Life in the Matrimonial Monastery

Life in the Matrimonial Monastery by Gina Loehr

Yesterday I made pork chops instead of going to daily Mass. I also did the laundry and cleaned the bathroom.

Ever since I got married three months ago, these mundane household chores keep monopolizing the time I used to spend at church. And I’m not quite sure what to do about it. No matter how productive I may be in a given morning, no matter how well I may serve my husband or how faithfully I may carry out the duties of my fledgling vocation, it never seems like enough to justify missing a meeting with Jesus.

What’s a wife to do? Am I supposed to relegate feeding my husband to second place so Jesus can feed me first? Or could Christ actually be calling me to season the meat and let the holy sacrifice of the Mass take the back seat?

One thing I know for sure: The care of my soul and the duties of my vocation are not incompatible. Somewhere there’s a solution that will help me do all I have to do and still get holy in the process.

I recognize the importance of daily prayer. Without that I’d have no relationship with Jesus at all. But I’m not so sure I need daily Mass the way I did when I was single. (Then, without a doubt, the Eucharist was my strength).

I’ve got a hunch about all this. I call it The Sacrament-of-Matrimony-Gives-Grace-Right-Where-You-Need-It Theory.

According to this line of thinking, spouses get a special perk by virtue of their marriage. They get graces to do the stuff everyone’s called to do — love, sacrifice, serve — but they get these graces through their marriage. It’s like God saying, “I’ll make you a deal. You won’t have time to pray and worship like religious or single people because you’ll be busy caring for your family. But, in exchange, I’ll give you the graces you need to become a saint right in the midst of your family life.”

Voilà! The sacrament of matrimony and holiness by means of pork chops.

I’ve got a saint to back me up on this. St. Frances of Rome, a wife and mother of three, said, “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find him in her housekeeping.”

Frances believed she could encounter Christ right smack dab in the middle of her marital abode.

Actually, this concept has a healthy dose of magisterial oomph behind it. Vatican II said that through the grace of matrimony, spouses “help one another to attain holiness in their married life” (Lumen Gentium, No. 11). Bingo.

The Catechism clarifies how matrimonial grace helps the couple: “Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to ‘be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’ and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love” (No. 1642).

So I’m not missing a meeting with Jesus after all! He already dwells right here in my very own marriage. True, his presence in the Eucharist — body and blood, soul and divinity — is especially blessed, but I have his presence with me every day in the way I specifically need it as a married person.

Because it’s a path to Christ, the vocation of marriage is a path to holiness.

No monastic wannabes, please. Marital sanctity has its own sense of style.

Gina Loehr writes from

Mount Calvary, Wisconsin.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.