Newlywed Life | Not About Flying: Deepening Your Friendship in the First Year of Marriage

THERESA NAMENYE

 

I have been married for a little over a year and a half.

I grew up knowing my husband Garrett as the boy next door, quite literally. We became neighbors at thirteen and met on a homeschooling field trip. When we graduated high school and came home from college during breaks, our mutual best friend group grew closer.

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Summers were usually spent downtown on the beach, picking out a movie for after work, running to the grocery store for cheap brownies, and laughing in our parents’ basements over some ridiculous story. Several of us even planned a successful camping trip one beautiful weekend in August, where we climbed Sleeping Bear dunes and talked for hours around our campfire.

I don’t exactly know when we fell in love, but we did, days before we left for our senior year of college. The hesitancy to start dating stemmed partly from the fact that it was risking a lot to potentially ruin our beloved friend group. But we did.

Being in love lasted about a year and a half.

Being in love was fabulous. Some of the moments Garrett and I shared were so intense, so glorious, and so unbelievably...soaring, that I could scarcely imagine how beautiful married life would be. We felt stupidly and deliciously in love.

The day after we got married, we packed up everything we owned into a little car and moved across the country. We said goodbye to our friends, our families, our familiarity. And very shortly after, I also said goodbye to the intense feelings of romantic love.

Having spent the entirety of our dating and engagement long distance, we were in for a real shock living together. Sharing a studio apartment had seemed so romantic and cute before; now, we each found ourselves dumbfounded at the preposterous and downright insane living habits of the other person. Communicating on Facebook messenger suddenly wasn’t the way we talked. Coming from two completely opposite families, we dealt with stress utterly differently. I would lash out and be direct, and my calm Garrett would have no idea how to respond to this now- aggressively crazy woman he had married. Garrett treated our living space like the dorm room of a nineteen-year-old college student and just about made my sincere desire for order die a tragic death.

We suddenly found ourselves arguing, crying, and stressing out all the time. We reached for the comfort of our flaming, intense romance, but it wasn’t really anywhere to be found.

Instead, we slowly fell back on all those years of raw and authentic friendship. We spent evenings curled up, watching new shows on Netflix, laughing and staying up half of the night like we did with our friends, without so much as holding hands. We went to the store to buy gelato and wine on Friday nights, took walks, drove long drives, and laid in bed together watching ridiculous videos. We prayed in a way that was casual and comfortable.

Having the feeling of being in love was not the glue that brought us together our first year of marriage. It comes back and forth, but it is not constant. It's nice when it comes around.

Having married my best friend, a person whom I actually considered such long before I thought about dating him, made our relationship bearable. It made our mistakes laughable. It allowed us to communicate without the over-intensity of emotion. It provided countless beautiful memories for us to revisit when we missed home and family.

Seeing each other as lovers was exhilarating and felt like flying. But our life was not about flying all the time. Our life was about sinking our roots deep, lovingly planting the habits that would inform how we raised children, building a foundation on something solid.

Friendship--belly-laughing and carefree and vulnerable and happy friendship--was our something solid. It kept us strong and steady when the first year of marriage, in all its stress and newness and fear and havoc, hurled itself at us in full force.

Our romantic, passionate love is a wonderful thing. It is a grace we don’t deserve. But dying to yourself does not feel romantic, and making a sacrifice that burns doesn’t feel passionate. But, if anyone has provided me for an example of truly unconditional love, it has been my friends.

And as Thomas Aquinas writes, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” That is what I cherish the most in my husband. He is my friend turned lover, turned husband, and now turned father of our child.

Christ Himself says there is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for one’s friend. That is what the first year of marriage has shown me in a deeply transformative way. My days and months are full of laying down my own desires and bad habits and wants. For my friend.

The best friendships in life show us this. They show us the friendship God feels for us. And the friendship I share with my spouse is a gift that incarnates that love in a way romantic feelings just start to touch.

Images by Corynne Olivia Photo


Theresa Namenye studied Humanities, Catholic Culture, and Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Originally from the Midwest, she currently teaches fourth grade at a classical charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. A former championship Irish dancer, Theresa still enjoys pursuing the arts in the form of painting, drawing, and calligraphy when she is not reading novels and writing. She and her husband Garrett will celebrate their two year anniversary in August and are expecting their first child in November. 

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I Trust in You: 4 Ways to Live Out Divine Mercy as a Couple

This weekend the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday, the name and feast given the second Sunday of Easter by Saint John Paul II at Saint Faustina’s canonization seventeen years ago. The message of Divine Mercy is powerfully simple: Jesus longs to draw us intimately close to his Sacred Heart and to pour out his forgiveness and grace, if only we accept his invitation. “Know that as often as you come to Me,” Christ said to Faustina, “humbling yourself and asking My forgiveness, I pour out a superabundance of graces on your soul, and your imperfection vanishes before My eyes, and I see only your love and your humility. You lose nothing but gain much.”

As spouses are called to love and sanctify each other with Christ-like love, incorporating a Divine Mercy-oriented spirituality into your relationship, one fixed on the heart of Jesus, can make manifest his love in your sacramental life and in the practicals of discussion and problem-solving. Consider…

Setting regular confession dates.

The clearer the path between your soul and God, the better disposed you are to receive the graces he so desperately desires to bestow and the clearer the path between you and your fiancé or spouse. Because most parishes offer weekly confessions, it can be easy to put off reconciliation until next week, or the next, or the next. Designating one or two Saturdays a month to attend confession and Mass together, followed by a brunch or dinner date, keeps the both of you accountable for meeting Jesus in the sacrament, encourages frequent self-examination, and constantly forces you to your knees, aware of our deep need for the Father’s love and mercy.

Resolving arguments more simply.

This doesn’t necessarily mean hashing out every disagreement to perfection before allowing yourselves to move on; so many relational, family, or virtue-related issues are complex works in progress that aren’t always easily solved. What it does mean is being quick to acknowledge whatever your current struggle is and to meet it with love: listen without interruption, hold hands, use eye contact, and perhaps even offer a smile as you talk. Above all, be generous in forgiveness. A ready “I forgive you,” spoken sincerely and without a grudge, can ease small wounds and sharp words as you work through arguments.

Cultivating a constantly deeper openness to God’s will.

“Every hour is a precious boon,” sings Andrew Peterson. “Every breath is a mercy.” He’s right. It’s been said that Jesus’ message of mercy is closely tied to his providence and to the Father’s will for every person. If, in God’s greatness, perfect mercy is perfect love, then any occurrence in our lives can be viewed as a gift of love, even in suffering, because he wills for us to know him and who he is--in goodness, generosity, and tenderness. Develop a habit of asking Jesus to reveal to you his Father’s will, and of meaning it in a real way. A heart of obedience and service can be much easier to develop in theory than in practice, yet the more often we call upon Jesus to draw us into his heart and show us God’s loving mercy, the easier it becomes to take in and truly live out the words, “thy will be done.”

Entrusting yourselves to Our Lady.

The 1981 attempt on John Paul II’s life took place on the anniversary of Mary’s first appearance at Fatima, a date the Pope knew couldn’t be attributed to mere coincidence. Months later, he would set the bullet that pierced him into the crown of the official statue of Our Lady of Fatima. He called his journey to Portugal “a pilgrimage of thanksgiving ‘to the mercy of God...and the Mother of Christ,’” emphasizing that devotion to Mary points us directly at the heart of her son.

The closeness between Jesus’ Sacred Heart and Mary’s Immaculate Heart is so deep, so profound that it’s a mystery in every sense. The ultimate loving mother, Our Lady desires only to bring us to her son. Developing a devotion to her, through the Rosary or spoken prayer, frequently invoking her intercession, and/or through total consecration to her, infuses our own lives with an earthly taste of her deep love for and union with Christ.

Humility, forgiveness, rest: an encounter with the divine. Mercy abounds in countless, varied experiences of Jesus’ love and, with intention and purpose, can bring his love into your engagement and marriage in a tangible way.


 

Emily + Ben | Rustic Elegance Wedding

Emily and Ben met as teammates during both of their first years as FOCUS missionaries. Unlike most missionaries, who begin serving on campuses right after graduating college, the two of them had both worked outside of the Church for a few years before entering the organization. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight; in fact, they didn’t get along too well at all.

