A San Antonio couple is pushing for a true renewal of the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church through an educational ministry called “Covenant of Love.” The program strives to help couples achieve a joy-filled marriage with Christ at the center.
After serving as directors of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Austin, Greg and Julie Alexander moved to San Antonio to assist their Family Life Office and to expand their marriage preparation programs.
Highlighting those programs is the Alexanders’ marriage and education enrichment ministry, the ‘Covenant of Love.”
“Covenant of Love offers fun, fellowship and education and involves people of various ages and stages of marriage,” Greg explained.
Julie added, “Couples are in need of renewal and are searching for that greater understanding. People are ignorant of their vocation of how to be in a joy-filled marriage. We are working at offering a sense of goodness with God at the center.”
The Alexanders describe some of the phone calls they receive for assistance from couples as “intense,” with pornography and infidelity emerging as symbols of the need for help.
“We support and acknowledge the challenges to married couples in helping them understand the design of marriage,” said Julie. “Society does not give any thought to what God intended.”
Greg stressed the surprised reactions from many adults who have taken part in the program. “We have had couples who have attended parochial schools and Catholic colleges who said, ‘I have not heard any of this stuff!’ It is not being filtered down to the laity. The only catechesis they get is a 20-minute homily at their weekly Mass.”
The couple says that their ultimate goal is for true renewal in marriage in the church, with every one of the 179 parishes in the archdiocese having a Covenant of Love Ministry to serve as an umbrella, with subministries underneath.
A Marriage Ministry team at each location consists of a lead couple and a core team of four to five other couples who take part in training sessions with the Alexanders. The team serves to identify host activities, such as information events that could be held several times a year.
The program also includes an in-depth study of what it means to have a Christ-centered marriage. The couples meet once a month and discuss key topics like healing and forgiveness, prayer, communication, and awareness of the other’s needs. They promote the catechism and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as essential tools for building a better marriage.
“It is the continuing education that must be done,” said Greg. “Marriage and family life is in a crisis. We must devote time and attention towards marriage, as the family is the foundation of society. There is great excitement as we take on this task. It is something that needs to be done.”
Julie continued, “There is such a critical need for this. Programs such as ACTS, That Man is You, and ENDOW help men and women grow individually, but Covenant of Love brings it all together for the couples of live out God’s call for marriage.”
She cited statistics indicating that 4,600 abortions are performed each day, while a similar number of divorces also take place daily, about 3,600.
“Society cannot survive without strong, sustainable families. It is self destruction,” she said.
The couple says a major factor that contributes to not living out marriage in a healthy way is ignorance of the church’s teachings on contraception.
“With contraception, Satan comes into the marriage,” said Greg, “The church got it right with Humanae Vitae, and I love the fact that some bishops are beginning to mandate Natural Family Planning (NFP) in their dioceses. Contraception is an evil in itself. We fail to understand why we need to practice NFP. We need to understand the beauty of chastity in the first place. We need to understand that contraception cuts off a conduit for God to infuse grace. We are cutting ourselves off from the grace we need.”
When couples are having problems getting along, the Alexanders said, the first question they ask them is, “Are you contracepting?”
“We can come together to give life, or come together to reject it,” Julie said. “When the latter happens, we feel like we’re being used. We feel like that, but we don’t understand why. Couples want to know about NFP, as we have huge issues with sexuality.”
Currently, 20 churches in the archdioceses of Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta and Detroit, as well as the dioceses of Rockford, Ill., and Cheyenne, Wyoming, are on board with Covenant of Love programs, and the Alexanders are planning a “Covenant of Love – Taking to the Streets National Tour” set to begin next March to promote the effort natiownwide.
“San Antonio is definitely home now,” Greg concluded, but added, “We are literally taking it to the streets.”
Printed with permission from Today’s Catholic, newspaper for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas.