Teenage sweethearts Chris and Linda Padgett, married for 32 years, know a few things about helping every married couple to thrive, not just survive.
The New York-based speakers, authors and founders of the Centre for Holy Marriage are passionate about sharing insights from their ministry when Mr Padgett visits Sydney parishes in May.
But they don’t pretend married life is all bliss.
“Everyone when they get married wants their marriage to last, but the truth is that so many don’t know what that means,” Mr Padgett told The Catholic Weekly by Zoom prior to his Australian tour.
“It is way better than they ever imagined but it is way harder than they ever thought or imagined. We share the principles that we know work.”
Mr Padgett will present an evening of marriage renewal in Lewisham, a day retreat for married couples in Ryde and Punchbowl and a weekend marriage preparation course for engaged couples in Holsworthy at the invitation of the Life, Marriage and Family team in the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.
He is currently a professor of theology at Catholic Distance University and holds a master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and a licentiate in sacred theology from the International Marian Research Institute.
Mrs Padgett holds a certificate in spiritual direction from the Cenacle School of Spiritual Direction.
Together they have written three popular books on marriage: Not Ready for Marriage, Not Ready for Sex, about the couple’s experience with chastity; Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage; and Marriage and Ministry.
The parents of nine children are expecting their eighth grandchild, and said they love being married.
“But we know that it’s so difficult for people today, even for young people who are brought up to value marriage it’s just messy,” Mrs Padgett said.
“We want to empower people to have an experience of marriage that the world tells us we can’t have, because we know that you can have a beautiful marriage when two people are willing to work at it.”
“I think that if we can somehow breathe new life into the beauty of marriage as a sacrament, we will probably end the crisis when it comes to priesthood as well”
The Padgetts say that marriage is in crisis today with divorce ubiquitous in Australia as well as the United States, but they are convinced that the power of the sacrament of Christian marriage will ultimately prevail.
“People talk about a crisis in the priesthood and I understand that’s a real problem but imagine if close to half of the priests just left,” Mr Padgett said.
“In a way that’s what’s been happening in marriage. Marriages are falling apart. Yes, sometimes people remarry or live a happy single life, but there’s something at the root that’s not right.
“I think that if we can somehow breathe new life into the beauty of marriage as a sacrament we will probably end the crisis when it comes to priesthood as well, because I think great families produce wonderful priests, not always, but I think they are a great catalyst for the sacrament of holy orders.
“At the end of the day there are just a few reasons why couples derail and so we try our best to strengthen some of these weaker areas up.
“There’s going to be a million other variables in every marriage but at least getting some basic principles under the belt helps people to navigate some of the difficulties they will face.”