Every day of Lent, we have a challenge for you to complete together. You can choose to just use the calendar, which goes from February to April. You can also use the blank calendar and fill in challenges of your own! Both have feast days listed. Then refer to the Lent marriage guide for more thoughts about each challenge and ideas on how to complete it.
Just like with the Advent challenge, we want to emphasize that stress is not the goal of this Lent challenge. Skip a day if necessary, or switch the challenges around to better suit your schedule. These challenges are to make sure you’re spending time together and praying together as we prepare for the Resurrection. It’s a great time to strive for holiness together as husband and wife.
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Every year, we like to propose a challenge for your marriage during Lent: pick one thing to do together throughout Lent. It’s easy to go overboard and pick several things to do, but just pick one or two!
We’ve really come to see the power of doing one small thing together and how that can lead us to holiness. While giving up sweets or alcohol or something like that isn’t a bad thing, just make sure you’re picking something that will have a positive impact on your marriage and spiritual life together.
And remember, it’s not supposed to be easy! When you’re deciding on what to do, it’s also good to remember the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So while we’re encouraging you to pick only one thing to do together, you should still focus on all three pillars throughout Lent.
Ready for some ideas for what you can do during Lent with your spouse? In no particular order, here we go!
Do the enrichment program Beloved: Mystery & Meaning of Marriage. If your church parish has a subscription to Formed.org, you could do Beloved for free! There are 6 sessions, so you can do one each week in Lent.
Sign up for the Pray More Retreat. It’s a self-paced online retreat with talks, videos, and study guides. The topics look so good and would be great conversation starters!
Wake up earlier to connect and pray together.
Go on a marriage retreat.
Take Natural Family Planning classes, if you haven’t done so yet (or have been putting it off!).
Don’t watch TV. But be sure to replace that TV time with something better!
Pray a daily Rosary.
Go to daily Mass during the week (in addition to meeting your Sunday obligation).
Donate extra money to your church or favorite charity.
Listen to a talk about Catholicism or marriage and family life each week. Catholic Productions has a great selection, and there are several awesome talks in their marriage and family life category. (Both CDs and MP3s are available.)
Do the Stations of the Cross together each Friday.
Do the enrichment program United in Love-United in Christ. We did this one year with a large group of couples at our church, and it was great! You could do it with a small group in your own home as well, meeting once a week for 6 weeks.
What ideas would you add to the list??
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As soon as I heard Meggie’s discernment story, I knew I had to share it with all of you, and thankfully she agreed!Discerning another baby—or any other major decision, for that matter—will look differently for each couple. But one thing is the same: it takes prayer, communication, and a whole lot of trust in God’s will and plan for your marriage and family. Meggie’s story shows that discernment doesn’t always end up the way we expect, but proof that God always knows best. -Jen
Discernment is a difficult topic to cover; each person’s journey is so different and so personal. Growing your family (or choosing to not grow your family) is entirely between your husband, you, and God, yet so many people come out of the woodwork when your journey doesn’t line up with what they perceive from the outside.
I’m going to be completely upfront about this: I do not feel qualified to write about discernment. It is something I constantly wrestle with, but maybe hearing about it from more women in the trenches is what the NFP community needs. I struggle. I struggle with selfishness, and I struggle with fear. I do not particularly like being pregnant.
Our plans from the beginning
When my husband and I first got married, we had agreed we would wait two years before trying to conceive. Our time spent dating and engaged was almost entirely long distance due to our different timelines with school and work. Our reasoning was that we needed time to adjust and settle into our married life, which included my transition from college to the workforce, a new city (for me), and honestly, just being in the same room together for more than a few hours.
I don’t love the phrase “we make plans, and God laughs.” I like to think God sighs a little at our pigheadedness and slowly pokes and prods us until we’re heading in the right direction. This is what happened…
Discerning pregnancy together
After a few months of marriage, I started to feel a longing for a child. I slowly began to examine our reasons for avoiding, and I no longer felt they held up anymore. I was doing well at work and could get to most places I needed without a GPS (which was a huge success, as I am very directionally challenged). Geoff and I had transitioned very naturally and joyfully into married life.
So one evening, I gathered my courage and broached the subject with him. I was longing for a child and was not at peace with trying to avoid any longer, but would of course respect his feelings as well. Geoff was hesitant as this was much sooner than we had agreed upon, but he encouraged me to continue to pray about it and promised we could continue to discuss. I would go to Mass on my lunch hour to pray for clarity, and to pray that Geoff would be open to the idea of switching to TTC (trying to conceive). I felt that the longing God put on my heart was truly of God, and from God.
The next stage was terribly painful. I watched as three weeks in a row, three women in our couples’ group announced that they were pregnant. Geoff walked into our bedroom after one of those evenings to find me crying. We discussed further and ultimately agreed that it was time to try.
We got pregnant immediately…and immediately miscarried. I was distraught, but several months later finally got another positive test. I was overjoyed but struggled intensely with anxiety, as we had lost our first. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, but everything went smoothly. In November of 2017, we welcomed our son, Becket.
His first few months were a challenge. Becket was colicky and screamed nearly non-stop for five months. He slept only three hours at a time, and our sleep training attempts repeatedly failed to stick. On top of this, he became a very proficient climber early on and learned to walk the same week he had surgery at 11 months old. That first year was a blur, and the times for marital intimacy were few and far between as we navigated the postpartum period. At 16 months, Becket finally slept through the night, and slowly our lives regained some normalcy.
Discernment is a process
I have struggled with scrupulosity all my life, and at 18 months again felt that maybe our reasons for avoiding were not as strong as they once were. Surely we weren’t being good Catholics if we continued to avoid without a life-threatening reason? Sure, my anxiety was bad, but my head was at least above the water now. Geoff reminded me that God calls us to be responsible parents, and that I was in no state to have more children yet. God does not call us to drown ourselves, but to wait with patience for his love and his peace.
My anxiety continued to worsen around Becket’s second birthday, and Geoff and I finally decided it was time for me to seek help. That worked for some time, and in February of 2020, I mentioned to Geoff the guilt I felt for continuing to avoid. He again reminded me that just as we can’t make the decision to avoid out of fear, we can’t make the decision to conceive out of fear either. That decision must come from a place of peace.
Sure enough, COVID hit the US, and during the first lockdown, Geoff looked at me across the table and said, “Aren’t you glad you aren’t pregnant right now?” The anxiety of being pregnant with so many unknowns in the early days of the pandemic would have probably sent me over the edge mentally.
With COVID, my anxiety crept right back up and reached such a fever pitch that I ultimately ended up in the emergency room with a sudden and severe pain at the base of my skull following weeks of daily tension headaches. My head was fine, but the doctor had noticed a nodule on my thyroid. I was assured it was no big deal. Many people have them, and 98% of the time they’re benign. In fact, the doctor nearly forgot to tell us about it!
I did some minor research when we got home, but was not particularly alarmed. I was more concerned about finding a solution to the crippling anxiety, so I promptly scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician. He put me on anxiety medication after years of me trying to avoid it, and he also ordered an ultrasound of my thyroid, which wouldn’t happen for some time.
Leaving survival mode behind
The medication was a complete life-saver. Not only was my head above the water, but I was able to swim. I left survivor-mode behind me and felt myself becoming a better wife and mother almost overnight. I felt that I really wouldn’t mind starting to think about having another child again. So I began diving deeper into discernment. My prayer went from, “Please don’t ask me to get pregnant again, because I just can’t do it!” to “If it is your will, God, please place that desire for a child in both of our hearts, and let us be at peace.”
It was an incredibly freeing thing to put that in God’s hands—to ask Him to prepare my heart for another child if that was what He wanted of me. I was confident that He would do so, that I would soon feel that peace as confirmation that it was time for us to try to conceive again. I finally felt ready to put that decision in God’s hands.
The peace did come…but in an unexpected form. I suddenly found myself very at peace with avoiding a pregnancy, which was perplexing—it was the exact opposite of what I assumed would be our next step. So, we continued to avoid a pregnancy.
