Tag Archives: marriage

Habits for a Healthy Marriage: A Handbook for Catholic Couples

Richard P. Fitzgibbons, M.D.
Ignatius Press, 280 pages


Husbands and wives are imperfect beings. So no matter how great a marriage, there is always room for forming a more perfect union. Bad habits can creep into a relationship, and vigilance is required. Here Dr. Fitzgibbons takes some of the commonly seen marital issues such as selfishness, anger, pornography, and infidelity and suggests how they can be avoided — or healed. It’s a matter of working on the virtuous habits that make marriages strong, like the image of the love between Christ and His Church that the husband-wife relationship signifies. It’s a powerful resource for couples wishing to improve their union no matter their starting point.


Order: Amazon

“We Met Through Legatus”

Members of Legatus are many things: leaders, business owners, directors, philanthropists, and at least in two cases, matchmakers.

Henry and Mary Gundling of the Napa Valley Chapter and Jim and Julie Lenahan of the Milwaukee Chapter played matchmakers to their sons who met their future wives at Legatus events. In both cases, it took a bit of gentle persistence, but once the couples met, there was an immediate spark.

Gabe and Catherine Gundling

“My wife, Mary, and I came to know and respect Chuck and Ellen Haas through Legatus,” Henry explained. “We had also met their daughter, Catherine, on several occasions.”

Over the years, he and Mary, and other family and friends had tried to introduce their son Gabe to nice young women. “Apparently, he was too engrossed in building his business and content with his dog’s companionship to care,” Henry said.

One day, Henry and Mary visited the hospital where Catherine worked as a dietician to see a newborn grandchild. “The first person we met as we came into the hospital was Catherine,” Henry said. “She was so kind, friendly, and beautiful! I thought to myself, ‘Okay, one last try.’”

Henry checked with Ellen and Chuck to see if it was okay with them. They had met Gabe a year earlier during a weekend visit at the Gundling’s oceanside house. “We were impressed with his work ethic, sense of morality, and love and loyalty to his dog, Lucy,” Chuck said. “Ellen grilled Gabe about his love life and we had a nice weekend together, not knowing that he would be the future husband to our only daughter.” (They also have two sons.)

It was April of 2017. Catherine was twenty-eight and had recently ended a long-term relationship. Gabe was thirty-six. “I had been busy working on my business,” he admitted. He owns Lake Tahoe Balloons, hot-air balloon rides with five locations in California. By the time he was thirty-three, getting married was on Gabe’s radar, but nothing had worked out.

Catherine knew that Gabe had been given her contact information, but he never called. The reason was that when he learned that Catherine was traveling to South Korea in May for a friend’s wedding and an extended vacation, he decided that the timing was bad.

In June, Catherine’s father was giving a talk at the Legatus meeting about a solar cooking project he started in Uganda. Henry invited Gabe knowing that Catherine would be there. Their parents introduced Gabe and Catherine during the social hour, and they were seated together for dinner. “It was surprisingly easy, and just clicked,” Gabe said. “Catherine was interesting, and she was cute, so I saw potential from the beginning.” “At the end of the evening, we felt encouraged by two things,” Henry said. “Gabe and Catherine were deep in conversation and the last guests to leave the room, and as we were walking to the car Gabe said to me, ‘Chuck is the real deal.’”

The next day, Gabe called to ask Catherine on a date— a five-mile hike with their dogs. Despite the 105-degree heat that day, it went well and ended up at a casual restaurant where their dogs were welcome in the outside seating.

Catherine was immediately interested but unsure if Gabe felt the same until he bought an expresso machine for his house. She had ordered expresso on their first few dates. “That’s when I knew he was serious,” she said. They were married on May 5, 2019 and are expecting their first baby this April.

Gabe believes that his father was not the only matchmaker, but that his late grandmother was also on the job. “She was the matriarch of the family,” Gabe explained. “On the day of her funeral, I was in high school. I asked her to keep track of our family and to someday help me to find a bride.” The day that Gabe and Catherine met at the Legatus event was his grandmother’s birthday.

Jessica and Matt Lenahan

Jim Lenahan was the chapter president in 2014 when Jessica Zignego became the Milwaukee Legatus chapter administrator. She worked with him planning her first event, the annual July picnic. “Jim and Julie were the first Legatus couple I got to know, and we became friends,” Jessica said.

