Our Lady’s fiat: the heart of marriage and family

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

By Michaelyn Hein –

My husband and I were in the midst of a particularly bad disagreement and it was escalating quickly. I stood at the stove, preparing dinner when, in our bickering, he made some cutting remark and promptly went upstairs. I was livid. Boiling, like the water in the pot before me. And I was ready to follow him and let him know it.

But, as I slammed down the salt and prepared to head to the stairs, my eyes rested on the crucifix hanging on the wall across from me. At once, my head filled with the words, “I died for you; will you die for Me?”

It suddenly struck me that denying the desire to retaliate against my husband truly is a “dying to self,” and that every marriage is presented with daily opportunities to do just that. Whether in large or little ways, God gives husbands and wives constant opportunities to submit to and follow His will, or to resist it and do our own.

Too often, we are tempted to resist. We hold fiercely to our pride, to our own stubborn will, and have the hardest time letting it go, letting our God steer the ship of our lives. But, it’s what we should do if we’re to have happy and holy marriages. And the best example of this comes from our Lady, because it’s what she did.

At the Annunciation, Mary gave her fiat (literally, “Let it be done”) to God’s will. From that “yes,” the family began to be redeemed. God’s family, broken by sin, could be repaired because of our Blessed Mother’s assent to the opportunity presented her by Him.

Love is based most profoundly on this principle, this idea of putting the other before the self.

It’s not easy to submit like that, particularly – and quite ironically – in marriage. While the sacrament begins with a joyful “yes” on the wedding day, that “yes” becomes less mirthful when the bloom is off the marital rose.

When we return home from a stressful day at work, it’s hard to say, “Honey, you sit. I’ll do the dishes.” When the baby is teething and up all night, it’s exhausting to wake up early and make your spouse a cup of coffee. And when we’d rather retaliate in a fight than swallow our pride, it’s incredibly frustrating to be the first to apologize.

Such times, however, are precisely the kinds of opportunities we’re given to follow the example our Blessed Mother gave in her fiat. In these moments, we have the chance to choose, like she did, the path to holiness rather than impiety. If we follow our Blessed Mother’s lead in how to love, we keep our marriage – and, in effect, our family – on the path to perfection rather than ruin.

In “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Sister Lucia asserts, “All those who love deny themselves for the one they love.” It is through our denial of self-will, in favor of God’s will, that we demonstrate our love – for God and our spouse. “We show, and prove, our love for God,” Sister Lucia shared, “by the love we bestow” on another.

Indeed, at Fatima, the Angel instructed the children – and us – to “make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.” And, in Fatima for Today, Father Andrew Apostoli explains that in this visitation, the Angel directed us “to use the many opportunities that come our way during the day to surrender our will, our preferences, our desire, or our comfort, giving it to God and…extending it to another person, as an offering of love.”

All of this points to the fact that we don’t need to feel love, we need only choose it and enact it.

On that day when I found myself in a heated argument with my husband, I assuredly did not feel loving. But, thanks to an invitation from God, I was awakened to the fact that we all have a choice – to follow our feelings, which are fickle things indeed, or to follow God’s will, which is a fixed path to heaven.

And so, I found my husband upstairs, where he was fully expecting me to attack him in return with harsh words. Instead, I said, “I know you didn’t mean what you said, and I forgive you for it. Now, dinner’s ready. Do you want to come down to eat?”

Surprised, his ruffled feathers smoothed out and his tense body relaxed. “No, I didn’t mean that,” he said, “and, yes, I’d like dinner.”

It’s the secret to happier marriages, this submitting to God’s will over our own, this laying down our own life and will for the sake of our spouse and our children. To help our marriages thrive, it is imperative that we adopt a “fiat” mentality, that we look regularly for opportunities to be like our Lady and choose God, and others, over ourselves.

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  1. You’ve beautifully connected the spiritual lessons of Fatima with the concrete, earthy details of everyday married life. Thank you!

  2. I so needed to hear this; it will change the way I interact with my husband. My life will be better, healthier and happy ❤️

    • I agree with you. I am so quick to fly off the “handle” This reading is an eye opener for me and an inspiration to imitate our Blessed Mother. I need to pray for that grace.

      • Oh, I am, too, Kathy! And I need to pray for that grace constantly….it requires a lot of perseverance, doesn’t it? Prayers for you as you follow the inspiration of our Lady!

    • I’m glad to hear that, Ginny. Yes, I agree that if we live our Lady’s fiat, our lives will be better! God bless you and your marriage!

  3. Thank you for this. I really needed to read this today.

  4. A very well-written article; one that every married couple could relate to and learn a great lesson from. Thank you!

  5. As I struggle with my husband’s short term memory loss which results in daily irritations and my impatience with him, I will remember this message from Our Lady to love daily rather than react harshly.

    • Colette, I’m so sorry for what’s happening to your husband. I will pray for his struggles and yours, and for God’s love to radiate through your marriage even in its trials. May our Lady always keep you close! Blessings to you and your dear husband!

  6. As I struggle with my husband’s short term memory loss which results in daily irritations and my impatience with him, I will remember this message from Our Lady to love daily rather than react harshly.

  7. Thank you Michaelyn. You show and live out beautifully the message of a Our Lady at Fatima in marriage. To stay committed “till death do us part”, marriage calls for our “conversion of heart” daily! In a culture that promotes autonomy and as a result has forgotten how to love, your reminder to look to the Cross, where we find Our Blessed Lord and His Mother is the key to all marriages lasting! For the sake of our salvation and that of our children, thank you and God bless!

    • Thank you, Jennie! I love what you wrote about the Cross being where we find our Lord and His Mother…it is indeed where to look for a lasting marriage. God bless you!

  8. I really enjoyed the article. Our memories are short, I know I will forget this message. I need to keep this article in front of me , close to me, to refer to it as much as I can. Thank you, Mary my Mother.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kris! Indeed, our memories are short! I often forget God’s lessons for me and have to pray often for Him and our Blessed Mother to remind me of them!

  9. This is the unique power of our faith as Catholics: religious devotion that is concrete, I.e., practical. And this message by way of this article captivated me with a real life application in marital strife. Indeed, how often I look at that hanging cross and overlook the message it confers. That message was made evident to me like a 2 by 4 – yet gently swatted against my forehead, “I died for you; will you die for Me?” He laid His life for me. Should I not make a small act of penintential courage (hat-tip to Fr. Timothy Gallagher) at the moment when my pride stands erect in defense of some slight or offense I deem significant? Truly, our Catholic faith is endless – bottomless – in wisdom, that is, knowledge applied to the present moment of life. Thank you for this profound insight that was made clear to me this morning. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you toward leading others to peace and joy, the rewards promised that first day long ago from a life in sworn marriage (to my wife as well as our Savior) that began with “I do!”

    • Zen, thank you for your beautifully worded comment. Those words hit me like a 2 X 4 as well. As you explained, how does one say “no” to that? God’s blessings to you and your marriage!

  10. Wow. This is how Our Lady works in my life. Today I had a big argument with my husband over money matters, and I had this webpage open from days ago as I had read the Fatima story. I saw this article’s heading on the side, clicked it open and read it. I will heed the advice, despite how hot-headed I am about the matter. It will be hard but I will reread it to give me the graces necessary.

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