October 28 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Why marriage is a monument that has stood the test of time

— In the final part of our series on the Sacrament of Marriage MARY McGINTY speaks to three couples about their experiences of married life. Each of them were prepared to work at overcoming adversity, and tell of how love has endured throughout

Marriage preparation, shared aspirations, a commitment to each other, and good parental example. All this will stand them in good stead, but even the most unified, devoted couples find challenges in married life. Common to those who triumph over their adversities is the strength they derive from the Faith and the living out of their marriage vows.

David and Margaret McGill

It is all about the prayer according to David and Margaret McGill. It started with prayer and it has continued that way for more than 50 years. And the prayer that began as a very personal petition for a Catholic marriage grew into a movement that has fostered and nourished many marriages.

Growing up with priests in the family, which included his uncle Bishop Stephen McGill, the priesthood was a consideration for the young David. Not yet in his teens when he asked his mother if he might have a vocation she told him his calling was to the Order of St Joseph. He listened intently as his mother told him that she meant marriage. Eagerly following her advice he prayed morning and night for the next eleven years that he might make a good Catholic marriage and he then sent a petition when his mother went on an Easter pilgrimage to Lourdes.

David laughs as he recalled the content of the petition. “I just simply said I think I’ve been waiting long enough,” he said. God was obviously ready to answer David’s prayer because just two days later on Easter Sunday he met his bride-to-be.

Margaret, who was a nurse in Edinburgh at the time, takes up the story. “We were both going to Laetare House which was a Catholic youth hostel in Linlithgow,” she said. “Like David, I wanted to marry a Catholic, someone who felt the same way that I did. Maybe our story sounds a bit far-fetched but I always knew God would help me find my husband.

David added: “That night I thanked God for meeting the woman I would marry.”

Two years later, after he returned from his national service, they married and those early prayers and their continuation into family life brought much joy and unity to the couple. Later they would need all the succour and spiritual sustenance their Faith could give when they faced tragedy for the first time when their sixth child was stillborn. Little did they know when baby Catherine died that just months later they would again be tested when their eldest son, David  aged 12, died two weeks after the diagnosis of a brain tumour.

“We thought we would never smile again but, in time, God turned our mourning into dancing and we met the Charismatic Renewal,” Margaret said. David agreed that their devastating loss led to a ‘tremendous experience of loving and caring or each other’ although he also recalls that his desire to be ‘brave and strong meant that we didn’t always share enough as I would do my crying outside.’

The McGills found a special home for themselves in the Charismatic Movement and before long they became leaders. There was a growing sense that ‘there is always more,’ and they became interested in what was happening in the movement in Europe and the US. What they describe as a deepening closeness to the Holy Spirit and a desire to feel this and the charisms of the Holy Spirit in their everyday life ultimately led to the Community of the Risen Christ.

“Charismatic Renewal really strengthened the Church at the grass roots,” Margaret said. “Before that people felt that only saints pray in tongues, but the Holy Spirit says there is more and as individuals you can be part of the Holy Spirit’s movement.”

Through a natural evolution, Charismatic Renewal is nowhere as near as prevalent in the Church as it was in its heyday. However, the Community of The Risen Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayers for community. Sharing their lives and faith, most of the Glasgow community live close to each other and attend St Joseph’s in Clarkston.  Marriage preparation and on-going support feature heavily. In one of their beautiful traditions the women of the community prayed over an expectant mother, giving her cards expressing their prayers for a healthy delivery. During labour she reads the cards and the declarations of love and community sustain her.

Now in their 70s with David in frail health they have passed the mantle of leadership onto a younger generation although as the elder statesmen their wisdom and experience is much sought-after.

Christine and Stephen Curran

Christine and Stephen Curran’s family life has not been without adversity but they are examples that a positive attitude can go a long way. As two young teachers establishing their careers and sharing a passion for ski-ing they had few cares to concern them. While on a school ski trip in 1990 Stephen took a call from Christine to tell him she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

“It began with what I thought was simply a trapped nerve and then loss of feeling in my arm so it came completely out of the blue,” Christine said. “Quite honestly, I thought I was going to die because in those days it was hard to get information and it was all so negative. Now the MS Society keeps us up-to-date every couple of months in their magazine and there is always someone you can call.”

Stephen’s response to the situation in which they found themselves set the tone for their marriage which took place after the diagnosis.

“I set about organising things on a practical level to make life easier for Christine and my mantra has become ‘let’s get organised,’” Stephen said. “We don’t look on MS as an illness but as a condition which you manage rather than treat. As a new situation comes along for Christine we just learn to deal with it. We moved into this house because it is suitable for her needs and we have a car that is automatic rather than manual. If she is going somewhere unfamiliar on her own I will go beforehand to check out if she will manage.”

For some women with MS the condition improves in pregnancy but gets worse afterwards. After their son David was born the previously very fit and active Christine began to see a progression in her condition. Two years later, after the birth of their daughter Stephanie doctors advised them not to consider adding to their family.

Asked about the challenges of bring up children, Stephen laughs when he says it is all a challenge. With their children on the brink of adulthood the Currans can look back on a job well done. The last couple of years have brought the biggest challenges so far as moving away from home to study medicine was a difficult time for David. Both feel that MS has had an effect on their children, particularly David.

“We didn’t tell the youngsters about my condition and when I was going in and out to the hospital I didn’t want them to be exposed to all of that because they were quite young at the time,” Christine said. “We just told them mum had shaky legs and couldn’t walk very far.”

Looking back it may be that all our super-organisation may have contributed to David’s problems because when he went away to university he had to do everything for himself for the first time. “We feel guilty that we may have let him down with that” Stephen said.

The close-knit relationships in the family meant that they were all able to have long, honest and challenging conversations in which they could express their feelings and mutual support. David has returned to university after a year-out and all is well.

Typical of their attitude, the Currans prefer to look more to the future than to the past or to what might have been. “I don’t sit and regret what I can’t do and I am not angry; I just believe that these things happen,” Christine said. “Although my MS meant an end to my skiing days the children both ski to a very high level and I get more pleasure watching them compete than I would do skiing myself. Some people thing MS is the worst thing that can happen to you and for some that may be true for some, but it has not been that way for me.”

Formerly a maths teacher, Christine worked as long as her health allowed while Stephen has taken early retirement. With characteristic good humour he said: “If we think about where would be without it then I might still be at work and Christine certainly would. It might sound tongue-in-cheek but maybe it is just as well Christine has MS because it has slowed her down to the point where the rest of us can catch up.”

David is away at Aberdeen University and Stephanie has just started her first year at Glasgow University so times are changing for the Currans but they both pray that the Faith which they have passed on to their children will be as enduring and fulfilling as their own. The whole family is active serving and reading at Corpus Christi in Knightswood where they attend because of ease of access for Christine.

The Church’s response to the government’s same-sex ‘marriage’ consultation has provided an opportunity for discussion on marriage.

“I have no problem with civil partnerships because it gives them equality in financial matters and such like, but marriage is between a man and a woman,” Christine said. “These days we consider ourselves as a family of four adults. David and Stephanie will make adult decisions as adult Catholics; while we would never attempt to foist our views on them and they have been brought up to respect other opinions are confident of how they will respond.”

Michal and Marta Wachucik

The adventure of married life has just begun for Michal and Marta Wachucik. In July the Polish couple, who have been living in Scotland for the past four years, returned to their home town of Gdansk to celebrate their marriage in front of family and friends.

Having attended secondary school together, they have known each other for ten years and been a couple for five of those years. Their decision to come to Scotland was made mainly because of the opportunity to further their studies although they fully intended to return to Poland when Marta completed her degree.

“I got my BSc Hons in forensic and analytical science in July 2011,” Marta said. “In the meantime Michal has started university as well doing commercial photography at Robert Gordon University and our plan of going back to Poland after my studies changed. Now we feel at home in Scotland and we don’t think about going back. Recently I got a full time job as a chemist and Michal has started his own photography business.

“We were living together for nearly four years not being married but we were always willing to get married. Both our families are Catholic and we were brought up as Catholics. We got engaged after a year of being together but the financial situation and the fact that we were living abroad made us postpone the wedding.”

During their student years they became active parishioners of St Peter’s and St Columba’s in Aberdeen. It was there they undertook their marriage preparation for the wedding, which was a feat of long-distance organisation.

“We got a lot of support from Maureen and Gordon who led the marriage preparation course in our parish,” Marta explained. “Fr Keith Herrera was always happy to give advice and support and he continuously cares for us.

“Our wedding day was the most important day of our lives. It was the day, which we planned and dreamed of. We prepared and organised everything ourselves. We really enjoyed the whole preparation and could not wait for August 13 to come. On the actual wedding day we were smiling all the time. Our expectations were fulfilled on the wedding day at the altar and we plan to continue living in our love.”

During their months of preparation they were open to the advice they were given. Now what advice would they offer?

“Be positive and do not treat it as an end of something because it is just the beginning,” they remarked.

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