Is There a Definition of a "Catholic Wife?" How I Found My Identity in the Feminine Genius.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

So many of us pray throughout engagement and marriage to be good and holy wives. What does that actually mean, and how does it look in each woman’s life? For several years, I struggled to define who a holy, truly “Catholic” girlfriend, fiancee, and wife actually was.

I first heard the term “feminine genius,” as coined by Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women, on a summer retreat. The retreat introduced me to the letter and to Love and Responsibility, John Paul’s work illuminating the dignity and purpose of the human person, particularly as it relates to sexual ethics, the complementarity of men and women, and the real-life implications of how men and women relate to one another. 

These texts wrecked me, in the best way. My simpler, more youthful deas of love as feelings and gestures were torn down, replaced with the principles that love is an act of the will. Self-gift.

I attended the retreat with my college boyfriend. To be in a serious dating relationship, while reading a book about dating and all the potential obstacles to authentic love, struck me with insecurity. All of these ideas--love over utility, sincerity, honesty, chastity--grabbed my heart and made so much sense, yet they seemed like impossible standards. 

As a result, for several months I overanalyzed the nature of complementarity: I wondered if my actions communicated a sense of receptivity that the Pope said was integral to womanhood,while letting my boyfriend take a more initiating, leadership-focused role. I frequently questioned if I was living in a way that was truly “feminine.” 

My heart lived in a tension: I desired to be what I mistakenly perceived as the holiest type of Catholic woman, while also resisting passivity or weakness. When I was so concerned with whether I was being feminine in the right way, I wasn’t free.

Have you ever had a similar experience, wishing to be a prayerful, feminine, holy wife who is also a woman of strength and conviction? I found freedom in looking to Our Lady.

As I returned to school after the retreat and began attending a Marian prayer group, I delved into the mysteries of the Rosary for the first time. As I grew in devotion to Our Lady, I realized there is no single “type” of feminine genius, nor type of Catholic spouse, I needed to live by or fit into, because it is already there, integral to who we are. 

Within the term feminine genius there are as many ways to express femininity as there are unique, unrepeatable women in this world. Each of us is loved and willed into existence so specifically, with our own particular gifts.

If you find yourself looking for your purpose, particularly in preparations for marriage, I invite you to contemplate Mary as our ultimate womanly example. In her Magnificat at the Visitation, she joyfully proclaims, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” 

As women, we deeply desire to be seen. We can also help others to see the presence of the Lord. Mary proclaimed God’s love--magnified it--with her life. A prayer to do just that--to reveal God’s love to your husband, in body and spirit--radiates the Lord’s love. 

Where I used to mistakenly believe femininity meant a singularly calm, pious womanhood, I now know, through Mary’s making visible God’s love, that in reality the Father wants and needs women of all temperaments, spiritualities, hobbies, and strengths to make known his kingdom through their vocations. Only you can tell your story and share the love of God in a particular way; can love and sanctify your husband and future family in the ways they most deeply need.

The only true definition of a “Catholic wife” is the one specific to who you alone were created to be.

When I met and began dating my husband, there was an immediate ease. I saw “...that femininity doesn’t mean one thing only: it’s not always being the asked, never the asker; always the pursued, never the pursuer; always the comforted, never the comforter. It doesn’t mean being afraid to argue or voice strong opinions. It means loving my husband, in his uniqueness, and every person I encounter, in the specific way only I can.” 

My favorite Adoration chapel has a monstrance in the form of a wooden sculpture of Our Lady, holding out her arms. In her arms is the space for the Eucharist. We see how a woman is both holding--receiving--and magnifying her for all to behold. If we look to her, we can constantly revisit what it means to reveal him to others and bear his face, not our own, to the world.

In our identity as brides, the feminine genius calls women to be like a monstrance: only a vessel--a beautiful one, in soul and body--for revealing the Lord to our beloved, magnifying his love and presence to others. 


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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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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Newlywed Life | When Your Relationship Feels Stuck in a Rut

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

At 23, I thought I was entering into marriage without any veils of illusion or idealism, understanding that love runs far deeper than emotion. Yet there’s an undyingly romantic part of my heart that still expected married life would be a constant adventure.

I found myself surprised, then, when several months into our vocation my husband and I both found ourselves...restless. We were far from family and seeking community, eating similar meals each week, watching The Office every night. Even as we savored the newlywed days of discovering what our life together would look like, we searched for a sense of direction.

We craved routine, but didn’t want to be bored. We knew we weren’t one another’s ultimate earthly fulfillment, yet still desired to feel fulfilled.

