Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love
by Art and Laraine Bennett
Imagine receiving an invitation to a cocktail party filled with an entire cheering section of Catholic friends fired up about the greatness of marriage, and then imagine all the sage advice and hard-earned insights that one could glean from the conversations at such a party. Thanks to the skillful editing of Art and Laraine Bennett, Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love is the book version of such a soiree, in which a passionate group of journalists, marriages counselors, educators, and most importantly, experienced husbands and wives, share their stories with a great deal of wisdom and humor. The nine essays in Catholic and Married touch on a variety of topics that married, engaged and even single Catholics will find relevant. The conversational tone and plethora of examples drawn from the writers’ personal experiences make this book an engaging and encouraging read for anyone hoping to build up their own marriage and strengthen the culture of marriage in general.
In the opening essay, Mirrors Around a Flame, Simcha Fisher reflects on the gift of children in a very honest, but ultimately hopeful way. “Once you have children,” Fisher writes, “your marriage will never be the same. And you will praise God for it. You will never regret this life of joys and sorrows, frustrations and exaltations, petty duties and profound revelations.” Both couples in the trenches of parenthood and those discerning a vocation to marriage will find inspiration from Fisher’s thorough overview of how children make an invaluable contribution to a marriage.
Art and Laraine Bennett’s comprehensive survey of marriage communication is chock-full of practical advice. After explaining the role temperaments can play in creating marital discord, the Bennetts offer three pillars necessary for a healthy marriage: forgiveness, sacramental grace and healthy communication. “Marriage is communication, in the deepest sense,” explain the Bennetts. The many useful communication strategies and real-life examples of this dynamic duo illustrate just how far the Bennets have journeyed in their own marriage.
The next few essays tackle with gusto a few of the cultural trends that can harm marriage. Brandon McGinley’s discussion of sexual promiscuity and pornography, which he calls “a bottomless well of empty promises,” will inspire Catholics, whether they are single, dating or married, to struggle joyfully against the current culture’s casual approach to sex. McGinley reminds couples that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is the surest path to an authentic and lasting love. In their endearing essay, Marrying Young, David and Amber Lapp deliver a counterpoint to the rise in marriage postponement among Millennials. They argue that marrying young is possible when the couple views marriage not as a product to be consumed, but a relationship meant for cultivation. Blogger and mother of four Jenny Uebbing opens a window into her world as a Catholic mother living out the Church’s teaching on sex, openness to life and marriage. Uebbing shares her frustrations with society’s misconception that “sex and babies are something that are only very occasionally paired together.” Through sound logic and a few touching stories, Uebbing reminds us that contraception gives only the illusion of control and can often be unsafe for women, mentally, spiritually and physically. A marriage that embraces God’s unitive and procreative design for sex will move a couple to a greater love and respect for each other.
Meg McDonnell offers single Catholics food for thought on the topic of cohabitation, concluding that living together without the full commitment and sacramental grace of marriage will not necessarily set a couple up for success. McDonnell’s essay shares several stories of young people who bought into the culture of cohabitation and walked away dissatisfied. “Living together before marriage,” McDonnell concludes, “may provide temporary convenience and financial relief, but not living together before marriage will help establish selflessness, self-control, and strength, both in the individuals and in the relationship.” And Dr. Joseph White, a clinical psychologist and author, reiterates in his essay, Having Hope for Marriage as a Child of Divorce, that avoiding cohabitation is one of the secrets to marital success, along with fostering a strong faith, solid conflict resolution skills, and practicing chastity both in the single life and in marriage. Dr. White reminds couples: “God is the author of marriage […] and does not call us to something that is destined to fail.”
Many Catholic parents will appreciate the wise counsel and parenting resources found in Professor Thomas Lickona’s essay on raising kids with character. The list of the ten human virtues necessary for a person of character, as well as his advice on how to provide authentic experiences of Faith for one’s children, are especially worth referencing many times over.
The final essay by married couple Dan and Hallie Lord reminds Catholic couples that while marriage is hard work, it is also a great joy and a great privilege Both husband and wife open up about their struggles to let go of selfishness and rely on God and each other as they grow in a deep and lasting love for each other.
Catholic and Married affirms the goodness of marriage and calls couples to a foster an unconditional love for each other and their families that is rooted in Christ and his Church. Many of the essays featured in this book stand alone as great book club discussions or fodder for deeper conversations with a boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé/e or spouse on the topics that matter most in a relationship. The personal and humorous approach each of these knowledgeable authors employ in discussing the challenges and joys of marriage make Catholic and Married a truly worthwhile read.
About the reviewer
Kathleen O’Beirne is a wife, mother of four, a freelance writer and volunteer in the Marriage Preparation Program for the Arlington Diocese.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.