Readers Share | Receiving a Rose from Saint Therese of Lisieux

 

Today is the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux: a Caramelite nun, a Doctor of the Church, and a saintly friend to many. Upon her death bed, Therese said, "After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved..."

With awe and gratitude for the promises of her Little Way, we celebrate the ways Therese has showered Spoken Bride brides, couples, and women with roses--both tangible and through spiritual grace. 

If you are curious about praying a novena to Saint Therese, today would be a great day to begin offering your heart to Jesus through her Little Way.

Spoken Bride readers share their testimonies of receiving a rose, an answered prayer, from the Little Flower: 

A Rose for Discernment 

Hapjimmy4 | The first I prayed leading up to a retreat my then boyfriend and I went on to discern if we should be married. I asked Therese for red roses if I should marry him. When we arrived we each had separate cabins. He opened the door to his and there stood a statue of St. Therese hold a huge bouquet of red roses. I almost screamed I was so excited. It was so hard restraining myself because my husband needed to learn we were to be married on his own. I shared the story with him after we were engaged. 

Teresa_likes_chocolate | Right before I started dating my fiancé I did a novena to her for clarity and discernment. I found a rose on the ground literally seconds after deciding that. We are engaged now.

Avaacatherine | She revealed my vocation to marriage through red roses.

Thesongwriterstephanie | I wanted more confirmation on the relationship I was in at the time, who is now my husband. I prayed the Novena and requested for a rose that had two colors, a white rose with red lining. I happen to finish the Novena at the start of a women's retreat with corazonpuronyc, and the Rose on my bed was exactly the one I requested--and the only one in the room of 10 that was exactly how I requested. Everyone else had red roses or yellow roses. 

Kataducci | I was in a relationship and was unsure whether to stay with the man or break up. I asked for a single rose if I was supposed to be single and multiple roses if we were supposed to stay together. My nana passed away within those nine days and the ninth day was her funeral. My mom, not knowing about the novena I was praying, handed me a single rose from her casket. She listens and provides!

Youngcaballerolife | Yes, when discerning if I was to date my now husband/ if he was to be my future spouse 

Magin5 | I was praying for guidance during a relationship. I was asking for a red rose if staying in the relationship was a good idea or a white rose if it should end. I started praying a novena to St. Thérèse and on the first day my boyfriend had sent me a picture of a book with a white rose on it. During the middle of the novena he started a conversation about the future and the relationship came to an end as we both felt this was best. On the last day of the novena I went to a wedding and our centerpiece was one single pink rose. I took this as St. Thérèse telling me that a pink rose (a mix of both) meant she was watching out for me and to trust God and He would give me peace.

Rach__marie | I prayed for pink roses when my now fiance began pursuing me to affirm our discernment. The first time we went to adoration together, on the last day of the novena, the adoration chapel had a huge bouquet of pink roses in front of Our Lord! 

Floratherese | asked for colorful roses while discerning my relationship with my husband. I saw them during winter. 

Adventureblood | I received a bouquet of roses on the last day of the novena from my boyfriend (now husband). He didn’t even know I was praying the novena! 

Chelseasliwaphotography | I asked St. Therese for a yellow rose to let me know I was with the right man. A few months later he bought me yellow roses (without having known my prayer). We broke up later on because he wasn’t Catholic and I was fearful of the issues we would have. The day after we broke up, he went to RCIA. Nine months later he entered the Church. Three months after that he asked me to marry him in a church in Mexico City and we noticed after I said yes that a single yellow rose was sitting high on the altar behind where he proposed. 

Jetsettingsrta | I prayed for my vocation. Red for married, white for religious life, and yellow for me to wait. I found 400 yellow roses on the last day. 

 

A Rose for Pregnancy 

Mrsthomas97 | I was married at 40. We had an ectopic pregnancy. My mother was a special friend of St. Therese and she began to pray that we would have children. We got a call from my mother-in-law overseas and said a young woman asked if my husband and I would adopt her baby. My mother started a Novena as soon as she heard about the baby. There was no assurance the mother would go through with it. The birth mother flew to our home and gave birth. Our daughter was born on October 1, St. Therese’s feast day. Three weeks later, the reliquary of St. Therese visited our parish and I took our daughter there and of course, there were roses everywhere. Seven weeks after our daughter was born, we were pregnant with twins

Hapjimmy4 | The second was if my husband and I should keep trying for a baby after some months of not being able to conceive--again asked for red roses. The last day of the novena a women named Therese, wearing a red shirt, and holding a red rose pen came to my bible study. Two weeks later our daughter “Anne Casey Therese” was conceived. Thank you, St. Therese!

Rach__marie | I prayed a novena leading up to my sister’s delivery for her and her child’s safety. She didnt share names prior to the birth, but her daughter’s middle name ended up being Rose! 

Katethibs | I prayed for clarity and peace with our miscarriage and got a white rose! 

 

A Spiritual Rose 

Meaghan.osborne | I have a few times! However, most of the times I have prayed her novena I haven’t received physical roses, but spiritual confirmation/an answered prayer during the Novena or shortly after. She always comes through!

Gingerjulesg | I visited her home in Lisieux. When we got out of the car I immediately smelled the strong scent of roses. My friend didn’t smell them and the closest rose bush was 75 feet away and only had a faintly sweet scent. I’m convinced the experience was a gift from the LIttle Flower herself! 

 

A Rose for Family

Kelly_marie_taylor | I prayed a novena to St. Thérèse in the midst of our struggles to blend our family of 6. Dating and marriage after trauma and divorce is a complicated journey, and so my request during the novena became to find unity in Christ for the seemingly broken pieces of our family. While traveling out of state, we attended Mass for the The Assumption, and the priest gathered a single rose from the altar display before he processed out of the church, handed it to our tiniest child, and said, "We do receive gifts from Heaven. Put this on your family's altar." We love you, St. Thérèse! And we love Our Lord, who unifies and strengthens unceasingly!

Jaramillomaggie | I didn’t even pray the whole novena (I intended to make it an official nine-day novena). One day I simply asked Saint Therese as I drove past the cemetery, “Can you send me a sign that my grandparents are in heaven?” When I got to the local adoration chapel there was in front of the altar a HUGE bouquet of my favorite colored roses!!! It’s like a coral color. I’ll take that as a big fat answer to my prayers. 

Jacquelinewh321 | I was asking for a rose as a sign of God's love that he loved me and for my family, because I was not feeling confident as my uncle was very sick. Since I started praying, I felt a growing sense of peace and love in my heart. When I'm with God and with my family, I felt a renewed sense of connection and understanding. It was confirmed with a snapchat of a rose, then a single rose, and then a whole bouquet on the day my novena ended.

Savannahrhea | I prayed a novena to St. Thérèse in the middle of winter when my family’s house wouldn’t sell. It had been on the market on and off for almost 4 years. We were all in a really bad place spiritually and mentally from where we were living. After the novena was over, my mom found a rose had sprouted out of the the cold, hard ground. We were amazed and our house sold that spring.

Mbdevenney | I have many stories of St. Therese's intercession! She never fails to remind me that she is near and helping! My most recent favorite was from last summer. My father had suddenly passed away and I have an association with yellow roses connected to my father. My family had gone to his favorite vacation spot 2 months after his death. I prayed to St. Therese to find my dad and send me yellow roses when she found him. I specifically asked to send them on the beach. Our second to last day, a bouquet of roses washed up on shore right in front of me with the yellow roses on top. I was in complete shock. 

Mmburckel | When my sister had mono and was super sick. I prayed and a neighbor gave us a rose bush! 

 

A Rose for a Personal Prayer 

Schimmoelleralyssa | I finished praying a novena to St. Thérèse while on mission with the sisters of charity in Haiti, and I received a rose and a St. Thérèse prayer card together from another man volunteering with them!

Sb_ratcliffe | St. Therese is an amazing intercessor. I’ve always requested 3 red roses. I sent prayers regarding my spouse, my university choice, small decisions, big decisions. One Christmas I decided to ask for snow in Georgia - a white Christmas. Does anyone from Georgia remember December 25, 2010? The first white Christmas in ATL since 1881! I honestly haven’t asked for anything since because it was so big, I barely believe it still! 

Sammierosecarel | I prayed for yellow roses if I was meant to move to Flagstaff for a youth minister job and white roses if I was supposed to stay in Scottsdale. She sent me yellow roses and to this day, one of my teens say I saved her life by being her youth minister in Flagstaff!

Daniellereneephotos | I prayed for a shower of roses, and I was sent roses on my surprise birthday cake, a rosary, and a bouquet of roses at the feet of my church’s statue of Mary. Incredible prayer and very humbling!

Mary_leslie_maharg_ | I haven’t done a novena to her, but I know that every single time my sister in law has done one, she has always received a rose. A few years ago, on the last day of the novena, she was praying outside of our local abortion clinic by herself on an afternoon it was closed. She wasn’t holding a sign or anything, just kneeling and silently praying. A woman pulled her car over, got out, and handed her a rose. She said the rose was to say thank you for being out there praying--she had an abortion scheduled in that building a couple years ago, but saw someone outside praying and because of that she didn’t even go inside. And then she pointed to her little boy in the back seat and said it’s because of people like her that he is alive today, and thanked her again. 

Oliviadjak | I saw red roses for 175 days after I prayed a novena to her; never heard of that happening.

Catholic_graces | I asked for her to send me roses if my dad was in heaven. One evening I was making tacos for dinner and I had a very strong smell of roses. Not trusting myself I asked my husband if he smelled something and he said yes roses. Some time later I asked her to send me roses if my husband's mom was in heaven. She sent me a visual picture of a black rose that was tipped with a beautiful blue and sparkled like diamonds. I asked my priest about this and he said that she was probably still in purgatory. Just a couple of months ago I asked her to send me roses when my mom gets to heaven and just a few days later my daughter and I were driving in my car and we both smelled the scent of roses for a good 4 minutes. She has been good to me through God's blessings.

Racejgale | I prayed for my board exam that was on her feast day. When I get home my sister had a bouquet of red roses...I passed.

Ashleyokwuosa | I was at a crossroads in my life and I needed help making a decision. So my friend told me about Saint Théresè’s novena and I prayed it. It was the best decision I ever made and it was the first time I had ever prayed a novena. I felt so blessed to have her intercede on my behalf and guide me through a difficult time in my life.

Mrseliadams07 | My husband and I have received quite a few roses from our little saint! When we were dating, we prayed her novena leading up to her feast day for our relationship and she left us a beautiful pink rose at a bar that we went to! Most recently we prayed for a job decision for my husband and asked for a specific colored rose, and when we went out to dinner that night the only open table was a table outside with a rose on it the color we asked for! She’s too good to us.

Ksulauren129 | When I was at a wedding in St. Paul in June 2016, I asked for her intercession at the cathedral. They have a small chapel for her. I specifically asked for her help for a new job and my vocation. The next day, I found her novena prayer card at a random church...asked her for yellow roses or white tulips for both intentions before my next birthday. In December of that year, I started a new job. I spotted a bouquet of roses in a church kitchen after my first week. There was also a cute boy I noticed at work. The second weekend after starting that job I saw another bouquet of yellow roses. Well, I’m marrying the cute boy in three weeks!

Denaeelenora | My fiance and I prayed this novena when we were discerning whether to have a full Mass or not at our wedding. My family is not Catholic, so I was hesitant to have the Eucharist, since it may create an obvious divide. We asked for yellow flowers if we were to have a full Mass, lilies for whatever we want because God will bless it either way, or red flowers if just the liturgy. On the 5th day we went for a walk around the reception hall and we came across a patch of yellow lilies! We felt so loved and free, it confirmed for us that we wanted a full Mass and that it would be blessed and okay for my family’s experience. 

Allygirl122 | we prayed for providence from St. Therese for a rug for our daughter’s room. The floor gets extremely cold in the winter. Someone donated a huge rug that fits perfectly in her room and it had roses all over it.

Maryhinze | I prayed for a red or white rose and received a bouquet of pink roses!

 

For more bridal stories involving Saint Therese’s intercession, check out this Engagement Feature and this Wedding Story.

Does your engagement or wedding story involve the intercession of a saint? Consider submitting your story to be featured on Spoken Bride.

Unveiling Mystery | Venerable Fulton Sheen on Sacramental Marriage

MARIAH MAZA

 

We know through the wisdom of Scripture and tradition that Christian marriage, a lifelong, indissoluble covenant between two baptized persons, is a sacrament. In the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks about the self-giving love of husbands and wives and how this love reflects the love of Christ for his bride, the Church. 

Through Jesus, marriage is elevated to something more profound, divine, and mysterious. At the end of Ephesians 5, Paul confirms this: “This (marital love) is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.” This “great mystery” of marital love is something sacramental.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    THE MANTILLA COMPANY

In fact, the origin of the word “sacrament” can be traced back to the Greek word mysterion meaning “mystery.” In return, the Latin word mysterium can be translated to mean “sacrament.” This is why, in the Byzantine Rite, the seven sacraments are referred to as the Holy Mysteries.

But these sacraments, despite being “mysterious” by their very nature, are something intended for us to enter into. The mysteries of the Church are not to remain shrouded in secret. God desires to reveal the divine beauty and reality of them to us through his grace. This element of mystery and the subsequent “unveiling” of it is especially true in marriage.

Soon-to-be-beatified Archbishop Fulton Sheen had a deep understanding of the divine mystery of sacramental marriage, despite his unmarried state in the priesthood. In his spiritual classic Three to Get Married, he writes, “great are the joys in marriage, as there is the lifting of progressive veils, until one is brought into the blazing lights of the Presence of God.” 

He wrote about four main mysteries, or “veils,” progressively lifted in marriage as a couple journeyed deeper and deeper into the sacrament: 

“In a true marriage, there is an ever-enchanting romance...First, there is the mystery of the other partner, which is body-mystery.”

Before marriage, a couple’s growing desire for intimacy manifests on multiple levels: emotional, spiritual, and physical. But until the sacrament is conferred, the ultimate expression of this desire for intimacy, for complete communion--for consummation--cannot yet be experienced. In the marriage vows, “both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh” (CCC 2364). Now the beauty of marital intimacy can be fully expressed in the spouses’ one flesh union. The first “veil” is lifted, because the beloved becomes totally known emotionally, spiritually, and physically in the sexual act of complete self-gift.

“When that mystery is solved and the first child is born, there begins a new mystery. The husband sees something in the wife he never before knew existed, namely, the beautiful mystery of motherhood. She sees a new mystery in him she never before knew existed, namely, the mystery of fatherhood.”

The Church teaches that “conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment” (CCC 2366). The mystery of sacramental marriage does not end after the wedding night, but rather grows and deepens through the fruitfulness of that consummation. 

Many times, that fruitfulness comes in the form of a child. And as a husband and wife welcome the birth of their child, an incredible transformation occurs in their hearts: the birth of their identities as mother and father. This reveals a facet of the beloved previously unknown. Spouses can delight in the unveiling of motherly and fatherly love they witness in each other with the onset of parenthood.

“As the children reach the age of reason, a third mystery unfolds, that of father-craft and mother-craft – the disciplining and training of young minds and hearts in the ways of God.”

Proverbs 22:6 admonishes parents to “train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” And thus, another mystery unfolds in marriage: the mystery of the “domestic church.” Husbands and wives, now mothers and fathers, take on the responsibility of spiritually forming the souls of their children. They strive in family life to imitate the Holy Family where Christ himself was born and raised. To do this, the spouses must continue to lean on the endless graces of the marriage sacrament, which, in its fruitfulness, has only grown in life and love since their wedding day.  

“As the children grow into maturity, the mystery continues to deepen, new areas of exploration open up, and the father and mother now see themselves as sculptors in the great quarry of humanity, carving living stones and fitting them together in the Temple of God, Whose Architect is Love.”

As parents watch their children grow in age and virtue, they witness the fruits of their prayers and spiritual formation. In time, patience, and trust in the Lord, spouses can hope to see their sons and daughters become saints who take their place in salvation history. 

At this point the time before children, when the “body-mystery” of their one flesh union was yet to be unveiled, is many years past. But the mysteries of sacramental marriage continue, until, in the words of Fulton Sheen, husband and wife are “brought into the blazing lights of the Presence of God,” when Heaven itself is unveiled. “The body may grow older,” says Archbishop Sheen, “but the Spirit grows younger, and love often becomes more intense.”

If you are engaged, the excitement of these unknowns becoming known is something to joyfully anticipate as your wedding day approaches. If you and your beloved are newlyweds, perhaps you have already experienced the sacred beauty that awaits behind one or two of these “veils.” May you find joy in the unending mystery of the sacrament and strength in the graces God desires to lavish on you and your beloved.

Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us, for all engaged couples preparing for marriage, and for newlyweds just beginning to unveil the mysteries of the sacrament.


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

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4 Secular Novels Featuring Insights into Authentic Love + Catholic Marriage

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Can non-spiritual reading have a place in your formation and prayer life?

Catholic author Walker Percy said, “Fiction doesn’t tell us something we don’t know. It tells us something we know but don’t know that we know.” 

The Catholic faith offers us a rich treasury of theologians, ancient and contemporary, who have shed light on Scripture, the sacraments, prayer, and more, in a language we can comprehend in our humanness. And certainly, there are a wealth of resources on relationships and sacramental marriage, in particular.

I’ve found my world-view changed for the better by the religious works I’ve encountered on love and marriage. Yet the truth is, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable admitting that spiritual reading isn’t my favorite genre. 

A lifelong literature lover, it’s taken time for me to articulate what I now deeply believe to be true: stories that convey goodness, truth, and beauty--those that reveal the nature and purpose of the human person and human love--can be just as powerful as theological writing in showing us who we are and directing our hearts to God. 

While spiritual writing provides a good and necessary framework and lens for our understanding, literature, for me, brings these truths to life in a tangible, embodied way as we experience characters’ interior lives. Together, they supplement one another and offer an enriching education in self-knowledge, love, and faith.

Here, for fiction lovers like me, a selection of novels beyond perennial Catholic favorites like Austen, Waugh, O’Connor, Percy, and Berry, that illuminate the human heart and offer life-giving insights into love and marriage.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza

This story of estranged siblings and parents re-entering each other’s lives for a wedding jumps seamlessly through time and memory, sharing such recognizable, true-to-life accounts of longtime marriage, growing up with siblings, experiencing your first love, and the pain of distance and division. I finished this book in tears, filled with the hope that no matter how imperfect our earthly relationships might be, our hope lies in our resurrection at the heavenly wedding banquet.

Sample passage: “I have looked up at this sky since I was a child and I have always been stirred, in the most secret depth of me that I alone cannot access, and if that is not my soul awakening to the majesty of my creator then what is it?”

Circe, Madeline Miller

The centuries-long lifetime of the witch from The Odyssey, who famously turned men into pigs, is reimagined in this beautiful novel. Reading about the Greek gods’ immortal nature—and Circe’s resulting years of solitude and loneliness—I was repeatedly struck by the fact that eternal life means nothing without the divine Beloved; the Bridegroom. It is the love of God that gives meaning to our creation and existence.

What’s more, I found myself deeply moved by the incarnational, embodied dimension of love, as this book explores through the nature of gods and men: Christ took on human flesh and a mortal life out of love. Our mortality is not the end of the story.

Sample passage: “I have aged... Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I am vain and dissatisfied. But I do not wish myself back. Of course my flesh reaches for the earth.” 

Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan

How does the Lord work within the discernment choices we make? After sacramentally entering into a vocation and experiencing doubts, does it matter? This bittersweet story of two Irish Catholic sisters who immigrate to Boston in the mid-twentieth century delves into the daily rituals and intimacies that make up both married and religious life, with encouragement to seek God’s will in all things.

Sample passage:  “Think of a marriage, husband and wife. The piece of paper, the white wedding dress, they don't promise anything. A person has to stay there, fight for it, every day.” 

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

Love as an act of the will, rather than a flight of emotion, is integral to an authentic communion that imitates Christ’s own love. Is it possible, though, that an overcommitment to duty over emotion can become a source of regret?

As I read this story of an English butler and his relationships with his master and a fellow, female servant, I considered how the things we don’t say frequently speak as loudly as the things we do. I found it a poignant reflection on the human need for vulnerability and expressing affection.

Sample passage: “If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.” 

I love pondering the ways in which the worldly echoes the sacred; the ways in which popular or secular media expresses a universal truth that aligns with human nature and the Catholic faith. What novels can you recommend for insights into love and marriage? Share 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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“The Artist of Love” | A Young Bride’s Reflection on Writings by Alice Von Hildebrand

KATE THIBODEAU

 

This post contains an affiliate link. All opinions are our own and those of the vendors featured in this piece. We believe in authenticity and honesty, and only recommend products and services we would buy and use ourselves. For more information about our disclosure policy as required by the FTC, please see Spoken Bride’s Terms of Service.

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.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   HER WITNESS

PHOTOGRAPHY: HER WITNESS

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.

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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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