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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6 Ways to Have a Spiritually Rich Wedding Rehearsal

What are your rehearsal dinner plans?

Though the rehearsal evening is traditionally hosted by the groom’s family, you and your beloved can still take on a role--whether privately or with your wedding party and family members--in planning a spiritually rich evening, one rich in gratitude and anticipation.

  Photography: Spoken Bride Vendor    Evan Kristiansen Photography

Photography: Spoken Bride Vendor Evan Kristiansen Photography

Many brides say their actual wedding day passes in a blur, with little one-on-one time for quality conversation with each and every guest. In some ways, the rehearsal dinner is like a mini-reception: joy and celebration, with more freedom of time and leisure in an intimate setting with those you’re closest to. Here, to reflect that spirit of joy and closeness, our suggestions for a spiritually significant rehearsal.

Go to Mass with your fiancé the morning of.

With such an extensive list of last-minute details and events, time with your fiancée to simply be, to absorb the reality of the transformation about to take place, can be hard to come by. Taking a few hours for a final date as an engaged couple, to daily Mass and coffee, provides a welcome respite and strengthens you in the Eucharist.

Have your celebrant(s) hear confessions.

Entering into marriage with the clearest conscience and a heart as fully disposed to grace as possible is a great gift. Ask your priest(s) to hear you and your beloved’s confessions in the chapel at the conclusion of the rehearsal and, if time allows, invite your wedding party and families to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, as well.

Attend, or host, a holy hour.

Ask your celebrant to expose the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration following the rehearsal and before your meal--if you’re planning to provide confession, it can be held during this hour of reflection. Consider extending the invitation to all guests who are able to attend, and to inviting musically gifted friends to provide praise and worship or chant.

Share a personal piece of your faith.

When distributing gifts to your wedding party and family and/or assembling welcome bags, it’s beautiful to give your guests an insight into your spiritual life as a couple. Including a custom prayer card, saint medal and short bio, or a book that’s resonated in your relationship is a gift of faith, an expression of who you are, and an invitation to learn.

Looking for ideas? Start here:

Personalized holy cards | Gifts and artwork by Spoken Bride Vendors | Spiritual reading recommendations from our community

Ask for a blessing.

Have your priest pray and give a blessing over attendees at the end of the evening.

What if not everyone is on board?

As unifying as your wedding day is--on many levels--the pain of division can also arise in instances where your loved ones are not Catholic or not practicing the faith.

If you’ve attended or read about other weddings wherein the couple, their parents, and their siblings are all entirely present at pre-wedding prayer time and immersed in the Mass, fight the urge to compare your own situation.

In some families, the Lord works through many, and in others, through certain individuals--perhaps you and your fiancé, in this instance--whom he calls to witness to the fullness and beauty of the faith to loved ones.

If inviting others into your pre-wedding spiritual plans will cause tension, allow yourselves the freedom to experience them privately as a couple. That might mean staying alone in the chapel after the rehearsal for some moments of prayer--or even Adoration--praying a novena that ends on your wedding-day eve, or praying together in the car on your way to dinner. Know that no matter how “Catholic” your wedding appears on an invitation, the actions you choose and emotions that arise in your own hearts are what truly invite the Lord into your celebration.

Did you incorporate a spiritual element into your rehearsal? Share the practices that have deepened the final 24 hours before your walk up the aisle in the comments and on our social media.

Here, read our tips for making the most of the moments immediately before your wedding Mass.

Is the Wedding World Causing You Unrest? This is for You.

To the bride with a low wedding budget, stretched with every booking and purchase, your celebration will be abundant in grace and rich with meaning no matter what you spend--or don’t spend.

To the bride anxious about the months and years to come, praying daily for a long, happy, and peaceful life with her bridegroom, “when we first say our wedding vows it is by God’s mercy that he does not fully reveal what trials we will endure throughout our vocation...if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our cries will not be vain.”

  Photography:    Avenue Creative

Photography: Avenue Creative

To the bride looking at the number inside her wedding gown and wishing it were less, know this: you are not less. Body and soul, your beauty is yours alone. “If we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we must walk, run, and lift with poise and dignity despite knowledge of our flaws.”

To the bride scrolling through perfectly edited photos of couples kneeling before the altar resplendent in their best, bitterly thinking the photos don’t tell the whole story, you’re right. Pray for these couples; for the failings and trials behind the scenes.

To the single woman experiencing the ache of loneliness with each engagement announcement and wedding invitation, cry out in prayer, knowing the Father is never outdone in generosity even when he asks us to wait. Ask him to show you how to use this season for growth and deeper immersion in his heart.

