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Jackie and Larry Decker walked the trail Jan. 30 in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park in Maryland Heights. The Deckers have been married for nearly 34 years and say that taking time to simply enjoy each other’s company is important.
Jackie and Larry Decker walked the trail Jan. 30 in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park in Maryland Heights. The Deckers have been married for nearly 34 years and say that taking time to simply enjoy each other’s company is important.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review

Married couples find needed strength for their vocation through intentional time together, community

St. Elizabeth of Hungary is not just the parish Kaitlyn and Drew Finke attend — it’s how the couple got together in the first place.

Kaitlyn and Drew’s families both attended the parish, now St. Raymond-St. Elizabeth Maronite Church, as the two were growing up. In 2014, Kaitlyn was serving in Oklahoma as a FOCUS missionary, but she came back to St. Elizabeth for Mass over Christmas break.

Drew and Kaitlyn Finke and their children, Miles, 3, and Gemma, 2.
Photo Credits: Courtesy Finke family
“When I was home for break, I would see (Drew) lectoring,” Kaitlyn said. “I was interested — who’s this young man lectoring? You don’t really see that that often.”

Word got to Drew that Kaitlyn was interested, and he asked her on a date. About a year later, they got engaged, and a year after that, they were married.

Meeting at church set the tone for the relationship, and the couple worked hard to keep Christ at the center through their relationship and engagement.

“We went to Mass together, and we would (go to) confession fairly regularly,” Drew said. “She actually introduced me to eucharistic adoration — I had never been before.”

Kaitlyn and Drew also read spiritual books to discuss together, took turns writing in a journal for the other to read and went through a consecration to Mary together as they prepared for the sacrament of matrimony.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved His Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life” (CCC 1661).

Now, nearly five years of marriage and two kids later, the Finkes do their best to continue to make Christ the center of their relationship and family in this new season of life, remembering that their priorities should be God, their marriage and their kids — in that order.

“When you have little ones, it’s so easy to get distracted from your marriage by the little kids and their demands and the things they need all the time,” Kaitlyn said. “It can be really easy to just let your marriage kind of fade to the back. And that’s something that we’re well aware of, and we’re trying really hard to combat against to keep our marriage the priority.”

Going to Mass with an almost-4-year-old and a 2-year-old can be a challenge, the Finkes said, but it’s important to them to make the sacrifice and go as a family anyway. Kaitlyn and Drew also carve out time to pray lectio divina with the daily Gospel readings through Hallow, a Catholic prayer and meditation app.

“I’ve enjoyed it because it’s something concrete that we can just be like, OK, it’s time to do this now,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ve noticed that if we don’t have a plan, it can kind of fall to the back burner.”

With the help of nearby family, they can usually steal away for a few hours a week for a quick lunch date. Even something as seemingly simple as taking time to connect and communicate every night has been a game-changer for their marriage, they said.

“Just talking with one another — even when we’re exhausted — (we) take the time to tell each other what we need to say, or just listen,” Drew said.

World Marriage Day

Bill and Kathy Thurnau hope that a Mass celebrated on World Marriage Day, Feb. 13, will serve as a reminder to married couples that their witness of love is valuable and appreciated.

“We’re kind of tossing a stone in a puddle and looking for the ripples to happen,” Kathy said. “I think the more married people in love going out and showing the world their love, the better place the world will be.”

World Marriage Day traces its roots to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1981, when couples encouraged the mayor, the governor and the bishop to proclaim St. Valentine’s Day as “We Believe in Marriage Day.” Worldwide Marriage Encounter adopted the idea and has continued to promote and celebrate the day ever since. St. John Paul II imparted his apostolic blessing on World Marriage Day in 1993.

To mark World Marriage Day, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski will celebrate a Mass at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. All married couples are invited to attend and celebrate the gift of marriage.

The World Marriage Day Mass is an effort of the local chapter of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, led by the Thurnaus. “Celebrating marriage is supporting marriage,” Kathy Thurnau said.

Support for the journey

Jackie and Larry Decker
Photo Credits: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review
Jackie and Larry Decker will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary in April. For 32 of those years, they’ve been part of what they simply call “small group” — four married couples who gather once a month to share prayer, joys and struggles.

