The Catholic University of America

Final Presentation of

Christopher Stravitsch

for the degree of

Doctor of Ministry 

Abstract

 

 Marriage and the Spiritual Life:

Deepening Marital Love  through Ignatian Prayerful Conversations 

Director: Susan Timoney, S.T.D.

 

Marital spirituality is inevitably different from the spiritualities embraced by celibates, because it must account for a man and woman becoming one. A need exists in the Church to articulate how the spiritual life can be lived in marriage and to offer a model for spousal prayer befitting of married life.

This treatise describes essential elements for a marital spirituality, examines causes for the crisis in Christian marriage today, and presents a pastoral response for teaching spouses how to remain under the influence of the Spirit together through prayerful conversations.

Spouses participated in a six-week research study learning about their priestly mission—to become a community in dialogue with God—and implementing a model for prayerful conversations based on St. Ignatius’ examen prayer and rules for the discernment of spirits. These “Ignatian prayerful conversations” included personal review of their attentiveness and responsiveness to the movements of God; gratitude and forgiveness for each other; conversation about the Spirit’s activity in their daily life; prayers of petition for specific graces needed to remain under the influence of the Spirit; and a concluding prayer.

The results from the study reveal that the participating spouses had patterns of talking with each other about their faith prior to beginning the program, but did not have habits praying together as an expression of their faith. The program successfully empowered these spouses to bring God into their conversations at home so that they did not just talk about God as a couple but also talked with God as a couple. They transitioned from being a community in dialogue with each other to becoming a community in dialogue with God and thereby crossed a new threshold in achieving their priestly mission. Learning to have prayerful conversations, wherein they could identify and respond to the movement of the Spirit together, enabled them to fulfill the deepest meaning of their vocation—to become the help of God for one another—and empowered them to fulfill the very essence of marital spirituality—to abide together under the influence of the Spirit.

 

More about Stravitsch

 Christopher J. Stravitsch is a Doctor of Ministry Candidate at The Catholic University of America where he has focused his research on the spiritual formation of couples and families. He earned a dual degree in Pastoral Counseling from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, consisting of an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy (2006) and M.A. in Pastoral Ministry (2007). While studying at Texas A&M University he earned a B.A. in Psychology (2003). He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Mr. Stravitsch is the Founding President of Rejoice Counseling Apostolate, an organization providing professional counseling services to Catholic parishes. He is also Cofounder of the St. John Paul II Foundation, a national Catholic apostolate, where he has directed the strategic growth of their “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference series offered to dioceses across the United States. He previously served eight years on the Formation Faculty at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, and continues to serve as Adjunct Faculty at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha.