Jason Angelette shares about his background and the importance of prayer in marriage, as well as how prayer helped his family through loss.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
Printable Transcript PDF
Reflective Study Guide Questions
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit; because without me you can do nothing.” –John 15:5
- In this talk, Jason explains some of his background, including how meeting his wife radically changed his life for the better and drew him to the Lord. Have you ever met someone who lead you closer to the Lord?
- In the Theology of the Body, St. John-Paul II taught that prayer, the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration help make a marriage strong and rooted in the Lord. Jason shared his experience of raising his young family in the Church and focusing on the sacraments, prayer and adoration.
- When Jason shared about his family’s loss of unborn twins, how does he emphasize the role of God as the Divine Healer? How did adoration transform his daughter’s sorrow?
- In learning about Jason’s life experience, How does his perspective help deepen your connection to God’s healing presence?
Text: Praying Through Suffering and Searching for Peace
Before I met my wife, I was far away in my faith. At best, I was going through the motions, very much lost in sin and confused in what it meant to be a real man and how to find the love that our hearts are truly longing For. The first time I saw Elise, she completely caught my attention, her hair, her eyes, her smile, and as I got to know her, I realized that she had something else that was radically different and completely captivating. She had a faith and a love for God that was wildly attractive.
She inspired me in my faith and helped me to draw closer to God. From the very beginning of our friendship, faith was an important topic of conversation and soon began to be part of our relationship together. I was convinced that the Lord was calling us to marriage and so on the day I asked her to be my wife, my confidence was not in what I did, what I drove, how much money I had, or how much I could bench press, but my confidence was in my God, praise be to God. We were not naive to think that just because we didn’t want to end in divorce, or that we both had an intense desire to be together that we were not above something actually happening to us in our relationship. We knew that we had to be active and intentional in our walk together and we didn’t want to wait until something got difficult, something was challenging before we actually tried to do something to help our marriage.
The Way, The Truth, and The Life
Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter seven, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and it buffeted the house, but it did not collapse. It had been set solidly on rock, and everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and it buffeted the house and it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Elise and I both wanted to learn more of what the Lord was teaching us through His Church so that we could love in truth. We both wanted to dive deeper into our relationship with God, knowing that He is the way, the truth and the life, and to trust and follow His plan for us wherever that would lead.
St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
Early on in our marriage, I remember coming across St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which was a set of teaching that he gave at the very beginning of his pontificate when he sought to answer two important questions. One, “What does it mean to be male and female?” And two, “How do we experience the love that we’re created for?” Toward the end of this five-year teaching, St. John Paul II was speaking to spouses and he said that the means infallible and indispensable in forming the Christian spirituality of marriage and family life is prayer, the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. What is powerful to note here is that these three gifts, prayer and the sacraments of the Eucharist and sacraments of reconciliation are three powerful encounters with the Lord. That each one is a place where we encounter and experience the Lord in a real and powerful way. That this is us drawing near to the Lord so that His grace, love, and strength is in us so that we can then do what is being asked of us, that we can face what comes our way.
Our Primary Identity
We read in John’s gospel, “Remain in me as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine so neither can you unless you remain in me. I’m the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing.”
Whether we are married, single, or celibate, all of us have our primary identity as being sons and daughters of God created in His image and likeness and called to be in communion with Him. When we are connected, grafted in communion with Him, then we have life. The Holy Spirit poured out into our hearts giving us the grace to be and to do. When we drift away from our relationship with God. When we put our devotions aside, when we allow the busyness of life to creep in and pull us away from our primary and fundamental place as being His children, then we have disconnected ourselves from the vine that gives the grace to produce fruit that will last, to love those that we’re called to love, to face the challenges and weather the storms. This is not at all a health and wealth gospel.
Our Lord Himself tells us to pick up our cross which is an instrument of pain, suffering, and death and then follow Him. It is not in becoming Christian that we find a life without struggle. It is that we find a life worth living and when the challenges come, when the storms in life start raging around us, we have a savior who does at time calm the storms and other times perhaps many times He’s inviting us to walk with Him through the storm.
A Family Tradition
So as a married couple, Elise and I kept prayer and the sacraments as a top priority in our relationship together. When we started our family and when the baby started coming praise be to God, we wanted to foster that same walk to the Lord in them. Family prayer, when they were old enough, monthly confessions, Sunday mass and holy days of obligation and when we could daily mass together.
