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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Marriage Holds Us Together When We Fall Apart

MARIAH MAZA

 

Marriage is demanding. It is not just a label for a relationship, but a lifelong vocation. It is the cultivation of a family and the establishment of an intimate domestic church, filled with the souls of your closest loved ones. And when you factor in everyday life, human imperfection, and human wounds, marriage can be more than demanding. Marriage can be hard.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

There have been times in my married life when relations between my husband and I didn’t reflect the beaming joy of our wedding photos. When for days, we got increasingly on each other’s nerves, spoke out of anger, and I watched the mutual hurt and misery pile on top of each other.

In those times, I often thought to myself, “Marriage is making me miserable.” And the age-old question would bounce around in my mind, taunting me: “How is it possible to have a happy marriage, anyway?”

The more I prayed desperately to the Lord, giving him my marriage and all its imperfections, he helped me to realize two things. Growing a happy marriage had everything to do with that recurring thought I had in times of distress: marriage is making me miserable. And the second revelation? My way of thinking was totally backwards.

Beautiful, newlywed wife, marriage isn’t making you miserable. Human selfishness is.

The Catechism tells us in paragraph 1601 that marriage is “by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses." This means that by its very nature, marriage is designed by God to form you into a saint and lead you, hand-in-hand with your spouse, on a path to Heaven.

The sacrament of marriage is always good, always beautiful, always full of grace, and always sacred. What is good, beautiful, graceful, and sacred does not breed misery. And one night in our tiny one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, after another tiring day of not getting along, this truth came to rest on my weary, wounded heart. It didn’t make the problems disappear, but a profound, relieving sense of peace took over.

I realized that marriage was not the thing tearing us apart. In fact, it was the only sacred, indissoluble bond still holding my husband and I together when we fell apart. Our “one flesh” union is not just poetic Scripture, it is a sacramental reality that persists even when emotions and human imperfections make us feel distant and broken.

The Church already knows this. Marriage “has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation“ (CCC 1606). But this “discord,” as I had to learn, does not come from marriage itself. “The disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin” (CCC 1607). But how is it healed? “Man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them "in the beginning." (CCC 1608).

And so, instead of continuing to look at marriage and all its demands as the enemy, I began to see it and its divine Designer as my source of hope. There is an ocean of grace in this sacrament. Graces specially reserved by God for you and your beloved on the day you enter into the married state. I reflected on how often I had neglected these graces, when I could have begged God in his mercy to rain them down upon us in times of crisis. 

I also reflected on my own sin and selfishness that had helped sow the seeds of discord between my husband and I. It turns out a “happy” marriage can begin to grow when spouses stop counting the cost of loving each other. When instead of brooding in the disappointment of failed expectations, you let go of your own desires. When instead of waiting to be shown love by your beloved, you die to yourself and do something considerate for them, and delight in the act.

If all that seems too difficult to achieve; if daily death to self seems too high a calling, remember again the grace and the purpose of the sacrament: “Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving” (CCC 1609). 

I am far from reaching these ideals, from total freedom from my self-absorption, and there are still many times when I cling to my own expectations of what my marriage “should be.” In short, I will spend my lifetime learning to grow in marital virtue. But I also remember God’s mercy. And I praise him for a husband who shows me more often than not what it means to forgive all hurt and choose joy for the good of his wife. He is like Christ, who is the source of all marital grace.

“Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb” (CCC 1642).

Here at Spoken Bride, we desire to make it clear: marriages that suffer addictions, abuse, or other grave forms of brokenness need prayer and the intervention of counseling, community support, and other resources. Affected spouses in these situations do not suffer because of selfishness, but from profound emotional and mental distress. They deserve our aid, compassion, and understanding.


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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The Bookish Catholic Bride’s Guide to Good Podcasts

MARIAH MAZA

 

Wedding planning can be a stressful time for a bride. After all, engagement is a unique era of intense excitement, anticipation, and preparation, all at the same time.

The temptation to live constantly in the future, in that blissful time when you and your beloved are finally living your vocation as husband and wife, is strong. I experienced this, and I watched the engaged women in my life go through it as well.

One unexpected resource that helped me recenter my heart and my focus during the year and a half I was engaged was a newfound technological affinity: podcasts.

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My love for podcasts began at the end of college, when I was in the middle of wedding planning and trying to finish my degree program. I was insanely busy, and I needed something “restful” to break up my day and refocus me on the Lord in the cacophony of assignments, full schedules, and wedding checklists.

Even if it was just on the car ride home or walking between classes on campus, I discovered inspiration for my upcoming vocation and encouragement as a Catholic woman in several podcasts. And, every once in a while, a little treat for my bookish heart--at the time, there was no free moment to conquer my to-read list!

And so, here are my top five podcast recommendations (and two honorable mentions) for the busy, bookish Catholic bride who is looking for rest and inspiration for her upcoming vocation, femininity, books, or simply living the beauty of our faith in the midst of everyday life:

01. Daily Readings from the New American Bible by the USCCB

I’ve intentionally ranked this one first on the list. If you don’t already read the daily readings in some form: through daily emails, a missal, or through an app, download this podcast today. This resource, provided to us by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), helped me make a habit of listening to the daily readings, even if I felt like I had no time to sit and read them.

Each daily podcast is only around five minutes, and they post other days ahead of schedule. If you want to get ahead on reading next Sunday’s readings, just find it in the list of episodes! The daily readings are a beautiful gift from the Church that allow us to connect everyday with Scripture in a way that reflects the current season of the liturgical year (and, often, the current season of your heart). Discover this ancient tradition of the Church through your podcast player.  

A good place to start: Today’s readings!

02. The Gathering Place by Blessed is She founder Jenna Guizar and Beth Davis

In The Gathering Place, Jenna and Beth invite you to “come chat with us about Jesus, prayer, community, and life.” In true Blessed is She style, the two co-hosts talk like you’re sitting in their living room having a conversation about the love of Christ, joyful sisterhood, and how it touches the everyday struggles of the Christian life, whether you’re married or living the single life. They bring guests on the show as well, like BIS writers, Ike Ndolo, and several of their closest priest-friends to drop some major truth-bombs--yes, including Bishop Barron! Each episode ends with an extemporaneous prayer to lift your heart to the Lord.

A good place to start: “Remember His Tenderness// TGP Episode 11”

03. Abiding Together Podcast by Heather Khym, Michelle Benzinger, and Sr. Miriam James Heidland

Abiding Together brings together three amazing Catholic women: two wives and mothers and one religious sister. Together, they provide diverse perspectives on what it means to live authentic womanhood and vocation in the Church. Their mission is to provide “a place of connection, rest, and encouragement for women who are on the journey of living out their passion and purpose in Jesus Christ.” Another fun aspect? They do book studies on spiritual books and Church documents! If you ever wanted three cool Catholic ladies to guide you on a spiritual read-along or encourage you in your feminine vocation, Abiding Together is a refreshing place to begin.

A good place to start: Check out their four-part series diving into JPII’s “feminine genius,” starting with episode 5 on receptivity.

04. Among the Lilies by Cameron Fradd

Cameron Fradd is the wife of well-known Catholic author and speaker Matt Fradd. In fact, they both host their own podcasts! (You may have heard of Matt Fradd’s popular Pints with Aquinas series.) Among the Lilies is Cameron’s little corner of the world for “ladies who are tired of pretending and are ready to be real.” I think of Among the Lilies as the “real talk” of Catholic podcasts for women. Cameron doesn’t shy away from difficult or challenging topics that can affect any Catholic woman, and she handles them with grace, spunk, and infectious humor. I have cherished her episodes on infertility, sex and marriage, sisterhood, and brokenness, to name a few. She also hosts some pretty amazing guests (including her husband) like Leah Darrow, Crystalina Evert, and Jackie Francois.

A good place to start: Check out episodes eight and nine, a two-part series on intimacy in marriage and intimacy in friendship with Elisa McLaughlin.

05. Fountains of Carrots by Haley Stewart and Christy Isinger

I have saved this gem of a podcast for last. Over the past two years, I have listened to almost every episode (there are over 100) of Fountains of Carrots, a show for “chats about faith, books, culture, and whatever strikes our fancy.” Not only have I received all my best book recommendations from Haley and Christy, they also began my obsession, for better or worse, with BBC period dramas. But it’s not all about good English literature and TV shows. These two Catholic mamas talk about marriage, kids, homeschooling, homesteading, and liturgical living. No other podcast helped me through the last stages of wedding planning and the early, emotional transition into newlywed life the way Haley and Christy did. Their voices have become familiar friends to me, and their discussions are downright charming.

A good place to start: Try any bookish episode (especially earlier episodes) where they discuss book recommendations and underlying Catholic themes in literature. Or check out episode 57: “From Catholic Single Life to the Altar: Relationship Wisdom with Christina Grace Dehan.”

Honorable Mentions:

01. Simple by Tsh Oxenreider

Although Tsh is Anglican, not Catholic, that doesn’t stop her from regularly inviting Haley Stewart from Fountains of Carrots to come on her show and discuss Catholic liturgical living for each month, as well as good books. Simple is a show all about “living well and ignoring the rest.” Tsh talks about Christian themes like cultivating silence, fasting, feasting, marriage, and family. But she also has great interviews with women about their interesting careers in her work series. And throughout the whole show, she gives tips on how to cultivate a beautiful, simple life.

02. A Good Story is Hard to Find by Julie Davis and Scott Danielson

A podcast on books and good storytelling hosted by two Catholic friends? Yes please! A Good Story is Hard to Find talks about “books, movies, and traces of “the One Reality” below the surface.” If you’ve ever wanted a “book club” feel in a podcast and the opportunity to discuss Catholic themes in pop culture books and movies, join Julie and Scott in their reading and watching adventures. They’ll review and discuss anything from Dante’s ancient Divine Comedy to 2018’s A Quiet Place.

So, as you plan your wedding, anticipate your marital vocation, and strive to find God in the busyness of everyday, remember the importance of refocusing your heart and soul in the present moment--the “now” where God lives.

May you’ll find a little rest, inspiration, and joy in these podcasts, like I did—and still do! Let that joy flow into a strengthened prayer life and encouragement in your journey towards marriage and, through the graces of the sacrament, sainthood.


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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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Editors Share | First Dance Songs

The first dance as husband and wife is often the most awaited part of a wedding reception. It is a special and romantic moment between the newlyweds and it highlights the unique personality of the couple.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team remembers their first dance and explains why they chose their song.

PHOTOGRAPHY :  MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY
 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

My husband and I danced to the song “You are the One” by Matt Hires, which had come on my iPod as we drove to a holy hour one night during our engagement. It’s a sweet, simple song that still brings back precious memories, but the truth is, we were too shy to set our first dance to the one we truly felt defined us! The ideal selection, for us, was “In My Arms” by Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot. Despite our love for it we ultimately felt too shy to use such a quiet song, with such intimate lyrics, in front of all our guests. For any couples like us hesitating to choose particular reception music because of self-consciousness, I’d encourage you to communicate and discern what you’re comfortable with and to pray for a sense of freedom with the necessary attention your wedding day brings!

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

We chose Matt Maher’s version of “Set Me As A Seal” because we simply liked the song. I wish I had a deeper explanation, but we both just felt like it was the right song. We ended up having a dance choreographed. If you know my husband, you know that we’re complete opposites. I love to dance, he likes to not dance. But for me he was willing to take ballroom dancing lessons and perform in front of our families..

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

My husband and I chose “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Mark and I had a stressful engagement since he was serving overseas with his military command, all up until a few days before the wedding, so we wanted something fun and upbeat. Mark was also an avid swing dancer during his college years at the United States Naval Academy, which we got to enjoy together a few times during our courtship, so we wanted to share that part of our relationship with our friends and family on our wedding day as well.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

For our first dance, we moved in sync with Michale Buble’s “Hold On.” My husband suggested many ideas for our first dance song, but many focused on the beauty of the bride or the groom’s love for his bride; I was uncomfortable choosing a wedding song about the bride. This song was a great fit because it captures the essence of the mutual and reciprocal love of a married couple. The lyrics also serve as a reminder to grow in affirming physical touch in the midst of stress, frustration, sadness, and joy. Although physical touch is not my number one love language, a good hug often breaks through heavy emotional tension. As this song builds up to its finale, it reinforces the power of holding onto love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, ‘till death do us part.

Though we both enjoy jumping around during spontaneous dance parties, neither of us are organized dancers. With that in mind, we invested in dance classes at a local studio—and loved every second. Beyond the benefits of feeling confident in our plan for our first dance, lessons were also a special opportunity to learn something new, be challenged, move our bodies and laugh together in preparation for our wedding day.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

Our first dance song was “God Gave Me You,” the version performed by Blake Shelton. My husband and I first met when we were 14 and high school sweethearts, and we were a country couple. On our first date he drove me to dinner in his white Chevy pickup truck in blue jeans, boots, and all. Many, many years and a wedding later, we still own that truck!

When we decided to pick “our song” for our relationship (which was definitely inspired by Taylor Swift’s 2009 single by the same name — released only the year before!), we decided on two requirements: the melody needed to mention God and needed to be a country song. I suggested “God Gave Me You,” and it became the song we grew up with together, from the age of 14 to (now) 23.

A couple years before we got married, I taught my husband how to country dance, and it is now one of our favorite things to do together. So when our wedding day finally arrived, seven years after we met, we country danced to the song we fell in love to as high school freshmen.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

My husband and I chose the song “God Moves Through You” by Jason Mraz for our first dance. My husband has been a Mraz fan for a long time, which is how he first heard this song; Jason Mraz actually wrote it for his sister’s wedding so it’s not on any of his albums. It’s a really beautiful song, and was adapted from a collection of poems by Kahlil Gibran.

One of my favorite lines from the song is: “Let the wind of heaven dance between you too/Allow the space and time to bring you closer to everlasting love.” The song speaks of the love between a husband and a wife being a movement of God, a grace working in your life. We also loved that it also speaks of children as a gift.

Since it isn’t on an album, our friend Steve the Missionary offered to play it on his ukulele and sing it live during our reception. It was such a memorable moment from that day.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

In the last couple weeks before our wedding, Patrick and I decided we really needed to sit down and make a decision on our first dance song. We never really had a song in the five years of our friendship/dating relationship, so we didn’t have too many ideas. One afternoon, while hanging out in my parents’ kitchen, we ended up Googling “First Dance Song Ideas” and decided to just go through the list until something resonated with us. We stumbled across “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding and both really liked it.

I love that it’s soulful and with a beat, but still a slow song that makes it easy to dance and sing along to. We actually ended up taking a couple of dance classes at Fred Astaire with a Groupon I had purchased. In the end, I think we just decided to sway to the music, not worrying about counting steps, but it was still fun!

I have no regrets about our choice, but funnily enough, we were just talking a couple weeks ago about our first dance. We said we probably would have picked the 1998 classic “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo if we had thought of it at the time!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

Our first dance was inspired by the waltz in Disney’s live-action Cinderella, where Ella greets the Prince on the dance floor in her beautiful blue ballgown for the first time. Since we wanted to dance a traditional waltz we looked through a variety of instrumental songs that had the right ¾ time signature we needed for the dance. As I was searching for songs I came across, "The Princess Diaries Waltz," by John Debney from the score of The Princess Diaries. After listening to it I knew, in my heart, it was the right song for us.

The Princess Diaries is a favorite childhood movie I watched growing up with my maternal grandmother, who passed away in 2012. One of her biggest dreams was to see me get married. While I wish she had lived longer to see me take my marriage vows, this song made me feel close to her on our special day.

Dancing a waltz at our wedding was an incredible experience and it was everything I had hoped for. Jeff and I had practiced dancing for many hours during our engagement and it certainly paid off! During the dance, I felt like I was flying and it was truly magical.

Now that we are married, I am still practicing the art of dance through life as a married couple. It may not always be as graceful as it was on our wedding day. Occasionally we may stumble. But it’s good to know that as long as we have each other we can make it through anything together.

 

Tasha Johnson, Administrative Assistant

A couple of years ago, I got to fly across the country to attend the wedding of two former missionary teammates of mine. I served with the husband my first year and the wife my second, so I had really gotten to know them separately, and it was such a joy to finally see them together.

Their choice of Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together” was a perfect fit for their small, intimate wedding, because it was so evident that their love for each other was already something fruitful; it really spoke to the care they had taken to welcome all of us to share life with them throughout their courtship, and even especially in the days leading up to the wedding! It was definitely a fun song to watch them twirl and dip to, but it was even more so a reminder of the ways their relationship had already served as a shelter, both for them and for those of us who had the honor of walking through life’s storms with them. It was an absolutely beautiful theme for the first day of the rest of their lives!

5 Saint Thérèse Quotes to Help You Live the “Little Way” in Marriage

What could a cloistered Carmelite nun who lived in the 1800s and died at the young age of 24 teach anyone about marriage—especially marriage in the 21st century?

If you look at marriage through a purely secular lens, as a civilly-sanctioned union between two consenting parties who share great feelings of affection—and tax benefits—then not much.

But for Christians, marriage is so much more. And through the Catholic sacrament of matrimony, two individuals become a living sacrament.

There is a spiritual reality in the spousal union that knits souls together for life, “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

There is unique marital grace that God reserves for those living the sacrament, and there is a mission given to the spouses that transcends time: help each other become the saints you are called to be. Walk with each other to Heaven. Cultivate your family as a ‘domestic church’ that overflows with life, love, grace, and Christ.

But what does marriage have to do with a young Carmelite nun?

Her name was Thérèse Martin—a young, fifteen-year-old girl who petitioned the Holy Father to enter Carmel; her plea was granted. During her remainder of her life in the French convent, Thérèse adopted a philosophy and a spirituality that reflected her own “little soul.” It was a way of simplicity, sacrifice, and, ultimately, love.

In 1997, she was officially declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II. In her much-loved autobiography, Story of a Soul, she writes, “overcome by joy, I cried, 'Jesus, my love. At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love!’” Saint Thérèse’s spirituality, her most enduring legacy, is affectionately known as the “Little Way:” a simple and direct path to Heaven. Although written by a young nun who never married, this spirituality is a beautiful rule of life for the married home. Through her own words, we learn the little way as a guide for our own vocations to love, through the vocation to marriage.

 

“My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words, I know it by experience.”

Saint Thérèse’s religious life revolved around constant prayer and sacrifice, especially little daily sacrifices like cleaning dishes or helping other sisters in need (especially those she found to be the most difficult). How strong marriages would be if each spouse filled every day with tiny sacrifices and deaths to self, each offered as a little prayer of love to Jesus!

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice,” she admonishes. “Here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right thing and doing it all for love.”

