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Happily Even After

Basketball and the Grace of Marriage

June 7, 2010

Joshua and I are both basketball players.  Among other things.  It may sound weird to say as 30-somthings, but it is a real part of each of our identities and it actually played a fairly significant role in our getting to know one another early in our relationship.

See, we were both high school basketball players on highly successful teams.  I hate to have to actually go here, but for the sake of completeness:  Josh’s high school team was state champion in South Dakota for years and years in a row.  My high school team played in the final four in Florida 2 out of my 4 years.  My junior year we played for the championship.

Now, here is the first insight into Joshua and me.  His team won the championship game and my team came in second.  Don’t think that EVER escapes mentioning in our household.  Also, of note, is that his team was first in SOUTH DAKOTA.  They only have one Congressional Representative!  Not a big pool of competition if you know what I mean.  My team came in second in the hugely populous state of Florida.  Not too shabby and I think those two facts together even the playing field, so to speak. 

We were both role players on teams that functioned as strong units.  I think that has all kind of impact on how we can be so different and still able to work so well together.  We get the concept of team.  We get what it means to work hard everyday so that we have what it takes in crunch time.

I mentioned this played a fairly significant role in getting to know each other.  Well, Joshua and I had two classes together our freshman year of college.  One huge chemistry class and one very intimate seminar.  We took advantage of the opportunity to “study together” for the chemistry class, but also started meeting to play basketball together early in the mornings before seminar.  1-on-1 at 8am. 

It is a complete testament to how interested in Joshua I was that I woke up that early, walked all the way across campus and played 1-on-1 of all things. 

I was basically a pretty shy girl when it came to basketball.  I loved the team aspect and giving it everything I had, but I was never a 1-on-1 kind of girl, much to my sweet father’s chagrin.  But for these morning outings, I dug deep and did my best.

Which makes me think back to the night before our wedding.  We had a priest say a vigil mass just for the two of us.  He mentioned in his homily that we should be on the look out for special graces that come to us through the Sacrament of Marriage.  Special gifts that God gives us along with the gift of grace and one another.

I have thought of that from time to time over the years, and it is only in the last several months that I realize what one of the graces of my marriage has been for me as an individual.  I think it started back on those mornings we were playing 1-on-1.  My grace is confidence.

I have become a much more confident person through my relationship with Joshua.  I project an image of confidence that did not exist in me prior to our relationship.  I would NOT have stepped on a court to play head to head with someone before I met him, and certainly not against a boy.  But with Joshua, and for Joshua, I did.

Reader Comments (2)

  • Hi guys! I am engaged so I’ve been checking out this website, and I was so surprised to see you on it! I am a second year JV in Missoula and I heard you speak at orientation this past year. I’m engaged to one of my housemates that I met during my first year of JVC in Spokane. We’re getting married this summer. I was encouraged to hear that you had a non-traditional marriage timeline. I’ve heard plenty of “I can’t believe you are getting married right after JVC!” I’m curious if you thinking being JVs together impacted your marriage.

    • Hi Jackie,
      Congratulations on your engagement! Joshua and I DID find our time with JVC particularly formative as a couple. Generally speaking, post-graduate service is some of the only “lay formation” available outside a degree program. For us specifically, being from completely different types of families and completely different regions of the country, our JV experience helped us to be shaped in the same values and share an intensely formative experience. Our shared life in community made the experience of starting our own household pretty easy and very “intentional” as you can imagine :-)


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Family Pilgrimage

Family Pilgrimage

As soon as Stacey and I learned that the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was coming to Philadelphia, we decided to attend with our three children. It was a no-brainer for us.

Since it was first convened in 1994 by Pope St. John Paul II, the WMOF is held every three years and is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. We both had moving experiences attending World Youth Days, so we had great hopes.

My experience of World Youth Day in 1993 profoundly shaped my understanding and relationship with the universal Church—simply being in the same space with thousands, even millions, of Catholics from around the world changed how I thought about being Catholic. I think that when we look back at the WMOF, we will say the same thing about its impact on our family.

At every turn this past week, we were surrounded by Catholic families from around the world. Our children met kids from Paraguay, Brazil, Louisiana, California, Argentina, and Texas. We heard world-class speakers while sitting next to parents changing diapers. Above all of the theology and Scripture and ideas that were shared, we were most moved by simply being with so many other Catholic families. We were pilgrims, but we felt at home.

Pilgrimages are a way to invest our lives and bodies in our faith. This week, we set out on a journey, put our feet on the road, and sought a deeper connection to God and others. Our main goal in this experience was to spend time together encountering the Church. Our time has not been without its share of meltdowns and angst—what family travels perfectly?—but we returned with good memories and a recommitment to one another.

Though we took in the sights of Philadelphia (we liked Pat’s cheesesteaks over Geno’s, viewed Van Gogh and Monet paintings, and studied Ben Franklin’s experiments), we traveled first as pilgrims. We packed lunches and walked long distances. We ran out of peanut butter and band aids. Our hotel room smelled of sweaty socks. We all had our moments of frustration and discomfort, but it was enriching to be on the same journey together. We returned more seasoned in the faith and bonded to one another.

There were two refrains in many of the talks we heard—including Pope Francis’—and they offered a solid theological grounding for family life. First, the Trinity: God is a communion of persons; we are created in this likeness; therefore, we are created for love and relationship, which is most fully realized in family life. Second, the Book of Genesis is rich in imagery that proclaims who we are and how God made us for one another. Relationship—especially in the family—is how we learn and practice love.

“Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the concluding Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.”

I’ve been savoring that last line for a few days now: the family is where faith becomes life, and life becomes faith.

The motto for this WMOF was, “Love is our mission.” Our family took this to heart by huddling several times a day, placing our hands together, and calling out, “What is our mission?! Love’s our mission!”

The best advice I took from the meeting came from Greg and Lisa Popcak. They are well-known Catholic authors and speakers, and we’ve come to rely on their books in navigating parenthood. They said that every family should play, pray, work, and talk together. They suggested doing these four things every day for at least 10 minutes, and for an hour each at least once a week.

Talking, especially, is fundamental—on average, families share only 15 minutes a day together. Spending time together having conversations of depth is essential in grounding the family as the primary relationship in our lives. That is how family becomes a school of love, a “factory of hope,” in the words of Pope Francis.

Speaking of the pope—it was thrilling to see him. I was excited that our kids were so excited. We held our two youngest on our shoulders to see him drive by in his pope-mobile; we all waved and cheered. I was grateful for our children to have a personal connection—even if quick—with the head of the universal Church. It unified us with the crowd and with Catholics around the world.

At the opening of the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Chaput (who confirmed me) said that the gathering would accomplish the purpose God intended for it if it renewed our commitment to one another as a family, and our awareness of the fundamental role of the family in society. It has certainly done that.


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