Nine main topics are treated for each of the 9 meetings along CANA Welcome’s journey. They are practical, well anchored in daily life; they follow a pedagogical progression so that each couple can build together a solid base and a common project. In this article, we summarise how one of these topics is addressed.
A typical meeting and its presentation
Welcome and introduction of the theme
During each meeting, after a time of mutual welcome, the topic of the day is introduced by a couple for about ten minutes based on a framework which is proposed to them. In order to prepare their presentation, the couple is first invited to take time together to reflect on their own reality and then to illustrate the theme in a lively way through their own experience.
As an example, here is the outline proposed to present topic n°5: Family and professional life: what balance for both of us?
During their presentation on this particular topic, the couple is encouraged to share a moment when they became aware of an imbalance between their professional life and their family life, as well as the practical decision(s) they took to find a new balance. The difficulties encountered in making this (these) choice(s) can also be mentioned.
Then, they can develop their talk based on the following plan that is proposed to them.
Factors affecting the growing imbalance between work and family life
The influence of today’s society: technological developments, economic factors (pressure to be efficient), cultural dimension, personal expectations…
But what do we mean by “balance”?
Is it a matter of comparing the amount of time spent at work and at home? It is giving each situation, each person and God their appropriate place, their rightful priority. Justice does not equal treatment, it means equity, which can be translated as “to each according to his/her needs”. The biblical word for balance is “justice” or “righteousness”.
Defining our balance according to the meaning we wish to give to our life
Choosing your priorities and your balance between family and work life is complex and frustrating if the couple has not decided together what they want to experience together. It is therefore important, before confronting the inevitable daily choices, that the couple establishes the major axes structuring their human and conjugal life.
A series of practical questions is then proposed to each member of the couple. These questions can be asked again at each stage of the growth of the family or the age of the children.
The Word of God and the teaching of the Church enlighten us:
In the Bible, the book of Genesis evokes the double mission entrusted to mankind:
- To “subdue” the earth (Genesis 1, 28) or “cultivate” (Genesis 2:15): to work, to clear, to plow, to take pains.
- To “tend and care for” (Genesis 2, 15): to protect, safeguard, preserve, watch over.
In this double mission, the tension is palpable! And it is not to be avoided, but to be dealt with together, because in the life of spouses and parents, it is to both that the mission of cultivating and guarding the family is entrusted.
The Church’s teaching also enlightens us. In particular, Pope Francis’ Laudato si:
- No. 209: toward a conversion of our way of life.
- No. 222: “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption… Less is more… To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment… Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us”.
How, in a specific way, can we define our balance together?
A number of practical suggestions are made to answer this question. For example: “Don’t want everything, right away. Accept not to experience everything, to take into account the limits of our human reality (fatigue, illness, environment, children in difficulty, time constraints, travel time…)”.
In the choices to be made, we run the risk of being blinded by both of us, of not daring to approach the questions in their entirety or of minimizing certain issues. In this sense, sharing in fellowship can be not only fruitful but also necessary. In the same way, spiritual guidance is a precious help.
Once the priority values have been defined, it is necessary to stick to them, adapting of course with intelligence to the particular situations. Here is a selection of real-life examples:
- Respect family vacation time.
- Plan one outing per month as a couple: cinema, restaurant, walk, etc.
- Keep one “weekend for nothing” per month, i.e. with no outside obligations.
- Organize small regular outings with one of the children, considered as a unique child, with one or the other of the parents.
One must be lucid: there will be temptations, struggles, discomfort and perhaps even tension within the couple. Courage and perseverance are required!
To go further
- Marriage today and 40 years ago Part 1 – Part 2
- Laudato si, Praise be to you, encyclical letter of Pope Francis, June 18, 2015
- Amoris Laetitia – The joy of love
After the presentation
This is the time when the couples move to different corners of the meeting place to take time with each other. They are given some instructions and a question. For example, for topic #5:
“Is our today family/work life balance satisfactory to me?”
Then comes the time for the sharing group with a question.
For this topic n°5: What do I think needs to be adjusted, today, to have a better life as a couple and as a family?
The meeting concludes with the sharing of news, the confirmation of the place and theme of the next meeting, followed by a prayer.