Married in the Church

Outdoor-beach-wedding-ceremonyMany couples are choosing to have their wedding ceremony take place on the beach, in their own home or backyard, or some other destination or creative setting.  For Catholics, it is not that simple.  Catholic weddings are expected to take place in a church and the THE Church.  This is not simply a matter of setting or location, however, but a matter of the Church’s understanding of what marriage is.

Getting married in a church

For Catholics, marriage is more than a legal binding.  It is a sacrament that is of great importance in the eyes of the Church community.  Because of this, the Church expects that the wedding take place in both a sacred space and to be conducted in a way that emphasizes the sacramentality of the ceremony and life that the two are beginning together.

Many people make the argument “God is everywhere so why can’t I get married anywhere?”  There is certainly something to be said about this.  For those who do not get married in a church for whatever reason, God is no less present there than at the marriages that occur in a church.  However, getting married in a church is also an expression of the couple coming to God instead of expecting Him to come to them.  This makes God a more prominent character in the wedding ceremony but also in the relationship between the bride and groom and the life that they are starting together.

Also, as a sacrament there is an expectation that the ritual will take place both in a sacred space and in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  The setting of the wedding in a church places the wedding in a more intentionally sacred space and within the context of the Church community.

Getting married in THE Church

catholic-church-weddings-philadelphiaThis is not simply a matter of location.  Getting married in a church signifies getting married in the Catholic Church.  While the wedding day is a great day for both the bride and groom, it is a day that the Church also takes part in and will continue to be a part of their entire marriage.  Having the wedding within the Church calls the entire congregation to come to their place of worship to take part in this sacrament.  The Church upholds marriage and wants to be a part of each marriage due to the role that Christ should play in each relationship.

There are a number of repercussions for Catholics who are not married in the Church.  They are no longer allowed to receive communion, which is a major aspect of the Christian life.  If they want their children to be baptized they will run into some problems as well. There is a process in which couples can get their marriages recognized as valid in the Catholic Church following the wedding, however, this is not meant to be a loophole but for people who are converting, etc.

There are some situations in which weddings can take place both outside of the church setting and outside of the Mass, however, these are only for situations that call for such a dispensation.  In these cases, the permission of the Bishop is needed.  Many people are upset by the regulations surrounding marriage in the Church but the Church reminds them what marriage truly is: a sacrament.  And as a sacrament it has a place in a church and in the Church.

Further reading:


The Family as Told by TV

From the Brady Bunch to the Kardashians, the family has been presented in many forms in television sitcoms and, more recently, reality shows.  There are many critique’s of the family presented on the TV that should be recognized.


dumb-dadIt is not hard to identify a father figure on a television show that is portrayed as a complete fool.  This bumbling character is unable to do things around the house, get the family from point A to point B on a vacation, or to help his wife and kids without making himself look like an incompetent idiot.  In situations in which he does do something right, it is almost unexpected and surprising that he was able to accomplish whatever he set out to do.  This father is generally for some comedic relief or as a filler character.  Some examples would be: Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, most of the dads on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

While in many ways this seems harmless, it is projecting an acceptance of fathers who are unable and often unwilling to do housework, care for their children, and help their wife out with typical tasks.  This is generally not the kind of man that we want in our marriages and families, so why do we allow it to be promoted on television and into our homes and the minds of viewers.


"Leave It To Beaver"

“Leave It To Beaver” mother June Cleaver is one of the most beloved TV mothers.

In contrast to the dumb dads of TV, mothers may on the surface seem like a more flattering depiction.  However, if you look deeper, the ways in which mothers are displayed are more or less just as bad as the depiction of men and fathers.

When it comes to sex (obviously in more mature shows), women are often projected as either wanting nothing to do with sex or being objectified.  Men, on the other hand, always seem to be interested in sex.


Full-Victorious-Cast-victorious-20031287-1280-1024Many have criticized the TV’s portrayal of children.  In many shows, especially on shows meant for children themselves, children are depicted as acting much older than they are and often being sassy and disrespectful towards their parents and children.  Some of this may have to do with the fact that the actors playing these children are generally older than there characters.  Many children do not realize this, however, and replicate many of the characteristics of TV characters.

I worked as a nanny a few summers ago and was shocked at how the 7 year old girl that I watched picked up so many characteristics from the shows she watched.  She would watch an episode of “Victorious” or “H2O” and would immediately begin to act like the characters.

Furthermore, children on TV shows often portray stereotypes: the popular kids, the cheerleaders, the nerds, the good students, the bad kids, etc.  In many ways they enforce students to associate with different stereotypes and to create them among their own peers.

