Marriage
Part 4 Theology of Marriage

Chapter 43 Spirituality of Marriage

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Scott:  Spirituality of Resistance

Whitehead:  Spirituality and Lifestyle

Gaillardetz:  A Daring Promise

Marital Spirituality and Theology

Spirituality of the Single State

To Think About

For my introductory, general notes on spirituality,
see chapter Chapter d 33 Spirituality

Preliminary Questions

What is spirituality?   How would you describe the spirituality of marriage?  What is the relationship between faith and spirituality and faith and marriage?  Compare the spirituality of marriage and the spirituality of the diocesan priest.  What is the relationship between spirituality and theology?  Is there a spirituality of the single state (one who is neither married, ordained, or a vowed religious)?  How does marriage make one holy?  How does marriage "change" the way the couple love one another?

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Bibliography

Kieran Scott, "A Spirituality of Resistance for Marriage,"  Chapter 34, pp 397-410 in Kieran Scott and Michael Warren. Perspectives on Marriage: A Reader (Second Edition). Oxford University Press.  ISBN 0-19-513439-7

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead,  "Spirituality and Lifestyle,"  Chapter 35, pp 411-424 in Kieran Scott and Michael Warren. Perspectives on Marriage: A Reader (Second Edition). Oxford University Press.  ISBN 0-19-513439-7

Richard R. Gaillardetz.  A Daring Promise  (Crossroad Publishing Company.  ISBN 0-8245-1935-3

"Sealed With God's Spirit: Sacrament of Confirmation," Catholic Update Video, St. Anthony Messenger Press, October 2001. V2023.   This video is part of a series intended to assist catechetical leaders in the preparation of candidates of various ages and backgrounds for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.  However the story segment of this video would be very useful for married couples as an introduction to the spirituality of marriage.  The video begins with a fictional drama, "Moving On:  Responding in the Spirit,"  the story of a family challenged to respond to Christ's call to encounter him in a neighbor.  (20 minutes)  The teaching segment could serve as a lead in to the role of the Holy Spirit in the Spirituality of Marriage by looking at the epiclesis at Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and Marriage.  (7 minutes)

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Scott:  Spirituality of Resistance

Scott, in this essay, considers one aspect of the spirituality of marriage:  The husband and wife must resist the "Gospel of commodity" [I shop, therefore I am] and live the Gospel which values persons over things.  "The choice is: what god to believe in."  (p 404)

The Christian family must express its spirituality by resistance in five areas:

1.   Resist the loss of interiority -- by finding silence, listening, and Sabbath

2.  Resist the loss of the solidarity of the family (and the human family) -- by finding "the covenantal life."  "Couples and families need less busyness and more presence in the rhythm of their lives." (p 407)

3.  Resist systematically legitimated injustice -- by social commitment.

4.  Resist the craving for consumption -- by simplicity of life.

5.  Resist the flight from vulnerability -- by developing the counter economics of compassion.

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Whitehead:  Spirituality and Lifestyle

Regarding the definition of marriage and the understanding of marriage precisely as sacrament:  "Christianity does not give married love its value;  rather it celebrates the deeper meaning of married love that can sometimes be lost or obscured in the hectic pace of life.  Christianity gives us insight, vision into what is ordinarily invisible."  (Whitehead, "Spirituality and Lifestyle,"  in Kieran Scott and Michael Warren. Perspectives on Marriage: A Reader,  p 412).   A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace.  The Sacrament of Marriage "gives us insight, vision into what is ordinarily invisible."

What are some of these "invisible" realities:

The Whiteheads speak of the spirituality of marriage from four perspectives:

1.  Prayer and Justice  

2.  The Meaning of Money 

3.  Marriage and Ministry  

4.  A Playful Marriage 

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Gaillardetz:  A Daring Promise

Gaillardetz defines spirituality as:  "The particular contour and texture of our encounter with God's saving grace in our daily lives. ...  A spirituality of marriage, then, will be concerned with the distinct manner in which God's transforming presence and action are encountered in our marriages.  A marital spirituality should help us discover the ways in which, through our fidelity to the spiritual discipline of faithful marital living, we discover our truest identity before God." (p 19) 

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Marital Spirituality and Theology

"One of the most pressing pastoral imperatives in the church today is to heal this breach between the human longing for an authentic spirituality and the distrust of institutional religion."  (Gaillardetz p 21)

Gaillardetz speaks of the relation between spirituality and theology on pp 20 and following.

Spirituality needs theology: 1) theology gives spirituality a language and a vocabulary;  2) theology gives spirituality a community of believers;  3)  each tradition offers us foundational stories, rituals, and doctrines that help give substance and shape to the spiritual life. 

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Spirituality of the Single State

1.  The first issue here is to ask if there is a "spirituality of the single state."   Or put in another way, does God intend that everyone marry, except those to whom God has given the vocation to religious life, to consecrated virginity, or the Roman Catholic priesthood?  While there are reputable theologians who (with various shades of nuance) would tend to answer that question in the affirmative,  I would answer in the negative.  It seems that in the mysterious plan of God some men and women are "called" to live their lives without a marriage partner, that is, as single persons "in the world." 

Also included in this "spirituality of the single state" would be those who (for a variety of reasons) cannot marry and those who while once were married now -- either because of the death of the spouse or divorce -- work out their salvation in the single state.

2.  A second important issue is the need to distinguish the call to the single state from the "playboy attitude" that is so admired by some in contemporary society:  to be able to come and go as you please, not tied down by time constraints and limited by the "cost" of wife and children.   (It is estimated [I think I read it in Time magazine, but I no longer have the reference] that to raise a child from birth to high school graduation in Southern Indiana in 2000 costs approximately $200,000.00.)   This issue is important for the celibate priesthood also, because there are some Catholics who see the priest not as "celibate for the kingdom of God" but "free from the demands of family -- playboy." 

3.  What are the characteristics of the spirituality of the single state?

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To Think About

1.  When and how can we catechize regarding the spirituality of marriage, and regarding spirituality in general? 

2.  What can priests learn from the spirituality of marriage that is applicable to their own lives and spirituality?

3.  If as Gaillardetz says (page 12) "For Christians salvation is never a private undertaking,"  how does the "private" spirituality of the diocesan priest become Christian?  Where does he enter into relationship with another human being? 

4.  Navajo Spirituality:  Navajo sister Gloria Davis said,  "I noticed that the holy people in our community, the ones we turned to for spiritual guidance and who conducted the blessing and healing ceremonies, were always the people who had the keenest sense of humor. You could spot them by the laugh wrinkles near their eyes." The hallmark of holiness was not a gaunt, hollow-cheeked, aesthetic look or one of otherworldly serenity, but just a common lively sense of humor, honed from birth on the lathe of life's ups and downs, its absurdities and sorrows, its joys and unpredictable encounters. Humor is a side effect of living deeply. Are applicants to Catholic seminaries ever checked for a funny bone?   (Rich Heffern, writing in NCR May 2, 2003 p 13)

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at tomrichs@psci.net.