Fun Reads Featuring Strong Marriages

 

ADA THOMAS

As a bride-to-be or newlywed, you've probably noticed the plethora of self-help books directed at nearly every area of your life: DIY wedding books, conflict-resolution books, and even Catholic how-to books. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of advice that is thrown at you as a bride, and at the end of the day you’re often left wondering, “How does this work in real life?”

In her list of wedding resources, Elise mentioned that she and her fiancé found mentor couples to help them prepare for their wedding day. If that is not an option for you (or maybe just isn’t your style), these books from many different genres may help fill the void. There are many accessible, enjoyable books that feature strong marriages, perfect for reading on your commute or when you need a break from wedding planning.

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My Life in France by Julia Child

Although Julia and her husband Paul were not Catholic, their marriage is a wonderful example of a strong union and a helpmate relationship between spouses. During Paul’s time working for the State Department, Julia moved with him to France, Germany, Norway, and finally back to the United States. She supported him in his work, while he supported her in her newfound love of cooking, and together they created a home where their friends could feel welcome and revel in Julia’s delicious cooking, perfectly complimented by her husband’s extensive knowledge of wine. 

Paul and Julia are a real life example of what it means to grow within marriage. Julia did not start cooking until well into her thirties, and she and Paul continued to cultivate their personal interests together as a couple. While Julia filmed her first  cooking shows, Paul was behind the camera, washing her dishes for the next scene or taste-testing her delicious food.

Not only will this book encourage you to offer loving support to your husband-to-be, it may also inspire you to master the art of French cooking with your sweetheart!

The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp

There’s much more to the famous “Sound of Music family” than a classic movie with a catchy soundtrack. In her autobiography, Maria Von Trapp chronicles her time with her family, both as their governess and later as their mother. She candidly discusses coming into a disunified family and how music brought them all together.

After Hitler came to power, the Von Trapp family, who had become famous in Austria for their musical talent, fled to the United States, where they finally settled in Vermont. They started a camp near their Vermont home for other families to come together to grow in appreciation for music and each other. Maria’s story faith, strength, and  devotion to her family make an inspiring read for anyone hoping to start a strong family of their own.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

While this may seem a slightly counterintuitive suggestion, bear with me! Within its typically dickensian six hundred pages, David Copperfield contains the only happy family in all of Dickens’ vast canon. The Copperfield’s maid, Peggotty, marries the willing Mr. Barkis and relocates to Yarmouth where they live in a barge-turned-house on the beach with Peggotty’s brother, her nephew, and Peggotty’s adopted niece, Emily.

Despite the many misfortunes and hardships which the family endures, Peggotty and Barkis’ home is a welcome bulwark against the harshness of the world around them. It is the place where young Davy Copperfield feels most at home and most happy before the gloom of his mother’s marriage to the evil Mr. Murdstone settles into his own home. The little boathouse on Yarmouth beach is a jewel of domestic bliss in a world of turmoil, unhappiness, and, frankly, terrible marriages.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Most women are at least vaguely familiar with the Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery, but if it’s been a few years since you got these classics off the shelves, consider reading the fifth installment, Anne’s House of Dreams, as you prepare for marriage. In this book, Anne returns to Avonlea to finally marry Gilbert Blythe, and the picture that LM Montgomery paints of wedding preparation and newlywed life reminds us that, despite all of the difficulties that crop up in daily life, we are meant to enjoy this special time.

Anne and Gilbert’s love, supported by those who love them best, is the sole focus of their wedding day. There is no worry about the church, the reception venue, or the caterer, and their home is a reflection of the comfort and joy that their love brings to each of them. Even in times of great sorrow, the Blythes find consolation in their home and in their mutual love. Their neighbors also seek out the “house of dreams” as a refuge, knowing that there will always be a warm welcome for them there.

If you decide to read one (or all) of these books as you prepare for marriage, I hope you will discover what I have found: beautiful literary reminders of what is essential in the process of making two lives one.  

 
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About the Author: Ada Thomas studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She will be marrying her college best friend in November. When she is not wedding planning or teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.