Likewise, they saw Jessica as a friend, but also as a potential daughter-in-law. “She is extremely organized and strong in her faith,” Jim said. “Both my wife and I thought what a great match she would make as our son is very faith filled. I have always felt that a strong faith is the key to any relationship.” Matt, however, had a girlfriend at the time.

The following summer, Matt attended the annual picnic with his parents. He still had a girlfriend, however. Congressman Paul Ryan was speaking at the event and Jessica mistook Matt for one of his staffers when she was passing out name tags.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Matt Lenahan,’” she recalls. “It surprised me that he was as attractive as he was.” They chatted only briefly since Jessica was busy working. She learned that in addition to working for the family business, Matt was an assistant football coach at a school her brother attended, and he was on the board of the Women’s Care Center pregnancy center.

“I was not expecting any interest on his end,” she said. “I thought he was out of my league.”

Matt had also been taken by surprise when he met Jessica. “My dad tried to play matchmaker before with me and my brother,” Matt said. “I just brushed it off. From the very start he was always talking about Jessica. I didn’t even know much about her other than she was a runner. The first time I met her, I thought she was very beautiful, and I was impressed. I had another picture in my mind. It made me a little nervous.”

Matt attended another Legatus event in October. Unbeknownst to Jessica, he was single now and had gone specifically to see her. They again talked briefly during the social. Matt called a few weeks later using the reason that he was putting together a “Professionals in Action” group to increase awareness at the Women’s Care Center. Jessica would make a good fit.

“At dinner, we talked about everything but the Women’s Care Center,” Jessica said. The relationship took off from there.

“From a very young age, I had prayed to God for the right mate,” Jessica said. “I used to complain to my sister about the type of man I wanted compared to the kind that were out there. She told me that I was unrealistic. Having a strong faith was huge to me. Matt checked off on every single box.”

Matt said of Jessica, “I never met anyone who shared so much in common with me.”

There soon arose potential hurdles, however. Jessica loved the Latin extraordinary form of the Mass and Matt had not been exposed to it. But after eight months of prayer, asking God for guidance, Matt also fell in love with the Latin Mass.

Another issue was that Jessica had leukemia when she was three. It was possible that she would never be able to have children. Matt decided what mattered most was that they loved each other.

“They became engaged in September 2017, and were married a year later on September 1, 2018. On October 4, 2019, they welcomed their precious son Connor James into the world.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

For better or worse –in business and marriage

“Married couples who work together to build and maintain a business assume broad responsibilities,” said Melissa Bean, now a vice chairman for JP Morgan Chase, from the floor of Congress during her years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. “Not only is their work important to our local and national economies, but their success is central to the well-being of their families.”

Husbands and wives who manage businesses together while raising their families can experience special challenges as well as joys. A few entrepreneurial Legate couples recently shared a bit about what that’s like and how their Catholic faith helps them succeed at work and at home.

Keeping work and marriage ever well

Dr. Chris Zubiate was in the behavioral health field when he met his future wife, Leah, who then worked in private equity. She became involved in behavior health through a volunteer opportunity and had her “eyes opened to a new world I had never been exposed to or really thought about,” Leah recalled.

Now married with two young children, the San Francisco Legates operate Ever Well Health Systems, a network of residential treatment facilities for adults with serious mental and emotional problems. Chris is Ever Well’s president and CEO, while Leah serves as an administrator with broad oversight of the flagship facility.

In the early years, Chris and Leah commuted two hours to their first facility – sometimes separately, sometimes together. “Initially, we weren’t covering our bills, and the time away from the family filled us with doubts,” Leah remembered. “Now, looking back, our commitment to the work was never more tested.”

On the days they commuted together “our commitment to each other was strengthened,” she added. “It allowed us to be together as a couple and reflect on our purpose and our faith.”

Work-life balance remains difficult, but having two little ones keeps the home life in the forefront. “Having the flexibility to start our work days at different times, the ability to work from home, or being able to alternate ‘late days’ is incredible at this stage and a real gift,” said Leah.

The company is open 24/7, she explained, so “it’s easy to become engulfed. We have to set boundaries with ourselves to not always be talking about work. Or for me, to not get so emotionally invested.”

Competition and compromise

Drs. Frank and Cheryl Mueller met as undergrads in the pre-med program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was attracted to Cheryl not only because she was pretty and smart, but also because she came from a Catholic family with strong work ethics and strong family ties,” Frank recalled. They were married shortly before entering medical school.

