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As a married woman, how can I progress to greater holiness?

May 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Holiness, Marriage

Q: Dear Father John, I have recently returned to St. Theresa of Avila’s autobiography, having only gotten through a third of it last year. It is easier to read now. I have an idea of where I am spiritually according to her book and will discuss this with my Redemptorist Spiritual Director. But I have a question. What I am seeking is: What is written for married women that is of the value of St. Teresa’s book about spiritual growth? I can’t see how a married woman can progress to the third (and further) stages when her vocation is to her husband. It’s not that God is taking me further, at this point, but I also do not want to stall myself.  

Married Saints Timothy and Maura

Married Saints Timothy and Maura

A: This is a great question, and I am sorry to say that I only have a short answer: there is no such book – at least, not yet. Really! Up to now, the greatest spiritual writers have all been men and women called to the celibate state of life – priests and consecrated men and women. New Spiritual Directions One of the main emphases of the Second Vatican council was to encourage the development of a more robust spirituality for those called to the married state. The Council Fathers seemed to perceive that the coming age of the Church was going to show a new blossoming of holiness among non-consecrated men and women. Pope John Paul II, following up on this insight, made a concerted effort to promote the cause for canonization of lay men and women. Personally, I firmly believe that the burgeoning new Ecclesial Movements, all of which encourage a dynamic pursuit of holiness among non-consecrated lay people, is a further sign of this impetus of the Holy Spirit. I also find it remarkable that one of the best books of spiritual theology that has been published in recent decades was written by a layman, Ralph Martin: The Fulfillment of All Desire. Nevertheless, even this book focuses on principles of the spiritual life as explained by the great writers of the past. He alludes to the differences inherent in the different states of life, but doesn’t develop them systematically. So the book you are looking for remains to be written. And I don’t see why you couldn’t be the one to write it. What do the Mansions of St. Teresa look like in the married state? What do the more advanced stages of prayer and virtue look like in the married state? What do the Dark Nights look like for a married woman, as opposed to a nun? What does the prayer of union look like in the marriage state?… Surely they won’t look exactly the same in both states of life. We know for certain that great holiness can be achieved in the married state (because of all the canonized saints who have been married), but so far we have not had a spiritual writer of the caliber of St. Teresa who experienced it, reflected on it, and wrote exhaustively about it. Hope Springs Eternal Nevertheless, you are not completely in the dark. Let me make a few suggestions, before asking our other readers to do the same. First of all, one of the best spiritual-growth books of all time was written as advice to a lay person: Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. Admittedly, he doesn’t examine the different levels of holiness or prayer, but he does provide dependable and brilliant insights into what virtue in the lay state ought to look like. If you haven’t read it, get it; if you have read it, read it again! Secondly, you can begin to read good biographies of married saints, of wives and mothers who achieved spiritual maturity in this life. These are case-studies, not systematic presentations, but they will surely inspire and instruct you. This would include biographies of saints who were married, but after being widowed entered religious life (St. Rita of Cascia, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton). But the married saints are the ones you should look into first: St. Gianna Molla, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Margaret of Scotland… But you may want to start with the spiritual diary of Servant of God, Elizabeth Leseur, a long-suffering Catholic wife of a prominent French atheist. At this point, I invite our readers to correct all my exaggerations and make all the recommendations they can think of.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently resides in his Order’s General Directorate in Rome, where he is continuing his writing apostolate. His blog contains questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. His online retreats are available at www.RCSpirituality.org.

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  • LizEst

    This is a great post, Father John! I was just going to suggest you write the book. Or, perhaps you could chair the group and make it a cooperative venture with married women and men who come here. How about it? How about you, Dan…when you get done with all your other projects? ; D

    • Vicki

      Marriage has long been a passion of mine. Having grown up the product of a “divorce culture” with one parent having been married six times and another three, I was certain that God had a different plan long before I was Catholic. After I entered the Church, I finally learned of His true plan for marriage. At that moment I was sure that God had personally called me Home. For many years I’ve been enamored with stories of saints and others who lived out their marriage vows in a manner true to God’s design – hence my near “giddiness” over The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur. I am all over this!

      • rjk123

        I loved that book, too. Her faith and her total love and devotion for her husband and the ultimate offering she made of her life to the Lord for her husband’s conversion is so inspirational. I haven’t read the book in years, but often think about her when I am praying for my wonderful husband. The joy of marriage is a gift of God and our love for each other is a beautiful expression of His love. Father — or someone else — can correct me, and please do, but I believe we as spouses are intimately involved in each other’s sanctity as we strive individually and together to seek the Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls. It is never a singular effort. My relationship with the Lord powerfully and mystically impacts my husband’s and vice versa, all through the grace the Lord gives in matrimony. Rachel

    • Jeanette

      I would have insights to contribute if it ever happened.

      • LizEst

        You know what, Jeanette? I do think we have the makings of a very worthwhile project here.

        • Jeanette

          I do too and it would be an inspiration for all us married ones to see how others manage the way of perfection in married life…the things that work and the things that don’t work.

  • Tienne McKenzie

    I heartily agree with the suggestion to read Elizabeth LeSeur’s diary, and to study the lives of the married Saints, especially those with a patronage of marriage (all you mentioned and additionally St. Frances of Rome who I have found particularly helpful in my situation of mixed marriage to a non-believer.)

    I would also say that the path of spiritual growth experienced by a member of a cloistered order is very different from the spiritual growth experienced by an active order such as the Little Sisters of the Poor. Married women, particularly in our early “childbearing” years are called to active service, and it may be helpful to look at the Rule employed by such orders to see how they balance prayer, personal spiritual growth, and spiritual growth through service to others.

    If either Fr. John or the poster does write a book specifically on this topic, please let us all know!

  • Wretched Sinner

    Yes! Please let us know! This is a topic of huge interest for me.

    On one hand we have St. Teresa’s own conviction as stated in Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay that “she (St. Teresa) considered mystical experience to be within the reach of all daughters: we find this conviction enunciated in the nineteenth chapter of the Way of Perfection and repeated so frequently in the Interior Castle that it is needless to give references…She evidently believes that, generally speaking, infused contemplation is accessible to any Christian who has the resolution to do all that in him lies towards obtaining it.” Further “she (St. Teresa) is certain that everyone is called to the summit of the mountain where only the glory of God dwells, that God is keeping watch, waiting for the hour to give”.

    On other hand we know that the counsels of perfection are chastity, poverty, obedience. Is it possible to achieve perfection without following these? I find it hard. We are talking about perfection – nothing short than perfection! The Catholic Encyclopedia (link below) states that “The distinction between the precept of the Gospel, which are binding on all, and the counsels, which are the subject of the vocation of the comparatively few, has ever been maintained by the Catholic Church”. Further, “the man who is wholly detached from this world, and whose thoughts are wholly bent on the realities of the world above, is taking the shortest way to obtain possession of that on which his heart is fixed.” “The love of riches is opposed by the counsel of poverty; the pleasures of the flesh, even the lawful pleasures of holy matrimony, are excluded by the counsel of chastity; while the desire for worldly power and honour is met by the counsel of holy obedience.”

    So my question is “is it possible to achieve the summit of the transforming union AND not follow the evangelical counsels completely?” Or will we find that the saint achieved this summit (regardless of his/her history and past, whether married or not) BY MEANS of these counsels?

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04435a.htm

    • Becky Ward

      As married persons we are not bound by the counsels of perfection but by our marriage vows. If it were not possible to achieve (receive) the summit of perfection in this life neither St. Teresa, or anyone else….including Jesus, would suggest that we put forth the effort to do so. (Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.)

      The journey of the soul is unique to the individual, but there are common things that are experienced – though not in identical ways. (Kind of like having a baby) Saints are saints for a reason, and St. Teresa is the first woman doctor of the Church for a reason. What she says can be applied to each of us – regardless of our state of life – if we ask the Lord, “What does this look like for me?”

      Married saints do have wisdom and good advice for us…….and God put them here to help us. I would ask you though, not to think that what St. Teresa offers is only for those called to religious life….you would be doing yourself a great disservice.

      As married persons chastity looks a little different, yet we are all called to live a chaste life. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=32750

      • Wretched Sinner

        Dear Becky,

        Marriage is good and holy – it’s a sacrament. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying it is sinful or bad. The only question I’m raising that to be married makes complete detachment (ie the practice of evangelical counsels) very difficult to achieve.

        St.Paul talks about that. Husband will be concerned in pleasing their wives and wives in pleasing their husbands. Married to live as though not married.

        Look at the saints. St. Bridget for example had a very happy marriage, had 8 children, yet once widowed dedicated herself to religion and asceticism. St. Jane de Chantal likewise, lost all her family (husband and children) and then became religious. St. Fabiola divorced, remarried did penance for her divorce and desired to be a hermit. St. Catherine had a miserable husband and after her visions lived chastely with her husband. You will find how eager the saints are to live the counsels of perfection. Even the married ones. St. Godelieve was abandoned before the wedding feast by her husband and later murdered by drowning after being strangled into unconsciousness by her mother-in-law’s servants.

        There is one couple Blessed Luigi Beltrame and Blessed Maria Corsini that had a life similar to what we can find in America. But you will find that they too “undertook a programme for their total response to any call from God, which in the end was the “difficult vow of the most perfect”, offered to the Lord in humble obedience to their spiritual father. As is well-known, this vow means the renouncing of marital relations, which the two decided together after 20 years of marriage, when Luigi was 46 years old and Mari 41.” He died in 1951 at the age of 71 and she at the age of 81 in 1965. (see here http://www.savior.org/saints/corsini.htm).

        • Wretched Sinner

          Here’s the link I mentioned above – not sure why it didn’t work on the post above:

          http://www.savior.org/saints/corsini.htm

        • Wretched Sinner

          Dear Becky,

          I have been thinking about your post. When you say “If it were not possible to achieve (receive) the summit of perfection in this life neither St. Teresa, or anyone else….including Jesus, would suggest that we put forth the effort to do so.”

          When Jesus said to the rich man “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus was challenging the man to change his life and abandon everything he had. Jesus’ suggestion was a call to a more perfect life. Can we be rich and enter heaven? Yes. Like I mentioned before, it is enough that we follow the precepts of the Church in order to obtain heaven. All I’m trying to point out is that there is yet a more perfect route.

          The fact that St. Teresa and Jesus suggest that we can obtain the summit of perfection, does not mean that we can do this as we currently are. Their invitation could be an invitation to change our lives, no? Just like the invitation Jesus gives the rich man.

          We ought to put forth ALL our effort, of course. And that is my point Becky. You read the lives of the saints and they give everything. Their effort is heroic and total. They burn with the desire to give everything and follow Christ – wherever this leads them.

          • rjk123

            I love your devotion and ardent seeking of the Lord — your eyes on the Will of God alone. I guess that’s the point: the saint is one who does God’s will for him/her. Someone who is called to married life is perfect when they live that role perfectly. God will not ask me if I was the perfect Wretched Sinner, but was I the perfect Rachel — and vice versa. If I were to envy your obvious devotion and try to imitate it, I would be sinning. I would suffer feelings of unworthiness and my peace would only return by repenting and praising God for who I am. ALL my effort, as you mentioned above, looks very tiny compared to yours, but my challenge is to thank God for my littleness and to continue to seek His will for me. God bless you. Rachel

          • Wretched Sinner

            Dear Jo,

            Christ could have saved all humanity by a prick of His finger. But instead, He gave us a torrent, sparring no pain, no humiliation, no desertion. Sometimes I honestly wonder, how many of us would have seen this man, covered in blood, humiliated and weak, carrying a huge cross and with knowledge He is God would have said “You are God, You don’t need to do this!” St. Peter tried telling Him this, remember, and remember what Christ replied?

            And how many of us would have stayed with Him until the end? How many of us would carried His dirty, bloody cross like Simon of Cyrene?! Who would have carried the dirty bloody cross of a convicted man?!

            I think we leave Jesus there, hanging on the cross, alone, dirty, deserted, abandoned even today.

          • rjk123

            WS, I think you meant your response for me, Rachel, although you addressed it to Jo. Again, I love your devotion and your passion — and your ardent, all-giving love for the Lord. No, we don’t want to leave Jesus hanging alone and deserted on the cross. I so agree. We want to worship and serve Him, not only on our own behalf, but also on behalf of those who don’t know Him or who reject Him. Jesus knows our hearts. May God continue to bless you. Rachel

          • MichelleMC2007 .

            I see that Jesus suffers just as much now in the Holy Eucharist as He did when He walked this earth. So I try to offer up my every moments and times when something happens that I don’t like or someone says something I don’t like for reparation for how I offended our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and how He has been offended by too many people. I have asked our Lord to be hidden(He knows what I mean) so that He will be loved and adored more in the Holy Eucharist.

          • rjk123

            WS, Thinking over what you wrote and reading again what I wrote, I can see how you might think my response indicates a luke-warmness to the Lord and to serving Him. That is not at all what I mean. I agree with what Becky and Jo and others have said about married life and seeking perfection. I seek to serve the Lord to my utmost, with all my strength and love–and I am joyful in doing it. I don’t believe the Lord would call anyone to the married life if He neither expected them to or thought them capable of seeking to reach perfection, according to God’s will, including living the evangelical counsels. He loves us, after all. I meant to affirm your perception that you are called to something higher in marriage, like, apparently, continence. I respect you and your relationship with the Lord and would never presume to judge you. And I meant also to say that I believe I am doing the Lord’s will for me. In fact, that is all I seek–to do His Will, whatever it is and whatever it takes. I don’t feel it is necessary to prove it or to defend it or to defend the value of my life with the Lord or His love for me. It is between me and the Lord and my spiritual director. My life is little and inconspicuous and hidden, but I seek to love and serve all those the Lord puts in my life, including my wonderful husband. I am an encourager, not a judge. I am quiet, not boisterous or bossy. I’m a helper, not a leader. I don’t like or seek attention. I’m also fiercely loyal, the first to defend the Lord (having done that in front of a couple of hundred people at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem when the Jewish guide said, “No one knows who the father of Jesus was –I shouted from the back of the crowd, “Yes, we do!” and millions of times when I was the only Catholic teacher in a Christian school) or anyone else, and I pray, pray, pray for others. You might not know you are in my heart, but you are through my prayers. We seek to carry our cross and His, all of us participating in this blog, and to share in HIs suffering in many ways in the things you might consider meaningless, but that are part of our lives. I hope that is sufficient to explain what I mean about being little. My puny coin means a lot to the Lord. And I have not abandoned Him. Praise God that He knows that. Rachel

          • rjk123

            WS: praying for you this morning, I was so overwhelmed with a sense of love and appreciation for you and for your passionate love of the Lord that I had to share it with you. I love your love for Him and your anger and pain for His suffering and for how we fail to share His sufferings and to be grateful for all He did for us. May God bless you. I admire your total dedication to Him and your desire to do His will in every way possible and to every extent possible. I know He loves you very much. Rachel

          • Wretched Sinner

            Dear Rachel,

            You sound like my five year old daughter this morning.
            In a sudden realization and joy she exclaims:
            Daughter: “God loves me!?!?!”
            Me: “Yes, He does, and you live in Him.”
            Daughter: “Really!?!?!?!”
            Me: “Yes, and He lives in you.”
            She ran to give me a tight hug. She was so happy with this and this knowledge filled her with joy!

          • rjk123

            Yes, a five year old’s sensibilities. I would definitely agree with your assessment of me and my spiritual maturity–and I think God would, too. He is growing me, slowly but surely. God bless you. Rachel

          • Wretched Sinner

            Oh Rachel, Nothing to do with maturity.

            You reflect the purity, the innocence, the sheer unselfish joy, the accepting of being loved, the humility of a pure unblemished child (like my little girl whom I love very much and is so full of tenderness, of sweetness of selfless giving). My comment was to show you your goodness. The allowing of the Spirit to move your heart is a great gift to be cherished, and the fact you shared it with me (us) is one that I too cherish (very much).

            With great warmth and tender affection,
            - WS

          • LizEst

            I love this! “On the lips of children you have found perfect praise” (cf Psalm 8:3ab). Thanks for sharing this WS. God bless you!

          • MichelleMC2007 .

            WS, Will you tell me what you mean by your last sentence, how we leave Jesus on the Cross alone, abandoned, etc., even today?

          • Wretched Sinner

            Dear MichelleMC2007,

            “Very pleasing to Me, dearest daughter, is the willing desire to bear every pain and fatigue, even unto death, for the salvation of souls, for the more the soul endures, the more she shows that she loves Me; loving Me she comes to know more of My truth, and the more she knows, the more pain and intolerable grief she feels at the offenses committed against Me.”

            - God (from the Dialogue of St. Catherine)

            Here’s what I mean. If we love God with our whole heart, strength and mind we can’t say “I’ll do only this or that, or just enough, or just so I make it to purgatory…” You see? So when we look at our Lord crucified, what do we say? Do we say ,”Oh Lord, thank you for this wonderful life and all the nice blessings you gave me, and you are so good and wonderful” OR do we say “Dear Lord, how can I serve you more? How can I be more generous?”

            We say “O my God, teach me to be more generous: to serve you as you deserve to be served; to give without counting the cost; to fight without fear of being wounded; to work without seeking rest; and to spend myself without expecting any reward, but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.”

            - St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

            Can you see Michelle what I mean? Do we DESIRE to grow in holiness or are we sort of SATISFIED with where we are at?

          • JoFlemings

            I think this is the salient point here, WS, that we give everything to Jesus, that His thoughts become our thoughts, that His heart is our heart, His concerns our concerns- that we lose and simultaneously find ourselves, or become who we are, through the refining fire of Divine Love, in abandonment to the Divine Will.

            I think it is possible to live the evangelical counsels perfectly according to state in life. Regarding marriage, if this vocation is God’s perfect will for a woman, then it must be possible to be perfectly united to Him in this state, in all of its normative aspects- even though it is ordered toward a temporal reality in many ways.

            As for continence in marriage as a higher or heroic path- this is something that would require both spouses to understand and renounce together in Christ for the supernatural purpose of union with God, and it is extraordinary, but then again, so is being completely given over to the will of God in the every day. I think the continence option would be a very specific and unusual invitation for particular pairs of spouses, and one that would be arrived at only after a rare and unique process of progressive union between these two with the Lord, and only for a specific purpose according to His direction.

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  • Alexandra Arias

    I would like to recommend books by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. She was very gifted spiritually, and her books have shown me new ways of growing in the spiritual life. Keep persevering in your journey to holiness, into the very depths of His Sacred Heart!

  • Vicki

    Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur – one of my absolute favorite books! I’m so glad you recommended it! For interested readers, it’s not so much a “how to” guide…it’s even better. Elizabeth is a beautiful example of a devoted wife living out her vows, even under very difficult circumstances (loving a husband who was an atheist as he tried to pull her away from her Faith) – she offered herself completely to and for her husband, while strengthening her relationship with her God.

    • LizEst

      So, would this make a good book club selection, Vicki?

      • Vicki

        You read my mind, Liz! I’m actually commenting on it again for my post tomorrow, and was thinking that very thing. I’ll have a list up soon for the remainder of the year, taking into account all the “votes” I received for various books a several weeks ago.

        • LizEst

          I look forward to it. God bless you, Vicki.

    • Wretched Sinner

      Vicky, with your enthusiasm I was convinced. I bought the book this evening. It would be wonderful if we could read it in the book club.

      • Jeanette

        Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur – I must get that one as her circumstance is what I have been going through for 35 years. Book Club candidate? Thank you.

    • Wretched Sinner

      “Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur – one of my absolute favorite books! I’m so glad you recommended it!”

      Dear Vicki,

      The book came in today. I told myself “No peaking until the book club reads it!” Then I said “but just a tiny little skim won’t harm… I opened the book right on the Rule of Life page! Ha! I’m already hooked! I had my spiritual direction session today and we reviewed my rule of life I put together while we read Dan’s book.

      Then I said “ok, just the introduction”….. hmmm, Vicki I can see what you mean this is one of your favorite. So far I’m inspired, truly inspired by who she was.

      “Renunciation, detachment, voluntary poverty, dislike of the world, sacrifice and forgetfulness of self, acceptance of suffering, and utmost charity toward God and neighbor are the theme of each one of these pages.” —can you listen to my mind saying REALLY!!??…. then later on Mr. Leseur, or I should say Fr. Leseur says “the writer was a woman of the world, living in the world and fulfilling superbly the obligations of her state.” Who better to explain how she fulfilled these obligations than her own widowed (ex-athiest) husband. INCREDIBLE! They weren’t able to have kids – which caused Elizabeth “inconsolable grief” – which as a married woman, this would have caused me great sorrow as well.

      Ok – so when does the book club begin reading this marvelous story?! (I can’t wait.)

      • Vicki

        I’m so glad you “peeked!” Shhh…don’t tell anyone. But we’re going to read it this year – first Intro to Devout Life. Then either this or Screwtape Letters. We’re still finalizing the order.

        • LizEst

          Thanks for giving us another hint about the books. Generous advance notice allows us to get the books in plenty of time and to plan our calendars. I really appreciate it. God bless you, Vicki.

      • RobinJeanne

        Now you all have being dieing to know and it is sounding more and more like something I NEED to read. I think I’ll get it now so I will be ready for when it time comes in the book club.

  • Mari Muldoon

    Great topic! Love Elizabeth Leseur along with Catherine De Hueck Doherty. Might you also consider the story of Margaret Clitherow, who lived the life of an active contemplative. She converted to Catholicism, married to a Protestant and eventually martyred (some writings say she was also expecting a child while enduring the horrific torture).

    If I might share some valuable advice from my first spiritual father who happened to be a discalced carmelite Priest.

    I was the mother of one child with another on the way and wanted to spend so much more time in adoration and quiet prayer but could not find the time. “How can I ever find the way through the Interior Castle to Union with God at this rate?” His answer: “You must follow the path of the ‘prayer of distraction’. It is an offering. Through your own hearts desire and interior recollection while tending your family, you will keep the flame of love lit and Jesus will carry you through the necessary interior stages.”

    My spiritual father would also often remind me of Holy Mother Teresa’s words, “Con muy determinada determinacion” and then he added “and leave the rest to Jesus.” So from one who lived for years with the prayer of distraction: God is always faithful. It is amazing what Jesus can and will do for those who deeply and earnestly seek Him.

    • frtrue75@att.net

      Dear Mari: What is the ‘prayer of distraction’? Is it a part of The Interior Castle? Thank you and God bless you. Donald

      • Mari Muldoon

        frtrue-The ‘prayer of distraction’ is the prayer that Teresa alluded to when reminding her nuns that while they needed to spend the time in prayer with the Blessed Sacrament, if duty is calling them, then that is where they must go and continue to pray. She writes of her ‘visits’ (ecstacies) from His Majesty while she is in the kitchen-amidst the pots and pans…in other words in the course of her duties He would always find her as she was interiorly in continual recollection with Him. She was one busy woman who spent much time travelling as well as often being very ill and battling law suits from disgruntled Dominicans! We often think we must have peace to pray but Teresa shows us that this peace comes through our continued attempts to pray amidst distractions as well.

        • frtrue75@att.net

          Dear Mari: Thanks for the information. I suspected the answer was somewhere in The Interior Castle, but wasn’t sure. God bless you. Donald

  • Alexandra Arias

    Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a beautiful 10 day retreat called Heaven in Faith, for her sister Guite, who was a young married mother. Her objective was that every soul has the potential to reach union with God, to be like our adored Master, to become so one with Him that we can say: I live no longer I but He lives in me….Blessed Elizabeth’s sister became a very holy woman and some of her children entered into religious vocations. This retreat can be found in the book: Elizabeth of the Trinity The Complete Works Vol. One. I go back to this retreat often, it’s helped me grow in my interior life and enter into deeper prayer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/diane.reiber.5 Diane Reiber

      I listened to this retreat of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity on a podcast through Discerning Hearts lead by Dr. Anthony Lilles. It was so beautiful and helpful. I would go for a run listening to it and be on a retreat at the same time! Here is that link if anyone is interested, I will definitely be listening to it again in the future: http://www.discerninghearts.com/?page_id=6684

      • Alexandra Arias

        Yes, I’ve listened to it many times, it is a beautiful retreat and Dr. Anthony Lilles does an awesome job with the reflection of the retreat – I highly, highly recommend it!

  • marygannon

    Read the work of mystic, mother and wife, Venerable Concepcion Cabrera. A good summary of her life is: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary by Philipon. She received the grace of transforming union, the mystical incarnation, a grace even more profound than spiritual marriage. Concepcion received spiritual marriage several years before the crowning grace of the mystical incarnation. She was wife, mother of 9 children and foundress of the Five Works of the Cross. She, along with Elisabeth Leseur are my heroes.

  • rjk123

    What a helpful message! Thank you! I have found St. Francis de Sales and his Introduction to the Devout Life to be helpful. He specifically addresses holiness for one not called to the religious life. Rachel

  • Alexandra Campbell

    I, too, am very interested in this topic. I have not been around here much lately, still struggling with having been left by my husband several years ago to raise two teenage boys. Not sure where I fit in the spiritual life and path as I feel I am still married, but in a way I feel like a widow! I have been sort of thinking of myself as a “consecrated divorcee” and there is actually a group in Canada that focuses on spiritual growth for this particular group—Solitude Miryiam. I have also discovered Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora who was married, but whose husband had a mistress and caused financial ruin to the family. I relate to this holy woman so much. She was able to pray for the mistress, and I have tried to do the same, at times more successfully than at others. This topic is sort of a subset of the subject of holiness for married women. We are “married women” who no longer have the joy/burden of striving to be holy by serving our husbands, though we would have preferred to do that! On the other hand, there is a certain amount of freedom created by no longer living with the husband who has left as there is more time for prayer, etc. I am also reading the book “The Prison Angel” about Mother Antonia, a Catholic woman who was divorced twice, finished raising her family, and has lived a chaste life in a Tijuana prison for the past 30 years ministering to the men and women there. I have about 4 more years to go until my boys are 18. If I can resolve all my debts by then, I am seriously considering investigating becoming a member of the order called The Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour, started by Mother Antonia. Women must be 45-65, have independent means and their own health insurance in order to be accepted into this order. I pray God will lead me where I am supposed to be as I long to live for Him alone. I am still searching for a spiritual director to help me along this path. God bless all of you married people, pray for me!

    • rjk123

      Very inspirational! God bless you in your search! Rachel

    • Wretched Sinner

      Dear Alexandra,

      You can look up:

      St. Catherine of Genoa
      St. Dorothy of Montau
      St. Elizabeth of Portugal
      St. Fabiola
      St. Godelieve
      St. Hedwig of Andechs
      St. Helena
      St. Margaret the Barefooted
      St. Marguerite d’Youville
      St. Monica
      St. Pharalidis
      St. Radegunde
      St. Rita
      St. Wilgefortis

      St. Zedislava

      You are in my prayers. Take courage and aim hi Alexandra!

      • LizEst

        Thanks for this list, WS…and God bless you!

    • LizEst

      Still in my prayers, Alexandra. Yes, I believe I have heard of this order but had not heard of Solitude Miryiam or Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora. Thank you for sharing…and God bless you.

  • Jenn

    I also would suggest The Story of a Family: The Home of St. Therese of Lisieux. While it is not a how-to book, it shows the beautiful interplay of family members who are striving for holiness.

    • Alexandra Arias

      I love this recommendation. We should strive not only for our own holiness, but also for the holiness of our husband and children. I think it was Bl. Mother Teresa who said “Holiness begins within the four walls of our home”.

  • ymader@gmail.com

    same here, very interested in what a deeper prayer consists in for a married woman. One thing I have learned is that you do all to the best of your ability, attending to the needs of others before your own, giving way of your will to the will of others (as long as it does not harm you spiritually) and do all of this for the love and glory of God. also, spend as much time in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament and make everything you do a prayer. St. Paul tells us to pray always and this can be done by living in God’s Presence and He in you no matter where you are or what you are doing. God bless all married women who strive for holiness!
    Yvette

  • http://www.facebook.com/beth.maillho Beth Cleveland Maillho

    What about Ven. Conchita? She’s become my spiritual mother (through a dream). Try the book, “Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary.” Her nickname is Conchita but her whole name is Concepcion Cabrera de Armida. Her spirituality, in a nut shell, is Mystical Incarnation. For more on that, read http://www.apcross.org/conchita/diary49.htm.

    She was married & a mother of 9 kids in Mexico; born in 1862 and died in 1937; and she founded a religious order (or two). St. Theresa of Avila is a giant for me too, and Conchita absolutely complements/rivals her.

    “Under the Gaze of the Father” is another book written by her spiritual director, Arch. Luis Martinez which is awesome!

    Here’s a link for “Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary”
    http://www.stpauls.us/CONCHITAbrA-Mothers-Spiritual-Diary-P5048.aspx

    • LizEst

      I’ve never heard of her…but, I looked at link you posted, at the index, and she looks like someone worth getting to know. Thank you, Beth…and God bless you.

    • marygannon

      Beth, Great to see your post. I also have a great devotion to Ven. Concepcion and have done a lot of work using her writings in my own writing. How did you find her? Another place to purchase addition books of her works, like” Loving with the Holy Spirit,”" Irresistibly Drawn to the Eucharist” and many others by her or her spiritual directors is to contact the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart in Modesto, CA at 209 526-3525. Conchita was a very prolific writer. Another one of her yearly retreats called “To Be Jesus Crucified” is just being published. I would love to connect with you via email if that would be of interest!

  • Patricia Budd

    The balance of spiritual and married life I am learning needs to be intergrated. I am married for almost 7 years so I am still a baby. I think living prayer in our daily activities as a wife and or mother can be challenging. I find confusion in this balance. My spiritual director which I have now said just because something good in its self does not mean the will of God there has to be discernment. He also said we need to ask the Holy Spirit where we are with God and often we rely on spiritual books or spiritual people meaning priests and religious to tell us what is the will of God. I used to worry where I am with God what level in spirituality I learned to let it go and meditate rather how is God with me in his creation in the Holy Mass in the Holy Eucharist in the sacraments in people in my life in suffering. It helps me seek perspective and I ask how can I grow closer to God and this is always a discernment process. Now I am learning discernment myself and if I don’t receive insight from the Holy Spirit I can seek help in discernment in confession and in spiritual direction. I love Elizabeth of Hungary and her charity. She is one of my favorite saint

    • rjk123

      I love your sincerity and your willingness to grow. Rachel

  • Patricia Budd

    It would be good to consider Elizabeth Lesuea for book club

  • JoFlemings

    I think the pathway for most of us would include loving our husbands according to the fullness of the purpose of marriage. Perfect chastity and charity in marriage is as challenging and heroic as it is in consecrated celibacy- but it is ordered to a different purpose- I think I would compare them to the Incarnation, and the Resurrection- both are essential and redemptive, but they serve the Kingdom of God differently- neither is less important or valuable, or desirable. It all depends on which state the soul is invited to enter, by the Holy Spirit.
    Sometimes the greatest heroism in loving God is in being hidden, inconspicuous among His attendants. We all want to give ourselves completely to Jesus- and this is the motivation of saints. But the motivation is the groundwork, the foundation if you will. The construction of the saint will be more about the usefulness and pliability of the material in the process according to the Builder. Marriage in the spiritual sense, by its nature is highly unique, individual, and constantly changing- involving the intricacies of self-oblation and donation between three souls, Jesus Christ and the spouses– so the mechanics of developing personal holiness in this course will also be highly individual, while the universal principles given by the apostles and consecrated celibate saints will always be a constant plumb line or frame of reference. I think this is where the writings of married mystics could come in as helpful, if their personalities, lifestyles and form of personal expression resonate with our own- if we can connect with what they have shared, we can benefit from their inspiration.

    • rjk123

      I wish I could say things as well as you do, Jo. This touches my heart.
      Rachel

  • Carol V.

    I know this site has Carmelite spirituality at its core, and my spirituality is decidedly Ignatian, pragmatist that I am it had a certain attraction for me. “Finding God in all things,” all states of life, and all nuances of those states ought to be simple enough, theoretically, anyways, since God is everywhere (as unnerving as that thought was to me at first!)

