Since becoming pope, one of Pope Francis’ priorities has been bolstering the Church’s outreach to married couples and trying to reverse the decline of family life in modern culture.
“All the bishops got a pretty good idea that marriage and family life were going to be two of his top priorities,” said Deacon Tom Samoray, director of family life and marriage ministry for the Diocese of Nashville. “This is in direct response to the state of the sacrament of matrimony and a way of re-establishing our beliefs in marriage and family.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) which was a distillation and reflection on the World Synod of Bishops on the family. The exhortation, summed up the pope’s thoughts on the challenges facing families and marriages and how the Church can walk with them.
Inspired by the document, Deacon Samoray has organized a series of presentations on marriage and family to be held during September.
The four presentations will focus strictly on chapter four of the exhortation, which is inspired by St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on the attributes of love and marriage.
“All of this has been building over the last three years,” said Deacon Samoray, whose plans for the series solidified after attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last fall. “The bishops decided that we need to do more on marriage and family life on a diocesan basis.”
After deciding to host the series, Deacon Samoray reached out to colleagues and notable experts in the field who could cover the topic effectively. On Sept. 6, presenters Deacon Mike and Elizabeth Morris will discuss chapter four paragraphs 90-100: “Love is patient. Love is service. Love is not jealous. Love is not boastful. Love is not rude.”
On Sept. 13, presenters Collen and Aimee Mayer, both on staff at Catholic Charities, will present on paragraphs 101-110: “Love is generous. Love is not resentful. Love forgives. Love rejoices with others.”
Sept. 20, presenters John and Teri Bosio, family life counselors, will discuss paragraphs 111-119: “Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things.”
Lastly, on Sept. 27, presenter Father Thomas Kalam, C.M.I., associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, will cover paragraphs 120-130: “Growing in Conjugal love. Lifelong sharing in marriage. The joy and beauty of marriage.”
Deacon Samoray believes that for many attendees, the series will serve as a reaffirmation of what the couples understand about love and already practice in their relationships. He sees it as a way of underlining the importance of their sacrament.
“However, there may be some situations where they can apply this and remedy any issues in their own marriage or family that need some help,” said Deacon Samoray. “We certainly hope that folks who may be a struggling a bit in these areas will come away re-energized.”
As director of family life and marriage ministry, Deacon Samoray hopes to accomplish more than just offer talks about love and marriage. A long-term goal is to gently transform how the diocese does marriage preparation, in accordance with Pope Francis’s emphasis on providing marriage prep in an RCIA-type format.
“The idea is to kind of meet the couple right at the beginning stages to walk them through preparation, and to follow up with them afterwards,” explained Deacon Samoray. “Once they come through our engaged couples retreat we kind of lose track of them. There’s a real need, especially in the first five years of marriage, to be sure couples are being mentored.”
Deacon Samoray sees this effort as the responsibility of each parish, the level at which the most direct contact is established with engaged and newly married couples. The diocesan office would provide parishes with strategies for staying connected to the couples who marry in their parish, and to ensure follow-up contact over the next few years.
“The pope is really trying to emphasize that the marriage ceremony should be more liturgically-based, more prevalent throughout the whole parish community,” said Samoray. “Many times we have couples get married in a parish, and we don’t know about it as a congregation. It’s not listed in the bulletin necessarily. The idea is to really get the parish community to walk them through and follow up with these couples.
“Actually, the parish could choose a couple that they have seen living out their sacrament, and ask them to mentor them through the process,” continued Deacon Samoray. “That’s the ideal way to do it, though it doesn’t happen in too many parishes at this point.”
For those interested in attending “The Joy of Love” presentations, each session begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 8:30, and will take place at the Catholic Pastoral Center at 2800 McGavock Pike in Nashville. The series is open to all, and registration is not required. It is also not required to attend all four sessions to participate in these events.
Deacon Samoray recommends that attendees read chapter four of “The Joy of Love” to properly prepare for the event, and particularly the paragraphs listed above before each of the individual evening sessions. The apostolic exhortation is available online at
For more information, contact Deacon Samoray at
, or 615-783-0754.