Fr Dexter Brereton CSSp facilitated the third session on Marriage: a symbol of real love- a journey with the book, The Wounded Healer. Fr Brereton started the October 20 session with catechesis, where he explored the link between ministry and a good marriage.
He defined a minster as anyone who conveys by word or action the nearness of God. Fr Brereton explained that ministry involves sharing yourself, that is, proclaiming your hope in Jesus Christ and sharing your life, struggles and presence with others.
He stated that every baptised Roman Catholic is called to be a minister. Fr Brereton assured participants that God does not call the qualified: he qualifies the called. God will therefore give us the graces that we need to participate in the ministry in which God calls us.
Pope Francis stated that evangelisation is the source of authentic personal fulfilment. Referencing St Francis of Assisi, Fr Brereton encouraged couples to proclaim the gospel and if necessary, use words.
The couples acknowledged the times when they proclaimed the gospel by word or deed such as, visited someone in the hospital; held the hand of a grieving friend; listened to someone in trouble; prayed with someone over the phone; and gave money to persons in need.
Fr Brereton added that the precious gift, our relationship with Jesus, is strengthened by sharing that gift with others. He stated that the grace of marriage is also strengthened by strengthening the marriages of others and preparing others for marriage. Ministry is therefore the means through which our marriages are strengthened.
Fr Brereton explained the qualities required of ministers according to author Henri Nouwen. Being effective ministers means understanding the art of presence.
Leadership is a significant role of a minister. He said that ministers are called to lead persons from the valley of despair to the Mountaintop of Hope. Fr Brereton further explained Nouwen’s three qualities of leaders who deal with people in situations of hopelessness. These include personal concern; faith in the value and meaning of life; and hope.
With respect to personal concern, he said that the beginning and end of Christian leadership is giving your life for others. The tragedy of Christian ministry is that many who seek an attentive ear; a word of support; a forgiving embrace; a firm hand; a tender smile; or even a stuttering confession of inability to do more, often find their ministers distant and unwilling to get involved in their mess.
According to Nouwen, we cannot help persons without entering into their situations with our whole selves at the risk of being hurt, wounded, or even destroyed in the process.
He said that real martyrdom is a witness that starts with the willingness to cry with those who cry; laugh with those who laugh; and to make our own painful and joyful experiences available as sources of clarification and understanding. In terms of faith in the value and meaning of life, Christian leaders face the world with eyes full of expectation and have the ability to look at hopeless situations and see the potential that lies within it.
Christian leaders are also people of hope. They are able to see value and meaning in an encounter with a suffering human being and become personally concerned.
According to Nouwen, Hope prevents us from being paralysed by fear and gives us the strength to believe that we can reach out to our neighbours, make a difference and that life will blossom. Our hope is anchored in Jesus Christ.
The session was enlightening. It empowered couples to accept God’s invitation to live our Christian lives in a more vibrant manner. Proclaiming the gospel by being present to persons in distress, gives them hope; anchors them to life; and brings personal fulfilment. It also strengthens our relationship with God and deepens marital bonds.
At the end of the session, couples verbalised the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones despite fear; reporting for duty; and allowing God to do the rest.