February 6, 2023

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By Andrea Gibbs

Our deepest desire and our deepest fear are one and the same: to be known.

To be genuinely known and fully understood is a common desire throughout humanity. But this terrifies us at the same time. What if we do not measure up to expectations once we are fully known? What if we appear foolish in our honesty? What if we are rejected? To pray with our spouse, that one person we have entered into the holy covenant of marriage with, is an ultimate vulnerability of being known.

Father James Morgan, rector of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, has spent a large portion of his priestly vocation focusing on the sacrament of marriage, both through Engaged Encounter retreats and meeting one on one with engaged couples. In the process, Father Morgan walks couples through the theology of the sacrament of marriage, where the key is helping the couples understand that God brought them together in vocation.

Chosen to be together

One way Father Morgan reinforces God’s providence in marriage is to guide couples through key passages in Scripture. “God has chosen us to be together,” Father Morgan said. “We did not choose this ourselves.”

During our own marriage preparation process, my husband and I were advised by the parish deacon that the goal of marriage is to cultivate virtues that will lead our spouse to grow in holiness. The goal of marriage is to get one another to heaven. Now, we in turn pass this on to the young married couples we mentor. For most, it is easy to start strong, but the marathon of daily life takes its toll. Deep down, we do desire heaven for our spouse but have perhaps gotten sidetracked in our practices.

Many married couples find it difficult to take time to connect. Society calls for us to be constantly busy and so we do not have the time to simply listen. Pope Francis recently implored, “I would like to ask each one of you to answer in your heart: You, husband, do you have time to listen to your wife? You, wife, do you have time to listen to your husband? You, parents, do you have time, time to spend to listen to your children, or your grandparents, the elderly? … Listen. I ask you to learn to listen and dedicate more time to this. In the capacity to listen is the root of peace.”

Reciprocally, listening and speaking can make us vulnerable in conversation with our spouse. When we come together to truly be present and share in the joys and struggles that our spouse is willing to share with us, we are both vulnerable, and vulnerability is difficult. As Father Morgan said, “That is the beauty in it all. Both are vulnerable, not just one or the other, and this is what generates that ‘total act of self-giving’ that married couples are called to enter.”

Listening with the heart takes the conversation a step further to be empathetic and other-centered. When we listen in conversation with the heart, we become active participants in the dialogue.

A deeper call

Reconnecting using heartfelt communication with our spouse is always a positive practice. Taking an opportunity to have an open conversation can bring out our vulnerabilities, but what about the further call to pray with each other? How as a married couple can we take that next step to begin to pray with one another if we never have before, or if it hasn’t happened in many years?

Father Morgan reminds us that the weekly obligation of attending Holy Mass is where many couples already are praying together. Pope Francis tells us that the Mass is prayer—or rather, it is “the prayer par excellence, the highest, the most sublime, and at the same time, the most ‘concrete’ … it is an encounter with the Lord.” Attending Holy Mass together is a beautiful way to enter into prayer as a married couple.

An easy next step would be to pray memorized prayers together at home like the Hail Mary, Our Father or Chaplet of Divine Mercy. An additional way to pray with our spouse would be “unscripted” prayer together, each in turn offering our own prayer intentions and prayers of gratitude aloud to God.

Praying over the spouse is another beautiful way to connect. This would involve each spouse listing their prayer requests, if they are unknown to each other, and then taking turns praying for our spouse aloud.

Take the risk

Praying aloud together is difficult when we anticipate the vulnerability of being known more fully by our spouse. It is worth the risk. If our goal for our marriage is heaven, then it is worth overcoming our insecurities for each other’s salvation. Our spouses are made for heaven. Our vows in holy matrimony bind us, for better or worse, to this spouse, this soul, to become one.

And so home is where we begin and end our day and our mission to make Christ known and loved throughout the world. Our vulnerability in prayer and striving for holiness within our marriage is answering Christ’s call in evangelization.

 

 

Bonus prayer opportunities 
We all know how important it is to continue to date our spouse. Precious time together, regardless of how long we have been married, is worth the effort. Next time you are out for dinner and a movie, add another destination to your date night. Father Morgan says, “Stop at a church or chapel and kneel down and hold hands. Don’t say any words. The thought that you are praying for each other in silence is powerful. And then you can begin to say prayers together.” Another suggested pit stop on a date night would be to find a church offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation and each spouse goes to confession.