Cheryl planned to go into pediatrics, but Frank convinced her to join him in family medicine. Sharing a practice, he reasoned, would facilitate coordinating parental responsibilities.

“We have been practicing family medicine together in the same office for over 30 years,” said Cheryl. “We each have our own patients, but we cover for one another and are business partners as well as life partners.”

The San Antonio Legates’ three sons are grown now, but the Muellers remember the challenges during those child-raising years. Cheryl said she and Frank agreed that at least one of them should attend every important event in their kids’ lives.

“Even though our jobs required being ‘on call’ and responsive to our patients 24/7, we sincerely tried to be the best and most involved parents we possibly could be,” she recalled. “We both are so grateful to God and our families for providing the ability to accomplish this goal.”

Frank noted Cheryl and he have a “natural competitiveness” as to who brings in more patients or income, or who makes final decisions on managing staff or redecorating offices. “However, armed with Christian ethics and compromise, the problems get solved, and our relationship stays intact,” he said.

Passions and priorities

“For me, the challenge of being in business together is having to intuitively navigate two great passions of my life,” said Charlie Domen, president and CEO of DisplayMax Inc., a retail merchandising firm he founded in southeastern Michigan around 1993 with his wife, Susan, who is vice president. The Ann Arbor Legates admit “it is only through the foundation of faith that we are able to balance the peaks and valleys of managing business and family life.”

Charlie worked in sales and Susan was in office administration in the early 1990s when they each took side jobs merchandising products in grocery stores. That experience and their respective skill sets inspired them to start their own company offering services including inventory resets, retail fixtures, and store remodels

“Faith and our family are absolutely our priority,” Susan agreed. “However, as entrepreneurs, our business is certainly our passion. We are always open to looking at ways to improve our organization, to better serve our clients, improve processes and communication, and looking at better ways to integrate systems and software.”

Ensuring that their drive for entrepreneurial success doesn’t compromise family needs – the Domens have three daughters, ages 11 to 18 — is a key concern in addition to simply weathering the ups and downs of business.

Susan recalled a lean December when cash was tight and credit was thin. After a long-awaited receivables check finally arrived on Christmas Eve, jubilation turned to desperation when the bank placed a five-day hold on the funds. A generous bank manager came to the rescue and waived the hold. “That was our Christmas miracle,” remembered Susan. “We went out, got our tree and a few presents, and had one of our best Christmases ever!”

Faith as a guide

These couples have in common a strong faith that permeates their lives both at work and at home.

“Our Catholic faith doesn’t only inform and impact our business, it forms and impacts our hearts, our families, our schools, parishes, and workplaces,” said Charlie Domen.

“One of the more practical and basic ways our faith has impacted our business is it allows us to see each person for who they are, the way Jesus sees them, not as a human resource, but as a human person,” he explained. That translates into generous wages and benefits for employees, prayer before meals, sponsorship of charitable events, and a culture that promotes trust and teamwork.

At Ever Well, Chris and Leah Zubiate echo that perspective.

“Our Catholic faith helps us steward our employees and resources to affirm the dignity of the vulnerable people we serve,” Leah said. “A lot of what guides us is opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will. We try to be open with our employees, residents, and customers about the strength of our Catholic faith and frequently make connections between what we do for work and our personal mission to serve the mentally ill.”

That principle is reflected in the company tagline: “Everything. For everlasting change.”

The Muellers rely on faith to guide their marriage as well as their medical practice.

“Our faith has always been extremely important to both of us,” said Cheryl Mueller. “It is important to be compassionate and understanding to patients who may be discouraged or irritable because of serious health problems. Both of us feel that spirituality is an important part of healing, and we try to include this in the way that we minister to our patients and our employees.”

Frank told of how Mass, prayer, the sacraments, and even Legatus gatherings help them decompress and “enjoy life again as a married couple.”

The Muellers will celebrate 40 years together in 2019, “and God-willing, we will work together another 10 years or so before retiring,” said Frank. “It has, in all aspects, really become a family practice.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Occupational hazards – persevering with grace

Married couples know it takes “work” to make a marriage thrive.

Some spouses work not just on nurturing their relationship, but on maintaining their business.

Two Legatus couples who own and operate companies shared their experiences and lessons learned from working together in business.

Mike and Judy Thompson, members of Legatus’ Rockford, Illinois Chapter, are co-owners of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a leading global ultrasonic cleaning equipment company.

Andrew and Eva Berney, members of Legatus’ Phoenix, Arizona Chapter, for 18 years have together been running Titan Power Inc., a privately held for-profit specialty contracting business that employs 19 people.

Both couples navigated early difficulties to build businesses now thriving in competitive marketplaces. The Thompsons and Berneys also lead their respective companies with unapologetic Catholic worldviews. Both couples credit God for sustaining them in difficult times, and with blessing their businesses.

Mike and Judy Thompson – Rebuilding neglected family business

Any visitor walking through the corporate headquarters of Ultrasonic Power Corporation in northwestern Illinois will see numerous crucifixes at various entryways, and may spot Mike and Judy Thompson praying together before a meeting.

“It’s about witnessing and evangelizing. We don’t park our Catholic faith at the door. It’s a part of us and our business,” said Mike, 61, who along with Judy, his wife of 38 years and business partner, are co-CEOs of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a company they bought from Judy’s father in November 2011.

Mike and Judy were living in Houston, Texas, when they decided to purchase the company from Judy’s ailing, elderly dad. As a young married couple in the 1980s, they had previously worked for the company until Mike took a job in the oil and gas industry.

When they returned to Illinois, they found a struggling business that suffered from a lack of top-level leadership.

“Whenever the primary owner becomes ill, no matter where you are, a company might run on momentum for a time, but ownership discussions and strategic decisions about the future get delayed,” Mike said.

For more than two years, Mike and Judy worked long hours at the office to stabilize the company’s financial footing and reposition it for growth.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of taking work home,” Judy said. “There were long days trying to understand the ins and outs of the business. Eventually, we made the rule that the work stayed at work and we separated that. Because otherwise, it would be all-consuming.”

Under Mike and Judy’s leadership, Ultrasonic Power Corporation has grown its bottom line and doubled its workforce from 15 to 30 employees. The Thompsons said they strive to establish a work culture that understands that family comes first.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” Mike said. “We know we’re blessed, but we also know we’ve been put through trials. Had it not been for our faith in God, or even our association with other like-minded CEOS through the Legatus organization, I think we would have been less happy and given in somewhat to despair.” “This was definitely a learning experience for the both of us,” Judy said. “But I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”

Mike compared growing a business “in phases” to developing a marriage over many years.

“We’ve gone through a lot of those learning curves, the ups and downs, the frustrations, the feelings of despair and thinking, ‘Why the heck did we do this?’” said Mike, adding that he and Judy feel the responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

“I think Jesus was the first and greatest servantleader,” Mike said. “If we’re not serving our people and helping them to get their jobs done, tearing down any barriers and encouraging them, then we really are not going to be a successful business.”

Judy said she and Mike have also learned to complement each other for a job well done. They have grown in their faith, gotten more involved in their parish, and last year both went on a pilgrimage to Rome.

“Even on the most difficult of days,” Judy said, “We remind ourselves it is our job to get each other to heaven.”

Andrew and Eva Berney – Recognizing skill sets, faith priorities

Like any successful management team, Andrew and Eva Berney have an organizational chart.

“One of the things we discovered when we started working together as husband and wife was that there was a tendency to not know which areas you should step your foot in or not,” said Eva, who is the vice president and director of finance and administration for Titan Power, Inc.

“One of the things we did early on that helped was we created an organizational chart so that we would really be aware of what his responsibilities were and what my responsibilities were, and communicating that to the rest of our team,” Eva said.

Andrew worked at Titan Power, Inc., for seven years before he purchased the company in 1997. Eva, who had a background in property management, joined the business shortly after she and Andrew married in 2000.

“I brought a different set of skills than Andy had,” Eva said. “He’s more on the technical side of the business and I’m more of the management, HR, and accounting side.” The organizational chart helped Andy and Eva, as well as their employees, to better understand their roles in the company.

“It really helped us respect each other, and it also helped communicate to the employees who was responsible for what,” Eva said.

There were some early financial difficulties. Andy and Eva often worried about making payroll.

“We dealt with it together,” Eva said. “Both of us realized how important it was to seek counsel, so we sought counsel from professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, and people we knew who were already in business. We both realized that we don’t know everything.”

Both also relied on their Catholic faith to establish an ethical business culture. They pray everyday before work and tithe ten percent of their business earnings and personal income. They say that God has rewarded their faith with amazing growth in the company.

