Cri de Coeur from a Catholic married couple. Wherein Fr. Z rants from his heart.

I’m tired of the whine from certain homosexualists and their agenda, to the detriment of concerns of people to adhere to God’s plan and nature and many other serious concerns which we face as a Church and society.

I was alerted today to a post at the blog of a priest, Fr. David Nix.  He posted an “Open Letter” to priests written by a married couple… a real married couple.  I reproduce it here.  My emphases.

Open Letter to our spiritual Fathers

Dear Fr. ___________,

I am so very thankful that you have given your life to be our spiritual father. I am grateful for the gifts you make available to us in the sacraments. We know you work tirelessly to keep everything balanced and running smoothly. For that, we are thankful. But we have to be honest and share our concerns and frustrations: We have heard more about the LGBTQ community and the acceptance of that more than we have ever heard about our own marriage.

Father, we struggle with communication, we struggle with infertility, we struggle with forgiveness over infidelity, we struggle with finances, we struggle with contraception and Natural Family Planning, we struggle with in-laws, we struggle with so much and yet feel so alone.

Please Father, give us some hope and encouragement; let us know what we are supposed to do. Please don’t have your answer be “you can get an annulment.” We don’t want to get out of our marriage; we just need you to let us know that sacrifice and suffering are part of marriage. Most of us have not heard what God’s plan for marriage is, yet we have heard that everyone is arguing about what constitutes a sacramental marriage.

It feels like we have been abandoned and left to figure it out in our own. As we strive to live God’s plan, we are burdened with what the society tells us. The culture screams its message, but the silence of the Church is at times louder than the screams.

Help us Father—for we know not what to do.

Love and blessings,
Your Sons and Daughters

We are entering into a dire stage of spiritual warfare over souls.

War is by nature messy and chaotic.  It is easy for officers to get distracted by tactics on a hill and lose sight of strategy on a front.  We priests and bishops must stay clear-eyed, smart, and faithful for everyone’s sake.

However, we need the support of lay people.  We need you to encourage and to fast and pray for us.  You have to make acts of reparation for our faults and defects.

In this coming battle, we priests will grow weary under the assaults from the agents of Hell and their earthly operatives.  So will you.

In this coming battle, the Church’s perennial teaching and the sacraments will be for us priests like the stone upon which Moses sat during the battle against the Amalekites, while you good lay people must stay on either side of us, like Aaron and Hur, holding up our weary arms so that the sword of Joshua shall prevail.

According to Sr. Lucia, the visionary of Fatima, Our Lady foretold that

“final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Do not be afraid, … because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.”

Married couples.  Listen up.

It is not possible to squeeze everything into a blog post, or even a book, but here are a few words from my heart and experience.

First, please know that we priests understand that you face problems every day that might make a lot of us priests curl up in ball in a dark room.  However, you have the vocation to face those problems as married Catholics.  Just as we priests must call upon the graces that come from Holy Orders when we are in the thick of it, so to must you call upon the graces that come from matrimony and confirmation.

You have difficulties.  These difficulties are your road to heaven.   Remember always that your primary calling as married Catholics is to help your spouses get to heaven.  Hence, you must chose daily to embrace the life of your spouse with charity, the sacrificial love which seeks, first, the true good of the other.  This is what Christ modeled for his Spouse the Church while enduring His Passion and death.  Embrace the pains and make the choice for sacrificial love. To love is to choose.  Choose to love. You can choose love even when feelings or appetites or temptations push and pull.

Choose, as a couple, to love God more than you love each other.  Only when God is the true king of your two hearts, can your one married heart beat properly.  Only when you love God first, can you love and treat each other and your children properly.

Stay close to the sacraments.  That means that you have to make good and regular examinations of your consciences and then GO TO CONFESSION.  Go together.  Go separately.  GO!  Don’t allow mortal sin to cloud your intellect and weaken your will or give a chink for the Devil to pry at.  Hence, also use sacramentals.  The Devil really hates them.

Make your home, however grand or humble, into your “domestic church”.  Just as a church should be filled with beautiful reminders of heaven and the saints and angels, so too should your home.  Just as a church should be filled with prayer, so too should your dwelling place. Traditionally, church buildings will have over their doors inscriptions like, “House of God and Gate of Heaven”.  This, too, is your ideal. Pray at meals.  Pray when you rise and rest.  Especially say the Rosary together, perhaps holding hands.  The other side of prayer is silence.  

Be humble in consideration of your vocations and your own human abilities.  However, be confident that, as the Father’s adopted chosen children in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Trinity whose love your lives reflect will give you every grace you need to fulfill your vocations in obedience to His commands and the commandments of the Church.  God’s commands and will are not mere “ideals”, which some today falsely claim cannot be attained by everyone.  They can be and are realized, and have always been attained through the millennia, by people just like you.  God doesn’t impose anything that is impossible.

Finally, some quick points.

We could all avoid a lot of sins and a lot of conflict by keeping our mouths shut more often.  Weigh your words.

Be cheerful.  Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit.  When you cannot detect or show joy, that’s probably a sign that you have spiritual maintenance to do.  This joy is not the blithering gaiety of the foolish: risus abundant in ore stultorum.

Speak well of and kindly to each other.

Read Scripture.  Read especially Ephesians about spouses.  Pay close attention to Paul’s wise admonition, “Let not the sun go down upon your anger.”

Ask your Guardian angels to help you in every conflict.

In charity, you must strive always make the sacrifice needed for the other’s true good.

Thank God – on your knees – for the gift of the vocation of marriage.  Really.  Get down on your knees and say, “Thank you, God, for giving me my vocation and my spouse.”  Never forget that you two are one flesh now.  You are you and you are also “we”.

Be who are are, and never think again about being anything else until the day you draw your last breath.

Eat meals together, at a table.  Talk.  And then let there be silences.

When you look at your spouse and at your children, consciously remind yourself that each one is a gift.  And if you do not, in sorrow, have children, remind yourself that God knows you better than you know yourselves and that He doesn’t allow burdens without giving the strength to bear them.  You may have another path when it comes to children.

Anything worth doing well in life requires suffering, patience and practice.  You have to practice being married, by living marriage.  You will be under attack, so you must plan your tactics for when you being to suffer, and you will suffer.  Embrace your crosses.

Listen to the good advice of older people.

When real trials come or sudden frustrations strike, say what Job said and say it with a smile: “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. VonOrigen says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for this wonderful exhortation. Your words mean more to us than any of the pabulum we received in the over-sentimentalized hippy love-in that was laughingly called “Pre-Cana.”

    In fact, I’m going to print this and hang it in a prominent place. These are words to live by.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Z., you carry a lot of worry for the flock. Thank you. These are good words to contemplate. It’s helpful to have encouragement. The silence and insults that come from the church now are difficult. Hopefully more and more Catholics each day understand why this is happening and from where it comes. Our job is truly to stay faithful.

  3. TonyO says:

    What Fr. Z said.

    Married 28 years (and counting) and every word Father said above is right. Maybe in another 28 I’ll have some wisdom to add to what he said.

  4. tomthumb says:

    Thank you Father. I often wonder how often we can hear contraception is OK and living in a sinful relationship with someone we aren’t married to (gay or straight) is OK without breaking at the seams with the day to day of trying to live out a married vocation with multiple children. It seems so hard to both fight against secularism and at the same time feel like the Church is just moulding itself into the world as closely as possible. You offer great advice. Thank you for the encouragement. You are always in our prayers.

  5. thomas tucker says:

    Excellent advice. If only more people would follow it.

  6. sekcatholic says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z. I’ve been married 15 years and know from experience (the right way and the wrong way) that the Church’s teachings lead to a better married life. Since my wife and I resolved to live our married like as the Church calls us to live it, our family had been richly blessed. I’m going to bookmark this page for those times when I’m tempted to do it any other way than the right way!

  7. Pingback: Cri de Coeur from a Catholic married couple. Wherein Fr. Z rants from his heart. | Fr. Z’s Blog | Trump:The American Years

  8. Alaskamama says:

    The married couple is right to want support from their priest. Our marriage suffers from the barbed criticisms of our pastor and deacon, criticism because we are “Catholic robots” and accept the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is hard enough to live the teachings of our faith, to be open to God’s plan for our fertility, to forgive each other over and over again.
    Thanks, Father Z for reminding us of sacrifice, love, and sanctity.

  9. grateful says:

    I like this one: “Speak well of and kindly to each other”
    (sounds like Father Z has heard a lot of confessions)

  10. KT127 says:

    Thank you, Father! Wonderful advice!

    I especially like your point about joy. We can have difficult, joyful lives or we can have difficult lives.

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    The opening paragraph of the letter strikes home, in a way. I remember that before the first Synod on the Family, our diocese put out a survey – “The Pope wants to know what your concerns are regarding families.” I filled it out; and then was taken aback after they Synod was over, that really none of the “day to day, life in the fox hole” issues that I listed seemed to be dealt with at all.

    Being married and having a family is a wonderful thing; but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. I could not keep doing this without the Lord’s help and guidance. No one expects their hand to be held; but it would be nice if the issues that we married couples (and pre-married couples, too) actually face were addressed a bit more. Perhaps that’s the consequences of not “being on the periphery”. But it seems the periphery is being focused on so much that the non-periphery is being ignored, or even targeted.

    Thanks for your safe words of advice, Fr. Z. The ‘plain speaking” as President Truman would have called it, is deeply appreciated. I only wish more Fathers would use this kind of frank, no-nonsense language during marriage formation. I’m willing to bet the farm that the broken marriage rate would tumble, if they did.

  12. Mary Jane says:

    Father Z, this post was excellent. Thank you!

    When my husband and I moved in to our first house, we hung letters over the entryway – Christus Regnat – and a painting of the Sacred Heart close by. It is a daily reminder for our family that Christ reigns – not only in our home but in our hearts!

  13. HeatherPA says:

    Thank you, Father Z for this. That letter hit so hard for me. My husband and I have been married over 2 decades and both have heard “you can get an annulment” in the Confessional when we just wanted some spiritual shoring up.

    Pray for your marriages, pray to your spouses guardian angel and your family guardian angel, pray your rosary together, and stay strong in this storm.

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    A possibly unconventional book recommendation: The Home and Its Inner Spiritual Life by A Carthusian of Miraflores. Yes! A book about married family home life by a Carthusian monk in Spain in the 50s! The author is actually Thomas Verner Moore, who began as a Paulist, switched to the Benedictines and was a distinguished professor of psychology, especially child psychology many years at Catholic University in Washington DC and author of various books, before entering the Carthusians in Spain. Later he made the preparations for the Carthusian monastery in Vermont, the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration.

    This man was, I believe, a saint, but his order never pursues canonizations. As a psychologist he was a great champion of the mental health value of growth in faith and virtue, he could maybe be compared with Fr Benedict Groeschel closer to our time, also a psychologist who understood the primacy of the good of the soul. Anyone interested in the interaction of mental health and sanctity should check out Thomas Verner Moore’s works.

    This one, The Home and its Inner Spiritual Life, is rare. It’s generally expensive when you can find it. It’s the book that brought Fr Moore to my attention initally because I found the idea of a book on parenting children by a Carthusian so improbable and hilarious. It does in fact incorporate ideas and practices from the Carthusian life as models for the life of the domestic Church (in an appendix he even debatably suggests praying an adaptation of the Carthusian “Missa Sica” together in the family home)! It seems that to him this is reasonable because family life is actually the original model for monastic life, such as the Rule of St Benedict. As I came to know this author better, who had much professional expertise and experience on this subject matter, it made sense.

