We continue the 52-week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

Last week, we started reflecting upon the eighth major habit: Major Habit 8– Build Unity with your bride and reviewed Habit 25 – Practice Daily Prayer with your bride.

We turn our attention to Habit 26. 

Habit 26 – Make Daily Sacrifices for your bride

Habit 26 – Make Daily Sacrifices for your bride, humbly and meekly seeking to do many small acts of kindness (expressing your love, listening, patience, recognizing her unique gifts, favors, complimenting, honors, deferring, etc.), imitating the self-sacrifice of St. Joseph.

What is “sacrifice”?

The word “sacrifice” comes from Latin words which mean to “make holy”; to sacrifice is to make all of a man’s actions  acts of holiness which are pleasing to God. 

Throughout the Old Testament, sacrifices often had to do with blood, a symbol of life itself (Lev 17:11), and Jesus’ bloody sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins of repentant men is the supreme example of sacrifice out of love for others.

Jesus calls on every man to “pick up his cross” (Mt 16:24) and imitate His supreme sacrifice on His Holy Cross, a Divine example of His call for every man to be willing to sacrifice himself out of love for another (Jn 15:13).

What is the Virtue of Sacrifice?

The Virtue of Sacrifice (a part of the Cardinal Virtue of Justice) is a perpetual habit in which a man seeks to give God and others their just due through acts of giving up one’s own selfish desires for the benefit of another (eg. a husband’s wife).

The Virtue of Sacrifice comes from an inner belief and commitment to love (CCC 2100), leading to external acts of love rooted in self-sacrifice, including acts of gratitude, forgiveness, comforting, bearing with the wrongs of another, and other acts of self-denial expressed in self-giving.

While a man will often make sacrifices out of a sense of duty to his vocation as a husband, the most perfect sacrifice is one made out of deep love for his bride.

Why are daily sacrifices necessary in marriage?

Making daily sacrifices are both a duty and a blessing to both the husband and his bride:

Daily sacrifices for his wife are a Catholic husband’s duty – At the core of being a Catholic man is to fulfill Christ’s commandment to the self-sacrificing love of being a servant  to others (Mt 20:26-28; Mk 10:43-44; Lk 22:26-27). The Greek word translated as “servant” (doulos) in these and many other Gospel passages is more accurately translated as “slave.” Jesus demonstrates the radical call to be a “slave” when He stoops to wash the Apostles’ feet (Jn 13:14-15), a job reserved in ancient times for the lowest of slaves. Considering one’s self to be as lowly as a slave to serve others is a great sacrifice of humility and love.

Every Catholic has the duty  to be “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1) and a husband is to sacrifice himself out of love for his wife as Jesus gave Himself up for His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:25).

The marriage vow a husband makes in the Sacrament of Matrimony also emphasizes the need for a husband to sacrifice himself out of love  for his wife, a binding obligation on his part to fulfill his vows to love, honor and care for his bride in all circumstances all the remaining days of his life. Daily sacrifice is necessary for a man to live up to the marriage vow he made to his wife, and before God and the witnesses present at the marriage.

In addition to imitating the self-sacrificing love of Jesus, every Catholic man has the great blessing to be able to seek the intercession of St. Joseph, the patron saint of marriages and fathers, and to imitate the self-sacrificing love that St. Joseph demonstrated for the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus.

Daily sacrifices for his wife yield a husband many blessings – There are great blessings which come to a man when he makes daily sacrifices for his bride:

Sacrifice can reduce stress – A husband can prolong and deepen the suffering he experiences when he harbors anger and resentment when his wife acts unjustly towards him. Instead, a man who sacrifices with the help of God to bear wrongs patiently and forgive wrongs willingly de-escalates conflict in his home and experiences the blessing of lower stress and growing inner peace and joy.

Sacrifice can bring joy – A husband who builds the Virtue of Sacrifice out of love for his wife can experience the internal joy of living a life in harmony with love and often finds that his loving sacrifice begets loving sacrifices in return from his bride as she responds with joyful gratitude for his love.

What are some practical ways a husband can live out the Virtue of Sacrifice for his bride?

Here the focus will be the small everyday sacrificial acts which a Catholic husband can offer to his wife; elsewhere, the broader sacrificial acts of protecting the family (Major Habit 12 – Protect and Defend the Family) and providing for the family (Major Habit 13 – Provide for the Family) will be covered in greater detail.

As Jesus teaches repeatedly (Mt 6:1, 5, 16), do not seek to gain a reward for your acts of sacrifice, expecting your bride to respond with reciprocal acts of love; rather, offer sacrifices joyfully as a cross that you accept in imitation of Christ. Purify your sacrifices in love by having no expectations of earthly rewards.

While there are a multiple of small and large ways a Catholic husband can make daily sacrifices for his bride, here are a few practical ways to sacrifice:

Be cheerful – It can be difficult to be cheerful due to physical fatigue or pain, anxieties from work, small annoyances, or other sufferings in life.  While husbands and wives are called to share each other’s burdens, seek to minimize the stress on your bride by refraining from being moody and drawing her into unnecessary problems and concerns.

Sacrifice your impulses for discouragement and sadness by seeking the help of Christ to be truly cheerful, which is a great blessing to your wife, children and others.

Make many small acts of kindness – Being neglectful in small everyday kindnesses can become a chronic source of conflict and resentment; neglecting the need to be kind is often a key contributor to the breakdown of marriages.

To battle neglect, sacrifice to make many small acts of kindness for your bride every day: examples include leaving a little “I love you” note, making dinner, doing the dishes, bringing home flowers, buying a little present, surprise her by picking a show  to watch that she likes, etc.

Err on the side of over-expressing gratitude – The Virtue of Gratitude is an act of Justice because it gives another person the rightful recognition of gratitude for some act of sacrificial love. Having a gratitude mindset helps a virtuous husband discover the many ways, which are often hidden, which his wife sacrifices to demonstrate her love for him and the family. Often, small hurts from a lack of appreciation fester over a long period of time to create sorrow and conflict.

It takes time and effort to begin to be more grateful for your bride’s many acts of love. Sacrifice your own busy urgency and pause to offer your bride many expressions of gratitude every day; thank her with explicit thanks for specific acts and kind words, a gentle touch, eye contact or hugs.

Give full attention to your wife’s words – In these days of distraction and the illusion of “multi-tasking”, many give the appearance of listening when attention is either partially or totally elsewhere. Break the habit of multi-tasking and sacrifice by giving your bride your full and undivided attention and “actively” listen.

Forego the impulse to fix things when your wife is describing some problematic situation – Various research studies  suggests that, in general, men are “systematizers” and women are “empathizers.” Men often view the world as a series of problems which must be systematically solved by taking action. Women are “empathizers” who feel deeply and often desire to address problems or situations through discussion and the sharing of points of view.

Instead of always trying to “save time” and “fix things” when a wife brings up some situation, a Catholic husband should regularly fight off the first (and second impulse) to jump to a solution by patiently listening and really seeking to understand what his bride is experiencing and wants to say. Sacrificing the desire to fix things and simply listen with empathy can be a beautiful gift to a wife.

Actively seek your bride’s insights and opinions and honor her advice – Men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, equal in dignity but also unique and complementary, coming together in marriage, two parts which join together to become one whole (Mt 19:4-6; Gen 1:27, 2:24).

A man can often keep things to himself, desiring to control things and make his own decisions, perhaps even not valuing his wife’s points of view. It can be a sacrifice to humbly seek a wife’s insights and opinions.

It is both just and prudent to seek your wife’s input. Because of her dignity, it is an act of justice for a man to actively seek out his bride’s insights and opinions and honor her advice, on both small issues of personal relations and family life, but also on large issues.  It is also prudent for a husband to humbly realize his bride has powerful insights because of a female point of view and “intuition”, which can fill in a blind spot a man may have (the same is true for a man’s ability to fill in the blind spot of a woman).

Make the sacrifice to humbly admit you don’t have all the answers and genuinely seek out your bride’s insights, opinions and advice.

Admit mistakes and make reparations – Every soul makes mistakes or sins against others and a person’s pride makes it difficult to admit when they are wrong. Sacrifice your pride and promptly admit to your bride when you are wrong, show real contrition, say you are sorry and work to repair any damage your mistakes or sins have caused. It is particularly a blessing and meritorious to promptly respond with love when a wife is uncharitable in pointing out your errors.

