This Love Triangle is Good For Your Marriage


My wife and I participate in our local parish Pre-Cana program helping to prepare couples for marriage, and we find this opportunity to be a great blessing to us as individuals and as a married couple. I find it particularly inspiring that Christ’s first reported miracle occurred during a marriage ceremony, for we truly need miracles to help those about to embark on this sacred mission in a society which threatens its very existence.

Normally, the phrase “Love Triangle” conjures images of infidelity, deception, and corruption of the very essence of what Christian marriage should be all about.  After all, aren’t we talking about committing ourselves to one other person, through richer and poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part? Given that promise, how can one then be in love with another person while committed to someone in Christian marriage?

The answer is simple. That Other One, to Whom we must be committed, even as we are committed to a spouse in Christian marriage is, of course, Christ. In order for our marriage to be truly blessed by the Lord, we must invite Him to every facet of that union, and trust completely in Him within that union as well. Rather than making decisions with our own personal and individual agendas in mind, or even with the combined agendas of  husband and wife in mind, we must include Christ in our discussions, deliberations, and decisions as well.

The media often portrays a married couple about to make love as turning all images of Christ away, indicating that it is somehow disconcerting or uncomfortable to express physical love to a spouse with Christ overhead.  While I am not suggesting that people make love surrounded by religious statues or pictures, neither am I indicating that we should make so diligent an effort to push Christ out of our love life.  The truth be told, being surrounded by one hundred statues and religious pictures means  nothing if the hearts, minds, and souls of those about to  make love do not embrace the Presence of Christ in their marriage in all areas and on all levels.

The married couple should pray together as often as is feasible. They should ask God to bless their marriage and family whenever possible.  They should teach their children to easily see God as a loving Partner in their young lives as well.  If a Christian marriage is a symbol of God’s love for us, then it follows that God’s love and Presence must be embodied in any Christian marriage, not  just in words or symbols, but in the very depth and essence of what that marriage is about.

Like it or not, the wine in all marriages can run out as it did  in Cana. The struggles, hardships, and obstacles of life can certainly impede the spiritual progress of any union. We may often find ourselves “running on empty” in coping with the everyday difficulties which face all marriages, not to mention Christian ones.  This is why we must invite Christ into our marriages, not just as an invited, temporary Guest but, more importantly, as a permanent Presence, a Source of Love rejuvenation which all marriages must have in order to survive our society’s present moral winter.

Copyright, 2014,  Gabriel Garnica.  All Rights Reserved.

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I Should Have Prayed in Front of Fordham


I will begin by revealing that I am a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education in its Lincoln Center campus, where I earned a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling a few years ago.   Looking back, my Fordham experience was a tale of two divergent realities. Academically, I feel that I received a very good graduate education with generally good professors, a number of whom are top notch in their field.  My spiritual experience at Fordham was a different matter, however.  I expected to experience some inconsistency with traditional Catholic teaching, given the environment we live in, but what I encountered was a blatant illustration of why Catholic education in this country, apart from some noble exceptions, is a disaster.

By “Catholic Education” I mean an education which manages to combine outstanding academic preparation with a deepening in core Catholic teaching for Catholic students and a fair, balanced presentation of issues relevant to the Catholic Church for non-Catholics.  What I experienced was merely a Catholicism dripping in the social justice rubbish that has been used by secular liberals to promote loads of positions and agendas contrary to traditional, core Catholic teaching. I refer the reader to my pieces http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/garnica/120216  and http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/garnica/120321  wherein I outlined why major so-called Catholic institutions like Fordham, Georgetown, and Notre Dame have become dens of dissident indoctrination with the Catholic Church in this country.

I observed professors who have volunteered at Planned Parenthood; a mostly young, white female student body in my particular field of study more likely to listen to NPR than pray a Rosary , and a rampant presentation of non-traditional marriage and abortion rights as the unjust victims of an intolerant, outdated, mostly male-dominated Church.  Rampant feminism was everywhere yet, despite its powerful presence, homosexual rights seemed the most protected agenda.  Although I did not personally have a particular professor, it appears that his office included a large rainbow flag. I do not believe that homosexuals should be mistreated or abused because of who they are, but I also believe that it is wrong to pretend that the Catholic Church either defends homosexuality or has been wrong in its traditional stance regarding it.  In one class, we were subjected to a one hour film depicting how homosexuals are abused and mistreated in various countries.  While I regret such treatment of anyone, I question why we did not see a similar film demonstrating how women are similarly or even more abused throughout the world, especially considering 98% of the class was female.

