This Sunday the celebrant at our parish was a visiting pastor from an African American/Hispanic parish in Chicago. From the time he got to the altar he drew people in and the entire celebration was different. He insisted that people respond vocally to the prayers and to statements he made in introducing himself and in the homily. The congregation was hesitant at first. We are accustomed to being rather passive during mass, but the responses of the people became more enthusiastic as Mass progressed. We observed increasing enthusiasm and joy in ourselves and the whole congregation. Fr Eyerman’s enthusiasm for the liturgy and for the Gospel he preached touched us in a very good way. We have worked with many priests over the years and this is the second time we have experienced a priest who is transformed in his celebration of joy in the Mass and Gospels after being assign to African-American parishes. Perhaps we should look more to them for inspiration and thank them for their ebullience in their spiritual celebrations. They celebrate the liturgy with an enthusiasm, fervor and reverence that is contagious. We thanked Fr. Eyerman after Mass and told him that we might reference him in our blog this week. He graciously told us to use whatever we found useful.
The enthusiasm he showed and his ability to draw others into what was happening reminded us of the times when we were involved with people who were excited about being married and drew others into that excitement. Our association with couples who loved being married and wanted the World to know about it has played a large role in supporting us for most of our marriage. Instead of complaining about the sad state of marriage, might we do more good by being “openly married” and publicly celebrating the good that comes to us from our marriages?
The following are some of some things that we think would help us to restore enthusiasm for and in marriage:
Be aware of the special feelings you have for each other and let your spouse know about them. In fact, when you share that special look in a public place, others will notice and want what they see you have. We saw it in couple s we knew and loved and it always did and still does inspire us when we see it.
Couples frequently spoke of the goodness of their spouse. They seemed to be able to freely and easily identify and state the qualities that they admired and were thankful for about each other. They publicly shared these qualities in their spouse.
They were constantly speaking about the things they had discovered about each other as they strengthened their communication by daily spending time discussing a topic through writing and talking. They created an intimacy with each other that came from revealing to each other their feelings, not merely opinions, thoughts and assumptions. A new trust was built or strengthened as they did so. They supported our marriage and others as they shared the value of these activities in their marriages.
Couples shared their excitement and the fun things they did in their sexual relationship. For some it was merely being conscious of how they kissed each other or held hands. For others it was trying new things in their physical love making. It took sexual relationships out of the bedroom and into discussions that helped everyone to create and enhance the physical intimacy that is unique to couples in a committed relationship. Their sexual relationships were still their own, but the excitement and willingness to talk about what was happening to them was contagious and inspired others to others to grow in their sexual relationships. I
As couples explored their relationships they explored the place of God in their lives as well. They often spoke of what happened to them as they allowed God into their lives. This spilled over into their ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Couples that allowed God into their lives, especially in their willingness to forgive, radiated a peace and joy in ways that others couldn’t help but be drawn to.
We believe that the best hope for the future of marriage is for those of us who have grown and thrived in our marriages to open them to the world to see. We know that it can be uncomfortable for us, and sometimes those who experience us, just as speaking up at Mass was for many people, but you can used to it and for us it has even become fun to share the joys in our marriage, even if we risk being seen as a little goofy.
So Fr. Eyerman reminded us on Sunday that, if we don’t associate with and support others who are excited about marriage or share our own enthusiasm, then we are responsible for what is happening to marriage today. The young see no reason to make the commitment. They think they are getting everything they want by living together. We won’t change that by speaking of abstract ideas like sacrament and sin. Couples will want to be married when they see our witness to the value of marriage in our lives and are attracted to it.
We all need to take a cue from these two priests and the excitement they bring to the celebration the liturgy and try to live that out in our lives. We hope that the liturgy is enlivened next Sunday because of what he did and we hope that others will begin to share their enthusiasm for marriage so that we can recreate and reinforce the possibilities that marriage uniquely has for people.
Consider doing something exciting in your relationship and talk about it with at least one other married couple this week. Hopefully that will turn it into a Pay It Forward kind of experience and marriage will get a breath of new life as the liturgy did this past week. Let us know what you think or experience as a result.
Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.