Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

Why I Love My Marriage (at 4 months)

March 9, 2014 3 comments

I have many reasons to be grateful for my life — certainly many more than I deserve. I have my health, my faith, a well-compensated job that I find rewarding, and have been blessed with great friends and family and memories of wonderful experiences all over the world. Yup, My life is pretty good. To be honest, it always has been.

Sure, I’ve had to deal with failure, rejection, pressure, negative influences, injury, nearly getting arrested (a story for another blog), loneliness and  burning out, but no matter how bad or depressing my life has been, I have always been able to fall back on realities that were more important, more permanent, and more positive than the negatives of those times. No matter where I was in the world and no matter how well or poorly the temporal things were going, I was grounded in the knowledge that my family would be there for me and my God loved me and was in control (making all things work together for good for those who trust in him [Romans 8:28]). It didn’t mean that I never had a bad day, or that I didn’t let things get to me, but when things did get to me, I could step back and choose to be grateful (even when every bone in my body was reacting with fear or depression.

None of that has changed since I have been married. I still have those same reasons to be grateful, but now I have another one. In fact I have dozens more reasons to be thankful and I have a beautiful, living, breathing reminder of those reasons constantly before me. Here are just a few reasons why I love married life:

– I wake up every day knowing and experiencing that a person has CHOSEN to love me freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully for a lifetime. The love of my family has been amazing  and constant throughout my life, but they were kinda stuck with me (and I’m so glad that they were!). In some ways, the same is true for God. Sure, He loves me more and better than anyone in this world (including my wife) ever could hope to, but that is true for everyone. My wife, on the other hand, made a commitment to me that she will not make with anyone else even though she could have chosen whoever she wanted. What an amazing experience.

-I get to fall asleep every night holding the woman of my dreams and realizing that it’s not a dream at all. After all the lonely nights praying and hoping and trusting that God would introduce me to the right woman in His time, it is such a sweet experience to lay down and rest with my arm around my wife and tangibly feel the completion of a void that I felt for so long in my life.

-Its not about me anymore. Given, it was never about me to begin with, but having another person intertwined in every aspect of my life has been a great reminder in so many ways that my decisions don’t just affect me, and my wife is such an inspiration to me both to lead the family and grow personally. Sure, there are moments that seem purgatorial (in learning and experiencing her expectations of facial care, for instance), but the sight of my wife and the ring on my finger are physical reminders of the calling that I have to lay down my life in love. Some might consider this the downside of marriage; the ball and chain, the forfeiture of freedom, but I think they are missing the point. As a human being, God made me because He loves me, built a need and desire for love and self-donation into my spiritual DNA. I will never be happy in this life until I’m taking the skills, talents, passions and gifts that God has given me and using them to give back to the world.  I discerned my vocation to marriage through prayer and recognition that the specific skills, talents, passions, gifts and experiences which God blessed me with were better suited toward devotion to one woman, and through that one devotion, bearing fruit to love and serve many more.

-I get to learn a whole new set of my own weaknesses. Once again, not a statement that most people jump up and down about in excitement, but it really is a pretty exciting and wonderful thing, because it’s the only way that I will truly grow. God loves me as I am, but he loves me way too much to let me stay there. In the invitation to marriage, God is allowing me to experience life from a completely different perspective. It’s almost like moving to a new country or starting a new job; you can ask people who are over there, and you can read books and study but in the end you will never really know what it’s like until you get there. Sure, finding some good books, and good mentors go a long way to make sure you choose the right location/job and are properly prepared, but there is always a learning curve. Even though that curve is painful and frustrating at times, It’s making me into a better person than I could have been had I not made that commitment.

-Every point that I wrote above is equally true for my wife, and I get to have the unique and irreplaceable role in this world of walking with her on that journey… our journey. Being invited to play such a pivotal role in the life of someone who I care so deeply for could not be a greater compliment or a greater incentive to step up to the challenge.

-We both saved sex for marriage, and now the act has so much significance to our relationship because it is a sign of everything we are sharing and aspiring to be for each other and for the world. The physical pleasure pales in comparison to the relevance of the embrace.

-We can (and do) talk about everything and anything. Sometimes, we don’t talk at all and we just share silence.

-We laugh SO MUCH. I don’t think I have ever laughed as regularly in my life as I have since my wedding day. Neither of us are comedians and it’s not like we are laughing all the time. But we know each other, and we can see and appreciate the ridiculous in so many of our daily activities and situations that we can’t help but laugh at the comedies of errors or irony along the way.

I can’t help but think that God is smiling and laughing with us 🙂


these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory

these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory



September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

A few years ago I had an opportunity to give a talk after a mass about purity and chastity. I’ve decided to toss it up in case any of you can benefit from it…


“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the kingdom of God.” ~St, Leo the Great (also CCC #1691)


There’s a lot I’d like to say about purity and chastity, but before I get into any of those things I need to be clear that these are things I struggle with on daily if not hourly or minute-to-minute basis. And honestly, I’m not sorry that I struggle with them, because often the only way to avoid struggling is to give in. I have struggled with temptation, and I have not always held fast. I am extremely grateful that God has given me the grace to maintain my virginity this far in my life and with His grace I WILL do so until marriage, but to call myself chaste or pure because I haven’t had sex would be an insult to the virtue. In order to make my struggle clearer and invite you to join in that struggle I’d like to elaborate on the Confiteor that we all professed at mass earlier. This simple confession encompasses every struggle we can go through, but I will focus on how it applies to Chastity and purity.

I confess, to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words; in what I have done, and what I have failed to do. And I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.


In that statement first and foremost I make my confession to God, because it is He alone whom I legitimately offend. All of us are sinful, so in a sense we merit the evil brought about by sin (even if not our own); but God is perfect, and yet He still bears the burden of our sin. This is why David says to God “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight” (psalm 51:4) My sins are an offense to God because they are an insult to the love and grace which He calls us too. Especially with sins of purity I ignore the Dignity which He gave both to me, and to you. A dignity which Christ Gave his life to restore.

Although God is the immediate subject of my confession, I still make my confession to you my brothers and sisters, for two reasons. First, because my faults and failures have been an insult to your dignity and a stumbling block to your pursuit of God. My authentic purity was meant to be a sign for you of God’s love and instead I offered you a counterfeit. Even though you share in my sinfulness and your sins have done the same for me, I love you and I am sorry that I have done that to you. The second reason I make this confession to you, is because I need your help. I know intrinsically that I can’t do this on my own, but James was kind enough also to remind me “Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)


“That I have sinned through my own fault”

Its so easy for me to blame other people for my sinfulness, my impurity my failure at chastity. I can blame the media for all the images it shows me, blame the women for the clothes they wear or for working at the strip clubs or the porn sites or movies etc. I can blame my parents for not raising me better, a specific priest for providing a bad example or even God for allowing me to be tempted. I can always find someone to blame. Satan is more than willing to help me point fingers. But if I actually want to grow, If I actually want to overcome my sin, I need to accept and confess that my sins are MY FAULT. Certainly there were things that helped me along the way, but God gave me freedom, I used that freedom choose against God, against Love, against Truth.

Also, before I go any further into this discussion I want to make sure we all have a clear understanding of what sin is. It’s not a laundry list of things that upset God, but rather a “…failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.” (CCC1849) any time I choose personal gain over love of God and neighbor, I sin.



“In my thoughts”

The first concrete sin I confess is that I have sinned through my thoughts. The reason I confess this first is because it through my thoughts that all the other sins are formed. But even if my lustful, or otherwise impure thoughts never make their way to words, deeds or inaction they are still sinful in so far as I willingly indulge in them. I am human, and as a human I don’t have full control over what is or isn’t on my thoughts in any given moment, so I do not sin because a lustful idea appears in my head. I do however sin if I do nothing to quell that thought or moreso if I choose to actively indulge in that thought. It’s easy for me to tell myself that as long as I don’t DO anything bad, the thoughts are harmless, but I need to remind myself that I am on this earth to prepare myself for eternity. And the sinful thoughts that I indulge in are only increasing the gap between my ways and God’s ways. Furthermore, I’ve found in my own experience that, no matter how hard I try, if I let my thoughts be consumed by selfish desires, those thoughts will have an effect on my actions.


