Marriage Musings:  Marriage Is Good for Sex

Posted June 20th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot

By Robert Fontana

From the Research:  Marriage is good for sex.  I know, it’s counter-intuitive.  Don’t all the jokes describe marriage as the end of great sex?

Charlie: I used to have a great sex life.  Mack: What happened?

Charlie: I got married.  Mack, do you know what kind of food kills romantic love?

Mack: No, what. Charlie: Wedding cake.

Mack: Hey, isn’t this your honeymoon?  What are you doing out here on the golf course?  Charlie: I gave my bride a choice between lovemaking and letting me play golf; here I am.

67265858_mlInterviewing hundreds of couples across that U.S., researchers determined what great sex is and who is having it.  Great sex is sexual intimacy that both partners consider to be frequent, enjoyable, creative, and meaningful.  Researchers compared the sexual behavior of three categories of couplings: married, co-habiting, and singles, including those who are divorced and widowed.  MARRIED COUPLES WERE THE BIG WINNERS!

engagedCouples who are married have almost as much sex (2 x’s a week) as their co-habiting counterparts (2 – 3 times a week), and way more than singles who have to work really hard and spend money to have a steady sexual partner.  Frequency is the only category in which married couples lag slightly behind.  Couples who are married are having far more enjoyable, creative, and meaningful sex.  These outcomes are attributed to one significant factor that differentiates married sex from other forms of sexual coupling: COMMITMENT.  Commitment is sexy.  When couples have made a commitment to one another as when they become engaged and/or get married, then sexual enjoyment, creativity, and meaning all skyrocket!  This should not be a surprise.

Married sex is more enjoyable because when two people feel safe, when each knows the other is not going to leave when things get tough, they are able to relax and fully enter into the sexual experience.  Married sex is more creative than other partnered sex because spouses get to practice over the years what feels good and enjoyable; and they are able to adjust as circumstances change.  And lastly, married sex is more meaningful because it means a couple’s wedding vows: “I will be true to you in good times and in bad…I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” (Hard to beat that for “meaningfulness.”)

Married Sex and Faith –   Sadly, due to a variety of reasons, some people of faith have a hard time enjoying the sexual pleasure that is inherent in spousal physical intimacy.  A spouse may have been taught, as was my mother, that sexual pleasure is a sin.  Mom told me that her mother told her, “It is a sin for a woman to enjoy sex in marriage.”  I think I may have carried some of this bias into the raising of my children because at times I was not fully comfortable talking with them about sexuality.

Recently a woman attending a retreat for couples that Lori and I led confided to the group that she carries a lot of guilt for having sex with her husband.  It was drilled into her by her mother and the church of her childhood that sex outside of marriage was a terrible sin.  What she, as a young girl, had internalized is that “sex was a sin,” and she found it hard to be sexually responsive to her husband.  She had also internalized a very negative body image and thought that she was not very attractive, although, in truth, she is a very lovely woman.  Needless to say, she and her husband reported a very difficult struggle in the area of sexual intimacy.

What do the Scriptures and the Christian faith community teach about sexual pleasure?

Woman Stretching in Bed with a Man Sleeping Beside HerSEXUAL PLEASURE WITHIN MARRIAGE IS AWESOME!  ENJOY!

Okay, that is not a direct quote from Scripture or Church Tradition, but considering the materials available, listed below, I think it is an apt summary:

  • the Book of Genesis in which the writer describes God as being very pleased with his creation of man and woman who come together as “one flesh” and are commanded to “go and multiply” (Genesis 1:27-26, 2:2).
  • The Song of Songs (in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant one), which is a poetic celebration of erotic love.
  • Paul’s admonition, “Do not deprive one another except for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Cor 7:5).
  • and good Pope Francis who writes: Sexuality is not a means of gratification or entertainment; it is an interpersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously, in his or her sacred and inviolable dignity…In this context, the erotic appears as a specifically human manifestation of sexuality…A healthy sexual desire, albeit closely joined to a pursuit of pleasure, always involves a sense of wonder…the erotic dimension of love…must be seen as a gift of God that enriches the relationship of the spouses… (The Joy of Love, art. 151-153).

Marriage Tip: Make sexual intimacy a priority in your marriage.  Talk about what sexual intimacy means for you as spouses (send me an email for a sexual intimacy inventory: robert@catholiclifeministries.org).

Read about sexual intimacy from authors who will respect your Christian perspective on human sexuality.  Secular magazines, like Cosmopolitan and GQ, seem to me to have very little understanding that great sex most often happens within the context of committed love.  Two authors that I like are Gregory Popcak (www.catholiccounselors.com) and Shaunti Feldhahn (Shaunti.com).  Men and women often have different needs around sexual intimacy.  Understanding how these differences specifically apply to your marriage is important.