“We’ve seen that the more we give, the bigger the company gets,” Andrew said. “We see God working in that. And as we grow, our charitable donations grow too. He has blessed us in that area.”

“We’re very aware of how our faith and the decisions we make affect our employees,” Eva added. “We really feel that God has put them with us and we’re supposed to take care of them. We do that through our prayers and making good decisions for the company so they can have a stable environment and go home at the end of the day and be with their families.”

Andrew and Eva are already thinking about their lives after Titan Power. They recently brought their son, Stephen, aboard, and he has already shown good business instincts. Andy and Eva joke that he is their retirement plan.

“Our goal is when we retire to do more ministry work,” Eva said. “We don’t envision ourselves retiring and sitting around. We know the rewards that come from doing God’s work that He is calling us to do.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

WHAT TO SEE: The Battle on the Home Front

Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll
Runtime: 110 min
Rated PG-13

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think ourselves invulnerable – to stress, pain, doubt, or temptation.

Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), seem to have it all together – a solid marriage, three adorable children, and an unshakable faith. When Darren leaves for his first tour in Iraq, he waves off the cautions of those who have already served in conflict zones regarding how the experience can strain a marriage. “You ain’t never gonna be the same, and neither is your picture-perfect marriage,” warns Sgt. Michael Lewis (Jason George), a neighbor heading for his second deployment whose marital discord the Turners have witnessed firsthand. Darren and Heather echo the same naïveté: We’ve got this. We’re called to this. We’ll be just fine.

In Baghdad, Darren encourages the soldiers, just as he does his own children, to put on the “armor of God” — the shield and protection of faith. “God is no stranger to the battlefield,” Darren sermonizes.

As days turn to months, the Turners’ marital bond weakens. With only brief phone calls and a family website to keep in touch, a disconnect develops: Heather has no grasp of the horrors Darren sees, and Heather’s ordinary family stresses seem comparatively trivial to Darren. Ironically, he ministers effectively to his fellow soldiers even as his own marriage stumbles.

Returning stateside, Darren’s PTSD leaves him distant, disagreeable, and disillusioned. Healing is a long journey, as many war veterans have found.

It’s a true story: in film and in real life, the Turners resolve their issues and use their experiences to assist other military families who find the battle to save their marriages is as challenging as any enemy across the battlefield.

Indivisible may resonate most strongly with military families who have experienced the challenges of long separations and wartime trauma. Its underlying message of maintaining hope and faith and the power of God’s grace is one we can all appreciate.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along

Jennifer Roback Morse
TAN Books, 420 pages

“The Sexual Revolution has never been a grassroots movement,” writes Jennifer Roback Morse in her latest book. Rather, it was manufactured by liberal elites “justifying their preferred lifestyles, imposing their new morality” by harnessing “the coercive power of the State.” As a result, millions have suffered the effects of this revolution. In her compelling indictment, Morse identifies the Contraceptive Ideology, the Divorce Ideology, and the Gender Ideology as the three fronts that built the Sexual State — and the three fronts the Church and social conservatives must focus our own defense and attacks upon if we are ever to restore love, marriage, and family to their rightful dignity.

Order: Amazon

The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony

Dr. David Anders
EWTN Publishing, 221 pages

“This book describes my personal discovery of the Catholic teaching on marriage and the beautiful effect it had on my life,” EWTN’s popular radio and TV host, Dr. Anders, writes in his introduction. As a Protestant divinity student unhappily wed to a lapsed Catholic, his search for truth led him to Catholicism. When his wife finally followed him into the Church of her youth, their shared vision of the sacrament of marriage bonded them and strengthened their union as never before. It’s a heartfelt account of a faith journey that may inspire Catholic couples to call upon the grace of marriage and its “beautiful effect” in their own lives.

Order: Amazon

WHAT TO SEE: The Tribunal

Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Chris Petty, Laura E. Mock
Run time: 114 min
Rated PG-13

“It’s complicated.” Isn’t that how people often describe their relationships? The relationships in The Tribunal are precisely that. The film, a limited theatrical release now available on cable and streaming services, is a well-intended drama involving a petition for a declaration of nullity, or annulment, from a Church tribunal. The story is told largely in flashback style through testimony given at the hearings.

Tony (Ryan Wesley Gilreath), a concert promoter and local musician, is a lapsed Catholic who falls for Emily (Laura Mock), a good Catholic girl. When she refuses his advances and invites him to Mass, he begins to clean up his act and recover his faith.

