Stressed By All the Tasks and Projects of Wedding Planning and Newlywed Life? Words of Wisdom from St. Teresa of Calcutta.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

When asked where she drew the energy to serve the poorest, sickest, and most unseen individuals of her city day after day, St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed that time and attention are gifts to be given from one human heart to another. It wasn’t about quantity, she emphasized, because “love is inefficient.”

Love is inefficient. A privileged world away from the streets of India, these words rang out nonetheless as I prepared to enter into my vocation. 

Throughout my engagement, and on into marriage and young family life, I have experienced love’s inefficiency and am better for it.

I experienced it the afternoon my husband and I met halfway between Pennsylvania and West Virginia and attempted to create a wedding registry in a single afternoon. Arguments ensued as we felt the temptation to materialism and pressure of limited time together. 

I experienced it in my desire to spend significant time with each of our wedding guests as we circled the tables at our reception, wishing I could sit down for an extensive catchup while knowing there were dozens of other friends and family members to greet. Feeling the tension of being gracious for photos and hugs alongside the need to continue moving through the room.

I experienced it in our new apartment after our honeymoon, frequently prioritizing cleaning, unpacking, decorating, and thank you notes over quality time with my husband. And I continue experiencing it now, fighting digital distractions and my desire for an orderly home while striving to be present and attentive to my children. 

Have you been through something similar? A goal with a need for convenience and speed--a need for efficiency--that can come at the cost of your relationships and your spiritual life.

Wedding planning and the transition to married life bring with them countless tasks to resolve and check off, yet I’m reminded that love is my ultimate vocation and ultimate priority: reverence and thanks to the Father who has given these gifts and opportunities; sacrifice for and sincere attention to my family.

Though I remain far from perfect in this dimension of love, I’ve often recognized that perceived inefficiencies and inconveniences that I view as slowing me down until I can enjoy the “real” goal of time, conversation, and leisure with those I love, aren’t actually steps along the path to an end point at all. Instead, the Lord repeatedly shows me that in detours and on the path itself, I am prompted to embrace inefficiency and be present for the moment in which he has placed me. 

If that means our wedding registry could have been broken down into separate tasks as my husband and I enjoyed our weekend together instead of running to accomplish as much as possible; if the dishes aren’t done but I’ve gotten to read on the couch with my kids, what might seem like inefficiency is, in reality, an opportunity for connection, encounter, intimacy. An opportunity for a greater love.

What might seem like a distraction or inconvenience from a task at hand can, with a changed perspective, become invitations to realize our own poverty: without the Father, we’re capable of nothing.

When we reject the idols of efficiency and productivity in wedding planning and in daily married life, we allow ourselves to step forward in trust, to embrace his mercy, and to let our eyes be opened to a true seeing and deeper understanding of those we are called to love.

We love hearing your experiences and growing together in sisterhood. What areas of engagement or newlywed life have brought you struggles with efficiency, and how have you overcome them? Share in the comments and on our social media.


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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Wedding Planning | Father Jacques Phillipe and Detachment from Wedding Planning Desires

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The wedding planning process can be a stressful one. A bride-to-be not only yearns for the fulfillment of her visions of beauty, but often faces the expectations from her fiance, bridesmaids, mother, sisters, mothers-in-law, and friends. Even more, the wide world of Pinterest and Google introduce infinite vendors, budgets, designs, and decisions.

In the face of overwhelming options, it can be easy for a couple to forget God’s providential role in their wedding planning process.

Father Jacques Phillippe offers encouragement to acquire a steadfast peace of heart in his book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace. Though his wisdom is not written in relation to wedding planning, his words speak truth into the decisions—and holy detachment—involved in planning a wedding with God. 

“Very frequently… the Lord asks only an attitude of detachment at the level of the heart, a disposition to give Him everything. But He doesn’t necessarily “take” everything… This detachment, even though it is painful at the moment, will be followed by a profound peace. The proper attitude then is simply to be disposed to give everything to God, without panic, and to allow Him to do things His way, in total confidence.”

Is the Lord asking you for a spirit of detachment in the midst of your wedding planning desires? If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of decisions and pressures in this process, take your worries and your desires to him in prayer. With a desire to give it all to him, release your desires into his providence and trust that he will fill your heart—and your wedding day—with joy and peace. 

“Abandonment is not natural; it is a grace to be asked of God. He will give it to us, if we pray with perseverance.”

This abandonment of desire is not easy to our human nature. But your efforts to collaborate with God in this process and to glorify him through your sacrament are acts of trust and love. He is with you throughout this journey. 

“Obviously we do not want to say that it is a bad thing to be able to anticipate things, to develop a budget or prepare one’s homilies. Our natural abilities are also instruments in the hands of Providence! But everything depends on the spirit in which we do things.”

You can leave the homily preparations to your priest. In the meantime, detachment does not mean you stop doing the necessary work. Fulfilling a call means you receive an opportunity from God’s providence and you work in collaboration with him. Continue utilizing your strengths, trusting your intuition, and remaining in a posture of receptivity for the next grace. 

“Once could even say that the surest way to lose one’s peace is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else… To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution: We must rely on God alone, with total trust in Him, as your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32).”

Offering your wedding planning desires to God is counter-cultural and, quite frankly, it’s not popular. Friends and family may not understand your peace which follows detachment. But, as Father Jacques Phillippe warns us, relying more heavily on human will rather than on God alone is the surest way to lose peace. Keep you heart on your heavenly Father and trust, with confidence, that your wedding day desires will be fulfilled. 

“The heart does not awaken to confidence until it awakens to love; we need to feel the gentleness and the tenderness of the heart of Jesus.” 

“To grow or to enrich one’s spiritual life is to learn to love.”

What’s the point of detaching ourselves from our desires and abandoning them to God? Love. As we grow in virtue, we grow in holiness and love. This season of preparation for your wedding day is about planning a beautiful day. More importantly, however, this is a season to prepare your heart to love and be loved by your groom and to grow in holiness through your sacrament of marriage. 


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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Is There a Definition of a "Catholic Wife?" How I Found My Identity in the Feminine Genius.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

So many of us pray throughout engagement and marriage to be good and holy wives. What does that actually mean, and how does it look in each woman’s life? For several years, I struggled to define who a holy, truly “Catholic” girlfriend, fiancee, and wife actually was.

I first heard the term “feminine genius,” as coined by Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women, on a summer retreat. The retreat introduced me to the letter and to Love and Responsibility, John Paul’s work illuminating the dignity and purpose of the human person, particularly as it relates to sexual ethics, the complementarity of men and women, and the real-life implications of how men and women relate to one another. 

These texts wrecked me, in the best way. My simpler, more youthful deas of love as feelings and gestures were torn down, replaced with the principles that love is an act of the will. Self-gift.

I attended the retreat with my college boyfriend. To be in a serious dating relationship, while reading a book about dating and all the potential obstacles to authentic love, struck me with insecurity. All of these ideas--love over utility, sincerity, honesty, chastity--grabbed my heart and made so much sense, yet they seemed like impossible standards. 

As a result, for several months I overanalyzed the nature of complementarity: I wondered if my actions communicated a sense of receptivity that the Pope said was integral to womanhood,while letting my boyfriend take a more initiating, leadership-focused role. I frequently questioned if I was living in a way that was truly “feminine.” 

My heart lived in a tension: I desired to be what I mistakenly perceived as the holiest type of Catholic woman, while also resisting passivity or weakness. When I was so concerned with whether I was being feminine in the right way, I wasn’t free.

Have you ever had a similar experience, wishing to be a prayerful, feminine, holy wife who is also a woman of strength and conviction? I found freedom in looking to Our Lady.

As I returned to school after the retreat and began attending a Marian prayer group, I delved into the mysteries of the Rosary for the first time. As I grew in devotion to Our Lady, I realized there is no single “type” of feminine genius, nor type of Catholic spouse, I needed to live by or fit into, because it is already there, integral to who we are. 

Within the term feminine genius there are as many ways to express femininity as there are unique, unrepeatable women in this world. Each of us is loved and willed into existence so specifically, with our own particular gifts.

If you find yourself looking for your purpose, particularly in preparations for marriage, I invite you to contemplate Mary as our ultimate womanly example. In her Magnificat at the Visitation, she joyfully proclaims, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” 

As women, we deeply desire to be seen. We can also help others to see the presence of the Lord. Mary proclaimed God’s love--magnified it--with her life. A prayer to do just that--to reveal God’s love to your husband, in body and spirit--radiates the Lord’s love. 

Where I used to mistakenly believe femininity meant a singularly calm, pious womanhood, I now know, through Mary’s making visible God’s love, that in reality the Father wants and needs women of all temperaments, spiritualities, hobbies, and strengths to make known his kingdom through their vocations. Only you can tell your story and share the love of God in a particular way; can love and sanctify your husband and future family in the ways they most deeply need.

The only true definition of a “Catholic wife” is the one specific to who you alone were created to be.

When I met and began dating my husband, there was an immediate ease. I saw “...that femininity doesn’t mean one thing only: it’s not always being the asked, never the asker; always the pursued, never the pursuer; always the comforted, never the comforter. It doesn’t mean being afraid to argue or voice strong opinions. It means loving my husband, in his uniqueness, and every person I encounter, in the specific way only I can.” 

My favorite Adoration chapel has a monstrance in the form of a wooden sculpture of Our Lady, holding out her arms. In her arms is the space for the Eucharist. We see how a woman is both holding--receiving--and magnifying her for all to behold. If we look to her, we can constantly revisit what it means to reveal him to others and bear his face, not our own, to the world.

In our identity as brides, the feminine genius calls women to be like a monstrance: only a vessel--a beautiful one, in soul and body--for revealing the Lord to our beloved, magnifying his love and presence to others. 


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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Newlywed Life | Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I was relatively aware how “everything” was going to change. In one day, I acquired a new roommate, an abundance of new household appliances and a new last name. Simultaneously, my husband and I were preparing for an international move—transitioning out of our jobs and community and into a new world of people, places, and norms. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

I did not have the same awareness of the resulting changes to my spiritual life and prayer routine. 

Following our wedding day, early mornings at an adoration chapel were replaced with making breakfast and enjoying coffee with my new husband. The spontaneous decision to attend daily Mass disappeared due to a lack of access to daily Mass in our new community. The experiences that once nourished my soul and my heart gave way to the new gifts and specific circumstances of married life. 

I’ve gained encouragement in my new role as a wife through the Benedictine saying, “Ora et labora,” or “pray and work.” This philosophy intertwines the responsibilities of vocation with our hearts’ longing for God. 

In this season of life, my “work,” my vocation as a wife, looks like cleaning the house and preparing meals, washing the dishes and doing laundry, planning a vacation and keeping in touch with extended family. 

In accordance with the Benedictine philosophy, the household chores, fulfilled as acts of service and love, can become a form of prayer. The active doing with my hands is a tangible form of prayer, of becoming a longing for God.

As we purify the intentions of our hearts and bring God to the front of our minds, every action—both at home and in our communities—becomes prayer. Waking up early enough to make a cup of coffee for your spouse is a prayer for his goodwill. Keeping in touch with extended family is a prayer of thanksgiving for your origins and support system. Upholding an orderly house as a practice of discipline is prayerful preparation to model a virtue of self-control to future children.  

If you, like me, are wrestling with the tension of incorporating old habits into new circumstances, take peace in knowing God is right where you are. Molding our prayer life according to our new vocational life does not mean surrendering spiritual practices altogether. Our hearts yearn for intimacy with both our spouse and God in a personal, trinitarian relationship. Lean into the ache to see how loving your spouse and God are united in the same action.


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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What are the Non-Negotiables in Your Relationship?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Do you and your fiancé or spouse ever experience a desire for order and ritual within your relationship?

As someone who resists the feeling of being boxed into any one identity or image, and who struggles with personal accountability in schedules and routines, I used to think living by a set of particular daily practices or principles--in my mind, a set of “rules”--were a limitation.

After seasons of struggling with purpose, intentionality, and motivation, I’ve begun to realize that incorporating an appropriate degree of order into my daily life and my marriage aren’t limiting: in reality, they create a greater sense of freedom.

Freedom, for my husband and I, has felt tangibly, practically real in the experiences of not feeling enslaved to household responsibilities or to self-focused desires. It’s felt like our time can be used well and for the service of each other and our family. Our growth in this area is the fruit of a recent discussion in which we talked about our individual and family priorities; what we deemed “non-negotiables” in our life together.

Read the Spoken Bride team’s experiences with and tips for designating household responsibilities with your spouse. 

The non-negotiables my husband and I identified for our marriage are: family dinner, daily walks together with our children, going to bed at or close to the same time as each other, and providing each other with time alone for prayer (the daily readings, Holy Hours or daily Mass) and renewal throughout the week (for my husband, it’s a weekly hockey league he plays in with his brothers, and for me, it’s time for journaling and running errands on my own).

I encourage you and your beloved to communicate about your own non-negotiables, whether you’re in the state of anticipating your future marriage, whether you’re adjusting to the new habits and closeness of newlywed life, or whether, like me, you’ve been married several years and are eager to refocus on your priorities as a couple. Recognizing one another’s love languages can provide great context for identifying your needs. 

Here, suggested starting points for creating your own list. You might create a list divided into different areas of your life, as cited below, or into daily, weekly, and monthly priorities.

Spiritual

Identify concrete times and ways to pray together. Consider incorporating daily prayers like the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours, committing to confession, Adoration, and/or daily Mass several times per month, celebrating particular days in the liturgical year, or a establishing a continual practice of reading and discussing the same spiritual book.

Find spiritual reading recommendations--including Theology, literature, and books on love and marriage--here.

Physical

Exercise and physical activity promote discipline and healthy ambition in all areas of your life. If working out--individually or together--is a priority for you, include it in your non-negotiables.

What’s more, in our creation as full persons, body and soul, the physical extends beyond exercise and looks to the relational. Discuss your outlook and needs regarding physical touch with your beloved, and determine ways appropriate to your relationship (whether engaged or married) to express affection. My husband and I, for instance, try to sit down on the couch together to chat and cuddle after our kids go to bed, before we begin our evening chores or leisure. I cherish the time spent reconnecting.

Read reflections on how a regular running habit helped one of our brides prepare emotionally, spiritually, and physically for marriage. 

Service

Are there particular responsibilities and sacrifices you can take on for the good of each other? Particularly for those whose love language is acts of service, daily assistance with chores and, God willing, family life, can be a meaningful non-negotiable that minimizes overwhelm and provides opportunities for sacrificial love. Your non-negotiables list might include matters like a nightly tidying up or making the bed in the morning.

Consider, as well, if service to your community--through weekly or monthly commitments to ministry, corporal works of mercy, volunteer work, or helping family and friends--is a high priority for your relationship.

Leisure

Identify ways you and your beloved can use your free time for both personal renewal and for nurturing your relationship. Depending on your individual temperaments and state in life, leisure preferences can widely vary, and are worth communicating about honestly.

Discuss ways to embrace leisure time in ways that leave the both of you feeling restored and close to one another: consider weekly or monthly date nights, designated times of day where your phones stay in another room, or pursuing shared hobbies.

Tired of the endless Netflix scroll? Read 8 inspired, non-TV ideas for your quality time

Although my husband and I aren’t perfect at meeting our daily, weekly, and monthly non-negotiables, simply having identified and committing to them has brought a deeper sense of purpose, intention, and yes, freedom, to our life, particularly in our season of raising a young family. We’d love to hear yours, as well. Share your non-negotiables (whether official or unofficial) in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.


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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Reflections in a Chalice

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

There are several moments from our wedding day frozen in my mind as a still life memory. These memories become as clear as a picture when I tell a story from that day. Sometimes, an external trigger causes one of those freeze frame moments to captivate my full attention like a daydream.

Recently, as I participated in the Liturgy of the Mass on a routine Sunday morning, I was transported to a vivid memory, but relieved the moment with entirely new perspective.

During the Eucharistic prayers, the literal surroundings faded out of my periphery and I was transported to the Eucharistic prayers during our wedding Mass. On our wedding day, I noticed a reflection in the chalice; the image fused itself to my mind as a picture I will never forget. It wasn’t until the most recent trigger of that moment when a rush of the Holy Spirit brought meaning to my grace-filled memory.

I felt my husband kneeling by my side at the foot of the altar. Our beloved priest lifted the chalice high above our heads, as he stood with power and grace in persona Christi. As I looked up in wonder and awe and complete surrender to the beauty of that moment, I was captivated by mirror image of myself and my husband, dressed in white, on our knees in prayer and thanksgiving. Our picture was the image in the shimmering gold of the chalice.

The chalice is the cup which holds the red wine: the juice of the fruit of the vine. Through the Eucharistic prayers and the Liturgy of the Mass, the wine becomes the Blood of Christ.

The contents of that chalice become a mingling of water and wine, humanity and divinity, mercy and love, death and new life.

As we knelt far below the greatness of that chalice, my husband and I were the visible reflection in its surface. This image is a metaphor of a powerful truth: on our wedding day, we became the visible reflection of Christ’s sacrifice, physical bodies to share sacrifice as love.

This is the call of the vocation to marriage.

In marriage, a bridegroom and his bride become the image of Christ and the Church. The two become one reflection of Christ’s love. Like the blood turned wine, acts of sacrifice are transformed into acts of love. Like the intoxicating effects of wine, the fruits of love are intoxicating in the most holy, joyful, and abundant ways through marriage and family life.

In the sacrament of marriage, God offers brides and grooms a gift. He offers men and women the glory of the Passion, so husbands and wives may both receive God’s love and become co-creaters of new love—new life—to share Love within in their homes and communities.

Where did the wine, the blood, in that chalice come from? Jesus carried a wooden cross on his back then he died upon that cross. The pain and agony of that experience is real. In the same way, there will be pain and agony in our marriages. But this is not the end. As we see a foreshadow of our vocation in Christ’s story, we too can have constant hope in the joy of the resurrection: the infinite pouring and sharing of love for ages to come.

The next time you attend Mass, pray for the eyes to see your own vocation on the altar, being broken and shared as a visible sign of love. God desires to share these graces with us. This is the joy we are called to live on this side of heaven.


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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Your Wedding is an Icon.

KIKI HAYDEN

 

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

The wedding at Cana became an icon when, through Christ’s signs, it revealed Christ’s glory to his disciples. In her book Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols, Madeleine L’Engle writes, “…an icon…is an open window to God.”

Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests speak of traditional painted icons in the same way: Icons are windows. An icon provides catechesis that transcends the boundaries of literacy and education. Like the marriage at Cana, your own wedding is an icon—a window to see God’s love.

At your wedding, you and your beloved are witnesses to the greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When you and your beloved join God in a sacramental covenant, you become a visible truth of love, just like a traditional painted icon. Your guests not only see an exchange of human love, but also gaze through the window of your wedding to see a beautiful image of God’s love.

Even within the strict traditions of painted icons in Eastern Christianity, iconographers bring personal interpretations to their creative work. I have seen several different icons depicting the wedding at Cana. In many, Jesus and Mary are conversing privately in the corner. In some, they are instructing the servants. In one, they are larger than life, embracing the newly married couple like children. In its own way, each icon is a reminder to “Do whatever he tells you.”

Just like painted icons, Catholic weddings follow a structure. Every Catholic rite—Roman, Byzantine, Chaldean, etc.—fulfills the sacrament in a different way. Within each tradition, every couple infuses their wedding day with a unique flavor.

You probably didn’t choose the basic order for your wedding ceremony, but you chose the hymns to set the mood. And while your reception may include a traditional set of events, such as the first dance and cutting of the cake, you and your family have selected the décor, food, and music. Even the way you interact with each other, your guests, and with Jesus throughout the day can have deep positive effects that only you can offer.

There is no other couple exactly like you, and you are an icon of God’s love in all your quirks, your challenges, and your strengths.

Unplanned moments on your wedding day can become small icons when they are windows for others to see God’s love. For me and my husband, one surprising iconic moment was during the dance of Isaiah. During this event in the Byzantine Catholic wedding ceremony, the priest leads the bride and groom in three circles around the Gospel book: a tradition full of symbolism.  

As we began a slow, reverent march, Father smiled slyly and reminded us this was a dance—he instructed us to “Give it a wiggle!” He encouraged us to literally dance our way around the Gospel. I assure you, “Give it a wiggle” is not written in the liturgical books. That dance became a surprising icon for us, and for our guests, to see God’s joy and delight.

Iconography is crucial to Eastern Christian  spiritual formation because icons have many layers of meaning. Regardless of a person’s background or education, they can look at a spiritual image, understand some part of the story, and relate to the depiction of a human experience. God can infuse truth and hope in the hearts of everyone who views the icon.

With greater knowledge of symbolism, theology, and iconography, a viewer can glean more nuanced truths from the image.  The colors of robes and the placement of hands, for example, impart specific spiritual messages.

Your wedding also has many layers of spiritual teachings. Guests with no religious convictions, people of different faiths, and seasoned Catholics and Christians can all encounter Jesus’ love at your wedding. Whether they are moved by the beauty of the day or the beauty of two lives becoming one, your wedding guests can reflect on the human experience and spiritual truths of union, covenant, and love.  

Prayers, readings, hymns, and traditions can be a window to see God for those more familiar with Church teachings. Jesus knows the hearts of everyone present, and he will use the day to draw each individual into his loving embrace.

The story of the marriage at Cana shows us how Jesus abundantly blesses weddings and reveals his great love through weddings and receptions. He will love your wedding. After all, your wedding is an icon, a beautiful and unique window to his divine love.


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About the Author: Kiki Hayden is a writer and Bilingual Speech Therapist living in Texas. Her dog is named Goldberry and her husband is named Michael. She is a Byzantine Catholic. To find out more about how God is changing her life through speech therapy, visit her website.