No matter where you are in your dating life, engagement, or marriage, and no matter where you are in your spiritual life, the Father deeply desires to pour out his love over his sons and daughters; to know and be known by them in a singular, specific way. In every vocation, we hear the song of his love for us.
We had the privilege of a conversation with Bobby Angel and Jackie Francois Angel, husband and wife authors of the recently released Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage. Forever features six weeks' worth of daily reflections and questions for couples to read together (Lent could be an ideal time to dive in with your beloved), with the intention of drawing them nearer to the Father and illuminating the truths of the human heart that ring eternal, even in a culture of constantly changing attitudes and wedding trends.
Read on for the Angels' take on these topics of learning to love a singular, specific person in your spouse, our longing to be known, Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and their advice for engagement and marriage.
Who did you write this book for? Is it just for married couples, or would others benefit from it as well?
We wrote this book for everyone! While specifically targeted to those already married, we wanted it to be accessible for people who are dating, engaged, newly married or married for 20 years, as well as any single person who wants to consume more content on the Theology of the Body and maybe learn some tidbits about marriage. Our hope is that this book could help people in all different stages of the journey, from an engaged couple getting married in the Catholic Church and getting reacquainted with the faith, to even those couples married for a long time who have studied Theology of the Body and are glad to have a resource that allows them to pray together nightly and learn more about their faith and each other.
You both do quite a bit of speaking and teaching to young adults around the world; what have you noticed in terms of contemporary young adults' attitudes toward and ideas about marriage? Did this play a role in how you wrote your book?
For those young adults who actually do want to get married (since so many young adults are foregoing marriage to just cohabitate), there is often this idea that marriage will solve all their problems or make that “ache” of the heart go away. We try to share that the best thing to do as a single person is to focus on being healthy--emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually--and to realize that marriage won’t make your problems (like insecurity or a habit of pornography use) go away, but rather magnify and exacerbate them.
In our book, Forever, we also try to show that God is the only one who can satisfy every desire of our hearts. Marriage is just a sign and foretaste of the Heavenly union and marriage with God in Heaven. Thus, if God is not “enough,” nothing will ever be, not even a fantastic marriage.
So, if single people can go into marriage knowing no human being, not even their spouse, is perfect like God, nor can their spouse heal or fix all their problems--like God and some therapy can--it will lay a much healthier foundation than having the previously stated notions.
Why did you choose to base your reflections on St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body?
We both experienced renewals in our faith through dynamic youth ministry programs as well as a secondary “jolt” of excitement in encountering the rich teachings of St. John Paul II. As people with very real desires and and that ever-present ache to know and be known, JPII retold our beautiful Christian faith by focusing on the call to union stamped into our physical bodies. Good news, indeed!
In an age where so much distortion and heartache comes from the misuse of our bodies, reading and learning the Theology of the Body was eye-opening and refreshing. It put to words that ache for communion and gave us a tangible way of integrating our desires, rather than merely fighting or suppressing them. It’s the Gospel re-told in a new way; it’s the antidote our fallen world needs. We both drank deeply of this vision before meeting each other, so beginning a relationship and a marriage--and now a family--with this understanding is a tremendous grace and responsibility. We feel blessed to be able to share it with the world.
What role does prayer as a couple play in your marriage? What advice do you have for engaged couples and newlyweds on how to begin praying together?
Be patient with each other! You’ve likely spent decades praying on your own before coming together, so know that it’s a bit of a dance where you will step on each others’ toes. Communicate what you like to do together and also what you may prefer to do on your own. For example, maybe you like to do the rosary together but spiritual reading alone; or vice versa. Figure out what works for you as a couple and stick to it.
Also, different seasons of life call for changes. If you’re blessed with children, your prayer rhythm will change. Make the most of the time you have; quality over quantity. Look at children as an opportunity of prayer (and purgation!) instead of obstacles to your prayer.
If you could give one piece of marital advice to the brides and newlyweds reading this interview, what would it be?
Communication, communication, communication! Learn how to communicate well with God, and learn how to communicate well with your spouse. Communication with God is what prayer is, and being honest with God about your hurts, brokenness, desires allows a lot of healing and freedom.
Communication with your spouse is essential! Learning how to argue in a healthy way, learning each others’ love languages, and communicating your desires and expectations in every area of marriage (from how to raise children to who does what part of the housework to what pleases each other sexually) is essential to growing in love for one another and having a marriage that lasts “‘til death do us part.”
Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel live in Orange County, CA. Jackie is a traveling speaker and worship leader, as well as a songwriter and recording artist with Oregon Catholic Press. Bobby is a campus minister and theology teacher at Servite High School, an all-boys' Catholic High School in Anaheim. They have traveled to speak both nationally and internationally to share their faith and present the Church's vision of life-giving love. They recently welcomed their third child.