The Sacrament of Marriage
Our Lord speaks in today’s Gospel of marriage. Marriage is one of the Seven Sacraments He instituted, and is between one man and one woman. Marriage is for life and ordered to the procreation and education of children and the mutual well-being of the spouses (CCC#1601). Marriage can only be broken by death since the two become one flesh. JESUS said, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Neither the Church or the State can alter this, because that is how God ordered it from the beginning. The State might make laws contrary to these teachings, but that doesn’t mean it is right.
Many marriages today sadly end in divorce while others may continue with problems or with little love between the parties. Is there any hope? Yes, there is always hope if we rely on God. Even some of the saints had marital problems. For example, St Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) had a brutish husband, but she prayed for him for eighteen years and eventually he changed and was converted. St Monica (331-387) had a difficult husband and troublesome children, but her love, her prayers and heroic patience, in the end, brought about their conversion and gave to the Church her son, who became the great St Augustine.
When married couples make God central in their lives, He helps them through difficulties. Difficulties are inevitable and there will certainly be sacrifices to make. In the Sacrament, God gives couples the necessary graces, if they ask Him, to live out their vocation of marriage together. Although we’re never going to have Heaven on earth, hopefully most marriages will lead to some degree of happiness in this world, but it will always be secondary to the happiness of Heaven. The spouses help each other to become holy and save their souls. Difficulties may even be of spiritual benefit to the couple if they are offered to God. I’m sure my mother’s prayers and sacrifices contributed to my father’s conversion who was baptised by me thirteen years after her death.
As we all know, for any number of reasons, marriages do sometimes irretrievably break down causing couples to separate. Then a spouse might meet someone else and wish to remarry. One party might even be a victim in the case of divorce. The Church never rejects people in this situation, but She can never compromise on what Our Lord has taught us, and He didn’t allow divorce. BUT there is what we call annulment. An annulment is not Catholic divorce. Rather, it is where the Church, after investigation, may be able to declare that for some reason the original marriage wasn’t valid in the beginning, and therefore it can be declared to be null, leaving the person free to marry again. If anyone wishes to discuss any of these issues with one of the priests, please let us know.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC