Friday, October 30, 2015

Water Into Wine, and Hanging Out With Christopher West at Wedding Receptions: The Four Keys to Everlasting Love Book Preview

I'm not sure if this post is cheating, since the book I'm featuring isn't actually out for reading yet.  But, I want to share with you how excited I am about Karee Santos of Can We Cana's upcoming release, The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime.  

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Karee and I became friends through blogging a few years ago and have enjoyed communicating more frequently as we've gone down the first-time author path together.  We agreed to participate in endorsements for each other's projects, where you receive an advance copy of a forthcoming book and write a review for the publisher, parts of which might be featured on the book cover or in other marketing materials.  I had the pleasure of reading The Four Keys over the summer and am so honored to share it with you and put it on your radar before its April release.

Karee and her husband, Manny, have been married for over 15 years and have six kids!  They are Pre-Cana teachers with a passion for JPII's teachings on human love and on guiding couples not just in the ways of newlywed life, but in all the seasons of a lifetime together.  That, I think, is part of what makes their book so awesome: since college, I feel like I've inadvertently become something of a Catholic relationship book junkie, yet this is my first encounter with a book that spans every season of a married relationship, from engagement to young family life and beyond.  So no matter whether you're freshly engaged or have been married for a while, hopefully you'll appreciate, like me, the Santos' wisdom in living out your wedding vows in a complete gift of self.  What I loved is how practical the book is, with  case studies of real couples in each chapter (How many times have you read a book that inspires you to such holiness, but leaves you feeling a little clueless and, if you're like me, down on yourself as to how to actually apply it?  Not the case here) and questions to talk about with your fiancee or spouse.

I learned, for the first time, from the book's introduction that the Pontifical Council for the Family published an entire document on preparation for the sacrament of marriage (you can read it here; it's not too long!).  The council's recommendations for marriage and family life, including guidance on cultivating a deep, face-to-face union between man and wife, creating a prayerful family culture that welcomes life and embraces human dignity, and balancing work, leisure, worship, and service.  These guidelines form sort of the backbone of the book, along with John Paul II's call for marriage to be lived out freely, faithfully, fruitfully, and totally, and with Karee and Manny's intention that their ministry inspires couples to model their life together on the Jesus' first miracle--they point out, in the book, that "the Church, as Mary did at Cana, asks Jesus to change the water of human love into the wine of divine love." 
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Manny's early drawing for the book's design.  Click here to see the GORGEOUS final cover!

Amen to that, yes?  I asked Karee to share more info on the book from behind-the-scenes.

You and Manny co-wrote the book together and take turns throughout sharing personal stories from your marriage.  What was it like pairing up on the writing?
Writing together involved connecting on a whole new level. By putting our thoughts on paper, we learned things about each other that we never knew. Some of it felt very painful. We tell the story of Manny's multiple brain tumors, and reliving those experiences was like being thrust back into that traumatic time in our lives. But when Manny wrote his section on Natural Family Planning, I found out he really didn't mind the abstinence that much--he said he felt like he was waiting, pursuing, and winning me all over again. So romantic!

Christopher West had the honor of writing the book's foreword (Christopher flipping West, you guys)!  How was he chosen for the task, and have you and your husband communicated with him during the process?
We first heard of Chris West back in the 1990s, when we discovered St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body. He's been our hero ever since. After we started writing, we asked people who they thought would be the best person to write a foreword to a book on Catholic marriage. Christopher won first place by a landslide. His book Good News about Sex and Marriage has been a top seller for more than ten years, so he was our dream pick.

Every so often, we would get little hints from God that maybe it wasn't such an impossible dream after all. My brother actually married Christopher's cousin. I got to meet his whole family and wound up talking to him for about half an hour during my brother's wedding reception. But he keeps a strict boundary between his public and private life, so we didn't want to bank on the family connection.

Later on, we found out that Chris' editor at Random House was sending his kids to the same Catholic school as our kids. What are the chances!  His editor offered to forward the book manuscript to Christopher and put in a good word for us. But we weren't ready, so we kept writing and praying.
Finally, our editor at Ave Maria Press told me that she would ask Christopher herself. I drove her crazy making sure that the manuscript was in perfect shape before she sent it to him! When he told her yes, we felt so overwhelmingly grateful and blessed.

The Four Keys offers plenty of guidance, through discussion questions and suggestions for going through the material in a small group, for experiencing the book not just by reading it, but truly contemplating the meaning of sacramental marriage.  Do you have any other hopes or advice for couples to get the most out of it?
The pre-Cana experience happens so quickly for most people. A whirlwind of a weekend and boom; it's done. Our book lets people take their time exploring the Church's beautiful wisdom gathered over the past 2,000 years. Sometimes people don't know what they don't know until after the wedding. It's so easy to get caught up in the rosy glow of frantic preparation and ecstatic happiness. Many times couples will encounter obstacles during the first year of marriage, and they can really be caught by surprise. But it's totally normal to hit small bumps in the road. Our book gives strategies to get past those.  

Through the book, we're really trying to extend the hand of friendship to engaged and married couples who want and need support in their shared journey of faith. It's our hope that couples will read the book together in a group of people who can serve as confidantes, role models, and friends for a long time.


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Join me in praying for Karee, Manny, their book and the couples it will reach?  The Four Keys to Everlasting Love is already available for Pre-Order on Amazon, so help me spread the word and share it with couples you know!  You can read more about the book here (and be sure to sign up for the Santos' new e-newsletter!), and follow Can We Cana? on Facebook here.





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