right after dinner, right at the dinner table and before cleaning up the kitchen. It proceeded in fits and starts until we found a way of making it feel right for us.

“In our case, that meant he would bring out his Bible and devotional book, an ecumenical one particularly good for a ‘mixed’ couple (he is Lutheran and I am Catholic). He would lead us in two or three brief readings of Scripture and meditations, which had impressed him in his own morning devotional time.

“We now make a few comments concerning how these readings speak to us or to our loved ones’ lives. And then, after the Our Father, prayed aloud together while he holds my hand, we pray spontaneously about what is most on our hearts. We end with the prayer, ‘… for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.’

“About nine months after beginning this evening prayer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One day as we were beginning to cope with this storm, my husband turned to me and said, ‘How could we have gotten through this without our evening prayers, preparing us?’

“It is not too late, ever, for any couple to begin praying together, whether for the first time, or after many years of letting such a practice fall by the wayside. As an old saying goes, ‘Blessings abound’ when we take the time and make the effort.”

I am grateful to Joyce Crain for sharing her story. Joyce attends St. Francis Parish in Friday Harbor, and was featured in the very first issue of Northwest Catholic (“Faith on the Ferry,” September 2013). Joyce, our prayers are with you as you journey through chemo! How wonderful that this journey is now accompanied and supported through the daily practice of prayer with your husband.

Another couple from differing faith backgrounds also recently shared their story of Scripture-based couple prayer with me. Ray and Jackie Marsh have been married 33 years. Ray is Catholic and attends St. Monica Parish on Mercer Island. “Somewhere along the way,” he wrote, he and Jackie, who is Mormon, began reading Scripture every night and praying together after reading. “I believe that God has blessed our marriage because of our love for him and his holy word,” he affirmed. “We just needed to come together, pray and understand what God wants for our life.”

This prayer together has actually helped them find a place of unity in their spiritual life. Ray reflected, “We understand that our beliefs are different so we pray and read the Scriptures so we can at least be together in this.” Research seems to validate his experience; sociologists find that couples who pray or share devotions together experience greater happiness and satisfaction in their marriage, and this is especially a benefit when differences in faith could cause tension.

Praying with Scripture is a powerful way that married couples can pray together. A devotional aid can help, something like the Magnificat magazine or Together in Christ, which contains the daily readings from Mass. The beautiful lectio divinamethod can be adapted for couples (see “Lectio for Lovers” by Shawn Rain Chapman at atxcatholic.com), or you and your beloved can simply read a passage and share impromptu reflections and prayers from the heart, like Joyce and Brian or Jackie and Ray. Whichever way you do it, praying with the word of God will bring light to your mind, grace to your soul and strength to your marriage.

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