Newlywed Life | A Responsibility to be Obedient

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The first sin in the Garden of Eden was the sin of disobedience. Baptism is the initial sacrament in our Christian journey which cleanses the stain of original sin. 

At the moment of our baptism, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we “belong… to him who died and rose for us.” With the grace of the sacrament comes a responsibility to live in service, obedience and submission to God and the Church. The stain of original sin predisposes us to temptation, to fall away from God throughout our lives.

Throughout the lifespan, every sacrament, including the Sacrament of Matrimony, is a gift from God to empower men and women in their journey of service, obedience, and selfless submission.  

PHOTOGRAPHY:     DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Obedience is about responding to a call or a command. Children learn obedience in the home through the instruction and discipline of their parents. An obedient child is one who hears an instruction from a parent and responds appropriately and respectfully. In much the same way, our “grown up” responsibility requires adults to hear the command of God the Father and respond appropriately and respectfully. 

When the two become one flesh, man and woman are called to obey for the sake of their beloved, either in protection of or nurture for the other. And through marriage and family life, spouses collaborate to fulfill God’s commands and live as visible signs of his unconditional love. 

One must first discern the will of God before exercising freedom and choosing to obey him. 

Do you know the call God is asking you to obey? As it may relate to you in your individual life or within the context of your marriage, God yearns to be heard. He speaks through the big moments of our lives as well as the quiet movements in our hearts. In order to discern his will, we must create a space to ponder him--in the Mass, prayer, confession, and personal reflection. 

In the chaos of our lives, the will of God can be muffled amidst external responsibilities or expectations from others. 

Work can be a source of complication; for example, ‘I am confident God called me to this job, but my employer is asking me to sacrifice family dinner in order to meet a deadline... is God asking me to surrender family time for this job?’ 

In another context of extended family life, ‘I strive to honor my mother and father, yet they expect me and my husband to abandon our weekly date-night in order to spend more time with them; is God asking me to abandon intimate time with my husband in order to obey my parents?” 

These questions—and the decisions we must make—are complex and complicated. There is not often a clear “right or wrong” answer. Returning to a process of prayerful discernment and an examination of conscience may provide clarity in making the best choice.

Woman and man were created as reciprocal helpmates for each other. Through the gift and grace of marriage, couples can discern, discuss, and set boundaries for decision making in accordance with both God and their personal family values. 

Making a decision to protect personal intimacy with God and spouse may not be understood by others. Such unpopular boundaries may parallel an experience of Christ’s carrying of the cross; by fulfilling God’s design for his life with obedience, he received blows to his body from his peers and community members. 

An act of obedience, as established through Baptism, is to obey the will of God. As established through Marriage, holy obedience is a means for joint sanctification of both spouses. 


“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.”


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

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The Divine Depth of Love

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Earlier this summer, I went to confession with a priest who asked me to spend a few minutes thinking about things about my husband that I am grateful for. 

Easy, I thought as I left the confessional. But as I sat down in the pew with my pen and journal in hand, I found it wasn’t actually as easy as I thought.

I love my husband. He’s an amazing man and I am thankful for him, but putting into words why I am grateful for him felt like trying to hold the whole ocean in my hands. 

If you had asked me right after Ben and I met what his best qualities were, I’d have been able to tell you in a heartbeat. He’s handsome, funny, smart, and kind. 

But now, after almost seven years of friendship, five years of being in a relationship, and three years of marriage, these words feel inadequate.

Trying to quantify and define the parts of him I loved felt limiting. I don’t love Ben because he’s handsome or funny or gentle, but because he’s Ben. 

The more time you spend with a person the harder it is to see all of the things that make them who they are. 

The more you learn about them and see who they really are, the harder it becomes to pinpoint all the little qualities that make them lovable. 

You simply love them because they are.

Marriage has opened to me a depth of love that I hadn’t known possible and in doing so made known to me a depth of God I had yet to understand.

A God who loves wholly and without conditions. 

God doesn’t love us because we are capable or holy. He doesn’t love us because of our looks or our sense of humor.

There is nothing we can say, do, or have to earn more of His love and affection. 

He loves us because we are.


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

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The Art of the Apology

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Learning how to apologize has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned so far in my marriage. 

I thought I knew how to apologize well. Isn’t that one of the earliest lessons we learn when we reach school age?

However, early in our marriage, I noticed that my apologies (if I apologized at all) often lacked humility.

A genuine apology and a swift forgiveness positively affect the whole dynamic of your relationship with your spouse. 

Take responsibility

Very few marital disputes are the sole fault of one of the parties, so you first must acknowledge your role in the problem or dispute. If you don’t your apology will lack sincerity. 

Step into your spouse’s shoes and see how your words and actions may have negatively affected or hurt him. Show him that you respect how he feels.

This first step takes humility, which can prove difficult for many of us, but will help build trust and love in your relationship with your partner.

Watch your words

Words have power and can affect the sincerity and validity of your apology. 

When struggling to overcome our pride, we often word our apology in a way that places the blame primarily on the other person.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” or “If I offended you, I’m sorry” are not apologies. And instead of reinforcing the connection between you and your spouse, further divide you. 

Use more “I statements” when apologizing like “I’m sorry I said…” or “I’m sorry I…” and use specifics. Show your spouse with your words that you actually know why you are apologizing. 

Ask for forgiveness

Honesty, this is the part I still struggle with. Asking for forgiveness is incredibly humbling often making it the most challenging part of an apology. But I promise, that it will become easier over time. 

You may be tempted to write it out or send it in a text, but it’s important that you verbally ask your spouse for forgiveness. Doing this offers release and closure for both people, and can help you grow in virtues that will benefit your relationship. 

If you struggle with this step, ask yourself why? What is preventing you from doing this? Take it to prayer and allow God to show you where you need to grow. 

Create an action plan

What steps can you take to prevent this mistake from happening again? What steps will you take to change? 

You can ask your spouse what he thinks could be done differently if the situation arises again. 

But don’t just tell your husband your plan, put it into action. Allow him to see your resolve to love him better. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so show yourself some kindness as you learn and ask God for the grace to help you were you still struggle.


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

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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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God's Ways are Not our Ways | Encouragement to Endure

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

For years, I have been aware of the verse from Isaiah which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” 

In the context of natural disasters or global humanitarian crises, I find hopeful comfort in these words: God’s ways are not our ways. I may not understand what is happening in our world, or why, but I am called to trust that we are in God’s providential hand under his divine timing. And when he calls me to serve, I strive to be prepared to say “yes.” 

Despite my understanding on a social level, discerning, pursuing and fulfilling a vocation to marriage has been a provocation for me to encounter this truth in a personal and intimate way. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY: FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

Becoming indefinitely united to another and living into a sacramental reality is a catalyst for conversion. The word ‘conversion,’ in its Latin roots, means ‘to turn.’ Through marriage, our hearts and minds receive countless invitations to turn towards humility, selflessness, charity, patience, and faith. 

A vivid image of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind. For years, he sat rusted and immobile. All of a sudden, oil is released into his joints; though he creaks and aches while breaking through the stiff rust, he finds freedom in turning his joints and discovering his new potential.

Similarly, parts of my heart laid dormant for years. The sacrament of marriage is the oil which seeps into the deep crevices of intimacy, breaks into the rust of fear and self-doubt, and brings new freedom to our desires to love and be loved. 

Though living in the freedom of my heart’s potential is eventually a joyful revelation, I sometimes focus more on the painful, creaking, aching process rather than the hope of mercy. 

In our human nature, we don’t like pain. We would prefer to avoid it, if possible. But God’s ways are not our ways. Often, through grace, he invites us into our stiffness in order to create a new mobility of love. 

My heart desires freedom, desires to say “yes,” desires to receive love and mercy, desires to be seen. Yet my head knows the process may be painful and proposes barriers against turning toward Jesus in order to avoid the hurt. Will I trust the Lord, will I receive his mercy, will I endure the crosses of my vocation? The choice is ours. 

So often, life does not go according to plan; new circumstances present unforeseen challenges. God’s ways are not are ways, yet we are called to keep our eyes on him as we continue following his lead. 

The exchange of wedding vows requires active participation from three: bride, groom, and God. Therefore in the months and years following the wedding day, fulfilling the vows “in good times and in bad” is a continued participation of three: bride, groom, and God.

In the moments when we don’t understand his plan and can’t anticipate the journey of our lives, we can trust the validity of our vows—God is ever-present within our marriage and family lives. We can affirm our hearts’ desires and calm our heads’ worries because we are seen, known, loved and led by God. The mercy and grace he offers through the marital embrace will include the invitation to enter into pain, so we may turn toward love.

His ways are not our ways, yet his ways are perfect and pure. Trust the moment, enter into the painful process, and maintain a steadfast hope in the promises of the Sacrament.


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

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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

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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

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