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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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!

The Feast of St. Joseph | A Fellow Human, A Saintly Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph: foster father of Jesus, spouse of Mary and head of the holy family. He was a carpenter, he was a man.

When we look to Joseph, we see a man who surrendered himself to the direction from an angel in his dreams. We read how he obeyed the command of God, loved and served Mary as his chaste spouse, and raised Jesus, the son of God, as his own earthly son.

Have you ever imagined when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in the caravan, only to find him days later, preaching to adult men in the temple? My heart goes out to Joseph. The parameters of his mission were simple: love, protect, and guide Jesus and Mary. All in all, through obedience and grace, Joseph fulfilled his calling. But in this experience of losing Jesus and consoling Mary, I imagine Joseph was tempted to worry and despair.

Years later, Joseph died when Jesus was 30-years-old, on the brink of his public ministry. I picture Joseph lying on his deathbed, preparing to part from his earthly life. Joseph must have felt both sorrow and joy as he left his family with anticipation for his son’s powerful mission. I imagine the deep sadness of Jesus and Mary who said goodbye to their beloved.

Reflecting on the stories of Joseph bring his humble holiness to a human reality.

As we gaze at Joseph in statues and paintings, recall stories of him in Scripture or reach out to him in prayer, we encounter a friend. He is so approachable; a human man who intimately encountered the divine every day. This man who we rightfully honor with holy veneration was conceived with original sin. He was as human as me and you.

In the vocation to married life, we are sacramentally offered good and holy gifts such as intimacy, vulnerability, and companionship. Receiving and living out these gifts can often send individuals and couples to the heights of love, or can expose a raw wound of human brokenness. Perhaps in a moment of insecurity we believe, “I am not enough.” In the midst of an argument we fear abandonment. In prolonged frustration and anxiety, we despair and lose trust in God’s providence.

It may be easy to admire an icon of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and assume the immense joy in their family life. Amidst the celebration of such pure trinitarian love of the family, I hope against hope that there were days Joseph wished he could love Mary better. Or days when he was disappointed by how he received Mary’s perfect love. Joseph’s imperfections are the only stains of sin in the holy family, yet his entire being—holiness and imperfection combined—was destined for his specific vocation.

Through both his human imperfection and pure intention, God empowered Joseph to love Mary, show Jesus about the love between a husband and a wife, and receive love from his family. In the same way, we are each called to be fully present with God in our unique vocation, to love with virtue despite our own shortcomings.

God has so carefully woven two lives together in your marriage. On the days when your sinful, selfish, or short-sighted human nature is too much to bear, remember goodwill and purity of heart are enough for love. In striving to love and be loved, moments which expose brokenness do not define a limit for love. Rater, these moments help us identify where grace and mercy can provide healing. Joseph’s example offers peace and encouragement to every person, for our hearts to become a channel for God’s love to shine through.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers encouragement to little souls, to those who recognize their long journey to perfection, “Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.”

You are human. Joseph was human. If he could fulfill his vocation to the Holy Family, you can fulfill your vocation in your own holy family. You were created for a mission exactly where you are. As you bring your completely human heart to God, you will grow—with an ever-deepening purity of heart—in the capacity to love and be loved.

St. Joseph, you sought to bring glory to God in every action and word. Together with your pure heart, Mary’s Immaculate heart, and Jesus’ Sacred heart, guide me to embrace my human imperfection with humility so that I may receive God’s mercy and grow ever more deeply into the virtue of my vocation. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of 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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3 Tangible Ways to Include the Saints in Your Wedding Day

CLARA DAVISON

 

For as long as I can remember, saints and their stories have played a huge part in my spiritual life.

As a child, I loved learning about Saint Fransisco, Blessed Imelda, and other children who achieved holiness at a young age. In my teenage years, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Saint Dominic Savio, and Blessed Chiara Badano began inspiring me. Learning about holy men and women who related to my current stage in life strengthened and encouraged me on my spiritual journey.

Once engaged, I began considering ways to incorporate the saints into my wedding. They have been alongside me through every part of my life, and I wanted to include them as I entered this vocation. Here, three ways I have seen the saints’ intercession incorporated in Catholic weddings:

Wedding bouquet medals

During my engagement, I asked friends and family to pray for us in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I may have tentatively suggested--or not so tentatively, as my siblings tell me--that they ask the intercession of specific saints on my husband’s and my behalf. I then invited my prayer warriors to bring a medal of their specific saint to the wedding and tie it onto my bouquet before I walked down the aisle.

I can’t tell you how touching it was to receive so many medals on my wedding day and to feel the weight of my bouquet carrying the symbols of many prayers. Since the bouquet was too large to preserve, it became especially significant to have those medals long after the flowers and greenery faded.

Stories of married saints

As I planned my wedding, I began seeking out saints who were called to the vocation of marriage: Saints Gianna Molla, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Jane Frances de Chantal just scratch the surface of many amazing married women. I found it incredibly powerful to study the lives of Catholic wives who lived out their vocation with such holiness.

I also learned of many married couples who are both saints! While Joseph and Mary are the epitome of a holy marriage, there are a variety of others to learn from: Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, Joachim and Anne, and Blessed Charles of Austria and his wife, Servant of God Zita, are just a few from whom I drew inspiration. Learning about these holy relationships is a great way to reflect on your hopes for your own marriage.

