by Deacon Roger Carr-Jones
I was recently struck by the parallels between the need for prayer and the need for open communication in marriage and family life when re-reading Fr Bernard Basset’s (SJ) little book Let’s Start Praying Again. Published in 1970, Fr Basset paints a picture of the life of the Church where the ability to, or the understanding of how and why we need to pray, seemed to have already been lost. What he touched upon was not so much our personal choice of prayer, formal, informal or extemporised, but rather the underlying attitude of prayer. If we love prayer, then our attitude should be open and joyful, with a desire to build a living relationship with the God who loves us, by opening up real communication with him. Similarly, if we truly love each other then how we interact as a couple must have that same sense of freshness, honesty
This reminds me that in marriage we often have conversations of various types, without taking the time and the effort either to say what it is that we are really feeling or what it is that we want to say. So, just as we have a natural craving to pray, we also have a natural desire to communicate with each other. Therefore, no matter how busy our lives might be, we should always make the time to talk, at a deeper level, with the one we united ourselves to through the grace of marriage.
In married life, especially when we are managing the needs of a family or the demands of work, we can allow our primary vocation to get put on the backburner. It is not that we do not care but, a little like prayer, we think that it is something that we can easily go back to without much effort. However, when we lack the time to talk about things at a deeper level, to share our feelings and emotions, then we can become disconnected and quite often misunderstood. Prayer, like communication, must be discovered afresh every day. You cannot simply store it in a bucket with the idea that you dip into it now and again.
Therefore, in marriage, setting aside a special time for one another, whether this is once a week or once a month, really does matter. This should not be a time to discuss the practicalities of family life, finances, or holidays; that can be achieved in a different way. When we first fell in love and started dating, we were eager to know everything about the other person, no matter how small. That need and desire to know really does continue throughout married life as we change and grow as a couple.
Why not begin this special time together with a simple prayer of gratitude for the gift of one another? Gratitude is a good place to start as it reminds us of why we both said, ‘I do’ and promised to share our lives together. Married life, like prayer life, is not always perfect, but we are provided with the daily opportunity to renew the joy of our marriage vows and to re-connect to God through prayer. In the busyness of life, we can overlook our need to communicate with one another and to provide simple expressions of love.
One word can create a thousand smiles. Marriage, like prayer from the heart, does not always require many words, but it does require open communication, a willingness to share and sometimes to compromise. How do you feel when your spouse tells you that they love you, or appreciate some small thing that you have done?
Autumn is a time of fruitfulness. So, why not reflect for moment on the ways in which your marriage has ripened as you have grown together? Reflect for a brief moment on the ways in which you experience fun together, how your marriage gives you a moral compass, and what being together means to you every single day?