Five Ways Catholic Couples Can Practice Hospitality this Fall

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Married couples can offer many unique gifts to their family, friends, and community that are specific to their particular calling, especially the gift of hospitality. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   ABBEY REZ PHOTOGRAPHY

By creating a home, married couples create a space in which they can invite others in, a space to allow others to receive a taste of the beauty and communion of our heavenly home. 

Couples can practice hospitality in a variety of ways, but if you are looking for some ideas on how to do this in this new Fall season, give one of these a try!

Host a game night

What better way to spend a cozy autumn evening than with a fun game night! 

Game nights are a laid-back and enjoyable way to host old friends or new ones you want to get to know better. You and your spouse might even consider making it a weekly event. 

You can try out a game you’ve never played before, or bust out a well loved party game. You could even ask your board game savvy invitees to bring their favorite game to share with the group. 

Invite local college students for a home-cooked meal

By now, college students may find that they’ve exhausted the dining options on campus and are itching for a home-cooked meal. 

If you know a student or meet them at Sunday or daily mass, take the time to get to know them and then invite them over to share a meal with your family. 

Students will appreciate delicious food, and will also enjoy experiencing life with a family (especially if you have young kids!) 

Pie Tasting

Take this classic Fall treat and make a night out of it. Buy a variety of pies from the grocery store or from your local farmer’s market, and invite your neighbors over for a tasting.

If you wanted to add another layer to this idea, invite your family, friends, or neighbors to partake in a pie baking contest and then vote on a winner. It’s a fun (and delicious) activity everyone can enjoy.

Invite other couples to pray a rosary

The Church has declared October as the month of the Holy Rosary, so there is no better time to light some candles and pray a decade (or five!)

Invite your friends or other couples from your parish over for dinner (or drinks and dessert) and a rosary. You could simply pray it or you could provide some scripture to meditate on in between each decade. 

This idea can help build a community among other Catholic couples and can allow you to build friendships on a strong foundation.

Host an All Hallows Eve party

The night before All Saints Day (October 31st) has long been known as All Hallows Eve. So you and your husband might consider celebrating the communion of saints on Halloween night. 

Invite guests to dress up as their favorite saints or bring a potluck dish that relates to their favorite saint (perhaps Pope Cakes for St. John Paul II or a rose cake for the Little Flower?) You can have a contest for best dressed or prizes for correctly guessing someone else’s chosen saint. 

Get creative in planning this event and encourage your guests to experience the joy the Church (both on Earth and in Heaven) have to offer.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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A Reflection on Veiling and Intimacy

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

How did a recent Mass reading about the Ten Commandments lead me to tears over the gift of the body and the hidden, particular relationship spouses share with one another?

Photography:    Fiat Photography

Photography: Fiat Photography

The Book of Exodus accounts how, after times in conversation with God, Moses would descend Mount Sinai radiant; literally and visibly changed by the encounter. The Israelites were uncomfortable at the sight, “afraid to come near him.”

Ultimately, we read that Moses makes the decision to veil himself when he comes down from the mountaintop, covering the radiance upon his face. He only removes it when alone and in the presence of God, in prayer.

How beautifully analogous this sense of veiled radiance is to the way our own prayer lives can or should be, and to the nature of marriage. How there is deep joy in being unveiled, naked before the Beloved, but only within the most intimate, free, and trusting setting.

Why is it I felt shy in front of friends and family after returning home from my honeymoon? Why do we struggle to hide our stupid, seemingly uncontainable grins from others after a moment of transcendence in prayer or in our relationship with our spouse?

It’s hard to re-enter the world right after those mountaintop experiences, still wearing that radiance. Part of my desire to do so, I’ve realized, is a wish to keep the experience sacred. Hidden. Not out of shame, but out of reverence for the gift.

On her wedding day, a bride veils herself, reserving the fullness of a face-to-face gaze for her bridegroom alone. At every Mass, the tabernacle is kept covered or closed until the Liturgy of the Eucharist--the holy union wherein time stops and heaven meets earth.

It is when these respective sacraments are complete--consummated--that an unveiling takes place, honoring the goodness of the body: those of husband and wife, speaking the language of their wedding vows in the flesh, and that of Christ himself, broken, poured out, and given to his bride the Church.

