Husband & Wife Articles


Loving Lent

You can make this season work for you and your spouse

By Kelsey Paff

As a newlywed, I have been giving particular thought to Lent not only as an invitation to challenge myself as a Catholic, but also as an opportunity for my husband and me to grow in our marriage specifically through prayer.

During marriage preparation, one of the things the priest told us was to always leave at least half an hour open each day for prayer. While one could argue that half an hour shouldn’t make that much of a difference to a person’s everyday sense of vocation and their determination to lead a virtuous life, perhaps the bigger point is that the longer we enter into a state of peace and silence in prayer, the more and more we are able to listen attentively to God’s will and the very true meaning of the Church’s teachings.

For many couples, their busy work schedule, or the needs and wants of their children (or both), are enough to make them think that they do not have time to sit down for prayer, let alone devote half an hour to it. But what if this Lent couples considered prayer not as an afterthought, but as a continuous priority and yearning that stays with them throughout the day like a conversation that never ends? What if couples made prayer just as important as putting food on the table, or being on time for an appointment? What if we set goals for our prayer life that will carry us through for the rest of our lives, regardless of whether or not it’s Lent? What if we made a point to allow time for our spouse to have no obligations whatsoever except to give time to prayer for a half hour? Wouldn’t we be one step closer to a saintlier life?

We are called to pray. As Pope Francis said during a homily last December, “prayer is insisting to the point of annoyance but also with an unshakable certainty.” There are times, of course, when our prayers may seem weightless, or overwhelming in times of great need, but we must always remember that the purpose of prayer is not to nag God in the hope of receiving exactly what we wish for, but to seek out what he desires for us.

I am certainly not perfect, and my husband and I have a long way to go before we feel diligent in our prayer life. But if every Catholic couple strives to make God the central focus within their marriage and their daily lives, every day becomes an encounter with grace. Grace to accept the unexpected, grace to persevere during struggles, grace to laugh when we are down, grace to be patient when we are anxious, grace to be loving when we are selfish.

As Lent approaches, I think of the prayer that is often called The Breastplate of Saint Patrick, whose feast day falls at the beginning of the Third Week of Lent (March 17). Let us embrace the challenge to “arise” each day with our eyes on the tasks of the day and our heart set on heaven.

Here one version of the prayer:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and near,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

May our actions, thoughts, and deeds always be led by faith and the prayers we place before him.

Kelsey Paff graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and lives with her husband, Jeremy, in Plainsboro, N.J.