By The Reverend Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, Diocese of Westminster
This Lent why not reflect for a moment on the ways in which, by living out our vocation as a married couple and as a family, we preach the Gospel to others? We will start with a few words from St Francis of Assisi, which might aid our time of reflection: 'It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.' This pithy phrase is a useful reminder that we proclaim and embody the Gospel by the ways in which, with God’s grace, we do our best to live out our vocation as a married couple.
Using the model of the Ignatian Examen (an examination of consciousness) is a good way to review our day as a married couple. The Jesuit Dennis Hamm SJ has described the Examen as 'rummaging for God' through the clutter of our day and life.
Allow yourselves to become still, let go of the concerns of the day and imagine you are sitting beneath a tree by restful waters. Take a moment to notice these surroundings and then enter into the Examen.
Begin with gratitude: What am I grateful for about my spouse and our family today? Gratitude is the enemy of self and being grateful moves us towards each other and towards God.
Now ask for God’s light to learn more about your married love and to notice the ways in which you have already made Christ visible to others, by who you are as a couple. Just allow yourselves to be surprised and affirmed by what you see.
Review: Where have we sensed God active in our marriage? Allow yourselves to linger on each significant moment and to pass over anything that seems less relevant. Notice the little things that you do for one another each day: a smile, a gesture, or simply a kind word. Married love grows where humility and love are shared in equal measures. Where have we noticed this being put into practice in our shared life? Now, give thanks.
Sorrow: No relationship is perfect. What aspect of our married or family life requires forgiveness and healing? Where has a hurtful action or word upset the balance and harmony? What bubbles up into your minds? Reflect for a moment and then view these negative actions in the light of the things that we are already grateful for in our spouse. How does this help us to feel sorry and to move forwards? Try to sense God's healing mercy washing over you and to recall that God always looks on us with love.
Looking forward in hope: What graces do we need so that we can become a more visible sign of the Gospel through our marriage and family life? What does God want to show us in this time of prayer to carry forward?
Our shared journey as a couple is full of little glimpses of the ways in which God has been active and alongside us in our love. End by returning to those words of St Francis, 'It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.' Our mutual love is expressed in simple everyday gestures and signs, where words are not always necessary to express the depth of our feelings and emotions. Give thanks.