What's in a Name? | Married Names, Maiden Names, and the Decisions We Make

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As the dust begins to settle around the whirlwind of wedding planning, a new journey begins to unfold. Together, and with time, you and your spouse will grow into your identity as a married couple. In the midst of this exciting season, there is a vital decision to confirm your new family’s identity in choosing your last name.

When it’s time to fill in that blank on the legal documents, couples generally have the option to take either the bride or the groom’s last name, hyphenate both last names, or create a new name. Although the decision surrounding a married couple’s last name is morally neutral, many women are convicted in their beliefs on a wide spectrum between keeping her maiden name and taking his. If you are curious why a woman would willingly abandon her own family name or if you desire to articulate the reasons why you did, understanding the physical and spiritual nature of men and women may help.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

PHOTOGRAPHY: OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

The history of a bride taking her groom’s last name is rooted in English common law. The practice for creating a thread of surname lineage was centered around establishing both a legality of marriage and set boundaries for couples in regards to acquiring property or business. These standards were eventually adopted in practice in the United States. With the onset of “family names” passed from a father to his newborn child or from a groom to his bride, additional laws, norms, traditions, and opinions began to take root throughout growing cultures both nationwide and worldwide.

Of course, from a legalistic point of view, an immediate perspective assumes that the man claims dominance over the woman when she officially takes his last name. This misguided belief has been the origin of women’s oppression, including, for example, a woman’s right to vote. Because we are a world of imperfect humans, a tradition with the potential to celebrate the gift of marriage and family has been twisted into oppression and abuse.

As a reaction to oppression or because of shifts in the secular definition of marriage, women identify several reasons to keep her maiden name, such as convenience, preference, personal identity or equality of power. Other times, academic careers or professional publications are the cause for a woman to maintain her identity through her last name.

Regardless of the history of societal wedding traditions or the secular, modern approaches to marriage, our legal actions cannot be separated from our spiritual being. Because a human being is body and soul, our physical actions and decisions—including changing our name—proclaim what we understand to be true about being a human.

Therefore, when a woman accepts the last name of her new spouse, she emphasizes the dignity of her femininity as she reveals the legal, physical, emotional and spiritual union with her beloved.

This statement may sound like a surprising contrast to the general “feminist movement.” Many feminists through decades past—and present—would argue that a woman should keep her maiden name in order to claim equal rights, stand up for herself, and maintain her independence. But if we carefully define “what is feminine,” we will find empowering support for woman to fulfill part of her femininity by receiving her husband’s last name.

To understand what it means to be woman through a Christian anthropology, we go to the story when woman was created: in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. “So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.”

Eve received life, physically and spiritually, by the rib of Adam and the hand of God. With her first breath, Adam received her as a gift to fulfill his desire for union with another. We hear Adam’s joyful relief when he says, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And as he accepted her, Eve simultaneously received man as a gift for her own fulfillment of self-knowledge. Saint Pope John Paul II explains, ”The exchange is mutual. In it, the reciprocal effects of the sincere gift and of the finding oneself again are revealed and grow.” This cycle of giving of self and receiving the other between man and woman is the epitome of holy, joyful, spousal union as God intended.

Scripture shows us woman’s initial receptivity to life and the love that followed. Although both man and woman are called to give and receive in acts of love, our bodies help define receptivity as a naturally feminine quality. Consider the intimacy of the wedding night and the bride’s physical receptivity of the groom. Or at the moment of conception as the woman receives a child in her womb.

This is not a gender stereotype, but a celebration of what it means to be woman and how we are called to love man: by receiving every part of him as a cherished gift.

Yes, when a wife takes the last name of her husband, she surrenders her maiden name and, perhaps, part of her identity which was secured in that name. The emotional struggle of letting go of a maiden name emphasizes the reality that a name has value to a person’s identity.

For a husband to offer a meaningful gift of his identity—his name—is a beautiful and masculine act of love. When a woman accepts his last name, she is not practicing an outdated, man-driven tradition; she fulfills her femininity in a selfless act of receptive love. In the way only a woman can.


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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What Does it Mean to Belong to Your Spouse?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

The song my husband and I chose for our first dance includes the line, “I want to belong to you.” The words resonated deep within, evoking something free, intimate, permanent.

