In this time of crisis MFL Westminster have been inviting various groups to share their resources to help support and sustain marriage and family life.
Our thanks to Paul and Annette O' Bierne Teams of Our Lady and authors of 'From this day forward'
There has been much coverage during our lockdown about various survival techniques, frequently mentioned is the fact that religious communities of monks and sisters joyfully undertake isolation. So, what can married couples learn from this? This morning as we woke, we were enchanted to hear Dom Christopher Jameson, Abbot President of the English Benedictines offering the idea that how novices adapt to their newly changed monastic discipline compares to our current situation. We think this includes lessons for couple relationships.
During our last 40 days (in lockdown) we have heard much about the difficulties of couples living in situations they cannot cope with and which erupt into violence of one sort or another. We know from our own experience that a variety of pressures make communication and positivity sometimes quite difficult to achieve. We quite often use the phrase, borrowed from David Wells in a talk to our Equipes Notre Dame (Teams) gathering several years ago, “…….. we need to talk”. He said this phrase - from his wife to him - always brought a sense of intense trepidation, as it suggested that change was needed. What makes it difficult for us to convert our wedding day vows into an action plan for the lifetime that might be 15,000 to 20,000 days together?
Last year we piloted “From This Day Forward” marriage enrichment. Over 4 sessions couples looked at a range of areas in their lives and together formed an action plan for the future of their marriage based on their hopes and aspirations. What would you like your marriage to be like in 5, 10, 25, 40 years?
We were lucky to join Teams just a month after we married. A key part of Teams is the Endeavours – and married Rule of Life – so just like Abbot Jameson’s novices and us all of us in lockdown, we engaged with the Teams approach to help us manage the change from singleness to being married. We are enthusiasts for using a structured approach to our married lives. Our marriage vows give the aim but not the method. Teams Endeavours give us a method for Prayer and communicating with each other.
After 5 years of marriage we joined the parish’s marriage preparation team and then in 2000 after taking on Cardinal Basil Hume’s exhortation that “what we can do together, we should” we, with the other churches in Fareham, developed the Love and Cherish Marriage preparation programme. We still present this for about 40 couples per year. However, we have always been aware of the need for support and enrichment for couples; we ourselves have needed it and our guess is that most couples do too.
This week (11th – 17th May 2020) is National Marriage Week – a chance to enthuse to many about the commitment of being a couple and how to live it. The theme is presented as “an invitation to reflect on your relationship now, to take stock, to ask where it’s going and what the future might look like whether you’re married or in a relationship.”
We know that understanding this commitment, developing communication skills and being able to handle conflict are at the heart of living as a couple; Marriage Week speaks of the “forever conversation” – and to help couples they have a really helpful set of “conversation starters” – just go to the website www.marriage-week.org.uk . We find it’s important to each collect our thoughts with questions like these and perhaps to give it 10 minutes with a pen and paper to jot some notes before sharing; it could even be a note to your other half…. “Dear ….… I think ….”
It is better to be ahead of those “We need to talk” moments. We have been impressed by the Care for the Family resources. It is great to see that the Marriage Sessions are being offered as a free online resource over the next 4 weeks starting Monday 11th May. See www.careforthefamily.org.uk The four marriage session titles give a guideline in themselves ; Cherish, Connect, Collaborate, Commit.
When we “Cherish”, we enable the other to “be the best version of themselves” – that is presumably what all loving couples want for their spouse. As the Bishop of London said at Kate and Will’s wedding when he quoted St Catherine of Sienna “Be who you were meant to be, and you will set the world on fire”. How can we do this?
In the Gospel from John 14 – Trust in God, Trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house, refers to our ultimate home in heaven. We were delighted to hear our parish priest in his homily reflect that “home is where there is a covenant of continuing love”. Home, linking to St Catherine, is where we are free to be ourselves; how many couples really feel spiritually at home and cherished in their relationships?
We need to talk, we need to practice talking so that our connecting and collaboration are all going in the same direction, getting the path right. And in the background, for all couples whether churched or not is the truth given in today’s Gospel “I am the Way”. After Prayer, couples need to sit down and really talk, really listen and really communicate their hearts desires. Couples can try the resources this week from Marriage Week and Care for the Family so that they can form their marriage action plan whether in lockdown or not and live their marriage “from this day forward”.