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Living My Vows
By Susan Hines-Brigger


An Important Promise
An Ongoing Commitment
For Teens: Is It Love?
For Kids: What Is Love?

Eleven years ago this month I promised to love my husband, Mark, for better or worse, richer or poorer and in sickness and health. To be honest, I’m not sure at the age of 22 that I really had any idea what I was getting into.

Now three kids, a few health and budget crises and over a decade of dealing with each other’s quirks later, I think we’re finally getting the hang of this whole marriage thing.


An Important Promise

The Church puts a lot of time and energy into the Sacrament of Matrimony. Anyone who’s been married in the Catholic Church surely knows that. Before we were married, Mark and I met with the priest who was performing our marriage ceremony, met with a married couple from the parish, took the FOCCUS questionnaire to see where we might not be compatible and took part in a weekend-long Engaged Encounter—which was a very nice respite from planning a wedding.

I know that, when some of our friends went through the same process, they saw it as a hassle, given how much work they already had to put into planning a wedding. But something we were told while on Engaged Encounter really stuck with me and still does to this day: “A wedding lasts one day. A marriage lasts a lifetime.”

And even after marriage, the Church offers ways to continue renewing what you promised on your wedding day through programs such as Marriage Encounter (

In fact, since 1987 the U.S. bishops have had a committee devoted entirely to the issues of marriage and family life. And in 2004 they began a multi-year initiative “to promote, preserve and protect marriage, understood as both sacramental reality and human institution.”

An Ongoing Commitment

While the Church offers ways to support your marriage, you and your spouse play the most important role in a marriage. Here are some ways to help foster this most important sacrament:

• Every once in a while, give your marriage a check-up. Not long ago, I found our notebooks from when Mark and I were on the Engaged Encounter weekend. (More proof to my husband that I don’t get rid of anything!) One night after the kids went to bed, we sat and reread what we had written and talked about how those answers have changed—or not changed. Since most people probably don’t still have those questions lying around, make up your own questions, such as, “What do you love most about your partner?” or “What do you find most challenging about your relationship?” Or just sit down and talk about ways your marriage has changed since your wedding day.

• Do your best to support those who are engaged or newly married. Let them know that you are willing to listen, offer support or advice—if they need you.

• As time goes on, don’t let your marriage take a backseat to other things. I must confess that I’m guilty of this. Since both my husband and I work full-time, and two of our three kids have activities as well, dates or “alone time” are not easily accessible. Make a commitment to do things together as a couple.

• If you are experiencing problems in your marriage, you might want to look into Retrouvaille (

• Unfortunately, not all marriages work out—for any number of reasons. A lot of divorced or remarried Catholics feel abandoned by the Church. But there are ways to find your way back. Options such as annulment and convalidation are available for divorced Catholics. You can find out more about them at “Understanding Annulments” and “Bringing Your Marriage Into the Church.” If you just want someone to talk to about your particular situation, visit, whose first Conversation Corner is devoted to marriage issues.

Next Month: Teaching Tolerance


For Teens: Is It Love?

Relationships are a big deal for most teenagers. You’re probably starting to notice members of the opposite sex or perhaps you’ve even started dating.

But sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s really love. And there’s no test to indicate when a relationship is right or not. But there are some questions you can ask yourself to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your relationships:

• How does this person and relationship make me feel?

• Do I consider this person to be a friend? Do we have stuff in common, such as interests, goals, values?

• Do I want what is best for this person and vice versa?

• Am I comfortable talking openly with this person?

• Does this person respect me for who I am and my beliefs/opinions?

• Am I willing to make any sacrifices for this relationship?

For Kids: What Is Love?

Sometimes grown-ups can make love really complicated. So, what is your definition of love? Send me a note telling me what you think true love is. If I get enough, I’ll try to share them in a future column. You can send them to Faith-filled Family, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 or


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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