The group formed organically out of friendships made through a Teens Encounter Christ retreat and subsequent young adult prayer group. Staying connected to other married couples in similar phases of life has been so important to their own journey through marriage and parenthood, the Deckers said.

“It’s just knowing that we’re not the only ones going through something, and those life transitions and challenges are normal,” Jackie said. “We know that we’re not alone.”

“It’s good to have other people of faith praying for you and know that they’re there for you,” Larry added.

The support and companionship of the other couples also helped the Deckers remember to continuously make their marriage a priority, they said.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve met every single month, and we can probably count on two hands the number of times we’ve ever missed,” Jackie said. “In the times when it was super busy, and we weren’t maybe connecting as much as we could be, at least we had that one night a month that was chiseled out.”

The Deckers’ four children are grown now, ranging in age from 32 to 23 and starting to enter their own journeys of marriage and parenthood. Jackie and Larry hope that their marriage has set a good example of what true, sacramental love can look like.

“(We set) that example that quitting isn’t an option,” Jackie said. “It’s hard work, but that faithfulness to each other is just really important, and our faithfulness to each other is rooted in our faithfulness to God.”

The Deckers are involved in several ministries through their parish, Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights. Even social activities like serving as chairs of the annual parish carnival give them opportunities to enjoy community time with other married couples, they said. The couple also makes prayer a priority in their marriage; they both participated in the 33 Days to Morning Glory consecration to Mary, and now they pray the consecration prayer together each morning. They also enjoy praying novenas together, often through praymorenovenas.com.

And throughout their marriage, Jackie and Larry have found another essential ingredient: fun. Whether it’s a weekend trip without the kids as young parents, playing games with their small group or just taking a Sunday afternoon hike, that time to enjoy each other’s company is worth it, they said.

“It’s so important to have that time to reconnect and remember why you got married in the first place, and then when you come back, you’re better parents for it,” Jackie said. “It’s not selfish — it’s necessary.”


World Marriage Day Mass

Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski will celebrate a Mass for World Marriage Day at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. All married couples are invited to attend and celebrate the gift of marriage. World Marriage Day honors husband and wife as the foundation of the family and the basic unit of society.

World Marriage Day Prayer

Father, as we prepare for World Marriage Day, we thank you for your tremendous gift of the Sacrament of Marriage. Help us to witness to its glory by a life of growing intimacy. Teach us the beauty of forgiveness so we may become more and more One in Heart, Mind, and Body. Strengthen our dialogue and help us become living signs of your love. Make us grow more in love with the Church so we may renew the Body of Christ. Make us a sign of unity in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Brother. Amen. — Fr. Bill Dilgen, SMM


Marriage Enrichment Opportunities

Worldwide Marriage Encounter

Worldwide Marriage Encounter is a faith-based movement helping couples strengthen their marriages through Marriage Encounter weekends. The weekend focuses on the development of an open and honest relationship and learning to live out a sacramental relationship in service to others. While the weekend is Catholic in its approach, it is open to all married couples. The concept of marriage as a sacrament also is strongly promoted.

Priests and religious are also invited to attend Marriage Encounter weekends to both learn more about family life within the Church and to take time for themselves to gain a deeper understanding of their relationship with God and the people they serve.

For upcoming weekends in the St. Louis region, visit www.stl-wwme.org.


Marriage on Tap

Marriage on Tap is a series of free marriage enrichment talks sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. To learn more, email [email protected] or visit the Marriage on Tap STL Facebook page.

Teams of Our Lady

Teams of Our Lady is a lay spiritual movement that brings married couples together for prayer, reflection and spiritual support. For more information, visit www.teamsofourlady.org.

Retrouvaille

Retrouvaille is a program designed to provide help and support to married couples who are undergoing difficulties in their relationship. Although Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin, couples from all or no faith traditions are welcome to attend. For more information, visit www.helpourmarriage.org.

Emmaus Groups

Emmaus Groups is a small group program offered to young adults in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. These small groups are faith-sharing communities where young adults can walk together on the journey of faith, dive into Scripture and share life with one another. There are currently three groups for married couples. For more information, visit www.stlyoungadults.com/programs/emmaus-groups or contact Angela Miller at [email protected]

More Resources

Office of Marriage and Family Life: www.archstl.org/marriage-family-life/for-marriage/marriage-enrichment

USCCB’s For Your Marriage: www.foryourmarriage.org


>> Tips for married couples

• Pray as a couple. Remember that God is the third person in your relationship.