As we said our vows at the altar I felt the weight of commitment and distinction, grace made tangible and distinctively binding us together. The very gravity of our promises made them romantic to me: faithful love forsaking all others, fruitful love that wouldn’t stop at the two of us, free love that willingly desired exclusive belonging, total love that saw all of me.

I thought I got it at the time. I thought my husband and I shared a healthy sense of vulnerability and a spirit of loving encouragement and correction. In many ways we did, and continue to.

But in the months and years since, I’ve seen the ways in which seemingly small matters make me fall short of letting myself belong entirely to my husband, calling me into communion over division.

There have been times I’ve clung to wounds received and inflicted in past dating relationships, allowing them to hold sway even after I thought I’d moved past them. It’s only been more recently, as I’ve waded fully into this pain for the first time, that I’ve shared the fullness of embarrassment over my past actions with my husband. I hadn’t intentionally withheld these thoughts earlier in our relationship; their magnitude and resulting unrest only surfaced later on, the fruit of deeper insight and self-examination.

Holding on to the past, I realized, was a distraction from my present.

I was sacramentally united to my husband and desired to rid my mind and heart of the past. He loved me still. He encouraged me to offer my humiliation--a true sense of being humbled--to the Lord, praying for freedom and interior peace.

There have been times I’ve retreated inward, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit fault in actions both minor and major. Yet each time I’m tempted to keep my mistakes to myself, I feel the restlessness creep in. The overwhelming desire to share, tempered by fear. Being seen in the fullness of who you are is thrilling, though terrifying. He loves me still.

Even in my shame, I am loved. Even in admitting the regrets and misjudgments I’m scared to bring up, my husband is gentle and forgiving. I’ve come to understand belonging to him as an invitation to take off my masks. An invitation to reveal who I am and who the Father calls me to be.

A healthy sense of belonging to my spouse has, for me, amplified an awareness of ways in which I ultimately belong to the Lord.

However imperfect in this life, the purpose of each vocation is to make manifest God’s love. My husband’s love—so patient, merciful, total, and accepting—shows this to me. I am known; I am seen; I am beloved. It’s not unlike the sacrament of reconciliation, in which we find ourselves tenderly embraced in our brokenness. We leave armed with the grace and resolve not to remain the same, but to stay the course in pursuit of greatness. The word reconcile, after all, is rooted in the Latin word for “to bring together.”

Are there small cracks and nagging divisions tugging on your own heart, drawing your attention to ways in which your relationship can grow in total honesty, trust, and intimacy? Though always a work in progress, I can’t attest more to the joy and freedom of transparency and accountability that embody the Father’s love. Saint John Paul II has interceded for us from the start, and I frequently recall his motto, totus tuus. This phrase, “totally yours,” expresses his trust in Our Lady to bring him to her son; in our marriage, we make this our same prayer.

If you find yourself, like me, suddenly seeing ways in which you can belong to your spouse more entirely, I encourage you to enter into them, even when you’d prefer to run. Sit with your mess, let yourself feel any pains of your shortcomings, and move forward--with prayer, practical steps, and, if necessary, spiritual direction or counseling--knowing you’re not just moving for movement’s sake, but toward a beautiful pursuit: being brought together--reconciled--with both your earthly and heavenly beloved.

“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”


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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Becoming Radically Available to Love

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Nearly 18 months ago, my friend returned from her inaugural FOCUS missionary training with a palpable enthusiasm to build community, love others, and make her love for Jesus visible in the world. She returned with a suitcase full of books, business cards, pamphlets, and ideas. She was eager to fundraise her salary and move to a new college campus for the start of the school year with the undergraduate students she would come to know, mentor, and disciple towards Christ. She was ready to serve where God had called her.

Her selfless demonstration of service as a missionary has influenced and inspired my identity as a wife.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

Although I admired my friend’s zest and zeal through her process of discerning missionary life, I was cautiously curious about the details of her new routines. What was it, exactly, that she would do once she arrived on campus? I have not forgotten her response to my question:

“It’s about being radically available for others.”

This use of radically enlists a sense of wonder and mystery. Being available for someone is standard, like answering the phone but calling back later if something is going on. But being radically available means clearing the schedule and committing the rest of the day to talking on the phone.

While she committed to a dating fast for her first year on the job, I discerned my vocation to married life. Months later, her commitment to be radically available for her students has influenced my understanding of what it means to be a Christian wife in service of God and my husband. All in all, we are talking about vocations to love.

