50 Years Since Humanae Vitae


Pope Paul VI released the encyclical called Humanae Vitae (Human Life) on July 25, 1968 where he wrote about birth control. This encyclical was meant to put an end to the speculation on the Church teaching on acceptable forms of family planning. Since this teaching changed our lives over 10 years ago, I think it’s time to restart posting my writing to share the beauty of this teaching with my readers.

Pope Paul VI showed once again that the church exists to direct society and not to reflect it. For many, including some of our own Catholic priests, it was a difficult teaching to accept and to live out, so many never heard of it.

Why was it so difficult? The message was and still is counter cultural. However, 50 years later we can see the prophetic message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The teaching of Humanae Vitae is wise and loving – bringing to light the dignity of the human person and the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and family.

Pope Paul VI wrote about the future consequences of a society that accepts birth control. These consequences include: increase in marital infidelity; decrease in moral standards; lack of respect for life; lack of respect for women and a breakdown of the family.

In the coming weeks, I will share with you a series of blogs, where I will share, through my own personal experiences, what these consequences look like today and how the virtues of chastity, modesty, respect and self-control can help to counter act them.

For now, I implore you to:

  1. Add Humanae Vitae to your summer reading list: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
  2. Get to know Pope Paul VI who will be canonized on October 14, 2018: https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/pope-paul-vi-almost-saint-here-are-four-his-biggest-legacies





Looking Back to Move Forward


As the famous line from the movie tune says, “The past is in the past”. How then, can looking back help us move forward?

When I first met my husband, many years ago in our parish youth group we were asked to look up and share our favourite Bible passage. He found a passage on marriage and shared how he believed that during tough times in marriage couples should look back at what brought them together instead of looking at what is tearing them apart in the present moment.

At the time I didn’t appreciate the wisdom in his statement. Looking back to move forward is actually a great first step in working out those tough marital issues that will inevitably come up.

I don’t think I am sharing any earth shattering wisdom here. It’s pretty simple really. Every marriage goes through a dry patch or a few dry patches. We get caught up the in busyness of everyday life and our relationship with our spouse takes a back seat. For some marriages this is a minor and temporary occurrence, yet for others this time can be harmful to the married couple. Neglecting our spouse leads to feelings of loneliness and temptation to seek fulfillment in other things or other people. This opens the door to anything from addiction to infidelity.

Regardless of the type of damage or hurts we are dealing with in marriage, a good starting point in re-committing to working through those issues is to look back and rekindle the euphoric love shared during the early days of dating and marriage.

Here are 5 ways to look back:

  1. Talk to each other or to others about how you first met. Ask another couple how they met. They will most likely ask you to share your story, as well. Share this story in front of your spouse and make sure to make eye contact. You may be surprised to find that old familiar spark in his eye as those memories come to mind.
  2. Dust off your wedding photo album or play your wedding video if you have one. Leave the wedding photo album accessible. Let him find you looking through the pictures. Invite him to look at them with you. Show them to your children or guests who come to visit and share memorable stories you recall of some specific photos.
  3. Play your wedding song or other meaningful music from the time you were dating or first married. Play these songs in his presence. If you are so inclined sing or dance along together.
  4. Did you keep old cards, letters or love notes he wrote you? Make them accessible, read them, reminisce and share this with him.
  5. Recreate your first date or engage in the activities you did together in your first months or years together. You may have to refresh your memory by talking to him about how you used to pass the time together at the beginning of your relationship, which is also helpful.

Looking back will rekindle those old familiar feelings, helping us to see our spouse differently. Through the same positive lens we used during the euphoric days of our relationship. This along with the grace of God will help us to take the next step. These are only 5 ways, I am sure there are more ways to be nostalgic together. Share them in the comments. I look forward to reading them.

Emptying the Marriage Fridge



The other day, while cleaning the inside of my fridge, I deliberately chose to stay focussed on one thing. I turned it into a prayer. “Lord, show me how cleaning out my fridge could actually be a metaphor for a life lesson.”

Now my fridge isn’t all that dirty. I usually keep it clean, wiping it down now and then, especially after spill, doing a monthly purge of expired items. As I emptied the freezer, to my surprise I realized I didn’t purge it often enough, there were items in the back of the freezer I had completely forgotten about. I worked my way through the fridge, emptying shelf by shelf, removing the glass shelves to give them a good wipe. I realized there was some spillage I had missed in my routine wipe downs. This clean up took a lot more time than I had anticipated, a little more elbow grease and more hot water to get all the pieces looking shiny and clean again.

