Family Life: Love Preferences

Have you ever given your wife or husband a gift only to have them not appreciate it the way you had hoped?  I live in a house with a 2 car garage and when my wife Brandi and I were dating she would come over often with her dog and if it was raining or icy out and they would be a mess, so I thought, “hey her birthday is coming up I’m going to give her something thoughtful, something considerate…a garage door opener!”  This has gone down as one of the worst gifts she’s ever been given. See, we don’t all value affection in the same way and that’s what we’re talking about today, love-preferences.

Marriage Bank Account

There’s a fantastic book by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek called, “Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving the First Five Years of Marriage and in it they discuss the fact that our level of fulfillment in our marriage can be thought of like a bank account meaning the relationship has a balance and there are things you do for one another that are like making deposits into this account, but if one person or the other isn’t really giving into the relationship, then the account can go into a negative balance.  I really like this analogy and often refer to it.  Once I sent Brandi flowers and even wrote a little note on a bank deposit slip to point out that I was intentionally making an effort to do something nice for her.  Sometimes though you do and do and do and the other person just doesn’t see any of that effort you are making to enhance the relationship.  That can lead one to think, “well what’s the point?” or feel unappreciated and this is actually one of the most difficult things for couples to change about themselves.  Honestly, it is the biggest reasons why relationships don’t work out.  According to the Popceks, the leading cause for marital breakdown is when people aren’t willing to love their spouse more than their comfort zone.  It’s not that couples aren’t compatible, they’re just unwilling to do what it takes to make their spouse feel loved.

Love Preferences

Recently, Fr. Tom during a homily said that love isn’t a feeling, love is a choice.  I think that’s a great segway to what we’re discussing here.  I’m sure that at some point you have heard the term “love language”.  In the Popceks’ book they use the term “lovestyle” which is a good way to think about it.  They identify three categories of styles that people tend to fall into in the way that they receive affection:  

  • Visual – all about the love notes, flowers and gifts.  I can see that you love me.
  • Auditory – tell me you love me, let’s talk so that I can hear that you love me.
  • Kinesthetic – show me you love me by doing something for me.  I need to feel loved.

One of the activities in their book is to sit down and write out 25 specific things that your spouse has done or could do that would make you feel loved and then share it with your partner.  I have to admit that this exercise is really challenging.  Brandi is direct and literal as she’s an engineer, so there have been times in our marriage where she’s said, “Ray obviously you’re upset that I didn’t do something, just tell me so that I can do it next time.”  I’m the kind of person that’s like, “I shouldn’t have to tell you, you should know me well enough to figure it out and do it.” There have been times where she’s pointed out that sometimes I don’t even know what I really need in order to feel appreciated causing her to throw up her hands in exasperation and say, “How can I love you when you don’t even know how you want to be loved?!?” Obviously I have the wrong approach and it’s no wonder I’ve been through a divorce!  In an attempt to avoid a second, I finally wrote out a list for her and she did the same.  It was eye opening.  A random “I love you” text for no reason makes her day.  Text me in the middle of the day and I’m like Scrooge “Bah!  Why are you bothering me while I’m trying to work!”  She’s a words person, a little auditory and a lot visual.  I’m a kinesthetic spend time with me kind of person.  It means the world to me when she or even our kids hang out with me in the kitchen after dinner rather than retreating to their rooms.

You could think of these different love-preferences as your currency.  If you want to make a deposit into your marital bank account, you need to do it in a way that you’ll get credit for by your partner.  Just like banks don’t always accept bills from foreign countries, our spouses don’t always receive our efforts because of their style.

Time For Reflection

One thing that can make or break a marriage is taking time to reflect on your relationship and discuss how you both are doing.  It sounds awkward and it can be at first, but setting aside time to say, “hey I noticed that you brought me coffee this morning and I really appreciated it.” goes a long way and reinforces that you both are making effort to go in the right direction.  So, when are you going to do this?  People talk about the importance of date nights, but that’s not regularly all that practical for many of us especially with small children…or older children with activities…or people who take business trips…or those with no children but lots of volunteer activities… (see where I’m going with this?  There’s always something.)  A great way to guarantee time to reflect on your relationship is to participate in a marriage retreat.  We are putting one on this October 7th here at the parish and it’s just a one day deal.  Come in the morning, listen to Fr. Alessandro share some insight into God’s plan for our marriages and have an opportunity to reflect on what is going well and what could go better.  We will have time for prayer and reconciliation and end the day with a private Mass followed by a candlelight dinner.

Taking time to figure out your own love-preferences and then sharing them with your partner is a relationship changing experience.  And it’s important to note that this isn’t just something for people who are on the verge of a break down or anything like that.  Everyone’s relationship gets better when you make intentional effort to be more of what your spouse needs you to be.  Troubled relationships can be saved, but great marriages can get even better.

Next Time

I promised some examples of good Catholic parenting and that’s what we’re going to talk about next time when we turn our focus back to practical things you can do to pass on our faith to your kids.  See you then!

Family Life: Super-Parents

by Ray Martin

There’s that mom whose Instagram feed shows the decorated cake she made that’s all tricked out with intricately detailed fondant cut-outs of dinosaurs and palm trees or a Barbie dream castle…we often think, “wow she seems to have it all together, what a super-mom!” Good news! You don’t have to be a cake boss to have celebrity status at home because parents truly are superheroes…to their kids.

Most Influential Pastors

If you missed our last article, we were talking about Micro-Churches and how our homes are the domestic church where our identities about a lot of things in our culture are formed including our faith. (You can go back and watch or read it here.) This week we are diving deeper into that National Study of Youth and Religion that I mentioned specifically more of their overall findings. The first important thing to note is that parents were found to be the “most influential pastors” of their children.  More than priests, youth ministers, faith formation teachers, etc.  Parents:

  • Define the role faith ought to play in life
  • Set a glass ceiling of religious commitment which children rarely rise above

All other formation only matters if it is important to mom and dad, but we as parents don’t realize the incredible power of influence that we have. Why? Because cultural scripts say the opposite. We hear all the time that teenagers never talk to their parents or that kids learn about things like sex at school or from friends, but that’s not true and when it comes to religion if parents model that faith is important, then their kids stay involved.

Secret Sauce

Here are some sobering facts about the current transmission of faith among youth in the U.S. Overall, Catholics, Jewish, and Mainline Protestants are less likely ten years later to be more religious or to have grown in their faith. The NSY&R found that among their study:

  • 29% of youth stayed plugged in to their religion
  • 25% had a shallow decline
  • 13% had a steep decline and were not very involved anymore
  • 25% never were religious in their home and probably won’t be

At first glance this can sound grim, but if you look at the homes that were successful in having their kids continue to be active in their religion, the secret ingredient was that parents showed that faith is important and they were involved which indirectly gave them the opportunity to talk about religion at home. No other influence comes close to matching the influence of parents on religious faith practices of youth.

What’s My Super-Power?

Recently, one of my kids was with me after 5pm Mass and there was a visitation in the gathering space going on as we were leaving. As we walked through the crowd, he noticed a display table that had photos of the deceased, an old coca-cola can, a ball cap from his favorite team, and a small metal train. My son asked me why there was a train on the table and I explained that the man who passed away must have been into trains, so his family brought one for people to remember that about him because it symbolized something that he liked. As we walked out to the car, I asked my son if this were my funeral, what kinds of things would he want to set out on a table to symbolize me? “Coke Zero!” he shouted. (I drink bourbon or rum and coke zero at home…apparently a lot…) Thankfully he didn’t answer Captain Morgan. “Anything else?” I hesitantly asked. “A camera because you like to take pictures…and…your phone. You’re always on your phone.”

Ok, I was hoping at minimum for a guitar since I love to lead worship and maybe, oh I don’t know, a crucifix or rosary or something faith based! Nope. Drinking, taking pictures, and ignoring my children by looking at my phone is apparently what I’m known for!

The thing is, we don’t even realize that our kids are watching. They are observing. They are forming their identity off of the things that we think are valuable. If we want our children to grow up and believe that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment then we have to show them that by genuinely witnessing that in our own daily life and then talking to them about it. That’s our super-power! That’s the tremendous call that we have as stewards of God’s children that He has entrusted to us. We read in Luke 12:48 “much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

The key question that children answer when they are forming their personal identity is “Does this matter to my parents?” Show them the value of our religion by your participation in the life of The Church. Talk to them about it. You don’t have to have all of the answers or be a theology expert. Faith isn’t about that, it’s about being a witness and following the will of God for your life.

Studying this research and listening to what my kids have to say about me lately has been eye opening and scary, but we can begin to work together on how we can make a difference and start to change those statistics of children who remain Catholic. Plug in to the parish. Get more active in our community and start talking to your kids about it. There are tons of amazing families who I see doing this at Ascension, but I know there could be more.

Stay Tuned

Next time, we’re going to unpack what successful Catholic households look like and offer practical ways that we can be more intentional in forming the faith of our micro-church at home.

 

Sources: National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus (YouTube)

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Family Life: Micro-Churches

by Ray Martin

Our homes are these magical little culture breeding environments. Oh, not just bacteria…with six kids and two dogs, our house is crawling with nastiness, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Today we’re going to talk about Micro-Churches.

There was this National Study of Youth & Religion that started back in the 90’s and I’ve been watching a video recently by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus who conducted the research and interviews and they describe how household members process pieces of moral lessons and media and faith and form a little micro-culture that shapes the future of the children raised there. The family then in turn brings their culture out into the community where they have an influence of the culture there.  So good or bad, our homes are little culture shaping factories.

This is why the Vatican II Council coined the phrase “domestic church” in reference to our homes. They said that parents should be the example and first teachers of the faith to their kids encouraging them to discover their vocation or calling in life. Now we’re used to hearing people say that “God has a plan for us” and it’s in the home where we learn how to discern what that mission is.

There’s a beautiful quote by Pope Francis on our day to day faith life. He said, “It is important to have a daily relationship with [God], to listen to him in silence before the Tabernacle and deep within ourselves, to speak with him, to draw near to the sacraments. Having this familiar relationship with the Lord is like keeping the window of our lives open so that he can make us hear his voice and hear what he wants us to do.” It’s not realistic to think that we can develop this relationship with God on a daily basis at Church. It’s got to be percolating at home too.

Catholic Parenting Goal

So, what’s the goal of Catholic parenting? Many would say it’s helping our kids and spouses become saints. Which is fine, but what does that really look like? I’m finding that it is up to us as parents to help teach our kids how to hear God’s voice and discern what He wants them to do with their life, which then results in their path to sainthood.

How do we do that? Well that Vatican II Council said that we need to have a “vocational approach to life”. That’s going to look much different and counter-cultural than most of our neighbors. It requires being authentic in hearing God’s voice and being open to the things that will present themselves to us when we follow God’s will. Frankly, it means that we as parents have to show our children a faith life where love and grace is the foundation that’s going to satisfy the desire of their hearts, and that will cause people in our lives to notice that there is something different about us, something meaningful, something joyful. And in doing that that, our families can change the world.

What does success look like? We will be able to look back and know that we did it right when our kids recognize that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment.

Here To Help

That study I mentioned also stated that parents are the “most dominant influencers” in the culture of a household, that magical mini-culture developing organism. They said that whatever level of faith the parents have forms kind of a glass ceiling and the children of that home usually don’t go beyond that level of commitment to their faith.

We at Ascension are here to help you be successful in your mission of raising future saints who know God’s voice and follow His direction for their life, but you have to be the director, the one who says, “we’re going to Mass this weekend”, or “how about I run you over to youth group and then I’d love to hear what you thought about it?”

Nothing we do at the Parish matters without your endorsement. So, here’s what we’re doing at the Family Life office to help equip you to be successful. We are studying resources on parenting and marriage to share with you. We understand the craziness of daily life, but we’re also highly aware of the efficient ways that we can receive and share information. So all that you need to do is plug in with us.

