Habits You Can Start Now to Prepare for Married Intimacy

 

Reserving the gift of the sexual embrace for the one person you commit your life to in the sacrament of matrimony is a gift of self. A gift which embodies chastity, freedom, and self-control; virtues which continue to grow throughout married life—no longer by withholding, but precisely through physical intimacy. 

Teachings of the Catholic Church surrounding sex and marriage are not a set of rules to control our personal lives or for the sake of abstinence alone. Rather, these are beautiful teachings of the Church to emphasize authentic love through a freely given gift of self, with an openness toward creating life. In this way, we embody the love of God.

Physical intimacy is offered as a chaste gift is when it parallels the gift of Christ to his bride, the Church. Sex makes visible the glorious vows offered and received on the wedding altar. 

Conversations surrounding sex and marriage are not just about sex. The dialogue is rooted in reverence for the human person and virtue of the human heart. Regardless of our relationship status, we are all called to grow in reverence and virtue. 

Our actions involving sexuality are some of the most important ways we can fulfill the universal call of holiness. Yet there are many ways we can grow in chastity, experience collaboration with God, and offer a profound gift of self prior to or outside of intimacy with a partner. 

Receive the Eucharist 

Receiving the Eucharist in the liturgy of the Mass is the epitome of intimacy with God. This is the moment when God proclaims his love and desire for intimate union with his children. Receiving the Eucharist with a pure heart is the greatest experience of physical and spiritual intimacy with God. 

When God offers his body, blood, soul and divinity and we receive him through our mouth and into our body, we experience the fullest reverence, virtue, chastity, and gift that we can experience on this side of heaven. The Eucharist is an image of the embrace between bride and groom; images of infinite union, which God prepares in heaven for every person. 

Bringing your desires, longings and aches to the father in the Eucharist is the most holy place we can turn to for healing and strength. He knows what it means to experience the ache of the human heart and he desires to pull us into deeper and more chaste relationship with him and with others. 

Feasting and Fasting 

Scripture affirms “prayer with fasting is good.” Fasting, most often associated with the season of Lent, is an opportunity for the faithful to prayerfully give something up to elicit an experience of longing. When we abstain from a tangible or consumable good and experience the ache of desire, our hearts yearn for more. That deep emotional encounter is a moment we can turn to God in prayer and ask him to fill the void in our hearts, bodies, and souls. 

There is nothing on earth, including sex (even sex within marriage), that can completely fill our hearts’ longings. Saint Augustine understood this perpetual ache when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 

Establishing a practice of regular fasting opens the heart to experience a deeper longing, raises our awareness of our hearts desires, and provides opportunities to grow in intimacy with God. Consider something small; for example, giving up fancy coffee drinks once a week as a prayer to experience desire, to grow in virtue and to understand freedom of saying “no.”

Relationships with the Saints

The saints are holy men and women who received understanding of God’s will for their lives and fulfilled it through their time on Earth. They are made available to us as spiritual—and very real—friends, mentors, and guides through prayer and devotion. 

Maybe the saints all feel like strangers to you, yet you desire some kind of mentor along this journey of chastity and self-control. Ask God to deliver you a holy friend and keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity to dive into a new relationship with a saint. Perhaps there is a saint who has recently become more prevalent in your life. If you sense they are seeking your attention, turn to them in a novena or devotion for guidance along this journey toward holiness.  

Delayed Gratification 

In a culture where we can acquire information and products almost immediately through modern technology, delayed gratification is an underappreciated skill. Through delayed gratification, practice withholding a desire with a confident hope of acquiring it in the future. As a small example, delay how quickly after dinner you indulge in dessert. The time of waiting is an opportunity to grow in patience and self-control.

As you train these muscles of your head and your heart, you build a muscle memory which will be a strength if or when you are tempted to engage in sexual intimacy in an unchaste way. Practice saying “no” through the freedom of your self-control for something small so you can experience the fullest joys—the fulest yes—for something truly divine.

The Feast of St. Joseph | A Fellow Human, A Saintly Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph: foster father of Jesus, spouse of Mary and head of the holy family. He was a carpenter, he was a man.

When we look to Joseph, we see a man who surrendered himself to the direction from an angel in his dreams. We read how he obeyed the command of God, loved and served Mary as his chaste spouse, and raised Jesus, the son of God, as his own earthly son.

