The following story appeared in the October 21 Idaho Catholic Register.
From left, Deacon Scott Pearhill of Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello; Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret, Jay Wonacott and Father Emil Parafiniuk, parochial vicar. The Verrets are part of the Witness to Love apostolate. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Marriage and Family Life
During the past couple of weeks, the Marriage and Family Life Office was pleased to offer two marriage and family life enrichments in two different parts of our Diocese.
The first was the Messy Family Project with Mike and Alicia Hernon at Holy Apostles
Church in Meridian on Sept. 23-24. On Oct. 8, Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret with the Witness to Love apostolate made a presentation at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello.
Both married couples presented from their respective programs about the great need in our culture to renew marriage and family life within the life of the Church. Each shared their reflections and offered spiritual insights into the holiness, goodness, brokenness and difficult realities of living out the vocation of marriage and family in our world today.
The Verrets, in particular, mentioned the need for each couple married in the Church to become a “living icon” representing the love Christ has for his Church. Each sacramentally married person is meant to be a living icon of this kind of unconditional love. Such love requires much sacrifice.
The Witness to Love apostolate’s marriage preparation program encourages engaged couples to find a mentor couple who will walk with them on their journey of marriage preparation. Some are calling this model of ministry the “marriage catechumenate,” similar to the RCIA process in becoming a Catholic. In the program, the engaged couple and mentor couple learn together as they exercise the key elements of essential evangelization of the ART of evangelization: Attraction, Relationship and Trust.
The Verrets identified four kinds of couples in the world: the wanderers, the seekers, the disciples, and the apostles.
The goal of Witness to Love ministries is to capture the attention of the wanderers with the hope of making them into seekers who will hopefully grow into disciples (learners) and then move toward becoming apostles (true witnesses/true teachers). The Verrets quote Pope Saint Paul VI: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
The Verrets mentioned the Biblical married couple Priscilla and Aquila who were companions with the Apostle Paul in the early Church. They shared an icon of this first-century Christian couple. They are a biblical example of a married couple living for Christ and making sacrifices for the proclamation of the Gospel through their lives. Priscilla and Aquila worked as a couple team, opening their home and putting Christ first in their marriage.
Professor Lynn Cohick on the Bible Odyssey website writes, “Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned by name six times in the New Testament, always together as a couple (Acts 18:2-3, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19). They exercised leadership among the fledgling churches and were held in high esteem. Their partnership highlights one model of ministry in the early church (see Ro-mans 16:7 and 1 Cor 9:5). Paul calls them his “coworkers” in preaching the gospel, praises their willingness to risk their necks to help him (Rom 16:3-4), and twice notes that churches met in their homes (Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor 16:19).
While the Verrets focus their minis-try on the wanderers, the Hernons of the Messy Family Project are working with those who are disciples but seeking to become apostles in the marriage vocation.
The Hernons shared their experience of living out four key disciplines to becoming apostles: intentionally growing a family culture, taking responsibility for the formation of children, making marriage the foundation of the family, and embracing spiritual leadership in the home.
The Verrets and Hernons are couples just like my wife and me who have decided that we want to be like Priscilla and Aquila. Each married couple is called to find some way in which they can bring the Gospel to others.
A key insight from the Theology of the Body has helped me understand the power of a married couple as a symbol of God’s inner life. While each person is made in the image and likeness of God through respective minds and wills, there’s something very special about the union of a married couple that speaks to how God is a communion of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The married couple and their children reflect this communion of God in the world. In many ways, the married couple better reflects the image of God as a communion of persons than does the individual by himself or herself.
What are we to do with this idea that married couples are icons of God’s communal love? We are called to share it with others. The apostolic spirit of Priscilla and Aquila has been embraced by couples like the Verrets and the Hernons who have begun their special ministries and have placed their trust in God for their well-being and livelihood in this apostolic work.
Now more than ever in a post-Christian society, we need the witness of couples like these who are willing to proclaim Christ through their marriage and family vocations. The real-life stories and experiences of these couples speaks to common occurrences we all have in the struggle to live out our Catholic faith in an anti-Christian and hostile world, now much like the first century.
Priscilla and Aquila traveled around the Mediterranean landing in Corinth and later in Ephesus and then returning to Rome after Claudius’ edict to banish Christians from Rome was rescinded. In Ephesus, they made a home for a time and instructed the great preacher Apollos in the faith.
The Verrets and Hernons have also done their share of travel, bringing the Good News to many in the United States and around the world. While many of us cannot travel, we can find the opportunity to bloom where we are planted. Each married couple needs to
ask themselves how they can become apostles for Jesus and how God is calling them to be icons of His Love in the world.
To learn more about the resources offered by these two apostolates, go to witnesstolove.org or messyfamilyproject.org.
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