Friday, October 7, 2011

Venus and Mars Praying as a Couple

Kayla Petersen of The Alluring World  asked me to write a guest post for her blog about the Divine Office, to appear there next week.  She particularly wanted me to discuss whether this would be a good prayer for couples in interfaith marriages to pray together.  

So, in my little essay, I opined that the Liturgy of the Hours was indeed a fine way for Catholics and protestants to pray together: it's all scripture based, and there were only very occasional items that might be "red flags" for, say an evangelical Christian --mentions of Mary's intercession, the pope, and the like. I also stated that the  Divine Office works well as a "couples prayer".  The spouses can take turns with the antiphons and alternate reciting the strophes of each psalm. It's all very cooperative and complementary. Like marriage should be.

Then, the other day, I mentioned in a post on this blog that when my husband and I say Morning Prayer together, we repeat the antiphon of the Invitatory psalm  after each strophe. (Not that we do this often--Bill's job has him travelling a lot). This prompted another reader to ask me to write about getting a  spouse interested in praying the Divine Office  together. It got me thinking of this whole topic of joint spousal prayer.

We women, who buy and read nearly all  of the popular Catholic Marriage  books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we're told  that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We're talking about  a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and  heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.

Are there more than 100 Catholic  male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country  who enthusiastically  go along with such a program?  (not just  tolerate it  out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I'd be surprised.

 This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful  to women.  But to most guys--good, devout guys--not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express  emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God  about  with his wife listening in. It's one more example of a  woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.

So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is,  utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal  prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.

I could write a whole 'nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church's critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one's turn to pray "spontaneously", mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one's audience.  For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion  if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!

But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don't force it.  Or here's another  idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps  the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be.

My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately.  There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I'd recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.

For those who cannot get their husbands interested in any kind of prayer as a couple, here is one more thought. Do the two of you attend Mass together?  Then you have already been praying together in the best way possible! Be grateful for this.  If you want to make it a little more intentional, wife, then tell your husband how glad you are to have him praying at your side at Mass. Tell him what intentions you are praying about at mass, and ask him if he would please bring those needs to the altar as well, and share them with Jesus after communion. Ask him whether there is anything in particular that he would like you to pray for.And  if he just shrugs his shoulders, you are to smile, say "I love you", and let it go.

Now, maybe all of the above is just me speaking from my personal experience and prejudice. So.... Comments are welcome, especially from men.

*This is not to knock Steubenville. I love the place, and sent my oldest daughter there. 


  1. "seat-of-the-pants verbal skills"... LOL and Dead on! This was a great post, and vastly guilt-relieving, because somehow I'd always felt we were falling short of the ideal for not engaging in prayerful hand-holding and gut-spilling. (We grew up in the 70's, for cryin' out loud, and were forced into that at WAY too many youth retreats).

  2. I'm so glad you liked this. The lack of comments made me wonder if I'd offended everyone. Thought it would be a good topic to discuss. At least one fellow 70s sister got it.

  3. I look forward to your post on interfaith marriage pray because that is the situation I am in, though I'm not sure my wife would ever agree to participate in anything 'Catholic'. We were both born and raised Catholic but she left the Church about six years ago. She is having a hard time accepting that I am still holding on to my Catholic faith.

  4. In my house, it's just the opposite...I'm the one who takes comfort in words already written rather than having to make them up on the fly. My husband and I do attend Mass, together but not together, as I am a musician and he's sitting across the church. But he has always encouraged and supported me in doing this. He knows how important it is to me and he makes it happen (he did pew duty with all the kids when they were little!) So Mass is not a place where we get to pray together.
    I totally get all those '70s references--been to those youth retreats, done that! And it's SO out of my comfort zone.

  5. Great post Daria! Praying together is tricky, especially once one has it in mind that all the "good" couples pray together. The problem is that the way we relate to God is different from person to person relationships, and even then, it has been documented that men establish and maintain relationships differently than women. Couple that with an interfaith relationship and there are so many ways to go it can be overwhelming. That's why I've made it my place in blogging to talk about interfaith marriages and provide a place for people to go when they have questions.

  6. I laughed at the Steubenville aygraduates quip as my husband has a theology degree from Steubenville.

    We used to pray evening prayer together but these days with the chaos of getting the various kids into bed, especially with a nursing baby, we don't really do it anymore. We miss it and hope when the kids are older we'll get back to it.

  7. The same thing happened to us. Once the kids are in bed, or even later, once you start doing something like the family rosary each night with a bunch of kids, you're psychologically finished as far as more vocal prayer is concerned. Now that the kids are big we don't have this excuse, but we still don't tend to do vespers together consistently (when Bill is home). Joint Morning Prayer happens more often, I guess because we are both rested and more in the mood.

  8. "you're psychologically finished as far as more vocal prayer is concerned"

    Thank you! That helps. I guess you can say that we're sacrificing the good of evening prayer together for the good of praying with the kids. I'm so not a morning person, though, that I can't imagine doing morning prayer together. I either sleep until the kids make me get up or I crave morning prayer as a quiet time with God before I have to be social with other people.