WCR FILE PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Authors Melissa Guzik (above) and Jean MacKenzie describe 10 dimensions important for a happy marriage in To Know, Love and Serve.
'Marriage is a way to show us how God loves us and how we can love God in return through our spouse."
That's how Catholic authors Melissa Guzik of Edmonton and Jean MacKenzie of Truro, N.S., define marriage in their recently released book To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment.
The pair describe their book as a practical program that uses psychologically sound information and the Church's teaching on marriage to help couples deepen their relationship with God and strengthen and heal their relationship with each other.
The 10-week format, founded on communication, explores the different dimensions of marriage and reflects Guzik's and MacKenzie's clinical and personal experiences.
"We need to know our spouse, love our spouse and serve our spouse to live a happy and healthy marriage that is pleasing to God," the authors say.
Guzik and MacKenzie are both Catholic marriage counsellors who incorporate their faith within their counselling practices, where appropriate, and both have been married for more than 10 years.
Guzik, a mother of three, is the founding president of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association of Canada and MacKenzie, a mother of six, is the association's founding treasurer and president-elect.
The authors have experience working with couples in all stages of relationships and say "it is not uncommon that they get out of the habit of taking time out as a couple to focus on their marriage, especially after they have children."
"This book is designed to help couples get back in the habit of taking time out on a regular basis to focus on each other from the comfort of their own homes," they say in a recent email.
"Couples also get the opportunity to include their faith in this time together, allowing them to rise to the call to deepen their faith within the sacrament of marriage."
In an interview, Guzik said she and MacKenzie incorporate their faith journey and their experience with marriage as professional counsellors and as married people into the book.
"We look at 10 different dimensions that are important for a healthy marriage and we really focus a lot on communication."
Three chapters are specifically devoted to communication, including one that tackles listening and problem-solving.
From there, the authors go into such areas as roles and expectations, spirituality, intimacy, openness to life, parenting, finances and plans for the future.
The book also includes opportunities for couples to be engaged in prayer, reflections on Scripture and Pope Benedict's encyclical Deus Caritas Est – God is Love – and discussions and activities on the 10 dimensions of marriage.
"We both feel very strongly about our Catholic faith and so we wanted to be able to write a book that encompassed the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith in marriage because it's not always easy to live that out," Guzik said. "We wanted to create a good resource that couples can turn to."
To Know, Love and Serve is for everybody but could be particularly beneficial for couples who may not have the resources or the time to attend programs and retreats the Church offers for couples, such as Marriage Encounter.
Each chapter of the book starts with a prayer for the couple to say together and then goes into a reading from the Bible or the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, along with a reflection on the passage.
For example, chapter four, the chapter on roles and expectations, includes Proverbs 31.10-31, which tells men that a good wife is far more precious than jewels.
In the same chapter, the authors quote St. Paul telling the Ephesians to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. "This is not a small calling since Christ gave up his life for the Church," the authors reflect.
In their chapter on intimacy Guzik and MacKenzie use a reading from Deus Caritas Est which defines love as seeking the good of the beloved.
In their reflection, the authors speak about mental, emotional and physical intimacy saying emotional intimacy is built when a couple shares feelings with each other.
As for spiritual intimacy, this can be built by praying for one's spouse without forgetting the importance of praying together.
Physical intimacy is important as well. "There is a tremendous vulnerability in offering our bodies in their beauty and imperfection for the pleasure of our spouse," write Guzik and MacKenzie.
"However, sex is a gift from God. This momentous act, when carried out with an attitude of self-giving and trust within the sacrament of marriage, will indeed lead to a closeness that should not be disregarded."