Strengthening the ‘domestic church’ in the Year of the Family: Some (more) basics for a good marriage

   With the publication of his pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3, 2017.

   In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family — evangelization — and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and service. Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to build their domestic churches.

   This week: A look at some basic principles that can help all marriages, presented by Chris and Linda Padgett. High-school sweethearts Chris and Linda have been married for more than 20 years and have nine children. Chris is a lay evangelist, author, musician, and teacher who travels the world giving missions and concerts. Linda is a blogger and has a ministry to women. Together, the Padgetts lead marriage missions, retreats, and marriage preparation classes for the Diocese of Syracuse.

Every marriage ebbs and flows. But if we become complacent, the little things over time can erode a once-firm foundation. Taking care of these basics helps prevent that erosion. In last week’s column, we looked at three points: freedom, dignity and respect, and wise choices. Here, we look at the final four. 

Self-control. You don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to ruin my marriage today.” Collapse occurs as a result of small “yeses” to sin. Self-control is one of the most difficult virtues for us to develop; however, it is necessary for a marriage to last. The greatest tool you can use to make improvements in areas of struggle is honest vulnerability. Refusing to harbor secrets, allowing a safe place to express struggle, and providing accountability are ways that the muscle of self-control can grow stronger. Learning to lean on one another makes the successes all the sweeter and the failings more endurable. Be each other’s accountability partners and greatest advocates in matters of self-control.

Commitment. Everything worth doing requires hard work and stubborn commitment. Now, more than ever, we have to be determined to make our marriages work. Realize that you are already committed to many things: work, school, health, success, pleasure, or binge-watching a new show. As couples we need to make one another the priority. Don’t allow circumstances or others’ clamoring for your attention to take precedence over your commitment to your spouse! Determine to never speak of divorce, to always work on your relationship, and to take seriously your vows. You will not accidentally be committed to one another; make the choice. Your marriage is worth it!

Believe in one another. You are your spouse’s greatest cheerleader. No one should be more encouraging than you. Some of the most powerful words a wife can say to her husband are, “I believe in you.” They breathe strength and hope into his heart. Similarly, a husband who encourages his wife’s desire to grow and explore as a woman builds inspiration in her that will automatically overflow into the entire family. Marriage is not a competition; it is the place in which both spouses have the potential to grow into the best versions of themselves. Make it your mission to motivate your spouse toward greatness. 

Dream together. No matter how long you’ve been married or how good or bad your marriage is, dreaming together as a couple and family can spark life into your relationship. Dreaming, or goal setting, has many benefits. It helps each individual learn about themselves and their own desires and ambitions. As mentioned in the point about freedom, allowing one other to grow as a person only contributes to the health of the relationship. Furthermore, dreaming together as a couple provides a unified vision to move toward. Getting beyond the mundane grind of life and looking with hope to the future allows for an exciting way to work together. 

   There is nothing new or exciting about these factors for building a successful, happy marriage. They are simply basic. Which areas need a good polishing in your marriage? 

Prayer for the Family

O God, who was pleased to give us

the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them
in practicing the virtues of family life.

Transform our doubt to faith;
Strengthen our hope;

Help us to live in charity.

Until we are all one in your kingdom
through Jesus Christ, your Son,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

(Adapted from the Roman Missal, on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph)