Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Love As Christ Loved (Part 2): Recognizing Our Spouse Through the Eyes of Christ

I previously wrote about how we should love ourselves as Christ loved us on the Cross. He recognizes our inherent worth and beauty, over two centuries since His Crucifixion, death, and Resurrection.

Turning the page, we must then begin to analyze what else Christ despised and loved on the Cross.

In today’s society, it is commonplace to find women getting together in groups and the topic inevitably turns toward marriage – whether a group of single women discuss potential partners, or whether married women begin discussing their current husbands.

One need only scroll through popular social media sites, or watch television for a couple hours, to get a sense of the way marriage is portrayed in our culture. Too often, the husbands are portrayed as bumbling oafs, only good for laughs and mockery. The wives are portrayed as the women who have everything put together. Groups of wives, who allow themselves to descend into topics of conversation about their husbands fare little better, getting swept up in complaints about their husbands – whether it’s a perceived personality flaw, a defect in their character, or overall unhappiness in the roles they have assigned in their marriages.

It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of unhappiness as we unburden our frustrations with our girlfriends – we are unhappy about a small thing, we complain, it makes us unhappier, which leads us to further complaints, which makes us even unhappier. Or, we begin to compete with each other as girlfriends – envying the seeming happiness of one woman and her marriage, comparing ourselves and our marriages to her and the marriage she seems to enjoy. We begin to delude ourselves that the grass is greener, others don’t struggle with the same issues, or another couple has all the answers. And, we begin to feel cheated and robbed of a blissful, Hollywood-esque marital existence.

In the midst of this roller coaster of emotions, we forget to consider the words of St. Thomas Aquinas,

As we compare notes, offer sympathy, and commiserate with each other, many times we begin to overlook the redeeming qualities of our husbands. We begin to despise that which Jesus Christ loves.

Christ died for us.

Christ also died for our spouses.

Christ loves us.

Christ also loves our spouses.

Christ believes in us.

Christ also believes in our spouses.

When we are tempted to give in to disparaging remarks about our spouse, we are called, as Catholic Christians, to remember the man we have married. We are called to remember the vows we took, between not just ourselves, but in communion with God.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in 1641, “This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.’” The Catechism also reminds readers in 1642, “Christ is the source of this grace.”

Christ Himself is present in all Sacramental Marriages!

And, we’ve already established, the devil doesn’t like the Triune God! He will try anything to sabotage this holiest of unions.

So, Satan will plant seeds of resentment, he will plant seeds of doubt, he will plant seeds of envy. And, if we are not careful, those seeds will grow.

We are called…

to heed our judgments toward our spouse,

to be vigilant against the feelings of resentment against our spouse,

to banish our envy toward other unions,

to recognize the person we have married, as a person who is loved by Christ,

to view our husband through the eyes of Christ on the Cross.

Through our Sacramental Marriages, we are offered an opportunity to achieve sainthood – as individuals, and as couples. We are offered an opportunity to bring God, and be God, to another in an intimate way. We are also offered an opportunity to build up the Kingdom of God, in the most unique fashion.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself tempted to engage in banter with others about how your spouse is performing as a partner in your marriage, keep in mind it is an opportunity to be charitable.

The opportunity is ripe to guard your tongue against attacks against your husband’s character.

You have been given a chance to be honorable to both your union and God. And to be a shining example of loving as Christ loved on the Cross.

Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Mindy Sacraments Spiritual Growth Vocations

Five secrets to a strong marriage

7 marriageRecently, I had the privilege to interview Gil and Sandra Cragen, honored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the longest-married couple among nominees in the state of Alaska.

That interview will appear in the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage’s Archdiocesan newspaper, next month. But I thought I’d share some bullet points about their marriage and what has made it so successful.

I know that simply being married 54 years does not equate to a good marriage. Yet, from the moment I entered their home, I felt blessed by their mutual love and warm hospitality. Sitting there eating homemade cookies and sipping lemonade, I not only felt physically but emotionally and spiritually nourished. So, I think these tips are worth sharing. I have also newly committed to praying for and striving for these qualities in my own marriage, and those of my friends and loved ones.

1) Commitment. It sounds silly, since marriage is a commitment, right? But in this day and age, one shouldn’t take for granted that both parties bring a strong commitment to the table. I myself did not understand that marriage is a lifelong commitment when I got married. My husband taught me this through his example, and showed me where the error was in my thought process. A lot of people have an attitude these days of, “I can always leave when things get tough and I’m no longer feeling happy.” I speak from experience.

2) Communication. Wait for the spirit of anger to dissipate, and then find the time and a way to communicate. It doesn’t have to be talking. The key is to prioritize mutual respect and tenderness for one another, as well as patience and compromise. This is probably the biggest challenge in my marriage–not the respect, tenderness, patience and compromise part so much as the time part. Between my husband’s work schedule and raising 9 children, time is often in short supply.

3) Intentionality. Strong families don’t happen by accident. When you think in your mind of what looks like a strong family, what is important to you? Do strong families eat dinner together at the table, for example? Do they read the Bible together? If you are not doing these things you wish you did, start! The time is now. There will never be a better or more right time.

4) Church. Raise your children in the Church. Show up frequently. Go together. Pray together. Practice the faith at home, exercise faith in your lives. Be the example.

5) Love one another. If there’s one thing that was supremely obvious from my time with the Cragens, it is that they dearly love one another. They do it through their tenderness in speech, their patience while conversing, their mutual respect for one another’s viewpoints.

What has worked for you? If you feel you have a particularly strong marriage, we’d love to hear what makes it so. Thanks for sharing!