Archdiocese to create cross-cultural marriage programs

Two women expand NFP, marriage prep education

Two marriage experts recently joined the Denver archdiocesan team to help transform rocky relationships into God-centered domestic churches.

The newly-hired Carrie Keating, natural family planning (NFP), family life and marriage specialist, and Viviana Martinez, coordinator of Hispanic Family Ministry, joined forces to lead Denver Catholics to the truth of marriage.

“Without God, I don’t know how marriages stand a chance,” said Keating, who’s married with two children. “Our relationship with Christ and having the Holy Spirit active in our marriage can change it.”

Martinez, married with five children, said: “Our Hispanic community is faithful to the Church. However, we have to be sure that faith and religion is not taken for granted. We need to encounter Jesus.”

Marriage and the family are increasingly under assault in the modern world. Some 42 percent of marriages with no religious affiliation end in divorce and 28 percent of Catholic marriages end in divorce, according to a 2012 General Social Survey.

Co-habitation, same-sex unions, interreligious marriages, single-parent families, and secular feminism also threaten the traditional family, which is the foundation of society.

The Vatican announced the Church will hold a Synod of Bishops Oct. 5-19, 2014, to address the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

In the Denver Archdiocese, Keating and Martinez are developing a cross-cultural approach to marriage preparation and enrichment that reaches inner-city and rural communities.

“The teachings of the Church and Jesus Christ are not targeted to one culture or one language in particular but is a universal call in a multicultural word,” Martinez said. “With that in mind, we don’t need to change any of the teachings of the Church but adapt them to the reality of each community.”

Martinez, a member of the Christian Life Movement at Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield, spent years with her husband ministering to Hispanic engaged couples. Together they launched the website www.vivaenfamilia.com to promote family values.

“I am taking this opportunity to provide families the tools and resources they need to become a real domestic church,” she said.

Early in 2014, the Hispanic ministry center Centro San Juan Diego will launch a new part of their website (www.centrosanjuandiego.org/familia) with resources on marriage preparation, natural family planning, raising children, private schools, counseling and an events calendar, Martinez said.

The Denver Archdiocese’s website will also be updated to help streamline the marriage preparation process with easy access to resources, Keating said.

The two are also working to expand natural family planning education through the recruitment of parish-based teachers across the archdiocese.

“NFP teaches us to understand and respect our God-given fertility,” Keating said. “He doesn’t withhold love from us, so we are to mirror that and give a total gift of self to each other in marriage.”

Keating, of All Souls Parish in Englewood, was a convert to the faith in 2000 and came to see the beauty in Church teaching on sexuality and fertility. She and her husband also mentored couples and made it their mission to support marriages.

“I really love teaching NFP and talking about it,” Keating said. “NFP is good for the body and soul. I want people to know about medically sound and moral ways to treat women’s health issues and infertility.”

The Hispanic community, Martinez said, is largely unaware of natural family planning.

“They don’t know,” she said. “Nobody explains it to them in their own language and in their own style. That’s the main challenge in the Hispanic community.”

Keating said they will also simplify the marriage preparation process.

“We’re not asking anything less of engaged couples; we’re not watering anything down,” she said. “We want them to feel the process is easier to understand.”

The two experts will work with staff to create training programs, retreats, marriage-strengthening initiatives on an archdiocesan and parish-level, develop programs in conjunction with other ministries, and visit parishes to offer guidance.

“The first step is to encounter and accept families where they are, no matter how close or far they are from the Church, no matter their immigration status, or professional level,” Martinez said. “What we all have in common is the longing from God, and we need to provide the necessary tools to help them discover that and put their faith into action.”

 

Learn more:
Denver Archdiocese
Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries
Website: www.archden.org
Phone: 303-715-3259
Centro San Juan Diego
Hispanic Family Ministry
Website: www.centrosanjuandiego.org
Phone: 303-295-9470

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.