Friday, January 18, 2008

Theological Rant 3.0: Start Treating Marriage Like a Real Vocation Already!

An occasional series. Other theologically based rants found here.

Dear friendly, devoted, wonderful church workers, I apologize in advance for unleashing my wrath upon your oft over-worked heads.

I'm your happily married Catholic woman, royally ticked off today because there is nothing out there that encourages people to treat marriage as a vocation that leads to holiness. Oh no, you say. We pray for sacramental marriages in Mass, and we have flyers about NFP in the back of the Church, and all that. We have devotionals for women and some big whopping families. Dang, we even have a website. And, uh, we're nice to married people. So see, we do it.

Friends, how do I put this? about how delusional can we be here? It's not that any of the above are bad, in fact, they're quite good. It's just that no one seems to have a clue as to how to encourage holiness as a married couple, and when kids get in the mix, watch out. Churches seem to think that if they have a nursery that may or may not be open or run by competent adults during one of the Sunday masses, they ought to get a gold star in vocational development. Excuse me while I go do a primal scream right now.

[People outside my building in the street: "Wow, I've never heard someone primal scream the Hail Mary before."]

OK, I'm back. Here's a bright idea. You know how you nurture the "other" vocations, the first two that get mentioned in the Mass intentions? That's right, you encourage, enable, and expect prayer. You don't talk about "how the heck are ya going to balance your parish's budget?" You talk about devotion to God. But I can't tell you how many times I've seen those in the religious life flounder on this one with married folks. If you pray a lot, that's probably a sign you should be a nun or priest. And if you're already married, You're literally multitasking job, house, spouse, children, and pregnancy, and you ask how to deepen your prayer life. And bless your hearts, you religious life folks often fumble on that one like a greased football (OK, ok, not all of you, and I'm sure my readers haven't done this. 'Cause you're special.). I have gotten back:
  1. "Um. Wow. Do your best, you know?"
  2. "Gee, I don't know how you do it."
  3. "Your acts of family-nurturing are your prayer." (And that last one--perhaps yes, but only if you can have time to be with God for God alone. That "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" doesn't have a great affinity for multitasking the religious life.)
[People on the street: "Hey, now she's primal screaming the Act of Contrition!"]

I know
that canon law says those called to the religious life are a particular witness to Christ's whole and complete self-gift. I'm not denying that. I think consecrated celibacy is a beautiful witness. But geez, can you stop blinking at me when I say I crave a deeper prayer life? I get to pray too. I'm not just a breeder for future celibates.

For example: how about offering some free daycare so parents can go to adoration? How about doing a series of retreat mornings (again, free daycare) focusing on a couple's growth in God? How about reduced cost spiritual direction for moms and dads? How about praying for and with couples in challenging situations? How about making some of those Church activities child-friendly? But whatever you do, deal with people's relationships with God! I can go to the Lions Club for service activities.

Imagine this as a parish mission statement: "It is our priority to foster the first declared married saints in the USA"! But that means you need to tell me why I'm called by God to this relationship and this family, rather than say, oh, and that third vocation is OK too, you know, if you have to go that route. I was never under the impression that we have too few witnesses for a deep relationship with Christ to squander the lived reality of the majority of the Church.

I'm a wife and a parent and I'm proud. You may not be meaning to, but stop treating me like a spiritual child.

Ranting and Raving in God's Justice,


The Fox said...

I get it. Caveat - I'm single, young adult...and employed full time in a parish...and I work with young adults. This rant is really applicable to the demographic of YAs. Young married couples with or without very small children are actually a real focus for me. While they tend to shy away from many activities (totally swamped with all their commitments), I do try to make things work for them. We do try to bring together the 'young marrieds' along with the renewal programs for 'not-so-young' marrieds. These along with programs like 8 Great Dates are our attempts to answer this rant. But I know we're not perfect, there's always a larger harvest than workers.

One big thing coming up is the young adult conference I am helping to plan. We're offering childcare. While we're asking for donations, it isn't required (it will help the youth going to WYD). One of our workshops is on vocations...with a young married couple sitting on the panel.

I can also tell you as that overworked church lady (frightening when your good weeks are only 50+ hours), it is a true struggle. With constraints placed on us by financial cutbacks, struggles with stewardship of time and talent, and the constant pull of all the interest groups within the church there are days I go home and wonder is what we're doing even making a difference.

Please, continue ranting, but somewhere in the midst of the primal scream, offer a prayer for those of us who get those screams over the phone and in person...I don't want to lose my hearing before I'm 30.

sola persona said...


I know my wife would LOVE to be able to go on a retreat and spend a day in prayer - in fact, I would love her to do so as well. Yet the resources available seem so little for this sort of thing.

I don't know what else but to say I feel your pain...I feel your pain.

Paul Cat said...

Amen. Preach on Sister!!!

I've had this strange theory that a person can get to heaven by having sex. It is something I've wanted to elaborate on a bit, but the basic idea is here.

Sexual Re-Revolution

sic said...

Um, gee...well, at least you're doing yourbest, honey. ;)

I like Paul Cat's thought about sex as a means of sanctification. We need to be saying more about that.

Meredith Gould said...

I feel your drain. And share it. That strange blinking also gets triggered whenever older, single (e.g., divorced, never-married, widowed) adults express an interest to have a deeper life of prayer without joining a religious order.

Here's my parallel rant: we are not simply your captive volunteer labor force waiting to be used, used up, and then thinly tolerated. Or ghettoized into certain church activities.

I did some writing (and plan to do more) about the notion of being consecrated to secular life while being fully alive in the world of the sacred.

BTW, I think screaming the Hail Mary is entirely appropriate at times. Like these.

Athanasius contra mundum said...

Its sad but about the only option open to married adults to develop a deeper prayer life is a third order.

Jenny from Chicago said...

Okay, this comment is so inappropriate given the seriousness of your rant....but I have to ask you to step over to my blog today and enter to win a $100 gift card from Target (HQed in Minnesota). An ecclesial entrant would be welcomed.

mandamum said...

I came across a group of women in DC (consecrated, but not nuns, I think...) who are focused on this, and I remember hearing they had one morning a week when mothers could come by and talk, or leave their kids in the play room while spending some time in adoration... They also pray specifically for those in the vocation of marriage and raising families.

Sometimes I think the parents of older families--who have been there--might be the best ones to spearhead such a ministry.

Staci Schoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SherryTex said...


Wish I knew you personally, we struggle with the same thing. Married couples unless they're having trouble are given short shrift. It is frustrating, as we need to deepen our relationship with God especially after children.

Our parish has the Men of Emaeus and the Women of Prayer on Saturday...sounds great except both are at the same time, so we can tag team and alternate weekends or one of us just never goes and then neither one starts going...

I find it hard that there aren't ways outside the school to meet other parents who are struggling with the very same void that comes from being so busy, all we can do is Martha our way through life and no Mary.

Thanks for the good thoughts.... I've gritched the Hail Mary before, but that was to not scream at my daughter and son in the back seat for fighting as we were going to mass.

Garpu the Fork said...

Thank you for your seems like in many parishes, if you aren't into the spirituality of childbirth, there's nothing for you. Lay associations of religious orders and third orders pick up the slack, but regular parishes don't have anything like it to offer couples.

Adoro te Devote said...

Great post. Can you email me? I'm wondering if I can use this idea with my upcoming talk on First Communion and bounce it off of the Married life (which creates First Communicants) and the significance of family.

Not that I'm any expert on family. Far from it. But from what I can see, the most lukewarm Catholics are those who are married with family and they are the HARDEST group to reach.

I'm all for screaming Hail Mary's, whatever it will do to get people to come to Mass or any other activity!

And next year, can we hire you as a speaker for the Cana Dinner? What do you charge as your speaker fee? And I'm totally serious. I'm not the DRE, but seriously, if you've got something to say, please come say it where I work. Please. I'm begging here.

runningtheasylum said...


I'm a married woman with eight children, and belong to Opus Dei. Our whole focus is sanctification in and through our ordinary life, which in my case means housework, changing diapers, driving the van hither and yon, etc.

While I have to admit that sometimes the logistics of getting out the door and away from the kids to attend formational activities can be challenging, the real challenge is to find a way to make time for a spiritual life-- prayer, Mass, reading, etc-- smack dab in the middle of the chaos. It is doable, but it requires encouragement and nurturing. Maybe I'm just spoiled in the Work, but the people I know really do treat marriage like a vocation, and a heroic and holy one at that...

Anonymous said...

Here, here! I'm not married, but I can't tell you how many people have asked my mother if I'm going to be a nun--just because I'm "religious." Universal sanctity people!

Cafe said...

I know that there are some orders of woman religious, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist for sure, I know there are others, who offer retreats specifically for married woman and mothers. It gives them time for prayer and silence, I know that some woman bring their small children with them, and the sisters are always more than happy to amuse the young ones!!!

Ebeth said...

Here! Here! The vocation of marriage is equally challenging, just as being priests, nuns, and with all the responsibility of passing on the faith!! How many parents aren't even doing that for struggling to keep their marriage together!

Thanks for the post!

angelmeg said...

1) a local bishop (not mine sadly) begins his prayer for vocations "for the vocations of sacramental marriage from which all other vocations flow"

I love him for that.

2) We heard a talk by Tim Staples once at a Catholic Family Conference about the vocation of marriage which equated the matrimonial bed with the altar of the sacrament of Matrimony (it is where the sacrament is consumated after all) and thus when husband and wife come together it is a sacramental union and sacred and holy. I think the phrase he used was a glimpse of heaven, which I loved.

So paul-cat isn't that far off.

3) When I was working in the parish I was trying like crazy to get my diocese to recognize marriage as a vocation especially when it came to youth masses because lets get real here; if the church is amazingly lucky 4% of the high school kids who hear vocations talks will become priests and religious. Of the other 96%, shouldn't we be fostering a strong vocational call to sacramental, strong and holy marriages and not the disposable relationships that are so popular in today's society?

I'm just saying.

I may have to try that primal screaming the Hail Mary sometime.

mrangelemg and I have always felt that

Michelle said...

Just to add to the list - you don't have to be in a third order to develop a mature spiritual life as a married adult! Find a spiritual director and say the words "I want to grow deeper in my love of God" and begin...

Now that my kids are older, I manage a night away in silence a month.

All of us are called...