The Father had something else in mind.

From the Bride: Ben and I both came in with more life experience, more years in age and wisdom, and more ego than your average FOCUS first-year. We come from very different backgrounds. He was a Southern boy through and through who was raised in a beautiful, devout Catholic family.   Although he has a loud personality and rebellious heart, he has always known who his Father is and obediently subjects himself to God’s will.  

For many years, I, on the other hand, considered myself an independent, motivated woman. I fell into a lazy atheism for a number of years during my college days in California.

After a radical conversion back home to the Catholic Church and into the arms of Jesus, I thought I knew best about how to evangelize our future leaders on the college campus. The funny thing is, so did Ben.  And that is how our story begins.

I could go on and on about our many quibbles or how uncomfortable we made our teammates during meetings when we both fought over who would be “highest on the hill,” or about the time our Chaplain sat us both down for an intervention on how to get along. You’re probably wondering how I got to the point of marrying this man whom I severely struggled to even be around for longer than a few minutes.

Well, that started when Ben asked our team to make our beds as an offering for his sanctity. I committed to a week. Only God knew it would be for the rest of my life. Every morning, first thing, I’d make my bed and offer a prayer for Ben O’Neill, “that he become a holy man…and maybe lose the ego…and that he finally learn that he’s actually wrong and that I’m actually right…and that maybe, just maybe, I don’t even have to see him today…thanks, Lord.” That was how it started but soon my thoughts turned a little more holy and I began to sincerely pray for Ben, my brother. I prayed that he fall deeply in love with Jesus Christ, that he become the best son, husband, and father he was created to be, and that he would be welcomed into heaven. I prayed he would teach me how to be as disciplined as he was and that I would learn to love him better even when it’s really difficult. I think you know where this is going.

Be careful what you ask of the Father, because he will give it in generous abundance! I continued praying every morning for Ben. The Lord not only worked in transforming Ben’s heart, but mine, as well.

By the end of the school year we had learned how to work together, and it was pretty evident that our mutual dislike had been redeemed into a full-fledged attraction.  We had grown to love one another sacrificially; to really desire the good of the other.

 

From the Groom: That summer, we began a long-distance relationship when Emily was sent to serve at a university in California, while I stayed back with our team in Alabama, at the school where we met. By February we were engaged and by August of that same year, we were married.

Emily and I often laugh when we look back on our story. Our quarrels didn’t stop throughout our dating and engagement, but it’s funny how God used each of our faults to sharpen the other in sacrificial love. It’s like God collided two rough, unpolished blocks of marble with impeccable precision, such that we walked away as two idyllic statues. Each of our gifts became a healing balm for the other’s weakness and wounds.

People know I’ve changed from who I used to be, and they might think Emily loves me because I’ve changed. The reality is that Emily’s love is what transformed me. It’s precisely her love and forgiveness, in times when I was most undeserving of them, during our courtship that healed me and set me free. I need Emily. Her love makes up for my weakness, and mine does the same for her.

It’s amazing how God has designed marriage for the salvation of the spouses: you have the choice to either close in on your selfish tendencies, refuse to serve each other and end up broken and alone. Or you can choose to learn how to place the other first, to serve each other in sacrifice and find happiness. The choice is our own.

Emily and I long to choose the latter, and we are so excited to let our love and our marriage--faults included--be an instrument in God’s hands, a reflection of his very own sacrifice.

Our wedding was not for us.

Christian marriage is a sacrament administered from each couple for the good of the Church. We wanted our wedding to reveal the mystery to which it is directed: the marriage of Jesus Christ, and his Church. Many non-Catholics and non-Christians attended, so we wanted to make our wedding beautiful for their sake. We hoped to inspire many to open up their hearts to receive the gift of the Bridegroom for themselves.

Emily was fully on board. She surprised me when she decided her bridesmaids should all wear white! She wanted to reveal that she was not the only bride in attendance, but that Jesus Christ longs to give himself fully to each one of us as his betrothed.

