In 2004, the Bishops of the United States made a commitment to promote, strengthen and protect marriage. Then, in 2009 through their Pastoral Letter MARRIAGE: Love & Life in the Divine Plan, they called for comprehensive and collaborative ministries that would accompany and assist couples at all stages of their journey. In June of 2021, delayed only by the pandemic, the bishops approved a draft document providing a Pastoral Framework to assist parishes in ministry to and with marriages and families on this journey.
Add to the Bishops efforts, Pope Francis has clearly directed our attention in Amoris Laetia with his words:
“What is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose married relationship has broken down.”
– Pope Francis, Amoris Laetia, #238
While we might not want to think of it as one of marriage’s stages, we all know couples experience loss, difficulties, and crisis in their marriage. Some have the resilience, the skills and the were-with-all to persevere, to draw strength, and to continue to grow in holiness. Others find themselves broken, alone, or ill-equipped for the difficulties they must face. Too often, couples fail to seek the help that can rebuild trust, that can improve communications, that can help them draw on their faith in God and His healing power. Or, if they know they need help, they are unable to find it or know where to even look. And, when they do, the response by the Church or secular resources are left wanting, either by a delay in availability, or a lack in Christian virtue and an understanding of God’s plan for marriage. We want to change this.
Along with our Holy Father and our Bishops, MarriageBuilding USA (MBUSA) believes the Church has a vital role in helping marriages face what may seem like insurmountable odds. If the Church’s beautiful teachings on the Theology of Marriage and its Sacramentality do not co-exist with ready resources and accompaniment during the difficulties of marriage, then we must accept some of the responsibility for marriage failures.
In their over 40 years in Marriage and Family Ministry, Don & Lorrie Gramer, founders of MBUSA, have envisioned an effective and prayerful means for the local parish to become a ready resource for these marriages, a triage of sorts, that can help couples become hope-focused and receive the guidance, resources and prayers that can help their marriages succeed. Lorrie Gramer, with a Masters in Marriage & Family Ministry and near completion of a second Masters in Pastoral Counseling, has assembled a few insightful skills and techniques that serve distressed couples well.
When used effectively, MARRIAGE CARE™ becomes a means to help marriages address their difficulties in a way that brings HOPE, HELP and HEALING!
We want couples to realize that the best couples seek help and support when it is needed, and the earlier, the better. MARRIAGE CARE™ is meant to give those options early to get their marriage back on track before the “whole house is on fire!” as one priest compared the state of a distressed marriage by the time they come to see him. Some couples think it is too late. We believe it is NEVER too late!
We want them to begin shifting their thinking to “a future without the problems dominating” (Kollar, Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling, 1997, p. 15)—and help them to chart a course in that direction using the tools and referrals we have for this purpose. When a couple can visualize the outcome first, it becomes solution focused. We believe the outcome – a healthy marriage — dictates the process rather than the process (the problems) dictating the outcome.
St. Paul encourages Christians to press forward toward God’s unfolding purpose, trusting God each step of the way. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Therein lies the solution. The solution amounts to an entirely new way of perceiving life — an extraordinary shift of paradigms (pg. 16). All this happens despite the problems the couple/individual is facing. St. Paul, when speaking to the church in Corinth, declared that everyone who trusts in Christ becomes a new creation, and that changes everything. In Christ, hope is restored, and personal control is reestablished.
As a Christian, it is our encounter with Jesus, our belief that he was speaking the truth and is worthy of our trust, that transforms lives. It is in this truth that our perception of reality is altered. And in this new way of looking, one finds the ability to see through difficult problems and take hold of solutions that God’s Spirit reveals