July 23, 2021

Fall 2021 Marriage Supplement

Marriage event provides ‘an avenue of grace’ for couples

Katherine Egan smiles at her husband Justin as he leads her out of a twirl during a marriage event at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County on June 12. The Egans are members of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Katherine Egan smiles at her husband Justin as he leads her out of a twirl during a marriage event at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County on June 12. The Egans are members of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

DOVER—When nationally-known Catholic marriage presenters Troy and Kathleen Billings emphasized the importance of date nights for wedded couples, Justin Egan listened.

“Justin took that message to heart,” said his wife of 13 years, Katherine. “He set up a schedule with several other couples so that we alternate watching each other’s kids and having a date night.

“In the last month, we have been to a movie and also tried out a new restaurant!”

The Egans, members of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright, heard the Billings speak at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County on June 12. About 50 couples—from nearly 54 years of marriage to just three months—attended the event as a means to nourish their marriages.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is the foundational building block of the world,” said Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish. “In our world, people are really starving for marriage ministry, and there’s just not a lot out there.

“We held this event so couples would know we love them and support them.”

‘Marriage is like dancing’

The Billings spoke not just from their years of experience as a married couple with five children, but also from their experience as leaders of a marriage ministry for their parish, bloggers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “For Your Marriage” website, and as authors of a new book to be released soon. (Related: Couple offers tips for making marriage work)

The retreat, like their blog, was called “Two to Tango.”

“We both loved to dance,” said Kathleen after sharing that she and Troy met as college students—he at the University of Notre Dame and she at the nearby all-women’s Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame. “The problem was, we had different styles. We were always stepping on each other’s toes.

“Marriage is like dancing. Sometimes you step on each other’s toes. But the goal is to be close and to move with each other.”

Of course, marriage—particularly a Catholic marriage—is more than a dance, said Troy.

“As a sacrament, marriage is holy,” he said. “Sacrament has the same root as sacrifice, which means ‘to make holy.’

“When you sacrifice for your spouse—from cleaning to doing yard work—you’re giving of yourself and making your marriage holy.”

With the sacrament of marriage comes grace, Troy reminded the couples.

“So many forget to tap into that grace,” he said. “Couples need to ask God for the grace to live their marriage according to his will.

“The purpose of marriage is to communicate God to each other, but you can’t do that if you don’t know God. The more you know God, the more [grace] you have to pour into your marriage.

“We live in a crazy world. You have to keep Christ at the center of your marriage.”

‘Take 15 minutes a day’

Kathleen agreed with her husband.

“Satan is out there attacking marriage,” she said. “He’ll do everything in his power to destroy your marriage. He’ll provide a million distractions, even your children. So keep a strong relationship with God, call on his grace and take time with your spouse every day.”

That spouse time needs to be intentional, Kathleen noted.

“Take 15 minutes a day—and not the last 15 minutes—to connect,” she said. “Not talk about the kids, not talk about the budget, but talk about how each of you are really doing.”

Kathleen also noted that it’s important to “make sure that your spouse feels loved. Not everyone feels love the same way,” she said, recommending the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. “We can do many things that show love, and the other still doesn’t feel loved.”

The includes time for intimacy, she said, noting that “fresh love and fireworks fade without work. … You have to be intentional about intimacy, both emotional and physical.

“Regular date nights are so important for spouses to stay connected and enjoy themselves,” Kathleen said.

‘Marriage takes work’

With nearly 54 years of experience, Rosele and John Jones, members of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, agreed with the Billings.

“Marriage takes work,” said John. “It’s things like this [event] that get you out of our day-to-day routine and let you have a little time in a different place.”

Sitting next to the Joneses, Mary Jo and Bob Stoops nodded in agreement. The couple, members of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg, have been married for nearly 12 years.

“I think it’s important to stay open to ways to improve and nourish your marriage,” said Bob.

“You need to be nourished in your family life just like you need to be nourished in your faith,” Mary Jo added.

Annie and Zach Webber are starting to nourish their marriage early, having just married in May. The couple are members of the Oratory of SS. Philomena and Cecilia in Oak Forrest.

“We wanted to start off strong,” said Annie.

Upon hearing that dance lessons would follow the presentation, Zach said he had one goal for the evening: “I hope to learn not to trip over my own feet—or Annie’s.”

‘An avenue of grace’

After the presentation, the lights were turned low and a disco ball scattered shards of moving color around the parish hall. One by one, couples joined the dance floor as a snippet from their wedding song was played.

Katherine Egan smiled up at her husband as Justin led her out of a twirl.

“It was a fantastic date night!” she later told The Criterion.

With the scheduled date nights the two have enjoyed following the event, the effects of the evening continue.

“In the past it would not be uncommon for several months to go by before we would do something, just the two of us” without their three children, she said. “The event ignited a desire in us to prioritize time together.”

The benefits the Egans gained from the Two to Tango evening affirmed Katherine’s opinion about the importance of such events.

“We often hear of retreats for those who are discerning their vocation, or for kids who are growing in their faith,” she noted. “Often we neglect to continue to nurture our marriages.

“These retreats are an important opportunity for us to spend time as a couple, to lean on others for support and provide us with an avenue of grace.” †

 

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