Read Time: 3 minutes

You have an engaged couple who wants to get married at your church. Wonderful!

As a pastor, you have lots of experience talking with people in various stages of life. However, this engaged couple does NOT have much experience talking with clergy. They likely have things on their mind that they don’t know how to bring up with you.

So how do you put them more at ease?

You can take the lead in handling topics they may not feel comfortable about introducing into the discussion. That takes the burden off of them. The more relaxed they feel, the more fruitful your marriage prep discussions will be.

Here are three things engaged couples want to know, but tend not to ask about.

1. Marriage Prep Resources to Help Them

There are so many resources out there geared to couples preparing for marriage. But you typically don’t look for something until you need it. So your engaged couple may not be aware of all the great stuff out there for their benefit.

You may notice a specific aspect of their relationship that could be helped by a resource you know about. You can point them in the right direction by compiling a few resources you know and trust, and you can give them a copy of or a link to them at your next meeting. It’s as simple as saying, “Here, you might find this useful.” That way, they don’t have to ask for “help.”

You may be surprised at how many couples really do look into your suggestions!

The Marriage Group offers plenty of resources for engaged couples like relationship-building tools, Marriage Boosters videos, and our Ultimate Guide to Pre-Cana and Wedding Ceremony Planning eBooks.

2. Natural Family Planning 101

NFP is one of those topics that many folks, couples and clergy alike, feel awkward introducing into the conversation. That makes it hard for couples to understand what it is and why it’s so important.

Many couples have heard of NFP but don’t know much about it. Or they may be open to learning about it, but they just need someone to take the initiative to put the right information into their hands.

As with other marriage prep resources, you can have NFP resources on hand for couples to look at on their own. That allows them to fully absorb it without the uncomfortable feeling of an in-person conversation.

You can point them to your diocese’s NFP resources and classes, older couples in the parish that could help, or online resources. Additionally, The Marriage Group’s “NFP Life” video course is a simple, accessible way for couples to learn about NFP and how to integrate it into their future marriage.

3. What They Can and Can’t Do At Their Wedding

Planning a Catholic wedding involves a lot of details, from the music to the readings to the photographer — and oh yes, all the decorations.

Your church probably has policies established for all these things. But that doesn’t mean your engaged couple knows them very well.

They might assume they can do things your parish policy doesn’t actually allow. Or they might wonder whether they’re allowed to do something, but they’re afraid to ask and hear you say “no.”

By communicating your church’s policies clearly and kindly up front, you can save them – and yourself – a lot of unnecessary stress, especially from having to tell them “no” later on (heaven forbid, on the wedding day!).

One Last Thing

As a pastor or ministry leader, you have a privileged role in preparing people for marriage. You may not see it in the moment, but your interactions with an engaged couple can make a long-term impact on their married lives, their family, and even the future of your parish. If that weighs on you as a heavy responsibility, we are here to help!

God bless you in your ministry.

Read Time: 2 minutes

What phrases do you need to hear from your spouse?

This video excerpt is from our Pre-Cana segment: Communication and Conflict Resolution. In that segment, Jay and Laura discuss the four phrases that each man needs to hear from their wife, and each wife needs to hear from their husband (based on surveying several couples).

For those of you who haven’t completed our Pre-Cana program yet, don’t worry, this won’t spoil anything for you. In fact, it’s important to begin discussing right away what you both need to hear from each other in order to truly become a more unified couple.

For those of you who already have completed our Pre-Cana program, this is always a great reminder on becoming more and and more intentional with speaking into each other’s lives as your marriage grows.

As I watched this segment again myself, I found it very empowering to go through the exercise of determining what I and my beautiful bride need to hear from each other. We usually have our time of uninterrupted conversation after we put the kiddos to bed. We sat at our dinner table, played cards, and talked about this very topic.

This video isn’t intended to be the “be-all, end-all” regarding this topic. It is intended to help be a launching point for conversation between the two of you. You may have different answers than they indicate. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of us need to hear “I believe in you” and “I cherish you.” So, make it your own! God has put a special thumbprint on your relationship — uniquely beautiful to your story together.

So your homework?

I encourage you and your companion to do exactly as I did with my wife — schedule an intentional, uninterrupted moment with each other to discuss the phrases that the two of you need to hear from each other. Once you establish those phrases, then you start saying those phrases to each other — simple as that!

It may seem awkward at first, but if your heart is in the right place as you say them, you don’t have to worry about coming across as disingenuous. Have faith that your beloved has your best interest in mind, and wouldn’t, in a million years, take advantage or disparage your vulnerability.

When you operate out of a genuine heart, this exercise becomes a beautiful thread within the tapestry of your life together.

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Would the real Saint Valentine please stand up?

Yes, it may seem funny, but if we look at the history of the Catholic Church, and what the martyrology (a catalog of Roman Catholic martyrs and saints) says, we will find that there are three Saint Valentines.

The first Saint Valentine was a priest and physician in Rome. He comforted the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II. Eventually, St. Valentine was also arrested, condemned to death for his faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded on Feb. 14, AD 270.

The second Saint Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (now Terni, located about 60 miles from Rome). Under the orders of Prefect Placidus, he too was arrested, scourged, and decapitated, again suffering persecution during the time of Emperor Claudius II.

The third Saint Valentine suffered martyrdom in Africa with several companions. However, nothing further is known about this saint. In all, these men, each named St. Valentine, showed heroic love for the Lord and His Church.

As we can see, these three men showed tremendous love for Christ to the point of suffering a very violent death.

Why February 14th?

So, where does the idea of celebrating love on February 14th come from?

The popular customs of showing love and affection on St. Valentine’s Day are almost a coincidence with the feast day of the saint. During the Medieval Age, a common belief in England and France was that birds began to pair on February 14 “half-way through the second month of the year.” Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” (in Old English), “For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day, When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” For this reason, the day was dedicated to “lovers” and prompted the sending of letters, gifts, or other signs of affection.

Love one another as I have loved you (John 13: 34)

The love that God has for us is a self-giving love. This is the same love that God deposits in each one of us. We love because He loved us first.

On February 14th we celebrate God’s love. Many times, it is easy to forget that, but Saint Valentine is a clear example of how God’s love can help us live a less self-centered life and to love those around us, beginning with your spouse (if you are married) or your fiancé (if you are engaged). Read more about how to reenergize your relationship.

This Valentine’s Day let’s try to go beyond the red roses, hearts, and chocolates and delve deep into the real meaning of love: God is love! (1 John 4:16)

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The moment you say, “I do,” you and your partner begin your adventure of intentionally getting to know each other at deeper levels. The mystery of who you and your spouse are and how you and your spouse came to be is a gift for you to both unwrap together!

One thing that you will learn about your partner is the traditions that they had in their family of origin when it comes to the holidays.

You may be wondering… What is a Family of Origin?

The family of origin is the family in which we come from — the home where we were formed into the person that we are today. We all have a family of origin and they all look different.

As the saying goes, we are a product of our environment. While we can drill down to many different nuances within this topic alone, we are going to focus on traditions, specifically for this holiday season.

Each family celebrates the holidays in a different way. Some families don’t even celebrate at all!

As you continue getting to know your spouse, it is important that you also get to know his/her family of origin’s traditions when it comes to the holidays. The best way to do this? Simply ask!

We suggest that you ask your spouse the following questions:

  • How did your family of origin celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • How did your family of origin celebrate Christmas? 
  • How did your family of origin celebrate New Year?
  • What other family traditions are celebrated during this holiday season?

The end of the year can be a challenge for many couples. We often have our own expectations about how the holidays should be celebrated.

However, this may call for a time of adjusting expectations, now that you have a new family — and that is a good thing! The end of the year allows us to share with our spouses how we enjoy celebrating them, and also to participate the different traditions that come with our spouse’s way of celebrating.

