Over 90 couples gathered at John Paul II Secondary School in London for the FFI Annual Conference on Marriage on Saturday, November 19, 2022. The day began with Mass celebrated by Fr. Simard and Fr. Vincent. Fr. Simard preached about God calling all couples to holiness, each of them belonging to and loved by God and responsible for sharing that love and sense of belonging in their own marriages and families.
Damon and Melanie Owens gave two talks, Joyful Ever After and The Family’s Role in Evangelization. Joyful Ever After focused on three things: the reality of marriage, God’s plan for marriage, and practices for a joy-filled marriage. Damon began by explaining cruise control does not exist in marriage, there is never a point where everything clicks, “it never happens” he said. The reality of marriage is two different people joining together for a lifelong project of getting to know and understand one another. Damon and Melanie shared their own struggles in marriage. Through personal feelings and different perspectives, the Owens demonstrated how the reality of marriage does not conform to our dreams and expectations, it is something more, it is directly connected to God’s will and plan. Speaking about God’s plan for marriage, Damon painted a picture of the Sacrament of Marriage based on the poetry of Genesis. “Life and love, the deepest mystery of God, are stamped into everything created by God” explained Damon, “we share in the divinity of the one true God.” Marriage created by God is a vehicle for our sanctification. It’s not just about happiness now, it’s a long game. The final part of the first talk gave practical tips for marriage. The Owen’s shared four levels of intimacy that will deepen a marriage: emotional, physical, intellectual, and communicative, or EPIC. Working on these four levels of intimacy can bring more joy to a marriage. The first talk ended with Melanie Owens asking all participants to join her in praying the Surrender Prayer.
The Family’s Role in Evangelization expanded on the previous talk, outlining the implications of God’s plan for marriage. Damon identified three roles of family: atomistic, trustee, and domestic. The atomistic family focuses on the internal, a private, individual project. The trustee role of the family is rooted in scripture. In a trustee view of the family the identity of the family is greater than the individual family, it includes the bigger picture of community, lineage, and tradition. Damon introduced the concept of ‘munus’ – a gift given to you by something in authority for you to accomplish something that seems otherwise impossible. What God asks people to do in marriage is not possible without the munus granted to them by the Church. Within families there is a both/and, there is work that must be done internal to the family and work that must be done outside the family in service of society and the Church. Families are called to do both internal and external work. Following Damon’s overview of the role of family, Melanie shared specific aspects of their family life, emphasizing the uniqueness of each family saying that God can work with anything. “There is a unique spirituality to the family,” concluded Damon, it is ordinary for family to be intimately connected and there are raw material realities to family that God wants, and God is using to create a holy atmosphere. There is something unique to family to home life that is crucial for sanctity.
It was wonderful to welcome new and returning participants to the in-person annual conference on marriage featuring guest speakers Damon and Melanie Owens. Overall, the talks emphasized the positive and life-giving role of strong marriages today. With their distinctive style of warmth and humor, Damon and Melanie shared 25+ years of joys, mistakes, struggles, wisdom, and faith to help participants rediscover how to live joyfully ever after and share their joy with the world.