by Lynda Monckton
Our thoughts often turn to love and romance during February. For some, those initial stages of attraction, friendship and love eventually lead couples to the possibility of marriage. As it turns out the Church has much to say about marriage. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” (#1601)
What an awesome view of marriage; a covenant and a partnership for the whole of life! Those words fill me with a sense of peace and hope. When we enter into marriage truly believing this, we can go all in, holding nothing back. We are open to sharing ourselves completely, knowing that we are loved and accepted as we are. This is a reflection of the love that Christ has for his church.
Current research and statistics show that marriage is not only good for the spouses, but good for the children and society just as Pope Paul VI stated in Gaudium et Spes, “Marriage has a decisive bearing on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family and on human society as a whole.” Let’s do everything we can to support marriages! It is time to consider how we are preparing couples to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. In the parish connections can be made with mentor couples, facilitators, clergy, parish staff, and other couples preparing for marriage. The couples should also be presented with some practical tools to help them live out the vocation and Sacrament of Marriage, such as these ten tips below:
- Say thank you at least once a day – To avoid taking each other for granted, try to show your appreciation at least once a day. If there’s something you appreciate, large or small, speak up!
- Each morning ask, ‘What’s on your calendar?’ – Talking about the daily details of your lives is just as important as sharing hopes, dreams, and fears. Asking about those details is a great way to build understanding and rapport.
- Treat your spouse with respect in public – Hold his hand. Smile at her. Put your arm around her. And never, ever, make fun of your spouse in public.
- Learn how to ask nicely – Make sure you ask, rather than demand. We all tend to respond better to requests than orders.
- Take time for yourself – A little ‘me time’ allows both you and your spouse to grow as individuals and reduces the pressure on each of you to fill the other’s every need.
- Always put your marriage first – Of all your relationships, your spouse always comes first. Putting your marriage first means things like deliberately setting aside time for the two of you, whether it’s a weekly date or dinner alone a few nights a week.
- Laugh together – Couples who share funny experiences feel significantly less conflict than couples than those who don’t laugh together, one study found. Share a funny story from your day.
- Volunteer together – Giving to others moves you out of yourself and your own problems and supports a broader, more spiritual view of life.
- Pray – Pray for each other and pray together. Invite God into your marriage and the decisions you make as a couple. Research has found that couples who pray together have greater marital stability.
- Attend a marriage enrichment event – Many parishes throughout the diocese offer marriage enrichment events throughout the year. On February 18, Bishop John Noonan will celebrate the diocesan Mass for Marriage at the Cathedral of St. James at 10:00 a.m. Bishop Noonan will lead couples in renewing their vows and will bless couples and the love they share. Married couples of all ages are encouraged to take part in this celebration of the Marriage Sacrament which brings spouses the grace that is needed to be faithful and to be good parents.
May your joys increase and your trials lessen as you live out your marriage vocation.
Lynda Monckton is the Director of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Orlando