4 Secular Novels Featuring Insights into Authentic Love + Catholic Marriage

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Can non-spiritual reading have a place in your formation and prayer life?

Catholic author Walker Percy said, “Fiction doesn’t tell us something we don’t know. It tells us something we know but don’t know that we know.” 

The Catholic faith offers us a rich treasury of theologians, ancient and contemporary, who have shed light on Scripture, the sacraments, prayer, and more, in a language we can comprehend in our humanness. And certainly, there are a wealth of resources on relationships and sacramental marriage, in particular.

I’ve found my world-view changed for the better by the religious works I’ve encountered on love and marriage. Yet the truth is, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable admitting that spiritual reading isn’t my favorite genre. 

A lifelong literature lover, it’s taken time for me to articulate what I now deeply believe to be true: stories that convey goodness, truth, and beauty--those that reveal the nature and purpose of the human person and human love--can be just as powerful as theological writing in showing us who we are and directing our hearts to God. 

While spiritual writing provides a good and necessary framework and lens for our understanding, literature, for me, brings these truths to life in a tangible, embodied way as we experience characters’ interior lives. Together, they supplement one another and offer an enriching education in self-knowledge, love, and faith.

Here, for fiction lovers like me, a selection of novels beyond perennial Catholic favorites like Austen, Waugh, O’Connor, Percy, and Berry, that illuminate the human heart and offer life-giving insights into love and marriage.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza

This story of estranged siblings and parents re-entering each other’s lives for a wedding jumps seamlessly through time and memory, sharing such recognizable, true-to-life accounts of longtime marriage, growing up with siblings, experiencing your first love, and the pain of distance and division. I finished this book in tears, filled with the hope that no matter how imperfect our earthly relationships might be, our hope lies in our resurrection at the heavenly wedding banquet.

Sample passage: “I have looked up at this sky since I was a child and I have always been stirred, in the most secret depth of me that I alone cannot access, and if that is not my soul awakening to the majesty of my creator then what is it?”

Circe, Madeline Miller

The centuries-long lifetime of the witch from The Odyssey, who famously turned men into pigs, is reimagined in this beautiful novel. Reading about the Greek gods’ immortal nature—and Circe’s resulting years of solitude and loneliness—I was repeatedly struck by the fact that eternal life means nothing without the divine Beloved; the Bridegroom. It is the love of God that gives meaning to our creation and existence.

What’s more, I found myself deeply moved by the incarnational, embodied dimension of love, as this book explores through the nature of gods and men: Christ took on human flesh and a mortal life out of love. Our mortality is not the end of the story.

Sample passage: “I have aged... Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I am vain and dissatisfied. But I do not wish myself back. Of course my flesh reaches for the earth.” 

Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan

How does the Lord work within the discernment choices we make? After sacramentally entering into a vocation and experiencing doubts, does it matter? This bittersweet story of two Irish Catholic sisters who immigrate to Boston in the mid-twentieth century delves into the daily rituals and intimacies that make up both married and religious life, with encouragement to seek God’s will in all things.

Sample passage:  “Think of a marriage, husband and wife. The piece of paper, the white wedding dress, they don't promise anything. A person has to stay there, fight for it, every day.” 

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

Love as an act of the will, rather than a flight of emotion, is integral to an authentic communion that imitates Christ’s own love. Is it possible, though, that an overcommitment to duty over emotion can become a source of regret?

As I read this story of an English butler and his relationships with his master and a fellow, female servant, I considered how the things we don’t say frequently speak as loudly as the things we do. I found it a poignant reflection on the human need for vulnerability and expressing affection.

Sample passage: “If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.” 

I love pondering the ways in which the worldly echoes the sacred; the ways in which popular or secular media expresses a universal truth that aligns with human nature and the Catholic faith. What novels can you recommend for insights into love and marriage? Share 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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Wedding Planning | Expressing Gratitude to Your Celebrant

Who are the clergy who will be involved in your wedding, and how can you welcome and thank them in your celebration?

Your wedding celebrant(s) might be an acquaintance, a family friend, or a peer. Regardless of whether you’ve been friends with your celebrant for years or whether he’s a relatively new acquaintance, etiquette and good will can strengthen your relationship and, God willing, make him a significant person in your wedding-day memories and future family life.

See Susanna + Brad’s Italian Vineyard-Inspired Wedding, with many priests and religious in attendance, and read their reflections on how married couples can honor the priesthood.

Here, four ways to express your thanks to your celebrant.

Make a donation.

