A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘marriage

Whether the battle is large or small, we need to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to face it. We need to carry the right gear and know how to use it.

I’m not talking about an armed conflict but rather about the struggles we face every day: our efforts to keep our children safe, protect our marriage, defend our beliefs, or stand up for others’ rights.

King David knew that he needed God’s help to face the conflicts in his life, such as King Saul’s efforts to capture and kill him or the attempts of his sons to take the throne:

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle;

my mercy and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge (…).

~ Psalm 144:1-2*

We can turn to God for comfort, for a safe place to cry out in pain or anger, for forgiveness when we act and react in the wrong ways. But he can also prepare us to do battle when necessary:

  • to put an end to the bullying or cyberbullying of our children
  • to secure the health care or educational assistance our children need
  • to help our spouse deal with an addiction or another health issue
  • to stand up for our right to practise our faith
  • to speak out on behalf of those who are persecuted or in need

God can give us the tools we need, such as the wisdom to know when to speak or listen, the words to say, empathy to help us see another person’s perspective, courage to make the right choice and take the necessary step or steps forward, and perseverance to resolve the situation.

When we find ourselves needing to do battle, may we remember “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. . . .Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7*

We find ourselves in the middle of wedding season, with many couples choosing May and June to get married. Often this chapter of Corinthians is read at weddings, including mine in 1996.

These aren’t simply beautiful words about love. When we apply them to marriage, we can see that we need to be patient and kind with our spouse, happy for and not jealous of our spouse’s success, willing to compromise, unwilling to hold grudges, and prepared to hang in there during the rough times and not only the smooth ones.

Doug and Linda engaged013240756_10206434256681945_1275776754904074119_nMy in-laws have been married for 46 years and my parents, for almost 48. No marriage lasts that long if one spouse always has to be right, have his or her own way, or gives up when things are difficult. No marriage lasts that long if husband and wife let job stress, family conflicts, illness, financial problems, or an inability to forgive drive a wedge between them.

Today couples are too quick to let their relationship slide—slowly or quickly—into separation and even divorce when they hit a bump in the road. But think about these words of Jesus from Mark 10:7-9:

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Pulling apart a marriage isn’t supposed to be easy because our lives are meant to become one on our wedding day.

If we know a couple who has been married a long time, we should ask them their secret. It won’t be selfishness or resentment or barely veiled contempt; we’ll probably hear that it’s commitment to loving each other and to staying together, hard work, love, and selfless giving.

I pray that, whether we’re engaged, newly wed or married for a long time, we would give more thought to these passages and renew our commitment to our partner in thought, word and deed.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

We put effort into a laundry list of things:

  • raising our children
  • working at or outside the home
  • keeping up with chores in and around the house
  • attending church functions and serving at Mass
  • keeping in touch with family and friends
  • exercising and eating right (or at least trying to)

How much effort do we put into having a healthy marriage?

We expect marriage to be as easy as falling in love is. Our culture conditions us to believe in a “happily ever after.” But there’s a reason books and movies don’t show us what happens once the boy gets the girl: a good marriage is something we have to work at.

If things get rough, our culture tells us, it’s okay to walk away. As Christians, we know that God intended otherwise, since he told us so in Genesis 2:24*:

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and Eve didn’t have an easy time of it; they were driven out of the garden of Eden for their sin (see Genesis 3), and their son Cain killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4). Noah and his wife lived through the great flood (Genesis 8). Abraham and Sarah left their home to settle in Canaan and dealt with famine (Genesis 12), war (Genesis 14), and infertility until the birth of Isaac in their old age (Genesis 21). All this in the first book of the Bible!

my grandparents

My grandparents faced the death of one daughter in infancy soon after losing several other close relatives, concern about his safety during his volunteer firefighter duties, and his health issues, but they faced these challenges together.

We shouldn’t expect our married life to be all sunshine and roses, either.

My husband and I have had our ups and downs, like when my son was colicky and my husband was working long hours, or when we spent several months seeing each other only on weekends as my son and I lived in one city trying to sell our house while my husband lived in our new home and worked in Ottawa.

Whether we face differences in parenting styles, illness, disability, family interference in our relationship, or some other challenge, we need to face the challenge as a couple and with God’s help, remembering that “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

And if we need advice, we need to find it in the right places, such as these:

I think the tagline on the cover of Sheila Wray Gregoire’s 9 Thoughts says it all: we need to work at marriage “Because a Great Relationship Doesn’t Happen by Accident.”

I pray that, whatever challenges we may face in married life, we would remember to keep God at the centre and seek his guidance as we work to keep our marriage alive and thriving.

(*Scripture quote and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

wedding vows

Saying vows

In a matter of days, my parents will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.

Yes, I said 45th.

With my parents’ generation, the divorce rate dramatically increased. So 45 years of marriage is impressive to me, the more so since I’ve been married for just shy of 16½ years.

Mom and Dad have come a long way since that June day in 1968. Literally. They’ve lived in four different provinces and in several different places in Ontario. They’ve raised two kids and more farm animals than my city-girl mother could ever have imagined (or wanted to imagine) and transitioned from the work force to retirement.

My parents have dealt with family squabbles, career changes, and the ups and downs of raising my brother and me. And, naturally, they’ve had to deal with their opposing perspectives on some things—like how to organize their stuff, whether to live in the city or the country, and whether to order more chicks from the co-op in the spring. (Yes, really.)

I love to read notices in the paper for couples who have been married as long as Mom and Dad or longer. Too often, we hear about yet another celebrity marriage standing on shaky ground or ending in divorce or about people who speak of marriage as though it’s no more than a piece of paper. I’m thankful Mom and Dad have shown me that being married means you weather the tough times together.

I’m also thankful that the Catholic Church supports marriage. We’re blessed to have Pre-Cana classes to help us prepare for marriage, the Catechism to help guide us in marriage, and Marriage Encounter weekends to strengthen our marriage. We celebrate milestone anniversaries with a special diocesan Mass. And Scripture readings remind us of couples who faced challenges but stayed strong, like Sarah and Abraham (see Genesis 11-22), Hannah and Elkanah (see 1 Samuel 1-2), Elizabeth and Zechariah (see Luke 1), and Mary and Joseph (see Matthew 1-2).

wedding rings

Wedding rings

As Jesus reminds us, marriage is a gift from God:

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

(Mark 10:7-9, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

May those of us who are married work to keep our marriage strong, and may those of us who are called to marriage pray that God would lead us to the partner he has chosen for us.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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