Family matters

Column: Take time to express your love to your spouse and children

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

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

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

Some years ago Father Chuck Gallagher, SJ, was presenting a retreat to married couples and priests.

Before he began his talks, he would look out over those present, smile, and say, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

This opening line of a song by the same name which Father Chuck spoke each time was no gimmick. The look in his eyes, the smile on his face as he gazed on those present, already conveyed what he would next say in words. He loved these people who were part of the body of Christ to whom he gave his life as a priest.

How often do we, as husbands or wives, take time each day to say these words to one another? When we were dating and first married, we couldn’t wait for time to be together. We looked for ways to express the love and joy we found just being in one another’s presence.

Deacon James Keating in his book, “Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness,” wrote: “The lifelong commitment of marriage can actually undermine the choice to pay attention to your spouse: ‘He will be around later; I will pay attention then.’ The actual knowledge we hold that our spouse will be with us ‘until death do us part’ may unwittingly play a role in taking our spouse for granted. This attitude must be resisted.”

What if today were to be the last day with your beloved? What would you do? What should you say?

What about our children? Remember the long months of waiting for their birth? What would they look like? What name would we give them?

With our jobs, and all the activities that are part of our children’s lives today, it is hard to find time just to gaze on them, listen to their excitement and laughter, and dream about their future. They grow up so quickly. Jump on each opportunity to affirm their goodness and marvel at the great gift that God has given us in each day and stage of their life.

Take time each evening in prayer as husband and wife. Hold hands; look in one another’s eyes; raise in prayer to God one quality of his love you have experienced through your beloved this day and thank God for the gift of your spouse. Share this goodness with your spouse.

As Mom and Dad, repeat this time of prayer with each child. Affirm the joy you have at being their parent.

Try this for a short time and maybe, as you look at your loved ones over breakfast, you will find yourself saying: Have I told you lately that I love you?

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Deacon Tony Zimmerman

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