Recently during Mass, Maggie, my 5 year-old daughter, grabbed my hand while we were listening to the homily. I thought she just wanted to hold my hand, but I was wrong. She gave my hand to Libby, so we could hold hands during the homily. It deepened my realization that little ones want desperately for their parents to not only be together, but to be “IN LOVE.”
It is sometimes easy to forget that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to constantly strive to grow in our marriage no matter how good or not so good it already is. No matter where we are or have been in our marriages, the natural instinct of my daughter, Magdalene, can give us deep insight into the supernatural reality of this Easter Season. Let’s explore.
What is it about an “in love” married couple that gives so much security to our little ones? I think it has something to do with the fact that a married couple is intended to be the very reflection and concrete experience of the love and goodness of God. Every married couple has the mission to be a window into the life and love of the Holy Trinity. If the reflection that the couple is intended to convey becomes cloudy, then the child’s confidence in God’s loving providence is clouded. Children want to believe that they come from love. If a child knows that their existence is the fruit of love, then they are confident that they exist for a reason.
We all know that children are created out of the love of God and that there is a reason for the creation of every child. Yet we as parents sometimes forget that we are supposed to be the living and tangible reminder every day to that reality by the way we love each other. It is not just about participating with God in the child’s creation, and then focusing on the child and figuring that our spouse is old enough and can take care of their own needs. When we intentionally choose to nurture the married relationship, we create the culture for a child to grow in a stable environment. If we were going to plant a garden, we would not be very successful if we did not tend to the soil. Passionate marriages are the optimal soil for the seed of children to flourish!
Yes, I said “passionate.” Some are scandalized by that word, so let me explain why I purposely chose it. When I say “passionate,” I am not talking about “an urgency to make love.” That is how the world defines it, and it is important to reclaim the language. When I say “passion,” I am talking about the type of passion that we celebrated on Good Friday. And no, I am not saying that marriage is torture. I am saying that the total self-abandonment of Christ on the Cross is the same self-abandonment that a married couple is called to have toward each other. The grace that was won on Calvary and offered through the Resurrection is made present to and through the Sacrament of Matrimony. St. John Paul II expressed it best when he said that married couples are a “permanent reminder to the Church of what Christ did on the Cross” (Familiaris Consortio).
The mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection is present in every home, and what a wonderful plan in the wisdom of God. God knew that the Blessed Sacrament would not be able to make it into every home, but through Baptism and Matrimony, His sacramental presence has the potential to reach every house and neighborhood.
Our marriages are personal but not private. When we embrace the call to love each other as Christ loved the Church, we participate in the sanctification of the world. We can sometimes dismiss evangelization as a good idea that some people should do out there somewhere, or we wait around for our parish priest to form an evangelization committee. The reality is that when we love our spouse passionately, we evangelize our children and our communities, and we participate in the redemption of the whole world!
I invite every married man and woman, most especially myself, to step up the level of love in our relationship this Easter season. The grace is abundant, and when we take the time to prioritize our marriage, we enter deeply into the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. If we enter into this mystery more deeply this Easter season, we will experience the power of Pentecost in a tangible way, and we will be a beacon of light in a world that struggles mightily to find the path to authentic happiness.
Why not strengthen your marriage this Easter season by attending a marriage enrichment retreat or workshop? A common mindset is that these retreats or workshops are for couples that are struggling, but that could not be farther from the truth. Healthy marriages intentionally “do something” for their marriage each year. They don’t just wait until it gets bad. Just as regular maintenance on the family vehicle helps to avoid the need for bigger more costly repairs down the line, so regular enrichment keeps good marriages strong!
Upcoming opportunities include the Living in Love retreat April 2-3 in Emporia and June 11-12 in Topeka. Another option is the Recharge Marriage Workshop, which is a 4-hour experience that includes CHILDCARE! The next one is at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park on April 23. Check it out at www.archkck.org/recharge.