On Advent and Waiting

ALEXA DONCENCZ SMITH

 

It’s no secret: Advent is a time of waiting.

As a kid, I always looked forward to the week at Mass when the Little Blue Books would appear in the vestibule for Advent, free for the taking. In the weeks that followed, I was diligent in reading the reflections each night before bed, carefully absorbing every saint quote or nugget of spiritual wisdom. I was kind of a nerd, truth be told, but I loved the aura of waiting and preparation that always surrounded the weeks leading to Christmas.

As an adult, waiting can be a bittersweet subject. While anticipation breeds excitement, waiting for the things we desire isn’t always a pleasant feeling--especially if their eventual arrival isn’t guaranteed. Waiting for anything--from a vacation, to a promotion at work, to meeting one’s future spouse--is filled with a vulnerability that can give way to doubt and discontentment.

After spending a bit of time reflecting on Advent, it seems like no coincidence that the Church dedicates a whole season of the liturgical calendar to the meaning and purpose of waiting. Though it may not seem like it, waiting can be a blessing in disguise that can help guide us along the path to Heaven. Here, five ways we can benefit spiritually from this season:

Waiting provides the space for God to work.

Life can get so busy that it becomes easy to get caught up in our own plans, wrapped up in a universe of which we are the center. We have our days scheduled down to the minute and our calendars booked up for weeks, so it can definitely be frustrating when the unexpected comes in and messes with our carefully laid plans.

With our days are booked solid, spent constantly running from one obligation to the next, this doesn’t leave a lot of room for God to work in our lives. We might even find when we’re too busy, our meaningful attempts at prayer fall to the wayside. While God is always present, he often chooses to speak to us in the silence.

And if there’s no silence, or if our lives are just too hectic, we may miss our chance to hear him. Waiting has a way of slowing us down. The resulting pause can produce a helpful reorientation of priorities.

Waiting is an invitation to trust.

When our plans get stalled and things don’t happen how we think they should, it can cause disappointment and even helplessness. This is an opportunity to humble ourselves, remembering God is in control--not us). That there is a greater plan we cannot see; even if we’re confused about how things are going to play out, we know that the one in charge loves us and always wants the best for us.

Waiting forces us to be present.

Frustration with waiting can indicate that our minds or hearts have gotten ahead of us, and we’re trying to live in the future. Two years ago--ironically, during Advent--I was not-so-subtly waiting on a proposal. My fiancé and I had been dating for several years, and we’d had countless talks about moving toward marriage.

We both agreed getting engaged was our next step. But I felt this to the extent that I failed  to appreciate our relationship in the present moment. I had myself convinced nothing more could be accomplished in our relationship or preparation for marriage until we were officially engaged.

Waiting pulls us out of our daydreams about the future (sometimes not so gently), and challenges us to ask, what does God want me to do right now? 

As I  anxiously awaited my proposal, I believed--whether I realized it or not--that engagement was the next thing God wanted me to do in life. But maybe engagement and marriage were a few more bullet points down on the list, and he had other gifts and blessings in store for me first.

I could have easily missed how God was working in my life during that time because I had unconsciously tuned out the present, preoccupied with what I thought should be my next endeavor. Waiting can be a gift that keeps us living in real time.

Waiting is a reminder: our time is precious.

When we’re stuck in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic, we have two options. We can either grumble and complain, letting our annoying situation get the best of us, or we can remember those very minutes are an irreplaceable gift from God. It might be challenging to view being trapped bumper to bumper on the highway as a gift, but these instances serve as a reminder that all our time is borrowed: it all belongs to God, and we should always use for good the moments of life he has given us.

Waiting gives us hope for a bright future.

When we are so stuck on achieving certain desires that we end up devaluing entire periods of our lives, or we begin to feel as though we are killing time to get to a particular accomplishment or milestone, we are called to remember something: God’s plans are higher than our own. God can give us gifts we never would have dreamed of. And yes: they’re even better than the things we’re pursuing for ourselves.

The feeling of waiting sometimes indicates our timeline doesn’t quite match up to God’s. Rather than giving ourselves over to despair, this is an opportunity to realize that God may be saying no or not yet to our prayers.

Because he might be about to give us something even better than what we imagined.


About the Author: Alexa is a 2013 graduate of The Catholic University of America, where she earned degrees in biology and psychology. Since 2014, she has served as the Assistant Coordinator for Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Allentown. Alexa and her husband Patrick got engaged in December 2016, and were married in June 2018. Together they’ve enjoyed Cracker Barrel breakfasts, long walks around Barnes & Noble, and deciding which bridal expos had the best cake samples. Alexa's hobbies include writing, photography, and drinking coffee. 

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How to Practice Mental Purity in Your Marriage

LARABETH MILLER

 

One of the things I appreciate so much about marriage is the complementarity of men’s and women’s brains. Our mental habits, influences, and motivations are so beautifully designed to support and unite.

Marriage has deepened my understanding of the male brain, and I’ve come to realize my husband often views the world from a single-track, logical perspective. In turn, I have also learned to understand my own mental habits. Though there so many beautiful strengths in the female brain, I have come to recognize the dangers that can arise with how I perceive my husband.

Early in our marriage, I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure our relationship grew. I wanted to understand him and give my husband everything (I thought) he needed as a man. But this became difficult when it came to discovering all the things about my new husband that I didn’t care for.

Before long, frustration crept in as we spent the next year learning more about each other. At times I wondered what was wrong with his brain as he shared some solutions, desires, and perspectives that were, frankly, foreign to me. Because I was a terrible communicator, I attempted to analyze him instead of talking to him. I came to my own conclusions fueled by strong emotions. Then something happened that I thought never would: I came, at times, to despise my new husband.

Whenever he did something his way, I thought he was being ignorant. If he was honest with me during one of our arguments, I immediately labeled him uncaring and selfish. If he didn’t make efforts to make me comfortable or happy, I would tell myself he didn’t really love me. I always made every attempt to determine what he needed from me, so why didn’t I get the same treatment? I went deeper down this rabbit hole, until gradually we weren’t on the same side anymore.

You see, this is an easy entrance for Satan to attack your marriage. We, as companions to our spouses, are gifted with the ability to consider our surroundings and relationships and come up with ways to make it better. Even if that is influenced by our need for control. But our husbands are not the same as we are.

My husband is driven by his desire to provide for me, even if that means using the most efficient and logical solution. He provided honesty in order to get to the point and come to a clear understanding. And he had no idea how to make me happy or comfortable because I had never told him! He thought he had taken care of me already by paying the rent every month and helping me with the grocery budget. But I was too deep into my own concocted contempt for him to see that he was trying to learn to love me the best he could.

So as Scripture says,

“With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

The best way to ensure a sense of mental purity is to seek encouraging outside sources that draw you outside yourself. Whenever we bump heads or are both are going through a stressful times, I look for solid reminders of our path in marriage. I read books on marriage, I listen to good podcasts, or I journal how I’m feeling and look at it with a prayerful perspective. I reserve time, without distractions or stress, to have a conversation with my husband, making sure I put aside my assumptions and opinions. Above all, I take it to Jesus in prayer.

Consider, as well, that many women find it radically helpful to be able to speak about their struggles with a friend or family member, but there is a major trap that lies in this. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen one man torn apart by a large group of women who joined and supported the wife in her emotional misunderstanding. I’ve seen marriages torn apart  by a mob of supposed friends who convinced a woman her husband was a monster.

When considering a confidant, it’s important to choose someone who supports you and your husband as a couple. They should wish to see your marriage flourish the way God intended it to. This adviser should be able to take an objective, prayerful approach by considering the influences, strengths and weaknesses of each person. In my own life, I have carefully chosen a mentor who has been married much longer than I have. Each time we speak, I can recognize her deep love for Christ and her husband. I’ve come to trust her deeply because her advice leads me to regard my husband with holy empathy and self-sacrifice.

We are called to look upon our spouses with the same eyes God does; to recognize his goodness and talents. To forgive when mistakes have been made and allow for the situation to sanctify you both. You know well the reasons you chose your beloved. Remind him of your admiration as often as you can. Consider a devotion to the Divine Mercy or Mary, undoer of Knots, and trust the graces of the sacrament of marriage will support these challenging seasons of growth.   


