A Perfect Marriage; or, Back to Basics
Have you ever noticed that many films conclude at the wedding altar, as if the wedding ceremony itself is the ultimate marriage experience? But what about “happily ever after,” does it really exist?
In many films Hollywood has twisted marriage into an unattainable and unrealistic ideal. Take Jerry Maguire, which has deceived single people into believing the ultimate lie that a person can “complete” another person.
Modern television sitcoms are no better. Husbands are often portrayed as buffoons, while wives are ridiculed and ignored by husbands and children—certainly not something to aspire to.
Has this Hollywood ideal made its way into the plans for your future? What does your idea of a “perfect” marriage look like? Are there disagreements? Is there stress? Are the spouses “happy” every day?
To understand the truth about Catholic marriage thus becomes vital to having a healthy and successful relationship. Let’s try to figure out what Catholic marriage is, by starting what it is not.
What Catholic Marriage is not
Catholic marriage is not only a perfect wedding
There is so much pressure to have the perfect wedding, from the dress, the venue, the rings, etc. But what lies beyond the “big day” is really what is at the heart of a marriage. It is not about one day, it is about the rest of your life.
A spouse does not make you happy
Many people incorrectly think that their future spouse is supposed to make them happy. But marriage won’t solve all your problems.
As St. Augustine teaches, our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. No person, place, or thing will ever be able to make us happy. Only in the Lord will we find true happiness. This means that without the Lord being the center of a marriage, being in a Catholic marriage will not automatically bring one happiness.
It is not always easy
Marriage takes work and sacrifice which is not always going to be easy. Typically opposites attract. With opposing temperaments, gifts, and talents it can be challenging to be united.
No matter how in sync two people are, it is inevitable that disagreements will arise, requiring compromise and dying to one’s self.
Love is an act. It is not a feeling. Spouses have to choose to love every day, even when they are hurt, angry, or tired. This takes effort and practice.
It is not about looks
You may have an image of your future spouse, and what you will look like as a couple. What is on the outside is fleeting and not permanent. Marriage founded on looks will not be able to survive once time and life has taken its toll.
Take for example the inspiring story of Turia Pitt. She was a model who was burned in a grass fire while competing in an ultramarathon. Hers is an incredible testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.
I first ran across her story, however, when I saw a comment made by her now husband, Michael Hoskin. The couple were dating when she was involved in her accident. When asked if he ever considered leaving her, Michael had the best response.
“I married her soul, her character, and she’s the only woman that will continue to fulfill my dreams.”
Michael Hoskin was focused on who Turia is on the inside, rather than what she looked like.
There is no “normal” marriage
There is no marriage standard by which all other marriages are judged. Every marriage is unique, just like each one of us is unique. Expecting a marriage to conform to certain specifications would be an exercise in futility.
What Catholic Marriage Is
Now that we see what Catholic marriage is not, let’s take a look at what Catholic marriage really is about.
Marriage has been described as a responsibility, a commitment, a power, a profound intimacy. Here are some ways to describe a Catholic marriage.
It is sacramental—first and foremost
A Catholic marriage is one of the seven sacraments. As in each of the other sacraments, the Lord infuses grace through husbands and wives to allow marriages to thrive and grow. Couples in a Catholic marriage manifest God’s love and the kingdom of heaven through a sacramental marriage.
Catholic spouses also have the ability to give each other absolution for venial sins. The one you share your heart and soul with, and who knows you most intimately, is able to offer you grace through the forgiveness of sins.
Put together, in a Catholic marriage spouses are able to give and receive the Lord’s grace on a daily basis.
It is open to life in all its visions
In a Catholic marriage spouses make the commitment to bring forth children. As Christopher West explains,
“Marriage is an earthly foreshadowing of the heavenly reality of love and communion.”
According to the Second Vatican Council,
“Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”
Based on the teachings in Saint John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body, the marital union has been described as an act that touches heaven. This is because our bodies are made in the image and likeness of God. The union created when two bodies become one reflect the inner life of the Trinity. Think about that for a moment; it will blow your mind.
Every time a couple engages in the marital act while being open to life they are actually bringing the Trinity into their marriage. This teaching transforms an ordinary marriage into a divine experience, one in which Catholics can be like God in His creative force.
It is through this life-giving power that Catholic marriage is unique.
It is a sacrifice for both
Many people assume that once you fall in love, that feeling never changes, even after you are married. However, the feeling of infatuation during the initial stage of a relationship is not true love.
Love is not a feeling. Love means to will the good of another. Love is a choice we have to make every single day. Love is a constant sacrifice. Spouses in a Catholic marriage will have to sacrifice for one another, for their children, and for the marriage.
It is humbling—all the time
A spouse’s job is to get you to heaven. A spouse knows you intimately, inside and out. A spouse knows your heart and your soul. A spouse sees all of your gifts and talents, but also sees all of your flaws. This can be humbling, but through a Catholic marriage, refining our flaws will help us each to reach heaven.
It is witnessed by God Himself
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Matthew 19:6 is an unequivocal teaching. Spouses in a Catholic marriage have committed to a lifelong relationship. God created marriage. Only through the Catholic Church and the annulment process can a Catholic marriage be dissolved.
Aspiring to a Catholic marriage
Are you feeling called to the vocation of marriage? If so, then by reading this blog post I hope I have been able to dispel some of the misconceptions about what being in a Catholic marriage is and what it is not; and I hope I have been able to convey that Catholic marriage aspires to reach heaven on earth.