By: Jake Scott
Two of the most intertwined aspects of a married couple’s life together are their spirituality and their marriage. Two aspects that affect a marriage crucially are arguments and the sacraments. Arguing and the Sacraments are what have been on my heart to write about. Specifically, the sacrament of Reconciliation is what has been gnawing away at me lately, and I’d like to share a recent experience of this sacrament.
As I was in confession yesterday, the Priest gave me some advice that I thought would be quite relevant for what I’d like to discuss today. I bring this up because not everyone gets good advice from confessors in the confessional, and when you do receive good advice it can truly change you. Advice from a priest in confession should be received in the same manner as a child that has just received dessert after completely finishing their meal. Sometimes the desert is absolutely amazing (good advice), and other times the child is left wondering why anyone would ever serve flan to eat (bad advice). Advice is not a necessary part of confession, which is why we can only hope that when advice is given, it is Christ trying to speak to us, and not just the priest.
I believe Christ was speaking through the priest yesterday. I cannot quote him, but I can come pretty close to what he was trying to convey. The priest told me that every couple in marriage fights with each other (I literally laughed out loud when he said this- I don’t know why, I just did. I thought he was trying to make a joke, but then he got serious). How the couple fights determines if the couple will last or not. If you have a couple who fights but they realize who they are fighting with- to whom they are talking- and can react accordingly and lovingly, then that couple will last. The couples that do not last are those who forget with whom they are speaking with when they argue.
It’s not that I have never thought of this when I’m arguing with my wife, rather, it was the reminder that she is my wife and how I speak and treat her needs to be with love and respect. When I argue with my wife without trying to filter what I’m saying, it never ends well. When I argue with my wife realizing that she is my wife, realizing what that means and her role in my life, then we can actually be civil, and we can come to compromise with resolution.
I found it pretty ironic when reading through my Imitation of Christ that a particular part that spoke directly to what the priest was telling me in the confessional. In Book One, Chapter sixteen, the title of the chapter is, “Of Bearing with the faults of others”. You can already see where this is going. I wanted to share the first and last article in the chapter because it is critically close to how married couples ought deal with each other. Warning: if you’ve never read the Imitation then you’ll have to bear with the older language.
“Those things which a man cannot amend in himself or in others, he ought patiently to bear, until God shall otherwise ordain. Bethink thee that perhaps it is better for thy trial and patience, without which our merits are but little worth. Nevertheless though oughtest, when thou findeth such impediments, to beseech God that He would vouchsafe to sustain thee, that thou be able to bear them with a good will.” -Thomas à Kempis.
The ability to realize and understand that not a single person alive today is perfect is an incredible gift. The ability to treat someone in a way that deserves respect due to that imperfection is another level of holiness. We think so much of others, we think so much of our spouse, but we don’t hold ourselves to the same level of perfection. Basically, we recognize more of other’s faults and imperfections more than we recognize our own. As Thomas says, we should place the trust in God that he will be able to help us when we need it. The patience we need with ourselves and others can only be granted by God and through God.
“But now hath God thus ordained, that we may learn to bear one another’s burdens, because none is without defect, none without a burden, none sufficient of himself, none wise enough of himself; but it behoveth us to bear with one another, to comfort one another, to help, instruct, admonish one another. How much strength each man hath is best proved by occasions of adversity: for such occasions do not make a man frail, but show of what temper he is.” -Thomas à Kempis
We bear with each other’s faults. We bear our own faults. We bear all of this patiently. Patience is a virtue- as we have all heard. You gain patience with yourself and others by bearing your faults like an adult. You don’t point the finger at each other like Adam and Eve, rather, you work together like Joseph and Mary. You gain patience by going to confession and receiving the grace through that sacrament. Without frequenting the sacraments, your spiritual life and your marriage will die. I repeat Thomas à Kempis:
A person is more tried in the Sacrament of Reconciliation than probably any other Sacrament. Letting go of your pride to tell Christ you’ve messed up and need forgiveness is incredibly difficult and humbling. Without taking the plank out of our own eyes we cannot deal with the splinter in our neighbor’s eye, much less our spouse.
Frequent the sacraments, and, with the additional grace, you can better deal with your faults and your spouse's faults with patience. Work things out together (when you can), and make sure you grow together. There’s no use in attempting to grow in holiness and spirituality alone if you have someone to work on it with.