Newlywed Life | A Responsibility to be Obedient

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHY:     DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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Change is the Only Constant... or is it?

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Marriage opens a door to an on-going season of transition. This is no surprise; Spoken Bride editors and contributors have shared about the realities of marital transition in the context of decorating the home, in regards to navigating the emotions of transition, and with respect to leaving your parents for your spouse

PHOTOGRAPHY:   KELLI SEELEY

PHOTOGRAPHY: KELLI SEELEY

Like many new brides, the instant barrage of change following marriage left me feeling overwhelmed in my first year as a wife—from moving to a new home to navigating domestic responsibilities, forming an identity in my vocation and embracing an openness to life. 

Finally, I heard a phrase that resonated with the ache of my heart: Change is the only constant

These words became the title for a season in constant flux. Expecting change as a norm, however, gave me a sense of control and calm. For a time, these words seemed to offer consolation…And then, suddenly, they didn’t.

When I woke up on the one-year anniversary of our wedding, my new-found slogan made a mockery of my life, my identity and my confidence. While my husband traveled for work, I drank coffee in our quiet home, reflecting on the overwhelming number of transitions we had faced in one year and anticipating a daunting future of even more extreme change. Although the experiences have been positive—such as beginning a home together and expecting our first child—I was battered into defeat as I considered my weakness, my inability to handle the emotional ups-and-downs of the rest of our lives. 

Even when the love between a husband and wife is tangible, real, pure, and fruitful, marriage will be attacked by a temptation to doubt and despair.

With a desperate need for peace, I turned to Scripture; the Holy Spirit met me in the book of James. 

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming doing from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

If, in the silence of your heart, you can relate to feeling overwhelmed by the transitions and changes which accompany a new vocation, I hope you find peace in those holy words. 

As the Father of Lights, God never changes, nor does his brightness ever fade. Every experience that comes within your married life is a good and perfect gift from him. 

Believing “change is the only constant” in my life affirmed a false-truth in which I was living without desire or freedom. I believed I was a puppet to my circumstance. This verse from the book of James denies that lie through the truth of Love: with God, there is no shadow caused by change. Although at times the light may be dim, he is our constant companion of love and hope.

We are called to be receptive, present to each moment of our days. When our lives and our hearts feel battered by innumerable new circumstances and emotional transitions, peace is found in our Heavenly Father who is constantly, consistently shining his light into our lives. This is a truth which can set us free.

He is guiding the way and leading us to the fulfillment of vocation in sanctification. The road is not straight or clear or easy, but you are not alone in this journey.


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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Scripture and Science Reveal a Masculine Genius

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem defines a feminine genius as four innate qualities of the dignity and nature of woman: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. Though self-reflection is a powerful tool for growing in intimacy with God, self, and others, reflecting on the origin of man may also yield a stronger union between the masculine and feminine in a spousal relationship. 

Saint John Paul II did not write an apostolic letter defining a masculine genius; however, Scripture and science help us understand what it means to be a man and identifies qualities which are undeniably masculine. 

Recognizing the innate qualities of man may help us see, know and love our spouses as they live with courage according to God’s call for their lives. 

Creation in the Garden of Eden 

On the sixth day of the creation story, God created man and told him: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” Eventually we hear, “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” This story depicts the vocation of man, as a man. 

Man is expected to live in harmony with God and his creation while having dominion over the Earth. After the fall to sin and throughout human history, this original good can be twisted into an ego-driven dominion and self-seeking control. Yet we must recall man in his origin: created as good, in the image of God, with an inborn yearning for holy authority. 

Man is also told to cultivate and care for creation. Man is equipped with the responsibility of managing and protecting all of God’s creation. After woman joins him in the garden, Adam maintains his role as leader and protector in their relationship and their environment, their home. 

Adam falls to the temptation of sin and the same will be true for the men in our lives. Our responsibility, as women, is to see and love the essence of their goodness in an effort to inspire him towards sanctification. 

Man’s Body Tells a Story 

The physical, anatomical structure of man’s body in relation to his responsibility to “be fertile and multiply” reveals even more about the masculine genius. 

In regards to physical intimacy and procreation, man’s body is created to initiate and offer a gift of himself. Where woman is created ready to receive, man is created ready to give. 

This physical reality is not only relevant to the physical intimacy, however. Man is designed to initiate and to be the head of the household—the domestic church of the family. 

Man’s means for physical union is outside of his body. From the beginning and throughout time, he is naturally more attuned to external reality than internal emotions. In a group of men and women, how often do men congregate and discuss work, sports or hobbies—the external world—while women come together and discuss matters related to personal relationships and the heart? 

Men and women are invited to experience perfect complementarity in their union of external and internal, head and heart, realistic and emotional. 

Several secular-looking traditions may have deeper roots in this spiritual reality. Consider how “old-fashioned” it is for a man to ask for a woman’s number, to pay for dinner on a date, to go one one knee and propose marriage. These gender norms are not meant to stifle women in an inferior way; rather, these practices echo the desires of the hearts of men and women in the most appropriate and empowering way. 