A holy missionary is wholeheartedly committed to being a faith-filled friend, mentor, confidant, and image of Jesus. We can look at the way Saint Mother Teresa befriended families in India and how Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati gave the coat off his back to the underdressed stranger. We may recognize missionaries in our midst and see how they surrender their plans and expectations to answer a call from God to build community with others.

Although I am not called to serve as a missionary in the world, do I bring a missionary heart of charity, service, and friendship into my own home?

To be radically available to another reminds me of the standard “stop, drop, and roll!” response when a person catches on fire. Yet when a significant matter arises in someone’s life, it is the one who is radically available who lovingly stops and drops everything in order to roll to the other’s side.

Saying I do on the marriage altar opens a door to the daily invitation to love my spouse. To love is more than an emotion, it is an act of the will. There are a number of factors that affect our heart’s approach to service: external pressures, internal insecurities, hormonal mood swings, lack of exercise or sleep, political conflict, social conflict, and simply feeling overwhelmed (to name a few). But we make a vow to love--and to serve--on the good days and the bad days.

Yet, in truth, I wrestle with the tension between selflessness and self-care. Christ tells us, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Does this mean we can momentarily push pause on loving others so we can escape to love on ourselves? How much am I willing to surrender for the sake of my spouse’s joy? Or comfort? My God-given responsibility as a wife is to work for my husband’s salvation; is his earthly happiness worth sacrificing my own personal pleasures, comforts, and opinions on certain matters?

Consider decisions as small as keeping the thermostat at a certain temperature, agreeing on specific holiday traditions, or choosing between music, television or silence as background noise in your home. Then there are decisions to read a book alone or spend quality time together, to sleep in or wake up early to make breakfast for your spouse.

Even in meager moments of surrender, I am encouraged by C.S. Lewis’ wisdom to “submit to death of your ambitions and favorite wishes… and you will find eternal life.” I am increasingly intrigued by the invitation to be radically available than by the alternative to be content in my own pleasures.

In every decision to choose the other, our individual identities fade and we become more fully united through acts of love.

As Catholics, we are privy to the benefits of the sacraments—and prayer—as fuel to keep loving when our tanks run low. Christ also says to “love others because he loved us first.” He makes himself radically available so that we, too, may love with an everlasting love—on the good days and the bad days.

Living a life of service and radical availability can challenge both our human nature and cultural norms. Who do we look to as models of charity? How often do we receive God’s merciful love to refill our tank? Do we elicit affirmation from others as permission to turn inwardly or as encouragement to serve others with virtue?

My prayer is that you and I can make a choice to fulfill the call to love by being radically available to someone this week, with the persistent hope of establishing ever-deeper bonds of charity in our homes and communities.


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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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Newlywed Life | 10 Ways to Feel Grounded in Your First Months of Marriage

SINIKKA ROHRER

 

You’ve walked down the aisle, finally united in Christ and ready to begin your life together. After your wedding day, however, there is no more premarital counseling or assigned mentors to help you navigate your first year of marriage.

If your experience is anything like mine, the newlywed season can feel isolating and confusing. Here, from my husband and I, 10 tips for the first months of your marriage, and beyond.

Set up household responsibilities.

It might seem obvious, but someone needs to do the dishes. If you don’t decide who will complete which chores, it’s likely they either won’t get done or will foster resentment. To bypass frustration, start fresh by setting up what works best for your daily routines--whether that’s you doing the laundry and dishes and your husband waxing the car and making dinner, or the other way around.

Create a family routine.

Consider when you’ll work out, have dinner, go to bed, and have some quiet time with the Lord, either alone or together. Your days now include another person, so establishing routines will not only make your house feel more like home, but give you a sense of community and unity.

Determine your family values.

When you wake up each morning, what three things do you prioritize no matter what your day will look like? My husband and I decided to write down our family values shortly after we were married to help keep us accountable to our priorities. Our three values are faith, family, and fun. Every year, we talk through how the year looked through the lens of each of our values.

Talk about your expectations.

To me, the most important virtue in a relationship is communication. From the most difficult circumstances to the easiest of days, communication is what will make or break a marriage. When you first start out on your journey together, you might find communication is hard and be tempted to not talk through frustrations you are feeling toward your spouse. But it’s during these exact times that it’s imperative to communicate, creating a foundation of honesty and unity.

