Over on National Review’s website today, I have a Q&A with Teresa Tomeo and Dom Pastore about their new book Intimate Graces on marriage and mercy. And if you’re interested, there is still more here, below. It’s a great gift for busy couples or those preparing for marriage. Teresa also gets to talk here a little about her book Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag.
KJL: What’s the difference between corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Is one better than the other?
Teresa: The Corporal Works have to do with physical acts that help someone or bring comfort such as visiting someone in prison (ransoming the captive), feeding the hungry, etc. The Spiritual Works have to do more with tending to the soul of another such as instructing, forgiving, and counseling.
Dom: I don’t think one is better than the other — as human beings we are both body and soul, we need to practice all the works of mercy to tend to the whole person.
KJL: How did God give you “a new life and marriage”?
Dom: In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says: “I make all things new.” His presence in our marriage, and just His presence, but is centrality in our marriage is what made all the difference. You often her spouses talk about how the love each other more now than when they were first married; that wasn’t us, until we brought God into our marriage — now it’s true in spades. He put a purpose into our life and opened our eyes to the beauty of giving yourself totally to Him for the sake of each other.
KJL: What do you mean when you say that Jesus “wants to random our captive hearts and help us experience the freedom of his abundant mercy and love”?
Teresa: Jesus wants to free us from whatever is preventing us from diving into to His pool of love and mercy head first.
He has so much to offer and sometimes we put Him in a box because we are afraid a total commitment might costs us something when actually He gives us so much more than we could ever imagine. Not only did He heal our marriage but He also gave me a brand new ministry and focus in my life and led my husband to discern the diaconate and eventually become a deacon.
KJL: What does the serenity prayer mean for marriage?
Dom: Every marriage will face difficult times and hard decisions; without the Lord and the teachings of the Church leading the way in all aspects of our lives it’s going to be a much greater struggle and will never be all that it can and should be. And this takes the gift of humility, to submit to God’s authority, as husband and wife, knowing that He loves us and will never lead us astray.
KJL: Does admonishing the sinner jive with mercy?
Pastore: This can be difficult and delicate because we are all sinners; we all have faults and weaknesses, but when it’s done with love and compassion, it can be very merciful. The heart of any merciful act is to treat the other person as Jesus would do. He admonished sinners with love; meeting them where they were at and lifting them up to a higher level; a level worthy of their dignity as a human being. He never admonished just for the sake of showing how perfect He was; but how loving He was for the benefit of the other person. When we need to address a situation with our spouse, it should be with a clear understanding that whatever the issue is it will never be used as a weapon against them in the future. When this kind of trust exists, there can be a very loving and merciful exchange between spouses.
KJL: Why be a deacon? Is it the most misunderstood/under-appreciated vocation in the Church?
Dom: When compared to being a priest, and especially a pastor, being a deacon is a walk in the park. I don’t think the diaconate is misunderstood as much as it is just not understood. Many Catholics haven’t been exposed to having a deacon in their parish or seeing a deacon in his many roles. You asked why a deacon — first let me say that I didn’t choose to be a deacon, but rather God chose me through the wisdom of the church. I struggled a long time about whether I had a calling, even while I was in formation, but it wasn’t until I was able to put it totally in God’s hands did a hear him calling me to the diaconate. I love being a deacon because it allows me to be a bridge between the world and the church; being able to reach into places where a priest can’t necessarily go; to serve others in the name of Christ and His church; and to help build up their faith and their relationship with God.
KJL: Teresa, what is it like being married to a deacon?
Teresa: It’s been just over three years since Dom’s ordination and it has been an amazing journey so far. Most of all I am enjoying helping him in any way I can, get settled in parish life and ministry while still juggling a full-time job. We are used to being very busy and love doing work for the Church so the adjustments have been very minor. It is a real blessing to see him on the altar every week serving God and the Church in such a beautiful way.
We have a very supporting and strong pastor, Fr. Darrell Roman from St. Issac Jogues in the Archdiocese of Detroit who is encouraging Dom to take the lead with some evangelization ideas. Now that the book is out we are looking for ways to minister together as a deacon couple and use Intimate Graces as a starting point to help build stronger marriages. We are hoping to take this on the road and help other parishes and dioceses as well. So pray for us.
KJL: Why is Teresa of Avila your favorite saint, Teresa?
Teresa: What’s not to love about St. Teresa? She was funny. She loved life. She infused joy in the convents she established as she went about reforming the Carmelite order. My interest in her began in my childhood when I learned I was named after this incredible doctor of the Church. So I started to do some reading about her life. I admire her spunk, determination, and her boldness. Her honesty and loving but direct communication with Jesus was also very refreshing. This past spring I finally had the chance to go to Avila and I bonded even more closely with this saint. No matter what obstacles were put in front of her she just kept on keeping on. She also left behind so much great material on the spiritual life. I am constantly learning new things from her and she is teaching me a lot about prayer.
KJL: Do you have one, Dom? Have saints helped along the way in your marriage?
Dom: I’m sure the Saints have helped, but until recently, because of Teresa’s influence, I haven’t had a strong relationship with the saints as Teresa has. That being said, I have always been drawn to St. Francis of Assisi because of his simple life, dedication to serving the Lord and others, never counting the cost—not that I’ve ever been able to substantially accomplish any of these!
KJL: Teresa, you have another recent book Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag. How does a purse have anything to do with the spiritual life?
Teresa: Well sometimes we carry a lot of spiritual baggage that can weigh us down. What we should be doing is carrying Jesus with us every day which will lift us up. So that’s where I came up with the idea. Not to mention that I am so tired of folks thinking or assuming that being faithful is automatically associated with being frumpy.
Everything in moderation of course. But I believe if our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit then why not look our best when we go out in the world? That doesn’t mean wearing tons of making up and spending thousands of dollars. It just means, again moderation, and modesty. You can be fashionable and faithful.
KJL: Does the aftermath of the synod that happened in Rome last month have you worried?
Teresa: Fear and discouragement are from the devil. The Church has been around for 2,000 years and the Holy Spirit has promised to protect Her. Jesus promised us that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So I trust in God’s will being done.
I am frustrated, as a Catholic talk show host, by the media spin and the efforts by some both in and outside the Church who are aiming to cause confusion; attempting to get Catholics and others to think that the Church is going to change or can change Church teaching regarding marriage, same-sex unions, etc. So these types of events keep me busy in answering e mails and clarifying many a confusing story.
KJL: What was your experience of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, during the pope’s visit to the U.S.? Was it important? How?
Teresa: The World Meeting of Families was a huge shot in the arm for me. I can remember sitting in the press room and watching one of the celebrations on the big screens. It was filled with beautiful Catholic hymns sung by adult and children’s choirs. Listening to the beautiful music and thinking about how many people came from around the world to celebrate and learn more about the faith just brought me to tears. I was also very moved by the hundreds of different lay apostolates who are doing such great work for the Kingdom. We are really starting to take up the call of the laity that was given to us at Vatican II. The line-up of speakers was phenomenal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how blessed we Catholics are to be in such an incredibly rich and deep faith.
KJL: What are you most grateful for?
Teresa: Jesus and our Church. I am so grateful that I finally woke up and smelled the cappuccino! My amazing and adorable husband and just life itself. Every day is a gift in which to rejoice, smile, and make a difference.
Dom: Ditto. I am so grateful that God worked a miracle in our lives and saved our marriage; and not only saved it, but gave us a marriage in return that is far greater than anything I could have imagine 32 years ago.