On the weekend my husband and I attended a retreat organised by the Ministry to the Newly Married (MNM) here is Brisbane. The main content was from Owen Vyner from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne.
Prior to Owen speaking, the amazing Fr Gregory Jordan* gave some very astute insights into marriage. He spoke of the times when the Roman Empire was crumbling, and amongst this mess the Benedictine monasteries began to thrive. He said that they only took one vow: STABILITY. To stay in the one place. Until death. And around these monasteries, the “Wandering Vandals” who had no fixed address, began to actually settle. Hence the names of some well known places like “Westminster” (meaning West Monastery) etc.
How does this relate to the family? What do a bunch of celibate monks from hundreds of years ago, and faithful Catholic families today have in common? How do the times we live in now reflect the times of the crumbling Roman empire?
This concept of STABILITY is one I have been reflecting on a lot since the weekend. I know my children thrive when they don’t have to move house EVER, when their Dad is in a stable job with a stable income and we have stable, loving relationships with those in our home and outside it. It goes against my concept of freedom to see a great benefit to myself of embracing stability, but perhaps that is exactly what I am being called to do. And of course this stability is an inherent aspect of our faith. In fact it is a reflection of God’s faithfulness, expressed in very concrete and earthy ways. Growing up as an Army child, with many, many different homes and moving every couple of years, this really is a foreign concept to me but one that perhaps I am learning the value of now.
Also, what does this mean for the family to be called a “domestic church”?
I looked up the word domestic. It is from the Latin for “house” and is strongly linked to family concepts. ( It also rhymes with majestic which is quite apt.)
The majestic domestic church. I like that. And just about as opposite in meaning to monastic as you can get. Monastic is from the Ecclesiastical greek for “solitary”. So, the domestic church is not monastic. It is not solitary, it is not intended to be lived in isolation. But, we do both have the need for STABILITY in common. Not as an end in itself but in order to better serve those around us according to the needs of the time. Especially in order to shore up a society that is crumbling around us.
And that was just the entree.
The main course was Owen Vyner’s amazing insights into marriage. They are worth pondering.
The title of his first talk was on The Sacrament of Marriage (click on this for the full transcript), “Leading Each other to Heaven (via Calvary).” Some take-home messages were that there has been some dominant views about marriage in Catholic culture which have really clouded God’s vision and the Church teaching on marriage. Firstly, the “extrincist” belief. He gave the example of going to daily Mass as a man in his 20’s and having so many over-60 yr olds comment to him that “he must be going to be a priest”. It is this concept that grace does not properly belong to marriage (is extrinsic to it). He never heard a comment like, “you must be going to be a married man because you go to Mass daily.” The other is the extreme opposite (intrinsicism) which sees all parts of marriage as inherently grace-filled and that faithfulness to the teachings of the Church is not necessary.
The second talk on The Sacrament of Penance in Marriage (click on this link for full transcript) focused more on some of the the more practical aspects of marriage, and shone a very bright light on the Sacrament of Penance (or Confession or Reconciliation) on a monthly basis as a vital part of our journey as married couples. “I Will Love, Honour and Forgive you All the Days of My life” really showed up the great power of this Sacrament for marriage. The attribute of mercy was one aspect that was highlighted, with this beautiful insight of Owen’s into mercy when his child looked up at him and asked, “What is Mercy?” His response: “Mercy is what God’s love looks like when we sin.”
I would highly recommend you reading through these talks as they have much to offer the Church in terms of appreciating the amazing path to holiness that can be obtained through marriage.
After the entree and main, came the dessert! An awesome video on Perpetual Adoration followed by Holy Mass, followed by an opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Adoration with Benediction. Wow!
Attending this day was a great blessing to my husband and I, and I am sure to many other couples who were able to attend. I hope the blessings continue for those who couldn’t make it as you listen to and reflect on the talks from the day.
*If you want to see Fr Jordan speak on one of his many topics of interest, you can check out, “Interview with an Exorcist”