Regularly do chores – As a generality, men tend to be more focused on the outside world and women tend to pay more attention to the home; research shows women make the majority of home care decisions and purchases. Wives often care more about the care and comfort of a home than husbands and desire for their husbands to do more; the “honey-do” list is an old cliche because there is truth in it.

Sacrifice to both listen to your wife’s thoughts about care and improvements to the home and be active in cheerfully taking on specific chores around the house which your wife would like completed. Set aside specific times and ask your wife what she has on her “honey-do” list and then tackle the list with no fanfare, expecting no rewards or recognition.

Submit more frequently to your wife’s wishes – In daily married life, many small decisions come up which have multiple valid choices; for example, what to have for supper, how to spend a day off, new paint color of the walls, how the budget is to be spent, etc. Rather than seek to have your own way, sacrifice more frequently to discover your wife’s wishes and defer to her.

Eliminate small annoyances – Everyone has little pet peeves, things which, sometimes irrationally, bother a person; for example, putting the toilet lid down, putting dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink, taking the garbage out before it stinks, etc. Sacrifice to anticipate and respond to things which are everyday annoyances to your bride.

Set aside personal desires to spend time with your bride – While both men and women can be renewed by spending time on personal pursuits, excessive time apart can lead to division in a marriage instead of healthy separateness.

Make meaningful sacrifices of personal pursuits (e.g. golf on weekends, time in the man-cave, cigars with the guys, etc.) to spend deliberate time with your bride. Dwell time (e.g. spending relaxing time together) can reduce friction and hurt feelings.

Replace anger with meekness – The antidote for the deadly sin/vice of Wrath (unrighteousness anger) is the Virtue of Meekness (gentleness); Christ calls on men to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:38-39).

While flaming anger is rare except for the unstable, the simmering low levels of annoyance, resentment, sarcasm (meaning, “to tear flesh”) or sullenness, can create significant and lasting damage to a marriage. Anger, even when it could be argued to be just, is very hurtful and often unhelpful.

Sacrifice the tendency to be angry and cultivate a higher level of gentleness to the point where your first tendency in times of conflict is to be gentle and reconciling rather than wrathful.

Bear wrongs patiently – This is one of The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy. While men are built to fight and defend their turf, rather than the impulse to respond aggressively to the small and large injustices which a wife may commit,  respond to wrongs with patient acceptance and gentleness, as Christ endured the Passion.

Patient endurance of sorrows of being wronged are a manly act of the Virtue of Fortitude which help a man mortify his pride in the service of Christ and also are an example which witnesses to his bride of the evil of doing wrong and the blessings of patient love.

In Christ, remain unmoved in the face of your wife’s sins against you, in reparation for your own many sins against her and others.

Forgive offenses willingly – Another of The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy, forgiving your wife’s sins against you reduces the pain from hurtful words and acts, brings peace and offers a loving example of self-sacrifice which can lead a wife to repentance.

In imitation of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said from the Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34) and urged men to sacrifice their desire to punish injustice and to forgive others (Mt 6:12); this is essential for a loving and lasting marriage.

Offer comfort when your wife is suffering – This is another of The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy (Comfort the Afflicted) and is a response to the vows a Catholic man makes in the Rite of Marriage (“in sickness and in health”, in “good times and bad”).

While it may be easier to comfort a spouse who is having an unexpected bout of suffering, it can be a great challenge to continually comfort a spouse who has chronic mental, emotional, physical or spiritual illness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, a husband can rise to the sacrifice to offer heroic compassion and comfort to his bride in these difficult situations.

This week’s questions

Here are two questions to meditate upon:

How might I and my bride be blessed if I make more daily sacrifices for her?

What sacrifices for my bride listed above, or others which come to mind, are sacrifices which could make a real difference in our marriage?

This week’s commitments

Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here are this week’s challenges:

Pray for God to guide you as to how to begin to make more daily sacrifices for your bride.

Commit to begin to make several specific sacrifices for your bride during the coming week.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer

During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to more frequently Make Daily Sacrifices for your bride:

Jesus, Sacrificial Lamb of God, help me recognize the great need for me to make many more frequent sacrifices in daily life for my bride, guide me to begin to make specific sacrifices for her, and strengthen me to constantly make sacrifices in imitation of You and Your earthly father St. Joseph. Amen.