“They must be crazy!”, available at: ForYourMarriage.org

Happily Even After

“They must be crazy!”

March 9, 2010

“They must be crazy!”

The priest repeated this refrain in his homily at our wedding on May 9, 1998, at the church on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. We were technically still college seniors, celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony the day after finals.

The priest recalled for all present that the novelty of the news of our wedding had spread across campus. When our fellow students heard that we were finishing finals on Friday afternoon, holding our rehearsal and dinner later that evening, and getting married at 1 p.m. on Saturday, they thought we were out of our minds.
We both will admit that our GPAs suffered that spring semester of senior year, but it was worth it. The wedding served as a fitting culmination of our relationship, which had grown entirely within our time at Notre Dame.
We met on the first day of classes when we shared a humanities seminar together and by spring of our junior year, we had asked our parents for their blessing and had a date to be married. We may have been crazy, but we weren’t stupid–all of our friends were on campus and finished with classes and ready for a party. Our Irish and Polish family and friends celebrated with the fullness of joy that only weddings can manifest.

Yet, sacraments are starting lines, not finish lines, and we’ve hit our stride as a married couple of 11 years and counting. We crossed the continent when we lived in Alaska for a year, serving as Jesuit Volunteers, and then moved to Florida for the birth of our first son, Oscar (9 years old). We returned to Notre Dame as the first married couple to work through the Masters of Divinity Program together.

After earning our degrees in 2005, we were graciously received by the University of Portland in Oregon to serve as campus ministers, sharing one job, and we’ve been here ever since. The university allows us to share one full-time position, so one of us can be at home with the kids during the day. We each take two or three days on campus during the week and have a very highly coordinated calendar.

Two more children arrived along the past five years here in Portland: Simon-Peter, who is pushing 4, and little Lucy, who is two and a half.

In some ways, our married life is atypical: we share a job and an income; we shared the formative parts of our lives together, including the turn to specialize in a career; and we both see our vocation as a married couple intimately tied to our vocation to serve the Church as lay ecclesial ministers.

In many, many other ways, though, our lives are very typical: we worry whether our kids get enough to eat when all that seems to go into their bodies, despite our best efforts, are fruit snacks; our solitary car needs a new transmission, probably, and the rear window wiper doesn’t work; and any given Friday evening has us renting a movie and turning in early.

Our goal in this blog is to simply share with you glimpses into our married life and what we do to sustain it. After being married nearly a dozen years, significant moments and insights continue to come to us throughout a typical week. Our hope is that, perhaps, sharing these will be useful. At a minimum we are most grateful for the opportunity for some intentional reflection.

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Praying Together

Praying Together

Couples we help prepare for marriage are interested in developing their spiritual lives together, and rightly so. Many of them ask us how to pray together, and this is one area where Stacey and I have surprisingly little to offer.

We pray in very different ways. I speak with God in contemplative, devotional practices like the rosary or the liturgy of the hours. Stacey speaks with God conversationally and relationally. Whenever we’ve tried to pray together, it never seems to be a fruitful experience—it feels more like “show and tell” than anything that allows us both to experience God’s presence.

Now this is not to say that we just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Oh well!” Prayer is an indispensable part of Christian life, and should be a foundational part of every marriage, too. So where does that leave us?

We both have cultivated our own prayer styles through the years, and even though we are not praying together by saying the same words to God in the same space and time, we still do pray, together. We support each other by sharing the fruit of our prayer—the insights and revelations that come to us in prayer, or even just the highs and lows of sustaining a relationship with God in the conversation of prayer. This level of conversation takes candor and builds intimacy with God and each other, and we are at our best when we are attending to it regularly.

With kids in the picture, our prayer largely falls during bedtime preparations, as it does for most families. We’ve had a solid routine for bedtime prayer that has carried our family from toddler years to the teens. It is an important time for us to close the day together, and to share whatever intentions each of us is holding—this is one important way that our family shares life together and communicates with God.

As our two youngest children get older—both are of age for their First Communion—it is clear that they are developing the capacity for deeper prayer than just reciting rote prayers and naming the family and friends we remember to God. So, Stacey had a brilliant plan.

Just before Advent we settled into our new house, which has a separate room for each of the kids. With that new space, Stacey helped each of the kids create a prayer corner in their rooms. We purchased small tables the size of a night stand, and took the kids to a fabric store so that they could pick out the cloth they wanted for their “prayer altar.” Then we helped them decorate their altar with prayer materials—Bibles they’ve been given, religious imagery, rosaries, photos of them at their baptism, etc.

Now, each night before we gather for family night prayer, we set a timer for 10 minutes and each of us goes into our own rooms for silent prayer. We’ve seen the children take to it like ducks to water—they read their Bible, or say part of the rosary, or use a book of prayers to talk to God.

So there we all are—praying, together, each in our own way. It is a beautiful time of the day in the Noem home. I love the feeling of that silence, knowing we are all approaching God in our own way. And that practice deepens our regular night prayer together—when we go around to name our special intentions, we all share with one another people or situations that we’ve already lifted up to God.

I am confident that one day we will look back and see that this prayer practice—just 10 minutes a day—will turn out to be one of the most important ways in which we’ve shaped the life of our family. It will allow our children to grow into a living relationship with God, and what could be more important?

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“They must be crazy!”, available at: ForYourMarriage.org
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