Dealing With Spiritual Desolation During Engagement + Married Life

DENAE PELLERIN

 

Desolation characterized most of my dating and engagement relationships with my husband. At one point in dating as we sat outside an Adoration chapel, I confessed, “I don’t think that I believe in God anymore.” 

He looked at me and said, “I will love you regardless and pray for you, because that must be so hard for you.” 

Photography:    Jordan Dumba Photography   , from the author’s wedding

Photography: Jordan Dumba Photography, from the author’s wedding

Faithful for so many years, I was sitting in the midst of the answer of my prayers for a Christ-like man to become my spouse, yet I could not experience the presence of God in a way I once knew. 

My husband’s response to my struggles brought forward an image of a tender Jesus, patiently waiting for me--not a dictator waiting for me to conform. How broken my image of God had become; where I feared him and lived in compliance. 

As we approached our wedding day, I began feeling anxious about whether or not this sacrament would give me the “high” I longed for--that connection I once had felt with the Lord. I began to fear: would it mean something is wrong if that didn’t happen? What do I have to do to make sure I “feel” something? Is my lack of faith a sign that this vocation is not for me?

Faithful trust pulled me forward, helping me believe that even without the spiritual high, God would be present and our wedding day could bring glory to him. 

I also began reflecting on the gift of desolation, which allowed my mind to discern my vocation without the clouding of emotions and “signs” that could lead me to confusion. My past prayer journals showed me how my soon-to-be-husband was exactly what I had always longed for, and I had an immense sense of peace at the thought of marrying him. 

I vowed to put intentional effort into everything about our wedding, as though I had complete trust and faith in God. As I began contemplating the intricacies of our nuptial Mass, I was drawn towards readings and songs that kept me grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith I could believe in this moment, the hope I held for our future, my past experiences and journey to a place of faith, and requests for assistance from God and the saints. 

One of the reasons I chose the parish we were married in was for the stained glass image of the Annunciation right above the altar. For years I had been attending the parish; often during Mass, I would gaze upon the image of Mary kneeling before the angel. At one time, I had a great devotion to Mary and her words “Let it done to me according to thy will” were the words that came to me in moments of great risk and faith.

In this time of desolation and uncertainty, I found comfort and affiliation in the image of me kneeling with my husband, and Mary, before the angel. 

On our wedding day we approached the altar to Sara Groves’ “He’s Always Been Faithful to Me,” a song that proclaims a truth my heart cannot always make. 

Our Gospel reading was the Beatitudes. As the line “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” was proclaimed, it pierced my heart. As a social worker and pro-life advocate, so much of my desolation had come from experiencing immense brokenness and not seeing God’s power within it. 

That desolation had brought me to a place of hopelessness and struggles with sin. Yet here on this day, I heard the voice of the Lord telling me he saw me. 

He saw my merciful heart for others and in response, his mercy would extend, overwhelm, and overlook all the brokenness I had been feeling and experiencing. I was-- and had always been-- enough for him, despite my struggles with lack of belief. 

It did not overtake my body like so many experiences of the Holy Spirit had before;, it was not a fire lit in my soul. The experience was so intimate, and what I realize now is that it was an acknowledgement to the constant burning, which had been there even when I could no longer see.


 About the Author: Denae Pellerin discovered the truth of Christ at an evangelical summer camp as a youth and later made her way to the Catholic Church because of her public Catholic education. Denae loves Catholic Social Teaching, Marian Devotions, and Women-Centered Pro-Life Actions.

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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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Creative Ways to Pray for your Spouse

CARISSA PLUTA

 

When it comes to praying for my husband, I’ve always had great intentions.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    VISUAL GRACE

PHOTOGRAPHY: VISUAL GRACE

I imagine myself getting to the adoration chapel for an hour or so and praying perfectly for my husband’s needs.

But in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, intercessory prayer often falls to the bottom of the list, unless of course, it’s a more urgent intention, in which a decade of the rosary might suffice. 

I don’t want to wait until an emergency or crisis arrives to pray for my husband, but carving out time during the day requires me to get more creative with how I do it.

Sacrifice something for him

As Catholics, we believe that our sacrifices and suffering have meaning and can be redemptive. 

In Salvifici Doloris, it says: “...Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”

Intentionally making a sacrifice, especially on behalf of another, can bring forth many graces in that person’s life. 

You might consider picking a day where you will offer something up specifically for your spouse. You can start small--maybe by giving up dessert, social media, or breakfast. 

Pray for him as you do chores

My husband and I split up the daily duties and responsibilities in our house, and I’ve found that I can use the time I spend doing them for prayer. You can choose a traditional form of prayer to do during this time, or offer up this valuable gift of your time and energy for your partner. 

Not only can you offer up your daily work for your spouse, but you can get even more creative by praying for specific things relating to the chores. 

For instance, sometimes when I fold laundry, I can pray for the bodily health and needs of my husband. Or when I am cleaning up after dinner, I can pray for his spiritual nourishment. 

You make a gift of yourself to your spouse and to God when you do your duties joyfully, and combining work and prayer can produce so much fruit in your life, your husband’s life, and in your marriage.

Create a spiritual bouquet

A spiritual bouquet is a collection of prayers and offerings from an individual or group for someone else. 

Not only does a spiritual bouquet make a thoughtful gift for your spouse, but it also offers you an intentional way to pray and offer sacrifices for his’ intentions. 

You can do this alone or you can invite friends and other loved ones to contribute. Make a note of how and when you pray for him during the week and then gift him with the note so he has a visual representation of the prayers you offered for him. 


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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Prayer Intentions for Women Called to Marriage

Whether you’re currently single, dating, engaged, or married, every woman prays to live out her vocation faithfully and well. What does that look like in the everyday?

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in    Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

For those called to marriage, the desire to be a strong, holy wife might feel so...abstract. And that’s understandable! Depending on your relationship situation and whether you’ve met your spouse, your ability to will the good of a specific man and ask the Father for grace with specific matters can be limited. 

Are you in a season of discerning the Father’s will for your life? Read tips for determining the vocation he might be calling you to. 

There are, however, particular intentions you might consider bringing to prayer as you anticipate, prepare for, or live out your married life. Here, prayer suggestions for brides.

Strengthen me in sacrifice.

Ask the Lord for a greater sense of perception and attention to opportunities for sacrifice and service, as well as a willing disposition to do so with a joyful heart. Is he prompting you to fast from or give up particular habits? Are there daily activities in which you can ease the load of someone in your life (chores, quality time, or otherwise)? No matter your current state in life, you can actively strengthen your marriage--starting now--by developing a heart of sacrifice.

Grant me the gift of understanding.

Seek growth in active listening, healthy conflict resolution, and empathy. Embrace others’ honesty and vulnerability as a gift to be treated with mercy and care. Cultivating communication skills amplifies and enriches all of your relationships.

Read 5 Tips for Active Listening.

Help me to know your peace, Lord.

Do you find yourself doubting you’ll ever meet the man you’re intended to marry? Are you anxious to determine if the man you’re currently dating is The One? Are you and your spouse facing a major life decision like children, career changes, or a move?

The Lord desires our hearts to be at peace. In times of restlessness for answers, approach discernment with a spirit of openness, trusting that he responds to our prayers--sometimes with a whisper, and sometimes with a shout--in the most loving, fruitful ways, even when his call is wildly different from our expectations.

May I revere my sexuality and fertility.

Our identity as human persons, male and female and invited to join God in bringing forth life, speaks the truth of who we are. Pray for the graces of reverence, joy, freedom, and self-discipline as they relate to your sexuality, and if you feel the pull, seek out theological resources that further illuminate.

Pray, also, for trust: the knowledge and appropriate resources to learn about your fertility and your body’s particular rhythms, the faith and confidence to embrace children and grow your family as you feel called. And perhaps most painfully, the trust that should infertility and complications arise, you are not abandoned and the Lord will reveal, in time, his plans for your particular marriage to be fruitful.

May I make of myself a gift to my husband, and may he make of himself a gift to me.

Authentic love is free, faithful, total, and fruitful; a complete gift of self. This love takes on a particularly intimate, personal dimension in marriage, yet there are ways to embody self-gift even before marriage.

Pray about ways to communicate love through every part of your life, not just your romantic relationship: live with a spirit of encounter. Make efforts to make others feel seen, heard, and known. Be a witness to joy and to confidence in your identity as a daughter, sister, and bride. 

For that, ultimately, is who you are: a woman, equipped with unique gifts only you can confer on the world--not only on your wedding day or as a new wife, but before and after you enter into your vocation. May your prayers inspire your gifts and your worth.

Have you experienced this desire to be a “good” wife? What other intentions have you prayed for in this pursuit? Share your thoughts in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Wedding Planning | Father Jacques Phillipe and Detachment from Wedding Planning Desires

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The wedding planning process can be a stressful one. A bride-to-be not only yearns for the fulfillment of her visions of beauty, but often faces the expectations from her fiance, bridesmaids, mother, sisters, mothers-in-law, and friends. Even more, the wide world of Pinterest and Google introduce infinite vendors, budgets, designs, and decisions.

In the face of overwhelming options, it can be easy for a couple to forget God’s providential role in their wedding planning process.

Father Jacques Phillippe offers encouragement to acquire a steadfast peace of heart in his book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace. Though his wisdom is not written in relation to wedding planning, his words speak truth into the decisions—and holy detachment—involved in planning a wedding with God. 

“Very frequently… the Lord asks only an attitude of detachment at the level of the heart, a disposition to give Him everything. But He doesn’t necessarily “take” everything… This detachment, even though it is painful at the moment, will be followed by a profound peace. The proper attitude then is simply to be disposed to give everything to God, without panic, and to allow Him to do things His way, in total confidence.”

Is the Lord asking you for a spirit of detachment in the midst of your wedding planning desires? If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of decisions and pressures in this process, take your worries and your desires to him in prayer. With a desire to give it all to him, release your desires into his providence and trust that he will fill your heart—and your wedding day—with joy and peace. 

“Abandonment is not natural; it is a grace to be asked of God. He will give it to us, if we pray with perseverance.”

This abandonment of desire is not easy to our human nature. But your efforts to collaborate with God in this process and to glorify him through your sacrament are acts of trust and love. He is with you throughout this journey. 

“Obviously we do not want to say that it is a bad thing to be able to anticipate things, to develop a budget or prepare one’s homilies. Our natural abilities are also instruments in the hands of Providence! But everything depends on the spirit in which we do things.”

You can leave the homily preparations to your priest. In the meantime, detachment does not mean you stop doing the necessary work. Fulfilling a call means you receive an opportunity from God’s providence and you work in collaboration with him. Continue utilizing your strengths, trusting your intuition, and remaining in a posture of receptivity for the next grace. 

“Once could even say that the surest way to lose one’s peace is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else… To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution: We must rely on God alone, with total trust in Him, as your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32).”

Offering your wedding planning desires to God is counter-cultural and, quite frankly, it’s not popular. Friends and family may not understand your peace which follows detachment. But, as Father Jacques Phillippe warns us, relying more heavily on human will rather than on God alone is the surest way to lose peace. Keep you heart on your heavenly Father and trust, with confidence, that your wedding day desires will be fulfilled. 

“The heart does not awaken to confidence until it awakens to love; we need to feel the gentleness and the tenderness of the heart of Jesus.” 

“To grow or to enrich one’s spiritual life is to learn to love.”

What’s the point of detaching ourselves from our desires and abandoning them to God? Love. As we grow in virtue, we grow in holiness and love. This season of preparation for your wedding day is about planning a beautiful day. More importantly, however, this is a season to prepare your heart to love and be loved by your groom and to grow in holiness through your sacrament of marriage. 


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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Newlywed Life | Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I was relatively aware how “everything” was going to change. In one day, I acquired a new roommate, an abundance of new household appliances and a new last name. Simultaneously, my husband and I were preparing for an international move—transitioning out of our jobs and community and into a new world of people, places, and norms. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

I did not have the same awareness of the resulting changes to my spiritual life and prayer routine. 

Following our wedding day, early mornings at an adoration chapel were replaced with making breakfast and enjoying coffee with my new husband. The spontaneous decision to attend daily Mass disappeared due to a lack of access to daily Mass in our new community. The experiences that once nourished my soul and my heart gave way to the new gifts and specific circumstances of married life. 

I’ve gained encouragement in my new role as a wife through the Benedictine saying, “Ora et labora,” or “pray and work.” This philosophy intertwines the responsibilities of vocation with our hearts’ longing for God. 

In this season of life, my “work,” my vocation as a wife, looks like cleaning the house and preparing meals, washing the dishes and doing laundry, planning a vacation and keeping in touch with extended family. 

In accordance with the Benedictine philosophy, the household chores, fulfilled as acts of service and love, can become a form of prayer. The active doing with my hands is a tangible form of prayer, of becoming a longing for God.

As we purify the intentions of our hearts and bring God to the front of our minds, every action—both at home and in our communities—becomes prayer. Waking up early enough to make a cup of coffee for your spouse is a prayer for his goodwill. Keeping in touch with extended family is a prayer of thanksgiving for your origins and support system. Upholding an orderly house as a practice of discipline is prayerful preparation to model a virtue of self-control to future children.  

If you, like me, are wrestling with the tension of incorporating old habits into new circumstances, take peace in knowing God is right where you are. Molding our prayer life according to our new vocational life does not mean surrendering spiritual practices altogether. Our hearts yearn for intimacy with both our spouse and God in a personal, trinitarian relationship. Lean into the ache to see how loving your spouse and God are united in the same action.


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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What are the Non-Negotiables in Your Relationship?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Do you and your fiancé or spouse ever experience a desire for order and ritual within your relationship?

As someone who resists the feeling of being boxed into any one identity or image, and who struggles with personal accountability in schedules and routines, I used to think living by a set of particular daily practices or principles--in my mind, a set of “rules”--were a limitation.

After seasons of struggling with purpose, intentionality, and motivation, I’ve begun to realize that incorporating an appropriate degree of order into my daily life and my marriage aren’t limiting: in reality, they create a greater sense of freedom.

Freedom, for my husband and I, has felt tangibly, practically real in the experiences of not feeling enslaved to household responsibilities or to self-focused desires. It’s felt like our time can be used well and for the service of each other and our family. Our growth in this area is the fruit of a recent discussion in which we talked about our individual and family priorities; what we deemed “non-negotiables” in our life together.

Read the Spoken Bride team’s experiences with and tips for designating household responsibilities with your spouse. 

The non-negotiables my husband and I identified for our marriage are: family dinner, daily walks together with our children, going to bed at or close to the same time as each other, and providing each other with time alone for prayer (the daily readings, Holy Hours or daily Mass) and renewal throughout the week (for my husband, it’s a weekly hockey league he plays in with his brothers, and for me, it’s time for journaling and running errands on my own).

I encourage you and your beloved to communicate about your own non-negotiables, whether you’re in the state of anticipating your future marriage, whether you’re adjusting to the new habits and closeness of newlywed life, or whether, like me, you’ve been married several years and are eager to refocus on your priorities as a couple. Recognizing one another’s love languages can provide great context for identifying your needs. 

Here, suggested starting points for creating your own list. You might create a list divided into different areas of your life, as cited below, or into daily, weekly, and monthly priorities.

Spiritual

Identify concrete times and ways to pray together. Consider incorporating daily prayers like the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours, committing to confession, Adoration, and/or daily Mass several times per month, celebrating particular days in the liturgical year, or a establishing a continual practice of reading and discussing the same spiritual book.

Find spiritual reading recommendations--including Theology, literature, and books on love and marriage--here.

Physical

Exercise and physical activity promote discipline and healthy ambition in all areas of your life. If working out--individually or together--is a priority for you, include it in your non-negotiables.

What’s more, in our creation as full persons, body and soul, the physical extends beyond exercise and looks to the relational. Discuss your outlook and needs regarding physical touch with your beloved, and determine ways appropriate to your relationship (whether engaged or married) to express affection. My husband and I, for instance, try to sit down on the couch together to chat and cuddle after our kids go to bed, before we begin our evening chores or leisure. I cherish the time spent reconnecting.

Read reflections on how a regular running habit helped one of our brides prepare emotionally, spiritually, and physically for marriage. 

Service

Are there particular responsibilities and sacrifices you can take on for the good of each other? Particularly for those whose love language is acts of service, daily assistance with chores and, God willing, family life, can be a meaningful non-negotiable that minimizes overwhelm and provides opportunities for sacrificial love. Your non-negotiables list might include matters like a nightly tidying up or making the bed in the morning.

Consider, as well, if service to your community--through weekly or monthly commitments to ministry, corporal works of mercy, volunteer work, or helping family and friends--is a high priority for your relationship.

Leisure

Identify ways you and your beloved can use your free time for both personal renewal and for nurturing your relationship. Depending on your individual temperaments and state in life, leisure preferences can widely vary, and are worth communicating about honestly.

Discuss ways to embrace leisure time in ways that leave the both of you feeling restored and close to one another: consider weekly or monthly date nights, designated times of day where your phones stay in another room, or pursuing shared hobbies.

Tired of the endless Netflix scroll? Read 8 inspired, non-TV ideas for your quality time

Although my husband and I aren’t perfect at meeting our daily, weekly, and monthly non-negotiables, simply having identified and committing to them has brought a deeper sense of purpose, intention, and yes, freedom, to our life, particularly in our season of raising a young family. We’d love to hear yours, as well. Share your non-negotiables (whether official or unofficial) in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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