by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Many married couples might laugh — and somewhat agree — when someone tells them that marriage isn’t about happiness.
But that actually is the truth within the vocation of marriage, featured speaker Coleen Kelly Mast stressed on Nov. 2 at the Day of Enrichment for Engaged and Married Couples at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.
“The goal of marriage is not happiness,” she emphasized. “It’s to help us see ourselves as God sees us so we can grow and perfect ourselves on our path to heaven.”
And yet, many couples embark upon marriage believing that happiness is what it’s all about, she believes.
Mast, an Illinois-based Catholic author, lecturer, chastity educator and radio talk-show host, sees that fact reflected in the number of people seeking annulments, even within the archdiocese, particularly in the first few years of marriage.
As in the fairy tale Cinderella, happily ever after can happen — but in heaven, she said.
The divorce rate is high, and today’s culture embraces abortion, contraception, cohabitation and homosexuality, she said.
“We know as Catholics that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from all that,” she said. “We’re not bound to what the culture says, so if the 20th century is known as destroying innocence, maybe the 21st century will be known as restoring the purity of love.”
The archdiocesan office of marriage and family life presented this daylong event with Mast, who lectures extensively on family life and chastity.
Mast’s first presentation focused on helping couples to live love in marriage, and later — following a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann — she walked families through “Raising Love-Wise Kids in a Lustful World.”
She talked to the dozens of couples who attended — even from states away — about living a love that brings life to the world through the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“We’re going to look at challenging ourselves to live that love and change the world one family at a time,” she said.
Mast, who has been married for 39 years and raised five children, used Scripture, stories, jokes, anecdotes and even songs to help get her message across.
Marriages can change the world through their examples, she said, and that includes how husbands and wives love one another and talk to each other.
She shared the story of the wedding feast at Cana — Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine — and told the couples that God also wants to perform miracles in their marriages.
“Jesus was invited to this wedding. Do you invite him to your marriage every day?” she asked. “The wine ran short. What is running short in your marriage?”
She asked them to think: Is it patience, kindness, understanding, closeness, a sexual relationship, or money?
“Jesus wants to fill you to the brim,” she said. “Invite him.”
Mast talked about issues that unify and those that divide, pointing out that men and women are different not only physically but in their very makeup — right down to how they see, hear, feel and understand things. It’s important, she said, for a husband and wife to harmonize.
“That’s [Jesus’] love he wants to pour out through you to your spouse. You’re a conduit,” she said. “His love wants to flow through your veins with no blockages.”
Just as Jesus asked the servants at the wedding feast to fill the jars to the brim with water, God will ask things of people in their marriages, she said.
“He won’t zap your marriage with a miracle without your cooperation,” she said.
And like the wedding feast at Cana, the “good wine” might not flow in your marriage immediately, she said.
“He keeps the good wine until later when you’re seasoned, you’re ready, you’re more loving,” she said. “God is keeping the best years of your marriage — if you cooperate with him now — for later.”
Fulfillment, she said, is not the same thing as gratification, and today’s culture seeks only gratification.
In the afternoon, Mast turned her attention to the entire family.
Children today face “incredible hurdles” to see beauty and goodness in sexuality with so many examples of junk all around them, said Mast.
The second of nine children, Mast said she learned a lot simply by being part of her family and asking questions of her mother.
“She gave us beautiful answers and kept us innocent, but not ignorant,” she said, adding that “innocent, not ignorant,” makes a good subtitle for her presentation.
“She gave us information she could add layers onto as time went on,” she said.
Through her own family’s stories, Mast shared how families can create such a similar environment, and noted that kids need to feel confident their parents know the answers to the questions they’re asking.
The answers must be not only appropriate to children’s stages of development, but tailored to each child individually, she said.
For a child to grow up “love wise,” he or she needs many things, including knowledge of what virginity means, a solid foundation on the Ten Commandments and close family ties, said Mast.
“We have to stay away from temptation,” she listed. “To raise love-wise kids in a lustful world, we need to know God’s awesome plan for love in marriage.”