St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of the Diocese of Wilmington, offers a unique spirituality for couples and families to embrace. Based on love and the Gospel message, Salesian spirituality provides a simple way of reconciling the conflicting demands of home, family, career, church and community.
St. Francis de Sales reminds us we are all called to holiness in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. He describes the devout life as “relational,” meaning it is living out our relationships in love that one lives the devout life.
St. Francis gently reminds us the devout life is a process … it only happens with grace, perseverance and patience over a lifetime. Marriage is a process and journey, much like our spiritual lives. Christ’s presence in the marital relationship gives spouses the graces to endure the challenges of their vocation and to persevere with patience, courage and strength.
When we think of “marital intimacy,” often physical intimacy comes to mind first. For a marriage to thrive and grow toward holiness and wholeness, a healthy balance of physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy is vital.
In marriage, spiritual intimacy has been referred to as the forgotten intimacy. However, when God is the centerpiece of our marriages, good marriages can become amazing and hurting marriages can begin to heal. In addition to attending Mass together, praying together as a couple develops closeness, trust and oneness with the Holy Trinity.
During the diocesan Pre-Cana classes, engaged couples are given the opportunity to try spontaneous prayer. Spontaneous prayer is speaking from the heart in our own words vs. traditional memorized prayers. It can be awkward at first, but over time it can enhance intimacy in all areas – better communication, restoration of romance and an increase in openness to the grace that flows from the sacrament of marriage.
In recognition of National Marriage Week, World Marriage Day and Valentine’s Day, rekindle your spiritual intimacy by trying this simple four-step method for spontaneous prayer adapted from “The M.A.P.” process used during the diocesan pre-Cana classes:
“Imagine your spouse/future spouse is asking you the following questions. Write your answers and then exchange papers. Write a prayer using the 4 Step Method and the example given below.
“When you are both finished, sit close, facing each other, take turns praying with the prayer that each of you wrote. Think of it as having a three-way conversation with God.
• What are you thankful for?
• Is there anything I have done that has hurt you… anything I need to say I’m sorry about?
• What concerns or worries do you have right now?
• Who needs our prayers? What would you like me to pray for?”
• Give praise.
• Give thanks.
• Ask for forgiveness.
•l Ask for what we need.
“Lord, I praise and thank you for bringing us together. I ask you to forgive me for being impatient this week with Susan…the wedding plans are getting stressful. I ask for more patience and understanding through this period. Help us to remember that the wedding is a day and our marriage is for a lifetime. We also ask for your prayers for my grandfather who is not doing well. We ask this in your name. Amen.”
Significantly, Jesus performed his first miracle by turning the water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana. At times in a marriage, the wine runs out and turns to the water of routine, the water of boredom, and the water of disillusionment. Each spouse may ask: “Where is the joy, where is the excitement, where is the romanticism?” This is where Jesus comes in and brings joy, new love and new and greater tenderness. Yes, it’s a good idea to have Jesus at your wedding, but you also need to invite him into your marriage.
“See the divine lover at the gate. He does not merely knock, but he remains there knocking. He calls to the soul.” — St. Francis de Sales
National Marriage Week is Feb. 7-14 / World Marriage Day is celebrated on Feb. 9
Burke is the director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Wilmington.