Reflections on Being a Woman and Being a Man

The Church illustrates, through its understanding of the complementarity of men and women, that there is something unique about being a woman, and something unique about being a man — and that the two sexes are equal. 

Equality as human persons created in the image of God does not imply that men and women are the same. As John Paul II put it, “masculinity and femininity” are “two different ‘incarnations,’ that is, two ways in which the same human being, created ‘in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27), ‘is a body’” (Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, 8:2).

One of the beautiful but more complicated aspects of Catholicism is the development of doctrine within the Tradition of the Church. Development of doctrine does not mean that the Church’s teaching changes, but that her understanding of particular truths deepens. Sometimes this means that an interpretation of Scripture reaches a new level of meaning.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Motherhood, Secondary Infertility and Salvation

I stood with tears streaming down my face on the edge of a lake in Grand Tetons National Park late last summer in the only place where my phone had reception. I listened to my Catholic doctor explain the complicated process of making my womb a habitable place for a potential baby. Then came the agonizing days of discerning with my husband whether to proceed with treatment or just accept my health as it was. With four children on earth and three who passed during the first trimester of pregnancies, we already had much to be thankful for as parents. Further, this treatment could potentially cause more health problems.

We ended up deciding to try the treatment for several months — long enough to give it a chance to work, but not so long as to harm my own health long term. It seemed reasonable and felt right to give my body a chance to carry another child. However, we also acknowledged that my years of fertility might be prematurely over: my being able to bear another child might not be part of God’s plan.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Women and Men are Equal in Nature and in Grace

There has been a lot of discussion in the online world of “Catholic Twitter,” podcasts, and in the blogosphere about men and women — their complementarity, whether or not they are equal, and how they are different. Podcaster Timothy Gordon stated on The Matt Fradd Show that the Church has taught against married women working, and he said that the New Testament and natural law point to the idea that “men and women are utterly unequal,” though equal in dignity. He did not, however, go on to explain how they are “utterly unequal,” except to state that men are “bigger, stronger” and have a “different forebrain.” He holds that natural law proves, and Christian tradition supports, that a husband is the boss of his wife. Yet, the only argument he gave for this is that in all of human history this has been the case, and only since the feminist movements has the trend of men having authority over women and of men being seen as higher than women been questioned.

The problem with these statements about the inequality of men and women is that they overlook that, since they are human beings, members of the same species, men and women have all of the same powers. Thus, one cannot say that they are “utterly unequal.”

Women and men are first of all rational animals, human beings, made in the image of God. All humans have an intellectual power to reason, learn, understand and know God. Both men and women have wills where they can freely choose good or evil. They have passions and appetites that influence these choices and must be ruled over by reason. These abilities to do things are called their powers. Men and women have the power to love God, love others, see, speak, eat, walk, have conversations, make plans, teach others, use and create tools, and so many other things. They are the same in all of these things.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register.

NCRegister Blog: When We Accompany We Also Need to Speak the Truth

I want to tell you a few stories of accompaniment and discernment about real people. The first is about a man who once made a great sacrifice for the sake of living the Christian faith. When he was 17 years old he had a son with a woman whom he could not or would not marry. They spent 15 years together raising this son. He had been interested in the Catholic Church from his childhood, but it took him many years to come to believe in all of the Church’s truths. His mother who was Catholic prayed and sacrificed for him everyday, and devoted her life to helping him know and accept the truths revealed by God to the Church. During these long years he learned the teachings of the Church, was drawn to the beauty of truth, grew a real love for God in his heart. He learned much from a bishop, whom this young man described as one of those “who speak the truth, and speak it well, judiciously, pointedly, and with beauty and power of expression” (Christian Doctrine IV.21). It was the truth that compelled this young man to desire to be Catholic.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

NCRegister: “Inloveness,” Virtue, and NFP

The professor and I co-wrote this one:

We began to fall in love in the early spring during college.

The chemistry was quite obvious. During the summer before we got engaged, we read A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, in which he tells the story of the deep “inloveness” between himself and his wife, Davy.

