Pope Francis on Saturday praised the worldwide Christian marriage ministry Retrouvaille for giving spouses the opportunity to overcome crises in their relationship and grow as a couple.
The pope met members of Retrouvaille at the Vatican Nov. 6. The lay-led ministry runs a Christian program to help struggling couples overcome difficulties and restore their marriage.
“Today there is a great need for people, for spouses who know how to testify that crisis is not a curse, it is part of the journey, and constitutes an opportunity,” Francis said.
He added that priests and bishops also need to show couples that the opportunity to grow and change exists even in the midst of difficult relational struggles.
The Retrouvaille program, which began in Quebec, Canada in 1977, is Catholic in origin, but serves couples of any faith. Today the volunteer ministry has communities in Canada, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States.
The name “Retrouvaille” is French for “rediscovery.”
Pope Francis praised the group for its ministry to couples who are experiencing a serious crisis in their marriage.
“This is very important, we must not be afraid of crisis,” he said. “Crisis helps us to grow, and what we must take care of is not to fall into conflict, because when you fall into conflict you close your heart and there is no solution to the conflict — or barely.”
He also noted that “wounds” is an important word in the Retrouvaille ministry, because the mentor couples have themselves been wounded by experiencing difficulty in their relationships, and now that they are healed, they “are able to help other wounded couples.”
“You have been in crisis, you have been wounded; thanks to God and with the help of your brothers and sisters you are healed; and you have decided to share your experience, to put it at the service of others,” he stated.
Pope Francis said life will always have challenges to overcome because it is human life and it does not take place in a sterile laboratory.
This is why Catholic clergy as well as laity should learn from Jesus about how to accompany husbands and wives who are struggling, he said.
One image in the Bible which can be helpful, he pointed out, is when the risen Jesus meets the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
“Jesus does not appear from above, from heaven, to say in a thunderous voice: ‘You two, where are you going? Go back.’ No, he starts walking alongside them along the road, without being recognized. He listens to their crisis. He invites them to speak, to express themselves,” Francis said.
“And then he raises them from their folly, surprises them by revealing to them a different perspective, which already existed, was already written, but they had not understood it,” he continued. “They had not understood that Christ had to suffer and die on the cross, that crisis is part of the history of salvation.”
“Accompanying means ‘wasting time’ to stay close to crisis situations. And often it takes a long time, it takes patience, respect, availability,” he explained.
Pope Francis thanked the couples of Retrouvaille for their commitment to others, entrusting their ministry to the protection of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
“This is your gift, the experience you have lived and you place at the service of others. Thank you so much for this. It is a precious gift both on a personal and ecclesial level,” he said.