By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A period of crisis in a marriage is frightening and painful, but it also can be an opportunity for growth, especially if the couple receives the support of others who have survived similar crises, Pope Francis said.

Meeting Nov. 6 with couples involved in Retrouvaille, a couple-to-couple ministry for people experiencing difficulty in their marriages, Pope Francis said the program is a gift to those involved, but also to the church.

“To be credible, one must have experienced” a time of crisis, he said. “It cannot be a theoretical discourse, a ‘pious exhortation’; it would not be credible.”

Members of Retrouvaille have been in crisis and have been wounded, he said, but “thanks to God and with the help of your brothers and sisters you have been healed; and you have decided to share this experience of yours, to put it at the service of others.”

“Crises help us to grow,” the pope said. They are unpleasant and make people “wobble,” but they can be overcome, especially with a helping hand.

“Crises cause wounds, they cause wounds to the heart and flesh,” he said. “You are wounded couples who have gone through the crisis and have healed; and because of this you are able to help other wounded couples. You have not gone away, you did not walk away in the crisis — ‘This isn’t working, I am going back to my mother.’ You took the crisis in hand and sought a solution.”

Pope Francis reminded the couples that in depictions of the Risen Christ, his glorified body still has the scars of his crucifixion, a sign that of his compassion for “the wounds of us all.”

And like the risen Jesus walking alongside the dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus, the church is called to walk alongside couples experiencing a crisis in their marriage, he said.

“Jesus does not appear from above, from heaven, to say in a thunderous voice: ‘You two, where are you going? Come back!’ No. He walks alongside them along the road,” the pope said. “He listens to their crisis. He invites them to talk, to express themselves. And then he redeems them from their foolishness,” explaining how their savior had to suffer and die to enter into glory.

“This is important,” the pope told the couples. “Crisis is part of the history of salvation. And human life is not a life in a laboratory, an aseptic life, immersed in alcohol so there is nothing strange. Human life is a life in crisis, a life with all the problems that come up every day.”

The important thing is that Christians do what Christ did on the road to Emmaus, accompanying couples in difficulty, spending time with them “without continually looking at the clock,” he said. “And it often takes a lot of time, it takes patience, respect, it takes willingness. All this is accompanying. And you know this well.”

Get information about upcoming Retrouvaille weekends in Phoenix.