By: Cathy and Pete, New York

I am a cradle Catholic. My parents went to church weekly and later in life daily. They were very involved in our parish. We had religious artifacts in all the rooms in our home. All eight of their children went to Catholic Elementary School and all of the girls and one brother went to Catholic High School.

Pete was also born Catholic. His mom was raised Catholic but his dad was raised Russian Orthodox. Due to his mom becoming ill, bedridden and then dying at a young age, religion was not an integral part of his life growing up except when his grandmother, a practicing Catholic visited and took them to church.

When we married there was no discussion of religion. We easily agreed to marry in the Catholic Church and to raise our children Catholic. Sending them to Catholic school was not a decision we made until my son was in third grade and my daughter in first grade. All three children went to Catholic elementary school and Catholic High School. Our oldest daughter went to Catholic college.

While religion was an essential part of our life, discussing our personal relationship with God or Jesus was not something that was part of our marriage. While we would 'practice Catholicism' as a couple and understood we were engaged in a sacrament, we essentially lived parallel lives regarding our spiritual and religious beliefs and our personal relationship to God and Jesus.

This all changed in September 2010.

At Mass, a parishioner spoke about a new program called Discovering Christ. I was intrigued and immediately up to be part of the program. After attending the first session, I came home and told my husband "You have to come with me to this program. It is amazing." Gratefully he agreed and attended the next week with me. We found Discovering Christ to be unique, as it was the only public forum we had experienced where discussing our beliefs, faith, and ideas amongst various people was both safe and enjoyable. We were exposed to people of various ages who were open, seemingly honest, and vulnerable when speaking about the various topics that were presented. We found the format exciting, thought-provoking, and conducive to learning and self-discovery.

The greatest part of Discovering Christ was the effect it had on our relationship. After leaving each week, we found ourselves continuing the conversations on the way home and until the time we put our heads on the pillow at the end of the evening. We started reading the Magnificat and found ourselves discussing the readings, how we felt about them, and their relation to the topics we discussed each week.

For the first time in our marriage, we were UNIFIED in our faith.

It had quite an extraordinary effect on us individually but more so as a couple.

We continued all three levels of the ChristLife process. We eventually became table leaders and thoroughly enjoyed facilitating discussions and sharing our experience.

One evening after mass, a couple we met through Discovering Christ approached us and asked us if we would be interested in becoming involved in the in home pre-cana program for couples preparing for marriage. We had a strong interest and immediately jumped at the chance to get trained and become part of the program. That was five years ago.

A few weeks into the pre-cana program, we discuss how God's way for marriage is that we put loving each other above everything else. Our vocation in life is to love. Our gift is giving ourselves to each other in the sacrament of marriage. During this session, we have the opportunity to share the times when we have felt closest in our marriage and how we have grown in trust. This is when we share our discovery and involvement in Discovering Christ and how it changed our marriage and led us to the calling of in home pre-cana training. At the end of our time with each couple, in addition to receiving a certificate of completion from us, they receive a copy of Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus .

We encourage our couples to read the book together. If not now, at the time before their wedding. And then we recommend they keep it in their toolbox with the rest of the materials they receive from pre-cana and take it out at a time when they may be interested and open to it.

Would you like to share your experience with ChristLife? We'd love to hear it! Please contact us.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash