Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

This morning I’ll be the keynote speaker for the annual communion breakfast at Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Mount Kisco, New York. I was asked by the pastor, Fr. Steven Clark, to deliver a few appropriate remarks concerning where we are in the mushrooming autism epidemic.

This isn’t a clinical seminar, it’s a communion breakfast, and so I plan to share our story of Joseph’s autism and its impact on our lives in every dimension: family, marriage, sibling, professional, etc.

Autism occurs within the context of family life and radically alters every single aspect of that life. It exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the marriage and family dynamic. It calls for a different dimension of parental love, and full-time involvement. I’ve thought much over these past seven years of Joseph’s autism and what it has done for us, for me.

It has taught me depths of love and devotion, of ferocious advocacy that I never would have thought that I had a capacity for. It has slowed me down as I was on a rapidly rising professional escalator, and taught me how to encounter Joseph in the inner sanctum of his fragile existence. He can’t just fall into line with the plans I had so neatly mapped out. This has been a derivative benefit for my wife and daughters.

Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov writes:

“Brothers, love is a teacher, but a hard one to obtain: learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.”

No words so completely capture the challenge of parenting an autistic child. Loving behavior doesn’t come to an autistic child the way it comes to ‘normal’ children. It needs to be handwired bit by bit. In teaching love, we learn love. In suffering with and for our children, we learn depths of love unfathomable but for the experience.

So why so many autistic children?

I believe that in His infinite Love and Mercy God is permitting this to happen as a means of rescuing us from ourselves. We are aborting 93% of all Down Syndrome babies, engaging in sex selection, experimenting with cloning, etc. We need to stop this, and soon.

Autistic children are Love’s answer to our designer approach for offspring, especially as there are no clear genetic markers or physical attributes to pick up in pre-natal testing. We are being given one last chance as a civilization to get it right, to learn the meaning of sacrificial love through a condition that strikes at the very heart of social communication, to walk ourselves back from the precipice of the abyss of narcissistic annihilation. We are being given the chance to learn the true meaning of human dignity and marital love, a love that creates new life and is large enough to swallow any imperfection that comes with that new life.

Such capacity results from being at peace with our own imperfections and having allowed ourselves to be the recipients of God the Father’s healing love. If we haven’t, we must begin there. Our hearts certainly have that capacity. We need to empty them first of the clutter that we amass when we turn from God, seeking instead fulfillment with things and egocentrism.

This may be our last chance.


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Little girls are unburdened. There is a lightness about little girls in those golden years before adolescence that is unmistakeable. Its unblemished beauty is like a rose bud, with all of the promise of the splendor about to unfold.

A florist once shared that rose buds exposed to a sudden and extreme chill will not open. They wither in their unrevealed potential.

So it is when youth is corrupted, when our daughters and sons are lured into sex before they have established their own ego boundaries, when sex forges bonds that youth cannot sustain, when the inevitable is heartache-and often times worse. Their blossoming is interrupted by confusion, anger, guilt and shame. The inability to sustain the powerful bonds created by sex leads to feelings of inadequacy and isolation, self-reproach and depression.

The very people holding themselves out as the solution have been the problem all along. Planned Parenthood is aggressive in its efforts to cut our sons and daughters off from trusting in us, playing to their youthful cravings for autonomy. They and their fellow travelers in the Culture of Death have for too long pumped them full of estrogens, stuffed their pockets full of condoms, and lured them to abort their babies when the inevitable contraceptive failure occurred. In the process they have filled them with a false sense of security and left them utterly unprepared for the emotional and spiritual fallout. The girls are not the only ones to suffer.

Contrary to popular belief, boys are not aloof. It’s an act. Boys are as devastated in a breakup as girls. The macho act is just that: whistling past the graveyard. But is the damage irreparable?

Blessedly no for most of it.

It starts by focussing on the true meaning of purity. I’ve treated this in other posts, notably Purity and Play and in, Of Bridal Veils and Little Girls.

Purity of heart, mind, body and soul is the very essence of a child’s spiritual rhythms. It isn’t that sex is dirty, it’s that the beauty of sex is caught up in an entirely different set of rhythms; those of radical self-donation to one’s spouse. It is the inability to deliver on the promises made in physical union that becomes dysrhythmic, and psychologically destabilizing. Sex is a great good that many parents themselves have not always seen or honored as such.

So, first we must reconcile with our past and with God. Then we must be ceaseless witnesses to the great good of sex, appealing to the bonds of love and intimacy created during sex as one of the exclusive goods of marriage. Those who have been sexually active will intuitively grasp that portion of the message.

Young people know how pathetic older adults look when they try to be cool, using the slang of teens; they get what dysrhythmic means when presented objectively in the reversal of roles. They also get it, and are relieved when they are brought to understand that they are simply not ready to deliver on the depth of the promises made in sex. These powerful emotional realities, properly explained, demystify for teens what has been to that point a nebulous angst.

Properly restored to their rhythms they become unburdened again, the unfolding of their potential restored in its function and beauty.

Photo via mylittlegirlsboutique.com

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Praying for Marriage

A nearly universal prayer prayed at Catholic Masses during the Prayer of The Faithful is for an increase in vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. We need them, God knows. But where do they come from? Where do we find men and women who are willing to sacrifice family, career, money-all for a life of chaste and celibate love and service to the People of God?