Life Lesson

Having been married for 18 years to a devoted, faithful man, I can easily take him for granted. Over the years we have made our efforts to stay connected as a couple. We arrange care for our children and schedule in some couple time. We work in ministry together and we are a prayerful couple. Once in a while we butt heads and have a disagreement, but they don’t usually last long. On the surface this marriage appears to be healthy and stable.

There comes a time in every marriage, when some purging is necessary. As Christians we understand that we are called to actively pursue God in our daily lives. To respond to his call to grow in relationship with him, this growth is constant and it’s flowing. At some point, to move closer to God we need to detach ourselves from certain habits or baggage. Matthew Kelly, a Catholic evangelist once said, “Every journey towards something is a journey away from something else.”

A marriage, certainly a Christian marriage that looks secure on the surface may have some underlying problems that need to be dealt with before this couple can move forward in their relationship with God and with each other.

Emptying the Marriage Fridge

Sometimes the couple will not be aware of what is impeding their growth. They have become so comfortable and accustomed to the stain, they don’t see it anymore. A praying couple will hopefully allow room for the Holy Spirit to inspire them to start emptying their shelves. Giving them the grace to discard what needs to go and give what remains a good cleaning. It doesn’t mean this couple is living a façade, by putting on a show for others. In many cases they believe they have a firm marriage. A faithful couple could be oblivious, believing their monthly date night and making up quickly after a disagreement means they are doing well. Perhaps this is so. Maintenance is a big part of building a strong marriage, but is it enough?


Supernatural Grace

Cleaning out my fridge is done within an hour or so. The type of work required to complete the purging cycle in a marriage is likely to be much harder. I am not talking about the bad habit he has of forgetting to put the lid back on the toothpaste, or the toilet seat down. Obviously there are deeper issues directly affecting the physical and emotional intimacy, trust and communication within the couple.

To look deeply within ourselves, through the eyes of faith, and to do it together with our spouse, requires a great amount of humility. It also requires a huge dose of supernatural grace. Supernatural strength is necessary to take the time, to be sincere with ourselves, with God and with our spouse. To put in the consistent and constant effort to work at what needs to be worked at, to forgive the failings we see in our spouse and to seek forgiveness for the failings we see in ourselves. None of this is easy, but it is necessary. Routine maintenance is not enough, because it doesn’t allow for growth.

Blessings Abound

When I finished cleaning the fridge, my shelves were shiny and the fridge did look a little empty, but it had all the essentials. The expired items wouldn’t be missed, and stains were gone. Now this could also have been a lesson on how we waste too much. This is the usual thought I have in mind when I clean out my fridge, freezer, pantry, etc., since we obviously spent money on items we didn’t have much use for. However, God used this time to show me how blessed I am. That even after discarding, cleaning and scrubbing, I have a good working fridge that still has the essentials I need to feed my family.

When we are willing to do the work, God blesses us in abundance. He doesn’t just give what we need, he provides in abundance. Couples get a new, clean, fresh start, with enough grace, love, forgiveness, empowerment, protection, prayer, and intimacy to keep moving forward. Certainly, the opportunity for a major clean will come again at different stages in their married life. The pain will be different, the habits will vary each time, or maybe some old habit will have managed to creep in again.

Sometimes the couples need help from their community to get over some major stumbling blocks. A spiritual leader or a marriage counsellor who can see the situation objectively, this is not a sign of a bad marriage or of weakness. It takes great strength and humility to admit you need help from a third-party. It is precisely in our weakest, most humbling moments that God’s grace and blessing abounds.

Today I pray for all married couples, that they may seek the courage to clean out their marriage fridge and benefit from the supernatural grace and blessing that comes with the opportunity for a fresh start.


Building a Strong Marriage: PRAYER

couple prayingWe have come to final letter in our acronym which is for Prayer. When we address this subject with engaged couples we usually share a bit of our own prayer journey.

My husband and I met through our parish youth group. Many people hear this and believe this means we were always a faithfully devout couple. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the first few years of our marriage we were living like “cafeteria” Catholics. Picking and choosing what to believe and what to follow. We thought we knew our faith, and what we didn’t know, we just made up as we went along. Justifying our action and inaction by taking God’s love and mercy for granted. We created God in our image, instead of accepting that He is the creator.

We turned to prayer individually in times of struggle. We did not pray together. We attended Mass together most Sundays, because it was a nice thing to do together. We had no appreciation for the Eucharist, the graces of the sacrament of marriage, nor did we have a personal relationship with Christ.