Litany of the Saints

When picking Mass music, my friend chose the Litany of the Saints to be sung while grandparents, parents, and bridesmaids walked down the aisle. She and her fiancé were able to pick some of their favorite saints to include in the litany, making it particularly personal. While not a traditional piece for a wedding, I found it a beautiful testimony to watch the couple’s closest friends and family escorted down the aisle as their closest friends in Heaven were called on to intercede.

Our brothers and sisters in heaven are such a wonderful aspect of the Catholic faith. What are ways you have seen them included in weddings?


About the Author: Clara Davison has worked as a whitewater raft guide, sex trafficking researcher, U.K. Parliament researcher, swim coach, and freelance writer. She currently works in independent school advancement and lives with her husband in North Carolina.   

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Let Something New Pursue Your Heart This Year.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

You know the ones. The quotable movie lines, the Top 40 songs, the recent Apple launches you’re vaguely aware of and just nod along with when they come up, never having exactly experienced them yourself. Does this ever happen in your spiritual life, as well--a feeling that one day you should get around to a deeper look at some of the Church’s rich offerings you’ve only ever sort of known about?

As this new year unfolds, this opportunity to encounter the Lord in a new way, I encourage you to dive into a piece of spiritual reading or the life a particular saint, perhaps one you’ve long intended to get acquainted with, and let it lead your heart where it will.

Photography:    Zélie Veils

Photography: Zélie Veils

For me, this happened with the writings of John Paul II. Growing up, I loved the idea of love, thanks to a steady diet of Disney magic and romantic comedies. My high school youth minister occasionally mentioned the Theology of the Body and its powerful message, yet I put away the basic catechesis on a mental shelf, not considering it compelling or relevant to my current life.

Fast forward to college, and I realized my younger self’s concept of romance was little more than infatuation when compared to what it could really be. Saint Pope John Paul II introduced me to another view, and I fell in love with love for real.

Along with my boyfriend at the time, I attended a summer retreat in Allenspark, Colorado, where the Pope stayed when he came to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. On the outside, much about our relationship looked happy and holy. Yet my heart had never experienced deeper unrest, in everything from physical boundaries to problem-solving to the voice I could never quite silence; the one that questioned whether even sacrificial love should feel like a constant weight.

That relationship wasn’t meant to be, but I’m certain the Father’s hand led me to that holy ground in the Rockies. There, I was introduced for the first time to Love and Responsibility, the book on sexual ethics and human dignity that John Paul wrote during his years as a cardinal. The person, he wrote, is meant to be loved, and things are meant to be used, yet so often we get it backwards. His observations on romance, sacrifice, and the ways we stumble in them were like reading a narrative of my relationship.  As I came to see it was built on sand, I grew aware of a hunger, an ache, I hadn’t even realized dwelled in my soul. It was a longing for authentic love, rooted in truth.

Months passed before I had the courage to end that relationship. All the while, though, I just couldn’t--and didn’t--want to put out that fire the Pope had lit in my heart. I started reading all I could about his take on love, sexuality, and chastity. It felt like putting on glasses I hadn’t known I needed. Here were the eternal, ancient truths of the Church, spoken in a language so immediate and insistent, so suited to the current culture and my own life. In my relationship, I’d been hiding so much from myself, my friends, and God. I was ready to become more fully alive; to take off the masks. One of JPII’s personal mottos, duc in altum, calls upon Jesus’ exhortation to “put out into the deep.”

A few years later, recently engaged, I found myself on a Theology of the Body retreat with my coworkers. I was familiar with the Pope’s series of audiences on creation, salvation, and the nuptial intimacy found in each vocation from a college study group, but had never delved deeply in.

For the second time in my life, everything I thought I knew about love fell away, replaced with John Paul’s blazingly beautiful vision of the human person; of love as a complete and unrestrained gift of self. His words were literally life-giving, and awakened in me a desire to live out that self-gift in all of my relationships, most especially in the one I’d have with my husband-to-be: the relationship that would sanctify me and bring me to Christ. I felt remade under this new lens.

Encountering this great saint’s writings and principles painted for me the clearest, most whole, most hopeful vision of who we, as humans, are: beloved daughters and sons; a revelation of the Father’s great love. His words have shown me to myself.

What about you? It’s become apparent in my personal prayer life that certain verses, prayers, and saints have seemingly chosen and pursued me at the times I most needed them. Some of those invitations have been whispers: constant, repeated mentions of a certain prayer, book, or person over months or years. And some have been shouts: instances where intercession and answered prayers ring clear and true. Who are the holy men and women who’ve been knocking at--or, alternatively, crashing through--the door of your heart lately?

Sit in the quiet and observe if any particular saints or writings surface. Consider whether any individuals, devotions, or books have been recommended to you more than once, from more than one person. Or perhaps there’s a particular aspect of the Catholic faith you’ve always wanted to dive into. As a new year unfolds, I sense an expanse of open space in my soul; a decluttered state of thirst. I desire to be filled. Satisfied. May my heart--and yours--find newness, discovery, and a deeper intimacy with Christ in these coming months.


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

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Embracing the Seasons of Preparation

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

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

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

Even the saints agonized through delayed gratification!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Readers Share | The Saints Who've Shaped Your Relationships

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

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

Here, a selection of your stories of saintly intercession:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Anthony. - @vegan_wannabe_81

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

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

St. Maria Goretti. - @paigealexandrahussey

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

St. Josemaria Escriva. - @akeeshers

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

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

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

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

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

Our guardian angels! - @ann.elissa

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

St. Elia. - @soulachreim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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