Obama’s victory was met with fawning hysteria by virtually all the female students and, as far as I can tell, all of the professors.  I doubt that if Jesus Christ Himself had landed in Lincoln Center there would have been a similar reaction.  People were moved nearly to tears, with many somewhat spoiled, upper-class, young, white women at the front of the line, wailing about how they never expected to see the day that such an event would occur. Never mind that Obama was clearly the most pro-abortion and pro-non-traditional marriage candidate to ever run for the White House and even someone with the intelligence of a cranberry could see that he was going to spell trouble for core Catholic teaching.  That teaching, after all, was delusional mental illness at Fordham anyway, so why would a shining knight in armor coming to finish it off be an enemy to be feared?  Professors thought nothing of discussing core Catholicism with a kind of condescension and patronizing exasperation reserved for what they likely, in the privacy of their minds, viewed as religious hicks fingering beads and accusing everyone of a one way ticket to hell.  One called California’s Proposition 8, limiting marriage to a union between a man and woman “stupid, evil, and hateful” openly and without even considering or imagining that any student in her presence might disagree.

A consistent point of discussion in my program was whether it was ethical for a counselor to accommodate the spirituality of clients. Many argued that clients should be told to keep their faith out of the therapy session. Others argued that it was tantamount to murder for any counselor to recluse herself  from cases inconsistent with her religious beliefs.  A poll I conducted for a class revealed that the vast majority of counseling students would have preferred just about any kind of client over a religious one.  Being religious was treated as akin to being a leper.  Thankfully, I was relieved to find that most counseling students were a little more comfortable workingwith religious clients than homicidal maniacs.

By the time I graduated from Fordham’s Graduate School of Education, I had experienced my fill of spoiled, upper-class, white, young females who felt qualified to save the world from its ignorance steeped in religious and/or  male-dominated bias.  A friend observed that many of these women seemed distant and suspicious of their fathers.  I was practically assaulted during a group counseling class, where a few young females resented anything I said to my professor’s amusement in telling me that I had officially become “the scapegoat”.

Looking back, I have come to the ironic realization that this program which was educating future counselors and was the scene of so many self-appointed knights in shining armor out to fix the world was so steeped in dysfunction and delusion.  It is  no wonder that the APA and other governing mental health bodies is so contradictory to core Catholicism that one cannot possibly embrace the APA completely without, in fact, ignoring or rejecting significant core Catholic positions.

Fordham, run by Jesuits, prides itself as promoting the Jesuit tradition of a well-rounded, profound and practical, education. However, as shown by its litany of positions and actions inconsistent with core Catholic positions  http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/1674/Coulter-Controversy-Highlights-Speaker-Policy-at-Fordham.aspx  and http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/SearchResults.aspx?Search=fordham it is obvious that this institution has taken the infamous “social justice” mantle to move its brand of Catholicism in the direction of secular socialism, feminism, and liberal dissident views.

As one who has prayed in front of a Planned Parenthood far less than I would have liked to, it occurs to me that praying in front of Fordham may be just as necessary.

Copyright, Gabriel Garnica  2012

Three Myths Regarding “Conservative Catholics”


      

 

Before Vatican II, Catholics were either “practicing Catholics” or “non-practicing Catholics” which meant that either they followed the Church’s teaching as a package or they did not. While many agree that Vatican II started with the best intentions, many others also agree that various people in high places manipulated the proceedings to further an agenda of subjective morality, diffused Catholicism, rampant socialist/Marxist ideas wrapped in social justice jargon (“common good”), and a general degradation of clarity regarding what is and what is not acceptable Catholic practice. These generally unfortunate movements have served to blur Catholic teaching and practice under an increasingly subjective and secular perception of the Catholic faith and its application.  The rise of numerous groups and prominent, public figures all calling themselves “Catholic” while espousing many views contrary and contradictory to basic Catholic teaching has only served to further confuse the faithful and diffuse the Faith.

As a result of the above events, we now see the rise of the terms “Conservative” versus “Liberal” Catholics, which generally is understood to signify Catholics who believe and apply their faith more strictly, with less flexibility, less if any compromise and, according to the opposing side and most of the outside world, a more stubborn and judgmental tone. So called “liberal Catholics” on the other hand, are generally described as more flexible, compromising, unifying, progressive, humanitarian, forgiving, open, and unifying.  If you feel a negative vibe from the view given conservative Catholicism and a positive vibe surrounding the corresponding view given to liberal Catholicism, then the purveyors of these stereotypes and labels have done their job well, which they have.   However, the reason we get these respective negative and positive vibes in the first place rests with the fact that, whether we like or admit it or not, we are immersed in this culture and society which projects and promotes much of the tone ascribed to the liberal Catholic side and demonizes and mocks the tone ascribed to the so-called conservative Catholic side. Consistent with this distinction and stereotype are three myths about conservative Catholicism which I would like to address here.

First, some argue that conservative Catholics unrealistically seek  a so-called “perfect” Church on their terms and therefore foreclose any idea or attempt at unity, compromise, and diplomacy as heresy, destructiveness, betrayal, or worse.  The fallacy here is two-fold. First, it implies that conservative Catholics actually believe that perfection can be achieved on      this very imperfect earth and within this even more imperfect society. In truth, most conservative Catholics that I know realize that perfection cannot be obtained in terms of this earth, but fervently believe that we are called to continually pursue such perfection as best we can while on this rock in space.  We understand and accept that perfection will only be found in Heaven, but also feel that we all have a duty to continually strive for it while on earth with the understanding that we will necessarily fall short. The ultimate goal, then, is not perfection but, rather, the continual effort to approach it while chained to an imperfect world and an imperfect body and mind.  An implication of this “perfection” myth is, indirectly, that so-called liberal Catholics embrace and accept imperfection while so-called conservative ones denounce, deny, and reject it, which is obviously an inaccurate and oversimplified view.  A more accurate characterization here might be that conservative Catholics strive for perfection while recognizing and dealing with imperfection while liberal ones see imperfection as a humanizing good in and of itself and hence do not see striving for perfection as a good at all.  Ironically, striving for perfection while accepting imperfection is much more respectful, realistic, and empowering of the human person than accepting imperfection as a badge of honor, which merely rejects our ability to reach beyond ourselves and glorifies self and self limits.

Second, as implied above, many argue that conservative Catholics selfishly and stubbornly sabotage unity in the service of righteous, subjective, and judgmental arrogance.  The first implication here is that liberal Catholics are somehow less righteous, more objective, and less judgmental than others, which is not necessarily so.  The second implication here, and perhaps one of the most critical, is that unity is invariably a good in and of itself. Is unity for the sake of unity a good thing?  Is Christ found in compromise and glorified unity?  The answer is a resounding no.  The Bible tells us that God practices tough, and not mushy, love.  He loves the sinner but not the sin, and will punish or enforce as need to save the sinner. Just as Christ did not seek a diplomatic resolution to the money changers, so too we cannot compromise our faith for unity. We are called to love others and seek unity within the context of our true faith, not despite of it.

Third, and last, we are told the lie that serving unity and compromise, reaching for the “common good” or “common ground” is in and of itself the Christian or truly Catholic thing to do. This view equates war, poverty and environmental concerns, which are general wrongs, with abortion and marriage concerns, which are inherent wrongs.   It rejects the notion of gradient moral priorities, as well as ultimate personal responsibility. Like it or not, being a Catholic or even a Christian  is not easy in this society,  and those who steadfastly hold on to Christ come what may will likewise find themselves on the outside looking in.

We cannot be moral Neville Chamberlains compromising out eternal salvation for earthly comfort.  We cannot be rampant purveyors of compromise and frightened addicts of unity at any cost. Likewise, we cannot confuse souls through our actions with inconsistency or irresponsible ambivalence of where we stand on critical, core Catholic and Christian issues, especially if we are Catholic leaders whose example is sought by many souls.

