I don’t know too many women who would turn down chocolate and flowers for Valentine’s Day, or any day of year for that matter, myself included. But this year, since Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday, I’m inclined to suggest something different and longer lasting. This gift suggestion is something that will not only help you and your spouse avoid the temptation of breaking the required Ash Wednesday fast, but provide a much deeper satisfaction long after the flowers fade and that chocolate box is empty.
My suggestion is based on tools that I would venture to say most Catholic couples are not even aware of: solid resources to help their marriages stay strong, get even stronger, or get back on track after some bumps in the road that often occur in married life.
We’re blessed to have quite a few resources that are given to us, for example by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For the past week on my daily radio program, Catholic Connection, I’ve been encouraging listeners to tap into a virtual marriage retreat developed for National Marriage Week. The week set aside to promote and support the Sacrament of Marriage began on February 7th and ends Wednesday, Valentine’s Day. The free Virtual Marriage Retreat found at ForYourMarriage.org includes a daily marriage theme, a reflection, discussion questions, and an example of a holy couple in the Church. This on-line retreat is doable even for the busiest of couples among us and you walk away each day with a new insight on the beauty of marriage along with a better understanding of your own relationship with your spouse and more importantly, your relationship with God. Where exactly is God in your marriage, anyway? This mini retreat can help couples address that question. My hope is that those tapping into this virtual retreat will also surf the For Your Marriage website further, taking advantage of some of the other great resources including videos and articles all about Catholic married life.
Also topping my Valentine’s gift idea and marriage resource list, is a first-rate, ever so down-to-earth online marriage course, Marriage 411, offered by well-known Catholic speakers, authors, and marriage experts Julie and Greg Alexander of the The Alexander House. Julie and Greg are regular guests on Catholic Connection, not to mention a number of other Catholic radio and TV programs. The title of the course says a lot. What do we think of when we hear the “411” number? We automatically recognize those digits in connection to dialing for information, which is exactly what this course provides; essential tools and information needed to develop and sustain a strong Catholic marriage. As Julie and Greg explain on their website, through this particular course “Couples reconnect with each other, grow closer through prayer, and improve communication as they learn God’s plan for marriage.” And if you find it difficult to address such topics as communication, healing and forgiveness, Julie and Greg have been there, done that, and bought the proverbial T-shirt. In other words, they get it and can help you and your spouse get it too.
The price of the course is less than what you would spend on a nice evening out. Let’s be honest and quite practical. It doesn’t take a mathematical whiz to figure out that if you have a decent meal at a nice restaurant, throw in a good bottle of vino and then exchange gifts, you’re talking easily two hundred plus dollars and that’s probably a low estimate, not to mention the experience as nice as it may be, is over in a few short hours. You get much more bang for your buck so to speak, with Marriage 411.
So, this time around, give a gift that as the old saying goes, truly keeps on giving. Check out these great resources and have a truly Happy Valentine’s Day and a blessed and fruitful Lent.