Guiding Married Couples to the Divine Physician

Matt and Mindy Dalton

We agonize, we hunger and we thirst for every couple that comes to us for marriage coaching.  Spouses call with trepidation, send emails crying out for help, share that their spouse may not come.  Pursued by the Holy Spirit, the “hound from heaven,” they end up walking through the doors of our simple office, sitting at our table and sharing their lives.  Their stories are similar although their journeys can vary.  They come wounded, broken and tired; there seems to be a universal thread with this commentary, Jesus is not the central part of their unions.

Oh, how we know this scenario, as we too were busy, in the first five years of our marriage, being distracted by the things of this world.  It was our careers, spending hours on planning and then remodeling our house to meet our desires.  If we weren’t still playing sports, we were either immersed in our kids’ athletic success or imprisoned to our favorite college/professional team.  Sadly, looking back on our early years in marriage, if we really think about it, our married relationship was based on selfishness.  Once the “honeymoon” was over or the sentimentality of “falling in love” dulled, we didn’t experience joy.  We had fun, individually, at the expense of our marital and familial joy.  Fun is momentary, joy points to the eternal.

Experiencing joy in our marriage occurred when I decided to give God some of my time.  I remember hearing a layman talk at the end of Mass about the fruits in his life of visiting our Lord Jesus regularly in the adoration chapel.  One thing rang in my ears, He said, “If you have the courage to sign up to be a regular adorer and pray in the chapel, pick a sacrificial time.”  That comment blazed a hole right in the center of my heart and I knew my time, 2 PM on Sundays.  That is when the Broncos game comes on.  Secondly, it had been several years that I had gone away from the sacrament of reconciliation.  Upon my reluctant return to confession, I became aware that God longed for me.

19 years ago, for the first time in my life, I experienced intimacy with Jesus.  In all of my brokenness and sin and its ugliness, the Divine Healer – Jesus – touched my heart.  I understood, in a profound way, why Holy Mother Church calls this the sacrament of healing.   From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 1456), “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”  When I heard the words of absolution through the priest, “I absolve you from all your sins,” I knew that it was Jesus, through our Holy Mother, that was making me new again. As my love for Jesus and Our Lady continues to grow, so does my burning desire to share this with my bride, Mindy; as we now approach 25 years married.

Allowing the stories of sacred scripture to come alive in our own lives, we get the answers to why Jesus is in such agony in the garden and why He thirsts from His venerable cross.  It is for each one of us.  In our marriage coaching, we are like physician assistants, helping other married couples open their hearts to God.  The fruit of inviting God into every part of our lives is gaining the eyes to see, our spouse is not our foe.  With grace, we stop fighting for our own rights, align with our helpmate and drink from the only source that will bring everlasting joy – Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of our souls, the Divine Physician.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.