By Jason Lillis
Family Life Coordinator

Gaudete! Rejoice! That’s the message for today, the third Sunday in Advent. We are half-way through the season, ready (or close to ready) for the return of Christ our Savior at Christmas, and today’s scripture readings don’t hold back in giving us language to celebrate this. From Zephaniah to Isaiah to Paul, we are called to be joyful and to let your rejoicing ring out. In today’s Gospel, John’s baptizing and teaching is clearly invigorating those around him, and he directs their excitement and expectation to prepare for the coming of Christ.

So what happens when we are in the midst of this season and we know little joy? For those who have lost loved ones, whose children can’t afford to travel home, or – especially – for those who are dealing with the heartache of a troubled or dissolving marriage, the season of joy quickly turns sour. It is particularly the latter in the list of challenging realities that our parishioners face that comes to my mind today. Many couples in our parish face hurt or dullness in their marriages, and desire for ways to make that which was once joyful healed and vibrant.

There are a number of resources available for couples here in the Diocese of Raleigh, and two in particular are great opportunities for couples who are in need or a skills based approach to strengthening their marriage:
–          Retrouvaille (Recovery) is a weekend experience designed to help a couple re-establish good communication, and to gain insight into themselves as individuals and as a couple. It is not a group sharing exercise, nor a Marriage Encounter weekend. It is a time to learn good tools for improving marriage. Participants are also invited to six follow-up sessions to continue the skills-building. More information can be found at www.retrouvaille.org.
–          The Third Option is an on-going support group / program for marriages. It combines skill building, mentor sharing, and a support group. Facilitated by volunteers, each session stands alone, so that couples can start anytime. Sessions are held twice a month at St. Raphael the Archangel in Raleigh. There is no fee for this group.

These programs are available year round. It is my prayer that all married couples in our parish find ways to strengthen their marriages, and to recall the joy that each has found in their spouse. If you have questions about these or other resources available here in our area, please feel free to contact me at 919-847-8205 x244, or jason.lillis@stfrancisraleigh.org.