THREE VERY IMPORTANT ESSENTIALS TO A HEALTHY SEXUAL LIFE: A good night’s sleep, a healthy diet with moderate use of alcohol, and exercise!

Please post your comments!

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Resources for Marriage

Check out our web site at workonyourmarriage.org.  Take our marriage assessment at: http://www.workonyourmarriage.org/marriage-assessment.html

If you live in the Seattle area and need some help with your marriage go to our counseling page: http://www.workonyourmarriage.org/relationship-success-counseling.html

 

 

Chicken Little, the Holy Spirit, You, and Me

Posted May 30th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

chicken littleThis is Pentecost week.  Naturally the story of Chicken Little comes to mind:

There was once a great knight riding upon a mighty horse when he came upon Chicken Little running around the countryside shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”   Suddenly, Chicken Little threw himself to the ground, lay on his back, and thrust his legs and wings towards the sky. 

The great knight leaped from his mighty horse and said to Chicken Little, “Why art thou thus lying in the dust?” Chicken Little calmly responded, “The sky is falling.”  The great knight laughed out loud with incredulity and dismay, then said, “And you, little bird, think that you can hold up the sky?” Chicken Little responded, “I does what I can do.”

Francis of Assisi once said, “I have done what is mine to do, now you must do what is yours to do.”

Fr. Thomas Judge, the founder of the Missionary Cenacle Family (1909) counseled his associates similarly.  I do not have the direct quote but it was something like: “Do what you can do.  Do not worry about what you cannot do, but do what you can do!”

There is so much to be done.  It is mind-boggling.  There are so many pressing needs; truly, it seems the “the sky is falling.”  And what I am actually able to do is so small, surely what the great knight said to Chicken Little applies to all of my efforts, “And how can such a little bird hold up the sky?”

fr judgeFr. Thomas Judge, a Vincentian priest, felt like the sky was falling as he, an Irish-American from Boston, tried to minister to the throngs of immigrants filling the slums of the great urban centers of 20th century America.  He had an epiphany when he realized that he was taking way too much responsibility for work that was not his to do.  It belonged to the average Catholic (and Christian) in the pew who was a neighbor to these immigrants, who met them at the grocery store, the warehouse, the butcher shop, and sometimes at the parish church.

He realized if each person would simply take responsibility for being a power for good within the relationships and commitments of his or her own life, something he called the “providence of everyday life,” then much good could be done to alleviate suffering, strengthen community, and provide care for the least among us, especially poor children and the elderly.

12694841 - shining dove against golden raysJudge recognized that the needs of families in general, and of the poor in the slums and barrios specifically, were so great, that it was impossible to create a social program to address them all.  However, if Catholics and other Christians were guided by the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit would direct them to the work that needed to be done within the “providence” of their everyday lives.How do we gain the interior freedom from our own shortsightedness and sins to even be able to act in the service of others?  And where do we get that capacity for discernment to determine what we are to do in this situation and that one, where we are to direct our energies, and what we are to leave for others to do?  Our guidance comes from the “breath of God,” the indwelling Spirit that draws us into the heart of God, the Spirit written about in John’s Gospel.

Lori and I, led by the empowering and indwelling Spirit, have directed out energies towards being a power for good by inspiring deeper faith in God and building strong marriages and families.  We do this through spirituality workshops and reretreats,  marriage enrichment events, marriage preparation classes, family camps, and divorce prevention, if possible, through marriage counseling.  There is so much more “falling sky” that pulls at us – pro-life work, outreach to migrants and refugees, and problems related to homelessness.  All of these important concerns tug at us, they are matters close to our hearts and certainly are within the providence of our everyday lives.  But, at least for now, we hear the Spirit say to us, “Do what I have already given you to do, and leave these concerns for someone else.”  This is not easy.  Saying “no” to important issues and leaving them for others to do feels inadequate…unsatisfying…feeble…and yet, the right thing to do.

Sunday, June 4th, is Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit. All around our world, “the sky is falling;” there is so much to do.  Do you have a personal relationship with this empowering and in-dwelling Spirit so that you can benefit from the Spirit’s guidance? Ask and the Holy Spirit will help you to discern what is yours to do within the providence of your everyday life.  Then the power of the Holy Spirit will help you (and me) do it!

Post your comments!

IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU READ ON THIS BLOG SITE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO SUPPORT THE WORK OF CATHOLIC LIFE MINISTRIES.  OUR MISSION IS TO AWAKEN FAITH, STRENGTHEN MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES, BUILD COMMUNITY, AND EMPOWER THE FAITHFUL TO BE A POWER FOR GOOD IN THE WORLD!  Go to: http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/donate/

 

Praying the Stations of the Resurrection

Posted May 14th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

resurrectionCatholics have grown up praying the “Stations of the Cross.”  We have been trained since childhood to walk the path of sorrow and suffering in imitation of Jesus.  We do this so that we are strengthened in our resolve to accept the “crosses” that come our way as we seek, like Jesus, to do God’s will, not ours.  Maybe this explains why outsiders who attend Catholic services often complain that there is, “not much joy coming from the Catholic faithful.”

