by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Couples-watching is just part of the job for Deacon Tony Zimmerman, co- consultant of the archdiocesan marriage and family life office.
And sometimes, the rewards of watching both new and longtime spouses are simply outstanding, as he discovered at a Baltimore airport not long ago.
“I was waiting for my flight when I heard this commotion behind me,” said Deacon Zimmerman. “Here came these two elderly people in wheelchairs being pushed by their children.”
“She was about 90, and he was about 95,” he continued. “They were laughing, holding hands and playing with each other. He called her ‘My Miss America.’ They were like the sunrise in that room. Everyone turned and looked at them.”
Now THAT’S a marriage, according to Deacon Zimmerman. And here’s his question: Why can’t everyone have a marriage like that?
A big part of the answer is our toxic culture, he said. The source of that toxicity is a rejection — or ignorance, in some cases — of God’s design for marriage.
“I ask this question of engaged couples all the time,” said Deacon Zimmerman. “‘So you came here to be married so you can be miserable and be divorced in five years?’ They look at me and say, ‘Are you crazy?’ They want a lifelong marriage and be crazy in love like they are then.”
To help married couples recapture that “crazy love” like that giggly, old couple in the Baltimore airport, the archdiocese is sponsoring a Marriage Enrichment Day with Deacon James Keating from 9 a.m. to 3: 30 p.m. on July 30 at the Church of the Ascension, 9510 W. 127th St., Overland Park.
Deacon Keating, from the Archdiocese of Omaha, has written one of the finest books for married couples that he has ever seen, said Deacon Zimmerman.
The title of the slim, 54-page book is “Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness.” Key concepts in the book will be part of the Marriage Enrichment Day.
“When you got married, didn’t you want to have a great marriage? Didn’t you want to be great lovers? This is how you do it,” said Deacon Zimmerman. “The ideas Deacon Keating presents are simple and practical ways for you to have the marriage you want to have.”
Why is it important for couples to pray together?
“It’s very simple,” said Deacon Keating. “If couples do not pray together, they will never know the depths of intimacy that Christ wants to bestow upon them.”
“Alternately,” he continued, “if they fail to pray as individuals, then they will begin to burden their spouse with perfectionistic demands, because they are not allowing God to fulfill that for them. Without each spouse praying, there individually is the danger of making your spouse an idol — ‘Fulfill me!’ Without shared prayer, there is a danger that the couple will think the depths of intimacy only involve their shared emotions instead of emotions shared between them and God.”
If couples praying together is so wonderful, why don’t couples tend do it? Why is it so hard?
Primarily, said Deacon Zimmerman, it’s an issue of trust.
“Praying together is more intimate than sexual relations because in shared prayer one has to entrust the whole person to the spouse: thoughts, feelings and desires,” said Deacon Keating. “There has to be deep trust to speak the heart. Oftentimes, the heart can be shared in nuptial relations with no words, so praying together can be very intimidating.”
So, is couples’ prayer a foolproof prescription for great marriages? In a word: No.
“It’s no magic bullet,” said Deacon Keating. “The crucifixion comes before shared prayer can even begin, and that is the suffering of growing in trust, of forgiving, of truly communicating the authentic self with one’s spouse. Marital intimacy is crucifixion, as it demands that we stop distracting ourselves with entertainment and activities and finally ‘behold’ the one you said you’d love until death. True marital happiness passes through the biblical ‘narrow way.’”
The cost to attend the Marriage Enrichment Day is $20 per person or $30 per couple. To register, go online to: www.archkck.org/maritalhappiness, or call (913) 647-0329.
This Marriage Enrichment Day is made possible by the generosity of archdiocesan Catholics through the Archbishop’s Call to Share.
Marriage Enrichment Day
Presenter: Deacon James Keating
Time: 9 a.m. to 3: 30 p.m.
Date: July 30
Place: Church of the Ascension, 9510 W. 127th St., Overland Park
Cost: $20 per person or $30 per couple
To register, go to: www.archkck.org/maritalhappiness, or call (913) 647-0329.