Guiding Married Couples to the Divine Physician

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: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.