GREECE — By coincidence, Jamie Fazio came across a marriage-themed segment of “Oprah” just a few hours before he was to give a lecture on marriage as a vocation. However, the priorities he planned to emphasize were distinctly different from those on television.
Fazio noted that many “Oprah” audience members claimed to be miserable in their marriages and harped on what they expected to receive from their spouse rather than what they were willing to invest in the relationship. In addition, Fazio said, “There was never reflection on a spiritual dynamic … they didn’t have any sense of this covenant or sacredness.”
Fazio shared his reflections April 20 at the New Dutch Mill, where he and his wife, Irene, were the special guests for an installment of the “Theology on Tap” series for young adults. In his presentation Fazio emphasized that marriage should be based on a strong link with God, a commitment to the Eucharist and the call as a baptized Catholic to live a vocation. He offered several examples from his work with couples at Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish, where he serves as pastoral associate; Fazio is also the campus minister at Nazareth College.
Citing his own marriage — he and Irene, 28, have been married for eight years and have two daughters — Fazio, 29, noted the need to “continuously fall in love with God as well as with each other.” He added that honesty and openness with the relationship is also a key — “not just physical intimacy, but the freedom to be truly who you are,” he said.
Melissa Annechino, 27, from Holy Ghost Parish in Gates, agreed with this point, saying that any spouse should allow his or her partner to be “free to be ourselves, and who God wants us to be.”
Theology on Tap participants also raised such important ideals as forgiveness and not holding grudges. On that point, Irene Fazio said it’s important “not to keep score — ‘he hasn’t done this, hasn’t done this, hasn’t done that.'”
Jamie Fazio noted that these relational aspects of marriage weren’t as strongly stressed in earlier generations, when couples married primarily to have children or so their families could acquire land. The Second Vatican Council, on the other hand, paid closer attention to marriage as a vocation.
Unfortunately, the concept of marriage as a loving, lifelong commitment is often absent in society.
“It’s not like we have a lot of cultural images of marriage as a sacrament,” said Shannon Loughlin, diocesan director of young-adult and campus ministry. “If you don’t have a spiritual foundation going into it, where do you draw your imagery from otherwise?”
Loughlin expressed concern that too much of this imagery comes from Hollywood, where famous couples have notoriously short marriages.
However, spiritual aspects rank above societal influence for Maranda McGarrell, 27, from Brighton’s Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, who is due to be married June 4.
“That God is a part of our relationship is obvious to anyone who knows us,” she said, adding that she and her fiancee feel that “being together in the vocation of marriage, that is the best way for us to get to heaven.”
Julie Todoro, 24, said she’s inspired by seeing married couples following their vocation through attending Mass together at SUNY College at Geneseo’s Newman Community.
“People living it — it’s not just something you see in a snapshot. It gives you hope that it’s something you could have also,” she said.
Annechino and Todoro are single, as are Don Smith, 25, and Lisa Porter, 28, who also attended the Theology on Tap session. Smith, who serves as youth minister at Brighton’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and faith-formation director at Brighton’s St. Thomas More, said he is not currently in a relationship — but that if marriage is meant to be for him, he expects to be prompted by a vocational call from God.
Porter, from Our Lady Queen of Peace, agreed that she will move toward marriage “if that’s what God wants for me.”