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A young bride faces a number of choices when it comes to defining her role within marriage. The conflicting worries and joyful surprises of marriage may become overwhelming when trying to establish a new role as someone’s wife and partner towards salvation.
I remember the first few months of marriage—working a new job and attempting to prove myself as a career woman, while also attempting to set up house, learn to cook and patiently maneuver through the transition. I found myself pulled in different directions while trying to solidify a mission statement or role for my new responsibilities as James’ wife. I pressured myself to strive for perfection in every field, while feeling limited by my inexperience.
The joy of my union to my wonderful husband was challenged by my personal expectations for perfection. In the tension, I lost sight of the sacred nature of being a wife.
A gift from a friend offered a new lens for me to comprehend my stress and pressure. By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride, a novel by Catholic authoress Alice Von Hildebrand, spoke to the many fears, questions, and experiences of my newlywed life.
This little book is filled with letters by a long married widow to her newlywed goddaughter, Julie, who faces trials and questions in her vocation. The daily struggles and triumphs of Julie and her husband mirrored many of my own. I read through pages thinking to myself, “My James does that!,” or “We have had this conversation!,” and “I, too, am guilty of this mistake.”
Von Hildebrand offers powerful spiritual advice in each letter, encouraging marital relationships for self-giving love and mutual respect. She paints a vision of marriage as it should be: learning how to love and lead one’s spouse to heaven through sacrifice.
Julie’s experiences reflected many of my own struggles, from trying to balance work with being a homemaker, to accepting the habits of a permanent roommate, my spouse. I marveled how through her godmother’s writing, she discovers her true role as a wife—despite both internal and external pressures—as “an artist of love.”
Von Hildebrand explains the meaning of this title by describing her love for oriental rugs, and how their complex beauty is made through tiny snippets of fabric. This image is a symbol of the many small acts and deeds of a wife, the artist, as she weaves together her sacrifices, efforts, and decisions to benefit her husband and family.
I take this message to heart as my mission statement as both James’ wife and a child of God. My vocation calls me to regard every challenge and duty in life with deference to my marriage. How will this decision impact our relationship? Does this word or action detract from my mission as the artist in our home? Does this contribute to the art of our marital love?
Regardless of the field in which I may be struggling, I need only simplify my motivations and focus them towards my vocation. My beginner’s errors and the fear of unknowns matter so little when I realize each sacrifice and trial, suffered with love, is an addition to the “quilt” I weave for the good of our family. In this truth is an ever present joy.
Being “an artist of love” is applicable to every role I may take on as a wife, as a working professional or a stay-at-home mom. As we age and mature in our marriage, so will our metaphorical “quilt”.
As a young bride-to-be searching for a peace in the daunting new territories of marriage, I am grateful to know of Hildebrand’s novel. Her simple words help me find purpose and meaning in each new trial and experience.
In the transitions of marriage and family life, I encourage every woman to not be overwhelmed by the stress of a new role. Do not pressure yourself to be excellent in every new undertaking, but have patience in every little action and sacrifice. Accept each challenge and make every decision in the confidence of your new mission: to be an “artist of love.” May your marriage be joyful in this pursuit!
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. Mama to angel baby, Charlotte Rose, and soon-to-arrive Baby Thibs, Kate has an English degree from Benedictine College, and 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.