How To Connect

Subscribe to our kcascension YouTube channel, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll find our videos that we will be posting. We will recap the information that we’re sharing in a blog post on kcascension.org and in our weekly bulletin that you can pick up after Mass on the weekends. Please share this stuff! Share it with your friends online, grab an extra bulletin and give to a fellow parent to talk about.

Ultimately, we want to offer you something meaningful, something valuable, something that actually works, so that you can more intentionally shape the culture brewing in your home life and in return, that faith shared by your family will bless our Parish because of the love of Christ that you are pouring back into the culture our community and the world. We look forward to seeing you again here soon!

 

Sources: Love is Our Mission, National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus, and Discovering God Together by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek.

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Hot Topics Speaker Series: Immigration And Islam

Immigration and Islam: Principles for Discernment

As Catholics, we know we are expected by the teachings of the Lord to love and offer hospitality to those in need. We are also called by our Lord to protect the innocent. Do these commands create an irresolvable tension when it comes to immigration and Islam? Listen to Dr. Troy Hinkel, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mission for the Holy Family School of Faith offer principles of discernment for Catholics on this sensitive yet crucial issue.

Recorded live Friday, March 31st at Church of the Ascension.

For more info please contact woleary@kcascension.org.

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What Makes Divine Mercy Sunday Such A Big Deal?

Divine Mercy Image
Original painting of the Divine Mercy (by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934). Public Domain courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Ray Martin

I knew that Divine Mercy Sunday was always after Easter and that it was a day to recognize the victory won for us by the resurrection of Christ, but after hearing Fr. Alessandro talk about it during his homily on Easter where he said that Jesus wants to offer us “special graces” that will flow down on Divine Mercy Sunday and how we should participate in going to confession, I thought maybe there’s more to this feast day than I’m aware of.  The more I started looking into it, I realized that I really had no idea what made this coming Sunday so important.  I knew there was an image, a painting of the image that St. Faustina saw and that she had written a diary, but that’s about all I could come up with.

So What is Divine Mercy Sunday?

Well, Pope John Paul II declared that the Sunday immediately following Easter should be Divine Mercy Sunday.  Why?  Apparently in the 1930’s Jesus told St. Faustina, a nun from Poland, that not only should we celebrate a Feast of Mercy, but that it should be the Sunday after Easter.  Pope John Paul II made this surprise announcement in a homily on May 5, 2000 when he Canonized St. Faustina who had written the messages that she was being given by the Lord.  

If you’re being hard on yourself for not realizing that this feast day was important, you partly don’t know a lot about it because:

  1. it’s relatively new as of the turn of the millennium
  2. Catholics aren’t forced to believe in the visions of St. Faustina, they’re the tradition that the Feast is based on…but it’s not ALL that it’s based on.

Even back in the Old Testament we hear about the mercy of God, and then Jesus himself spread a message of our merciful Father who wants us to show mercy to the sick, the poor, the naked, the thirsty, etc.  The ultimate act of Love demonstrated by Christ in dying on the Cross showed us that there’s no sin so great that can’t be forgiven by God if we chose to turn back to Him.

What Makes Divine Mercy Sunday So Special?

Reconciling with our Father is the biggest benefit of this Feast of Mercy.  There are many ways to do so, but what marks this day so extraordinary is that there’s a Plenary Indulgence offered by The Church, a special one.

What’s The Difference Between A Plenary Indulgence & Going To Confession?

I’m glad you asked because I had to look it up myself!  Here’s my understanding: when we are given absolution from our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest says, “I absolve you from all of your sins”.  As an ambassador or representative of Christ himself, we are forgiven in that very moment from our sins.  (If you aren’t sure who gave them the right to do so, check out John 20:22 where Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the Disciples and tells them to go forgive sins).  The Church says that after we confess, we are no longer separated from the love of God meaning we’ll go to heaven, but depending on what we did God might keep us in Purgatory for a little while.  Yes, we’re reconciled in our relationship with God, however there could still be a temporal punishment where we need to be purified on our way to eternal life in communion with the Saints.