We, too, like Davy and Sheldon, wanted to preserve and deepen our inloveness. In our marriage, our use of natural family planning, with all of its struggles and suffering, plus the joy of our children, has been a key instrument in deepening our inloveness; it has aided our growth in virtue…

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Nine Years Ago…

I married him nine years ago on a hot, sunny, June day in St. Louis. We were surrounded by our family and friends who traveled from across the country to witness our Sacrament together. I did this walk down memory lane two years ago in which I highlighted our first seven years of marriage. So, I am going to go ahead and just cover the last two years.

On the way to Idaho.

Year Eight: Our eighth year of marriage began shortly after the birth of T, who turned out to be the most difficult infant of our marriage in that he is still a light sleeper and cut eight teeth between the age of 3 and 8 months. There were so many sleepless nights. During the day though, he was pretty happy. We took a trip to Idaho with newborn T for a philosophy conference–I read Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope and the professor discussed the interim state. In the school year, I still managed to teach first grade to G and keep the other kids happy. I think that we started to find a good rhythm. The professor still thrived as a young professor. In the Spring I was asked to start blogging at the National Catholic Register, which has been a blessing and honor to be able to do. The Spring also brought my most tragical (I spelled that this way on purpose) fall down the basement stairs and a three month concussion recovery. G made her first Reconciliation and First Communion.

Photo by G–the other girls were not impressed with Steubenville’s campus.

Year Nine: This last year has been wonderful. Perhaps it has been because our oldest has reached the magic age of seven. We are only 6 months from having another child older than seven. It also could be because T finally reached the age of one–that second year is one of my favorite for babies. We set a goal of no ER visits this year, and we have made it. Hopefully we can go another year sans the ER (though we almost went a couple of weeks ago when I had two kids with fevers at 104°F). We had a fun trip in the summer with our closest college friends and all of our children, including a brief stop at Steubenville. The professor and I explored a variety of new cocktails together, and started a new project of watching all of Shakespeare’s plays (we are doing this mostly in one hour segments with BBC Television Shakespeare which is available streaming through the professor’s university library). This has been quite fun. The professor is getting geared up for his tenure review, gave his first key-note talk at a conference, and is planning a book. I have been reading the Summa Theologiae, writing, theological editing for Blessed is She, and hope to throw together a written Bible study in my spare time. The rest of my time has been spent home schooling second grade, kindergarten, and pre-K, and discovering the joys of having a toddler boy. Our lives our full, and I think we are growing in love and devotion to God daily.

I am learning daily about how raising children and living in marriage is a vocation because it is leading to my sanctification, that of my husband’s, and for the sake of my children to become holy as well. That is what this life is about; that is the end for which we are created. This sacrament of matrimony is about being called to holiness and loving God through our sacrifices and acts of love for each other. That is what we are striving to do, calling each other out in, and falling on God’s mercy and grace time after time, because try as we might, we cannot do this without Him. I can’t believe we are just one year shy of a decade… but here we are living on a prayer under the mercy.

Happy Anniversary to the love of my life!

At the NCRegister: The Grace of Christian Marriage is a Fruit of Christ’s Cross

A couple of weeks ago when Pope Francis made his most recent comments about valid marriages, I was busy making preparations for my sister’s wedding. I read the commentary surrounding it, and discussed it with my husband, but mostly I thought about the upcoming wedding of my sister and her now husband.
They were married in a beautiful Catholic wedding at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, which was a long awaited event on both sides of the family as the bride and the groom had both been hoping and praying to find someone to marry for several years. And that made the event all the more joyful as they were surrounded by many nieces and nephews and family and friends who were so happy for them.

During the liturgy leading up to their vows, it struck me how Christ and the Church made the Sacrament of Marriage something that one could not enter into unknowingly if one paid attention to the words being spoken. One who has been to Catholic weddings may recall how the priest or deacon presiding over the vows asks the bride and the groom three things: (1) if they have come to be married freely and without reservation, (2) if they will love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of their lives, and (3) if they will accept children lovingly from God. Here before the vows can even be made the conditions are laid down for a valid marriage.

To My Sister on the Occassion of Her Marriage

My Dear Mrs. E,

You are married! Your wedding was such a wonderful, happy weekend despite the sweltering heat and late nights for the children. And it seemed so fitting for you as a bride to be surrounded by SIX swirling flower girl nieces who could not take their eyes off you the whole day. They will always remember your feminine beauty as they watched you wed yourself to your husband, their new UNCLE!

But as I watched you that morning, as I waited to walk up the aisle before you on the arm of our brother (thank you for that, by the way, I was thrilled to be walking with him), all my memories of our childhood together came back to me. I feel like I left the family house in a whirlwind of college, falling, in love, and moving away. You, my sister, took your time. You grew into a beautiful, mature, whole woman, and you waited until the precise time God wanted for you, for the exact person. God prepared your hearts for each other. And I can’t wait to see you living as a married women just three hours away from us.

Back to our childhood; those years of us three sisters in our room together. First there was the small room upstairs where I was a toddler and little girl, and then the big bedroom in the basement with you sleeping under the stairs. You and our sister showed me the way to be. I always liked having my two big sisters around. In elementary school, you were always there to ride the bus with me. Remember the time I brought the pet mice home in a cardboard box on the bus? I only wanted them because you had a pet mouse before me. And I copied you in wanting an American Girl Doll. And being the younger sister I tagged along to all of your soccer games and gymnastics meets. I watched you and our older sister do all the things that I was too shy to do. And you both did them so well.

I think that my favorite time of childhood together was the two years we had together in high school. We may have fought everyday on the way to school, as I grumpily submitted to your favorite Bebo Norman music. I had my big sister around to drive me to and from school. And we had a lot of fun going to Bebo concerts whenever he was in town! I also learned how to go deeper into my faith with you as we went to several youth groups together. It was through your youth group that I went to my first Steubenville Youth Conference, which changed the course of my life. We tried to go to daily Mass before school every morning, but ended up being late for school too often and having to stop. Those two years of high school together were such a special time. And then you went to college. But while you were in college our oldest sister began to live at home while she finished college. And while you lived on campus, you still were around at home.

And then two years into your college life, I went off to Steubenville. You came to visit me on campus, and you met the man I was slowly falling in love with. The summer after my first year of college, we took that memorable road trip to Michigan to visit the him. You were always so supportive of me in my relationship with him.

While I was finishing high school and off in college, you were advancing in PT school, using your knowledge to help your friends and family. You taught me how to run without injuring my knees. I had never been able to be a runner before, but you changed my gait and helped me be a runner (a slow and short distance one, but a runner nonetheless). Our sister pointed out to me over the weekend how she sees your whole life having been pointing towards being a PT, beginning with you always sitting head down on the couch and into your years of doing and then teaching gymnastics and now your ability to intuit so many things about the body. You have helped so many people, and God will make the opportunities for you to do it still when you are in Iowa.

After I got married and began to have children, you were always the most attentive aunt. Never a visit went by without you teaching my youngest to do something new developmentally. And while you did not get to play with him your wedding weekend, your baby nephew decided to take his first steps this week in honor of your marriage; he shouts “go, go, go!” and wobbles a few steps before collapsing. We will have to show you when we see you next.

So, my dear sister, you are really, truly married. I was there; I heard your vows; I fixed your train a dozen times or so. You were and are a beautiful bride. And I am praying for you and your sweet, loving husband. I am so excited to get to know you better as a the one you two have become.

May God grant you many happy, full, holy years together.

Your Loving Sister,

At the NCRegister Blog: Why We Should All Prayerfully Read ‘Amoris Laetitia’

My husband and I spent our free time the weekend after the release of Amoris Laetitia reading the document, and we would both say that it was really good for our marriage. We liked what we read in the document about marriage and family life as it was full of theological truths and many times practical ways to live out marriage. We have also had many conversations with friends about the document, read many commentaries of it, discussed what really is going on with Chapter 8 (which I am not going to add to the buzz there). One of the concerns a friend had (besides all the issues surrounding Chapter 8) was that the pope really did not state anything new about marriage. What was the whole point of the document if he was just going to reiterate the same teachings on marriage that the Church has always held?

9 Inspiring Married Couples in Literature Worth Emulating

I am over at Church POP today, writing about married couples in literature. This was a hard list to compile as most of my favorite novels are full of unmarried, widowed, or onesided marriages (one person good and the other not so good).

I tried to stick with classic novels or widely known novels for the list, but if you have a great example, please comment on the article.

Click on over to see the list!

9 Inspiring Married Couples in Literature Worth Emulating