Ash Wednesday Reflection | Memento Mori + Marriage

MARIAH MAZA

 

Memento, homo quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

“Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19)

Ash Wednesday begins a period of deep internal reflection and penance. So as we walk into the dimly lit churches on the first day of Lent, let the solemn silence enter your spirit, and enter again with a vulnerable heart into the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

The cross of ash we receive on our forehead is both an external sign of our sinful mortality and a reminder of the Divine death that was suffered for our salvation. An often-forgotten ancient spiritual penance comes to mind: the practice of memento mori, a Latin phrase that reminds us, especially in this season of Lent, to “remember your death.”

“Let us prepare ourselves for a good death, for eternity. Let us not lose our time in lukewarmness, in negligence, in our habitual infidelities,” admonishes St. John Vianney. And so, let us not remember our inevitable death with fear, but instead illuminated in the Christian hope of Eternal Life that awaits us beyond the threshold of our earthly lives.

In her devotional Remember Your Death, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble reminds us “Jesus has defeated humanity’s greatest foe—permanent death in sin. All that remains for us to endure is bodily death. And Jesus has transformed even this fearsome reality into the doorway to heaven.”

“The Cross changes everything.”

Yes, let us remember death. Because “in whatever you do, remember your last days, and you will never sin.” (Sirach 7:36). Because each numbered breath, starting today, is one more reminder to live, to hope, and to love.

And for those who are engaged, newlywed, or veteran married couples, allow the practice of memento mori to become something even more profound: as you prepare to become one flesh--or already live one in flesh with your spouse--remember the death of your beloved.

Remember your vows you will make, or have already made. Remember you vowed “until death do us part.” Remember that part of the sacramental vocation of marriage is to prepare your beloved for a saintly death. You are called to help each other to Heaven.

“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

Beginning today, with your fiancé or your spouse, help each other to carry your crosses as we walk the Way of the Cross with the Church. Whoever follows Christ will die with him, the God who didn’t even spare himself from the pain of death, but whoever follows Christ will also rise with him.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Memento mori.

Further reading: Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble’s first 20 pages of her new Lenten Devotional Remember Your Death.


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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Embracing the Seasons of Preparation

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Within this Advent season of preparation and pause, I consider seasons of my personal life when we must wait, practice patience, and enter into the longing for more.

I was recently reflecting back on an old journal I kept during my engagement and found an excerpt I copied from the book Letters of St. Therese, Volume 1. This letter, in particular, was written to St. Therese of Lisieux from Sr. Agnes on November 8, 1887. At the time, St. Therese is longing to profess her vows and enter Carmel; she wants what she wants when she wants it, and is tested by the ache of passing time.

Even the saints agonized through delayed gratification!

Sr. Agnes writes, “To suffer a little before the nuptials is not asking too much! In order to enter the House of the heavenly spouse, you must have some trials, you must knock several times, you must weep, knock, and weep again.”

Whew! Is Sr. Agnes writing to Therese or to me? Therese, like any young, modern, engaged woman, is betrothed to her love. Vocational details aside, the ache of her heart is the shared experience of a woman in pursuit of a covenant to love.

Sr. Agnes continues, “Then there will come a moment when the door will finally open, and what has opened the door if not desire, suffering, and love?”

It is precisely the ache, suffering, and perseverance for love that births new life of a new covenant.

“In order to merit the suffering of the cloister, you must bear the suffering of waiting.”

Sr. Agnes affirms that the suffering of waiting yields to the suffering of love. In other words, she affirms that professing I do at the altar is not a promise to be free of longing or to be perpetually filled with joy, but the vows are a commitment to serve another unto our own death. As we gaze at the crucifix, we are affirmed that there is no love without suffering.

“Oh, darling little dove, courage, the flood will pass away, soon the window will open and you will escape into the desert, into the oasis of Carmel."

The end of waiting for a new vocation is promised a relief. Yet, that joyful yes of a covenant is fulfilled in the suffering for another. This oasis embraces the tension between having what we desired and beginning again at our heart’s longing for more. There’s always more.

