Tag Archives: marriage

Superabundant Grace for the Married Couple

August 3, 2018

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Wedding at Cana

Jesus attended a wedding feast at Cana at the beginning of his public ministry (Jn 2:1-11). Jesus wanted that couple, as well as every married couple, to have a wonderful life together and to be faithful in their love for each other. The bride and groom had looked forward to their wedding day with eager anticipation, and after exchanging their vows they were jubilant. Their family and friends were together. The festivities were in high gear. There was food and drink, singing and dancing, and smiles on every face. A wedding banquet is the greatest of all feasts.

Jesus knew that their marriage would be tested down the road. Every marriage is tested. The vows say, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” Marriages are tested when one, the other, or both are sick; when faced with economic struggles; or when something else goes wrong. Furthermore, their union will be tested because of their inclination to sin, which leads to “discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1606). Jesus wants to provide divine assistance to every couple to help them deal with their tests successfully.

There was a signal of the tests looming in the future when the wine ran short. Everything had gone perfectly so far. Then a crisis! Would this misfortune wreck the celebration? Will the misfortunes that are sure to spring up over the coming years wreck the marriage? Can Jesus help? Mary was sure of it. She immediately turned to her son and said, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3), expecting that he would come up with a solution.

There were six stone water jars near the entrance. They were quite large. Each one held twenty to thirty gallons (Jn 2:6), twenty-five on average. Jesus asked the servers to fill them with water, which they did. It was a lot of hauling. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, twenty-five gallons weighs 208 pounds. The six stone jars contained one hundred and fifty gallons total.

With the water in place, Jesus asked a server to “Draw some out and take it to the headwaiter” (Jn 2:8). The water had become wine, all one hundred and fifty gallons. That is a huge amount of wine. It would amount to cases and cases of wine by today’s standards.

There are two details that are often overlooked. The average number of guests at a village wedding celebration ranged from one hundred to one hundred fifty, and the guests had been drinking freely all day (see Jn 2:10b). Some of the guests may have been a little tipsy, even though drunkenness was considered a disgrace in Jewish culture. Then Jesus provided an additional one to one and a half gallons of pure choice wine for every single person at the feast. Was Jesus encouraging excessive alcohol use? Did he not care if the party turned raucous? What was the Son of God who embodies virtue doing?

Jesus provided the guests with more wine than they could ever use. It was a superabundant supply that would never run out. The wine represents his grace. On the day the couple was married, Jesus showered them with his divine grace, spiritual blessings and assistance, and it would flow from him to them every day for the rest of their married lives. His grace is superabundant. It never runs out. It is available at all times, particularly when a couple is tested, so they can be faithful in their love for each other for the rest of their married lives.

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Mary and Joseph: the model married couple

July 20, 2018

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Holy CoupleIf Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family, then Mary and Joseph are the Holy Couple, and if the Holy Family serves as the model for Christian families, then Mary and Joseph serve as the model for Christian couples that are living the Sacrament of Marriage.

Before they lived together (Mt 1:18). Mary and Joseph were betrothed, a Jewish ritual ceremony in which the bride and groom dedicate themselves to each. The period of betrothal lasts approximately one year, a time when the bride and groom live apart, usually in their parent’s homes, and abstain from sexual relations. Mary and Joseph did not cohabitate before marriage, and the moral standard that they followed still applies to couples that intend to be married today. Decisions about living arrangements before marriage are not to be governed by apartment leases, home purchases, insurance coverage, work or school schedules, or concerns about compatibility, but rather by the conscious decision to reserve one’s self totally for one’s spouse, and to share the intimacy of marriage only after their commitment to love each other for life has been sealed by God in the Sacrament of Marriage and witnessed and ratified by the Christian community gathered at worship in church.

Joseph, “a righteous man”(Mt 1:19), and Mary, “favored one” (i.e., “full of grace”) (Lk 1:28). Even before they were married, Joseph already was a righteous man and Mary already was full of grace. They knew God’s laws and obeyed them, had an established pattern of upright living, practiced the virtues, prayed regularly, and had a strong desire to please God. It was their firm intention prior to marriage to set their union on the solid rock of their faith in God and their spiritual values. Every prospective bride and groom while a child, adolescent, or young adult, before dating or while dating, should spend their days making spiritual headway as devout believers and dedicated disciples, growing in wisdom, favor, and grace (see Lk 2:40), learning and obeying the Gospel, receiving the sacraments, and becoming good and holy people, so when they exchange their vows, their marriage will be anchored upon the foundation of their faith that is deep and solid and constructed over many years.

Obedient to angels. Joseph and Mary received appearances from angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20), to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and once harm had passed, to take Jesus and Mary and return to Israel (Mt 2:20), and in each instance, Joseph obeyed immediately without resistance or delay. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Son of God (Lk 1:31,35), and she replied, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The angels were messengers of God and conveyed God’s will, and both Joseph and Mary trusted God and obeyed. Likewise a Christian couple, both before they are married and after, pay attention to God’s will, however it is conveyed, and without resistance or delay, obey promptly and completely.

[Joseph] took his wife into his home (Mt 1:24). Joseph and Mary began to live together at the angel’s bidding, and for them to establish a home, it also presumed that their betrothal had ended and that they were married within the Jewish faith. Wherever they were living, probably in Nazareth, they would have gone to the synagogue and exchanged their marriage vows before a rabbi according to the prescribed ritual in the presence of fellow Jews that were members of the local synagogue. Similarly a Catholic, when the engagement ends and before they live together, brings the marriage to a Catholic church, the couple exchanges their consent before a priest or deacon according to the Catholic form, and does so in the presence of their family, relatives, and friends who represent the local parish and the universal Church.

At home together. Mary and Joseph shared a beautiful mutual love. They were not married singles, individuals that happened to be living under the same roof, selfishly pursuing their own interests, with personal gain and fulfillment as their main objectives. Rather, Mary gave her life as a total gift to Joseph, and Joseph, in turn, gave his life as a total gift to Mary. Their love was selfless. Their approach was not, “What is in this for me?” and “What would make me happy?” but rather, “What would make my spouse happy?” They were not focused on compromise, “I get my way some of the time and you get your way some of the time,” but rather, “It is my aim to please you and promote your wellbeing all of the time.” They shared their lives completely. They communicated with each, shared their dreams and disappointments, joys and worries, ate meals together, willingly performed household tasks together, prayed together, and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.

A home filled with love. Love is a virtue (1 Cor 13:13), it was the bond between Mary and Joseph, and it permeated their home. They were consistently kind and patient with each other. They were humble and modest; polite and respectful; supportive, positive, and encouraging; appreciative and complimentary; calm, composed, and self-controlled; able to see things from their spouse’s point of view; willing to give the benefit of the doubt; compassionate, forgiving, and reconciling; open, truthful, and honest; gentle and tender; generous and grateful; joyful, peaceful, and faithful. By practicing the virtues together, Mary and Joseph made God the center of their marriage. They had the wisdom to know that one spouse goes through the other to God. The more a spouse loves the other, the more the person loves God, and conversely, the less a person loves the other, the less the person loves God.

Mary conceived (Lk 1:31,35). God blessed Mary and Joseph with a miraculous conception. Even though the circumstances at the beginning of their marriage were awkward, and the child in the womb might have been considered a hardship or an inconvenience, Mary and Joseph embraced the new life, safeguarded it, remained unwavering in their love for each other, brought the child to full term, and were overjoyed at his birth. A Christian couple eagerly anticipates the prospect of having children, and if God blesses them with a miraculous pregnancy, even if not under ideal circumstances, the couple welcomes the new life, protects it from all harm, and does everything possible to insure the child’s birth.

[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son (Lk 2:7). When Jesus was born Mary instantly shifted into service mode when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Married love is generous. Mary and Joseph’s marriage did not revolve around themselves, their pursuits, careers, hobbies, and standard of living. They knew that a child would require time, attention, and sacrifice, and they gladly dedicated themselves to the care of the child that God had entrusted to them. A Christian married couple is not only loving and generous with each other, but eager to share their ever-increasing love with their children.

Traveling partners. Mary and Joseph made one journey after another together. During their early years they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Israel to Egypt, Egypt to Judea, and Judea back to Nazareth. After they settled in Nazareth they made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In addition to the long journeys, they made many short trips, to the synagogue, the markets, and friends’ homes. The journey may have been to obey a government order, fulfill a spiritual duty, or for safety and security. Some were made at an easy pace, others made hastily and under great duress. No matter the situation, Mary and Joseph were inseparable, step by step, helping each other along the way, sharing each other’s burdens. Their marriage journey continued for many years and they were ever-faithful. A Christian wife and husband are traveling companions for life, helping each other wherever they may go, particularly when travel conditions are most difficult.

Synagogue and Temple. It was Mary and Joseph’s custom to go to the synagogue on the sabbath day (implied in Lk 4:16), and each year they went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Lk 2:41). They were a church-going couple and worship was the centerpiece of their week. They attended sabbath after sabbath and faithfully obeyed God’s commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15). In the same way, a Christian marriage is in a spiritual partnership, and in addition to a wife and husband’s daily prayers together at home, they go to church every weekend, and their week revolves around the celebration of the Mass. It is their shared opportunity to give God praise and thanks for their blessings, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, and to give and receive support from the other members of the community.

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The Unity Candle

July 10, 2018

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The Unity Candle The Unity Candle is a three-candle display, all white in color, one larger pillar candle in the center, flanked by two smaller taper candles, one on each side. Ordinarily they are placed on a Unity Candle stand or a table draped with a cloth. The display is never placed on the altar. The placement may be somewhere in the sanctuary that does not obstruct the view of the altar, pulpit, presider’s chair, or the couple, or may be placed outside but near the sanctuary.

The ceremonial lighting of the Unity Candle is not a part of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony in the Catholic Church. It is not allowed in some dioceses and parishes because it is not included in the ritual, or because those present for the exchange of vows witness the complete Sacrament of Marriage, the sacrament is powerful and stands fully on its own, a symbol is anticlimactic following the real thing, and a symbol does not supplement or augment it.

In many dioceses and parishes, the Unity Candle ceremony is permitted. It is a relatively new tradition that has much sentimental value. It provides the couple an opportunity to act together immediately. The ceremony is elegant, beautiful, and a memorable moment.

When the Unity Candle ceremony is celebrated, it comes after the blessing and giving of rings and before the Universal Prayer or the Prayers of the Faithful. The taper candles usually are lit before the liturgy, often by the mothers, but also possibly by relatives or friends, or if no one is designated, by the sacristan, or the taper candles are lit as the first part of the ceremony itself. Then the bride and groom each take a lit taper candle, and together simultaneously light the pillar candle. The taper candles are returned to their holders and usually left burning. The larger center candle is a symbol that is interpreted in a number of different ways.

The Married Couple. The usual understanding is that one taper candle represents the bride, the other represents the groom, and that the pillar candle represents the bride and groom joined together as a married couple. While each retains their individuality, represented by the taper candles that continue to burn, “they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:8).

Jesus. The lighted pillar candle represents Jesus who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). When the bride and groom light the pillar candle, they declare that Jesus is the center of their marriage, that they are joined together by him, that the sacramental grace that he supplies will sustain them and hold them together, and that they will individually and jointly follow his light.

The Sacrament of Marriage. The taper candles represent the baptismal candles of the bride and groom, as well as their faith in Jesus and their commitments to live their lives as his disciples. Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation. Then after the reception of Eucharist and Confirmation and the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation, the bride and groom indicate as they light the pillar candle that they intend to live out their baptismal faith as adults in the Sacrament of Marriage, their Sacrament of Commitment.

A New Family. The taper candles represent the immediate families of the bride and groom, their parents and siblings, and from their two families of origin, the pillar candle represents the new family that has begun with their marriage.

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Meeting halfway in marriage

October 9, 2017

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Dan Steger

By Dan Steger

I work as a salesman for a Twin Cities company that makes graphics and signage for use in retail stores. My biggest customer is based in New York City, where I call on them about once a month.

Usually this involves a series of short business meetings, but on a recent trip I catered in lunch for the entire department, a group of about 30 people. As we tucked into our lobster rolls and sodas, the room buzzed with a number of small conversations. Lobster rolls, I knew from 15 years’ experience, are a real crowd-pleaser!

At one point, one of my longtime close contacts asked me from across the large conference room table, “Dan, do you have any big vacations planned for this year? Like – where did you go last year? Bosnia or something?”

I smiled. People always struggled to remember the name. Or maybe it was the geography? “You mean Croatia. No, nothing like that this year. That trip was to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. This year we’re going to Wisconsin.”

At this I was met with wide-eyed stares from a number of those in the room. “Thirty years?” asked a young woman of about 30 years herself. “You’ve been married 30 years? That’s amazing. What’s your secret?”

By now the room was very quiet, and all eyes were on me, a situation with which I was not entirely comfortable. Although a career salesman I am fairly introverted and prefer talking with people one-on-one or in small groups.

“Well, I can answer that with a story, but you may regret asking as it’ll take a few minutes.”

“Go for it. We’re all ears.”

“OK, this happened on our wedding day, just before the ceremony itself. My wife and I are both Catholic, and we married in a big, old neo-Gothic, or neo-something, church in St. Paul, Minnesota.” When in New York I am always careful with place names, adding MINNESOTA and waiting for a sign of recognition. People often nod pleasantly but indistinctly.

“It’s a traditional church in an older part of the city, and I was a parishioner, largely because my father grew up there and my grandparents were still members, attending Mass every day.

“We wanted a Mass, not a civil ceremony, and in this parish there were certain rules about weddings. They were on Saturdays at 10am, period. You want a 5pm wedding? Try 10am instead. And this was fine with us. Neither of us were, or are, super-devout, but we wanted a traditional, classic Catholic ceremony and loved the family ties to the place. The church was beautiful, and was decorated for Christmas. We were happy to be flexible about the rules.

I still had everyone’s attention at this point but knew I’d have to move from this church talk to the “good part” or I’d lose them.

“So it’s just before the ceremony is to begin, and I’m in the sacristy – backstage, so to speak – and I’m terrified. Sweating bullets. The prospect of being in front of a hundred or so people really made me nervous, and that was on top of the significance of the rite itself.

