I have been involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter for close to 25 years. (To see exactly how a celibate priest fits into this community, you will just have to make a Marriage Encounter weekend!) The Marriage Encounter community has shaped me as a person and has helped to direct my priesthood and the ministry flowing from it. I have learned (and am still learning) many valuable lessons to apply to myself and my relationship with others as a result of my many years of participation.
For example, one simple lesson is as follows: We can sometimes take people for granted. Those around us everyday—whether they are family, co-workers or friends—can unfortunately get lost in the busyness or shuffle of everyday living. We can occasionally assume that others know how we feel about them. We neglect to tell them that we “love” them, that we care for them or that we appreciate them. As a consequence, people can get hurt—albeit sometimes unintentionally.
What can we do to try to avoid this from happening? Take the time to tell your husband or wife that you love him or her. Embrace your children and let them see how much you love them by spending time with them and by telling them that they mean the world to you. Compliment a co-worker. Call a friend and tell him or her how much you appreciate his or her friendship. Don’t take people, especially your spouse, for granted!
We can apply this thinking also to our relationship with God: tell Jesus how much you love Him, His Father and their Holy Spirit. We should try never to let a day pass where we fail to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives!
On another important note, the second Sunday of February is designated as World Marriage Day (having been established by Worldwide Marriage Encounter). In 1983, this day was “designated as a day to honor the husband and wife as head of the family, the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life.”
As the traditional definition of marriage is challenged, and there are increasing attempts to redefine it, go back to the teaching of Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures as a point of reference:
Jesus said . . . “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate. (Mt. 19: 4-6)
Marriage is sacred. It is one of the seven sacraments of our Catholic Church. As something divinely instituted, it needs to be respected and defended.
Finally, since theologically, I share the same bride as Christ as His priest (i.e., the Church) I want to make sure that I heed my own advice and not neglect my spouse! I hope that I never forget to tell you this: I love you, my parishioners, my spouse! I really do! I also hope that I never neglect you or take you for granted!
Fr. Ed Namiotka