April 1, 2014 // Local

Humility, virtuous love encouraged at Marriage and Family Conference

Dr. Ray Guarendi, a nationally renowned author and speaker on marriage and family issues, often appearing on EWTN, Catholic Answers and Ave Maria Radio, served as the keynote speaker for the Diocesan Marriage and Family Conference and workshops held at the University of Notre Dame on March 29. The Family Life Office hosted the conference.

NOTRE DAME — Clinical psychologist and adoptive father of 10 children, Dr. Ray Guarendi, a nationally renowned author and speaker on marriage and family issues, often appearing on EWTN, Catholic Answers and Ave Maria Radio, served as the main speaker for the Diocesan Marriage and Family Conference and workshops held at the University of Notre Dame on March 29.

The morning began with prayer led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who stressed the “ongoing need of conversion, not only for individuals, but also within our family lives.”

He continued, “Growth in Christian marriage and in Christian family life means growth in virtue, in holiness. Marital and familial love involves sacrifice in everyday situations for one’s spouse and children, in imitation of Jesus’ self-giving love.”

Bishop Rhoades also expressed his hope that the conference would be “a help in fostering growth in virtue and holiness through the holy vocation of marriage and through the family. All of us, married or celibate, are called to conversion, to cease doing evil and to learn to do good.”

Guarendi began his talk using personal examples from his own experience as a husband, father and professional psychologist, along with plenty of humor, to inform, entertain and challenge the audience to approach marriage and parenting with forgiveness, understanding, strength and discipline.

“Sometimes we have to tell our spouse over and over and over that we want them to change or respond to us differently, and yet they refuse to alter their behavior,” Guarendi said. “While we might get frustrated and think that clearly he or she doesn’t love me, how often do we return to the sacrament of Reconciliation and bring the same sins to God month after month, year after year. How would we react if God refused to forgive us? No marriage, no relationship is perfect, but it requires forgiveness and humility to get past the challenges you face or you risk having to endure continual frustration and resentment.”

Dr. Guarendi also stressed the importance of husbands and wives working together as a team. He remarked that one of the most crucial elements of a healthy marriage is for the husband and wife to be able to put themselves in the mindset of the other.

“It amazes me how often I encounter men who have no idea why their wives think, say or do things in a certain way,” he said. “How do you get past this? Get inside her head and find out why she is frustrated or upset. Only when you are able to understand what she might be going through can you begin to work through it together.”

He also emphasized that women desire men who are not only open and communicative, but to have a spouse who is strong, reliable and someone they can count on consistently.

Guarendi said, “It is the responsibility of men to protect and defend their wives, standing strong with them and serving as the spiritual leader of the household.”

Dr. Ray Guarendi is shown with Fred and Lisa Everett, organizers of the diocesan Marriage and Family Conference who serve as director and co-director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Guarendi also adamantly focused on teaching virtue to children. “The preeminent quality many secular psychologists seem to promote in our culture is self esteem,” Guarendi said. “However, what is sorely lacking is any notion that we should be instilling humility in our children. Humility is the virtue at the heart of all the other virtues. We cannot establish morals and character without love, but that it must be tempered and directed. There are lots of strong willed children today because we now have many adults without will. Discipline without love is harsh. Love without discipline is child abuse.”

He indicated that love, which does not set limits, promote self control, or seek to form the passions of children because it may appear too harsh, fails to properly educate and form children and it leaves them significantly unprepared to face the realities of the world.

After Guarendi’s talks, workshops offered by prominent local Catholic presenters discussed various aspects of marital and family life.

Theresa Thomas presented on how to create a big-hearted family, involving the aspects of risk, order and generosity. She emphasized how decisions must be properly formed in knowledge and truth to be able to have a beneficial impact on others. She stressed how small actions of love can produce enormous positive results, such as simply listening to our children, thereby helping them to grow and trust because they realize that others do care for them.

Lisa Everett spoke about building communication and intimacy in marriage by encouraging spouses to share their entire selves with one another by being open in both mind and heart. She also shared the importance of non-verbal communication in marriage and the benefits of setting aside time each day to talk and pray together as often as possible.

John Sikorski offered an analysis of Pope Francis and the domestic Church, showing that the family is fundamentally a community centered on Christ in love and joy, while also providing the foundation of a just society, and serving as the primary place of reconciliation, peace, education and moral formation.

Msgr. Michael Heintz offered a reflection on the inherent unity of sacramental Marriage and the Eucharist, because in both offerings the giver becomes the gift. He stressed that we learn to love through letting go and offering the gift of ourselves to the other. This union does not destroy our uniqueness, but perfects it precisely to the degree that one offers him or herself.

After the second round of workshops, a panel discussion was held on handing on the faith to our children, led by Fred and Lisa Everett, the organizers of the event.


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