Time – a topic and a challenge
Time for one another.
It can be hard to come by, but it’s critical to a happy marriage – and one of several things two couples and a priest mentioned when they spoke with the Catholic Voice about marriage and their marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Matt and Jill Bailey of Schuyler said raising three young children while working around a farmer’s often unpredictable schedule makes it difficult for them to find time for each other, not to mention time together as a family.
Father Michael Grewe, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna, said he is no stranger to wishing there were more hours in a day. He has been a priest for 38 years, and rarely has time to himself because his vocation often requires him to put others’ needs before his own.
And while lack of time with each other might not be an issue right now for Deacon Bob Stier and his wife, Sandy, the Papillion couple said they understand the struggle, having served the community as a deacon couple and raised three children and during their 49 years of marriage.
Time might be a challenge not only for married couples, but for couples preparing for marriage, as they add another responsibility to an already busy wedding planning schedule, Matt Bailey said.
But the preparation is important, as couples are encouraged to think about obstacles they might encounter in their relationship … and how they might work together to overcome them, he said.
"Satan will try to throw everything at you to either pry you away from each other or pry you both away from Christ," he said. "God will not put anything in front of you that you can’t handle with his help, but you have to have the relationship with him to be able to accept his help when he offers it to you."
Nearly 1,200 couples prepare for marriage annually in the Archdiocese of Omaha. As part of that, engaged couples must complete the FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory, which includes various statements relating to topics such as communication, family and expectations, and each person must give their opinion. They also must meet with a FOCCUS facilitator, attend a marriage workshop or weekend retreat, and meet with their parish priest.
The Baileys, who help facilitate the Marriage: A Journey for Life educational option twice a year, said throughout their 15 years of marriage, they have learned they need God in their marriage. If it weren’t for their faith in God and in each other, their marriage might not have survived the challenges and difficulties they and all married couples inevitably face, they said.
"We tell couples that in every way they need to be there to support each other unceasingly. Faith comes in when both of you need someone to lean on at the same time ... when you both get that overwhelming kick in the gut simultaneously," Matt Bailey said. "Your faith is a strong shoulder to fall on. But, like I said, you both have to keep it close to keep it strong."
The Baileys, members of Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler, have been involved with marriage prep for about eight years, and said their own marriage has benefited because of it.
"It is a great review for our own relationship and in a way forces us to take inventory of the blessings we have," Matt Bailey said.
The importance of faith, prayer and worshipping together is something Father Grewe said he stresses when meeting with engaged couples.
"I need to be faithful to my prayer, and I encourage the couples to do the same," he said, noting that this also includes fidelity to Sunday Mass. "How else are we going to make it through all the twists and turns of life?"
Father Grewe also finds support, friendship and encouragement from his parish community, and said couples can find the same.
"They can meet like-minded people who can support them in their commitment to marriage and to God," he said.
Making friends with faith-filled people is something the Stiers, members of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, said they also suggest to the couples they work with. It’s something they’ve found from their parish and the Omaha diaconate community, they said.
As marriage prep facilitators for nearly 30 years, the Stiers meet up to six times with couples to review and help them discuss the results of their FOCCUS Inventory. When appropriate, Deacon Stier and his wife said they use examples from their own marriage – including moving 17 times during Deacon Stier’s 26 years in the Air Force – to help bring a point home.
"I think it’s important for them to see a couple that has been through 49 years of good and bad, that has spent time learning together and growing together in God, worship and love," Sandy Stier said.
One goal of marriage prep is to minimize the opportunity for divorce, Deacon Stier said.
"But far and above that, we want to try to enrich their relationship and have them understand that there’s a third person – God – in the sacrament of marriage."