Monday, April 24, 2017

Filipino achievers: receiving the benefits of a large family

Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine national hero, the 7th of 11 children, and Cardinal Jaime Sin, charismatic leader of the People Power Revolution, the 14th of 16 children, are two of the most famous achievers among large Filipino families. The entire country would be drastically different in its governance and its ethos, if these two were never born, if their parents decided not to have many kids.

A friend, Jack Ealdama, an enthusiast for large families, put together  a list of recent high achievers who come from a big brood: from an mixed martial arts champion to a board topnotcher, from an Olympics medalist to a summa cum laude graduate. With his list, he supports the research results on the benefits of being open to the gift of children.

From what I have gathered (see sources at the end), research and experience has shown the following benefits of large families:

·         More fun and happiness, and less boredom.  Children make people lively.
·         Children develop the key strength of sharing and giving, taking care of others.  Your child won’t become selfish, thinking he is the center of the universe.  Research shows that they get into fewer fights, make friends more quickly and keep them longer.
·         Research has also found that children are healthier, more allergy free, less obese.
·         Love is multiplied. Love grows for the spouse. And more love for the spouse means better children: they learn the greatest virtue of self-sacrificing love. 
·         Since everyone is needed for the home’s upkeep, children learn responsibility for their chores and self-reliance.
·         Children get more inputs as they learn from a greater number of people around them.
·         Research shows: children “have stronger soft skills and keener emotional intelligence than single children. They will be better at gratification deferment (because they have learnt to wait their turn) and hit motor milestones such as walking and talking more rapidly than those without sibling stimulation…. will have more evolved language skills and do better at exams.”

1. HIDYLYN DIAZ - Silver Medalist, 2016 Summer Olympics. Family of 8

"Hidilyn was born on February 20, 1991 in a small village in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. Growing up in a family of eight, Hidilyn’s childhood was just as colourful as every other child; however, she was not exempted from problems and life’s challenges. When she was in elementary school, she had to go with her father, who was a tricycle driver, to sell vegetables and fish.  Her family also experienced to have rice with only salt and soy sauce as their meal. Despite the difficulties she had encountered, the young girl still braved her way to her biggest dreams as she turned poverty into her greatest motivation to excel in her passion, which is weightlifting."

2. BRYLLE GILBUENA – Board topnotcher. 2nd of 5 Children

"The second of five children, Gilbuena worked even as a student to support his studies at UCLM. But after graduation, his parents who don't have stable jobs weren't also able to help him pay for review courses. So he worked hard at his alma mater as Senior High School teacher for 5 months."

3. JIREH BAUTISTA – Summa cum laude. 4th child

"Jireh Bautista, 21-year-old Computer Science student at Cebu Institute of Technology University (CIT-U), is the fourth child of Pantaleon, cobbler for 38 years now, and Belinda, a homemaker."

4. SOMBILLO SIBLINGS – 400 medals. 5 siblings

Five siblings received 400 medals due to their intelligence and stick-to-itiveness in school. 

5. EDUARD FOLAYANG - Champion, Mixed Martial Arts. 8th of 9 children.

"I was too young to realize what was happening, and my mother and father are strong people,” said Folayang, the eighth child of the nine children. “I do remember seeing how my mother was when I was growing up, that there was sadness there, and I used to wonder why. I didn’t know, but I get a lot of strength from my mother because she never gave up. She kept living and she kept working and she kept food on the table for us. They were difficult times for my parents, very difficult times. When my parents were living in the mountain areas where my siblings died, they came here to Baguio City, where I live now, but where I grew up and how I grew up was very tough, because we were very poor." “We didn’t have a lot, but I do remember we were always happy,” he said. “As kids, we would wrestle with each other and see how much more we can carry than the other kids."

6. JAMES LOZANES – Gold medalist at Javelin. 6th of 7 children

"It was Lozañes’ first try at the ‘Palaro’ and the 17-year-old could not contain his joy over his first win. He said he is the sixth among the brood of seven. He was a former Western Visayas champion who previously competed at a regional level."

