You are a Beautiful Bride | The Unconditional Truth

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As a young flower girl at the weddings of babysitters and family friends, I remember being entranced by the regal aurora of the bride. As an engaged woman in preparation, I was encouraged, “you will be a beautiful bride!” On my own wedding day, I remember hearing the remarks of wedding guests who referred to me as the beautiful bride.

It is true. A woman dressed in white, clothed in the joy and purity of her wedding day is a sight to behold. The crowd of witnesses stands as she enters the sanctuary. The groom can’t take his eyes off of her. The journey of the bride moving towards her covenant at the altar echoes a song of every human’s heart. She is the personification of beauty, a reflection of the creator who makes all things glorious.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   RED FERN PHOTOGRAPHY

There is no denying that a woman on her wedding day is a beautiful bride.

Yet hearing the simple statement, “you are a beautiful bride,” brings me to a question. When a woman hears these words, does she interpret the message as admiration of her outer appearance or as affirmation of her heart and soul?

If the message is attached to the status of professional hair and makeup, heirloom jewelry, a wedding gown, and a following of photographers, then her identity as a beautiful bride becomes conditional to external circumstances.

In contrast, when a woman is offered and hears bridal admiration as a reflection of her lifelong commitment to her vocation, her beauty is fused with her existence. She is beautiful because she is. Her daily “yes” to her marriage is her most stunning quality. In the truth of this perspective, her beauty is sealed in her feminine vocation.

Despite our secular culture’s twisted reality which uses outer appearances to define one’s value and worth, God offered his son to remind us that our value is confirmed in his love for us. Our worth is defined in our status as a child of God. Therefore, it becomes imperative to shift our understanding of a “beautiful bride” away from a simple definition of a woman in white, so we can more fully celebrate the innumerable beautiful brides in our midst—the women who strive in the commitment of their married vocation.

How do we begin acknowledging this truth and celebrating true beauty? The responsibility is shared among both men and women, single and married, young and old.

To the bridal attendants and wedding guests:

Say what you mean and mean what you say. We cannot expect others to interpret the deepest meaning of our words. Take time to write a heartfelt note to express the depth of your admiration for a new couple in covenant. Choose your words with intention as you compliment and affirm a bride on her wedding day; your compliment is not only relevant to that day, but the rest of her married life. And on the average days in-between, acknowledge the beauty of the women in your life as they each pursue or fulfill marital vows in a unique way.

To boyfriends, husbands, and men:

Reflect on how you internalize the beauty of your bride. If you look at your bride and are distracted by the external clothing, emotions or demands of married life, pray for the desire to explore and know a deeper intimacy of her heart. If you are married—or desire to be married—and you know the internal beauty of your bride, tell her. From the morning of your wedding day and for the rest of forever, she is your beautiful bride: the embodiment of God’s finest creation put on this earth as a gift for you. Live in that joy.

To single, engaged, and married women:

Once you enter a vocational covenant, you are a bride. Your status in that role is not conditional on how you dress, how professional your hair and makeup look, or how gracefully you move about the day. Through your commitment in covenant, your status as a beautiful bride cannot be changed.

On the days when you feel lost or confused in your vocation, you are a beautiful bride.

On the days when vulnerability in making love brings a moment of embarrassment, you are a beautiful bride.

On the days when you are covered in stains from raising a family, you are a beautiful bride.

On the days when the love between a husband and wife is playful and fun, you are a beautiful bride.

On the days when you doubt your value as a wife but show up offering your very best for that day, you are a beautiful bride.

The woman who enters a vocational covenant is, forevermore, a beautiful bride. As the memories of your wedding day move further back in time, remain steadfastly affirmed in your inherent, unconditional beauty.


Contibutor headshot MEDIUM 200px.png

About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. 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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Comprehending the Cross

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Death to Self. That doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, does it? Not only that, but it also seems to stand in direct opposition to our human instinct of self-preservation. We were made to survive.

