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Are you helping your spouse to heaven? Marriage Spirituality (1/4)

January 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Family Prayer, Marriage Spirituality

When my wife and I were going through marriage preparation our mentor couple said something to us that we have never forgotten, “your primary role in marriage is to help one another to heaven.” It was a striking comment that seems so obvious now, but at that time, it was a completely new thought.

valentineIt's a funny thing – I think it's common for responsible God-loving adults to have this thought about their kids. We instinctively know that God has placed these souls specifically and purposefully in our care. Even with a “Theology of the Body” informed understanding that marriage is fundamentally an act of the complete giving of oneself to another – this idea of specifically bearing responsibility for one another's spiritual growth and destiny was captivating to both of us.

The good news for us is that we started our relationship out on the right foot. When we entered into the discernment process for marriage we purposed to pray with one another daily. Though we both instinctively committed to do this, the idea was daunting because of the level of intimacy it required – the level of unique exposure that only prayer with someone whom you care about causes. Regardless of the initial discomfort, we set out on the course and have maintained it unwaveringly (yes, even after arguments). Our mutual spiritual commitments are in fact, the most powerful source of the strength in our marriage. It has carried us through a few very difficult periods and has resulted in Christ remaining at the center of our relationship even when he was not always in the center of our own hearts.

So, we leave you with this question. Are you specifically, purposefully, and regularly helping your spouse to heaven?

Yours in Christ,

Dan and Stephanie


Series Posts:


Art for this post on marriage spirituality: St Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla, Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte), 1500s, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Song

    I am interested in furthering this topic. For me, it’s not so easy. I am married to a non-catholic. We had our marriage blessed in the Catholic church, but he does not attend Mass. He has never stopped me or our son from practicing my faith. He has a strong moral compass that I respect and admire.

    When it comes to my husband helping me get into Heaven, he is fulfilling his role. I on the other hand, feel like I am not.


    • Bal5932844


      • Dovetwo

        Trust in God that His will be done in both your lives. And keep praying! From my own experience, He answers in His own time.

  • Susan

    Dear Song,
    When I first started to pray “with” my non-Catholic husband I would just reach over and hold his hand for a few seconds at night and say, Thank you God for this wonderful man. Or at dinner the kids and I would add to the grace a spontaneous prayer thanking God for such a Dad that provided us with all we have. It was small steps and took time,17 years actually, but now he is not only Catholic, but leads the family Rosary and we have a Holy Hour together once a week.

  • Jess

    I agree! Great topic I’d like to hear more about. We are in a similar circumstance. Our marriage was blessed in the church and my husband attends mass with me and assists Faith Formation with me. However, he’s not Catholic and doesn’t really put anything into it when he does go to mass. However through encouragement and prayer anything is possible!

    • judeen

      Jess, does your husband know what is going on and happening in the mass? does he know the scriptures that go with it.. and the extention from moses that Jesus built on and now so much easyer with Jesus mercy and power….? men do beleive yet in a different way… a quieter way..

  • amanda

    Thank you so much for these posts and your wonderful site. I can’t tell you how often your posts seem to come with a word straight from the Holy Spirit to my heart.
    My husband & I are both Catholics but have been in quite “different places” spiritually. We reacently went on a Marriage Encounter weekend and have been examining our shared spirituallity, these posts could not be better timed!

  • I’ve been married for 12 years. I was baptized and confirmed last year-hubby is a non-practicing Hindu who hates religion-of all kinds.
    It is hard. I fail a lot. And I mean A LOT.
    G-d said not to worry-He is merciful and my prayers will help Him end up in a good place.
    Nice post. The mentor couple was right on!

    • judeen

      consicarate you Husband to God… Give Him to God.. ask for the words you need to say to Him .. and actions… then let go and let God…. your goodness and faith will touch His heart…. God loves us right where we are at… it is a hard road.. but maybe God wants to touch more than just your husband … and has given you this job…. forgiveness and healing is a biggy… seek the 1st wound that has led Him away…. ask for healing of that wound

  • Patrick

    “When we began the discernment process for marriage we purposed to pray with one another regularly.”

    Would it be possible to provide some practical guidance for praying together? How did you pray together?

    Thank you

  • judeen

    I WAS told by my mom.. if one desides to marry it is for life. no matter what.. I ve told this to my kids.. also before they get married.. and it stuck some times I wish they would divorce hahah.. also …love is like Jesus loves us . unconditional.. it is a deeper love.. suffering love.. suffering for one another.. like Jesus on the cross.. I do this for I love you…
       I beleive God picks out our spouce … we are ment to be together. to over come our judgements.. our petty habits.. to put together our goodness. and make us very stronge. Yes I heard from a old nun that we marry to help each other get to heaven.. and she did not marry because she would of killed Him hahaha.. she would of never made it marryed

  • woodyjones

    Many thanks for posting this, Dan and Stephanie. It brings to mind also this: “Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven.” – Bl. Charles of Austria [to whom, of course, our own Fr. Paul von Habsburg, LC is related] addressing Empress Zita on 22 October 1911, the day after their wedding (see the Wikipedia entry for this). I have mentioned this in wedding dinner or engagement dinner toasts to brides and grooms of my aquaintance over the last few years and interestingly, it resonates with them even if they are not Catholic. To seek the highest good for the beloved is especially on their minds at that point, I think, and I hope it will continue.

    • Thanks for the additional thoughts Woody – hope you and yours are well down south!

  • Genny

    A few years back I discovered something called the New Age. I realised how dangerous it was to our faith as Catholics and realised my husband was also into it following his family. ( when anyone tries to get another into the New Age they dont do it bluntly but very subtly passing it off as very pleasing thoughts and ideas making it all look like it is coming from God…….beware!) I tried to reason with him but he wouldnt back down. He said it was ok if I didnt want to follow their guru but he would go visit him everytime we went down to India. I realised I couldnt fight it anymore and told him I wanted out of the marriage and that I couldnt deal with it and that if I remained I would be entertaining his new age friends too and I couldnt bear that thought. And that point it was clear to me that my faith was more important than anything else in the world.  He immediately backed down and said he wouldnt be meeting his guru. About 2 days later he told him he didnt want to meditate ( as in the New agey kind) anymore. He said he felt he was wasting his time and it wasnt getting him anywhere. We have been devoutly following our Catholic faith ever since. He also realised the importance of the Sacrement of Reconciliation. We pray the Rosary daily without fail even if it is late at night. It had to be the Holy Spirit that lifted the veil of darkness from his eyes to see the truth for what it is. Ever since we have been praying for the rest of the family to break free from the New Age and put all our hope and trust in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Awesome!

    • Choileo3000

      wonderful. Thank you Lord!

  • Sandy

    Thanks for reminding us that spouses are responsible for getting each other to Heaven and their children.  My husband and I have been married for forty years and only during the past five years have we truly come together spiritually.  We’ve always gone to Mass together and prayed before meals with our children, but something was missing.  I was avidly on my spiritual journey, especially after our children left home and I retired from teaching, while my husband was on an entirely different journey, being a part of the corporate world.  In 2009, shortly after reevaluating our relationship, I invited my husband to become a Benedictine Oblate with me.  We had attended three marriage retreats at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana and really enjoyed the spirituality of praying with the monks and the hospitality for which  the Benedictines are famous.  We became Oblate Novices in the fall of 2009 and made our Oblation on December 11, 2010.  For over two years we have come together at night to read and discuss the Holy Rule, pray a Rosary together, pray for vocations, and finish our prayer with Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours.  Praying together has helped us to be centered on Christ, opened both of us to share intimate spiritual experiences, and has brought us to a deeper love and appreciation for each other.  These are undoubtedly the best years of our married life.

  • jack g.

    In first year of my conversion I was’nt just helping my wife, I was dragging her to heaven, or so I thought. By now I learned that it is going to take time, maybe a whole lot, too. I agreed with God that He knows best, and I just pray, fast and give my life to my King through the heart of my Queen, Mother Mary.I offer Masses, and order Masses for my friends and family including us/my marriage. I wait and pray and I am sure it is going to happen.I offer to God my Daddy all the suffering that come with marriage including all the good things.See all of it is a blessing, and we will get it only from the perspective of death, how God was making us saints all that time we thought was tough.Saints are tough like a rock. in faith and humble as a lamb, so a lot depends on us and what we do with the marriage vocation. I almost destroyed mine, but with help of the Lord it is becoming more Catholic every day.I do not drag my wife anymore, on occasion I will get frustrated and run in prayed to my Daddy, then He tells me “remember yourself?Give her time”.And so I do, and more and more I know she is here to help me become a saint and also the opposite.Keep on the good fight with love of Jesus jack.g.

  • Ateclc

    Wish you could have been here for the marriage/engaged couple retreat with Fr. Dan.  He did a wonderful talk on how spouses heal each other. I hope he touches base with you soon.

  • judeen

     marraige.. on my wedding day.. mom told me.. think of the worst thing he could do… then could you forgive Him? if not dont marry him.. for marraige is has alot of troubles in it.. you have to decide to make it life long when you start…
        going to church together… remind each other to say your prayers.. bless the house with Holy Water when grumpy.. dont think you understand what they say ask – is this what you mean.. for alot of the times when mad it is from an old wound you dont know about… pray over each other.. ask for hugs.. ask for attention. dont go to bed mad…. its hard… when your spiritual.. the devil uses your spouce to attack you… reconize it.. dont feel hurt.. talk later.. how you feel not that they did this or that… do not blame.. your marraige becomes a prayer. warriors.. where 2 or more are gathered in HIs name He is in their mist.. when 2 or more pray in my name I will answer their prayers.  the power of 2 in God

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