Welcome to the Office for Marriage & Family Life!

The Office for Marriage and Family Life places itself at the service of parishes and families so that they can answer their call to holiness and help form communities of love and life in Jesus Christ. Our primary goal is to help families become what they are by realizing these four tasks:

  • Forming a Community of Persons
  • Serving Life
  • Participating in the development of Society
  • Sharing in the life and mission of the Church

Inspiring Confidence in Marriage Requires a Change in Focus

by Alice B. Heinzen

Skiing area in the Alps
Focus on the snow, not the rocks

The Skiing Lesson

Several years ago, my parents took my siblings and me skiing in CO for the first time. Dad was an expert skier and had high hopes that his children would also find great joy in this sport. He did all he could to get us excited about skiing in the mountains. He told us remarkable stories about his skiing adventures and showcased the sport with movies and magazines.

Dad took us to a great resort for our first try at mountain skiing. On the first morning, Dad skied in front of us, showing us where and how to turn. He had a wonderful way of navigating the steep terrain and showing us how we could confidently do the same. By lunch time, we all thought we could achieve Dad’s dream – to be great skiers.

After lunch, Dad promised us an even greater skiing thrill. He took us to the very top of the mountain. He waved us under a rope that seemed to mark the perimeter of the area. Trusting in him completely, we ducked under the rope and followed him. For those of you who are skiers, Dad was taking us into the “back country” or the ungroomed area that is designated for experts or idiots only.

Shortly thereafter, we came to a ridge of snow that was bordered by rocky ledges. The open trails that we had skied all morning were now replaced by narrowed and harrowing pipelines of deep, virgin snow. We all started to sweat.

Sensing our concern, Dad assured us that we were able to do this. He said that he would go first and show us how to navigate this particular section of snow. He pushed off and carved a path for us to follow. He stopped below us and waved his pole signaling that we should follow. My oldest sister went first and immediately fell. My brother went next, making it a bit farther before falling. My other sister went next, tears in her eyes. She, too, fell.

I froze. Dad yelled at me to go. I yelled back, “Are you crazy? Don’t you see those rocks? I will die if I come down.” He yelled back, “but you have to come – you can’t stay there.”  I yelled back, “Oh yes I can! It beats crashing into the rocks and dying!” I could not move because I had no confidence in my ability to miss the rocks and live. Finally, my Dad yelled up, “Alice – you are focusing on the wrong thing. Stop looking at the rocks. Look at the snow. The snow is the path that you need to follow. It will bring you safely to me.”

With these inspiring words – look at the snow – I was refocused. I had confidence to attempt the slope.  It wasn’t pretty, but I made it down safely.

Inspiring Confidence in Marriage by Focusing on the Snow, Not the Rocks

Inspiring confidence in marriage is rather like this skiing story. The best way to attract people and garner their attention is through a positive rather than a negative presentation.  Addressing the negative side of marriage does little to interest people in the truth about matrimony. Even though the dark side may be more juicy and sensational, it drives people away from the truth about traditional marriage. The best practice is to initiate conversations about marriage with the spot-on goodness that flows from marriage as defined by God.

Why is it necessary to first emphasize the rich and beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage? The simple answer is that many people today have been raised in a culture of relativism with a tendency to guide their reasoning with sentimentality rather than logic. Leading with the beauty of marriage is more likely to engage the passions of the individual which, in turn, is more likely to effectively engage the reason and will.

Today’s culture has been trained to look at the rocks rather than the snow. As a result, most Catholics today are unable to explain or defend the Catholic Church teachings on marriage. Many have lost sight of marriage as the natural foundation for the family. There is a growing acceptance of narcissism which makes it very difficult to portray authentic love as something more than sentimentality. As confusion about gender issues builds, people find it more difficult to live in harmony with their God-given gifts and charisms.  And, most sadly, a great majority of persons have settled for an inferior version of sexual love that is incapable of true human fulfillment.

Without doubt, it is time for people of good faith to learn about the beauty of marriage. In particular, they need to hear repeated explanations about God’s exquisite plan for marital love. They need examples that illustrate the importance of marriage to the Church and to society. They need to be assured by Church leadership that taking the risk to go against the culture brings authentic joy.

People, especially our young adults, need to be convinced that they are up to the challenge of being wedded to one person for the rest of their lives and that they can be great parents and raise happy, healthy and holy children. They deserve frank messages from the pulpit referring to marriage as hard work that is well worth the effort. This group needs to be directed to Scripture readings and Church teachings that bring clarity to God’s plan for marriage and family. They should be pointed to secular research that confirms that children raised by their biological, married parents do better than those who don’t have that security. All of these will edify and attract them to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Imagine how the culture could change if priests, deacons and religious spoke with gratitude and enthusiasm about the wedded state. Think what might happen if parishes offered a prayer at every Mass for the vocation of marriage. Contemplate how young people might become interested in traditional marriage if clergy everywhere revered marriage through monthly anniversary celebrations that highlight the faithful witness of couples who are actually making marriage work in today’s world.

We all know that it is much easier to explain what is wrong about something than it is to illustrate its goodness.  And yet, Saint Paul reminds us that we should focus on the best and live accordingly.

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you(Phil 4:8, 9).

Imploring God’s grace and mercy for the preservation of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, let us pray for the brave ones who are called to enter into and live its mystery.

Grilling for Relationships

Man grilling, people sitting at table in background

Now that summer is here, it’s time to fire up the grill! And while you’re at it, you can throw a few hot coals on your romance, too. You may not think planning a barbeque for your friends or family is a great relationship booster, but think again. Something as simple and fun as a cookout has the potential of building a stronger marriage.

Let’s start with one of the two biggest stresses in marriage: housework and time (and I don’t mean “too little housework, too much time”). Researchers have discovered that, on average—hold on to your hats for this surprising finding—wives do more housework than husbands. And researchers find more men use outdoor grills than women. Shocked? I thought you would be.  All right, maybe those are not earth shattering revelations, but here are two findings that maybe you didn’t know: Women who view their husbands as pitching-in are happier, and men who share domestic chores report having better sex lives.

Now that I have your attention, I’m sure you’ll see the wonderful potential of preparing for an evening of grilling. First, when you spend time deciding on a menu, it gives you a chance to work together for a common purpose.  Then, when you divvy up jobs, it helps to reinforce the roles that each of you play, and reminds you that the true strength of a marital bond is that you complement each other, and can each benefit from the other’s strengths.

You grow as a team and as individuals. When the happy hubby dons his apron and heads outside, he has the chance to demonstrate mastery at a task; the fresh air and constant action is an outlet that helps him to relax; and bringing food to the table satisfies his hunter’s instincts to provide a meal for his family. No, the guy’s chores don’t totally take the wife out of the picture, as many women still find themselves doing prep work, salad preparation, clean up, in fact, just about everything except stand over the grill turning the steak. But, hey, at least they’re not standing over the grill turning the steak. And no matter how you slice it, it is a break.

And of course, the real joy of a cookout is being able to sit together as a family and appreciate how you two, working together, made this fantastic meal. Don’t forget to thank each other for a job well done!

You’ve probably figured out by now that while I’m singing the praises of grilling, I’m only using it as one example of how an activity has the potential of bringing a husband and wife closer together. Let’s look at some basic elements:

  1. Work together on projects as a team, not as competitors.
  2. Look at experiences for the fun they can bring and the problems they solve, not the burden they impose.
  3. Recognize that you each bring strengths to the relationship. Don’t resent your partner for his or her differences. The other’s unique qualities are what attracted you to each other in the first place.
  4. If you’re not the main homemaker, pitch in and help with household tasks.
  5. Share time together eating and talking, and you’ll keep a stronger bond.
  6. Celebrate your accomplishments together. If you don’t, nobody will.
  7. Lavish your partner with praise.

So, this summer as you take the cover off the backyard grill, consider the many ways that you two can create a spicier, hotter and more nurturing relationship. Then, get cooking!

Mouth-watering, Fall-off-the-Bone Spareribs!

3 pounds pork spareribs
1 (18 ounce) bottle of your favorite barbeque sauce
2 bottles of beer
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2  teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper

  1. Place spareribs in a large pot with barbeque sauce, beer, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.
  2. Bring to a low boil, and cook for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and marinate the ribs in the sauce at least three hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat grill, then lightly oil it. Remove spareribs from marinade and place on the grill.
  4. Using the remaining marinade, grill ribs, basting every five minutes. Ribs should be done in about 30 minutes.

Reflection questions:

  1. When was the last time you cooked together as a couple? Do you have any lasting memories of that experience, positive, negative, or comical?
  2. What are the strengths that each of you bring to a shared project? Make sure to tell each other your answer!
  3. In the next month, what occasion could you celebrate with a back-yard cookout that might otherwise go unrecognized? Be creative! How about a monthly wedding anniversary date, anniversary of your first kiss, or just celebrating the first day you ever cooked together? Put it on your calendars and enjoy!

Scott Haltzman, M.D., is the founder and editor of, a psychiatrist and author of several books, including The Secrets of Happily Married Men, The Secrets of Happily Married Women, and The Secrets of Happy Families.

A Bible Great App for Kids!

This is a free Bible experience for your kids. It provides animated stories for either smartphones or tablets. The illustrations are animated, colorful and fun. The app also has games and activities to help kids remember what the learn about the Bible. Kids can easily navigate the app. Available for both iPhones and Android.

Raising Families for the World

by Matthew Canter

A covered wagon train forms a protective circle to camp along the Oregon Trail in eastern OregonThere is a common perception at work in the Church today that suggests the best way to maintain a strong family life is to adhere to what I call the “Catholic kibbutz mentality.” Kibbutz* is the Hebrew word for a collective community. The Catholic commune mentality largely draws on a vibrant faith tradition among like-minded families. They live next to each other and pool their resources together in order to best accommodate and encourage their Catholic faith.

Seeing danger from the morally relative, and at times perverse culture, faithful Catholic parents have attempted to remove their children from the grip of secular forces by moving them into an environment where Catholic principles, tradition and morality can be adhered to. These families are rightly trying to regain a culture that supports faith and family. The culture as a whole used to do that for us. But in a hostile culture, Catholics feel the need to create a sub-culture that offers the needed support. And to a degree there’s nothing wrong with that! Catholic families absolutely should support each other. But there is also a degree to which circling the wagons becomes a problem. While such efforts can bolster a family’s faith, these Catholic communities need to be careful about becoming too exclusive and shutting themselves off from the world.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity” Pope Francis, La Civiltà Cattolica.

By having a Catholic kibbutz mentality, parents are in danger of unintentionally teaching their children that Christianity is weak and must be protected from outside pressures. Likewise, instead of conquering evil, this walled mentality suggests that Christianity may fall victim to the very forces it came to combat. Instead, families that engage the culture show that the faith is meant to transform the world rather than be transformed by the world.

Naturally, we want the very best for our children, and we know that the best to be found is in the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, is the kibbutz mentality the best way to embrace our apostolic faith? How does this way parallel the way of the saints and martyrs of the Church through the ages? We many times hear our pastors talk about ‘the struggle’ of taking our faith seriously.  The struggle is not merely how we walk in relationship to God, but how we make that walk in the company of other people.

“I see clearly (…) that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” Pope Francis, La Civiltà Cattolica

Remember, Christ came for sinners, not the righteous, and we become Christ when we go about seeking those who are lost. The moral of this analogy to kibbutzes is to remind all Catholics who take our faith seriously that the primary evidence of our faithfulness is taking our faith beyond our comfort zone, all the while recognizing potential dangers. We can make this recognition and not condone the actions of secularism, but to evangelize and heal the wounds of the world we must have that ‘proximity’ our Holy Father talks about. The times in which we find ourselves can be precarious, especially to our faith. Of course, we must hold fast to our Catholicity, but we must not for a moment think that it belongs exclusively to us.

Another way of thinking about our relationship with the world, is to ask if we view it as us versus them? If so, we endanger the validity of the Gospel. Perhaps the key to overcoming the danger of a kibbutz mentality is to constantly remind ourselves and our children, that it is never ‘us vs. them,’ rather it is ‘us’ for ‘them.’ When we see others through the eyes of Christ, or within the embrace of our Blessed Mother, we must be compelled to see a brother, a sister, a daughter, and a son. The ideal of Catholicism is not to view the world in a tribalistic fashion of Catholics and non-Catholics, but to see the Body of Christ as active members and potential members. Once we get over the idea that we have the corner on the market for faithfulness, we can then let faithfulness work to draw the world into the embrace it does not know it needs.

*The Israeli kibbutz movements began in the early 20th century before the formation of the state of Israel. These communities of immigrant Jews lived in isolated, walled compounds isolated from the native Palestinian and Bedouin tribes in British Mandate Palestine. Outside the walls was an Islamic-dominant society steeped in Arab/Middle-Eastern culture, whereas with the walls was a Zionistic, often European culture very different from its surroundings. Inside the walls the kibbutz organized its own government, security, education and religious-social culture. The kibbutz was a part of the Palestinian landscape, but very much not of it.