She Says: “I believe we should pray always.”
Sarah says: I really love attending Mass once or twice a day, plus saying the rosary and reading Scripture. I believe we are to pray always. Jim is getting annoyed with this – am I supposed to stop being a good Catholic because it irritates him?
He Says: “Sarah does nothing but pray – I’m worried she is becoming scrupulous.”
Jim says: It’s not about being a good Catholic – Sarah does nothing but pray, read the Bible, or talk about the Church. She lost her job this year, and so it fills all of her time – and I mean all. I am worried that she is becoming scrupulous.
What do they do?
How we compensate for a loss varies among all peoples, genders and cultures. It is difficult to articulate the proper way to grieve a loss because grieving is highly individualistic. Loss creates a hole in our being and we tend to fill holes with activities; Sarah has chosen to fill it with religious practices.
Sometimes we over-compensate at the exclusion of other responsibilities and duties. In this case, it appears Sarah has forgotten her vocation of marriage and the strength she could attain from including her spouse in the grieving process. Being a “good Catholic” is commendable, as God desires each of us to be in a life-giving relationship with him. Keeping him in our thoughts and prayers each day and making him a part of our daily routine is a right action. As a married couple, we have the opportunity to find God in each other – his love, his forgiveness and his nurturing.
Approached lovingly and with sincerity, Sarah may discover that Jim could assist in helping her find the peace or answers she is searching for. When we lose something dear to us, such as meaningful work, we look for something to ease the pain associated with the loss. It would not be abnormal for Sarah to experience some depression following a loss and to try desperately to search for strength and purpose. She may therefore, feel a need for more prayer and more nurturing, not only from God, but from Jim as well.
Losing meaningful work can be a tremendous blow to a person’s self-worth and esteem. Throwing oneself into another activity (church included) is a natural reaction in an attempt to regain self-worth; not realizing that self-worth is not dependent on what we do, but who we are. Society tends to equate worth with the amount we can physically produce or mentally absorb, instead of how much we are being Jesus to others by loving them and caring for them.
It is normal and acceptable to turn to God for assistance during times of trial, but not at the expense of damaging our relationship with our spouse. Our sacramental marriage partner should not be abandoned; quite the contrary, our partner should be allowed to help us through our traumatic events for they touch both of the partners, not just one of them. We would recommend Jim take the opportunity to open a dialogue with Sarah by asking her to share with him her petitions to God. What is it that she is asking of God? Jim also might wish to accompany Sarah in reciting the rosary in the evening before starting a dialogue, remembering to include affirmation of her worth to him personally and remembering the words of Scripture, “... encourage one another and build one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) At this juncture in Sarah and Jim’s relation, it is more about helping Sarah regain her feet and feeling comfortable grieving her loss. Being sensitive to each other’s feelings and honesty in discovering what Sarah is searching for will go a long way in re-establishing their coupleness.
Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.