Ultimate recipe for a diving Catholic marriage: Part 2

Quote of the Day

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” – Venerable Fulton Sheen, as quoted on Catholic Singles at https://www.catholicsingles.com/blog/saints-love-dating/.

Today’s 99-Word Contemplation

I want to be the best husband I can be for my wife. I want to become worthy of her. I want to show her every day that she is the axis on which my world turns, that I cherish her in my heart. I want to meet her every need before they are realized. I want to serve others alongside her. I want to kneel beside her in Mass as I privately thank God for “us.” Most of all, I want to get her to heaven, back to her Creator who loves her even more than I do.

Today’s Reflection

In Ultimate recipe for a divine Catholic marriage: Part 1 we discussed that marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It is a vocation that should be given significant prayerful consideration before you and your spouse-to-be decide to tie the knot.

A primary purpose of marriage is to guide your spouse to heaven by way of your own thoughts, words, actions, and passions. Satan will not make it easy. He hates it when a married couple work hard to serve God and will do everything in his power to sabotage the relationship.

We also reviewed how the most essential ingredients in an ultimate recipe for a strong, healthy, and lasting Catholic marriage are the “meat and potatoes” that build a nourishing spiritual life. The meat in our recipe included two essential practices. First, going to Mass as frequently as possible (and with your spouse when your calendars permit), for it is in Mass that you find Jesus in the Living Word. Second, receiving the Holy Eucharist as food (i.e., the Bread of Life) as it cleanses you of venial sins that, if left unchecked, could turn into habits that become mortal sins. Additionally, you emulate Christ as He became a one-flesh union of every Mass (as the Church is His bride) when you become one flesh with your spouse in marriage.

The potatoes in our recipe included six additional means in which you and your spouse can build your spiritual muscles together. These include Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Holy Rosary as we ask our Blessed Mother for her intercession to her Son, practicing the corporal works of mercy together, practicing ongoing conversion, giving your vocation prayerful consideration, and cooperating with God.

If you have not read Ultimate recipe for a divine Catholic marriage: Part 1, please consider doing so now. The information contained in Part 1 is invaluable in its propensity to bring couples the marital strength and confidence needed for a strong, healthy, and lasting Catholic marriage when put into practice.

Now it is time to examine the remainder of the ingredients in our recipe.

Ultimate recipe for a divine Catholic marriage, Part 2: THE VEGETABLES, GRAINS, AND FRUITS

Nourishing your spiritual life is the most important step, and so our meat and potatoes were the first ingredients in our marital recipe. Now comes the remaining provisions that will compliment your spiritual life by adding to their ability allow you to serve Christ with all your heart and mind.

You are about to discover the importance of doing everything you can to ensure your minds are healthy (the vegetables), your bodies are healthy (the whole grains), your habits are healthy (the fruits), and that you do whatever it takes to recognize and eliminate any unhealthy habits you may have already developed (the rotten fruit that spoils the whole bunch). Together, when added with your spiritual nourishment, you will truly have the definitive recipe for a happy and long-lasting Catholic marriage that gets you and your spouse to heaven.

So, are you ready to get cookin’? I sure am. Let’s do this!

INGREDIENT #2: ORGANIC EMOTIONAL WELLBEING
(The vegetables of our recipe)

To be on the top of your marital game your emotional muscle also needs to be exercised regularly in order that it, too, will grow stronger over time in conjunction with your spiritual muscle. Therefore, as we continue our search for the perfect ingredients to include in our recipe for a strong, healthy, and lasting Catholic marriage, lets add to our meat and potatoes with lots of healthy organic vegetables.

These choice vegetables will provide you a psychological roadmap that directs you to a strong and healthy state of mind. This will allow you and your spouse to build resiliency so that you power your way though challenges that come your way as you both continue to boldly navigate the oftentimes difficult and challenging road to eternity side-by-side.