    Probably those of us who are coming to a Catholic spiritual direction website and commenting on it aren’t likely to have much of a problem with marital chastity, but I’m sure I speak for some other sisters here when I think of my occasional struggles with marital charity. Not the “big stuff,” but the occasional mental grumbling when I find dirty dishes set on top of the counter when there is an empty dishwasher not two feet away, and all those annoying little things that can make married life seem like a martyrdom of paper cuts! That’s when and where trying to find the face of Jesus in my husband as he snores on the couch, remote control clutched in his sleeping fingers, can challenge me. Most married women will be chuckling and nodding their heads in agreement at such little things, but our reactions to these annoyances of everyday life with a loved one can slowly but surely, as water does on granite, erode away at the charity, and yes, love, that we felt for our spouses the day we said “I do.” We get more and more miserable, and like any positive feedback cycle, the problem starts to snowball. And by the way, a cursory reading of most consecrated women saints’ writings demonstrate that far from being a haven of prayer and contemplation, living with a dozen or so other women can be nightmarish in itself. (I really felt sorry for St. Faustina’s sufferings at the hands of her fellow nuns.)

    Paradoxically, turning to God on a regular basis can nurture us so that we don’t feel so put-upon, and we don’t have an expression of doom and gloom toward everyone around us, especially those closest to us. The word “martyr,” as used popularly today, doesn’t even describe it: The real martyrs embraced their fate with joy, whereas the contemporary “martyrdom” of daily irritation is groaned about as if the fate of the nation depends on it. Wasn’t there something about “grumblers” someplace in one of St. Paul’s epistles?

    God restores our joy in our vocations, and all subsets thereof. What happens? The people around us notice: We’re essentially bringing the Gospel to them without saying a word. And when they notice, they respond to that. Families are a system: Imagine a bowl of marbles. You can’t move one marble without the rest of the marbles moving.

    It takes time and effort, but God helps us “lighten up.” And when we do, everything around us seems to lighten up as well. We can notice others. We can see the face of Jesus after a long day in the carpenter’s workshop when our husbands drag themselves home from work, interested only in eating something and relaxing. We can respond to that.

    I pray that God spares me from griping today.

    • Alexandra Campbell

      Amen!

    • Karl Andrew Cruz

      “Finding God in all things,” all states of life, and all nuances of those states ought to be simple enough, theoretically, anyways, since God is everywhere (as unnerving as that thought was to me at first!)

      —- this ministered to me, thanks

    • rjk123

      Amen! Rachel

    • JoFlemings

      I love this Carol! I vote you write the book!

    • MichelleMC2007 .

      I wish I would have read this better earlier. I would have confessed grumbling in Confession. I am so guilty of grumbling and being uncharitable to my husband who gives so much to me. He is really a sweetheart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julia.kinyon Julia Kinyon

    St. Paul of the Cross guided married men & women on their path to holiness. I’m not sure of any particular book other than his letters to them giving great spiritual direction & practical advice.

  • Rachel Gehring

    Great question and great answer. I agree this is the “THE BOOK” to be written yet. In some ways, it seems that Therese of Lisieux and her little way, or Brother Lawrence and practicing the presence of God, or Teresa of Calcutta and her way of love, or Opus Dei and sanctifying daily life and daily work, or JPII and theology of the body are ALL steps in the right direction for lay folks. This is one of the biggest questions lay people ask and struggle with after reading the saints and realizing that while they may be able to pray for 15-30min a day, they simply cannot pursue more time in prayer without neglecting the duties of their state in life. How do they sanctify the rest of what they do? I look forward to truly inspired and practical advice coming from lay people who are already pursuing holiness in everyday life in the 21st century. I thought it was neat that the USCCB is posting a monthly married saint, but wondered how long they could go before needing to recycle. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead the Church to prioritize and canonize more lay and married folks.

    • Carol V.

      Rachel, I think you hit on the reason why “The Book” hasn’t been written yet. If lay people struggle with the idea of eking out more time for prayer than fifteen to thirty minutes a day, the idea of applying seat of pants to seat of chair and fingers to keyboard for extended periods of time as they try to get thoughts down to the printed word before those thoughts get derailed by dinner burning and the smoke alarm going off, or the dog having an accident, or little Billy coloring the wallpaper must approach the pains of purgatory! Maybe the USCCB can put together a compendium of writings by married canonized saints for our edification.

      What always amazes me is that, even with all the “labor-saving devices,” modern humans have managed to pack even more into “busyness” than our historic forbearers. We get up at the crack of dawn, to go to a job, take care of a family, or in many cases, both, run full-bore, squeeze in prayer as we can, and collapse at night into our beds. We focus so much on producing that even if a contemporary live married person manages to put his/her spiritual journey to paper, somehow they believe they’ve failed if they think they haven’t managed to produce some opus magnum spiritual work, to their satisfaction, anyways.

      Personally, I keep a spiritual journal: I don’t know if it would console the Heart of Christ, but I do believe it would give Him a really good laugh at my “great private revelations” that really are just decency and good old fashioned common sense.

  • Karl Andrew Cruz

    St. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing”, I believe you can achieve greater holiness if you nurture your prayer life and encourage your partner to pray with you.

    I also believe that the mere fact that you are asking questions and seeking answers is already taking a step further into living a holier life. Seeking to know God more through scripture reading, getting to know the lives of saints and imparting what you’ve learned and leading people to Jesus is another way.

