FOREVER: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage (Week One)

Spontaneous date night in the middle of the week. Not totally unheard of in the Dyogi home after our spur-of-the-moment boba date in August, so I figured we could pull this one off. I asked my sister Emeline if she could watch the kids so that Gary and I could make it out all the way to Christ Cathedral for Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel’s book release of their new Catholic marriage devotional. We desperately needed time together and something concrete to keep us connected on a regular basis, as super-busy as we are.

Surprisingly, after eleven years of marriage, connection still doesn’t always come easy for us. At least when it comes to any interaction beyond letting my husband know whether I have a client appointment to go to when he comes home…if the kids ate dinner or not…who wasn’t getting electronics the next day because they were fighting with a sibling. I’ve addressed the importance of actively working on our marriage, but it is definitely a challenge because the kids and work have been our main priorities since our oldest was born. If you ask Gary, he will tell you that we have a good marriage, which I agree with; however, I know that there’s a deeper intimacy that we can share and model for our children.

So yes, I’d bug him every so often about it. And no, I wasn’t planning on letting it go.

Why? Because marriage is incredibly fragile in our society. The sacrament itself in the Church is solid, but with brokenness, concupiscence, temptation, complacency, emotional baggage, etc., etc., etc., the husbands and wives of today need to fiercely nurture the love that God has placed in our hearts for each other.

Hence, down the 405 and 22 freeways in rush hour traffic we went.

It was a beautiful evening, with Jackie and Bobby starting off with a Q&A about their book and their marriage. We appreciated their candid, honest, and grace-filled responses, knowing well the struggles of living as both spouses and parents of young children. Finding their experiences common to our own got us excited about starting the devotional together, and it came at a perfect time as we’d been planning to grow our ministry and start a YouTube channel for it. Lifting up our relationship in prayer during adoration that night led to the beginning of a new journey for me and Gary – one that would teach us more about each other and about God’s plan for our family.

We made this video at Christ Cathedral immediately after meeting Jackie and Bobby and committed to doing the devotional every day for 6 weeks.

We just finished Week One a whole three weeks later because life happened. Between work schedules, kiddos, chores, family events, much-needed rest, and a temporary pause due to issues we needed to work out with each other, it was hard getting the time in to do the daily devotions. Nevertheless, we made it to Day 7. I’m proud of us for even starting this because it’s more than we’ve ever done before, and I’m so grateful to Gary for persevering through it with me.

My favorite Week One challenge was from Day 3 when we had to find time to be alone with God.

A lot went through my mind and heart as I stood in front of the statue of St. Anthony.

St. Anthony statue
St. Anthony of Padua

I knew that if I myself was not abiding in the Lord, it would be very difficult to strengthen my marriage and see my husband with the eyes of Jesus. As I write this, I’m making a mental note to be more intentional with my individual prayer time so that it can then feed into my relationship with Gary and the kids.

The topics in FOREVER do touch on very personal aspects of marriage, and we will speak to these as best we can. Many of the subjects have already been publicly discussed in our talks over the years or shared with my Creighton Model clients at our follow-up appointments. These videos are primarily for our Dyogi kids so that they can witness the beauty of our vocation with all of the hills and valleys. And if there is something others can learn or be consoled by, praise the good Lord.

To get your copy of FOREVER: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel, visit Pauline Books & Media or for the Kindle version. There’s no better time to start than right now!

If you can do it in 6 weeks, that would be awesome. But if you have to take some time working through it like we do, that’s okay! No matter what, you would be building the foundation of your domestic church with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. It’s worth the investment. Your family depends on it. Have fun!

There is a Season

Married 8 years. Friendship for 10. Over the course of time, the relationship I’ve had with Gary has evolved in so many ways. In the early days we were friends turned pen pals. Our courtship and engagement were very romantic. The first two years of marriage took a lot of adjusting on my part, and it was much harder than I expected. Most of the depth that grew out of our marriage came during the seasons when we met with moments of great struggle…when it didn’t feel like all sunshine and roses…because there was never an intention to walk away from the hardships. We plowed through them together because that’s what we vowed to one another and to God at the altar. ‘Til death do us part.

Yes, because of my broken past I would admittedly freak out inside for fear that my husband would one day leave me. But I needed to trust that God was present enough in his heart to inspire Gary to choose me and our kids each and every day of his life. And he has. Believe me, I tried to warn him about the mess he was going to marry. And he completely understood the nature of my physical illness as well – even better than I did. He was fully accepting of everything I was because he hoped and prayed that I would also embrace him with all his virtues and vices, too.

It was important that we were totally open and truthful in the beginning. Before we got married, there was nothing hiding behind closed doors. At least nothing major. Except the fact that he absolutely loved food, and I couldn’t cook like he did. He had a vague idea that I wasn’t great in the kitchen, but he did tell me that he ate anything. I think that still caused pretty significant anxiety at first because I felt the need to apologize every time I made a meal. But we weren’t about to break up over my lack of cooking skills. I’m grateful that Gary was patient enough to coach me through and put up with me yelling questions at him during meal prep (which I still do).

Now having 4 kids, we need to make more of an effort to share one-on-one time together, but the teamwork it takes for us to raise our children gives me security that our marriage is solid. Every once in a while we’ll steal away for a date night, and I always appreciate his displays of affection. I did have to let go of my expectations that the frequency of our quality time would equal what it once was before parenthood. Of course that changes. It definitely requires self-sacrifice to persevere through times when demands of responsibility are high. Knowing, however, that we can weather through storms of stress and conflict when they come has consoled my heart like nothing else.

Okay, let’s flip the switch for a second and do some faith integration…

I remember a conversation with my cousin Jaymee when I was still single. Already married with four kids, she said, “Cherish your time in adoration, B.anne. After you get married, you won’t have that luxury anymore of visiting Jesus whenever you want to.”

I held fast to her advice because it was true. Gone are the late nights at St. Dominic Savio’s Adoration Chapel and the hours spent at St. Peter Chanel with just Jesus and my journal. Does this go to say that my family life has diminished my relationship with Jesus? Not at all. Just as the conversations with my first True Love were once upon a time lengthy and uninterrupted, so were the ones with my husband. We could also do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. While I am not able to frequent the Blessed Sacrament as often as I used to, I still take Jesus with me into everything I do and to every single place I go. And I do the same (in a sense) with Gary. I think about him when we’re not together. He’s very much a part of me when I’m with the kids and when I’m meeting with my clients.

So I don’t need to be incredibly disappointed about the limitations within my marriage and my relationship with Jesus. But wrapping up this entry makes me realize that I do need a date with my husband some time soon…and a good long visit with Jesus. 🙂

To read more about what we all can do to strengthen our marriages, please check out this article, “Keeping It Together: Advice from the Trenches” by Pete Vere