Whether you are dating and waiting for a proposal, engaged and aching for your wedding day, temporarily separated across a distance from your beloved, or experiencing another longing of the heart, God teaches us--as he taught the saints--to embrace the suffering of the season. Have courage. The door will open by the force of suffering for love. And what’s on the other side but an oasis; whatever that oasis may look like for you, it is from God and it will be good.

It is not uncommon for God to deliver us to circumstances that stretch our patience and test our perseverance, both in our personal lives and in the liturgical seasons.

Like the time of engagement, the liturgy of Advent is about expecting and awaiting a union with the beloved; preparing our hearts and our homes for a new life in a new relationship. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “By sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: He must increase, but I must decrease” (524).

Waiting through Advent teaches us to decrease ourselves in order to create space for Christ. Waiting throughout our lives invites us to decrease ourselves in order to create space for our beloved.

This time of longing is not only about being patient, but also about surrendering ourselves to prepare for more love. Have courage in your love, in your suffering--you are promised an oasis.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. 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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Why a Christmas Octave Wedding is a Beautiful and Unique Choice + How to Plan One

MARIAH MAZA

 

On December 30, 2017, I entered into a mystery, the sacrament of holy matrimony, with my high school sweetheart and love of my life--only five days after Christmas and one before New Year’s Eve!

I never thought I would get married during the Octave of Christmas, the period of eight days after the second highest solemnity of the Church: the Nativity of our Lord.  

In fact, the end of December was far from my first choice. I had begun blissfully imagining a spring or summer wedding, since winter was my least favorite season. Unfortunately, my college schedule and that of my fiancé, who went to school two hours away, made it one of the few available weekends. So I reluctantly agreed. Our engagement was already going to be 18 months long, and after seven years of dating I couldn’t wait any longer to finally be married.

At first, I was afraid that a “Christmas” wedding would feel like one more holiday event for my family members to drag themselves to after the exhausting celebrations at the beginning of the same week. My wedding, the happiest day of my life, was about to be sandwiched uncomfortably between Christmas and New Years.

Fortunately, I was very wrong! And as my nuptials loomed closer and the planning progressed, the more excited I became about my winter wedding. In his generosity, almost like a divine wedding present, the Lord surprised me with a gift I didn’t even know I wanted.

So if you are still trying to settle on a date for your big day, and the Christmas season is one of your only possibilities, here are five reasons a Christmas wedding is a beautiful option:

The holiday cheer and festivity.

This one element of the season, which I thought would most distract myself and everyone else from the actual wedding, was ultimately one of the best parts of getting married right after Christmas. As I opened presents, feasted, and spent amazing quality time with my family and soon-to-be in-laws, the excitement of my wedding coming only a few days later heightened the Christmas joy to a level I had never felt before. I celebrated knowing our families would soon be united forever by my marriage, and that thrilled me.

I drifted from the celebration of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ made flesh, to the celebration of another kind of incarnation: my husband and I made one flesh.

Advent.

The liturgical season leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation and joyful anticipation. What better way to spend the last weeks before your wedding than in a spirit of stillness and anticipation with the whole Church?

When wedding planning gets stressful and chaotic, take this time of Advent with your fiancé for extra spiritual preparation and intentional silence. This prayer time and reflection will benefit you greatly the day after the wedding is over, and the lifelong marriage covenant begins.

The church is already decorated.

Who doesn’t love to save money? Decorations are a major part of wedding planning that can easily cost thousands of dollars, especially between beautifying a church and a reception venue. When you choose a church, keep in mind that during the Octave of Christmas, a lot of flowers, lights, and trees (and possibly a beautiful Nativity scene) will still be up for Christmastide. Besides Eastertide, this is one of the weeks the inside of a church is most beautiful.

If you are beginning to plan more than a year before your wedding, go check out how the local Catholic churches are decorated for Christmas. You may not only save on flowers, but someone else will have done the work of decorating days before your wedding! Scratch that off the list.

Christmas music!

There is something about Christmas music that is both incredibly special and nostalgic. Most people have at least one or two Christmas hymns that they look forward to singing and hearing every year. If you are planning your liturgy during the Octave of Christmas, you may have the unique opportunity to choose favorite Christmas hymns for the nuptial Mass.

What would it be like to hear a rendition of “What Child is This” played after communion? Or “Joy to the World” as the recessional song, as you walk out of the church as husband and wife for the first time? Some other ideas could be “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” or “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Check with your pastor or musicians to find out what kind of music is allowed or possible.

Winter and Christmas color schemes.

I admit my first choice for wedding colors was something more pastel and softly pretty that would go with the feeling of a spring wedding. But when I set my date for five days after Christmas, I felt like a spring color scheme would feel very out of place in a season of red and green.

I decided to do some research into deeper, more wintry color combinations, just for fun.

Think deep maroons, wine reds, emerald greens, dark navy blues, rustic browns, off whites, and silver and gold accents.

These colors together, in the right shades, were strikingly beautiful in a solemn and elegant way.

We decided on wine red, emerald green, navy blue, rustic brown, and gold accents. For a girl who prefers silver over gold in almost everything, I was surprised how much I loved the look of the glittering gold pieces in my decorations and wedding ensemble.

It is true, there are some drawbacks to planning a wedding during the Octave of Christmas: some guests may have been traveling, for instance, or maybe you live in a state where the end of December and early January is unbelievably cold, and a wedding during this time would mean being buried under feet of snow.

And yet, I have no regrets about my December nuptials. Looking back, I would not want to get married any other time of the year. Almost everyone we invited was able to attend, and nobody froze to death at the reception.

The day after our wedding was the Feast of the Holy Family, an extremely fitting celebration. On this day, my husband and I celebrated the miraculous creation of our new, little holy family for the first time.

Two days after our wedding, we started the new year as newlyweds. It was powerfully symbolic of the end of the first chapter of of our lives and the start of our vocation together.

Even if it never occurred to you before, consider the Christmas season for your I dos. I pray that as you discern the date for your wedding, you’ll be filled with the joy and peace that God loves to grant his children--should we seek it--every day of the year.  

Are you planning a December or January celebration? Find more inspiration here:

Winter Weddings | Holiday Weddings


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 military wives. Read more

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On Advent and Waiting

ALEXA DONCENCZ SMITH

 

It’s no secret: Advent is a time of waiting.

As a kid, I always looked forward to the week at Mass when the Little Blue Books would appear in the vestibule for Advent, free for the taking. In the weeks that followed, I was diligent in reading the reflections each night before bed, carefully absorbing every saint quote or nugget of spiritual wisdom. I was kind of a nerd, truth be told, but I loved the aura of waiting and preparation that always surrounded the weeks leading to Christmas.

As an adult, waiting can be a bittersweet subject. While anticipation breeds excitement, waiting for the things we desire isn’t always a pleasant feeling--especially if their eventual arrival isn’t guaranteed. Waiting for anything--from a vacation, to a promotion at work, to meeting one’s future spouse--is filled with a vulnerability that can give way to doubt and discontentment.

After spending a bit of time reflecting on Advent, it seems like no coincidence that the Church dedicates a whole season of the liturgical calendar to the meaning and purpose of waiting. Though it may not seem like it, waiting can be a blessing in disguise that can help guide us along the path to Heaven. Here, five ways we can benefit spiritually from this season:

Waiting provides the space for God to work.

Life can get so busy that it becomes easy to get caught up in our own plans, wrapped up in a universe of which we are the center. We have our days scheduled down to the minute and our calendars booked up for weeks, so it can definitely be frustrating when the unexpected comes in and messes with our carefully laid plans.

With our days are booked solid, spent constantly running from one obligation to the next, this doesn’t leave a lot of room for God to work in our lives. We might even find when we’re too busy, our meaningful attempts at prayer fall to the wayside. While God is always present, he often chooses to speak to us in the silence.

And if there’s no silence, or if our lives are just too hectic, we may miss our chance to hear him. Waiting has a way of slowing us down. The resulting pause can produce a helpful reorientation of priorities.

Waiting is an invitation to trust.

When our plans get stalled and things don’t happen how we think they should, it can cause disappointment and even helplessness. This is an opportunity to humble ourselves, remembering God is in control--not us). That there is a greater plan we cannot see; even if we’re confused about how things are going to play out, we know that the one in charge loves us and always wants the best for us.

Waiting forces us to be present.

Frustration with waiting can indicate that our minds or hearts have gotten ahead of us, and we’re trying to live in the future. Two years ago--ironically, during Advent--I was not-so-subtly waiting on a proposal. My fiancé and I had been dating for several years, and we’d had countless talks about moving toward marriage.

We both agreed getting engaged was our next step. But I felt this to the extent that I failed  to appreciate our relationship in the present moment. I had myself convinced nothing more could be accomplished in our relationship or preparation for marriage until we were officially engaged.

Waiting pulls us out of our daydreams about the future (sometimes not so gently), and challenges us to ask, what does God want me to do right now? 

As I  anxiously awaited my proposal, I believed--whether I realized it or not--that engagement was the next thing God wanted me to do in life. But maybe engagement and marriage were a few more bullet points down on the list, and he had other gifts and blessings in store for me first.

I could have easily missed how God was working in my life during that time because I had unconsciously tuned out the present, preoccupied with what I thought should be my next endeavor. Waiting can be a gift that keeps us living in real time.

Waiting is a reminder: our time is precious.

When we’re stuck in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic, we have two options. We can either grumble and complain, letting our annoying situation get the best of us, or we can remember those very minutes are an irreplaceable gift from God. It might be challenging to view being trapped bumper to bumper on the highway as a gift, but these instances serve as a reminder that all our time is borrowed: it all belongs to God, and we should always use for good the moments of life he has given us.

Waiting gives us hope for a bright future.

When we are so stuck on achieving certain desires that we end up devaluing entire periods of our lives, or we begin to feel as though we are killing time to get to a particular accomplishment or milestone, we are called to remember something: God’s plans are higher than our own. God can give us gifts we never would have dreamed of. And yes: they’re even better than the things we’re pursuing for ourselves.

The feeling of waiting sometimes indicates our timeline doesn’t quite match up to God’s. Rather than giving ourselves over to despair, this is an opportunity to realize that God may be saying no or not yet to our prayers.

Because he might be about to give us something even better than what we imagined.


About the Author: Alexa is a 2013 graduate of The Catholic University of America, where she earned degrees in biology and psychology. Since 2014, she has served as the Assistant Coordinator for Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Allentown. Alexa and her husband Patrick got engaged in December 2016, and were married in June 2018. Together they’ve enjoyed Cracker Barrel breakfasts, long walks around Barnes & Noble, and deciding which bridal expos had the best cake samples. Alexa's hobbies include writing, photography, and drinking coffee. 

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Readers Share | The Saints Who've Shaped Your Relationships

This week as the Church celebrates the dead, the communion of saints, and all souls in Purgatory on All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, respectively, we invited you to share the holy men and women who’ve interceded in your spiritual lives and relationships on our social media.

For inviting us and others into your deep joy, for fostering hope in God’s faithfulness in women still awaiting their love story, for witnessing to abandon and reckless trust in the Father, thank you. Your responses were too many to list in a single post--let alone to list every woman who cited Our Lady, Saints Therese, John Paul II, or Louis and Zelie Martin as favorite patrons! We read every single one and find each so uniquely, personally beautiful.

Here, a selection of your stories of saintly intercession:

St Gemma - for many reasons! My husband is a pharmacist, I was seeking employment when we were first married and we both recently lost our fathers. She’s the patron saint of: Pharmacists, children who have lost parents and those seeking employment! - Danielle

Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria and his wife, Servant of God, Empress Zita. They were a beautiful Catholic married couple and have been a great role model for our marriage. - @danielleduet

St. Michael the Archangel. His battle courage was inspiring to me, and helped me in my own spiritual warfare. Like St. Michael, I was able to cast my own demons out. - @_desirita_

St. Therese and St. Zelie Martin. I’ve struggled with finding and being content in my vocation, and through their intercession have received many graces. - @thebrownebunch

St. Raphael. I met my soon-to-be fiancé through Catholic Match and Raphael's intercession throughout our relationship has been so influential. He's the patron saint of their website and the hero of our relationship. - @violetsheabee

St. Therese has had (and continues to have) a profound impact on how myself in relationship with my fiancé. Long distance has required a lot of humility and trust on both of our parts, and I've leaned on her Little Way to help me do small things that benefit our relationship with each other and with God. - @meganboes

St. Joseph! The St. Joseph novena played a big role in both our individual discernment journeys. As a couple, any time we have a difficult situation and don't know what to pray for, we say his novena, and always receive exactly what we need, and then some! Plus, all the men in my family have Joseph as their middle name, and so does my husband! - @acrgripshover

Our Lady of Angels. - @i.marie.daly

St. Anthony. - @vegan_wannabe_81

I got engaged on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, by the grace of God and through the intercession of St. Joseph, Mama Mary, and St. Anne. - @meganaosborn

St. Thomas More, Mother Mary and St. Joseph. - @marie_xavier_felix

St. Maria Goretti. - @paigealexandrahussey

St. Therese, St. Faustina, and the Holy Family! -@becca_from_texas

St. Josemaria Escriva. - @akeeshers

St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Cecilia! My senior year of college, while my husband and I were still dating, I felt a call to a religious vocation. I was so confused about it so I prayed countless novenas to Therese--I didn’t hear an immediate response, but I eventually did. That spring break, some girlfriends and I drove to Nashville for a retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Cecilia is one of my faves because I’m a musician). While I loved it there, I felt a peace within my heart that I was called to marriage. Two years later, my husband proposed. - @josieweisenberger

St. Gianna Molla and her husband, Pietro! We named our first born after her! - @thetinymangia

Our Lady and St. Louis de Montfort. - @maddy__anne__

St. Joseph! My parents did a novena to St Joseph to pray for a husband for me and weeks into the novena, [my future spouse] came along! And we got engaged on May 1, the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. - @rachelgmz

St. Therese of Lisieux! Ever since I was a young girl, I have been praying novenas to her in the hopes of finding my future husband. She is my patron saint, and my fiancé's favorite. We asked her special intercession for our relationship on a recent trip to the National Shrine in DC, and he proposed on her feast day this year, along with a beautiful white rose! - @whateverisgracious

Our guardian angels! - @ann.elissa

St. Ignatius of Loyola. My husband and I would pray his Prayer for Generosity while we were dating and it was a constant reminder to serve the other person. - @jessie.dupre

St. Elia. - @soulachreim

St. Monica, St. Anne, and St.  Michael...mother Mary above all. - @scenescerity.images

St. Jude. I began his novena and on the last day saw [my future husband] Wesley, and knew I should see where things went with him. After that we have prayed to him every night and I began seeing St. Jude everywhere. Now, Wesley and I are getting married [this fall] (2 years after I began my novena)! - @rach_whalen

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, Saint Anthony, Saint Michael, Saint Jude Thaddeus, Saint Raphael, and Saint Dymphna. I keep adding them! - @edna_songz

Saint Veronica. She has inspired me to wipe my husband’s face as he carries his crosses. She reminded me what we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ and had a profound role in shaping our relationship. - @brittbritt_ottens

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, St. Therese’s parents. The man who is courting me and I had to go two months without seeing each other when we began our relationship. He sent me a talk about sanctification in marriage, which focused on their lives; since then, we have continuously asked for their intercession as we discern marriage! They have become a major influence for me and we are thankful to have another beautiful couple to look up to! - @alynacampero

Saint Therese of Lisieux; she is always reminding us to give ourselves fully to each other and to never seek anything in return. She teaches us how (in Story of a Soul) to live life in a way that strives for selfless love and complete humility. And her parents guide us in how we will want to raise our kids someday. - @maddie7548

To each of you who responded to or have been moved by this question and its answers, we are grateful. If you have suggestions for future reader-sourced topics, be sure to share them with us for consideration!

Images by Lionhearted Photography, seen in Amy + Jake | Midwinter Mountain Wedding

Let Our Lady Bring Your Relationship to Life.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My dreamer of a high school self would frequently lie awake at night counting the qualities I wished to find in my future husband. I hoped he’d be, in no particular order, funny, creative, musical, a reader, from a big family, and--naturally--handsome.

As time passed and my spiritual life developed in college, I found my desires evolving. Meeting, and marrying, a man of deep faith started to push qualities like “good cook and dancer” from the top of my unofficial list. Specifically, I prayed that my husband would have a relationship with Our Lady.

I am blessed beyond measure to have found all these qualities, and more, in my husband Andrew. When we started dating, he told me how taking up the practice of a daily rosary the previous summer had brought order and peace to his life during a time he knew he’d wandered from the path of virtue he so deeply strove for. Starlit rosary walks around our college campus quickly became a ritual we loved.

The clarity I sensed through our prayer was like a thinning of the veil between the earthly life and the divine one. Total wonder and trust in the Father’s goodness. We talked often about our shared sense of healing from past relationships and such a certainty and purity in the start of our relationship. Months later, it was after a rosary walk, before a statue of Our Lady, that Andrew proposed. We chose a line from the Memorare, "before thee we kneel"--a reflection of the utter abandon to her care found in the prayer--for the inscription in our wedding rings.

To me, there is nothing more attractive, more admirable, and more masculine than a man in love with the Blessed Mother.

She is so alive, truly showing a man how to love his bride.

She herself is the embodiment of a bride--humble and small, yet a pillar of strength; pure beauty; sexual integrity; a magnification of the Lord’s goodness. I imagine she lived a rich emotional and spiritual life that models the love spouses are called to: ardent and pure-hearted devotion to her husband, abiding tenderness for her son, an emptying to the depths of her being at the foot of the Cross.

St. Louis de Montfort described devotion to Mary as being "Our Lady's slave," an image that's understandably uncomfortable across four centuries and an entirely different culture. To be honest, I was unsettled when I was introduced to the term--at the time, I was just learning more about the Catholic faith and was considering Marian consecration, and the thought of slavery made me skittish. To discover that Our Lady wanted to chain me to her for eternity didn't exactly seem loving, let alone pleasant.

I'm glad I heard out the context and explanation of the language, and am grateful for the grace of developing a devotion to her and making a consecration with my husband. Now, when I think of being chained to Our Lady, I no longer envision a burden or a literal ball and chain.

Instead, it brings me deep comfort to know my husband and I are forever tethered to her. It's impossible for her to let us go, even if we try. By grace alone, she's always pulling us back to her and into a deeper love for her son.

Our Marian devotions have absolutely deepened our prayer lives, yet I suspect the graces flow most abundantly when we fall short. 

The daily opportunities to serve and sacrifice in marriage, the arguments, all the moments my husband and I aren’t just sitting there, holding hands in prayer--she keeps us close, and intercedes for us still.

How can you, as a couple, cultivate your own deeper devotion to Mary? Whether you’ve never had a relationship with her or whether you made a consecration years ago, she invites us from wherever we are. Consider habitually praying a decade or more of the rosary with your fiancé or husband, hanging an image or icon in your home, celebrating Marian feast days with Mass and a date night or gathering, and discerning Marian consecration.

In all her perfection, it might seem difficult to relate to Our Lady on a human level, but when I feel down on myself, knowing I could work harder at living out my vocation to marriage, I try to remember that she was and is entirely human. Alongside her, and with her prayers, we ourselves become fully alive.

We love hearing your own experiences of saintly intercession. Share your experiences with inviting Our Lady into your relationship! Do you have any Marian traditions? Any stories of how she's shaped your love story?


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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Embracing the Easter Season, Even Through Struggle

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I inhaled the richness of lilies and incense. A riot of color bloomed along the altar. Familiar words washed over me: prayers over humble bread and wine, taking me out of time. To my right, the image of Jesus beckoned, rays shining forth from his heart. Blood and water; the stuff of true life. As I bowed my head, tears came.

Because I wasn’t feeling much of anything. A little anxiety. But mostly nothing.

Photography:  An Endless Pursuit , seen in  Robyn + Greg's Easter season wedding  on Divine Mercy weekend

Photography: An Endless Pursuit, seen in Robyn + Greg's Easter season wedding on Divine Mercy weekend

Matt Maher’s “Christ is Risen” echoed through my thoughts on Divine Mercy Sunday: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?

Right here, I thought. That’s where they are. I still felt that sting of death, and felt it strongly. Now halfway through this Easter season of tremendous glory and promise, I find myself, this year, lacking in joy and doubting the Father’s promises of the Resurrection. Specifically, a fear of death and a preference for this earthly life over the next have pervaded my heart for months.

Though our life is far from perfect--everyday busyness, sleepless nights with toddlers, chores we can never quite keep up with--I count myself abundantly blessed by my husband and our beautiful children, and by our relative lack of major hardship at the moment. It’s a life so precious  I’m scared to let go of it and be separated by death.

When I pray to be made holy, to reach my heavenly home, the back of my mind hastily and shamefully adds, but please not yet, Father.

Where, then, does someone who desires eternal life, but not yet--I desire it selfishly, on my own terms--find consolation in the Resurrection? In my current state, the thought of eternity cuts me to the core. It brings me not hope, but worry that all I hold close on earth will be lost to me in heaven. I wonder what I’ll miss out on, and more significantly, who I will miss out on.

Of course I’m aware, intellectually, that my soul’s fulfillment will be found in the presence of God. Theoretically, I will want for nothing at the heavenly wedding feast. But theory can be hard to wrap your head around when your heart’s so agitated. Surrendering such gifts to the Lord, trusting that they are impermanent and not mine to determine, feels...reckless. An abandonment I seek, but don’t yet feel strong enough for.

As I make my way through this spiritual storm--one in which, in spite of myself, I remain confident will end in a heart more united with Christ’s--I’ve realized the shortcomings of my thinking. I say that my circumstances, while fortunate, are imperfect. In the realest sense of the word, they’re unfinished. And that’s the point.

The Lord isn’t done working on my heart yet. He’s not done with yours, either.

If your Easter season has felt similar to mine, whether because of the stresses of engagement, a recent loss, tensions in your relationship, a literal lack of new life as it relates to your fertility, or otherwise, know I am there beside you. I’m trying daily to embrace this tension, rather than push it aside, to silence it, and miss an opportunity to be loved by the Father in this particular way. 

Just this past Sunday, I felt myself coming back to life, no small matter in these weeks centered on triumph over death. It struck me that in this year’s reading cycle, we hear Jesus’s same words on consecutive Sundays: Peace be with you.

He speaks to us first as he revisits his disciples for the first time, allowing Thomas, in Thomas’s doubt, to feel his wounds, and again after the walk to Emmaus.

We are invited to experience Christ in the flesh; incarnate. We are invited to reject fear--John describes the disciples’ fear as they hid, locked in a room, after the Resurrection and Luke recounts their terror and uncertainty at meeting the risen Jesus--and walk headlong into the ocean of peace and mercy he wishes so fiercely to surround us with.

I listened again to the Eucharistic prayers and prepared for my own encounter with Jesus’s body and blood. The altar, the surroundings, the Divine Mercy image were all the same as before. But this time I was a little different. Not yet fully delivered of my worry and my desire to cling to the things and people of this life, but on the way. My own road to Emmaus where, at the end, Christ will meet me in a breaking of bread. Self-gift and recognition.

Sorrow, even at Easter time, is alright. Give yourself permission to feel your aches fully, knowing feelings, though human and important, aren’t everything. Whether we feel it or we don't, the fact remains that we are daughters and sons of a reckless, undying love.

No matter what’s in your heart, particularly in light of your wedding and marriage, thank the Father for bringing you close to his heart. Cry out to him. The Cross signifies both agony and ecstasy. It’s so hard when all we can feel is the former, but it's not the end of the road. In whatever ways you are called to rise, you have my prayers.

Peace be with you.


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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