Sanctity in Waiting- St Margaret of Scotland

I adore my husband, even when I do not like my husband, I adore him with every fiber of who I am. We have been together for 35 years and just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.

From the ages of 18 and 19, our lives have been an interwoven journey of joys, trials, and heartbreak. At our wedding, there were tears --but not all the tears were tears of joy. We were coming into the marriage with a 3-year-old son, a lot of judgment, and trying to find our way. But we were committed to making our marriage work and raising a family against the odds.

When we hear the priest say in marriage preparation that our role is to get each other to heaven, we nod and appreciate the imagery but I'm not sure any young couple truly understands what that means. I wish I could tell you that on that beautiful day in March after such a hard road to the altar, the fairy tale was complete, but I would be leaving out the most important part of the story.

To be honest life and marriage are often a climb up very rocky terrain. My husband lost his mother when we newly married; we have lost babies to miscarriage, had infants in the NICU, babies born with medical issues, very difficult sleepless toddlers, teenagers struggling to find their way, the loss of employment, our family home, and struggles that have brought us to our knees.

In those losses, our trust in each other grew, not because those seasons magically brought us closer, but because those seasons brought us to our knees. We were forced to increase our prayer, improve our communication and surround ourselves with good people to journey with. Those times demanded that we simplify our home, our expectations and become laser-focused on our children's emotional well-being. We learned to live in each moment because it was all that we had.

Perfection and control are illusions. There is something truly beautiful deep in the pain of life that the only other person who truly knows and shares in your heartache is your spouse. Even with all the trials, we both will tell you we have a beautiful life filled with love, life. We have 8 children, 2 grandchildren, and being a witness to our children’s lives is an unspeakable joy.

But- for the first 12 years we were together, the first 7 we were married. I carried the faith of the family alone. My husband was raised Episcopal, but his family didn't practice. He says that they went to church on Christmas and Easter, but if the parking lot was full, they went home. I had been raised in a Catholic home, but we did not attend Mass regularly or pray at home.

When our first son was born and the situation was so difficult, I searched and found God again. There I was with a 4-month-old sneak watching EWTN learning how to pray the rosary, listening to Mother Angelica while my friends were at college. I read my way back to the faith, and began riding my bike to daily Mass with my baby on the back. I found new friends that shared the faith and came alive for the first time. For my husband (boyfriend at the time) it was a challenging time--the girl he loved that he was fighting to keep was now different.

As the years went by, I attended scripture studies and mothers groups and we met families that were faithfully practicing. I wanted so badly for our marriage to look like theirs and our families to be like others. I wanted to join the homeschool group and keep the kids home, but he said no. I desperately felt called to have more than the 3 children we had, but he wasn't sure. My husband was still saying, the church is your hobby golf is mine. He always came to Mass with us on Sunday, but that was it. I tried everything to convert his heart. I Dragged him to couples prayer groups, played Jesus music in the house, and read my books out loud to him.

Even though my heart was in a good place, I wanted him to be something he wasn't and it created tension.

If you are in this type of marriage I hope to share what my dear mentor shared with me when we were struggling: When a woman's contentment comes from her relationship with God, and it used to come from the husband (who is not spiritually in the same place), the husband can feel rejected and betrayed. She told me, you are to be his helpmate, his counsel, and the heart of the home, he should want to come home to you.

She also shared that she had a spiritual director correct her one time by saying ‘you are not the Holy Spirit Junior (oops guilty)--she then said to me, there are so many women who have husbands that are not faithful, that gamble away their money, or have died. Be grateful for the man he is. Even if all you can do to begin is to thank him for putting a bowl in the sink, show him gratitude.’ I left not realizing she was correcting me, but that her wisdom to start small was what I needed to hear.

What a blessing she was in that season of life. I began to pray early in the morning before the kids got up, always beginning with psalms in case my time was cut short--they truly do encompass the human heart. I did my best to stop focusing on what I did not have and what I did not.

Slowly our marriage returned. I don't think I realized how bad that time was until that time was over. My husband was (and is) kind and loving and he had missed his wife. Sanctity often comes through humility.

I don't remember if it was her that suggested St Margaret of Scotland to me, or if I had discovered her almost at the same time. St Margaret and her family had to flee their native country to Scotland around the year 1070, they were devout Catholics. King Malcolm III offered her family protection and befriended them. He fell in love with Margaret and married her; together they had a happy marriage and eight children.

Malcolm had a similar view of faith that my husband did. He did not see much importance in religious things since he had far more important things to worry about. Because he loved her, he allowed her to carry on with her faith, but only saw it as her pastime. But--he was watching. What he witnessed was the authentic beauty of her authentic commitment to prayer and others. What he loved in her was the gentleness that her faith brought to their family. His heart softened and eventually, he too learned the value of prayer and devotion to God. She was my saint, and I prayed for her intercession.

A couple of years later I was painting a mural in the private chapel in the home of that mentor and my husband brought baby number 4 to me to nurse in the middle of the day. She said, ‘Chip have you ever seen the house…’ and proceeded to take him on a tour. I did cringe a little because I knew she was up to something but couldn't hear the conversation. As they descended from the stairs I heard her ask him, ‘So tell me Chip, why aren't you Catholic?”. Silence. My heart pounded. He replied, ‘I don't know, I never really thought about it.' She invited him to RCIA.

That moment was the beginning of a new chapter for us. Two years later he came into the church. He now says that coming into the Church was a more profound moment than our wedding day and the birth of our children. God met him exactly where he wanted him to be. His timing is perfect.

Shortly after we were invited with 20 other couples to study the Church documents on marriage and family. His men’s group had men from all different walks; doctors, lawyers, helicopter pilots, and carpenters, all there to study the role of being a Godly husband. One night he came home from his meeting and sat on the couch with me. He had something to say so I put my book down and listened.

He said, ‘I get it. Now I know why our marriage is so good right now.’. I paused. He continued, ‘Before I came into the Church, I had no understanding of what the sacrament of marriage was all about, and now, I'm starting to understand. We are both finally in the same place, I am in a state of grace, and God has blessed us with something incredible.’ I was speechless. Twelve years of waiting and two more years of his spiritual growth and every heartfelt prayer I had prayed was answered. I could say nothing. A year later our 5th child was born, Margaret Grace, after St. Margaret of Scotland.

If you are in an 'unequally yoked' marriage, and your husband’s journey seems very different from your own, dig deep in your prayer life. Open your heart to complete abandonment to God and his timing. Use Margaret of Scotland as your intercessor, and to help you be a gracious wife. Let your husband see that your faith truly makes you a more peaceful, loving, and giving wife. Don't worry that harm is being done or that your marriage doesn't look like others do. Know that God is working in your journey and using everything for good.

Our oldest son, that baby that I used to bring to daily Mass on my bike, the one who was 3 when we married, is now a priest. He says that a pivotal moment in his call to the priesthood happened when he was 12 years old. It was at the age of 12 when he stood next to Monsignor as he anointed his father and eleven others at the Easter vigil the night he became Catholic. I promise you the Lord will use all of the journey for good. Trust in God’s timing whether it is 12 years or 20.

Order my Praying for My Husband e-book HERE

Marriage prayer

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Father God I thank you for the provision and protection you grace our family with- even if it is not how I envision it. I thank you for ‘enough’ , I thank you for the ability to see the call and deeper meaning of the mission of our family.

I thank you for bringing to the surface wounds that need to be healed. As painful as it is to experience the purge of those emotions, through your grace, we are made whole.

Help us to remember that the answers to prayer often come after the upheaval. That you cannot act with barriers we have placed (or others) in our way. To remove those barriers can be deeply painful. Painful but necessary to open and clean our hearts to prepare them for your mercy. Remind us to always unite that suffering to yours.

I thank you for the gift of resiliency that you have built in our marriage. I thank you for the covenant and sacrament that unites us as one. I ask you to continue to bless our union and the mission of our family. Continue to guide us and use us. Help us to see the path that you have chosen for us. Help us to joyfully choose that path in unity and love.


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