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Tomeo, Pastore Reflect on Marriage and the Year of Mercy

December 8, 2015

Mercy is “the beating heart of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said in announcing the Holy Year of Mercy earlier this year.

From Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016, the Holy Father is encouraging all people to spend more time practicing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. In their recently released book Intimate Graces, bestselling author and media personality Teresa Tomeo and her husband, Deacon Dominick Pastore, invite couples to enrich their marriages by reciprocating the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.

Ave Maria asked the couple to reflect on marriage and the Holy Year of Mercy.

Ave Maria Press: What does the year of mercy mean to you personally?

Teresa Tomeo: For me, it is another beautiful reminder of what mercy really is; a constant call to conversion. We don’t need mercy unless we have fallen short in some way. So it is a huge encouragement to continually try and work on our relationship with God. For marriage, it is another opportunity to bring that same approach to the husband and wife relationship.

Dominick Pastore: It’s a time to remember all that God has done for me in my life and in particular my marriage because of one thing and one thing only—His unconditional love. St. Paul says in Romans 5:8 that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” What an awesome act of mercy that I hope I can bring in some way into my marriage.

Ave: How does the message in Intimate Graces embrace what Pope Francis is calling for in this holy year?

Tomeo: While the emphasis of the holy year is not necessarily mercy in marriage, this idea that we are hearing so much about in terms of accompanying one another along the faith journey certainly applies. We, as couples, are supposed to help each other get to Heaven, so this upcoming year is perfect for our putting that into practice with more and more mercy.

Pastore:  In his letter introducing the Year of Mercy, the Pope spoke of his desire that the “balm of mercy” may reach all people. We hope that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy we explore in the book will aid in soothing hurting relationships and heal hearts so that marriages can be a witness of God’s mercy already present in the world.

Ave: Are any one of the works of mercy more important in practicing mercy in marriage?

Tomeo: I really think it can change depending on what couples are going through at any given time. Each of the works when looked at through the lenses of marriage can really work to bring couples closer.

Pastore: As Teresa said, I don’t think any one is more important than another, but in any particular marriage there will be ones that resonate more deeply than others; that address areas that could use some attention; or that open hearts and eyes to a new way of looking at one’s marriage.

Ave: What is the first thing that couples can do to bring Jesus into their relationship or to make Him a bigger part of their lives together?

Tomeo: First would be to commit or recommit one's life and marriage to Christ and the teachings of the Church. Second would be to be in His word. Reading the daily Mass readings is an easy, non-threatening way of praying together and bringing God into the marriage. It is something we started years ago and still try to do each morning.  

Pastore: I agree totally with Teresa and would add for couples to talk about Jesus and to Him in prayer as a couple.  Bring Jesus into the everyday fabric of our lives, not see Him as someone we go and visit for an hour on Sunday. Discuss how Jesus is moving in your life individually and as a couple. What is He asking of you? What are you asking of Him? Questions like these can be very fruitful in our marriages.

Ave: Is there a verse in the Bible that describes your marriage?

Tomeo: Romans 8:28 "all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called to His purpose." God can turn lemons into lemonade. He can and does use our suffering for good. If we hadn't had our crisis we wouldn’t be where we are today in our marriage. Not that God wants us to suffer, but if we turn to him, he can and does use it for good.

Pastore: Teresa stole my answer, but if there is one verse that made a huge difference in turning our marriage around it would be the one she mentioned above, Romans 5:8.  Not until we both embraced the beauty and truth of that verse did we start seeing each other through the eyes of Christ and begin helping each other on our journey to heaven as spouses are called to do.

Ave: What else is beneficial for readers to know about the Year of Mercy to strengthen their marriage?

Tomeo: The Church has all kinds of beautiful tools to help us apply mercy starting with Confession. Once we are forgiven, we are or should be more merciful to our spouse. We have an entire year to pray, reflect, and embrace this idea of mercy in all of our relationships, but mercy is really needed in marriages as so many couples are struggling.

Pastore: The other day I saw a sign in my doctor’s office that read: “October is breast cancer awareness month,” except the word “October” was crossed out and replaced with: “Every month.” Every day, month, year is an opportunity to practice the works of mercy in our marriages to help struggling marriages become good marriages and good ones to become great ones.

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