A TOOL For Your Marriage: Our Experience with Teams of Our Lady
Dennis: This month we would like to share with you something which Mary Jo and I have found to be very helpful for our marriage. It is a movement which has its roots in Paris, France in the late 1930s. It began rather simply with several married couples seeking the guidance of their young parish priest, Fr. Henri Caffarel. They were searching for a spiritually based way to share their faith and marriage experiences in order to grow in love of God and their spouses. This movement, begun of such humble origins, has spread to over seventy countries on all continents. The name this movement was given in 1947 is “Equipes Notre Dame” or “Teams of Our Lady” (TOOL).
From the very beginning, these small groups would meet in one another’s homes on a monthly basis, share fellowship with a simple meal, pray, share their couple and family experiences and offer mutual support as they journeyed on the road to discovering the call of a sacramental marriage. The basic structure of a TOOL meeting has changed little over the years and these “little church” groups still meet monthly all over the world. The meeting format consists of light sharing over a simple meal, scripture and prayer, a time for deeper sharing, discussion on study topics and administrative matters. Each meeting ends with the Magnificat prayer because Our Lady has been the patroness of the movement since the early formative times.
Mary Jo: Our pastor brought Teams of Our Lady to our parish 12 years ago. Unsure of what to expect, we listened to some couples speak who had been in TOOL for a few years. We decided to give it a try and signed up to be part of a team with six other couples. I was particularly pleased that our team would have a spiritual director, since sometimes questions arise about Church teaching. A priest, deacon or religious can function as a spiritual director, and in the case of our team it was our pastor.
We knew the six other couples in our team, but had never been in a small group setting with this kind of facilitation for growth. Key to this growth is something known as a monthly “sit-down” in which Dennis and I share with each other our answers on that month’s study topic. This time of sharing as a couple allows us a chance to grow and develop as a couple, and we have found it to be a great blessing. Life can put such demands upon us that we get caught up in simply meeting the responsibilities of each day. Our sit-down reminds us to make our marriage relationship a priority, and helps us to keep our eyes on our true mission as a family – to grow in holiness.
Dennis: As Mary Jo mentioned, while the coming together as couples in the monthly meeting offers structure to the TOOL movement, we have found that what occurs between those get-togethers is of even greater importance for us. I admit that without a commitment to following the TOOL endeavors (daily prayer as a couple, monthly “sit-down,” and yearly retreat), many of life’s other tasks would all too easily distract me from focusing on our marriage. I have also found inspiration and encouragement from the other couples in our Team. As they share about the trials and struggles to live out their marriage vows, I feel like we are not so alone, and instead are all in this together. We hold each other accountable as we learn from one another and grow together in this journey of faith and love.
I would encourage any couple, both newly married, or old-timers like us, who are seeking support and spiritual nourishment for their marriage, to consider investigating Teams of Our Lady. As we have, you may find it to be a true blessing to your marriage and family life.
Editor’s note: More information about Teams of Our Lady is available at www.teamsofourlady.org.