  • Pingback: WoW Wednesday: The Church doesn’t decide what sin is & how to make to HOLINESS as a married person | The Catholic Wife

  • BonnieS

    I highly recommend attending a retreat of the Spiritual Exercises according to the method of St. Ignatius of Loyola preached by the priests of the Religious Order, Miles Christi. I have attended three (3rd one was this past weekend) and each year I look forward to spending time with our Lord and hearing His will for me in the quiet of my heart. In other words, what do I need to conquer/detach from in order to grow in the spiritual life. The retreats and spiritual direction given by these holy priests helps me to know what means I need in order to reach the end; the Glory of God, in my state of life; married with children. Here is their link:
    http://www.mileschristi.org/?id=1

    • LizEst

      Thanks for the link. Since our new Pope is from Argentina, it was interesting to note that this group was founded in Argentina.

    • Carol V.

      I attended an eight day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises given by the Jesuits in Staten Island, and subsequently re-did the Exercises in 19th Annotation format (as I’ve referenced elsewhere on this forum.) I believe they are one of the most practical ways to integrate spiritual growth in one’s life. St. Ignatius wanted contemplatives in active life; that was one of the most attractive features of that type of spirituality for me.

      My spiritual director became ill, and departed this world this past January. I continue to pray for his soul, and ask for his prayers for me. I am deeply indebted to his ministry, have compiled some of our Skype sessions on my computer (sorry, too private to share in total,) and still miss his gentle but challenging guidance.

  • Peggy Haslar

    Thank you for mentioning Servant of God Elizabeth Leseur. A married woman will discover much consolation and instruction from her holy life lived with a husband who opposed the faith, read her diary after her death, and eventually became a priest!

  • MichelleMC2007 .

    There’s also entering the Third Order of Carmelites, or Franciscans, or
    maybe some other Rule(I’m not sure what else there is in terms of Third Orders). Also a book
    that comes to mind with me is by Brother Lawrence called “Practicing the
    Presence of God”. I apologize if anyone already mentioned any of these
    already, as I skimmed the responses.
    Also, I’m married, and my kind of job is where I can be quiet, even though I’m doing tedious work and there are pressing machines going, and others are talking. I am quiet and I talk to our Lord a lot, especially when I think I have had a wrong thought, or did my job wrong in attitude or just plain wrong. Even when I’m not just telling Jesus I’m sorry, I talk to Him about various things, about my husband, my family, his family, etc. I just work and constantly offer up my work, my every movement, whether is walking, breathing, blinking, things we do and don’t think of, when I do think to do it, I offer up my every movement as an act of love to our Lord. He suffers so much still as a result of indifference, blasphemies, etc., so I also offer the acts up as reparation for my sins and the sins of all mankind. I want to console our Lord, and I want to always tell Him all day that I love Him. I may not be able to always think of it, so I renew my offering that I was explaining when I think of it. I hopefully soon will be able to buy the book “Practicing the Presence of God”. I have heard about it and from it somewhere, as someone was going over it with me, and I really want it.

    I had a wonderful Lent this past year, and I thank our Lord with all my heart for bringing me back to Himself, even though I was bitter towards Him because of all the financial problems my husband and I went through and still are going through. The problems are going to let up a bit, enough for us to be able to live better, but we found that out after our Lord drew me back to Himself. He is so merciful, and to draw me back to Him, after my doubts and the way I dared to talk to Him, I just want to cry when I think of His Love and Mercy towards me and towards everyone. Jesus is wonderful and I am in love with Him. I’ve hurt Him a lot in my life, and what does He do, but show me continual love and mercy. When it’s my time to go, I do pray I will at least make it to Purgatory so I know which way I’m going, then when I get to Heaven, I will spend it kissing the Feet of Jesus and adoring Him completely.

    Gosh, I’m sorry I went on so long.

    • LizEst

      Michelle – This is beautiful. Jesus loves you very much. God bless you! You are on His Way!

      • MichelleMC2007 .

        Thank you, Liz, for your kind words.

  • MichelleMC2007 .

    Just for clarification, I really would love just to go right to Heaven when it’s my time, but I know myself, I’m way too imperfect for that to happen. I didn’t want to come across as settling for the very least I can do for God. On the contrary.

  • sfather98

    Look into the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva. A lay spirituality was revealed to him in 1928. He anticipated the teachings on the laity of Vatican II by three decades. Look deep into his simple texts all written for lay people like yourself, immediately relevant to the ordinary individuals who must live in the world. Most of the spiritualities you read will be attempts to adapt monastic living to the secular world and thus they miss much of the realities of living as secular Catholics. St. Josemaria’s spirituality is formed for only the lay Catholic. He does not present anything that the early Church, who were mostly lay people, didn’t already practice faithfully. He just reminds us, from heaven, that we are all called to holiness and gives us the non-technical way to sainthood that all lay people should remember—i.e., spirituality for the rest of us.

    • LizEst

      Thank you. Good points, sfather98. God bless you!

  • Sofia

    Definitely Conchita’s books! In her story I’ve found much inspiration to progress in holiness as a wife and a mother. Not that it’s easy, but I’ve become more in tune with the presence of the Lord in my daily life, just knowing that He’s there and talking to Him throughout the day. A long way to go, but thank God for the gift of so many examples of holiness for us to follow!

  • Debra Niles

    An excellent little book has been written, by a contemporary Catholic mom, no less! Holly Pierlot’s, A Mother’s Rule of Life, is an impressive collection of Catholic wisdom on the subject of living a holy life as a wife and mother.