Pleasing God, if Only for a Moment

TOn Saturday, February 8, roughly 60 couples renewed their wedding vows at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  The event, organized by the Love’s Sacred Embrace ministry, was lightly publicized, yet the response was robust, and included a number of couples that had not previously attended Marriage on Tap or any of the annual retreats.  Those renewing their vows spanned a wide range, from friends married for five months to others married more than five decades.  Father Doerr and Father Arbuckle sounded a bit hoarse when the blessings were finally concluded.  God’s grace was present in great abundance last night.

After dinner, Denise McGonigal and I were chatting about the evening.  She and Joe are young-weddingfacilitating a day-long marriage prep day today at church, prompting us to marvel at the general lack of awareness with which most young couples approach the sacrament of marriage.  Although the demographics of couples getting married for the first time are changing (trending to older and more affluent, while the overall numbers shrink), it’s still true that the vast majority of couples entering into the sacrament have absolutely no idea what they are in for, no idea of the scope and depth of the promises they are making. Generally, they are far more aware of the atmospherics–planning, invitations, seating charts, cakes, rehearsals–than they are of the promises they are exchanging, ostensibly until one of them dies.  Even if they are exceptionally aware and alert, there is no practical way to describe how the entry of children into the equation changes things.  Add to all of this the weight of a popular culture that is generally scornful and corrosive toward the institution of marriage, and it’s no wonder so many marriages fail within the first ten years. In fact, it may be a wonder that so many survive.

The only possible explanation behind the marriages that actually make it until the death of a spouse is God’s grace.  Yet, as Catholics, we are taught that grace cannot be earned, that our only hope of receiving something approaching “our share” is to be open to His Spirit.  Active practice of our faith–attending Mass, prayer, studying scripture, serving the poor and those less fortunate than ourselves–may put us in a favorable position with God, but guarantee nothing insofar as gaining grace is concerned.  Is it, then, simply the luck of the draw?

Perhaps.  But there are things we can do to improve our chances.  As Anne and Pete Slamkowski shared with us last night, we can love our spouses intentionally.  We can read and learn from folks like John Gottman and Art and Laraine Bennettwho have written about the secrets of highly successful marriages.  We can commit to BEING the right person, rather than SEARCHING for the right person, when it comes to marriage.  We can focus on fixing our own flaws, rather than harping on the flaws of our mate.  We can approach the challenges of keeping a home and raising children in a spirit of equality, of shared duties, rather than the common practice (engaged in by many men) of relegating these functions to the wife, an anachronistic vestige of the “women’s work” mentality of the 19th century.  Finally, we can enlist God’s help, through prayers of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication, to see us through the difficult times, and help us appreciate the good.

WeddingLast night, 60 couples said, in effect, “I chose well when I married you the first time, and I am blessed and happy to be able to marry you again.”  In an age of rampant materialism, obscene popular culture, shameful income inequality, global strife and a planet seemingly dedicated to contravening God’s word, in a small, quiet snowy community in central Indiana, a few of us gave God reason to celebrate His creation.  It was an honor to be a part of it.

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Highlights from February 9 Marriage on Tap

Yesterday we had our second Marriage on Tap at Prairie View Golf Course. We were thrilled to have 50 couples join us for an evening of socializing, eating, playing games and hearing Lori Lowe speak. In just two events we have had 87 unique couples join us for Marriage on Tap.

At one point in the evening we had everyone stand up to see who in the room has been married the longest. As people were sitting down it was a blessing to see the number of couples still standing up as we got to the 40 year mark. But in the end, we had two couples standing who were both married for 49 years. The winning couple had the other couple by 9 days. But it was also a joy to see the couple who has been married for 2 years. It was a true testament that it doesn’t matter how many years you have been married – it always has to be worked on.

During the evening we had a chance to publically announce our blog,, as well as our Twitter, @sacred_embrace. We hope people start visiting our blog and follow up on Twitter. Also, we asked everyone there that if they feel compelled to write or share their story about marriage we invite them to contact us.

After our pasta dinner was served local marriage expert and blogger, Lori Lowe, spoke to us. Lori gave a great presentation on 12 tips married couples should be aware of to make their marriage successful. A few years back, Lori wrote a book on marriage and in doing her research she interviewed many married couples who have faced both hardships and happiness. The stories she shared with us were not only interesting but inspiring as well. As she went through her 12 tips she kept on referring back to various Bible verses and commented several times that the Bible has so much written on marriage.

Lori’s 12 Tips to a Thriving (Not Just Surviving) Marriage

  1. Things don’t always (or even usually) go as planned. – We can’t just overcome difficulties.We must be changed by them. How we respond matters most.
  2. Love is not enough to succeed in marriage
  3. Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Forgiveness is one of the hidden keys to a lifelong marriage.
  4. Love is sacrificial; learn to please one another
  5. The marriage is more important than the children (or the inability to bear children).
  6. Live with positivity & gratitude daily.
  7. Adversity isn’t a killer, it can be a strengthener.
  8. Happiness is NOT the goal of marriage.
  9. Have each other’s back. Be a team. Become one.
  10. Avoid addictions & obsessions
  11. Focus on strengths; don’t always work on your weaknesses.
  12. Our spouse cannot be our true source of joy.

But Lori’s best suggestion was to choose to love everyday.

After Lori’s talk we played a game called “So, You Think You Know Your Spouse” and for the second time in a row the women won this trivia game. But we think everyone seemed to enjoy the game anyways.

The night was supposed to end at 10pm but it seemed that people stayed until almost 11pm. Just like last month, there were many opportunities to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends. But most importantly, it was nice to reconnect with our spouses.

We hope to see you in March at Greek Tony’s.