Marriage between man and woman mirrors the union between Christ and the Church. In these spousal unions, we recognize the parallel call for man, Christ, to become a total self-offering and for woman, the Church, to be wholly receptive to the gift. 

Science and the Brain 

Brain development and scientific fact supports the reasoning behind the masculine genius. Dr. Greg Bottaro, founder and director of the CatholicPsych Institute, writes, “There is less connectivity between the right and left hemispheres in the male brain. This allows for greater compartmentalization. At the same time, there is actually more connection between the front and back of each hemisphere in the male brain… Men are better at spatial organization and abstract thinking… These qualities dispose a man to make decisions and solve problems that are related to the external environment.” 

The scientific evidence related to brain development, hormones, physical development, procreation and child-bearing radically support the traits of the masculine genius discussed above. 

In his origin, man is very good. By original sin, man falls from his goodness and into temptation. We, women, have a beautiful opportunity in our call to see the heart of a man, love him for who God created him to be, and empower him to fulfill his vocation as man on the journey toward sanctification. 

For additional reading about the feminine genius, previous posts on Spoken Bride highlight what it means to be a woman in the context of Bridesmaid’s Dresses, Friendship, Last Names and more.


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

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHY:   FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY: FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Wedding Planning | Ceremony Seating for the Bride and Groom

 

When planning a Catholic wedding, the bride and groom consider many details for the liturgy. One important decision is where they will sit, stand, and kneel through the duration of the ceremony.

Seated next to the Sanctuary, Facing the Congregation 

Imagine the way a priest sits, in a sacramental way, at the head of the sanctuary during the Mass, facing the congregation. In the same way, a bride and groom may choose to sit at the periphery of the sanctuary with their bodies facing the wedding guests.  

In their essence, the bride and groom embody beauty and love. They naturally attract the attention of their beloved family and friends. As they sit on the altar throughout the Liturgy, many wedding guests may gaze in admiration at the subtle movements and interactions between these living icons of love. 

One reason brides and grooms may choose to sit facing the congregation is to serve God as a visible witness of holy love and participation in the Mass. While wedding guests hear the word of God and see the bride and groom, their senses are filled with an image of unconditional, divine love. 

Seated in front of the Sanctuary, Facing the Altar 

A bride and groom may opt to sit facing the Altar, with their backs to the congregation throughout the Mass.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is an exchange between bride, groom, and God. The three become one through the mutual consent and exchange of marriage vows. The congregation of wedding guests attends as a crowd of witnesses, lifting the couple in joy, prayer and celebration for their new vocation. 

When a bride and groom choose to sit facing the altar throughout the duration of the wedding ceremony, their bodies, eyes and hearts are completely directed towards God--on the crucifix and in Scripture. Through their exemplary position in the front of the church, they lead the eyes and hearts of wedding guests to God. 

A Combination Option 

The Liturgy of the Word, the celebration of Matrimony, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (if included) are three different movements of the wedding ceremony. By speaking with your priest and wedding coordinator at your church, there can be a way to include different seating arrangements for the bride and groom during different times of the Mass. 

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be spouse yearn to be a visible sign to your wedding guests, yet desire to point your eyes and hearts to God as well. Think creatively about how and when your bodies can communicate these desires throughout your wedding ceremony.

It may be possible, for example, to sit facing the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word, move to the front of the church for the Celebration of Matrimony, then remain in new seats and kneelers—facing the sanctuary—for the duration of the Mass. 

The only way to know the right option is by praying through these decisions and discussing them with your fiance and priest. The physical structure of your church may impact your decision, or your priest may have personal preferences based on his own past experience. 

When planned with intention, the little details of your wedding ceremony help create a meaningful and powerful experience for everyone present on the day you enter the Sacrament. 

Are you married? Where did you and your spouse sit during the wedding ceremony—and why? Please share your experiences with our community on Facebook or Instagram.

Newlywed Life | Surprises of Traveling with your Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Whether it’s traveling for your honeymoon, a summertime vacation or holiday, sharing life as a “party of two” may eventually yield opportunities to pack a bag, load the car, board the plane, and take a trip. 

Unlike sharing a home or going on a date, traveling with your spouse may be a catalyst for surprising new conversations about values, opinions and preferences. 

A husband and wife bring experiences from their respective childhood travels into their adult preferences, including how to spend time and money. Some couples may not realize how many expectations each partner brings into a vacation until they make opposing suggestions. 

The opportunity to travel is an incredible fortune. There are so many different ways to take a vacation: backpacking or luggage-in-tow, culturally immersive or relaxing, budget or high-end, clean or rugged, foreign or domestic, self-guided or professionally-guided, adventurous or cultural, ethnic food or familiar food, planned or spontaneous. 

Although you and your spouse love each other’s company and are in a groove with sharing chores and space around your home, time on vacation is completely different. In reality, vacation is often as a desirable “break” from routine norms. 

Discussing a budget is typically part of the initial plan for taking a trip. Beyond a dollar amount, the budget conversation involves how and where you will spend money. 

How we spend money communicates what we value. Do you value a nice hotel with all of the amenities or would you opt to allocate funds toward a private tour at an art museum? These preferences reveal and determine where you and your spouse agree to prioritize spending in accordance with your values. 

Where we spend our time also communicates what we value. It is impossible to eat at every restaurant, see every tourist attraction, and participate in every possible activity during one vacation. Husbands and wives must share decisions about what is realistic and desirable within the constraints of time on vacation. 

Like any experience in married life, we are called to die to self as an act of love for the other. Does this mean we are called to plan a vacation solely according to our spouse’s preferences? Absolutely not. 

Marriage calls two individuals into deeper intimacy. Surrendering your desires for your spouse’s preferences is an act of love. However, being honest and vulnerable about your personal preferences is also an act of love because, by sharing this part of yourself, you invite your spouse to see, know, and love you.

Maintaining a flexible and marriage-centered attitude in these conversations about potentially conflicting opinions will guide couples to make decisions with shared ownership and joy. Without a doubt, travel is an opportunity to learn about your spouse, yourself, and the values you desire to fulfill in your family. 

We would love to hear: do you and your spouse have similar opinions about travel and vacation? What areas have prompted conversations and compromise? Share your reflections with our community on Instagram and Facebook.


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

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“The Body is Called to Follow in Hope” | Ongoing Reflections from the Ascension

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, he ascends into heaven; he shows us the way to our destiny in heaven. 

The opening prayer at the Ascension Mass caught my attention in a surprising way when the priest said, “Where the head has gone before in worry, the heart is called to follow in hope.”

PHOTOGRAPHY:   DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

I understand this prayer can be interpreted in different ways. In reference to the Ascension, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him forever.” Here, the Catechism speaks of the head and the body as a parallel to Christ and the Church. 

However, I internalized this prayer with a self-reflective lens: where my head--logic, anxiety, and expectation--has gone before in worry, my body--my heart, soul, and will--is called to follow in hope. 

Entering the sacrament of marriage has opened my heart to an entirely new level of vulnerability and, thus, worry. Perhaps you can relate. The beautiful experience of being vulnerable and intimate and in union with another is raw. And in moments of weakness and fear, my head is left in a state of worry: about my own health and safety; about my husband’s health and safety; about the future of our family; about being prematurely abandoned or alone. 

Concurrently, as my heart has grown into my vocation over the last year, I have grown in union with my spouse; a union I adore with gratitude every day. My vocation is creating in me a new heart with a greater capacity to love and be loved, a new identity of what it means to be a woman, and a new understanding of where and how God calls me to live. 

I believe the experience of responding to beauty, grace, and gift with worry is a reaction to our human mortality. Though God showers us with mercy and love, this Earthly reality will not last forever. 

Sin occurs when our feelings pull us into a state of despair. Holiness abounds when our feelings propel us toward God the father with a hope for heaven. 

The Ascension reveals a perpetually open door for our bodies to follow Christ in hope. Hope in God’s perfect timing. Hope that God will use our Earthly experience to reveal his glory and bring us closer to him. Hope that we are destined to follow Christ into heaven.

Through the gift of free will, we have a choice. The worries, pains, and anxieties we experience through the crosses we bear can end with worry. Or these emotions we feel can be a cue for greater faith, hope and charity. As we are honest with ourselves in times of trial, we see either a temptation or an invitation. 

In the Ascension, God lifted Jesus back to himself. It was not an act of Jesus’ strength, but a surrender of his will to the will of God. The same is true for us. 

How often do we internalize our struggles and think we must muster the strength to pull ourselves out of despair, solve problems, take action, and rise up with a plan? On the contrary, as we abandon our fears and worries to God, he lifts us into his everlasting love. Through his mercy and our goodwill, he frees us from the chains which weigh us down and he becomes our strength. 

Saying yes to God’s invitation for faith and hope and love is not always accompanied by fuzzy feelings. But, like choosing love or forgiveness, choosing God may be an act of the will before it is an affirming experience of the heart. 

My sisters, these are words I believe to be true, but I often struggle implementing this truth in my life. More often than not, I bemoan the act of surrender. Though I hate to admit it, I feel sad for myself and pay too much attention to the temptation to despair. I desire to surrender with a more joyful hope. In my feeble attempts of saying “yes,” each moment of self-awareness and desire is a new stepping stone towards God. 

He will raise us to a greater glory. Do we ask him to reveal his heavenly self in our daily lives? Do we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear him? 

Like Jesus’ Ascension, hope and surrender are graces to be received by God. Do not grow weary in the waiting for eternity. Do not allow worries on Earth to stain your hope for heaven. God sees you, knows your heart, loves you, desires union with you. He has a perfect plan to draw you closer to see and know and love him. By following in hope, you will be lifted to see his face. 


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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