The liturgical season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas. This, the third Sunday of Advent, is called Gaudete Sunday—from the Latin word “rejoice.” We rejoice because the Lord is near. Advent is halfway completed. Priests have the option of wearing a rose colored vestment and we light the rose candle of the advent wreath.
However, I will be away from the parish this weekend presenting a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend in Cape May. When I was a newly ordained priest, a couple from my parish asked me to make a Marriage Encounter Weekend. As you might expect, my reaction was somewhat puzzled. I am obviously not married. What would be the benefit of me attending such a weekend?
Nearly 30 years later, I can honestly say that this experience (and its aftermath) had one of the most profound and lasting effects on me as a person and on my priestly ministry. This is probably not something that I would have chosen to do on my own. It would certainly not have been on my bucket list. Yet, what happened as a result can only be described as truly life-changing. And it was thanks to a couple who simply invited me to try such an experience.
I have been presenting the Marriage Encounter Weekend, usually once or twice a year, for over a quarter century now. Together with a team of three couples, we share a series of talks to couples (and sometimes to priests and religious) with the goal of making good marriages better. The Marriage Encounter Weekend is not primarily designed for troubled marriages. (There are experiences such as Retrouvaille for this purpose.) The Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend is meant to open up the lines of communication between husband and wife in what is essentially a private experience between the two.
What it did for me personally was help me understand married couples (and their families) better, help me open up lines of communication, help me better understand my relationship to the Church--the Body of Christ--and also to understand my feelings. Feelings, in particular, are not something most men know how to deal with or might not realze the importance of in the first place.
Ladies, have you ever felt that your husband sometimes doesn’t seem to understand you? Guys, are your wives sometimes still a mystery to you in many ways? Do you both ever wonder if there is more to marriage and to life than what you are currently experiencing? Then maybe it’s time to try a Marriage Encounter Weekend. You can be newly-married or married for fifty years or more. It does not matter. The weekend can help to make any marriage better.
If you are married and desire more for your marriage, I invite you to consider attending such a weekend. For further information, you can check out the South Jersey Worldwide Marriage Encounter website or call the information line at 609-741-8012.
Many people are afraid of the unknown, afraid of change or may not want to “rock the boat.” I invite you, and ask you to suggest to your spouse the possibility of attending an upcoming Marriage Encounter Weekend.
I can only tell you from personal experience that it indeed has life-changing possibilities!
Fr. Ed Namiotka