Healthy marriages:They need to be nurtured before and after the wedding day Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

It doesn’t seem possible that 40 years have passed so quickly. It was on July 21, 1973, that my husband John and I were married in the chapel of the Roncalli Newman Center at UW-La Crosse.

We both came from Catholic parishes in La Crosse, but during our college years we were active at the Newman Center parish. It kept us connected to our faith and helped us make friends with other young adults with similar values.

Preparing for marriage

At the time we were married, there were no marriage preparation programs done as a couple. Instead, individuals could complete a pre-cana course. John — always the planner — had his certificate in hand, ready to be married. He just had to find his future spouse! It happened to be me.

I had not taken the pre-cana course, but the priest who married us felt I was ready for marriage. It wasn’t until John and I participated in a Marriage Encounter weekend a couple years later that we really got a chance to talk with each other about the important issues facing us in married life.

Fortunately, couples being married in the Catholic Church today have many more opportunities for marriage preparation. In our diocese, they meet with a priest and often a FOCCUS married couple in their parish. They also are required to participate in two marriage preparation programs: “Real Life, Real Love” and “God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage.”

All of this preparation is very important, and it’s worth it to help couples get to know each other on a deeper level and to understand the importance of Church teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage.

More than the wedding day

These day it’s interesting to observe how much time, effort, and money couples spend on planning their wedding. They’re concerned about the rings, clothes, flowers, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, and the honeymoon. Everything has to be perfect.

Wait a minute! All this work is for one day — and a few days before or after. What about the rest of their lives?

It seems to me that much more needs to be done to prepare for a life-time of marriage. That’s why the marriage preparation offered by the Catholic Church is much more important than all the other stuff being done by engaged couples.

Marriage through the stages

That’s one reason why the Catholic Marriage section in this week’s Catholic Herald focuses less on the wedding itself and more on married life in all its stages. Three couples in our diocese offer their reflections on how their relationships have developed from the early to the later years.

All three of these couples talk about the importance of their Catholic faith in their marriage. Having a shared faith has certainly strengthened our own marriage. It is one of the bonds that has held our marriage together through the challenges of parenting, health concerns, retirement (for one of us so far), and dealing with aging parents.

The staff of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis has provided plenty of information in this week’s marriage section about resources available to help married couples, including books, DVDS, and online information. I encourage couples to check them out.

Helping other couples

Another way to enrich married life is to minister to other couples. John and I have been a FOCCUS couple in our parish for over 20 years. It’s been a privilege and joy for us to meet with so many wonderful engaged couples in our own home. We hope we’ve shared some of our experiences with these couples, but this ministry has also helped us learn and grow together.

We would encourage other married couples to consider sharing their wisdom through involvement in the Church’s ministries to other couples. The Catholic Marriage section provides examples of how to get involved.

Nurturing married life

What have you done for your marriage lately? All marriages need to be nurtured at every stage. I encourage all married couples — including ourselves — to continue to work at keeping their relationship loving and growing.

Happy anniversary to my husband, John! He has been my best friend for over 40 years and always continues to surprise me. May God strengthen us in the years ahead.