Only when our first son was born, through the preparation for Baptism did we realize the importance and value of attending Mass. Only then did we shoulder the responsibility that came with being parents who wanted to give our son the same opportunities we had to believe in a loving, forgiving, heavenly Father. The first time we prayed together was a few days after our son was born. You can read the story of his birth here.

We have found that taking the time to pray together is a major source of strength.  Through prayer we face our fears; doubts and worries together. There have been times when we did not know what else to do, but pray. Praying together didn’t always come easy. We started by just saying, “Grace Before Meals” and attending Mass together.

We compare our relationship to a triangle. The further away we are from each other, the further away we are from God. The work it takes to climb and get closer to God adds to spiritual intimacy in the marriage. The line across the bottom could be seen as a shortcut, meeting each other half way across the bottom and eliminating God, you will still have a physical and emotional connection. But we are also spiritual beings. We need to nurture that element of our being and our relationship as well.

Marriage triangle

We have found it so beneficial in our marriage to maintain openness to Church teachings on marriage and family. There is are a lot of resources from Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or other encyclicals written through the years by other popes. We also have ministries available specifically for couples. Various books written by well-formed Christians that helps to strengthen marriage.

Recommended Reading

We are all on different stages of our spiritual journey, but acknowledging that we are on a journey means that we should be moving forward in that journey. For us our journey started with a simple prayer, attending mass, learning about the sacraments, especially through our children’s sacraments, Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion. The most beneficial help in our spiritual journey is being involved in our parish community. We have built friendships with other couples who share the same values. They have been a great source of support and encouragement for us.

Perhaps the most important message we try to relay to the engaged couples, and to all married couples we work with is that being happily married is not something that just happens. Being happily married is a choice we make through the work we put into our marriage every day. We want them to be assured that the church community cares about their marriage. That we as a couple care about their marriages, and we know difficult times lie ahead, but support is available.

Marriage is a sacrament, and there are supernatural graces available to us if we tap into them. Prayer really helps us build a strong marriage by helping maintain Primacy, Empowerment and Protection.

Building A Strong Marriage: EMPOWERMENT


The next word in our acronym, PEPP is Empowerment. In today’s fast paced world, it is easy for a day to go by where couples barely spend more than a few minutes talking to each other.  How can we continue to Empower our relationship?

In the early stages of Sophie and Larry’s marriage, doing kind actions for each other came easy. They worked on most of the chores together. They enjoyed quiet and calm conversations over dinner, where they caught up on their day. They might even take in a show or a movie on some evenings. On Monday nights, when Larry wanted to watch football, Sophie would give him this time. Doing the dinner clean up on her own and even make him a healthy snack he could enjoy while watching the game.

A few years later, after 3 children, dinners are no longer a quiet affair. Evenings are packed with homework, extracurricular activities and bedtime routines. By the time the kids are in bed, Sophie is exhausted. The dinner dishes are piled up in the sink and she still has to pack everyone’s lunches for tomorrow. Larry usually has some unfinished work he has brought home. There is no longer sanctioned couple time. Sophie is well aware of this and is saddened by it. As she recalls how things used to be, she is determined to make a change. One night, she places a note in Larry’s lunch bag that reads: I love you Larry and I respect your decision to bring work home, instead of staying late at the office and missing out on family dinner and the children’s activities.

Larry is moved by this little note and responds by calling their neighborhood florist and having flowers delivered to her work. There is no special occasion, just an opportunity to remind Sophie that he loves and appreciates all the work she does for him and the children. From that day on, he resolves to call her during his lunch hour so they can reconnect. During their lunch break conversations they plan a monthly date night. Sophie schedules it in and arranges for childcare. Larry arranges the evening, making reservations or buying tickets to a movie or show, as needed.

Marriage is sacred, and there are many things that can work against those of us who are trying to remain faithful and committed to our vows. We learned in primacy that we have to focus on our unity as a couple.

When we give this talk to engaged couples we ask them to create a short list of everyday things couples can do to Empower their relationship. Here are the top 10 suggestions we usually receive:

  1.       Fifteen minutes before turning in for the night, share the events of your day.
  2.       Send a text, e-mail or call your spouse just to say “I love you” or “I am thinking of you”
  3.       Wake up at the same time, and go to bed together, even if you don’t have to wake up as early as your spouse.
  4.       Always kiss each before leaving or as soon as you return from work or other outings.
  5.      Do something fun or try something new together.
  6.      Plan a dream vacation, even if you never actually make it a reality. Share your hopes and dreams with each other.
  7.      Write love notes to each other. Find creative ways to hide them, in lunch bag or wallet.
  8.      Meet your spouse at work and take them out for lunch.
  9.     Attend Mass together, and if you have children, try to sit next to each other.
  10.     Pray together.

What do you and your spouse do every day to empower your relationship? Share your ideas in the comments.

Next topic in our acronym is Protection.

Building A Strong Marriage: PRIMACY



Primacy means placing your spouse ahead of everything and everyone else. Yet it is usually threatened by those closest to us. Perhaps the most shocking reality is that not even our children should be our first priority. Our first priority should always be our spouse. We will be better parents if we have a strong and stable marriage.

Perhaps unintentionally, our children, parents, friends and co-workers demand much of our time and energy. The challenge lies in balancing our time with the outside influences so they don’t take away from our spouse. There are times when temporary shifts may occur. An ailing parent, or work project comes up and requires one spouse’s time and attention for a while.

Paul and Mara had been married for two years and had one child. They lived with his family in effort to save money. Paul had taken a job that required some travelling. In Paul’s absence, his parents and sister treated Mara and their one year old son, Trevor like house guests. Mara did not feel at home in Paul’s parent’s house. Everything she did had to be discussed and planned with Paul’s family. When Paul was home, they treated the couple differently. Mara tried to communicate this to Paul, when she did he became defensive.

“My parents are making a big sacrifice taking us in like this. You should be more grateful.”

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate this situation is helping us financially. Maybe if you talk to them about how they treat me when you are not here, they will listen to you,” Mara pleads.

“You have a problem with the way they treat you, stand up for yourself. I am not going to fight your battles for you,” Paul retorts.

This leaves Mara feeling alone and useless. She doesn’t feel that Paul cares about her feelings. There is a lack of primacy on Paul’s part. If Mara is his first priority and since his family is the one posing a problem he is the one who should interject on Mara’s behalf.

Picture every married couple with an invisible shield around them. All the problems that come at them are from the outside. As long as the couple faces the problems together, nothing can penetrate the shield. As soon as one of them lets down their guard and begins to also attack or dismiss the other’s feelings then those outside influences can and will penetrate the shield.

Matthew 19:5  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’

In marriage the two are no longer separate. They become one flesh, not just in the physical act of marriage, but spiritually and emotionally as well. The decision and actions of one, or the indecision and inaction of the other affect both spouses.

Since they are connected spiritually, we cannot dismiss that even when one of the spouse’s believes the other is unaware of their actions, they are still affected by their choices. Christ says, “I am the light.” Therefore, if even one of the spouse’s is working at keeping Christ the centre of their marriage, whatever is in darkness, whatever we attempt to keep hidden will be brought to the light by Christ. (I will write more about this under Protection where I will cover the effects on marriage relating to infidelity, addiction and pornography.)

An engaged couple enters the church on their wedding two separate people, they leave the church, after professing their vows as one united in Christ. Therefore the only third person that should be allowed in their marriage is Christ.   In this way the married couple, mirrors the trinity. Three persons, united as one.

When we place Christ in the centre of our marriage, we can truly love our spouse the way God intended. God is love, and He alone fills our heart and soul with the love we need to place the other ahead of ourselves. To see beyond our spouse imperfections, and constantly forgive.

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. – C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow I will share practical tips on what Empowerment means for marriage.

Today reflect and talk to your spouse about the ways the two of you are working to make your relationship your primary focus. How does keeping Christ at the centre help you do this?

Building a Strong Marriage


Working in the Marriage Preparation Ministry for the last seven years has proven to be enlightening and sometimes challenging. It enables my husband and me to check some important aspects of our own marriage. While helping the engaged couples discern their readiness for marriage we are strengthened in our own commitment to continue building a stronger marriage.

My favorite presentation is the PEPP talk we give them early in the course. PEPP is an acronym to help us remember the four key elements to building a strong marriage. The acronym stands for: Primacy, Empowerment, Protection and Prayer. We explain to the couples that much of what we share is counter cultural. Building a strong marriage involves going against the current culture. Since it is a Catholic course we include elements of our faith and what we believe is God’s plan for married couples.

I am going to share this information with you over a four-part series on my blog. When speaking on this topic we usually cover a lot of information in a short time. In Primacy, we cover the importance of making the bond between you and your spouse your first priority. Empowerment involves practical tips on how to strengthen marriage in little ways which can make a huge impact on the marriage bond. Protection is one of the most extensive and important aspects of building a strong marriage. What are we protecting our marriages from? It can be summed up in a three-letter word. Sin. This leads us to the final letter in our acronym, Prayer. We need Prayer and the Sacraments to Build a Strong Marriage. Here I will share a bit of our own spiritual journey as a couple, and how prayer made a difference for us.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Primacy.