We must speak out against inherent evil, strive to shed light on wrong, and humbly do so with love for the sinner and disgust for the sin.  We have a responsibility to put out or lessen the flames of heresy or distortion with the water of Christ’s example and The Almighty’s Word.  You cannot be a true Christian, a true Catholic, while running away from the cross toward the safety, consensus, and compromise of the screaming mob.  You cannot surrender or sabotage your core beliefs in the interest of unity and common ground.  Lastly, you cannot forget that God, and Christ, are very much about profiling, dividing, and distinguishing as needed, as Judgment Day, the money changers, and the Parable of the  Sower illustrate.  We have Ten Commandments, not Ten Suggestions, and there is no such thing as Heaven for all, Hell for none, and lots of ” we will see what happens” in between.  There is a big difference between charity and irresponsible cowardice.  Good friends tell it like it is and do not sugar coat things for their own comfort. Let us proudly proclaim ourselves followers of Christ at the courtyard as Our Lord is unfairly judged rather than betray Him yet again with wishy-washy denials of knowing and loving Him above all else.

Good parents sometimes have to reprimand their children.  Good teachers sometimes have to grade harshly but fairly.  The appeasing, wimpy parent and teacher obtain a very temporary comfort but irresponsibly lose their purpose and mission worrying about the secular perceptions of a very secular world.  We can be charitable yet firm, flexible yet steadfast when it matters most, loving yet very clear where we stand.  Our Lord promised us that He would help us to do this, and we offend and insult Him when we sell out rather than stand firm because, by doing so, we imply that we do not trust His help and protection.  Likewise, charity is not rampant compromise,  true love is often tough love and not rampant wishy washy love, and forgiveness asks us to provide new chances rather than accept much less glorify old mistakes.

Replace the phrase “liberal Catholic” with “Cafeteria Catholic” and admit that it is possible to go too far with being a Conservative Catholic, yet never accept that bending is necessarily a universal and eternal good.  This is so because you cannot possibly accept, promote, and defend liberal Catholicism without picking and choosing your Faith or bending for the sake of bending. Not if  you are still honest with yourself, respectful of your intellectual capacity,  and keeping your eyes fixed on God and God alone.

Copyright, 2012  Gabriel Garnica

 

You have found your cross!



Love…endures through every circumstance.’ 1 Corinthians 13:7

Imagine a world without divorce.

Imagine families without separation.

Imagine no children or hearts torn apart.

 

People of one place in this world do not have to imagine.

In the town of Siroki-Brijeg in Herzegovina not one of the 13,000 inhabitants can recall a single divorce or broken family.

What is their secret?

One look at their marriage rite says it all.

When the bride and bridegroom go to the church to be married they carry a crucifix with them.

The priest blesses the crucifix and exclaims, “You have found your cross!

It is a cross to love, to carry with you, a cross that is not thrown off but rather treasured.”

When they interchange the marital vows,

the bride puts her right hand on this crucifix and the groom puts his right hand over hers.

Both are united to the cross.

The priest covers their hands with his stole while they pronounce their promises to love each other in good times and in bad.
Then they both first kiss the cross, not each other !

If one abandons the other, they abandon Christ on the cross.

Afterwards, the newly-weds cross the threshold of their home to enthrone that same crucifix in a place of honor.

 

It becomes the reference point of their lives and the place of family prayer.

In times of difficulty and misunderstandings, as all human relationships experience,

they do not turn immediately to the lawyer or psychologist,

they turn to the cross.

 

They kneel, cry and open up their hearts …

begging for the strength to pardon and implore the Lord’s help.

The children are taught to reverently kiss the crucifix daily

and to thank him for the day before going to bed.

These children dream of enthroning one day a crucifix of their own.
The family is indissolubly united to the cross of Christ.

Is this simply a morbid outlook on marital and family life?

 

Or is it a piece of wisdom that few in our modern world can understand.

Until our world does, it will continue to imagine and long for the unbroken hearth.

(Marian Observer Feb. 2002).