St. Agnes taught me about love on my honeymoon

People are right when they tell you during marriage prep that the process of learning how to live with your spouse is challenging. I don’t mean this purely because in my first month of marriage I have learned a more “proper” way to fold socks, the most efficient way to do dishes, and that sorting trash and recycling is actually important. Rather, by living with my husband, I have not only gotten to know him in a deeper way than before, but I’ve also gained a better understanding of myself.

Sure, through my years of college and young adulthood, I discovered I was not the cleanest, most orderly person in the world. I have weird tastes in food, wake up abnormally early even on weekends, and tend to enjoy vacuuming late at night. While these traits and habits appear completely reasonable in my mind, I have learned many times over that you have to adjust and adapt when living with others.

So I was surprised to find in this short time of living together with my husband that I have felt very small. You would think it would be the opposite — living with someone you love and to whom have made vows unto death should, in theory, be the most comfortable thing in the world. Yet the experience has brought up a lot of insecurities I thought I had worked through prior to marriage.

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During the honeymoon, I beat myself up for not feeling totally comfortable right away and for being sensitive about little things — how long it takes me to get ready in the morning, or that my socks are all mismatched because they somehow magically get lost in the wash, or even things like being hungry or tired. I scolded myself for being needy and imposing on my husband. I knew in marriage I was going to have to share all of myself; I just thought the process would look more like an epic and mature gift of self. Instead, I felt less like a strong independent woman, and more of like a middle school girl hoping the kids at school would let me have a seat at lunch.

Learning from a little saint

Thankfully, I have a very kind and patient husband, whose delight in me never ceases to pierce my heart and get me out of my head. On our honeymoon, we went to Rome and enjoyed all of the delights and incorrupt bodies the eternal city has to offer. Talk about love languages, my husband knows me! Riding on the back of a cute little Italian scooter, my tour-guide-husband zipped us around dreamy streets and planned the best trip I’ve ever been on.

One day we went to the Church of St. Agnes in Agony in the Piazza Navona, where in the side chapel the skull of St. Agnes is displayed. As I knelt down before my dear sister, my body and mind were present to all the insecurities brought to the surface in becoming a wife. I fixated on the skull. I always knew Agnes was around 12 years old when she died, but until this moment, I never really grasped how young she would have been. Her tiny skull brought a new depth to the valor of her death. What mighty faith contained in such a little girl.

Contemplating this made me reevaluate my storm of thoughts and insecurities. Maybe being little wasn’t so bad at all. Maybe the littleness wasn’t a badge of embarrassment, but a weapon that could be used to partake in something of greater dignity and honor than my small mind could realize. In Agnes’ case, her littleness is a testimony of faith that has extended beyond her life and raised her up to the heights of heaven. In my case, these little moments of feeling small and vulnerable are invitations to partake in a love outside of and greater than myself — in the seemingly-insignificant moments of “embarrassment” that arise when sharing life and space with another, and then allowing myself to be loved and adored in return.

True love does not turn up its nose in the presence of a beloved in need. Quite the contrary: True love delights in need because it sees the endless possibilities that arise when life is laid down for the good of another. The witness of St. Agnes not only reminds me that mustard seed faith can yield a martyr, but also that martyrdom is not restricted to those who look the part of the superhero. More often than not, it’s the daily choice to give the gift of self in the most complete way possible. When you feel like it and when you don’t. When you feel confident and triumphant, and also when you feel vulnerable and scared. Little acts of great love, displayed in ordinary ways — no matter what the day brings.

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