Discussed below are several means by which you can exercise and develop your emotional muscle and ensure that your marriage continues to build solidly from your cornerstone as it reaches now for its capstone, or high point. You will certainly continue to make it more difficult for the evil one to succeed in his plans to attack and spoil your marriage over time.

OWNING UP TO MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS

One in five adults each year experience a mental health disorder, with mood disorders personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders and trauma- and stressor-related disorders each claiming their own casualties.

The symptoms of mental health disorders are typically persistent and eventually start to negatively impact your daily life, such as your ability to work and/or maintain close personal relationships. Given the wide variety of disorders people can experience, symptoms can range significantly, but may include:

  • Loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling “flat,” having no energy to care
  • Feeling isolated, sad, hopeless, and worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Irritability
  • Thoughts of dying and/or suicide
  • Difficulty participating in social, educational, or family activities
  • Placing blame on others
  • Feelings of isolation

It is easy to understand, then, how suffering from a mental illness has the potential to quickly begin to erode the foundation of a healthy marital relationship if not addressed promptly. Therefore, if you or your spouse suffer(s) from mental illness, then, it is important that you own up to it sooner than later!

It is essential to know when to seek professional guidance. Here is my simple advice: If you notice one or more of the above symptoms in you or your spouse and the symptom(s) become persistent, seek help right away before more serious complications present themselves. Better safe than sorry!

If your mental health professional identifies you as someone suffering from a mental health disorder, learn all you can about it. For example, What are its symptoms? What are the various treatment options available? How might I best protect my marriage and my close relationships from being negatively impacted?

Just as importantly, immediately take it to the Lord in prayer. Doing so will hinder Satan in his efforts to take advantage of the opportunity. And trust me, he will try to take advantage of the opportunity the moment he sees a crack in your armor.

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary,  walk and not grow faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

Whether it is you or your spouse who are suffering from a mental illness, do not keep your own emotions tucked away inside of yourself. It will not take long for them to fester into something much bigger and more volatile. Talk to your spouse, a counselor, a priest, or a close friend. Explain to them your fears, your doubts, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Ask them to pray for both you and your spouse.

If you are the one suffering from the mental illness, take time to connect with others. Give to others of your time, treasures, and/or talents. Be attentive to the present moment via your thoughts, feelings, your body, and the world around you. Practice forgiveness (including forgiving yourself). Do your best to maintain healthy and thriving relationships. And do not lose your sense of humor. It does the body and mind alike good to just lighten up once in a while.

Finally, support and encourage your spouse who is suffering from mental illness not just with your words, but through your actions. Shower them with the seven heavenly virtues: humility, kindness, patience, diligence, charity, temperance, and chastity.

Hang on tight to each other. This is marriage. No one said it would be easy. You will come out the other side of this stronger in your love and trust of each other. And your relationship with God will be strengthened tenfold if you will but trust in him and lay all your worries at the foot of his Holy Cross.

INGREDIENT #3: NATURAL physical WELLBEING
(The whole grains of our recipe)

For good reason, the fitness business is a multibillion-dollar industry. You need to keep your body in good shape, especially as you age. As an added bonus, an active lifestyle also helps you maintain good mental health by eliminating stress and toxins from your system. That said, you need to remember to engage in spiritual exercise, too, as discussed in Ultimate recipe for a divine Catholic marriage: Part 1. After all, our bodies are only temporary vessels for our eternal souls.

(See how our marital recipe is coming all together? Each ingredient compliments the next when carefully measured into appropriate proportions.)

In our recipe for a strong, healthy, and lasting Catholic marriage, natural physical wellbeing is our third ingredient.

When it comes to the particulars of maintaining healthy bodies, I am sure you already familiar with many of the elements required to reach your optimal levels for your age. However, just to be sure you do not take anything for granted, let’s review them here to ensure no essential component is left out.

First and foremost, a healthy body begins with a healthy diet. After all, as the old adage suggests, “You are what you eat.”

A body needs to eat a balanced diet of meats, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and dairy in order to meet all of its nutritional needs. Perhaps just as important as what we eat in our balanced diet is how much we eat. Portion control is key in any successful diet.

