That One Perfect Day

praying

(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

On June 18th, I married my favorite person. We had waited, prayed, and hoped that the day would come and when it finally did- it was completely surreal.

I remember the stress and worries about all the fine details on the night of the rehearsal but waking up on that beautiful (and HOT) Saturday morning I felt nothing but complete and total peace. I knew that God was with me, strengthening me, and about ready to change my entire life. It was so exciting!

This day- this ONE day- literally changed my entire life.


Before I get into that, I want to talk about something that we had been preparing for throughout our entire engagement, taking classes on, and having SO many conversations about- natural family planning. 

The Catholic Church has such a beautiful reflection on sexuality, marriage, and family planning but many, who don’t know the logic behind the church’s teachings, view the church’s teaching as a strict “no you can’t do this, no you can’t do that, NO NO NO.”

It’s true that the Church is all about abstaining from sex until marriage and is it true that the Church is strictly against the use of any contraceptives. What many don’t know is that the church has those beliefs not to say “no” but to give a more profoundly beautiful “yes” to life and authentic love.

Abstinence is not designed to torment the couple but rather empty themselves in service to one another and in some way die to themselves in their sacrifice. Much like what Christ did on the cross — all for the sake of love. We want to enter into marriage knowing that our beloved will be given all  of   us, all of our brokenness and vulnerability. Also, the physical act of “consummating” ones marriage is a physical reality of what happened during the couples marriage ceremony. In the exchanging of the rings, saying of the vows, and nuptial blessing the couple becomes one. In the same way, the couple physically becomes one as a physical sign of their commitment to each other and their vows. This is A LOT to take on before you have actually committed to one another in marriage! Saving that intimacy isn’t a way of torment but rather a way to ensure the couples center on Christ, His mission, and loving the way Christ loved… which was (and still is) through sacrifice.

During our vows, Tim and I promised to uphold all of the teachings of the church, raise our family according to the church, and accept children lovingly and freely. On the day of our wedding the reality of that last phrase didn’t really hit me until later- “accept children lovingly and freely”. 

I tell all of my students whenever we talk about theology of the body and marriage that marriage has two purposes: babies and bonding. As a couple we are living out the vocation of marriage in being intimate with one another but we also are living out our vocation by being open to the will of the Father in regards to children.

Tim and I were the last of 3 other couples to get married in 5 weeks- oh man- it was a busy few weeks! We were able to witness the marriages of many close friends and obviously had the opportunity to be engaged at the same time.

While being engaged with 3 other holy and beautiful couples- it came with its challenges. Many times all of us would sit and talk about our classes, how we are preparing through prayer, and yes– natural family planning. The other couples were practicing the ‘creighton’ family planning method while Tim and I were practicing the ‘sympto-thermal’ method. This brought up some really fruitful and interesting discussions.

All four couples, including us, had planned on waiting at least a year or two before starting our families. You know that thing about what God does when you make plans? Yep, He laughs.

The church, in her wisdom, gives us natural (and contraceptive free) methods to plan our family along with prayer and discernment from Our Lord. Natural family planning is very effective when used correctly and also allows for God’s will. God’s will can be for the couple to have a child unexpectedly or for the couple to wait, in joyful anticipation, for their family to grow. Natural family planning is all about teaching love and responsibility. 

Unfortunately, I felt that many discussions I had with other Catholic couples about the upcoming wedding day and plans for a family seemed to center on fear of pregnancy. All the women were charting and plotting when the potential ovulation date would be in relation to wedding dates. Many panicking at the thought of ovulating over the their wedding weekend. What I didn’t like about those conversations was the impression that the potential of a positive pregnancy test a few weeks later would be the ‘worst case scenario’. Are we even aware of how many women who would LOVE to be pregnant right now but maybe are not? Or those who continue to try and PRAY for that positive test?

As the weddings got closer, some women found out that they would in fact be ovulating either ON or close to their wedding date. Obviously this may present a challenge if you would like to both wait on starting your family AND consummate your marriage.

I was one of those women.

Many of us discussed and even prayerfully concerned what we would do- would we abstain on our wedding night to avoid pregnancy? Or would we consummate our marriage and “risk it”?


On June 18th, I have never felt the grace of God more in my entire life.

Our photographer and friend, Josh, had told us before the wedding that we should pray for all the graces of the sacrament on that day and that if we did that we would truly be able to FEEL them. Boy oh boy was he right…

nuptial-blessing

(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

We could feel our Lord’s presence as we said “yes” to the many challenges, joys, and sufferings in our life together. We understood that it wasn’t just the two of us – but as Fulton Sheen has so eloquently put, “it takes THREE to get married”. We needed Our Lord on that day and (God willing) the many after.

Marriage is about WAY more than just us. We know this now more than ever.

We were stepping into an unknown territory but one that would fulfill our greatest desires in life and push us to become the best version of ourselves.

walking-out

(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

True freedom relies in complete and utter trust in God’s will for your life. It is allowing God to be the writer of your story, and you the pen. True freedom lies in saying “yes” to Our Lord… together… and continuing to trust in His goodness.

