Other Husband & Wife Articles

Leap of Faith

 

By Dennis Poust and Mary DeTurris Poust

Married life can become so filled with obligations and stress that making time to put God at the center of our relationship can easily get lost in the daily shuffle. Sure, we may get to Mass every Sunday, and that’s vitally important, but do we get to God on a regular basis throughout the rest of our weeks, months and years?

Do we come together as a couple to pray – for strength, to give thanks, or just to listen for what God may be telling us? If God remains an integral part of our marriage and family life, suddenly all those stresses and obligations don’t seem so overwhelming. We can face anything. Here’s our take on how spirituality in marriage should work (not that we always get it right ourselves):

Mary’s View: When Dennis and I were engaged, faith took on an important role in our relationship. The resurgence of our faith in a particularly deep way was part of the gift of our newfound love. Somehow our coming together as a couple was not just about companionship but also about our journey toward God. We became active in a nearby parish and began reading a couple’s Bible and praying together each day. Then, in rapid succession, we got married, moved across country, found new jobs, and bought a house under construction. Once that was finalized, we had the first of our three children. Let’s just say the daily Scripture and spontaneous prayer thing fell by the wayside pretty quickly.

And yet faith remains a central part of our daily lives – and our work. It’s just that now our faith life looks very different – as does so much about our marriage – than it did in those early years. Now it is like a strong foundation that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves but continues to shore up our family. It is there in an obvious way during times of crisis, but it is just as present when things are going smoothly and faith doesn’t seem so blatantly evident, giving us stability, strength and direction.

Of course, part of the reason our faith remains so constant is because we do try to make at least minimal efforts to nurture it and help it grow. We make it a point to attend Mass every week as a family, even when it would be easier to go to different Masses to suit our harried schedules. We pause for grace before meals, even if the children are clanking forks or in mid-bite when we do so. We include spiritual rituals in our lives – Advent wreath, Lenten rice bowl, nightly bedtime prayers, and occasional special feast day celebrations – to remind our children and ourselves that God is in the details of our days.

Dennis’s View: Marriage for the practicing Catholic isn’t just about sexual love or emotional attachment. It’s not just about raising a family either. The Church asks that in addition to these things, we allow our marriage to become a spiritual communion between the spouses, and allow God to enter into that union with us as the third person.
This is essential for a true Christian marriage.

Religious people, studies tell us, tend to be happier than the general population. So it stands to reason that the religious marriage will be a happier one as well. Speaking from experience, I know this is true. So much of the joy of our married life and family life can be traced directly to our faith and our participation in the life of our parish and Catholic school.

But it’s not only in the good times that we see the importance of God’s presence. It’s just as evident during the inevitable tough stretches. Like all couples, Mary and I have had our share of strong disagreements and even serious fights. Without the commitment that comes with having God as the third person in the marriage, it is very easy to see how those moments of anger could continue to fester until eventually the marriage itself would be threatened. If you don’t understand marriage as a covenant, it becomes just about you. And when you don’t get what you want, you may leave.

Knowing that we are part of something bigger, that our marriage is a vocation, has taken that option off the table for us. Sure, we get angry with each other at times, but we always remember that we made a vow not only to each other, but to God. We know he is with us, and from him we receive the grace to be able to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel of those difficult times that every marriage experiences.

Dennis Poust is director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference. Mary DeTurris Poust, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism,” blogs at www.notstrictlyspiritual.blogspot.com. They live in upstate New York with their three children.