 

Prayer Books for Brides

MAGGIE STRICKLAND

 

During my first year of graduate school and teaching in Charleston, South Carolina, my friends and I would meet several times a week for daily Mass, and then, if our work or class schedules permitted, have coffee or breakfast together. Though we routinely attended the same Bible study each week, the morning Mass group was much more free-form, and the days we went varied week to week. Like everyone else in the group, I was single, and had a vibrant spiritual life because I had a great deal of time to spend in prayer, both in and out of church.

I moved back to my hometown shortly before meeting my husband. Though there was a strong young adult group there too, we were less involved in community as he did his dissertation research. We married just over a year after we met.

Our prayer life together has always been strong, but after marriage I started feeling nostalgic for the girl I had been in Charleston, the one who nurtured her prayer life so thoroughly.

I had been so used to the spontaneity of my personal spiritual life that I wasn’t sure what to do now that I had a spouse to consider, as well.

Ever the English major, I turned to several books to help me balance prayer and work as a newly married woman. They continue to hold valued spots on my bookshelf.

In those early months of our marriage, my husband worked seven days a week to finish his dissertation. Sometimes I felt guilty about the nights I spent proofreading for him instead of going to Wednesday night Mass or Bible study with the young adult group. My perspective started to shift, though, after reading Dom Hubert van Zeller’s Holiness for Housewives (and Other Working Women) and St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.

Holiness for Housewives encourages married women to cultivate an attitude of prayer, one that pervades all aspects of life in our domestic churches. van Zeller points out that everything we do can become a prayer if we align our wills to God’s will and strive to do what he calls us to in each moment. For me, in that busy dissertation season, that meant a lot of proofreading. Even when I didn’t want to give up my leisure to help my husband with his work, doing so became a prayer out of love for and obedience to the God who has called me to marriage. The book is rather general, though, so when I wanted specific practical advice, I turned to de Sales.

Because the chapters in the Introduction are short, I didn’t have to devote a great deal of time to reading, yet still gleaned rich practical steps to help me incorporate active prayer into my daily life, such as St. Francis’ method  for morning prayer. One of the key aspects he describes is to “anticipate what tasks, transactions, and occasions for serving God you may meet on this day and to what temptations of offending him you will be exposed.” Using this method helps me keep sight of God’s will as I’m going through my day, having made my to-do list prayerfully.

As I learned what prayer and work looked like for me as a married woman, I realized part of my initial struggle was rooted in only thinking of myself in terms of my vocation.

I’d been seeing myself as more of a wife than as a daughter of God. I had wanted to get married for so long that when I did, I got distracted by my excitement over the reality of marriage. I needed to remember that the love I felt for my husband, and his for me, was rooted in divine love.

Recognizing this, during Lent of my first year of marriage I revisited I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux, a gift from my college spiritual director. Accordingly, I spent those 40 days--which began just a few weeks after our wedding--meditating on the fact that I was loved first and best by God, and that growing in my love for him meant I could love my spouse and fulfill my married vocation better.

St. Francis de Sales says,“Wherever we may be, we can and should aspire to a perfect life.” My prayer life looks different now from when I was single, and it will change again when, God willing, we have children. The wisdom of these authors has encouraged me to listen continuously for how God is calling me, in this moment, to pursue holiness.


About the Author: Maggie Strickland has loved reading and writing stories since her earliest memory. An English teacher by training and an avid reader by avocation, she now spends her days reading, writing, and volunteering in her community, trying to make her part of the world a little more beautiful. She and her husband are originally from the Carolinas, but now make their home in central Pennsylvania.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The importance of healthy boundaries during wedding planning

 

CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY

Wedding planning is stressful no matter how you slice it, but when you throw two different extended families into the mix, things can get…complicated. The mother of the bride wants everyone dressed in tuxes and evening gowns, while the mother of the groom insists on a more casual dress code. One side of the family isn’t Catholic and doesn’t understand why the wedding party can’t break out the bubbly right before the wedding Mass. Or perhaps the guest list is the bone of contention: one set of parents insists on everyone being invited—budget notwithstanding—including that friend-of-the-family you haven’t seen since you were two years old.

What some couples don’t realize is that there is an emotionally healthy and charitable way to keep these potential conflicts. By setting clear boundaries with both of your families, you’ll not only avoid wedding planning drama (and the tears that accompany it), you’ll also be setting the tone for your future interactions with extended family.

Be realistic about how much autonomy you and your fiancé can expect during the planning process.

If your parents are paying for some or all of the festivities, you probably can’t reasonably insist on having complete control over the details—especially when it comes to the reception. Think of it this way: this is your parents' gift to you. Normally, we don’t get to choose the gifts that others give us; we simply accept them, even if they’re not exactly what we wanted. No matter how frustrated you may get during the planning process, remember that at the end of the day, you and your husband will be married, which is what matters.

That said, if you want total control from soup to nuts, you’ll need to pay for most everything yourself (like one of our recent contributors, Katie, and her now-husband did). This may not be an option for young couples who are getting married right out of college or grad school, but it’s definitely something to consider if you and your fiancé have been working in the “real world” for a few years.

Communicate clearly from the beginning.

Figure out what you’re willing to compromise on, and what’s non-negotiable for you and your fiancé, and discuss it with both sets of parents as soon as possible. A face-to-face meeting of some kind (FaceTime counts) is preferable, as emails can be easily misinterpreted. Make sure your parents and future in-laws know how much you value their support and input, but make it clear that there are certain things you’re not willing to budge on—especially when it comes to the nuptial Mass. This will be particularly important if one set of parents isn’t Catholic.

Remember that you’re laying the groundwork for your new family’s future.

After you get married, your primary family unit is you and your husband, not you and your family of origin. This is a tough transition to make, especially if you’re close to your family or are still working on establishing healthy boundaries with them. Think of engagement and wedding planning as a trial run for newlywed life, when parents and siblings may struggle to accept that your primary roles are not daughter/sister anymore. You and your future husband are a team, and the more you act as a team while engaged, the easier it will be to set healthy boundaries with your families in the future—especially if you have children.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” (charitably).

Christian charity is not the same thing as being a doormat. Yes, it’s difficult to say “no” to your well-meaning family members (or future in-laws) when they offer their opinions, advice, or assistance, but there is a kind way to do so. The key is to thank them whole-heartedly for their suggestion, and calmly explain that you and your fiancé have already decided to go in a different direction.

Enlist your fiancé's help.

Your fiancé is your biggest ally and can encourage you as you try to establish boundaries, especially with your own family. Make sure you keep him in the loop as much as possible, so that he can call you out if he sees that boundaries are being crossed in either direction. On the flip side, be sure to let him know if you feel like he needs to work on boundaries with his family, especially if you feel as though he is prioritizing his family’s feelings over yours.

If you want to learn how to establish healthy boundaries, consider discussing the topic with a pre-martial counselor in your area. You and your fiancé may also want to check out the following books as part of your marriage preparation:

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman

Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody


Attachments: Why You Love, Feel, and Act the Way You Do by Dr. Tim Clinton

 

About the Author: Christina Dehan Jaloway is Spoken Bride's Associate Editor. She is the author of the blog The EvangelistaRead more

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3 Books You May Not Have on Your Marriage Prep List

CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY

 

As a Catholic bride-to-be, you’ve probably been inundated with book recommendations, engagement prayers, and NFP method comparisons. Despite all of the doomsday talk we hear about the state of marriage in our culture (much of which is justified), I think we are living at a wonderful time to get married in the Catholic Church. Never before have there been so many resources available to engaged couples, ranging from theological to practical.  Elise wrote an excellent post on her favorite Catholic resources (she hit everything on my list!), and while those were foundational to Kristian’s and my preparation, we also found wisdom and guidance in books that don’t qualify as spiritual reading.

 Photo courtesy of Susan Reue. 

Photo courtesy of Susan Reue. 

Attachments: Why You Love, Feel, and Act the Way You Do by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy

I would count Attachments as one of the books that changed my life. Shortly before I met my now husband, I became aware--through the help of my therapist--that much of the distress I had experienced in past relationships was due to a lack of secure attachment. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake my fear of abandonment and rejection, which made it impossible for me to be truly vulnerable with anyone. And if you can’t be vulnerable, you really can’t have a healthy or happy marriage. My therapist recommended this book, and I don’t think I would be engaged today if it weren’t for the practical help it gave me. A few months after we started dating, Kristian read it on my recommendation and also found it helpful, not only for understanding me, but also for making sense of his own life and relationship history.

Attachments breaks down the different styles of insecure attachment (i.e. the reasons why so many relationships are unstable and unhealthy) and the root causes of them, e.g. traumatic/abusive/unhealthy experiences from our childhood. The authors give real-world examples of each attachment style and practical guidance on how to become securely attached in your relationships with God, family members, friends, spouses/significant others, and your (future) kids. Attachments, true to its title, helped me understand why I “love, feel, and act” the way I do. It also helped me understand why my ex-boyfriends, siblings, parents, and even friends love, feel, and act the way they do. It’s not a silver bullet, by any means, but after reading the book and putting into practice some of the authors’ recommendations, as well as discussing what I learned with my therapist, I started to notice positive, seemingly miraculous changes in the way that I related to others--especially my family and my husband. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman

Although it’s written for already-married couples, I think Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work should be required reading for anyone who is seriously dating or engaged. Dr. John Gottman uses his impressive and extensive body of research to shed light on the common causes of divorce (they’re not what you think) and the habits of couples who not only make it, but are genuinely happy together throughout their married lives. It’s full of quizzes and activities that you can do with your significant other that can help you identify potential problem areas and start building a solid “relationship house” even before you say “I do.” Dr. Gottman isn’t Catholic (I’m not even sure if he’s a Christian), but Seven Principles is grounded in the truth of what it means to love someone “till death do us part”, and thus belongs on every Catholic couple’s bookshelf.

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

And now, for something completely different. It was actually Kristian's idea to read the classic Italian historical novel The Betrothed (“I Promessi Sposi”) together; he read it in Italian (yep, he knows Italian) and I read the English translation. The Betrothed is ultimately a story about the mysterious nature of God’s plan for our lives, and that nothing can separate us from his love. The story follows the lives of Lucia and Lorenzo, an engaged couple living in 17th century Italy who are prevented from marrying by the powerful lord Don Rodrigo, who desires Lucia for himself. While they escape the clutches of Don Rodrigo, they become separated and must persevere in their love for each other while the whole world seems to crumble around them. I must admit that I skipped some of the Italian political history stuff (Kristian did not), but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was encouraged by the faithfulness of Lucia and Renzo, not only to each other, but to the Lord.

I hope these resources prove to be as helpful to you and your fiance as they’ve been to Kristian and me. Regardless of how far along you are in the marriage prep process, it never hurts to add a few more books to your list--even if you don’t get to them until after you’re married. If you’re engaged or married and have read these books, what did you think? Did you find them helpful? Would you add any others to the list? Let me know in the comments!


About the Author: Christina Dehan Jaloway is Spoken Bride's Associate Editor. She is the author of the blog The EvangelistaRead more

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Editors' Picks, Vol, 5 | What We're Reading

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

Whether you prefer literature, spiritual reading, or nonfiction, the best of the written word has the power to illuminate truth and goodness and to reintroduce us to ourselves. Take a look at what we're currently reading, and we hope you'll find inspiration for your own library or reading list.

What We're Reading 2017 | www.spokenbride.com

Andi, Business Director

The Poldark Series by Winston Graham: I know it's cheesy, but I enjoy the show and a certain Spoken Bride team member (who shall remain nameless) said the books were great, so here I am. The books have actually been better reads than I expected: no Fabio-esque hair blowing in the wind, beautiful descriptions of Cornwall, and an omniscient narrator so I finally can understand what's behind all the longing glances on the show.

The Catholic Table by Emily Stimpson Chapman: I just love this book. If you read Emily's blog by the same name, you'll find it's a lovely approach that gets to the heart of our faith: fasting, feasting, and how Jesus brings it all together. I love Emily's understanding of hospitality--it's always been my goal to have a comfy home with a open door, and it was nice to read about someone else who loves having guests in their home.

Write. Publish. Market. by Jodi BrandonThis is a well-written, straightforward book with great information on how creative entrepreneurs can self-publish or get published through traditional avenues. I've got ideas swirling in my head and sketchbook of a project I'd never, ever, even thought of doing until the Holy Sprit recently started nudging me.

Daily Companion for Married Couples by Allan F. WrightI picked up this little daily devotional at the Mission Santa Inez gift shop as a Christmas present for my hubby. Each day we have a short quote from a saint, author, the Bible, or the Catechism, followed by a short reflection and discussion question. It's been nice having something to talk about together right before we go to sleep, and is short enough that we can read and discuss the topic within five minutes.

On my list for 2017:  Karol Wojtyla's The Jeweler's Shop, David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler's The Little Oratory, Fulton Sheen's Three to Get Married (again), and G.K Chesterton's Orthodoxy.

Elise, Social Media Manager

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp: I'm not exaggerating when I say this book has been completely life-changing. Although Ann is not Catholic, I was incredibly surprised by how well her thesis supports the Catholic theology of communion. The Broken Way is a compilation of Ann's reflections on how as humans we can live an abundant life, not despite, but with our wounds and brokenness. Ann's words touched me deeply and the book was a great reminder that "I am His and He is mine." 

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines: Any of my friends or family can tell you I love Chip and Joanna's show, Fixer Upper, on HGTV. For me, this story was one of hope. I cried multiple times while reading it. As an entrepreneur, I could relate to Chip and Joanna's story of ups and downs in trying to run their multiple businesses. It was incredibly inspiring and reassuring that Chip and Joanna overcame many obstacles in their lives and still remained faithful to what they knew to be God's calling for them. 

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber: For 2017, my goal is to work more on my business instead of in my business, meaning I need to continue learning how to be the best manager, boss and bringer of clients instead of only doing client work. Easier said than done. The E-Myth has helped me shift my mindset as a business owner and learn how strategize when it comes to scaling my business. 

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist: This book is a beautiful reminder to view ourselves how God sees us. It is only when we understand God's truly unconditional love that we begin to align our lives with our true vocation and calling. 

On my list for 2017: Seth Godin's Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Elaine Sciolino's The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs, and Henri Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love.

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp: Ann Voskamp candidly shares about her life’s struggles and faith in the book “The Broken Way”. Emotional, raw, honest, this book is full of nuggets of wisdom. However, this leads to my next book. 

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Fr. Jacques Philippe: Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) and your classic ENFP, I can get easily swept away or deeply engrossed in the intimate & emotional experiences of others. That being said, I needed a breather from The Broken Way and picked up this book in its place. Being written by a priest, this book offers objective & gentle spiritual direction and wisdom on finding and keeping peace that only comes from God and God alone. 

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home & School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay: If you follow my personal Instagram, you’ll find a lot of homeschooling photos of my children. While I am still new to it, I love Charlotte Mason’s methodology and approach to education. This book beautiful frames Miss Mason’s belief on educating not just the mind, but educating the will and the entire person. 

Black Moon (The Poldark Series) by Winston Graham: This is my “waiting room” book. It’s an easy fictional read for anytime I just need my mind to turn off. If you love British television, I’m sure you have already been watching Captain Ross Poldark and all his drama. Season 2 left me a bit distraught, so I hopped on Black Moon to eagerly read about Ross’s redemption that supposedly happens in Season 3. 

On my list for 2017: Brian Kennelly’s To the Heights: A Novel Based on the Life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (I need to finish reading this one), Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter (this one, too), Jennie Allen's Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard, and Jennifer Fulwiller's Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.

Stephanie, Co-Founder + Editor in Chief

Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien: A few friends had recommended this modern classic of a Catholic novel, but the 800-page commitment intimidated me. I shouldn’t have worried. This story of a soul, the fictional Josip Lasta, is the amazingly compelling chronicle of one man’s life, from boyhood to old age, under the Communist regime in Croatia. Amidst the depths of human evil and depravity and to the heights of love and communion, Lasta’s life serves as a reminder that no man is ever truly alone and that the hand of providence is constantly, actively at work in the world. Reading this, I have been staying up long past my bedtime on pure adrenaline and wonder, have recalled many similar details from John Paul II’s youth and young adulthood in occupied Poland, and have experienced a renewed sense of the fact that freedom is complete gift and grace.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: As a former English major who wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austen, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I only recently picked up this book for the first time. Austen once said that of all her characters, she identified most with Fanny Bryce, the heroine of this novel, and I can see why. A sharp observer of conduct and of the subtleties that pass between men and women, Fanny is often the lone individual with the eyes to see falsehood and shallowness for what they are when her family becomes taken with two beguiling new acquaintances. What Mansfield Park lacks in romantic banter compared to, for instance, Pride and Prejudice, it more than makes up for in dead-on emotion and perception that still feels relevant hundreds of years later, a quality I’m really enjoying.

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer: I am forever, and I mean constantly, in search of a love story that will sweep me off my feet. Between my being a hard sell on grand, emotionally-driven gestures and having some differences of opinion with the culture’s notions of romance and dating, I guess my bar is pretty high. But I think I might have found one. This funny, unpretentious, and beautifully written novel, told in letters, is based on the real-life correspondence of Flannery O’Connor and the poet Robert Lowell. O’Connor was a convert to the Catholic faith, while Lowell was a religious skeptic for much of his life. Their discussions of the Church and the faith often feel like spiritual reading, and the depth of goodwill and admiration between Bauer’s imagined versions of these writers has brought me to tears. Truly, in my opinion it’s a romance for the ages!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: Sometimes the right book comes along at the right time. A few months ago, my husband and I experienced one of the rougher periods in our marriage as we struggled to prioritize each other over our other responsibilities and as a particularly overwhelming, sleep-deprived season of our parenthood took its toll on our ability to show each other basic patience and kindness. This book introduces a married couple that’s drifted apart. With the help of a surprisingly plausible magic phone, they receive a second chance to make good on their relationship. Their story moved me in a way it might not have, had I not recently experienced this difficult time. It struck me profoundly how small wounds can pile up over time and cause serious damage to a relationship, and how our every interaction with our spouse presents us with a choice. To choose forgiveness over pettiness, sacrifice over self, and authentic love over convenience is painful and purifying, but a worthy effort every time.

On my list for 2017: James Keating’s Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’s A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope.

Christina, Associate Editor

From Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman: One of my passions/side hobbies is psychology, especially when it’s related to family of origin. This book (so far) is an excellent introduction into the world of family systems psychology, which focuses not only on the problems of each individual within a family, but how dysfunctional family patterns exacerbate those problems. Even for someone like me who has been in and out of therapy for much of her life, I’m still learning quite a bit from this book about how I can be an instrument of peace and healing in my own family.

Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay: Like all of Fr. Dubay’s books, this one is a spiritual kick in the butt. It’s so easy for us to think we’re following God’s will, when what we’re really following is our own plans and desires wrapped up in spiritual packaging. Fr. Dubay challenges his readers to cultivate humility and poverty of spirit--and to seek the help of a competent spiritual director-- so that they can more readily attend to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Authenticity is not a light read, but it’s worth the effort if you want to grow in your capacity to discern God’s will in your life.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery: Since high school, when I first discovered Anne, I’ve probably read the entire Anne of Green Gables series at least ten times (and my favorites--like Anne of the Island--even more), so I couldn’t resist reading Anne’s House of Dreams during my first month as a newlywed. I’ve always loved this fifth book in the Anne series, but in some ways I felt like I was reading it for the first time; I could relate to Anne and her wifely joy in a new way. Anne’s House of Dreams is also unique among the Anne books because Anne’s rosy outlook on life is challenged for the first time by tragedy. If you’re looking for a fun, easy, yet surprisingly profound novel to chase away the winter doldrums, this is the book for you.

Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year by Joseph Ratzinger: I am unabashedly obsessed with Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) and his writings. He has done more for my post-graduate intellectual and spiritual development than any other theologian, and there’s rarely a time during the year when I’m not reading something by Ratzinger. The only downside to Co-Workers of the Truth is having to pace myself and only read one meditation per day.

On my list for 2017: Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures by Joseph Ratzinger, The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von Le Fort, Sweetening the Pill: Or, How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control by Holly Grigg-Spall, To Know Christ Jesus by F.J. Sheed, and a slew of novels by Dorothy Sayers.

 

Elise's Wedding | Our Favorite Marriage-Prep Resources

SAVE THE DATE ... our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

(Photos: Meaghan Clare Photography)

Over the last few years, Hunter and I have developed our own library of favorite marriage and engagement-focused resources. I'm excited to share them with you today in anticipation that they bless you and your significant other, as well. 

The Temperament God Gave You/ God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett: These books by a Catholic married couple, one a licensed marriage therapist and one with a Masters in philosophy break down certain tendencies, virtues, and weaknesses particular to the four temperaments of classical philosophy, with a solid spiritual element added in. They were so eye-opening to me! Although Hunter and I both agreed not everyone fits perfectly into the four temperament profile, it's is definitely a great place to start understanding yourself and your significant other in a deeper manner. 

The Jeweler's Shop by Karol WojtylaNot to be dramatic, but this is, hands down, my favorite piece of literature of all time. I first saw this play performed during my sophomore year in college and have read it at least five times since. I even wrote a paper on it in graduate school! The future JPII's play focuses on three different couples, all at different stages of their relationships. I can't recommend it enough! 

Three to Get Married by Fulton SheenThis was also a very formative book for Hunter and me. Fulton Sheen taught at our alma mater, Catholic University, and was a brilliant priest. He talks about the ins-and-outs of marriage in a down to earth way while still communicating the mystery of the sacrament. 

Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis: Hunter and I are currently reading this encyclical with our marriage mentors. After reading just the first chapter, I was completely blown away. The Pope definitely gathers the wisdom of the Church while also discussing the hardships and challenges that couples and families encounter as they live and breathe their vocation.  

Theology of the Body Institute: I haven't attended a course at the TOB Institute yet but I've had several friends attend and they have raved about it.

Through the Bible and Catholic tradition, Theology of the Body explains that our bodies reveal the deepest mysteries of God and humanity. 

Wherever you are in your faith journey, the Theology of the Body Institute is an awesome way for you and your fiancé to grow in your understanding of God's design for your marriage. 

Called to Love by Carl Anderson: I read this book while attending the John Paul II Institute, and it's incredible. If you don't have the means to attend the Theology of the Body Institute, I highly recommend Called to Love as a great alternative. Carl Anderson is the Supreme Knight of Columbus and makes St. Pope John Paul II's teaching on Theology of the Body applicable and accessible. 

By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand: This book has made me feel much less alone during my engagement! The format is an older Alice writing to a new bride, Lily. Lily pours out her heart to Alice about newly married life. Lily's problems, fears and excitement are relatable, Alice's words refreshing and encouraging. 

Beloved by the Augustine Institute: Beloved is a 12-week DVD and study guide series for engaged or married couples. This is a great resource for education if you are your fiancé are looking to go a bit further in preparing for marriage or improving your relationship. Although Hunter and I haven't gone through the program personally, it's come highly recommended by several friends. It looks incredible and I'd love us to go through it eventually. 

The Little Oratory By Leila Lawler: One of my favorite books that I've read during marriage preparation! Leila is the mother of a college classmate and runs the successful blog Like Mother, Like Daughter. In The Little Oratory, Leila discusses how families can incorporate liturgical living into their everyday lives through prayer and intentional living. There are also beautiful icon images included with the book that make for a beautiful beginning to your own oratory. 

I'd love to hear your additions to this list! What are your favorite resources for marriage preparation? Share them in the comments below!


About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more

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