When I was in college my friends and I spent hours and hours and hours discussing marriage and sexuality in light of our Catholic faith. I fell in love with the sacrament of marriage. I truly believe it is a beautiful way to live and I sacrificed my own marriage to help YOU live out this sacrament. With this in mind it makes me sad that so many men and women struggle to find joy in their marriage.
The reason marriage is so difficult is because it is so important, and important things are never easy. The first step towards working through these difficulties is to give your marriage it's due. You must treat it as the most important relationship in your life, aside from your relationship with God. Marriage is a very deep way of loving. Furthermore, when we don't love deeply (or when we don't feel loved deeply within marriage) we know something is wrong. Many feel pain in their marriage because they sense an absence of something their gut tells them is supposed to be present.
This coming Monday and Tuesday (June 8 and 9) Fr. Tom Vandenberg, a senior priest from our Archdiocese, will be at St. Rose to teach about the sacrament of marriage from 7 to 9. Childcare will be provided. Fr. Vandenberg served in parish ministry for over 40 years and since his retirement has dedicated much of his priesthood to helping married couples live the sacrament of marriage with joy. Attending his presentation could be a great step towards renewing your commitment to each other and to the Lord.
I don’t ask for much (ok, that’s not quite true. I ask you to give to the annual appeal all the time) but I am asking you to attend this, even if it requires making a sacrifice. Here are a few reasons why I want you to attend, especially if you’re currently married or thinking of marrying in the future.
Marriage is an ideal to strive for. Many people live their marriage like they are treading water. They have a minimalist attitude with how holy or how loving their marriage should be, and they do what they need to do to stay above that level. Its as if they spend their marriage trying not to get divorced.
This is not the right mindset. Marriage is an ideal that to be strived for constantly. Married couples should seek to maximize the joy and holiness and happiness within their marriage. This is an opportunity to learn how to do that. Your marriage might be wonderful right now. This is an opportunity to make it even better!
Your children need you to be good at marriage. Whether you want to or not, you are teaching your children about marriage by the way you live your marriage. Everything that you do in your marriage is teaching them about what is normal within marriage. If their parents don’t respect each other, they will tolerate more disrespect in their own relationships. Your marriage might not be perfect, but even in imperfect situations you can show your kids that improvement is possible. You can teach them how to work through conflict respectfully and how to forgive.
All of society needs you to be good at marriage. Stable loving marriages lead to stable, loving homes and stable loving homes are where children learn the basics of community life. The home is where they learn respect. It’s where they learn to share. It’s where they learn to be patient. As said above, your marriage models all of these behaviors and we all need you to be as good at it as you can possibly be. We cannot have a just society without strong marriages. (See the quote from Pope Francis in the photo above)
God has called you to the sacrament of marriage and you will be judged based on how well you live this out. We are not Protestants. Your salvation is not based on a prayer you said at summer camp growing up, nor is it based on a particular thought process your mind went through at an earlier time in your life. Your salvation is based on whether or not you love God and love others (which is what the Bible teaches). Jesus makes us righteous because he pours his love for God and for others into you making you righteous in his sight. But if you refuse to love your spouse by refusing this gift, you are taking a huge risk. Ignorance of this will not be a valid excuse on your day of judgment. God gives you many opportunities to learn about how to live and how to love. This is one of them. Don’t waste it.
Of course, God forgives and heals. If you’ve made mistakes in your marriage – even if you’ve failed - you don’t need to worry about your salvation. Jesus didn’t die for the perfect, but for those of us who need help. But you do need to own your mistakes and ask God for forgiveness and healing.
God has called you to marriage and if marriage is lived according to God’s plan, it will be an incredibly fulfilling way of life. Marriage is a challenging way of life, but it can be so wonderful. God wants you to have a joy filled marriage. So do I. So does the Pope. God’s plan for marriage is more fulfilling than we can wrap our minds around. But if we are going to live marriage like Jesus wants us to live marriage, we need to see marriage like Jesus sees marriage and we need to think about marriage like Jesus thinks about marriage.
These are just a few reasons I hope you can attend. I’m grateful that Fr. Vandenberg has offered to come to St. Rose to teach us. Do not be afraid to attend! Please, please come and please bring your spouse. Bring anyone who you think might benefit from learning more about how to live the sacrament of marriage. You have nothing to lose, but you have so much to gain. I’ll be praying for you all and hope to hear how his presentation helped you when I return from Phoenix.