The name of the Together for Life book is no coincidence. When couples join together in holy matrimony they vow to be true to each other in sickness and health as long as they both shall live. They vow to be together for life.
Today, however, many people are afraid of making such a long-term commitment. In a recent address by Pope Francis to engaged couples (actually it was more like a Q and A with the pope), he expressed this unfortunate tenancy in our culture that leads us to fear forever.
Pope Francis spoke about this fear, saying, “[This is] a general fear that comes from our culture. To make life decisions seems impossible. Today everything changes so quickly, nothing lasts long.”
The Holy Father went on to point out a common practice of many couples who decide that when the sentiment is gone, the marriage should end as well. Thus, we have many couples who decide to split up because they don’t feel like they are in love anymore.
How to Overcome the Fear of Forever
Pope Francis gave some advice for married couples trying to fight against this common fear of forever. He said that the way to resist the fear is “by entrusting oneself to the Lord Jesus in a life that becomes a daily spiritual journey.”
He suggested a daily practice of offering our love as married couples to the Lord and allowing him to multiply it in return. He used the miracle of the multiplication as a metaphor for this daily practice. Jesus took five loaves and multiplied the bread to feed thousands. In the same way, couples can offer Jesus the love that they share and have him multiply it for them.
But let’s bring this down to the ground level. What does that actually mean, entrust oneself to the Lord?
Pope Francis took the bread/love analogy a little further and suggested a simple prayer practice. While we all pray in the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread,” he suggested that couples can likewise pray “give us this day our daily love.”
In fact, prayer is the practical way in which we can entrust ourselves to the Lord. Prayer is the way we can offer the love we share for one another to God, who will then multiply it for us. Prayer is the way we can overcome that fear of forever and live out our marital vows of faithfulness and trust.
It is a daily practice and a commitment by couples who want to grow in their faith together.
Praying for (and with) Your Spouse
I’ve written once before at Together for Life Online about getting comfortable in praying together with your spouse. It is easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be so hard.
Praying with your spouse can be hard because it forces you to open up and be vulnerable in prayer. I’ve often started my own personal prayer practices (praying the Angelus, for example), but had a hard time inviting my wife into that practice. It’s hard to pray together as a couple because it makes you vulnerable and it requires you to go deeper into what is important in your life.
It’s also hard just to create a good consistent habit of prayer. We have tried to do a decade of the Rosary on Sunday nights after dinner, but with young children it almost always ends in anger, lack of focus, and lack of respect (and toddlers eating rosaries). But we keep trying to find things that work. While a family Rosary didn’t work for us, praying a decade of the Rosary with my oldest daughter on the way to school has worked really well.
Most of all, we have found that praying for each other in silence or out loud has been a powerful experience. We say prayer every night before going to bed, and the nights that we spend a few moments offering our petitions for each other have often become great moments of grace for us.
Daily Prayer in Marriage Reflection Questions
Recently, my wife and I led a group of married couples through a reflection on Pope Francis’s address to engaged couples, we asked them to think about their prayer lives and the areas they can grow together in prayer.
I encourage you to think through and talk about these questions with your spouse and other married couples. If you are a parish minister or sponsor for engaged couples, you might consider leading your couples through this series of questions:
1. By Yourself: How do you like to pray?
2. With Your Spouse: In what ways do you pray together as a couple? As a family? Are there any habits that worked but have fallen out of practice? Are there any prayer practices that you would like to add to your daily lives together?
3. As a Group: Share your experiences in prayer with the other couples at your table. What worked best for you and where do you hope to make improvements?
A suggestion for concluding your discussion: use the prayer that Pope Francis taught us!
“Give us this day our daily love.”
Repeat it and pray it. Pray that Christ will multiply your love.
(image source: Deacon Greg Kandra)