In many ways one can consider February to be the month of love. While one can argue that Valentine’s Day is too secular or notorious in our culture, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful time to reflect on the true meaning of love. When speaking of love, it seems that one of two extremes is usually emphasized. Either the limerence phase of love where two lovers are infatuated with one another is promoted as the meaning of “true love,” or love is regarded as painful, short lived, and not worth the heartache. Within all of this is a beautiful middle ground that lays hidden deep below the surface. The beautiful reality of love is that it is enduring, merciful, ever richer, and full of discovery. Does that mean that love never hurts? On the contrary, love is full of heartache, pain, and suffering. Yet, that’s not the end of the story with love. Too often in our humanity, suffering is seen as something to be avoided, as a sign that things are wrong. In its deepest sense, one could make a case for that being true. Yes, we are a fallen race, but we are also a redeemed race! As Christians, we know that suffering is the path our Lord chose for redemption. In the same way that eating healthy and exercising is the painful path towards wellness, perseverance and forgiveness is the path towards relationship wellness. The end game is beautiful, despite the struggles along the way. Suffering, if done with faith, hope, and love, is often the path towards deeper intimacy and connection.
In Pope Francis’ morning meditation on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, our Holy Father reflected on the encounter between Thomas and Jesus after the resurrection in the gospel of John. In the Pope’s meditation, he reflects on the apostle touching the wounds of Christ. It was only after St. Thomas touched the wounds that he was able to proclaim Jesus as Lord and God. In much the same way, it is only after we touch the wounds of our loved ones, so-to-speak, that we are truly able to see the depths of our loved ones’ beauty, of who they truly are. We must take the time to share our wounds, and learn to grow together, to heal together, and learn to recognize Christ Jesus’ presence in all of it!
This month, do more than chocolates and flowers, and instead, take the time to share your wounds and practice the power of forgiveness. Below is an outline of a Couples Examen, based in the Ignatius Spiritual Tradition that can offer a moment of meditation for you and your loved one to pray a little bit deeper, to share a little bit deeper, and to forgive a little bit deeper.
Couple’s Examen (BAKER)
Begin by inviting the Holy Spirit into your time of prayer with your spouse. Sit in silence for a moment and direct your thoughts on your marriage. You can use this Examen to reflect on your day, week, month, or any other moment in time, but keep it centered on your relationship with your spouse.
- What blessings and graces are present in your marriage past and/or present?
- What are you thankful for? Particularly, what qualities, attributes, and experiences in and with your spouse are you thankful for?
- Continuing from blessings, what are the fruits of your marriage?Where have you seen growth? Where is it easy to see Christ’s presence in your marriage?
- What are the areas of hurt or areas that need work?
- Pray together for the Spirit to reveal to you His answer to these questions.
- Our sins crucified Jesus, so here we reflect on our own sins.
- Where have I hurt, or how have I hurt (aka. Killed) the dignity of my spouse and our marriage?
- What are the sins I have committed and am I committing?
- Allow God’s love to pour through you to your spouse.
- Embrace your spouse as s/he is in this moment.
- If the hurt is too painful, in this moment ask for the grace to be able to forgive now or in the future.
- What are those areas we are going to work on together and resolve to do better?Make them as concrete as possible.
End this moment of prayer with a simple heart prayer, Our Father, or Hail Mary.