But another beautiful tradition that we wanted to do as a family was Eucharistic adoration. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote of all the devotions that of adoring Jesus and the blessed sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure by not only celebrating the Eucharist, but also by praying before it outside of mass, we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace.
Many people have a beautiful commitment to do a holy hour before the blessed sacrament, but for us with little ones this was not a holy hour. We were not even shooting for a holy half hour but more like a holy high five, sometimes it was us walking in, saying hi and then rolling out. To help foster their relationship with the Lord, we asked the kids to draw pictures, write a letter, read one of their kids’ Bible books. We were not perfect, but we were striving to make this a habit as a family. It was challenging to do this, but we were convinced that this was a good and beneficial thing for us and for them to do together. I was soon convinced of that and more.
A Moment to Remember
At this particular time, our oldest Bella was about four or five. Sophia was a couple years behind her and our son Jude the dude was just a baby. We found out that we were expecting again, and we were very excited and so was Bella. She knew what this meant, and she was ready to be a big sister again. Elise had hyperemesis every pregnancy but during this particular time she was really going through a very difficult pregnancy. We went to the doctor, and he was very concerned about the pregnancy and asked us to come back in about a week, and for Elise to take it easy and get as much rest as possible. A week later, we see the doctor and we found out that we were pregnant with twins but that they were no longer alive. It was very challenging for both of us and then we had to go home and tell the kids.
I remember sitting down with Bella and Sophia and I said we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, is that we found out that we have twins but unfortunately the twins are not strong enough to play with us here, so they’re going to be with Jesus. And then Bella started crying. I tried to say something that was going to comfort her. Nothing I could say was making any change. In her tears, she looks up at me and she says can we go to the chapel? I told her absolutely. We get in the van, I buckle them up and we drive off to the adoration chapel. We pulled up about 7:30 in the evening and they were like two little saints in that chapel. After 30 minutes had gone by, I was hooking at my watch and this time I was the one tugging on their shirt saying that we needed to go home.
We get back in the van, I buckle them up and while I’m driving off, Bella says to me, “Daddy I love you, and I said, I love you too, Bella. She said, I love everybody in the whole world, even in other planets.” And I was like, praise God. Then I was thinking just moments ago she’s crying her eyes out. I was unable to console her, and then she says to me, not can we go get some ice cream or can we go to Chuck E Cheese and get pizza? But she asked me, can we go to the chapel? And then we go, and she’s so comforted, so loved on by the Lord that she has more love to give than people on this earth, and so she’s ready to hand it out to aliens.
God is Our Refuge
What my daughter reminded me is that only the Lord can heal the broken hearted. Only the Lord can truly bind up our wounds that God is our refuge. I remember thinking, I hope that Bella never forgets this moment, that He is our strength, that He’s our hope, He is our peace. Not that He makes us forget our crosses but that He reminds us of His love. He pours out His love on us, that we can truly turn to Him and He will give us the peace and comfort. He will give us the strength that we need. He is with us and He walks with us through in our pain and suffering but this wasn’t a moment for Bella, but for me too.
I hope that I remember that is not in the pleasures of this world or the distractions that we can find ourselves in that can heal or comfort us. God alone is the one that gives us the strength to carry our cross. He is the one that gives us peace in the storm. I don’t think God has come to calm every storm we see but I do think He has come to bring peace in every storm we encounter.
In the next session, I want to talk about finding hope and what can seem like hopeless situations. I would like to share with you what I learned from my beautiful late wife’s six year battle with breast cancer. Elise was not just a fire starter for me in the faith, but remained throughout our marriage a constant source of inspiration and witness especially in the face of difficulties, challenges, cancer, illness, and hardship. She didn’t just talk the talk, by the grace of God, she walked with joy and grace through the storm. I look forward to being with you soon.
About Jason Angelette
Jason Angelette received his Masters in Theological Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. Since 2007 Jason has been working as the Director of the Faith and Marriage Apostolate of the Willwoods Community which is dedicated to promoting the Sacramentality of marriage and providing for married couples opportunities for growth, enrichment, and support.
Jason is the author of a marriage enrichment program called, United in Love United in Christ. His ministry experience includes high school campus ministry, teaching theology at the high school and college level, working on and speaking at various retreats and events nationwide, Catholic podcasting, as well as co-host for a television program on WLAE entitled “Faith and Marriage Today”.
He is the father of five children. In August of 2020 his beloved (late) wife Elise received her heavenly reward after a six-year battle with breast cancer.