A LETTER TO MITCH This reflection about marriage and its spirituality is about my husband, Mitch Finley, and me, Kathy Finley – and it’s also about you and your marriage. I wrote it for Mitch after 40 years together. Our world so desperately needs to know how to love well and faithfully. Even in our earliest months together, Mitch, the love that you and I experienced was always rooted in God. It was an energy that began almost immediately to give us each a fuller sense of ourselves, allowing us to grow in ways that were different than if we each had been on our own. The power of it was pretty mind-boggling, perhaps especially because to that point neither of us had experienced a serious love relationship in our lives. In an early letter to me, you talked about it this way:
How, I sometimes wonder, can I bear so much love; yet I do and I am so filled with a deep and intense happiness that I think sometimes I’ll burst! …Each evening when I light our candle at supper time, suddenly I am filled with a deep calm and I could pray on and on, prayers of praise and thanksgiving, of petition for courage and fidelity; of you and I and deep into the center of my soul, begging for love to give to you, all of it, all of me. My love, my life, how I want only to be with you. Already we were becoming a “sacrament” for each other, not in the official sense of what we would receive at our wedding, but in the everyday
sense of being a visible, tangible sign of God’s invisible, intangible love for us. There was a joy much deeper than words can hold, one that will pop up even now when we least expect it. We can see it in the way other couples are with each other at times, as well. I can remember sensing more energy in everything around me in those days. This was the beginning for us of a deeper sacramental imagination, one that can see God at work everywhere, once you begin to look for it. One of the questions the students in my Christian Marriage classes at Gonzaga often ask is how one knows a certain person is “the right one,” which, of course, is not an easy question to answer. Most couples, when asked that question, would say something to the effect of, “You just know.” For us, I think that answer is very tied to the question of vocation, of a call to go one specific direction in one’s life and not another and one that, from a religious perspective, comes from God. I often tell the engaged couples with whom I work that, among other things, marriage is a very long conversation with each other, one that should have enough energy to carry you both through many years. We can certainly run out of topics at times, but if we keep our marriage alive and growing, there should be, and are, new possibilities all the time. Our relationship developed further as the days and weeks went by, and at Thanksgiving we were ready to announce our engagement. From the
outside, the timeline of our relationship may look like a whirlwind, but I don’t remember experiencing it that way. We knew from the beginning that prayer needed to be a part of what we were about. You have gone on retreat, for example, to the nearest Trappist monastery a number of times, which is how I started going there. Now I have gone there annually for many years. I try to take one day a month as a quiet prayer day, often at the House of Prayer just north of town, while you pray in other daily ways. Besides our own daily prayer and trying to listen for God’s voice and energy, together we planned a half-day of prayer with a priest friend a few days before the wedding. We have both made prayer a priority in our lives, but each in our own way. Our first awareness was that the two of us were quickly becoming a “community” of love for each other, and there was for us a kind of “trinity” to our love, a taste of the community of love we see in God. Besides referring to the three persons in the Holy Trinity as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – or as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier – we could also describe them as the Lover, the Beloved and the Loving Energy between them. In that sense, this love surrounding the two of us, a love that was clearly part of each of us, also had its own identity, its own “personality” and “us-ness.” So, there was you, me and us: a certain “community” from the beginning.
This is an excerpt from “Listening to Love: Reflections on a Spirituality of Marriage,” an upcoming book by Kathy Finley (’70, ’90 MA). Kathy teaches Christian Marriage at Gonzaga, leads a marriage-preparation program at St. Aloysius Parish, and is a therapist and spiritual director in private practice. She and her husband, Mitch, are nationally recognized Catholic authors and speakers. For more: MitchandKathyFinley.com.
FALL 2014 | GONZAGA.EDU/MAGAZINE