Hey there! As the month of the Rosary winds down, there’s something really exciting that we’re doing over here at Loves Jesus & America too. I teamed up with one of my friends + favorite Instagrammers, Melissa, to write a blog post, pray a virtual Rosary, and create a giveaway on Instagram to celebrate the Rosary which we both love so much. We’re going to talk a bit about how we’ve encountered the power of the Rosary in our lives, and also what it means to be in a counter cultural Catholic marriage in today’s world. It’s been on our hearts to share about these topics that are so meaningful to us, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading about them! At the end of this blog post you’ll find information on our virtual Rosary + our giveaway because we want to connect with you and celebrate the month of the Rosary!
Before we dive in, we want to introduce ourselves + explain why we’re so excited about counter cultural marriages & the Rosary, two things that most twenty-somethings aren’t necessarily raving about.
Melissa lives in Miami Florida and is a newlywed, she got married 6 months ago! She’s a marriage and family therapist. You can find her on Instagram at @melissagracetablada. Read her thoughts on being a young and counter cultural Catholic as well as how she’s encountered the power of the Rosary below!
On being counter cultural
If I believe strongly in something, it’s easy for me to take pride in being counter cultural. In high school a lot of my peers would ask if I wanted to smoke with them and try to pressure me into it. I loved seeing myself remain so consistent in my drive to be able to one day tell my children, “that is something I knew wasn’t good for me and it was never something I took part in”. Of course in other areas of my life I did not always have my convictions in order but that was one place where I knew what I believed and I thrived on watching my own self discipline and self worth grow as I stood firm in that belief. In college I met a man who raised the standard I had set for men, which in all honesty was very very low. For the first time I realized that unless I raised the bar for the type of men I would be in relationship with, I would have no direction and end up repeating the same mistakes and getting hurt time and time again. I prayerfully discerned that that man was not who God had planned for me but I am thankful for what he taught me about my own self worth. From then on certain members of my family, friends & peers would give me a hard time for the standards I held for men. As I went through years of singleness, I was reminded many times that if I would just be a bit more “realistic” about men I could find a boyfriend. I knew deep in my heart that God didn’t want me to settle. If I had lowered my standards, I would never have had the opportunity to meet the man who exceeded all the dreams I had and later became by husband.
On the power of the Rosary
I began praying the Rosary when I was 20 years old and for the first time in my life, found a community of regular, normal, cool, young adults who were also filled with such joy and peace that only comes from God and deeply in love with Jesus. I began praying the Rosary regularly about two years later with some very beautiful and holy friends who encouraged me to join them in a novena for our future spouses – I met mine later that same year. When I finished those 54 days I was so in love with the Rosary I didn’t want to stop so I started another 54 day novena the following day. I have never had prayers answered in such a big way where God might as held a big flashing sign in front of me saying, “Do you see how much I love you? Do you see how I answer your prayers in ways that look different than you think? When will you trust me with your whole heart?” I was blown away by the way He moved mountains during that time. The Rosary continues to bring me peace and connect me to beautiful communities in so many ways. Being involved in a virtual Rosary group with women all across the country. Being a SoulCore leader where we pray the Rosary as we exercise and connect deeper with the prayers by moving our bodies along with them.
Katherine lives on a farm in New Jersey with her husband of a little over a year. She’s an occupational therapist and in her spare time blogs right here at Loves Jesus & America too. You can find her on Instagram at @katherineocello. Read her experiences as a counter cultural Catholic & what the Rosary means to her below!
On being counter cultural
Being counter cultural is something that I became really familiar with from a young age. I went to public school for most of my life, and I felt like I was always the “church” girl. I had a large group of friends and got along with everyone, but it was definitely known that I was different. I was Catholic, I was saving myself for marriage, and I was strong in most of my beliefs. I’m grateful that I was able to become comfortable being counter cultural from a young age, because as I’ve grown in my faith I’ve realized that this will always be a part of my life. It can be really hard sometimes to go against the grain, but it is also really freeing. Whenever I struggle with being counter cultural, I look to my husband. His confidence in God, his faith, and in himself is something that I’ve always admired. I met him in high school and from early on we knew we wanted to marry each other. We prayerfully discerned our vocation while at different universities, and got married shortly after I completed graduate school. We recently bought a home & farm in New Jersey near our families in the town we grew up in, which somehow feels counter cultural as well. We’re part of a young adult Catholic community with a lot of really great people living life in Christ, and this is something that encourages me in my life as well.
On the power of the Rosary
I’ve had a devotion to the Rosary for several years, ever since a friend of mine who is a seminarian handed me a Rosary after mass one day during college. I randomly began praying it, and it brought me immense joy. I prayed the Rosary for my relationship and marriage frequently. Dom and I started praying the Rosary together this past year, and we felt the fruits of it immediately. During Lent we prayed the Rosary together everyday, and it was then that my elderly neighbors called me and explained that they wanted to sell us their home & farm, which we had expressed interest in months prior when someone else was purchasing it. This is the home that I grew up next to, and the home that Dom always said he wanted to own. The Rosary is something that continues to be a part of my life, and even though sometimes our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be, I know that Mary is always interceding for me and God is always working in my life.
Now, let’s dive right in to the beautiful and exciting topics we’ve received questions about that surround Catholicism, marriage, and the Rosary.
On the secular world we live in, and being different
It can be really challenging to face the secular world we live in. Whether you’re married or not, being Catholic is counter cultural by definition. We deal with the secular world in a loving way, by praying for people who may not understand our choices and leading with a joyful example. At different times in our faith journeys, we have both felt pulled toward people who were full of peace and joy. We both learned that this comes from Jesus and from His truth. This is the best way to encounter the secular world. We are called to be a light to others, to share the truth of the gospel. We are made to be in the world, but not of the world. The best way you can do this is by loving Jesus so much that people notice we are different from those living for the world.
On saving yourself for marriage
Saving yourself from marriage is a decision that you will never regret choosing. It can definitely be challenging in today’s world, whether you are in high school, college, working, single, dating, engaged, etc. It is important to find your people! Build a community around you that will support you, encourage you, and walk with you. Some books we’ve found helpful on this topic are How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul, Dating Detox, Emotional Virtue, If You Really Loved Me. We recommend looking up Jason & Crystalina Evert and Christopher West, who have really great thoughts and practical advice on this topic. When you’re entering into a relationship, be upfront about your values and set clear boundaries. Let them walk away if they aren’t willing to respect your choice. It is also important to shift your mindset from “how much can we do before we’re sinning?” to “how can I lead this person closer to God?” That’s a game changer.
Most importantly, don’t lose hope. It can be hard, but it is possible. I’d like to share a story with you that brings me so much hope on this topic. Some of the best advice I ever received was in my high school youth group. Our youth group leader gave us a witness on her dating life, and I was moved by it. I remember her words so clearly. She told us to not only find a man who is willing to wait for you, find a man who wants to wait for himself too. This rocked my world. I never thought about it like that before! I spent most of my high school years just hoping some boy would tolerate my beliefs and respect me enough to wait for me. I didn’t think there were actually boys who chose that for themselves! Just as I began feeling this was truly an impossible task, I started dating my husband. I quickly told him about my plans to save myself for marriage, and he expressed to me the same plans.
On dating with a purpose
Dating with a purpose is something that’s commonly written off today as weird or old fashioned. People immediately think of a formal courting relationship, something the Duggars do where you have a chaperone and you aren’t allowed to hold hands. This is not the case. Dating with a purpose is completely normal, the purpose of dating is to find your spouse! Do yourself a favor and reject the college hookup culture and don’t swipe right for the guy who just wants to have fun on whatever dating app you use. Dating with a purpose enables you to respect yourself, the Lord, and the person you’re dating. Give someone a chance, but don’t stay with someone who you know God isn’t calling you to marry. Saying yes to dating someone for now who you know you aren’t going to marry means saying no to the person God has created for you. Dating with a purpose doesn’t mean you need to get married in 6 months, either. This is your relationship, and you can prayerfully discern together what the best game plan is for you and your partner. A lot of people think Catholics & Christians get married younger simply so they can have sex. That’s not true! Dating with a purpose is a completely different mindset. When you know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone & you know this person is who God created for you, there isn’t a reason to wait any longer.
On Natural Family Planning
When it comes to natural family planning, we have to tell you, science is on your side friends! In addition to leading by example and sharing your own witness with people who may not understand your choice to practice NFP, we encourage you to delve into the research because it is there! No, it is not the rhythm method. When practiced correctly, NFP works. It allows a married couple to work together with each other and with God to build their family. It is extremely effective with achieving a pregnancy, and it is more effective than other forms of contraception for avoiding getting pregnant. Additionally, it can help you discover abnormalities in your health and address them in a way that is healthy for your body and soul. Married couples who use NFP have a divorce rate of less than 5% compared to the average of more than 50%. Couples who cohabitate before marriage are 50% more likely to divorce than those who wait to live together until they are married. They also report greater intimacy and communication than those who use contraception. Some research shows that 85% of couples who cohabitate will break up or divorce by the end of 10 years. Even though all of the research on NFP is in your favor, ultimately, being a witness to the joy and fruit of your choices the best thing you can do, and it is something that no one can argue with.
We’ve included some resources for you on NFP, listed below!
On praying with your spouse
Praying with your spouse is something that can be extremely fruitful for your marriage and your lives in general. Even though prayer is often something that is seen as private, we were made for community. Each marriage and family is its own domestic church, and we are called to pray together! We get it. It can be hard to find the time, and awkward to pray out loud. We encourage you to do it anyway. Remember, none of this is supposed to be easy, or everyone would be doing it! Praying together gives you the opportunity to connect with your spouse daily on a deeper level. It challenges you to go beyond “how was your day?” and move towards actually learning what is on their heart and what they would like to pray for. It gives you the chance to refocus your relationship on Christ, which is easy to get distracted from in our daily lives. It doesn’t have to be super long or super profound every day, but making a little sacrifice for your marriage and the Lord can really go a long way.
We spend so much time preparing for the wedding day. Sometimes months or even years we spend planning out every last detail of the big day to make sure it fulfills all of our lifelong dreams. How much time do we spend preparing for the lifetime together that comes after the vows? The Church offers us such a gift in the marriage preparation that she provides us. While some diocese are more engaging and inspiring, and others may be lacking in many ways, there are a wide range of Pre-Cana programs that help prepare us well for the marriage that comes after the wedding day. We attended Transformed in Love and Engaged Encounter, which are both weekend retreats that covered topics such as effective communication, finances, temperaments, and so much more. We also completed the Fully Engaged Inventory which was an incredible in depth questionnaire our husbands and us took independently. After we completed the questions, another couple who has been married for many years sat down with us to talk through our areas of strength and weaknesses. This was a beautiful way to help us see the areas we needed to grow in, and then continue to work on those areas especially throughout our engagement.
Since we’ve both experienced profound peace & joy from the Rosary, and we’re both really passionate about being witnesses to the beauty of a catholic marriage, we’re giving away a couple of items that we hope will get you excited too! Head over to @katherineocello and @melissagracetablada on Instagram to enter. We’ll be choosing two winners, each of whom will win a copy of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married and a Rosary hand picked by each of us! In order to win, you will need to follow both accounts, like both photos associated with the giveaway, and tag as many friends as you’d like! We’ll be announcing the winner later in the week immediately following our virtual Rosary we’ll be praying on Instagram!