Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 22, 2010
Couples committed to Marriage
World Marriage Day becomes celebration of marital 'holy ground'
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
The tears in some couples' eyes reflected the emotion of the moment. Facing each other while holding hands, about 70 couples renewed their vows to love and honour each other all the days of their lives.
This was one of the concluding actions of World Marriage Day Feb. 14 - a day spent celebrating marriage and learning how to make it even better.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a ministry for married couples, and the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life sponsored the celebration, which is held around the world on the second Sunday of February each year to honour the lifetime commitment of husbands and wives. Organizers said the fact the event fell on St. Valentine's Day this year, made it all the more special.
Oblate Father Mike Dechant, who animated the event, invited participants to strive for greatness in marriage. "To live in greatness is to see your spouse as the burning bush," he said, referring to Moses' encounter with God in the Book of Exodus.
In the passage, Moses goes to check the burning bush. As he gets close, he hears a voice. It's God telling him to take his shoes off because he is standing on holy ground.
"When you are in the presence of your spouse, take your shoes off," Dechant told his audience. When we take our shoes off we become more sensitive and more aware of what is happening around us.
"This is holy ground. Why? Because your spouse is beside you."
Gathered in the basement hall of St. Albert Church, participants heard the marriage journey of three couples, each from a different stage in married life, and then discussed the messages learned.
Alan and Renee DeSilva of St. Charles Parish in Edmonton shared stories from their new, almost-two-year-old marriage. The couple became best friends while on a bus trip with 41 others to World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.
About 18 months later Renee's mom died and Alan became Renee's rock during that sad period. They soon started dating and after three years Alan proposed.
"Happiness is marrying your best friend and we can say that so far we are very happy because our marriage was based out of deep friendship and faith," they told the other couples.
Together they learned to communicate better after they got married. From married couple they became business partners, starting a home-based business to spend more time together and with their baby Gabriel, who was born last April.
"We choose to put our spouse's needs first," Alan said. "After a hard, busy day, we try to give each other some time to unwind."
The DeSilvas know the best gift they can give their son is to love each other. So they show affection and respect for each other in his presence.
Their vision for greatness includes being 82 years old, holding hands as they walk slowly in the mall, travelling the world with their children, having a music ministry with their kids in church, and raising respectful and responsible children by being home with them.
The DeSilvas also plan to set the example for their children and for other people by showing that "the love we have for each other is just a glimpse of the love that God has for all his people."
Ged and Tina Schoenfelder of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Devon have been married for 22 years and have five living children.
They began by setting the record straight. "We are not up here because we are perfect or have a perfect marriage. We are here to share our story and how we choose daily to live the sacrament of marriage in our lives."
WAYS OF THE WORLD
The Schoenfelders followed the ways of the world, dated and lived together for four years before they got married.
Then Tina's dad died at age 65 after 43 years of marriage to his wife. Ged's parents divorced after 37 years of marriage.
During this time the Schoenfelders started to look at their marriage differently. "Through this time God was very present in our lives and he used this time to strip us down and rebuild us together in faith and true love, not lust," Ged said.
"As years went by we understood that marriage is not 50/50 but it is two people giving 100 per cent all the time," said Tina. "We also learned that communication is as essential as breathing and key to a healthy relationship, even if we don't like what the other person is saying."
The Schoenfelders say they started their marriage journey clueless. "But with the Lord in our life and our marriage, we journey to greatness with a vision of hope," they said.
Bob and Annette Vasseur of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove have been married 43 years and have three children and seven grandchildren.
"I don't think there was any particular point in time when I decided to marry Annette. It just came to be. We had dated since high school so, while falling in love, I think we both just came to the understanding that we were going to get married - it was automatic."
"I knew what I didn't want for our marriage," Bob said. "That was the marriages that I saw all around us, even the marriages that our parents had, though they weren't poor marriages by any means."
At some point in their marriage, a vision did emerge, Bob said. "Though I would not have admitted it to anyone, I began to see how I had been letting our marriage drift along, on its own, into an everyday kind of dull relationship."
At this point the Vasseurs were invited to go on a Marriage Encounter weekend.
"I made some decisions to change the kind of relationship we had by changing the kind of husband I was," Bob said.
"We both made some changes. For me, this was something fresh, a new and exciting experience, living a different way partly because I began to understand, and really appreciate, God in the picture."
GOD REALLY CARED
It wasn't until that Marriage Encounter weekend that they learned that "God really cared about us and our marriage and he wanted us to live it fully," said Annette.
Their vision of marriage changed. "Instead of the Hollywood view, I wanted something more, something real."
The Vasseurs decided they wanted what God wanted for them - a sacramental marriage. "That meant working on being more attentive and supportive to each other and trying to be a sign to others," Annette said.
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