Secure in His Love
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family) writes, “The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon — not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue — capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior.”
Married for 21 years, Fernando and Claudia Gonzalez exude a sense of ease, pride, and confidence in their joint witness of God’s blessings. They do their best to share that peace and a deep love for Christ with their four children: Kevin, 18, Karen, 15, Jesus, 10, and Emmanuel, 8.
The couple, parishioners of Fort Worth’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and St. Peter the Apostle Parish, discussed with the NTC their experiences building a marriage full of joy and respect and cultivating a family secure in their faith.
HOW THEY MET: They’d lived the entirety of their lives just a few streets apart in a small town in Mexico, but it wasn’t until their local parish organized a weekend youth retreat that the two finally met amidst prayer and fellowship. There, they learned about their shared interests and passion for their faith.
Fernando said, “So it was there that I met her, and that we fell in love.”
After five years of dating, the two married.
ACTIVE IN THEIR FAITH: Upon their arrival in Fort Worth, the Gonzalez couple quickly searched and found opportunities to become active in the church.
Even as their eldest son learned to walk, they joined a parish group at Our Lady of Guadalupe called Movimiento Familiar Cristiano Católico (Catholic Christian Family Movement) that promoted mutual support amongst families.
Fernando said, “We were in that group for about three years. The reunions were made up entirely of families, the kids would be working on one thing, and we would be holding discussions on family.”
They then joined the Grupo Carismático (Charismatic Group) ministry, where they have actively participated for the past 12 years. The group, Fernando said, “challenged us. They began to incorporate the catechesis to speak on topics about faith and how to share it. And to not just live our faith but share it with others.”
The Gonzalez family is also active in the catechesis program at St. Peter the Apostle Parish, having volunteered in the program for the past 6 years.
PRO-LIFE PARTNERS: After having her third child, Claudia was ready to undergo a procedure to prevent future pregnancies. However, Fernando, having studied the topic in their parish group, gently asked her to instead consider natural family planning.
Claudia recalled, “My husband told me that he was pro-life and that he respected my body. He helped me see, as a woman, that he was going to support me and that if we both were going to learn our faith, we could also learn our bodies. Thanks to that, we have ten years of caring for ourselves like this. … I admire this of him because due to his support in this, we can give our ‘yes’ to God.”
Claudia admitted that, at first, she’d fought with him over the idea. But because he’d initiated the difficult topic, and they’d had the chance to talk and pray about it together, they are now a loving family of six.
EMBODY YOUR FAITH: She said, “Thanks to God and to my husband, I was able to understand that we must take care of our bodies because we reflect what we are.
“If we give our children happiness, our children will have happiness. If we share our faith with our children, regardless of if we feel like ours is at 100%, our children will have faith. And if we don’t give them that foundation now, with how the world is, then our children are even less likely to keep it.”
BE PROUD: Enrolled in public school, the two younger Gonzalez children face many challenges regarding attacks on their faith.
The constant activities and distractions the secular world regularly provides can obscure God’s presence from their children, according to Fernando. The couple does their best to push values including order and respect at home as much as possible.
If not, Fernando believes, then so quickly, you’ll lose your kids.
“They’ll leave their faith behind for their technology; they’ll lose the importance of praying at home; and they’ll feel that if someone were to speak to them of God, they’ll become embarrassed. I tell them, you must never feel ashamed to speak of Jesus and to speak of God; every time someone asks you if you’re Catholic, you must proudly respond, ‘Of course I’m Catholic,’” he said.
FRUIT OF ONE’S EFFORT: Kevin, who graduated from Cristo Rey Fort Worth College Prep last year, was chosen to be recognized for the depth of his faith.
“In that moment, I felt bigger than life,” Claudia shared. “If my son has God in his life, he will lack nothing. He will make mistakes and fall prey to temptations, but he will lack nothing [because God is with him].”
Their daughter Karen is a freshman at Cristo Rey.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES: Pray for each other. “It is the greatest thing you can do for your partner,” Fernando counseled.
ADVICE FOR PARENTS: Always provide an example of a lived faith. He advised, “Catechesis will help fill in the gaps, but it won’t evangelize your children. Kids are evangelized at home.”
Parents are responsible for making themselves an accessible example of an active disciple, Fernando shared. “If we are not available to teach catechism, to give our testimony when children are around, if our kids do not participate in or do not share their faith, then no, their faith will not bear fruit. It is important to share your faith so that others know it. Because if you have God, you must let Him come out through you, through your words, through your mouth. Proclaim His works to other people — evangelize. I tell my children, we must always evangelize, whenever they are in school, and the one thing you say, must always say, is that you are not ashamed [to love God]”.
Claudia added, “I feel that if God called me, and I left this world physically, if I leave my children with a strong foundation in their faith, they will always have me in their hearts, and they will be fine. But if I leave them without faith, they will be lost because their souls will be lost, their essence will be lost; their lives will be lost.”
DEALING WITH GRIEF: Fernando shared, “When my father passed away, I let him go, and I grieved, but that sadness isn’t all I feel anymore since I know that I wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have God—He is in my siblings; I see Him in my family. So now, I can give testimony and say that I’m sure that we each have God with us. Even if you lose a loved one, it’s sad, but God will help you carry that load. Your faith — the faith that I have for God — and the love that God gives me unburdens me. Whereas I used to share that weight with other people, I now use it as an example, to tell you about it, as I have had this experience before: with my father’s passing, I feel an emptiness, but it doesn’t feel prominent because God fills that space…I’m a witness of God’s miracles in us all; how He helps comfort us.”
SHARE YOUR FAITH: “Even if it’s a little bit that I might share with another person, even if it’s not a remarkable example, something that I might say could change or transform someone’s life," Fernando said.
BE OPEN: “If we didn’t have faith among us, our marriage and our family wouldn’t be what it is. … I believe that it is God who is working in our family and in all the families that live in His faith,” Claudia said. “We are not perfect; we get angry; we argue. A marriage is not a daily happiness, but I think, like my husband, that where God is in a marriage, God is above all in that marriage.”
GIVE BACK: “As my husband says, if we have God in our lives, everything else is extra. God will always bless us, but we also have to give something to God: a service, a talk, or something, because we cannot also be asking for God every day and not, as an act of conscience, decide how to give back to others that which God has given me,” recommended Claudia.