Sacramental Marriage: Why Settle for Less?

[ 12 ] April 21, AD 2014 |

Chatting with a friend recently, we remarked that having children had made us each realize the value of a Catholic spouse. We both marveled that we had once considered the possibility of compromising. In college, it was easy to flirt with the idea of dating—and even marrying—someone who did not share our faith. I went so far as to date a non-Christian, imagining that somehow he would change or that my relationship with Christ, something foundational to my very being, could take the back seat when choosing a life partner. In the throws of emotion, infatuation with a potential significant other or desperation at being alone, we can find ourselves downplaying the importance of common beliefs and values. Having crossed to the other side of the sacrament of marriage and established a family with a Catholic husband, I cannot imagine marriage without a spouse who views the world through the lens of the Catholic faith, who has founded his life on the same principles, and who shares the same goals for our family.

A sacramental marriage, by definition, can only take place with the full knowledge of both parties regarding the nature of marriage. A marriage between two practicing Catholics means starting a God-centered family that is open to life, obedient to His church, witnessing to His love, and aiming for heaven. Furthermore, both spouses must understand that marriage is a vocation: a lifelong calling, not just a side project. They must believe that marriage is permanent and indissoluble. Mother Church insists that the couple entering matrimony share a commitment to the true meaning of the sacrament, establishing a firm foundation for their life together.

In practice, this insistence means a couple is working from the same first principles when answering the tough questions life will throw at them: Will they have children? How many? How will they raise them? How will they spend their time? Their money? Without a common understanding of the purpose of their life together, answering these questions can be, at best, divisive and, at worst, impossible. A difference in priorities will strand a husband and wife at cross purposes, working against each other. St. Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14, not to be “unequally yoked,” reminds us that spouses are meant to face the same direction and pull together toward the same goal, united in their purpose of living the life God has chosen for them.

Through the Church, God gives those called to the vocation of marriage a beautiful gift. Sacramental marriage unites a man and a woman physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our culture of instant gratification, quick fixes, and self-centeredness often tells us to settle in our relationships. It tells us that it is normal and healthy to seek only physical pleasure, without a more deeply satisfying intellectual and emotional connection. But we are called to a relationship that unites two complete human persons: body and soul, mind and spirit. More than pleasure or sentimental feeling, we are rewarded with the other half of our self, a helpmeet, a companion on our pilgrimage, and a partner in the creation of a family.

I am not claiming that the sacrament of marriage is a magical talisman against suffering, misunderstanding, or trouble. I am not saying that it instantly gives us the patience of the saints or the wisdom of the years. Nor am I arguing that Catholic marriages are more blessed, more holy, or less prone to sin. As Catholics, however, we are given a distinctive promise of grace when we unite in marriage under the auspices of the Church. By choosing daily to avail ourselves of that promised grace—to ask for and accept it—we can begin to work out our salvation through our vocation.

The Church provides us with the tools we need for a happy, well-ordered marriage: a foundation of faith, a unity of purpose, and access to specific grace. She urges those with a vocation to marriage not to settle; we are created for no less than a sacramental union that lasts forever.

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Category: Married Life

About the Author ()

Megan Twomey studied English and History at Hillsdale College. While she was there, she converted to Catholicism and also bumped into a friend's big brother, who just happened to be her perfect match. She now spends her time as a stay-at-home mama to two mischievous toddlers. You can read about her journey through motherhood on her blog, Becoming Mama Twomey.
  • M P P

    My 29 year old son has recently begun to see a 25 year old young woman who is a coworker. She is the youngest of 10 children but grew up with no faith and her parents are divorced! I am saving this article for him.

    • William P Murphy

      Also warn him that men take a lot of risks dating any woman who works in the same office. She could ruin his career in a break up.

      • kamaradalamba@hotmail.com

        The same apply to women……

      • William P Murphy

        It was Anita Hill that tried to ruin Thomas Clarence’s career not the other way around.
        Too many career minded American have no problem with filing false harassment charges.

    • Megan

      My husband also grew up in a house of non-believers, almost never attending church of any kind.. He has a stronger faith than I do and I’m a cradle Catholic raised in a devout home. You do not know what is in her heart. Who do you think you are anyway? How Catholic of you, to let your elitism take over. Good grief. Give people a chance.

      • Megan Twomey

        I hope you don’t think this article is about holding people’s past against them. I am not a cradle Catholic and my husband’s parents had a troubled marriage. When you begin your marriage, however, it is invaluable to begin with the same faith.

    • kamaradalamba@hotmail.com

      What happens if you are a divorced parent? Would your child be rejected in a marriage?

  • Shannon Marie Federoff

    We have “added” to the Baltimore Catechism in our house.
    Q: Why did God make you?
    A: God made me to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and to only date Catholics.

    All 11 of my children know this answer! ;-)

    • Janice P

      This reminds me what my mom always told us growing up, we could never marry someone who wasn’t Catholic or a Democrat. lol Sadly my father died and left her with 9 children under the age of 20. She remarried a few years later, to a Republican Methodist. What a great marriage they have had, they just don’t talk politics or religion. :)

  • MCN Hobbs

    It’s “throes of emotion”, not throws :)

    • Megan Twomey

      Thanks! The best laid plans of mice and editing aft can go astray.

  • neveraname

    I foolishly married a man who came back to Mother Church it turns out simply to get me to the altar. We have not had a minute of peace in 17 years, from constant porn references as “jokes” in front of the children etc to his encouraging me to kill myself during a serious illness. To those of you contemplating such a match I say run as if someone is holding a gun to your head. He left the Church after reading on the internet that Saul of Tarsus was just another snake oil salesman. Of the 5 children 3 became evangelicals, two atheists. My Catholic sister who is older said recently “why are you surprised at this outcome?” Indeed.