Family Faith Snapshots: Annie Deddens
“Be willing and even proactive in explicitly asking for forgiveness from your spouse.”
Who are you?
I'm Annie Deddens and my husband John-Paul and I run an online prayer ministry called Pray More Novenas. We also produce online retreats for Lent and Advent called the Pray More Retreat. We write and run a few other Catholic websites including my blog, Catholic Wife, Catholic Life. Most of our work is focused around our faith — which is a huge blessing and something we're particularly grateful for. My background is in broadcast journalism; I spent years working as a news producer, so it feels very natural for me to continue doing this sort of producing work — and now, in the Catholic sphere. My husband is also the founder of Students for Life of Illinois, a pro-life non-profit that's doing awesome work on college campuses, and so his background has a lot to do with pro-life work, and he received his bachelor's degree in engineering.
Tell me a little about your family.
We've known each other for eight years now and have been married for a little more than five years — and I can't believe it's been that long; it doesn't feel like it! It's still just the two of us in our immediate family for now, but we're also close to our extended families. Prayer is an integral part of our family and our relationship, and thankfully, also an integral part of our work as well.
What is your couple prayer routine like on an average day?
I always feel like we have room to improve here, but we try to pray often throughout our day. We constantly pray for those who are a part of Pray More Novenas, and for our close family and friends who also share their prayer intentions with us. My favorite prayer time is right before dinner when we try to reflect on what we're grateful for, and to take a moment and thank God for those things and people, and then to ask for His blessings and mention our personal prayer intentions. And of course, we pray a lot of novenas. We go to daily Mass when we can and we go to Confession more than I'd like... just kidding; we probably go just enough. The graces are definitely helpful! A favorite prayer of ours is the Memorare, which we pray together after Mass. The words are beautiful and reassuring that our Mother is interceding for us.
Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you as a couple?
We're definitely big fans of novenas! I first prayed the St. Anne Novena years ago when I was praying to meet my future husband, and then I met John-Paul shortly afterwards. We also prayed a novena together while we were dating and discerning marriage. And then once we were engaged, we prayed one leading up to our wedding day, which is also the feast of the Nativity of Mary. So those three novenas and feast days are particularly special for us: the feast of St. Anne, who brought us together, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is the novena that inspired John-Paul to create PrayMoreNovenas.com, and then the feast of the Nativity of Mary, for our anniversary.
Do you as a couple have a patron saint?
We'd both say that St. Anne is our grandmother and has our back. She's been a part of our relationship since before we knew each other when I was praying a novena through her intercession to meet my future spouse, and she's been a part of it ever since since. We now pray the St. Anne Novena every year, and I recently published a short book about St. Anne with a novena and daily meditations (called, "St. Anne, Pray for Us! 9 Days of Prayer (and more!) to the Mother of Mary and Grandmother of Jesus). St. Anne is also an amazing intercessor for healing, and we've both experienced some degree of that while asking for her prayers. To thank her for her intercession, we visited the St. Anne shrine in Canada for our anniversary a couple of years ago.
How does your spouse inspire you to grow in faith?
John-Paul inspires me to grow in faith because he is very faithful himself, and seemingly fearless. It's very clear to me that he believes in God's providence, and that he believes worry is useless. He's like Padre Pio in my mind ("Pray, Hope and Don't Worry"), and I tend to be more like... St. Dymphna, in the sense that she's the patron saint of people who struggle with anxiety, or worry. We're complimentary in that way! He also inspires me to grow in faith just by how he handles and endures suffering; that's something that I can particularly struggle with, and he does a much better job at it than I do. His example propels me to be more faithful when I suffer and to not fall into despair. John-Paul's love also reveals to me our Father's love: unconditionally forgiving and always merciful, and being on the receiving end of those things has allowed me to understand our Father's love in a deeper and more real way, so I've thankfully grown closer to Him because of John-Paul and his love.
[John Paul weighed in on this question, too]: Annie inspires me to grow in faith because she is extremely faithful. She is a great example to me in prayer. I started Pray More Novenas because I have always struggled with prayer and that hasn't changed. But Annie definitely helps a lot by giving me an example of someone who is constantly praying. And, of course, like the great cathedrals of Europe, Annie inspires me with her beauty.
Is there a particular resource that has been especially helpful in your effort to have a holy marriage and a faith-filled home?
I think one of the best things that has helped us to work on having a holier marriage and a faith-filled home has been regular Confession. We've been going to Confession routinely since we were dating, and so much fruit has come from it: we've come to know our Lord, our Father, and His love better — His love for us, and His mercy for us, particularly when we are so undeserving of it, and it has also gently guided us on a path to know how to better love one another and everyone else we come in contact with. It's taught us the value in taking responsibility for our actions, for showing contrition, asking for forgiveness (this one is a big deal!) and trying to do better.
Another resource that's worth mentioning are all the Catholic blogs I've found throughout the years; they've been helpful for me to read about other wives' experiences, to learn about how they live out the liturgical year in their homes and how they celebrate feast days.
What is your favorite Catholic tradition to celebrate together?
[John-Paul]: Every year on Good Friday, it's a tradition to do the Stations of the Cross. In our family, we like to follow the tradition of, "The Way of the Cross," from the movement, Communion and Liberation (CL). You may have heard of their Way of the Cross in New York City that crosses the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, my parents are involved in CL, and my dad leads the Way of the Cross every Good Friday using the prayers and reflections from CL. We do this at our home parish, which is right next to the University of Dayton, and we process around the campus reading those prayers and reflections. This whole experience of being part of the bigger way of the cross with CL and being a part of the universal church as we remember the sacrifice of Christ is something we both look forward to each Lent.
How do you take your faith outside the walls of your home?
[John Paul]: Much of this is done through the Internet. We share our faith through Pray More Novenas and have seen many people from all over the world, even many non-Catholics, join us in prayer and this gives us an opportunity to share through our novena prayers. Annie also shares her faith with others through her blog.
Can you share a word of wisdom that has been particularly beneficial to you in your spiritual life as a married couple?
[John Paul]: Be willing and even proactive in explicitly asking for forgiveness from your spouse.
[Annie]: I once read on another Catholic wife's blog that we should be the face of mercy to our husbands in as much as Jesus is the face of mercy towards us when we enter a confessional. This perspective really softens how I respond to John-Paul, and I believe it helps me to become more Christ-like, which is ultimately our goal.