Sources on benefits of large families: 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Guide to Holy Week’s Paschal Triduum: Encountering Jesus in the Summit of his Life

More important than any day of the year, more important than Christmas, is the Paschal Triduum, “three days” which are the very center of a Christian’s year.

Pasch is derived from the Jewish word for “passover”, the celebration of the sacrifice of a lamb, and of the angel's "passing over" the houses of the Jews marked by the lamb’s blood. In Christianity, the Paschal Mystery of Jesus refers to his self-offering as the Lamb of God in his passion and death, and his “passing over” from this world to his Father in his resurrection and ascension.

These mysteries are the very center of a Christian’s life, for they are “the greatest mysteries of our redemption”, the principal saving work of  Jesus Christ that brings the light of his self-giving love to our whole life, our whole year and to the whole history of mankind.

The celebration of this mystery happens daily in the Holy Mass, the peak moment of each Christian’s day, and yearly during Holy Week’s Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday.

If these moments make present in our midst the most powerful saving work of Jesus, then it logical that Christians should be eager to receive these most powerful of graces during this unrivaled summit of the liturgical year. 

This guide to take full advantage of the Paschal Triduum is based on the Vatican’s official document, Paschalis Sollemnitatis.


Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Remembering Jesus’ Love to the End. The Paschal Triduum starts in the evening of Holy Thursday during the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

It commemorates how Jesus began his paschal self-offering by “loving his own who were in the world, loving them to the end.” He loves us by instituting two key sacraments by which he reaches us today: the Eucharist, the sacrament of love that makes us "time travel" to Jesus' actual paschal mystery in Calvary, and Holy Orders, the sacrament which continues his priesthood.

Visita Iglesia: Adoring Jesus in the Eucharist.  The Church states that the faithful are “encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved.

A practice that started in Rome, done after the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, is visiting seven churches: Visita Iglesia. A free guide to Visita Iglesia, which is based on seven stops (visits or stations) that Jesus made after the Last Supper and before he was led to Calvary, can be found here.

Penance: turning away from our sins and turning back to God. If the whole of Lent and each Friday of the year that commemorates the death of Jesus are called “intense moments of the Church's penitential practice”, what more the Paschal Triduum itself! All these moments, says the Church, “are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).”  This sharing, acts of charity and evangelization should be practiced above all with the persons nearest to us: family, friends, co-workers, and the acts of self-denial will be most pleasing to God if they are done to perform all our ordinary activities well.  

Sacrament of Confession. The most powerful and effective form of penance is that which Christ himself instituted when he told the Apostles: whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Given that many people are moved by the season to do acts of penance, good Catholics strive during these days to invite many of their relatives, friends and acquaintances to return to this sacrament. This also fulfills Pope Francis' appeal that Christians "put the sacrament of reconciliation at the center once more." A simple guide to Confession can be found here.

Chronology of the Actual Events of Jesus’ Holy Thursday 

To help commemorate the actual events that happened on this day, some scholars give the following chronology:

6-7 PM            Washing of the Feet. Paschal Supper
7-8 PM            Institution of the Eucharist; New Commandment
9 PM               Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane
10 PM             Agony in the Garden
11 PM             Arrest of Jesus


On this day, says Paschalis Sollemnitatis, when Christ our passover was sacrificed, the Church:

  •           meditates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse,
  •           adores the cross,
  •           commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and
  •           intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.
Each one of these acts --meditation, adoration, commemoration and intercession-- should mark our Good Friday, permeated by an attitude of allowing God to act: to love us, to heal us, to transform us. 

There are many devotions that the faithful can do during this day, but the Church clarifies that “liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance.” It must be remembered that the liturgy is not the action of one individual, but the action of whole Christ: Jesus and his entire Church in heaven and on earth. The two liturgies on Good Friday are: the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Liturgical Hours.

Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. This most ancient rite so touching for its stark simplicity is celebrated at around 3 PM in all churchesIt consists of readings of the passion, adoration of the cross, and communion.

Liturgy of the Hours: Office of Readings and Morning Prayer.  In the Catechism, the Church says the praying the Liturgy of the Hours helps “reveal more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated” and is therefore for “all the faithful as much as possible” and “intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God” (CCC 1177; 1175). Paschalis Sollemnitatis recommends that people participate in the saying of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours of Good Friday. They can be found here and here.

Fasting. St. Thomas explains that we fast for three noble purposes: (1) to restrain the desires of the flesh, (2) to raise our mind to contemplate sublime things, (3) to make up for our sins. Fasting helps us then to be one with Christ's self-sacrifice that saves all from sin and gives the greatest worship to God.  

Way of the Cross.  This is a favorite, widespread practice among Christians on Good Friday, and is traditionally led by the Pope in Rome.

Some of the most-loved versions are:
Books and Movies on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.  Meditating on a book and watching a movie on Jesus’ passion is another common practice during these days.

Here are some of the most important books on Christ’s passion:

  •             Passion of the Christ
  •             Jesus of Nazareth
  •             Miracle Maker
To meditate on the significance of Jesus' passion and death, based on the deep insight of the Church, one can use the teaching of the Catechism  and other doctrinal analyses.  Of course, the best book to read and pray on during this time is the Bible, especially the four Gospels.

Chronology of Actual Events of Jesus’ Good Friday

12 AM –3 AM:           Religious process. 1st Session
6 AM:                         2nd Session of the Sanhedrin
7 AM – 8 AM:            Civil process: Jesus before Pilate
8 AM – 9 AM:            Jesus before Herod
9 AM – 11AM:           Jesus before Pilate; scourging and crowning with thorns
11 AM:                        Final sentence; Behold the man
                                    Carrying of the Cross
12 noon:                      Crucifixion; casting lots over garments; insults; darkness; vinegar; last words; Mary
3 PM:                          Death of Jesus; piercing of his side
5 PM:                          Burial


At the Lord’s Tomb. Paschalis Sollemnitatis teaches: On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord's tomb,
  •           meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and
  •            awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.
Use of Images. The same document recommends the use of the following images for the prayer of the faithful:
  •           Christ crucified
  •           Christ lying in the tomb
  •           Christ’s descent into hell
  •           Sorrowful Virgin Mary

Liturgy of the Hours: Office of Readings and Morning Prayer.  As in Good Friday, Paschalis Sollemnitatis recommends that people participate in the saying of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours of Good Friday. They can be found here and here.

Reading and Meditation on the Passion and Descent into Hell. Penitential Acts. Since the mood is that of staying beside the tomb of Christ, Christians continue their reading and prayer over texts regarding the passion and death of our Lord, and other practices of penance. 

The Church's teaching on Christ's Burial can be found here and on his Descent into Hell here

Stabat Mater: make me feel the power of sorrow to grieve with you. Saturday is a day traditionally devoted to our Lady. It is good to accompany her, who is our shortcut to God, as we accompany the entire Church in continuing to meditate on Jesus' passion and death. The hymn Stabat Mater is a beloved prayer to the Virgin of Sorrows, which helps Christians enter profoundly into the mystery of Christ's saving death. This webpage, called the Ultimate Stabat Mater Site, offers various English translations that can help understand and meditate on the meaning of this beautiful Latin hymn


The Catechism teaches that Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts,’ the ‘Solemnity of solemnities,’ just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’ (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter ‘the Great Sunday’... The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.”

Easter Vigil. Celebrated on Saturday evening, the Easter Vigil  is the "greatest and most noble of all solemnities" and can be said to be the most beautiful, inspiring and moving liturgies of the Church. The rite includes the lighting of candles in the dark symbolizing the spread of the light of Christ’s resurrection throughout the darkened world.

It is called the “the mother of all vigils.” A vigil is defined as “a period of time of keeping awake during a time usually dedicated to sleep, especially to keep watch and pray.”

On this night, the Church “keeps vigil, waiting for the resurrection of the Lord”. 

Easter Mass. If one has not attended the Easter Vigil, there is also the Easter Mass, which is celebrated with great solemnity.

Chronology of Actual Events on Jesus' Easter Sunday


Appearance to Mary, his mother (Tradition)
Appearance to Mary Magdalene
Appearance to other women

Afternoon to late evening: 

Appearance to Peter
Appearance to two disciples on the way to Emmaus; Self-revelation at the Breaking of the Bread 
Appearance to Apostles except Thomas; Apostles rejoice. Gave power to forgive sins in Confession  

Easter joy. Easter is the greatest celebration of the Church, and therefore the greatest happiness of each Christian. 

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Benedict XVI explains, "humanity has been made to enter the very nature of God. We are in God. We should rejoice. He loves us, and God loves us to such a point that his love has been made flesh and remains flesh. 

This joy should be the strongest impulse of all, that most explosive force which impels us to communicate the news to all people, so that they likewise may rejoice in the light which is revealed to us, and which in the midst of the world's night announces the day."  

Easter feast. Since Easter is called by the Church the "Feast of feasts", a feast greater than Christmas, then the Easter party should be proportionally well-celebrated. Given that Jesus is the Paschal Lamb, a historic feature of the Easter meal is roasted lamb. Another Easter food that symbolizes the resurrected Christ is the egg. It's hard shell represents the sealed tomb. The life within the egg represents Christ who is Life itself, whose soul reunites with his body, resurrecting to a glorious life so we too can resurrect

Easter octave and Eastertime: 50 days as one great feastday

The longest special season in the Church is Eastertime, 50 days from Easter day to Pentecost. The whole time is celebrated, according to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, as one, single great feast-day, like one grand Sunday. St. Athansius called the first days of Eastertime, from Easter Sunday to the next Sunday, which is Divine Mercy Sunday, "the early hours of the greatest and most noble of all Christian feasts." 

Regina Coeli: rejoicing with Mary throughout the Easter Season, and after.  Pope Benedict XVI taught that Paschal Mystery is the center of the Christian life and Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection is the first day of every week. And because of this, he said: "Again and again, we begin our time with the Resurrection, our encounter with the Risen one, and from that encounter with the Risen one, we go out into the world."

To always remember the central joy of the Resurrection, Christians cherish each Sunday as the beginning of the week with Holy Mass, a time that gives life to the rest of the days. And during the 50 days of Easter until Pentecost, we pray the Regina Coeli at noontime: Queen of heaven, rejoice! Alleluia! 

Formed in the joys of Easter, living the life of the Risen Christ, the Christian then becomes a cheerful person all throughout the year, who spreads peace and joy to everyone he or she meets. 

A relevant article is Paschal Mystery: Center of the Christian Life. This is the essential teaching of the the most important council that influences our lives today, the Second Vatican Council,  according to Pope Benedict XVI, but is hardly known. You can read the article here

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


This article puts together the key points of the Pope Francis' advice to couples preparing for marriage which are contained in Amoris Laetitia. It also contains the sections on Preparing the Marriage Celebration and the First Years of Marriage. 

Sub-headings were added to facilitate reading. 


·         Discover beauty of marriage. We need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage. They should be helped to perceive the attraction of a complete union that elevates and perfects life in society, gives sexuality its deepest meaning, and benefits children by offering them the best context for their growth and development.

·         To understand the mystery of family, remember God’s infinite love. In and among families, the Gospel message should always resound; the core of that message, the kerygma: the mystery of the Christian family can be fully understood only in the light of the Father's infinite love revealed in Christ, who gave himself up for our sake and who continues to dwell in our midst.

·         Virtues; chastity. The importance of the virtues needs to be included. Among these, chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons.

·         Grounded on baptism as covenant with Christ. Marriage preparation should be grounded in the process of Christian initiation by bringing out the connection between marriage, baptism and the other sacraments…"Mutual self-giving in the sacrament of matrimony is grounded in the grace of baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other, and with Christ's grace, the engaged couple promise each other total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The couple recognizes these elements as constitutive of marriage, gifts offered to them by God, and take seriously their mutual commitment, in God's name and in the presence of the Church. Faith thus makes it possible for them to assume the goods of marriage as commitments that can be better kept through the help of the grace of the sacrament. Consequently, the Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn, looks to Jesus". The sacrament is not a "thing" or a "power", for in it Christ himself "now encounters Christian spouses... He dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens."

·         Initiation into sacrament of matrimony. Marriage preparation should be a kind of "initiation" to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.

·         First objective in preparation: love this person. The primary objective is to help each to learn how to love this very real person with whom he or she plans to share his or her whole life. Learning to love someone does not happen automatically, nor can it be taught in a workshop just prior to the celebration of marriage. For every couple, marriage preparation begins at birth. What they received from their family should prepare them to know themselves and to make a full and definitive commitment.

·         Marriage: unconditional choice and daily renewal. Those best prepared for marriage are probably those who learned what Christian marriage is from their own parents, who chose each other unconditionally and daily renew this decision.

·         Recognize future risks. Assist engaged couples to recognize eventual problems and risks. In this way, they can come to realize the wisdom of breaking off a relationship whose failure and painful aftermath can be foreseen. In their initial enchantment with one another, couples can attempt to conceal or relativize certain things and to avoid disagreements; only later do problems surface.

·         Discuss expectations. For this reason, they should be strongly encouraged to discuss what each expects from marriage, what they understand by love and commitment, what each wants from the other and what kind of life they would like to build together. Such discussions would help them to see if they in fact have little in common and to realize that mutual attraction alone will not suffice to keep them together. Nothing is more volatile, precarious and unpredictable than desire. The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment.

·         Firm resolve to face sacrifice: trust. In any event, if one partner clearly recognizes the other's weak points, he or she needs to have a realistic trust in the possibility of helping to develop the good points that counterbalance them, and in this way to foster their human growth. This entails a willingness to face eventual sacrifices, problems and situations of conflict; it demands a firm resolve to be ready for this.

·         Detect danger signals. Reveal self and know the other. Couples need to be able to detect danger signals in their relationship and to find, before the wedding, effective ways of responding to them. Sadly, many couples marry without really knowing one another. They have enjoyed each other's company and done things together, but without facing the challenge of revealing themselves and coming to know who the other person truly is.

·         Marriage as life-long calling. Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that the couple do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road, but instead embark upon marriage as a lifelong calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together. The pastoral care of engaged and married couples should be centered on the marriage bond, assisting couples not only to deepen their love but also to overcome problems and difficulties. This involves not only helping them to accept the Church's teaching and to have recourse to her valuable resources, but also offering practical programs, sound advice, proven strategies and psychological guidance. All this calls for a pedagogy of love, attuned to the feelings and needs of young people and capable of helping them to grow interiorly.

·         Helpful resources, especially Confession. Marriage preparation should also provide couples with the names of places, people and services to which they can turn for help when problems arise. It is also important to remind them of the availability of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows them to bring their sins and past mistakes, and their relationship itself, before God, and to receive in turn his merciful forgiveness and healing strength.


·         Avoid focusing on material preparation. Simple celebration to prioritize love. Short-term preparations for marriage tend to be concentrated on invitations, clothes, the party and any number of other details that tend to drain not only the budget but energy and joy as well. The spouses come to the wedding ceremony exhausted and harried, rather than focused and ready for the great step that they are about to take. The same kind of preoccupation with a big celebration also affects certain de facto unions; because of the expenses involved, the couple, instead of being concerned above all with their love and solemnizing it in the presence of others, never get married. Here let me say a word to fiancés. Have the courage to be different. Don't let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances. What is important is the love you share, strengthened and sanctified by grace. You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else. Pastoral workers and the entire community can help make this priority the norm rather than the exception.

·         Learn and appreciate the meaning of the liturgical celebration. In their preparation for marriage, the couple should be encouraged to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of its signs. In the case of two baptized persons, the commitment expressed by the words of consent and the bodily union that consummates the marriage can only be seen as signs of the covenantal love and union between the incarnate Son of God and his Church. In the baptized, words and signs become an eloquent language of faith. The body, created with a God-given meaning, "becomes the language of the ministers of the sacrament, aware that in the conjugal pact there is expressed and realized the mystery that has its origin in God himself".

·         Words of consent: involve totality of the future. At times, the couple does not grasp the theological and spiritual import of the words of consent, which illuminate the meaning of all the signs that follow. It needs to be stressed that these words cannot be reduced to the present; they involve a totality that includes the future: "until death do us part". The content of the words of consent makes it clear that "freedom and fidelity are not opposed to one another; rather, they are mutually supportive, both in interpersonal and social relationships. Indeed, let us consider the damage caused, in our culture of global communication, by the escalation of un-kept promises... Honoring one's word, fidelity to one's promises: these are things that cannot be bought and sold. They cannot be compelled by force or maintained without sacrifice".

·         Sacrament influences whole of married life. "Many [young people] concentrate on their wedding day and forget the life-long commitment they are about to enter into". They need to be encouraged to see the sacrament not as a single moment that then becomes a part of the past and its memories, but rather as a reality that permanently influences the whole of married life. The procreative meaning of sexuality, the language of the body, and the signs of love shown throughout married life, all become an "uninterrupted continuity of liturgical language" and "conjugal life becomes in a certain sense liturgical".

·         Meditate on readings and signs. The couple can also meditate on the biblical readings and the meaningfulness of the rings they will exchange and the other signs that are part of the rite.

·         Pray together and consecrate love to Mary. Nor would it be good for them to arrive at the wedding without ever having prayed together, one for the other, to seek God's help in remaining faithful and generous, to ask the Lord together what he wants of them, and to consecrate their love before an image of the Virgin Mary.


·         Marriage only for those who freely choose to love. It is important that marriage be seen as a matter of love, that only those who freely choose and love one another may marry. When love is merely physical attraction or a vague affection, spouses become particularly vulnerable once this affection wanes or physical attraction diminishes. Given the frequency with which this happens, it is all the more essential that couples be helped during the first years of their married life to enrich and deepen their conscious and free decision to have, hold and love one another for life. Often the engagement period is not long enough, the decision is precipitated for various reasons and, what is even more problematic, the couple themselves are insufficiently mature. As a result, the newly married couple need to complete a process that should have taken place during their engagement.

·         Marriage does not happen once for all: active role in life-long project.  Another great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all. Their union is real and irrevocable, confirmed and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony. Yet in joining their lives, the spouses assume an active and creative role in a lifelong project. Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God's grace, they are daily called to build. For this very reason, neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress. A persistently critical attitude towards one's partner is a sign that marriage was not entered into as a project to be worked on together, with patience, understanding, tolerance and generosity. Slowly but surely, love will then give way to constant questioning and criticism, dwelling on each other's good and bad points, issuing ultimatums and engaging in competition and self-justification. The couple then prove incapable of helping one another to build a mature union. This fact needs to be realistically presented to newly married couples from the outset, so that they can grasp that the wedding is "just the beginning". By saying "I do", they embark on a journey that requires them to overcome all obstacles standing in the way of their reaching the goal. The nuptial blessing that they receive is a grace and an incentive for this journey. They can only benefit from sitting down and talking to one another about how, concretely, they plan to achieve their goal.

