The "Safe Haven" of Grace

I like this piece by Tony Rossi, over at Patheos, about Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook, who talks about his latest novel, Safe Haven, but also about what he has learned about the safety and strength that comes from making a commitment, either to marriage, or to something else:

Commitment through difficult times has been a factor in Nicholas Sparks’ relationship with God too. Both his parents were killed in accidents and his sister died of brain cancer, so the author admits to having some angry conversations with the Creator over the years. Yet Sparks sees even those times as having a positive spiritual effect because he talks to God constantly. He says, “You think of God as your Father, but fathers and sons hopefully become friends. My view is that it’s less blasphemous than honest. I think He likes the fact that you’re talking to Him.”

The struggles that Sparks has faced incorporate their way into his novels through all his characters having wounds they need to deal with. For instance, in his new novel Safe Haven, Alex is a widower raising two kids on his own while Katie has secrets she fears will bring harm to herself and others. The author believes these wounds are what make his characters relatable because everyone strives to recover from problems and pains. He says, “It’s your wounds as well as your successes and how you deal with them that really define who you are as a person.”

The importance of commitments — and the “safe havens” that can be established within them — has played itself out in Sparks’ life in other ways. In the years he spent as track and field coach for New Bern High School, Sparks helped many teens with tough backgrounds gain a new definition of themselves as people. He not only led the team to state and national championships, but New Bern High School was recently voted the greatest high school relay team in history. How did he do it? The longer he coached, the more he realized that success depended more on mental attitude than physical training and telling them over and over, “Champions perform best when it counts the most.”

You can read more here.

On a related note, Pope Benedict XVI made a particularly interesting and courageous observation about the how wives can inspire their husbands in Christian marriage.

And if you missed it, take a look at Rossi’s interview with Everybody Loves Raymond’s Patricia Heaton, where she discusses her faith, and her pro-life activities.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Anchoress | A First Things Blog --

  • Jackie Parkes

    Wonderful post..

  • Manny

    I enjoyed the articles on Sparks and Heaton. I didn’t know they were Catholic. I really like that Patheos site. Thanks a bunch. :)

  • Jennifer

    Checked the link to read what the Pope said… what’d I miss? I don’t get it. What did he say? (I admit, I haven’t had coffee yet this morning.)

    [No, I found it. this is what I had read, and I picked up on the word "husbands" and just ran with it. My mistake. I was writing very fast and trying to get out the door to take the inlaws to dinner for their 53rd anniversary. I'll fix -admin]

  • Beth

    I don’t think I heard or read anything about husbands….was it the wrong link?

    [Possibly. I thought when I was reading his remarks yesterday I had read the word "husbands" but I'm wondering if I had an iffy translation; now I am trying to find it. -admin]

  • Brian

    I agree with Jennifer – what did the Pope say about the role of husbands?

    The headline of the linked article mentioned our special role, but the Pope’s comments are actually directed toward both spouses. If anything, he’s talking specifically about wives, not husbands.

    Unless the special role of husbands is to die early (like Ulf, St. Bridget’s husband) and allow their wives a second life of heroic sanctity?


    OK, I’ll do it, dear – but I’ve got to fix the vacuum cleaner first…

    [See my responses above. I still think it's courageous, though. Suggesting that wives can inspire their husbands, when our culture has relegated the husband to the role of hapless boob? But I hope he'll say more about husbands and fathers, soon! I'll be able to be just a tad more careful in my reading/linking in a few days when this election is over (unless, of course, the fraud keeps it going a while, God help us!) and this sense of drowning in news overload goes away! -admin]

  • Maureen

    I think the “courageous” remark is supposed to be the contrast of Catholic ideas of marriage (where both spouses and the kids push and pull each other toward Heaven the best they can, even though the husband is overall paterfamilias) with the sometime-Protestant idea that the man leads in everything and the woman has to trail behind in submissive fakery, even if the husband’s going in the wrong direction. (Which no doubt the Anchoress hears bruited in nasty email, even from Catholics.)

