By Larry Peterson
St. John Paul II said, “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church.”
The sainted Holy Father was referring to people like Roger and Helena Cartier when he made that statement. That is because this couple did, in fact, create a domestic church when they took their marriage vows so long ago. These two people, this man and woman, are a Catholic love-story not only for today but for all time. That is because they made the ultimate commitment to each other, emptied themselves for each other and never looked back.
Secularism has convinced many the world over that marriage is what "you" want it to be, with whomever you want to be with. It also proclaims those of the Judeo-Christian faith have NO love in their cold hardened hearts. This secularistic atmosphere has cut deeply into the very fabric of our society and wounded it severely. That fabric is the family. And the family is the very nucleus of a nation.
Spread across the landscape of our society are many well-springs of marriage and family. These homes have one predominant thing in common. God is the essence and focal point of their lives. Roger and Helena are the patriarch and matriarch of one of those families.
Roger is a retired letter-carrier. He is also an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church. This past February 12, Roger and Helena celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. Roger will be 91 years old in June and Helena trails him by a few years.
The Deacon is a World War II veteran. He got into the post office after he and Helena were married. A few years after that he became quite active in the Knights of Columbus. He rose to the position of District Deputy giving him oversight of many K of C councils in the Connecticut area. Then his good friend, Father Kuzdal, suggested to Roger that he should apply to the Permanent Diaconate. Roger was horrified. He believed he was highly "unqualified" to do this.
What Roger and Helena did not realize at the time was that God had chosen both of them. Just as Mary Magdalene was there to help the apostles, Helena would be there to help her husband in a ministry that required ordination into the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They had embraced themselves with each other's love and wrapped their Catholicity around it creating the "domestic church" that St. John Paul II spoke of. God wanted the two of them because without each other, this would never have worked.
Deacon Roger told me how close he was to leaving the diaconate program. All the other candidates were college graduates, seemingly well versed in scripture and well spoken. He was sure he had no business being in such "lofty" company. He went to Father Kuzdal and voiced his concerns. Father looked at him and said, "Roger, you have a quality these other fellas do not have. You are a natural listener. You have a gift. You do belong here."
The final confirmation came from his partner in love and life, Helena. She agreed with Father Kuzdal and in 1986, L. Roger Cartier became Deacon L. Roger Cartier. He was ordained in the Diocese of Norwich, CT and remained there for a year. Then it was on to Pinellas County, Fl where he served until his recent retirement from ministry.
Deacon Roger assisted quietly and efficiently over the years always being there when needed. He was the spiritual director of The Legion of Mary, the spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, he was always Santa Claus at the Christmas parties, he visited the school frequently, talking to the kids about "being Catholic".
He was always available for Stations of the Cross, or Benediction and novenas. Roger visited the funeral homes when folks passed, did internments at the cemetery and always spent time with the families. He was a constant fixture at the local hospital and nursing homes. He also presided over weddings, (mine included), and performed Baptisms.
The one thing that was most noticeable (at least to me) was the "one on one" conversations he always seemed to be having with someone. This is where Father Kuzdal, so many years earlier, had profiled Roger Cartier perfectly. The man was a "listener". People sought him out specifically for that reason. And they still do.
Deacon Roger and his Helena have three daughters, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They are truly a "domestic church" within our midst. As for me, it is my honor and privilege to know them. As for all those who do not, comfort in the fact that people like Roger and Helena are always among us. Goodness does exist and it holds in its arms many a "domestic church".
“The union of man and woman in marriage [is] a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.”
Pope Francis: Rome, Italy, November 17th, 2014
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