Parishes, cathedrals, and other sites of worship typically request a donation fee in exchange for getting married there, which is used for maintenance and ministry purposes. It’s also appropriate to gift a personal donation to your celebrant in thanks, particularly if you’ve had a deeply enriching marriage prep journey with him, if he’s been in one or both of your lives for a long time, and if he is assisting with additional pre-wedding events such as a holy hour or confessions.

Invite him to the rehearsal dinner.

As your celebrant will be leading and directing your wedding rehearsal, it’s customary to have him attend the rehearsal dinner, as well. Invite him to say a blessing over your meal and to announce any pre-wedding events your rehearsal guests are invited to. Consider who in your families and wedding party he’d hit it off with, and introduce them.

Read 6 Ideas for Having a Spiritually Rich Wedding Rehearsal.

Write a note and consider a gift.

If your celebrant has made your engagement and marriage prep a memorable experience, don’t hesitate to say so! Consider how, for a particularly meaningful relationship, your thank-you note can go beyond basic gratitude by sharing your experience of your marriage preparation and/or friendship with him. If your celebrant is a close friend, you might also consider a gift related to a favorite hobby, saint, writer, or food or drink.

Invite him to the reception and ask him to bless the meal.

After celebrating your wedding ceremony, your celebrant will surely be sharing in you, your spouse, and your families’ deep joy. Be sure to create a reception table assignment for him and to communicate with your celebrant and DJ about the appropriate time for a blessing.

Pray for him.

It is a great gift to witness holy priests, brothers, and deacons living out their vocations as they witness you and your beloved entering into yours, particularly if you’ve shared in each other’s formation and friendship along the way.

We’d love to hear: what unique ways have you shown thanks to your wedding celebrants? Share in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

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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Your Marriage Isn't Just for You and Your Beloved

MARIAH MAZA

 

Beautiful bride, remember that your marriage is not just for you and your beloved. 

I don’t remember who said it, or whether it was before or after I got engaged, but it is a piece of wisdom that, once I heard it, I began to ponder curiously in my heart.

It stuck with me because it ran so boldly against the grain of the secular “wedding culture” I grew up seeing in movies, on magazine covers, and in the pages of books. These were stories that followed the romantic journey of a couple falling in love, planning a meticulously beautiful wedding to reflect their unique love, and the two of them driving off into the sunset to live “happily ever after”--whatever that meant. In my mind, I imagined the bride and groom living the remainder of their days in their little cottage, deliriously in love, breathing in the happiness of their marriage “ever after.” 

Without realizing it, I cultivated a very “inward-facing” idea of marriage. 

First, let’s clarify two things.

It is a beautiful and exciting thing to celebrate a couple’s unique love story and all the twists, turns, trials, and victories they walked through to make it to the altar on their wedding day. That’s why there’s a part of our hearts that cherishes a good love story on screen and in real life--for the hope and happiness it brings.

And planning a wedding that reflects that story’s beauty, from the colors, to the centerpieces filled with the bride’s favorite flower, to the specific readings chosen for the nuptial Mass, is also a wonderful thing. It is festivity and creativity at its greatest when we gather together to celebrate two people becoming one flesh in the nuptial Mass.

So what am I saying? Those movies and magazines and books only showed half the equation

Or rather, the beginning of the equation. Those stories dazzled me with how boy fell in love with girl, but they usually didn’t explain, after the bride and groom drove off into the sunset, what the lifelong mission of that married love was supposed to be.

The Church teaches us that your marriage is for you and your beloved and for the edification and sanctification of the world--but if that sounds a little ambitious, try starting with those in your community! Sacramental marriage is like the ever fruitful, ever generous love of the Trinity. Although the perfect love shared between the Father and Son is incredibly beautiful and special, their divine love does not stop there. It is so profound, so life-giving, that it begets a third divine Person: the Holy Spirit. 

The love of Father and Son is so profound, so life-giving that God simply delighted in creating an entire unnecessary universe to share in his Life, with unnecessary animals, trees, mountains, oceans, and human beings. 

God had no need of any part of this earth. He enjoys perfect, eternal Trinitarian community. And yet, in his infinite love and joy, he created us anyway. All out of love. A love that is not caught between him and Christ, but overflows into every last atom of creation. 

"The world was made for the glory of God"...”not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,” for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand” (CCC 293). 

Like a small child who sits down to draw the colorful, fantastical creations of his imagination, not because he has to, but because he delights to.

This is what your marriage is meant to become.

The Catechism tells us that matrimony is actually one of two sacraments of service: “two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God” (CCC 1534).

Your marriage is for you and your beloved. To share in the joys, crosses, and daily tasks of life together. To sanctify each other as you walk hand-in-hand to Heaven, sometimes in perfect step and sometimes with one leading the other.

Your marriage is also meant to be “outward-facing” towards the community around you. True love, by its very nature, calls a person out of himself in service. Therefore true married love, by its very nature, must call both spouses out of themselves. Not just to serve each other, but to make their very marriage a gift to those around them. To “confer a particular mission in the Church and to serve to build up the People of God.” 

St. John Paul II wrote in his papal encyclical Gaudium et spes, “the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church...will manifest to all men Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church.” (Gaudium et spes, 48). 

It is a high calling, to strive to imitate the infinitely divine, fruitful love of the Trinity in your own marriage. To live your vows in such a way that your marriage “will manifest to all men Christ’s living presence in the world.” But it is a saintly calling, and it sanctifies the daily struggles and joys of marriage with an eternal mission.

Cardinal Raymond Burke said in an interview in 2015, "There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage. After the Holy Eucharist, it has a power beyond anything that we can imagine." 

Beautiful bride, as you prepare to walk down the aisle, or if you are walking through the transition of newlywed life, remember the twofold mission of your vocation. Remember that your cherished love story and the beauty of your wedding day are only the beginning of God’s plan for you and your beloved. Allow your marriage, the joys and the crosses, to become an outward testament to the goodness of God’s love and mercy for those around you.

Our world doesn’t need perfect marriages. Our world desperately needs holy marriages. How can your marriage become a fruitful gift to the world? 

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives...This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5: 25-27, 32).


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

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If You're in a Serious Relationship, What Are Appropriate Friendships With the Opposite Sex?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

As you experience the gravity and commitment of engagement and new marriage--the weight of love, in the best way--have you wondered how your friendships with the opposite sex could, or should, change?

Throughout our relationship, my husband and I have learned the value of clear boundaries in friendships only through our error and blindness. There was the time his female study partner began sharing deep emotional scars with him, appreciating his sympathetic ear, only to develop romantic feelings for him. It made me wish they spent less time together. 

There was the period where I felt out of place at my first corporate job, as one of the youngest employees and as someone just beginning to navigate the social politics of office life. When I met a male technical writer who was also a recent hire, one who shared my sense of humor and had similar tastes in music and literature, we became fast friends.

My husband was hurt when he learned my friend spent significant time chatting one-on-one at my desk and that we shared inside jokes and instant-messaged throughout the workday, sometimes more frequently than I communicated with my husband himself. 

There have been the times of hesitancy when we have made plans with another couple and struggled with the awkwardness at being alone with the opposite-sex partner while waiting for the other to come home or meet up, not wanting the other person to feel uncomfortable.

What’s at the root of these experiences? My husband and I have been blessed with the grace to be honest and forthright with one another and have never wrestled with distrust or jealousy.

Perhaps, though, in the past we took our deep mutual trust for granted: in knowing our level of fidelity and commitment to each other, maybe it became too easy to be overly open with friends and to drift into conversations of an overly personal, intimate nature. 

If you’ve experienced something similar--that is, the challenge of establishing boundaries with your friends of the opposite sex while in a healthy relationship with your beloved--I encourage you to have a conversation with your fiancé or spouse about each of your expectations and opinions on the matter. The answers will look different for every couple; so long as a spirit of good will is present and your expectations are not rooted in envy, control, or fear, talking about your friendships will help you navigate them in a prudent way as you enter into marriage. 

Consider matters like not spending individual time with opposite-sex friends outside of professional or public settings, eschewing terms like “work husband” and “work wife” out of respect for your spouse, and avoiding keeping texts and emails private if your beloved inquires about them. Ask yourself: how can I honor my beloved?

I truly believe it’s possible to have authentically virtuous friendships with those of the opposite sex. Keep respect for your beloved at the forefront, cultivate an awareness of and sensitivity to any development of romantic or emotional attachment and establish boundaries accordingly (either by confronting the issue or limiting time together, particularly if your friend is single), and invite your friends into your life as a couple, not as individuals, when possible.  

What about your female friendships? Read 3 Tips for maintaining quality time with your girlfriends after your wedding day.

Writer and Christian convert Sheldon Vanauken describes falling in love with his wife Davy in his memoir A Severe Mercy. As they grew in trust and tenderness, Sheldon and Davy expressed a desire to nurture their relationship by means of a boundary that would protect their hopes to serve one another over themselves and to let love flourish; they called it “The Shining Barrier.” 

What The Shining Barrier signified, he says, “was simply this question: what will be best for our love? Should one of us change a pattern of behavior that bothered the other, or should the other learn to accept? Well, which would be better for our love? Which way would be better, in any choice or decision, in the light of our single goal: to be in love as long as life might last?”

As you and your beloved develop your own shining barrier, your own ways to prioritize your vocation, may clarity, freedom, confidence, and peace be poured out over your relationships.

We’d love to hear your own experiences of how your opposite-sex friendships have changed throughout serious dating, engagement, and marriage. Share your stories 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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Habits You Can Start Now to Prepare for Married Intimacy

 

Reserving the gift of the sexual embrace for the one person you commit your life to in the sacrament of matrimony is a gift of self. A gift which embodies chastity, freedom, and self-control; virtues which continue to grow throughout married life—no longer by withholding, but precisely through physical intimacy. 

Teachings of the Catholic Church surrounding sex and marriage are not a set of rules to control our personal lives or for the sake of abstinence alone. Rather, these are beautiful teachings of the Church to emphasize authentic love through a freely given gift of self, with an openness toward creating life. In this way, we embody the love of God.

Physical intimacy is offered as a chaste gift is when it parallels the gift of Christ to his bride, the Church. Sex makes visible the glorious vows offered and received on the wedding altar. 

Conversations surrounding sex and marriage are not just about sex. The dialogue is rooted in reverence for the human person and virtue of the human heart. Regardless of our relationship status, we are all called to grow in reverence and virtue. 

Our actions involving sexuality are some of the most important ways we can fulfill the universal call of holiness. Yet there are many ways we can grow in chastity, experience collaboration with God, and offer a profound gift of self prior to or outside of intimacy with a partner. 

Receive the Eucharist 

Receiving the Eucharist in the liturgy of the Mass is the epitome of intimacy with God. This is the moment when God proclaims his love and desire for intimate union with his children. Receiving the Eucharist with a pure heart is the greatest experience of physical and spiritual intimacy with God. 

When God offers his body, blood, soul and divinity and we receive him through our mouth and into our body, we experience the fullest reverence, virtue, chastity, and gift that we can experience on this side of heaven. The Eucharist is an image of the embrace between bride and groom; images of infinite union, which God prepares in heaven for every person. 

Bringing your desires, longings and aches to the father in the Eucharist is the most holy place we can turn to for healing and strength. He knows what it means to experience the ache of the human heart and he desires to pull us into deeper and more chaste relationship with him and with others. 

Feasting and Fasting 

Scripture affirms “prayer with fasting is good.” Fasting, most often associated with the season of Lent, is an opportunity for the faithful to prayerfully give something up to elicit an experience of longing. When we abstain from a tangible or consumable good and experience the ache of desire, our hearts yearn for more. That deep emotional encounter is a moment we can turn to God in prayer and ask him to fill the void in our hearts, bodies, and souls. 

There is nothing on earth, including sex (even sex within marriage), that can completely fill our hearts’ longings. Saint Augustine understood this perpetual ache when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 

Establishing a practice of regular fasting opens the heart to experience a deeper longing, raises our awareness of our hearts desires, and provides opportunities to grow in intimacy with God. Consider something small; for example, giving up fancy coffee drinks once a week as a prayer to experience desire, to grow in virtue and to understand freedom of saying “no.”

Relationships with the Saints

The saints are holy men and women who received understanding of God’s will for their lives and fulfilled it through their time on Earth. They are made available to us as spiritual—and very real—friends, mentors, and guides through prayer and devotion. 

Maybe the saints all feel like strangers to you, yet you desire some kind of mentor along this journey of chastity and self-control. Ask God to deliver you a holy friend and keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity to dive into a new relationship with a saint. Perhaps there is a saint who has recently become more prevalent in your life. If you sense they are seeking your attention, turn to them in a novena or devotion for guidance along this journey toward holiness.  

Delayed Gratification 

In a culture where we can acquire information and products almost immediately through modern technology, delayed gratification is an underappreciated skill. Through delayed gratification, practice withholding a desire with a confident hope of acquiring it in the future. As a small example, delay how quickly after dinner you indulge in dessert. The time of waiting is an opportunity to grow in patience and self-control.

As you train these muscles of your head and your heart, you build a muscle memory which will be a strength if or when you are tempted to engage in sexual intimacy in an unchaste way. Practice saying “no” through the freedom of your self-control for something small so you can experience the fullest joys—the fulest yes—for something truly divine.