To the wife-to-be questioning whether engagement was the right step with the right man, have courage and faith. Beg for a discerning heart, for clarity, for the ability to distinguish what qualities are and aren’t worth doubting in your relationship.

To the couple struggling with chastity, run to the Lord’s mercy and be made new, as many times as you need to. Seek the graces of self-discipline and integrity in concrete ways; develop them in other areas of your life, and watch as they strengthen you in sexual integrity. You’ll fall again. His mercy is inexhaustible.

To the couple working through past sexual sin, pray for peace. Be not afraid or ashamed of therapy and counseling. Develop the will to forgive and a heart of gentleness with one another.

If you’ve been praying daily to be the best spouse you can be, unable to silence the whispers that maybe you’re too selfish, too flawed, too stubborn for this vocation, know you aren’t alone on your path to heaven. Accept your failings, but don’t settle for them. It takes three, not two, to get married.

If your wedding is next week and you’re second-guessing your decision not to have hired a coordinator, take a breath. Speak with your photographer, DJ, and recently married friends for help with a timeline, and designate a few relatives and close friends to help the day run smoothly.

If you’ve argued with your fiancé or family members—again—telling yourself no other bride is as moody, as materially focused, less than holy, or any other comparison-worthy trait, make an effort not to compare. Every one of us is weak, called to greatness even in our deficiency. But comparing is irrelevant because your beloved fell in love with--chose--the entirety of who you are and will meet your shortcomings with love.

If wedding blogs and social media have borne decision fatigue, give yourself permission to delete your apps; distance yourself; turn inward. It will all still be there when you’re ready to look again. Us included.

You are enough. In joy and in doubt, we are here to receive your intentions, questions and stories without judgment. If any of the content here presses on a wound in a negative way and not a purifying one, know it’s alright to give yourself space. And if any of it inspires a desire to reach out, don’t hesitate to contact us. In charity and sisterhood, we are here. This is for you.

When You're the Maid of Honor

CAROLYN SHIELDS

 

We spent hours of our childhood dreaming of this day: what our dresses would look like, how the man would react as we walked down the aisle to him, and so on. Olivia fell in love first, with a marine (she set the bar high). Watching my sister-not-by-blood fall in love was honor enough, but when she asked me to stand by her on her wedding day, I was flushed with warm admiration. It was an honor to participate in so many small, intimate ways that weekend; something I will truly cherish forever.

Listening to her tiptoe upstairs the night before, having that moment together to eat toast and sip coffee the morning of, when the earth was defrosting itself, is a cherished memory. Standing behind the church doors, as I straightened her dad's tie, she whispered, "Carolyn?" And I turned.

"Do I look okay?"

My eyes smarted with tears as I straightened her veil once more and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She pulled me into a hug, kissed my cheek, and told me she loved me. And then I had to go ahead of her.

So you're here, too--the Maid of Honor? I'm sure you're feeling just as honored as I did. Sisterhood is something so beloved, so I want to share ways to incorporate as much prayer into your best friend's day as possible. And if you're like me, I no longer lived close to the bride during her engagement, and couldn't run across the street to her house like we did when we were little. I wasn’t able to walk over and help her tie 150 ribbons for her favors.

But you can do the following, no matter how far apart you and the bride are.

Pray for her guests.

I was privileged to write out Olivia's wedding invitations, something I could do on quiet evenings in my apartment three hours away. As I wrote out her guests’ names, I realized just how many names I didn't recognize. I was curious as to who these people were, people who meant so much to Olivia and her fiancé that they were invited to join them on their big day. So over each envelope, I thanked God for their presence in the bride and groom’s lives.

I also wrote out her escort cards. Over each of these, I prayed for each guest’s safe arrival to the ceremony and reception.

Create a spiritual bouquet.

I know it's tradition to collect the ribbons from bridal shower gifts to build a bouquet for the bride to carry at her rehearsal. When I tried, it was the saddest-looking thing ever! So instead, I reached out to Olivia's friends and mine to create a spiritual bouquet. I bought white roses and scribbled the sacrifices, novenas, rosaries, and prayers our friends offered for Olivia, tying  them with twine onto the flowers. I thought she would feel more comfortable walking down the aisle holding a bouquet of prayer (some from women she’d never met) than one made of ribbon!

Take a moment to pray over her.

Even if you don’t often pray in this way, in that moment when she looks immaculate, it's minutes before go time, and the butterflies are raging, she’ll welcome it. Invite the bridesmaids to join you in prayer, place a warm palm on her shoulder for physical support, and let your heart sing its praise.

Reflect on honor.

That's who you are! The Maid of Honor. What does it mean to honor someone? What does honor deserve? What place does honor have in our faith? If we believe our Holy is who he says Hh is, then we must understand who we are.

And on this weekend, on that altar, that's what you represent.


About the Author: Carolyn Shields is the founder of The YoungCatholicWoman and is fresh off of the wedding of her sister (she set up the bride and groom!). Her current projects include web design and engagement and wedding photography

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Saint Monica: A Sister for Brides Who Are Suffering

JIZA ZITO

 

Social media makes it too easy to fall into the trap of believing how a marriage--and life in general--should appear. We scroll through our feeds seeing perfectly curated images of smiling faces and sweet captions. Everyone’s lives appear blissful.

 Photo by  Gades Photography

Photo by Gades Photography

What if you came across the account of a woman whom you learned had an unfaithful husband, an abusive mother-in-law, a promiscuous son, and a grandchild born out of wedlock? What if you knew she was a former alcoholic, or that she cried daily over her husband and son? Would you consider her overly dramatic if you heard she followed that same son to a different country when he ran away?

This is all part of Saint Monica’s story.

Monica is popularly known as the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo. She is the patron saint of difficult marriages, wayward children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, and the conversion of relatives. Born in 332 AD in Thaghaste, now present day Souk Ahraus, Algeria, she was raised by Christian parents. But as a young adult, she was married off to Patricius, a Roman pagan and city official.

She suffered greatly throughout her marriage. However, she remained steadfast in prayer and was considered a pious woman. Despite his mistreatment of her and his disdain for her prayer life, it is said Patricius still admired his wife. Many women in the city sought out Monica’s advice and friendship if they also experienced mistreatment by their husbands.

God provided Monica great consolation. He answered her many years of prayer when she witnessed her husband convert to Christianity a year before his death, followed by Augustine’s conversion years later, with the help of Saint Ambrose. Augustine went on to be a priest and bishop. His numerous writings have significantly influenced both the Catholic Church and Western Civilization; today we know him as a Doctor of the Church.

While all of us may not be in Monica’s exact circumstances, that doesn’t void our lives from seasons of great suffering.

When we first say our wedding vows, it is by God’s mercy that he does not fully reveal what trials we will endure throughout our vocation. If we knew how many tears we might shed--much like Saint Monica--over the course of our marriages, we might despair or walk away in fear.

If we are afflicted by a loved one or find ourselves in a time of desolation, it can feel incredibly lonely and unfair. We can only imagine there were many times the cross felt extremely heavy and burdensome for Saint Monica, as well. If there is something the life of this woman can teach us, it is this: we are not alone, and God hears our prayers.

With great dedication to the salvation of her loved ones, she persevered in the hope of knowing that he would bring about the graces of healing and conversion. At any point, Monica could have just quit her prayers and given them no more thought. But she did not.

Because of her perseverance, her husband and son not only found Christ, but Monica’s intercession bore the  gift of Saint Augustine and the work he did for God’s Church. Saint Monica teaches us that if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our cries will not be vain. Our prayers will ultimately bear fruit.


Litany of Saint Monica

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. / God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. / God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. / God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. / Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us. / Holy Mary, conceived without stain of original sin, pray for us and for our children. / Holy Mary, glorious Mother of Jesus Christ, pray for us and for our children.

Saint Monica, pray for us and for our children. / Model of wives, pray for us and for our children. / You who converted your unbelieving husband, Mother of Saint Augustine, pray for us and for our children. / Strict and prudent teacher, guardian of your son in all his ways, pray for us and for our children. / You who carefully watched over his conduct, pray for us and for our children. / You who were sorely distressed at his erring from the right, pray for us and for our children. / You who were untiring in your petitions for his soul’s safety, pray for us and for our children. / You who still hoped on amid the bitterness of your heart and your floods of tears, pray for us and for our children. / You who were filled with consolation upon his return to God, pray for us and for our children. / You who died calmly after faithfully fulfilling your duties, pray for us and for our children. / You who are the prayerful intercessor of all mothers who pray and weep as you did, pray for us and for our children.

Preserve the innocence of our children, we beseech you, Saint Monica. / Protect them against the deceits of evil men, we beseech you, Saint Monica. / Protect them from the dangers of bad example, we beseech you, Saint Monica.

Watch over the movements of grace in their hearts. Let the Christian virtues strike deep root in their hearts and bear much fruit. Redouble your intercession for youth approaching manhood. Obtain for all in mortal sin true contrition and perfect conversion. Obtain for all mothers to fulfill their duties steadily and perseveringly.

Commend all mothers to the protection of the ever-blessed Virgin Mother of Our Lord. Favorably incline the heart of your beloved son Augustine to the salvation of our children.

Saint Augustine, holy son of a saintly mother, pray for us and for our children. / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord! / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord! / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Lord!

Pray for us, O holy Saint Monica, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


CIRCLE HEADSHOT Jiza Zito 2014.png

About the Author: Jiza Zito is Spoken Bride's Creative Director and Co-Founder. She is the owner and wedding photographer of Olive & CypressRead more

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Let Our Lady Bring Your Relationship to Life.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My dreamer of a high school self would frequently lie awake at night counting the qualities I wished to find in my future husband. I hoped he’d be, in no particular order, funny, creative, musical, a reader, from a big family, and--naturally--handsome.

As time passed and my spiritual life developed in college, I found my desires evolving. Meeting, and marrying, a man of deep faith started to push qualities like “good cook and dancer” from the top of my unofficial list. Specifically, I prayed that my husband would have a relationship with Our Lady.

I am blessed beyond measure to have found all these qualities, and more, in my husband Andrew. When we started dating, he told me how taking up the practice of a daily rosary the previous summer had brought order and peace to his life during a time he knew he’d wandered from the path of virtue he so deeply strove for. Starlit rosary walks around our college campus quickly became a ritual we loved.

The clarity I sensed through our prayer was like a thinning of the veil between the earthly life and the divine one. Total wonder and trust in the Father’s goodness. We talked often about our shared sense of healing from past relationships and such a certainty and purity in the start of our relationship. Months later, it was after a rosary walk, before a statue of Our Lady, that Andrew proposed. We chose a line from the Memorare, "before thee we kneel"--a reflection of the utter abandon to her care found in the prayer--for the inscription in our wedding rings.

To me, there is nothing more attractive, more admirable, and more masculine than a man in love with the Blessed Mother.

She is so alive, truly showing a man how to love his bride.

She herself is the embodiment of a bride--humble and small, yet a pillar of strength; pure beauty; sexual integrity; a magnification of the Lord’s goodness. I imagine she lived a rich emotional and spiritual life that models the love spouses are called to: ardent and pure-hearted devotion to her husband, abiding tenderness for her son, an emptying to the depths of her being at the foot of the Cross.

St. Louis de Montfort described devotion to Mary as being "Our Lady's slave," an image that's understandably uncomfortable across four centuries and an entirely different culture. To be honest, I was unsettled when I was introduced to the term--at the time, I was just learning more about the Catholic faith and was considering Marian consecration, and the thought of slavery made me skittish. To discover that Our Lady wanted to chain me to her for eternity didn't exactly seem loving, let alone pleasant.

I'm glad I heard out the context and explanation of the language, and am grateful for the grace of developing a devotion to her and making a consecration with my husband. Now, when I think of being chained to Our Lady, I no longer envision a burden or a literal ball and chain.

Instead, it brings me deep comfort to know my husband and I are forever tethered to her. It's impossible for her to let us go, even if we try. By grace alone, she's always pulling us back to her and into a deeper love for her son.

Our Marian devotions have absolutely deepened our prayer lives, yet I suspect the graces flow most abundantly when we fall short. 

The daily opportunities to serve and sacrifice in marriage, the arguments, all the moments my husband and I aren’t just sitting there, holding hands in prayer--she keeps us close, and intercedes for us still.

How can you, as a couple, cultivate your own deeper devotion to Mary? Whether you’ve never had a relationship with her or whether you made a consecration years ago, she invites us from wherever we are. Consider habitually praying a decade or more of the rosary with your fiancé or husband, hanging an image or icon in your home, celebrating Marian feast days with Mass and a date night or gathering, and discerning Marian consecration.

In all her perfection, it might seem difficult to relate to Our Lady on a human level, but when I feel down on myself, knowing I could work harder at living out my vocation to marriage, I try to remember that she was and is entirely human. Alongside her, and with her prayers, we ourselves become fully alive.

We love hearing your own experiences of saintly intercession. Share your experiences with inviting Our Lady into your relationship! Do you have any Marian traditions? Any stories of how she's shaped your love story?


