Lent is already almost here! Ash Wednesday is February 10th, which begins our annual forty day observance of prayer and penance in preparation for Easter. The reason we do penance is to grow in our awareness of our weakness. When we are aware of our weaknesses we become even more aware of God’s strength, allowing him to work through us even more vibrantly.
I want us all to do something different during this Lent. During this lent I don’t want you to give up chocolate, or beer, or coffee. Instead, I’d like for you to sacrifice some of your time. I’m hoping you will offer your time to God to pray and to learn about the faith that he has revealed to us.
Regarding prayer, I’d like to ask you to give five extra minutes a day for prayer. During this time of prayer I’d like for you to pray for a renewal of marriage and family life in our society. Pray that we begin to think about marriage as a way that God calls to live the gospel, rather than a default way of life. If you can pray in the Church or chapel near the Blessed Sacrament that would be even better!
I’d also like for you to sacrifice some time to study the faith that God has revealed to us. If you are married or considering marriage, I have a specific resource I’d like for you to study. If you are married, I’d like for you to study this with your spouse. It is a resource we are using for marriage preparation called, Beloved and it can be found at formed.org. I’m only asking you to watch the first series (The blue one, not the yellow one).
You can access all the resources on formed.org with our parish access code FTFWEZ. Anyone who lives in Cowlitz and Whakiakum County can use these materials, even if you aren’t Catholic. Just type that code in and register and you will be able to access all the materials they have available.
God has called you to marriage for a reason! Married couples should always strive to understand why that is, and to live this vocation as vibrantly as possible. As a priest, I’m always striving to be a better priest. I learn about the priesthood and study our faith so I can be a great priest. Married couples should see their vocations in a similar light.
Many couples live their marriage as if they are treading water. They are trying to stay above a certain level of happiness so that their marriage can "survive." But this isn't the way it should be. Marriage is an ideal to strive for. Couples should desire to maximize their joy as a couple. Married couples should seek to learn about marriage so that they can be as vibrant as a married couple as possible. Not only will this benefit you, the married couple, but it will benefit your children and grandchildren because you will give them an even greater example of true love found in marriage.
Beloved is very well produced and it has excellent information to reflect on. It does a good job of blending good teaching with the testimony of real married couples. I understand examining your marriage might be terrifying, especially if you and your spouse are set in your ways and have let some bad habits embed themselves in your marriage. And yes, some of the information is challenging. You might not be ready to accept everything that the series teaches, but maybe you can accept some of it, and if you can implement some of it then it will be worth it. So don’t be afraid.
Even if you are not Catholic there might be information in this series that can help you find more joy in your marriage. If you aren’t married but think you might be married one day, this series can also be helpful to you because it might help you discover what it is you are looking for in a marriage.
Some couples might want to make the most of these resources by downloading the “Couple Enrichment Guide” that is available beneath the video player on the formed.org website. I’m not asking you to do that, but I certainly recommend it. If you aren’t married or are not interested in learning about marriage for whatever reason, I ask you to consider viewing some other materials found at formed.org. You might try the series Symbolon, or Catholicism.