My husband and I met through our parish youth group. Many people hear this and believe this means we were always a faithfully devout couple. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the first few years of our marriage we were living like “cafeteria” Catholics. Picking and choosing what to believe and what to follow. We thought we knew our faith, and what we didn’t know, we just made up as we went along. Justifying our action and inaction by taking God’s love and mercy for granted. We created God in our image, instead of accepting that He is the creator.
We turned to prayer individually in times of struggle. We did not pray together. We attended Mass together most Sundays, because it was a nice thing to do together. We had no appreciation for the Eucharist, the graces of the sacrament of marriage, nor did we have a personal relationship with Christ.
Only when our first son was born, through the preparation for Baptism did we realize the importance and value of attending Mass. Only then did we shoulder the responsibility that came with being parents who wanted to give our son the same opportunities we had to believe in a loving, forgiving, heavenly Father. The first time we prayed together was a few days after our son was born. You can read the story of his birth here.
We have found that taking the time to pray together is a major source of strength. Through prayer we face our fears; doubts and worries together. There have been times when we did not know what else to do, but pray. Praying together didn’t always come easy. We started by just saying, “Grace Before Meals” and attending Mass together.
We compare our relationship to a triangle. The further away we are from each other, the further away we are from God. The work it takes to climb and get closer to God adds to spiritual intimacy in the marriage. The line across the bottom could be seen as a shortcut, meeting each other half way across the bottom and eliminating God, you will still have a physical and emotional connection. But we are also spiritual beings. We need to nurture that element of our being and our relationship as well.
We have found it so beneficial in our marriage to maintain openness to Church teachings on marriage and family. There is are a lot of resources from Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or other encyclicals written through the years by other popes. We also have ministries available specifically for couples. Various books written by well-formed Christians that helps to strengthen marriage.
We are all on different stages of our spiritual journey, but acknowledging that we are on a journey means that we should be moving forward in that journey. For us our journey started with a simple prayer, attending mass, learning about the sacraments, especially through our children’s sacraments, Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion. The most beneficial help in our spiritual journey is being involved in our parish community. We have built friendships with other couples who share the same values. They have been a great source of support and encouragement for us.
Perhaps the most important message we try to relay to the engaged couples, and to all married couples we work with is that being happily married is not something that just happens. Being happily married is a choice we make through the work we put into our marriage every day. We want them to be assured that the church community cares about their marriage. That we as a couple care about their marriages, and we know difficult times lie ahead, but support is available.