In a world needing a revolution in love, Catholic marriage still works

Many couples remain true to their vows, they are not mercy to shifts in mood

Laughter and joy are key to a relationship. The financial cost should never be an obstacle to getting married.

Laughter and joy are key to a relationship. The financial cost should never be an obstacle to getting married.

 

Two days away from the Feast of St Valentine, it is good to return to the appeal of Pope Francis when he spoke to engaged and newly married couples during his visit to Ireland for the 2018 World Meeting of Families.

Speaking last August to the packed gathering of young couples in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin, Pope Francis reminded them: “Our world needs a revolution of love. The tumult of our times is really one of selfishness, of personal interests, the world needs a revolution of love. Let that revolution begin with you and your families . . . There will be no revolution of love without a revolution of tenderness.”

Couples planning a wedding in their local parish are rarely thought of as revolutionaries. Yet in the eyes of Pope Francis, that is exactly what they are

Couples planning a wedding in their local parish, couples embarking on a marriage preparation course, or celebrating a silver, golden or diamond wedding anniversary, are rarely thought of as revolutionaries. Yet in the eyes of Pope Francis, that is exactly what they are.

The pope’s words echo the mission of Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service. We support couples at so many stages of life: young people as part of our schools programme, imparting values that will stand to them for life; young couples on a marriage preparation course, offering them insights and opportunities for personal development and self-awareness as they prepare for the sacrament of marriage; and then, of course, the individual or couple in the counselling room in that sacred space where hurts can be aired, trust can be restored and healing can begin. All are tender, grace-filled moments.

Pastoral services

For close on 60 years, Accord has been privileged to be the pastoral arm of the church, reaching out to people at key moments in their relationship and in their lives.

While the number choosing sacramental marriage has reduced in recent years, figures from the Central Statistics Office for 2017, the latest year available, indicate 52.8 per cent of those who got married chose a Catholic Church wedding.

Accord returns for 2018 show that 16,048 people attended our marriage preparation courses last year and 87 per cent of couples attending found information and discussion on sacramental marriage, and commitment to each other the most beneficial elements of their course.

Couples will pray that the saint’s heart will soften their hearts and bring them life-long love and happiness

In 2018, Accord also undertook 24,153 counselling sessions. Accord specialises in the skill of “couple counselling” which involves the counsellor supporting the relationship, as well as the individuals.

Issues that arise frequently in counselling sessions include communication and emotional intimacy issues, family conflict, concerns about separation, criticism and insults, use of digital technology, loss or grief, addiction, finances and problematic behaviours.

St Valentine’s feast

This Thursday, on the Feast of St Valentine, couples will visit his shrine in Dublin’s Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street. The relic of the heart of the saint is installed in the side altar of the church. Couples will pray that the saint’s heart will soften their hearts and bring them life-long love and happiness.

According to psychologist John Gottman, “our marriages are only as good as our histories of laughter together”. Laughter and joy are so important in a relationship. The financial cost should never be an obstacle to getting married.

The Catholic Church is privileged, through Accord, to tenderly accompany individuals and couples in their marriage and family life. One of our key pastoral challenges is to teach couples about the beauty of Christian marriage and to help them live in harmony together, to overcome their selfishness and to reconcile their differences.

The root of every revolution is the heart and the passion that comes from within. The fact that the vast majority of couples married in the church remain faithful to their promises and vows is in itself revolutionary, as it shows that couples are not easily subject to the mercy of events or the shifting chemistry of mood.

For those who experience challenges in marriage, Accord exists to tenderly journey with them.

At this special time of year, may St Valentine help all of us to embrace our tenderness and reconnect with the revolution of love in our heart.

Bishop Denis Nulty is president of Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG and Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin

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