Caitrin Bennett shares how her children have challenged her husband and her to grow in virtue.
When most people think about the marriage vow of loving your spouse fruitfully, the first thing that comes to mind is having biological children. However, this vow can include a lot more! Fruitful love could also result in adoptive or foster children. It could mean praying for and encouraging “spiritual children” on their journeys of faith. And sometimes, the “fruits” of a fruitful marriage aren’t people at all, but virtues. Fruits like patience, kindness, and humility may not be as obvious at first glance, but you will surely find them on the tree of any fruitful marriage.
Tonight, I am struck by the idea that our children—the visible, tangible, very audible fruits of our marriage—are often the reason that my husband Chris and I are forced to grow in these quieter fruits of virtue. When we chose to love fruitfully and welcome children into our family, we allowed God to shape us into better people through the beautiful, exhausting adventure of parenthood.
Weekend Plans Spoiled
A great example is this past Memorial Day. Chris and I were looking forward to our long weekend. We planned to take the kids strawberry picking on Saturday, go to Mass as a family on Sunday, and do a whole lot of nothing on Monday. There were still many unscheduled hours left to sit outside under an umbrella and watch the kids splash in our little inflatable pool, or maybe even to get some quiet time alone.
By 5 PM Friday, however, I was on the phone with a pediatric nurse and Chris was frantically googling symptoms of C. diff infection in babies. Meanwhile, said baby was screaming, and our two preschoolers were taking advantage of this unsupervised moment to rub an entire tube of toothpaste in one another’s hair.
The rest of the weekend did not go quite as we had expected. We had a restless night checking on our sick baby, then I spent most of Saturday driving an hour each way to the pediatric urgent care, waiting there endlessly, and picking up prescriptions. Chris held down the fort, making sure to keep the toothpaste locked away. By Sunday, the baby had gotten Chris sick, so the two of them stayed home from Mass. Though he was still recuperating on Monday, Chris had no choice but to take a test and catch up on some of his schoolwork due that night, as he hadn’t had any time earlier in the weekend. While we did get a little bit of pool-splashing in, our strawberry-picking trip had to be postponed, and our quiet time alone was a total no-go.
Growing In Virtue
Chris and I were bummed that our holiday weekend didn’t go as we had hoped and planned, but we were less bummed than we would’ve been back before we had kids. We were able to roll with the punches better this weekend because there have been many similar weekends before this one.
After a few years on this adventure of parenthood, we were able to accept with a bit more humility than last time that our plans may not be God’s plans. I could wait with a bit more patience than last time for the urgent care nurse to call my son’s name. Chris could stay reasonably calm and respond with a bit more kindness than last time to our little devious, minty-fresh children.
I often find that when I ask God to help me grow in virtue, He sends me a challenge that will require more virtue to overcome. Nine out of ten times, that challenge is one (or more) of my kids. Though they can be frustrating, exhausting, and sometimes utterly gross, these three small humans are my little virtue-building machines. Through the literal blood, sweat, and tears it takes to raise them up, Jesus is going to get Chris and me to heaven.
By Their Fruits
I challenge you today to reflect on the fruits of your own marriage. If you have kids, think about how God might be using them to make you more virtuous. If you don’t have kids, ask Him to send you some other challenges to help you grow. Then, buckle up, because this is the type of prayer God will definitely answer!
Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). What are the fruits of your marriage, and how can you foster their growth?
Copyright 2022 Caitrin Bennett
About the Author
Caitrin Bennett is a military wife and homeschooling mama of three young children. Her blog at HolierMatrimony.com combines two of her passions: sharing the Church’s beautiful teachings on marriage, and creative writing. Caitrin hopes to one day publish her own book on married saints and Catholic marriage.