“in my words”

Words are a powerful tool and they can be used for good or for evil. Certainly there’s a plethora of individual words which cheapen our dignity and our sexuality, but I think those are rather superficial compared to some of my more truly offensive words. One of the greatest sins I am guilty of in this regard is CARELESSNESS with my words. I find myself speaking for the sake of saying something. Speaking to sound good or pious, humorous or even kind. But I don’t take the second to think about whether what I’m saying is actually TRUE. There’s nothing loving about saying something that isn’t true, no matter how kind or entertaining it may be.


“In what I have done”

Well, I’m a virgin so atleast I’ve got that one covered… right?… not even CLOSE.

Any time I fail to treat a woman as the masterpiece of God’s creation that she is, I commit a sin of sexual impurity. Every time I treat a guy with anything less than the dignity of the Creator I create a sin of sexual impurity. As a guy, I have fallen into the trap of admiring women’s bodies. Now, this isn’t actually a bad thing. In fact, it was something God intended from the very beginning. The female body is an amazing thing. The thing I fail to realize sometimes, and I know I’m not alone, is that as wonderful as the female body is, it pales in comparison to the female PERSON which it makes manifest. And I, in my sinfulness try to separate the female body from the female person. That’s what Pornography does, that’s what premarital sex does, that’s what masturbation does. That’s what talking with my friends about this model’s waist or that actress’ butt or that girl running down the boardwalk’s legs does. We guys have developed a habit of evaluating women based on their dimensions and it really is a pity. My sisters, I am sorry for what I have done.


“in what I have failed to do”

A lot of people see the Church’s teaching on Sexual morality, chastity, and purity as a list of “don’ts”. Don’t have sex before marriage, don’t look at pornography, don’t masturbate, don’t have oral sex, don’t use contraception, don’t don’t don’t. if that were true, this section would have little to discuss. But as it is, I think this is my greatest weakness in many ways. As I said earlier, we are called as Christians to treat others with the dignity that God gave each of us at the moment of our conception.

I have failed to treat others with that dignity. Specifically, I often find myself failing to treat people I’m not attracted to with the same dignity as those who I am. Whether its in the time I spend with them, the things I do for them or the things I say to them. Although this would obviously effect the women I’m not attracted to, I think it has had a much deeper effect on my dealings with guys.

I don’t have any romantic attraction to guys, so a lot of times, I find myself ignoring them and avoiding relationships with them. This gives me an even more shallow appreciation of my sexuality. And it makes them feel like a second class citizen in my esteem. So my brothers I am sorry for that which I have failed to do.


“and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin”

At the end of my confession I ask for prayers, and it’s no coincidence that my first petition is through Mary, ever virgin. She is, by the grace of God, the perfect example of sexual purity. Not simply because she was a virgin, but because she opened her life completely to the love of God. Moreover, I ask for her prayers, because she’s my mom. She was Jesus’ mom, and He gave her to us on the cross through his beloved disciple. Mom, I need your help, your example and your prayers.


“all the angels and saints”

I need all the help I can get in this struggle so I’m calling all hands. Those who share in glory of God understand perfectly meaning of our sexuality and many of them, such as Maria Goretti, have offered me an example on this earth of how to live that sexuality. Through their example and intercession I hope to grow closer to God through the redemption of my sexuality.


“and you my brothers and sisters to prayer for me to the lord our God”

My brothers and sisters, my final plea is to you because you are here with me. And to know that you are praying for me gives me strength every time I see you. To know you’re struggling with me and for me, is a great consolation as I strive to treat you and myself with the dignity we deserve. You serve as a walking reminder for me of both the effects of my failures and hope I have in Christ.


Now that I’ve kinda covered the bases I’d like to offer some practical advice from my admittedly limited experience on this earth.

our first concern should be sacrificial love. And when I say love, I’m not talking about a feeling, I’m talking about a CHOICE. Feelings change, and we’re called to something less fickle than that. We are called to will the wellbeing of others even to the point of self sacrifice.

When we consider how we should act towards other people we should always have their well being first. it’s not the specific action that’s necessarily sinful, but rather the motivation. Holding hands isn’t intrinsically evil, but if you do so simply for your own gratification without self sacrificial LOVE as your motivation, it’s still inappropriate. The same can be said for hugs, or massages or tickling or anything for that matter. On the same note though, if we do these things specifically with the wellbeing of the other in mind, with disregard to our own gratification, we offer a gift of love.


guys: be gentlemen. Show your gratefulness to God for the beauty of Creation through the way that you treat His masterpiece; women. Make your life a testament to respect for their dignity. Hold the doors, pay for meals and tickets (atleast when you have the means to), walk on the outside of the sidewalk, stand up when a woman comes to your table, get the chair, offer her yours if she doesn’t have one, offer your jacket if she’s cold. Don’t stand for the guy talk about women that degrades them to a set of dimensions and be clear that you want no part in it. And gents, I’m not talking about dates. Women have dignity all the time, these are small things we guys should do to affirm that dignity. Its not about trying to earn another date or some kind of favor. Its about showing thanks in a very small way for the blessing of their presence. That being said, the things you do should be offered as gifts, freely without expectation, and without mandate. Any gift, if it is truly a gift can be refused. A lot of women are uncomfortable with something which you may offer in genuine thanks and appreciation, do not force it upon them.


gals: be ladies.

1.Dress and act modestly. Our struggle is hard enough

2. Don’t settle for less!

– realize your own dignity and don’t tolerate guys who treat you like an object.

-if you’re dating a guy who doesn’t treat you with respect, tell him. If he doesn’t shape up, he doesn’t really love you.

3. Give us the benefit of the doubt:

-if a guy is acting like a gentleman, don’t automatically assume he is hitting on you. If he is really a gentleman, you’ve just made a solid new friend. If he’s not, it will become painfully clear very quickly.

4. If any of your guy friends are gentlemen, thank them. It can get really discouraging sometimes. A little bit of appreciation helps a lot.

5. If any of your guy friends claim to be gentlemen. Call them out if they aren’t treating you with the respect you deserve. If they’re real gentlemen, they’ll appreciate the correction. Sometimes we just don’t realize what we’re doing.


Also, I talked in the Confiteor about our thoughts, I’d like to offer you some advice on how to deal with those thoughts. Christopher West brings up that we should take those thoughts and offer them up to God asking Him to untwist the Lies that we are falling for in those thoughts to uncover the greater truth of the beautiful sexuality He has planned for us. I think it’s a good suggestion. In addition to that though. I would recommend that you offer up a prayer for whomever it is that you are thinking about. For that model or actor/actress or person running down the street or significant other (whom you are making less significant with these thoughts) even if it’s a complete figment of your imagination, pray for people who are being objectified in that way. Use the devil’s tricks to advance the Kingdom of God.


Finally, I’d like to invite you all to sacrifice. I mentioned earlier that love is a choice. It’s a will for the better of the other even at your own expense. A good way to remind yourself of that call to love is to choose to make a sacrifice. Do something that you wouldn’t otherwise do for the sake of love, for the sake of purity. If you are married, do it for your spouse, if your celibate, offer it up for the church. If you’re single, offer it up for your future vocation. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Its just something to remind you that you are willing to sacrifice for what is important, and your vocation is important. It can be something as simple as flossing if you don’t already do it, not picking your nails, doing some pushups every day. Its not the action that matters. It’s the commitment.


As a parting note, I’ve written two letters and made copies for you all. One titled Beautiful  for the women. And one titled Hero  for the guys. Please take a copy that applies to you before you leave.


Thank you all for your time. Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you.

Missionary Dating

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve heard in many Christian circles that “missionary dating” is always a bad idea. I get their point, and I agree with their intent, but I disagree entirely with their choice of words. I will be the first to admit that it’s slightly pedantic as far as arguments go, but I think it’s worth some reflection.

When discussing missionary dating, most people refer to a relationship in which (at least) one person is in the relationship with the expectation of changing the other person. Whether it is that person’s faith, habits, or sensibilities, the bottom line is that one (or both) people in the relationship are perpetuating it with a desire for who the person could become instead of an admiration for the person who is currently with them. They would not be willing to spend the rest of their lives with the person as they are, but they are confident that they can mold them into an acceptable partner. I could not agree more that this is a HORRIBLE way to go about courting someone, but that is neither being a missionary nor truly dating. That is what I would call guerrilla catechesis. And it’s an insult to the dignity of both parties and the institution of dating. Read more…

Wisdom From My Teenage Years

August 13, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the reasons that I enjoy the chaos associated with moving is that I get to unearth some of the relics of my past that have gone untouched for months or years. Although I should probably focusing my time on putting things where they belong, I decided to read through an old journal of sorts that I kept when I was in high school. I never kept much of a daily journal, but I would write poems and quotes (I had a separate folder for all of my “inventions”). Anyway, I was looking through some of my old quotes and I was struck by one of them:


Women TRULY are miracles of God. And like most miracles:

  1. They cannot be understood
  2. They can’t be explained
  3. There is no human logic behind them
  4. Those who get them rarely deserve them.


I could take a few paragraphs and run through my assessment of this quote (over a decade later), but I think sometimes less is more. Besides, I want to hear your thoughts…



Categories: relationships Tags: , , ,

The Crisis of Vocations

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Most Catholics who pay any attention at Mass have probably heard that there is a crisis of vocations. Leaders in the Church regularly mention the urgent need for more priests and religious and use the term to describe the shortage in our church here in America (and around the world). I agree that we don’t have enough priests and religious and I absolutely agree that there is a crisis of vocations, but I think we ignore a greater crisis when we focus all of our attention on the call to religious life and ignore the call that applies to many others. Read more…

Same Sex Unions and Marriage

July 3, 2011 4 comments

Alright this is a pretty long blog, so I decided to give you the summary first…

Short Version:

Some say Love + Commitment = Marriage, but the government doesn’t legislate love or personal commitment. It does however define legal relationships in order to ensure appropriate rights and protections. In the case of marriage, the definition gives rights and protections to both members of the relationship as well as any children. If we change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions we effectively say

man + woman = man + man = woman + woman

which means (by subtraction from both sides)

man = woman

Which is true if we look at “=” to mean “equal” but false if we look at “=” to mean “the exact same” (which would be required to give both institutions the same name).  The whole reason that we have different words for men and women is because we are not the same. For the same reason, there should be a different word for same sex unions. But wait, there’s more math:

(woman + man) child

This a possible reality which is unique to the union of man and woman and not possible for same sex unions so there is also an inherent inequality. This inequality specifically arises when we look at the issue of children. Some claim that same sex couples have the same inherent ability to parent a child as a father and a mother, but when we evaluate this claim it can only be true if men and women have NOTHING UNIQUE TO CONTRIBUTE to a child’s development. I have a hard time believing that. I think there is inherent value to a child having a mother and a father. And I don’t think that makes me a bigot.

Long Version: Read more…

Love that Lasts a Lifetime

June 26, 2011 2 comments

The other night I had the lovely blessing of catching up with an old friend of mine. We discussed life, work and family, but mostly we talked about relationships. I asked her about hers and she gave me some wise advice on my lack thereof. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Does he CHERISH you?” I’ve asked her that question before, and she likes that I ask it. Not just because her answer is yes, but because the question looks a little deeper than the typical “do you love him?” and “does he love you?” That should be a given. As Christians, we’re called to love everyone. It’s easier for some than others, but if we can’t even manage to love our significant other, we are in a pretty bad place. When we look at the romantic side of love though, it’s important that we take the time to CHERISH the other – to be captivated by their presence and desire desperately to soak up every moment of it. There’s a reason that the Song of Songs is in the Bible. This enchanted, cherishing, captivated love is one that God has for us also. And we do well to imitate it in that exclusive relationship that may lead to one which images Christ and his Church.