What if we placed an equal amount of emphasis on Easter and encountering the Risen Jesus as we do on Lent and walking with the suffering Jesus?  What if we sought to encounter Jesus alive and present to us today just as He was present to His disciples in the days and weeks following his resurrection.  Remember, Christian faith in its Catholic form (or any form) is not primarily a doctrine to be believed or a moral code to follow.  It is about encountering a person, Jesus, God’s beloved Son, who is as alive for us today as He was 2,000 years go;  Jesus, who loves us with all the passion and energy of God, and who fills us with His life and breath; Jesus, the Risen One, who frees us to love and be loved.

joyWouldn’t such an encounter bring joy to our difficult and demanding lives! Wouldn’t such an encounter liberate us from the emotional roller-coaster of placing our hope and well-being on how people treat us, the ups-and-downs of the economy, or the latest political news out of Washington.  We would look forward to the Sunday gathering of disciples with joy in our hearts, knowing that the One who is convening this gathering is none other than the Risen Lord Himself!

Lori and I have developed the Stations of the Resurrection to help us and you pray through the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, with the knowledge that the truth of these stories, Jesus alive and present, is happening right now!  The “Stations of the Resurrection” are 13 different episodes from the resurrection stories of Jesus, arranged so that the reality of Jesus’ risen life will unfold before us we pray through them.  These stations are best prayed with others and in a garden or a park if possible.  If you mark 13 stations and move from one to the next, be sure to sing a familiar hymn or Alleluia when moving from station to station.

Each station is followed by a comment from a disciple of Jesus from history (a saint) who knew the risen Jesus personally as we are trying to do so today.  They are living proof that the Risen Jesus continues to be an active presence accompanying all who love Him, regardless of time, place, and station of life.  We are meeting the risen Jesus!  We are hearing His voice!  We are receiving the Holy Spirit!  Alleluia!

The Stations of the Resurrection are too long to put on this blog site.  I’m posting the first two stations so that you have a sense of how they work.  If you would like the entire set you can download them at:  http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/archives/

Post your comments!

Station 1: Jesus is placed in a tomb.

L – We adore you, O Christ, and we love you.  All – Because by your death and resurrection you have set us free.

Joseph of Arimathea…asked for the body of Jesus…he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.   Mk 15:43-47

All:  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

 From the Saints: I know of one means only by which to attain to perfection: LOVE. Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else. Love!…that is what I ask…I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus! Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the  Gospel, shed my blood …what does it matter?   St. Therese, the Little Flower

 Station 2: The Women and the Empty Tomb

L – We adore you, O Christ, and we love you.  All – Because by your death and resurrection you have set us free.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath…But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  Luke 23:55-24:3

All:  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

From the Saints:  O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center… How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with love.      St. John of the Cross

The practical purpose for Jesus’ suffering

Posted April 13th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

crucifixionIt is important to ask why we focus on Jesus’ suffering.  The answer is two-fold.  We remember his death because it was/is salvific in that it offers all of humanity and creation itself forgiveness, new life in the Spirit, and everlasting life.  But there is a more specific and practical purpose for focusing on the suffering of Jesus, as stated in 1 Peter 2:21: “Christ suffered for you that you should follow in his footsteps.”

The intent of the epistle of Peter, written to Gentile believers, is to help them fully live and witness to their faith in a hostile social environment.  These Christians were unjustly suffering in many ways – ridicule, social shunning, disqualification for public office, with the threat of physical harm as had happened to the followers of Jesus some twenty years earlier during the persecution of Nero.   The writer makes it clear what the practical meaning of Jesus’ death is for them: Christ suffered for you that you should follow in his footsteps.”

What were some of the unjust sufferings that these people endured?  The letter does not identify any specific forms of suffering endured by the Christians receiving the letter.  However, in reading “between the lines,” as well as considering what I know about the life of the early Church and the life of 1st-century Romans throughout the empire, I have some thoughts:

  • They were criticized by the Romans as being “unpatriotic” because they did not offer sacrifice to the emperor, which would be the equivalent today of refusing to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag or not standing while the national anthem was being played. Furthermore, the men in the Christian communities were considered cowards because they refused to serve in the army and fight for Rome.  Certainly such men were not allowed in civic leadership.  (Christian men refused allegiance to the emperor because this would mean worshiping an idol – the emperor considered himself a god.  They refused military service to follow Jesus’ teaching and example of non-violence.)
  • old coupleThe Roman elite ridiculed the behavior of Christians in their own homes. Christian husbands and fathers were dismissed by their Roman peers for being soft and sentimental with their wives and children.  Roman men were to rule over their families as Caesar ruled over Rome.  1 Peter admonishes all believers, to “love one another intensely from a pure heart (1:22) and husbands are to “live with your wives in understanding showing honor to the weaker female sex…” (3:7).   Christian husbands were faithful towards their wives. We get a sense of the difference between Roman and Christian behaviors in the family in St. Augustine’s confessions.  Augustine describes the abuse his mother received at the hands of her pagan husband who frequently visited temple prostitutes.
  • Christian women were not immune from ridicule. They broke from the behavior of their Roman peers who took pride in how they adorned themselves with jewelry, fine clothes, and braided hair.  Roman women could not understand and berated the Christian women who rejected such outward displays of beauty to develop “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition” (3:3-4).
  • To add scandal to scandal, these Christians welcomed at their agape meal any believer from any social class: rich and poor, slave and free, women, men and children. No one was excluded if they had been “born anew…through the living and abiding word of God” (1:23) and the waters of baptism (3:21 b).  In fact, there was little class distinction at the agape meal.
  • Lastly, these believers did exclude themselves from much that was going on in Roman society: “debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and wanton idolatry, which Paul in another letter describes as “greed.” (See Colossians 3:5.)

joy 2It is probable that Christians were treated as social outcasts and threats to the common good of Roman society as our culture treats Jehovah Witnesses today.  The writer of 1 Peter is trying to help the Christians to whom he is writing not simply get to heaven, but to live full authentic lives of faith within this hostile social environment.  His deeper spiritual intent is to help believers live in complete freedom from the distorted desires of the depraved human heart (as the Romans were perceived) so that they can do the will of God by being a power for good in the world (2:15-16).

And in response to all the slander and hatred which they are unjustly receiving from their Roman peers, 1 Peter urges believers to “not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but on the contrary, a blessing…” (3:9).

WOW!  There is so much for us learn from in this letter.  I have just touched on a few points.  Yes, one must read this letter with a critical eye and an understanding of what is written that was 1st century behavior and should stay in the 1st Century, e.g. the institution of slavery (2:18), and the unquestioned obedience of wives to abusive husbands (3:1).

I am convinced that we live in an environment that is fundamentally hostile to Christianity specifically, and authentic spirituality in general.  It is a mistake to think that any one political party has the high moral ground over another.  Each is equally immersed in the “world” of power, privilege, position, and possessions made possible by money.

We Christians and all people of good will must live in this world as best we can.  1 Peter gives us insights on how to do it:  “…live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy” 1 Peter 1:13-16.

RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS WITH YOUR HELP, YEA!

Posted April 8th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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IMG_2914Dear Friends, Catholic Life Ministries happens because of the financial and spiritual support of our donors. Recently we completed a marriage preparation program called Engaging the Engage and a marriage enrichment weekend called Hidden Treasure. The evaluations have been outstanding. We are doing good work and you make it possible; THANK YOU!

Robert and Lori

Engaging the Engaged: Preparing for a Lifetime of Success in a Sacramental Marriage

We learned how to communicate with each other, how to pray together, and how to resolve conflict.  Thank you for an amazing experience.  

There is a lot that I need to work on to be a better wife…I learned how amazing my fiancé is and all that he does for me…Thank you for accepting my faith.

IMG_2948 I need to open up more…about praying and  welcoming God…We learned some important communication skills…Thank you; you have taught me and my fiancé a lot.

IMG_2928 I need to learn/speak more of my emotions…new communications skills have been a great help…I am going to miss these sessions…Thank you for taking the time to bless us with wisdom, knowledge, and faith.

 Some important skills we learned are communication, problem-solving, and learning to forgive…Thank you for the structure of the class…These sessions put attention on things we were avoiding.

 We discovered that we both want a Sacramental marriage…We liked getting to know all the other couples…We learned to put God/Jesus at the center of our marriage.

 Hidden Treasure: Helping Couples to Discover the Amazing Gift of Their Marriage

IMG_2866I feel blessed…I loved it…many couples could benefit from all of this information.

The sessions most helpful were “Taming the Tongue” and “Marriage Is Good for Sex.”  I have more tools in my toolbox to deal with the everyday struggles of matrimony, arguments, forgiveness,  affection, friendship, honor, love, fidelity, and listening.

I feel hopeful because we don’t have to be perfect.  We need to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.  The tools [presented] over the weekend help us to be the best version of ourselves as God has meant us to be because we are not perfect.

 

IMG_2888In participating in this retreat I feel love…It reminds me that we all have a lot in common.  We all need help and     understanding at times. [This couples retreat] allows you to get to know yourself and your spouse and open your eyes. 

The session most helpful was emotional engagement because [in] my experiences, I haven’t seen emotions explained like Robert did…it was beyond my expectation.

IMG_2861[Hidden Treasure]…reinforced what I had forgotten was important in my marriage…I feel God because I was able to experience it.  I will be able to share it with others.  I saw and feel the difference it made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you win the rat race, you are still a rat.

Posted March 24th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

Regret is an awful feeling.  I’m meeting with a lot of people who have been on the fast track to American success; and now they are, well, miserable.  Some of these folks seem to have it all – great looking spouses, $1,000,000,000 homes, gifted children – and yet they are about to implode with all the stress building in their bodies over the demands of their work, tensions with those good-looking spouses, and their gifted children who are using their gifts for expensive toys, late-night escapades, and drugs and alcohol.

10543624 - an army of rats is approaching - i hope the cat is ready! 3d render with digital painting.

By certain measures, they have won the “rat race;” but they hate the persons they have become.  I’m not sure if these people would call themselves “rats,” but they often call their significant other a “rat” and a lot of other names not suitable for this G-rated column.  If only they could turn back the clock.

I also meet with young adults just starting out in life. Some are living with their love interest and are preparing for marriage now that they have school and their career path settled.  They have entered the “rat race” and are eager to win it.  How are they going to avoid the pitfalls of my older friends who now live with deep regret?

This is what I say to both groups: Are you becoming the person, family, couple that you want to be?  To put it another way: when you turn 75 and your children, family, and/or friends throw you a party, what do you want them to say about you?  If they threw that party for you today, what would they say about you?

You get to create yourself.  Yes, your family history shapes who you are, and your biology gives you certain physical, mental, and emotional parameters.  But your past and/or biology do not totally determine the person you are becoming.  You get to choose that person.  I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome your past especially if there has been abuse and /or addiction in your history. I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome certain biological limitations and challenges.  Still, when all is said and done, you can have a profound influence in shaping the person that you are becoming through the choices you make.  Here are two examples:

  • Nelson Mandela was a political activist, freedom fighter, and the first black African to be president of South Africa. Mandela spent 25 years in prison because of his work to give black South Africans the basic constitutional rights as full citizens.  He was asked by former President Bill Clinton:  tell me the truth, when you were walking to freedom the last time, didn’t you hate ’em?” He said, “Yes.  Briefly I did. I hated them and I was afraid. I hadn’t been free in so long.  And then I realized if I still hated them after I left, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.” He said, “That’s what you have to do.  That’s what we all have to do.  We have to let it go.”
  • DSCF5526Vincente was a man Lori and I met on El Camino de Santiago.  We first met him as all three of us were walking up a steep gravel path on a rainy day.  As we approached Vincente from behind, we could see that he walked slowly and with limp.  As we got closer we saw that, with one hand, he pulled a small upright basket on wheels. This contained his overnight bag. In his other hand, he held a crutch.  Clearly, he had some paralysis on one side of his body; we assumed he had had a stroke.  We stopped to talk with him; he shared his name, “Vincente,” and that he had been walking for 65 days.  He covered about 8-10 kilometers a day (5 – 6 miles) and still had at least 100 kilometers to go to reach the great cathedral of St. James in Santiago, Spain. Once he arrived there, he told us, he would meet his 85-year-old father and together they would take a holiday at the beach.  Vincente radiated joy and refused any offer to help him haul his gear up the hill.  He walked in rain and in 100-degree weather, up and down mountain passes, along some trails clearly meant only for mountain goats! He endured, taking one day at a time.  Vincente did not focus on his limitations.  He focused on what he could do; and he did it.

St. Paul writes (Romans 12:2),

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

C 3 If you are dissatisfied with who you are as a person, as part of a family, and/or in your marriage, you can change!  According to St. Paul, one gets out of the “rat race” through a renewal of the mind.  St. Paul’s exhortation coincides with current trends in psychology summarized in this phrase: change the way you think, and you’ll change the way you feel and act.  Still the transformation of the mind in Christ does not happen in a vacuum.  It happens through community. Identify the kind of person in Christ which you would like to become and start hanging around and talking with people who have those traits. If some of the issues holding you back are deeply rooted, get professional help.  Or, if you do not know what is hindering your growth, but find yourself in constant tension with the people and commitments of life, get professional help.  Get the help sooner than later.

If your car isn’t working right, you know that the longer you wait to take it to a mechanic, the worse it will be.  This is also true with the issues keeping you from becoming the person, family, and/or couple that you would like to be.  The longer you wait to get help, either from good friends or from professional counselors and spiritual directors, the harder it is to make the changes that you want to make.

Still, change is possible.  You have been created in the image of God.  You have been given the gift of free will, not simply to choose what you want to wear today or what you want to eat for supper, but to participate in creating the person that you are becoming.  If you are in the “rat race” and find that you are the “rat,” transformation in Christ is possible, no matter how old you are.  And if you are just starting out in life and don’t want to even start in on the “rat race,” that is possible too.  The choice is yours.