CIRCLE HEADSHOT Larabeth.png

About the Author: Larabeth Miller is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. She is the owner of Graced by Color. Read more

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Inviting God into your Wedding Planning Desires

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

God created us, and he creates our desires to point us towards goodness, beauty, creation, and virtue. When we are attentive to our desires--both the lighthearted and the deepest desires of our hearts--Christ can teach us something about ourselves or about himself. (Or really about anything, because he is God.)

Does your season of engagement feel overwhelming and distracting due to stress or expectations of wedding planning? With a prayerful approach, the desires and details in our wedding planning can become a sacramental aspect within the sacrament of matrimony. When we seek God in our desires, the smallest wedding details can give visibility to a truth of our faith, to our relationship with Christ, or to the deeper desires of our hearts.

The sacramental aspect of our Catholic faith describes the ways physical objects make an invisible truth visible. For example, water is the physical object signifying the spiritual cleansing, or rebirth in Christ, through the sacrament of Baptism. In marriage, the first night together as husband and wife, and every act of love thereafter, makes tangible the unifying vows of the sacrament of Matrimony.

So how do we uncover the deeper meaning of our desires in wedding planning? How do we tune in to the songs our hearts are singing?

First, we have to know what we want. In the gospel of John, the first question Jesus asks is, “What do you want?” It’s not a selfish question to ask ourselves, especially when we are striving to know ourselves and know Christ in a pursuit of holiness.

Despite how clear your vision for your wedding day might be, consider pausing to journey into that vision with God. Invite God into your head and your heart and ask yourself, “What do I want to see at my wedding?” Note the first things that come to mind. Is it a specific flower, color scheme, or song? Is it a desired anticipation for how a moment will play out?

Perhaps a surprising  answer will pop into your mind! In those moments, you can certainly say “hello” to the Holy Spirit who is guiding your heart.

Perhaps answering the question “what do I want?” is challenging. Is there a tinge of fear, anxiety, or apprehension that bubbles to the surface of your heart when you try to dive in that deeply? If so, keep going, trust the Lord, keep Him close; He wants to show you something good! Rather than fearing the fear itself and suppressing those feelings, take Mary or Jesus’ hand and prayerfully walk into those desires.

Second, take to Christ whatever comes to mind and let him begin to unfold the mystery of your heart. A prayer as simple as, “Okay, Jesus. I want ____ at my wedding. I imagine ____ at my wedding. What is it about ____ am I attracted to? I ask you to reveal something deeply beautiful about these desires to me.”

God might reveal these answers to you in that exact moment of prayer, or maybe over a series of days. Maybe he will withhold his response until the wedding day, or even weeks after when you’re turning back through pictures. Regardless of how he answers this prayer in his timing, he hears you. He is with you in your desires. The things we are attracted to are ways God romances us towards his goodness, his beauty, his creation, and his love.

We want more than we think we want.

Even after the wedding day has come and gone, this conversation with Christ is one we can continue in any season of life.

In my most recent personal experience, praying through my desires was an effort to clarify if my desire was from God or from my own selfishness. When my husband and I moved overseas, it took over two months for our belongings to arrive from the United States to our new (and first) home. The time of waiting tested my patience and led to my restless wanting of our stuff. In the past, I’ve done well with traveling out of a backpack and maintaining a relatively simple profile, so this deep feeling of need for my things was surprising to me.

On the one hand, it takes a personal touch to create a home. We were living on rental furniture and bare walls; I desired our personalized bookshelves and coffee mugs and photographs. I desired to create a home with my husband.

But on the other hand, I was tempted to shame in those desires because I was being “too materialistic” and “too selfish” and “too needy.” The latter experience led me to my knees in a prayer to see God in those desires.

He shattered the glass of my temptation to self-shame. In his most gentle and straight-forward way, God first allowed me to speak my fears: “I feel like I am a bad Christian if I want my stuff.” Nearly instantly thereafter, he provided a sanctifying clarity: it’s not the stuff for the sake of having stuff I desire, but the love, joy, memory, journey, hope, and faith that those things represent. A home is a place of hospitality, rest, unity, and love; beyond the desire for “stuff” is a beautiful desire for a home.

And beyond the desire for a home is a desire for our eternal home, heaven. The ache for what I want now opened my perspective to what I want forever.  

My patience was restored and the process of building our first home has filled my heart with gratitude and hope for all the goodness to come--both in this life and in heaven.

Oftentimes, the details we want to see on our wedding day are a manifestation of our heart’s yearning for beauty and virtue and love. Through the gift of free will, God will patiently wait to show us those deeper layers of our hearts until we ask him to show us. When we invite him into our wedding planning--the season of preparation toward the vocation to a sacrament of marriage--he will undoubtedly show up and love on us as he does so well.

He has already shown up by inviting you into this sacrament--one of the beautiful ways he reveals his love for his people! Why would he stop there? Our God is a God of infinity.

What does he want to show you? What does he have to teach you? What beauty can be revealed as we journey through wedding planning and decision making processes with Christ by our side?

May the journey continue for you with infinite beauty and surprise.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Readers Share | The Saints Who've Shaped Your Relationships

This week as the Church celebrates the dead, the communion of saints, and all souls in Purgatory on All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, respectively, we invited you to share the holy men and women who’ve interceded in your spiritual lives and relationships on our social media.

For inviting us and others into your deep joy, for fostering hope in God’s faithfulness in women still awaiting their love story, for witnessing to abandon and reckless trust in the Father, thank you. Your responses were too many to list in a single post--let alone to list every woman who cited Our Lady, Saints Therese, John Paul II, or Louis and Zelie Martin as favorite patrons! We read every single one and find each so uniquely, personally beautiful.

Here, a selection of your stories of saintly intercession:

St Gemma - for many reasons! My husband is a pharmacist, I was seeking employment when we were first married and we both recently lost our fathers. She’s the patron saint of: Pharmacists, children who have lost parents and those seeking employment! - Danielle

Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria and his wife, Servant of God, Empress Zita. They were a beautiful Catholic married couple and have been a great role model for our marriage. - @danielleduet

St. Michael the Archangel. His battle courage was inspiring to me, and helped me in my own spiritual warfare. Like St. Michael, I was able to cast my own demons out. - @_desirita_

St. Therese and St. Zelie Martin. I’ve struggled with finding and being content in my vocation, and through their intercession have received many graces. - @thebrownebunch

St. Raphael. I met my soon-to-be fiancé through Catholic Match and Raphael's intercession throughout our relationship has been so influential. He's the patron saint of their website and the hero of our relationship. - @violetsheabee

St. Therese has had (and continues to have) a profound impact on how myself in relationship with my fiancé. Long distance has required a lot of humility and trust on both of our parts, and I've leaned on her Little Way to help me do small things that benefit our relationship with each other and with God. - @meganboes

St. Joseph! The St. Joseph novena played a big role in both our individual discernment journeys. As a couple, any time we have a difficult situation and don't know what to pray for, we say his novena, and always receive exactly what we need, and then some! Plus, all the men in my family have Joseph as their middle name, and so does my husband! - @acrgripshover

Our Lady of Angels. - @i.marie.daly

St. Anthony. - @vegan_wannabe_81

I got engaged on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, by the grace of God and through the intercession of St. Joseph, Mama Mary, and St. Anne. - @meganaosborn

St. Thomas More, Mother Mary and St. Joseph. - @marie_xavier_felix

St. Maria Goretti. - @paigealexandrahussey

St. Therese, St. Faustina, and the Holy Family! -@becca_from_texas

St. Josemaria Escriva. - @akeeshers

St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Cecilia! My senior year of college, while my husband and I were still dating, I felt a call to a religious vocation. I was so confused about it so I prayed countless novenas to Therese--I didn’t hear an immediate response, but I eventually did. That spring break, some girlfriends and I drove to Nashville for a retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Cecilia is one of my faves because I’m a musician). While I loved it there, I felt a peace within my heart that I was called to marriage. Two years later, my husband proposed. - @josieweisenberger

St. Gianna Molla and her husband, Pietro! We named our first born after her! - @thetinymangia

Our Lady and St. Louis de Montfort. - @maddy__anne__

St. Joseph! My parents did a novena to St Joseph to pray for a husband for me and weeks into the novena, [my future spouse] came along! And we got engaged on May 1, the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. - @rachelgmz

St. Therese of Lisieux! Ever since I was a young girl, I have been praying novenas to her in the hopes of finding my future husband. She is my patron saint, and my fiancé's favorite. We asked her special intercession for our relationship on a recent trip to the National Shrine in DC, and he proposed on her feast day this year, along with a beautiful white rose! - @whateverisgracious