As we continued our discussion she shared some of her anxieties about marriage and the fact that she wanted to make sure that she knows a man really well before committing herself to marriage. In a society where so many marriages end in divorce, she thinks that the only way you can have a good chance of making it last a lifetime is if you take all the years necessary to make sure that you fully know the person (or as much as you possibly can about them) before you tie the knot. This view has a certain degree of validity, but the problem is that no matter how long you spend, you will always be discovering new things about your significant other (just as we are always learning new things about ourselves). This brought up one of my other favorite questions, “How do you define ‘love’?” The look on her face spoke volumes. It’s the one that I’m used to seeing when I ask that question. The kind of look you get if you were to ask someone what air tastes like. After her initial shock though her reply went into a few different directions and came back to the same fundamental building block that many people and our society at-large seems to identify: a feeling. To her credit, she gave much more depth to it than that, but it would all fall away without that loving feeling at the core.

This understanding of love pervades our culture, our media and our friendships and there is certainly an element of reality in it. We have these deep and passionate emotional attachments to our beloved to help us bond in a way that will last a lifetime. And I would never recommend that someone endeavor into a romantic relationship if you never felt an emotional attachment to the other. But there is also a grave danger when we fail to look beyond those feelings and root our relationship in something deeper.

“What’s the danger?” she asked. Feelings and emotions, by their nature, change. I think that so many people with this sentimental view of love find a person that they are absolutely head-over-heals for and grow so close to that they decide they want it to last forever. So they say to each other, “I feel so close to you and amazed by you that I want to commit my life to being this enamored by you and making this feeling last a lifetime.” And so they get married with the full and honest intention of keeping this feeling for a lifetime. As the years go by though and maybe after a child or two, one or both of them notice that they don’t feel the same about the other. That light seems to have gone from their eyes. They’re no longer excited the way that they used to be about just being with the other. So they talk about it and try to bring it back. They try some romantic dinners and getaways. They go to counseling. They knew that love would take work and so they commit themselves to working to bring a feeling back. The problem is that no amount of work can make you FEEL a certain way about someone or about anything for that matter. Sometimes it can help, but emotions are funny things. You can’t really pin them down. So after some work and trying everything that they can think of they finally give up. They say, “we tried, we gave it our best, we loved each other and now we don’t even though we really want to” and with that they go their separate ways wishing each other the best and searching for another love that will last a lifetime (and that’s the best-case scenario).

“So then what’s the solution? How do you define love?” Was her next question.

In order for love to last a lifetime, it has to be a CHOICE. Many people much wiser than myself have come up with great definitions for love, but the way that I see it, love is a SELFLESS allegience of the heart, formed and solidified by the WILL. (I’ve brought this up in a few other blogs of mine) All of the emotions and feelings, attraction and desire can help us to make that decision and solidify it in our heart and mind, but we must take that step of choosing to be interested in the well-being of the other REGARDLESS of what it may mean for us or how we feel at the moment. For love to last a lifetime, I need to look at my future spouse in the eye and be able to say, “I am amazed at who you are and the way that I feel around you. I am more blessed than I can say by your simple presence and truly enjoy spending time with you and I find everything about you absolutely beautiful. And all of the time we’ve spent together has helped me appreciate who you are and made me want to help you become the woman that you want to be. You inspire me to become the man that I long to be. And so I CHOOSE to love you. I choose to be for you. I choose what’s best for you over my own pleasure. I will lay down my life for you. Whether that means taking a bullet for you or taking the train to work so that you can have my car and drive to the doctor, or avoiding an attractive coworker who is making advances at me. I will be faithful to you even if after a few years I find myself more attracted to someone else (although that seems inconceivable to me at the moment). Even when I don’t FEEL the love I will CHOOSE to LIVE the love. I WILL cherish you even if their comes a time when I don’t want to. And as I spend my days getting to know you better and discovering new things about you and rediscovering old things about you I will never cease to love you. If you can make the same commitment to me, then I know that we can live a life of mutual devotion and through the trials of life; through our worst moments and our best, we will have each other and be able to share this journey with each other for the rest of our lives.”

I’m not advocating that you memorize the short speech that I just rattled off for your engagement. I’m really not even suggesting that you adopt my definition of love. What I am recommending though, is that you take the time figure out how YOU define love, how your significant other defines love, and discern DEEPLY how those definitions will be able to withstand the inevitable variations of time and emotion. After all there is a lot riding on it…. Define wisely.