Matters of the heart

The Baltimore Sun

In his gray hooded robe with its knotted cord belt, Father Bart Karwacki doesn't look the part of a lecturer preparing to teach people how to keep their "love tanks" full.

But the Franciscan friar will discuss that technique and others at a Valentine's Day workshop at the Shrine of St. Anthony. The event is based on the bestselling book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.

"These theories fascinate me, and I find they can be helpful to people in their relationships," Karwacki, 61, said.

Karwacki, who read the book last year, said he got hooked on it and decided to use it to help others.

The Catholic priest is teaching the seminar for the first time, though he's given homilies at weddings based on writing of the book's author, Gary Chapman. When Karwacki was choosing a Saturday to schedule the event, he quickly zeroed in on Feb. 14.

"People take the time to express their love to each other on Valentine's Day, so it seemed like perfect timing," he said of the workshop, which is open to the public.

Karwacki is not a monk, and he does not lead a solitary lifestyle. And the Ellicott City shrine isn't a monastery, either. Instead, the 12 friars live together as a brotherhood and venture out into the world to preach and give spiritual guidance, he said.

He joined other friars to root for the Arizona Cardinals in last week's Super Bowl, though the southern New Jersey native would have preferred to see the Philadelphia Eagles on the field.

Karwacki is working on developing more walking trails and positioning new benches for contemplation across the shrine's 230-acre property off Folly Quarter Road, which he said the friars don't intend to sell despite the revolving bevy of inquiring developers.

He is also a fan of Chapman's books on speaking the languages of love.

Karwacki will use the paperback to highlight ways to enhance emotional intimacy and spirituality at Saturday morning's session for couples and singles. A discussion will follow.

"Each one of us is searching for love - it's a very basic need," said the priest, who became a friar in 1965 and came to live at the 79-year-old Franciscan friary in 1988.

He is interested in helping others develop interpersonal relationships beyond romantic love, he said.

"Some people are addicted to romantic love, which they describe as 'magical' or 'extremely exhilarating,' " he said, paraphrasing a passage from Chapman's book.

After the temporary emotional high wanes, people in relationships need to learn how to pursue what is called "true love," he said. Everyone can become fluent in "love languages" if they follow the author's advice, the priest said.

While he recommends participants read the 203-page book before the seminar, he will use a PowerPoint presentation to help the audience get up to speed on the concepts it describes.

Written in 1992 by Chapman, a North Carolina-based marriage counselor and Baptist pastor, the book spells out five distinct languages individuals can use to improve communication with loved ones: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

"I realized early on in my practice that what makes one person feel loved doesn't make another person feel loved," Chapman said in a telephone interview. "So I went through my notes and asked myself, 'What did people who didn't feel loved want?' "

Chapman divided clients' responses into categories and laid out his findings in a book, hoping to give guidance to people he couldn't counsel, he said. And with 5 million copies translated into 38 languages, the author says he's met that goal.

"I felt certain it would succeed, but I never anticipated all this," he said, referring to the 78 nonconsecutive weeks it has spent on the top 10 paperback advice bestsellers list of The New York Times, where it is currently ranked ninth.

Seven titles on various love languages are available, including editions geared toward parents wanting to increase communication with their children, people who want to become closer to God and single people, among others.

Having read a few titles in the series, Karwacki said, "If you've read one, then you understand the basis for all of them."

"The author's whole theory is that we need to learn how to give and receive love," he said. "Then we can keep our emotional love tanks full."

To register for this workshop or for more information, call 410-531-2800 or visit The cost for the event, to be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., is $25 per person or $30 per couple.


Is there a noteworthy person or event in your neighborhood? Contact Neighbors columnist Janene Holzberg at or 410-461-4150.

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