I had my thyroid ultrasound, and the technician was cheerful and friendly. I expected to wait for two weeks but received my results the next business day. The report recommended a biopsy, accompanied by very technical terms describing the nodule. I took to Google to learn about the classification method of thyroid nodules, and my stomach dropped. There was an 80% chance or greater that it was cancer. Two days later, I was biopsied, and a week after that, had all suspicions confirmed: papillary carcinoma with the BRAF v600e mutation (AKA cancer).
The importance of NFP during treatment
Ten days after my diagnosis, I had a total thyroidectomy. Our need to avoid a pregnancy became extremely serious, as I faced the possibility of radioactive iodine treatment. If I didn’t need the additional treatment, we would only need to avoid for a few months until my medication was properly adjusted. If I did need it, we faced a year of very strict TTA (trying to avoid) for the safety of the baby.
The surgery was a success, but my doctor ultimately decided I needed further treatment to kill any remaining thyroid cells, so I began preparing for something called radioactive iodine (RAI). As thyroid cells are essentially the only cells in your body that absorb iodine, by ingesting a radioactive iodine pill, any remaining thyroid cells absorb the radioactivity and are slowly destroyed. It is a very targeted therapy, and requires going on a low-iodine diet to starve your body of iodine so it absorbs better. It also requires total isolation for anywhere from three days to three weeks.
Knowing the seriousness of this treatment, I contacted a new NFP instructor to help guide us through the coming year of avoiding, who has helped me several times already as we navigate progesterone tests for confirming ovulation.
The gift of NFP and its fruits
I am now on the other side of my treatment, and recently received the news that there is no evidence of spread. There is always a chance of recurrence, but for now, we are doing well and looking forward to the future that will hopefully include more children somewhere along the way!
Discernment is a difficult topic. It involves taking a deep look at ourselves, our intentions, and our motivations, which can sometimes be painful. I am deeply grateful for the gift of NFP and the way it has helped me to learn to trust better and slowly taught me to pray: not my will, but Thine.
Meggie is a born-and-bred Midwesterner living in the deep south with her husband, Geoff, and their busy 3-year-old, Becket. She works part-time in residential architecture, and full time in domestic engineering. When not chasing her son or sketching floor plans, she can be found reading a good book and drinking a Moscow mule.
Advent should be a calm and peaceful time, but often it’s the busiest time of the year! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s very easy to get focused on shopping, parties, and everything else holiday-related.
But let’s not forget about our marriages.
Advent and marriage have a special link—both point us toward heaven.
Use this Advent season to draw closer to each other, to foster your relationship together, and to remind each other of the end goal—eternal life in heaven. And we’ve created something to help you do exactly that!
Enter: the 2020 Advent Challenge for Catholic Marriages. It comes with both a calendar and a guide!
You can choose to just use the calendar, which contains a challenge each day to complete together. Or you can also use the blank calendar and fill in challenges of your own! Both have feast days listed. Then refer to the Advent marriage guide for more thoughts about each challenge.
Do not let these challenges stress you out. Skip a day, if necessary, or switch the challenges around to better suit your schedule. These challenges are to make sure you’re spending time together and praying together. Peace is the goal….not stress.
The Advent challenge and guide is available in our shop! Add it to your cart by clicking the button below…
We pray this will enrich your marriage and Advent season together!
Back in March, when the world shut down due to the pandemic, we realized that going on a date night out would not be possible. So we did date nights at home for a couple weeks, which is the next best thing.
But at some point in April, we realized we had stopped doing our dates at home…and the end of the pandemic was nowhere in sight. We knew we needed to make date nights at home a priority, so Logan thought of a way to make them extra special—pick a theme for each home date!
We asked people on Instagram for theme ideas, and then put all of those ideas in a basket. We randomly picked one and planned our date all around that theme. What we wore, what we ate, and what we did was all about that particular theme.
Our first themed date
That first theme we picked was “royal ball,” so we dressed up like we were going to a ball. We made fancy drinks and appetizers. We danced in our living room. And because we just really love movies, we watched a movie relating to the theme too.
It was so much fun that we decided to do it every week while the pandemic kept us home, and we did! We’ve always enjoyed making a night at home special, but creating a themed date just brought it to a whole new level for us. It was fun to plan the date during the previous 24 hours or so, as we brainstormed ideas and worked together to make the night special.
Sometimes we went all out, and sometimes we kept it simple. It all depended on what we were up for and what we needed on any given night.
Have your own date nights at home!
Since the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and date nights at home come in handy during other periods of life (sickness, new baby, etc.), we decided to help you do the same. Enter: our Date Night In printable, a 20-page PDF with tips and ideas to help you make date nights happen at home.
We include 40 theme ideas on cards that you can cut out to put in a basket, as well as blank cards to think of your own theme ideas. (You can actually get this part for free here.)
In addition, we also include:
Tips for a fun date night in—how to have fun on any budget
How to plan your themed date if you have no idea where to start
Answers to the #1 question we get: “What do you do with your kids?”—with several options for you to consider
Pictures and ideas from our previous dates
Ideas for other themes we haven’t done yet
Templates to help plan your date and to remember what you did
Even though we started themed dates to make things a little more exciting (because let’s be real, 2020 has been hard!), we also still have simple dates too. Just last week, all we did for our date night at home was watch one of our favorite movies and make a special drink. That’s it! No theme. The point is to make time together at home a priority, whether it’s a themed date or not. Our Date Night In printable will help you do exactly that.
If you’ve been following us for a bit, you know that we are big fans of marriage retreats. We try to go on one every year because it’s the perfect time to connect with each other and evaluate our marriage and family life.
But we hear all of the time how impossible it is for some couples to go on a retreat. They don’t have anyone to watch their kids. They don’t have any retreats offered in their area. They can’t find a good weekend to get away. They can’t leave their baby or special needs child for that long.
There are numerous reasons why a couple can’t go on a retreat, and we totally get it.
What if you could go on a mini retreat in the comfort of your own home every single month?
What if you could meet one-on-one with an experienced and knowledgeable couple each month?
What if you had a community of other couples striving for holiness and joy in their marriage?
Well, friends, something like that actually exists. And it includes even more too!
Let us introduce you to our friends, Nathan and Sarah, the founders of Cana Feast. Here’s a little about them:
“We are Nathan and Sarah Bartel, married 20 years, with five beautiful children. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in theology, and Nathan has a Master’s degree in philosophy. After hitting some rough patches from the strains of life, marriage retreats gave us the skills and inspiration to find deeper joy and greater passion. We’ve been teaching engaged and married couples about how to strengthen their marriages for over 10 years. We are now on fire to bring that transformation to as many other couples as possible.”
Enter Cana Feast, their membership community for Catholic married couples. This is how they describe it in a nutshell:
“Cana Feast inspires Catholic marriages with greater joy and purpose. Couples nurture their relationship, walking the path of marriage discipleship with Jesus at the center. Every month we dive into a theme with a monthly virtual retreat night, a guest experts interview, a coaching call, and a resource review .pdf. Previous themes include Finances, NFP, Dates, Romance, Dreams and Goals, Love Languages, and Marital Intimacy.”
If you need help keeping your marriage a priority, Cana Feast is for you.
If you need guidance in how to live an authentic Catholic marriage, Cana Feast is for you.
If you want to grow into the husband and wife God created you to be, Cana Feast is for you.
For $24 a month, you get access to the Cana Feast community and all of the benefits we’ve described. That’s $288 a year for a priceless resource for your marriage. (Or you can pay $250 for an entire year upfront, at a 10% discount!)
We pay $275 to $325 to attend a marriage retreat each year, because our marriage is worth it. We have a date night category in our budget because our marriage is worth it.
Is your marriage worth $24 a month? $288 a year? Absolutely. For the convenience of accessing it straight from your home, it’s definitely worth it.
If you’d like to join Cana Feast and use our link below, we will send our Date Night Guide as a thank you to anyone who signs up with our link! Just send us an email.