Have you ever imagined when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in the caravan, only to find him days later, preaching to adult men in the temple? My heart goes out to Joseph. The parameters of his mission were simple: love, protect, and guide Jesus and Mary. All in all, through obedience and grace, Joseph fulfilled his calling. But in this experience of losing Jesus and consoling Mary, I imagine Joseph was tempted to worry and despair.

Years later, Joseph died when Jesus was 30-years-old, on the brink of his public ministry. I picture Joseph lying on his deathbed, preparing to part from his earthly life. Joseph must have felt both sorrow and joy as he left his family with anticipation for his son’s powerful mission. I imagine the deep sadness of Jesus and Mary who said goodbye to their beloved.

Reflecting on the stories of Joseph bring his humble holiness to a human reality.

As we gaze at Joseph in statues and paintings, recall stories of him in Scripture or reach out to him in prayer, we encounter a friend. He is so approachable; a human man who intimately encountered the divine every day. This man who we rightfully honor with holy veneration was conceived with original sin. He was as human as me and you.

In the vocation to married life, we are sacramentally offered good and holy gifts such as intimacy, vulnerability, and companionship. Receiving and living out these gifts can often send individuals and couples to the heights of love, or can expose a raw wound of human brokenness. Perhaps in a moment of insecurity we believe, “I am not enough.” In the midst of an argument we fear abandonment. In prolonged frustration and anxiety, we despair and lose trust in God’s providence.

It may be easy to admire an icon of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and assume the immense joy in their family life. Amidst the celebration of such pure trinitarian love of the family, I hope against hope that there were days Joseph wished he could love Mary better. Or days when he was disappointed by how he received Mary’s perfect love. Joseph’s imperfections are the only stains of sin in the holy family, yet his entire being—holiness and imperfection combined—was destined for his specific vocation.

Through both his human imperfection and pure intention, God empowered Joseph to love Mary, show Jesus about the love between a husband and a wife, and receive love from his family. In the same way, we are each called to be fully present with God in our unique vocation, to love with virtue despite our own shortcomings.

God has so carefully woven two lives together in your marriage. On the days when your sinful, selfish, or short-sighted human nature is too much to bear, remember goodwill and purity of heart are enough for love. In striving to love and be loved, moments which expose brokenness do not define a limit for love. Rater, these moments help us identify where grace and mercy can provide healing. Joseph’s example offers peace and encouragement to every person, for our hearts to become a channel for God’s love to shine through.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers encouragement to little souls, to those who recognize their long journey to perfection, “Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.”

You are human. Joseph was human. If he could fulfill his vocation to the Holy Family, you can fulfill your vocation in your own holy family. You were created for a mission exactly where you are. As you bring your completely human heart to God, you will grow—with an ever-deepening purity of heart—in the capacity to love and be loved.

St. Joseph, you sought to bring glory to God in every action and word. Together with your pure heart, Mary’s Immaculate heart, and Jesus’ Sacred heart, guide me to embrace my human imperfection with humility so that I may receive God’s mercy and grow ever more deeply into the virtue of my vocation. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Healthy Ways to Talk About You and Your Beloved's Pasts

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Have you and your fiancé’s past relationships--and your actions within them--influenced your engagement?

Before our wedding, my husband and I spoke extensively about regrets from former relationships, in everything from physical boundaries to the ways we’d fought or solved problems with our exes. Our discussions generally felt constructive, and were probably aided by the euphoria of newer love, making us quicker to forgive and express empathy than we might have been otherwise.

It wasn’t until recently, several years into marriage, that the impact of the past hit home for me. My husband and I imagined what we would have thought of each other if we’d met at a younger age. With lightness, trust, and an innocent curiosity in my heart, I asked if I could read some of the messages he’d exchanged with an old girlfriend. That lightness turned heavy as I read through nicknames and jokes so similar to ones my husband had written to me. I quickly clicked the window closed.

I didn’t feel sad that he’d ever had feelings for someone else. It was the echoes of our own relationship I read in his teenage self’s words that unsettled me, making me feel as if our love were somehow less unique.

I should be clear in stating that I don’t blame my husband in any way for this. After all, we didn’t even know of each other’s existence at the time he’d written those words, and essential parts of who we are are consistent in every relationship, romantic and otherwise. Rooted deep in my soul is the knowledge that I have chosen, and been chosen by, a man entirely committed and faithful to me. But it hurt all the same.

What I know now is that my asking to read that correspondence was neither healthy nor constructive. Our relationship has thrived on honest vulnerability about our past mistakes, yet I’ve realized honesty and prudence aren’t always the same thing.

Having already known and discussed my husband’s thoughts and areas of growth from that relationship, my asking to know it in more detail than necessary was fruitless, inflicting fresh salt on wounds that had long ago been cleansed. I wish I’d been more at peace with not knowing. While, in my opinion, it’s important and good to gently reveal your past errors in judgment or sexual sins in a broad sense, I’ve also arrived at the opinion that delving overly into specifics often causes more hurt than healing.

As you and your beloved work through your own past dating experiences on your path to the altar, here are other habits that have helped me do the same.

Ask yourselves the purpose of what you’re revealing.

The right sorts of disclosure--that is, the sorts that bring peace, restoration, and mercy--enable mature love to grow. If you choose to reveal parts of your past as solely as a means of feeling emotionally closer, as an occasion of pride that leads to feeling superior to your fiancé’s exes, or out of prurient interest, chances are these revelations will inspire more division than unity. Be real with yourselves about what purpose your inquiries and revelations serve.

As someone prone to nosiness, I’ve struggled in this area and have grown in greater wisdom and self-knowledge about why I might be asking about certain parts of my husband’s past. It takes ruthless honesty to admit to yourself that your intentions might not be the purest of heart, and to discern whether their fruits would be nourishing or bitter.

Get rid of all items from past relationships.

Though you haven’t yet made your wedding vows, engagement is a time of declared commitment that’s moving toward a specific end: your wedding day. In light of this gravity and forthcoming permanence, these months of preparation are an ideal time to get rid of any lingering possessions, gifts, texts, and emails from the past. Even if you and an ex have remained in each other’s orbit by choice or circumstance, it’s healthy to remove items with romantic significance from your life. It’s a gesture of faithfulness, and of turning forward in hope, to your fiancé.

Appreciate who you are now, not who you were then.

Conversion is a powerful thing. Saints are made along the path of reconciliation and virtue. Matters like past emotional entanglements and sexual sins, though, aren’t small; feeling their sting months and years later is normal. It’s valuable to keep in mind not just that the past is the past, but that who your beloved used to be--in all his or her weaknesses or poor choices--is also the past. Praise the Father for the gift of who your fiancé is, and for all the experiences that have brought you to the present.

If necessary, don’t fear professional assistance.

Premarital counseling or therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Knowing when to invite the help of a professional shows great strength and dedication to your relationship.

If one or both of you have struggled with addictions and sexual sin, a Catholic counselor can provide spiritual and emotional tools to facilitate healthy communication.

And if one or both of you have been through any form of sexual abuse or assault, know, above all, that in the Father’s eyes you are nothing less than whole, blameless, and worthy of love. Working through these experiences together, with a counselor, helps cultivate trust, intimacy, forgiveness, and true peace.

Give every part of yourselves to the Lord.

If you struggle with aspects of your pasts, ask for the grace of healing. During a guided holy hour on a retreat I once attended, a priest advised asking Christ in prayer to reveal to us what wounds in our lives he desired to reveal. Sit with these wounds and confront them as they surface, he instructed, and then visualize giving them back to Jesus. Christ, the ultimate beloved of our hearts, desires so deeply to share our heartaches and, moreover, to redeem them.

Resolve to forgive, no matter what.

Forgiveness might take a long time. That’s alright. I encourage you and your fiancé, however, to promise one another that no matter what, you will eventually forgive all past wrongs. Grudges are poison; a source of doubt that limits true freedom. Trust in each other, and in your love, and you will reveal the Lord’s mercy to one another.

There have been times in our relationship where I’ve badly desired the will to forgive my husband and move on, even as I struggled to get my bruised heart on board. I feel thankful that even while upset, I’ve frequently sensed the Lord’s peace amid the storm within. In that peace, I have so strongly felt the certainty that I would forgive, even if I wasn’t ready at the moment. I never doubted I would, and prayed I could feel ready to do so quickly. Let me let go of this, I begged. Help me trust in this certainty.

Never lose sight of prayer for your fiancé, yourself, and your relationship. Prayers of agony, of asking for the grace to diminish or remove former sins from your memory, and even prayers of thanksgiving for the emotional weight of dealing with the past are all more than acceptable.

Our every prayer is a delight to the one who so ardently asks for our total trust: Jesus, I trust in you.

In the times I experience that deep conviction of forgiveness, I thank God for these gifts of trust. Gifts that have affirmed to me my husband’s deep goodness and the ways in which our hearts are so specifically suited to one another’s. I hope, truly, for you and your fiancé to be flooded with similar graces: filled with his peace, living examples to one anotherof divine love and mercy.


