If you’re a fan of romance novels or chick flicks, you’ve probably heard of Nicholas Sparks. He’s a Catholic novelist, screen writer, and producer who has published 17 romantic novels, nine of which have been made into movies. Three of his most popular movies were Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, and A Walk to Remember.
Sparks has been referred to as “The King of the Love Story.” Despite his reputation and popularity as a romance novelist, earlier this year, Sparks announced that he and his wife of 25 years had separated. They have five children ranging in age from 12 to 23.
You may have heard of John Gray and his wife, Beverly De Angelis. At one time, they were both heralded as relationship experts. Gray wrote the best-selling books, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and Men, Women and Relationships. De Angelis wrote the best-selling books, Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know and How To Make Love All The Time: Make Love Last a Lifetime. After obtaining fame and fortune as relationship gurus, Gray and De Angelis divorced and went their separate ways.
Maybe you’ve heard of Mark Victor Hansen, the co-creator of the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books. Hansen held himself out to be a dedicated and loving husband who frequently read poetry to his wife and renewed his marriage vows every year. His loving devotion to his wife came to an abrupt end on his 26th wedding anniversary when he told her that he no longer loved her. Hansen’s wife was devastated and was later quoted as saying, “I never thought this would happen to us. We worked on our relationship.”
If you’re over the age of 50, you probably remember the Ann Landers daily advice column that appeared in newspapers across the country. Although Ann Landers was the woman that Americans looked to for advice on marriage and relationships, in 1975 she shocked her readers by running a column that announced she was getting a divorce from her husband. In that column she admitted, “The lady with all the answers does not know the answer to this one.” I remember the impact the column had on me when I read it. I think it had a significant impact on most of her readers. They genuinely felt sorry for her.
I’ve written before about how on our 20th wedding anniversary, Georgette and I received a card from one of my younger sisters. On the front of the card it said, “Congratulations, You Did It The Old Fashioned Way!” On the inside of the card it said, “You Stayed Married! Happy Anniversary!”
I’m obviously not a relationship or marriage expert, but I’ve been blessed with a wife who has stayed married to me for 35 years. My parents have been married for more than 60 years. My grandparents on my dad’s side, Tom and Effie Williams, were married for more than 50 years before my grandfather passed away. My grandparents on my mom’s side, Harry and Cecilia LaHood, were married for more than 25 years before my grandfather passed away. I could easily name several other relatives who did it the old-fashioned way and stayed married until one of them passed away.
What guarantee do you have that your spouse is going to still be in love with you tomorrow? Is there anything you could do today to nurture and reinforce the love that currently exists between you and your spouse?
Love is not something you can learn from a book. A book can help you readjust your attitude and the way you think about relationships. It can also teach you tactics and techniques that can be used to get along better with other people. But a book cannot really teach you how to love.
We know from our faith that “God is Love” and that all love originates with God.
When you and I were conceived in our mother’s wombs, we were given a soul that was infused with the love of God. Our capacity to love originated with God and will always be dependent on the grace of God.
I believe that there are seven qualities and virtues that must be developed by a Catholic husband and wife before they can have a successful, life-long, loving marriage: holiness, self-sacrifice, resilience, patience, forgiveness, gratitude, and a sense of humor.
Within the framework of marriage, before we can fully develop and practice self-sacrifice, resilience, patience, forgiveness, gratitude, and a sense of humor, we must first develop and practice the virtue of holiness.
Since God is love and all love originates with Him, it would make sense that as we grow closer to God and seek to imitate Him in everything we do, our ability to love others will increase.
To take this one step further, what if there were a “food” that you could consume that was made solely from pure love — a food that would be directly absorbed into your soul and would have the immediate effect of increasing your ability and capacity to love others?
There is such a food. It’s called the Holy Eucharist. Because the Holy Eucharist is God, it is pure love. We know that God became man so he could sacrifice His life for us. He was and is the essence of holiness, self-sacrifice, resilience, patience, forgiveness and gratitude. He always had (and still has) a perfect sense of humor.
What do you think would work best for your marriage and your other loving relationships — a trip to your local book store to buy a book on how to love, or a trip to your local Catholic Church to receive and consume the Son of God in the form of the Eucharist?
Earlier I asked this question: Is there anything you could do today to nurture and reinforce the love that currently exists between you and your spouse?
The answer to that question is yes. You can nurture and reinforce the love that currently exists between you and your spouse by attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion every day.
In my opinion, when a Catholic marriage counselor fails to recommend that a Catholic couple attend Mass and receive Holy Communion every day, he or she has committed malpractice.
On a Friday afternoon more than 2,000 years ago, the greatest lover who ever lived proved His love for us by allowing His enemies to put Him to death. Unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will never learn how to truly and authentically love others.