Interview | Marriage: A Great and Marvelous Divine Path
St Josemaria Escriva had a strong desire to help all married couples, and those preparing for marriage, to find meaning and encouragement in their vocation through a commitment to daily prayer and friendship with God.
Friends of the St. Josemaria Institute, Dan and Annie Anderson, were recently married, and shared with us that in preparation for their wedding day, they prayed together the Novena for a Happy and Faithful Marriage through intercession of St. Josemaria Escriva.
We are grateful to Dan and Annie for giving us the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their preparation for the wedding day and life as newlyweds:
Q. How did you know that you were called to the vocation of marriage, and called to marry each other?
Dan: For me, the two go together. I had always desired marriage and known I was probably called to it, but was very open to whatever path the Lord presented to me. Annie and I had been very good friends for a while prior to us dating, so when our romantic relationship began things just kind of made sense. I would say that “I knew” when our relationship passed the point of “making sense” and being able to “see myself with her”, and turned into a deep and burning desire to be with her for the rest of my life. It was a Holy Spirit given desire that, I knew if I passed up, I would regret for the rest of my life. The beauty of it for me was that I had a choice. And in choosing Annie and choosing marriage, we were choosing Love and choosing the Lord, together.
Annie: When I was in college, I seriously discerned religious life. After a lot of prayer and through spiritual direction, I came to a point of knowing that the Lord was not calling me to that vocation. And although that clarity was a gift, it presented a challenge as I waited for God to show me what my next steps should be. I had a great desire for marriage but also knew I could not be certain of that vocation without knowing the one that I would share that life with. So I waited and tried to be faithful in my daily life, knowing that God would bring to fulfillment the desires of my heart.
Dan and I met and were friends immediately, and for a long time. When I realized that God might have been presenting something special through our friendship, I was more surprised than anyone. Our friendship was really a gift for my discernment, as I already knew Dan well before we began dating, and so our dating relationship was really a time to intentionally spend time together and ask myself and the Lord if Dan could be someone I could choose to love for the rest of my life. It did not take me long to conclude that God had answered my prayers for a loving and faithful spouse through Dan.
Q. St. Josemaria has said that, “Husband and wife are called to sanctify their married life and to sanctify themselves in it.” How has your marriage helped you grow in holiness?
Dan: When people ask me how marriage is, I often truthfully respond “I realized more how selfish I was in the first three months of marriage than I did in the first 23 years of my life”. As Catholics we often talk about dying to oneself, but I think marriage presents a unique and beautiful opportunity to do this on a daily basis. I quickly learned (experientially!) that everything I do, every action, and every sin doesn’t just affect me, but it affects Annie too. That for me has been an incredible opportunity to grow in holiness.
Annie: Marriage does present abundant opportunities for growing in holiness, but they have often been accompanied by Jesus’ promise that his yolk is easy and his burden is light. I love being married to my husband, but through our marriage and daily life, I’ve realized, more profoundly than ever, how much I love to have things “my way.” But if there was ever a reason that I would work to rid myself of that selfishness, it would be for love of Dan. So marriage has been sanctifying, but often in a sweet way.
Q. St. Josemaria has said that, “As long as we walk on this earth, suffering will always be the touchstone of love.” Since getting married, have you encountered any new forms of suffering or joy?
Dan and Annie: We have encountered the cross in our marriage, although not necessarily where we anticipated. But that suffering has presented a beautiful opportunity for growth, as we learn to suffer together and support one another. Suffering has really allowed us to truly see marriage, not as a finish line, but as a shared life where we together seek to find God’s will each day. The joys we’ve encountered in marriage, although not necessarily new, seem more abundant in sharing them with one another.
Q. St. Josemaria has said that, “God transforms married life into an occasion for His presence on earth.” Has being a young married Catholic couple, in the increasingly secular society of the United States, given you opportunities for evangelization?
Dan: Absolutely. Working at a consulting firm consisting of mostly single men in their 20s and 30s has presented a unique opportunity to give witness to Christian marriage and the Christian life as a whole. Something as simple as mentioning that Annie and I weren’t living together when we got married presented both a cultural shock and an opportunity to share the beauty of what we view marriage to be. That in turn gradually leads to more conversations and eventually an opportunity to share the Gospel upon which our whole life is centered. Being friends with a lot of my coworkers has helped as well, as it has made sharing these things a lot more natural.
Annie: Yes, I’ve found that especially sharing our story of dating and engagement has been an opportunity for evangelization. We were intentional about the time we spent together and the way that we dated, which is pretty counter-cultural. For instance, a lot of our relationship was long-distance and we were always trying to find places for one another to stay when we’d visit each other, since we would not stay together. And once engaged, we moved closer to one another, but continued to live separately until we were married. These things surprise people and often open up the door for conversations about why we made those choices and what joy and freedom we’ve found in loving each other according to the Lord’s plan.
Q. Do you have any advice to engaged couples who are currently preparing for marriage?
Dan: Pray and be at peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to die to yourself every day for the rest of your life, and know that it’s OK to fail! Seek out married friends to walk with you, speak with you, and share life with you. And don’t get caught up in the business of planning a wedding that you neglect your spiritual preparation – spend more time preparing for your marriage than you do for your wedding!!! It’s a very exciting time, so savor it and make the best of it.
Annie: It seems to me that often, preparation for marriage is overshadowed by wedding planning. I would suggest for engaged couples to be very intentional and set time apart to discuss and prepare for their Vocation and not discuss the actual wedding. Also, Dan and I both have sought counsel from trusted married friends who encourage us and challenge us individually to be better spouses to one another. I consider this kind of accountability to be invaluable, especially as you come to know yourself in marriage, in a way that you have never known yourself before.
To order the Novena for a Happy & Faithful Marriage, visit: stjosemaria.org/product/novena-for-a-happy-faithful-marriage