“The priest approached me. Father Patrick Lannan. He was the textbook priest. Irish, hugely round in stature, ruddy complexion, gregarious. He’d known my grandparents for years, and treated me like we were old friends, although we were barely acquainted. I was 25 and frankly just an occasional churchgoer. But he didn’t seem to mind that at all. He clasped his hand on my shoulder, and believe me when I tell you I remember this like it happened yesterday. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Danny, you don’t look like a groom. You look nervous.’

I said this in my best attempt at an Irish accent. Fr. Lannan didn’t speak in one but I used it for dramatic effect. Not really my style but I was going for broke. It seemed to work, judging from the smiles in the room.

“’That’s because I AM nervous, Father.’

Looking around the table I saw that I had everyone’s attention. Most had finished lunch but none were leaving. Generally people stayed 5 or 10 minutes for these lunches, or simply grabbed their sandwich and headed back to their desk. Lunch in this office was not a leisurely affair.

“’Sit down. I’m going to tell you how to get on in married life.’

“At this point I was struck by two things. The first was the irony of a 60 year old celibate priest telling me how to succeed in marriage. But I’d been a Catholic all my life and was used to advice from priests about all kinds of things. And second, frankly, was irritation. I was in the middle of a full-on nervous breakdown and this guy wants to have a fireside chat? But dutiful lad that I was, I sat. And there was no saying NO to Fr. Lannan, that much I knew.

“He sat back in his chair and said, ‘People have problems because they want to meet in the middle on things.’

“He paused to let this sink in but I found this chestnut very odd. I thought meeting in the middle was kind of a tried-and-true way to make relationships work.

“He continued. ‘The problem is that if you go halfway, and your wife goes halfway, you will never meet at all.’

“I was totally confused at this point, and very anxious that it might be 10:00 and there we were chatting in the sacristy while a church full of people sat impatiently waiting for things to start.

“’The problem is that your idea of halfway, and her idea of halfway, are not half way at all. They’re short of that. They’re 40% or something. But if you make it a point to go 60%, and she does the same, you might just meet in the middle after all.’

“At this point he stopped, and smiled at me, and waited for my response. It took me a couple seconds to realize he was done. I was still waiting for the punchline, for some profound, poetic nugget; for the heavens to open and for angels to sing. But he was done and all I had was this bizarre mathematical formula. Forty per-cent. Sixty per-cent. What? My memory of my reaction is crystal-clear: I thought this was the dumbest piece of advice I’d ever heard.

“But Fr. Lannan suddenly stood, looking very satisfied. I stood also, not quite sure what to say. ‘OK, Father. That’s great. Thanks.’

“He nodded in total agreement. He looked me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder again and said, ‘NOW you look like a groom. Let’s get you married.’

“So that was my piece of advice, this bit about always going more than halfway. At the time I didn’t think much of it. In fact, in the following days I forgot it altogether. But how many times do you think I’ve thought of it in the 30 years since? Hundreds of times. Countless times. Might’ve been the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

I suddenly became self-conscious, realizing that my story was done yet I still had the attention of the entire room. In awkward situations like this I usually made a dumb quip, and this no exception. “There you have it!” I said, upbeat. “Lobster rolls and life lessons! Probably more than you bargained for today.”

Another of those present, a woman with whom I’d done business for years, piped up: “That was an awesome story, Dan. I will remember that.”

I smiled and thanked her. People nodded, either in agreement or just to be polite, I wasn’t sure. One by one they stood, collected their things and filed out.

Father Lannan’s advice really summarized a couple key truths about success in marriage, at least from my experience. First, it’s human nature to overestimate one’s own contributions to relationships. Countless times I’ve found myself thinking I’d really gone that extra mile for my wife, only to admit to myself later that – as Fr. Lannan had said – I’d only gone 40% of the way. And second, marriage is work. Hard work. It’s hard to dig deep and swallow your pride sometimes in order to find harmony with your spouse. It takes patience, and confidence in yourself and your partner, to put aside the disagreement of that moment; to step back and see the bigger picture. I often think of the Rolling Stones lyric:

You can’t always get what you want.

You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometime,

You just might find,

You get what you need.

Dan Steger is a salesman and freelance writer. He and his wife Andrea have been married 31 years. They have two adult children.

 

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Turn, Turn, Turn…

July 5, 2014

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flowersTo Everything Turn, Turn, Turn….

