(Editor’s note: This National Marriage Week (Feb. 7-14) we share thoughts from a long-married couple and provide resources to enrich marriage.)
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Every night Deacon Bob and LuAnn Glaser of Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, share a love letter with one another, along with prayer. The Glasers, married nearly 42 years, say these and other communication tools and participation in the church strengthen the bond of their sacramental marriage.
Their love letters don’t necessarily convey syrupy sentiments, but rather a reflection on the day each has experienced and how that impacted their relationship. It’s a tool the couple received some years ago during in Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
Their pastor at the time (they were living in the Archdiocese of Dubuque) had encouraged them to attend Worldwide Marriage Encounter as a way to enhance their ministry as a sponsor couple for engaged couples preparing to enter the sacrament of marriage.
“We made a marriage encounter in 1984. That caused us to explore marriage as a sacrament,” explained Deacon Bob, a retired prosecuting attorney. “It is something that has continued to enrich us to this day. We were asked to be a presenting team and we were for about 20 years. We continue to work with enrichment of marriage and in the process enrich our marriage.”
The Glasers have served for 33 years as a sponsor couple to engaged couples and today coordinate the program for their parish. They remain involved “because we see the value in it for the couples we prepare, but also for our own relationship and our relationship with the church,” LuAnn said. “We believe strongly that couples entering into marriage need to explore all the different issues they are going to face.”
Over the years, the Glasers’ own lived experience of marriage has impacted their response to questions couples ask them. “Things change as our lives have changed,” observed LuAnn, a retired education administrator. Their careers and child-rearing are behind them; now the Glasers juggle church-related and volunteer/work activities with care for other family members.
Finance is one of the major issues couples will always deal with, the Glasers said. They laugh as they think back to their response to one of the sponsor-couple questions in their workbook: “How much can I spend without having to ask my spouse?” “It seems like an almost innocuous question, but it’s a question that gets a lot of discussion and it lasts throughout marriage,” LuAnn said. “We both came up with $5 we could each spend without discussing it with the other. Obviously that has changed over the years!”
Another question related to finance: “What things do I think of as personally mine?” “I thought of my makeup and my clothes,” LuAnn said. “Her hope was fulfilled,” Deacon Bob responded wryly.
While finance is a huge issue, the most important issue will vary for each couple. For some it might be deciding who’s going to be the primary earner and whether one spouse will stay at home with the children, Deacon Bob said. “We get our values from our family of origin,” LuAnn noted.
Child-rearing can also be a big issue, as the Glasers discovered in their own marriage. “We realized in answering questions we had very different approaches in terms of disciplining children,” LuAnn said. So they talked about it and came to a consensus that resulted in a united approach to disciplining their son and daughter.
Differences need to be worked out – whether the couple is engaged or already married. One of the most touching situations involved an engaged couple who’d completed the second of four sponsor couple sessions with the Glasers. “They called before the third session and said they were going to cancel,” Deacon Bob said. The couple, who’d already sent out wedding invitations, explained the marriage was off. They realized their differences were too great. “Two years later we got a call from them. They said, ‘We’ve met with Father and we’ve worked things through and we want to finish our sessions with you.’”
The Glasers are candid when couples ask them about their success in dealing with differences. “Sometimes we have to say, after 41 years of marriage we’re still working on that. We don’t have a perfect marriage because it doesn’t exist. There are things we still struggle with or try to work on.… (Couples) need to know there are some areas that will always be difficult,” LuAnn said.
That’s where prayer comes in, she notes. “We talk about how we pray together … we ask each other to forgive each other for what we might have done to hurt the other person that day.” “Our prayer life has developed over the years,” Deacon Bob said, and that’s been enhanced by their journey through deacon formation and his ordination to the diaconate in 2013. Every day they pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer, along with other prayers. And they compose their daily love letters to share with one another.
“We try to say something reinforcing to our spouse,” LuAnn said. “A quality I see in Bob that was really apparent to me that day.” “Some nights it’s very short, a matter of reflecting on something that’s touched our particular day,” Deacon Bob said. “If it’s a period of time where there are a lot of issues, then it’s there to be addressed in a loving way.” LuAnn adds: “We may decide in advance what the love letter is going to be – if it’s a decision about something, sharing what my decision would be … and he shares his.”
On their wedding day, the Glasers understood marriage as a sacrament, but they’ve come a long way in appreciating what that sacrament means. “It’s a sacrament that begins on the day of our marriage that we live out every day that we’re in relationship — for the rest of our lives,” Deacon Bob said. “God is present with us in our relationship, a witness of our relationship together.”
A one-day pre-Cana class with 75 to 100 other couples constituted marriage preparation for Deacon Bob and LuAnn Glaser, who were married nearly 42 years ago in the Catholic Church. Marriage preparation has advanced in the years since then, but the Glasers believe improvements still can be made.
Deacon Bob said he thinks the new FOCCUS (premarital inventory) instrument provides an opportunity to draw more faithfully married couples into the preparation for marriage. “It’s an opportunity to take the sponsor couple program up a notch and bring couples in as partners with clergy in preparing people for marriage.”
He notes that in many cases the primary person preparing the couple for marriage is the person who is essentially an observer: the bishop, priest or deacon. “I have great difficulty with the idea that couples are not more fully involved in preparing other couples for marriage.”
Providing an opportunity for engaged couples to be exposed to a faithfully married couple is essential, Deacon Bob said. “I’m just very passionate that some sort of one-on-one couple relationship has to happen in preparing for marriage. It’s where we need to be focusing ourselves as a church.”
Reaction to the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family
“We welcome the focus on marriage because it’s been needed for a long time,” said LuAnn Glaser, who is involved in marriage ministry at Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington. “We’re curious to see how it all plays out.”
“I think the church has to be open to listening to couples who have faithful marriages,” said her husband, Deacon Bob Glaser. “But (the bishops) also have to let the Holy Spirit guide them just as we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our relationship.” The bishops’ collegiality is important to the process. “We also have to accept what happens in faith.”
Asked whether he thinks couples who have remarried without receiving an annulment of their previous marriage should be able to receive the Eucharist after going to confession, Deacon Glaser said: “Our God forgives sins. And our God also said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ I’m not enough of a theologian to argue the point … but I think I’m enough of a pastoral person to want the church to be as open to all who want to participate and to recognize that God forgives sins. If I don’t recognize that, I don’t have a chance, because like everyone else, I’m a sinner.”
Marriage resources and activities
Diocese of Davenport website, Marriage and Family
If you would like to serve as a sponsor couple or learn more about being a sponsor couple, please contact Marianne Agnoli at email@example.com or call her at 563-888-4242.
Marriage Retreat #1 Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
Marriage Retreat #2 A Retreat with Pope Francis
Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekends will be held March 20-22nd in Ankeny, May 1-3rd in Iowa City, September 18-20th in Ankeny, October 23-25th – Cedar Falls, Ankeny on February 12-14th, 2016.
For more information go to www.iowa-wwme.org or call (563) 608-3305 (Jeff Francois) or (563) 608-6335 (Janet Francois).