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For Your Marriage

Dennis and Mary Jo Weiss have been married for more than 30 years. They write about a shared love of nature, prayer, and their children and grandchildren from their home in Hamburg, New York.

Promises, Promises

Mary Jo – Each year around January 1st, I like to tease Dennis by asking him about his New Year’s resolutions, because I already know the answer. It has remained pretty much the same throughout our 32 years of marriage. He usually says, “I don’t make resolutions because I know that I am not likely to keep them.”

“Just checking”, I respond, and I chuckle to myself about the many resolutions I have made that have fizzled after a short while. Maybe, just maybe, he’s got something there.

When I ponder how weak I can be in the face of something like a resolution lived out, it makes me deeply grateful for the supernatural assistance I have in living out our marriage covenant. Since frailty is part of the human condition, it gives me a sense of peace that Dennis and I can rely on the grace we received on our wedding day. The Catechism assures us, “This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity” (CCC, no. 1641). My promise to Dennis carried with it the weight of Christ’s help. I didn’t have to rely on my own strength or be afraid of my weakness.

Thank God for that, because we were a couple of goofy characters, and now well, now we are a couple of goofy characters who are a little older!

Dennis – Mary Jo is right when she says that I do not like to make New Year’s resolutions. It seems like each one I have made in the past lasts for only weeks or several months at best. Those resolutions usually center on something like, “this is the year I am going to get myself into shape by exercising regularly” or some similar promise to myself. It even happened this past year, as I started out strong by joining and going to a local fitness center, sometimes with our son. We were going quite regularly and I was actually beginning to feel very good about how I was progressing. Then, circumstances in life changed, both personal and at work, and I had little or no time or energy left for exercising. Another promise to myself not kept, another reminder of my weakness.

While this may be a rather minor example, it reminds me of how easy it is for our lives to get out of balance. Similarly, when some part of our married life is out of balance, I have to rely on the grace received through our marriage vows, the grace that is available every day of our sacramental life, to start anew. Each day can bring new hope and a fresh start, not only in the little things in life such as exercising, but more importantly in living out our call to holiness in our family life.

Mary Jo – It seems in retrospect that this sacramental grace has guided and sustained us at key times in our roles as spouses and parents. When the children were young, but old enough to play at the homes of their friends, we sensed that they were experiencing some questions about households where the mother or father was absent because of divorce. Dennis and I felt called to sit down with them and to assure them that they did not need to worry about that loss in their own lives – that their Dad and I were committed to one another for life. We could not guarantee that illness or infirmity would not come, but divorce would never enter the picture. Many years later, they have told us that this was one of the most important things we could have said to them. We could never have made a promise to them like that unless we trusted in the help that would come from outside ourselves to embrace the ebb and flow of married life.

Dennis – I think that when we stressed to our children when they were young that they need not worry about divorce entering into our home, because we had made a vow before God, not a simple promise based on our own strength and commitment, but a vow which relied upon supernatural grace, they understood this. Their understanding may have been limited by their level of maturity, but I believe this reassurance gave them a sense of security, a freedom from a nagging, hidden question that may be in many a child’s mind in this day and age: “I wonder if Mommy and Daddy will always be together, and what will happen to our family if they are not?” I am very thankful that through the grace of God, we were able to release our children from ever having to worry about those questions.

Mary Jo – Some things never change. When January rolls around each year, I’ll probably go on making a resolution or two because it gives me an exciting new purpose and drive as we launch into another calendar year. But I’ll also thank the Lord for this good man in my life who shares with me a belief in the strength of a vow.

Yes, some things never change…

“I think I’ll resolve to be more organized this year, dear…so… what was yours again?”

(Disapproving look.)

“Just checking, my love…just checking.”