Couple Shares Secret About Holiness In Marriage

The other day, we were sitting in Mass, and I looked over at these Dominican sisters at our parish who are so amazing. They were all just praying, and one of them seemed to be levitating – they’re basically the holiest people ever.

Then, I looked in our pew, which felt like a WWE wrestling match. At that point, I’m pulling our one-year-old underneath the pew. At some point, it becomes really easy to look at someone else’s life or vocation and covet that. You just wish that you could sit there in silence and pray for eight hours a day. I think this is an area that the Lord has been pouring a lot of healing into my life. There are honestly many years of pain in not being chosen for the religious vocation, seeing that as the holier state or the desired state. Even though I love my husband, I love my kids, I love my role as a mother, it is somewhere the devil twisted into something beautiful – the religious vocation is beautiful, but it’s not mine. So, he started putting these whispers of lies and accusations, which is not the Lord’s design. He didn’t give me that vocation. That’s not where I’m going to find holiness. It has been a place of new healing, so we’re going to talk a little bit about that today.

Catholic Marriage: Your Calling In Life

I think it’s really important to emphasize and encourage people in the state of life that they’re in because vocation comes from the Latin word ‘vocare,’ which means to call. This is your calling. Our calling in life, God’s calling for all of us, is a call to holiness. The way that he does that for Katie and me is through marriage. We are not called to live a monastic life. In fact, if we were to pray for literally a holy hour and pray eight hours a day and totally ignore our kids, that would be terrible. I was recently reading in a book that, in fact, if we go away from our vocation, even if it is to adoration and mass and eight hours of prayer, we will not find the Lord there because the Lord is in our vocation, where he’s called us to be.

The Importance Of Praying Every Day

It’s challenging because we’ve been in our day sometimes and we think, “I should have prayed more. I should have been at adoration.” All the ‘shoulds’ that come into your mind – that’s so easy. This is an important distinction to talk about prayer and what that looks like, especially within married life. If you didn’t grow up with a really Catholic family, which neither of us did, it’s hard to know what that looks like. So, I think it’s important to say that in married life, you’re not called to be away in total silence and solitude for eight hours a day every day. You may take some retreats in there for sure, but you are still called to pray every day. What that looks like will be different from the vocation of the religious life. We should still be fighting for some quiet time, some reflection, some contemplation with the Lord. Whether that’s five, 10, 15, or 30 minutes, that’s fine. But you’re still fighting for that.

Acts Of Service In Marriage

There’s also another piece where we can offer up our acts of service to the Lord. Scott Hahn has a great talk about when he was converting from Protestantism to Catholicism. One of the weirdest things that Catholics believe is this idea of offering things up. To hear him talk about it, he’s like, “Offer what?” But we, as Catholics, believe that you can offer up your sacrifices to unite yourself to Christ on the cross, and that will grow you in holiness.

See Your Family As Image Bearers Of Christ

Intentional formation of a relationship with the Lord, an encounter with Him, to grow spiritually and continue to read. But there is another side that we just want to talk about today. Specifically, we were staying with a religious community, and I sat down in front of the Tabernacle. It’s beautiful to get to stay, live, and sleep with the Tabernacle. I was like, “Oh, I would love this part of the religious vocation.” My husband, not missing a beat, said, “You live with five.” Oh, you are right. How little we look at our spouse and our kids that way, that they are an image bearer of the Lord, that Christ is with them, that they are beloved children of God, and they are a way that I experience the Lord’s love for me. How challenging that is.

One of my life verses that I love to live by is John 17:1-17, which says, “I sanctify myself so that they too may be sanctified in truth.” Right below it in John 17:24, it says, “Father, they are your gift to me.” This reality that my children are a gift, that they are the gift of the Lord for my sanctification. In some ways, as a parent, I look at how do I sanctify you? How do I turn you into a saint? How do I grow you in virtue? In reality, the Lord is like, They’re going to grow you in virtue. They’re going to sanctify you. They’re going to help you become a saint. Oh, yes, Lord. It was interesting while we were staying with the religious community. They had a morning schedule – wake up early, eat a quick breakfast, pray a holy hour, do the office of readings, and then there was Mass. We looked at it and thought, “Yeah, we would love to join you in that stuff,” but by the time we got up, our morning looked like trying to keep four children alive by convincing them to eat and then finding shoes for them, which miraculously disappear all the time. We’re just doing all we’re changing diapers, helping these children, helping ourselves, just trying to get out the door. The only thing we actually made it to was Mass.

You could look at that and think, “Well, these priests and this religious community, they’re just so holy because they’re praying all the time.” I’m here just making oatmeal again. But that is our prayer and, I would argue, no less holy or sanctifying to serve these children. Dr. Gregory Popcak has a book with his wife that they wrote called The Corporal Works of Mommy and Daddy Too. I love that idea. You have the Corporal Works of Mercy – feed the hungry, clothe the naked. That is what we do every day as parents. We have this opportunity to offer up these things that we do as a prayer to the Lord. But we miss that opportunity if we do them begrudgingly or we don’t see them as a prayer or sacrifice. Then we miss out on so many opportunities for us to grow in holiness.

Shout out to the Servants of Christ Jesus because I’ll tell another story of this religious community. My spiritual director – I’ll never forget walking into Father James’s office and looking at him, saying, “Your community is all about penance, and you’ve been my spiritual director for 10 years, and quite honestly, I suck at it. I don’t get this. I need you to form me in this.” Basically, he looked at me and just goes,”Katie, your whole life is penance. How many times were you up last night? I took away salt this morning as an act of sacrifice. I have to have a 4 AM holy hour; otherwise, I just sleep all the time. How many times are you woken up at 4:00 AM to care for one of those little Tabernacles?” Just him telling me, “You have so many penances the Lord is naturally giving you.”

Continue To Offer It All To God

We have an opportunity in motherhood and fatherhood to, again, offer those to the Lord but joyfully accept what he is giving us as our path to sanctity. We got home from this trip to Denver, and I had to clean out the car. That is sanctifying, and we were headed to adoration afterwards. We still went, but I just went and thought, “I could be in adoration right now.” Some people’s vocation is to offer Mass; mine is purely, “I am going to offer the sacrifice of this disgusting – I didn’t even know kids could make a car that gross. Turns out, 30 hours in the car, they did some work.” Intentionally looking and praying, “Lord, this is my gift to you. This is my prayer to you. I’m going to offer this for these intentions that I have committed to pray for, and I’m going to entrust that this is the place that you have called me to because this is the greatest gift to my family, to these lives that you have gifted me with.” I think that sometimes we think of holiness as just these great heroic acts, but the day-to-day, I think, looks a lot more like St. Therese of Lisieux, which is the little way. It’s doing little things with great love. Those are the things that are really going to grow us in virtue. When you work out, it’s these little repetitions that will continue to keep building your muscles.

That’s how the spiritual life is too. It’s not these life-or-death moments where we choose Christ, but in a way, you are doing that every single day when you’re dying to yourself and choosing to serve the Lord. You’re choosing to serve your family, and you’re choosing to do that joyfully. Yes, and I feel like we’ve been talking a lot about the parenting side of the location of marriage. I think that there is also the reality that our marriage calls us to this act of sacrifice for the other’s needs and desires. I think, in parenting, in this phase of life where we’re at right now, most of those services come by letting me sleep in while you take care of four children and all of those beautiful gifts to me. I do think that it’s important to remember that even without children, your marriage is your place of sanctification. Maybe even in that season of waiting, of the unknown, of hardship without children, there is even more of a need to turn to each other in that season.

Please know that we are praying for you in our chaos to your chaos, that the Lord is sanctifying us and hopefully growing us in joy. 

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