Our suggestion on achieving this mutual enjoyment of celebrating within each other’s traditions is to have open and positive communication together. You might even be surprised that your traditions go hand-in-hand with one another, or even compliment one another.

Our challenge for you and your spouse:

 

The four questions previously mentioned in this article are intended to be a starting point in the conversation, and it all leads up to this final challenge.

Once you establish clear expectations, you can come together as a couple and make your own plans. Create your own traditions together! These new traditions can be a mix of what you and your spouse experienced in your own families of origin, plus a dash (or several dashes) of what makes your relationship unique. Remember — This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

This is what the beauty of marriage is all about!

We hope that you find this article to be helpful as we begin to dip our toes into the holiday season. From all of us at The Marriage Group, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Read our next article to help spark ideas for the Christmas season!

Read Time: 2 minutes

All of us have been affected by the pandemic in different ways. Some of us have been sick, some have lost loved ones, some have lost their jobs. We can all agree that we live in very difficult times.

Parishes and dioceses throughout the world have been affected by this situation as well. Many positions have been eliminated, offices have been closed, budgets have been reduced or cut. As a ministry leader, you may be feeling lonely, tired, overworked, and lost. This is the reality in which the Church exists today.

As a ministry leader, you may be feeling lonely, tired, overworked, and lost.

Doing ministry in these difficult times is not easy! Please know we are here to help you! You are not alone.

Here are some ideas that you can implement now that you are trying to do more with less resources:

Go Back to Your Toolbox

See what are the FREE resources that are available to you. Use them! This is the time to take advantage of all the materials, talks, videos, printed books, etc. that are free to you as a minister. Check out the Marriage Boosters that are available on our website; these are short videos that you can share with your engaged couples. You can also share our blogs, which cover a wide variety of topics that will help couples improve their relationship. All these resources are free and ready to use… you don’t have to spend money or time to create them!

Enlist the Help of Volunteers

You can’t pretend to do it all by yourself! There are many talented people in your parish willing to give you hand. Volunteers can do many things if they have clear directions from you.

Talk With Your Peers

Talk to other ministry leaders in your diocese and/or around the country! The best way to get new ideas for ministry is to talk to your peers. The moment you pick up the phone and start talking to other ministry leaders, you will realize you are not the only one struggling during these difficult times. Find out what is working in other parishes/dioceses. Ask other ministry leaders what initiatives have been successful and how are they managing to continue serving couples today.


These are only some suggestions that you can start implementing today. We are sure that there are many more creative ways in which you can continue being a very effective leader with the limited resources you have available today.

Please know that all of us at The Marriage Group are here for you. Feel free to reach out to us and we can continue the conversation to find more ways to support you in your ministry role.

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Have you ever wondered who instituted the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church? Have you asked yourself where is Marriage in the Bible?

This might be a question that is important to you and your fiance, especially now that you are preparing for marriage. Let us take a look at what the Bible tells us.

Marriage in the Bible

The Bible tells us that God created man and woman and after creating them, the first thing He does is to bless them.

“God blessed them…” (Gn. 1, 28)

This tells us that right from the beginning the union of man and woman is blessed by their creator God. God looks with favor this new union.  Marriage was what God had planned for man and woman.

This union of man and woman has also other implications; God tells them to “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gn. 1:28) Here we can clearly see the connection between marriage and establishing a family. Man and woman are called to create together, this union is to be the foundation of society.

Christ Instituted The Sacrament of Marriage

In the New Testament we see that Jesus reminds us the same truths that were previously stated in the book of Genesis.

Jesus says: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘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. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mt: 19:4-6)

It is in these words of Jesus that we find the essence of the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church: a sacred union, instituted by Christ, between a man and a woman.

In the words of the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan”, “Marriage is a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, established by mutual consent between a man and a woman, and ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring.”

Read Time: 4 minutes

“Is this working?”

“Can you all hear me?”

“Hello? Can you all hear me?”

That’s pretty much how every Zoom call starts out.

These days, it seems like everything is a Zoom call — including Pre-Cana.

