Two books aim to guide married couples on journey to holiness
"30 Days with Married Saints: A Catholic Couples' Devotional" by Kent and Caitlin Lasnoski. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2021). 256 pp., $18.95.
"Holy Together: Reflections on Married Spirituality" by Kathleen Finley. Resource Publications (Searcy, Arkansas, 2020). 122 pp., $17.
Two new books aim to refocus Catholic couples on the journey to holiness and sanctity within their marriages, families and communities. "30 Days with Married Saints: A Catholic Couples' Devotional" by Kent Lasnoski and Caitlin Lasnoski offers an easily attainable daily reading, reflection and practice for spouses. "Holy Together: Reflections on Married Spirituality" by Kathleen Finley connects the spiritual journey of marriage and its relationship to its practical application in daily life.
Finley, who has written eight books on spirituality, is a spiritual director and private practice therapist. She has been married for more than 40 years and for more than three decades she has helped couples prepare for marriage. Her vast experience is reflected in her writing, making "Holy Together" appropriate for engaged couples, newlyweds and seasoned spouses.
Finley's focus is on the realistic implementation of spirituality in the daily lives of married couples. She defines spirituality as "the way I live in light of what I believe." Her simply stated, tangible definition is segmented and deepened by seven aspects of spiritual tradition.
Using a somewhat scaffolded technique of explanation for the reader, Finley first introduces these concepts with examples from saints and other Catholic role models who lived out these ideas.
She then provides various anecdotal, reasonable and specific examples of married couples in all stages of their vocation who apply the concept. You can almost hear her cheering on the reader in the background: "You got this. Just try. It's a journey you can take together."
For example, Finley uses Sts. Therese of Lisieux and Damien of Molokai to exemplify asceticism, the spiritual concept of self-giving and sacrifice for the greater good and a larger purpose.
St. Damien, as his widely known history goes, gave his life for people exiled and suffering from Hansen's disease. St. Therese, on the other hand, gave of herself and her own needs for the needs of her religious community. She bit her tongue and resisted complaining when she felt unappreciated or annoyed by her women religious companions.
How can the examples of someone who died among the sick and a contemplative nun apply to married couples with careers, families and modern-day pressures that can lead to isolation, individualism and insular selfishness? Well, the St. Therese example might be obvious, but Finley responds that spouses can practice this tradition continually.
Christians are called to love others first, she writes, and can do this through little acts of self-giving, by balancing one's own needs with those of the couple and the family, and by taking risks with trust and communicating fully with each other.
At the conclusion of each chapter, Finley includes a relevant Scripture verse, active-engagement reflection and resources for further exploration. At the conclusion of the book, she reiterates that practical spirituality and the vocation of marriage is a journey that can be taken together as a couple.
Further emphasizing how couples can live this out, she gives examples from her own marriage, even including a letter she wrote to her husband for their 40th anniversary in the appendix. She packs a lot of information into these 112 pages.
Authors Kent and Caitlin Lasnoski also pack a lot of information into their monthlong devotional, "30 Days with Married Saints," for couples to participate in together.
The Lasnoskis have been mentors to engaged couples and have helped design and lead pre-Cana programs. Kent Lasnoski teaches theology at Wyoming Catholic College and Caitlin homeschools their eight children. Their experiences personally and professionally make the book relevant to engaged couples as well as those married for decades.
Each day of the book opens with a prayer and discussion material and concludes with a spiritual practice to enrich reflection on the topic. The authors, using the examples of married saints or men and women on the path to canonization, emphasize that holiness is a team effort.
Some of the saints in the book are married to each other, such as Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, while others are simply saints who are married, such as St. Gianna Molla. The Holy Family opens the first three days of the book with their exemplified selflessness and devotion to God even amid the stresses of normal family life.
The authors write that although couples have different levels of devotion from time to time, holiness in marriage can be attainable within modern-day society.
Like Finley in "Holy Together," Kent and Caitlin Lasnoski make the journey to holiness not only real but enjoyable. Echoing Finley's point, they write that "a holy marriage is not characterized by immediate perfection but by simply striving for holiness."
Paired together or read separately, both books would help enrich the faith life of married or engaged couples.
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Lordan, a mother to three children, has master's degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service. She currently teaches and is a court-appointed advocate for children in foster care.