Jenny Uebbing

The Vows Project

In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for as long as we both shall live.

The words of the traditional Christian marriage vows are so familiar as to roll almost nonsensically over us, in one ear and out the other in a sort of autofill for our brains.

When you stop to really consider what is being asked here - and promised - the gravity of the oaths exchanged by spouses is pretty breathtaking. The culture tends to want to upgrade and demystify marriage by tacking on modifiers like “open-ended” and “evolving” and “modern,” but all those adjectives do is mask a lot of pain, confusion, and loneliness.

It can be a struggle for married couples to find the resources, community, and support they need in order to live out these vows in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to authentic love. Even within the Church, little exists between “I do” and “I actually don’t, anymore” to fill the expanse between the wedding day and the days of hardship that inevitably come for all marriages.

Not because marriage is bad, but precisely because marriage is so good.

So good, in fact, that Christ raised it to the level of a Sacrament, a tangible sign of a spiritual reality, a physical expression of His love for us, and an invitation to love like He does.

Which all sounds great on paper, and in theology texts and encyclicals. But what about marriages between two baptized believers who are just doing the best they know how, trudging through long work days and sleepless nights with kids, paying their bills and saying their prayers and still wondering if perhaps they should be experiencing more meaning and more joy.

That’s where The Vows Project comes in.

Cassie and Mike Kent had a concept for a new ministry, something for all married couples; not necessarily struggling couples and not necessarily newlyweds, but everyone else in between - and them, too.

Cassie pitched her vision for the project to a couple online friends, including Elizabeth and Chris Gilbert, and found that it matched a similar inspiration they’d felt to serve married couples.

The Gilberts, who’d overseen a couples ministry in their Charlottesville, Virginia parish, found that after 3 years of designing programming and planning events, they were burning out.

“We reached a season in our own marriage where we needed to be ministered to ourselves; after years of being the ones in charge, we were the ones in need, but there was nothing there,” said Elizabeth.

“The reason why The Vows Project came about is plain and simple: marriage is really hard! We were realizing that an invaluable asset to marriage is real, vulnerable conversation between spouses and also between other married couples who are willing to share their stories,” explained Cassie Kent, founder of The Vows Project.

Kent says the vision for the program is really threefold: conversation, community, and action.

“We want couples to learn from each other as spouses, but also to learn from other couples who are ahead of them on the path, to have recourse to mentor couples and sort of marriage coaches in older couples,” said Mike Kent.

“But most importantly? Married couples need to encounter Jesus, both in their personal spiritual lives and in their understanding of what their marriage is for.”

Sounds like exactly the sort of revolution of holiness that our culture could use.

Up until this point, much of the content and community behind The Vows Project has existed online, centered around a successful Lenten Instagram campaign tagged as “living out the vows” and featuring different couples sharing their stories of hardship, struggle, victory, and redeeming love and reaching more than 3,000 followers.

Making the leap from social media to the real world, The Vows Project website launched late last month and the first Vows Project couple’s retreat is on the calendar for September 27-28 in Denver, Colorado.

Also in the pipeline? A podcast, a shop with physical products, and resources for couples to use to improve and refine their communication and grow together spiritually.

“We believe that having faith-filled, fun-filled, thriving Catholic marriages will change you, will change your family, and will change the entire world,” says Mike Kent.

“Amen to that,” agrees Cassie.

To learn more about The Vows Project visit them online or find them on Instagram at @thevowsproject.

(The author and her husband, Dave, are also one of the founding couples of The Vows Project.)

Jenny Uebbing is the author of the popular blog Mama Needs Coffee covering topics of sex, life, marriage, culture, and the Catholic Church. She is a revert to Catholicism with a deep love for the Faith and a desire to grow in knowledge and understanding of what we believe, and why.

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