Post your thoughts.

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Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat: “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017, Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The desire for God is written on the human heart” (Art 26)Most people of faith want to draw close to God; we want to know God’s love and  presence in a more personal way.  If that is true for you, consider taking time for this day of prayer. This will bee a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing. Set your    calendars for:

Robert Fontana will be the retreat director.   Robert has presented retreats for families, youth, and adults for over 35 years in Catholic parisrob's professional photohes and  retreat centers in Washington, Alabama, New Jersey, Montana, Oregon, California, and Texas.  He has also taught internationally in Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, Haiti, and Belize, Central America.  Robert has a Doctorate of Ministry and a Masters in Couples and Family Therapy.

Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple           Scholarships available!

Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

LENT 2017: GET REFLECTIVE

Posted March 10th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
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By Robert Fontana

“Wait a minute, Robert, I was just at Mass. The priest challenged us to get out and serve the poor , reach out to neighbors who are suffering, and get involved with public policy to work for social change, and…”

woman-praying-at-altarI know, I know, I was at the same Mass.  And that is very tempting especially if we normally sit on our haunches and do nothing for others the rest of the year.  Lent then becomes the time to stop being lazy and do something good for others less fortunate than us.  Okay, perhaps that is what you and I need.  My problem with this approach is that, for most of us who have jobs, families, and are active in church, it simply adds additional busyness to our already busy lives.  And what it does not do is invite us to a more interior journey of prayer where we take the time – because the interior life does take time –   to examine who we are now as persons of faith, and who do we want to become in Christ.

¨ What are my relationships, habits, illusions, attitudes, biases, prejudices, attachments, addictions, and/or ambitions that are getting in the way of me becoming the person in Christ that I want to become?

¨ What are the relationships, habits, attitudes, biases, personal gifts, and practices that are helping me   become the person in Christ that I want to become?

We Christians as the one Church of God go on retreat twice a year, during Advent and Lent.  During these seasons we are often challenged to live the Gospel more intensely by reaching out to our neighbors especially the least among us.  As noble as this is, it often just adds on extra busyness which, if not accompanied by some soul-searching and deep reflection, leaves us no more  inwardly free to draw close to God and love our neighbor than when Advent/Lent began.  Interior freedom – freedom from sin and  selfishness, and freedom for love and justice – is a gift and goal that comes from being loved by Jesus:  “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery…For you were called to for freedom, brothers and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” (Gal 5:1, 13)

man-prayingCertainly, every person who takes Lent seriously ought to pray and ask Jesus to show him/her the best path for keeping Lent.  If you are drawn to “do more” this Lent be “reflectively busy.  Examine your life, who you are, why do you do what you do, and work on letting go of the little attachments, pet peeves, resentments, and bad habits that keep you from being the person you want to be in Christ.  Very often such reflection is aided by talking with a friend or elder or spiritual director with whose Christian walk you admire and respect.

You work a job, care for you family, participate in your Church.  When do you take extra time to deepen your interior life and grow in your capacity for love?  Let Lent 2017 be a retreat time for you to do just that!

Please post your comments

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Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat:  “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

C 3Robert Fontana will lead us in a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing.

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

Date:  Sunday, April 30, 2017  Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple

Scholarships available!

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center (St Mary by the Lake),

Bellevue, WA  

 Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

 

LENT FOR COUPLES: WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE!

Posted March 3rd, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot, View From the Pew
Comments Off on LENT FOR COUPLES: WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE!

By Robert Fontana

couple2Jane and John Doe have been married for 12 years.  They have two children, and each has told me that he/she loves his/her spouse.  Yet they are caught in an endless cycle of swearing at one another and yelling variations of, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE.  IF YOU DID YOU WOULD……AND YOU WOULDN’T……”

Jane and John have developed such negative thoughts about each other that no matter what the other says or does, it is interpreted in a negative and suspicious way.  Each has told me, “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”  Their marriage is holding together by a thread.

couple-withdrawingWhy did they wait for so long before they came in for help?  Imagine Jane bruising her arm badly in a fall; imagine John, cutting vegetables, getting a deep gash on his hand when the knife slipped.  Neither one goes to Urgent Care for medical care.  Then Jane and John get in an auto accident.  Jane breaks her leg, and John smashes his hand, which reopens the wound made by the knife cut; he begins to bleed profusely.  They still don’t go to ER for medical care.  THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!  When we receive an injury to our bodies, we go to the doctor for help.

It seems, however, that when we receive an injury to our marriage, when we are hurting one another over and over again, we work hard to hide it from others, and we often deny it to ourselves.  There is a social stigma about relationship and mental health challenges.  Because these health issues are often seen as shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating, we might not seek help early on, which could keep the problem at a manageable level, reasonably simple to solve.  Jane and John Doe waited until their relationship was crushed by mutual hurt and pain.  The couple was staring at an ugly and brutal divorce as they called me, hoping I could work some magic to get them back on the right track.  Can their marriage be saved?  Yes.  Will they give counseling the time, the hard work, and the patience needed to improve their relationship?  I don’t know.

hidden treasure book coverLent for couples; work on your marriage.  March 1st begins the 40 days of Lent, an ancient season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to help each of us break with sin and selfishness.  If you are married, I urge you to use Lent as a time to draw closer to one another in Christ.  If your marriage is going well, strengthen it by trying just one of these suggestions: pray together just a little more; read a faith-based book together; serve the poor together; make a retreat together; buy a copy of Hidden Treasure and do the exercises, intended to strengthen love and friendship (Hidden Treasure, a workbook to help you discover the amazing gift of your marriage, available at amazon.com or barnesandnobles.com).

If you are dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage or think that you and your spouse do not communicate as well as you should, try a retreat like Marriage Encounter (www.wwme.org), or Retrouvaille (www.retrouvaille.org) or call a marriage counselor for help.  Get help now to work through issues of miscommunication, hurt, and resentment while you and your spouse still like each other and are still friends.  If you wait to get help as a last ditch effort to avoid divorce court, it just may be too late.  At that point, you have one foot out the door and may not have the motivation to do the hard work of rebuilding your marriage.

couple holding handsPray for Jane and John Doe.  They are teetering on the edge.  With hard work, and the help of God, and the guidance of a competent therapist, I am confident that they can again become for each other a primary source of joy and happiness and minimize their being a source of frustration and unhappiness for each other.  Certainly not all marriages can or should be saved.  But I have read hundreds of case studies and books on marriage and relationship success.  I have not heard of one case in which a couple who has succeeded in working through their difficulties, regrets the hard work of setting their marriage on the right path.

Lent is here.  If you are married, consider drawing on the graces of this season to value and work on your marriage.  Pray daily for your spouse; pray daily for strong, grace-filled marriages, which form the building block of society and of the reign of God!

David Clohessy was a friend when I needed one

Posted February 19th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

david clohesseyDavid Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of People Abused by Priests (SNAP), resigned from his position in December.  He is pictured here presenting an award to me as the SNAP Lay Person of the Year, 2012.  In January, David was named in a lawsuit which claims that, in exchange for “kickbacks,” he provided names of potential clients to attorneys who were suing the Catholic Church.  David acknowledges accepting donations for SNAP from lawyers who have sued the Catholic Church, but he  denies ever accepting any money for exchange of     client information.  Lori and I believe David.

We are sad to see David leave SNAP.  Catholic   leaders have NEVER VOLUNTARILY TOLD THE TRUTH about sex abuse in the church.  The truth was pulled, pushed, and prodded out of them by survivors of sex abuse through public rallies, lawsuits, and media exposure.

David and the survivors community have been like the little shepherd boy with a slingshot and a stone, fighting the giant Goliath Catholic hierarchy, with its deep financial pockets, and a worldwide network of sympathetic government and civic leaders.  In truth, David is one of the best friends the Catholic Church has because his work is calling the Church back to its foundational principles: to live by truth which sets one free, and to protect the weak and the vulnerable, especially children.

When Lori and I first challenged the Bishop of the Yakima Diocese for his behavior of protecting  clergy and lay people who had abused or demonstrated a credible risk to abuse children, youth, or vulnerable adults, we quickly lost lots of friends.  I thought that most Catholics, including clergy with whom I had worked, would rally to our side, given the national scandal of sex abuse that had spread across the country and around the globe. But that did not happen.  Sadly, we learned that few Catholics could stomach going to Mass if they were mad at or challenging their Bishop or their pastor.

There were a handful of people who listened to our story and fully stood by us; there were a few who “got      involved” to help as we tried to expose the shenanigans of the bishop and diocesan officials who did everything but tell the truth about sexual predators in the Diocese of Yakima.

snapWe turned to David Clohessy and other SNAP   leaders for help, moral support, a listening ear, and guidance.  David had a long history of fighting Church leaders; we were just beginning.  David helped us enter into the world of survivors of sex abuse.  He taught us about the role of bishops and church officials from the victims’ side of the  story, a perspective we had never known.

We began meeting with survivors of sex abuse, some who had been abused by diocesan priests at local parishes, and others who were Native Americans abused by Jesuits or nuns at boarding schools.  We not only learned about the abuse they received as children, but also about what they  described as being “re-abused” by church leaders who refused to believe their stories, paid lip-service to their pain, and manipulated them into silence.

We also began learning about current issues of cover-up by the bishop from 1997 through 2005.  These were not cases dating back 40 and 50 years, but were happening while I was at the Diocese of Yakima.  David Clohessy was an invaluable ally who taught us to trust the survivors, to look for signs of cover-up, to question when diocesan leaders made pronouncements, and to combat diocesan stonewalling with patient commitment to uncovering the facts of a case, regardless of whom it might implicate.