Or so goes the song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
I have come to reflect again on this bit of scripture as I find myself moving from one era of my life to another. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser I have been taking time in my prayer to reflect on these movements in my life and how they really do fit into God’s plan.
A few years ago my children when off to college and thus I started a new era in my life. My mother recently passed away and a good friend has moved away (By coincidence she lives in the same town that Pete Seeger made famous – Beacon New York) . My pastor and spiritual guide has been reassigned to a different parish. I might be ready for a midlife crisis but the seasons of life are not only for empty-nesters – these seasons have been happening all of my life.
As a High school student, I readily anticipated and embraced going off to college and being independent (or so I thought) but even the anticipation left me with fear as I left behind security and family. My 20’s were filled with college, marriage and establishing some sort of career. It was quite hedonistic in it’s way, at least in that it was a time of the unholy trinity of Me, Myself, and I, but God was still leading me even though I didn’t know it. I learned about love through my marriage to my husband. I may not have known the fulness of God’s love for me yet, but I was learning. By my 30’s the season of raising children entered into my life. I would write more about it but it is a blur of diapers, potty training, sports camps, music lessons and play dates. Yet even during this crazy time of my life, I remember savoring every minute with my little children and never wanting it to change. God has his hand in teaching me about love here too. The sacrificial way in which we love our children, but I had more to learn.
My forties brought me a surprise. My children grew more independent and this season of my life brought me the surprise of God through a conversion experience I was not prepared for. I realized I was a child of God, His beloved and loved! I filled my life with learning and a zeal for evangelization. This season of my life brought me to volunteering for my church, to my work for the Archdiocese and in contact with mentors and friends who have helped me to learn more and grow deaper in my faith. Most of all this season has taught me how to pray.
I have lately realized that God is moving me into another season. A dear friend and spiritual sister has moved with her family to New York and my pastor who brought me to my faith and guided me through much of my spiritual life has been transferred. Like my children leaving the nest, it feels like the end of an era.
Even though my children graduating from High School left me reminiscent for the past, I relish the time with my grown up children and sharing their new lives as adults! I wonder what God has planned for me in this next season of my life. Maybe this season will bring me to more  wisdom and maturity in my faith? We will see.

I am sad to see the end of this season of my life, but it may be a time to deepen my friendships with those close and who have moved away, explore my relationships with my adult children and find out what God has in store for me next!
All I know is that seasons turn, turn, turn…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

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‘Til death do us part

October 2, 2013

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How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! (1 John 3:1)

kirsch2

Marriage isn’t merely about the husband and wife, it’s also about the people around the couple as they live this holy sacrament.  Eugene and Mary Kirsch’s 58-year-marriage was a source of blessing to many others because of the beautiful witness they gave.

And they continued to teach about married love–until the very end.

“Family and faith is what’s important!”

Eugene (Gene) and Mary met on a blind date. Since both were very active, they went bowling for this first outing together. Their love seemed a perfect strike from the beginning, and they married in 1955. Five years later, they moved to a home in Roseville and joined Maternity of Mary Church in St. Paul. They raised four daughters–Vicki, Lori, Kathy and Karen. All of the girls went to grade school at Maternity of Mary, and got married there.

Gene and Mary had a home business together–Gene was an accountant and mainly worked out of their basement, while Mary typed forms for him upstairs. Mary was also a part-time sales associate at the JCPenney store in Roseville for 13 years. Their daughter, Vicki Flannigan, said, “Gaining wealth was never important to our parents, but family and faith was important.”

The Kirschs were devout Catholics. In fact, Mary attended daily Mass until she married at age 21, and resumed doing so when she retired from JCPenney. They were active parishioners for 53 years at Maternity of Mary. They were extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, went to Eucharistic Adoration together each week, and helped plan the Cana dinners. “We teased Dad because his pants always had holes in the knees from praying all the Rosaries,” their daughter, Karen Cossack, wrote.

“They always struck me as a couple very much in love,” the Kirschs’ pastor, Father Peter Williams, said. “They were faithful, devoted, and possessed a good sense of humor. I appreciated how they lived their vows, and the manner in which they raised their daughters.”

What’s the secret to a long marriage?

Their daughter Vicki said, “Our parents had a beautiful, married life. The perfect marriage, really. I cannot recall any disrespect or quarreling among those two.”

What was their secret to marital bliss?

Their children think it was a combination of a many things. They only had one plain TV set and seemed to somehow agree on the channel. Perhaps the simple life of one TV and two recliners aided in their success? As they aged, they continued to be active–in their faith, and with other things.  They took walks around the block together all year round, never walking without the other.  They played tennis and golf almost daily and went on 38 cruises together. Yep, 38! Gene would often get up on the ship’s stage and play the piano for people. He liked to sing, too–real loudly; at church, and at other places as well. Once, during a relative’s wedding reception, Gene took the microphone from the DJ and serenaded Mary with the song It had to be you.  Their daughter, Karen, wrote: “When the DJ asked them to reveal the secret of their long marriage, Mom just responded, “Love.”

Vicki wrote in an email:

“The key word for their successful marriage is ‘compliment.’ In my entire childhood and adult life, I can vividly recall both of them complimenting each other all the time! Dad complimented on every meal, nearly every bite! I believe that sometimes the food wasn’t all that delicious but dad still found the part of the meal that he would compliment her on — maybe just the fact that the food was served warm! She would compliment him on all his talents — piano playing, singing, being such a great conversationalist, speaking German, etc.”

