Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part II | How to Plan Your Own Personal Retreat

This post is the second of a two-part series. Find Part I, our regional guide to the best retreats for Catholic couples, here.

If you and your beloved crave a respite from wedding planning or life’s busyness--quite literally, retreat--yet your time, travel, or financial circumstances aren’t suited to a more formal, sponsored retreat, it’s still possible to create your own day(s) of contemplation and fruitful discussion.

Here, our tips for planning a DIY retreat.

 Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How  He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Choose a destination.

A shrine, monastery, cathedral, or other holy site in your area (or within day-trip distance) are good potential retreat locations. If you live in or near a city, consider planning a day of pilgrimage to several shrines or chapels. This directory of Catholic sites in the U.S. is a handy starting point for your plans.

Seek out the sacraments.

In the real presence of the Lord, the sacred beckons. Allow time in your day and travels for Mass, confession, spiritual direction, and/or Eucharistic Adoration.

Bring materials for introspection and prayer.

As deeply as we all desire quiet and rest, once we find it, it’s easy to feel...restless. The fruit of our perpetually connected, phones-at-the-ready habits. It’s alright if you struggle to focus during longer periods of prayer; persist, asking the Father to remove distractions from your heart and draw you into himself.

Moreover, come prepared, and allow time to practically and spiritually renew your relationship. Plan for at least one, and up to several, periods of Adoration or quiet prayer before the Tabernacle during your day of retreat. Designate a time for structured prayer, reading, or other devotions. You might consider…

Lectio divina (read Spoken Bride vendor Liz Escoffery’s tips for praying with your wedding vows here) | Spiritual reading on love and marriage (find our recommendations here) | Beloved, a video series on Catholic marriage | The Culture Project International’s lecture series on St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility | a talk from the National Forum on the Theology of the Body | How-To Catholic, a podcast on liturgical living and the daily life of the faith, hosted by a husband-and-wife duo | Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire podcast | Leah Darrow’s Do Something Beautiful podcast | Dr. Gregory Popcak’s More 2 Life podcast, focused on relationships

Talk.

Discuss the thoughts and insights borne of your prayer, reading, or listening. If questions surface--from the fun to the serious--ask them. A Q+A book for Christian relationships, like this one from the author of The 5 Love Languages, can spark your inquiries. Should particular issues arise that invite further probing and communication, pray about whether pre-marital counseling or spiritual direction can benefit you.

Plan a date.

End your day of retreat with dinner, a long walk or hike, or favorite hobby. For movie buffs, Christopher West’s The Cor Project offers a free, downloadable guide to “Theology of the Body at the movies” when you subscribe to their mailing list.

As Christ is transfigured atop the mountain, a vision of heavenly glory, his friends desire to linger there. Yet, he gently reminds them, they aren’t meant to stay forever at the summit; it’s back on the ground, amid the world, that they’re called to be his witnesses.

And so it is with a retreat, just as with marriage: some moments are so elevated, so glorious, we never want to leave. In the times we’re back in life’s trenches, when the crosses feel heavy, when our hearts cry out, it’s those memories of transcendence that sustain us. May you find true peace and rest during your time of retreat, re-entering the world remade and brought to life.

Healthy Ways to Talk About You and Your Beloved's Pasts

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Have you and your fiancé’s past relationships--and your actions within them--influenced your engagement?

Before our wedding, my husband and I spoke extensively about regrets from former relationships, in everything from physical boundaries to the ways we’d fought or solved problems with our exes. Our discussions generally felt constructive, and were probably aided by the euphoria of newer love, making us quicker to forgive and express empathy than we might have been otherwise.

  Photography:  Elizabeth M Photography  

It wasn’t until recently, several years into marriage, that the impact of the past hit home for me. My husband and I imagined what we would have thought of each other if we’d met at a younger age. With lightness, trust, and an innocent curiosity in my heart, I asked if I could read some of the messages he’d exchanged with an old girlfriend. That lightness turned heavy as I read through nicknames and jokes so similar to ones my husband had written to me. I quickly clicked the window closed.

I didn’t feel sad that he’d ever had feelings for someone else. It was the echoes of our own relationship I read in his teenage self’s words that unsettled me, making me feel as if our love were somehow less unique.

I should be clear in stating that I don’t blame my husband in any way for this. After all, we didn’t even know of each other’s existence at the time he’d written those words, and essential parts of who we are are consistent in every relationship, romantic and otherwise. Rooted deep in my soul is the knowledge that I have chosen, and been chosen by, a man entirely committed and faithful to me. But it hurt all the same.

What I know now is that my asking to read that correspondence was neither healthy nor constructive. Our relationship has thrived on honest vulnerability about our past mistakes, yet I’ve realized honesty and prudence aren’t always the same thing.

Having already known and discussed my husband’s thoughts and areas of growth from that relationship, my asking to know it in more detail than necessary was fruitless, inflicting fresh salt on wounds that had long ago been cleansed. I wish I’d been more at peace with not knowing. While, in my opinion, it’s important and good to gently reveal your past errors in judgment or sexual sins in a broad sense, I’ve also arrived at the opinion that delving overly into specifics often causes more hurt than healing.

As you and your beloved work through your own past dating experiences on your path to the altar, here are other habits that have helped me do the same.

Ask yourselves the purpose of what you’re revealing.

The right sorts of disclosure--that is, the sorts that bring peace, restoration, and mercy--enable mature love to grow. If you choose to reveal parts of your past as solely as a means of feeling emotionally closer, as an occasion of pride that leads to feeling superior to your fiancé’s exes, or out of prurient interest, chances are these revelations will inspire more division than unity. Be real with yourselves about what purpose your inquiries and revelations serve.

As someone prone to nosiness, I’ve struggled in this area and have grown in greater wisdom and self-knowledge about why I might be asking about certain parts of my husband’s past. It takes ruthless honesty to admit to yourself that your intentions might not be the purest of heart, and to discern whether their fruits would be nourishing or bitter.

Get rid of all items from past relationships.

Though you haven’t yet made your wedding vows, engagement is a time of declared commitment that’s moving toward a specific end: your wedding day. In light of this gravity and forthcoming permanence, these months of preparation are an ideal time to get rid of any lingering possessions, gifts, texts, and emails from the past. Even if you and an ex have remained in each other’s orbit by choice or circumstance, it’s healthy to remove items with romantic significance from your life. It’s a gesture of faithfulness, and of turning forward in hope, to your fiancé.

Appreciate who you are now, not who you were then.

Conversion is a powerful thing. Saints are made along the path of reconciliation and virtue. Matters like past emotional entanglements and sexual sins, though, aren’t small; feeling their sting months and years later is normal. It’s valuable to keep in mind not just that the past is the past, but that who your beloved used to be--in all his or her weaknesses or poor choices--is also the past. Praise the Father for the gift of who your fiancé is, and for all the experiences that have brought you to the present.

If necessary, don’t fear professional assistance.

Premarital counseling or therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Knowing when to invite the help of a professional shows great strength and dedication to your relationship.

If one or both of you have struggled with addictions and sexual sin, a Catholic counselor can provide spiritual and emotional tools to facilitate healthy communication.

And if one or both of you have been through any form of sexual abuse or assault, know, above all, that in the Father’s eyes you are nothing less than whole, blameless, and worthy of love. Working through these experiences together, with a counselor, helps cultivate trust, intimacy, forgiveness, and true peace.

Give every part of yourselves to the Lord.

If you struggle with aspects of your pasts, ask for the grace of healing. During a guided holy hour on a retreat I once attended, a priest advised asking Christ in prayer to reveal to us what wounds in our lives he desired to reveal. Sit with these wounds and confront them as they surface, he instructed, and then visualize giving them back to Jesus. Christ, the ultimate beloved of our hearts, desires so deeply to share our heartaches and, moreover, to redeem them.

