Venus and Mars at Prayer

Yesterday at the National Catholic Register blog, Simcha Fisher (a really fun and wise writer) linked  my personal  blog in an article on “Praying as a Couple.”  One of her suggestion for couples was to do part of the Divine Office together, hence the link.

Which prompts me to re-issue part of an old post on this exact same topic. It originally appeared in October of 2011:

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.

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Daria Sockey

By

Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at thesockeys@gmail.com

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  • Matt

    Wholeheartedly agree. My wife and I are not all that eloquent. Formal prayer is the way to go for us!

  • Michael DeClerck

    I just want to thank God for the fantastic female bloggers who consistently make it onto New Advent. I would also like to thank God for Daria’s article here that is very helpful for my sisters in Christ to know. If I am called to marriage, please God, give me a wife who understands why I appreciate formal memorized prayers while praying as a couple/family unit.

  • Mom

    Maybe you shouldn’t knock it till you try it. It might bring a whole new level of understanding of our God who intimately loves us, and became vulnerable for us.

  • Jeff Job

    Amen to this. When asked once what I wanted from my parish I thought ,” don’t look at me, don’t talk to me and for heaven’s sake don’t touch me.” I obviously take this to extremes but praying aloud in the presence of others makes my skin crawl. Lol

  • Dr J

    I disagree. How condescending.
    I wonder why someone would not want to open up to you, emotionally or otherwise???

  • http://cwchristopher.blogspot.com/ Chris

    I really appreciate this sensible post, but maybe there’s nothing wrong with praying separately. To my knowledge there is no obligation laid out by the Church or Scriptures to pray aloud with my wife.

  • Matthew 6:5

    “And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.” Aside from the liturgy, this is something we should always keep in mind when praying. Is a husband in this kind of prayer really praying to God, or trying to impress his wife? Are a wife’s praises to God and prayer requests really meant for God to hear, or are they meant for the husband to hear and then connect the dots? Even under the best of situations, there’s likely to be at least a little of dropping hints, showing off, or some other problematic intention mixed in.

  • Buster

    That’s why keeping a husband/wife prayer list is good. So, that when folks ask you to pray for them or the two of you have some intention that you’d both like to pray for it can go on the prayer list so it doesn’t turn into some kind of honey to-do list.

  • Buster

    Do the minimum? I didn’t know Catholics believed such things. It is not a sin if you do not pray with your wife, but you do not think that it would go to benefitting the relationship to pray/work for a similar end?

    It is the key to a virtuous relationship, to have a common end.

  • Buster

    What are you referring to?

  • Q

    My experience is quite the opposite. As much as we both like praying together my wife finds it very difficult to pray out loud while for me it comes fairly naturally. I guess we’re the exception that proves the rule ;-)

  • RP

    I’m an old man and used to read your Housewifery column in Fidelity. I was crestfallen when it no longer appeared. But today, I discovered this blog from a link on New Advent.

    God is good!

  • Richard

    “For where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

  • Hosenpipperaustenschtein

    My wife and I are the opposite of this. I am the one with multiple languages and decent verbal skills. She doesn’t talk much; I never shut up. More importantly, when we pray together each night, our extemporaneous prayers come quite easily for us, because they have a FORMAT: 1. Thanks and praise. 2. Prayers for help (friends, family, country, world, special intentions, etc.) After that, we try to pray the Rosary. It has become easier and easier over the years for us to talk to God, out loud, in each other’s presence.

    Some day, I plan to write out our intentions list so that we can take turns reading it. It’s really long!

    Please note: No, I didn’t go to Stuebenville and there are MANY, MANY men who are the same as I am!

  • KyPerson

    You sound like me. Just leave me alone and let me pray.

  • Mr. Two Cents

    It is the husband’s/father’s role to be the priest of the family. It is his job to lead the family in prayer. If the husband is weak or lacking in this respect it is the wife’s job to encourage, help and gently remind him of his duty as priest of the family. She should, first, not have to drag him into it; but, second, not be the one choosing the prayers and leading the family in those prayers. This is taught to us in scripture and in the magisterium of the church. It is wise and a panacea to many social/family problems in our society.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002376529686 Martha Wrightis

    So if the husband is a wimp, is his wife just supposed to sit around doing nothing? Its comments like yours that make many people dislike Christians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002376529686 Martha Wrightis

    Even your spouse? How sad.