During our newlywed days, my husband and I found that I expected he would be exactly like my dad, with dinner to be on the table every night at 5 PM. While I tried my hardest, it was almost impossible for me to do as a working wife. It was only after months of internalized pressure and silent anger that I learned my husband’s expectations were totally different than what my father had of my mother; it was only then that I could finally relax into what our relationship would truly be like.

Join a parish and, if possible, a couples’ ministry.

Marriage allows you to truly set foot into community together. That looks like finding a parish you can consistently attend and feel connected to. Consider also joining a married couple’s small group--or start one--and begin forming foundational relationships with other newlyweds and married couples. God willing, these friends can help and mentor you through the journey of married life.

Set boundaries with family.

The changes of marriage can be especially hard if you’re very close to your family members and highly regard their opinions. Scripture says a man will leave his family and become one with his spouse, and this is no less true for women. Instead of turning to your mother or sister during difficult times, as might’ve been your habit in the past, marriage marks a turning to your husband, and your family should be aware of that. To ensure no feelings are hurt, I recommend open conversation about boundaries with your family, such as where you’ll be spending the holidays and how often you’ll be calling your mom.

Explore intimacy together consistently.

During the beginning of marriage, physical intimacy may not come naturally or easily. You might even desire to not be intimate with your spouse after the wedding night if it was not initially a pleasant experience. While all relationships are different, the Lord has designed man and woman to be together in marriage, and intimacy is a critical part of your relationship with your spouse. With this in mind, my husband and I challenge you to continue learning, growing, and exploring intimacy together consistently in order to arrive at a place of comfort for both of you.

Open a joint bank account.

Marriage unites you not only spiritually, but practically--that includes finances. I recommend opening a joint bank account and start paying your bills. Money is one a hot-button topic when couples experience conflict, so I highly encourage you to start your marriage with setting a budget and identifying financial goals you can work toward together.

Invite your neighbors over for dinner.

The Lord has made marriage in the image of his love for the Church, which means your love is made to impact those around you. Boldly reach out to whomever your neighbor is in your new home, and invite him or her to dinner. Get to know those who live around you and become part of your community, so that you can be the hands and feet of Jesus, right where you live!

Volunteer together.

Make the effort to serve your church or community together. This is another way that as a married couple you’re able to be Jesus’ hands and feet and share the testimony of his love with others--so get out and volunteer together!

Your first year of marriage is a foundational time for you and your spouse. This means every day, every week, and every month that passes will include both moments of hardships and good growth in your relationship. We hope these tips offer you guidance as you navigate this sacred ground, and we wish you the best as you begin your journey to Christ together.


About the Author: Sinikka Rohrer is a Christian wedding photographer and Spoken Bride vendor on mission to encourage brides with practical and spiritual encouragement on the way to the aisle. She is a lover of all things healthy, early morning spiritual reads, and anything outdoors.

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NFP = Nervous Family Planning? The Joys and Struggles.

KATE THIBODEAU

 

You’re newly engaged; glowing with happiness, showing off your glimmering left hand and so excited to start this new journey with your fiancé. You’ve met with your priest, set the date, and expect marriage preparation will be a wonderful experience. One in which you’ll grow as a couple on this adventure to heaven together. Everything sounds like the fairy tale you’d always dreamed of.

You’re set to take your Natural Family Planning course, eager to prepare for becoming a responsible and pro-life Catholic family. You can totally tackle NFP! A mix of science, faith, and marital self-sacrifice: what could be a more simple, practical, and generous method in which to grow a fine and faithful Catholic family?

Those feelings and emotions are all good, beautiful, and true. NFP is an enormous gift to the families who desire to be prudent and selfless, cooperating with God to bring children into the world.

However, after taking my NFP course during engagement, and then after actually following it as a married woman, I found that the glamorous reports of success I’d heard took me by surprise. Instead,I found myself struggling--failing, even--to learn and practice it..

 Thanks to my mother, I grew up well aware of my body’s fertility signs and familiar with NFP since I was a little girl. When trying to learn it four months prior to my upcoming wedding, I started with typical complaints, particularly taking my temperature each morning at 6 A.M, even on days when I could have slept in. Early wakeups became a daily cross. I became aware of my  daily routines that needed to be changed. I quickly realized the inconveniences of this new, constant awareness of my own body and of sharing my findings with my husband.