·         Hope that others can change. Love does not despair of the future: the hope of one who knows that others can change, mature and radiate unexpected beauty and untold potential. This does not mean that everything will change in this life. It does involve realizing that, though things may not always turn out as we wish, God may well make crooked lines straight and draw some good from the evil we endure in this world.

·         Hope enables looking beyond problems. I recall an old saying: still water becomes stagnant and good for nothing. If, in the first years of marriage, a couple's experience of love grows stagnant, it loses the very excitement that should be its propelling force. Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope. Hope is the leaven that, in those first years of engagement and marriage, makes it possible to look beyond arguments, conflicts and problems and to see things in a broader perspective. It harnesses our uncertainties and concerns so that growth can take place. Hope also bids us live fully in the present, giving our all to the life of the family, for the best way to prepare a solid future is to live well in the present.

·         Put other’s happiness ahead of my own. This process occurs in various stages that call for generosity and sacrifice. The first powerful feelings of attraction give way to the realization that the other is now a part of my life. The pleasure of belonging to one another leads to seeing life as a common project, putting the other's happiness ahead of my own, and realizing with joy that this marriage enriches society.

·         Negotiate out of mutual love. As love matures, it also learns to "negotiate". Far from anything selfish or calculating, such negotiation is an exercise of mutual love, an interplay of give and take, for the good of the family. At each new stage of married life, there is a need to sit down and renegotiate agreements, so that there will be no winners and losers, but rather two winners. In the home, decisions cannot be made unilaterally, since each spouse shares responsibility for the family; yet each home is unique and each marriage will find an arrangement that works best.

·         Avoid unduly high expectations. Among the causes of broken marriages are unduly high expectations about conjugal life. Once it becomes apparent that the reality is more limited and challenging than one imagined, the solution is not to think quickly and irresponsibly about separation, but to come to the sober realization that married life is a process of growth, in which each spouse is God's means of helping the other to mature. Change, improvement, the flowering of the good qualities present in each person — all these are possible. Each marriage is a kind of "salvation history", which from fragile beginnings — thanks to God's gift and a creative and generous response on our part — grows over time into something precious and enduring. Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman?

·         Help the other shape own identity. Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity. Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship. When we read in the Bible about the creation of man and woman, we see God first forming Adam (cf. Gen 2:7); he realizes that something essential is lacking and so he forms Eve and then hears the man exclaim in amazement, "Yes, this one is just right for me!" We can almost hear the amazing dialogue that must have taken place when the man and the woman first encountered one another. In the life of married couples, even at difficult moments, one person can always surprise the other, and new doors can open for their relationship, as if they were meeting for the first time. At every new stage, they can keep "forming" one another. Love makes each wait for the other with the patience of a craftsman, a patience which comes from God.

·         Be generous in giving life: children as gifts. Encourage newly married couples to be generous in bestowing life. "In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner. Counter a mentality that is often hostile to life... Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is 'the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart' (Gaudium et Spes, 16). The more the couple tries to listen in conscience to God and his commandments (cf. Rom 2:15), and is accompanied spiritually, the more their decision will be profoundly free of subjective caprice and accommodation to prevailing social mores". "[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God". Moreover, "the use of methods based on the 'laws of nature and the incidence of fertility' (Humanae Vitae, 11) are to be promoted, since 'these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favor the education of an authentic freedom' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370). Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents and the Church. Through them, the Lord renews the world".

·         Some practical suggestions: planning free time together, moments of recreation with the children, different ways of celebrating important events, shared opportunities for spiritual growth.

·         Develop a routine that bonds. Encourage young married couples to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores. Yet it also helps to break the routine with a party, and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events. We need these moments of cherishing God's gifts and renewing our zest for life. As long as we can celebrate, we are able to rekindle our love, to free it from monotony and to color our daily routine with hope.

·         Grow in faith. Encourage families to grow in faith. This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats. It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since "the family that prays together stays together".

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