Father Thom Hennen asked couples participating in “Two Become One … Embracing the Sacrament in Remarriage” why they chose to get married in the Catholic Church and not on the beach or in Las Vegas. The predominant answers that morning in Davenport: the importance of faith in their lives and the importance their families place on marriage in the church. As the daylong workshop progressed, the couples recognized their desire and need for God’s presence in their marriage, to provide them with the grace necessary to build a solid foundation for their life together.
The priest asks the same question of students preparing for marriage at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he serves as chaplain. Often, the students tell him, “Because we met here.” Through marriage preparation, he hopes they grow in awareness and appreciation for God’s presence in their life together.
This coming week, Feb. 7-14, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates National Marriage Week 2020 to raise awareness about the value of sacramental marriage and its vital role in building and sustaining our domestic church. Supporting the sacrament of marriage and the domestic church it creates depends on each of us — married, widowed, divorced or single persons, adults and youths.
In a pastoral letter on marriage, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, “While marriage is a special blessing for Christians because of the grace of Christ, marriage is also a natural blessing and gift for everyone in all times and cultures. It is a source of blessing to the couple, to their families, and to society and includes the wondrous gift of cocreating human life. Indeed, as Pope John Paul II never tired of reminding us, the future of humanity depends on marriage and the family.”
Catholics of all ages need to witness couples living out sacramental marriage, who acknowledge and welcome God’s presence in that marriage. Our children need to learn early on about the sacrament so that they understand its vital role in the life of the community. Some young couples do embrace the sacrament, providing hope for the future of our church. Jocie Zenner, 21, and Austin Strom, 22, both seniors at the University of Iowa, became engaged on New Year’s Eve. He proposed during a conference sponsored by the Newman Catholic Student Center-Iowa City and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).
A lifelong Catholic, Jocie believes that without God, marriage “won’t be as strong or as impactful or meaningful.” Austin, who entered the Catholic Church last Easter, believes that marrying in the church will establish a strong foundation for the couple to build on. We need to share stories like these to inspire other young Catholics to desire God’s presence in their lives as couples.
In addition to good witnesses, our church should develop ways to accompany couples throughout marriage. Perfect marriages do not exist. Couples need to know who in the church will be there for them when their journey through this lifelong covenant takes unexpected twists and turns.
Among the helpful resources to guide us in our mission:
• National Marriage Week stories, prayers, podcasts and virtual retreat for married couples (https://tinyurl.com/r66xvy7).
• Diocese of Davenport Marriage Care website (https://tinyurl.com/qswjla6).
• For Your Marriage, another initiative of the USCCB: https://tinyurl.com/uj3npxa.
Other ideas for supporting marriage:
• Encourage your parish to offer couples’ night out.
• Pray for marriage, and for all vocations.
The beach is a wonderful place to relax and Las Vegas is a vacation destination. Sacramental marriage is about preparing partners to journey toward their ultimate destination, union with God.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor