Don’t give up on forever: Tips to save your marriage

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A bride and groom hold hands during a marriage convalidation Mass in 2016 at Immaculate Conception Church in Chicago. Couples married civilly take part in such services to receive the sacrament of matrimony and be in full communion with the Church. (Karen Callaway/CNS via Chicago Catholic)
Say Yes to Forever

Jan. 27 and Feb. 24

St. Andrew Parish, 3450 W. Ray Rd., Chandler

A one-day workshop to build intimacy and learn how to solve conflict in healthy ways.

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“Do you want the American Flag stamps or the Forever stamps?” the lady behind the counter asked. “The Forever stamps are, well, forever. Some people have a hard time understanding that,” she added, wrinkling her brow.

“They ought to attend marriage prep at my church,” I quipped, thinking of my friends, Peter and Cynthia Lemieux.

Married for 45 years, the couple has spent decades preparing others to embrace the sacrament of marriage they have lived so faithfully. That’s why when I learned some friends — I’ll call them Frank and Teri — were ready to give up on their marriage, I told them they ought to seek out the Lemieuxs.

Frank had already found an apartment where he planned to live after splitting with Teri. After all, their children were nearly grown. They’d get over it, right? And he’d be only a few blocks away, so it wouldn’t be so bad, right? Teri had a long list of grievances that had piled up through the years and was ready to call it quits, too. They were about to decide how to divvy up the furniture when we had a heart-to-heart discussion.

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun and author of “Cry of Ninevah.” Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

“You’ve got to forgive him, Teri!” I urged. “But it won’t be easy. In fact, without God’s help, it’ll be impossible.” That’s when she took down Peter and Cynthia’s number and the journey back to forever began.

“The most memorable was when Peter broached Frank with this subject of God asking him the question one day, ‘Tell me how you honored my daughter, Teri.’ When I heard that I just about burst into tears,” Teri wrote to me of their meetings with the Lemieuxs. A year later, she can barely recall what she was so angry about.

The Lemieuxs also made something else clear: The devil is out to destroy marriages and couples need to arm themselves with prayer first thing every single morning.

How about dawn? Frank rises at 4:45 a.m. to get to work by 6, so it was challenging, Teri admitted. “It was hard in the beginning, but we still do this today, so I know it works.”

The Lemieuxs gave them a prayer they say has helped heal their marriage.

“Lord Jesus, grant that my spouse and I may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self. May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.”

“We have to make the Lord a priority,” Peter told me when I asked him how the Church could help build — and save — marriages. “We’ve got to reclaim the importance of God and the family because the culture is not going to do it for us.”

In fact, Peter said, while the divorce rate among Catholics is about the same as everyone else in the culture (about 50 percent) it plummets to 16 percent for those couples who attend Mass together. If that same couple prays together every day, it drops to 1 percent. Peter said he recommends couples seek out other practicing Catholics who can mentor them in having a healthy and holy marriage.

After years of teaching Natural Family Planning, FOCUS, Theology of the Body, Unitas and other marriage enrichment programs, the Lemieuxs have embarked on a new endeavor: Say Yes to Forever, a one-day workshop to build intimacy and learn how to solve conflict in healthy ways. St. Andrew Parish in Chandler will host the next workshops Jan. 27 and Feb. 24.

If you’re reading this, perhaps you or a loved one is tempted to give up on forever. Don’t. Turn to the Lord and reach out for help. You’re one breath away from forever.