• Listen to each other. Don’t problem solve, don’t think about your “to do” list, don’t think about how you have heard it all before. Just pay attention and listen.

• Be considerate of each other’s feelings and needs.

• Have fun with each other, even when performing everyday tasks.

• Resolve disagreements. Don’t go to bed angry.

• Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

• Keep little issues from building into big issues. Discuss hurts and issues and don’t keep them bottled up inside.

• Remember you can’t take back your words, so when you are angry, take time to cool off before speaking.

• Don’t be afraid or too proud to be the first to say “please forgive me” after a disagreement. It takes two to argue or fight.

• Once you have forgiven, don’t rehash the issue.

• Share your feelings with each other. Don’t just discuss the nuts and bolts of everyday life.

• Compromise — sometimes we have to put our relationship first.

• Schedule date nights and make them important enough to put them on the calendar.

• Take the time to notice the nice things your spouse does for you, even if they are small things.

• Affirm each other — remember it is always nice to hear we are doing something good.

• Say “I love you” often. Don’t just assume your spouse knows. It is always nice to hear.

Source: Archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life


Married Saints

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin: Parents of St. Therese of Liseux, Sts. Louis and Zelie are the first married couple to be canonized together. Louis and Zelie both originally planned to enter the religious life but were denied by the communities they approached. Zelie happened to take a lace-making class with Louis’ mother, who, like many good mothers, set the couple up. Louis and Zelie were married three months later. Louis left his career as a watchmaker to support Zelie’s lacemaking business, which they continued while raising their children. Although the couple had nine children, four died at a young age. Despite the sorrow of losing their children and the other struggles the Martins faced, they cultivated a holy household around daily prayer and works of mercy. Whenever Louis had to travel, he and Zelie wrote each other letters to stay connected. “I am longing to be near you, my dear Louis. I love you with all my heart, and I feel my affection so much more when you’re not here with me. It would be impossible for me to live apart from you,” Zelie expressed in one such letter.

Zelie died of breast cancer at the age of 45, and Louis and his daughters moved to Lisieux, where all five girls eventually entered the convent.

At the Martins’ canonization Mass, Pope Francis said, “The holy spouses … practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters.”

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin are the patron saints of married couples.

Feast day: July 12


Blessed Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi: This early 20th century Italian couple lived ordinary lives. They had four children, and Maria struggled through difficult pregnancies, including a life-threatening case of placenta previa. Luigi worked as a civil servant, and Maria volunteered as a nurse with the Red Cross. They began their days with daily Mass and made a habit of praying the Rosary as a family, and they enjoyed family hikes and trips to the beach. Both of their sons became priests, and their oldest daughter a nun. Three of their children were present at Luigi and Maria’s beatification in 2001.

At Luigi’s funeral, a friend of his who was an atheist said to the Quattrocchi sons, “Your father never pestered me with sermons. But I want to tell you: It’s through his life that I discovered God and that I love the Gospel. Pray for me!”

“Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life,” Pope John Paul II said at the couple’s beatification.

Feast day: November 25 (also their wedding anniversary)


Sts. Timothy and Maura: This married couple lived in Egypt in the third century, under the reign and persecution of Diocletian. Timothy was a lector in the Church, and he and Maura had been married for just 20 days when he was arrested and ordered to surrender the sacred Scriptures. When he refused, he was tortured. Maura was summoned to try to persuade Timothy to deny the faith, but she, too, professed herself a Christian and was tortured.

Maura and Timothy were crucified facing each other, where they prayed and encouraged each other until death nine days later. Their powerful witness inspired one of their torturers to convert to Christianity, and he was later martyred himself. Though their marriage was short, Timothy and Maura’s commitment to helping each other lead a life dedicated to Christ gave them the strength to remain faithful all the way to martyrdom.

Feast Day: May 3


Sts. Joachim and Anne: Parents of the Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus, Joachim and Ann are never mentioned in the Bible but have been recognized in Church tradition for centuries. We honor Joachim and Anne as the parents of Mary who nurtured her, taught her and raised her to know, love, and trust God — so much so that her mind and heart were prepared to respond to what God asked of her.

Sts. Joachim and Anne are the patron saints of grandparents.

Feast day: July 26


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