Family Fully Alive
February, The Sacrament of Marriage
The Church sees the marriage as a foundational element of the institution – so important that it gives it equal weight to the Priesthood, making it one of only 7 Sacraments. This is why many marriages between Catholics include a Mass.
The Catholic Church – at least in the US - is one of the few religions which require marriage preparation training prior to a marriage.
Marriages – especially those witnessed in the Catholic Church – are not private and between only the bride and groom. They are public displays of God’s love.
The man and woman of a marriage are called into unity as ONE couple in a similar way as God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are united as ONE Trinity.
The love between a couple centers on having a sacrificial love for one other and for their offspring. By becoming One couple, they are able to become greater than the 2 separately.
It may be difficult to schedule one of these activities during February. But use the month to do some of the planning to celebrate later in the year.
Follow the booklet by sharing details of your marriage with your family members. This works especially well for couples with children still at home or with grandchildren.
Plan a meal or family gathering that centers on marriage – yours, along with any of your grown children who have already married themselves. Invite each married couple to share their favorite memory of their marriage or the time leading up to the marriage. Share pictures or other mementos of that day. If possible, include a Mass where you attend as the whole family – or those who can be present.
March, Family Difficulties
Regardless of how long you’ve been married – even if newlyweds – your marriage has experienced some sort of difficulty to overcome. Bringing 2 or more people together, whether in marriage, work, comradery or any other reason will ultimately have some difficulties they will need to overcome.
The issue isn’t that difficulties arise. It’s how the individuals within the specific circumstance deal with the situation.
The Church gives us various ways to help deal with the situation. Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are 2 sacraments which can be helpful for some difficulties. Many Catholics are more at peace after a funeral Mass for a loved one. The Church offers other services as well – Steven Ministries is an example of this.
The booklet asks each family member to think of a difficulty within their family and to pray about it each day throughout the month. Then at the end of the month share your prayer intentions and the experience.
Depending on the difficulty the following steps may be worth considering:
a. Set a time for everyone in the family to come together to work through the difficulty.
b. Ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the situation.
c. Then have each person write a letter to the family that includes:
i. How they may have contributed to the difficulty
ii. What they can do going forward to improve the situation
iii. Ask forgiveness of the other family member(s)
iv. Acknowledge that the family unit is more important than whatever difficulty is being dealt with
April, Mercy and Forgiveness
Mercy and Forgiveness are central tenants to Christ’s mission and time on earth. The booklet provides several relevant examples of this but there are many more.
For Catholics mercy and forgiveness manifest themselves most readily in the sacrament of reconciliation. The Priest – as an extension of Christ – provides absolution to the reconciler.
a. The first synonym of Absolution in Websters is Forgiveness.
Without the ability for us to forgive, it leads us down a dark path of resentment – always able to find fault with others while dismissing our own shortcomings as petty or insignificant.
True forgiveness by you to others allows you to love those around you unconditionally. This includes:
b. Family members
d. Friends & acquaintances
The booklet asks you to go to Reconciliation as a family unit. This is a great opportunity – especially during Lent.
a. As part of your preparation for going to Reconciliation, make a mental list of those who you might have been better able to show mercy – and therefore – forgiveness.
Seek an opportunity with someone close to you (again – spouse, family member), whom you might have had a falling out with. Reflect on the reason for the falling out and identify how you might be able to forgive the other person.
a. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning another person’s actions as being just – but it does say that you can show mercy to that person despite the hurt that may have been caused.
June, Self-Giving Love
Self-giving love can be done as an individual in help those around you, whether your family of origin, friends or passers-by. But self-giving love is best realized through the sacrament of marriage and in handing this concept down to children.
It is easily recognized when parents gladly ‘sacrifice’ for their children. Whether it’s through time in raising children in a loving home, or through coaching a team or encouraging a child in a sporting event or activity. Monetary sacrifice is also a common act of self-giving love but it would typically require some sort of financial sacrifice – possibly paying tuition in lieu of a bigger home, fancy vacation or other splurges.
To be able to pass along self-giving love qualities requires intention and, especially with younger children, clear understanding that this type of act is an integral part of a family’s values and priorities.
The booklet describes using Good Deed beads which would be a good option for families with children still at home.
Other options for young families include:
a. St. Mary’s Food Kitchen volunteer
b. Helping with the Catholic Charities food truck
c. Helping an aging neighbor with yard work without any type of payment
d. Sharing what you have with others (even siblings), again without any expectations of reciprocal acts.
Demonstrating self-giving love where children are grown or out of the house is more difficult but still possible.
a. Reach out to an adult child who may be fully capable of living their lives and not dependent on your generosity. Find out what ‘act of kindness’ may be meaningful to them and may require you to go above and beyond your normal comfort zone.