The first of six sessions on Marriage: a symbol of real love – a journey with the book The Wounded Healer hosted by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission commenced on October 6.
This virtual session was facilitated by Archbishop Jason Gordon, who addressed the 76 married couples in attendance.
He identified the Holy Family as the model for each family. He said that families can be consoled by the fact that the Holy Family was not ‘perfect’ (for example, pregnancy before marriage; threats of divorce; and poverty). Participants were asked to reconsider the notion of having to be ‘perfect’ before they could be used by God. He added that while the Gospel of Matthew says, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, the Jewish meaning of perfection is not the absence of imperfection but the incorporation of imperfection.
To further illustrate this concept, he stated that when the Navajo Indians made tapestries, they wove an imperfect stitch into each tapestry so that each would be perfect.
The Archbishop then invited participants to consider what causes persons to be reluctant to engage in ministry. Some of the responses included: fear of judgement; not being knowledgeable enough; an unwillingness to commit; feeling unworthy; and disbelieving that they are called to serve.
He explained that ministry and vulnerability worked together. The great reluctance to offer oneself for ministry is reluctance to be vulnerable, which is a reluctance to own or face one’s shame.
He said that persons feel shame because they believe that their imperfections or flaws should be hidden. Shame is subjective and is fuelled by that which one is unable to accept about oneself.
A considerable amount of energy is created in hating and hiding one’s imperfections and whenever light is shone on one’s shame, one feels exposed and tends to react negatively or explosively.
Archbishop Jason said that transformation can occur when one names, accepts, and loves one’s shame (which is also referred to as “owning one’s shame”). He said that it is important for persons to talk to at least one person about that which is perceived to be shameful.
This can lead to a new understanding about one’s imperfections, which can then be used to help others to not be ashamed of their experiences but to find love, joy, and hope in their imperfections.
The ritual of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) involves speaking about one’s shame to a priest who then receives the shame and gives the individual absolution on behalf of God and the community. In naming the shame in front of another, the power of shame is taken away and one receives the clarity and inner capacity to face one’s spouse in real life.
Archbishop Jason further explained that people can only grow when they experience unconditional love. Experiencing unconditional love from one’s partner, releases the shame and fosters healing, which leads to a new energy and vitality in the relationship.
The absence of unconditional love in a relationship, escalates shame and eclipses grace. He added that vulnerability aids the process of transformation. One couple testified that their experience of being vulnerable with each other has led to greater intimacy in their relationship. Another couple encouraged participants to create the space to have meaningful and truthful conversations, where they seek first to understand their spouses’ experiences before sharing their own experiences.
Overall, this session was truly informative and revelatory. It facilitated deep personal reflection and rich discussion among spouses. Couples were directed to additional resources and given practical ways for becoming vulnerable in appropriate ways.
The sessions will continue with the Archbishop and Fr Dexter Brereton CSSp. Couples will also journey with the book entitled, The Wounded Healer: ministry in contemporary society by Henri Nouwen as sessions progress.
For information on other Family Life Commission ministries and programmes visit aflcrc.org, the Facebook or Instagram pages:
or call 299-1047.
The Archbishop referenced The power of vulnerability by Brené Brown. Couples were invited to follow five life altering steps:
Do not bottle up emotions: Become self-aware. Do regular check-ins with each other. Give each other opportunities to name one’s feelings
Vulnerability takes courage: Allowing one’s spouse to see you for who you really are takes courage. Hiding oneself is an act of cowardice that will lead to antagonism between spouses
Show up, face the fear, and move forward: Be willing to work through the issues (especially after a big argument)
Seek excellence and not perfection: Strive to be the best version of oneself by incorporating one’s imperfection. Imperfection is no longer a badge of dishonour but of honour
Dare to be you: The notion that ‘I was born this way and I will always be this way’, is choosing to be a lesser version of oneself. Daring to be yourself is admitting error and making a commitment to grow and become who God has called you to become.