A friend of mine works with her Parish, and RCIA. During the discussions we have had over the years, Marriage has also come up as part of the discussion of Sacraments. I had asked her if she wanted to share notes from any talks on the subject she may have. Unknown to me, she had none at the time, but began to put her thoughts on 'paper', including having it critiqued by others.
God works in strange ways, His Wonders to perform.... it turns out that she may end up BEING the one who has to give this talk after all! So, as a result, she now has her thoughts ready to go, no stress involved! lol.
She has graciously consented to having it put here. Thank you, Jaye! And God bless!
The Catholic Marriage
It has struck me strongly of late how casually we treat marriage. This is no doubt a characteristic of the ease with which one can enter into and exit from a marriage. Couples form and dissolve often without any marriage at all. Heaven forbid one should talk about such couples in mixed company any differently that one would speak of a couple 'officially' married.
We must be tolerant, after all!
I don't think the vast majority of us realize what a disservice we are paying to the institution of marriage, to the state of our souls, and by extension to the society and world at large.
Most Christian Churches recognize the value of marriage, to a point anyway. They recognize the necessity of the couple placing God first in their lives and relationships. And yet most Christian churches have no qualms about second "marriages" for people who are divorced.
The Catholic Church sees this all so differently. The Church is held up as an object of ridicule on this account. Her teachings are regularly misconstrued.
Why is the Catholic Church so different in their view of marriage? The Catholic Church considers marriage a Sacrament. A Sacrament is an outward action instituted by Christ to give grace within the Church. The Catholic Church believes in seven Sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation (Confession), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. In the case of marriage, the outward action is the couple marrying each other. They are the ministers! Graces are gifts from God which enable us to make right choices…choices to follow God. These graces are received by the couple who is properly disposed to receive this sacrament. This means they understand the sacrament and that they are in good standing with the Church. In other words, they are in a state of grace.
Some have argued that Jesus never actually performed a marriage, was married, nor is a wedding described anywhere in the New Testament. This is true, but Jesus chose the environment of a wedding, the Wedding at Cana, to perform his first miracle. This illustrates the importance of a wedding to Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel: God-with-us.
Why is a marriage important? Well, from the Church's viewpoint the husband and wife, in getting married to each other, enter into a covenant, the most solemn of promises, with God to see that they get each other into heaven. How many people realize that? How many of us as 'cradle Catholics' ever considered this or were told this? If the couple is blessed with children, the parents are then tasked with passing on the Catholic faith to the children and guiding them toward heaven as well.
If a couple thinks this way, following the Church's rules for sex and marriage gets a little easier. We are not permitted to have sex outside of marriage. If anyone thinks this is solely a teaching of the Catholic Church, I would direct you to look at 1 Corinthians: 13-20. These verses tell us that our bodies are for the Lord, and not for immorality. They are very specific!
If one wants one's future spouse to get to Heaven, one will not pressure his or her intended into actions which are contrary to Church teaching. Breaking this rule may well lead to the breaking of another rule, that being against contraception. It may even lead to the horrific sin of abortion. It starts to pile up! Sin tends to pile on sin.
Seeking to get one's spouse into heaven is an awesome responsibility. The graces given in a Sacramental marriage are there to help the spouses toward this goal. A couple without those graces, even if they can manage to gain a concept of the responsibility, is likely to have a harder time.
And that's why the Church calls marriage a Sacrament!
And what is a Sacramental marriage? It is the freely-entered into union between two eligible people (that is, two validly baptized, unmarried adults), ordinarily witnessed by a priest or deacon. This union may not ever be dissolved except by the death of one of the spouses, however, a marriage may be declared null (an "annulment") if it is later declared that one of the spouses was not actually eligible to be married for one of several possible reasons. This is very different from a divorce.
Marriage is not always easy. Sometimes one spouse or the other has to do double duty to keep to that goal of helping his/her spouse into heaven! A spouse may be ill or may even fall into serious sin. There are many stresses which may come into any marriage. This is not a signal for a Catholic spouse to move on! This is the signal to get to work! Prayer and sacrifice are certainly in order! Seek the guidance of a holy person (priest, deacon, holy layperson) for guidance in this case.
We assume that to become good at a hobby or activity that we have to work at it. It may be very challenging. Marriage is no different.
If we look to the lives of the Saints, we can find many examples of Saints praying, sometimes for years, and often putting up with many trials, in order to stay with a spouse or family member. This is what we are called to be willing to do for a spouse.
Some questions to ask yourself are these: if you are contemplating marriage, is your future spouse working on getting you into heaven, or is he/she encouraging you to sin? How are you acting toward your intended? Does your intended love God more than he or she loves you? Do you love God more than you love your intended? This is necessary because it will remove the temptation to try to expect your spouse to be God. He or she will always fail at that!
If you've made mistakes in the past, you can change! It may not be easy and the people who knew you as you were may not be at all supportive. But you can, with prayer and the support of others, change yourself from your past. The Sacraments given to us by Christ in his Church give us the strength to make the changes we need. We need to ask for God's help in all things, but particularly in something as momentous as marriage. Prayer is a "habit" that should be part of every life, but becomes particularly important when the welfare of another's soul becomes linked with your own.
The Catholic Church has a very particular vision for marriage. This will provide us with the tools we need to get ourselves and our spouses into heaven. What is required is that we search out and use those tools.
God bless you.
Jaye Procure (with much assistance)