Father James Grogan, right, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, greets those who attended his presentation on marriage Feb. 8 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral. One of Father Grogan’s tips was not to take time together for granted. Ken Downey Jr. photo
 

Father James Grogan, right, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, greets those who attended his presentation on marriage Feb. 8 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral. One of Father Grogan’s tips was not to take time together for granted. Ken Downey Jr. photo

 

By Ken Downey Jr. | Correspondent

Met by the warm and welcoming smile of Father James Grogan, about 25 couples entered the parish center of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, Feb. 8 to hear the father of three discuss relationships during National Marriage Week.

Father Grogan, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, led a program titled “Love & Marriage – A Journey of Growth” as part of a  discussion series taking place once a month in St. Robert Bellarmine throughout 2017.

Father Grogan, who has been involved in marriage preparation for about 10 years and has three sons, decided to become a priest after losing his wife, Ellie, to cancer after 25 years of marriage. Prior to his wife’s death, Father Grogan had been a permanent deacon, ordained in 2004.

Standing in front of a screen, which took up most of the back wall of the building, Father Grogan gave a slideshow presentation. Each of the slides was titled with a different love song from the 20th century, followed by the song’s lyrics. He took specific lines from each of the songs, such as “I dedicate my life to you” from “Always” by Atlantic Starr, and showed each of the couples why the lines were significant to marriage.

“In our marriages, we ought to strive for extraordinary,” Father Grogan said. “Why settle for OK?  Why settle for good?”

He then asked the couples to take out the lyrics from their own wedding songs – which the couples were asked to bring – and to observe which lines no longer applied to their marriage today. One woman touched on the subject of being widowed, when thinking of her brother-in-law who had recently passed away.

“To be a widower means that you were married,” said Father Grogan. “I know the teachings of the Church technically say when you die that you are free to marry, unless you have been ordained a deacon. But I stand here as a married man. Even though my wife has been gone 10 years, who I am, how I act, how I look at the world, is as a married man. That tenderness that comes from taking every day seriously means that taking nothing for granted is a gift. This is how we get to extraordinary. We get to extraordinary by not taking every day for granted.”

To have an extraordinary marriage, Father Grogan said, a couple should find time to pray together.

“For those who say they have never really done something like this, it gives them a way to start,” said Father Grogan. “As you get into that, as you start to develop that level of trust in the relationship, you tangibly change the experience. Something different has happened when you do that. There is a lot of ways you can pray together, that you can reveal your hearts.”

For example, Father Grogan asked couples to consider reciting the rosary together by creating their own prayers.”

“He [God] wants to hear your prayers. That’s the key part of this message,” Father Grogan said. “If you just go through the rosary beads and say the Hail Mary with your spouse, you get up and stretch, and say, ‘Now what do we do?’ You haven’t opened yourself up.”

By creating your own prayers, he said, “you reveal something about yourself in a vulnerable way.”

Father Grogan’s presentation was met with high praise toward the end of the evening.

“The rosary was a revelation to me,” said parishioner Ed Stanczak, who has been married 41 years. “I have sometimes done the rosary and recited the Hail Mary, but I haven’t thought about making up my own.”

Parishioner Robin Snowden, who has been married for six years, said Father Grogan’s advice was helpful because praying together as a couple is a confession of each person’s sins, which in turn, shows that neither is perfect.

“We need to have humility. We know we’re not perfect,” she said.