CLIFTON As couples prepare to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, sights of red roses, boxes of chocolate, and teddy bears have been popping up everywhere. But for many married couples, expressing love comes in the form of something more meaningful — an everlasting commitment to one another.
During the week of Feb. 7-14, the USCCB has designated the second week of February as National Marriage Week to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. National Marriage Week began in 2002, and on Feb. 14, churches around the globe will celebrate World Marriage Day, held on the second Sunday of February each year, a celebration that was started in 1983 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
This special week marking the celebration of love between husbands and wives gives couples the opportunity to reflect on the sacrament. Eileen and Michael Morgan, parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish in Franklin and longtime coordinators of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Pre-Cana leaders, believe the week also reminds married couples that they are to be God’s unconditional love for all his people. Just as priests and religious sisters give witness to religious life, they said, married couples share the same witness in their vocation.
“Marriage is a sacrament of the Church,” said Eileen Morgan, “As a sacrament we are called to live it out and love one another. Even our grandchildren notice what we do within our marriage.”
Married for nearly 45 years, Michael Morgan can count to the day how long he has been married to his wife. “It has been 44 years, three months and 27 days today,” he laughed. “I started keeping track after hearing a talk by a married couple who was married for 60 years and the husband knew the count. So I started keeping track for the past 25 years.”
Some advice Michael Morgan shares with couples at Pre-Cana is, “Marriage will be a roller coaster ride. There will be ups and downs so make sure you wear your seatbelt and have fun. There’s nothing more beautiful when you can lean on the person next to you because when you are weak, they are strong and you hold each other up.”
The Morgans will be one of the presenting couples at the Worldwide Marriage Encounter Retreat on April 8-10 in Morristown. The weekend is designed to help married couples communicate more intimately with one another in order to deepen and enrich their relationship. The Morgans recommend the retreat for longtime married couples past the “honeymoon stage” and to take time away from everyday routines, distractions and tensions. An atmosphere is created where the couple can concentrate exclusively on each other in a private, confidential environment. For reservations, call (973) 427-7016.
St. Paul’s Inside the Walls will also welcome couples and leaders of couples’ ministries Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. for a program called, “ Building a Couple’s Ministry,” to be presented by Mike and Faith Rose, parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Rockaway.
The evening will be a relaxed setting with wine and cheese as the presenting couple shows and explains how they provide a relaxed community where couples can socialize, pray with and learn from like-minded couples who ultimately build up more joyful marriages, help to raise more Christ-like children and families who will, most importantly, benefit the Church throughout the world. Visit www.insidethewalls.org for more information.
At St. Matthew Parish in Randolph, the parish will also host a one-day Marriage Enrichment program themed, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marriages,” on March 12 led by Jim and Linda Baratte. They welcome married couples at any stage to attend and spend some quality time in reflection and sharing. The Saturday evening vigil Mass will be held after the retreat and then a dinner for the couples will follow. To register, call (973) 584-1101.
Father Daniel Murphy, pastor, said, “The retreat came in response to our last Men’s Cornerstone Retreat and we realized we needed to focus as a parish on couples as well. The day will allow couples to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage and we will celebrate a renewal of marriage vows and blessing of married couples at the closing Liturgy.”
According to the Morgans, taking time for these programs or simply spending time alone with your spouse is important for a marriage. Eileen Morgan said, “Often, with children, we can forget about each other. Make the decision to set time aside for date nights. For us when our children were young, once a week, we would put them to bed early and had a little picnic right in our living room. I know another couple that found a babysitter on Saturday mornings and simply went to a local donut shop to spend time alone. These dates make a difference.”