Our guardian angels! - @ann.elissa

St. Ignatius of Loyola. My husband and I would pray his Prayer for Generosity while we were dating and it was a constant reminder to serve the other person. - @jessie.dupre

St. Elia. - @soulachreim

St. Monica, St. Anne, and St.  Michael...mother Mary above all. - @scenescerity.images

St. Jude. I began his novena and on the last day saw [my future husband] Wesley, and knew I should see where things went with him. After that we have prayed to him every night and I began seeing St. Jude everywhere. Now, Wesley and I are getting married [this fall] (2 years after I began my novena)! - @rach_whalen

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, Saint Anthony, Saint Michael, Saint Jude Thaddeus, Saint Raphael, and Saint Dymphna. I keep adding them! - @edna_songz

Saint Veronica. She has inspired me to wipe my husband’s face as he carries his crosses. She reminded me what we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ and had a profound role in shaping our relationship. - @brittbritt_ottens

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, St. Therese’s parents. The man who is courting me and I had to go two months without seeing each other when we began our relationship. He sent me a talk about sanctification in marriage, which focused on their lives; since then, we have continuously asked for their intercession as we discern marriage! They have become a major influence for me and we are thankful to have another beautiful couple to look up to! - @alynacampero

Saint Therese of Lisieux; she is always reminding us to give ourselves fully to each other and to never seek anything in return. She teaches us how (in Story of a Soul) to live life in a way that strives for selfless love and complete humility. And her parents guide us in how we will want to raise our kids someday. - @maddie7548

To each of you who responded to or have been moved by this question and its answers, we are grateful. If you have suggestions for future reader-sourced topics, be sure to share them with us for consideration!

Images by Lionhearted Photography, seen in Amy + Jake | Midwinter Mountain Wedding

Our Perspectives on Learning to Pray with Your Beloved

We’ve been asked recently to share tips for establishing a prayer routine with your spouse--intimacy and time together both change from engagement to marriage, and the desire to establish dedicated spiritual habits in your life together is a worthy one. But where to begin? Or what if the habits you set out to establish don’t feel like they’re working?

Like any language, like any habit, prayer is learned. Give yourselves permission to try different times and methods of shared prayer time and to change your routine if necessary--if, for instance, tiredness makes bedtime prayer more an obligation than a grace, try a week of praying over morning coffee or when you and your spouse come home from work, instead.

Know yourselves, and the means of worship and dialogue with the Lord unique to each of you, and how you might join your voices together--through Theology or Scripture, spontaneous prayer, the divine office, Praise and Worship, the Rosary, or otherwise. Be open to your spouse’s spiritual inclinations, even if they’re new or different from your own--love for each other, and for the Father, goes beyond feelings and even beyond comfort. Our call to step outside the comfortable doesn’t end in discomfort--it ends in communion.

Here, honesty and reflections from our team on establishing and growing a prayer life alongside your beloved.

Jiza

My husband and I do well with the occasional novena, seasonal prayers, or fasting together. But as for praying regularly, his frequent travel for work means we are often in different places, literally. Routine isn’t feasible, and once we do get comfortable in one, God uproots us. I realize we aren’t called to be comfortable, so it’s probably edifying in itself.

Andi

Just do it. I often feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit at bedtime but because my husband and I are so tired, most nights we just pass out, forgetting to pray together. Lately I’ve been trying to reach out and say, “hey, do you want to pray?” He always responds, “Sure,” and leads us.

Stephanie

In our current season of raising young children, it’s easy for me to compare the prayer life my husband and I shared in the past (Bible studies, holy hours, day trips to cathedrals and holy sites, frequent Rosaries) to the one we have now, involving far less freedom with social events and uninterrupted time. While the demands of family life don’t mean we’re less responsible for our spiritual lives, we have had to cultivate peace with the opportunities we do have, and to recognize that even if our prayer is less community-centered and more rooted in our home, this is the mode in which the Lord calls us to live out our vocation in the here and now. We are definitely a work in progress in this area! I’d also encourage couples to continue calling each other on in their personal spiritual lives, as well. I find it such an act of generosity and good will when my husband encourages me to go on my own to Adoration or confession.

Looking for more practical tips on praying together? From the archives, our favorite past posts on the subject:

The learning curve of combining your spirituality with your beloved’s | 4 Tips for creating a prayer space in your home | Working through spiritual differences when you feel “unequally yoked” | Suggested patrons for your relationship and a selection of the most beautiful novenas and prayers to the saints | A guided meditation on praying with your wedding vows using lectio divina | How to plan a personal retreat for you and your beloved | How learning to communicate as a married couple is like learning to pray together, and why it’s okay to struggle | Spiritual book recommendations for brides | Our tips for a bathing your honeymoon in a spirit of prayer | How and why to consider bringing examen prayer into your relationship

We share our imperfections hoping within them, you find freedom. Constantly we are striving for accountability, vulnerability, and--above all--a deeper relationship with the Lord, offering ourselves and our spouses to him. If a lie has crept in that every other couple but you has it together, with a perfectly dedicated prayer life to match, know we are there beside you, always chasing holiness by way of our call to marriage.

Editors' Picks | Vol. 14: Catholic Home Décor

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon-related.

Did you know the Spoken Bride Vendor Guide has a Gifts & Home Décor section? In addition to the artists and creators whom we’re proud to partner with, today we’re also sharing additional items that inspire beauty and prayer in your home (non-sponsored).

  Framed artwork: Spoken Bride Vendor Michelle Arnold Paine

Framed artwork: Spoken Bride Vendor Michelle Arnold Paine

Stephanie, Co-Founder & Editor in Chief

Vatican Gift Icons: Iconography has been my favorite type of religious art for a long time; I love the immersive nature of the images for both artist and viewer and their many deep, beautiful layers of prayer and symbolism. Icons purchased through the Vatican’s online gift shop can be blessed by the Holy Father at your request--if you and your beloved aren’t honeymooning in Rome, items like these are a wonderful option for acknowledging your unique call as spouses within the universal Church.

Consecrate This House print: To celebrate your first home as husband and wife is to accept the invitation to make the home a domestic church and school of love. This elegant print from a Catholic-owned shop (one of our brides!) inspired by Scripture is a reminder “of God's presence within our homes and that He will never abandon us.”  It would take on a wonderful significance in your entryway, dining space, or another area of your home where your friends and family gather.

Wrought Iron Advent Candle Holder: I’m drawn to simple design for my home and love the clean styling of this candle holder, which could be dressed up with scattered greenery during the Advent season and would fit well with minimalist, rustic, or modern decor.

 

Jiza, Co-Founder & Creative Director

Monastery Icons: This company offers a wide variety of sacred art, including sculpture, jewelry, and, of course, icons. All icons are written by a religious brother in the U.S.

Lily Porter Niederpruem Art: It’s beautiful when the concept of “Catholic” art extends beyond the literal. For the abstract art lover, Lily Niederpruem describes her colorful, Impressionist-style oil paintings as an invitation to contemplate the spirituality of God at work in the natural world, “because nature shares an intimate relationship with the sacred.” Graphite drawings and watercolors are also available. I have a print of her Luminous Mysteries painting, and I love it!

 

Andi, Business Director

Sick Call Crucifix: Our dear friends gave us a crucifix similar to this as a wedding gift, along with holy water, beeswax candles, and instructions on how and when to call a priest for the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Although I generally don’t want to even think about needing to use this kit, I do like acknowledging this sacrament in our home and having necessary items ready. It’s like having an emergency kit for our souls!

Outdoor Statues: When my husband and I first bought our home ten years ago, I stumbled upon an Our Lady of Grace statue at a local outdoor shop and immediately brought her home. She’s lived in various places in our backyard ever since, usually with white roses nearby.

Sacred Heart Enthronement: The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart is a ceremony led by the Legion of Mary, wherein a family makes a formal entrustment of their lives to Christ. My family participated several years ago, and it was beautiful. We love having the image of Jesus’s Sacred Heart right on our mantel, under Our Lady of Guadalupe. Jesus is right there in the heart of our home, watching over us as we play, read, watch movies.

We love the sensory nature of the Catholic faith and the ways it invites us to contemplate the love of God in tangible ways—including those that can be experienced daily in our homes. Be sure to share the items that draw you into contemplation and beauty in the comments and on our social media.

Newlywed Life | A Letter to the Wife Striving to Be Like Mary.

KATE THIBODEAU

 

To the wife striving to be be like Mary,

Twenty-three years old, Catholic, and married to a wonderful Catholic man seems like ad ream, one I’m blessed to experience day by day. I met my husband in college, and we became friends. In the crazy hectic time of our senior year we fell in love, getting engaged shortly after graduation.

  Photography:    Dennis Crider Photography   , c/o Spoken Bride Vendor    The Mantilla Company

Photography: Dennis Crider Photography, c/o Spoken Bride Vendor The Mantilla Company

In one quick and eventful year, I graduated, carried on a distance relationship, worked multiple jobs, lived alone, moved home to my parents’ house, got engaged, planned a large wedding, moved belongings into our new apartment, and married my best friend. It seems like a beautiful, chaotic whirlwind. Yet as a millennial introvert, plagued with a one-track mind and fear of change, I find myself married and unsure of what on God’s green earth I’m doing.

So much happening in my life at once was possibly God’s greatest challenge to me: a challenge to come out of my stationary existence and instead pursue greatness.

In moments of self-doubt, I still wonder how I got here. How I could be seen as worthy to be a good wife to my husband; his greatest helpmate towards heaven?

The most obvious sign my husband and I experienced in knowing we were called to this shared vocation came through daily opportunities to better our individual spiritual lives. We held each other to high standards of holiness, knowing we each desired a saintly spouse who would raise a faithful family.

During engagement, we prayed for chastity and for the strength to reach the altar as the best versions of ourselves. We appealed to the saints for their assistance and implored Mary’s divine aid through consecration. We received the sacrament of confession within an hour of our nuptials and made it to the altar in a state of celestial happiness and joyful hope for the future.

 With the honeymoon over and our lives settling down from the highs and stresses of wedding planning, I realize so much has happened, and feel like I still do not know how to be a wife. I am a terrible cook, an “adequate” housekeeper, and more than a little overwhelmed by the new changes my life has undergone--trying to find a new normal.

I find myself worrying about the novelty of married life: what can I make my husband for dinner today? Would he like this painting hung here? Am I giving him the support he needs? When will we know God is calling us to parenthood? Where will we live in five  years?

I find our anxieties and worries are rarely from heaven. In moments of stress, we tend to assume we are alone or that no other person could have experienced exactly what we are going through. However, that is simply not so.

My consecration to Mary in the 33 days preceding our wedding brought such peace; a peace I hope will always remind me to dismiss my negative thoughts and focus on Mary’s example.

In reflecting on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary alone, I recall the challenges presented by Gabriel’s announcement and Mary’s  forthcoming marriage to Joseph. I cannot imagine a more stressful scenario than being told you are to carry the Son of God, along with the typical changes that accompany married life.

Mary rises to the occasion without question, and with a grace-filled yes. She is the ultimate example of a selfless, worthy wife. She was not ready for such an urgent and special task and did not know how to be the perfect wife or mother. Yet her trust and faith in our Lord proved her an ideal woman, a  model to all young and inexperienced wives.

 The greatest takeaway from my consecration came from Mother Teresa’s prayer to Mary to “lend me your heart.” I find myself praying these words whenever I struggle with patience, stress, anxiety, or self-doubt.

To young wives unsure of what they are doing or what their new vocation entails, I encourage you to join me, asking Mary to lend you her heart.

 Let her fill you with her virtue and grace to approach marriage as our husbands’ best friends and helpmates. Do not allow fear to paralyze you or doubt to detain you from serving God through your vocation. God calls us only to missions he knows we can gracefully undertake. He provides us with examples by which we can accept and rise to the occasion, with Mary’s yes as our wifely motto.

To new brides, know you are not alone. Look to Mary’s example and allow your vulnerability to help you love your husband through a season of change. I promise I will be praying along with you as we tackle the beauty of this: our vocation.


About the Author: Recently married to her best friend and partner towards salvation, Kate Thibodeau is learning how to best serve her vocation as a wife while using her God-given talents. With an English degree from Benedictine College, she strives to live the Benedictine motto: that in all things, God may be glorified. Kate loves literature, romance, beautiful music, pretty things, wedding planning, and building a community of strong Catholic women.

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