On June 30th Tim and I, while on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, found out that we were expecting our first little one. I have never been filled with more fear or excitement.


On our wedding day we said “yes” to God’s plan for our lives and he provided us with the greatest gift we could ever receive — our first little baby.

My mother-in-law had a beautiful reflection on this gift by explaining that, “The greatest grace that a married couple can receive is the gift of a child. Therefore, the graces must truly have been flowing through your wedding to give you this tremendous gift.”

I have reflected on that statement so much in the past four months. Despite the fear, anxiety, and worry about our little one coming a little earlier than expected and having had only 12 solid hours of just Tim and I in our marriage- what an irreplaceable gift we have been given. Our baby is not ‘worst case scenario’ but rather ‘best case scenario’. After returning to the United States and telling our family, I was struck by an image I received while praying the rosary.

The image was of the visitation between Mary and Elizabeth but instead of Elizabeth being there- I was standing in front of Mary. She looked at me with such joy and just laid her hand on top of my stomach right where my womb is, smiling and giving me the reassurance that she was with me. I stood in front of her smiling and placing my hand over her womb, in total adoration of Jesus within her.

She rejoiced as I was rejoicing in the gift of life. 


As I sit here today, tremendously grateful for this tiny life, I reflect on the words that were sung as I walked down the aisle to Tim on our wedding day….

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. Let my faith be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

little-one

(photo courtesy of Dana Sebastian)

Little one, you are loved more than you will ever know. We are grateful for you and the gift of realizing that our marriage is about way more than just us. 

I thought nothing would compare to seeing your Dad as I was walking down the aisle…. I was wrong. 

Seeing you for the first time on a big screen forever changed me. 

 

 

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Catholic Women + Veiling = What’s the deal?

Regarding the use of head coverings for women the 1917 Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church stated that, “Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads — ‘especially when they approach the holy table'”(“mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt”). (http://www.fisheaters.com/theveil.html) There has been a great amount of debate as to whether after the Second Vatican Council this code of Canon Law was still valid and if women were still required to wear the head coverings in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Many argue that after the Second Vatican Council it no longer applied because it was specifically never reaffirmed as to it being a requirement; therefore, after the council had ended this tradition faded and many women no longer wore veils. The counter argument to this was that because there was no discussion of it and there weren’t outright statements about its validity, therefore, women were (and still are) supposed to wear head coverings.

When I was younger and would attend Mass, there were always the few women who still wore the veil in compliance with the Canon Law and I never truly understood it. Actually I guess it wasn’t as much a lack of understanding as much as it was intimidation. I was intimidated because I saw their head covered as being an outward sign of their holiness. I thought, “only the holiest of women would wear a veil, or even be bold enough to do so.” I confronted this sort of thinking the previous semester when Our Lord began putting this deep desire for humility and modesty on my heart, and slowly I felt like he was calling me to be bold and veil myself in His presence. My prayer life and devotion increased because I was truly trying to understand exactly why women wore head coverings in the past, why they stopped, and why it is slowly make a resurgence. All of this led me to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 11 of his first letter starting with verse 5 he states:

“But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head- it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn, or shaven, let her wear a veil.”

What is Saint Paul saying here? First let me note that he wasn’t sexist and against women at all. He was just pointing out one of the many beautiful things about us, that we were made to honor our Lord, especially in modesty. Saint Paul goes on later to talk about, “nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.”

Wow! Saint Paul is now telling us that it isn’t because men and woman are independent from one another. It is in the love of the family unit that draws women to veil what is most sacred to us…. the gift to bear life. We veil this gift because it is not for our own glory, or for the glory of the man, but for God’s own glory.

This scripture and the one in Song of Solomon which says, “Behold you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil.” (Song of Songs 4:1) were the two answers from Our Lord that I needed in order to understand what the veil truly represented, and in that understanding have the boldness to wear the veil in humility as Our Lord had been asking.

I realized that my first perception of the veil was wrong. The veil isn’t a symbol of holiness but rather one of submission to God’s will. The veil is an outward sign that God’s glory is the sole purpose of worship and nothing else, the veil is the outward sign of the protection we as women have for the lives that we bear. We are not covering up our “feminine glory” because of shame but rather allowing for Christ’s glory to shine instead. I heard a beautiful comment on this very discussion that mentioned that as women we submit ourselves to husbands much as Our Lady submitted to the plan of the Holy Spirit, her spouse, and in every image of Our Lady what is she wearing? You got it. A veil. This veil is a sign that we will be obedient, just as Our Lady was obedient, and that like her we will continue to protect and remain to be vessels of life.

There are different forms of head coverings including; a veil (or mantilla) that is black or white, a simple hat, a shawl wrapped over your head, a cotton scarf, or any long scarf that you can easily maneuver to wrap around your head. I wear a lace scarf I happened to buy at Forever 21 a year ago that just happens to work perfect! I just wrap it around my head whenever I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Be bold sisters in Christ.

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