Faith in Our Marriage

(from Padraig McCarthy: A Wedding of Our Own)

Could We Work On It?

Before a couple marry it would be good if they could talk together about who God is for them; and to share it also as they grow and develop through the years that follow. Many couples planning to marry will have shared with each other about nearly everything else, even the most personal things, but perhaps not about what part religion plays in their life. How you pray is very personal. That's good. But that doesn't mean you have to keep it all to yourself. Wouldn't it be strange if this were the one and only part of you that you never got to share with one another? How much do you know about this side of each other? What do you think you know about your partner's experience in these matters? Maybe you could tell each other. Here is a suggestion to help you start; you may have other ideas of your own.

Take half an hour, or an hour, or as long as you want. Each of you takes a blank sheet of paper, and draws a line down the centre from top to bottom. Write the first of the following questions right across the top, and on the left of the line, write how you think your partner would answer it; on the right side of the line, write how you answer it for yourself. Then write the second question across below that, and answer both sides.

The questions are just to help you focus on what your own experience of faith and religion and God may have been. If any question does not seem to apply to you, or doesn't make sense to you, just skip over it. 'Don't know' is an okay answer! If reading or writing is a problem for either of you, perhaps you can find another way to approach this.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes: there are no bad marks for not doing well. Don't worry about the spelling of the words. What is important is that they are the truth about what you know. Your first answer may not be your last one. Some memories can be buried very deep. It may be a voyage of discovery, both into your own life and into the life of the one you plan to marry.

When you're both finished, exchange the pages with some simple sign of affection. Then read what the other has written. Read it with respect and reverence: what's written can be very personal and private. Don't read it to disagree or criticise, but to understand. Be prepared perhaps to be surprised.

When you're both ready, talk about what you find there. Be honest with one another. The purpose is not to criticise or to correct, but to understand and to accept and to love. See have you learned anything about one another.

  • How often do I think about God?

  • Was there ever a time in my life when I felt the nearness of God? Was there ever a time in my life when I felt really far from God?

  • When I think about Jesus Christ, how do I feel - warm? cold? nothing?

  • Does Jesus Christ influence my life? If so, how?

  • Do I pray every day? about once a week? occasionally? rarely?

  • How do I pray when I'm alone? Kneeling, or sitting, or standing, or lying in bed? Eyes open or closed? Before a statue or picture or crucifix, or wherever? At home, in a church, out in the open?

  • Do I pray in my own words, or in words I learned by heart, or from a book or leaflet? Do I pray sometimes without words?

  • Do I have a favourite prayer? a favourite piece from the Bible?

  • To whom do I pray? God the Father? Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit? Mary? A favourite saint?

  • Did my family ever pray together when I was growing up? If so, how? How did I find it?

  • When we are together, do I ever have a sense of God's love for us?

  • Any other question or comment in this area that strikes me?

When you have shared these things with one another, you might like to talk further about some more aspects of your life together, arising from your answers.

Again, some of these may not apply to everyone.

  • Have we gone to Mass together?

  • Have we ever prayed together, apart from at Mass?

  • Could we pray when we're alone together, either in silence or aloud?

  • Could we pray a prayer that we are both familiar with?

  • Could either of us pray aloud with the other, in our own words?

  • What about when we are married, what will we do?

  • If and when, please God, we have children, what will we do?

  • Could we tell one another about our difficulties in faith as well as our strengths?

  • If your faith is strong, how will that affect me?