MAKE CONSTANT DECISIONS
an interview with
Bill & Joy
What were your misconceptions about your vocation before ever discerning it?
Bill: I was raised as a cradle Catholic and I never really saw marriage as a vocation as I believed that only priests and nuns had vocations! If it was a vocation, I would’ve seen it as second class one. I thought that getting married in the Catholic Church meant that we would be showered with countless graces and blessings to help us through any difficult times.
Joy: I joined the Church just a few months before our wedding. I learnt about the Catholic faith from a series of leaflets from the Catholic Truth Society and then received instruction from my local parish priest but I don’t remember hearing that marriage was a vocation. Getting married was something couples did when they fell in love and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
Who inspired you on your journey to discovering your vocation?
We didn’t discover we had a vocation or were inspired by anyone until after 10 years of marriage when we went on a “Marriage Encounter” Weekend. As well as falling madly in love with each other all over again, we discovered that we actually became a living Sacrament on our Wedding Day! We heard for the first time that marriage is a vocation and that when we married, we became a ‘little church’. This was a complete revelation to us!
It was explained that our vocation as a married couple meant that we must reflect our Sacramental love to our Church which should mirror the same love that Christ has for His Church! We both had a great sense of calling, as well as a great sense of responsibility! We felt really empowered! Ever since that weekend, we have tried our best to live out our calling to love each other for the benefit of our Church, sadly, we fail many times but we don’t give up trying!
We now know that when we married in the Catholic Church we, unknowingly, said that we would love each other for the good of our Church. When we made our vows, we made them not only to each other but to our Church community as well. We were called to be a Sign that is recognisable and effective. If we had been asked what our Sign was when we got married, we would’ve said our wedding rings! Couples who marry outside of the Church only have to love each other for each other’s sake but when we married, apparently, we went ‘public’ with our love. Up until then we hadn’t seen any real difference between couple who got married in a Register Office and those of us who married in the Catholic Church.
'For us, our relationship with God is important to us and we pray together regularly which has helped deepen and develop our relationship with each other as well as with God.'
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
Bill: I can’t really answer the question in terms of vocation but in terms of us getting married. I was really confident that Joy was the right person for me to have as my wife. I couldn’t wait for us to be living under the same roof and being only answerable to each other. I guess that deep down there was a concern wondering if I’d live up to the expectations that Joy might’ve had of me as her husband
Joy: When I met Bill, I was ‘up in the clouds’ and I don’t ever remember having any concerns about marrying him. We went out for four years before we married and I thought I knew him well enough to make that commitment. I certainly was looking through rose-tinted spectacles as I believed that life would be forever blissful!
How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you perceived it before?
For many years we have shared our belief in the importance of marriage as an institution by delivering marriage preparation to engaged couples. Through this we have shared our own experiences and hopefully have explored what we would like to have known as an engaged couple.
For us, our relationship with God is important to us and we pray together regularly which has helped deepen and develop our relationship with each other as well as with God - our third strand. We believe that marriage and family life are the bedrock of society and a worthwhile vocation.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
We often take great delight in knowing that we have been very blessed over the past 50 years, that we were (and still are!) part of God’s plan! It was His will for us to meet, fall in love and get married. It’s when we make choices which we believe are according to His plan rather than the world’s plan for our marriage that have brought us greatest happiness. It’s when we make the effort to show our love for each other that we have a deep sense of inner peace and joy. When we’re close and at peace as a couple we’re better able to reach out to others—our family, our friends, fellow parishioners and even strangers; we’re far more caring and outward looking and that brings us joy. Watching our 6 children and 11 grandchildren grow up has also brought great pride and happiness to us, seeing how wonderful each one of them has turned out and acknowledging that the world is a much better place with people like them around!
'It’s when we make choices which we believe are according to His plan rather than the world’s plan for our marriage that have brought us greatest happiness.'
What have been the highlights of your vocational calling?
Trying, but not always succeeding, to live out God’s Plan and seeing it bear fruit in our own and other people’s lives e.g. helping to support other married couples, preparing couples for marriage, running a youth discussion group, leading weekends for young, single adults and, more recently, being involved as a couple with evangelism, the Foodbank and Night Shelter.
Encouraging each other to grow closer to God has been a highlight too, especially when we spend time each morning, as a couple, in spontaneous prayer together, which would have been so embarrassing and difficult in the early days of our marriage.
What would you say to someone else considering following Jesus in this vocational calling?
We’d advise them to have some really good marriage preparation beforehand – ideally given by couples! They need to hear personal testimonies and be made aware that all marriages go through on-going stages of disillusionment. They must not think their marriage is over when it seems to be lacking in love. ‘Love’ is a decision as well as a feeling. Married couples need to make constant decisions ‘to love’ if they want to move forward and make their marriage work, especially regarding forgiveness and letting go of resentments and grudges.
We would say that marriage is a really exciting and fantastic journey that can be very challenging at times but well worth the ride!