Mother’s Day is coming and it seems like as good a time as any to open that evergreen can ‘o worms, a topic of discussion in Catholic circles since, oh, 62 AD . . . the ever-controversial question inspired by Ephesians 5:21-33: Must Catholic wives submit to their husbands? If yes, how much?

Speaking of mothers and wives . . . Mother’s Day is May 8. If you’re looking to share some goodness with the mothers in your life (or just drop some hints around your own house), we are happy to announce a limited-edition selection of curated gift boxes featuring items from Catholic All Year and some of our favorite Catholic makers!

{Just as an aside before we begin, this advice is based on my own personal experience with my own personal husband. Your husband might vary. For challenging circumstances, I highly recommend spiritual direction with a faithful priest or layperson.}

Here’s the mailbag question:

Dear Kendra,

I am recently married as of August 2020. Being a wife is a very fruitful and fulfilling gift. During adoration it was put on my heart how I can be submissive to God first and how that can prepare me to be submissive to my husband. I am at a loss for an answer and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how one could be submissive to God and to their husband.

Also, I would like to say thank you bring liturgical living to life. For my husband and I being recently married we are finding it fun to bring the practice into our home to get an early start on making it a habit for when our family grows.

Thank you,

Lexus

Hi Lexus,

Thanks for your kind words. 

Figuring out how to be submissive is a challenge for sure. I think step one is to read the oft-cited Bible passage in its entirety:

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:21-33 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

My favorite oversimplified explanation of this Bible passage is this: Say a married couple is buying a car. The husband wants a brown car, and the wife wants a green car. Saint Paul says the wife needs to let the husband decide which color car to buy. And Saint Paul says the husband needs to decide to buy a green car.

I go into more detail on what that’s looked like in my marriage in a post for Blessed Is She:

​”Why, with such a beautiful foundational understanding of the equal purpose and dignity of men and women in the eyes of God espoused by the Jesus and the Catholic Church, would Saint Paul/the Holy Spirit even feel the need to set in stone that “the husband is head of his wife”?! Some husbands are dummies, right? (Not mine. Mine is a genius. And handsome. And SO patient. And I’m not sure whether he reads these or not.)

I think the answer can be found in the Church’s understanding of obedience and hierarchy. The buck has to stop somewhere. “

Read the rest here.

The heart of the matter is trust. Being submissive to God is about trusting that God’s plan for my life is good and that all will be well, no matter what. Being submissive to my husband is about trusting that my husband wants the best for me and allowing him room to make decisions that would show it.

I really like these of prayers of surrender and abandonment to God’s will.

“Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”

The idea of radical surrender to God’s will has been really helpful to me as we have faced serious illnesses in our family. And when I struggle with being submissive, it’s because I need to grow in humility. I have the Litany of Humility up right next to my bed as a reminder to always strive to grow in humility!

Of course, it’s going to be a marriage-long endeavor, so there are no quick fixes, but I hope this helps a bit.

+AMDG+

Kendra

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