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DEAR FATHER | Spouses who enter into a living prayer of the heart will find the most grace

I learned that marriage creates a bond that gives grace to the spouses’ lives together as a domestic Church. How can we maximize the grace?

The bond of marriage is not an automatic “dispensary of grace.” Just like the other sacraments, each person must engage with this sacrament with the proper dispositions to maximally receive the grace available. Every form of prayer together is a good and noble thing. Yet those who enter together into a living prayer of the heart will find the most grace. This means that in God’s presence, they express and pray with each other’s holy desires, wounds, insecurities and petitions. Then spousal intimacy extends to the deepest reaches of the heart — to spiritual intimacy rooted in their joint participation in the life of grace. When this kind of intimacy is present, so is the love of the bridegroom and bride (Christ and the Church), and the domestic Church is built on the most secure foundation.

The nature of the domestic Church, like the Church herself, is communion in mystery. When spouses live with deep spiritual intimacy, they can welcome others into this sacred place of trust, love and vulnerability. The great mystery of God’s purifying grace present in their bond may be opened up to welcome other hearts into their communion of love. This is most evident when spouses welcome a new child, but it is also true of guests and friends whom they welcome into their home. In a holy bond of marriage, the Church exists in a very pure form — the deep mutual knowing of persons and knowing of God is held so closely together. When someone encounters this pure love of the Church within a home, it is nearly impossible to resist moving toward deeper conversion and finding joy in holy things.

To deepen your spiritual intimacy, I’d suggest a three-step process for praying together. First, welcome Jesus: “Jesus, we know you are with us always and ask you to guide this time of prayer together.” Second, listen to God. Pray a litany or read a passage of the Gospels. Note what words resonate most deeply in your heart. Pause for a minute of silence. Third, listen to each other speak to God. Ask Jesus for the grace you desire for yourself or others: “Jesus, give me the grace of _______.” Go deep in what you ask of the Lord. Pause for a few minutes of silence, again noting what arises in your heart. Finally, conclude with an Our Father. After the Our Father, consider sharing what God spoke to you in the silence. This prayer will open your hearts to anchor the life of your family in the grace of the sacrament of marriage.

Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.

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