The marriage formed by Bobby and Jackie Angel works and educates their four children (the fifth is on the way) from their home. For years they have been publishing videos, audios and texts on family, sexuality, marriage, etc., which reach thousands of people around the world.
Jackie and Bobby are part of "Ascension Presents"one of the most famous Catholic-themed YouTube channels in the United States. They also have their own podcast and a blog that they update frequently.
They are not afraid to talk about complex matters related Theology of the Body or the education of children, and they speak openly about their relationship with God or sexuality, because "the logical thing to do is to prepare people for what happens during marriage and sex, but in our individualistic society we don't do it".
In this interview with Omnes they discuss these and other topics, such as reconciliation, forgiveness, God's love and the Theology of the Body.
How do you find balance between marriage, work and family life?
-[Jackie]It's easier now, because we are self-employed. Before Bobby worked as a teacher, so he had the school schedule while I traveled for work. Also, we both worked for Word on Fire.I was part-time and Bobby was full-time. But now it's easier because we are both at home all the time. Our kids are homeschooling, they are at home all day, they don't go to school for eight hours. And the fact that we both work from home means the kids are with us all day. It's a very unique situation.
If Bobby has to write or work, I take care of the kids. And if we're traveling, someone always comes to be with them, whether it's our parents, a cousin... We have people to help us and we make it work.
-[Bobby]: You have to communicate to make things work. Likewise, you also don't want to sacrifice time with your wife or children for work. If you do, you get the phenomena of the pastor's kid, where you have a very Christian family, it looks like you are doing a job that comes from God but with other people when, in reality, your family is the one that deserves to get the best part, not just the leftovers.
There are times when we need to speak up and say that we need to spend more time as a family or praying. We can talk about prayer in the podcast, but do we pray as a family?
-[Jackie]: The interesting thing is that God asks each family to make its own discernment. Each family is unique, each marriage is unique. We can give general advice, for example, that your family always goes first. Your spouse always goes first, and then the children. Those are general principles but, since every situation is unique, each one has to discern what God wants from them. Also, it's something that changes every month, every year. It's always changing.
-[Bobby]: Exactly, sometimes what worked in your fifth year of marriage no longer works by the eighth year. You're always figuring it out.
Homeschooling is more common in the United States than in other countries, why do you think this is?
-[Jackie]: The public education system is not very good in the United States and Catholic schools, even when they are good, are very expensive. Our children are home schooled two hours a day and then they spend two hours a day learning to play instruments or playing games. We are also in a group at the parish with other homeschooled children, about seventy of them, and they get together every week for games and activities.
-[Bobby]: We have a friend with five children, pregnant with her sixth, and her kids are amazing. They're not weird, they're athletic, normal, faithful... Plus, because they're at home you get to spend a lot more time with your kids, which wouldn't happen if they went to school. We have personally seen that this method works. However, at some point children have to go out into the world, we cannot hide in a cave all our lives, we are called to be salt and light of the world. But the early years are very important to form them in love and forgiveness, even in their sexuality. It's great to be able to have your children at home for a while longer and lay the foundation before they go out into the world.
One of the most successful subjects you talk about is the Theology of the Body, what is the most important thing you have learned from studying it?
-[Jackie]: So many important things! Pope St. John Paul II held the thesis that the opposite of love is use: using a person as an object of pleasure, instead of loving him or her as a person. For me that is the framework from which I look at others and it lays the basis for Theology of the Body.
I realized that I needed to change the way I looked at people. For example, if I look at my boyfriend as someone to use, instead of someone to love, everything changes. Even when you're married. Things don't suddenly change because you put a ring on your finger. If you are used to using people, even when you are married you will look at people that way and wonder how to use them for your physical or emotional pleasure.
Pope John Paul II analyzed the previous philosophy that said that the body is evil and the soul is good. Many of these ideas come from the Protestant Reformation and the 16th century. But no. Our bodies are good. Jesus would not have become a man if the body wasn`t not good.
So, God created us with a good body, but the opposite idea persists today. People think that we are souls enclosed in bodies, but no. You are your body. What you do to the body, you do to the soul. What you do to someone's body you do to their soul.
A lot of that puritan stuff that came from the Protestant Reformation is based on shame and fear. There are Catholics who grow up with that shameful view of the body and sexuality. But it's not something to be ashamed of. It's good, it's beautiful and it has a purpose. Our culture says that sex and marriage have no meaning, but the Theology of the Body helps us rediscover that purpose.
-[Bobby]: In my case, it also makes me see faith as a love story. The image of the Trinity is reflected in our bodies, as male, female and child. This is not about rules, it is the reflection of a love story.
I was introduced to Theology of the Body in college and I didn’t really get it, I wasn't ready for it. When I was 25 I heard it again in a new way and realized it was the cry of my heart, it gave me the answer to what I can do with all my desire.
John Paul II saw the path that culture was taking, but his texts are difficult to read. It has been very nice to see how his thought is beginning to permeate the generations through different programs and ministries. Little by little he is getting there, but there is still a lot of work to do.
In your videos you talk about everything, do you think there are topics related to marriage that are difficult to address?
-[Jackie]: Obviously there are always complicated issues that people don't want to talk about. Contraception is one of them. It always surprises me. If the Catholic Church says that contraception is a grave sin, all couples going through marriage preparation should learn about the beauty and meaning of sex, and the reason why contraception is not love, that it is an act of lust rather than love.
Likewise, it is interesting to see that throughout history the topics of marriage and sex were addressed. Women prepared young girls. The logical thing to do is to prepare people for what happens during marriage and sex, but we don't do that anymore.
We are in such an individualistic society that we don’t share ideas and thoughts like this. On social media, unless you have long videos, it’s hard to dive deep into that kind of stuff. It’s hard to talk about this tough topics on Instagram, if you have a ninety second reel, because everyone is going to come after you and you haven’t really been able to build a foundation.
Another thing I also see is that there are Catholics who are imbued with these Protestant ideas about sexuality, a perspective based on shame and fear. We are returning to an ultra-traditionalist view of marriage and sex.
You speak of God as family, in your case what "characteristics of God as family" do you understand better now that you are married and parents?
-[Jackie]: For me, as a mother, it has helped me grow a lot in patience. When you have young children, who are defiant and have tantrums, you have to acquire a lot of patience. There is a current in psychology that talks about the attachment theory. One of the things it says is that all children need to know that their parents can handle their big emotions. Because they are not reasonable. Through this, in my relationship with God, it has been reaffirmed that He doesn't love us because of what we do. He loves us because we are His children.
I remember once I explained to my daughter, after a tantrum, "I love you even when you do bad things". She was relieved and it reminded me how God doesn't love me for what I do, his love doesn't depend on how many Rosaries I pray or how many times I go to Mass. Those are ways we show God that we love him.
Just as I will never stop loving my children, no matter what they do, I realize that God loves in this way too, and in an infinitely more perfect way.
-[Bobby]: If we cannot earn God's love, we cannot lose it either. But it's hard for me too, I need to show God my merits. And we need to be seen, that's a good thing. There is a healthy need to feel appreciated, affirmed and seen. But the problem comes when we think we have to be perfect to get that attention and we transfer that idea to our relationship with God.
When marriage is harmonious, it can give you a sign of God's love, of his unconditional love.