For our Gospel reading we chose John 14:1-21, which uses the same language as an ancient Jewish proposal. Jesus says to his disciples, “My Father’s house has many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you… I will come back to you and bring you to myself.” In ancient Judaism, a man would propose to a woman by offering her to drink from a chalice of wine. If she accepted his invitation she would take the chalice and drink. Then the man would leave and go to where he lived at his father’s house. He, his brothers, and his father would literally build a new room onto their house where the new married couple would live. Once the room was prepared, the man could return to his betrothed and the wedding feast could begin.

This is the invitation Jesus offers each of us. At every mass, through the priest, Jesus lifts up a chalice and proposes to his Church once again. The voice of the Bridegroom speaks: “This is my body, given for you.”

Do you accept his proposal? “Behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her, says the Lord… I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy”  (Hosea 2:14,19)

From the Photographer: The Mass was the core of Emily and Ben’s day. They had a beautiful liturgy at the Church of the Assumption in Nashville. Prior to the Mass, the bridal party and family members prayed over Ben and Emily. The Mass itself was deeply prayerful, charismatic, and joyful. Near the end, Emily and Ben departed from the usual tradition of the couple giving flowers to Our Lady. Ben and the groomsmen went and prayed before St. Joseph. Emily and the bridesmaids went and prayed before Our Lady. They then returned to stand before the cross for the final blessing.

After the Mass, the bride and groom retreated briefly to a little ballroom above the church hall, where they had their first dance alone as husband and wife. This gallery I includes one of my favorite silhouette shots of them dancing in the window-lit room. From there they went on to Drakewood Farm, a gorgeous, rustic barn and farmhouse set on over 40 acres.

The details of the day, from the flowers to the unique crystal at every table, were stunning. Since Emily and Ben have been serving across the United States through their work with FOCUS, their wedding was full of students whose lives they've impacted. The dance floor was alive as hundreds of their friends and students celebrated into the night. Before making a grand sparkler exit to their getaway car, the entire reception gathered around and prayed over Emily and Ben to send off the newlyweds in prayer.

As a vendor who’s photographed many Catholic and non-Catholic weddings, it was so beautiful to see how Emily and Ben put their faith at the center of almost every moment of their day. They placed their love for God and sense of mission above themselves, and I think it served as a testimony to their many guests. And as married photographers who originally met at Franciscan University a decade ago it was really fun for my wife and I to document and tell the story of such a faith-filled wedding. Emily and Ben are just amazingly gracious people, so working with them was a blast.

Photography: An Endless Pursuit | Church: Church of the Assumption - Nashville, Tennessee | Reception Venue + Cake + Flowers + DJ: Drakewood Farm 

The Catholic Table: An Interview with Emily Stimpson Chapman

 

Emily Stimpson Chapman is well known to many Catholic women: whether you've read her book on the single life, perused the recipes on her blog for dinner inspiration, or heard her speak about how she learned to enjoy eating after six years of anorexia, we think you'll agree that Emily speaks powerfully (and often hilariously) to the experience of life as a Catholic woman, whether you're married, engaged, or single. 

We recently had the opportunity to ask Emily some questions about her newest book, The Catholic Table, how she incorporated fasting and feasting into her engagement, and how she managed to avoid getting sucked into the darker side of the wedding industry. Regardless of your state in life, we think you'll find plenty to chew on in this interview. 

Where did your inspiration for The Catholic Table come from?

Years ago, when I was still in college, I began struggling with anorexia. That struggle lasted for six years, until I came home to the Catholic Church. As I grew in my understanding of the Eucharist and the Theology of the Body, how I saw food and my own body was radically transformed. Ever since then, I’ve been putting that understanding into practice and sharing it with others. It just made sense to finally get it all down into a book.

How did you incorporate a spirit of fasting and feasting into your engagement and wedding planning?

Interesting question. On the most basic level, in terms of fasting, we had to curtail a lot of our spending in the months leading up to the wedding so we could prepare for the feast of our wedding day, so there was a lot less eating out and a lot more rice and beans at my house! On a different level, we both tried to take the advice of the Church Fathers, who saw fasting as an aid to chastity. When we struggled with chastity—as most engaged couples do—we turned to fasting to help make us more disciplined and more open to the grace God wanted to give us. Chris would fast from all food on Fridays. I fasted from sweets and wine.

In terms of feasting, we drew inspiration from Sacred Scripture, which repeatedly compares heaven to a wedding feast. The marriage of man and woman is an image of the life-giving communion within the Trinity. It’s sacred. So, we wanted everything about our wedding to reflect that—not just the ceremony, but the reception as well. We wanted the whole day to be a witness to the truth about God’s love and generosity. Approaching it from that perspective took the focus off us, and put it on Him.

I kept saying, “It’s not ‘our day’; it’s ‘His day.’” That made it easier to not fall prey to some of the silliness surrounding the wedding industry, because our focus was on honoring God and showing hospitality to our guests, not impressing people or putting on some Pinterest ready show.  

Our culture really pushes brides to look a certain way on their wedding day, to diet, and “sweat it for the wedding.” How can brides still find joy in food during their engagement, despite all these external pressures?

Again, I think the key is taking the focus off yourself. Too many brides get caught up in the idea that their wedding day is their day to be a star, their day to be a celebrity, their day to walk the red carpet. But it’s not. Your wedding day is the day you’re giving yourself, body and soul, to another person. It’s the day you’re beginning this new, surprising, wild ride of a holy life together. It’s a gift. It’s a sacrament. It’s not a show. The more you focus on preparing for the sacrament and the less you focus on yourself, the easier it is to relax and enjoy everything, food included, during the weeks and months leading up to your wedding.

I didn’t diet or restrict myself in any way in the months before the wedding. I did do some extra pushups every day (sleeveless dress…pictures…hard to avoid), but that was it. There were just too many other important things to worry about. Plus, a hungry bride is not a happy bride—and I waited way too long for my wedding day to spend all the days and weeks leading up to it in “hangry” mode.

In your book, you speak often about hospitality, and how you’ve opened up your home to friends and family on a regular basis. Now that you’re married, how do you and your husband incorporate this charism of hospitality into your life?

Hospitality is important to both of us, and we actually made sure it was included in our wedding readings. Then, the first month after our honeymoon, God gave us lots of opportunities to show that we were serious about it. Over the course of those four weeks, we hosted four different sets of houseguests: two single women, a family of 8, and one of our priest friends. Only one set was planned. The rest were all last minute requests. It was crazy, but we had a blast with every single guest (especially the six kids!)

The temptation, as a newly wedded couple, is to insulate yourself from others, but we wanted to do the opposite. From the first, we wanted to be open to life in every possible way, including the lives of our friends.

Right now, unfortunately, we’ve had to curtail the hospitality as we recently moved. We sold my house (where I lived as a single woman) and bought our first house together. It’s big because we wanted lots of room for our friends and all their kids to stay with us, but it’s also a construction zone; it was, literally, falling apart when we bought it. At this point, we’re living in an unheated attic room and cooking for ourselves on a freezing cold porch, while the rest of the house gutted. There are definitely seasons when hospitality has to be curtailed. But hopefully the house will be ready for guests and parties soon. I’m counting the days!

We’re so inspired by the recipes on your blog! You identify your approach to cooking, eating, and time spent around the table as “eucharistic.” Tell us more?

We live in a world of sacred signs. God made everything in creation, so everything in creation, in some way, points back to Him. It bears His mark and tells us something about His nature. Food is one of the most important of these signs; it’s a natural symbol of the Eucharist. Everything it does on the natural level—nourish, comfort, gladden, heal, build community—the Eucharist does on the supernatural level. It nourishes us with the life of God, comforts our souls, brings joy to our hearts, heals us from the wounds of sin, and draws us into the Body of Christ. So, when I eat, I try to see food always from that perspective—as a gift from God meant to help me understand more clearly the great mystery of the Eucharist.


For those interested in following your example, can you share one practical way to eat and approach food more Eucharistically?

Be grateful. Eucharist (eucharistia in Greek), literally means “thanksgiving.” To receive Holy Communion is an act of thanksgiving to God. I believe we’re called to make a similar act of thanksgiving every time we eat more ordinary meals. That starts with saying grace—even in restaurants!—but it’s also about an interior attitude. It’s really about being grateful for the food set before us, appreciating the love and time that went into growing it and preparing it, seeing all food as a gift from God, and not letting our dietary hang ups get in the way of enjoying that gift.

As a newlywed, what’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other brides about wedding planning or married life?


What matters most about wedding planning is the process: it’s learning how to make decisions as a couple, handle stress as a couple, navigate differing family pressures as a couple, and think about loving and serving others on your wedding day as a couple. Try to see all of the difficulties and complexities of planning a wedding as an opportunity to learn how to better navigate the difficulties and complexities of your shared life. I don’t think that makes the process any less stressful, but it does remind you that it’s a gift from God and that there is a divine point to all the stress!

 

Emily Stimpson is a freelance Catholic writer based in Steubenville, Ohio and the creator of The Catholic Table, a blog about food, friendship, and hospitality. Her books include These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years , and The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States (Co-authored with Brian Burch). Her most recent book, The Catholic Tableis about why food--preparing it with care, sharing it with others, and eating it with gratitude--matters (or ought to matter) to Catholics. She and her husband were married in July 2015. 

This is My Body, Given Up for You: Good Friday Meditations for Couples

 

Whether you're seriously dating, engaged, or married, Good Friday can be an opportunity for you and your significant other to reflect on the meaning of authentic love: willing the good of the other as other. That is what Christ did for each of us on the Cross, and it is what we are all called to do for our brothers and sisters. Those who are called to marriage are vowed to this kind of sacrificial love, no matter how painful it might be at times. To that end, we've put together a collection of short meditations on the Cross, all from the writings of our beloved theologian/Pope Emeritus/spiritual grandfather: Joseph Ratzinger. 

1. "Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see."  

"Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face from me" (Psalm 27:8-9). Veronica -- Bernice, in the Greek tradition -- embodies the universal yearning of the devout men and women of the Old Testament, the yearning of all believers to see the face of God. On Jesus' Way of the Cross, though, she at first did nothing more than perform an act of womanly kindness: she held out a facecloth to Jesus. She did not let herself be deterred by the brutality of the soldiers or the fear which gripped the disciples. She is the image of that good woman, who, amid turmoil and dismay, shows the courage born of goodness and does not allow her heart to be bewildered. "Blessed are the pure in heart," the Lord had said in his Sermon on the Mount, "for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart: on his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God and his goodness, which accompanies us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see. Only love enables us to recognize the God who is love itself. (Joseph Ratzinger, Meditations on the Stations of the Cross)

2. "An inexhaustible torrent of merciful love."

Contemplating the crucified One with the eyes of faith, we can understand in depth what sin is, how tragic is its gravity, and at the same time, how immense is the Lord's power of forgiveness and mercy...Let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality. Looking at Christ, we feel at the same time looked at by him. He whom we have pierced with our faults never tires of pouring out upon the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love. (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Angelus, 2/25/07)

3.  "The world is redeemed by the patience of God." 

This is God’s sign: he himself is love. How often we wish that God would make show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man. (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily as Pope)

4. "True love is an event of dying." 

True love is an event of dying, a stepping aside before the other and on behalf of the other. We do not want to die like that. We just want to remain ourselves, enjoying life to the full without any disturbance and without sharing it with anyone else. We do not perceive..that we are destroying our own future through our greed for life and handing over our life itself to death. (Joseph Ratzinger, The God of Jesus Christ)

5. "From the Cross the word love recovers its uniqueness."

“. . .we find ourselves in a strange situation: we have no choice but to speak of love if we are not to betray God and man, but it is almost impossible to do so because our language has already betrayed love so often. In such a situation, our help must come from without. God speaks to us of love; “Holy Scripture” which is God’s word cast in human words, raises the word, as it were, out of the dust, purifies it and restores it to us, cleansed. Scripture makes it shine again by placing it at the source of its luminosity — in the mystery of Jesus Christ. From the Cross the word love recovers its uniqueness. Men need more than just grasping and holding; they need understanding, which gives power to their actions and their hands; they also need perception, hearing, reason that reaches to the bottom of the heart. And only when understanding remains open to reason, which is greater that it is, can it be genuinely rational and acquire true knowledge. If you do not love, you do not know (cf. 1 John 4:8). (Joseph Ratzinger, Homily, 1985, from Co-Workers of the Truth)

Jamie + Seth | Astronomy-Inspired Wedding

 

Jamie and Seth reconnected at the perfect time in Jamie's life: as she was returning to the Church and rediscovering her relationship with Christ. Through the instantaneous peace she felt on their first date, to the tranquil joy of their wedding day, Jamie experienced, through Seth, the peace that only God can give. 

From the Bride: Peace and calmness. These are not words my friends and family use to describe me, and it was not how my heart felt--until I met Seth.

Christ's plan is always bigger than ourselves, and this is easy for us to forget. In 2013, the Lord began stirring my heart and was slowly guiding me back to the Catholic Church. At the same time I moved back to Maryland and was reunited with an old theatre friend from five years prior. Spending time with him was joyful and encouraging. He made me feel safe and loved from the start. I remember getting ready for our first date and thinking, "Why am I so calm?" Little did I know that God was foreshadowing my wedding day, when my bridesmaid said, "You are the most calm bride I have ever seen."

It wasn't easy getting from that first date to the wedding day, but like any journey that follows Jesus, it made us stronger. I was dating my future husband and re-converting to the church simultaneously, and the processes were surprisingly similar. The confusion and frustration that can be part of a relationship with Christ also comes with a relationship with a spouse. The happiness, enrichment, and goodness that comes as a result of loving the Lord is also a result of loving your spouse. Understanding what loving another person meant helped me to fall deeply in love with Jesus Christ, as well. 

Seth and I began going to Mass every week together, provoking wonderful conversations about the Church. He shed light on so many parts of being Catholic that I struggled with. It is one of the many ways our left brain and right brain balance works so well. Planning for the sacrament of marriage was unbelievably fruitful in learning even more about Christ's love for us and about the Catholic traditions.

When planning our wedding Mass, it was important to us that the entire congregation felt loved. We wanted our love for one another to be a clear reflection of Christ's love for His people. Having many religious backgrounds present at our wedding, we wanted to minimize the confusion of the Mass and enhance the importance of the Mass parts. Upon entering the stunning St. Alphonsus Church, each guest was taken aback by its beauty. I like to think that it is only a reflection of our wonder and awe of Jesus.

Our wedding program was designed in a way that people would feel comfortable with what was happening next. It also had short explanations about the presentation of flowers to Mary and of the Eucharist. Father John truly captured Christ's love for each person in that church during his homily. It wasn't until the reception that we learned how many guests had never been to a Mass before, and truly enjoyed the service. 

The reception began with touching speeches, beautiful dances, and even a special rendition of a Spice Girls song from the Maids of Honor! The rest of the night was vibrant with dancing. Seth loves astronomy; I love art. Those merged together created the constellation theme of our wedding. The fact that God created the planets and stars is a pretty wild thing to think about, and causes us to be continually in awe of Him.

We still pinch ourselves every day when we hear the words "husband" and "wife." Our hearts are fuller after entering into this sacrament together, and each day we continue striving to be more Christ like to one another. 

Photographer's Business Name : Lindsey Plevayak | Nupital Mass or Engagement Location: St. Alphonsus Church, Baltimore | Wedding Reception Venue: Rolling Road Golf Club | Videographer: Frankie Cerquetti | DJ: Glassroom Pro | Photobooth: Charm City Photo Booths | Cake: Bakery Express | Flowers: Blue Iris Flowers | Hair: Brooke St. Martin | Make-Up: Andrea Munk | Dress: BHLDN | Groom Suit: Mens Wearhouse | Groomsmen Ties & Groom Tie Clip: The Tie Bar | Engagement Ring: Helzburg Diamonds | Bride Wedding Band: Zales Outlet | Groom Wedding Band: Northern Royal | Bride Bracelets: Francescas | Bride Hair Piece & Earrings: Amazon

You're Still a Bride After Your Wedding Day, Even When You Don't Feel Like One.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I am living the days I used to dream about.

There were the afternoons lying on dorm room beds with my friends, imagining marriage and husbands and and lives full with family and romance and joyful chaos. There were the hours spent crying in the chapel after my heart was broken for the first time, and again after it was broken for the second time, wondering where the man might be whom the Father had chosen for me to love and sanctify from outside of time. There was the physical ache the first time I saw my now-husband hold his newborn nephew, pierced by the image of his arms one day cradling our own children.