And yet, we are asked to lay down our lives for our spouse not just once but daily for as long as we both shall live. It just doesn’t make sense.

We remember today the greatest of paradoxes--the Cross, an instrument of death that became a symbol of eternal life.


Beaten, bloodied, hanging naked before all, for a crime He didn’t commit. Christ’s body emptied for fallible creatures who would deny Him. His heart spilled out for the imperfect Beloved who would reject Him.

Hours before, He sweated blood in the Garden while asking that this cup pass from Him. In that moment, we see fear of pain, fear of death.

He didn’t have to undergo that suffering. He didn’t have to stay on that cross; He is God after all.

But He did so to show us that, despite the difficulty we may face, despite the moments where our love isn’t perfectly returned, the sacrifice is worth it.

He was held on the cross by the same force that has the power to unite two broken, flawed humans in the sacrament of marriage--Love.

Love makes the suffering of the cross comprehensible.

We look today in a special way upon the cross, upon the perfect Lover. The example set before us on our wedding day of self-gift at its best. The cross offers an honest look at what we are called to in our vocation-- an emptying of oneself, a rejection of the primal instinct of self-preservation to be brought into the greatest of glories. Death and resurrection.

Suffering doesn’t make sense when taken alone. We want our happily ever after, and God-willing, one day we should have it. But we don’t want the mediocre version of happiness the world offers us. Instead our heart longs for the fulfillment of all our desires and we will never be satisfied with anything less.

We enter a new leg of our journey to our heavenly homeland as we enter into our vocation; the heat of the crucible is turned up and there will be moments when we feel the pain of our impurities being burned away.

There will be joy in your marriage, and those moments will be some of the profound moments of joy you will ever experience in this life. But in order to receive what we were created for, those imperfect parts of ourselves must undergo a crucifixtion of sorts, and brought to new life.

As we clear our hearts of our selfishness, we make room for something that is more beautiful than we ever could have imagined--God Himself.

This is what He vows to us on the cross today. This is what He promises to us with His dying breath. I love you, he whispers in the depths of your heart and I want you to spend eternity with me. So, together with your husband, take up your cross and follow me. Lay down your life alongside me, and I promise you will rise with me. I will show you what it means to Love.


Carissa Pluta

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

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Editors Share | When Expectations Meet Reality

The beauty of a wedding and joy of fulfilling a call to vocation is daydream worthy. From a young age, girls and women can often identify their ideals for the kind of man they imagine marrying, visions of their wedding day, or expectations of day-to-day married and family life.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team reflects on the dreams we had about marriage as single women, and how those expectations either changed or came to fruition after saying I do.

 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

During our engagement, I frequently prayed in thanksgiving that no one knew, saw, or understood me in the way my husband-to-be did, and I felt the same about him. At the time, I think we did know each other more fully than anyone else.

After our wedding, however, I started to realize how little a fullness of him I had actually known: I’d never known, for instance, how he liked to load a dishwasher, how he preferred to unwind after a stressful day, what grocery staples he liked to keep on hand. Normal adjustments to married life and significant time spent together--particularly after a long-distance engagement--sometimes made me question how well we knew one another at all.

In hindsight, I see the Holy Spirit drawing us out of self-focused habits and toward a shared life. I now consider it a great gift that even with all the trust, confidence, and admiration I had for my husband (and how well I knew him at the time) on our wedding day, the years have continually revealed new parts of him to me and we are constantly presented with opportunities to know and love each other more deeply through various quirks and discoveries.

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

I really thought that my future husband would do large showy displays affection (think Toby on This is Us. The guy gets me). I REALLY wanted to be proposed to in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, but the man I married is a very private person. He and I were the only ones present when he proposed and we had no engagement party. We didn’t even get a photo until a couple of hours after! A part of me was definitely crushed, but the longer I’ve known my husband, I’ve learned how hard it was for him to be vulnerable and propose at all (even when he knew it was a sure thing!) and I’ve learned to embrace the private way he chose.

