Day 17: Leave and Cleave

40 day challenge 20th

As always, begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is ‘leave and cleave.’

Children traumatized in early childhood through experiences of abuse and neglect can have relational difficulties that extend into adulthood … Even after marriage. Love does not always heal every trauma, every wound.

And yet, for those traumatized by early childhood experiences, or wounded from early relationships, marriage can  be a healing place if an understanding spouse is willing to walk alongside with patience and gentleness. For the one who has experienced trauma, healing is possible to the degree that we are willing to do the hard work to “leave and cleave,” to take the steps necessary to change the ‘inner narrative’ in order to seek authentic intimacy.

For couples who are struggling to overcome the demons of the past, St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor, as Mother Teresa taught (LWST, 65):

We trust in the power of the name of Jesus and also in the intercessory power of St. Joseph. When we first started our society, there were times when we had nothing. We kept a picture of St. Joseph which we turned face down during those times we were in great need. This reminded us to ask for his intercession. When something came in, we turned it right side up.

Are there any battles you find yourself repeating with your spouse, that could signal unresolved trauma? Consider talking to someone about it, so you might be able to find the healing God wants you to have. Then turn to the Holy Family, and ask them to pray for you, that God would bring healing and peace to you both. (Whether you turn the picture or statue to face the wall … Well, I’ll leave that up to you!)

If you would like prayer for a specific intention, feel free to email me. God bless you both!


Third Sunday of Lent: Family Fun Day!


Don’t forget to offer the Prayer of Abandonment today!

Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel (whose feast day was originally today) appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and declared that she was to become the Mother of God. Imagine!

As they were growing up, I used to keep the kids behaved during Mass by reminding them that their angels were watching over them, ready to take their prayers to the great altar of heaven. “If you are naughty, they have to stay here with you, and it makes them very sad not to be able to worship God with their angels friends. So let’s give them a good offering to take to the altar, shall we?” And in most cases, my little lambs cooperated.

As you and your family head off to Mass today, what kind of offering will you make, for your angel to take to the throne of God? Will it be light with words of thankfulness … or heavy with the cares and worries of your life? You can bring both of them to God, of course — but have a heart for your angel, and try to mix it up a bit!

How have you been doing so far with these Sunday “challenges”? What will you do with your third Family Fun Day today?

Day 16: Keepsakes

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

When my mother came to live with us, everything she owned in the world was packed into the back of our van and unloaded into the little suite we had created in the corner of our walk-out basement: a dresser, a bed, a beautiful old desk, a wooden chest, and a bookshelf full of old photo albums and treasured books. Her most cherished possession was her wedding ring, which had grown too small for her but she insisted on wearing. She and my father were no longer living as a married couple … but she cherished the memory of him. And so, the ring stays on.

As human beings, we are body-soul composites; the stuff of life conveys emotions and memories that can last a lifetime. What can you be doing today to show that you treasure your partner through the honoring of the memories of your life together — and forgiving and laying to rest the skeletons of the past?

How are you tracking your memories? Do you keep photographs and scrapbooks Collect recipes or newspaper clippings? Or do you collect memories of other more troubling kinds? Do you harbor grudges, regrets, and deep-rooted offenses that have, over time, built a wall between the two of you?

During Lent the Church prescribes going to confession to prepare ourselves for the Easter feast. If after reading this, you are reminded of some toxic “keepsakes” that need to be consigned to the dustbin, why not go as a family to receive the sacrament of reconciliation? Make a celebration of it – go out for a treat afterwards. You will be so glad you did!

Has it been a long time since you’ve been to confession? Don’t worry. The priest will be glad to help you through it.  Here is a little “cheat sheet” to help you prepare —  you can just print it out and take it with you. And know that the angels are waiting to cheer!

Day 15: Integrity

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Who is the person you trust and respect most in the world? Is it the person you married . . . and if not, why not?

Early in our marriage, I confess that it was hard to let go of some of the emotional ties of the past in order to hold fast to my new husband. Both of us had been ‘mature singles’ when we married (I was nearly 35, he was nearly 45), and both of us had our fair share of (often self-inflicted) scars from previous relationships. Until I met Craig, my father had been the only man in my life who had ever never let me go or broken ties with me, and his word was Gospel. So, when conflict erupted — nothing serious, just the normal adjustments required of two previously unfettered people learning to live together — I began quoting my father to my new husband. As you might expect, this did not end well.

My husband, for his part, had spent a lifetime working for two family businesses, and they had become accustomed to having him at their beck and call. When I protested, Craig found himself caught between warring factions, both of whom he wanted to please … and one of whom wrote his paychecks. Twenty years later, I can appreciate what a difficult position my new husband was in. At the time, I remember going to bed, alone, with some regularity. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t stand up for us, and draw firmer boundaries. After all, my dad had always clocked out right at five to make it home for dinner! (Ahem.)

Over time, I learned that just as no two individuals are alike, no two marriages are alike. Integrity, then, comes from ordering your priorities according to the needs of the family, recognizing that this requires balancing multiple needs and realities. And ultimately, it means coming together with trust and honesty, willing to sacrifice our own preferences for the needs of the other person.

It is simply not possible to cultivate an intimate marriage if one or both partners is determined to shut the other person out of part of their life in order to make decisions in a vacuum. It can be tempting, of course, to bear a grudge and withhold trust or even affection. And yet, one of the bravest — yet most essential — acts two people can make is to daily make a choice for love.

Is there a tiny part of your heart that you are holding back? How can you take a step toward love today?


Day 14: Hope

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is short and sweet. In a word . . .  “hope”!

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope.”

Alexandre Dumas

If you’re following along in Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, you will find that hope can have a dark underbelly. While faith is oriented toward the past, and love to the present, the virtue of hope is planted firmly in the future, where we wait for God’s promises to blossom into full flower.

Hope doesn’t ignore the darkness, or downplay the pain and hurt we experience in those shadowlands of our lives. Rather, it is the lifeline that we hold on to, knowing that God has not abandoned us and that better times are indeed ahead. I know whereof I speak.

A few years ago, my husband and I were going through the darkest time of our married lives, trying to help our children who were in crisis. At one point one of my closest friends called to tell me that she was leaving her husband of more than twenty years. When she heard what I was going through, she wondered aloud if I had ever thought about walking away from it all.

To be honest, there was a time that I would have been vulnerable to this suggestion. While my husband was (and is) a wonderful man, grief does strange things to people. But I knew I had made a promise, and so did he … and so we held on. We went on a Retrouvaille weekend, and learned new skills to get us communicating constructively again. Gradually the pain and stress began to fade, and we were left with something new and, in time, wonderful.

Four years later, my friend is regretting her decision . . . but I never did. We are as happy as we have ever been. In the words of Judith Viorst,

“One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in love again.”

Can you relate to this? What is the hardest time you’ve had to face together … and what was the hope that got you through it? Share it with the one you love . . . today.

Day 13: Health

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “health.”  Are you taking care of yourself? When was the last time the two of you did something really healthy together?

  • What was the last healthy meal you cooked together?
  • When was the last time you went on a walk and explored nature?
  • How often do you do something healthy for your mind, such as reading a book aloud . . . together?
  • What is the one habit you know you ought to kick, but never quite get around to following through?

Sometimes in all the hustle-bustle, healthy habits can go out the window. But tending to the needs of body, mind, and spirit is important not just for you, but for your spouse (who needs a strong partner) and your family. I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone: When you exercise and eat right and hydrate properly, the whole world becomes a brighter and more welcoming place. And when you don’t … well, the dog starts to hide. Right?

Just for today, what is one thing you can do to improve your health, and to stay healthy for the one you love?

Day 12: Gratitude

 Start with the Prayer of Abandonment.

“Gratitude” is generosity’s virtuous sister. Those who are thankful tend to find it easier to be generous than those who consider themselves “self-made.”

As I was researching material for Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, I came across a quote for which I was unable to find the original source (and so did not use it in the book), but I think it has a special application to today’s theme and so I wanted to share it with you. It is said that in her children’s home in Calcutta (Shishu Bhavan), one of her older girls died. This is how Mother eulogized her:

“When God gave you to me he never said that you were mine, that I could keep you always — only borrowed for a time. Now, he’s called you home, I’m sad and I shed tears. Yet, I’m glad he loaned you to me and we had these many years.”

I think these words of gratitude can be applied quite nicely to marriage, as well. Our spouses are not our property, to do with as we please. No, they are gifts God gives us to help us progress in the School of Love, to be fit for heaven.

Today is the day we are going to celebrate, to thank God for, the gift of each other. When you look at your spouse, what makes you most grateful that God loaned him to you “for a time”? How are you going to express your gratitude today?


Are you enjoying this Lenten series? Please support the effort if possible by picking up a copy of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta. This week only I’m running a special! Get your copy this week for just $12 (postage paid). My address: 10350 Royal Oak Ct., Osceola IN 46561. Thank you!