In sickness and in health

Five years ago, Mary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it progressed fairly quickly, especially the type of dementia which is linked with this disease. Gene had a pace maker, but was still doing well. When their parents’ health first started this decline, their daughters turned their childhood home into a care facility. They organized meals for them and brought them to Mass at Maternity of Mary each week. Every day, the daughters made sure that one of them was there to check on their parents and visit with them. They had an excellent system in place.

All eight of the Kirsch grandchildren helped take care of Grandma and Grandpa, too. For example, Bridget Flannigan (age 29), a professional stylist, did Grandma’s hair and nails regularly. Katie King, age 23, a nurse at the Amplatz Children’s Hospital, checked her grandparents’ blood pressure and monitored their other medical needs–she also prayed with them.

On March 14 of this year, Mary fell in her home and fractured her tail bone. She was brought to the hospital and it was decided that she needed transitional care just long enough to recuperate. She was there for two weeks, and each morning the daughters brought their dad to the facility to visit and recite the Rosary. But Mary failed to thrive, and was not eating much.

Easter was on March 31st of this year (2013). While Mary was at the healthcare facility, twenty or so members from the Kirsch family accompanied Gene to Mass at Maternity of Mary. After Masses at their church, it is a tradition that the congregation prays an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be for the next parishioner to pass away. Little did the Kirsch family know that they were all praying for Eugene–he was to meet his heavenly reward later that week.

However, before he passed on, Gene continued to visit his wife. In fact, the whole family piled into their cars after Easter Mass and paid Mary a joyful visit. “My mom and dad kissed on Easter and had a wonderful day surrounded by children and grandchildren,” wrote Karen. But Gene wasn’t quite himself while his bride was in the facility. It was so sad for him to see the love of his life suffering. Two days after Easter–while Gene was sitting beside his wife–she slumped forward into his lap, unresponsive. His beloved wife never spoke or opened her eyes again. The family was called together to pray the Rosary at Mary’s bedside. They knew the end was near, and prayed that it would be peaceful.

The next day, the family made the decision to move both Mary and Gene into the Shoreview Senior Living Center with the intention of having them together. Mary received hospice care while their daughters began the difficult task of planning for her funeral. “In the nursing home, when I was reading Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscover Catholicism, to my parents, we all cried together. I felt both of their hearts were open and ready for God’s will,” said Karen.

A happy ending

Two days later, on the night of April 5, Gene and Mary were at the care center in their new beds–which were right next to each other. Some of their daughters were in sleeping bags on the floor. During the night, Gene got up to get a glass of water. In mid stride, he passed on–gently sinking to the ground as if he were carried in the arms of Jesus. “We thought God would take our mother first,” Vicki said, “and we knew that would be too hard on Dad.”

But God works in mysterious ways, and the Kirsch daughters now know that it was best that their father went first. They told their mother to look for Dad’s hand and go to heaven.

Two days later, Mary passed away peacefully. She had been anointed by Fr. Williams who had just returned from Italy. Mary and Gene–who loved to do everything together—were laid to rest on the same day. The Maternity of Mary altar was still decorated with the lovely Easter flowers that Mary admired each season. “They were a wonderful couple, something of a fixture at Maternity of Mary for decades,” Fr. Williams said. “They were likable and endearing. It was an honor for me to preside over their double funeral Mass – the first time such a thing has occurred for me in my nine years of serving as a priest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Matt Birk quotes that score extra points

February 8, 2013

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Licensed undeer Creative Commons

Licensed undeer Creative Commons

I was blessed to have Matt Birk’s brother in my fourth-grade class when I was a brand new teacher. For Valentine’s Day that year, I taught the students about measurement by instructing them on how to make French Silk pies. His enterprising mother told me that her boys used that recipe to turn a “sweet” profit. They had their own little business out of the home in which they took orders from neighbors and family members. They’d make the pies and then deliver them in a wagon. This was Matt Birk’s first job. I’m glad he has given up peddling pies and is now doing something that pays a bit better. With six kids, the grocery bills are as high as a football post, and difficult to tackle.

I know, my husband and I have nine kids. We have enjoyed watching Matt Birk and his wife, Adrianna, with their own brood. Often we are in the back of church together trying to quiet toddlers. They are excellent parents, and so good to their Catholic faith. In fact, my sister is in a Bible study with Adrianna; it’s a program she brought to our area. And, as many of you know, Matt Birk has done a brilliant job in speaking out for traditional marriage, family and life.

Thank you Birk family!

Here are some great quotes from him taken from an article in The National Catholic Register:

1) You’ve been active in the pro-life movement. What would you say to someone discouraged about the more than 50 million boys and girls killed in abortions during 40 years under Roe v. Wade?

