In just a few days we will be counting down to the New Year and watching millions of happy couples at Times Square in loving embrace as they stare into the future ahead of them. How beautiful it would be if every marriage could sustain this moment of joy, hope and possibility.
The reality is that many marriages have to deal with some very difficult issues in life. Fear and anxiety can be a tremendous burden to carry in addition to the problems. Fear and anxiety can actually break down marriages as it hurts the trust and connection couples have with each other. It can also create panic, resentment, procrastination and higher levels of stress. None of these help with solving the problem at hand and can actually cause the couple to be further apart in a time when they may need each other the most.
This is also the season of Christmas, and one of my favorite meditations on the Nativity story comes from watching the “Catholicism” series by Bishop Robert Barron. In one segment, Bishop Barron describes an image of Caesar Augustus standing with his fist raised in the air toward his mighty armies and kingdom. He contrasts that with the beautiful image of the tiny arm of baby Jesus rising up over the edge of his manger crib.
The question is then asked: where are Caesar’s successors now? Ultimately, we see the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah which reads: “The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth can see the salvation of our God” (Is 54:10). What I love about this image is that when I look at baby Jesus in the Nativity scene next to our Christmas tree, I know that if he can ultimately conquer Caesar’s armies, then he has the power to conquer all the anxieties and fears that can be present in a marriage, especially as couples face the New Year.
Another image of the Nativity narrative that comes to mind is the profound wisdom of the angel Gabriel as he greets Mary with the words: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk 1:30). Actually, the concept of fear not, or do not be afraid, appears several times throughout the Bible. Clearly, it is a concept that couples need to hear and meditate on. But how does one stare into the unknown and not be gripped and overwhelmed by fears and anxieties?
There are many websites with great advice on how to control fears and anxieties, especially in a relationship. However, in our Catholic faith, we have a wealth of saints who faced tremendous circumstances and somehow, through it all, kept their eyes firmly on Christ. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us that “… all things pass, God is unchanging, patience obtains all.” This is good advice to remember to take life one day at a time. It is so easy to get caught up in a world of “if.” To intentionally be thankful for the moment and not allow your mind to spiral about future events will be very helpful to your relationship.
St. Catherine of Sienna reminds us that we need to be a source of strength and encouragement to others. Seek help from those who have dealt with similar issues. So much anxiety and worry can be calmed by the perspective a friend or another person can offer. When couples deal with issues alone, their problems can easily feel very overwhelming and friends or mentors can be a source of great strength. St. Paul of the Cross reminds us that God, as a loving Father, will never abandon or forget us. Work hard as a couple to build not only your relationship with each other, but your relationship together with Christ. It is when we see Christ in our daily lives that we learn to trust him. Just as a marriage is built on love and trust, so too is our relationship with Christ, and this is how we can see him working in our lives.
The beautiful and sweet arm of baby Jesus rising over the manger crib, that ushered in the Kingdom of God, is the same arm that redeems our burdens and sins on the cross. As you and your spouse look into the New Year, make it a point to intentionally trust in the Lord. Purposefully be thankful for one day at a time and know that he can conquer everything, even any fears and anxieties that may be affecting your marriage. And if you should need assistance, please don’t hesitate to utilize all the great resources we have in our parishes, Catholic Charities and many other great organizations. May God Bless your marriage in the New Year!
Tremblay is coordinator of the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Pro-Life.