By Betty Duffy
Published on the Faith & Family blogspot
and on BettyDuffy.blogspot.com. Reprinted with permission.
Coming into our marriage,
I assumed that I was more spiritually advanced than my
husband. I’d lived a year in poverty, chastity and obedience
after all—an entire year of daily Mass, Rosary, and Benediction,
plus frequent retreats, and a virtually guaranteed life of grace.
Meanwhile, my husband was just a (crinkling nose) Sunday Mass
Once or twice I thought that he was holding me
back, that if he just went to one more meeting
a week, one more retreat, then we could leap into
our status as a spiritual power couple, one that sits
in the front pews at Church with perfect kids saying
the responses with such sincerity and volume as to edify
everyone in the Parish.
I wanted to be the kind of
couple whose spontaneous prayer flowed from our lips at every
turn (“Let’s just pray about this …”). And I wanted
him to initiate it — even though I married him
with full knowledge that he was not comfortable with this
kind of prayer. I thought it was his responsibility as
the spiritual head of the family to acquire it and
henceforth, to lead us all as I saw fit.
of that happened. He just would not agree to be
as Holy as I was — didn’t matter how I
poked, prodded, or complained. And, being the spiritual giant that
I am, I threw tantrums, deciding that if he wouldn’t
be Holy then neither would I.
But what is marriage if
not a growing up together? Maybe it was a matter
of growing in maturity and experience, for me to realize
that a person with free will, when yanked upon, will
pull back with an equal opposite force. The more I
hounded him, the less interest he took in matters of
a spiritual nature, so that it’s quite possible that by
association with my nagging, he lost what interest he had.
And for me, too, prayer became something conflicted:
“If we have
unrealistic expectations of others, our spouse, our kids, we probably
have unrealistic expectations of prayer. If we are nitpicky fault-finders,
we think that is how God will be with us.
Who wants to go to prayer to be nitpicked? If
we appreciate others and enjoy their presence, their good and
bad, we will know that prayer is not always a
perfect scenario, but is good and necessary.” (Father Robert DeCesare,
The many retreats I attended and prayers I said didn’t
really set me forward in virtue over my husband. While
I cleaned out some of the less savory elements of
my life, my interior disposition was saturated with pride and
self-righteousness. At nearly every retreat or spiritual talk I attended,
I thought, My husband really needs to hear this rather
than How can I apply this to my life?
about religious life, men can focus more on the priesthood
rather than their consecration, but women can sometimes focus more
on the practices of the religious life rather than the
consecration to God. Consecration is what matters—assiduous union with God
in prayer.” (Father Geirtych, theologian of the papal household)
years, I have referred to my prayer life as my
“commitments,” and each day, I measured them out, weighing the
value of my day based on how many of my
commitments I accomplished. There’s certainly no problem with making prayer
commitments, but it’s no wonder, with such value ascribed to
completing my checklist, that I have looked down my nose
at anyone who doesn’t share my accomplishments—and that I have
beat myself up when I “fail” at them. When I
view prayer as a reciprocal relationship with my Creator, not
only is it impossible to fail at it, there’s no
way of comparing it with anyone else’s prayer.
Prayer does not
win me anything in a spiritual competition with my husband.
It doesn’t propel me forward in advance of others. Consecration
is what matters in my married life and in my
prayer. And if I’m comparing my spiritual life with other’s,
then I probably need to work a bit more on
that “assiduous union with God.”
—Elizabeth Duffy blogs at BettyDuffy.Blogspot.com.