Janelle Peregoy considers the importance of marriage prep and mentoring through the Church as new families are created through the Sacrament of Marriage.
“It’s a big responsibility, right Mommy?”
“Uh, yeah,” I stammered ineffectually.
“Yeah, I thought so.”
At this point, my 4-year-old dropped The Day the Crayons Quit into his brother’s lap and a heated argument ensued about the true color of the sun. My conversation with my 6-year-old, a perpetual member of Team Yellow, was now officially interrupted and lost to moment.
As to that big responsibility that had previously been occupying his thoughts, it had to do with the fact that I was working that upcoming Saturday. Specifically, my diocesan team was offering our monthly Celebrating Your Love Day, which is our Pre-Cana retreat for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage.
My sons are used to my Saturday disappearances. They are used to my husband, whose stated purpose on stated Saturdays is to keep them moving to the point of exhaustion, shuttling them between the park, friends’ birthday parties, Costco and a myriad of other distractions. They are used to my arriving home those evenings tired but otherwise joyful. They are used to us praying as a family before bedtime for all the couples that Mommy met that day.
Yet until that moment with my 6-year-old, I never had given much thought about the messages that they might be receiving regarding my commitment.
Our Celebrating Your Love Days are such a gift. They are an increasingly rare opportunity in our world to proclaim the beauty of God’s plan for love, marriage and family life. As Catholics, we are so fortunate that our most recent popes are so consistent in their emphasis on upholding the importance of family life.
To form a family is to be a part of God’s dream, to join him in building a world where no one will feel alone. (Pope Francis)
Marriage and family life are antidotes to the epidemic of loneliness and alienation deeply entrenched within our culture. In my parenting workshops at our Celebrating Your Love days, I emphasize that the relationship between spouses is literally where a child first learns and experiences love. In that witness of relationship between spouses, parents are deeply accountable for their children’s formation.
The challenge in shaping our Pre-Cana is in upholding this ideal of marriage and family life without sacrificing the real. The reality being that we are each human, and we will each make mistakes in our marriages. Sometimes these mistakes or patterns of behavior will be so detrimental that they will be beyond one’s individual capacity to heal. Sometimes they will require the help of a professional therapist, a priest, an addiction counselor, or a mentor couple. Christ calls us to heal. Christ asks us to forgive, often many times over.
During our Celebrating Your Love Days, we begin our morning sessions through personal testimony. We describe it as the why each person is being called by God to this Sacrament. The afternoons are more practical, how to live your marriage vows through nurturing the relationship through communication and respect, making financial decisions, parenting, and caring for other family members.
Despite all these serious topics, there are many moments of levity. At one point, a new couple came to give one of the afternoon talks on NFP/fertility awareness methods for the first time. The couple hung back in the parish hall with me while patiently waiting for their turn to speak. I watched the wife as she visually scanned the room.
“They look so …”
“Happy?” I ventured.
The mom of five smirked. “I was going to say well-rested.”
We collapsed into a fit of giggles, much to the chagrin of the current speaker.
One cannot prepare for marriage over the course of a day. One cannot prepare for marriage over the nine months of formation that many parishes require. Living this Sacrament is in the daily decisions. It is in the ongoing journey. It is in choosing to honor one’s vows through the inevitable ebb and flow of lived experience.
Discussing this vocation with all the wonderful couples on the precipice of choosing this journey … well, my son is right.
It is a big responsibility.
Copyright 2023 Janelle Peregoy
About the Author
Janelle Peregoy, M.Div, is an Associate Director in the Office of Family Life & Spirituality at the Diocese of San Diego. So yes, she has found one of the few positions where it is professionally acceptable to contemplate the spirituality of potty training. A Pope Francis bobble-head sits on her desk for inspiration. See more from Janelle on her blog, Faithfully Irreverent.