Column: Help wanted with marriage prep. Perfect couples need not apply

Family matters
Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

A gathering of engaged couples was asked: “Who believes that your spouse is a gift from God?” Hands were eagerly raised in response. Perhaps a follow-up question would be: How many see children as a gift from God that you are eager to receive?

A young married couple was heard saying: “We aren’t going to have children. We are too selfish.” This attitude is common today. A recent study shows the birth rate is in freefall worldwide. Is it really about being selfish? The couple I referred to followed up their statement with: “We might have a child like me!”

Is part of the resistance a fear of coping with the challenges of raising children? What newly expectant parents don’t experience this self-doubt?

Each year, we hear the staggering average cost of raising a child (currently $245,000). It is understandable that some look at this gift-wrapped box offered by the Father with a little hesitancy.

We who have children should be asking: “What’s wrong with this picture?!” We should be the first to recognize the distortion our culture presents regarding children.

Recognizing and proclaiming the gift of children in our lives shouldn’t wait until our 40th anniversary celebration.

Someone recently remarked that it takes a church to raise a child. It takes the witness of joyfully married parents to help our engaged and young married couples eagerly ask God for the gift of children in their lives.

Have we let our married children’s birthdays slip away with a nice card, phone call or some material gift? What a blessing to spend time over dinner sharing how you felt when you first realized you were expecting them. Affirm all that you are proud of them. Tell them how poor your life would have been without them.  If it is hard to say, write it down and give it to them.

Take your witness to the church. Consider offering yourselves to your pastor as a possible lead couple for marriage preparation. What our engaged need is not perfect examples of marriage and parenting. What will inspire them is the witness of couples who strive through the ups and downs of life to discover the real joy found in love for their spouse and their children.

We will offer the “Living in Love” retreat for married couples in Sabetha at Sacred Heart Parish on Jan. 16 and 17, and at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park on Feb. 13 and 14. Besides being a great enrichment for marriage, it also helps couples prepare for becoming a lead couple for the engaged.

Pray and ask God if you should talk with your pastor about ministering as a lead couple. YOU ARE NEEDED!

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