Registration is only open until Thursday, November 12! If you’d like to get a taste of Cana Feast’s virtual retreats, you can sign up for their free marriage workshop, Catholic Marriage Joy. We used it in place of our marriage retreat this year (which was cancelled twice), and it was such a great alternative. (The workshop is only available until November 12 as well.)
Have any questions about Cana Feast? Let us know in the comments!
Adrienne and I “met” on Instagram and became (long-distant) friends offline. When I found out about her story, I asked her to share here, because it’s the perfect example of why we shouldn’t make judgments about other people’s family size, because we very rarely know all of the details.
Nobody gets married and expects to deal with pregnancy loss, infertility, and even the complete loss of fertility. So often couples experience hard things and think they are the only ones, but that is never the case. That’s one of the reasons we started Surprised By Marriage.Through the crosses we experience, God can draw us closer to him and closer to each other. -Jen
It wasn’t something we saw coming. I didn’t even know the disease had been silently destroying me for years until 2015, when I was 32 years old. By then, we had already lost so much.
My husband and I were married in 2009. We had committed ourselves to a chaste relationship so our honeymoon was deeply special. We also brought home a tiny souvenir, though it would be two more weeks before I got a positive pregnancy test.
Three months after the birth of our oldest daughter, we got pregnant again. This would come to be the first devastating loss we’d go through as a couple. At thirteen weeks pregnant, I lost our son. My husband baptized him in our bathroom, and we buried him at the Veterans cemetery where the sun rose and set just behind his grave everyday.
Watching my husband cry as he baptized our first son in our home is burned in my memory forever. Losing our sweet John really taught us both how fragile life is. We both learned what a blessing both pregnancy and birth are. I would like to say the loss brought us closer, but this first loss taught us how not to grieve and process a miscarriage. We isolated ourselves from one another and failed to check in on each other. We didn’t come together in prayer. We were so broken in our grief, we were just trying to survive. It wasn’t until later that we circled back and admitted our mistakes during that time.
The pain from adolescence returns
We would go on to have two more girls. As a teenager and young adult, I always had terrible cycles, which caused me deep embarrassment and shame. While the difficult cycles eased during the first couple of years after marriage, they became increasingly terrible again after our second daughter was born. After each birth, when my cycles returned, they were worse than before.
Following a very difficult pregnancy, our third child was born in December of 2013. Shortly after her birth, our daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive. By the time she was five months old, she had already been admitted to the hospital for RSV and had significant health issues. Our other daughters were ages 4 and 2 at the time. Needless to say, life was overwhelming.
In June 2014, my husband was unexpectedly deployed. Days after his departure, I found out I was pregnant again.
That night after testing, I miscarried again at five weeks. I could not deal with another miscarriage while my husband was gone. Without realizing it at the time, I went into denial and thought it was a false positive. He came home four months later, and soon after, we were pregnant again. Despite our youngest being less than a year old, we were thrilled. It was Thanksgiving morning when we found out, and I’ve never been more grateful on a Thanksgiving.
A pregnancy of joy and sorrow
That pregnancy, more than any others, felt laced with the Divine. There was a very distinct taste of Heaven during those first few months. I have never in my life been that completely joyful. I truly believe the Lord was preparing me for what was to come.
In 2015, eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, I lost our second son. It was our third and most devastating loss. I found out at a routine appointment, when the Doppler was silent again. I remember screaming over and over, “Please, God, not again!” That night, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery for an induction as a woman labored and gave birth to a healthy baby next door.
I felt as though I lived a sample of Christ’s Passion that night. My soul was burning in anguish as I labored through the night. A piece of me died that day. I didn’t understand why fertility and birth came so easily to some women but was so terribly hard for me. I wept to my husband, “What’s wrong with me?!”
Finally, some answers
After my stillbirth, I finally started getting answers at a follow-up with my gynecologist. I found out that I had a clotting disorder, as well as endometriosis with adenomyosis—which is basically endometriosis’s evil sister.
Unlike endometriosis, which is uterine tissue that grows on the outside of the uterus, adenomyosis grows within the walls of the uterus, slowly eating away and destroying the organ itself. There’s no treatment and no way to do corrective surgery (which can be done with endometriosis). With severe cases, most women end up needing a hysterectomy. My doctor told me I’d probably end up needing one, but that I had a good five years before then. I wish that had been true.
A month later, in August of 2015—thanks in huge part to our Creighton provider and my gynecologist—we found out I was pregnant again. My anxiety was extremely high during that pregnancy. I was on blood thinners, progesterone, baby aspirin, and extra methylated folate. My prayers for a healthy baby were both constant and desperate. I needed this child to survive.
One late night in April of 2016, after laboring for several hours, I gave birth to my third son. I held my son to my chest as both of us cried. I had finally given birth to a healthy son. God is so good.
Adenomyosis and its destruction
My cycles returned that summer, but my health deteriorated quickly. I was in bed all the time in immense pain. It wasn’t until November that I had another laparoscopy to remove endometriosis. My gynecologist found almost none…but he did find that the adenomyosis had eaten a hole through my uterus and destroyed it. My Creighton provider said that between my charts and laparoscopy results, we were sure to lose any pregnancies if we were even able to get pregnant again.
My health continued to worsen. I could no longer get out of bed most days. My entire abdomen was in debilitating pain, and I was hemorrhaging. In an emergency appointment, my doctor leaned across his desk. “I know you wanted a larger family. I’m sorry. But we have to do this.” He was crying. I grabbed my husband’s hand and wept.
The surgery was scheduled for his next available operating day. In the few days between, I begged for a miracle and pleaded for another answer. Proverbial doors and windows slammed in my face. I felt deep sweeping grief and shame. As a Catholic wife and mother, I felt I had failed. As I prayed through the emotions and we sought counsel from two priests, my husband patiently stood as a sounding board to my thoughts while affirming me we were doing the right thing—the only thing left to do. I needed a hysterectomy.
The morning of the surgery, I felt surprising peace. My doctor kept comforting me. My husband prayed with me. The day before, I had received Anointing of the Sick. I felt as ready as I would. Just before being wheeled back, I took my last pregnancy test.
The grief and shame of hysterectomy
For the year following the surgery, I felt deep shame at the loss of my fertility. There were no books that I could find by Catholic women in my situation. Many Catholic women asked when we were going to have more children. Someone told me that having a hysterectomy was against Church’s teachings and another told me I’d committed a mortal sin.** This just added to my grief, pain, and shame.
During it all, my husband stood by, affirming me that my womanhood was still precious, insisting that I’d been brave and strong. He was angry for me and grieved with me. My husband accepted with great peace and saintly strength the cross laid upon our shoulders. Looking back, I’m grateful for his strength and prayer during my physical and emotional recovery. He truly lived out, in his quiet way, “in sickness and in health.” It taught us the importance of communicating our feelings and being receptive to the other’s feelings. We realized how critical it is to check in on one another. While we did the best we could, there are always lessons on how we can be more fully present for our spouse.
I don’t feel the shame of the hysterectomy anymore. I can talk about it and feel the pain without it paralyzing me. The grief of losing my babies and my fertility will probably hurt for the remainder of my time in this life. But I’ve learned this over and over: God never lets Satan win. He always brings greater good out of suffering. Though I may never see it on this side of Heaven, joy always comes in the morning.
Adrienne Stravitsch is an Army wife and mother of four children on earth. She has experienced multiple pregnancy losses as well as infertility. When she’s not homeschooling or loving on her husband and children, she can be found with her nose in a book or writing behind a keyboard. You can find her on Instagram @stravgirl, or her blog, Trust with Wild Abandon.
**Church teaching regarding a hysterectomy is explained in this post on the Vatican’s website (as a follow-up to this document). A hysterectomy is licit when medical experts deem the uterus incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.
Everyone knows about the verse in Genesis, where God commands Adam and Eve to have children:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’…”
Genesis 1:27-28b, Revised Standard Version
The very first thing God told Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply! We vow on our wedding day to be open to children. Not enough is said about the importance of the dual purposes of marriage (procreation and union of the spouses). Marriage is rightly ordered towards having children and educating them.
But what if a couple is not blessed with children? Are they less loved by God? Is their marriage somehow not living up to the command to be fruitful and multiply?
Of course not. Unfortunately, couples who are unable to have children are often left behind and forgotten. There seems to be this underlying notion that in order to be a good Catholic couple, you need to have all the babies. And that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Sometimes God doesn’t send all the babies
The truth is God doesn’t give a bunch of babies to every couple. Sometimes he doesn’t send any. But it has nothing to do with how much God loves that particular couple or with them not being fruitful. It’s all about what God wants you to do and how he wants you to bring his love to the world.
Married couples with no children or not as many children as they would like still have so much to offer the world and to the Church. God has a big plan for you, whether you have one kid or ten kids. But we can’t know how God iscalling us to be fruitful if we’re too focused on what God hasn’t given us.
If you are a couple who wants children and it just hasn’t happened, this post is for you. If you are a couple who has children but not as many as you hoped for, this post is for you. If you’re struggling with knowing what God wants you and your spouse to do because the babies aren’t coming, this post is for you. If you think all you’re supposed to do in life is get married and have babies, this post is for you.
Your marriage can still be fruitful without children
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a section on “the openness to fertility.” The Catechism quotes St. Pope Paul VI by saying children are “a supreme gift of marriage” and that “it is in them that [marriage] finds its crowning glory.” For a couple without kids, those words can sting a little, right? A lesser known quote in that section, though, is paragraph 1654:
“Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1654
Yes, children are blessings and contribute to the good of parents. But even without children, your marriage can still be fruitful.
St. Pope John Paul II talks about marriage in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and refers to St. Pope Paul VI’s quotes about children. But he also adds this:
“It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.”
John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 14
St. Pope John Paul II spent much of his priesthood with couples and knew intimately the struggles in marriage. (How else could he have written Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body??). He must have known many couples who struggled with infertility and knew that they could still (and did) live fruitful and meaningful lives.
Marriage isn’t just for procreation
If you read more of St. Pope Paul VI’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (which is quoted in the Catechism, as mentioned above), you’ll also read this:
“Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.”
Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes, no. 50, emphasis added
Your marriage is not worth any less if you don’t have children, and St. Josemaría Escrivá has a beautiful response to this. When asked his opinion about the meaning of the lives of childless couples, he said:
“If in spite of everything God does not give them children, they should not regard themselves as being thwarted. They should be happy, discovering in this very fact God’s Will for them. Often God does not give children because He is asking more. God asks them to put the same effort and the same kind and gentle dedication into helping their neighbours as they would have put into raising their children, without the human joy that comes from having children. There is, then, no reason for feeling they are failures or for giving way to sadness.”
It’s hard to see what God is doing in the midst of the pain and suffering of infertility, but God uses everything. Many couples are able to look back on their journey of infertility and see the blessings from it.
Because of our experience with infertility at the beginning of our marriage, we were able to be more available to family and friends, especially those with children. We were able to serve our community and church in ways that are more difficult now that we have children. We were able to be foster parents in a world that desperately needs them. We learned not to judge a family by its size, because we knew firsthand that infertility and pregnancy loss are not always visible to an outsider. Because of infertility, we are better spouses, better parents, and better members of our Church community.
And now that we’re experiencing secondary infertility, we know God has a reason for it. Maybe it’s because he has something else in store for us, or maybe he’s asking us to grow in trust. Either way, our family is perfect exactly how we are, because that’s what God intended for us at this precise moment in time.
To all the small Catholic families out there….God loves you too. More than you will ever know this side of heaven.
“God in his providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.”
A couple of years ago, my husband saw a post about a man picking out his wife’s clothes for a week. He wanted to do it. I was a little hesitant. After all, I’m a big fan of t-shirts and flip flops (because it is hot here in Louisiana most of the year) and just knew he would want me to wear skirts and dresses. But I decided to be brave and let him choose my clothes for an entire week.
My husband, Logan, actually loves to pick out my clothes…but normally, I reserve that for date nights. (Our favorite date is the Goodwill date—we pick out each other’s clothes at Goodwill and then wear them to lunch/dinner.) But letting him pick out my clothes for 7 days?? That’s a much bigger commitment and requires a lot more trust.
We learned a lot from that week of him picking out my clothes, though, so I’m glad we did it. I realized he has pretty good fashion sense and that I needed to trust him more. He learned that it’s hard to pick out clothes for a woman every day and that I actually do trust him. It was pretty fun, too! Here are the pictures (selfies because Logan was usually at work once I was dressed) from that week in 2017, with commentary:
Since we are stuck at home due to COVID-19, we thought it was the perfect time to bring back the “husband picks wife’s clothes for a week” challenge. It made things a little exciting each day, and we had fun with it again. In case you missed us posting about it on Instagram, we wanted to share about it here…and encourage you to try it too.
Since Logan knew I wasn’t thrilled about dressing up every day back in 2017 (when I was actually leaving the house), he decided to mix it up a little bit this time with some casual clothes. Thankfully.
The gist of the challenge:
Husband picks out wife’s clothes for 7 days
Husband must have wife’s best interests at heart (keep it classy, basically)
Take a picture of what he picks every day. You will want to remember this!
Now for pictures from this past week!
“You should trust my opinion more”
“I like to see you in things other than just t-shirt and shorts”
“The variety in clothes helps me focus on you more”
“I like you getting dressed for the day…as opposed to just bumming it.”
I should let Logan pick out my clothes more often
Dressing nice (even when I’m not going anywhere) is an act of love for Logan
How I dress affects the way I feel
I need to just wear things I’m not 100% comfortable with instead of letting them sit in my closet…because they’re not as bad as I think. And it just so happens that Logan loves them!
Since I don’t take very many risks when it comes to my wardrobe, it was a great time to trust Logan and let him show me what he enjoys seeing on me. It also made me realize that dressing nicer really does make a difference in my day and how I approach it. I was more motivated to get things done!
So what do you think about letting your husband pick your clothes? Or if you’re a guy, would you want to pick your wife’s clothes for a week? Let us know your thoughts!
Although this post is inspired by the craziness caused by COVID-19, this is still applicable to couples who just had a baby or are dealing with illness or any other situation that keeps you stuck at home.
It’s actually the perfect time to focus on your marriage when you’re at home for an extended period, because the list of distractions is a lot shorter. And there might be a little more, um, issues that arise since you’re in close quarters. So here are some ways you can foster your marriage while stuck at home:
1. Pray together.
We say this all of the time, and we will say it forever. Praying together every day helps you grow closer together and closer to God all at the same time. It improves communication and helps you to get more on the same page. If there is one thing you do for your marriage during this time, make it this one!
2. Have a date night in.
You know we’re big fans of going on dates (check out our date night guide!), but what if we can’t go anywhere? Make a night at home special (which we do talk about in our date night guide). The key is to make it different than any other night at home! We try to put the kids to bed early so we can have extra time together. We pick a fun activity to do and a special treat to share. This may require some creativity, but that just makes it extra special. For an extra twist, pick a theme for your date night in! Check out our freebie to help you with themed home dates.
3. Do something new together.
This is a great time to find a hobby to share together – baking (we made a cake together once! Watch that video here), crafting, cooking, exercising, building…whatever it is that you’ve never done together before.
4. Play a game together.
Cards, board games, or you could do something like the “not so newlywed” game! Ask each other questions and see if you can guess what each other will say. Check out our “fun and games” playlist on our YouTube channel for some ideas. We also have a freebie to help you play the “Him or Her?” game!
5. Work on a project together.
We’re using this time to do some of the things we’ve been meaning to do. Clean up the yard, paint, create a prayer space in your home, etc. It’s so nice to work on something together and see the results!
6. Go outside together.
Some fresh air really helps, especially during stressful times! We’ve been praying a rosary outside together by our Mary garden, and it’s so nice. You could go for a walk, work on the yard together, etc.