Just as Moses encountered the living God in a direct, personal way, so too do the sacraments draw us into his presence as closely as is possible on earth. And we are indelibly changed: Ven. Fulton Sheen reflected on the knowledge of another that is revealed to spouses in marriage. There is no return to how things were, he says, for “neither can live again as if nothing had ever happened.”

Whether you’re in the season of discernment, of preparing for marriage, or of living out married life, may all earthly joys reveal to you the love of our divine Beloved. May you be encouraged in freedom, unmasked, unveiled, and radiant with his love.


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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Leah + Seth | Southern Indiana Chapel Wedding

Simplicity, intentionality, and authenticity. These are the virtues Leah and Seth pursued in their relationship after their lives crossed paths again. And after a mountaintop proposal, they carried these values into their wedding planning. 

Faith and family became their focus, and it shone through in the beauty of their wedding day.

From the Bride: It is amazing the way God works in our lives. Seth and I were friends all through high school, but lost touch after we left for college in different states. Years later, after I moved back to Indianapolis, I began seriously thinking and praying about God's plans for my future. 

My sister suggested we start a 54 day novena to St. Anne for the intention of our future spouses. Halfway through this novena, Seth and I ran into each other at Sunday Mass. As we caught up, we realized how much we had in common beyond our high school years, and we were eager to spend more time together. 

At one point, when we were going on dates but “not yet dating,” my sister said to me, "don't you think it's crazy that Seth came along right as we prayed this novena?" I waved her off as "reading too much into it," because I secretly thought the same thing and was afraid to hope too much. 

Seth had also been praying about his vocation the spring before we reconnected. He was determined that any relationship he entered into would be grounded in prayerful discernment of marriage and authenticity. It is easy in any new relationship to become caught up in a desire to impress the other person and hide aspects of yourself you dislike. We were both very committed to being as genuine as possible about the good and the bad. In this way, we slowly built a solid relationship based on friendship and honesty. 

Eighteen months later, Seth was attending graduate school in Virginia while I worked in a nearby city. One beautiful but cold December day, we hiked to a well-known mountainous overlook, praying the rosary and discussing our philosophies of marriage at Seth's suggestion. This discussion did not clue me in to Seth's plan to propose at the top of the overlook! 

His proposal was as simple and genuine as he is, and it was one of the happiest days of our lives. We knew that our prayers before and during our relationship as well as our commitment to being intentional and authentic brought us to that joyous day.

Seth and I were married in St. Agnes Catholic Church, a beautiful wooden chapel hidden away in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. We chose the music and readings to reflect the simple beauty and solemness of this little church. We made no plans to decorate the inside, as our concentration was on the liturgy itself. However, a thoughtful member of the parish gathered wild flowers to adorn the altar space for us. 

Our whole wedding day was characterized by small, thoughtful acts like these made by many of our loved ones. The day before our wedding, we invited family and friends to spend an hour in prayer with us. It was a powerful moment, seeing so many people praying for us in preparation for our marriage. 

These same family and friends showed us their support throughout our engagement by taking over many of the wedding duties. From liturgical music to flower arrangements to desserts at the reception, they pitched in to offer their talents to make our day special. 

A particularly special gift was made by my eldest sister, who was unable to travel to our wedding because she was nine months pregnant. She gave me the beautiful mantilla veil she had worn at her own wedding. When I put on the veil the morning of my wedding, I felt as if a small part of her was with me. 

One of the best pieces of advice we received was to talk on the phone before the wedding began. Since the end of the aisle would be the first time we saw each other that day, a normal conversation the morning of our wedding helped calm our nerves and made us that much more excited to get married. 

The nuptial Mass itself was incredibly special, not only because we chose the readings and the music, but because everyone partaking was someone dear to us. The best part of the Mass was kneeling so close to the altar during the consecration. 

Our reception after Mass was a joyous occasion. Rather than the usual sweetheart table, Seth and I chose to create a "king table" where both our immediate families could sit with us. This was yet another way we ensured family was the center of our celebration.

Seth and I have talked many times about our wedding day in the months since. We are happy that it reflected our priorities of God and family. The truth is, after your wedding, you realize how many of the small details you obsessed about simply do not matter in the grand scheme of your marriage. Your wedding should be a time to honor the serious commitment you are making and to celebrate it with the people you love.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: St. Agnes Catholic Church, Columbus, IN | Reception: Factory 12 Event Loft, Columbus, IN | Officiant: Fr. Eric Augenstein | DJ: Cade Grubbs (family member) | Caterer/Bartender: Factory 12 | Rings: Touch of Silver, Gold, and Old | Bridal Gown: David's Bridal | Dresses: David's Bridall

Newlywed Life | A Responsibility to be Obedient

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The first sin in the Garden of Eden was the sin of disobedience. Baptism is the initial sacrament in our Christian journey which cleanses the stain of original sin. 

At the moment of our baptism, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we “belong… to him who died and rose for us.” With the grace of the sacrament comes a responsibility to live in service, obedience and submission to God and the Church. The stain of original sin predisposes us to temptation, to fall away from God throughout our lives.

Throughout the lifespan, every sacrament, including the Sacrament of Matrimony, is a gift from God to empower men and women in their journey of service, obedience, and selfless submission.  

PHOTOGRAPHY:     DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Obedience is about responding to a call or a command. Children learn obedience in the home through the instruction and discipline of their parents. An obedient child is one who hears an instruction from a parent and responds appropriately and respectfully. In much the same way, our “grown up” responsibility requires adults to hear the command of God the Father and respond appropriately and respectfully. 

When the two become one flesh, man and woman are called to obey for the sake of their beloved, either in protection of or nurture for the other. And through marriage and family life, spouses collaborate to fulfill God’s commands and live as visible signs of his unconditional love. 

One must first discern the will of God before exercising freedom and choosing to obey him. 

Do you know the call God is asking you to obey? As it may relate to you in your individual life or within the context of your marriage, God yearns to be heard. He speaks through the big moments of our lives as well as the quiet movements in our hearts. In order to discern his will, we must create a space to ponder him--in the Mass, prayer, confession, and personal reflection. 

In the chaos of our lives, the will of God can be muffled amidst external responsibilities or expectations from others. 

Work can be a source of complication; for example, ‘I am confident God called me to this job, but my employer is asking me to sacrifice family dinner in order to meet a deadline... is God asking me to surrender family time for this job?’ 

In another context of extended family life, ‘I strive to honor my mother and father, yet they expect me and my husband to abandon our weekly date-night in order to spend more time with them; is God asking me to abandon intimate time with my husband in order to obey my parents?” 

These questions—and the decisions we must make—are complex and complicated. There is not often a clear “right or wrong” answer. Returning to a process of prayerful discernment and an examination of conscience may provide clarity in making the best choice.

Woman and man were created as reciprocal helpmates for each other. Through the gift and grace of marriage, couples can discern, discuss, and set boundaries for decision making in accordance with both God and their personal family values. 

Making a decision to protect personal intimacy with God and spouse may not be understood by others. Such unpopular boundaries may parallel an experience of Christ’s carrying of the cross; by fulfilling God’s design for his life with obedience, he received blows to his body from his peers and community members. 

An act of obedience, as established through Baptism, is to obey the will of God. As established through Marriage, holy obedience is a means for joint sanctification of both spouses. 


“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.”


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include 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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Infertility is More Than Physical. Research-Based Advice for Engaged + Newlywed Couples.

In the heady first days of engagement and marriage, it’s hard to imagine the possibility of anything but lifelong joy.

Though the head knows marriage calls spouses to suffering and purification, the heart is frequently focused only on the blissful--and in many ways, rightly so.

Where, then, does that leave you and your spouse the first time you face a major cross or struggle? How can we live in the tension of suffering and hope while seeking to support and understand one another?

Marc Sherman and his wife Erin struggled to conceive for nearly a decade after their wedding day. With all glory to God, they are now parents, yet their personal journey illuminated a deep need: while science and medicine offer a wealth of physical support, where were emotional and psychological resources for spouses experiencing infertility?

Marc and Erin set out to meet this need, working with research psychologists to produce qualitative and quantitative research pertaining to husbands and wives’ individual and interpersonal experiences of infertility. Their business, Organic Conceptions, was founded in 2015, offering online education designed to develop couples’ emotional awareness, communication, healthy thought patterns, and understanding of the holistic relationship between mind and body. 

Whether infertility is or is not a part of your current season, the principles of communication and understanding are relevant to all couples. Marc chatted with us to share his advice and perspective for spouses-to-be and newlyweds.


Organic Conceptions is rooted in you and your wife's personal journey with infertility. Can you share a bit of your story, and how your struggles impacted your marriage and spiritual lives (for better and for worse)?

We often see life evolving and sequencing in a particular way, and “struggle” is such an understatement in terms of what’s happening behind the scenes. Within just several months, that anxiety, worry, and concern over did we wait too long? And what’s wrong with my body? Becomes so emotionally difficult.

For my wife and I, after many, many years struggling, we were prepared to adopt and then conceived naturally--not once, but on two occasions. When you’re struggling, these are the most frustrating stories to hear. Friends and family try to encourage you, but it’s such a sensitive space. 

After living this twice, it was very clear that things were different in each of our experiences. For my wife, it changed her perception of herself, her body, our relationships, past decisions leading to this journey...that led to the start of Organic Conceptions. We hired research psychologist Dr. Kate Webster to look into the patterns that emerge in [couples’ experiences of] infertility. From a marriage perspective, this is potentially one of the first major [challenges] you face as a couple. Everything you do is called into question, including your faith.

Dr. Webster’s research ultimately showed every couple’s story would map to the same set of emotional transitions through grief, pain, and worry. These emotions are validated through the research, and then we can start to empower and support couples to stay married and close through these difficulties. 

There is a way in which a woman experiences this differently than her husband. We tell our couples, neither is right nor wrong. It’s about emotionally coming closer together and leaning on each other. Like any issue in a marriage, there’s middle ground that, through this research, can bring them to that place. Couples begin understanding how to engage and stay connected in the light of uncertainty--and there are other instances of pain and uncertainty in marriage [in addition to infertility; this provides a solid foundation for future difficulties.

For recently married couples bearing this cross of infertility, what practical advice you can share?

I want these couples to know: your emotional health and well-being matters. Research speaks to what happens in the month-to-month devastation of hope to despair.

At the highest level, our emotional and reproductive health aren’t entirely separate systems. We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings.

[I encourage couples to not be] be too quick to jump only to fixing the physical and seeking answers; give meaning to emotional processing and experiences, as well.

Individually, couples need to make sense of this journey, but it does need to be entered into together. At the root, it’s about building a marriage, family, and life.

JacoleEngagement-0901.jpg

What about engaged couples? How can they work through fears or preexisting fertility issues in a productive way? 

Erin and I often say, Wouldn’t it be great if someone got to us sooner and made us feel we matter as individuals and as a couple; that our faith matters and that [conception] is more than a to-do list item? This is a wonderful time in couples’ lives, and for some it might not go exactly as planned--wouldn’t it be great if a couple actually puts on the table early on, asking, if this doesn’t go as planned, what options or treatments are we open to as alternatives? What a healthy conversation to talk about the timing and methods you each are open to. It’s a conversation that needs to happen earlier on than it typically does.

Marriages are damaged by the journey, not the outcome.

If a couple’s journey wasn’t made in a connected, intimate way while making decisions together throughout an infertility experience, it can carry over into family life.

The ache for children and family is a natural and human desire. How can Catholic couples respectfully, lovingly answer friends and family who suggest they pursue infertility treatment options not in line with the Catholic faith?

I suggest couples focus on connecting emotionally, share their thoughts as a unit, and remember their faith. IVF and fertility treatments emphasizes the physical, treating it as a problem to be solved, and leaves out the emotional and spiritual pieces [of who we are]--we need to make room for all three.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many NaPro doctors about getting to the root of what the body is telling us: are we brave enough to listen to what our bodies are saying? In my mind, these are the most logical first steps: learning and having confidence in our bodies. Rather than leaping over and dismissing it, let’s pay attention to it. Couples can use this language of the body and the logic of fertility care in their conversations.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Her Witness Photography

An exclusive offer for Spoken Bride readers

If and when you feel called to sign up for Organic Conceptions’ programs, fill in “Spoken Bride” at checkout in response to “How did you hear about the program?” to receive the program workbook and journal for free. Questions may be directed to Organic Conceptions.

The Divine Depth of Love

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Earlier this summer, I went to confession with a priest who asked me to spend a few minutes thinking about things about my husband that I am grateful for. 

Easy, I thought as I left the confessional. But as I sat down in the pew with my pen and journal in hand, I found it wasn’t actually as easy as I thought.

I love my husband. He’s an amazing man and I am thankful for him, but putting into words why I am grateful for him felt like trying to hold the whole ocean in my hands. 

If you had asked me right after Ben and I met what his best qualities were, I’d have been able to tell you in a heartbeat. He’s handsome, funny, smart, and kind. 

But now, after almost seven years of friendship, five years of being in a relationship, and three years of marriage, these words feel inadequate.

Trying to quantify and define the parts of him I loved felt limiting. I don’t love Ben because he’s handsome or funny or gentle, but because he’s Ben. 

The more time you spend with a person the harder it is to see all of the things that make them who they are. 

The more you learn about them and see who they really are, the harder it becomes to pinpoint all the little qualities that make them lovable. 

You simply love them because they are.

Marriage has opened to me a depth of love that I hadn’t known possible and in doing so made known to me a depth of God I had yet to understand.

A God who loves wholly and without conditions. 

God doesn’t love us because we are capable or holy. He doesn’t love us because of our looks or our sense of humor.

There is nothing we can say, do, or have to earn more of His love and affection. 

He loves us because we are.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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4 Marian Flower Ideas for Your Bridal Bouquet

Are your currently choosing florals for your wedding décor and bouquet?

Both secular and religious culture have long traditions of ascribing particular symbolism and significance to flowers. The first use of flowers and plants as an invitation to contemplate God’s creation is believed to have originated in medieval monasteries. Saint Basil the Great wrote in a homily, “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that everywhere, wherever you may be, the least plant may bring to yon the clear remembrance of the Creator.”

The thought that living things speak a language, drawing our attention to the Father’s creativity, precision, and beauty, is a profound one. If the language of flowers appeals to you, consider incorporating blossoms that signify Our Lady--the purest, most radiant bride--into your selections. Here, four flowers with Marian significance.

Lilies

Many images of the Annunciation depict the angel Gabriel presenting Mary with a lily as he invites her to shelter and bear from her womb the Word made flesh. Saint Joseph, Mary’s beloved spouse, is also frequently shown with the lily. Both of these connections emphasize Our Lady’s purity and chastity--her perfect integration of body and soul. 

The lily of the valley flower, in particular, is also known as “Our Lady’s tears,” said to have blossomed from the tears Mary shed at the foot of the cross. Even on the joyful day of a wedding feast, these flowers are a delicate, fragrant reminder that marriage calls us to embrace both agony and ecstasy.

Consider, as well, that the lily is mentioned several times in the Song of Songs, a source of beauty among thorns and an element within “a garden closed:” an meditation on what it is to be a bride.  

Bold, sculptural star and Easter lilies are well-suited to spring weddings or minimalist brides, while tiger lilies and lily of the valley are a great fit for summer celebrations and bohemian or rustic tastes.

Roses

The ancient prayer of the Litany of Loreto calls upon the intercession of the Holy Trinity and of Our Lady under various titles, including Mary as the “Mystical Rose.”

Why the rose? Popularly considered the crowning, most beautiful of all flowers, Our Lady has been described by Saint Brigid as “beautiful to the sight, and tender to the touch, and yet it grows among thorns, inimical to the beauty and tenderness...The Virgin may suitably be called a blooming rose. Just as the gentle rose is placed among thorns, So this gentle Virgin was surrounded by sorrow.” As with the lily, the symbolism of roses invites spouses to consider the good times and bad, the easy and the crosses, which they entrust to one another in their marriage vows.

Roses convey a classic sensibility and, in addition to the Mystical Rose devotion, call to mind Our Lady’s gift of roses to Saint Juan Diego at Guadalupe.

Marigolds or Calendula

As prayer gardens grew more prevalent in medieval monastic settings, the faithful frequently reclaimed pagan epithets for plants and flowers by giving them religious names. Marigolds or calendula flowers (variations on a similar species) are now traditionally known as “Mary’s gold,” intended to invoke Our Lady’s heavenly queenship and radiance, the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation who triumphs over the grasp of evil and destruction.

Available in warm tones of red, gold, and orange, marigolds are beautifully suited to fall weddings, and can also be found in year-round friendly white.

Something Blue

Choosing blue, the color most frequently associated with Our Lady, for your wedding florals offers an array of choices and shades to complement your wedding colors, season, and style. Consider hydrangea, hyacinth, iris, bluebells, or wildflowers.

Do you plan to choose your wedding flowers based on their symbolism or connections to Scripture and the saints? Share your stories in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.