By Mario & Paola Martinez
Without love, I am nothing: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Unfortunately, many have found the path that leads to divorce and destruction. As the Word points out, this path is wide and easy to find. It is possible that many relationships today fail because we do not know how to find a reliable path that leads us to the narrow path of healthy and happy relationships.
God created us for intimate relationship with Him and with others. He wants us to draw near to Him (James 4:8) and to others for we were designed with the biological need for connection and intimacy. We all have needs, and we experience love when our needs are met. When our needs are not met, we experience pain.
Many of our deepest and most powerful desires are wrapped in the dream that our needs are met through relationships. We want to experience security and wellbeing, passion and excitement, we hope to diminish our loneliness, and seek to end the fighting and conflict in our lives. We envision a life without masks, to be seen and appreciated for simply being who we are.
Behind our deepest dreams are our deepest fears. Many of us are terrified of opening our hearts and bonding with others because we believe that “if you really knew the darkest parts of me, all my flaws, you wouldn’t love me.” So we hide from each other and our relationship suffers.
The Holy Father in Amoris Laetitia (2016) tells us that “Saint Paul’s hymn to love [in Corinthians] has given us a blueprint to discuss conjugal love. This is the love between husband and wife, a love sanctified, enriched and illuminated by the grace of the sacrament of marriage” (AL#120).
The Church has an interest in supporting marriages and families. Recently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the publication of a document entitled Called to the Joy of Love: National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry, which provides a framework for dioceses and parishes to aid in the development and implementation of critical ministries for marriages and families.
The bishops state that “Catholic marriage and family life ministry serves all married couples and families by proclaiming the love of God to them and helping them embrace their vocation to love and discipleship. Inspired primarily by Amoris Laetitia, this document presents a framework of pastoral principles for marriage and family life ministry and advocacy that can serve as a resource to assist pastoral planning in parishes, dioceses, or eparchies nationwide. This framework is offered in continuity with the pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009) as a practical and pastoral counterpart to the theological principles about marriage that are presented there.”
The Pastoral Framework is a 57-page document, consisting of the following four pillars: pillar of prayer and relationship with Christ, pillar of formation, pillar of accompaniment, and pillar of advocacy. Most of the document describes the pillar of accompaniment which in turn has four main categories: accompaniment in preparation for marriage, accompaniment to married couples, accompaniment to families and family members at every stage of life, and accompaniment to families and family members in complex or difficult situations. This long-awaited framework is a gift to marriage and family ministry in the United States!
Equipped with God’s grace, the Marriage and Family Life Ministry of our Diocese is committed to accompanying families through the many different stages of life and supporting families on their journey to and through the narrow gate.
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.