    Thomas Verner Moore utterly believed that married people are capable of profound holiness and I would think that married parents who desire that sanctity may find this book by an uncanonized saint supportive, touching and inspiring. Although, I make this recommendation as someone who is neither married nor a parent.

  15. The original Mr. X says:

    Perhaps that’s the consequences of not “being on the periphery”. But it seems the periphery is being focused on so much that the non-periphery is being ignored, or even targeted.

    Quite so. It’s a bit like the parable of the lost sheep, only in this version, the shepherd is so focused with finding his one sheep that he doesn’t notice when a wolf jumps into the sheepfold and starts killing the other ninety-nine.

  16. rhhenry says:

    Alaskamama and LarryW2LJ have well expressed what my wife and I often feel. It is so easy to feel like the “weirdoes” for having one income, having lots of children (6) and being open to more, taking our faith seriously by putting it at the center of our lives, and so forth. We’re not perfect (not by a long shot!), but we’re trying really hard to live up to what Christ and His Church ask of us.

    Fathers, please go to the peripheries! Please help those who are having an even harder time than we are! But (and I hope this isn’t coming from a weakness born of pride or vanity), an occasional “attaboy” goes a long way to strengthening those of us who are trying to live our lives as faithful sons and daughters of Christ and His Church.

  17. Antiquorum says:

    “We just need you” really says a lot. As priests have had their importance, sense of self and sense of vocation reduced, it has resulted in many priests not realizing how potent their words are. It could be a private encouragement or a take no prisoners homily, but his words mean so much. They can be the difference between failure and success for people in their spiritual and physical well being.

    Marriage advice means so much more coming from a priest, your spiritual father, your leader, than it does from books, friends, therapists, parish “pastoral assistants” and other lay “experts”.
    My wife was diagnosed with clinical depression last year, and it has been a heavy cross. Just last night she had a near total breakdown. Father’s words on the domestic church really hit home. I’m going to be sure to add more sacramentals to the home and work on the prayer life.

    For our marriage class, I wish they could have just read this post. Would have been far more useful and realistic.

  18. Eugene says:

    Antiquorum I will pray for you and your wife. I totally relate to your situation, it really is a very heavy cross to bear.
    God help and guide you both.

  19. Dan says:

    Thank you Father for the excellent post.
    Also it occurs to me that Satan is a master of distraction. If he can busy priests and the world with one big noisy thing, then he can silently attack another area while everyone is looking the other direction.

    It is easy to forget that, while we battle for a true definition of marriage and gender, that more than half of true marriages are ending in divorce. The battle for the definition has left the truly validly married couples also decimated, struggling and with little support. The trick to beating the enemy is to find where he is truly attacking and fortify that defense. Like a tree, protect the trunk and the branches will strengthen. If we can fortify Holy Marriages, the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried will essentially largely become mute, and there would be no push to change the teaching because it would be so far outside the norm.

    Sadly I think this also happens in regard to the priestly abuse scandals. The Church rightly has had to make public reparation for those priests that have been attacked and so turned into attackers but I think that in some ways it has also turned the Church in on itself with regard to sexual abuse. Many parishes offer prayers, counseling and Masses reaching out to victims of priestly sexual abuse but in so doing often leave out consideration for the numerous other victims of sexual abuse, of which there are many more than most of us could imagine.

    Sexual abuse and pornography are a fast spreading plague on our society. In some ways the scandal has made some priests I think gun shy to deal in a strong way with the wider spread of abuse, immorality and immodesty.

    The same argument is made in terms of the Mass. Strengthen the core, return it to what it is meant to be. Restore sacredness, restore belief in the True presence by turning toward the Lord, kneeling before Christ when we receive Him in communion. As Father Z. says “Save the Liturgy Save the World” Save the core, save the Church.

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