Written by Claudio Mora

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!

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.

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

Written by Claudio Mora

Lent 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 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.

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 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

Written by Claudio Mora

The holidays represent a great challenge to marriages and family life. We all enjoy getting together with family and friends and spending time with them. But what happens when the extended family on both sides expect you to spend Christmas or New Years with them?

Where do you go? Who do you spend which holiday with? Do you spend them with his family? Her family? Or do you want to start your own new traditions as a new family?

All of  these are perfectly valid questions that most newlywed couples must answer at some point. The most important thing to know is that there is no perfect answer! As in many other situations, when it comes to deciding how and where to spend the holidays, what is most important is the dialogue between you and your spouse. Here are some aspects to consider when the two of you decide to have this conversation.

Family of Origin

Remember your marriage preparation segment on Family of Origin and remember that both of you come from different families with different traditions. One is not better than the other, they are different and there is value in both of them. Take time to share your own traditions about the holidays when you were growing up.

Old Traditions vs. New Traditions

After talking and sharing your own experiences and the traditions of your own families of origin, have open and honest dialogue about your own present family, the family that you and your spouse have formed: do you want to start new traditions together or do you want to be a part of your family of origin’s traditions? Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here, only honest answers!

Negotiating, Meeting in the Middle, Finding the Common Ground

What if you both want to spend Christmas with your parents and siblings? What if you receive invitations from both sides of the family to spend New Years with them? What do you? Where do you go? This is the time to negotiate, time to meet in the middle, time to give something to gain something. Remember that segment of marriage preparation that talks about “Conflict Resolution?” Well, now it is the time to put it into practice. Utilize your tools to express what you want, listen to what your spouse wants, and then together find a common ground. What’s most important here is not the outcome, it is the process, the dialogue and the love and understanding that you put into it. Find your own solution, the alternative that will work for your marriage. First, think about what makes your spouse happy, then think of the extended family and friends.

Attending a holiday celebration with the extended family is fun, but attending any celebration “Together-As-One” is what God really wants from the two of you. Will the holidays be the same as they were when you were growing up? NO! They will be even better now that you have formed your own family. Enjoy the holidays, have a Blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s grace.

Written by Claudio Mora

An important aspect about preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church is finding and selecting the priest who will preside over the celebration.

Couples usually find the church first and, therefore, the priest who is at that particular church will celebrate the wedding ceremony. This is perfectly fine. It is important for couples to have a relationship with the priest or deacon who will preside over their wedding ceremony, whenever possible.

Oftentimes, couples chose a priest they already know to preside over their celebration. They may have a favorite priest, a friend, or a family member.

While finding the right priest to preside the celebration is very important, it is also important to know that the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the bride and the groom. Yes! The most important people in the sacrament of marriage are the ones who are entering into this covenant union we call marriage.

This is different from the other sacraments of the Catholic Church, where the minister is always a bishop, a priest or a deacon (an ordained minister). For the sacrament of marriage, the ministers are the contracting parties (bride and groom) because they are giving each other promises or vows and the consent.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.” (CCC 1623)

That’s why during this part of the ceremony, the priest asks the couple to stand facing each other and exchange the promises or vows, symbolizing that they are giving each other the consent to enter into this union forever.

This shows us how important and how unique this sacrament is in the eyes of the Church. The bride and the groom actively give each other the promises in what is considered the most important part of a Catholic wedding ceremony.

It is very important for the couple to be aware of this moment, which represents the essence of the Catholic wedding ceremony. If you are getting married in the Catholic Church, it is also important to know that, as the ministers in this sacrament, it is very important that you are well formed and prepared for this sacred duty. That’s why marriage preparation is so important and that’s the reason why the Church encourages you to take marriage preparation seriously.

It is our hope that through this process of marriage preparation, you will grow in your understanding of the sacrament of marriage and the importance of the role you play in the ceremony as a minister of the sacrament.

We wish you all the best!

Written by Claudio Mora

June is the beginning of summer in the United States. It is also when most couples and families take time to rest and re-energize. We take trips to visit the beach, the lake, parks, etc. In general, it is a season for rest and relaxation; a time to take a break from our busy lives.

We might be tempted to say it is also a time to take a break from feeding our relationship with our spouse or to take a little break from this thing we call, “enriching our marriage.” Quite the opposite! Summer is the perfect time to engage again in this wonderful adventure we call marriage!

Taking Lessons from Nature

In nature, life grows rapidly in the summer. Trees and plants reach their full potential during summer. Fruits and vegetables grow and mature during summer. In the same way, our relationship as a couple grows during this time of rest and recreation, if we know how to feed it properly.

This is the time to go back to the beginning and re-encounter the reasons why we entered into this adventure we call marriage.

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia / The Joy of Love,” #9 says, “They [the married couple] embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?’ (Mt 19:4).” We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).”

We should take advantage of this summer season that offers us more time and flexibility to do things that will become food for our relationship. We can use the extra free time we are given during summer to work on our marriage in an intentional way and in a more fun way!

Summer Marriage Enrichment

There are so many ways in which you can do something fun and creative to enrich your relationship this summer. From picnics in the park to outdoor movies, get creative and start planning those date nights.

Another great way to engage in Marriage Enrichment is to visit your local parish and ask about opportunities and events they may have available. Many parishes offer summer programs that are fun, creative and interesting! You will not only be working on your marriage, but you will develop stronger connections to your local parish and you will have an opportunity to build community with other married couples.

Whichever way you chose to enrich your marriage this summer, remember the “three Cs” of marriage enrichment:

  • Consistency: Schedule your enrichment opportunities and stick to your plan.
  • Creativity: Think outside the box! Be original, be brave and try new things.
  • Christ-Centered: Chose activities that will bring you closer to Christ, will feed your faith and your relationship with God.

It is our hope that you will have a great summer filled with opportunities to rest and to grow together in your marriage.

When it comes to any date, it’s pretty safe to say that we all like to be impressed by the other, and we like to be impressive as well. Truthfully though, don’t most of us simply appreciate a romantic effort most times, leaving the pricey extravagance for a random, extra special occasion? Well?

At no time should a night out break your budget, but we can understand the occasional splurge. Here is just a sample of a few of our favorite affordable dates, specifically with a lower cost in mind, yet ideas that are full of heart.

Breakfast!

I’ve got to start with one of my faves. Whether being picked up or you’re picking up your date early in the morning–to go to a favorite place to watch the sunrise, then off to a quaint breakfast spot, it sounds incredibly romantic. It’s a sweet way to start both of your days.

Window Shopping

Taking a nice long walk through a happenin’ downtown area of your hometown or neighboring city is a wonderful way to learn more about his or her likes and interests. It’s also a good way to scope out the local favorite delicatessens and bakeries.

Picnics

Since you just took a delightful walk through town, and now know where you can pick up a light lunch or just a coffee and a sweet-treat, you’re all set to go relax in the park or maybe sit alongside the boardwalk–if you’re lucky enough to live by the water. Perfect places for more fun, yet, intimate conversations.

Just A Drive…

For the cost of a little gasoline to fill your car–a ride up and down the coast or through the most scenic countryside can create some of the fondest memories, which can last a lifetime.

This list could go on-and-on, and I am certainly looking forward to that. We would love to hear about YOUR favorite, most romantic dates that cost you little to no money–only priceless time you spent with that special someone. Let us know by commenting here, or message us on Facebook or Instagram!

When a Catholic and a non-Catholic marry one another, obvious differences in doctrine, worship, or personal piety inevitably lead to tension. So how can an ecumenical marriage thrive?

You were drawn to this person in particular, not their religion in general.

A few years ago, Annie and Stephen met while dancing like fools at a friend’s wedding. As time went on they bonded as fools for Christ, she a Catholic and he a Protestant. Despite denominational differences, they both cared about healing the world, finding joy in every day, and earnestly doing the will of God. Last year they were married, and sharing their life in marriage has only intensified their common commitments.

We aren’t always attracted to people in our churches. Religious compatibility and marital compatibility are two different things. Even spouses of the same religion enter into a marriage because this particular person helps the other become holy.

No matter how much religion unites us, we must also remember that every person’s prayer life is radically unique. Each of us has a mysterious relationship with God that no one else can ever enter into. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect, and greet each other.”

Your denomination is an adjective, not a noun.

Fundamentally, we are all Christians. “Catholic”, “Protestant,” “Orthodox,” or any other denominational names just specify what kind of Christian we are. Often we assume we have different faiths rather than different expressions of the same faith. But long before spouses had any kind of romantic commitment, they were already committed to one another through a common baptism.

Within a healthy marriage the man and woman both make up what the other lacks: the same goes for an ecumenical marriage. The spontaneity of Stephen’s Protestant background enlivens Annie’s contemplative Catholic piety, just as much as Stephen finds groundedness in the order and symbolism of Annie’s Mass. Each tradition has something to give to the other.

Getting involved in each other’s communities especially helps unite spouses if one cannot participate fully in the other’s liturgy. Helping with coffee hour, weekday Bible studies, or volunteer events help everyone set aside denominational differences in order to grow together as Christians.

Resist the desire to change the other person.

Annie and Stephan, photo courtesy of Caedy Convis Photography

Stephen said that whenever the phrase “I wish you would just…” comes into his head, he kills it immediately. Often ecumenical spouses entertain fantasies that this spouse will enter RCIA and receive communion with the rest of the family, or that this spouse will embrace the other’s style of worship. But do we really want the other person to grow, or do we just want them converted to our way of doing things?

You can’t build a relationship with someone you’re trying to fix. Don’t enter an ecumenical marriage with a chip on your shoulder or a passion for apologetics. Remember, marriage exists for your salvation and healing—you’re the one who needs to change.

Ecumenical marriages thrive for the same reasons any marriage thrives.

We aren’t supposed to run from difficulties, but nor should we shrug and belittle them. “It pains us to talk about this, because these are real struggles for us,” Stephen said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t suggest this to anyone,” said Annie, “unless it’s the will of God.” No matter the religion, all spouses need to hear the other person out, set aside their preoccupations or anxieties, and be sure that, as Annie says, “this is what God wants for us.”

Article contributed by Thomas Whitman. Photography by Caedy Convis Photography.

Money is one of the most common causes of friction during the first year of marriage. When you first enter into a union it is important to discuss money matters, but you might be wondering: what kind of personal finances should I bring up?

Your ideas on investment are definitely worthy of discussion. If you have dreams of investing in properties over the years or even own real estate investments, be sure to discuss this up with your partner before you start a family. Here’s a quick guide to handling this sometimes friction-filled topic.

Start Slow

When you enter into a discussion about property investments, be sure to start things out slowly. Though you may have been interested in real estate and passive income for years, your spouse may not be as well versed as you are in the regulations of buy to lets, mortgages or the fluctuations of base rates for instance. Or, visa-versa — your spouse could know a great deal more than you and have tons of experience.

Either way, if the topic is new between you, start the discussion in a pressure-free way. Instead of presenting a property you want to buy out of the blue, start talking about friends who own and rent out properties, and see what your spouse has to say. Tell stories and keep the conversation light.

Be Honest

Honesty is essential between couples. Foster trust in your marriage by never with-holding information, which is a passive way of lying. Tell the truth by speaking about your experiences, hopes, and thoughts on the topics that are important to you.

For example, once you have established a dialogue about real estate investment, you might need to bring up the fact that you once owned a property and sold it for a profit, and that you hope to do it again. Your hopes involve your partner because you are now a team, so be sure to include them in your statement. You might want to say something like, “I would love to look at properties to invest in again one day in the future, if you are interested and on board.”

Listen To Your Spouses Concerns

Your spouse may have concerns about property investment. This could be a fear that you aren’t interested in buying real estate for investment purposes, and want to invest in other places or not invest at all. Or, his or her concern could also be about your wish to invest in property.

Your spouse will appreciate being heard. Take the time to listen to his or her concerns. You don’t even need to respond right away. Just give them space to speak what is on their mind.

Money is a charged subject, and each partner will bring a unique viewpoint into the marriage. This is one of the benefits of coming together as a couple! Learn from each other when it comes to challenging topics such as property investment and make wise decisions as a team. Start slow, be honest and open, and take the time to listen to your spouse.