Conversations before marriage about NFP don’t always illuminate the little mistakes and troubles found along the way: forgetting to take your temperature, inconsistencies rooted in  stress, an inability to understand your fertility symptoms and record them correctly, a lack of full understanding. I realized there was a myriad of ways in which I personally could fail in the practice, not just the idea, of NFP--ways I was unaware of in the past, when my knowledge was more limited.

I found myself disheartened, especially when listening to other couples tell me of their great successes. I felt like a failure for being unable to clearly read my fertility signs, and felt the weight of guilt when I opted to switch to a different method. I doubted my ability to enter into a self-giving marriage with my husband, where we would be responsible in the task given to us as future parents.

It took several months, a loving and supportive husband, and God’s severest of mercies on my beginner’s errors to find peace in my mostly complicated relationship with the amazing gift of Natural Family Planning. Here are my takeaways, from much trial and error:

Be patient with yourself!

NFP is not supposed to a one time victory, but many monthly victories that allow you to know your body and your spouse better with each cycle. Don’t allow stress or fear of failure to dampen your resolve. I found the stress of learning NFP greatly affected my fertility, which made it all the more difficult to track. Had I more patience and forgiveness with myself, my learning curve might have been more even-keeled.

Comparison is the greatest fiend of self confidence, and I found it took a toll on my process.

I was too busy shaming myself for my struggles and comparing them with my peers’ successes to see the benefits of NFP. The method you choose and your discernment is dependent on you, your spouse, and God. Ask--and trust in--Christ to guide  your instincts.

Every woman’s body is different, just as every couple expresses love in different ways. Allow your couple friends to empower and encourage you in your quest, but do not succumb to self-doubt from comparison. I found sharing in vulnerability allowed me to see how pointless my tendency to compare really was. 

NFP is ultimately a blessing and a sacrifice.

NFP is truly a fruitful way to work with God and your spouse to determine when you are called to bring forth children. It is difficult in practice, but its fruits include a more valued intimacy and understanding with my husband, a sacrificial death to desire, and a dependence on God’s timing. We are grateful for the work and frustration, as well as the unity we have found through this journey together. We’ve been able to love each other better, knowing we’re in support of God’s will for our future family.

 I’ll continue to sing the praises of NFP even in my vulnerability and perceived failures. To all brides who are struggling, know you are not alone!

 Have patience with yourself, seek out support, and ultimately trust in God’s mercy. Natural Family Planning should not be a cause for anxiety or stress concerning perfection, but a gift to you and your husband as holy and responsible parents. You--with God--have got this!


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 in 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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The Marital Blues | Navigating the Unexpected Emotions of Transitioning into Newlywed Life

MARIAH MAZA

 

I got married on a warm, sunny December day in the desert of Arizona. It was a day I had spent the better part of a decade waiting for.

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My fiance and I were high school sweethearts, so we had known each other for over seven years by the time we walked down the aisle. We spent the last three years going to college two hours apart, meaning I only saw him every couple weeks. It also meant I spent most of our engagement and wedding planning without him.

To say my heart desired for the day when we could finally go home together, and not face one more tear-filled goodbye as I watched his Chevy truck fade into the distance again, was an understatement.

Now, looking back on our wedding pictures fills my heart with joy every time. We were both beaming with excitement and anticipation, and our families rejoiced with us.

During the quiet minutes in the car between our nuptial Mass and reception, I remember watching my new husband’s face behind the wheel.

He was quiet, in the way one is quiet when contemplating a new and profound mystery.

I was his wife. He was my husband. These were realities we had only dreamed or joked about for seven years. In our minds, we had moved from forty years in the desert into the Promised Land. The veil of the married life had begun to lift. All was celebration, community, and grace.

Two days after the wedding, on New Year’s Day, we packed up the rest of our things and drove two hours north where my husband was still finishing school. I looked at our tiny one-bedroom apartment like it was a castle, and we were the king and queen of our little kingdom.

Most importantly, it was ours. I could tell him “let’s go home” if we were out at the store, and “home” was finally the same place. “Goodbye” meant he would be back later that evening, after school. “Goodnight” was something I whispered to him laying beside me in our bed. It was everything I had wanted for so long, and I was happy.

That’s why the sudden mood swings hit me so hard.

After a week or so, I started crying. A lot. I cried everyday, and I couldn’t figure out how to tell my husband “why” in coherent words. I was just sad. For no reason. Life suddenly felt pointless. The motivation to do anything seemed to be gone--even after four intense, hard-working college years.

