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How many children to have?

Another important aspect of our marriage preparations has been in the area of Natural Family Planning. Contrary to popular belief, the Church does encourage married couples to plan together their family size, but there is vast difference between the Church’s vision of family planning and that of the secular society. Out in the world ‘family planning’ usually means the choice of contraception that a couple will use in between having their one or two children. In the Catholic vision, however, family planning takes on a much more positive and personal understanding. At a foundational level, children are always seen as a great gift and a sign of God’s blessing. All through the Old Testament the blessings of the Lord were always seen in the children bestowed upon a couple and it is wise for us to recall that.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about one of our marriage preparation sessions on the sexual union and how it should be seen as the pre-eminent form of communication because it echoes the love of God. If this ideal is carried through then it can be seen why contraception is so harmful to marriage. Contraception says ‘I give you all of me but I withhold my fertility, I do not want our love to be fruitful’. With contraception, the language of the body becomes distorted. The Church is often criticised for prying into the bedrooms of couples but it is God himself who has made us as sexual beings and that sexuality has a very real meaning. In this fundamental teaching on contraception the Church is simply reminding couples of their dignity and the greatness to which they are called in their love. The Church could never approve contraception because contraception turns the sexual union into something other than what God planned it to be; and it is only in living out God’s designs for life and love that genuine happiness can be found. Read the rest of this entry

Planning the Wedding Ceremony

With almost forty days to the wedding it was time to begin planning the finer details of the actual wedding ceremony. Not that we had left the wedding to the end. You might recall one of my earlier columns on the big discussions Jane and I had about whether to marry in the Melkite Catholic Church or the Latin Catholic Church. Having discerned to marry in the Latin Church we asked Bishop Julian Porteous, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney, to be the main celebrant. While we both know different priests, we know Bishop Porteous in common and we both work closely with him in our respective jobs. We were honoured when he agreed to marry us.

As I had also written about earlier there had been the hope to include some elements from the wedding ceremony (more correctly called the crowning ceremony) of the Byzantine rite. Jane and I met with Bishop Robert Rabbat of the Melkite Eparchy to discuss this and he recently came back to us with permission to incorporate some parts of that rite. Bishop Rabbat also accepted our invitation to be present at the ceremony which is a double blessing. Read the rest of this entry

Sex: Action or Language?

You might recall Jane and I began our marriage preparation course back in August. Well I am pleased to announce that we have finally wrapped it up. Although we initially intended to complete the sessions over six consecutive weeks, there was so much material to absorb (and homework to be done) we thought it best to meet with our mentor couple every two to three weeks. The experience has been very valuable and if you are getting married I can heartily recommend the ‘Smart Loving’ Catholic marriage preparation course!

One of the sessions during the course dealt with the important topic of body language and the sexual union. All of us use body language hundreds of times every day; we cross our arms, shake hands, smile or hug. What we do with our body language is often more important than what we do verbally and for any married couple the most profound body language is that of the sexual union. Sex is sold today in culture, media and entertainment as something people ‘do’, but the risk is that when sex is primarily something we ‘do’, then we naturally begin to deal with it in the way we deal with other things we ‘do’. If we play basketball we want to do it well, or, if we play music then we want to do that well. If sex is just another activity that is done, a couple risk getting caught up in notions of sexual ‘performance’ and sexual ‘compatibility’; concepts that have never been as mainstream as they are today. Read the rest of this entry

Men…and Wedding Planning

“It’s the woman’s special day”… “Whatever she wants”… “Leave the planning to the women”. These phrases and a hundred derivations of them are what I have been hearing from the day Jane and I became engaged. Two recent incidences though moved me to look again at this issue of wedding planning and the roles of men and women. The first incident was around the choosing of the suits for myself and my groomsmen and having a variety of friends (men included) tell me that all that mattered was Jane’s approval of what we would be wearing. Secondly, I was at the gym last week and speaking to a recently married man about the general stresses of wedding planning. As if to offer me a helpful solution, he told me that he had left absolutely everything to his fiancé at the time. He expressed to her that he was happy to pay for it all, but that he was very busy at work and he knew she wanted to plan it all anyway. I found both incidences frustrating.

I do not like being told that my choices and preferences are somehow secondary, or worst still, not relevant compared to those of my fiancé. Nor do I not need to be told what suit I can wear. I have dressed myself well for 33 years and I will dress myself exceptionally well on our wedding day. I must state immediately that Jane has very much been one to share out this day and for that I am thankful. I am well aware though that wedding planning is by and far the domain of the bride-to-be. I am not trying to buck the trend, nor do I want to assert planning control over the entire event. I do not mind what colour scheme we have, what type of dresses Jane and the bridesmaids wear or what flowers are used, but I do wish to stand up for the general role of men. Read the rest of this entry

Gender Roles in Marriage…by Jane

Hi, it’s Jane again. A few weeks ago you read about Bernard’s ‘tool party’ with the boys – an afternoon of blokey frivolity which included cold drinks, lots of meat and some sort of activity involving the men running and throwing themselves against a giant velcro wall. As I prepare for my Kitchen Tea with the ladies, I can fairly confidently predict that the afternoon is not likely to bear much resemblance to Bernard’s event.

I sometimes find the differences between men and women highly amusing. It is no wonder they wrote a book about Men being from Mars and Women from Venus. However, apart from the occasional frustrations when either sex just cannot seem to understand the other, I would not have it any other way. I think it would be quite foolish not to recognise the fact that men and women bring very different qualities and strengths to a relationship. Read the rest of this entry

Take this Ring…

Moving along the checklist Jane and I found ourselves in need of a couple of wedding rings. Not knowing a great deal about rings it seemed logical to return to the jeweller from whom I bought the engagement ring some months earlier. Actually the man I bought the engagement ring from is not a jeweller as much as a diamond wholesaler who had been recommended to me by a friend at work. The man (Zorro) has been in this family business all his life and operates one of the few remaining jewellery workshops where they design and make high quality rings and jewellery for stores around Sydney. He doesn’t actually have a shop front or regularly see individual clients unless they come recommended so I was glad he was recommended to me. Zorro sees his work with individual clients as more of a favour towards them and not really a business transaction so in selecting an engagement ring he was not in any way pressuring me to buy a particular ring or stone. It was also good to go back to him as Jane’s ring turned out to be a quarter size too big and he was able to have one of his jewellers both resize and polish it on the spot! Read the rest of this entry

Operation Wedding Invitation

O humble wedding invitation, how can thou cause such stress? That is the question that Jane and I have been asking as we finalise our wedding invitations. The need and idea for a wedding invitation is simple enough: we are getting married, we would like family and friends to join us and we need to let them know the details. So in comes the all important wedding invitation, but this step has been far from a simple one.

Naturally our preference would be to send out something that we both like and this has been a task in and of itself. All the way along the planning process, my standard has been a royal wedding minus the royals so when it came to invitations I envisaged a classical fine square of crisp white card with the text pressed through the card and traced over in gold. I soon realised that the reason such a design is used at royal functions is because it requires a royal budget. Prices for embossed and letter press finish invitations can easily come out at around $5 or $6 per invite and especially when we are creating invitations for both the reception and the afternoon tea we had to be mindful of costs. Read the rest of this entry

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