Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 14, 2008
Marriage should build couples' friendship
Family Life Conference hears tips on how to live a sacrament
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Lisa and Gregory Popcak told the annual Family Life Conference that your spouse should be your best friend.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Lac Ste. Anne
Friendship, love, selfless service and prayer are essential ingredients for a wholesome Christian marriage.
That's part of the message delivered June 30 by Dr. Gregory Popcak and his wife Lisa to hundreds of married couples at the annual Catholic Family Life Conference at the Lac Ste. Anne shrine June 28.
"I'm constantly saddened when I hear couples say, 'My wife and I love each other but my best friend lives down the street.' If that person is your best friend, it is because you do stuff with that person. That's not the way God wants this to be. Your spouse is supposed to be your best friend," Gregory Popcak said.
The Popcaks gave three talks on marriage, parenting and holy sex to more than 450 couples, young and old, reminding them that marriage is "a sacrament instituted by God to help you become the person God meant you to be in this life and helping each other get ready for the next life."
Organized by Catholic Family Ministries, the June 27-30 conference also offered programs and activities for children and teens. Amazing Grace: A Personal Encounter with Christ in the Holy Eucharist was the theme of the four-day event.
Archbishop Richard Smith celebrated Mass for the families, urging them to invite God into their homes. "We can't do it alone," he said. "We must invite Jesus under our roof."
Gregory Popcak is a Catholic psychotherapist and author of seven books integrating Christian teaching with counselling psychology. With his wife, he hosts the daily, nationally-syndicated Catholic radio broadcast Heart Mind and Strength and is the founder and clinical director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute.
One secret to having a happy marriage is self-donation, which the Popcaks described as a kind of heroic generosity. "In particular it enables us to give ourselves totally to our spouse - to use your whole self to work for the other person."
The qualities of self-donation can be defined in the acronym GIFT.
G means to grow together as a couple in Christian identity;
I means that the couple is going to invite each other to experience original unity.
F stands for foster companionate and romantic love and
T is to treasure the sacred power of romantic intimacy.
First, to grow together in Christian identity, couples should produce a marital mission statement that articulates the values that they want to be known for and the beliefs they want to uphold, the Popcaks said.
Gifts and talents
They suggested couples write down their-God-given gifts and talents, the goals they would like to achieve and the qualities their families may need more of.
"You come up with a plan as spouses of how you want to live and talk about how you can draw each other to these qualities," Lisa said, noting the plan will also serve as a tool to keep each other on track.
Second, to invite each other to original unity spouses must understand that "each of us is made in God's image and likeness and that each of us lives out God-given virtues," Lisa said.
She invited couples to get out of their comfort zones and to stop avoiding jobs and activities they don't feel comfortable doing.
"You know what? Men and women of God do what needs to be done. They rise to the challenge. They leave behind their comfort zone for the sake of love. And they love each other totally with the bodies that God gave them."
Third, there is a lot of confusion these days about what love really means, the couple said.
The good of another
"You might have heard that love is a decision or love is a choice or love is a word. Those things are all true. But being more specific, love means working for the good of another person even when that means we leave behind our comfort zone," Gregory explained.
"Romantic and companionate love are two ways that we work together for our partner's good. Companionate love is the basic friendship you have in a relationship - the idea that you are committed to trying to help each other, to love and serve each other in ways that will draw each other in understanding."
If your spouse has a hobby or an activity that she wants to pursue, you should be by her or his side showing your encouragement and support, Lisa said.
Fourth, romantic love is not the kind of schmaltzy-Hollywood thing but "where you get to work for each other's good at an even deeper and personal level than if you were just friends to each other," Gregory said. "It's the fire in the fireplace that really provide the sparks and get you all cozy and warm and comfortable."
Most people look at sex as recreation. "But it's a re-creation of your wedding vows; it's a re-creation of the day you said 'I do' to each other," Gregory said.
Growing together in love
He also described it as "a sacrament that works for the perfection of the couple by helping them to grow together in love and leaving them open to new life."
Holy sex, Gregory Popcak added, is the physical relationship a couple enjoys when they feel truly safe and cared-for by each other. Couples who practise holy sex know that "their sexual relationship is like a bountiful fruit tree that grows as their relationship grows, and becomes more fruitful with time and careful attention."
The Popcaks encouraged couples to "approach each other in prayer," an idea they recognize scares a lot of folks. "It's recognizing that you are a physical manifestation of God's passion for your mate and that this bodily act is a prayer."