An interview with Karee Santos, co-author of a new book on the bliss and struggles of marriage in the modern world
A book 10 years in the making offers marriage advice on a range of topics, building on the premise that marriage is a battlefield, and if spouses aren’t ready to fight for it, they can’t expect to survive.
Karee Santos is a writer and founder of the Can We Cana? blog. Together with her husband, Manuel Santos, MD, she co-authored The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime(Ave Maria Press, 2016). Published the same week Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, their book has been hailed as “spiritually rich” by best-selling author Christopher West.
Aleteia recently interviewed Santos about Four Keys and the bliss and struggles of marriage in the modern world.
There have been a lot of books published on love, relationships and marriage. What are you saying differently than what others have said in the past? And why write this book now?
Many books on love and marriage focus mainly on communication tips. Others focus mostly on the so-called pelvic issues like abortion and contraception. The Four Keys to Everlasting Love covers a much wider range of topics — from work, finances and in-laws to sacramentality, family prayer and imitation of the Holy Family. We started writing our book when we were first married, more than 10 years ago. Now that our sixth child is in kindergarten, we finally got the chance to finish!
For religion or spirituality to be truly effective, it needs to be practical. How is Theology of the Body a practical theology? What is the practical takeaway for readers in your book?
Our book draws not only from John Paul II’s Theology of the Body but also from his other teachings on work, parenting and the family as evangelizers and agents of social change. We fell in love with this great pope’s teachings about the same time we fell in love with each other! In a nutshell, our goal with The Four Keys was melding the practical with the theological to find faith-based solutions for real-world problems. So we include communication techniques, scriptural principles of money management, an overview of all major methods of natural family planning, resources for special needs, adoptive, and foster parents, therapeutic approaches for victims of infidelity or sex abuse, and much more.
You write, “Your marriage is the chosen battlefield in the war between good and evil that every soul must fight in order to attain heaven.” Unpack this statement for us. Why do you juxtapose marriage and the battlefield?
Some people have the romantic notion that after the wedding day, the adventure ends and married life is effortless, perfect, and almost boring. When reality hits, these people give up and walk away rather than fight for their marriage. As Pope Francis stated recently in Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love): “A love that is weak or infirm, incapable of accepting marriage as a challenge to be taken up and fought for, reborn, renewed and reinvented until death, cannot sustain a great commitment” (para. 124).
Less than a year after you were married, your husband and co-author, Manny, was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. How was your faith challenged and rewarded during his illness?
This is actually the hardest question to answer. My faith was so new at the time, bright and shiny but a little bit fragile. I had only converted to Catholicism a few months prior. When Manny and I shared the news of the diagnosis, we received an outpouring of prayerful support from our friends and family. We saw the crucial importance of gathering an army of prayer warriors to storm heaven for us, and we credit them with his safe recovery. But I couldn’t help asking, “Why, God? What are you trying to teach me?” especially later, when the tumors kept recurring. And I still don’t have an answer other than “Jesus, I trust in you. Help my distrust to cease.”
We are in the midst of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Tell us about the role of mercy in marriage and in families. How can a family that may be dealing with disappointment, frustration, illness and/or lack of money show mercy to others and their community when they are struggling internally?
Mercy doesn’t always show itself through extravagant gestures. In marriage, mercy becomes incarnate through a soft touch, a tender gaze, a willingness to listen when you’d rather speak, and lips that freely offer words of forgiveness. It’s easier to extend mercy to each other when we gratefully remember the mercy that God has extended to us. None of us is perfect, and none of us has lived a sinless or stress-free life. Confession is a wellspring of mercy. When we stay close to the confessional, we can find an interior peace that naturally influences every interaction we have with others. We recognize how much God has given us and we’re better able to see the needs of others.
Gary Jansenis senior editor at Penguin Random House where he has edited books by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Robert Barron and Scott Hahn. He is the author ofThe 15-Minute Prayer Solutionand the best-selling memoir,Holy Ghosts. A popular lecturer and commentator, Jansen has appeared on A&E, the Sundance Channel, the Travel Channel and NPR. His writing has been featured in theHuffington Post andUSA Today.