A Holy Endeavor
Nearly three years ago, my husband and I sat around a table with six other couples sharing our recent joys and struggles over bowls of hot soup and bread. After dinner, we moved to another room, settling into the couch and comfortable chairs as we began reading from Scripture, offering prayers, and having a lively discussion. It was our first time gathering together, and when we left we knew that this was something good—very good.
In 1947, as the world was emerging from the bloodiest war in history and the countries involved were agreeing to peace terms, a quiet movement was afoot in Paris. Mere months after the final peace accords were signed, the Holy See officially recognized Teams of Our Lady as a lay movement in the Church. For nearly a decade, married couples had been meeting once a month with a French parish priest, Fr. Henri Caffarel, to grow together in their love for each other and to spread the Kingdom of God to the broader culture. To bring Christ to one another.
Teams came about, as most movements in the Church do, in response to a particular need in the Church or a time of crisis. Just as the world was reaching a cease fire of physical violence, it was on the verge of attacking the moral fibers and cultures that maintained the tenuous peace. The couples who formed the first members of Teams did not know it at the time, but they had started a movement that would provide spiritual sustenance to their marriages and give them the power to proclaim that love to others around them. Little more than a decade after Teams began, the sexual revolution in the United States quickly took hold with the introduction of the pill in 1960, the development of the pornography industry, and devolving moral norms in society and, as a result, the decline of the family. Today, the situation is only worse. Surely what Fr. Caffarel began decades ago is still needed right now. Teams continues to provide support for marriages and families. Since 1947, Teams of Our Lady has spread to more than 10,000 teams throughout the world offering light and strength to Catholic marriages in a culture that otherwise seeks to diminish their importance.
Three years ago, along with six other couples, we formed a new team. Teams are usually groups of five to seven couples formed in a particular geographical area. We are one of three here in Arizona. We gather monthly in the style mentioned above: a meal, Scripture, prayer, discussion, encouragement. The primary goal of Teams is to encourage Catholic married couples to live their vocation fully, to embrace the grace given them in the Sacrament of Marriage, and to grow in holiness together. As Saint John Paul II told Teams in 2003, married couples “will find in the sacrament the necessary courage for acceptance, pardon, dialogue and communion of hearts. It will also be a valuable aid for facing the inevitable difficulties of family life. May the members of the Teams be able to be the first witnesses of the grace that one can find in a regular participation in the sacramental life of the Church and of Sunday Mass.”
The crux of each Team is the living out of the Endeavors: regular spiritual practices with the aim of growing in our relationship with God, and strengthening our marriage and family life. The Endeavors aren’t anything extraordinary—in fact, they are things that we should all be doing anyway if we are serious about the Christian life. For example, some of the daily Endeavors include Scripture reading and individual, spousal, and family prayer. Another is forming a “Rule of Life” which is defined by Teams as being a specific practice that you commit to doing or changing in your life. Annually, the Team ought to go on retreat. Again, these are all things which we should be doing anyway! Yet these practices are not automatic, and take a concerted effort and daily perseverance.
“The Endeavors, therefore, are quite demanding,” as Fr. Caffarel explains. “They call for an effort on the part of the individual and the couple: an effort of discernment, creativity, and fidelity that embraces our entire being; an effort we assent to inwardly, not one that is imposed on us from without; an effort that begins with the acceptance of some minimum requirements. These are calls to extend ourselves even further. They open up for us the possibility of realizing for ourselves a true meeting in our lives with Our Lord, which is the point of departure for true conversion.”
And this encounter with Christ that is the purpose and end of Teams of Our Lady is, after all, the holiest endeavor.
If you are interested in learning more about Teams, you can view a recent interview with the national Teams of Our Lady representative couple that aired on EWTN.
To find a Teams of Our Lady representative in your area to learn more about joining or beginning a new team, check the Provinces/Regions tab at teamsofourlady.org.
Fr. Henri Caffarel, founder of Teams of Our Lady, has been declared a Servant of God and his cause for canonization is open. Pray for his intercession!
“A real Christian couple is a great work of God; the brightness of the sacrament of marriage is the reflection of the immense tenderness that unites Christ to the Church.”
— Fr. Henri Caffarel