By SAMANTHA SMITH, firstname.lastname@example.org | Published March 5, 2020
SMYRNA—The day after Valentine’s Day, engaged couples came to the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Atlanta for a day of marriage preparation.
Joy-Filled Marriage, one of the many programs offered by the Office of Formation and Discipleship, covers marital issues such as communication, conflict resolution and intimacy. It is a two-day program rooted in Catholic teaching to help couples prepare for their vocation.
Jeff and Jamie Graebner, married for 13 years, have led workshops for Joy-Filled Marriage for about four years. During their workshops, they discuss the role of virtues in marriage and the five love languages.
Jeff said prepping for the talks has helped their marriage more than anything.
The church defines vocation as a call from God to serve in religious life, marriage, single life or the priesthood. Discernment is a decision-making process that helps a person know God’s will for their life.
“Assisted by divine grace, each person is invited by the Lord to receive the gift of a specific vocation whereby they manifest God’s love in a particular way to the outside world,” states the USCCB.
In his 2014 address to engaged couples preparing for marriage, Pope Francis stated, “You are preparing to grow together, to build this home, to live together forever. As the love of God is stable and forever, so too should we want the love on which a family is based to be stable and forever.”
A sacrament and vocation
“Marriage really is a vocation,” said Sarah Tramonte, who has been married to her husband Patrick Tramonte, for 12 years. She is a nurse and her husband is an engineer. They met on the first day of school at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta. They have five children.
Through our vocation, we will be sanctified and brought closer to Christ, said Sarah.
“It’s meant to get each other to heaven, just like any other vocation,” she said.
“Remembering that marriage is a vocation means that there should be a discernment process,” explained Patrick.
While Jeff always felt called to marriage, Jamie did feel a call to religious life. During a retreat in college while they were dating, she took some time to pray for her vocation.
The Lord just wanted me to say, “I’ll do whatever you want,” said Jamie.
When she did vocalize that, Jamie felt God said to marry Jeff and was grateful for that answer.
The Graebners will celebrate 14 years of marriage in May. Their seventh child is due on their anniversary.
“Don’t wait, don’t put off your vocation—jump in with excitement,” said Jeff.
“If God is calling you to marriage, that’s your path to holiness,” said Jamie. “The sooner you say ‘yes,’ the sooner you’re on that path.”
Expectations and challenges
Work-life balance is a challenge of marriage, said Jamie.
“Finding the time to be together and be present to each other and still get everything else done … It’s a constant conversation,” she said.
While there is a “pull of society” to have your kids involved in many activities, those things are not more important than your faith and family, said Jeff.
“The popular view of marriage is more about what I can get out of it rather than what we put into it,” said Sara Flood, who has been married to her husband Nathan for 13 years. “Marriage is a journey seeking holiness for each other and accepting the gifts and fruits of marriage.”
Nathan and Sara Flood met during an ultimate Frisbee game at Marist School in 2002. At that time, they were both parishioners at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. They have three children.
“People seem to go into marriage with the idea that love is a feeling and that children are expected,” said Sara. “And when the feelings are gone or the children come in different timing, it can really crumble a marriage.”
In addition to society’s expectations of marriage, a couple comparing themselves to others can hurt the relationship.
You can easily look at a couple, thinking they are happy, and wonder why your marriage does not look like theirs, said Patrick.
“When in reality, you don’t know what’s going on inside the four walls of their house,” he said.
For engaged couples
As engaged couples prepare to walk down the aisle, Sarah Tramonte suggests being on the same page regarding family and fertility.
“Know each other as much as possible,” said Patrick. “Get to know each other without the potential distraction or delusion of a physical relationship … regardless of what it has been.”
Sara encourages couples to be flexible.
“Be prepared for things not to go as expected … as long as you’re both open to God’s will and follow his lead, amazing things will still happen,” she said.
“Start praying together,” said Jeff. “When you add in the praying, you’re getting to know each other spiritually,” said Jamie. Praying helps you “to see each other more the way Christ sees your future spouse.”