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Our Annual Pre-Cana talk is this afternoon. Please pray that we are successful and able to reach the hearts and minds of our engaged couples.

For the past two years I have had to give the talk alone because Mr. Pete was at a conference. This year I had to take our previous duet, turned solo, back into a duet! But I think this is one of the best versions we've done to date!

Not everything is completely written out. Some of the words and phrases are supposed to help launch us into anecdotes and unscripted sharing. I save it here for posterity.

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Marriage as a Sacrament
Peter - Opening Prayer
God of grace and wisdom, give us the grace to live together in holy peace and happiness. Show us how to be patient and kind, slow to speak harshly, and quick to forgive each other. Let us be like the Holy Family of Nazareth – simple and peace loving, helpful to our neighbors, cheerful in bearing our share of the burdens, both of Church and State, and solicitous about setting a good example in our community. Good Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, parents of our Lady, bless the future family life of these betrothed couples here. Amen.

We are Peter and Elena Lavictoire and we will be speaking today about Marriage as a Sacrament. In my opinion, this is the perfect topic to have at the end of your Pre-Cana day, because living a sacramental life in a sacramental marriage is what ties all of the other talks you have listened to together. This is the “how to” talk from a Catholic Christian perspective. If Jesus is the Lord of your Lives, the Lord of how you chosen to live your lives from where to live, what jobs to have, the clothes you wear, the friends you have, from your money to your sex life, to being open to children, then in this talk we hope to illustrate how to make that all work in a sacramental marriage.

At the same time, we realized we may not be playing a home game here for many different reasons. Some of the comments from past years made that abundantly clear. So what we want to propose is this: We are merely a Catholic husband and wife, father and mother passing on that message of what the Holy Catholic Church teaches. We are going to be presenting the Catholic understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage delving quite heavily into Sacred Scripture and from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Everything we are presenting is faithful to the Bible and to Church teaching. These are not just our opinions. We just ask that you listen with an open mind and open heart. You don’t even have to agree with those teachings, I just ask that you listen and consider us simply your humble messenger.
ELENA:
My one minute faith witness is this: I was a cradle Catholic, grew up in a devout Catholic Household. My husband and I went to Catholic schools in the unfortunate era after Vatican II where they didn’t know quite what to teach, so they taught nothing. In the early years of my marriage during my early 20s we were pretty much just Christmas/Easter Catholics and we rarely darkened the door of our local Catholic church in between times. But my mother, my strong prayer warrior mother, kept praying for me, and kept giving me religious gifts. I always thanked her graciously as I stuffed these items, such as that 4 foot Resurrection cross into the closet. And I carelessly lost or misplaced all the rosaries and religious books she sent me.

But when my sister left the church and started asking me all of those ex-Catholic type of questions; “Why do you call your priests ‘Father?’” “Where in the bible does it talk about praying to Mary?” “Why is the Catholic Church against birth control?” And I honestly didn’t know. Luckily, I did have the grace of some common sense and I figured the Catholic Church just didn’t make this stuff up for no reason. And I set out to discover those reasons and then decide whether I agreed with them or not. And that in a nutshell was my reversion back to my Catholic Faith.
PETER:
Nine children, devout Father and Mother, church every Sunday, Saint Vincent DePaul, Catholic School
We are high school sweethearts. We have 7 children, 6 here, 1 in heaven, 4 boys in a row and then 2 girls. They ages almost 20, 16, 13, 10, 9, and 3.

What would you say if I told you that about half of all the couples listening our talk split up after hearing it? But it’s true!

• Young couples today are better educated than any of their ancestors. So it’s not lack of knowledge that is causing this problem. My mom had an 8th grade and my dad had a high school. education and they had a successful marriage that ended with my dad’s death. Ellie’s grandpa had an 8th grade education and grandma went to secretarial school but they were married over 50 years!! So it’s not education. Everyone here is educated enough for a successful marriage.
• There are widespread beliefs or attitudes in our prevailing culture that are causing young people to enter marriage with certain underlying assumptions that are harmful to a stable, happy marriage.
• And most cases, they are blinded to the warning signs that can predict that the relationship is heading for a future breakup.

So what we want to do in this talk is get away from what our culture says about marriage and family life, and look at Marriage as a Sacrament. we want to cover 5 key points:


1. How does God see Marriage
2. What is a sacramental marriage.
3. What the mission statement for a sacramental marriage is.
4.What can block the vision for a sacramental marriage
5.Then five steps for a successful sacramental marriage.
a. Give your life to it!
b. Personal relationship with God.
c. Relationship of couple with God in their Domestic Church.
d . Purity before and during marriage.
e. openness to new life.




OK so let’s get started!!
1. How Does God See Marriage?

Scripture begins and ends with marriage
The Catechism states.
1602 Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb." In revelations.

Genesis 218 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Proverbs 1822 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD .

Sirach 36: 24=-25
24 A wife is her husband's richest treasure, a helpmate, a steadying column.
25 A vineyard with no hedge will be overrun; a man with no wife becomes a homeless wanderer

Sirach 26
1 Happy the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days;
2 A worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life.
3 A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the LORD;
4 Be he rich or poor, his heart is content, and a smile is ever on his face.


ELENA:
God also knows how marriage should NOT be!
Proverbs 25:24
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than in a roomy house with a quarrelsome woman!!

PETER:
The Wedding Feast at Cana

1613. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an visible sign of Christ's presence.

If you remember, Christ’s first miracle is to change water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Wine is a very significant symbol.


In the Old Testament
1. Wine --Symbol of richness in divine life.

2. Absence of Wine --Symbol of spiritual poverty.

3. New Testament: Agony in the Garden Angel brings cup of wine. Wine is a symbol for strength to endure suffering.


The wine is a metaphor for God’s grace!!! Only God can give us the grace to sanctify and endure the hardships of married life.
1. Every marriage will reach a crisis, where it appears that the love has vanished.

2. Real question, which cannot be avoided is this: When you have a major disagreement, When it looks like there is no way to reconcile your opposing ideas, When it looks like the love you thought was strong has disappeared, When it looks like all hope is lost, Where do you turn to renew your love?

3. And God is giving us the answer - we turn to Him, TO GOD!!!

God sees Marriage as a covenantal partnership between the man, woman and himself. And God wants to be an active partner in the marriage! He wants to be there in the bad times, he wants to pour out his graces for us IF ONLY WE GO TO HIM!! Only God can renew His original gift, but we have to ask for it.
1. soccer ball -- woman=white, man=black, God=air

2. scissors --Blades don't work properly without the tiny piece in the middle that holds them together.


There are 3 people in the marriage just like the Holy trinity God loves the son and the son loves the Father and from that emanates the Holy Spirit. Likewise the love between the husband and wife is so strong it emanates a love as well – and according to Scott Hahn, “9 months later you might have to give it a name!!!” Only in the vocation of marriage do the people embody the love and reality of the Holy Trinity.


1615 However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy -.It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.
I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me - Philippians 4:13

Those who don’t recognize God as the source and renewal of love in marriage are not necessarily going to split up; but in their disillusionment with married life, they will start to seek happiness elsewhere – maybe with other friends, material things, or affairs – anything to escape.

You are called to make a domestic church!!

In fact, the family is called the Church in miniature, the domestic church, a particular expression of the Church through the human experience of love and common life."

ELENA:
2. What is a sacramental marriage?
A sacrament is:
Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification.

An outward sign- something you can see, hear, touch, feel. All of the sacraments have something that is affects the body. Oils that you can feel, words to hear and touch. We already covered Christ blessing marriage through the symbolism at Cana. For sanctification means literally, to be sanctified, made holy, for the purposes of going to heaven, being saved. Marriage then is the vehicle you have chosen to live a holy life, to eventually be in heaven with Christ. Theologically of course the marital act is the ultimate sign of the sacrament or marriage, but I submit that you are gracing or cursing your spouse from the moment you say, “Good morning honey,” to “Good night dear!” Every action between the spouses can be a blessing that comforts and pleases them and helps to lead the spouses together on their journey towards heaven.

Father Jackson use to say at weddings, “Mary, from now on your job is to make John happy, and John, from now on your job is to make Mary happy.” And while that sounds sweet, what he is really saying is that Mary and John, you are to die to yourself, for the sake of your new spouse!


From the Catechism.
1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

Let’s unpack that statement. Marriage is:
1. partnership for life
2. Good of the spouses
3. Procreation and education of offspring
4. A covenant 100% and 100% even when the other spouse CANNOT
pregnancy
illness
despair- financial difficulties.

PETER:
This is tough!! Why bother? What’s the purpose of a sacramental marriage vs. a secular one?

3. SO what is the mission statement of a successful sacramental marriage?

ULTIMATE GOAL OF MARRIAGE – To get to heaven and take your spouse and children with you!!




Matthew 619 "(1) Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 "But store up for yourselves (2) treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for (3) where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.



Nothing else in this life matters… NOTHING. I don’t care how many degrees you have, how big your house is, what kind of care you drive, or how much money you have. You can’t take anything else with you, only your soul. .

It is the ultimate goal and you can only take the souls of others with you!!
This is our mission statement.

4. What can block our vision for a sacramental marriage?
That widespread belief in our prevailing culture is part of what the Holy Father calls the culture of death. It is the contraceptive mentality that permeates our culture. It is not the view of God –one that glorifies God and sets heaven as the ultimate goal. It is a view that puts self and personal happiness as supreme, a view that looks as children as burdens instead of blessings, a view that takes God out of the equation. But also our own lack of knowledge about our Catholic faith and how to live a Catholic lifestyle can block our vision for what marriage can be!

But we all live in this culture! Setting our sights on heaven is like starting a pilgrimage a long journey. You could say it’s also like learning to play an instrument. Some folks will be prodigies and others will have special gifts. These would be folks like St. Theresa the little flower who just seem to have this heavenly vision from an early age onward. The rest of us have to practice.

5. So how can we live a sacramental marriage! –
A. : GIVE YOUR LIFE TO IT!!! Itzhak Perlman – violinist extraordinaire – overcame polio at age 4, practice analogy – giving total life.
Even with handicap like our friend Mr. Pearlman, until it just becomes an innate part of our lives, something we enjoy and can’t imagine living any other way.

B. Vocation… Marriage as much a vocation as priesthood, sisterhood, single life.
Marriage is a vocation. Kim Hahn: “A vocation is a call to holiness in a specific state of life. Either we submit our sexuality to the Lord in chastity through singleness, consecrated life, or Holy Orders – or we submit our sexuality to him in chastity within marriage. There is no double standard. God is holy and he wants his children to be holy too.”

ELENA:
Now this isn’t necessarily easy, we all come to the marriage with handicaps and problems

Our Handicap? Peter and I were both victims of poor catechesis in Jr. High and High School. Consequently we DID NOT live our faith in early marriage although never totally drifting away from the church. Yet we were able to turn it around to a full rich sacramental married life – took patience, and God’s Grace. My first experience with childbirth was a turning pint for me. I remember being in the delivery room having one painful contraction after the other, and then the nurses rushing in to put me on my left side and give my oxygen as my baby’s heart rate fell. I remember being there just crying out to God to save me and to save my baby and yet I felt like such a hypocrite calling out for GOD whom I had not spoken to in any depth for years. That incident was the beginning of our renewed acquaintance and we’ve been speaking ever since.

Now this wasn’t a “St. Paul” type of experience. It took time and we’re still working on it!

Trying to be holy (especially when it's not in your nature!) is hard work! I remember one day in particular about ten years ago when my kids were younger and I was trying desperately to turn my home into one of loving warmth and goodness like what I imagined the Holy Family had in Nazareth. The only problem was that none of my children was Jesus Christ!

Instead, the children I had fidgeted during prayers and fought over everything from school supplies to food. One of them twirled his rosary in the air during the sorrowful mysteries, and another couldn't remember anything from that morning's religion lesson. And they were always punching, pulling, tugging and annoying each other in what I now recognize was a clear case of testosterone toxicity. As I was trying to push all of them out the door to get to daily mass, one of my boys let out a blood curdling scream as his brother stomped (intentionally or otherwise on his foot). I had had it.

"I want a holy family damn it!" I bellowed.

My kids still tease me about that.



You have to start with having a relationship with God as individual persons and as a married couple.

• Relationship with God -- As individual persons and as married couple.
• Private prayer and meditation
• Rosary -wedding bouquet petals into rosary
• Grace before meals
• Personal and family devotions
• Participate in the sacraments particularly Eucharist and confession!
• Mass every week – maybe even weekday
• Go on a post-cana weekend or other ministries – never done that but read good books
• Listen to good tapes, pop em in your tape player
• Seek out holy Friends
• Items coming into the home.

Make the home a true domestic church!!!
I mentioned earlier about my mother buying me all of that religious stuff that I kept in the closet for years. But when I reverted back to my Catholic faith, I couldn’t wait to pull that stuff out and start using it! That three foot Resurrection cross now has a prominent place in our dining room. And after the stillbirth of our sixth child I felt a real need to be surrounded by the presence of Mary and Jesus and I started ordering prints and statues on e-Bay- Pete thought I was turning into Mrs. Grismer!

Live the Liturgical year!!!
Bible in the house – prominently displayed
Study Bible
Catechism Catholic Church
Religious articles in the home – pictures, crucifixes - Better Living through eBay!!
Religious medals.
Books and magazines
Music
Live the liturgical Calendar!!!
St. Thomas Day Cookies
Fish for St. Peter’s day
Table Cloth
St. of the Day – Our Lady of Lourdes







PETER:
D. Purity before and during marriage.. PETE
The next step in a sacramental marriage is Love and Purity


"The culture of death is determined to destroy purity of heart. One of its strategies is to deliberately create doubt about the value of the human attitude which we call the virtue of chastity. This is something particularly dangerous when the attack is aimed at the sensitive consciences of children and young people. A culture which in this way impairs or even destroys a correct relationship between individuals, is a culture of death, for man cannot live without love."
- John Paul II, To young people in Poland, 13 June 1999.

• You have to make up your mind that you will use save your purity and only use your sexuality in ways that give Glory and Honor to God.
• But like gold tested in fire, it makes you a stronger person and a better couple.
• And that Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
• Then he challenges all of you to be chaste until your wedding night.
• He would say, ““This is my body.” We would like you to be able to repeat these words with him to your spouse on your wedding night.. This divine mystery only achieves its fullest meaning when bodily purity has been preserved. This is something that you can help each other with.

Instead, I’m going to share a little story of Kimberly Hahn’s of two engaged people. The lady really really wanted to have sex NOW with her fiancĂ© and he kept putting her off. Finally she asked him why he didn’t want to have sex with her and he said, “I am testing myself and proving myself to you, because if I can resist you, my beloved, the woman I love with all my heart and know completely, then I know I can withstand other temptations when they come during our married life.

Mrs. Wagner shared a story with me of two young people who were cohabitating when they went to their Pre-Cana day, and they were so moved by the teachings they heard that day that they separated until they were married. Since then they have had a strong, fruitful marriage. They have remained faithful and in love with each other.
God teaches through the church that sexuality is for within the bounds of marriage only.
There will probably come a time in your married life that you will be asked to sacrifice your sexuality for your marriage. Prove to yourself and your spouse now that you can stand the test.

But if you haven’t been pure, this is a great time to start over, get a fresh start in the sacrament of reconciliation. Start your marriage out right from the beginning.



ELENA:
E. Children are Supreme Gift of Married Life
1604. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: "And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'"
1. Many people underestimate the importance of having children on the growth, stability and joy that comes from married life.

2. Fruitfulness is required for the life and good health of the marriage.

Psalm 127
Behold, (6) children are a gift of the LORD, The (7) fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a (8) warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 How (9) blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;

Psalm 1273 Behold, (1) children are a gift of the LORD, The (2) fruit of the womb is a reward.

Psalm 128Blessedness of the Fear of the LORD.A Song of Ascents.1 (1) How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who (2) walks in His ways. 2 When you shall (3) eat of the [1] (4) fruit of your hands, You will be happy and (5) it will be well with you. 3 Your wife shall be like a (6) fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like (7) olive plants Around your table. 4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.


Matthew 19:14But Jesus said, "[Matt 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17; 1 Cor 14:20; 1 Pet 2:2] Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for [Matt 5:3] the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

In scriptures, children are always a blessing, they are never a curse!
God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply – to fill the earth and he reiterates that after the fall with Noah.

I would like to share two pieces I found on some religious Blogs this year:

The first is from a blog called Domestic Felicity written by a young Jewish Woman:

These verses weren't new to me. I've known them for a long time. But when I re-read them, I was struck anew by the beauty of God's vision of children: rewards. Arrows in the hand of a mighty man. Olive trees, a symbol of prosperity, of roots that go deep into the land of our fathers. What an astounding picture! There's nothing about children being burdens; about the 'inconveniency' of having children when it doesn't fit into our plans. I asked myself: do I think God would say, 'ah, but if you're getting that mortgage, of course it invalidates everything I said about children being a blessing'?

This was how I reached the conclusion which isn't really a novelty: if children are blessings and precious gifts, why on earth would we reject, postpone or limit the sweet rewards God in His wisdom might choose to give us?

And you know what the most amazing thing is? I realized that I actually used to think children are bondage – but the real bondage was precisely those thoughts! I realized how important it is to have children, but I used to view them as hindrances to whatever other plans I might have. I thought having fewer children will mean more freedom. But I really felt free only when I chose to submit myself to the will of my Creator and accept whatever He has in store for me.



1 Timothy says Women saved by child bearing if she proceeds in faith love and I believe it!

Now certainly there are other sins that come forward – screaming at the kids, an lack of patience come to mind – but those are really chances to learn to grow. You simply don’t have other sins because you don’t have the time or energy!

Didn’t really learn my faith until I had to teach it. We homeschool – every day I would read something new I was teaching Calvin and couldn’t wait to share it with Peter – children’s bibles then adult.

Children teach us soo much!! I’ve seen myself in their eyes- of course they pick up all my bad habits, and say things I shouldn’t say. But each child as an individual has taught us something.

Calvin – the wonder of God’s creation – but I could see the graces God gave my son- needs a lot of correction – but doesn’t harbor a grudge, easy going. Things roll off his back easily.
Sam - a true child like pure faith and love of God – something innate not taught.
Gabe - the stealth kid – taught me about survival and joy! Always pleasant.
Noah – tested me – very high needs child – lots of hugs, lots of reassurance
Isadora – my reward for 4 boys!! The difference between boys and girls, very feminine, a true helper – loves Mary and Baby Jesus – good helper.

Last year I was criticized on one of the evaluations for mentioning my stillborn son, Raphael. But I can’t imagine leaving him out. I am a Catholic Christian, I believe in the communion of saints and since I truly do believe that, I believe my child is as much a part of my life as if he were here in the flesh and I was raising him. I also mention him because, God used that experience to draw me closer to Himself. I grew by leaps and bounds in my spiritual life after going through that very special suffering of a still birth.

Raphael – I truly felt the presence of God in my life when Raphael died. No hospital, birth at home, able to be with him a bit, - All Saints Day, the comedy surrounding it – so that I can’t think just of that day without laughing a little. That was a grace of God because I think He knew I couldn’t survive that experience without some humor. I was afraid to look but - taught me the dignity of all children been before birth. Humanity of the human body, How love surpasses death and reminded me to pray for my other loved ones already in purgatory – take care of my baby. He taught me about suffering and how to cope with a loss - literally made a choice to get up and live when I just wanted to die too. Never loved my husband more than when he picked up that little casket and carried it forward for his funeral mass. His death taught me to appreciate this life, and that life can be taken at any time – it really is a gift and not to take it for granted.

Rosie, to trust again.

And despite all the crosses that come with a large family, laundry, mess, space, lack of sleep, worry, I would do it all again and I am open to doing it again because these precious gifts, every one of them have brought so much into my life.

I realize that sometimes it is difficult to be open to new life – after difficult childbirth I was psychologically not ready to think about another baby for a year. NFP is wonderful for that – you’ll hear a good talk on it this afternoon. I urge you to pay attention and to attend a series of NFP classes before your wedding just in case there are circumstances where you must postpone or avoid pregnancy. Artificial birth control is not a licit option in a sacramental marriage. In fact, artificial birth control is the one thing that the catechism calls “intrinsically evil.” Despite what you may have heard, that is still authentic Catholic teaching. I also urge you to read Humanae Vitae and Why HV was right by Janet Smith, as well as Kimberly Hahn’s Book, Life Giving Love.


To reiterate, for a successful sacramental marriage, you must
1. Give your life to it
2. Have a personal relationship with God
3. Have a relationship as a couple with God in your Domestic Church
4. Practice purity before and during your marriage.
5. Be open to the blessings of new life.

I hope that we have challenged you think of some ways in which you can incorporate your Catholic faith into your marriage. We wish you much joy and happiness in your married life. May God Bless all of you and bless you abundantly!



Closing Prayer
Eternal God, without your grace no promise is sure. Strengthen these engaged couples with the gift of your Spirit, so they may be ready to fulfill the vows they will soon take. Keep them faithful to each other and to You. Fill them with such love and joy that they may build a home where everyone is welcome. Guide them by your word to serve you all the days of their lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen




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