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

I am a recovering perfectionist and overachiever, and I too married a perfectionist and overachiever. I was (and still am at times) the sort that if you said “Jump!”, I would ask “How high?”. I always wanted things done efficiently and with the least amount of mistakes as possible on the first try. Because perfectionists and overachievers can often set the bar too high, it can take a great deal to break them out of their unforgiving and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

As an engaged couple, we lived long-distance while being fully immersed in our careers and education at the time; therefore, I did not yet fully realize my expectation for perfection from others. Like many, you sometimes enter into marriage thinking you’re invincible. It was not until my husband and I were expecting our first born immediately after our wedding that my pride got “a swift kick to the pants” and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance during pregnancy. In addition, we were also experiencing our first deployment and his numerous underways out to sea. When you pair separation and illness on top of the “typical” learning to grow and live together as a newlywed couple and later as parents to a colic-y, difficult newborn, it is severely humbling.

Over 10 years of marriage, there has been many good times. However, it is through the times of great suffering that has strengthen us in our vocation — 8 moves around the country, multiple deployments, the loss of two babies, the special needs of our earthly children, and the continued battle with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum with each pregnancy, endometrosis, and as well as post-partum depression that sometimes follows. Each individual within the family unit has their own unique way of processing grief, loss, and trials, and it requires great patience and dying to self when walking in those valleys together. It requires leaning into a support system of people you trust, as well as spiritual direction and professional therapy when necessary. Suffering is sanctifying. It breaks us and molds us. It purifies the heart of its selfish ambitions, and when done in union with Christ, it draws us closer to Him and to each other. While you can never fully anticipate the suffering to which you both will be called to before your wedding day, the reality of God’s abundant Love and Mercy will always greatly surpass your expectations.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

Long before I even knew my husband-to-be, I confidently committed myself to saving a KitchenAid Mixer for marriage. Despite the friends who tried to talk me into Black Friday sales and family who offered to buy one as a college graduation gift, I desired to withhold this life-changing kitchen appliance until the day I became a wife.

At the time, I made this decision simply because I wanted my life to look and feel remarkably different before and after marriage. It is the same line of thinking that held me accountable to not live with a boyfriend or fiancé before we were married. It is the same delayed gratification that saved other highly valued and anticipated experiences with my husband for marriage alone.

My husband and I are well-into our first year of marriage and my life is undeniably different from the life I lived as a single person. Marriage brought me across an ocean, into the military, away from my professional career and apart from friends and family. As it turns out, I didn’t need to save a KitchenAid Mixer for my life to look and feel radically different.

But God used my playful expectation and desire in other ways. My withholding of a kitchen appliance wasn’t about the mixer itself, but was about instilling in me an anticipation for married life to be a remarkably different life. I recognize how “saving a KitchenAid for marriage” was a means for God to prepare and strengthen me for the immense changes that followed our wedding day.

Nonetheless, our mixer has been a means to build community and serve others in our home. It is a means of love in the form of chocolate chip cookies. It is a stress reliever and a source of joy. Although I don't make financial contributions in our family right now, I make meals for our single friends, new parents and neighborhood kids. God is using my desires—both the playful and the serious—to teach me about myself, open my heart to love in creative ways, and be affirmed in my vocation as a wife.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

My story is different than most. To be honest, I never had a rosy idea of marriage at all. Since I was little, God gave me the grace to understand the profound beauty in marriage, but I also never thought about it without remembering how hard and painful it probably would be. I didn’t spend most of my tween and teenage years fantasizing about my future husband, writing letters to him, or praying novenas that I would finally meet him. I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t hear about these typical “Catholic girl” trends until college, and also because I met my future husband at 14...on the first day of high school.

By 15, I knew I was going to marry him, but not in a squealy, teenage, naive way. I told my mom one day that I didn’t know how I knew, but I was going to marry this cute football player. Call it a crazy Holy Spirit moment! I said it calmly, nodded, and fell silent again, just knowing, and my mother didn’t challenge me at all. She has told me since then that she knew, somehow, too. She said I looked at my now-husband at 15 the way she looked at my dad at 15, when they met.

Seven years after meeting, after a lot of high school and college growing pains, we joyfully (and exhaustedly) walked down the aisle and were finally married. It’s difficult for me to say what surprised me about marriage, because my temperament is the kind to anticipate and expect all the possible suffering and little crosses that I could possibly encounter in the sacrament. This has its good and bad consequences. So when, for those first three months especially, hard times came, conflict flared up, or I found myself in tearful frustration at midnight on the couch, I saw it as the inevitable. I wasn’t surprised, just dealing with the suffering in marriage I knew would come.

Perhaps what began to surprise me, little by little, was my husband’s consistent, loving, patient response to all the selfish things I said and did that first year. He truly got the worst of me, because marriage felt like looking into a mirror that showed all your worst weaknesses. But he loved me tenderly in spite of them. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that when I would say something incredibly hurtful, he would often pull me into his arms, apologize for upsetting me, and tell me he loved me so much. He showed me what it was to be quick to forgive, to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your spouse, without any complaints, and to say sorry even when I was the one who had started a quarrel! He loved (and still loves me) like God loves me: so good that it hurts, because I know I don’t deserve it. By the grace of God, I know the sacrament of marriage is forming us into saints, together.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

Whenever someone asks me what I’ve learned so far in my marriage, I always half-jokingly respond: “I’ve learned how selfish I am.” While I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a particularly selfish person during my single or engaged years. However, marriage demands so much more of me than anything else I have experienced.

I thought (albeit, naively) that I would always be the best version of myself once I got married. And while marriage has certainly shaped me more into the woman God made me to be, I still frequently have days where I’m grumpy or frustrated or downright annoying. My life is not my own anymore, it’s shared with my husband. Everything I say and do has an intimate effect on him and over the past three years I’ve been learning how to forget myself and actively choose love.

At the same time, however, I’ve found more joy in this process than single me ever could have imagined. I really feel like I have found myself through my vocation and I’ve been able to watch my husband grow more as a man. And through that, I’ve been able to encounter God more fully. It’s through self-denial that God has rooted up the weeds in my life (as painful as it can sometimes be) and has replaced it with fertile soil.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

I was just thinking the other day about how when we were dating and engaged, date nights and alone time spent together were so frequent. It really made me miss those early days! It was so easy to plan a spontaneous night out together at a new restaurant or bar in town. However, almost six years into marriage and add in two small children, our state of life has changed. Budget constraints and parenthood commitments obviously make this impossible, if not difficult. However, I am so grateful for the joy and struggles that come with raising these two little people. As much as I sometimes wish it were the opposite, weekly date nights out just aren’t a priority right now. I do not want to brush over the fact that date nights and quality time spent together are important for marriage and should be made a priority. I realize now though that date nights don’t have to be out to fancy restaurants each week, like I thought in my dating and single days. It’s easy to compare our realities to others’, especially in the age of Instagram stories when you can literally see what others are doing in the moment.

As my expectations change, I have learned to really appreciate the little moments that my husband and I are able to spend together at the end of the long day, praying our rosary, getting to mass together, reading our books of choice next to each other, and even listening to our favorite podcast together or having a special at home date night.

When we are able to secure a sitter and try out a new (or old favorite) restaurant, our nights are especially valued and savored. In fact, this past fall, we were even able to save up for and take a dream anniversary trip to Italy. With a little sacrifice and a lot of help from our families, we were able to spend this amazing, priceless time together and I am truly grateful to the Lord for that!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

During my single years I fantasized quite a bit about what my future husband would be like. I made a list of the qualities I was looking for in a husband after reading the book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert. I knew I wanted to find a practicing Catholic man who would go to church and pray the rosary with me ­— someone who was handsome, chivalrous, kind, gentle, and had similar interests to me. While the message of the Everts’ book is just as beautiful as the enchanting artwork pictured on the front cover; my own expectations were just about as real as finding a Disney Prince for a husband.

I believe having high expectations is a good thing, and at the same time, there comes a point when it’s important to recognize when those expectations have become unrealistic. Perhaps I sought to find someone so similar to me that I was basically looking for a male version of myself. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that the person I would end up with was not going to be a carbon copy.

The truth is, the man I fell in love with does hold many of the qualities I was searching for in a husband and he is also as different from myself as one can get. We have completely opposite temperaments and personalities. Throughout our courtship I knew that we were very different from each other, but it wasn’t until we were married that those differences became very challenging for us to navigate. Both of us have needed to adjust our expectations.

The extrovert in me is always seeking interaction and attention while the introvert in him is constantly looking for some solitude. My love language revolves around extravagant grand gestures and my husband is more content with the ordinary pleasures of life. Some days it seems like we have come to an impasse; yet somehow the grace of the sacrament has held us together. The reality of marriage means constantly dying to ourselves just a little bit more every day; compromise is an art form that we are still learning as newlyweds.

While the dreamer in me will never stop dreaming, I’ve learned that it’s important to live in our own reality and not to have unrealistic expectations in our marriage. I will always be grateful for the magical moment that was our wedding day, but everyday life in marriage can’t be a perpetual fairytale. It would be unsustainable. And even if it were possible, the magical moments would be less magical. It’s really the storms in life that we experience which help us to appreciate the joyful moments—because without rain there would be no rainbows.

Where Love Dwells

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Then the Angel departed from her.

A friend of mine recently gave a talk that emphasized this line from Luke 1. This, he said, was the scariest line in Scripture. The words that proceed it are the words most of us have heard over and over again: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

PHOTOGRAPHY:    Laurentina Photography

Mary was invited into something so much bigger than herself, which in itself is frightening. Then she makes this bold statement of faith, and then the angel departed from her. No more questions, no explanation, no other answers.

Mary wasn’t given a roadmap, or a glimpse into the future. She didn’t know that she would have to give birth in a stable and then flee to Egypt to save His life. She never would have guessed that she would eventually watch her son suffer and die on a cross, only to come back from the dead three days later.

But it didn’t matter. When Mary gave her fiat, she said yes to everything that was to come, whether she knew it or not. She willingly said ‘yes’ God and in doing so, said yes to whatever would demand of her.

Like Mary, our “I do” at the altar contains a mysterious and sometimes messy reality.

When we make those promises of love we can’t know everything that will happen between then and that moment when death does us part. We don’t know how those vows will take shape. While we can dream about those good times, the bad times will inevitably come. While we can hope for health, sickness may still find its way in.

The promises I made on a spring afternoon almost three years ago look very different after two moves, big decisions, and a toddler later. And it will look even more different fifty years from now as our lives continue to unfold.

On that special day I, in a sense, made a promise to the unknown. I joyfully and willingly said “I Do” to a mystery.

And, similar to the Annunciation, it is in this mystery that Love dwells.


Love, a radical outpouring of self, is not found in knowing what is to come, but in the present. No matter how hard we try, love cannot be planned; it can only be chosen when the moment presents itself.

It is formed in those times of surrender, of joy, of consolation, and of desolation. It takes root among the laundry and dirty dishes, among the moving boxes and new jobs.

It is strengthened in the sleepless nights and early mornings, in the baby cries and smelly diapers. In wounded pride and tearful apologies, in laughter that makes your stomach hurt.

Heaven and earth intersect in a unique way when a man and woman promise themselves to the other. These earthly vows make room in our hearts for the divine, for eternity itself. Our minds cannot comprehend the depths of this Divine love we are promising. We may not understand what the words fully mean until we reach Heaven.

But like Mary we are called to say “I do” with our entire being. And like Mary, we can trust that God will give us the grace to be faithful to our call and make our “yes” truly life-giving.


Carissa Pluta

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

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Newlywed Life | What Do You Do When You and Your Spouse Have Different Outlooks on Health + Wellness?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My husband spent our year-long engagement two states away in his first year of grad school, determined to save money for our life together by shopping and eating as little as possible on his small stipend. The first time I saw him after he moved, he’d visibly lost weight and was more tired than usual--the result of a steady diet of frozen broccoli, boxed mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, and a weekly frozen burrito splurge on Sundays. I bought him a cookbook and promised we could live prudently without sacrificing his health.

Meanwhile, as I embarked on post-college living for the first time, I was sampling kombucha, oil pulling, and debating buying barefoot-style running shoes. Was my husband unnecessarily ascetic? Was I blindly following any wellness trend that appeared on my radar? The answer was probably both.

Even several years into marriage, I frequently observe the ways family of origin shapes your outlook, for better or for worse. My parents, sister, and I would take classes together at the gym and enjoyed cooking together from scratch. My husband and his siblings preferred pick-up sports to gyms, and his family often prioritized convenience and savings over other factors when grocery shopping.

After our wedding, as we began sharing meals and a bank account, my husband and I found ourselves in significant disagreement over how to use our limited resources well and to determine what was actually “healthy.” He called me a snob when I turned up my nose at butter that wasn’t grass-fed. I called him careless when he’d come home fatigued and sick from dipping into the candy jar at work all day.

I look back and see each of our immoderate perspectives on wellness as a typical example of the growing pains of newlywed life. Becoming familiar with one another’s spending habits, tastes, and day-to-day nutritional, sleep, and exercise requirements are among many adjustments in the merging of two individuals’ habits into a new, shared life. I have asked myself, however, why I felt so passionately about health in particular, and why I often insisted my husband conform himself more to my habits than vice versa. He’d press me, insisting he’d cherish and care for me no matter if one of us gained weight or developed an illness.

I truly believe the human body makes manifest God’s glory and expresses the person. I believe taking care of my physical well-being--held, that is, in proper perspective with my spiritual well-being--better provides me with the energy and clarity of mind to serve my husband and children in my vocation and to place my gifts at the service of the Lord.

Yet if I’m being entirely honest with myself, I also see the raw places in my heart that hide in fear: I fear sickness, death, infertility. I fear my appearance won’t be enough for my husband; the lie that, as a woman, how I look equals who I am. It’s a constant struggle for me to embrace the tension of pursuing fulfillment in this life while still fixing my eyes on the next. I desire, too much, to cling to this life in which I’ve been graced with so many gifts.

Eternal preservation, good health, and youth aren’t the ultimate goods. Eternal life, however, is.

Fulfillment without flaw. As I’ve worked to cast down these idols, time has given my husband and I more of a shared, moderate perspective on diet, exercise, supplements, and otherwise.

So where to turn if, like us, you find yourself and your beloved at odds over a major lifestyle matter--health and wellness, or otherwise?

First, I encourage you to accept differences of opinion as a normal accompaniment to your time of transition as newlyweds and, moreover, to delve into them. Like me, you might recognize a root cause that illuminates the parts of you the Father wants to heal, to reconcile, to be invited into.

Second, trust that your spouse chose you, loves you, made a vow to you--a mirror of our heavenly bridegroom. He wants you, no matter if you’re an XS or XL, if you eat or don’t eat gluten, if you’re marathons or Couch to 5K.

And lastly, turn to the Lord. Ask how you, in particular, can put yourself at the service of the Gospel--body and soul--and for him to reveal who you were created to be, and a healthy perspective on wellness will follow.


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 | Becoming the Sacrament

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

He approached the microphone, looked across the altar where we sat side-by-side, and began the homily of our Nuptial Mass, “Today, you have traveled here to commit your vows to each other in front of friends and family in the Sacrament of Matrimony.”

Father Martin pauses, glances around the sanctuary, then looks back at us; the thoughtful pause in his diction builds emphasis and suspense before he puts words on a vital truth,

“Today, you become the sacrament.”

PHOTOGRAPHY:   AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

Fast-forward three weeks into married life when my husband and I received a phone call from my parents and the two priests who concelebrated our wedding. They were all together for dinner—and eager to hear our updates.

They asked about married life, routines, work schedules, and dinner plans. Eventually Father Martin took hold of the phone and, with his dignified pause, created some silence across the phone line before speaking. “Ahem, Mr. and Mrs. Fries, I have a question for you. On your wedding day I shared how you became the sacrament through the grace of the sacrament.”

“Yes, that sounds familiar,” we responded with anticipation.

“So, my question: in this first month of marriage, how have you become the sacrament?”

Geoff and I looked at each other with blank stares; we were now utilizing our own intentional pause before we responded. To be honest, that was not a conversation topic that had come up between us since we first heard it from our seats on the altar. We didn’t have our response prepared on the tip of our tongues. But there was the question, waiting to be answered.

How have we become the sacrament?

When something is sacramental, an invisible, theological truth is made visible. Sacrament involves transformation.

Consider, for example, the sacrament of Baptism. As the prayers are said and the catechumen is “freed from sin and reborn as a child of God,” pouring water over their head is the visible component to bring a spiritual reality to life. Beyond receiving the sacrament of initiation, the people of the church are empowered in a new way, ”Faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life.”

In the Sacrament of Matrimony, vows are said aloud, rings are exchanged and, if possible, those vows are physically consummated. Through the sacrament, there is a visible and invisible uniting of the husband and wife. Following the sacrament itself, “This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple's love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity.“

I pause to wonder, what truths have we made visible since our sacramental union? How have we been transformed?

In our own experience, married life was initially surrounded by logistical changes, yet our spirits were marked with a consistent, calm embrace of our new shared life. We responded to Father Martin’s question in a dialogue, offering reflections of the peace and joy which resonated in our hearts since our wedding day. We spoke of our experiences of service and generosity to each other in our new home. “But really, we just love getting to start and finish our day next to each other and sharing all of the adventures in between.”

Our answer felt too simple.

When Father spoke next, you could hear the smile on his face. He echoed the shared memory of the tangible joy and peace of our wedding day; he offered praise that we continue to receive those graces from God. He emphasized, again, “I want you to remember, you become the sacrament.”

In the months following our conversation, Father Martin’s question has resurfaced as a frequent point of personal reflection. How do two people become a living sacrament of marriage? How have we become the sacrament?

Just as I begin to feel my heart rate increasing by the stirring of mental over-analysis, I am calmed with a familiar nudge from the Holy Spirit—a reminder to remember. Remember the simplicity. Remember the peace of our first season of married life, the answered prayers which built a foundation of confidence that God is with us.

Now, seven months into married life, my husband and I have shifted in and through a variety of seasons; contrasting seasons of peace, loneliness, adventure, anxiety and joy, woven together by the constant desire for God’s presence. The highs and the lows, different as they may feel, are similar in the way they unite us in vulnerability, communication, forgiveness, prayer and love through our vocation.

The highs and the lows and the learning in-between have all become gifts of grace.  

As we receive these graces of marriage, we receive God’s love.
As we receive him, we are commissioned to love one another.
In loving and being loved, we become visible signs of love—images of God.
As a physical form of love, we are the sacrament of marriage.

Maybe my answer will sound very different this time next year, given more time and experience as a wife. But maybe becoming the sacrament is as simple as receiving the grace of each season and seeking love.

How do you and your spouse become the sacrament in your vocation?


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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Increase the Quality in 'Quality Time'

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

When my husband and I catch up with old friends, we are quick to ask, “what show are you watching?” We often enjoy relaxing together in the evenings throughout the work week by watching a season (or more) on Netflix or Amazon Prime. After recently finishing a gripping series, we habitually returned to our designated spots on the couch, but found ourselves at a standstill.

I hope my husband and I are not alone in the dull experience of spending more time scrolling through a streaming platform than actually watching a show. In an effort to increase the quality in the valuable time we spend together, I offer suggestions to stay on the couch—without turning on the TV. We hope you will share your own ideas for high-quality time with our community on Facebook or Instagram.

A recent post offers additional inspiration and encouragement to Reduce Screen Time in your Marriage.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON         PHOTOGRAPHY

Read a book

Rather than deciding on a show to watch together, consider deciding on a book that sparks both your interests. You and your beloved may enjoy having an intentional dialogue at the end of each chapter, or perhaps you prefer to sit side-by-side and silently read for pleasure. Even more, you may prefer to read completely different books. The primary intention is to share an experience in the quiet joy of companionship.

Plan a dream vacation

Where would you go? What would you do? What would you eat? Even if you don’t anticipate the possibility of making this imagination vacation a reality, creating a dream together builds communication, collaboration, enthusiasm, and shared goals. But hold onto your plan--you never know when the opportunity for travel will present itself in the future.

Look up new recipes

...Then set a date and plan to make the recipes for a stay-at-home date night. It can be overwhelming for one person to plan a romantic menu, find recipes, purchase and prepare ingredients, and set a full meal on the table. Sharing the process, responsibilities, and experience provides quality time with each step. Bon appetit!

Complete a personality test

If the last time you took a specific personality test was before you were married, have any of the results changed? Do your personality test results compliment each other in surprising ways? Snuggle up on the couch, independently complete the questionnaires and review the analysis together; the results may offer a new insight about your spouse, or a different perspective to understand their unique quirks.

Use an interior design template to brainstorm your ideal home or room decor

There are a number of DIY interior design books on the market, and many of them include a blank worksheet to help organize the ideas in your brain into a two-dimensional vision on paper. If there is a room in your home that needs some renovating, make time to create a plan and prepare the next steps. Beginning the brainstorming process in a relaxed setting can provide a calm environment to discuss potentially conflicting ideas. If your home is already decorated or the budget is too tight for renovations, have some fun creating a far-fetched dream room. Would it be a game room, at-home gym, or movie theater? Maybe the far-fetched dream is to update a pre-existing room with luxurious features and decor. Dream big while you use your creative imaginations together.

Focus on spiritual intimacy

Journey together through a devotional designed for couples, and follow the given prompts for each day or week. Pray a rosary, chaplet, or novena. Work together to memorize a new prayer—with one spouse looking at the words and the other spouse practicing from memory. Read and reflect together on the Scripture for the upcoming Sunday’s Mass. Although daily Mass and adoration are beautiful, sacred experiences to share with your spouse, Christ dwells in your home—even with you on the couch—and yearns to be an active participant in your domestic life.

Travel through time

Ask your families to share old photo albums or home videos with you. If you and your spouse were not friends during the childhood years, get to know the child who grew up to marry you. Videos reveal the sweet voice of their younger years. Pictures are a provocation for stories, faded memories, and old relationships. In what ways do you see your spouse’s inner child still alive today?

Muster up new energy

Dare I suggest you break routine, get off the couch, and do something different? My husband and I live walking distance from a bowling alley; it has quickly become our favorite place to get some pizza and hang out on a weeknight. Find a swing set and push each other so high the posts start to rock. Go on a walk around the neighborhood. Stuff your purse with snacks and visit the nearby movie theater. Invite a friend or another couple over for dinner.

Taking time to relax, prioritizing your friendship, and enjoying little pleasures together in this season of life—before your evenings are potentially filled with children’s bedtime routines—helps establish a foundation for a strong, resilient marriage.


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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