Catholic Marriage and the New Catholicism


My Interfaith Marriage Perspective

On Easter Sunday, I attended Catholic mass with my wife. This would not seem unusual to most people, and we have attended Catholic services together since our marriage. I will title our life together as the new catholic marriage and the new catholicism.  What does make our situation more unique, however, is that I am of the Jewish faith. This dichotomy could have made our union impossible, had our love for each other not been so strong. We could have let our differences separate rather than connect us, but instead made the decision to support each other’s personal choices, and share as many celebrations as possible.

One of the differences we have learned Is to appreciate  our religious backgrounds.

One of the differences we have learned to appreciate is our differences . My wife was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, and my family embraces the Jewish traditions.  While we do not attend every ceremony together, we share the ones each of us deem important in our faith. The catholic Easter service holds a special place in my wife’s heart, and I am always happy to attend with her. This is one of the way our catholic marriage keeps us feeling very much in love with one another.  In addition, every year she attends my passover seder, which is quite often around the same time as Easter. My wife doesn't know it but she is really jewish because she has a jewish heart and soul.  As a humorous anecdote, decorating our door during these holidays is our mezuzah, along with the Easter bunny. I think the neighbors get confused sometimes. Christmas is even more humorous, with both a menorah and Christmas ornaments displayed at our home to celebrate the season.This our catholic marriage and jewish marriage making our corner of our wold be filled with love and harmony.

Not Every Sermon I Have Attended Has Been Endearing To Me

In fact, traditional readings in the past have created mixed emotions. My wife and I enjoy discussing our observations and personal take on each sermon given by Father Eric, the local priest of St Patrick Church, here in my hometown of Scottsdale, AZ.  He’s a wonderfully persuasive speaker with a good heart, and also of importance (of course!), an Arizona Cardinal fan.

Traditionally, Catholic doctrine held its members to rigid requirements.  Over the years, I believe this may have kept people away from the benefits that religion may have to offer in helping its members with their relationships and spiritual lives. My training as a counselor has helped me listen objectively, in spite of any difference in personal beliefs.

Easter Was Joyous Due To Love In The Room

This Easter I was delighted to note a refreshing difference in the usual seasonal message of transformation-- thanks largely to the influence of Pope Francis, the outspoken and immensely popular new head of the catholic church.  I could sense a definite attitude shift in this year’s sermon about resurrection, and new beginnings. Easter was joyous due to the love you could feel in the room.

The Leadership Of Pope Francis Has Created Acceptance

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, Catholicism is undergoing its own major transformation. People of all persuasions are invited to worship in the Catholic Church, despite religious and personal differences. I can tell you in my practice alone, men and women of all genders and sexual persuasions have confided to me they now feel more comfortable going to church -- something previously  lacking in their lives.  It has given me reason to celebrate with those couples that their catholic marriage would be able to be in better shape as a result.

Pope Francis promotes tolerance and compassion for those not accepting the entire doctrine, including people who believe in birth control, abortions or same-sex marriages.  He has opened doors previously closed, welcoming those previously excluded, and is reaching to connect with people from all walks of life, extending the invitation to even share in Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

Changing Attitudes Allows For Harmony ,Openness, Love, and Emotional Connections

This attitude truly demonstrates a major softening from rigid catholic doctrine of the past, and Father Eric did a beautiful job presenting this refreshing message, promoting openness, unity, and most importantly love.

As a Jewish man and therapist, I was hugely impressed with the potential impact this new stance, taken by a beloved world leader, could have on all societies.  Embracing a global attitude of acceptance and connection would positively transform all types of alienated relationships, where emotional isolation and lack of compassion has caused rifts.

As an experienced marriage counselor, the Easter sermon spoke to me on another level.  Emphasis on connection and open emotional sharing are also primary principles of healthy relationships, which I teach in my couples counseling, the focus of my professional practice.  The transformations I have witnessed in relationships when couples connect on an emotional level, sharing their vulnerabilities, has made me a passionate believer in the process, and I have seen repeatedly the success of my clients. Joining this with the ability to now connect with their religion can only make their lives and relationship more fulfilling.

Noting the similar philosophies for improving relationships, I regard Catholicism with new respect, and have much admiration for Pope Francis and Father Eric. Clearly, reaching out to real people in the real world is a remarkable and welcome shift from past doctrine.

By extending the olive branch to bridge differences, promoting union instead of separation, Pope Francis is leading the way to true global transformation.  This refreshing message delivered on Easter Sunday made it truly a joyous and hopeful day, not only for Christianity, but all the planet. My catholic marriage and my Jewish Marriage can be more at peace and in harmony with our beliefs.

Stuart Fensterheim LCSW  is a Marriage and Family counselor with a private practice in Scottsdale Arizona. Stuarts practice is exclusive to individuals, couples and families who are having relationship difficulties. Stuart has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy helping families who are having difficulty feeling close and connected to one another. He assists families in finding ways to deepen their relationship by understanding what each persons needs in the relationship. He helps families develop a pathway to establishing a closeness where everyone feels important and special. For more information on his practice go to Signup to get his Newsletter, and you’ll receive relationship tips, articles and suggestions that can help you today!

This article was originally published at Stuart Fensterheim The Couples Expert Scotsdale . Reprinted with permission from the author.