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor

Marriage has a long history, originating before written records, possibly during the Stone Age. However, as cultural norms shift, so too has the definition and nature of marriage. It wasn’t until the fall of the Romans that the Catholic Church elevated marriage to a holy sacrament. Unlike these early forms of marriage, couples now marry based on love. However, the last 50 years has seen the institution decline, with divorce rates up. This makes marriage counselling more important than ever. Here’s how marriage has evolved over the last century.

1960s

79% of over 18s were married during the 60s and these marriages tended to happen at a young age. The average groom was 23, while the average bride was just 20. The role of women growing up in the 40s/50s was to become a mother and homemaker.

While marriage was still a union based on love, it was also an essential provider of income for women. The divorce rate in 1960 was only 22%. However, attitudes towards marriage were starting to shift and in 1967, divorce laws were relaxed, which began an upward trend in marital problems. This is why the role of marriage coaching has become more important in the last few decades.

1980s

The 1960s sparked a cultural revolution, with the rise of feminism and sex positivity. By the 1980s, body shapes were changing, due to a change in lifestyle habits such as eating and exercise. By the end of the 80s, the average groom was now 26 and the average bride was 23.

Despite a tendency to marry later in life, divorce rates continued to climb to over 50%. The institution of marriage was still popular, however, being the basis of a strong family unit and a majority of US residents dreaming about their wedding day. The role of the couple was also changing, with men spending more time with children and women spending more time at work.

2000s

Despite a clear decline in marriage rates over time, the divorce rate dropped between 2013 and 2016, while marriage rates increased. However, as the role of husband and wife change, it is important that couples use coaching to better understand each other, being open about what they want from a marriage.

3.5% of married men are now stay at home dads, up from less than 2% in the 1970s. Furthermore, in 2015, the definition of marriage was changed once more to allow same sex marriages throughout the United States. Marriage has become more diverse, meaning that couples need to work harder to understand what their union means to them and how they can become a better spouse.

Married couples are regularly surveyed to be both happier and wealthier than single couples, even if only half over 18s are now married. The average age for a groom is now 29 and for a bride, it’s 27.

Marriage is a constantly evolving institution. The liberation of women has changed the roles of couples, but marriage continues to be a significant part of our society. Thanks to advances in marriage coaching, the divorce rate is starting to decline again, but we should recognize that each couple is on a unique journey and require a bespoke solution to marital issues.

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor

‘For richer, for poorer’…. it’s right there in the traditional marriage vows, but how many of us consider the consequences of actually living it out in the real world? The sad statistic is that up to 50% of marriages end in divorce, with finances (or lack of them) being a major cause of marital disharmony.

Feeling The Financial Strain

In a marriage where only one spouse is working there is often financial strain: sometimes the stress comes through the loss of a job and unemployment; even if the choice is a conscious one of only having one person working so that the other can stay home to raise children, it can still be hard.

After all, at the end of the day it still means less income for the family.

In either situation, the key is often a mindset shift: a mom may not be working outside of the home, but she is still bringing something equally important to the table. A father may have lost his job, but he is spending his days looking for the next opportunity – they are both working hard, just not in the traditional sense.

Communication Is Key

The key to marital harmony in so many ways is often good communication – and it’s no different when dealing with finances.

It’s a good idea to sit down together and agree on a plan and a budget. What’s right for one family won’t work for another – for some a ‘household’ account that a stay-at-home-mom is in charge of would be perfect, others see this as too limiting, and prefer one general account that both partners spend from. You may want to work out a ‘blow’ budget for each spouse – once the household bills and savings are taken care of, each person gets half of the remaining amount to do as they please. This can work particularly well if one person is a saver and one is a spender, as there’s no resentment for one person spending their cash monthly whilst the other saves up for a larger purchase.

Do What You Can With What You Have

If finances are a strain with only one parent in work (for whatever reason), then it is a good idea to make sure you are getting all the financial help you are entitled to – this will vary by state, so make sure to check your local government website. Think outside the box too – there are creative ways you can earn a little extra money from home, from taking online surveys to selling unwanted or outgrown items on eBay, any of which can be fitted in around nap times or school runs, giving a little extra wiggle room in the budget.

Your Family, Your Rules

Remember that what works for one family will not be right for another – communicate well, make a plan, ensure you are getting all the help you are entitled to, and think creatively to ensure the family finances are in good shape to help keep your marriage strong.

 

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor