Behind the Scenes | Andi's Insider Look at the World of Catholic Wedding Planning

Andi Compton, our Business Director, planned her own birthday parties as a girl, spent hours making wedding collages as a teenager, and worked at the largest bridal store on the West Coast during college. She eventually answered the call to turn her organization and creativity into a business, Now That’s a Party, wherein she coordinates weddings primarily for Catholic couples.

Today, we’re excited to share with you an inside look at a wedding coordinator’s responsibilities--and how you, as the bride, can have the best experience with your coordinator, if you’ve chosen to hire one, and to anticipate the details that make for a smooth wedding day. Read on for Andi’s testimony, her advice for a joy-filled marriage--the fruit of 10 years with her husband, Matt--and the #1 piece of information to share with your coordinator.

berger20.jpg

You've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time! How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I've been planning parties since my fourth birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese! Each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever-growing love of crafts, taking me to the store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then a closet) for all of my supplies.

Then at 15, I saw the movie The Wedding Planner. I had no idea people could earn a living getting to help others with parties! This is long before Pinterest, so I’d save my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on, then cut and paste together mock weddings.

In college I worked at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends.

When my husband proposed, we came up with a budget and I finally got the chance to learn exactly how to put together the ideas I’d been reading about for so long. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.  

Soon I was being asked to essentially coordinate these weddings. I felt a pull towards making things official with a name, website, and branding. Then came networking and coordinating styled shoots, where I could meet other local vendors and build a relationship.

Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well? What, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?

The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really enjoy that being my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly family friends or referrals.

Jesus Christ is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord truly present at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal.

Do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with?

I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was beautiful to see him, his brother, and their friend in prayer.

Now That's a Party offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish. What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by?

I think the biggest surprises are the little details that can easily be overlooked--like ordering meals for your vendors, packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, and designating plans for cleanup and taking gifts home.

Here’s an example of unexpected details it’s important to plan for: one wedding I did was in a park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had her look over city regulations, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into the timeline.

Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors. As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this?

Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visualize your ideas and discover what trends you’re drawn to. On the flip side, it can make everything seem overwhelming; almost paralyzing. The biggest downside for me is having clients say, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal.

Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be your focus. Viewers will care about it for a day or so, then move onto the next thing. But the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.

Another disadvantage of inspiration overload is that so many wedding images on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average couple, yet it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Few wedding blogs feature simple receptions in church hall, yet I've happily coordinated those; and truly, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding. It is just beautifully infectious to all their guests.

What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you, as their coordinator, before and during the big day?

Hands down, send me copies of every single signed contract and give me contact info for each vendor, friend, or family member who will be there for setup, as well as emergency contacts. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each vendor and helper so I know what to expect and can construct a timeline for each person involved, so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of!

We’d love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones?

One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer, and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me; in my experience, most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.

Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa?

Yes! A big trend I've seen in the past several years is elaborate, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, go viral on YouTube, and are all over Pinterest. Though I, of course, cherish my husband, he absolutely did not stage a "dream proposal," and I've had to try really hard to develop humility, accepting the reality of what happened and growing in gratitude for who he is. A proposal is all of five minutes, but having someone by your side, someone who constantly chooses to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in good…well, that's real love.

Lastly, what distinctively Catholic planning secrets can you share with brides-to-be?

First, before booking any vendors, book your church. Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Second, develop an openness to Natural Family Planning. For many couples, it's their first time delving into the technical aspects after years of just hearing about it. No matter where you’re coming from, learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.

Photography: Leif Brandt Photography, as seen in Sara + Calvin | Sophisticated Handcrafted Wedding, coordinated by Andi.


Andi Compton is Spoken Bride's Business Director. She is the owner of Now That's a Party where she coordinates weddings, fundraising galas, and social events. Read more

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST

Into the Desert: A Conversation About the Exodus 90 Men's Program

Freedom resides in a particular realization about sacrifice: it’s the recognition that when dying to self is painful, it doesn’t mean our sacrifice isn’t working. It means that it is.

Inspired by God’s people being led to freedom in Scripture, Exodus 90 is a 90-day program created to call Catholic men out of slavery and into freedom; out of themselves and into the heart of God. Founded on principles of fraternity, prayer, and asceticism, the program intends to cultivate habits that sanctify men, equipping them to better serve the Lord as they live out their vocations.

We recently chatted with James Baxter, Executive Director of Exodus 90 and Those Catholic Men. The program is particularly recommended for men preparing to enter into their vocations, and we hope you’ll share it with your fiancé; additionally, many men find it meaningful to begin or end the program on a liturgically significant day. Those who embark on Exodus 90 beginning next week, on February 19, will conclude the program on Pentecost and, God willing, witness the fruits of the Holy Spirit in abundance. Read on for James’ thoughts on spiritual exercises, chastity, and freedom, along with his advice for the brides supporting their men in the pursuit of heroic virtue.

The Exodus 90 program includes, among other resources, daily Scripture verses from the Book of Exodus. Can you tell us more about the significance of this book to the intentions of the program?

The singular goal of Exodus 90 is freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, but we drift away from it over time, often quite unknowingly. I know that freedom is a cultural buzzword, and thrown around to justify everything from sexual exploits to abortion.

But the hard fact is that we need to reclaim our definition of freedom. That's because the Church places a heavy emphasis upon it, especially in our sacramental rites--including marriage. Freedom is the condition, the foundation, the soil out of which love grows. When we're not free, we cannot bear the fruit of love. And in a particular way, when men are not free, it's wives and children that suffer the most. That's why we're entirely committed to freeing Catholic men with Exodus 90.

The Church tells us the gift of our sexuality is meant to be lived in freedom. In turn, Exodus 90 emphasizes the virtue of chastity. What practical tips can you offer engaged and married couples for developing and living out this virtue?

I'm engaged to an exceptionally good woman, whom I also find the most beautiful woman in the cosmos. Her name is Colleen, and we'll be married on June 16, 2018. Chastity in marriage preparation is a reality that's close to my experience right now. Here are my recommendations regarding chastity:

First, start today. All virtues are dispositions, or habits, toward the good. It takes time and experience, and failing and trying again to possess them. Your behavior yesterday affects who you are today. So, start again now. Identify your triggers, take control of your glances, use your screens only for work or school. This will make the chastity of your future, married selves much easier.

Second, express physical affection within the scope of proper discernment. Being appropriately physical tempers the passions--at least that's been my honest experience over the past few years.

Lastly, tell the truth. Ever since the fall, we have the tendency to avoid God, deceive ourselves, and blame others when it comes to sin. The Catechism teaches us that the relationship of man and woman gets to the heart of the human condition, and in that process, the experience of our fallen nature is painfully acute. You're going to mess up. But when you do, just speak the truth. Make your confessions to your loved one and the Church, and move forward. Don't let the darkness become something that divides you. God has a marvelous way of turning our brokenness into the very source of our attractiveness; he’s been in that business for a very long time. And no one is above or below that mercy.

Purification of the body, mind, and soul can be painful. What advice can you offer those struggling with the pain of purification?

My advice here is somewhat direct, but I hope that the sincerity is clear. What if we just accepted that purification is painful, and it is so because we are fallen and life is complicated? If we do not first accept that profound purification and self-denial are needed in each of us, it’s difficult to understand in the proper context that God wants to fulfill the desires of our hearts. Otherwise, it's hard to differentiate our faith from that of the prosperity Gospel, or the idea that God just gives us whatever we want, when we want it, and how we want it. The purification of the self is painful but it is also deeply meaningful when it bears the fruit of freedom, as we've seen so many times through Exodus 90. Because then we can love. And that’s what life is about.

This journey of purification and growth in holiness can be as hard on loved ones as on the individual undergoing it. Can you share some concrete ways women can support their fiancés or husbands in programs like Exodus, and can hold themselves accountable to growth and self-denial, as well?

The program’s tenets of fraternity, asceticism, and prayer can benefit both individuals in a relationship during this journey. For fraternity, I’d tell women it's essential that your man is accountable to other men. Though that means at times he is away from you and the home, it will be worth it in the long run. So, encourage your man to find a fraternity or to be proactive and form one. I’d encourage you to do likewise with a group of women that raise you up.

For asceticism, a big part of what makes Exodus 90 so hard is the constant self-denial. And we ask that men don’t modify the regimen to them, but bend themselves to it. Self-denial will be easier if a man’s fiancé or wife is also denying herself in her own ways. There is a beautiful camaraderie that can happen when both are engaged in actively saying no to things they would otherwise have. And here’s the secret: this has frequently meant that husbands and wives are communicating way more! What woman doesn’t want that? By the end, wives and kids like the man at the end way better. But a lot of no’s have to happen before this yes emerges.

For prayer, Colleen and I have experienced that praying as a couple is hard, especially amidst the hustle and obligations of young lay life. At our latest marriage prep session, our priest, Fr. Andrew, told us the story of the holiest couple he had ever met. After years of admiring them from a distance, the priest finally asked: "How do you do it? How are you two so holy?" The husband responded, "We pray together every day." Fr. Andrew was delighted by this answer and asked him further, "What's the secret prayer? I'll tell all my couples!" The husband smiled and said, "Right before bed, we grab each other's hands, and say the Our Father. That's it." That's it. Colleen and I are trying to do this more before we go our separate ways each evening.

The program began as a way to help men combat addictions and distractions in a particular way, though any man can participate. In your opinion, how can a couple discern when an addiction is debilitating enough to require more than spiritual help alone, and what resources can they turn to?

If the question is at all there, you would do yourself some good by accepting that it’s there. There’s a reason you’re wondering, and acceptance is the way to freedom in the future. For resources related to pornography addiction, check out Integrity Restored and watch some videos with Matt Fradd and Dr. Peter Kleponis, who are experts in this field. Matt Fradd just released a great book called The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality behind the Fantasy of Pornography. And Dr. Kleponis frequently writes on the topic at Those Catholic Men.

Exodus 90 is a step toward recovery for those in the throes of an addiction, and if you need help of a psychological nature, it can be a great resource and supplement to therapy. We actually get calls from therapists about using Exodus 90 clinically. I will say, we have had men break decades of addiction through the experience, but again, we are not therapists and this isn't a porn-recovery program as such. All we have done is re-present the spirituality of the Desert Fathers for contemporary men, and that's why this is working and spreading so rapidly. Prayer, asceticism and brotherhood leads to freedom.

In three sentences, what are the top three pieces of advice you'd share with engaged and married Catholic men?

Put your phone in a box under your bed, and spend undistracted time with your fiancé or wife. Read more books this year than you did last year. I’m reading Dr. Jordan Peterson's new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and it’s been captivating. Whatever work you do, strive to be the best at it without losing your soul; excellence glorifies the Father, inspires evangelization in the workplace, and bestows meaning.

Men interested in pursuing Exodus 90 can learn more and sign up for the program here.

Images by Sarah Ascanio Photography.

 

Forever: An Interview with Jackie and Bobby Angel

No matter where you are in your dating life, engagement, or marriage, and no matter where you are in your spiritual life, the Father deeply desires to pour out his love over his sons and daughters; to know and be known by them in a singular, specific way. In every vocation, we hear the song of his love for us.

We had the privilege of a conversation with Bobby Angel and Jackie Francois Angel, husband and wife authors of the recently released Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage. Forever features six weeks' worth of daily reflections and questions for couples to read together (Lent could be an ideal time to dive in with your beloved), with the intention of drawing them nearer to the Father and illuminating the truths of the human heart that ring eternal, even in a culture of constantly changing attitudes and wedding trends. 

Read on for the Angels' take on these topics of learning to love a singular, specific person in your spouse, our longing to be known, Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and their advice for engagement and marriage. 

Who did you write this book for? Is it just for married couples, or would others benefit from it as well?

We wrote this book for everyone! While specifically targeted to those already married, we wanted it to be accessible for people who are dating, engaged, newly married or married for 20 years, as well as any single person who wants to consume more content on the Theology of the Body and maybe learn some tidbits about marriage. Our hope is that this book could help people in all different stages of the journey, from an engaged couple getting married in the Catholic Church and getting reacquainted with the faith, to even those couples married for a long time who have studied Theology of the Body and are glad to have a resource that allows them to pray together nightly and learn more about their faith and each other.

You both do quite a bit of speaking and teaching to young adults around the world; what have you noticed in terms of contemporary young adults' attitudes toward and ideas about marriage? Did this play a role in how you wrote your book?

For those young adults who actually do want to get married (since so many young adults are foregoing marriage to just cohabitate), there is often this idea that marriage will solve all their problems or make that “ache” of the heart go away. We try to share that the best thing to do as a single person is to focus on being healthy--emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually--and to realize that marriage won’t make your problems (like insecurity or a habit of pornography use) go away, but rather magnify and exacerbate them.

In our book, Forever, we also try to show that God is the only one who can satisfy every desire of our hearts. Marriage is just a sign and foretaste of the Heavenly union and marriage with God in Heaven. Thus, if God is not “enough,” nothing will ever be, not even a fantastic marriage.

So, if single people can go into marriage knowing no human being, not even their spouse, is perfect like God, nor can their spouse heal or fix all their problems--like God and some therapy can--it will lay a much healthier foundation than having the previously stated notions.

Why did you choose to base your reflections on St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body?

We both experienced renewals in our faith through dynamic youth ministry programs as well as a secondary “jolt” of excitement in encountering the rich teachings of St. John Paul II. As people with very real desires and and that ever-present ache to know and be known, JPII retold our beautiful Christian faith by focusing on the call to union stamped into our physical bodies. Good news, indeed!

In an age where so much distortion and heartache comes from the misuse of our bodies, reading and learning the Theology of the Body was eye-opening and refreshing. It put to words that ache for communion and gave us a tangible way of integrating our desires, rather than merely fighting or suppressing them. It’s the Gospel re-told in a new way; it’s the antidote our fallen world needs. We both drank deeply of this vision before meeting each other, so beginning a relationship and a marriage--and now a family--with this understanding is a tremendous grace and responsibility. We feel blessed to be able to share it with the world.  

What role does prayer as a couple play in your marriage? What advice do you have for engaged couples and newlyweds on how to begin praying together?

Be patient with each other! You’ve likely spent decades praying on your own before coming together, so know that it’s a bit of a dance where you will step on each others’ toes. Communicate what you like to do together and also what you may prefer to do on your own. For example, maybe you like to do the rosary together but spiritual reading alone; or vice versa. Figure out what works for you as a couple and stick to it.  

Also, different seasons of life call for changes. If you’re blessed with children, your prayer rhythm will change. Make the most of the time you have; quality over quantity. Look at children as an opportunity of prayer (and purgation!) instead of obstacles to your prayer. 

If you could give one piece of marital advice to the brides and newlyweds reading this interview, what would it be?

Communication, communication, communication! Learn how to communicate well with God, and learn how to communicate well with your spouse. Communication with God is what prayer is, and being honest with God about your hurts, brokenness, desires allows a lot of healing and freedom.

Communication with your spouse is essential! Learning how to argue in a healthy way, learning each others’ love languages, and communicating your desires and expectations in every area of marriage (from how to raise children to who does what part of the housework to what pleases each other sexually) is essential to growing in love for one another and having a marriage that lasts “‘til death do us part.”


Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel live in Orange County, CA. Jackie is a traveling speaker and worship leader, as well as a songwriter and recording artist with Oregon Catholic Press. Bobby is a campus minister and theology teacher at Servite High School, an all-boys' Catholic High School in Anaheim. They have traveled to speak both nationally and internationally to share their faith and present the Church's vision of life-giving love. They recently welcomed their third child. 

BOOK | BLOG

Joined by Grace: 2 Marriage Ministers on Prayer Together + Getting the Most Out of Your Marriage Prep

Despite being “ever ancient, ever new,” eternal and divine, some more human elements of the Church, particularly ministry, vary widely across dioceses and parishes. And so vary the lives of their attendees. If you’re preparing for a sacrament, particularly marriage, you’ve been somewhere different than anyone else and any other couple in the room: we are loved and willed into existence; we are planned; we walk the road of providence, whether we realize it or not.

Maybe you’re reading this as you’re revisiting the Church for your wedding and are looking for answers on the reasons behind seemingly arbitrary teachings and traditions. Maybe you’re already familiar and on board with the theology of marriage, and are looking for something more beyond the basics. Here’s a gesture, on our part, to help you experience and appreciate your marriage prep program with fresh eyes.

Teri and John Bosio are the creators of Ave Maria Press’s Joined by Grace marriage prep program, a sacramental approach to making good on your vows for a lifetime. The Bosios recently released a prayer book to accompany the program, and you, by inviting the Father into your dialogue as a couple. The book is a simple, beautifully designed resource with both the basics of Catholic spirituality and prayers alongside lesser-known devotions.

No matter what preparation program you’re enrolled in and no matter where you are in your spiritual life, it’s our hope that this recent conversation with Teri and John illuminates ways to make your preparations more personal, less one size fits all, and ways to take part in the life of the Church.

For couples who haven't shared a prayer life before, what steps do you recommend for finding a starting point and creating a routine?  

Engagement is such an important moment in your life as a couple. This is the time when new directions are charted, new habits formed, and decisions made that will influence your life for years to come. For couples wondering where to begin with prayer, our recommendation is to start with what you have in common--your love for each other, and the gratitude for how you feel.

One of you might say to the other, “Do you mind if we say a prayer of thanks to God for bringing us together?” Then, say the simplest prayer that comes to mind, such as the Our Father, or any others. This might be the start, or the continuation, of a conversation about how to make prayer part of your faith life, even if you are from different religious tradition. Engagement is a time to start your prayer traditions, including prayers before meals, evening prayers, and others. 

For those who already pray together and are looking to delve deeper during this time of preparation for marriage, what prayers or habits can they turn to?

We’d recommend praying in community. None of us can live in isolation. Researchers are finding that marriages connected to the life of their church community receive from it great spiritual and social support. The parish is where we are born spiritually in Baptism, and we return to the parish regularly for our nourishment through the sacraments. Although your parish after the wedding may be different and far away, it’s still valuable and important to participate in the life of the parish where you live at the time.

Make it a habit to attend Mass regularly, make use of the sacrament of Penance, adopt spiritual practices like the rosary or Eucharistic Adoration, and participate in acts of service with your parish community. You’ll find your parish becomes your extended family wherever you live, for the rest of your life. It can be a great source of strength and support, especially when you encounter challenges.

The marriage prep program the two of you designed, Joined by Grace, prioritizes the sacraments as a framework for married life. What are some ways couples can practically live out a sacramental mentality during engagement and, later, in marriage?

Joined by Grace invites couples to love each other as Christ loves the Church. One notable place Catholics personally experience this love is in the seven sacraments. You’re encouraged to answer the question, “What does the Bridegroom--Christ--do for his Bride--the Church--in each sacrament that I need to do for my spouse?”

For example, in Baptism we experience Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. He shares his life with us and welcomes us into his Father’s family. Engaged couples learn from Christ the importance of mutual acceptance, without which no marriage can survive. Such acceptance is expressed in listening to each other attentively and respectfully, adjusting to one another’s habits, bearing with the other’s annoying quirks, being patient, and appreciating each other’s uniqueness and differences.

In Confirmation we experience God’s love through his commitment to be present to us with the Holy Spirit.  The bishop seals us to Christ with sacred oil, and we receive the gifts of the Spirit. One of the most important qualities of spousal love is the commitment to always be present to each other: to trust, to pay attention, to stand by each other, to give support, and to stay focused on the needs of the other.

Similarly, from the sacrament of the Eucharist couples can see the importance of self-giving and sacrifice; from the Sacrament of Penance they learn forgiveness; from the Anointing of the Sick, compassion, and helping each other heal. And from Holy Orders and Matrimony, you learn to serve one another and together, serve God.

The practical skills and loving attitudes we learn from the sacraments are critical, and are renewed and strengthened through the graces you receive at every Mass.

Joined by Grace also encourages mentorship from other married couples. Any advice for newlyweds and spouses-to-be for connecting with other couples and finding community, particularly if one or both of them will be joining a new parish or relocating after the wedding?

If you currently aren’t an active member of your parish, working with a mentor couple is a great way to get started.

Your mentors can introduce you to your parish’s prayer and social life and help you meet other young couples. In our 44 years of marriage, we’ve received many blessings from actively participating in the life of our parishes. For us, that looked like going to Mass regularly, attending social functions, teach religious education to children and adults, serving on the parish council, singing in the choir, and serving as ministers at Mass.  

During times of relocation, we always prioritized finding a parish where we wanted to belong. These churches became for us our extended family, where in each one we met many friends who were there through joy, illnesses, celebrations, job losses, and family deaths. We do not feel alone. In moments of needs our friends pray for us and help us. The parish stands by us and holds us up when we fall down. Don’t remain isolated! When you are new in a city and on your own, go to Mass to the nearest parish, read the bulletin, find things you want to do and become involved--it will be a blessing for your marriage.

The two of you have now experienced many seasons of your marriage, from newlywed life on into grandparenthood, and have worked with many couples through your marriage prep ministry. What aspects or realities of married life would surprise engaged couples the most?

So many aspects of married life caught us by surprise! First, little things can appear to be big things, but they’re not. We've learned to accommodate things like toothpaste left in the sink and to adjust to one another’s ways of doing things.

Second, we looked forward to children and were blessed with two wonderful daughters. It required an adjustment to our lifestyle, from being a couple to being a family. It took time to navigate our roles as parents and to balance meeting each other’s needs with the needs of our children.   

Third, we found it can be all too easy to find ourselves going in different directions. When one of us went back to school at a time the other was frequently traveling for work, we found we had little free time to spend alone. We had to deliberately make time. We started scheduling and budgeting for a babysitter so we could regularly date, like we had before marriage.

Finally, we found strength in knowing we are not alone.

We can draw strength from each other in difficult moments: job changes, sickness, moves, and beyond. Each of us have learned there is nothing more reassuring in those dark moments than remembering our spouse, and God, stands by us, watching out for our common good and helping us work out of predicaments together.

Any wedding planning and marriage advice you’d like to share with our readers?

Your wedding only marks the beginning of your married life. One is a day; the other is a lifetime. During your marriage you’ll each continue growing as individuals and will constantly change--there might be days you don’t recognize each other! Agree now on how you’ll handle those surprises and what life throws at you.

When you encounter challenges, think back to these days of planning for your life together. Think about how your love story started. When times get tough and the problems seem bigger than both of you, agree now that you will to seek help through prayer and openness to professional counseling.

Our best advice for your wedding planning comes from Pope Francis’ The Joy of Love. He writes:

“Here let me say a word to fiancés. Have the courage to be different. Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances. What is important is the love you share, strengthened and sanctified by grace. You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else (212)."

John and Teri Bosio are active in parish and family ministry, serving parishes and dioceses around the country and leading couples retreats and family ministry workshops for deacons and priests. They are the writers of Joined by Grace, a marriage preparation program, and the accompanying Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples, from Ave Maria Press. They have produced three parish-based marriage enrichment programs, Six Dates for Catholic Couples, The Beatitudes: A Couple’s Path to Greater Joy, and Four Dates for Catholic Couples: The Virtues. The Bosios live in Nashville, Tennessee, and have two daughters and one grandchild.

WEBSITE | BOOKS

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. 

An Encounter With Beauty: Thoughts on TOB, Art + Marriage with Artist Michael Corsini

In anything created there resides a spark of the divine. Any work of human hands is due the Creator himself, a reflection of his perfect beauty. And creation brings forth life.

Life-giving, too, is our identity as man and woman, bride and bridegroom. We are the Father, the maker's most cherished creation, loved and willed into existence in a breathtakingly specific way. His children; his fingerprints.

Michael Corsini is a husband, father, artist, speaker, musician, and worship leader whose daily work and family life speak to the intersection of art, creation, and divine intimacy. A convert to the Catholic faith and former brother with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs), Michael's work is infused with the Theology of the Body.

At Spoken Bride, we strive to constantly pursue and share with you all that is beautiful, true, and good in love and marriage. When we recently happened upon one of Michael's sketches for a future oil painting, A Theology of Marriage, we found ourselves drawn in and had to find out more about the image and the artist behind it. Michael answered a few of our questions, and it's our honor to share his truly stirring thoughts on beauty, art, and vocation.

As a man whose life's work is to create, it's evident that your spirituality is informed by a love for beauty. How does this awareness of the beautiful inform your spiritual life, your marriage, and your family life?

Beauty is the theme of my life and is always surprising me. I find that authentic beauty is very elusive, and because of our human condition, it takes effort to seek it out.

But when it’s found, I think the most startling thing is that it has the ability to affect a radical response from human beings. I mean, beauty can make a man lay down his entire life and reveal to him a personal, unrepeatable mission that he willingly gives himself over to at a profound cost. Beauty makes you want to continually be in its presence, and it impels you to act.

Beauty is special too, in a way, for the artist. In my experience, the artist can only make himself available and open so that beauty can be received as a gift, without grasping it, and trying to make it into his own thing.

I think that marriage, the spiritual life, kids, it’s all like this. It’s all about the encounter with beauty, whether we are ready for it or not, whether we respond or not.

Because beauty is so humble, the scary thing, I think, is that it can be easily missed. Something so beautiful can be right before us and we miss the chance to let it enter in and change us. Mercy. Imagine being in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, walking down a dusty street and you nearly bump into a very tired young couple holding a newborn. They are poor, but have a quiet joy in their eyes. It would be easy to pass by and never give it a thought. This is what I mean. There in that moment passes the Source of all beauty, and it’s so small. This is also a source of pain in the heart of the artist. I am aware of my lack of awareness. I think in a way, the whole Christian life is a gradual opening up of the person to beauty.

You hold an M.A. in Sacred Theology from the JPII Institute, work at the JPII Shrine in Washington, D.C., and have several upcoming projects related to the Theology of the Body. Do TOB and the topics of marriage and family have special significance in your work?

Theology of the Body has not only held a special significance in my artwork, but even more so in my life. It is a gift that has illuminated my vocation! In all the most difficult moments of my reaching toward God to know my vocation, Saint John Paul II has been a father to me. Jesus' title of Bridegroom, and the gradual discovery that Christ wished to live his life in me, showed me the intersection of the desires of my heart and His own. Christ actually desires to live his life as Bridegroom in me!

My work is a kind of gathering up of my whole life journey and discovery, which includes these beautiful insights and inspirations as well as all my doubt and sin. When I work or sing, I feel myself alone before God and also part of the great mass of humanity, in all its present condition, reaching toward God. I am very interested in what modern man needs to hear from the Church at this particular moment in time and in the specific questions we pose to God and to ourselves.  

I think TOB gets at this more concretely than anything else as a re-presentation of the faith. A true new evangelization.

Your "Theology of Marriage" tryptych features scenes from our Fall and our redemption in the Gospels. We're eager to delve into the images and symbols you've used! Tell us more?

The central panel is key to reading the entire image. This is the image of the life of the Bridegroom and the Bride. The veil is torn open, and we see into the central mystery of the faith. Christ is on the Cross, pouring himself out. The Bride--Our Lady and the Church--receives this life. Her body is in the form of a chalice.

Through the Cross we see into the mystery of Heaven: the great fruit of the sacrifice. 

The idea is to show an immeasurable multitude in order to express the great fruitfulness of the Bridegroom and the Bride: children! Blood and water flow from the side of Christ and spill into the side panels. Husband and wife are shown giving themselves to one another adjacent to the image of the last supper, where Christ gives his Body and Blood to the disciples. Both are an image of the total gift of self.  

The side panels are an account of redemption history and are also read in light of one another. The left panel begins (top to bottom) with the creation of Adam in his solitude, the Original Unity of Adam and Eve, the Fall (turning from God and one another), the dysfunctional experience after the Fall (manifest as grasping and a lack of eye contact), and finally an image of Shame.

The right panel begins with the fall of David and his repentance. It moves down to the marriage of Tobias and Sarah. Here reading the panels in light of one another (from side to side) you see Eve reaching to the serpent and Adam to himself. Tobias and Sarah, in contrast, rise from their marriage bed with incense ascending to God, in order to extend themselves together to the Father. Redemption also lies in the Annunciation. The image of Our Lady receiving the indwelling Word--without grasping--is the redemption of Adam and Eve's moment of grasping through one another at the forbidden fruit on the left panel. The final image on this right panel is the Nativity.  I think this moment is profound; the revelation of the face of God! Here Joseph and Mary are present at the birth of Christ, in purity, seeing God face to face.  

You are a convert to the Catholic faith, spent five years with the CFRs, and are now a husband and father. Care to share your conversion, discernment, and love stories?

When I was in college I had a profound encounter with a painting called the “Blue Madonna.” Long story short, I--who was not Catholic--had a loose understanding of who Mary was, but I found myself in the Ringling Museum weeping at the beauty of this woman. She led me out of an addiction to pornography and straight into the Church. Dostoyevsky said “in the end, Beauty will save the world.” This moment was a true example of his words.  

With a healing like this, I was zealous. Within two years I had joined the CFRs, which was truly one of the great blessings of my life. Though I loved my brothers and the life, I struggled through novitiate, and every year of temporary vows I wondered how to reconcile the increasing and specific desire for marriage welling up in me.  

I met my wife, Jessie, while I was a friar. She had been volunteering with the community long before I joined, and I was assigned to the Youth Center in the South Bronx for about six months where we served together. But soon I was off on another apostolate, where I was to remain for the rest of my years in the community.  We saw each other only occasionally during that time but remained friends. Jessie really had no idea what was going on with me and my discernment.  

She went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, found a white rose made of cloth, and received in prayer that it was meant for me, this religious brother she knew. As you can imagine, she was terrified to give a friar a rose…so she didn’t. For over a year and half! Meanwhile, I had been praying for a sign.

I was getting desperate for a concrete expression of God’s will. I had asked for a red rose to signify I should pursue the priesthood, and white, marriage.

Thinking how silly it all was, I was still hoping for the white. One of the friars, whom Jessie had confided her rose story to, told her she had better give it to me, because it didn’t belong to her! And so she did. That moment is precious to me. I knew what it meant, and she didn’t. I was overjoyed, and she saw that in me immediately. After I left the community, Jessie and I quickly discovered we had been living truly parallel lives during those five years and that in God’s beautiful providence he wove our lives together. I am continually grateful, even for the suffering of discernment.  

Even for the less artistic among us, can you suggest any resources or concrete ways to cultivate beauty in one's relationship, marriage, and vocation?

How about a farming analogy? I find it fascinating how many times Jesus used references to farming and agriculture to illuminate deep truths about God. In my family we do a little homesteading. It’s our great desire to live that life more intensely, more full-time, so the image of cultivation is very dear to us. We find in this way of life a deep unity with our vocation to marriage. There are many things here that will die or be severely injured if we don't attend to them daily--and not just our kids! It’s a kind of openness to life that is also an openness to being frequently inconvenienced by another being.

Perpetual awareness of weeds growing, produce which needs to be picked at the right time, and providence: to cultivate beauty in our marriage and family, we need to first prepare a place for it.  

And I recommend picking up something on TOB, even if the original text is too daunting. Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West is a good one!     

And lastly, we'd love to hear any wedding input from a groom's perspective! What piece of wedding planning or newlywed advice would you like to share with Catholic couples?

My wife and I didn’t sweat the details too much. We kept our wedding day pretty simple and focused on giving ourselves in the Sacrament. Most of our attention was toward making the liturgy beautiful, and to that we are indebted to many of the Friars and Sisters of the Renewal. We delegated a lot of details to trustworthy friends and family and let a lot of it go. It was the most beautiful day.  

I want to end with the words of St John Paul II, a true bridegroom of the Church. This is the best marriage advice I have heard.

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” ~ (Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Day – Rome, August 19, 2000)


About the Author: Michael's latest musical release, All Things Hoped For, was recorded live as an Advent worship meditation and is now available. Listen to it here.

Website | Video

The Heart of Humanity: TOB for Engagement and Marriage + The 2016 TOB Congress

The Father's grace is always at work in the world, and it's surely preparing to rain down on Southern California in specific ways yet to be experienced. From today through this Sunday, September 25, the Theology of the Body Institute is hosting their biennial Theology of the Body Congress, in Ontario, CA; a gathering open to hundreds of ministers, missionaries, students, leaders and enthusiasts, both lay and clerical. Each time it takes place, the Congress intends to break open the wellspring of riches found in Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body (TOB) audiences in light of a particular theme or issue.

The theme of this year's Congress is "Love, Mercy, and the Gift of the Family," and its mission is this:

The 2016 TOB Congress will propose a powerful vision of sexual complementarity that reaches the core of what it means to be human, made in the image of the God Who truly is a Family - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through presentations from experts in the field of TOB, participants will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving love, which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant be, as well as ways of ministering to the human family on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sociological level.

The Congress' list of featured presentations reads like not only a dream list of Catholic speakers and theologians, but a prescription for the wounds our culture currently suffers in these areas. It's medicine; healing; delivered not with despair or complaint but with great joy and hope for restoration. Jen Settle, Managing Director of the TOB Institute, answered a few of our questions about an inside look at preparation for the Congress and, particularly for Spoken Bride readers, about TOB in regard to vocation, engagement, and marriage.

The theme of this year's Congress is "Love, Mercy, and the Gift of the Family," which is so fitting in light of Pope Francis' recent calls to the faithful. How did you all decide on this as the theme, and in a nutshell, how do you and the Institute view love, mercy, and the family in light of TOB?

As we were discerning the theme for this year’s Congress, the planning for the World Meeting of Families in our Archdiocese was in full swing, and so was the Holy Father’s call for the Synod of Bishops on the Family. We saw a great opportunity to connect Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to the resulting documents coming forth from the Synod. We also saw the great connection with Pope Francis calling for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Love, Mercy and the Gift of the Family seemed to be a great fit for all of those events and movements in the Universal Church.

Historical man is the human experience of love and sexuality after the Fall of Adam and Eve—this is all of us. We need the Lord’s mercy to have a deeper understanding of our call to be a gift in our vocation, through the gift of our sexuality.

Love and mercy are at the heart of the family. In our world today, all families are in need of a deeper understanding and living out of love and mercy within their domestic church. The Theology of the Body is an in-depth study of love and family. The theme of mercy relates to the Lord’s gift of redeeming what Pope Saint John Paul II calls “historical man.”

Historical man is the human experience of love and sexuality after the Fall of Adam and Eve--this is all of us. We need the Lord’s mercy to have a deeper understanding of our call to be a gift in our vocation, through the gift of our sexuality.

The Congress is hosting a wealth of amazing speakers: Christopher West, Sr. Helena Burns, Matt Fradd, Dr. Angela Franks...can you share any stories about your experience working with these men and women in preparation for the event?

 I have been given such a gift by the Lord to work alongside men and women who love the Lord, love the Church, and Her teachings. These speakers are so personable.

They are men and women, just like us, striving to live God’s plan for life and love through the Theology of the Body. They each, with their unique gifts, talents, and experiences, deeply desire to share the Good News of the Gospel through a deeper understanding of our identity and vocation.

I am always amazed to see their humility, prayer, joy, and deep conviction that TOB is the new evangelization for our time.

For those of us who aren't fortunate enough to attend the Congress, will any of this year's resources eventually be available? If not, we'd love any recommendations of other resources that speak to TOB and its intersection with the culture.

All of the presentations at the Congress will be available through Ascension Press, individually or as a whole. You can find the presentations on their website.

You are co-leading a talk, "Love Looks Forward: TOB and the Single Life!" Would you care to share part of your testimony with our readers?

Last summer, I gave a talk at the Theology of the Body for Young Adults week with Dumb Ox Ministries in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a talk on living single in community. In it, I shared my personal journey of discerning marriage and family and how I went about searching for a spouse in all the wrong ways--paved with good, Christian intentions, but nonetheless, the journey was filled with a misunderstanding of marriage and my calling to live it out.

When I learned the Theology of the Body, it changed so much for me. It changed how I saw men. It changed how I saw myself. It literally changed my vocation.

I saw all men as potentially “the One,” and saw them for how they could fulfill the need for affirmation and completion of my vocation. I didn’t see them as God was calling me to see them: as my brothers in Christ; someone to love for who they are, not for how they make me feel.

When I learned the Theology of the Body, it changed so much for me. It changed how I saw men. It changed how I saw myself. It literally changed my vocation.

Although I felt called to marriage and family, the Lord was calling me to a different marriage and family than I had imagined my whole life. I came to understand that the Lord had planted that desire for marriage and family in my heart and had every intention of fulfilling it--just not in the way I'd thought. Through the Theology of the Body and much prayer and discernment, I came to understand the Lord was calling me to become his spouse and a spiritual mother to many by becoming a Consecrated Virgin, living in the world.

Without the Theology of the Body, I would have no idea what being a “bride of Christ” meant, or how I could live my call to spiritual motherhood.

It has been a long journey and the Lord has been ever gentle and faithful. On February 2, 2017, Archbishop Charles Chaput will Consecrate me as a Virgin, living in the world.

Without the Theology of the Body, I would have no idea what being a “bride of Christ” meant, or how I could live my call to spiritual motherhood.

After sharing my story with the young adults at that retreat, I was so surprised by their reactions. Praise God, He has spoken to their hearts and opened up ways in which they, too, hadn’t seen the opposite sex in a way that was loving. Many of them came up to me after the talk and shared profound stories of how others had hurt them by not seeing them as God does or how they now realize that they have not been seeing others as they should.

Adam Fusilier, with whom I am co-presenting the Congress talk, is a wonderful young man who works for Dumb Ox Ministries and he’ll be sharing his story of living the single life from the masculine perspective. I’m very much looking forward to us sharing our journeys with those in attendance.

Pope John Paul wrote, "Those who seek the accomplishment of their own human and Christian vocation in marriage are called, first of all, to make this theology of the body...the content of their life and behavior. How indispensable is a thorough knowledge of the meaning of the body, in its masculinity and femininity, along the way of this vocation!" Since Spoken Bride readers are, generally, women who have discerned a call to marriage, what thoughts, advice, or resources on TOB can you share specifically with brides and new wives?

I always encourage men and women who are discerning their vocation to marriage, who are preparing for marriage, or who are already married, to learn TOB. I have seen the effect it has on individual spouses and on marriages. The TOB Institute offers weeklong courses in the Theology of the Body. These courses are the marriage of a course and a retreat. There is in-depth study of TOB, but in the context of prayer, Adoration, the sacraments, and time to process, as a couple and as an individual, what the Lord is sharing with them through Theology of the Body. You can learn more about these courses and where we offer them on our site.

For those who aren’t able to attend a course, I encourage people to look at TOB resources through Ascension Press or The Cor Project. Fortunately, there are really wonderful resources that can be found through those, and other, apostolates.

We love sharing personal stories and encounters. Do you have any stories to share of engaged or married couples from your courses who have been notably impacted by TOB?

 When I began working at the Institute, I had my personal journey of how TOB had changed my life, but I had no idea how it was changing the lives of people, of every age and vocation, across the globe. There are so many beautiful stories I could tell about how the Lord has brought conversion, healing and joy to people of all vocations, but I’ll share two short stories here (names are changed).

Bill and Julie came to a weeklong course in dire straits. They were separated after twenty years of marriage, and attending a course with us was their final effort to save their relationship. They committed themselves to taking the time between the teaching sessions to really talk through whatever the Lord was bringing up. They also committed to being totally open and vulnerable with each other. Throughout the week, they spent time together, shared the movements of their hearts, shared their hurts, prayed together, went to confession, and gave each other time for personal prayer and reflection. At the end of the week, they determined together that Bill would move back to their home and they would work things out. Bill and Julie came back for a number of retreats, and are still married to this day. They received much grace from their time with us and in their commitment to do the long and difficult work of healing with the Lord.

It takes great courage to open your marriage to the Lord and the healing He desires. It takes great vulnerability and openness.

Joy and Tom attended our courses separately. Joy came to a course after discovering her husband of five years had been addicted to pornography since before they were dating. They had two small children and Joy was committed to helping Tom overcome this addiction and find healing, but she knew she needed healing, too. She needed to come to a deeper understanding of sexuality; her own and her husband’s. Later she would encourage Tom to attend a course, but it had to be his decision. He had to want it. Tom did eventually attend a course and was open about his struggles. At the end of the week, Tom shared that his understanding of his own sexuality and of women had been malformed by pornography, but that he was coming to a deeper understanding of masculinity and femininity. He and Joy re-committed themselves to their marriage, Tom sought help with his addiction, and they are still married--and expecting their third child.

I don’t want to give the impression that by coming to a course, every marriage will be saved. That is the Lord’s work, and it is a long and difficult work for the husband and wife.

It takes great courage to open your marriage to the Lord and the healing He desires. It takes great vulnerability and openness.

What I have witnessed through my work at TOBI is that the Lord loves us where we are, but desires our healing. I have seen couples, both engaged and married, overcome great difficulties to find tremendous joy and healing with the Lord.


Jen is currently serving as Managing Director of the Theology of the Body Institute. She has been part of TOBI since 2008 in various capacities, including Certification Course Manager and Director of Programs for the Internship, Certification, and Clergy Enrichment Programs. She has Bachelor and Master degrees in Theology and Parish Ministry from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Jen worked in religious education and adult faith formation for 15 years before joining the TOBI staff, teaching Theology of the Body throughout the country.


Join in the Discussion

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY CONGRESS 2016
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | #TOBTALK