And now, as the dust has settled on our newlywed days, as my wedding gown hangs in storage, all those dreamy idylls I’d prayed were my future have suddenly become my present. Thanks entirely to grace, dreams do come true. But just because they’re fulfilled, so prized I’d never trade them, doesn’t mean they’re without trial. Arguments happen, chores mount, babies wake you up multiple times a night.

For months before your wedding day, you have a project, a goal, an identity. You, a bride. If, in the aftermath of the celebration and honeymoon you find yourself grasping at a purpose or identity to cling to, you’re not alone.

It might be rooted in the sudden lack of projects and deadlines, in coming down from a period of intense emotion, in experiencing the transition and reality of living with your spouse, and perhaps even in relocation or pregnancy. We approach the altar at our wedding liturgies knowing we also approach the cross--unremitting sacrifice and the fruit of relentless love. Yet even in that knowledge, even with material matters aside and for those of us who shy from the spotlight, there comes a time in the days that follow where you’ve become a wife. The transition is so interior and personal that it’s not often talked about. And on the exterior, the adjustment to daily life together can be enough of a minefield to bring even the most transcendent wedding-day memories a little closer back to earth.

The first time I attended a wedding after we'd started our family, my son was six months old. I came with my husband, who was a groomsman, to the rehearsal at the gorgeous basilica where the Mass would be held.

At first tears came at the beauty of it all as I watched our beloved friends practicing their vows. A few minutes, later, they flowed even freer when I started feeling the sense that I was so far removed from being a bride myself. Simply put, I didn't feel like one anymore.

Months had passed since my own wedding, and as an overwhelmed first-time mama, that old feeling of newness and possibility seemed foreign to me.

It wasn't that celebrating with this couple made me jealous. I don't want all the attention surrounding me again or another wedding day for myself. It’s that the purifications of newlywed transitions, life’s demands, and new parenthood were, for me, such a sea change. It’s a change that sometimes reveals such an entirely different version of me that who I was when I first married can feel like a lost part of who I am.

Of course, life doesn't stop and become complete with marriage; it continues to grow and change as your family does, and that's good. But I felt torn. I want this life, this way of living my vocation, that's before me right now. Yet I also felt such a bittersweet sense that part of my old identity as a bride--and not just the sexy, carefree trappings of early marriage, but the actual essence of it--was gone. Even when a change is welcome and good and sanctifying, it’s hard feeling like it came at the cost of a part of yourself.

It's amazing, the graces that pour down during a nuptial Mass. The new husband and wife receive them to the full. And in their receiving, I'm convinced that just being in the presence of such tremendous grace works on the hearts of everyone in attendance, too. On our friends' wedding day the burden I'd been carrying seemed to lift. As I prayed before the Mass, I started feeling like bride and mother, newlywed and just regular wed, aren't either-ors.

I once visited a Theology of the Body ministry at their offices. One staffer and I started talking about his family, and when I asked if I could see a photo of his five kids, he told me he didn't have one in his office, "but here's a picture of my bride." Those words were imbued with such love and pride. How beautiful, how full of gratitude and praise, for a man so fully immersed in the trenches of his vocation to still see his wife in that way, not as the exact same woman he married, but as the woman he's grown more in love with as each new change has taken place in their lives.

Know this: married dreams brought down to earth are good; your calling specifically heralded at this moment in time. It’s okay to feel like your wedding is a lot to come down from, and that you walked into a new, unfamiliar version of yourself as you walked out the church doors. Imagining married life in broad strokes is easy and it’s dreamy, but it’s the subtleties life layers on that pave most of our road to holiness.

I used to imagine someday. Someday is now, and it doesn’t always mirror the ideals I once longed for, my younger self leaving the messier details out. Messiness is our humanity, and the Father sings the song of his love back to us, his children when it fades to the background: And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy (Hosea 2:19).

You are daughter, sister, friend, spouse. Pursued, adored, and longed for by God and by your husband. Quite simply, you are a bride, always.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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