These seven men were the founders of the Servite Order, a community instituted for the special purpose of cultivating the spirit of penance and contemplating the passion of Christ and Mary's Seven Sorrows. Due to the spirit of humility cherished by the members of the Order, their accomplishments are not too widely known. But in the field of home missions’ great things are to their credit, and certainly they have benefited millions by arousing devotion to the Mother of Sorrows. The Breviary tells us that in the midst of the party strife during the thirteenth century, God called seven men from the nobility of Florence. In the year 1233 they met and prayed together most fervently. The Blessed Mother appeared to each of them individually and urged them to begin a more perfect life. Disregarding birth and wealth, in sackcloth under shabby and well-worn clothing they withdrew to a small building in the country. It was September 8, selected so that they might begin to live a more holy life on the very day when the Mother of God began to live her holy life. Soon after, when the seven were begging alms from door to door in the streets of Florence, they suddenly heard children's voices calling to them, "Servants of holy Mary." Among these children was St. Philip Benizi, then just five months old. Hereafter they were known by this name, first heard from the lips of children. In the course of time they retired into solitude on Monte Senario and gave themselves wholly to contemplation and penance. Leo XIII canonized the Holy Founders and introduced today's feast in 1888.
Just like that sweet little vegetable patch in your backyard, the more you nurture and nourish your relationship the happier you’ll both be. And what does that look like? Quality nourishment requires pausing, listening, and paying attention to your partner. It requires that you learn to love people in ways that are meaningful to them and listen when they tell you what their needs are. Here are 10 ways you can nudge your relationship into a happier, healthier, more fulfilling version of itself.
1. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not and just be yourself insteadWhen we are who we really truly are – weird hobbies and all – magic happens. Being true to ourselves allows us to navigate life and relationships free of hangups, emotional baggage, or expectations. In the beginning stages of relationships, many of us focus on showcasing our best selves in an attempt to garner love and affection. We become ridiculously, painfully focused on making a good impression. But being who you really are and being who you think someone wants you to be – it’s hard to do those two things simultaneously. Take a deep breath, release those shoulders, and stop pretending and polishing yourself. Just be right here, who you are, today.
2. Smile at your loved oneTo the best of your ability, greet your partner with a smile when you see each other for the first time that day. Imagine how good that would feel – after a tough day at work and sitting in traffic, you walk through the door and are greeted with a smile and a kiss from the person you love most. Wouldn’t that be an amazing way to start your evening?
This is not to say you’re never allowed to share the low points of your day, but maybe save them for dinner – rather than the first five minutes that you see your sweetie. Other great times to smile at your partner: across a crowded party, before you part ways for the day, when you know they need encouragement.
3. Realize things changeWe’re living, breathing organisms – subject to the changing tides of emotion and circumstance. It can be emotionally crippling to get too attached to the “status quo” – not just in your romantic relationships but in life. Change is inevitable. Next week your partner might wake up and want to change careers, move to the east coast, or have kids (like, soon). Can you allow space for that? Could you create a new life with him while he pursued something new? And, of course, things will change for you – your passions, your career, your family, your health. When your partner tells you that they’ve got some big changes in mind – a new workout plan, a move to the country, no more dairy – do your best to listen with an open mind and heart.
4. Work out togetherExercise gives you energy and is a wonderful way to show your partner that you’re interested in your health and you want to stay healthy for them. Trying new workouts together also helps you bond! Take a couple’s yoga class, a hip-hop dance class, or try rock climbing. Even if you’re terrible, later you’ll be able to laugh together about his terrible downward dog or your total failure to pop ‘n lock.
5. If you want quality time with your significant other, plan itYou’ve heard this advice before and that’s because it works! Make time for thrilling, exciting things – not just birthdays and anniversaries. As your weekend winds down, take a few minutes to schedule in at least one fun date each week – whether that’s trying a new restaurant, going for a hike, or catching a movie at the second-run theater. Fun things happen when you make time and space for them.
6. Express your needsSome people like to text every day. Some people need a lot of alone time. Some people want their partner to plan exciting dates. All of these needs are equally legitimate. But your partner will never know what your needs are if you don’t tell them. You don’t need to open a first date with a checklist, but once things are clicking along, it’s okay to say, “I want you to feel loved and appreciated. How can I do that?” and when you’ve heard their suggestions, you can share yours. When they do what you asked? Offer lots and lots of acknowledgement and appreciation.
7. Give without any expectationsI know it’s incredibly tempting (so tempting!) to keep a mental list of all the nice things you’ve done for your sweetie.
8. Don’t stop caring about how you look!Male or female, we’ve all done this, right? Constantly hanging out in our old gym clothes and dirty hair, eating pizza for dinner three times a week. You want to find your partner attractive and – not surprisingly – they want to find you attractive. Help them do that by keeping up with your workouts and saving the sweatpants for alone time.
9. Cultivate intimacy and independenceIt might sound counterintuitive, but you can connect while also retaining autonomy. Don’t stop doing the things that filled you up now that you’ve found a partner. Keep attending those pottery classes, keep working on your novel – and keep telling your partner all about it and why you love it. Just as important? Give them the space to pursue a few passions without you. You’ll both be that much more excited to come home and tell each other about your adventures.
10. Inspire your partner by loving yourself fiercelyThe more you love yourself, the more others will follow your lead. We’ve all witnessed it: the confident woman who maintains healthy boundaries always seems to attract amazing partners. Do your best to identify your needs and meet those needs yourself. Need creative inspiration? Rather than trying to date an artist or force your accountant boyfriend to take drawing classes, buy a DSLR (camera) and get to shooting. Crave a more active social life? Don’t hassle your introverted girlfriend into house parties and nights out. Call up your most outgoing friends and schedule a night out, complete with cute shoes and cocktails. We teach people how to treat us and when you nourish yourself with love and respect, the world – and your partner – take notice.
Prayer and fasting, worship and adoration, Scripture and sacraments and sacramentals all provide the weapons of our spiritual warfare. With them we go on the offensive against the Evil One. But the virtues provide our defensive armor. St. Paul sums it up: “Put on, therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bear with one another, if anyone has a grievance against any other; even as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Col 3: 12– 14). Only with such armor will we be fully covered and protected from the Evil One’s attacks.
Charms and Amulets