Sadly, in America at least, portion control in restaurants is out of hand. Who really needs a double quarter pounder with cheese (that’s a half pound of meat in one sitting – holy cow!), large fries, and a large sugary soda to wash it all down? This meal alone has 1500 total calories, along with 186 carbs (68% of the total daily recommended allowance) and 63 total grams of fat (81% of the total daily recommended allowance). Add on to this 1850 mg. of sodium (79% of the total daily recommended allowance) and you can see a nightmare unfolding before your very own eyes. Many people who are watching their weight set their limit at 1500 calories or less per day! And those 1500 calories are spread out over much healthier choices if they are truly health conscious.

Moral of the story? Make better choices. Eat lean meats 2-3 times a week, eat more fish (stay away from fried), eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, a handful of nuts here and there, a few legumes, and add a variety of dairy products in small portions. Now you are on your way to a healthier body.

One quick note – if you are a vegetarian or vegan, congratulations. Still, be sure to follow physician-guided recommendations to ensure you are aware of how to supplement for any nutritional deficits you may encompass as part of your dietary regimen.  

With a heathier body you will have more strength, stamina, and endurance. You will likely find you rest better, think more clearly, and are more actively engaged with your spouse and friends.

In addition to eating healthy foods, you should exercise regularly. How regularly? I suggest you read Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, Sexy, and Smart – Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D with Allan J. Hamilton, M.D. This is an excellent, easy-to-read book that describes why you should be exercising at least six times a week, including at least three days of cardio (four is better) and three days of weight training. The book covers diet, exercise, and staying emotionally connected and will help you put off 70 percent of the normal problems associated with aging (weakness, sore joints, poor balance) and eliminate 50 percent of serious illness and injury.

Sleeping a sufficient number of hours each night is also important to your overall physical and mental well-being. Most adults 18 and over require around 7-9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. It is while we sleep that our bodies repair itself so that you are well-prepared for the next day’s physical and cognitive demands. Even a little loss of sleep can lead to negative consequences in your overall health, so you should prioritize sleep as a primary and essential ingredient for overall health.

Also, limit alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks per day or fewer, eliminate all tobacco usage, do not get hooked on the vaping trend occurring these days, take a daily multivitamin if you are so inclined, see your doctor regularly for routine preventative care, and laugh often. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

INGREDIENT #4: DELICIOUSLY HEALTHY HABITS
(The fruits of our recipe)

FRESH FRUITS

There are several healthy marital habits that you should establish if you have not already done so. These are the fruits of our recipe for a strong, healthy, and lasting Catholic marriage and are a vital ingredient indeed. So much so, in fact, that you need to be intentionally cognizant of at all times.

That means it is important to engage in these good habits intentionally and frequently to make sure your spouse feels loved, understood, appreciated, needed, and desired. After all, they are doing everything in their power to stand by your side and get you to heaven. I’m guessing that may not be an easy task. I know it sure isn’t for my wife!

Here are some good habits to engage in (add your own to the list):

  • Love God above all things, including your spouse
  • Break bread at the dinner table together often
  • Think “we”, not “me”
  • Do not be that controlling spouse we all hear about
  • Learn to trust each other inexplicably
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Never stop dating each other
  • Compliment each other regularly
  • Spend at least a few minutes of quality time together each day (phone call if in-person is not possible)
  • Walk together, and hold hands
  • Be intimate together regularly
  • Kiss and touch each other lovingly and adoringly
  • Go to bed together
  • Do not go to bed angry with your spouse
  • Enjoy regular intercourse
  • Be open to children and/or utilize natural family planning methods approved by the Church
  • Be prayerful and accept God’s will in your life

ROTTEN FRUIT

As you are building up your use of good habits it is equally important to eliminate any unhealthy habits you may have established over time. Bad habits can slowly chip away at a good marriage, much like venial sins left unchecked can lead to mortal sins.

Therefore, if you find any of the following bad habits creeping into your marital life, take immediate action to stop them in their tracks. Apologize to your spouse and promise to do better. Prayerfully ask God for his help in eradicating them from your marriage once and for all. Remember, one bad apple spoils the rest!

Unhealthy habits include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • Selfish demands
  • Critically judging your spouse
  • Unresolved anger
  • Being unfaithful or dishonest (includes financial infidelity)
  • Being too independent (it’s okay to have separate interests, just remember you are a unit)
  • Do not engage in behaviors you know your spouse finds irritating
  • Do not be too serious all the time – don’t forget to laugh together
  • Failure to communicate

THE CROCKPOT’S FULL – SO GET COOKIN’!

Your marital recipe is now fully realized. You have set the keystone in your marital structure, the final piece that locks all the stones into position. You have addressed your spiritual, mental, and physical marital needs as well as habits that can both improve or harm a marriage.

You are ready to slice, dice, and throw all the ingredients together in the crockpot otherwise known as love and marriage. Turn that sucker on slow heat and wait patiently for the stew to simmer. Set out the breads and fruits. Set the table with your finest dinnerware. And don’t forget the candles – you’ve got to have candles! A touch of romantic ambiance is always appreciated.

Prepare for the feast of a lifetime. This is YOUR feast day (you little saint you!). Your marriage deserves this!

Soon your senses will be alive with the love for each other that can only be borne from a well-established relationship between you, your spouse, and God. You will see the difference a healthy marital recipe makes, enjoy the sweet smell of success when your marriage lasts until death do you part, taste victory when Satan turns and runs from you in fear of God, hear the accolades that others offer on the strength of your marriage, and, in the end, touch the Sacred Heart of Jesus himself when you stand in his presence at the gates of heaven.

You did it. Your roadmap has faithfully led you to the streets of gold. You have fulfilled the purpose of your vocation.

Amen, and amen!

Peace be with you always.

Today’s Supporting Scripture Versus for Additional *Contemplation (NABRE):

*When contemplating scripture, rest your thoughts and simply love, and allow yourself to respond to God’s love. That is, we are allowing the scripture to permeate us in order to grow closer to God.

Note: The New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) can be found online at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NABRE

  1. Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
  2. Philippians 4:6-7: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
  3. Romans 12:2: Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
  4. 3 John 1:2:  Beloved, I hope you are prospering in every respect and are in good health, just as your soul is prospering.
  5. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your body is a templeof the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
  6. 1 Corinthians 10:13: No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.
  7. Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
  8. James 4:7: So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 
  9. 1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.
  10. Matthew 6: 19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Today’s Supporting Links for Additional *Meditation

*When meditating on scriptures, articles, and other forms of media, we are actively engaging in cognition (i.e., we are actively thinking). That is, we are studying the material in order to learn.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Healthy Catholics: Promoting Psychological and Spiritual Wellness 

Healing Prayers 

Catholic Health Initiatives 

Faith and Fitness 

Habits for a Healthy Marriage

5 Habits That Are Hazardous to Your (Spiritual) Health

Eight Habits of Healthy Couples

Exchanging Bad Habits for Good Habits

The Institute for Marital Healing: A Resource for Catholic Marriages

Recommended Readings

The Catholic Workout: Build Your Body. Build Your Faith

Habits for a Healthy Marriage: A Handbook for Catholic Couples

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living

The Catholic ManBook

Three Secrets to Holiness in Marriage: A 33-Day Self-Guided Retreat for Catholic Couples

Forever (Marriage Devotional)

Good News About Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions About Catholic Teaching

Holy Sex: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Love

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving the First Five Years of Marriage

Manual for Marriage

Prayers for Catholic Couples with Reflections from Pope Francis’ The Joy of Love

The Catholic Wedding Book: A Complete Guidebook

Blessed is Marriage: A Guide to the Beatitudes for Catholic Couples

Today’s Prayer for Healing

Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.

May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.

Note: This prayer was retrieved from https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=73

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