    “Her husband was called Ulf and he was governor of an important district of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted 28 years, until Ulf’s death… Bridget, spiritually guided by a learned religious who initiated her in the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her own family that, thanks to her presence, became a true “domestic church.” Together with her husband, she adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. She practiced works of charity towards the indigent with generosity; she also founded a hospital. Together with his wife, Ulf learned to improve his character and to advance in the Christian life. On returning from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, taken in 1341 with other members of the family, the spouses matured the plan to live in continence, but shortly after, in the peace of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf concluded his earthly life.

    The first period of Bridget’s life helps us to appreciate what today we could define an authentic “conjugal spirituality”: Together, Christian spouses can follow a path of sanctity, supported by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage. Not infrequently, as happened in the lives of St. Bridget and Ulf, it is the wife who with her religious sensibility, with delicacy and gentleness, is able to make the husband follow a path of faith.”

    I was very touched by the Holy Father’s insistence on calling St. B’s saintly daughter Karin. One usually reads about her as St. Catherine of Sweden; but indeed, she is also the natural patron of a good many Karens in this world. St. B had the visions, but St. K made the Brigittine orders work.

  • charles

    Patricia Heaton? Er … umm ….

    I have heard her say previously that she had abandoned the Church. This site claims that she hasn’t, although acknowledging that she attends Presbyterian services.

  • Greg Marquez

    I’m hoping someone can explain this sentence to me: The longer he coached, the more he realized that success depended more on mental attitude than physical training and telling them over and over, “Champions perform best when it counts the most.”

    Is he saying he did tell them this over and over again as part of developing their mental attitude or is he saying he did other things to develop their mental attitude and telling them this over and over again wasn’t part of it?

  • Perplexed

    “There’s more out there. The world doesn’t just revolve around you.”

    This is what Sparks gets from daily prayer and weekly Mass? I think he pays more attention to People Magazine than anything else.

    My experience is that the more popular these people become the more useless their advice is. Oprah, and all the clowns she spawns, have nothing of value to say. Nothing. The Truth is not popular, never has been. They (we) crucified the Truth, remember? And the reason was that the popular truth was going to be discredited by the real Truth. Can’t have that…we need to sell our books and movies with bogus, feel good messages. Time to get rid of the Truth before it affects our bank accounts.

    Friends, I’ve been married 27 years and my increasing faith has all but destroyed my marriage. My wife and I see things very differently now, and she’s not coming along. If we all suffer for our faith, I guess this is how suffering will come to me. It has no Nicholas Sparks happy ending. In fact, I’d like to slap the self-satisfied smirk off his face. The Truth has made me miserable, but it hasn’t set me free yet.

  • Tony Rossi

    I guess my sentence structure was off on that one. It means he told them the “champions” line over and over to develop their mental attitude.

  • Kirstin

    I, too, thought that Patricia Heaton left the Catholic Church and is bringing up her sons in the Presbyterian Church. Notice that Rossi’s interview does not discuss her church involvement these days.

    She has a sister who is a nun, however.

  • Jennifer

    Perplexed, my heart goes out to you. I feel compelled to tell you not to lose hope. I don’t know God’s plan, but I know He loves you and your wife and desires life for both of you. You’ll surely come to mind during my prayers tonight. God bless you.

  • Elaine S.

    “my increasing faith has all but destroyed my marriage. My wife and I see things very differently now, and she’s not coming along.”

    Perplexed, I will be praying for you as well. I am in a somewhat similar boat… when I married 16 years ago, my husband was an active Catholic “revert,” but in recent years he has “reverted” back to his former ways, doesn’t go to Mass anymore, and sometimes chides me for being too “fanatical” because I insist on attending Mass every Sunday. I often wonder what I have done wrong to drive him away from God when I’m supposed to be bringing him closer to God, but all I can do is persevere.

  • Jackie Parkes

    Do you mind linking to my blog?