Resolve to forgive, no matter what.

Forgiveness might take a long time. That’s alright. I encourage you and your fiancé, however, to promise one another that no matter what, you will eventually forgive all past wrongs. Grudges are poison; a source of doubt that limits true freedom. Trust in each other, and in your love, and you will reveal the Lord’s mercy to one another.

There have been times in our relationship where I’ve badly desired the will to forgive my husband and move on, even as I struggled to get my bruised heart on board. I feel thankful that even while upset, I’ve frequently sensed the Lord’s peace amid the storm within. In that peace, I have so strongly felt the certainty that I would forgive, even if I wasn’t ready at the moment. I never doubted I would, and prayed I could feel ready to do so quickly. Let me let go of this, I begged. Help me trust in this certainty.

Never lose sight of prayer for your fiancé, yourself, and your relationship. Prayers of agony, of asking for the grace to diminish or remove former sins from your memory, and even prayers of thanksgiving for the emotional weight of dealing with the past are all more than acceptable.

Our every prayer is a delight to the one who so ardently asks for our total trust: Jesus, I trust in you.

In the times I experience that deep conviction of forgiveness, I thank God for these gifts of trust. Gifts that have affirmed to me my husband’s deep goodness and the ways in which our hearts are so specifically suited to one another’s. I hope, truly, for you and your fiancé to be flooded with similar graces: filled with his peace, living examples to one anotherof divine love and mercy.


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

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Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part I | Supplementing Your Marriage Prep

This post is the first of a two-part series.

We’ve been asked recently for our tips on making your marriage preparation as in-depth and transformative as possible. Whether you’ve chosen a day-long workshop, pre-Cana classes at your parish, or meetings with a sponsor couple, consider taking time for further education and prayer, as time and finances allow, with a supplemental retreat for you and your beloved. In these days of the New Evangelization, the Church is rich with resources ancient and new that invite rest, contemplation, and time to be drawn nearer to one another as you both are drawn into the Father’s love.

  Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Because so many worthy resources exist for different spiritualities, devotions, and needs of the heart, it would be impossible to list them all. Your diocesan website is a good place to begin seeking upcoming events that might bear fruit in your relationship. Another is the dwellings of religious orders in your area, some of whom welcome visitors to join in their daily rhythms of prayer, work, or ministry or who host speaking events.

And think beyond the confines of topics related specifically to marriage prep: retreats with the themes of prayer, art, theology, mental wellness from a Catholic perspective, and beyond allow ample time for discussion, self-examination, and growth in faith.  Below, by region, are a series of programs and ministries that can provide the silence and deeper dive you might be thirsting for.

 

East Coast

Charis NYC: Ignatian retreats by and for Catholic young adults, with several program options centered on spiritual concerns common in this stage of life, including discernment, contemplation, meaningful living, and life’s transitions (New York City).

Given: A day-long event for engaged or married couples featuring talks, worship, and the sacraments (Baltimore).

International Institute for Catholic Culture: Founded in response to John Paul II’s call to the faithful to re-evangelize the culture and form a “civilization of love,” this non-profit educational center well-suited to lovers of theology and academics provides classical language courses, lectures on the intersection of faith and culture, art exhibits, and musical performances (Philadelphia).

Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center: An apostolate of Regnum Christi that hosts Ignatian-inspired retreats of varying length, as well as monthly reflection events. The center is particularly gifted with meeting the needs of couples, offering its own marriage prep program for engaged couples, speaking events for newlyweds, and marriage workshops. Catholic counseling and therapy are also available onsite, through the Alpha Omega Clinic (Washington, D.C.).

St. Joseph Retreat House: Serving the New England region with guided retreats inspired by St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, with time included for structured prayer, recreation, and spiritual direction (Boston).

