According to Cappuchin Franciscan Father Simeon Gallagher, we should pray daily for three special graces: a compassionate heart, an open mind, and an imaginative spirit.
These three graces help build strong relationships and happy, holy marriages, and single Catholics would do well to pray for them today.
The first grace, compassion. Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another…accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Research studies show that compassion is an antidote to anger and other negative emotions and is linked with a longer, healthier life. Furthermore, most people believe it is one of the most attractive features in a potential spouse! Compassion is the lifeblood of loving Catholic marriages.
The second grace is that of an open mind. We aren’t talking about an empty mind into which all sorts of nonsense falls. Having an open mind in a relationship means to respect, revere and honor the other person.
Relationship guru John Gottman would describe this as being open to influence. If I always insist on having the last word or that things go my way and dismiss my partner’s thoughts and feelings, then I am being condescending, even contemptuous. And contempt, according to Gottman, is one of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. Even though we may not agree 100 percent with our partner, we should be willing to hear his point of view, to listen attentively, and to try to understand. Fostering a culture of appreciation, which includes respecting the other person’s thoughts and feelings and being open to accepting influence, builds strong relationships and happy marriages.
The third grace is that of an imaginative spirit. This last point is the most intriguing because, over time, many couples get into ruts. Especially in marriage. But also, as Father Simeon pointed out, an imaginative spirit helps counteract the alienation and materialism of our culture. When we spend much of our free time shopping, sitting in front of a TV or playing Angry Birds on our iPhones, we may begin to treat other people as things. We lose our sense of wonder, romance, and poetry; we become less open to our dreams and inspirations. A happy, loving relationship requires sharing our dreams, keeping the romance alive, and appreciating the wonder of another human being.
Single Catholics, as we settle into 2012, let’s pray for healthy, holy relationships. And as we contemplate Christ’s humility and exquisite charity in drawing so close to us, let’s especially pray for the grace to build and strengthen our own intimate relationships through compassion, openness, and wonder.