The Perfect Anchor

Marriage as a Sacrament

Life is full of so many joys, but also ups and downs, twists and turns and at times an all out storm that can bring us to our knees. Our faith, if we choose to embrace it can be that life line that tethers us when tossed about by either our own will or the circumstances that life brings. Quite often this connection to Christ is the only certainty which keeps us from going adrift altogether.  For the grace that so readily flows is available to strengthen, heal and renew us in and within all of our relationships.

Why choose a Catholic sacramental marriage?

When my husband and I were asked to speak to a group of about 24 Pre-Cana couples about what it means to live a sacramental marriage, we felt honored but also cautiously optimistic. How do we convey the permanency and faithfulness of a vocation, in a world that values instant gratification and self fulfillment over sacrifice? How do we encourage fruitfulness in a culture that seeks to limit life and the witness to life?  That this call from God to live our lives in a certain way is intended to be a dynamic collaboration between you, your spouse and God? A daunting challenge to accomplish in a mere span of 20 minutes. Yet, one most definitely worth undertaking if only to be the first to plant a seed.

Within each of the sacraments, God is doing something remarkable. Taking the ordinary stuff of life: water, oil, bread and wine , and even our vows to transform what is there to be extraordinary. Unlike other sacraments where it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament, here it is the mutual consent to one another to accept and live this gift from God. Your full yes is the Permanent, and Faithful part of this vocational call.

A sacrament is a visible sign, we say, of an invisible in-working of grace. However, the sacraments are more than a solitary event, but rather an invitation to encounter God daily in a very intimate way.  As a church, while we have done an incredible job at promoting the initial reception of the sacraments, we haven’t been as good at imparting what to expect after. When this happens, it is as if that grace goes unnoticed, or lies dormant awaiting our yes to God’s action in our lives.

Why including God makes all the difference!

Though from the very beginning my husband and I realized the importance of God as the foundation in our marriage, it has been through the beautiful mess of life that we have experienced this grace most abundantly.  The year our youngest son was born, was to be undoubtedly one of the most challenging years of my life. In my third trimester,  my grandmother who was a both a pillar and close confident passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Unable to physically be present, I sobbed as I packed the bag I knew I could not use as travel was not in my near future. Taking the bag from my hand, my husband held me as we prayed our goodbyes together. Then 4 weeks after Thomas was born, my mom flew in welcome the latest addition. Only, that is, to discover that she could not breathe and upon a doctor’s visit that she had stage 4 lung cancer and given but a month to live.

Meanwhile, our house was being re-sided with vinyl and new windows put into our antique home. Truthfully, I felt much like that old house- stripped and vulnerable to my core with but my husband, children and God as my only shelter. In order to help my mom and settle details of the estate, my husband stepped up to take on both a full-time job and mine as well. Our marriage was not a 50-50 split at this point but 100-100 as each of us were giving more that we could ever imagine possible. That is, because God was in the middle of it all, working alongside and enabling us to do the impossible.

That Spring, we would soon discover that it would be my turn to take the reins as we received news of his imminent deployment to Iraq and selection to fly the Apache right into the worst of it. We made the necessary preparations and continually prayed that God would work it all out for good. And did he ever! My husband leaned into God, praying the rosary that each of these men and women under his command would go home if it was God’s will. One by one all but two were released, when my husband fully lifted up his own deployment status. Standing in front of the flight surgeon with the deploy stamp in hand, his shoulder x-ray was examined again. Given the choice to have the tear repaired there or return home to Boston, he knew God had intervened.

So many times things don’t go as we have planned, and others where we discover God’s plan is so much better than our own. Including God enables us to love and carry beyond our own abilities, desire to want what is best for one another and to remain faithful as God has proven to be. 25 years later, how thankful I am that God is part of this journey and vocation in life!

In Christ,

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Worth Revisiting:Love Worth Waiting For

Those who know my husband and I closely, know that before we ever dated we were best friends. John was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts and I a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in 1990. In looking back, every detail of our meeting and courtship was just as it was intended to be. Neither of us was initially looking for a long term relationship but honestly seeking someone that reflected the values that we held dear.

That first evening, John was in fact to be meeting someone else, who was the roommate of a friend of mine. Yet, with nothing in common and little desired conversation both had decided it was a bad idea. At dinner, he spotted me across the room and inquired from my friend who I was.  I had noticed him too, but was unsure if he was with one of the other girls. Called over to their table before leaving, I suggested that we meet in the common room for coffee.  As the conversation flowed, the more we discovered that there was indeed something very special in the other. I could not explain it, but I recognized what had been so missing in my life at the time.

Instantly, John will tell you, that he knew that I was the one- who held his heart, mind and attention from that day forward. Yet, I was not so ready to “jump”. Knowing that he was special and desperately needing a true male friend, I was fearful that a relationship would ruin this.  Reluctantly, he accepted that I was not ready to date but longed for his friendship. Through months of listening to one another tell of the faults of those we dated, and giving advice we grew closer. He was waiting for me and loving me all the while.

So it happened. Having invited him to a party that I was certain would be uneventful, I eagerly anticipated spending time with my best friend. I did not worry that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, or that we would face that awkwardness at the end. I knew that we would enjoy the time no matter how lame the event was. What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the surprise that God had in store for me..now that I was ready for it.

We kissed. (Oh, no..I’ve done it, I lost my friend), I thought. Yet, in those moments of recognition I prayed. Father, lead me, lead us. So, upon my suggestion we decided to go take a walk and sit beside one of my favorite reflective spots beside the waterfall. Though quite picturesque, I was feeling a bit chilled in the cool New England spring air. As he put his arms around me, and we sat in relative silence..I finally understood.

The following is a poem that I later wrote that summer. I waited to give this to him after we were engaged for Valentines Day 1992.

The Waterfall   (1991)                 by Elizabeth Reardon 

The waterfall cascaded down onto the lake below,
I marveled at its beauty and watched as moonbeams shone.
I hadn’t known the lake to look as lovely as that night,
For within his arms and loving heart I was now held tight.

In friendship had I known this loving heart before,
I never thought that ever I could ask for any more.
But suddenly I realized that this was but a start,
That every second of my life he would be a part.

To hold me, love me, and share the vast wonders of the day-
To walk along a mile with me down steep and narrow ways.
And when we are no longer young to our grandchildren I will tell,
Of the sparkling waterfall, and the painted lake-
when their grandfather kissed his southern belle!

This Valentine’s Day as we stop to express our love for those that continually bless our lives let’s remember how God never ceases to surprise us!

Love,

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Worth Revisiting: Learning How to Be Second Place

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

On this the week of my 21st anniversary, I thought I’d share with you an interview given earlier this year to Karee Santos of “Can We Cana?“, a Community to Support Catholic Marriages. What a joy it was to both share but also to reflect on those essential elements of our marriage and the vital role of faith in all we do. For other discussions, articles, and resources on marriage, pregnancy, parenting, and teachings on theology of the body please check out this incredible site.


“Learning How to Be Second Place: 10 & Then”

 Elizabeth and John, parents of three boys, just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and are still going strong! Elizabeth is a blogger, a Pastoral Studies graduate student at Loyola University Chicago, and an avid church volunteer. John, a former Army helicopter pilot who was deployed in Iraq, made it home safely and now works for the MA Environmental Police in Boston. Elizabeth and John especially love their shared ministry as Eucharistic ministers to the two nursing homes in their area. Find out why “more than comfortable with coming in second, it is in fact one of the things we love most about each other.” You can follow Elizabeth at her blog, theologyisaverb.com, or on FacebookTwitter,  Google+  and Pinterest.
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1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?

We have been married 20 years this past May, and have three boys ages 18, 15 and 9. As friends during our undergraduate years, we were unexpectedly amazed to find each other so early in our lives. That day, I married my best friend and quite honestly I cannot imagine these years without his constant friendship, love, and strength.

2. Name three things that have helped you stay married this long.

At the top of this list has to be a strong faith life in prayer. In addition to attending mass we began by praying together at the close of each day. As we had children, this became a family prayer time where each of us lifts up our intentions and one another in prayer. Yet, over the years we find that we also join together to pray throughout the day. It could simply be a text, or the invitation to say a decade or two of the rosary together. “Where two or more are gathered in my name” truly has special significance in our lives.
Secondly, we have found it vital to support one another through life’s challenges as well as to fully celebrate life’s gifts.  In those moments when I’ve been given an overly demanding day, or sleep and serenity elude me, I know he’s there to listen and lend a hand. Conversely, when one of us has good news we appreciate that we have been called to joyfully share in it.  I’d venture to say that we are each other’s biggest fan!
Finally, communication is not just important but essential to both of us. This goes past daily pleasantries – so often requiring persistence, patience and desire.  Whether big or small, we always try to include one another in the decision making process. Even when we disagree, we strive to never go to sleep angry.

3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?

From the beginning, marriage has been for us a lifetime commitment to a shared journey of intimate friendship. And while there are twists, turns, and speed bumps on this path, there are no viable exits. There is, however, a Guide who knows the terrain, holds the map, provides rest and sees the big picture. Faith for us requires trust- not only in each other but in God to see us though the difficult times.
The year my youngest was born, I had lost my grandmother and later my mom to cancer. My husband, then an Army helicopter pilot, was shortly thereafter sent orders to be deployed to Iraq for an indefinite time. Through the many tears I found God right beside me, and peace came in trusting Him through the chaos. Not to be disappointed, God brought John home safely and much sooner than expected.

4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?

Spend time to really get to know the person you love. While it’s not necessary to spend as great an amount of time as we did, really examine if you are compatible. It’s important to seriously consider if you can truly live with one another’s flaws. Jokingly, today my husband says that we can truthfully say that we successfully survived a 2 year interview process during our engagement!

 5. What advice would you give newlyweds?

Love God and put God first in your marriage. Following the greatest commandment to, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37). Yet, what does this really look like? Simply put, it means making space and time to talk to and spend time with God in your everyday- seeking Him in all that you do. If you can do this, you increasingly realize that you are capable of expressing even more love in all your other relationships. More than comfortable with coming in second, it is in fact one of the things we love most about each other.

6. What’s your top parenting tip, or advice for couples who are trying to have children?

Elizabeth: For me, it’s patience and forgiveness.  Highly desired and but sometimes lacking, patience I believe is needed both in conceiving and raising children. I have come to recognize over the years that God’s timing is not necessarily my own. Hand in hand with forgiveness, patience is what God shows me as time and time again I slip and he gently picks me up.
John:  My advice for parenting is consistency. Consistently loving, but taking a steadfast and predictable course. Our children can faithfully depend on the fact that each decision has been carefully weighed, and made in their best interest. It is being able to say no when their eyes plead yes, because you want so much more for them. This is indeed a gift that they will value later in life!