Reverend Roger Carr-Jones Marriage & Family Life Coordinator (inspired by an article written for http://www.allianceofcatholicmarriageorganisations.org.uk/ )
I am fascinated by the time, effort and creativity involved in making quilts, including the overall vision and design, the painstaking selection of fabrics, the detail of the patterns, and especially those quilts that tell a story. To enjoy the beauty of the quilt you need to step back to get a sense of its overall style, before allowing your gaze to focus on the individual details of each panel. At my son’s school the class made their teacher a quilt as a leaving present, with each panel reflecting something about their individual story. It was a very powerful gift of affirmation and a small window into what was important to each child at that stage of their lives.
The image of creating a quilt fits well with the shared ongoing project of the rich tapestry of marriage. As Christians we are conscious that whether each panel is good, bad, or indifferent it is sewn together and held by the thread that is Christ. At the beginning of married life, we bring our own stories, grafting these into the quilt that reflects our shared journey. It is easy to spot the momentous occasions: the wedding, the arrival of children and key events that bring a smile. However, life is not always lived in glorious technicolour and there can be times when the colours become muted, the panel less coherent and the story more difficult or even painful.
How will the panel of your shared marriage quilt look for 2020? It certainly won’t be empty, even if we have felt that we were treading water or simply trying to cope with living in a new landscape with blurred boundaries. How has your journey been changed? Do you notice little green shoots of hope? Whilst every marriage is unique there may be certain very real and common pressures which couples are facing at this time. This may require holding the needle more carefully in order to craft the scene, which can be difficult when you may be facing uncertainties about the future.
Making a quilt requires an overall vision, a readiness to adapt when you encounter obstacles and acceptance of gentle guidance from others when needed. The Alliance of Catholic Marriage Organisations (the Alliance) is a special quilt that has drawn together different charisms, gifts and insights to help couples to discover and rediscover the innate beauty of their ‘project’. This ranges from those who initially help prepare the materials that are needed, those who offer essential repair kits when there is a challenge, to those who refresh and re-equip the sewing box and those who, through the gift of scripture, help to keep each panel held together by the love of Christ.
For me, the image of the quilt acts as a good analogy for the vocation of marriage, one that is part of the wider tapestry of the life of the parish. This is a vocation which we are all asked to affirm, celebrate and grow. As we move towards living with the pandemic, how can we, at the Alliance, help you to continue crafting your beautiful marriage story quilt, provide the materials to mend the patches, and help you find new fabrics and colours to sustain you through prayer?