Conference: "Challenge of
Finding Balance In Our Marriage"
Speaker - Fr. Jack McDermott
Father John McDermott is the beloved and
longtime Pastor of the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey. He is currently working with Renew International (www.renewintl.org).
He is establishing a website, bestparishes.org??? (will include a
link when it becomes active.)
Outline of Talk
- Joke: Priest asks kid the way to the post office. Kid gives
directions. Grateful, the priest tells the kid to come to Mass and
he will show him the way to heaven. The kid says, "Father, if
you don't even know the way to the post office, how can you know the way
- It's the same with this topic: How can a priest talk about marriage?
- As a young priest in the 1950's, I didn't stay in the rectory; I went
out and rang doorbells, looking for parishioners. The major topic
was birth control; people were agonizing over it. Most of the
people with whom I talked were women. What could I tell
them? These were good people. I remembered Vatican II: the
emphasis on conscience. But I felt incompetent to counsel people
- But I had good teachers; and I counted on them. They helped me
to learn who I am (it happened in my early thirties).
- I had early experiences with couples who had violated vows. I
learned enough from them that I finally realized that that should not
keep them from coming to church and taking the sacraments. So I
went back and rang heir doorbells again and said, "God loves you;
come to church."
- People are messy; they marry messy people in front of congregations of
messy people by messy priests.
- Share Her Story
- All that you have in a marriage is that unique person, your
spouse. You must communicate with her. Share
her story: "What was your day like?"
- Men never pray to be sexy; but they should.
- A man, a lapsed Catholic, married 30 years, came to me with terminal cancer. I asked him what he was doing; he said he was getting his
estate in order. I told him I wanted to teach him to pray. I
said to sit with his wife, think back to the first time they met and what
they said and did. Come back in two weeks. After two weeks,
he said he had a new view of his wife; he had no idea how sexy he could
feel. He and his wife then worked on their marriage for his last
1.5 years on earth.
- Many people make business plans but make no plans to grow their
marriages. There is no shared plan for the most important
commitment in their lives. You should make a written plan; keep
- A man came to me in distress. His business was failing. He
had told his wife that he needed to discuss their future, that she had
to understand about the potentially big changes in their material lives,
that he needed her help in this crisis, that they had to plan
together. She told him, "That's your job; don't bother me
with it." No wonder he was in crisis.
- Take time every night to share the day. It's the most important
- You have to work on the marriage. How else to show the children
that effort is required in such relationships.
- Express Your love
- A younger couple's marriage: I asked the wife if they sat together and
touched every day. She said, "Oh, Father, there's just no
- Don't wait to express your love; you could die tomorrow.
- When your wife tells you of a bad experience on a bad day, she's often
not looking for a solution. She's just saying, in effect,
"Just pay attention to me."
- It's really a spiritual need, this need to be heard. Thus, we
need to learn to listen. Work hard at it; it's not easy. We
have to learn to suppress our retorts and just keep listening.
- Love is a verb, not a noun.
- Exchange with her a short list of things that each would like the
other to change. It's a prayer.
- Your Home Is a Church
- Our Renewal (www.renewintl.org)
program works all over the world. We use volunteers and still we
lose $1 million per year.
- Take the time to celebrate church; it's a part of celebrating life,
beauty, etc. Remember when we spent Sundays at Grandma's? No
longer; now it's soccer and football.
- Remember, your home is a church. Take the time for the rituals,
Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Hold hands, share stories, bless the
kids. Create your own rituals.
- I told one father who had said, "My kids all hate me", to
invite them all over, have a nice dinner, then put their names in a bowl
and pick one at a time. The subject sits in the center of the room
and each other person relates one way in which the subject is special. He thought that such a session, even with his several
kids, would be finished in ten minutes. In fact, it took 4.5
- Jesus Loves Me
- I know Jesus loves me, so I can keep going. I go to bed saying,
"Well, I fouled up again today; but I gave it my best."
- Don't be hard on yourself; marriage is messy. Laugh at yourself
a little. Jesus told us simply to love one another.
- People work a lot harder these days. And the children demand a
lot of time. Prepare your children for the fact that life is
unpredictable. Mom and Dad have way too much on their plates.
- The Mormons have weekly family nights. But most of us are not
oriented that way; it's too formal. Don't be doctrinaire.
- Each spouse should contribute from his/her own particular strengths.
- Comments from Breakout Group
- Need to spend time listening to our spouses; not just
responding with solutions.
- If we can learn to handle stress during the day (i.e., on the job) on
a minute-by-minute, crisis-by-crisis basis, then we'll not be stressed
out by the time we get home. And we'll be both willing and able to
spend time listening to our spouses.
- Yoga and meditation help. By staring at an object for a time, we
start seeing some of its characteristics; we start to know the
object. The same effect obtains by our concentrated listening to
(The notes of this outline were taken by David
G. Price. They were wordprocessed by Patrick Lyons.
These notes may not be reproduced without the written permission of the
This page was last edited on December 28, 2000 by Patrick Lyons.)