Chapter Eight: Encountering Brokenness
by Paul Jarzembowski
While working as a young adult minister at a parish several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a married couple in their late 20’s at our summer Theology-on-Tap series. They wandered into the event, uncertain of what to expect, and, because they did not know any other young adults there, quietly slid into a booth near the back of the restaurant. Noticing their uneasiness, I discreetly sat next to them so that they would have someone to talk to. After some pleasantries and basic introductions, I asked them what brought them there … and eventually I found out that they were struggling with a number of issues: economic uncertainty, living from one paycheck to the next, but also infertility and frustrating relationships with their parents and extended families.
I have no recollection of who spoke at Theology-on-Tap that evening or the topic discussed, but I do remember that couple. Hearing their story, listening to their concerns, and inviting them to stay in touch in the weeks, months, and years afterwards was the important part of the night for me. It is a blessing to my ministry that I still hear from this couple to this day.
It was this incident that came to mind while I read chapter eight of Love Is Our Mission: “A Home for the Wounded Heart.” It reads, “To grasp the Church’s ministry of teaching correctly, we also need to consider her pastoral nature,” reminding us of Pope Francis’ beautiful image of Church as “a field hospital after battle” (no. 151). The young couple I met had been going through a hard battle against economics, infertility, and family strife – and they sought refuge at their local young adult gathering.
Their story is not unlike other young couples’ stories—or indeed, singles as well. From debt, careers, and economic crises to abuse (verbal, physical, psychological) and neglect, as well as feelings of inadequacy, depression, and difficulty balancing time, many young people (single, dating, engaged, and married alike) are struggling – often hiding their angst in public. Yet in the midst of their woundedness, they are seeking Christ.
The couple I met that summer night was wounded. They came to Theology-on-Tap to get away from their problems for an evening, but had no one approached them, those same struggles would have been unchanged the next morning. When they walked in, I was tempted to talk their heads off with all the great opportunities waiting for them at the church – but something told me to shut up and listen. And that made all the difference in the world.
Every couple, whether they are dating, engaged, or married for many years, has a story – and all are wounded in some way, even beaten down by a variety of frustrations. To be a home for the wounded, sometimes it is best to simply listen, to offer them refuge from the pain and angst, and to share the presence of Christ Jesus, who says to them and to all of us in our struggles: “Come to me … and I will give you rest.”
About the author
Paul Jarzembowski is the Assistant Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.