National Marriage Week promotes reflection, celebration of marriage
BRAINTREE -- The Church offers resources for marriage support and enrichment throughout the year, but National Marriage Week, which takes place Feb. 7-14 each year, is a special opportunity to highlight and take advantage of those resources.
Promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Marriage Week encompasses World Marriage Day on the second Sunday of February, which is Feb. 13 this year, and ends on Valentine's Day. The USCCB's theme for the week in 2022 is "Called to the Joy of Love," referring to Pope Francis' 2016 encyclical "Amoris Laetitia."
Kathryn Griffin, a family life consultant at the archdiocese's Office of Family Life, described National Marriage Week as an opportunity for married couples to reflect on and celebrate the covenant they made with each other and with God.
"We get so caught up in the busyness of life, the ups and the downs and the challenges and the stresses and the joys, but I think it's important the husband and wife be able to take some time to really focus on that love," Griffin said.
Liz Cotrupi, the office's director of family life and ecclesial movements, spoke similarly in a Jan. 31 interview.
"Marriage is really important, and working at it is hard work. I think the world is so busy and crazy, we often don't take enough time to think about the other in that way," she said.
Griffin pointed out that National Marriage Week takes place shortly after the beginning of the new year, a time when many people make resolutions.
"This is a nice opportunity for a husband and wife to come together and resolve to renew their love, to strengthen their love," and find ways to do so throughout the year, she said.
The archdiocese provides a variety of resources to help couples and parish communities strengthen marriages during National Marriage Week or at any time of the year. These include podcasts and book recommendations, small groups like the Be Light movement, and special events like anniversary Masses.
One tool the Office of Family Life offers is a "Relationship Check-In," created by the Messy Family Project and Our Sunday Visitor. The check-in questions prompt married couples to consider and discuss different aspects of their relationship, such as how they honor each other, whether they prioritize each other, how they show physical intimacy and emotional support, and how they can be more united with God and the Church.
One of the office's recommended books, "The Secret of Growing True Love That Lasts" by Jim and Carol Steffen, tells a story about a couple who, before becoming engaged, seek relationship advice from couples in long marriages. The book poses rotating daily questions for married couples to ask themselves throughout each week on how to better appreciate, please and be closer to their spouse.
Cotrupi said these questions can help couples even if only one spouse is asking them, as she has heard from those she has shared the book with, because the questions make them think about why they love their spouse.
"Because I'm asking these questions, I'm actually improving my relationship, whether my significant other knows it or not, because my attitude toward him or her is changing," Cotrupi said.
Speaking to the theme "the joy of love," Cotrupi said that marriage "can be a powerful, sacrificial, hard thing at times, but it's also supposed to be a joyful thing."
If a couple is not finding that joy in their marriage, she said, there are tools available to help.
Griffin and Cotrupi both acknowledged that divorce rates have grown during the coronavirus pandemic, which put great financial and emotional strain on families.
"It's been difficult for couples to maintain and persevere in love, especially in these times," Griffin said.
The Office of Family Life can help struggling couples by connecting them to counselors and support programs. The USCCB's website also lists resources available for couples experiencing different types of crises or difficulties in their marriage.
"There's no other investment that's more worthwhile," Cotrupi said.
Griffin said part of the importance of National Marriage Week is demonstrating the grace of marriage, not only for the couple but also for their children and community, and showing how that love can grow and shape the world.
"Marriage isn't just about one person, it's not just about the couple, it's about God's plan and purpose for the world, and committing to that and to sharing in that," she said.
The Office of Family Life's resources for marriage enrichment and support, and links to the USCCB's online resources, can be viewed at BostonCatholic.org/familylife/marriage-enrichment.