I was a bad wife because I wasn’t joyful anymore. At least, that’s what I told myself.

Something was wrong with me, and my poor spouse didn’t know how to help. Newlywed life was supposed to be the land of happiness, and I felt miserable.

On top of my unexplained crying fits, the crosses of marriage started to slowly appear. I realized how easily I was provoked, how little I actually desired to sacrifice out of love for my husband, and how often I snapped at him because of the smallest annoyances.

Little conflicts over little things pierced my already hurting heart, and the differences in our personalities and habits reared their ugly heads. Even seven years of dating had not perfectly prepared me for living with this other person.

It wasn’t until I desperately opened up to a friend over the phone that I started to understand my own feelings. I had just graduated, just quit my job, just moved away, and just left the single life behind.

In almost every way, my life had just changed in exciting, sacramental, and good ways, and yet it was overwhelming.

Where had all this free time suddenly come from? I was used to barely keeping my head above water on a full-time school and part-time job schedule, not to mention clubs and a social life.

Where were all my friends? I was used to living in a townhouse with five other women, going to sorority events, and being surrounded by thousands of people every day at Arizona State University.

What was I doing? I had no job for the first time in four years and no school for the first time in sixteen years.

Now I was finally able to begin to articulate to my husband why I was acting so strange, and that it wasn’t because I was upset we had gotten married! In fact, our marriage was something profoundly beautiful to me, and I loved being a wife to a loving spouse.

I was never diagnosed with depression, but I know that a lot of what I felt was a deep emotional reaction to the immense change that had uprooted my life and ripped away my old “normal.” It was a jolt that sent me, finally, to my knees. “God,” I prayed (more than once), “I give you everything. My marriage, my future, and my life. I can’t do this. I’m too weak.”

After few more rough weeks, I began to slowly emerge from that dark tunnel into a brighter world. I realized that, with God’s guidance and strength, this new chapter was mine to make, almost from scratch.

For hours at a time, I jumped headfirst into a job search and ended up being connected with two wonderful families who needed a nanny and a tutor. I started volunteering at the local pro-life pregnancy resource center and made close friendships with all the other volunteers there. Once a week, I scheduled a phone call with my best friends so we could keep in touch. I explored the local library and checked out books I wanted to read. My husband and I found a new home at the local Catholic parish (where he had been confirmed only a year before!) and committed together to one Adoration hour there a week.

Week by week, I was crying less and less. The depressive states didn’t occur as often, and I felt a new sense of purpose awakening in my heart. My past was gone, but not dead. My family, close friends, and college experiences continued to shape my new life, and I began to see God’s miraculous hand in every new opportunity that presented itself.

It was a hand that had been there even in those darkest first weeks, carrying me.

It took three good months to truly begin to feel like I had my feet underneath me again. That was nine months ago. By God’s patient grace and mercy, I’m thriving. I love being married, and I love my husband.

There are hard days and new challenges constantly thrust upon me, but thus is the Christian life:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

St. Peter tells us not to be surprised when suffering and persecution come our way. I, mistakenly, did not expect the darkness, as if the devil would not eagerly attack the holy institution of marriage, the foundation of our society. And I felt alone in it.

But we are not alone in our darkness.

Change, even positive change like marriage, knocked me off my feet. I didn’t think it was normal to mourn big changes, even the happy ones.

Just remember to kneel when you are knocked down.

Find a crucifix, the epitome of suffering love, lay it all at His feet, and trust. Talk to your spouse, call a friend, seek therapy if necessary, or walk outside into the sunlight and breathe. And pray. Always pray.

Because the newlywed life is beautiful and the sacramental graces innumerable.

In my twelve short months of marriage, I have already had to learn this, and learned to believe that it is a true reality, not just a pretty phrase. Fifty years from now (God-willing), I still plan on calling upon the bottomless ocean of marital graces we received one day last December to carry us through hard times.

And God wants us, his children, to ask for a lot. To depend wholly on him in childlike trust. He is the Cheerful Giver.

Since I am still a newlywed myself, I am still learning what it means to be a daughter of the King and a wife to my husband. Still learning to let go and let God. To other young brides out there, be not afraid. There is profound joy in your new vocation. And should the darkness come, you are not alone.

You are deeply loved, He has a plan for your life, and there is redemption in our suffering in the shadow of the Cross.