They mostly come from faithful families, where such faith is nourished, where sacrifice is witnessed in the lives of parents, and where the life-giving nature of a sacramental vocation has been a constant example. Sad to say that many of our marriages are wrecked upon the shoals of a secular society, drawn in by the beacon of radicalized autonomy to their doom.

Yet we never hear the prayer, “For an increase in the number of our married couples willing to live their marriages as a sacrament.” The Church rises and falls on the foundation of our marriages. Sacramental marriage carries with it a great many responsibilities and obligations that a secular expression of marriage does not.

At its heart, sacramental marriage has Jesus at its center. The very union of husband and wife was seized upon by Saint Paul as the metaphor to describe Jesus’ relationship to the Church: The bridegroom and the Bride. Why?

It has something to do with the passionate love between the two. Married people learn quickly enough the need to forgive one another-daily. In their passionate lover’s embrace, they learn, not narcissistic indulgence, but radical self-donation, which in turn produces new life. That new life is transformative for the couple. Focussing their love outward on that new life, it is reflected back in on the couple, which is nourishing and regenerative. Paul seized the perfect metaphor.

Yet so many of our marriages are in deplorable condition because they lack this paradigmatic operation.

The enemies of the Culture of Life have used laser-guided bombs to destroy our Churches. Men in general, fathers in particular, are portrayed in advertisements and sitcoms-with rare exception- as buffoons.

Young women are celebrated as heroines if they’re sluts, and defective if they are not.

Women have been set against the children of their wombs, with over fifty million abortions in thirty-seven years.

Sex between husband and wife has been stripped of the potential for the transmission of life through artificial contraception. The message is clear-children are a burden.

We need a renewal of family life in the Church, an unapologetic challenge to the radicalized autonomy of our homes where every room has a TV and a computer, where family unity is as alien as the Martian soil. The Church needs to start by reminding the faithful that vocation doesn’t only mean Priesthood and Religious Life. Marriage was the first vocation, the first sacrament given by God.

If we want an increase in Vocations to Priesthood and Religious Life, we’ve got to stop putting the cart before the horse and start praying in earnest for our dying families.

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Several months ago, eight year old Elizabeth climbed into my lap and asked, “Daddy, why do brides wear veils?” I looked at Regina and smiled as my bride smiled back waiting to see how I managed this one. In an instant, the leading of the Holy Spirit to be sure, I decided to give Beth her first sex education talk.

I started by asking Beth what we place around the Tabernacle in church. “A veil,” was the correct response, though Beth looked a bit puzzled by the non sequitur. “And what does the Priest place over the chalice and ciborium, which also hold the Blessed Sacrament?” “A veil,” was the correct response. Beth was beaming; she was on a roll. “And what sign do we use to indicate that Jesus dwells within the Tabernacle?” “The sanctuary lamp,” came the response. Correct, but secondary. The veil, going back to the Tent of the Meeting in the desert and later the Temple in Jerusalem has always been the sign that God dwells within. Beth soaked up the new material like a sponge.

I could hear Dr. Scott Hahn of Franciscan University giving a lecture where he made this connection, “That which is veiled is that which is Holy”.

“Every one of our bodies is not only the tabernacle of our souls, but also of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. So every person’s body is sacred Beth. But women’s bodies have an added dimension of the sacred. When you grow up, God will use your body to make your babies, just as He used Mamma’s to make you, Joseph and little Regina. So when you get married and I walk you down the aisle, that veil will tell your husband that your body is sacred to God and he is to treat you and your body with reverence. Don’t forget, Jesus could have hopped off of a cloud. He chose to be born of a woman, and that makes every woman so much more sacred.”

“Oh, I get it,” was the reply. We could see the light bulb go on. Beth really did get it. She’s told a great number of people all about it too.

From the gleam in Regina’s eyes, it was obvious that she loved this first step down the road of Beth’s sexual maturation.

I think we go wrong when discussing contraceptives and their ill-effects as the substance of sex education. It misses the mark by a mile. We’re Holy, fearfully and wonderfully made by God; which is why St. Paul tells us to glorify God in our bodies. Sex isn’t dirty. Our human sexuality is one of the greatest goods of all creation. At only eight years old, I couldn’t tell Beth the other half of that good, that she and her husband will use their bodies to forge inseparable bonds of passionate love and selfless devotion. I’ll tell her in due course. There’s simply no room for premarital sex in that equation. Forgetting sexually transmitted diseases, which afflict 1/4 of all girls by their nineteenth birthday, 80% of all adults during their lifetimes according to CDC, premarital sex corrodes that sense of the sacred and the dual, inseparable purposes for which sex was made: Unitive and Procreative.

All sex education MUST begin here, teaching a reverential love for what God has made. Little girls dream of being beautiful brides. Passionate daddies look beyond the wedding day to their daughters being good and faithful wives and mothers, to them marrying men who will honor and cherish them. Therefore, we fathers need to look in the mirror each morning when we shave and make sure that the guy looking back at us is a sound role model for our sons and duaghters.

That’s the best sex education of all.

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