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July 20, 2021 REL Topic - Catechesis, REL PD - Family Faith

Putting Amoris Laetitia into Practice: Marriage is a Process, Not a Perfect Picture

This is the second post in a series of articles inviting families to put Amoris Laetitia into practice in their family life in honor of the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family (2021–2022). This special year commemorates the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. This series breaks down Amoris Laetitia into three posts, each summarizing three chapters of the nine-chapter papal document. This post explores chapters 4–6 of Amoris Laetitia, which focuses on marriage and married couples. For an official summary of the document, click here.

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Amoris Laetitia– Marriage is a Process

Marriage is a process, with ups and downs, successes and setbacks, reconciliations and rendings. A key to married life is transparency: couples staying open to each other and to God. 

Feelings can change from day to day, but marriages are more durable. I say this at the outset because so much of what happens to marriages is the result of how couples feel about their marriages. When couples are united, they can weather almost anything. They ride the emotional highs and lows together. However, when one or both feel unattended to, misunderstood, deceived, or left alone, marriage can feel like a living hell.

I think about social media and the many pictures my wife, Stacy, and I scroll through, pictures from couples and families showing how wonderful life is for them. In some cases, these pictures are accurate. We are seeing people enjoying their lives. In other cases, the pictures veil a much darker reality—a marriage or family that is experiencing turmoil.

The truth is that marriage is not a picture. There are no “picture perfect” marriages, only moments. And moments come and go.

The truth is that marriage is not a picture. There are no “picture perfect” marriages, only moments. And moments come and go. Marriage is more of a process. It is something we work and, work well when we decide to work together.

Leaning on Jesus

Working a marriage together requires communication. Marriages where faith is present can benefit greatly when couples decide to lean on their faith and share it with each other. To be sure, keeping Jesus at the center of marriage and family does not mean—by any stretch of the imagination—that everything will be easy, simple, or pleasant. It only means that when things get tough—and they will—spouses have Jesus to lean on. I can’t tell you the number of times that turning to Jesus has helped my marriage and my parenting.

By “turning to Jesus” I simply mean bringing the language of faith back into the picture. When faith is a part of the discussion or the argument (or the screaming match) there is always the opportunity for reconciliation. Keeping faith in the conversation leaves minds and hearts open to a third point of view.

 

So, what does this look like in real time? For example, during arguments—and maybe later than sooner—one of us will recall that God is here, too, right in the mix of things. When this happens, there are a few possibilities:

I can’t tell you the number of times that turning to Jesus has helped my marriage and my parenting. By “turning to Jesus” I simply mean brining the language of faith back into the picture.

1) Try to pray together for God’s help.

2) Turn one’s own thoughts to silent prayer.

3) Depending on the situation, ask God for forgiveness or for the ability to forgive the other person.

The Power of Prayer

Praying together in the heat of the moment is not very likely. But stating that you would like to eventually pray with your spouse can start to calm things down. Turning one’s own mind to prayer is also challenging, especially when we are intent upon “winning” an argument. When we are able, a quick mental prayer can also begin to diffuse things. On the matter of forgiveness, I wish to add that I have no illusions about what it means to forgive and how difficult it can be. Yet, as difficult as it may be, beginning the action of forgiveness can bring about self-healing, too. Forgiveness can free one from pent-up anger and sorrow. Mercy not only frees the offender, but it also frees the victim, too. Though, of course, how and when one is able to begin the process of forgiving depends on the person. Moreover, it is important to note that forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness. The wound of the offense may always be there. What is important, however, is to begin to release oneself from the toxicity and damage it can produce.

Communication is Key

Amoris Laetitia reminds us that marriage and family life are blessings from God, but they are fraught with complications that come with being human. Communication is a key to a good marriage. Married couples need to feel free to communicate their concerns, expectations, hopes, and dreams. If faith language can be a part of the regular communication between spouses, all the better!

One challenge to contemporary marriage and family life is the stress and strain managing all the responsibilities of modern parenting. Being able to discuss and communicate can greatly support spouses and families.

Download a Giving Each Other a Break Activity to schedule times when parents can plan to give or get a break from a spouse or family member.

Year Amoris Laetitia Catholic Families

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