This past summer in Atlantic City the national convention of Worldwide Marriage Encounter took place. Couples and priests from around the United States and Canada gathered to be part of this exciting event.
Over twenty years ago I was asked by a married couple to go on a Marriage Encounter weekend and I agreed to give it a try. Naturally I had some reservations–the main one being that I was not married—but to this day I think that making the weekend had one of the most profound impacts on my life and on my priesthood.
What I learned on the weekend was the importance of relationships and communication. While I will never claim to be anywhere near perfect in my personal relationship or in my communication skills, I have learned some valuable tools that have helped me in this regard to try to see the good in others and to try to understand where others are coming from. It doesn’t mean that I always agree with others or that I always have the right insight into every person or situation. However, I continually try to put relationship over issue so that the person and the relationship are more important than any issue or situation.
After all, if we don’t try to build and maintain relationships I truly think that we have our priorities in life out of order. God has been revealed to us as a Trinity of persons in relationship. There is a Father, a Son and the Holy Spirit who are harmoniously unified yet distinct persons in the one, true God. From the example of the Trinity together with the teachings of Sacred Scripture, we learn that we as created humans are distinct unique individuals who make up the Body of Christ. There needs to be unity and peace and not dissention in that Body. Consequently, we must always be working on stronger, better relationships with one another based on the Love of God for us.
That is why attacking people, belittling them, and trying to hurt them will never be the correct way of dealing with people from a true Christian perspective. We are taught to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. The teaching of Jesus in Sacred Scripture is very clear on this.
So work on those personal relationships whether they are with your husband or wife, your children, your co-workers, your priest or deacon, your next-door neighbors, the person that you may not like or talk to, etc. etc. Treat them with kindness, love, respect and forgiveness. Do to them what you would want them to do to you.
Again, I echo the words of St. Maximillian Kolbe, my patron saint: “Only Love is creative.”
Fr. Ed NamiotkaPastor