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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Newlywed Life | Accepting Imperfection

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My prayer during my engagement was earnest and intense, if not terribly varied. Most of my petitions revolved around the hopes I had for my marriage:

Prepare me to be a good wife. Prepare him to be a good husband. Slay my selfishness, Father, and help me make a gift of myself. Help us have long, happy, life-giving years together.

I was determined to make marriage make me better, not for my sake but for the sake of the man I loved.

Over the course of a year, I made my way through Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married, highlighting entire pages with his meditations on love and sacrifice. Sheen frequently notes the that even in all the beauty of married life, God alone satisfies our deep ache for completion, asking questions like, “How can one love self without being selfish? How can one love others without losing self? The answer is: By loving both self and neighbor in God. It is His Love that makes us love both self and neighbor rightly.”

Somehow, this point got obscured in the elation of my engagement. It felt impossible not to imagine that, despite our human weaknesses and the inevitable arguments and inconveniences, marriage would be a perpetual state of transcendence. The heights.

And in many ways, it really has been. I try to stay aware and thankful of the fact that my marriage has been a purifying gift, with many moments of scarcely believable joy and true communion. Yet as I anticipated these days I once only dreamed of, I still created an elevated ideal of what I thought marriage would be--and, more specifically, how I would be.

I thought love would drown out any voices of self-doubt in my mind. I thought gratitude for my husband would make petty bickering simple to resolve. I thought no matter what lay ahead on the exterior, that the interior--the particular relationship and bond I’d share with my husband alone--would be untouchable.

As with any great love, there’s a heady early stage filled with infatuation and good will. Even for those of us aware of this tendency, it’s hard to avoid that rush. Without intending to, I’d become infatuated with marriage itself, idealizing it, and idealizing who I wanted to be as a wife, in my hopes for perfection.

After our wedding, I found myself wrestling with my worth through a season of unemployment and loneliness in a new town, annoyed when my husband did chores differently than me, and resentful that exterior issues like in-laws and long-distance holidays still cast frustration on my overall happiness.

I wanted to be the best wife I could be, and ended up misinterpreting “best” as “never dissatisfied.”

It wasn’t my husband’s doing. Never in our relationship have I felt on less than equal footing with him, and never has he been less than affirming and consoling when I’ve needed his tenderness and strength most. It was my own self I had to confront. Just as my veil was lifted at the altar on my wedding day, I was forced to see the me that resided beneath the veil of my ideals. The lifting of that veil, and the opportunity to contend with the fact that, despite my efforts, I couldn’t be a perfect wife--nor was I called to be--was painful.

I became so aware of my shortcomings in a way I hadn’t been before getting married. Seeing how I reacted to irritations and trials in relation to another person were like a mirror to a version of myself I’d never seen before. The image wasn’t the one I’d always hoped to see.

But who you are in your vocation isn’t just the person you or your spouse sees reflected back at you. Who does the Father see?

In all my concerns, all my desires to be the best I could be at marriage, my focus was so narrow I often forgot to welcome the channel of grace. I forgot to invite the Lord to form me alongside my inferior human designs, to welcome the formation that hurt. And ultimately, to trust that even in my imperfection, he loved me the same. It’s the same kind of love spouses are called to bear to one another--the holy one’s own face--and the kind of love I received time and again from my husband.

During a recent storm of anxiety and self-contempt, a therapist showed me an image with three concentric circles. The outer ring was labeled facade, encompassing the people, things, achievements, sensual things, and tendencies to pride and vanity we might attach ourselves to in the world. Within it was a circle called defects, including our failures, past sins, disappointments, anger, and means of escapism (food, materialism, sex, or substances). The center circle read core, and listed who every child of God is and is made to be: Beloved. A temple of the Holy Spirit. Full of grace. Holy. A new creation.

These three circles, she said, together make up our spirituality. While we, and others, can see the facades and the defects--surrounded by our idols, the things we desire to be or what we want the world to see--God’s transforming, radical love, his vision of us, quite literally cuts to the core.

He sees the us in that center circle, not discounting the imperfect parts of us, but never withdrawing his love in spite of them. Knowing this, it’s like having permission to let the idols topple. It’s natural, and good, to desire becoming your spouse’s closest earthly example of excruciating love. It does take three to get married, though, because peace lies in knowing you aren’t doing it alone and, moreover, knowing the Lord wants us to become more and more an embodiment of his love in our vocation.

Imperfection is a part of us, but it’s not who we are. Our identity doesn’t lie in our shortcomings or in the masks we wear. It lies in who we are: his daughters and sons.

Images by Rae and Michael Photography, as seen in How He Asked | Jocelyn + Cheyne


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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