The Jubilee Year of Mercy is right around the corner. Why not take advantage of that year to work on your marriage? In Intimate Graces (Ave Maria Press, 2015), Catholic media maven Teresa Tomeo (Pastore) and her husband Deacon Dominick Pastore examine how practicing the works of mercy can bring out the best in marriage.
In the Foreward, Greg and Julie Alexander, founders of The Alexander House, share, “Marriage is like a plant. It is either growing, or it is dying. The only thing that is certain is it does not remain stagnant. If we do something to grow and nurture the relationship, then it will be strengthened; on the contrary, if we do nothing to strengthen or sustain our marriages, they dwindle and sooner or later are holding on for dear life.”
At one point, Tomeo and Pastore’s marriage was holding on for dear life. It was only through the grace of God and a great deal of work on both of their parts that they were able to survive and thrive. They know share their story with others in the hopes of helping other marriages under stress. In Intimate Graces, they explore each of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and how they can apply to marriage.
They explore these works of mercy on a much deeper level than one might expect. For example, under “Feed the Hungry,” one might expect a discussion of shared meal times and the love that can go into preparing a meal. Instead, they talk about feeding your partner’s deepest longings. “Quenching the Parched” means to refresh and renew your love. “Instructing the Ignorant” involves getting to know your spouse on a deep level and being willing to share your own secrets with him or her. Each chapter includes a reflection from both Tomeo and Pastore, a prayer, and questions for reflection.
Intimate Graces will be best for marriages in which both partners are committed to improving the marriage. Also, as far as this reader could ascertain, the couple does not have children, which means that the stress that they can bring to a marriage is not covered in any detail. Anyone who is married, however, is guaranteed to find at least one helpful tip in these pages for how to better relate to and love one’s spouse.
As the authors state, “We hope that this book will be used in a number of different ways and settings. While it is perfect for couples to share privately, the book and study guide are also designed to be used at the parish level for marriage prep, adult catechesis, and, given the increasing role of deacons in the Church, in diaconate formation as well.” It would also make a great addition to any parish library.