Catholic Herald Staff
Dynamic Catholic’s Dr. Allen Hunt opened the “Passion and Purpose for Marriage” event Aug. 18 in Woodruff by saying his goal for the day was “sharing the legacy of the Catholic understanding of marriage.”
Approximately 300 people, mostly in couples, gathered for four hours on at Holy Family Catholic Church. Hunt said participants’ attendance witnessed a responsiveness to God’s call to “make your soul great.”
Musician George Lauer performed before Maureen Perez, Holy Family parishioner and event organizer, welcomed the crowd. She was accompanied by her husband and granddaughter; the couple had welcomed their third grandchild the day before.
Calling it a “groundbreaking event,” Holy Family pastor Fr. Aaron Devett began with a prayer.
After being introduced, Hunt presented his goal for the seminar. He expounded on the Catholic understanding of marriage as different than that of the culture at large.
He said, quoting St. John of the Cross, “God’s purpose is to make your soul great … The church exists to make our souls great – parishes, sacraments; marriage as a sacrament has that purpose.”
Hunt addressed three topics in three talks: What women need to know about men; what men need to know about women; and the most important word in a marriage.
A Protestant pastor for two decades before his conversion to Catholicism, Hunt’s preaching style was active and engaging. He emphasized points with repetition, speed and volume; he exemplified concepts with stories.
Five things women need to know about men: They need respect more than love; they need to provide; they need sexual intimacy; they love even when they don’t communicate well; and they do know the word “love.”
Hunt summarized four points on what men need to know about women: They need to be listened to; they need to have their mate turn toward them and not away; they need to feel special; and they want to positively influence their husbands.
Dr. Hunt spoke about the point of decision in every marriage, not possible until a few years into the marriage. “Love is blind, but marriage has the power to restore sight,” he joked.
He proposed the fundamental question then becomes, “Am I in this for the long haul, in it to win it?” To which, he said, there were only three answers: no, stay but quit, and yes.
Hunt spoke about the praise-to-criticism ratio in a relationship. He cited studies by John and Julie Gottman on the effect of at least five positive interactions to each negative one.
Little moments aren’t just part of your marriage, he said; “Little moments are your marriage.” He acknowledged the importance of grand gestures, but affirmed the little things of every day are what matter most long-term. Hunt correlated this with a relationship with God.
During the second talk, Hunt enlisted help from a couple in the crowd to share Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages.” He gave examples and stressed the importance for each spouse to learn their own dominant languages and their spouse’s.
Women’s needs included undivided attention and silent, patient listening. “They’re not carburetors; stop trying to fix them,” he said.
Each talk ended with a guided moment of interaction between each couple. After the first talk, which ended with the men reciting 1 Corinthians 13, the women were asked to turn toward their partner and share something they had learned. After the second talk, men were asked to do the same.
Prior to the second break, Dynamic Catholic employee and Wisconsin native Amanda Recktenwald presented briefly on the mission of the organization. She gave alarming statistics of Catholic participation in the faith: with 1.7 million Catholics baptized each year, 1.4 million receive First Communion; numbers fall to 1 million receiving Confirmation and by their early 20s, only 150,000 are active.
“That’s tragic, and at Dynamic Catholic we find that to be absolutely unacceptable,” Recktenwald said.
“All of these numbers are real people.”
By show of hands, the majority of participants were first-time participants in a Dynamic Catholic event; however, one-third acknowledged giving financial support for Dynamic Catholic’s mission.
Hunt started the third and final session outlining four “painful, leaky habits” in a marriage. They were disrespect (in various forms or contempt, criticism, anger and abuse); poor handling of money; alcohol and substance abuse; and dishonesty and infidelity.
He went on to reveal the most important word in a marriage is not love.
“I am going to introduce you to the most important word in a marriage, the most powerful word in the English language – forgiveness,” Dr. Hunt stated.
He paused and repeated, over and over, “forgiveness and grace… forgiveness and grace… forgiveness and grace.
“You show me a marriage where forgiveness and grace are sprinkled liberally and generously … I’ll show you a marriage that is going to be long-lasting, healthy and satisfying.”
He said the opposite is also true – where forgiveness is withheld, a marriage struggles and suffocates.
“The fact of the matter is that you married a human being – we’re wonderfully imperfect,” the preacher affirmed and invited to “the awareness that myself and my spouse are both imperfect.”
He summarized that without forgiveness and grace, what a couple ends up with is revenge and resentment. To combat this, Hunt offered, absorb and release.
Hunt clarified, “Forgiveness acknowledges the hurt, acknowledges the wound, but instead of putting it back on your spouse or hanging on to it … I am going to absorb it and release it spiritually so that it no longer has power over me, over you or our relationship. Revenge and resentment are nothing next to release.”
He acknowledged it is a concept easy to talk about but difficult to live. Hunt shared an example of a woman who, after leaving her husband and children for a man she was having an affair with, finally accepted her husband’s repeated invitation to come home. Criticized for taking her back, the husband’s response was, thinking of his Lord and all he personally had been forgiven of, how could he not forgive the woman God had entrusted to him to love?
Hunt shared his own first experience of confession as an adult. He described in detail the cleansing he felt and how he wondered if all Catholics really understood what was being offered in that sacrament.
He reminded the crowd that there was a reason the event was held in a church rather than a secular place, in the presence of the Eucharist and under the gaze of the crucified Christ.
“If anybody should understand forgiveness it’s us Catholics – we have a whole sacrament dedicated to it,” he emphasized.
Referring to Scripture, Hunt retold of Jesus’s comments to Peter on forgiveness – not seven times, but 70-times-seven times.
He stated, “I’m reluctant to tell you what I’m about to tell you … Jesus was an extremist, a radical – when it comes to forgiveness and grace.”
Hunt invited each couple to take turns asking forgiveness from each other. They were directed to simply respond, “I forgive you,” and encouraged to take it deeper at a later time.
“Just a simple act today of mercy and forgiveness for each other,” he said. He iterated that relationships, marital and otherwise, need liberal applications of forgiveness and God’s help to do so.
In what Hunt called the “closing act of worship” for the marriage event, he led Liam Lawton’s “Prayer of Forgiveness.” The prayer asked for humility and forgiveness towards oneself; greater self-understanding and healing in deep places of hurt; the ability to listen to those seeking forgiveness; and accepting the sincerity of their hearts so that God’s mercy might be known through pardon offered.