A Plenary Indulgence however, can eliminate even the temporal punishment, or time in purgatory.  The Plenary Indulgence offered by The Church on Divine Mercy Sunday is unique because rather than being available for others or souls already in purgatory, it’s only available for yourself.

How Do We Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday And Get These Extraordinary Graces?

  • Go to confession on or before Divine Mercy Sunday
  • Attend Mass and receive the Eucharist
  • Participate in a Divine Mercy Prayer Service which will include adoration, praying the Creed, and a devotional prayer to our merciful Lord Jesus such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”

Ascension will host a prayer service at 3:00pm this Divine Mercy Sunday April 23rd, 2017 in the church where we will sing a Divine Mercy Chaplet, offer the sacrament of Reconciliation, and experience Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  All are welcome to attend!

For more on Divine Mercy visit www.thedivinemercy.org or USCCB.

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Return to Me with Your Whole Heart

By Sarah Streitwieser 

Just as in Mass the few drops of water, which are poured into the chalice, are changed with the wine into Your Blood, O Lord, take my wretchedness, plunge it into your heart, make it disappear in you.

— Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

I gaze upon You on the altar in the adoration chapel, in the Blessed Sacrament where I know You dwell.  Here, You are easy to encounter, clothed in austerity and humbly hidden beneath the element of bread.  You make Yourself simple, that I might simply return to You.  I long to join You in Your sacrifice, but once again I find my heart slow.

Lord, how I long to return to You with my whole heart.  Your call is so simple, yet it confounds me.  If I am honest, I see how easily my heart is divided.  Over and over I run back to You like a child with arms open in simple trust.  Yet I easily become distracted and wander off mid-course.  I am lured away by my own want for comfort, or my own busyness and false sense of self-importance.  Why am I so easily diverted from Your embrace? Why do these contrary desires pull me away from You, whom I desire above all else?

During Mass I try to place myself in with the communion gifts.  I want to lay down my whole heart and my entire will; I want to offer myself with the bread and wine.  In some small way I want to give myself up for You, as You have sacrificed Yourself for me.  I hope that by this act I might give my whole heart to You, undivided, and that You might somehow transubstantiate me with You in Your consecration.

I look to the bread and wine, but find that I do not fit with them.  How I long to be like the simple wafers, laid low in humility, without the slightest trace of leaven.  I, who am often puffed up with pride, self-rising in my vanity – I am not lowly like the communion bread.  How many great saints have hidden themselves with You here in humility?  Like St. Therese of Lisieux, how many saints have found You in their smallness?  I look to the wine and find that I cannot place myself in the chalice.  I am not so grand, nor am I prized like the wine is.  I am no more a great saint than I am a small one.  I am not like St. George; I am not strong or bold enough to slay my own dragons.

My son nudges me just before the transubstantiation, with words that I know must come from Your divine prompting, Lord.  He asks about the few drops of water that are poured into the chalice with the wine.  He does not ask why water is added to the communion offering, nor does he ask what the water symbolizes.  He simply wants to know where the water comes from.  He goes on to elaborate, “Is it from the Holy Water font?  Is it special water prepared and bottled by some religious order somewhere?” “No, I think it is just regular water,” I respond.  “Like from the sink?” he asks.  “I think so,” I say. “And it will be changed into Jesus too?” “Yes,” I answer.  He concludes, “Well, that’s some lucky water.”

In these words, Lord, I hear Your simple invitation. If I am not as humble as the bread or as great as the wine, I can still offer myself to You, as ordinary as water.  You reach out toward me again, and invite me to Your table. You ask me to participate, undeserving as I may be, in Your transubstantiation.  Though I remain imperfect and divided, You make a way for me to return to You as I am, with my whole heart.

Hot Topics Speaker Series: Homosexuality-Andrew Comisky

Our Parish Council has recommended this year that Ascension offers a series of presentations on various issues happening in society today.  We’ve called it the “Hot Topics Series”.

Below are a list of resources from our first night.

Homosexuality

Andrew Comisky’s Presentation (Watch it here)

Other Resources

~ Bishop Barron Interview (among others topics, this interview covers                    homosexuality/gay marriage)