|"When couples open their hearts to God and his purpose for marriage and family, he floods them with the grace of the sacrament of marriage."|
January 26, 2011. In the era of multitasking, how can
women “do it all” without losing focus? How can women
and their husbands communicate more effectively? What about living with
a non-practicing husband? What helps nearly broken marriages become whole
again? And finally, what books can help women learn to
grow into their role as Catholic spouses?
In the interview below,
Karen Sester, Familia USA National Director, offers some spiritual
and practical advice on the art of being a good
Proverbs 31 talks about the ideal wife as a
supreme multitasker who not only cares for her husband and
children, but also engages in business and charitable activity. What
advice would you give to women who are trying to
achieve that balance?
As Christians, we have two beautiful role models:
Christ and Mary, along with many saints, to look to
for guidance. I see Christ and Mary first spending time
with God, seeking his will. Only after prayer do they
act. The hardest thing sometimes is to let go of
our expectations for what our life will look like, what
my family will look like, and look to God for
what he wants for us.
Also, Christ did not heal
every person in town. It was God’s will to focus
on some. Likewise, God does not ask us to be
superwoman and do everything. What he does ask us is
that everything we do is with great love. Perfect work
isn’t doing everything perfectly, but doing it for God.
we have been given certain gifts, John Paul II calls
it the “feminine genius”: the ability to make others feel
loved, an openness to others, a certain spiritual sensitivity, desire
for union with God, a deep ability to hear and
appreciate truth. And so God entrusts women with divine truths,
along with moral and spiritual strength and faith to overcome
their fear, even in intense emotional and physical times. When
we use all of these gifts, we focus more on
the person and the soul than the task, and that
is where we find peace. My success is not in
the done laundry or the organized kitchen, but in the
love with which I do the work and the love
that others experience from me. This love can only be
given if we are connected to the vine, to Our
Lord in daily prayer and the sacraments.
On a practical level,
I find it most helpful to make a plan each
week with God for how I will spend my time,
first list my time with God, then my husband, then
my children, then the other responsibilities. If something doesn’t fit,
either God doesn’t need me to do it, or he
will make time for it. Having the plan gives me
peace and comfort as I see it is God’s plan
for me. It also helps me be prepared when I
have a few unexpected minutes so I can make good
use of them.
Another word of advice: make sure to
talk to your husband before making decisions.
What is the most
common communications difficulty between women and their husbands? What can
wives to do to improve their communication?
The most common communications
difficulty is understanding each other. Men and women are different;
they think, act, and communicate differently. Don’t expect him to
guess your thoughts and don’t think you can guess what
he is thinking. You need to listen to each other.
It is when we rashly react out of defensiveness that
we make the greatest mistakes. Many times our spouse was
not criticizing, but simply expressing a need. We need to
be able to talk about our needs, wants, fears and
desires with each other openly and without defensiveness. Greatly desire
to continue to get to know your spouse. Try to
understand him in every aspect of his life: physically, spiritually,
intellectually. It is quite an exciting challenge!
What would you recommend
for Catholic women who are married to non-practicing husbands and
who are unable to share their faith with them as
they would like?
This is probably the most frequent question
we receive from Familia women. As wives and mothers, we
deeply desire spiritual intimacy and unity with our husband. For
whatever reason, this is oftentimes not the case. One reason
is because that women are naturally more spiritually sensitive. We
think deeply and ponder spiritual truths. It is natural for
us to seek God. Men are more outward, focused on
doing, going, building. Sometimes it can be more difficult for
them to embrace the spiritual life.
It is helpful to
remember that God loves your husband more than you do.
Be patient, never condescending about his so-called lack of faith.
Honor him in his strengths. Be ready to hear his
questions and concerns about the faith rather than being annoyed
by them. Your openness and non-judgment of him is what
will draw him the nearest to you.
Also, pray and
sacrifice. Offer those nasty duties that you dislike with love
and joy for him. You will find you will grow
in holiness through these things, and that is the intention
of marriage, right? To get our spouse to heaven? So
if you do these things, you will also make your
husband successful in his mission.
Have you ever witnessed “miracles” of
restored marriages? What was the key?
We witness miracles of
restored marriages all the time in Familia. When couples open
their hearts to God and his purpose for marriage and
family, he floods them with the grace of the sacrament
of marriage. This grace is always there, but we must
keep our hearts able to receive it by being in
the state of grace.
We witnessed this in a couple that
was very close to us. The husband knocked at our
door at 10:30 on the night of our wedding anniversary
over 10 years ago. He said he needed help, that
he would do anything to keep his marriage. Todd and
I welcomed him into our home and spent our anniversary
night with him. It was a great grace for all
of us. We did not even know they were having
trouble in their marriage. We suggested he go on a
retreat and begin the Familia program. He followed our advice
and his wife also began taking Familia with a group
of other women.
Through the program they encountered God in
the Gospel reflections and Catholic doctrine in the Catechism. They
discovered how to live in the beauty of these teachings
by discussing the Church documents and making concrete weekly resolutions.
They returned to regular confession and attended daily Mass as
they could. They soon desired to reverse an operation so
their marriage would once again be open to life. It’s
not that everything was automatically fixed— years of unhealthy habits
take time to change— but they conceived another child and
are still married over 10 years later. Thanks be to
God! We need to continue to pray for marriages everywhere
as these marriage-thriving concepts are so foreign to many.
you recommend 4 or 5 good books or resources for
women who would like to delve deeper into this topic
of improving their marriage?
The year 2011 marks the 30th anniversary
of the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. This is a document
that the Familia program called “God’s Plan for Marriage and
Family” is based on. Familia has made it now available
for men, women, or couples teams. I would highly recommend
gathering a group of other women or couples and delve
into it. Over 12,000 couples have taken this program since
we became national directors in 2002, and this is why
we have witnessed thousands of restored marriages.
Other good resources
are: Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe.
It is not a marriage book, but the first step
to improving our marriage is improving ourselves, and this is
a powerful little book that will help you. Three more
resources are His Needs/Her Needs by Dr. Willard F. Harley,
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, and The Temperament God
Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett. They all help
to deeply understand ourselves and our spouse.
For more information
about how Familia can help you strengthen your marriage and
family, visit the web site at www.familiausa.net.