During this time, I was discouraged to learn about a dear priest friend who had been living a double life of public ministry and private sexual promiscuity; he was abusing a vulnerable young adult.  I learned about two of my former spiritual directors, priests with whom I had trusted my deepest thoughts and feelings and to whom I had confessed my sins; both were connected to abuse.  One was in prison for abusing boys at a family shelter.  The other was named as the long-time sexual partner of another priest who was a serial pedophile from Spokane.

SNAPDavid never once asked that we leave the Catholic Church or quit ministry.  He merely invited Lori and me to continue to be advocates for survivors of sex abuse in the church and in society and to work at holding church leaders accountable for their behavior.  He never failed to answer a phone call, respond to a text and/or email, or give us help as we dealt with the duplicity, misinformation, and nastiness of the bishop and associates.   David was a good friend when Lori and I needed one.  We will deeply miss his leadership at SNAP; we pray the Holy Spirit will sustain and bless him and his family.

(For more information on SNAP go to snapnetwork.org or call (314) 282-9936 ).

 

We live in scary times. What to do?

Posted February 5th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Lori and Robert Fontana

We live in scary times.  How are we as Christians and   faithful citizens to respond to all that is happening?  Jesus said to read “the signs of the times” as we try to understand what God is doing in the world and to discern what God is asking of us.

mexican poorWhat are the “signs of the times”?  Here are a few obvious ones: social upheaval with a new enigmatic  American president; a world     refugee/migration crisis unparalleled since WW II; a global environmental crisis caused by human-influenced climate change; social unrest among diverse peoples left out of the global economic order (think poor farmers in southern Mexico and   factory workers in Ohio); oppression of religious minorities;   distrust of social institutions from churches, governments, banks, corporations, and media; sexual abuse of women and children; political divisions between urbanites and rural folk; and violence as a quick, easy response to unplanned pregnancies, personal insults, criminal behavior, and diplomatic challenges.

 How would one know what God is up to within all of this chaos?  One way is to consult the Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, and remind ourselves of the scandalizing teachings and behaviors of Jesus: he gathered together disciples (men, women, and children) and taught them the Beatitudes.  He ate with social outcasts; taught love of enemies; healed pagans and Jews; protected vulnerable women from abuse by men of power.  He spoke truth to power, both Jewish and  Roman; welcomed children; affirmed marriage; fed the hungry; healed the sick; and showed mercy to the condemned.  

Pray these Scriptures and seek to “put on the mind of Christ.” (Phil 2:6)  But don’t do this in isolation.  Pray through the Scriptures with others. Let your insights be tested with the thoughts of  other people of faith and good will, even if they have a perspective different than yours.  One of the great needs during these difficult times is for people of faith to be willing to listen and learn from one another:

pope francis 4 Pay Attention to Pope Francis.  Pope Francis has challenged us  – Catholics, Christians from all  denominations, and all people of goodwill – to build bridges and not walls, to welcome the migrant as a friend not an enemy, and to allow mercy to be the clearest manifestation of our faith in Jesus. 

Pope Francis is not blind to the risk of placing the Church (which means all the baptized, lay and clergy) at the service of mercy.  Francis understands “mercy” to be central to understanding who God is and what God is doing in the world through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It is risky business to allow “mercy” to shape one’s civic duty.  For Francis, this means advocating for the unborn; sheltering the homeless; respecting gays and lesbians; caring for the sick and aged; welcoming and supporting the divorced and re-married; receiving with compassion the members of all religious traditions; speaking with and listening to   political opponents; working to eliminate the human contributions to climate change; and joining with all people of goodwill to work for the common good. 

Our Christian faith has challenged us over the years to transform our thinking.  For example, we have always worked as   advocates for the unborn, but I once favored capital punishment.  In prayer and through the writings of Pope John Paul II and the example of Sr. Helen Prejean, I was challenged to rethink my position.  We had never talked with a follower of Islam; but the examples of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope Francis challenged us to meet with Muslims, attend their Friday prayer, and learn from them how they view the world.  We would resist attempts to impose sharia law on others, but the Muslims we met we gladly welcome as neighbors. 

During these difficult times, we want to be about what God is doing in the world.  We, Lori and Robert, want to be careful that we are on God’s side of on an issue, and not simply trying to pull God to our side/our view of an issue.  Very often this means standing in the middle of an issue and holding on to the good from the “left” and the “right.”  We encourage you to do the same.

All of us can do this if we draw close to Jesus, talk and listen to others who may be different from us, and pay attention to the actions and wisdom of Pope Francis who is convinced that “MERCY” is the word the Holy Spirit has given us to respond to the “signs of the times.”