Marriage: Discovering a Sacrament

marriage_Joseph_MaryAlmost 15 years ago, before I was Catholic, I sat across a table and asked my Protestant pastor a question that would forever change my life, “What in God’s eyes defines two people as married?” Dating at the time, I wondered why one had to be married in a church, wear a ring, and say vows? Why couldn’t one be married in private between God and the couple apart from churches, pastors, friends, and witnesses? Where in the Bible did it say marriage needed to be done in such a way? My pastor’s answer astounded me. “It doesn’t.” He simply had no idea of what defined a marriage in the eyes of God. I then asked why we as Protestants do such and then I answered my own question, “It’s tradition.” Tradition! But, we don’t have tradition, we only believe what the Bible says to be true and no where does it talk about rings, vows, churches, white dresses, best men, etc. I filed this away at the time thinking I had found an inconsistency within the Protestant worldview not realizing that I had discovered a Sacrament, the Sacrament of Matrimony.

In retrospect, this was the first Sacrament that I accepted and understood. Even before being Catholic, I would use marriage in arguing against relativism. As the person would espouse that there is no such thing as truth, I would point to the ring on their finger and say, “Your right, the ring on your finger is meaningless. There is no meaning behind the vows of which you took. The love between your spouse and you is a mere illusion, a simple myth, but definitely, not true. It’s a show, but not love.” The person would concede that there was at least one absolute—that of love.

Since then, as I’ve grown in my faith and understanding of the Church as a whole, I have become increasing aware that if we want to change the world for the better we have to begin with building up Christ-centered families. This is at the center of the New Evangelization. This is what Pope Francis, in the culture we are living, understands all to well.

To be honest, I have led a very sheltered life in my upbringing. I didn’t have much experience with not being loved in my home or watching a marriage that wasn’t loving itself. I didn’t have friends from divorced families. I didn’t know what it was like to be raised in a home where the parents fought or worse yet, were violent. I was lucky. It wasn’t until after college while working in the inner city that I saw the devastating effects that broken homes were having upon children. I counted myself lucky for the childhood and loving family of which I belonged.  Good marriages come from it being modeled.  We are in desperate need of good formation and a lived witness in couples waiting to marry today.

A year ago the bishops joined together for the Extraordinary Synod on marriage and family, and this month they re-gather to continue the discussion.  Because of this, I wanted to explore the theme of marriage in a multiple part blog series. The posts will be able to stand alone or be read together as a whole.  The series will have two major parts: 1) the theology of marriage and 2) the practical application to building better marriages through a parish marriage preparation program.  Each major part will have multiple posts.

In the first part, I will examine marriage as a Sacrament focusing on a brief History of the sacrament, the sacrament in scripture, the indissolubility of marriage, the openness to life and love, contemporary theology on the sacrament, and its mission in our world. It is here where I will also argue for the necessity of virtue preparation such as humility, prudence, temperance, chastity and most especially the cultivation of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

In the second part, I will look at three types of marriage preparation: remote, proximate, and immediate with most attention being given to the latter. It is here where I will try to give ideas of how we as a Church can help prepare couples for the challenging tasks they will face.

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5 thoughts on “Marriage: Discovering a Sacrament”

  1. I have a very distinct memory, 10 years into my marriage, and shortly after becoming a Catholic, of the profound awe I felt upon the realization that our marriage was a SACRAMENT. It was stunning… and difficult to describe -and still is! Thanks, Jason for your comments!

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