Stewardship in Marriage

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Time and time again we see in Scripture the call to be good stewards of the spiritual and temporal gifts God has given us.   

Christian stewardship means more than generously sharing our time, talent, and treasure. It means that we “... receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.”

Stewardship looks differently for each couple, and husbands and wives should take time to pray about and discuss what it means for their particular family during this season of their life. Here are some ideas to get the conversation started: 

Budget prayerfully

When couples create a budget, they generally form it around a particular goal they want to achieve or a vision they have for their lives. For example, paying off student loans, buying a house, or saving for college. 

Creating a budget in this way makes sense, and will help your family use money prudently and intentionally, but consider inviting God into the process. 

Instead of simply asking the question “What do we want to do with our money?” ask God what He wants you to do with it. 

His plan might look a bit different than your plan in the beginning and it will probably require you being more intentional with your finances, so you can make room for the more important things.

Tithe

The idea of tithing goes back to Old Testament days, but it remains an important responsibility of members of the Church today. The Catechism states: “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.”

Traditionally this meant giving 10% of your income, but the Catholic Church does not mandate a specific percentage. However, the spirit of the tithe has remained over the years. We should return the first-fruits of our labor to the one who ultimately gave them to us.  

You can choose to tithe to your local parish, and/or to another Catholic charity. Pray and discuss with your spouse how much you can tithe each month, and where you feel called to donate.

Give from your need

Remember the widow in the gospel of Mark who gave two small coins into the temple treasury? Of her, Jesus said: “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” 

Of course we should be prudent with our finances, but too often we use our lack of money or resources as an excuse not to give. 

But true generosity requires sacrifice. It’s easy to be generous with our excess but it takes virtue to give from the little we have. This might look like forgoing our daily cup of coffee from the nearby shop, or inviting people to your home to share the meal you prepared. 

We practice stewardship when we take what we have been given and joyfully share it with others.

Practice gratitude

Stewardship means recognizing that all of the gifts in your life come from God, and involves giving from that gratitude instead of from obligation. 

Take some time each day with your spouse to think about the gifts in your life and thank God for them. 

Recognizing the generosity of God in turn helps you to show generosity to the people you encounter each day. It also helps you find satisfaction with what you have so you can live a more intentional life.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Four Icons to Depict The Marital Embrace and Theology of the Body

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The Theology of the Body (TOB) is a compilation of teachings and writings which depict how our physical bodies are designed and created to reveal the glory of God on this side of heaven. In many ways, TOB is a mission statement for married couples—a spiritual foundation to understand the human heart, to grow in relationship, and to embrace our deepest desires for unity. 

Saint John Paul II presented his work on TOB in 129 “general audiences” during his papacy; countless theologians, teachers, and artists expand upon his work and share these truths in schools and communities today.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, ”Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words.” In collaboration with several TOB educators, four icons which reveal the Gospel message through the lens of Theology of the Body and the vocation to married life are shared below.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   HORN PHOTOGRAPY

PHOTOGRAPHY: HORN PHOTOGRAPY

The Holy Family 

An icon of the Holy Family reveals the physical fruit of love between two humans who each offered their bodies entirely to the will of God. Though each called to self-sacrifice, man and woman participate in very different acts of cooperation with the spirit. As we gaze at the Holy Family, we recall how Mary, completely united with the Holy Spirit, trusted an angel and conceived the son of God with pure receptivity. Joseph upheld his masculine dignity and self-control through his entire life as he abstained from physically uniting with his earthly spouse. Joseph’s body was his source of leadership to provide, protect, and defend his family and his home. 

Like Mary and Joseph, every bride and groom is called to offer her or his body in unique acts of service for the sake of their marriage and family. Whether in receptivity, abstinence or offering, a surrender of the physical body in collaboration with God is fruitful and holy. 

The Ecstacy of St. Teresa of Avila 

The passionate union of man and woman in holy matrimony is meant to be a foretaste of the passionate union the holy person will experience with God in heaven. St. Teresa of Avila mystically experienced the ecstacy of this love in her life on Earth, as depicted in this image. Her heart was struck by the love of God and she was never the same. Her expression reveals the longing of every human heart for the ultimate union with God in heaven. 

And it is an experience that God wants to share with all of us, in some fashion anyway. While it may be true that relatively few experience this level of divine ecstasy in this life, something like this (and far beyond) is destined to be ours for eternity – if we say “yes” to God’s marriage proposal, that is.”

Joachim and Anne in the Immaculate Conception 

The icon entitled “The Immaculate Conception” depicts the moment of holy union between Mary’s parents, Saints Joachim and Anne. They stand next to their marriage bed in a loving embrace. The imagery and symbolism in this icon is rich with truth about the Theology of the Body and the pure union between man and woman. As we know, their union was so pure, so holy, that the fruit of their union was Mary, immaculately conceived without sin. Beyond the literal event of the image, “...this icon leads us to consider the possibility of real holiness and virtue in the marital embrace, not only as an intellectual idea, but as a lived experience.” This image teaches us about the our destiny for unity between man and woman, the masculine and feminine, and for the trinitarian love of bride, groom and God. 

The Wedding Feast at Cana 

The Gospel reading of the Wedding Feast at Cana is a common selection for Catholic weddings. Jesus’ first public miracle at this wedding offers many points of reflection. It emphasizes the celebration of marriage and covenant as a holy union. It reveals a dynamic of the relationship between man and woman, as depicted between Mary and Jesus. It highlights the intoxicating effects of abundant wine and of pure love shared with others.

The icon depicting this event is a reminder of this miracle’s glory and how its truth applies to marriages today. Through the lens of TOB, we recognize that holy union is a cause of great celebration; saying “yes” to fruitful love through the marital covenant yields an abundance of holy and joyful celebration from God.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

How to Find a Mentor Couple

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Many couples enter into marriages without a clear understanding of what this vocation should look like when lived well.

We need help to navigate this sacred call but many of us come from broken homes or lack examples from which to learn. For this reason, mentorship can benefit many engaged or newlywed couples.

A mentor couple acts as this example while also providing support and encouragement to couples as they pursue holiness in marriage.

Finding the right mentor couple may take some time and prayer but here are some tips to help you get started.

Find a couple living the life you hope to live

Every couple has an idea for how they envision their future together. What do you hope your life together will look like in 5 years? 10 years? What are some challenges you might face?

Given the unique marital pressures brought by certain lifestyles or careers (like military, missionary, or doctor) having a mentor couple who could understand and relate to the joys and challenges you’ll face can help you navigate the ups and downs.

Get involved in the communities you are (or would like to be a part of). Getting to know the other members will help narrow down potential mentors. 

Find a couple who loves like you hope to love

Can you think of a couple whose marriage inspires you to live and love well? Chances are, this couple probably has been married a bit longer than you and your significant other. 

While having friends in the same state in life is important, your mentors should have more experience in living out their vocation. 

That doesn’t mean your mentor couple needs to have 50+ years of marriage experience, but they need to have already walked where you’re walking to be able to provide you with their wisdom to help you on your way. 

Find a couple you both trust

Since they will share more intimate thoughts and prayers, mentees should trust their mentors. That means, both husband and wife should find it easy to confide in the couple chosen for mentorship.

Again, this may take time and may take a little bit of searching but this will ultimately allow for more fruitful conversation between the couples. 

Make a Plan

When you and your spouse find the right couple for you, you should formally ask them to be your mentors. Then you will need to make a plan to help make your time together more intentional and productive. 

You can meet, in person or on Skype if your mentors live far away, as often as you and your mentors would like. However, meeting once a month is probably a good place to start.

You can make your meetings more formal by using resources such as these discussion questions or by reading a book together, but you don’t have to. Just grab some coffee or a meal and talk about how your marriage looks during the day-to-day. Ask questions and learn from one another. 


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Actively Listening to your Spouse

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Communication does not merely involve verbalizing our own thoughts and feelings, but listening to those of our spouse. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:    AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

Listening well helps couples communicate more effectively, and ultimately deepens intimacy between the individuals. But it can be difficult to do, especially when discussing a sensitive subject.  

Here’s how to make listening a less passive (and more fruitful) process.

Pay attention

This first tip should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how often we listen to our spouse without giving them our full attention. 

Put down your phone, close your laptop, or turn off the television. Even if you aren’t looking directly at your various devices, it can be hard to listen when distractions lie just within arms reach. 

Watch your body language

Not only does our body communicate messages to the people we interact with, but it also affects how we perceive a situation and receive others. 

If it is a heated topic, don’t scowl, roll your eyes, or cross your arms. These bodily cues communicate a negative message to our spouse, and can even influence us in a harmful way, hardening our hearts and preventing us from listening with compassion.

Sit upright, face your spouse and look him in the eyes. This will help you pay more attention to what is being said, and will show your husband that you hear him. 

Don’t interrupt

When we aren’t actively listening, our mind begins to craft our response or argument before the other person finishes speaking. This can lead to us to jump into the conversation and interject with our own thoughts

Don’t dominate the conversation and don’t interrupt, even with well-meaning advice. You aren’t listening if you are speaking, so be patient and honor them by giving them a chance to express their thoughts and feelings. 

Reflect and rephrase

When they are done speaking, help your significant other know that you understood what they said by restating their point. Avoid jumping to conclusions. 

If you aren’t sure what they said or what they meant, ask for clarification. Make sure you listen and then respond appropriately. 

Be Empathetic

Try to understand where your spouse is coming from, especially if he shares a problem, concern, or difficulty. Validate their feelings; even if you don’t totally agree, look for some truth in their words. 

Sometimes your spouse just needs a listening ear. So seek first to understand your spouse, before offering advice. 


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

How to Stay Connected to your Spouse after Children

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Raising young children may cause you to feel like you’re living your life (and your marriage) in survival mode, waiting until the kids are old enough to start allowing for more romance in your relationship.

However, prioritizing your relationship with your spouse benefits the whole family.

So how do you stay connected with your spouse during the season of having young children?

Create Daily Rituals

Connect with your spouse in the small moments throughout your day by creating daily rituals.

You can make many aspects of your day intentional time with your partner by making the choice to spend that time together; you can eat meals without your phones, exercise together, enjoy your morning coffee or afternoon cup of tea while cuddled on the couch, or going to bed or waking at the same time.

Establish a Date Night

Spending time with your spouse without the kids reminds you of the importance of your marriage during this busy season of life. Find a babysitter or ask a family member to watch your little ones for an evening so you can.

If the budget doesn’t allow for dinner or a movie, don’t be afraid to get creative. There might be a free museum you want to check out, or a nearby park perfect for a picnic. Inexpensive date nights are possible and offer the perfect opportunity to connect.

If a night out isn’t possible for your family, you can even carve out some intentional time with one another at home after the kids have gone to bed. You could play a board game while eating dessert, or watch a movie from a blanket fort.

A meaningful.date doesn’t have to be an elaborate one.

Leave Love Notes

You and your spouse may text one another throughout the day photos of something funny the kids did or reminders to pick up milk, but consider switching it up a bit by leaving little love notes for your beloved.

You can sneak a little affirmation into their lunchbox or leave a sticky note on the bathroom mirror as a reminder of your love. It doesn’t take long to do, but taking the time and expending the effort to handwrite a message communicates to your spouse that they are important to you.

Make Bedtime Intimate

Bedtime is an important part of any day, but can also provide another opportunity to connect with your partner.

Give yourselves an hour to be together before bed, without the distractions of the day. Power down the tech, and use that quiet time to talk or cuddle. You might choose to switch things up with a massage or making love.

Doing this will provide you with much-needed quality time at the end of each day and will help refresh and prepare you for what the morning may bring.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Reflections in a Chalice

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the call of the vocation to marriage.

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

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

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

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


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Becoming Part of Parish Life

As Catholics, we need community to grow deeper in our relationship with God, and where better to find that community than your local parish?

PHOTOGRAPHY:    CLAIRE WATSON

PHOTOGRAPHY: CLAIRE WATSON

Married couples and families offer unique gifts to a parish that can bring a new life to a community.

Here are five tips to help you and your spouse become active members of your parish:

Register at your Parish

While “parish-hopping” has become the norm for most young people today, that is not what we are called to as Catholics.

The 1993 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that parishes “are the heart of our Church.” We need community to help us grow in our faith.

So whether you are attending a new church or the church you grew up in, it is important for couples to register their newly formed family with the parish. By registering with a parish, you are making a formal commitment to the community.

This commitment allows the parish and its ministers to better serve you and further encourages you to serve the needs of that particular community.

Attend a Regular Mass

Especially for families with small children, it is easy to move between parishes to fulfil your Sunday obligation depending on the mass times and your weekend plans.

However, if you really want to become an active member of your community, you should attend mass at your parish every Sunday (at least for a while).

Attending a regular mass at least once a week allows you to further acquaint yourselves with other members of the parish.

Get Involved

Do you have a heart for service? Or a desire to assist with preparations for the liturgy? Are you interested in joining your parish council or the Knights of Columbus?

Parishes often offer ministries in many different areas, so you can do the things you are passionate about while serving the wider parish community. If your parish doesn’t have a ministry you’d like to join, talk to your pastor about how you can get one started.

Start a Bible Study

Starting a Bible study or forming small group is an excellent way to intentionally build up the community among the church members. You might consider starting a group for fellow wives, young adults, or even other couples.

A Bible study can cultivate authentic friendships among the members and strengthen the bonds between them. It also facilitates an encounter with Christ, who can transform the parish for the better.

Open your Home

The creating of a home is calling unique to married couples, the fruit of which can be shared with your parish community.

Invite other couples or regulars at mass over for brunch, or maybe you can have local college students or your parish priests over for a home cooked meal.

Welcoming others into your home not only brings the joy of parish into your domestic church, but also allows your whole family to pour into other members of your community.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER