WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Cory and Willy Van Amsterdam know, after 58 years, their marriage is a sacred vocation.
EDMONTON — Cory and Willy Van Amsterdam know that being a good spouse is a sacred calling from God.
The couple, members of Edmonton’s St. Andrew’s Parish, were married in July 1953. Admittedly old-fashioned, Willy said marriage is important, and she wanted to hear more about marriage as a vocation. At World Marriage Day, held Feb. 20 at St. Theresa’s Church, they heard how to continue the greatness of marriage as a sacrament.
“We have been married nearly 58 years, but we like to hear that there is so much beauty left yet.
“Let’s face it that in this world, marriage is changing. Some people have no children, and other people are divorced, and it’s not always so fantastic,” said Willy.
The Van Amsterdams have three children. One daughter is unmarried, a second is divorced with two children and their son is married with no children. Generations ago, such familial circumstances were rare, but today are commonplace. People are choosing to stay single, many marry later, some divorce and some who marry never have children.
“I am the youngest of 10, and he (Cory) is from a rather big family too, but that’s the olden days. Marriage doesn’t seem to be the same anymore,” said Willy.
The Edmonton Archdiocese’s office of family life, along with Worldwide Marriage Encounter, hosts the annual event. The weekend Marriage Encounter experience helps couples look at their communication, their relationship to each other and to their family, and to their Church community.
The participants started the afternoon event by praying for blessings that give life to their marriage. These blessings included conviction, servanthood, stability, hope and reverence.
Father Mike Dechant said he was blessed with parents who wore their marriage on their sleeves. Marriage and family was their life.
“Lots of people get married, but are we living in a sacramental way?” asked Dechant. “Living in a sacramental way really means that we’re living with a consciousness of God in our lives.”
Marriage is a call to commitment. Participants must enter the sacrament of Matrimony with the intention that their union will be permanent (unto death), faithful (no adultery) and fruitful (open to the possibility of children). The sacrament of Matrimony must give to the bride and groom the graces necessary to bring those vows to fruition.
Dechant says, “Tell me whom you love and I’ll tell you who you are.” The statement suggests that relationships and interactions define a person.
“It’s the way we love one another, the way we’re connected to each other, that’s how you can tell the kind of priesthood that I live, the kind of person that I am,” said Dechant. “That’s also true for married couples. The people that they hang out with and share with says a whole lot about them as well.”
A highlight of World Marriage Day was the premiere of Rooney and Punyi Productions’ latest play, God Loves Marriage. The 45-minute play had a nonlinear, engaging style, and used only a candle and a white sheet for props.
The play examined the complexities of marriage such as wedding planning, pre-marriage counselling, sex, raising children, balancing career and family, and the busyness of modern parents.
“You hear it all the time, ‘I need to be princess for the day’ and couples go severely into debt in order to feel like royalty — it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Maureen Rooney, artistic director.
“Some of our research came from watching the television shows that specialize in this like Rich Bride, Poor Bride. They go into severe debt and spend over $50,000 because they want to ride an elephant into their wedding.”
In contrast, the play cited a story from Mother Teresa where a couple chose to forego their wedding banquet and instead donated money to the Missionaries of Charity.
The underlying message of the play is that marriage is a three-way discussion between a man, woman and God.
“Couples that are strong in faith can make it through the disability or death of a child. Father Dechant told us that the darker the night, the brighter the candle, which became a song in the show,” said Rooney.
At weddings, guests clink the wineglasses and the newlyweds kiss.
“God does exactly that throughout your marriage,” said Rooney.
“There are moments when he calls you to kiss, and he calls you to show love for each other. Sometimes it’s in the darkest time when he will clink the glass, and you have to make that effort.”