Yet the couple’s indiscretions weaken them into a sexual relationship that ultimately leads to their breakup after Emily’s father (Jim Damron), a permanent deacon, confronts Emily about her sinful choices. Tony is devastated.

Tony’s best friend and bandmate, Joe (Chris Petty), falls in love with Emily, creating the expected tensions. Joe, who is not Catholic, is divorced from Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), who married Joe only because she was unhappily pregnant. As Joe and Emily seek an annulment of Joe’s previous marriage so they can be free to wed in the Church, they need the testimony of Tony, who knew Jessie didn’t believe in the permanence of marriage and never wanted children — both grounds for annulment. Tony hesitates to help Joe, hoping Emily might return to him instead. Emily’s father, by the way, is one of the tribunal officials. Complicated enough?

As with many lower-budget films, viewers might quibble with the acting and scriptwriting. Yet the film’s small production company, St. Michael Movies, sets its sights on producing solid Catholic stories for the New Evangelization. Where this film succeeds most is in illustrating the bouts of conscience experienced by the major players and in depicting the Church’s thoughtful and compassionate handling of the tribunal process — highlighting that annulment is certainly not a light matter and often a complicated one at that.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order

Dr. Scott Hahn
Emmaus Press
208 pages

Is there hope for the state of marriage in our culture today? Scott Hahn believes so. “If Catholics would simply live the Sacrament of Matrimony for one generation,” he writes, “we would witness a transformation of society and have a Christian culture.” Despite the prevalence of divorce, infidelity, and a myriad of aberrant ideas of what marriage and family life means, Catholics can indeed change hearts and minds if only they commit to living as they should and reap the fruits of the sacramental life of the Church. Grace, Hahn reminds, is a powerful thing; with God’s help, Catholics can keep to His plan and inspire others to do likewise.

Order: Amazon , St. Paul Center

When marriage gets tough, faithful get stronger

When Mark lost his job after 21 years of service to a nonprofit organization, it was a devastating blow for our family. The organization was downsizing and decided to dismantle its in-house print shop, of which he was the manager. That was basically the only job he’d ever known during our entire married life, and the prospect of starting all over again was frightening. It was compounded by the fact that four out of our six family members have chronic illnesses, and so adequate health insurance is an absolute necessity.

Marge Fenelon

We tried to keep the kids out of worry’s way, but weren’t completely successful. Tensions were high, and it was like walking a tightrope without a safety net. In spite of that, we rallied around Mark, assured him of our confidence in his resourcefulness and abilities, and used every opportunity to boost morale – both his and ours.

Additionally, we tried to accentuate the resourcefulness of each family member so that we could pull together as a cohesive, purposeful unit. We had to focus on what was good in our lives so that we could keep moving in a positive direction. First and foremost, that included each other. This was a crucial time for encouraging each one to do whatever he or she could to help the family and to practice sacrificial patience!

…If we judged by the images of the Holy Family on Christmas cards, we’d think they lived in total placidity. Perhaps they did at times, but likely their lives were speckled with disharmonies as well. Did St. Joseph make his decision to quietly divorce, and then in turn not divorce, Mary without any struggle? At the same time, our Blessed Mother was tending to her cousin Elizabeth as she waited for St. Joseph to make his decision, wondering if he would ever again trust her, contemplating the possibility of being stoned to death, and trying to figure out what would happen to the Child within her womb should St. Joseph abandon her. Then Jesus came, and with him came tremendous joy, but also some really tight spots… How did they handle having to suddenly pull up roots and flee to Egypt?

…Think too of the complexity of their daily life. St. Joseph, although head of the family, was actually the lowliest of the three: he was just a man, while Jesus was God and the Blessed Mother was born without original sin. Nevertheless, the Blessed Mother …was a simple housewife and bound to submissiveness to her husband and service to her son. Jesus, the King of Kings, experienced all the frailties of the human condition while at the same time having the ability to rise above them. In spite of their “celebrity status,” the Holy Family lived simply and inconspicuously, waiting patiently upon each other and loving one another completely and unconditionally.

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “Good Times and Bad” from Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home, © Marge Fenelon. Published by Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.

Award-winning author, journalist, blogger, and speaker, MARGE FENELON is weekly guest on Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show,” and blogger for the National Catholic Register. She’s written several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. Her latest title is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: Living the Novena (A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land).


By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The “intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”

It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1646, 1648