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

BOOK | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Our Favorite Quotes on Fruitful Love, on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This week, the Church commemorates 50 years since the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae--translated as ”Of Human Life.” Drawing from the hundreds of years of Scripture and tradition on which the Church was founded, the letter was composed in response to a commission whose purpose was to evaluate the effects of newly and widely available contraceptives on society.

The Pope’s words praise the goodness of married love: he calls it “fully human,” involving both body and soul--the whole person--and imaging Christ’s free, faithful, total, and fruitful gift of self. Love like this reserves nothing and bears real fruit, ending not in death but in eternal life.

Life. Whether physically, spiritually, or both, all married couples are called to be abundant and allow new life to flow forth from their love.

Amid social pressure and speculation over whether the encyclical would “reverse” the Church’s directive that contraceptives are contrary to the nature of authentic love, Paul VI courageously maintained that artificial means of birth control are never in keeping with a sincere, unreserved gift of the self and exchange of persons.

After all, as he pointed out, the nature of love itself; the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, hadn’t changed since before the commission--how, then, could human beings change their imitation of this love, without changing the definition of love entirely? His appeals to logic--and his recognition that every person desires to be loved without conditions or limitations--draw attention to the high, yet attainable, calling of our path to heaven.

If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, engagement and new marriage are ideal times to contemplate the love spouses are called to imitate; to be the human face of the Father’s love to one another in the particular way only they, as individuals, can.

What’s more, if the demands of love, and the Church’s reasoning on contraception, are difficult for you, take time to turn inward in prayer and ask the Lord if he’s calling you and your beloved to deeper understanding or a lifestyle change. He is merciful in all things and desires nothing less than our deepest happiness.

When the love of husband and wife mirrors the Father’s love as closely as possible, we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and that much closer to the fulfillment and true flourishing on earth that he intends for us, his children.

This list of resources, including prayers, studies, and media, from the U.S. Bishops is a rich and accessible starting point. For your further contemplation and inspiration, we’ve compiled a selection of passages, from holy men and women past and present, that make us excited and motivated to live out love’s demands.

On authentic love

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the relationship between spouses] becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. - Pope Francis

Self-discipline...is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character...it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. - Humanae Vitae

For the Lord has entrusted to [spouses] the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life. - ibid

On the love of God

All love ends in an incarnation, even God’s. Love would not be love if it did not escape the limitation of individual existence by perpetuating itself...wherein death is defeated by life. - Ven. Fulton Sheen

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. - Saint John Paul II

Do you want to see the difference [between NFP and contraception]?...There’s nothing to fear. Trusting him is only threatening if he’s a tyrant. He’s not. He’s perfect love. Let go. Let him in. Trust him. - Christopher West

On family size, discernment, and infertility

The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. - St. Josemaria Escriva

I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ. - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

On sacrifice and its fruits

...the seeking [of Jesus]  is a going out from ourselves. It is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love. - Caryll Houselander

Want to be happy?…Lose your life in love and you will find it. Give your life away as a gift, and you’ll come to resurrection. - Bishop Robert Barron

The various forms of sacrifice include one positive similar meaning: Life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” - Scott Hahn

On charity with regard to Church teaching

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter…"the only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." - Humanae Vitae

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. - ibid

On human nature

Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance; through its crystal the world should see God. - Saint Gianna Molla

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. - Humanae Vitae

As always, we at Spoken Bride are here for you. No matter where you’re coming from, no matter your opinion or experiences with this aspect of Church teaching, we’re committed to truly seeing and hearing you. We welcome your thoughts, your questions on married love and Natural Family Planning, and even your reservations and respectful disagreements, so know that you have the freedom to share them in the comments and on our social media. Consider this an invitation to conversation, with our hopes of living out our mission of truth, goodness, beauty, and authenticity with charity and productive dialogue.

Photography: Alyssa Michelle Photography, seen in How He Asked | Danielle + Jeff

 

He Invites Us: Developing a Healthy Attitude Towards Chastity

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I spent my engagement on a year of service, speaking about chastity to middle and high school students. It was...a time of paradox.

Talking to five classes a day about reserving sexual intimacy for marriage while being tempted to do the opposite. Advising seventh graders to draw physical boundaries at simple kisses while navigating the more complicated boundaries of being in a serious, yet chaste relationship in your twenties. A crucible of formation and prayer wracked with frequent attacks. Awaiting my wedding, a day I was pretty sure would be among the happiest of my life, while coming to terms with the awareness that even the most beautiful earthly gifts can be idols, just a flicker when compared to the fire of divine ones.

It felt good, in a way I hoped wasn’t prideful or self-glorifying, to share my story of having stuck around too long in the wrong relationship for me, one in which I let myself be used, of writing stacks of letters to my future husband, and finding even my biggest dreams insufficient to the reality of the man I would marry; someone so sacrificial, self-giving, and pure of heart. The girls I spoke to sometimes cheered when I revealed all the letters I’d written would be a surprise for my husband-to-be in a matter of months. “And then,” said one student, “you’ll be married and you won’t have to worry about chastity anymore.”

I paused. Her words, though clearly rooted in a place of innocence and good will, didn’t sit right. But I couldn’t immediately explain why. I bumbled through an explanation that chastity doesn’t end in marriage, feeling the frustration of what seemed like a missed opportunity. On the drive home, I challenged myself to better articulate exactly why it doesn’t.

If chastity is not defined as mere abstinence, not just a list of no's but as sexual self-control for the sake of freedom and authentic love, so that your yes can be truly meaningful, of course it doesn’t end at the altar. Chastity embodies love that is free, faithful, total, and life-giving, so much so that the self-discipline and disposition to being a living gift--in whatever way that looks like, to your spouse and to others--spills over in the best way possible, changing not just your sex life, but your outlook on life in its entirety. Practically speaking, what’s the best way to do this, throughout engagement and on into marriage?

It’s natural, and so good, to anticipate the fullest physical expression of your love within marriage. Yet my thoughts on that drive home, and in the months and years since, have emphasized to me the importance of viewing that anticipation in a healthy way. I realized the notion of abandoning chaste love after marriage could easily encourage a white-knuckle attitude of just “making it through” times of abstinence, could make an idol of sex, and could become a crutch enabling a lack of self-control.

I wanted something more for my relationship: true freedom to give of myself instead of license to do whatever I wanted, a healthy perspective and respect for the gift of our sexuality instead of elevating it out of proportion as a highest, pleasure-focused good.

If, like I did, you find yourself still refining your view of abstinence, chastity, and anticipation during engagement, I encourage you to pray for a spirit of reverence in your physical relationship. Don’t feel discouraged if you recognize the need for a shift in perspective, but fortified and resolved. Authentic love and freedom aren’t a destination, but a long path. One on which we still might stumble, yet one far more exhilarating and alive than any other journey.

Your walk up the aisle is, quite literally, a walk toward Calvary: the image of a life poured out and given without reservation, for the sake of pure love. Ask for the grace to give of your own life in the same way; to imitate and embody the love of the Cross. Christ gave entirely, and invites us to do the same. His Passion and love are just that: not a milestone to reach and then move on from, but a constant outpouring of self. An invitation. He awaits us, and our yes, always.


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

BOOK | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

4 Scripts for Explaining Catholic Wedding Traditions to Friends + Family

As you plan your Catholic wedding, you might find friends and family inquiring about the reasons underlying particular marriage traditions in the Church. We’ve been there, and want to be here for you. Often, the default response might be to answer in a defensive way--we defend that which we fiercely love--as we assume anyone asking a question is asking from a place of skepticism or judgment.

While that might be true in some cases, you might find yourself surprised by how many individuals simply have a spirit of curiosity about the Catholic faith and its rituals. Modeling your love after the crucifixion, holding an hour-plus ceremony, and including formal prayer in your wedding are, in many ways, countercultural. To those whom Catholic weddings are unfamiliar, the spirit of inquiry is often genuine. Their questions provide a unique opportunity: to explain these matters with charity, candor, and with an invitation to know more and let the goodness, beauty, and natural reason of the Church speak for itself.

Below, four common questions regarding Catholic wedding liturgies, and how you might answer. We hope you find these points help you articulate why you’ve chosen to marry in the Church, what sets it apart, and most importantly, that they provide the seeds of truly fruitful conversation.

Or perhaps the spirit of curiosity is where you, yourself, are. Questions about the Catholic faith are good; an opening of a new door, not a closing off to inquiry, and an opportunity to learn and contemplate. We hope the questions and answers below offer you the start of greater understanding and critical thought.

Why do you have to get married in an actual church?

It’s not that a a beautiful garden, hotel, or oceanfront venue is an unromantic or insignificant place to profess your lifelong commitment to each other. When Catholics say marriage is a sacrament of the Church, they’re saying they believe earthly things--in this case, the vows spoken by the bride and groom--can literally be transformed by God into something different than what they once were. Once the marriage is consummated, the words spoken at the altar are transformed into a permanent bond breakable only by death.

Because of that belief in sacramental realities, which take place in God’s presence, it makes sense that the sacrament needs to actually take place in his presence. Where is the Lord really, truly present? It’s true that he is all around us in the created world and that prayer can happen anywhere. Yet for Catholics, who believe bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, he is there in a real, metaphysical way in the tabernacle of every church--there resides the Eucharist and there, we believe, resides the living Jesus. It’s amazing to consider that he is there in such a tangible way from the first moments of a bride and groom’s life together.

Speaking of vows, why can’t you write your own?

Every sacrament of the Church has a specific rite that must be followed in order for the sacrament to be valid. If a priest doesn't follow the prescribed language of consecration, for instance, the Eucharist for that Mass is invalid. Getting married is the same: in order for the sacrament to take place; that is, for the couple's bond to literally be transformed and suffused with grace, the bride and groom need to speak the language of the Rite of Marriage. It's more than just inputting certain words and getting out a certain result. It's allowing yourselves and your love to take on something entirely, sacramentally new and humbly inviting God into your life together, knowing it takes three, not two, to live out your promises.

But it’s understandable that a couple might want to express their hopes for how they’ll love and serve each other in marriage in their own words. Those who wish to do that can write down these hopes and intentions in letters to each other or can talk together about them.

What about Mary? Why is a part of the Mass dedicated to her?

When you really want something, it can be helpful to have another person helping you get it. Job referrals and references, personal trainers, and therapists fall into this category.

When Catholics pray for something, they believe the saints--men and women from throughout history who were heroically faithful, in ways large and small--can provide the gift of intercession, which means joining in our prayers and offering them to God alongside us. We hold Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the highest regard among the saints for her making her entire life an unreserved yes to God’s will. In praying to her, therefore she brings us to the Lord. We, and our prayers, grow closer to Jesus, through Mary.

That’s not to say every prayer of a person’s heart is answered in exactly the way and time they hope, simply because they prayed for Mary’s intercession, but that her prayers for us, her children, are a great gift. When husband and wife kneel before her during their wedding Mass, they bring their lives to her, asking her to pray for them like any other mother might pray for her children, and to strengthen them in love.

Who’s walking you down the aisle? If not your dad, why?

Although a priest celebrates a couple’s wedding Mass, marriage is actually the only sacrament of the Church wherein the bride and groom, not a priest, actually administer the sacrament. The minister of the sacrament typically processes into the church last, so for couples who choose to acknowledge this, they walk into the church together. For those who do a first look, or who choose to meet for the first time before the procession, it can beautifully signify the bride and groom’s shared role in the sacrament and promises they’re about to enter into.

Couples are also free to choose the tradition of walking in with both parents, or for the bride to process in with her father, which in no way diminishes the couple’s role in the sacrament or their equality as people.

If these outlines for your conversations are helpful, we’d love to know! Share with us, in the comments and on our social media, any other areas of Catholic weddings and marriage for which you’d welcome talking points.

Read more apologetics-related matters:

Explaining the Eucharist to your guests | Talking with friends about cohabitation, Part I | Part II Navigating the revised Rite of Marriage

Our Best of 2017

Thanks to the beautiful vulnerability and generosity of spirit given by each of you in the Spoken Bride community, it’s been our honor to share such precious parts of your hearts, and ours, in 2017. Here, as we close this year, a look back at our featured love stories and a collection of our favorite posts.

haute-stock-photography-blush-black-celebration-final-25.jpg

As you plan your nuptial liturgy

Practical and spiritual wedding planning tips

Prayer

If you’re in need of encouragement

As you plan your honeymoon

You are a bride, a beloved. Cherish this sacred time.

 
 

From us to you, thank you for taking part in Spoken Bride's ministry, whether through your social media interaction, your submissions, your patronage of our Catholic wedding vendors, or simply through having clicked over to the site. All glory and thanks to the one whose hand has guided this mission and brought you here. We sincerely hope the words and images you've found here have been a source of authenticity and beauty in your heart, your spiritual life, and your relationship. Be assured of our prayers as we, like you, strive for heaven in this vocation of marriage. We’re grateful and eager to continue serving you and sharing in sisterhood in 2018!