Courage is a virtue needed to help a marriage grow, mature

    I have been involved in marriage for the past 43 years, personally, and a counselor in marriage and family counseling for the past 10 years. I have been involved in marriage preparation for 33 of my 43 years of marriage. Consequently, both the idea of marriage and the living out of marriage are extremely important to me.
    I came across an article recently on the Web site, foryourmarriage.org, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Web site has been in place for a little more than a year. It provides a number of resources for married couples intended to nurture and enrich the sacrament of matrimony.
    The article, “The Courage to be Married,” by Tom McGrath, vice president of product development at Loyola Press, drew my attention.
Courage to face truth
    Mr. McGrath points out that while it may seem easy to make a promise, it requires a lot of courage to keep that promise.
    This is interesting, since we are all aware of the promises we shared at the altar when we exchanged our vows with one another. I am fairly certain, however, few of us thought about the virtue of courage required to keep those promises. I suppose in our youthful exuberance we assumed we would be able to handle whatever came our way. Certainly, we may have talked about the potential “evils” that could befall us but never thought for a moment they would occur.
Everyday challenges
    Once into marriage, however, Tom McGrath says: “The courage we’ve needed has been to respond to the more mundane and everyday challenges that marriage brings.” These mundane and everyday challenges are what we expect. At the same time, we believe it “normal to hold on to our own individuality.”
    McGrath highlights three areas of marriage that require courage that, when dealt with properly, bonds the marriage in a much deeper fashion. The areas are the courage to say what needs to be said, the courage to do your own inner work and the courage to welcome and let go.
    Each one of these areas will move us out of our comfort zone, raise awareness of ourselves as individuals and as a couple, and deepen the intimacy between us.
    ➤ Saying what needs to be said includes those times we have withheld the whole truth from our spouse for whatever reason. It also includes the times we have failed to express our love for one another either in words, deeds or actions. Another concept that has become extremely important is failing to speak up when something is wrong because one is afraid of rocking the boat. It always seems easier not to mention issues that have crept into the marriage, thus chipping away at the bond, in hopes of those issues “just going away.”
Look at yourself first
    ➤ The courage to do your inner work calls us to scrutinize our own behaviors, which may be robbing us of our marriage or ability to bond with one another. This would include our busy-ness, alcohol, any compulsion we may be aware of, or any distraction that prevents us from sharing our deepest selves in our marriage. Some of these issues would better be handled with a professional.
    ➤  The last one is the courage to welcome and let go. McGrath says we should look for “ways to welcome this other person into your life – to make their wants and wishes and needs as much a concern for you as your own.” He goes on to say, “We have to do more than tolerate; we are called to welcome and cherish all of who this person is.”
Old habits can die hard
    When we do this, we fast realize there are elements we, ourselves, must let go of in order to make room for the other. This may mean old habits and new expectations, how things “ought” to be. All of this requires a great deal of courage on our part.
    The sacrament of matrimony is not for the fainthearted. It is a vocation requiring real courage and determination. However, once we recognize we are not alone and that God is with us every step of the way, we can forge ahead toward God together. After all, our purpose for being alive is to “know, love and serve God in this life and be happy with him in the next.”
    If we respond to the virtue of courage, the sacrament of matrimony will effect change in us to accomplish that goal.
    For more information, go to www.foryourmarriage.org.
    Deacon Dave Farinelli is coordinator of marriage preparation programs for the archdiocesan Family Life Apostolate. He can be reached at dfarinelli@archdiocese-no.org.

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