This is not to say that there are not exceptions to these TV stereotypes. There have been notable and admirable depictions of fathers, mothers, and children that are praiseworthy.  However, these characters are much harder to find and not always as interesting or amusing as their TV counterparts.  TV is for entertainment and our society often finds bumbling characters with lots of problems and quirks to be the most entertaining, however, I doubt that anyone would prefer their families to be like those on TV in actuality.

The Myth of Lilith: Medieval Jewish Folklore & Women

Adam, Eve, and Lilith

Adam, Eve, and Lilith

Most people know the story of Adam and Eve, however, not as many are familiar with the story of Adam and Lilith.  This medieval Jewish folklore presents and interesting view of the relationship between women and men that has extended into the modern world.

Lilith is a Jewish mythological creature who has her origins in Babylonian texts.  This figure in found throughout many writings and traditions, however, I would like to focus on the Jewish folklore that developed in the Middle Ages surrounding Lilith.

In this folklore, Lilith is the first wife of Adam.  Jewish rabbi’s interpreted the two creation accounts as two different stories: one in which a women was created at the same time as Adam and another in which a women is created from the rib of Adam.  Lilith is the wife of the first creation account and  is created from the same earth as Adam, unlike Eve, the wife of the second creation account who would be created from one of Adam’s ribs.

The relationship between the two is turbulent as Adam expects Lilith to be subservient while Lilith, who is equal to him because of their common origin, refuses to do so.  She does not want to be on the bottom during sex nor does she want to perform the wifely duties that Adam assigns to her.  Because of this Lilith ultimately leaves the Garden of Eden and gains her independence from Adam.  Angels are sent to retrieve Lilith but she refuses and does not return to the garden but instead produces many children outside of the garden.  With his first wife gone, Adam is given Eve who is seemingly more obedient and willing to be subservient than Lilith.  Poor Adam, we all know that that marriage didn’t exactly turn out well for him either.

The character of Lilith is very interesting.  She is depicted as a dark mythological creature who is a symbol of both sexuality and fertility but is also willing to kill her own children with little thought.  She is thought to be very promiscuous and to prey upon the sons and daughters of Adam.  Though an avid fan of the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, I never recognized the influence of Lilith in them.  In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis associated the White Witch as the daughter of Lilith who sets out to kill the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  It is very interesting that Lilith is depicted as a demon and considered by some to be the Queen or mother of demons.  This is very telling of what people thought of sexual and independent women.

Sculpture by Kiki Smith at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Lilith, 1994, bronze and glass,

Sculpture by Kiki Smith at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Lilith, 1994, bronze and glass,

Some believe that this folklore was written as a spoof on the sacred texts, however, it has been revived by many feminists and different groups throughout history as a symbol of the struggle between the sexes, patriarchy, and with Lilith as an example of a strong women who is in touch with her sexuality and independence.  She has been depicted in art, poetry, and literature and even has become a character in video games.

Before stumbling upon this character of Lilith, I had never really known anything about her and the folklore surrounding her.  I find this story and the interpretations of it to be very interesting in regards to Christian theology, commentary on Sacred Scriptures, and the attempt to understand the relationship between men and women that has lasted throughout all of human history.




The Family That Prays Together

patrick peyton

“The family that prays together stays together. A world at prayer is a world at peace.” – Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. (1909-1992) 

For many families, prayer is a regular part of their routine.  Many families pray before meals or before bed.  Does this time set aside for prayer have an impact on the family?  Father Patrick Peyton, an Irish born Roman Catholic priest has become famous for his promotion of the Rosary and certainly thought that prayer greatly impacted the family.  He started a Family Rosary Crusade in order to promote the praying of the Rosary by families which he believed would help to bind families together.

Looking specifically at marriage, a study conducted by the University of Virginia in 2010 shows that praying together increases a couple’s intimacy and can often help end disputes between them.

In an General Audience on December 28, 2011, Pope Benedict spoke of the role of prayer in the Christian family stating, “May the example of the Holy Family inspire all Christian families to be schools of prayer, where parents and children alike come to know that closeness to God which we joyfully celebrate in these days of Christmas.”  As he closed his audience, the Pope
spoke of his hope that all would “rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family.”

Recently Pope Francis echoed this message.  On World Family Day on Sunday, October 27, 2013, Pope Francis spoke of the Christian family’s call to prayer, calling them “missionary families.”  He recognized that this is something that often is not a priority for busy families but that it is a sign of humility in recognizing that we need God in order to help sustain our relationships and endeavors.  However, he pleaded the simplicity of prayer within a family and the great rewards of it stating that simply sitting around the table and praying the Our Father or the Rosary will bring the family great strength.

