FEBRUARY 9, 2004





Couple-praying: Tips for praying
with your spouse

By Julie McCarty

As newlyweds, my husband, Terry, and I faced the standard challenge of deciding which traditions from each side of the family we would continue. When planning a vacation, we had to decide if we would go camping, like my family, or stay at motels, like Terry’s family.

At Christmas, we had to decide between an artificial tree (his family) and a live tree (my family). As the time grew near to buy a new car, we found ourselves wrestling over purchasing a fuel-efficient foreign brand or the domestic brand at the place my dad worked!

When it came to saying grace at mealtimes, Terry and I chose a new family custom. We created — and still create — our own prayers. Standing in the kitchen, holding hands, surrounded by the blessed mess of food preparation and simmering dishes on the stove, we ask God for guidance, pray for specific people, and thank God for our food and for each other. Sometimes there has been laughter, sometimes tension between us, sometimes tears, but always, prayer has drawn us closer to each other.

In his pastoral letter on marriage, “Marriage In Christ,” ( Bishop John Kinney of St. Cloud, Minn. remarks that senior couples have told him that “Prayer is the glue that held us together.” Some couples feel that praying together is almost more intimate than sexual sharing.

Many Catholic couples have never experienced what I call “couple-praying,” praying together, just the two of them. Where does one begin? After 20 years of experimentation, here’s what Terry and I have learned (so far!):

Make a plan
When you want to go to a football game, you make arrangements. If you want to pray as a couple, you need a plan. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Then, discuss when, where, and what method of prayer you will use. What simple steps will you take to insure the fewest interruptions possible?
Select a prayer style that works for both of you.

Look for common ground. For example, if your spouse is Lutheran, he or she is probably not comfortable praying the rosary. Be willing to try something new.

Praying spontaneously, that is, in your own words, is a great way to pray together, but it can feel intimidating at first. Begin by saying a familiar prayer together, like the Our Father. Then, take turns praying for your needs, your children, your friends, or other special intentions. Thank God for good things that happened in your day. End with a familiar prayer like the Glory Be.

Scripture-based prayer forms are also good for couples. In the book “Marital Spirituality: The Search for the Hidden Ground” (Paulist Press, 1999), authors Patrick and Claudette McDonald describe a simple way for couples to share Scripture together, based on the ancient tradition of “lectio divina” (holy reading).
One couple I know does the short form of Evening Prayer together, the Church’s daily prayer based on the psalms and other readings.

Respect each other’s needs
Never use prayer to manipulate the other person, like praying aloud that your spouse will give up a bad habit. Pray instead for your own transformation.

One person in a marriage is often more extroverted than the other. If you are naturally talkative, look for ways to give your spouse the silence he or she needs to muster the courage to speak. If you are the quieter spouse, try thinking ahead of time of one simple prayer intention. You don’t have to share every personal thought during prayer.

Allow for sacred silence
In our culture, many of us are afraid of silence. However, as our prayer lives deepen, we discover special, sacred times of silence. Allow little spaces of time between segments of your prayer time. This gives God a chance to speak within.
After your final “Amen,” end with a hug and a kiss.

As sacrament, your marriage is meant to be a sign of God’s love in the world. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (I John 4:16). So, go ahead, seal your prayer with a kiss!

Do you have tips for couple-praying? E-mail them to Julie McCarty at or mail them to The Catholic Voice. Please include your name and address.

(Julie McCarty, M.A.T., is a married woman and freelance writer from Eagan, Minnesota, whose syndicated column on prayer, “The Prayerful Heart,” appears in diocesan newspapers around the country. She would like to hear about other tips for couple praying. They can be e-mailed to her at or mailed to The Catholic Voice c/o Julie McCarty. Please include your name and address.)


Now is not the time to abandon
Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo

By David P. Gushee
Religion News Service

OSIJEK, Croatia—I write from eastern Croatia, where I am spending a week teaching a course at a small evangelical seminary called Evangelical Theological Faculty. The lessons I am learning here are extraordinary.

The last time many Americans paid much attention to Croatia was in 1991, when Yugoslavia was falling apart and events in Croatia made the daily headlines for a while. The town I am in, Osijek, lived through the events of those days.

What happened then was that the uneasy ethnic confederation making up Yugoslavia began to fall apart. Linguistically similar but divided groups, all of Slavic background, constituted that nation — Macedonians, Slovenians, Muslims, Montenegrins, Croats and Serbs jostled together in a sprawling nation cobbled together after World War I.

Due primarily to the nationalistic pandering of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a Serb, non-Serb territories began to secede from Yugoslavia in 1991. Slovenia escaped first, and was allowed to remain independent after a brief war.

Croatia tried next, and this the Serb-dominated Yugoslav government was not willing to accept. Serbian troops crossed into Croatian territory while shelling obliterated the lovely old city of Vukovar on the far eastern edge of Croatian territory.

I visited Vukovar recently. It is a town with every third or fourth house still in ruins, remnants of a war that traumatized the entire population. Not only did the Serbs and Croats engage in regular street-to-street fighting, and not only was the city shelled, the Serbs also committed a number of atrocities during the fighting. My hosts took me to a sad spot just outside Vukovar. There, 200 wounded or sick Croatians who had been taken out of Vukovar’s hospital were executed and dumped in a mass grave.

This was just one of many such incidents during the wars that raged across Croatia, Bosnia and later Kosovo during the 1990s. It was not just army against army but neighbor against neighbor.

The great majority of the mayhem was done by Serbs against Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians, but that leaves plenty of incidents of violence in other directions as well.

At least 200,000 people were killed during the war, most in genocidal mass executions or random shelling, and countless numbers were raped and tortured. The thirst for truth, justice and, yes, vengeance continues to run deep here.

Thirteen years later, Croatia is an independent state run by its own elected government with little help from the West. Bosnia and Kosovo both remain under the effective control of Western occupying and pacifying forces. Most observers here believe if the troops were to leave, the violence would erupt again.

Traveling around this particular region, one sees many evidences of a strict Croat-Serb apartheid. There are Serb coffee shops and Croat coffee shops, Serb sections of town and Croat sections of town, and so on.

There are three kinds of hope for this region, and all are relevant to readers in the United States. First, the United States must continue to support NATO troops and United Nations personnel in Kosovo and Bosnia, including the American troops that are here.

Given our military involvements worldwide, it might be tempting to withdraw troops from this region. This would be a disaster. We did not do enough to prevent genocide last time. We can prevent it next time by staying here until we are no longer needed.

Second, we can support the integration of nations from the former Yugoslavia into the Western world and global market economy, but only as they conform to international standards of democracy and respect for human rights.

Third, we can support efforts at interfaith and interethnic reconciliation.
So: Send troops, send advisers, send missionaries, send money, send prayers, in the direction of this region. Many here are looking to our nation and its people for a better future.

(David P. Gushee is the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

Should churches stay empty while
the poor remain out in the cold?

By Rabbi Marc Howard Wilson
Religion News Service

In the best of all possible worlds, all homeless people would transition into independence and off the public dole.

That is happening to some significant degree via agencies whose sole purpose is to provide the resources and guidance to move the homeless into productive lives. These initiatives are still receiving considerable public funding, as they should be. The premise is one to which liberals and conservatives should both subscribe: It breaks the vicious cycle of welfare dependency.

So much for the best.

But once “cursing the bums” subsides, I hope we would agree that barebones emergency shelter for even the most persistently homeless is a societal mandate. The alternative would likely be sleeping in a rusted car or under a viaduct. Besides, they are not all “bums.”

Homeless also includes blameless babies, abused women and people without means who are mentally/physically disabled. We can let them starve or freeze, or we can provide them a roof, a cot, a shower and at least a bologna sandwich.

Ask anyone who works with homeless people. The emergency shelters are already full. People are on waiting lists. Resources are depleted. Babies are out on the street for want of any port in the storm.

Public funding for emergency shelter? Yes, the issue is debatable. But, this I do know: Public funding should not be an issue. Drive up and down your neighborhood. Look at all the big houses of worship. Look at all the rooms with lights off. Look at all the unutilized space. Look at the kitchens that are used once, maybe twice, a week.

Look at how few houses of worship provide a meal and shelter for the homeless. Despite their heroic efforts, look at how few houses of worship even offer their space to initiatives like Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Sometimes it is tough to figure out whose job it is to provide essential community services. In this instance, there is no question. Houses of worship not only have the divine mandate to feed the hungry and offer refuge to the homeless. Many of them also have the space, manpower and wherewithal to bring homeless people under their roof, at least during the coldest months of winter.

They are not doing it.
They may contribute generously to other overtaxed ministries and agencies, but their own space remains clean, heated, lighted ... and unoccupied. Lots of programs in houses of worship come into being from the bottom up. Well-motivated, eager laypeople can pull together the resources to do honorable things. But, the mandate to do something so visionary and aggressive as providing shelter for the homeless demands a top-down initiative.

Bluntly, if your congregation is ever to provide shelter, it will emerge from a bold call from the Sabbath pulpit by the senior pastor/rabbi/priest. Pastoral “support” is not sufficient.

I speak from a modicum of personal experience. Calls from my own pulpit in 1982 and 1986 established the first two synagogue-based shelters in the country. I would like to say that I was the “founder” of the shelters, but the best I can claim ever is that I was their primary stimulant. From that point on, the laity made it their vision.

Every pastor must know that feeding and sheltering the homeless is a biblical imperative. It is literally the punchline of Isaiah 58: “This is the fast I desire ... to share your bread with the hungry and to take the wretched poor into your home”

Hence, this issue is not “Should the preacher preach about it?” but “Will the preacher preach about it?”

Every homeless person we see huddled under a viaduct should tug at our conscience. But, every persistently unutilized room in a house of worship should evoke words like “shame,” and “dishonor,” and “disgrace.” That profound sin of omission should lead us directly to the study of our minister/rabbi/priest, where our appeal should bear the reminder that before one can save the world, he must bring the “wretched poor “ into his home.

(Marc Howard Wilson is a rabbi, syndicated columnist and community relations consultant in Greenville, S.C. )


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