Theology of the Body Institute: Offering a variety of 5-day courses designed to form the entire person, “head and heart,” the Institute combines academics with the sacraments while educating on Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Audiences, Love and Responsibility, and other writings, alongside topics like beauty, interior prayer, and a retreat created specifically for engaged or married couples (Philadelphia).  

 

Midwest

Love Your Marriage: An day-long event for married couples, with an emphasis on creating a holy, thriving relationship through all stages of life, including newlywed years and parenting (Denver).

Ruah Woods: a Theology of the Body education center offering study courses and retreats both on and off-site. The center also offers psychological services from Catholic professionals whose worldview informs their work with clients (Cincinnati).

St. Benedict’s Abbey: Men’s, women’s, and couples’ retreats led by Benedictine monks (Atchison, Kansas).

Tabor Life Institute: Programs and retreats that teach the Theology of the Body through the use of Scripture, writings by Church mystics, art and iconography, and the Eastern Rites of the Church. The Institute--whose staff includes a priest who attended some of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body audiences in Rome, the first time they were delivered--additionally hosts Pre-Cana weekend event for couples preparing for marriage in the Byzantine Rite (Chicago).

 

South

Alexander House: Founded by a longtime-married couple who restored their relationship from the possibility of divorce with the help of a Catholic therapist, this apostolate for couples in all stages of marriage and family life provides courses for engagement and problem-solving for troubled marriages, all in light its mission to help couples create a joyful domestic Church (San Antonio).

Casa Maria Convent & Retreat House: Offering structured retreats, including those for couples, that include talks, personal prayer time, the sacraments, and participation in the Divine Office with the beautiful Sister Servants of the Eternal Word (Birmingham).

Catholic Charismatic Center: Offering retreats for young adults and couples (recent leaders include Father Stan Fortuna), rooted in the spirituality of the Charismatic renewal movement (Houston).

Three to Get Married: An engagement retreat aimed at comprehensive formation of spouses-to-be--spiritual, psychological, emotional, and cultural--through presentations from priests, married couples, medical professionals, and trained psychologists (Nashville).

 

West Coast

John Paul II Resource Center: Providing day-long Theology of the Body retreats on a variety of topics--including those geared toward women, men, parents, couples, and educators--as well as talks for marriage preparation and enrichment (Phoenix).

New Camoldoli Hermitage: A beautiful, coastal Benedictine hermitage, offering preached retreats throughout the year by the Camoldolese Benedicitines and inviting participants into the prayer of monastic life (Big Sur).

Our Lady of the Rock: Retreat opportunities hosted by Benedictine sisters, inviting guests to participate in the daily prayer and tasks of their monastic farm life, which is largely self-sufficient (Shaw Island, Washington).

Sacred Heart Retreat House: A site run by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, this house provides retreats for men, women, couples, and young adults, rooted in the Carmelite spirituality of leading the faithful into a deeper relationship with Christ (Los Angeles).

 

Nationwide (U.S.)

Passion and Purpose for Marriage: An initiative of Dynamic Catholic, this one-day event, hosted across the U.S. and based in California, offers talks for couples in all stages of their relationship on practical matters in the vocation of marriage, prayer and worship, and time for one-on-one discussion.

Miles Christi: Guided Ignatian silent retreats hosted by the Miles Christi brothers, offered nationwide and based in Michigan and California.

We thrive on the community you help us to grow. If a program or retreat you’ve attended has blessed your relationship outside of marriage preparation, be sure to share it with other brides in the comments and on our social media.

Next week, read more on retreats, including digital resources and how to plan your own retreat with your beloved.

Our Favorite Quotes on Fruitful Love, on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This week, the Church commemorates 50 years since the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae--translated as ”Of Human Life.” Drawing from the hundreds of years of Scripture and tradition on which the Church was founded, the letter was composed in response to a commission whose purpose was to evaluate the effects of newly and widely available contraceptives on society.

The Pope’s words praise the goodness of married love: he calls it “fully human,” involving both body and soul--the whole person--and imaging Christ’s free, faithful, total, and fruitful gift of self. Love like this reserves nothing and bears real fruit, ending not in death but in eternal life.

Life. Whether physically, spiritually, or both, all married couples are called to be abundant and allow new life to flow forth from their love.

Amid social pressure and speculation over whether the encyclical would “reverse” the Church’s directive that contraceptives are contrary to the nature of authentic love, Paul VI courageously maintained that artificial means of birth control are never in keeping with a sincere, unreserved gift of the self and exchange of persons.

After all, as he pointed out, the nature of love itself; the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, hadn’t changed since before the commission--how, then, could human beings change their imitation of this love, without changing the definition of love entirely? His appeals to logic--and his recognition that every person desires to be loved without conditions or limitations--draw attention to the high, yet attainable, calling of our path to heaven.

If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, engagement and new marriage are ideal times to contemplate the love spouses are called to imitate; to be the human face of the Father’s love to one another in the particular way only they, as individuals, can.

What’s more, if the demands of love, and the Church’s reasoning on contraception, are difficult for you, take time to turn inward in prayer and ask the Lord if he’s calling you and your beloved to deeper understanding or a lifestyle change. He is merciful in all things and desires nothing less than our deepest happiness.

When the love of husband and wife mirrors the Father’s love as closely as possible, we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and that much closer to the fulfillment and true flourishing on earth that he intends for us, his children.

This list of resources, including prayers, studies, and media, from the U.S. Bishops is a rich and accessible starting point. For your further contemplation and inspiration, we’ve compiled a selection of passages, from holy men and women past and present, that make us excited and motivated to live out love’s demands.

On authentic love

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the relationship between spouses] becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. - Pope Francis

Self-discipline...is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character...it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. - Humanae Vitae

For the Lord has entrusted to [spouses] the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life. - ibid

On the love of God

All love ends in an incarnation, even God’s. Love would not be love if it did not escape the limitation of individual existence by perpetuating itself...wherein death is defeated by life. - Ven. Fulton Sheen

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. - Saint John Paul II

Do you want to see the difference [between NFP and contraception]?...There’s nothing to fear. Trusting him is only threatening if he’s a tyrant. He’s not. He’s perfect love. Let go. Let him in. Trust him. - Christopher West

On family size, discernment, and infertility

The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. - St. Josemaria Escriva

I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ. - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

On sacrifice and its fruits

...the seeking [of Jesus]  is a going out from ourselves. It is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love. - Caryll Houselander

Want to be happy?…Lose your life in love and you will find it. Give your life away as a gift, and you’ll come to resurrection. - Bishop Robert Barron

The various forms of sacrifice include one positive similar meaning: Life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” - Scott Hahn

On charity with regard to Church teaching

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter…"the only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." - Humanae Vitae

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. - ibid

On human nature

Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance; through its crystal the world should see God. - Saint Gianna Molla

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. - Humanae Vitae

As always, we at Spoken Bride are here for you. No matter where you’re coming from, no matter your opinion or experiences with this aspect of Church teaching, we’re committed to truly seeing and hearing you. We welcome your thoughts, your questions on married love and Natural Family Planning, and even your reservations and respectful disagreements, so know that you have the freedom to share them in the comments and on our social media. Consider this an invitation to conversation, with our hopes of living out our mission of truth, goodness, beauty, and authenticity with charity and productive dialogue.

Photography: Alyssa Michelle Photography, seen in How He Asked | Danielle + Jeff

 

Newlywed Life | Creating a Prayer Space in Your Home

Even the most mundane daily practices, like brushing your teeth together, feel infused with newness and promise during the first months of married life. In these small matters, as well as larger ones, foundational habits and routines are formed. Because it’s such a formational period, the start of your marriage is both an easy and exciting time to choose habits that facilitate a shared prayer routine.

An oratory is a place of worship not attached to a parish. Oratories are often inhabited by religious orders, but it’s not just our brothers and sisters in religious life who have the opportunity to formally worship in this way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends creating a corner for contemplation and worship in the home, a space for a “little oratory” in family life.

Whether or not your first home has room to accommodate an entire corner for prayer, the effort of designating a space for contemplation--alone and with your spouse--pays dividends in beauty and consistency in your prayer life. Here, four tips for designing and enjoying a prayer space in your home.

Choose a space.

At minimum, one to two chairs and a small table are effective starting materials for a prayer space. If your space is more limited than a corner of your living room allows, incorporating your religious items and prayer materials into a vignette on your coffee table or choosing a seated spot (even the kitchen table) in view of a crucifix or piece of religious art are worthy alternatives.

Set the scene.

Beauty inspires worship and reverence, drawing our attention out of the everyday and toward the sacred. Fill your space with a crucifix, images or icons of the saints, religious statues, a candle, and flowers or greenery.

Store your prayer resources close at hand.

Make use of a nearby drawer, basket, shelf, or table to stash or display the items you use for prayer: journals, Rosaries, spiritual reading, musical instruments, and/or devotionals.

Create a routine.

Choose a time of day, perhaps over coffee in the morning or before beginning your evening leisure activities, to be with your spouse in your prayer space. You might pray individually in silence, do a decade or more of the Rosary together, read spiritual books together or on your own for a designated time, or pray spontaneously and aloud.

Remember that establishing a prayer routine that feels comfortable, fruitful, and well-suited to your lifestyle and personalities can take time, and that’s alright! Learning the subtleties of your spouse’s spirituality is a beautiful fruit of a holy relationship, one that never reaches a point of perfect clarity this side of heaven--it’s in the learning, and the constant unveiling of who you are, before the Lord, that joy resides.

And if you aren’t a newlywed, but have been married for longer yet have never incorporated a prayer space into your routine, it’s never inopportune to begin. We love hearing about your prayer rituals with your husband and the ways you invite the Father into your home. Be sure to share about your prayer spaces and routines in the comments and on our social media!

Newlywed Life | The Growing Pains of New Marriage

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My husband of two weeks sat beside me on the floor, bowls of black beans and rice before us and backs against our first Ikea couch. We ate, surrounded by an enamel Dutch oven, new and velvety towels, down pillows, gilded picture frames. The stuff of a wedding registry checked off. But without chairs to sit on for dinner.

Married at 23, with one of us in graduate school and the other commencing a job search in a new town, my husband and I began our wedded life absorbing the paradox of having just experienced the most elegant, special occasion of our lives--and all the generous gifts and photogenic dazzle it entailed--followed by a season of surprisingly unglamorous trials: extreme simplicity and a tight budget, arguments over whether dishes should be washed before bed or the following morning, equivocating over daily habits and routines, struggling to comprehend an NFP chart.

Before the wedding, we’d spent hours of our long-distance engagement on the phone, dreamily anticipating when we’d be together daily and no longer have to say goodbye for weeks at a time. We eagerly devoured spiritual literature on marriage, knowing even when emotion abandoned us from time to time, pure willpower and sacramental grace would sustain our love. It seems naive now, yet I still imagined we’d sail painlessly into marriage, our newlywed bliss drowning any minor frustrations.

Minor frustrations, however, often felt major, compounded by our financial situation and search for community four hours away from friends and family. Even in the genuine euphoria of finally being husband and wife, we bickered. I felt guilty, knowing material concerns and disagreements over trivial matters like whether to roll up the toothpaste tube were nothing; that the foundation of our love felt truly solid and that even with certain deprivations we still had much compared to some. I wish I could go back and tell myself it’s alright to have felt this way.

It wasn’t until a few months in, when my pride was mercifully stripped away that I could see these growing pains as a gift. Offerings from the Father to burn away our faults and, like iron in a fire, sharpen one another in virtue. The irritations of adjusting to a shared life didn’t immediately disappear. But suddenly, what seemed like obstacles in the way of love became opportunities to love.

My husband and I discussed expressly thanking God for any frustrations we felt with our situation or one another, knowing when we accept his invitation, all things are transformed and love disinterested in the self is all the more possible. “This is the very perfection of a man,” wrote Augustine, “to find out his own imperfections.”

Whatever your crosses as a newly married couple, consider this permission to struggle, and even to find the struggle discouraging. Welcome it all the same. There were times, in those early weeks of my marriage, a lie crept in that the grace of the sacrament just wasn’t working for us. I know now that difficulty doesn’t mean grace isn’t at work. It means that it is, and is ours to embrace.

The first steps of any journey can be the hardest, not least of which the steps on this pilgrimage to heaven. You aren’t alone, though. In flesh and in spirit, united to you entirely, is a second person--and a third.


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

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The Royal Wedding and its Insights Into Evangelization

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t closely follow the royal wedding for months in advance. Not out of disdain, but simply out of having other interests, I’d never really heard of Meghan Markle or watched her TV show, and I generally associated Prince Harry with the wilder, more controversial antics of his youth. Until it all became impossible to ignore.

In the days preceding the wedding, the lead stories on seemingly every news outlet and style blog I follow involved Meghan and Harry: how would they incorporate American rituals into a traditional English ceremony? What musical selections would they choose? Would Meghan wear the Queen’s signature nail polish shade? Before I knew it, I was drawn in, growing in appreciation for what seemed like a genuine, natural love, with sense of equality and mutual admiration between the two.

What was it that made someone like me, who’d been mostly indifferent to the royals, so intrigued by their nuptials? And what made so many others, the world over, feel the same? Particularly in our culture where marriage is received with cynicism, and in light of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana’s disillusionment with her own marriage--her lack of a fairy-tale ending after the original televised royal wedding--our obsession suggests there remains something captivatingly hopeful about the union of man and wife.  

On some level, there’s a realization that marriage still means something big, and we want to see relationships flourish and succeed. Love is worth rooting for, and commitment through good times and bad merits respect even from skeptics.

In the days after the wedding, I found myself scrolling through photos and clips of the service, attire, and family portraits. For those of us who aren’t duchesses, Meghan and Harry’s witness to love and service offers some valuable insights into how we can be witnesses, too.

As faithful Catholics whose wedding guests might or might not be in a similar place spiritually, the desire to evangelize through your wedding Mass and celebration is a natural one. In concrete, sensory ways, like incense, music, the readings, and a program that explains Catholic traditions in a clear, charitable way, that’s possible. I admired how the royal incorporated songs and a sermon from American Christian traditions without much fanfare, simply letting these inclusions speak for themselves. A concrete, yet humble witness. In an even more radical way, the Catholic faith has its own way of speaking for itself, stirring the soul to pay closer attention to the whispers, the longings, deep within.

Consider, as well, all the less obvious, unspoken ways the truth, beauty, and goodness of your marriage can, and will, also shine forth: treating each guest with attention and graciousness; meeting them where they are; exhibiting a spirit of reverence and resolve through prayer and worship simply by being your authentic selves; waiting until after the wedding to move in together. When you lead with the heart, prioritizing relationship over argument, your family and friends become well-disposed to receive, and can look past differences of opinion as their experiencing you and your beloved entering into marriage speaks to God’s grace.

The day after the royal wedding, sin and evil still existed in the world and our culture remained as politically fractured as ever. The wedding, however, stopped so many of us in our tracks for a moment and invited the world to step back from its brokenness and division. In the same way, your wedding day won’t heal yours or your guests’ every wound. Yet with beauty, virtue, and purity of heart, it can testify to something powerful and real without a word.


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

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