Cleansing Fire

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Shallow Catechesis in the Courier

August 5th, 2010, Promulgated by Nerina

Rarely have I read a more shallow or spiritually bereft column than “Keeping marriages strong while raising kids,”  by Therese J. Borchard in the August print edition of the Catholic Courier.  In it, Borchard attempts to explain why marriages undergo a change following the arrival of a child.   She quotes Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times who says:

“One of the more uncomfortable findings of the scientific study of marriage is the negative effect children can have on previously happy relationships.  Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that marital satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.”

Ms. Borchard goes on to speculate why this shift takes place.  She chalks it up to: stress, financial burdens, time constraints and “too much to do in too little time (and very little of it dedicated to pleasurable activities as a couple)”- i.e. the arrival of children forces adults to be…adults. Parenthetically,  I would add to her list that new parents today, being too often denied heroic witness to the vocation of marriage and family, are unwilling to accept the changes that come with parenthood.  When a couple welcomes a baby, it becomes evident, sometimes painfully,  that their needs are no longer paramount.  Even parents with a secular view know that life with a child is significantly different.

What is lacking in this article is a discussion about marriage and family as a distinct vocation – or a means of strengthening our relationship with each other and with God.  Instead, the author focuses on secular studies, gloomy predictions about life with children (stressful, unhappy, damaging to marriages) and shallow suggestions for surviving the intervening years between being childless and facing the “empty nest.”  It is a shame that so many opportunities for true catechesis go to waste in our diocesan newspaper.  Imagine if she had focused, instead, on John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio:

At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family [7], the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the people of God (#3).

OR

When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” [36].(#14).

Parents are to become “the visible sign of the very love of God.”  And we know how God loves – unto death.  Without measure.  Without concern for self, but concern for other.  We keep our marriages strong by looking to the crucifix, opening our arms wide in imitation of Christ, and loving our spouses and children until we no longer live, but only Christ lives in us.

But, no.  The reader is treated to shallow advice heard daily on Oprah or seen in Good Housekeeping:” keep a date night”, “pick the bigger battles”, and “be nice to each other.”  Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of these suggestions, but they lack the depth of our rich Catholic teaching that continues to be mined and presented in new ways (e.g. Theology of the Body).  All I can say is that having children has fundamentally changed both my husband and me.  I’d like to think that we are both less selfish, more patient and more giving.  We have been forced to rely on each other – and more importantly,on God –  in ways that a childless life would not afford.  (Note well, I am making no comment on those without children.  I learned long ago that there are many stories and many reasons for childless couples and I make no judgment.)  What I am saying  is that God granted us the gift of children for a reason.  And it wasn’t just to “survive” parenting, but to flourish and grow and to place our trust in God and His plans for our life.

Pray for my husband and me that we serve Him well.

In His Peace,

Nerina

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3 Responses to “Shallow Catechesis in the Courier”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    But having children necessitates moving from self to others. It comes with the territory like you say. It’s a similar argument to the one these diocesan leaders use to explain why they contracept and why it’s OK. They just want to have sex, any time with no holds barred. It negates the responsibility married couples have toward each other and God.

  2. avatar Martha says:

    Very well written article on another bad attempt by the Courier to be a “Catholic” Newspaper. It is such a shame that so many Catholics are clueless regarding the Church’s teachings on marriage and family. There seems to be so many people in places of teaching authority (Priests, Nuns,lay people, RCIA instructors, Music directors….etc) who think their theological thoughts are more “up to date” or “contemporary” when in fact they are so lacking in what was originally intended that they are useless and watered down malarchy!

  3. avatar benanderson says:

    Nerina, I read your post before I read the article. I figured you were exaggerating a little when you said

    Rarely have I read a more shallow or spiritually bereft column

    Today I read the article. Wow – you were right on. Her article is right if you have a secular humanist world view, but it’s so wrong if you’re a believing Catholic. All of this nonsense is rooted in a misunderstanding (or denial) of our basic Catholic faith. Good to know our parish tax is going to such a great cause as the Catholic Courier. Someone needs to come up with a good nickname for the CC (like we have in St. Barnyards).


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