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About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish military wives. Read more

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Let Something New Pursue Your Heart This Year.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

You know the ones. The quotable movie lines, the Top 40 songs, the recent Apple launches you’re vaguely aware of and just nod along with when they come up, never having exactly experienced them yourself. Does this ever happen in your spiritual life, as well--a feeling that one day you should get around to a deeper look at some of the Church’s rich offerings you’ve only ever sort of known about?

As this new year unfolds, this opportunity to encounter the Lord in a new way, I encourage you to dive into a piece of spiritual reading or the life a particular saint, perhaps one you’ve long intended to get acquainted with, and let it lead your heart where it will.

Photography:    Zélie Veils

Photography: Zélie Veils

For me, this happened with the writings of John Paul II. Growing up, I loved the idea of love, thanks to a steady diet of Disney magic and romantic comedies. My high school youth minister occasionally mentioned the Theology of the Body and its powerful message, yet I put away the basic catechesis on a mental shelf, not considering it compelling or relevant to my current life.

Fast forward to college, and I realized my younger self’s concept of romance was little more than infatuation when compared to what it could really be. Saint Pope John Paul II introduced me to another view, and I fell in love with love for real.

Along with my boyfriend at the time, I attended a summer retreat in Allenspark, Colorado, where the Pope stayed when he came to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. On the outside, much about our relationship looked happy and holy. Yet my heart had never experienced deeper unrest, in everything from physical boundaries to problem-solving to the voice I could never quite silence; the one that questioned whether even sacrificial love should feel like a constant weight.

That relationship wasn’t meant to be, but I’m certain the Father’s hand led me to that holy ground in the Rockies. There, I was introduced for the first time to Love and Responsibility, the book on sexual ethics and human dignity that John Paul wrote during his years as a cardinal. The person, he wrote, is meant to be loved, and things are meant to be used, yet so often we get it backwards. His observations on romance, sacrifice, and the ways we stumble in them were like reading a narrative of my relationship.  As I came to see it was built on sand, I grew aware of a hunger, an ache, I hadn’t even realized dwelled in my soul. It was a longing for authentic love, rooted in truth.

Months passed before I had the courage to end that relationship. All the while, though, I just couldn’t--and didn’t--want to put out that fire the Pope had lit in my heart. I started reading all I could about his take on love, sexuality, and chastity. It felt like putting on glasses I hadn’t known I needed. Here were the eternal, ancient truths of the Church, spoken in a language so immediate and insistent, so suited to the current culture and my own life. In my relationship, I’d been hiding so much from myself, my friends, and God. I was ready to become more fully alive; to take off the masks. One of JPII’s personal mottos, duc in altum, calls upon Jesus’ exhortation to “put out into the deep.”

A few years later, recently engaged, I found myself on a Theology of the Body retreat with my coworkers. I was familiar with the Pope’s series of audiences on creation, salvation, and the nuptial intimacy found in each vocation from a college study group, but had never delved deeply in.

For the second time in my life, everything I thought I knew about love fell away, replaced with John Paul’s blazingly beautiful vision of the human person; of love as a complete and unrestrained gift of self. His words were literally life-giving, and awakened in me a desire to live out that self-gift in all of my relationships, most especially in the one I’d have with my husband-to-be: the relationship that would sanctify me and bring me to Christ. I felt remade under this new lens.

Encountering this great saint’s writings and principles painted for me the clearest, most whole, most hopeful vision of who we, as humans, are: beloved daughters and sons; a revelation of the Father’s great love. His words have shown me to myself.

What about you? It’s become apparent in my personal prayer life that certain verses, prayers, and saints have seemingly chosen and pursued me at the times I most needed them. Some of those invitations have been whispers: constant, repeated mentions of a certain prayer, book, or person over months or years. And some have been shouts: instances where intercession and answered prayers ring clear and true. Who are the holy men and women who’ve been knocking at--or, alternatively, crashing through--the door of your heart lately?

Sit in the quiet and observe if any particular saints or writings surface. Consider whether any individuals, devotions, or books have been recommended to you more than once, from more than one person. Or perhaps there’s a particular aspect of the Catholic faith you’ve always wanted to dive into. As a new year unfolds, I sense an expanse of open space in my soul; a decluttered state of thirst. I desire to be filled. Satisfied. May my heart--and yours--find newness, discovery, and a deeper intimacy with Christ in these coming months.


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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