The big picture is really ugly, but instead of letting that dominate your thinking, I would say to keep the faith and concentrate on the one or two things you can do. You may not be able to save thousands of lives on your own, but the one life you can save today does mean a lot.

Whether it’s teaching our own children to be pro-life, contacting our elected representatives or working at crisis-pregnancy centers, we can all do something. These examples are in addition to prayer, which everyone can do and which everyone should do. Prayer is the basis of any good action. Each little effort helps to bring about a culture of life, a culture in which children are appreciated rather than disposed of.

I spoke at a pro-life rally in Maryland a couple years ago, and it was a life-changing experience. I heard other speakers, including women who deeply regretted their own abortions. Their work, carried out through the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, was very persuasive. It wasn’t just a theoretical discussion; it was real women who had experienced the trauma of losing a child through abortion. They wanted to prevent other women from going through that same thing.

If people were told the truth about abortion, no one would ever seek out the procedure. We hear about “choice” and “reproductive rights,” but no one is ever told by an abortionist, “I will kill your baby by ripping off its arms and legs.” The women from Silent No More let people know the facts so that better decisions will be made. It’s very admirable work.

2) You’ve also been publicly supporting the institution of marriage. What are some misconceptions that people have regarding marriage?

The major misconception is that marriage is anything you want it to be, rather than the lifelong union of a man and a woman for the purpose of raising children. That’s what it has been for all of recorded history and what it continues to be today, regardless of what some people think.

There has been an intense attack on marriage for decades. It has become easier to get divorced, which means the breakup of the closest relationships: those involving spouses and children. This is devastating for the family, especially children, who need a father and a mother. When the marriage is torn apart, each child can feel like he or she is being torn apart.

After all these years of easy divorce, many people have given up on marriage completely. They just live together without any commitment. Needless to say, this isn’t the best of situations for them or for the children who might be involved. What’s needed is not a flight from responsibility, but a firmer commitment to it.

One of the things I’ve learned from the Catholic faith that applies to marriage, football and any other aspect of life is to appreciate discipline. On the surface, self-indulgence appears best for us, but that route only weakens us and leaves us unhappy. Self-denial appears to be worst for us, but that route strengthens us and makes us truly content.

Jesus said if anyone would be his follower he or she must deny his or herself, take up his or her cross and follow him. The way of the cross is the only way to be a true Christian, and it’s really the only way to get anything worthwhile done. It helps you to become the best version of yourself, to use a term from Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly.

In order for us to be the best versions of ourselves, we do not need to reinvent marriage, but to recommit ourselves to it. We need to look at it, not with our own agendas in mind, but with God’s plan in mind. He created us, so he knows what is best for us.

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Anne, Thomas and a Marriage Story

October 26, 2012

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I happened to catch the movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” the other day. It is the story of Anne Boleyn and it could be said that her story is the other side of St. Thomas More’s story. I am not a historian and I am sure that it can be said that this movie may not be fully historical fact, but it does portray a story that is pertinent for today. It is a story about marriage and the redefinition of it.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives here is the short of it. King Henry wants a new wife and the Pope won’t give him an annulment. He defines himself as head of the church so that he can divorce his wife and marry the woman he is lusting for ~ Anne Boleyn. Anne manipulates her own sexuality to ultimately become queen of England. In the process she becomes the object [or cause] of the fall of the Catholic Church in England and the beginning of the Church of England. Again, I am not an expert on history, but this is the simplistic version of what I know.  You can find more of St. Thomas More’s life at: http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/06/22/fortnight-for-freedom-day-2-st-thomas-more-married-saint-and-hero-of-religious-liberty/

Ultimately this historic story is about the defense of marriage. St. Thomas More as Lord Chancellor of England lost his life defending the Church and marriage. Anne, fueled by competitive drive, or possibly in this time of few rights for women – a sense of survival – succumbed to her own desires while fulfilling the desires of the King.

It is sometimes best for me to learn from a poor example rather than a good one. As I watched this film and the portrait of Anne – it struck me that it was her ambition that was her downfall. Her drive to be in control, her manipulation of the truth, her need to succeed that ultimately did her in. She wasn’t alone in this – King Henry’s needs seemed simpler or at least more direct – that of lust and perhaps to sire a son. Which I guess breaks down into sex and power. St. Thomas More was motivated by his knowlege of the truth. What do I want to be motivating me?

How much is our defense of marriage today like that of St. Thomas More’s dilemma?

To stand as the church teaches is not popular –while it may not cost you your life, it may cost you your friends. The acceptance of Anne Boleyn as Queen – redefined Marriage in England and King Henry created his own church so he could define the church to fit his needs. Today we have many who want to redefine marriage to suit their needs. It may be driven by power, lust or a type of manipulation – all under the guise of wanting to profess equality.

Ultimately Anne got what she wanted, but eventually lost her head and St. Thomas More also ultimately died defending marriage by not conceding to Anne as queen. It took courage. St. Thomas More showed us this courage in a few ways. First he lived his marriage rightly by loving his wife until widowed and strongly loved his family. Second, he stood strong on the teachings of the church -even though it cost him his life. He didn’t recognize the marriage of King Henry to Anne Boleyn because he knew that no one could redefine what was defined by God  – not even the king.

I am left wondering how I might behave in St. Thomas More’s shoes. Or maybe I am in them. How will I defend marriage? Our defence of our beliefs on marriage today deals with the same sex marriage issue, but much can be learned from Anne and Thomas.
If you struggle with the “Church” getting involved in matters of marriage or think there is no place for it. The story of Anne and Sir Thomas may give us some historical perspective on what happens when the “state” takes into its hands – redefining marriage. You may want to pick up “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “A Man for All Seasons” and see who you want to stand with? Will you defending the truth or choose to bend with the crowd or follow selfish motives?
A St. Thomas More Prayer for Religious Freedom and more information can be found on the website Unique for a Reason. http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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Marriage = Biology (NOT Bigotry)

October 25, 2012

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This well-done video came my way from a high school friend. Please pass it on.

Let’s think about what’s best for children & society, and  NOT redefine marriage!

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4 Little reasons why our marriage works

October 8, 2012

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Eric and Kathy Schneeman in Chile

1.  We love each other

Duh, right? This is the #1 ingredient for making a good marriage.

My father-in-law told us about love when we were engaged, “Do a lot of nice little things for each other.” St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower,” became a saint by doing for others what my father-in-law suggested. Her “Little Way” teaches us to do the ordinary things in life with extraordinary love. Eric and I apply this to married life. As husband and wife, we not only practice our faith together, but we are also asked to bring each other closer to God. We can do this by expressing our love in small, selfless ways: getting the coffee & tea ready (when we’d rather sleep in), mixing a whiskey sour just right (when we’d like to dive into our own glass of Cabernet), changing the baby (when we could pretend to be asleep), driving the teenagers to school in our PJs (when we could be answering emails), giving a back rub (when we’d rather read our novel). The smallest action, done with love, is more important than great deeds done for personal glory or gratification. Such is the power and presence of grace, and this grace strengthens marriages.

2.  We complement each other

Yes, we compliment each other, too: “Honey, you look hot in that dress!” or, “Wow, your muscles look bigger than yesterday!” and “You grilled that steak just right!” (Everyone likes to have his or her feathers ruffled.) But now on to complementing  each other without getting into anatomy 101 too much…

It’s obvious that man and woman were made for each other. For instance, “… He created male and female in His image so that they might become one body and might be fertile and multiply…” (See Genesis chapters 1 and 2). This Biblical passage goes hand in hand with the Natural Law. It just makes sense that we complement each other because the marriage bond is procreative. Human sexuality is sacred. Within marriage, it fulfills its purpose as an expression of deep, faithful and exclusive love that is open to new life (ForYourMarriage.org). Family arises from marriage, which in turn, forms the “Domestic Church.” Marriage between one man and one woman is the building block of society.

With nine kids whom we are raising to be good, Catholic leaders, I feel like my husband and I are doing our share in creating a hopeful future, and so are a lot of our friends and family. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, says, “The long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.” The findings of the social sciences confirm that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents. (Please read my blog Six reasons kids do best when raised by married parents)

3.  We keep the romance alive

This is the fun part, but it ain’t easy. As you know, couples who are happily married work at it. And they work at it VERY HARD! My husband and I stay faithful to our vows. Eric travels a lot for work and when he is in difficult situations (like when someone he knows goes to a strip club) he leaves temptation behind. We have a friend who is a celebrity and has women who flirt with him. He told us, “I just flash my wedding band.” Exclusivity is paramount to a successful marriage.

To keep our hearts pitter-patting my husband and I make time for each other. Eric calls me a lot throughout his day. We travel. We run together. We pray together. We have mini dates in the pub area which we built in our basement–and we tell the children, “This is Mommy and Daddy time so…scram!” (They usually get a smile on their faces and then exit quickly–they’re glad their parents want to spend time together.)

Which brings me to…

4.  We witness our vocation to others

Oftentimes when Eric and I are sipping on cheap wine down in this “pub” (It’s cheap because we have to pay for college and Catholic high schools–not necessarily because my husband is cheap), our kids’ friends come over for a visit. Many of these children come from single-parent homes. They appreciate seeing a married couple enjoying each other’s company, and we are more than happy to let them know about the many blessings of a faithful, loving marriage. Our kids tell us that their friends have commented on this subject and remind them about how lucky they are to be raised in a stable home. Our sons who have left the nest (and who now appreciate their parents), will actually say to us, “Thanks for giving us a ‘normal’ home, and for being good role models.”

And we often say to them (after we get over our shock), “Remember, it’s the little things that make marriage work.”

 

 

 

 

 

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