Has Comparison Played a Role in Your Vocation? Thoughts on Humility + Authenticity.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

In my attempts to dialogue about the Catholic faith with charity and respect, to help others feel seen and heard, and to treat differences of opinion with a sympathetic, analytical mindset, it’s easy for me to believe I’m immune to pride. 

But that outlook is, in itself, prideful.

Photography: Christina Canaday, c/o    Something Blue, LLC

Photography: Christina Canaday, c/o Something Blue, LLC

The Pharisees, in Scripture, seem so different from me on the surface: confrontational, rule-bound, unmerciful. And yet, when I consider the deeper implications of their attitude, I see the painful similarities to my own bad habits, particularly in regard to comparison and pride.

Seeing your imperfections hurts. But they don’t define you. Read more here.

As my husband and I planned our wedding, we’d pat ourselves on the back for spending thousands less than wedding websites said a typical celebration would cost. As I cut sugar and flour from my diet in the month before the big day, I hoped family and friends would admire my fashion savvy and my looking thinner in the strapless ballgown I couldn’t wait to wear.

As we entered into newlywed life and, later, into parenthood, I’d mentally congratulate our willingness to travel and explore our new state when we could’ve stayed home instead, and our first child’s behavior he was calm and occupied in public.

What is it that distinguishes pride from being proud of yourself? Certainly, it’s not bad to spend within your means, to approach your appearance in a healthy way, to cultivate a fulfilling life and to parent attentively. But what about the areas of our wedding in which we overspent? What about the times my husband and I just didn’t feel like doing something social media-worthy? What about the times our baby fussed or struggled while we were out?

When I look at the root of these occasions, I see a desire for others to perceive me favorably, rather than a desire to be an instrument of the Father’s gifts.

I recognize the sense of underlying comparison, as if my choices make me superior, as if they define me, rather than just existing as choices. In my pride, I see the times in which can’t deny I’ve valued the earthly over the divine--a priority of myself above all else. How far I have to grow.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ condemns the Pharisees as “hypocrites.” The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “actor.” 

Actors in ancient Greek theatre wore masks. When I consider my temptations to comparison and pride, I’m forced to confront the masks I want to wear: that my husband and I have a good relationship and have our lives together, that my appearance can garner attention, that my children’s good behavior is a direct reflection of my parenting. Again, these desires aren’t all inherently bad, yet in my desire to let them define me and to help others see me in the best light, I see the Pharisee in me, and I am humbled.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Saint Augustine in describing humility; the virtue of rightly understanding our nature and identity within the order of creation: “Man,” wrote Augustine, “is a beggar before God.”

Have you experienced similar thought patterns as mine--the belief that the choices you make in your engagement and marriage need to reflect well on you, and the fall into pride? Recognizing the masks we wear hurts; removing them is painful. When I remind myself I am seen, and accepted by the Lord in this journey of growth even without my masks, I find myself consoled and encouraged to live more authentically. More humbly. To examine the roots of my desires and strive to align them with God’s glory, not my own.

This week, I encourage you to examine your own desires: do you want to achieve them to draw attention to yourself, or to Christ within you? I can assure you that I’m right there alongside you, trying always to break my habits of comparison and to pursue greater humility. In our rawness and weakness, we are loved all the same.


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 | 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.

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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Choosing a Color Palette

CARISSA PLUTA

 

“What are your colors?"

PHOTOGRAPHY:    CHELSEA SLIWA

PHOTOGRAPHY: CHELSEA SLIWA

Early in the wedding planning process, you’ll probably hear this question asked a lot by friends and family. 

You may have had your colors picked out since middle school, but if you haven’t, you may feel a bit of pressure to pick the “right" hues. 

While your palette will inform a lot of your wedding decisions, like your flowers and your bridal party attire, it doesn’t have to cause more stress on the wedding plans. 

Know what you like

Think about colors and shades that currently found in your home and your wardrobe. These colors serve as an excellent starting point for a bride who feels overwhelmed. 

Using your favorite colors can help keep your own personality and style in the midst of your wedding day. 

Plus, choosing colors you have liked for the long-term will ensure that you won’t tire of them during the wedding planning process. 

Consider the location

Will your colors work well with the church and venue where the wedding and reception will be  held?

You should avoid a color palette that will clash with space, rather pick a color scheme that will help enhance the overall look and feel of a venue.

Keep your colors in mind (or bring color swatches) when visiting potential reception sites to see if the colors will work well in the space. 

Set the mood

Think about the feel you’d like to have at your wedding. Colors evoke mood and emotions that can impact the atmosphere of a wedding. 

Dark colors and jewel tones create more drama; they are bolder and more evocative than pastels which are softer and more calming.

Understanding the atmosphere you’d like to create will help you decide what colors you should choose, and whether you should use them as your primary and accent colors. 

Think seasonally

The season in which you get married might affect your color palette. For example, you can make your Fall wedding more vibrant by choosing colors that naturally occur in that season, like deep reds or oranges, while lighter colors fit best in a spring wedding. 

Certain colors hold a particular significance for Catholics so you might want to consider the liturgical season in which you’ll get married. 

Are you getting married in Advent or Lent? Include purple in your big day. Or if your wedding takes place during the Christmas or Easter season, gold might be a good choice. 

Consult the color wheel

You don’t need a degree in art or design to pick the perfect colors for your big day, but keeping in mind some of the basic principles will help guide your choice. 

Consult the color wheel to choose colors that look good together. Typically, colors that go well together are ones that are opposites because they pair a cool and warm (like turquoise and coral) or ones that share a primary color (like yellow and orange). 


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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Prayer Intentions for Women Called to Marriage

Whether you’re currently single, dating, engaged, or married, every woman prays to live out her vocation faithfully and well. What does that look like in the everyday?

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in    Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

For those called to marriage, the desire to be a strong, holy wife might feel so...abstract. And that’s understandable! Depending on your relationship situation and whether you’ve met your spouse, your ability to will the good of a specific man and ask the Father for grace with specific matters can be limited. 

Are you in a season of discerning the Father’s will for your life? Read tips for determining the vocation he might be calling you to. 

There are, however, particular intentions you might consider bringing to prayer as you anticipate, prepare for, or live out your married life. Here, prayer suggestions for brides.

Strengthen me in sacrifice.

Ask the Lord for a greater sense of perception and attention to opportunities for sacrifice and service, as well as a willing disposition to do so with a joyful heart. Is he prompting you to fast from or give up particular habits? Are there daily activities in which you can ease the load of someone in your life (chores, quality time, or otherwise)? No matter your current state in life, you can actively strengthen your marriage--starting now--by developing a heart of sacrifice.

Grant me the gift of understanding.

Seek growth in active listening, healthy conflict resolution, and empathy. Embrace others’ honesty and vulnerability as a gift to be treated with mercy and care. Cultivating communication skills amplifies and enriches all of your relationships.

Read 5 Tips for Active Listening.

Help me to know your peace, Lord.

Do you find yourself doubting you’ll ever meet the man you’re intended to marry? Are you anxious to determine if the man you’re currently dating is The One? Are you and your spouse facing a major life decision like children, career changes, or a move?

The Lord desires our hearts to be at peace. In times of restlessness for answers, approach discernment with a spirit of openness, trusting that he responds to our prayers--sometimes with a whisper, and sometimes with a shout--in the most loving, fruitful ways, even when his call is wildly different from our expectations.

May I revere my sexuality and fertility.

Our identity as human persons, male and female and invited to join God in bringing forth life, speaks the truth of who we are. Pray for the graces of reverence, joy, freedom, and self-discipline as they relate to your sexuality, and if you feel the pull, seek out theological resources that further illuminate.

Pray, also, for trust: the knowledge and appropriate resources to learn about your fertility and your body’s particular rhythms, the faith and confidence to embrace children and grow your family as you feel called. And perhaps most painfully, the trust that should infertility and complications arise, you are not abandoned and the Lord will reveal, in time, his plans for your particular marriage to be fruitful.

May I make of myself a gift to my husband, and may he make of himself a gift to me.

Authentic love is free, faithful, total, and fruitful; a complete gift of self. This love takes on a particularly intimate, personal dimension in marriage, yet there are ways to embody self-gift even before marriage.

Pray about ways to communicate love through every part of your life, not just your romantic relationship: live with a spirit of encounter. Make efforts to make others feel seen, heard, and known. Be a witness to joy and to confidence in your identity as a daughter, sister, and bride. 

For that, ultimately, is who you are: a woman, equipped with unique gifts only you can confer on the world--not only on your wedding day or as a new wife, but before and after you enter into your vocation. May your prayers inspire your gifts and your worth.

Have you experienced this desire to be a “good” wife? What other intentions have you prayed for in this pursuit? Share your thoughts in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.