However, is using Zoom as a means to conduct a Pre-Cana “virtual gathered event” a good alternative for when meeting in person is not available? It certainly is not the ONLY alternative.

Here are 4 reasons why Zoom might not be the best alternative option for Pre-Cana.

Poor Quality

Dropped calls. Frozen video. Audio that sounds like a robot underwater.

These can all lead to a poor and frustrating video call experience, let alone for something as important as Pre-Cana.

Think about it — if you are the one presenting, you get into a groove with the topic you are discussing. When you have to pause because you realize that your call has been dropped, it will take a while to get your momentum back after the call resumes.

It is difficult for anybody to gather their thoughts again when there’s a cataclysmic interruption, especially when your audience just completely disappears due to poor connection.

Even if it is one or two couples that experience the interruption, unbeknownst to the presenter/video team, those particular couples will have lost what could be several minutes worth of important talking points.

Talking Over Each Other

“Well I think— no, you go ahead… No it’s okay! Oh — no, you go ahead!”

The success of a Pre Cana gathered event is one part presentation and one part group participation.

You desire for your couples to ask questions and engage in conversation.

On a Zoom call, this can turn into an absolute nightmare.

You will have your couples talking over each other, and awkwardly telling the other participants to continue with their thought, creating chaos and a jumble of audio coming through on everyone’s device.

Other than the obvious problem that this is, another issue that can arise is your couples can shut down after an awkward “interrupting” encounter.

It takes a lot of courage for someone to speak up in front of strangers. When one experiences something as jarring as trying to talk over another, it would be easy for that individual to either forget what they were about to ask or comment on, or just completely shut down due to embarrassment.

Fatigue from Long Zoom Calls

Video conference calls are… exhausting.

For live presentations, it is always better to have people physically in the room, rather than virtually present.

Presenters and speakers do their best when they have faces to look at.

When a presenter only has a screen with blank expressions to stare at during the Pre-Cana event, it induces fatigue and, let’s face it, frustration.

Presenters can come down hard on themselves for “not giving it their best” even if their presentation was great!

In those moments, presenters might start going off of their notes and not delivering the message in an impactful way, or worse, completely forget important parts of the topic.

The Obvious Security Risks

According to this article from The Guardian, Zoom has had some glaring problems of privacy and security.

“‘Zoom bombings,’ in which hackers enter chat rooms to drop racist language and violent threats, persist. The company had to fix a bug that would have allowed hackers to take over a Zoom user’s Mac. It also had to change some of its policies after a Motherboard report found Zoom sends data from users of its iOS app to Facebook for advertising purposes.”

The last thing that you would ever want is to compromise the integrity of your couples’ privacy and security.

So What Do We Offer Instead?

Our course is the most popular choice among ministry leaders and couples from all around the world as an online, on-demand Pre-Cana program.

Your couples will have peace of mind knowing they can register anytime, anywhere to get started immediately. You as a ministry leader will have peace of mind knowing that your couples are receiving a comprehensive and sacramental marriage preparation experience.

We were delighted to know that this program was offered online, to complete our Pre-Cana in a time of social distancing due to COVID-19.

Our course covers all of the “must-have” conversations outlined by the USCCB, offering a high quality program for when gathered events cannot happen.

What Couples Have Said:

“We were delighted to know that this program was offered online, to complete our Pre-Cana in a time of social distancing due to COVID-19.”

“It was convenient and safe to complete together from the comfort of home during COVID-19 but also allowed our conversation together to be private and intimate.”

“It was very easy to complete this course on our own time. Very beneficial for long distance couples, deployed couples, and anyone who cannot attend in person classes during these weird Covid times.”

“Convenient way to prepare for marriage during COVID, and even without COVID, for those with busy lifestyles. My fiancé and I don’t live in the same city and this was the perfect solution to set aside time to go through the courses together.”

“I think it was an excellent resource for us since our in person Pre-Cana day had been cancelled due to COVID-19. It took a little bit of weight off of our shoulders knowing we could complete it on our own time and not have to stress about fitting in a new date before our wedding.”

Contact us today to learn how you can start using our online, on-demand programs in your Parish or Diocese! We look forward to talking with you.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Aside from our wedding day, New Year’s Eve in 2018 was the best day of my life. Jake, my best friend and boyfriend of five years, proposed. We were elated, ringing in the new year bearing the excitement of becoming husband and wife. But after the lively FaceTime sessions, house calls, and champagne toasts, reality sat in — we were planning a wedding in eight months.

And so it began. My mother toiled away on her computer creating wedding-related spreadsheets. Jake and I spent countless evenings in our living room discussing tuxedos, invitations, and DJ playlists. Bridesmaids eagerly pinned updos and floral arrangements to my now-shamelessly public wedding Pinterest board. Everything was falling beautifully into place.

As we crossed things off our master list, one task that we didn’t manage to tackle early on was Pre-Cana. There are a few reasons why:

  • We both work full-time, so our schedules were booked solid.
  • Wedding planning was taking up all of our time, energy, and money.
  • Taking any hours-long class that includes group participation is daunting.

Weighing Our Pre-Cana Options

The first logical step for us was to meet with the priest, so we made an appointment at my childhood parish. During this first meeting, we were bombarded with paperwork, including a sheet of approved Pre-Cana classes. Later that night, I sat down to Google each parish-approved Pre-Cana course. While each couple hosting the classes seemed terrific, it was the little details that prevented me from booking. One class was 30 miles away. Another cost upwards of $200. And one was absurdly long. None of those Pre-Cana options were ideal.

Luckily, one of the options was an online Pre-Cana course. Since I grew up in a traditional Catholic family, the idea hadn’t even occurred to me. So we went online and learned about Living Our Faith in Love. After browsing their website, we knew this was the route we wanted to take.

Our Experience With Living Our Faith in Love

Opted for Online Pre-CanaOpting for an online marriage prep course took a huge weight off our shoulders. Instead of setting aside an entire weekend for Pre-Cana, we could take the course at our own pace in the comfort of our own home.

And that’s exactly what we did. Over the next few weeks, Jake and I carved out time to get comfortable on the couch, curl up with our two beagles and cat, and watch marriage prep videos.

Our Top Three Favorite Things About This Pre-Cana:

1: The Content

We were pleasantly surprised that the content in this Pre-Cana course offers a modern take on traditional values. The people in the videos shared anecdotes that are relatable to younger generations living a modern lifestyle but still express the critical aspects of building a lasting marriage.

2: The Built-In Discussion Time

Each bit of the course includes prompts to discuss key takeaways with your partner, which was an excellent opportunity for us to dive into tough subjects like family and faith. Jake and I found the section on communication particularly helpful — we still cite our learnings from that part of the course to help us move past conflicts.

3: The Flexibility

One of the best things about using Living Our Faith in Love for marriage prep was the flexibility of the course. We never felt pressured by time restraints typical in a classroom setting, and we took all the time we needed to hash out complex discussions. Plus, we were able to get our Certification of Completion on our own schedule.

At the end of the course, we felt accomplished, fulfilled, and happy with our decision to take Pre-Cana online — and Living Our Faith in Love made the whole process easy.

Living Our Faith in Love - Online Pre-Cana

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When we think about this time in the Liturgical Calendar, Holy Week and Easter, we usually associate it with church services, long liturgies and rituals. We think of all this as something that happens ‘in church’ but we don’t see much connection of this season with our own lives.

Holy Week is a time to remember and commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But this is not just a historic remembrance. Every time that we commemorate the events of Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday) we are living again all the events that Jesus went through to bring us new life.

Holy Week is a life journey through all the tribulations that will bring us to a new life, a life that is everlasting! So how does Holy Week, Easter, and the reality of marriage all work together?

Tribulations in Marriage

Does the perfect marriage exist? Who can say that they have the perfect marriage? What constitutes a ‘perfect’ marriage? These are all valid questions. Especially when we think that because we have some difficulties in our marriage, we may not be “the perfect couple.”

If we are completely honest, we all know that a marriage is not perfect because it is composed of two people who are imperfect. Therefore, there will necessarily be adjustments to be made, challenges to overcome, shortcomings to forgive. This is what we call the day to day reality of the married couple. We not only recognize these challenges, but we work through them, with the help of the tools that have been given to us in our marriage preparation, in marriage enrichment programs and sessions we have attended of in other resources that we may have on hand.

Faith, Marriage and Holy Week

Faith is also a tool that we can use to work through the challenges of marriage. We can look at our marriage and compare it to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Especially now during Holy Week and Easter, we need to keep in mind that Jesus went through all the pain, suffering, rejection, but he always had a clear awareness of what was to come…. The Resurrection. “The Son of Man* must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mark 8:31

When Jesus was taken prisoner, when he was being judged, punished, tortured, nailed to the cross and killed, he knew that the pain and the suffering he was experiencing was not the end of his existence. He knew something bigger, much bigger was coming. He knew God had a much bigger plan for him.

Easter, New Life, and Marriage

Every time that we experience challenges in marriage (and we do experience them) we can think of the experience of Holy Week and Easter. We must go through the sorrow of Good Friday in order to arrive to the joy of Easter. In the same way, in our marriage, we must go through difficulties, adjustments and challenges in order to grow as a couple and continue our married life together. Good Friday, the tomb, the darkness of the sepulcher, is only a stage. In our marriage, the problems, conflicts, arguments, disagreements, are also stages that will pass. The glory of the resurrection will come, and the joy of Easter will bring us new life.

That is how Holy Week, Easter, and the reality of marriage all work together.

Happy Easter to you and your family from all of us at The Marriage Group!

Read Time: 2 minutes

Lent in our lives is a time of preparation for the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has established this time as a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so we can be spiritually ready to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

This time of preparation lasts 40 days. The number 40 is used in the Bible many times as a time of preparation for something else that is to come: in the story of the flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7: 4-12); Moses was in the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 34:28); the people of Israel wondered in the desert for 40 years (Joshua 5:6) and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4: 1-2).

Lent and Engaged Couples

If you are engaged to be married, Lent is a great time of prayer and reflection and a time of preparation. If you are wondering if you can be married in the Catholic Church during lent, click here to access a great blog that explains that.

Since Lent in our lives is a time of preparation for Easter, it is also an invitation for you and your fiancé to prepare for the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony.

Preparation takes different forms: you can attend a retreat organized by your parish or your diocese, you can attend marriage preparation classes either as a group or one on one with a sponsor couple, and you can also attend online marriage preparation classes here. All these forms of marriage preparation are accepted by the church and are available to you.

Read more about getting married during Lent here.

Lent and Married Couples

If you recently got married in the Catholic Church and you are starting to build your own family and your own family traditions, Lent is a great time to establish some practices that are spiritually important for both of you.

Start by telling each other how each of your families of origin prepared for Easter during this time of Lent.

Did you attend reconciliation as a family? Did you practice fasting and almsgiving in a special way? Once you have shared all these stories with each other, establish your own Lenten practices.

What do you want to do during Lent now that you are married? Make sure to include time for prayer, both as a couple and individually, fasting and almsgiving.

Lent and Families

Lent gives families an opportunity to come together for prayer and to reflect on the things we want to change. It is important to highlight the aspects of forgiving, reconciliation, and accepting one another in the family. Family prayer before meals is a special time to be thankful for what we have and to ask God to help us be aware of those around us who are less fortunate. Nighttime prayers are also a good moment to stop and reflect on what we did wrong and who did we offend during the day.

Practicing the corporal works of mercy as a family is also a good Lenten practice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc., are all activities that the whole family can practice.

Lent in our lives is an invitation to all of us to change our ways (convert) and start a new life with the Risen Lord in the Resurrection at Easter. Let us make good use of these 40 days and really make a change in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Many blessings on this Lenten Season!