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I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely possible to celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary with a beautiful new ring on your finger, dining at your favorite restaurant, surrounded by your spouse and five wonderful kids, followed by a winter getaway to Puerto Vallarta—and feel unloved in your marriage. Because I did.
At our Silver Anniversary in 2007, my husband gave me everything—except the vow renewal that my heart desired.
Earlier that year, at a high school parent-teacher conference, I felt inspired to ask Fr. Sean, our son’s religion teacher, if he could hear my confession. He said, “Sure! I’ll be done here in about an hour, and we can do it then.” And I said, “No, no, no! I have to prepare!” So, I went home and Googled, “How to make a good confession.”
I brainstormed every unconfessed sin I could remember, using the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins. I had pages, so many pages. But I was ready!
My confession the next day took over an hour. After absolution, Fr. Sean was practically giddy. He said, “Do you know what you’ve done? My priestly order is required to make one general confession, once in a lifetime, and you did that today. God is preparing you for something great!”
Two weeks later something great happened. A cross of heavy heartbreak was laid upon my shoulders. I was gutted.
I called Fr. Sean. “Have you heard of St. Rita of Cascia?” he asked.
“Uhhh, Isn’t she that nun with the thorn in her forehead?”
Margherita Lotti Mancini was an Italian wife and mother, and what you’d call, “a real saint.”
She patiently accepted the work of loving a difficult husband and two vengeful sons, and always prayed, hoped, and trusted God for their salvation. She preferred that the men in her life physically die and go to God, rather than die in mortal sin. Well, they all three died, with converted hearts.
After that, she became an Augustinian nun.
I thought her thorn was weird at first, but as a former migraine sufferer, the thorn is like a relentless debilitating headache. It also represents mental anguish. And for Rita, it was a physical sharing in Christ’s Passion, from His own crown of thorns. She received the thorn stigmata after 25 years a nun, and 15 years before her death on May 22, 1457. She’s one of the incorruptibles, and associated with many miracles surrounding heartbroken women, difficult marriages and impossible causes.
With Fr. Sean’s encouragement, I asked her to help me.
I bought a Saint Rita holy card, and a book on forgiveness, which I kept on my nightstand and would read before bed. Between frequent Communion, Scripture reading, and the intercession of Saint Rita, I learned how to trust God in my season of suffering, which lasted over two years.
After which, still feeling unloved in my marriage, I had fully surrendered my life to God. But my broken heart began to wander, and the Enemy knew it. Temptation lured me into a trap that had the potential to destroy my family, and ultimately my soul.
This time, I went to confession not because the Spirit compelled me, but because the fires of hell repelled me. Still though, there’s something very alluring about sin, and Fr. Sean wisely told me I would need to return to the confessional, because I “lacked perfect contrition.”
I’m pretty transparent. You know what I’m thinking by the look on my face. I had to be honest with John about everything. Even the lack of perfect contrition part.
I prayed: “OK, Heavenly Father, either you’ll restore my marriage, or I will have to live like nun for the rest of my life. May your Holy and Perfect Will be done.”
I trusted God would go before me as I laid out every gory detail, because my husband could decide to end our marriage, and also blame me for it.
Instead, he received true remorse for his own sins. He told me later how he covered Fr. Sean with snot and tears. Apparently. John also made a general confession, only his took two hours!
Here’s a bit of a letter he wrote later:
“As my strength grows and my understanding deepens, I realize that you have been a precious gift from my Lord that has lain unopened at my feet for many years. Please forgive my ignorance and my sinful pride.
Only through your unending devotion and prayer has God saved me and brought me into the light of truth.
Let us meet before our Lord in our broken weakness and draw strength together in blessed Matrimony. God is Love. You are God’s living Love in my life.”
We renewed our marriage vows in front of our best friends, and Fr. Sean, on May 22, 2009, the Feast of St. Rita of Cascia. Still happily married, we’ll celebrate our 40th anniversary this winter.
I’d like to end with a quote from another spiritual sister of mine, St. Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of florists:
“When I shall have arrived at port, I will teach you how to travel… on the stormy sea of the world: with the surrender and the love of a child who knows his Father loves him and cannot leave him alone in the hour of danger… The way of simple love and confidence is really made for you.”
Julia Miller is a lifelong Catholic, and professional wedding florist who, after retiring in 2017, embarked on another floral career – She creates and ships life-size rosaries, made of real, whole, fresh roses, all over the lower 48 states, for funerals, sacraments, gifts, and other holy occasions. Julia and her husband John will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary later this year. Together they have five adult children and seven young grandchildren. They live in Western Washington.