Highlighting the gift of vocations in the Church, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson recently told teens on the Generation Life pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., to consider how God is calling each one of them to serve Him.
Acknowledging that many young people eventually will be called to the vocation of marriage, the archbishop told them to ask themselves this question before choosing a spouse:
“Will this man, will this woman, help me get to heaven?” he asked. “If the answer is yes, continue to pray. If the answer is no, look somewhere else. Because we need in our day and our age strong marriages, great families — people who are proud to live their Catholic faith.”
This week’s issue highlights the vocation of marriage, and the importance of marriage enrichment. Those of us who are married know that the real work begins after a couple says, “I do.” First and foremost, couples married in the Catholic Church are taught about the sacramentality of their marriage — it is a covenant with God. The Church teaches that this special union serves as a living symbol of God’s love for His people.
Marriage enrichment efforts, such as Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Teams of Our Lady, help married couples grow in love and faith through prayer, and support them in developing their communication skills. John and Suzann Cross, who have been involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter since their first weekend retreat in 1993, said that it has helped boost their prayer life as a couple.
Additionally, studies have consistently shown that married couples who regularly attend church and pray together have higher levels of marriage success.
A 1997 Gallup Poll commissioned by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement in Phoenix, Arizona, showed the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. Another study in 2010 from the Journal of Marriage and Family also cited the effectiveness of couples engaging in faith practices together.
And a 2011 report from The Marriage Project at the University of Virginia noted that having the sense that God is present in a marriage is a “powerful predictor of marital success among young married parents in America today. … Couples who both agree that ‘God is at the center of our marriage’ are at least 21 percentage points more likely to report that they are ‘very happy’ and at least 1 percentage point less likely to report that they are prone to separation or divorce. In our analysis, this measure of marital spirituality emerges as the most powerful religious predictor of marital success.”
We should rely on God to give us strength in our marriages. Prayer is an excellent way to communicate with Him and our spouse to help keep our marriages strong. Father Robert Rosebrough, who has been involved in Worldwide Marriage Encounter as a chaplain for decades, said that marriage is the cell that affects the “whole mission,” including the family and the parish community.
To our married readers — take time to make your marriages a priority. Place that date night on the calendar. Find five minutes to pray together before bed or as you rise in the morning. Attend Mass together. The Church is counting on your living example of God’s love for us, and ultimately drawing others closer to our Heavenly Father.