Many also argue that prayer is meant to be private and would feel uncomfortable praying together.  However, it is through this sharing with each other that the strong bonds of family are fortified and strengthened.  As time goes on, the members of the family will become more comfortable with this sharing.

And this is exactly what the University of Virginia found in a study that was conducted in 2010.  This study found that praying within a marriage led to an increase of intimacy as well as helped with conflict resolution and forgiveness. The director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia stated “It makes sense that those who think about, talk about and practice their beliefs in the home, those who bring home their reflections on their marriage, derive stronger effects from those beliefs, especially compared to those who simply attend church weekly.”

Father Peyton’s now famous phrase has proven to be more than simply a slogan but a truth – the family that prays together is more likely to stay together regardless of what religion they are.

The Culture of Mom Blogs

mommy-blog-it_s640x427The internet has created an outlet and community for many people. People of all ages are able to express themselves, create relationships with other people, and share their ideas, work, art, and frankly, almost anything that they would like.

One of the niches that has been created in the internet is Mom Blogging.  Blogging is certainly not exclusive to women or to mothers, but they have certainly found their place in the blogging realm.  Mom blogs generally consist of stories about their children and daily life, recipes, crafts and DIY, advice, product reviews, and other things that the mothers choose to share with the world.

Through these blogs, the lives of families and children are being captured on the internet from their daily routine, stories, pictures, and updates on the child’s development whether it be from walking to grades in school.  Years from now, the children will be able to see a lot more about their childhood than some others whose mom didn’t put it on the internet.

One reason why women might be so interested in creating and maintaining these blogs is because of the “solitude of the home.”  Our society has become increasingly more connected through the internet that many people are unable to be alone.  Mom’s who stay home with their children feel as though they too have to share their lives in some ways with other despite not having co-workers or people they see on a daily basis.  These blogs give them a community with which they can share their observations, joys, struggles, and beliefs about their lives, children, and parenting experience.

One aspect of these blogs that I found interesting was the idea of promoting your “parenting style.”  Many moms had a post or a whole page dedicated to the way in which they parent their children.  This ranged in topics from diets, schooling, vaccines and medicines, discipline, etc.  Women would occasionally note changes in their parenting style as they had new experiences and learned more about various things.  It struck me as the creation of a formula for parenting.  Sure there are plenty of guides out there to parent but these “parenting styles” seemed to be an attempt to create a recipe for the perfect child.  If they attended this kind of school, at these foods, and avoided these things they would turn out just fine.

When mother’s disagreed on various aspects of parenting, there was often some discussion that ranged from kind and curious to heated and enraged.  The rise of competition and disagreement about the models of parenting has come about exactly because of these outlets in which we can broadcast our beliefs.  Throughout history there were certainly some standards that went along with family and parenting, however, what happened in the home was generally private.  The ways that parents reared their children was up to them and unless discussed by the parents, would not be something that necessarily everyone would know about.  Yet here were have mother’s who are broadcasting a great deal of the lives of their family onto the internet and allowing everyone to see how they are parenting.  This freedom of expression of belief is certainly not bad but it always comes with some level of conflict as opposing beliefs are expressed.

It isn’t just other mom bloggers or moms who are tuning into these blogs.  Many of these blogs have gathered a following and the lives of these families are being watched.  People who follow these blogs online send in holiday greetings, birthday wishes, and in many ways correspond with these moms and their families.  Some viewers have watched babies grow to be children and feel warm regards for many of them.

The culture of mom blogs is a fascinating and valuable way to peer into the lives of many modern families.

H&R Block conducted a study on Mom Bloggers and created this very helpful chart for understanding the culture of Mom Blogs:


You, Me & Netflix?

netflixNetflix has become a major cultural phenomenon.  With over 33 million US subscribers as of the year 2013, it is one of the most widely used forms of entertainment.  It can be accessed from computers, DVDs, laptops, tablets, and smart phones among other devices.

So what does Netflix have to do with the family?  Well, recent articles have suggested that Netflix is not only present in homes across America but also plays a larger role in some relationships than one might expect.

In 2013, Harris Interactive conducted a survey on behalf of Netflix that studied “Netflix fidelity.”  Yes, that’s right, some people cheat on their spouses with Netflix.  Now, this isn’t the typical “cheating” that we would generally think of.  This study showed that many people either cheat on their partner or friends with whom they have promised to watch Netflix with by watching the show ahead of them and often lying about doing so.  What is most startling about this is the numbers that Harris Interactive produced.  According to their study, 51% of those in relationships are likely to cheat on their partner by watching Netflix shows that they promised to watch together without them.  The study estimated that about 28 million Americans have already done it.

In these situations of Netflix infidelity, there are a number of responses.  Of the “cheaters,” only 14% tell their partner while 32% keep quiet and rewatch the episode with their partner.  While this form of infidelity is not necessarily on the same scale as actual infidelity in a relationship in which an emotion or physical relationship is formed with another person, Netflix cheating does have some mild repercussions.  Upon finding out that their partner has watched their show without them, many partners are “fake upset” but their partner generally recognizes that they are at least actually a little upset and just trying to cover it up.  Some catch up on their missed episodes and continue to watch with their partner, while others no longer watch the show and allow their partner to continue watching it alone.

TV-Couple-300-00256C54So what is the big deal?  It is just television shows and not an actual infidelity problem.  While this might seem like a trivial problem to some, it is in indication of other problems in our society and relationships.  Not only does this problem say something about our society’s addiction to television and technology, it says something about the role that we allow it to play in our relationships.  

There is no initial problem with watching Netflix or other media with your partner or friends. It is an activity that allows you to spend time together and to bond over common interests and sense of humor among other benefits.  Many families use it as a way to control what their children watch and an activity for family time together.  However, when Netflix or other forms of technology become more of a priority than spending time or having an honest relationships, there are problems greater than being behind on your favorite show.  People are allowing themselves to become so caught up in the fantasy worlds found in television shows that they fail to recognize the implications that it might have on your relationships and life in reality.

So before you start your next Netflix binge on a show that you watch with a partner or friend, think twice about pressing play without them.

Related Articles:


Texting: Modern Day Love Letters?

texting-relationshipsIn our modern culture, communicating with people in the same room or on the other side of the world has become increasingly more simple and convenient.  While it is easy to do so, these forms of communication such as phone calls, texts, and emails have not only changed the manner in which we communicate but how we communicate in general. Letters, such as those of Abelard and Heloise, have become a thing of the past and have become romanticized in a certain sense.   Quick or instant communication in which both contributors are participating at the same time has become the preferred manner of communication, other than face to face.

“We are texting.”

Texting has essentially become a phase in the development of a relationship.  In a study conducted by Brigham Young University, it was found that texting, and technology in general, play a much larger role in the formation of relationships than in the past.  It provides a way for couples to casually get to know each other.  As opposed to face-to-face conversation, it allows for them to carefully craft their texts and responses with the option of adding smileys and deleting and retrying before ultimately sending the text.  In this sense, it creates a somewhat false sense of communication that does not necessarily always portray a clear understanding or a great deal of information about the person.  Furthermore, it can create confusion and sometime miscommunication as you learn to “read” what the other person is writing to you without the use of face-to-face cues.  

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating”

Texting in Relationships.

One might think that texting might allow for more communication between couples, however, studies have shown that it is quality not quantity when it comes to communication in relationships in regards to texting. Most studies have found that partners texting is not a bad thing in itself and that there are even some benefits.  Texting shows that you are thinking of your partner throughout the day and allows for the sharing of information and affection.

However, texting becomes detrimental to a relationship when it is used as a tool in situations in which real and genuine communication is needed such as in arguments and other “relationship shaping conversations.”  These conversations, when done via texting, are usually unable to effectively communicate the emotions and viewpoints of the people involved.  In face-to-face conversation, it is generally much easier read the other person based on the tone of their voice and facial cues as well as to encourage important dialogue and communication between both parties.  Many people felt that texting and technology “dehumanize” relationships due to the lack of physical presence and communication.

"Mobile Lovers" by street artist Banksy

“Mobile Lovers” by street artist Banksy

Not only does the texting between partners have an effect on the relationship, but texting with other friends and family members can greatly impact the relationship.  When one or both members of a relationship are constantly texting other people their are a number of repurcussions on the relationship.  One member might feel as though they are being ignored by their significant other who is obviously more interested in another conversation.  If two members cannot devote time to spend together the progression of the relationship with be slower and less intimate.  This is not stricktly in regards to romantic relationships but all relationships.  Texting allows us to be constantly communicating with many but often prevents true communication with the people that we are with.

Some would disagree with this on some accounts, however.  For those in long distant relationships or other situations in which face-to-face communication is not often possible, texting, skyping, and other forms of technology that allows for direct communication is something that allows their relationship to be sustained.  It should be noted, however, that this is obviously not the ideal and recognizes that this form of communication is still second to face-to-face communication and quality time.

Overall, texting is not necessarily a problem in relationships as long as it is understood that texting is not the primary or ideal way of communication in the relationship.  It is also important that couples learn to discern which conversations are appropriate for texting and which one is it necessary for them to discuss in a more direct manner.