Have you experienced a relationship rut like this? Maybe your own sense of restlessness has looked like mine, in the form of seeking more variety in your newlywed life after the activity-filled periods of your wedding planning and honeymoon. Maybe it’s a lack of quality time together in seasons of travel, deployment, or new parenthood.

While I can attest to the benefits of resisting idleness, pursuing new hobbies together, and establishing meaningful morning and bedtime routines, I also encourage you not to push your restlessness aside, eager to fill it and move on. Instead, lean into your sense of hunger. Ask  yourself why that sense has taken root.

In my experience, Saint Augustine’s famous words that only in the Lord do we find true rest are the reason I ache. A longing for the Lord--the source of all beauty, fulfillment, joy, adventure--is why I find myself particularly unsatisfied on the days I don’t pray, the days I can’t stop the social media scroll, the days I selfishly prioritize myself over my husband and children.

It’s good to shake up my routines, to seek new pursuits that make my mind and soul come alive, to create a sense of order within my day. Yet I remind myself these goods can become distractions if I forget they’re rooted in who I am: a person, willed out of love and made for more than this world.

When this deepest truth of my identity gets pushed aside for worldly things, that’s when boredom and restlessness settle in. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “this aspiration in the human heart is indelible...the thirst for the infinite that dwells in men and women is not slaked. Instead a frantic, sterile search for ‘false infinites’ begins, that can satisfy them at least for a moment...We must uproot all the false promises of the infinite that seduce men and women and enslave people. Truly to rediscover ourselves and our identity, to live our dignity, we must return to recognizing that we are creatures, dependent on God. The possibility of a truly free and full life is linked to recognizing this dependence — which in our inmost depths is the joyous discovery of being God’s children.”

In those early days of marriage as my husband and I struggled against what felt like the mundane, the Father, in his loving grace, gently drew our focus back to him. I felt a pull on my heart to invite him into my daily tasks and maintain a dialogue of prayer throughout the day; truly, this practice began to center me. My husband and I began attending weekly Adoration hours and gradually became involved in ministries and relationships at our parish.

We found when we followed through on commitments related to our personal holiness and worked on developing a shared spiritual life, the restlessness faded into the background. We felt more alive in our marriage and our daily responsibilities. At the same time, everyday rituals and hobbies came more easily and organically; there was less Netflix scrolling and more seeking beauty, more long walks to explore our new state, more literature, more putting our phones away.

What’s more, the mundane suddenly didn’t seem so difficult. Daily prayer and a sense of intention in our actions brought a new sense of contentment and purpose to laundry, dishes, and errands. Even less-fun tasks felt more meaningful when I stopped to remind myself that this, a shared life with a man who cherished and sanctified me, was what I always dreamed of.

I still recall this sentiment several years later, as our daily lives are heavily focused on raising our young children. These are the days I prayed for; may I not lose sight of these gifts.

Boredom, I now realize, is the Lord urging us to return our gaze to him.

The parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind when we find ourselves in a rut: it is a hunger, an ache for more, that leads him to seek that which is away from God. Ultimately, it is that same hunger that brings him home, back to rejoicing and to the true feast.

If your own current season feels aimless, restless, or boring, I encourage you to sit for a moment in your feelings. Embrace quiet or discomfort, and listen for the Father’s voice. What is it he is calling you to?


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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What is a Culture of Encounter? Creating One on Your Wedding Day + Beyond

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

What can 21st century brides learn from a priest and sister who lived one hundred years ago?

Encounter is a gift women uniquely are able to give.

Blessed James Alberione and Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, two founding members of the Daughters of Saint Paul, recognized the mediums of film, music, radio, and literature as goods that can share with the world what is true, good, and beautiful. Against the odds of transatlantic travel, the Great Depression, limited resources, and simply fear, Father Alberione and Mother Thecla’s conviction in the Father’s call ultimately led to the establishment and development of a thriving, faithful order of sisters.

The Daughters of Saint Paul travel the U.S. and worldwide using media to evangelize, and have hubs in several cities across the country. In these cities, the order’s materials and publications are sold in stores known as Books & Media Centers.

On a recent visit to the sisters’ Provincial House in Boston, I was struck by one of Father Alberione’s thoughts on his mission and took a picture of a plaque expressing them: the order’s book centers, he said, “are not places of business, but centers of light and warmth in Jesus Christ. The book center is not like any other book store. It is a ‘church’ where the Word of God is distributed...it is sacred...Light, holiness, and joy are the goals sought. The counter is a pulpit.”

The counter is a pulpit. This idea echoed a deep desire I feel to help those I encounter throughout the day--however briefly or extensively--to feel seen and heard.

Making meaningful eye contact with someone, conveying sincere interest in him or her even in the answer to the simple question how are you?, wishing them a good day; all these actions reveal a Christ-like love and tap into something essential: the human heart’s longing to be known.

In the nature of femininity and womanhood, I see a particular ability to help others (even including strangers) feel valued and known. To create a culture of encounter--one that seeks to acknowledge and respect another’s dignity, to push past surface-level interaction, to look up from our phones. The word encounter conveys a true seeing and a dissolving of walls. That’s a dynamic--a culture--I want to help create.

Saint Edith Stein wrote, “the destiny of every woman is to be bride and mother.” Your personal pulpit might not be a store counter, but in the workplace, in your family, on your wedding day.

The sister hosting my visit described how the order’s centers are true their name; genuinely, she said, they are centers of conversation, trust, and faith. She described how passerby coming into the store quickly sense they’re in the presence of those who will truly listen to them. Frequently, these guests will share past or current struggles and pour out their stories.

When we, as women, receive another’s story with respect and attention, we give a gift of encounter. Every woman, no matter what her vocation, career, hobbies, or personal style, is called to receive love and let her love be received as a gift. She is called to be a shelter for others’ hearts, a refuge. She is called to a rich interior life--Our Lady herself, an ultimate example of womanhood, “kept all these things” at the birth of her son, “reflecting on them in her heart.” In moments of transcendence and of the ordinary alike, as women our gifts of receptivity and interiority allow us to communicate love and attention to all we encounter.

What does encounter look like on your wedding day? It looks like letting your love speak for itself, drawing your guests to enter into the Mass. It looks like a few moments to hug or shake hands with guests during your reception meal. It looks like showing attention and care to your bridal party and families. It looks like total receptivity.

All of it points to an encounter with the one is love himself. Like Our Lady in her joy at the Visitation, let your soul “magnify the Lord.

Not every encounter you engage in will be profound or lengthy, nor should it create a spirit of moral superiority or righteousness. Developing habits of attention and receptiveness to others, though, is an embodiment of who we are: brides, women, with a particular genius for interaction and encounter.

Consider what it is you desire to embody and reveal to others with your unique strengths. Aim to reveal the love of God: a love that is particular, unconditional, all-encompassing, abundantly merciful, and forever faithful.


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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Editors Share | First Dance Songs

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHY :  MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY
 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

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

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

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

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

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

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

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

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

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

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

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

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

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

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

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

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

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

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

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

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

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

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

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

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

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

 

Tasha Johnson, Administrative Assistant

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

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

Love and Sacrifice Say the Same Thing.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

What is beautiful draws our senses to the sacred. At a recent wedding I attended, a harp, organ, and choir lifted their melodies to the heights. The groomsmen wore tailcoats; the bridesmaids, embellished gowns the color of jade. Even these breathtaking details, however, were nothing compared to the radiance of the liturgy, or the couple themselves.

After a tear-filled procession and Liturgy of the Word, the celebrant’s homily illuminated an essential truth of our vocations, one embodied in a particularly tangible way through the call to marriage: love and sacrifice say the same thing, but only to the extent that we embrace them.

“You love,” he said, “as much as you sacrifice, and you sacrifice as much as you love.”

What does this mean?

As a wedding guest, I took these words as a prayer for the couple about to become one, that they might spend their lifetime willing one another’s good and fulfillment.

On a personal level, I heard them as a call, insistent and clear: along this path, my husband’s and my pilgrimage to the eternal wedding feast, our vows merit that we love with the entirety of our hearts, even when emotion runs dry and when we’d prefer not to make the effort. That we embrace the good times and bad, knowing that in making a gift of our actions, time, and entire selves to one another, we’re free from enslavement to self-serving desires.

I often consider the link between the words integration and integrity when it comes to relationships. That is, the times when the complementary parts of who I am--body and soul, reason and emotion, and more--are well-integrated and not in conflict with each other, are the times I find myself treating my husband with the greatest sense of integrity.

These are the times when my love for him and the sacrifices I’m willing to make for him--taking on extra chores when he’s busy, respecting our budget, putting our kids to bed on the nights he has to bring work home--speak a language of wholeness and good will.

When our hearts are integrated, love and sacrifice say the same thing: I give of myself to you, I place your present wants and needs before my own, I enter into your burdens and carry them alongside you.

In the times I turn to my own selfishness, preferring personal convenience or comfort above what’s best for my marriage and family, I see our relationships being chipped away at. I see them quite literally dis-integrate.

Thanks to grace and mercy, these breaks can be restored to something like their former wholeness, and only in eternity will they be brought to perfection.

Only in eternity. The words of this wedding homily, an occasion of such heavenly rejoicing, drew my attention down to earth and to the tension we live out in our vocations. We are earthly and imperfect, yet our call is focused on eternal life; on bringing our spouses and children (biological or spiritual) to the banquet by way of love.

And how to pour out that love? Through our acts of sacrifice. Saint John Paul II said, “There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”

By praying for your spouse, by serving and assisting him without keeping score, by keeping your shared goal of each other’s fulfillment and salvation at the forefront--even when it feels too hard--you become living icons of self-emptying love, bearing Christ to the world.


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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Does Planning for Your Future Together Stress You Out? Finding Rest in the Unknown.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

There was the spat I look back and laugh on; the one in Bed, Bath, & Beyond over whether me and my husband-to-be should register for champagne flutes as a wedding gift. “Our grandchildren will use them at our holiday parties!” I insisted. “We don’t have grandchildren,” he replied.

Later, there were the more serious discussions about preferences for our future children’s education, where we would live after my husband completed his graduate degrees, how we’d care for our parents as they aged over the decades. I felt anxious, trapped by indecision and nervous when our opinions differed--which they did, often.

Have you experienced anything similar? Uncertainty, that is, about the details of your future as a married couple?

When I think back on my teenage years and early 20s, they are marked by a consistent desire for when: when I’d figure out my vocation, when I’d meet my future spouse, when I’d determine what career path I was drawn to. And later, during engagement and early marriage, the real adult whens set in: when we would--God willing--become parents, when we’d have a long-term city and state in which to settle, when we might become homeowners. My mind continually casts around for what’s next, somehow lulled into the belief that knowledge will bring peace.

And yet, I find myself needing the frequent reminder that self-determination and a need to always know are habits that pull my gaze inward, rather than heavenward. That true peace resides not in my own decisions, but in discernment and trust.

The Sisters of Life have a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Trust, a cry to Jesus’s mercy and total care for his beloved children. One line that frequently stands out to me is, “From the fear that trusting you will leave me destitute, deliver me, Jesus.” Deliver me.

His mercy is endless; an outpouring of love that never leaves us wanting--in whatever form that looks like. An answer to uncertainty and to my poverty of fear.

If, during engagement and your newlywed months, you and your beloved find yourselves similarly indecisive or fearful about decisions and life events yet to come, I offer you several practices that have brought peace to my own married life.

First, take the plunge into the root of your worries. With your beloved, discuss any fears of the future you’re wrestling with. Consider their causes: is it a matter of shifting your spiritual paradigms (I recommend Dr. Gregory Bottaro’s book The Mindful Catholic for tips on drawing your attention to the Lord’s hand in your life at the present moment)? Are there past family or relationship wounds that have led to anxiety over particular matters?

If counseling or therapy--either individually or as a couple--feels necessary, rest in knowing there is no shame, but strength, in seeking professional assistance.

Second, consider concrete ways to respond to any fears. Talk together about habits you might develop to contend with major decisions or the unexpected in a healthy way, such as infertility, family conflict, or serious illness. While we can trust completely in the Lord’s care, we can also cultivate that trust, and a sense of peace, by taking advantage of our God-given reason and of tools and resources created to assist.

Lastly, I encourage you to pursue a sense of surrender to the unknown.

Practical preparation for and discussion of the future is both necessary and reassuring, yet at a certain point, we are still called to make a leap and live.

In the years since my husband and I swung wildly between dreamily imagining our life together and arguing in fear over what that life might actually look like, I’ve realized it’s alright not to determine everything about your future right away; alright to take a rest from chasing the when.

It’s alright, too, to change your minds--while expecting our first child, for example, I initially planned on returning to work. Yet the whirlwind of recovery from giving birth and our bumpy entry into parenthood led to a reevaluation of that decision, leading to my current work-from-home setup. Giving yourselves permission to follow the Lord’s call--even when it leads you somewhere you never expected to be--is a gift that eases the weight of expectations and self-focus.

So long as you and your beloved share the same fundamental values--the Catholic faith, in particular--and persist in respect, openness, and good will, then decision-making and looking ahead can become a source of discovery and peace, rather than contention and unrest.

I know now that just because my husband and I didn’t begin our relationship in agreement over every single issue doesn’t mean we’re incompatible. It means we’re human--two individuals who have chosen each other, made a vow to each other, and become one.

I respect his ideas and worries and trust in his respect for mine, to the point that now when we don’t see eye to eye on certain questions, I find it exciting to see where he’s coming from, to join him in discernment and to reach a common ground.

Together, we’re able to look to the future largely with joy--though I suspect there will always be more questions, more uncertainties--and call each other to focus on our priorities in the present. I wish you the same, and I wish you true peace.


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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