When you begin a burdensome chore, do it joyfully; offer up the urge to complain as a small sacrifice for your beloved and for Christ. Your joyful “yes” to making the bed each morning becomes a small fulfillment of the call to your vocation of married life. Each little labor becomes a prayer. After all, “when one loves,” Saint Thérèse says, “one does not calculate.”

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors' defects—not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”

Is there anything about your spouse that drives you nuts? When you attend confession, do you feel like you could do their examination of conscience for them?

“How could he leave his clothes on the floor by the bed again? Haven’t I asked him ten times not to do that?” St. Thérèse’s little way notices faults of others through a different lens. The bad habits in your spouse, and in yourself, do not change easily or quickly; that’s the nature of a habit.

When your spouse does something that annoys you, again, refrain from acting shocked. Expect a healthy amount of imperfection or inconsistency from your spouse, and reflect, instead, on even his smallest virtues.

This minor shift in perspective curbs disappointment and hurt of failed expectations. Choose joy. Choose to notice the strengths of your spouse that made you fall in love with them in the first place. There may be profound suffering in marriage, but, as Thérèse says, “It's true, I suffer a great deal—but do I suffer well? That is the question.”

“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord's living garden.”

Do you ever look at another wife and wish you could be as good as her? Her beauty, her talents, her home, and even her marriage seem better than yours.

Envy destroys souls and marriages. But confident humility and gratitude for the gifts and beauty in your life destroy envy. Saint Thérèse wisely notes the perfect beauty of every person’s unique soul and vocation in God’s “living garden.”

“If a little flower could speak,” she explains, “it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent...if it knew that such were not the case.”

Make a list of all the little things that bring you gratitude about your spouse and the life you share together. Present these things with love to the Lord and praise him for crafting you as the beautiful flower you are. “Holiness (and happiness) consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be,” Thérèse says.

Another woman may have been created as a rose, but your life as the simple daisy adds necessary color and beauty to God’s garden.  

“God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”

In one of the most courageous sentences she ever wrote, St. Thérèse confidently hopes in her own sanctity, despite being acutely aware of her weaknesses and faults. She knows that her vocation is love, so “without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” It is not always the grandeur of holy actions that make a saint, but the grandeur of love in every little action.

On your wedding day, you vowed to love your spouse “until death do us part.” Only then is your vocation complete, when you and your beloved enter eternal life as saints who helped each other through a lifetime of growing in sanctity.

In your own littleness, do not despair. Ask God for the theological virtue of hope to thrive in your marriage. Trust that your desire for sanctity in your vocation is never in vain.

In spite of your faults, in spite of the flaws of your spouse, in spite of the imperfections of your marriage, you can always, confidently, hope to become a saint. Walk the little way of simplicity, sacrifice, and love. Grow through the graces of marriage and the deep, abiding love of God—just like a little French nun who became a Doctor of the Church.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!

Editors Share | When Expectations Meet Reality

The beauty of a wedding and joy of fulfilling a call to vocation is daydream worthy. From a young age, girls and women can often identify their ideals for the kind of man they imagine marrying, visions of their wedding day, or expectations of day-to-day married and family life.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team reflects on the dreams we had about marriage as single women, and how those expectations either changed or came to fruition after saying I do.

 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

During our engagement, I frequently prayed in thanksgiving that no one knew, saw, or understood me in the way my husband-to-be did, and I felt the same about him. At the time, I think we did know each other more fully than anyone else.

After our wedding, however, I started to realize how little a fullness of him I had actually known: I’d never known, for instance, how he liked to load a dishwasher, how he preferred to unwind after a stressful day, what grocery staples he liked to keep on hand. Normal adjustments to married life and significant time spent together--particularly after a long-distance engagement--sometimes made me question how well we knew one another at all.

In hindsight, I see the Holy Spirit drawing us out of self-focused habits and toward a shared life. I now consider it a great gift that even with all the trust, confidence, and admiration I had for my husband (and how well I knew him at the time) on our wedding day, the years have continually revealed new parts of him to me and we are constantly presented with opportunities to know and love each other more deeply through various quirks and discoveries.

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

I really thought that my future husband would do large showy displays affection (think Toby on This is Us. The guy gets me). I REALLY wanted to be proposed to in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, but the man I married is a very private person. He and I were the only ones present when he proposed and we had no engagement party. We didn’t even get a photo until a couple of hours after! A part of me was definitely crushed, but the longer I’ve known my husband, I’ve learned how hard it was for him to be vulnerable and propose at all (even when he knew it was a sure thing!) and I’ve learned to embrace the private way he chose.

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

I am a recovering perfectionist and overachiever, and I too married a perfectionist and overachiever. I was (and still am at times) the sort that if you said “Jump!”, I would ask “How high?”. I always wanted things done efficiently and with the least amount of mistakes as possible on the first try. Because perfectionists and overachievers can often set the bar too high, it can take a great deal to break them out of their unforgiving and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

As an engaged couple, we lived long-distance while being fully immersed in our careers and education at the time; therefore, I did not yet fully realize my expectation for perfection from others. Like many, you sometimes enter into marriage thinking you’re invincible. It was not until my husband and I were expecting our first born immediately after our wedding that my pride got “a swift kick to the pants” and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance during pregnancy. In addition, we were also experiencing our first deployment and his numerous underways out to sea. When you pair separation and illness on top of the “typical” learning to grow and live together as a newlywed couple and later as parents to a colic-y, difficult newborn, it is severely humbling.

Over 10 years of marriage, there has been many good times. However, it is through the times of great suffering that has strengthen us in our vocation — 8 moves around the country, multiple deployments, the loss of two babies, the special needs of our earthly children, and the continued battle with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum with each pregnancy, endometrosis, and as well as post-partum depression that sometimes follows. Each individual within the family unit has their own unique way of processing grief, loss, and trials, and it requires great patience and dying to self when walking in those valleys together. It requires leaning into a support system of people you trust, as well as spiritual direction and professional therapy when necessary. Suffering is sanctifying. It breaks us and molds us. It purifies the heart of its selfish ambitions, and when done in union with Christ, it draws us closer to Him and to each other. While you can never fully anticipate the suffering to which you both will be called to before your wedding day, the reality of God’s abundant Love and Mercy will always greatly surpass your expectations.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

Long before I even knew my husband-to-be, I confidently committed myself to saving a KitchenAid Mixer for marriage. Despite the friends who tried to talk me into Black Friday sales and family who offered to buy one as a college graduation gift, I desired to withhold this life-changing kitchen appliance until the day I became a wife.

At the time, I made this decision simply because I wanted my life to look and feel remarkably different before and after marriage. It is the same line of thinking that held me accountable to not live with a boyfriend or fiancé before we were married. It is the same delayed gratification that saved other highly valued and anticipated experiences with my husband for marriage alone.

My husband and I are well-into our first year of marriage and my life is undeniably different from the life I lived as a single person. Marriage brought me across an ocean, into the military, away from my professional career and apart from friends and family. As it turns out, I didn’t need to save a KitchenAid Mixer for my life to look and feel radically different.

But God used my playful expectation and desire in other ways. My withholding of a kitchen appliance wasn’t about the mixer itself, but was about instilling in me an anticipation for married life to be a remarkably different life. I recognize how “saving a KitchenAid for marriage” was a means for God to prepare and strengthen me for the immense changes that followed our wedding day.

Nonetheless, our mixer has been a means to build community and serve others in our home. It is a means of love in the form of chocolate chip cookies. It is a stress reliever and a source of joy. Although I don't make financial contributions in our family right now, I make meals for our single friends, new parents and neighborhood kids. God is using my desires—both the playful and the serious—to teach me about myself, open my heart to love in creative ways, and be affirmed in my vocation as a wife.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

My story is different than most. To be honest, I never had a rosy idea of marriage at all. Since I was little, God gave me the grace to understand the profound beauty in marriage, but I also never thought about it without remembering how hard and painful it probably would be. I didn’t spend most of my tween and teenage years fantasizing about my future husband, writing letters to him, or praying novenas that I would finally meet him. I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t hear about these typical “Catholic girl” trends until college, and also because I met my future husband at 14...on the first day of high school.

By 15, I knew I was going to marry him, but not in a squealy, teenage, naive way. I told my mom one day that I didn’t know how I knew, but I was going to marry this cute football player. Call it a crazy Holy Spirit moment! I said it calmly, nodded, and fell silent again, just knowing, and my mother didn’t challenge me at all. She has told me since then that she knew, somehow, too. She said I looked at my now-husband at 15 the way she looked at my dad at 15, when they met.

Seven years after meeting, after a lot of high school and college growing pains, we joyfully (and exhaustedly) walked down the aisle and were finally married. It’s difficult for me to say what surprised me about marriage, because my temperament is the kind to anticipate and expect all the possible suffering and little crosses that I could possibly encounter in the sacrament. This has its good and bad consequences. So when, for those first three months especially, hard times came, conflict flared up, or I found myself in tearful frustration at midnight on the couch, I saw it as the inevitable. I wasn’t surprised, just dealing with the suffering in marriage I knew would come.

Perhaps what began to surprise me, little by little, was my husband’s consistent, loving, patient response to all the selfish things I said and did that first year. He truly got the worst of me, because marriage felt like looking into a mirror that showed all your worst weaknesses. But he loved me tenderly in spite of them. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that when I would say something incredibly hurtful, he would often pull me into his arms, apologize for upsetting me, and tell me he loved me so much. He showed me what it was to be quick to forgive, to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your spouse, without any complaints, and to say sorry even when I was the one who had started a quarrel! He loved (and still loves me) like God loves me: so good that it hurts, because I know I don’t deserve it. By the grace of God, I know the sacrament of marriage is forming us into saints, together.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

Whenever someone asks me what I’ve learned so far in my marriage, I always half-jokingly respond: “I’ve learned how selfish I am.” While I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a particularly selfish person during my single or engaged years. However, marriage demands so much more of me than anything else I have experienced.

I thought (albeit, naively) that I would always be the best version of myself once I got married. And while marriage has certainly shaped me more into the woman God made me to be, I still frequently have days where I’m grumpy or frustrated or downright annoying. My life is not my own anymore, it’s shared with my husband. Everything I say and do has an intimate effect on him and over the past three years I’ve been learning how to forget myself and actively choose love.

At the same time, however, I’ve found more joy in this process than single me ever could have imagined. I really feel like I have found myself through my vocation and I’ve been able to watch my husband grow more as a man. And through that, I’ve been able to encounter God more fully. It’s through self-denial that God has rooted up the weeds in my life (as painful as it can sometimes be) and has replaced it with fertile soil.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

I was just thinking the other day about how when we were dating and engaged, date nights and alone time spent together were so frequent. It really made me miss those early days! It was so easy to plan a spontaneous night out together at a new restaurant or bar in town. However, almost six years into marriage and add in two small children, our state of life has changed. Budget constraints and parenthood commitments obviously make this impossible, if not difficult. However, I am so grateful for the joy and struggles that come with raising these two little people. As much as I sometimes wish it were the opposite, weekly date nights out just aren’t a priority right now. I do not want to brush over the fact that date nights and quality time spent together are important for marriage and should be made a priority. I realize now though that date nights don’t have to be out to fancy restaurants each week, like I thought in my dating and single days. It’s easy to compare our realities to others’, especially in the age of Instagram stories when you can literally see what others are doing in the moment.

As my expectations change, I have learned to really appreciate the little moments that my husband and I are able to spend together at the end of the long day, praying our rosary, getting to mass together, reading our books of choice next to each other, and even listening to our favorite podcast together or having a special at home date night.

When we are able to secure a sitter and try out a new (or old favorite) restaurant, our nights are especially valued and savored. In fact, this past fall, we were even able to save up for and take a dream anniversary trip to Italy. With a little sacrifice and a lot of help from our families, we were able to spend this amazing, priceless time together and I am truly grateful to the Lord for that!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

During my single years I fantasized quite a bit about what my future husband would be like. I made a list of the qualities I was looking for in a husband after reading the book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert. I knew I wanted to find a practicing Catholic man who would go to church and pray the rosary with me ­— someone who was handsome, chivalrous, kind, gentle, and had similar interests to me. While the message of the Everts’ book is just as beautiful as the enchanting artwork pictured on the front cover; my own expectations were just about as real as finding a Disney Prince for a husband.

I believe having high expectations is a good thing, and at the same time, there comes a point when it’s important to recognize when those expectations have become unrealistic. Perhaps I sought to find someone so similar to me that I was basically looking for a male version of myself. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that the person I would end up with was not going to be a carbon copy.

The truth is, the man I fell in love with does hold many of the qualities I was searching for in a husband and he is also as different from myself as one can get. We have completely opposite temperaments and personalities. Throughout our courtship I knew that we were very different from each other, but it wasn’t until we were married that those differences became very challenging for us to navigate. Both of us have needed to adjust our expectations.

The extrovert in me is always seeking interaction and attention while the introvert in him is constantly looking for some solitude. My love language revolves around extravagant grand gestures and my husband is more content with the ordinary pleasures of life. Some days it seems like we have come to an impasse; yet somehow the grace of the sacrament has held us together. The reality of marriage means constantly dying to ourselves just a little bit more every day; compromise is an art form that we are still learning as newlyweds.

While the dreamer in me will never stop dreaming, I’ve learned that it’s important to live in our own reality and not to have unrealistic expectations in our marriage. I will always be grateful for the magical moment that was our wedding day, but everyday life in marriage can’t be a perpetual fairytale. It would be unsustainable. And even if it were possible, the magical moments would be less magical. It’s really the storms in life that we experience which help us to appreciate the joyful moments—because without rain there would be no rainbows.

Newlywed Challenge | 3 Simple Ways to Reduce Screens in Your New Marriage

MARIAH MAZA

 

True confession: I love my screens. I love my phone that allows me to stay in contact with friends and family, listen to all my favorite podcasts, and stream my Amazon Prime watchlist. I love my laptop, on which I complete most of my work and writing projects, both at home and away at the local library or coffee shop.

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But for all their wonderful uses, screens can also easily take up the majority of our attention--to the point that their bright and noisy distraction numbs us to a sad reality: the slow replacement of intimacy in a relationship with self-absorbed technology.

It is a problem that can spring up especially in the initial transition from the single life into a married home. Bad technological habits that previously affected only yourself can suddenly have a very apparent and negative effect on your spouse, the person you now see everyday and share a bed with each night.

In fact, this is exactly what happened to my husband and I. Very soon after the wedding, I began to notice little, unexpected things in our marriage that felt “off” because of the presence of a phone, laptop, or TV screen:

When we would talk to each other, eye contact wasn’t always being made because one of us would be on our phone as we spoke. After a while, I began to feel painfully unheard and unseen simply because of the lack of “eyeball time” in our conversations (which is what I started to call it).

Later when we went to bed, we would bring our phones with us out of habit, scrolling and watching videos while laying next to each other, but not interacting. I began to experience an unrest in my heart, like the sacred space of our “marriage bed” was being invaded by our screens.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to resent the crowding presence of technology in my relationship with my husband, because I desired a deeper intimacy that seemed to be blocked by YouTube videos and my overuse of Facebook. Bad habits needed to be broken, but it wouldn’t be an overnight process.

Breaking screen habits can be very difficult, but for engaged couples or newlyweds, there are simple ways to prevent or reduce the overuse of technology in your new marriage before it becomes a problem. And it doesn’t necessarily require a total screen detox. By having an honest and vulnerable conversation with your fiance or spouse, I challenge you to safeguard your intimacy by trying one (or all) of these three tips to achieve a healthy “digital minimalism” in your vocation.

Go without a TV for the first 6 months

Be bold! If you are gifted a nice flat screen for your wedding or already have a TV, keep it safely packed away in storage. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about buying one. Not for the first six months, anyway.

Now imagine the unique foundation you could build in your new marriage without a working TV in your home or apartment. What fun, creative traditions could you begin? Instead of binge-watching your favorite shows together, find entertaining board games at a nearby store or friend’s house that you can play together. Go on a drive and explore the local area. Find a tasty new recipe and cook dinner together. Read a favorite book out loud to each other. Dedicate certain hours to prayer as a couple.

While a cozy movie night on the couch can be a wonderful date idea, I challenge you to discover a life without TV, and let yourself be surprised by all the memories you may not otherwise have made. Does six months sound too long? Try it for one month, or even a week after you settle into your new life together.

No phone zones

This is a very important boundary to set in your married life, and one that I forgot to seriously consider.

Ask yourself where the distracting presence of a phone screen could most hinder or infringe on intimacy in your marriage, whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical intimacy.

Some crucial “no phone zones” could be the bed, the dinner table, or car rides.

In these special places, both you and your beloved agree to set down or turn off your phones and allow the focus to be on each other. In these places communication, eye contact, and self-giving love can thrive without distraction. If you are like me and use your phone every night as an alarm, consider placing it on a nightstand--or even better--on a dresser further away so you can’t reach for it in the middle of the night.

Download app timers

Most people are completely unaware of how much time they actually spend on different applications on their phone, laptop, or tablet. Utilizing apps that keep track of how long you spend on time-sucking platforms like Instagram or Facebook can be a shocking wake-up call to the reality of screen overuse.

There are also apps that lock you out of your phone for a specified time or shut down specific applications after a timer goes off. Some of these include OFFTIME, Forest, App Off Timer, and AppDetox, but there are dozens more options available.

Download a few and see which work best. If you notice your screen time decreasing and the quality of your marriage increasing, you’re doing something right!

So much about newlywed life sets the foundation and habits for the rest of your marriage, and your first year together is a special time that won’t come again. With this in mind, strive to start off strong with an intentional focus on your intimacy that builds confidence, trust, and respect.

So talk about boundaries now, not later. Be honest about your bad screen habits, make a realistic plan, and agree to hold each other accountable. This is just one way to practice sacrifice for the good of your spouse, an element of marriage that will come up again and again and again.

When I learned how to sacrifice my phone time out of love for my husband (even though it felt small), the bigger sacrifices that inevitably came in marriage didn’t seem as intimidating. And by the grace of God, we started practicing healthier habits: time limits, putting the desires of the other first, intentional intimacy-building activities, and persistent prayer.

Now I cherish every moment of precious eye contact so much more, and I feel more seen, heard, and known. When I see my husband put down his phone to come over and ask me about my day, my heart fills with joy and gratitude. Our marriage has been put first, and a little victory has been won.

God tells us that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” With each little victory over distraction, we become more and more “one flesh.” Don’t let a screen come between your marriage and this amazing sacramental mystery. Enter joyfully into it with your beloved, and watch how the Lord blesses your union.


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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