  • JMC

    Family Rosary doesn’t count?!! That’s baloney, and my own family is a prime example. Five kids with a domineering, abusive, alcoholic mother and a father who had been so abused himself as a child that he couldn’t stand up to her. The house was chaos most of the time. One of my mother’s redeeming characteristics was her devotion to the Rosary. Family Rosaries were an on-again, off-again kind of thing, but I was still quite young when I noticed a pattern: Those times when it was “on” were the only truly peaceful times my family ever knew. I know my father was often strongly tempted to leave, but he never did. I seriously doubt he was ever unfaithful, though of course only God knows for certain. It was clear that, despite the strife in the house, my father deeply and truly loved my mother. So all that happy, feel-good kind of stuff that some women tout is to be taken with a generous helping of salt, even by many women. I’m a woman, and I find most of it too sappy to stomach.

  • Howard

    You know, I would tend to think that — certainly on this blog — a “Jeff” would not have “spouse”, but rather a WIFE.

  • Andrew

    Good article. The only problem I have with it is the insinuation that men are somehow defective because they don’t speak about emotions like women, or that men’s “verbal skills” are not up to par to something that might be construed as better or deeper. Men and women speak differently. Men can detatch themselves in ways that women can’t, generally, just as women are integrated in intuition in ways that men aren’t, generally.

    As a man who can “out-verb” even most women, even when it comes to expressing emotion, I wonder if the idea hasn’t been considered that perhaps the man should speak like a man in prayer while the woman speaks like a woman in prayer. They won’t sound the same, and that’s a good thing. I wonder also if it’s not the man who’s “verbal skills” aren’t quite there, rather than it is perhaps some (emphasis on “some”) women who simply want the man to sound exactly like them, which is one of the defects of holding too strongly too the emotional and it’s sometimes selfish tendency of believing that its own way is the best way, and therefore the only way; or, that if the selfishly emotional type does agree that it won’t force the other to pray and act like itself, it will tolerate the other’s defective, male, emotionless incapacities.

    I don’t believe the author is like this at all, nor do I think she intends it. I simply want to offer another perspective on the subject, and a tweak to the discussion. Men and women are different, and they should both pray like men and like women, and they should *feel* excilaration in the presence of the difference, and enticed by it. That’s love. It’s exciting. At least it seems more exciting than a relationship of female therapy.

  • Buster

    False Dichotomy. Husband is supposed to be the priest in the family, so if he isn’t acting like it the wife should do nothing? If the priest in your parish is doing nothing should the laity do nothing? Take some amount of personal responsibility without throwing the baby out with the bath water, please?

  • Craig

    Before reaching the comment in your article, I first thought of Compline!

  • Craig

    I concur. Some gentle prodding and suggestions…While the family cannot sit idly by, we cannot continue to emasculate our fathers. Talk away from the children; remind him of Saint Paul’s writings and sacrifice for his spouse and family-of Saint Joseph and Job.
    (Monsignor Pope has some good info in previous articles, ad Washington, D.C. )

  • Mr Two Cents

    Please read again. I did not say “do nothing.” I said, in other words, that the wife/mother is to restore the family’s priestly role to the husband. In your analogy, Buster, your suggestion would be for the laity to go up to the altar and celebrate the mass. That is NOT our role. I should hope that the flock would gently encourage the priest to do a better job. And, Martha, what sort of Christian alters what is taught in Scripture and the Magesterium of the Catholic Church in order to be “liked” by others?

  • Daria

    Really? Wow! I was just a newlywed kid back then. Yes, I quit writing back then when the baby’s care made it impossible. That baby is now a naval officer in Bahrain. Good to hear from you, whoever you are.

  • Daria

    These are good comments. I was making a sweeping generalization or stereotype, which covers some men but not all, as this and some of the other comments show.

  • Peter Nyikos

    A father can be priest of the family in many ways. In our family, I lead in theological matters, my wife in devotional matters (including prayer). It seems to work out well.

  • Peter Nyikos

    I’d like to see your Scripture and Magisterium sources. If they are what I think they are, you are reading too much into them.

    See also my comment from two days ago to your original statement.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Whom we open up to depends very much on how well we know them. Are you in favor of spilling our guts out to casual acquaintances?

  • Andrew

    Absolutely. Again, I want to emphasize that I in no way believe you meant any of the things I was talking about. I simply wanted to point out an aspect of the topic that I think tends to be in the background when discussing topics like this, and reinforce what I believe your main intention was: that men and women need not be in conflict. Your article was very good. Thank you for writing it.

  • chaco

    The sharing of evangelical’s experience; “… not having to anticipate one’s turn to pray spontaneously.” Reminded me of a testimony from Steve Martin (comedian); He compared stand up comedy to light hearted entertainment accompanied by banjo & other charachters. When he alone was the center of attettention, he experienced a nervousness of anticipating what he was going to say next. I see formal or contempative prayer ie. rosary, as being akin to speaking in tongues. Paul somewhere describes prayer that is the Holy Spirit taking over to convey concerns that are deeper & more profound than our fallen nature can express on it’s own.

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