BY MELISSA NOVAK
Sharing your Catholic faith with your significant other and practicing your faith together has many benefits for your relationship. When you have God as the foundation of any relationship, that relationship will be stronger. Here are seven ways to live your faith as a couple:
Go to Mass Together
At Mass we come together as One Body of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist, and celebrating that with your significant other adds to the sense of community we experience at Mass.
In addition to Sunday Mass, attending daily Mass even once a week as a couple can also be very beneficial. After all, the Eucharist transforms us to be more like Christ, so the more we receive it, the easier it is to follow God’s will. Going to Mass together also gives you something to talk about; hopefully only positive things, such as discussing the readings or homily.
Pray Together Every Day
If you would like Jesus to be the foundation of your relationship, then praying as a couple is very important. I think prayer is one of the most intimate things you can do with someone because you’re inviting them into your relationship with God. You can read the upcoming readings for Sunday’s Mass and reflect and discuss them together.
You can also pray the rosary together on a daily or weekly basis. This is especially easy to do in the car; pull up the rosary on Youtube and play it through the speakers as you drive. There are so many ways to pray-it’s just a matter of finding a prayer that you both really enjoy and then pray it together. Also, pray for each other!
Do Community Service Together
Part of living our your faith is serving others as Jesus did, and to do so as a couple is a great activity that could even double as a date! If you ever have the opportunity to attend a mission trip together, that is a great experience.
Check your community for local service opportunities and don’t forget about volunteering at your own parish. Volunteering at your parish is a great way to connect with your parish community and meet other people.
You could even go over to an elderly neighbor’s house to visit or ask if they need any yard work done.
Practice Abstinence Until Marriage
Waiting until marriage is putting into practice the virtue of chastity. Why is this important? Because pre-marital sex falls under the sixth commandment, and it is a mortal sin. The church teaches that the purpose of sex is for procreation and bonding within marriage.
When we engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, we are making a commitment with our body to that other person. Waiting until marriage is not easy, but it’s worth it. Anything is possible with God. Pray for the grace and strength to overcome sexual temptations and God will grant it to you, because it is His will.
If you have already engaged in sexual activity, consider recommitting yourself to chasity from this day forward. Practicing chastity also frees us from using the other person for our own carnal pleasure and challenges us to think of creative ways to show our significant other that we love them.
Wait to Live Together
Financially, living together can make so much sense. It saves a lot of money, but the reality is that when you do this, you are acting as a married couple without the commitment.
Almost a dozen studies conducted since the 1970s have shown that cohabitation prior to marriage is linked to lower marital happiness and stability and a higher chance of divorce.
The Church believes that the beautiful gift of human sexuality should be reserved for marriage. When you live with another person who you are romantically involved with, you will likely share the same bed and you are likely to walk in on each other changing. These potential situations happen each day creating opportunities for temptation to engage in intercourse outside of marriage.
Another reason people opt for living together before marriage is because they want to “try it out.” However, people are not cars that can be “tested.” This approach objectifies the other person, and consciously or not, encourages an attitude of non-commitment. If you want to know what it’s like to live with someone, look at their bedroom. If they leave dishes on their nightstand and socks on the floor, they will most likely still do that when you are married.
The time after your wedding should be a joyful time of newness, intimacy, and growth. But those couples that cohabitate miss out on that because they have already been living together. So I have another challenge for you–if you are currently living together and not married-I want to challenge you to have that discussion about living separately until marriage so that you can fully live your faith.
Practice Natural Family Planning (NFP)
Now this one only applies to married couples, but ladies you can start tracking your cycles at any time! The church teaches that within marriage, contraceptives should not be used. Why? Because you are holding something back.
When you say no to that procreative aspect in sex, you’re not fully giving yourself to your spouse like you promised in your wedding vows.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not contraception. NFP gives married couples a way to space out childbirths and limit the total number of children. But it does not give the couple complete control over procreation.
Even when the couple prayerfully decides to limit their family size, or to wait before having another child, NFP is open to the possibility of life and to the will of God.
NFP is a way of achieving, avoiding, or spacing births. It is fertility awareness that depends on the observation and interpretation of the woman’s fertility signs. Remember that our God is a God of order, not chaos, and everything and everyone that He created has a purpose. Women’s bodies naturally give off signs of fertility and when we know how to interpret that, we can achieve pregnancy or avoid it in order to be responsible parents. How amazing is that?
NFP is the best way to follow God’s will for your marriage and honor your wedding vows. It is one of the holiest things you can do for your marriage.
Continue to Date Each Other
Dating is so important especially once you’re married because it is so easy to get caught up in work and family life. If going OUT on a date is not financially possible, there’s always the option of a date night IN.
Once the kids are in bed (if applicable) you could have a game night, a candlelight dinner together, a craft night, etc. Take turns planning date night IN/OUT each month. You can also make a date jar which involves date ideas on slips of paper. You can both come up with ideas, then on date night, pull a slip from the jar and voila-your date is planned!
There’s also a fantastic program called 10 great dates. There are 10 topics like communication, praying together, etc. You read a chapter before each date and then the book provides discussion questions for your date based on that topic. You can do it as often as you like; weekly, monthly, etc.
To summarize these 7 points, when you strive to live your faith together as a couple and put God first, your relationship will be stronger. According to Christopher West,
“When you put your significant other first before God, that’s a very dangerous thing, because they probably can’t live up to your expectations, and they aren’t perfect. Even though you may love them with everything you have, they will still fall short on satisfying you on the deepest level, because no one can satisfy the desires of your heart the way that God can. If you expect the person you’re with to be your ultimate happiness then you’re going to become the ultimate knit picker because you need this person to be perfect for you if you think they are your ultimate satisfaction.”
When we put God first, He will bless our relationship abundantly. Discerning God’s will individually and as a couple leads to authentic peace and happiness.
Melissa Novak is the Director of Faith Formation at Saint Mary Parish in Mokena.