heaven2

Made for Heaven

There’s a difference between marrying in the church and at the church. When we marry at the church, often it’s just a venue with no real connection to our faith. When we marry in the Church, there is a sense of grounding our relationship in a covenant understanding – that is, that our commitment is a sacred pledge made to each other, to God and to the community of believers. It’s a pledge that we will do all in our power to assist each other in becoming saints.

Couples who live their marriages within this awareness are truly vocational  – they have embraced their lifestyle as having meaning and purpose beyond their mutual fulfilment and satisfaction.

This covenant is a pledge to freely give themselves in love to each other, totally, faithfully and fruitfully their whole life long in imitation of Christ.

These couples however, do not undertake this sacred covenant on their own. Through their engagement with their faith community they have access to the prayer and practical support to guide them and support them in their journey of growth.

With so much public discussion about marriage in the wider community, the difference between a secular understanding of marriage and Matrimony as a Catholic vocation is becoming wider. With the exception of the essential prerequisite of being ëfreely enteredí, on almost every other dimension there has been a divergence of values as illustrated in the table.

Catholic Vocation of Matrimony

Secular Marriage
Pre-marital chastity Pre-marital sex and cohabitation normal
Begins with the Wedding liturgy No substantial (or legal) difference to cohabitation
Freely entered into Freely entered into
Between one man and one woman Between two or possibly more people of any sex
Life long, permanent Able to be ended by one or both
Total, unconditional commitment Conditional, independence can be maintained
Faithful and exclusive Fidelity negotiable
Openness to procreation Children are optional
Willingness to raise any children as Catholics No obligation to raise children in any faith
Covenant between the spouses, God and the Church Private commitment with legal recognition
Sacrament that serves the Church No obligation for religious commitment

The key differences could be summarised as Secular Marriage moving in the direction of a self-serving institution, one that fosters a transactional mindset: that is, ìAm I getting as much out of this relationship as I am putting in?î In contrast, a vocation to Matrimony explicitly promotes an outward looking, service mindset, one that asks: ìHow can I make a gift of myself to my spouse and family?î

Secular Marriage and Matrimony are fundamentally different: the first is oriented towards personal happiness and fulfilment and the second towards a desire to serve God and to grow in holiness.

Questions for Reflection

  1. On how many of the twelve features above do you come under the vocation of Matrimony vs secular Marriage?
  2. Which aspects do you see as being most critical for your spiritual growth as a couple?
  3. What is your reaction to the idea that vocations to the priesthood and religious life rely on the vocation of Matrimony?

Authors: Francine and Byron Pirola
 
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This article was featured in the August 2013 edition of the CathFamily eMagazine. For more, check out:

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1 comment

  1. Nora

    Byron and Francine,

    Thank you for that beautiful article. Covenant is a really interesting phenomena.
    Because we were married too late to have children some of those features don’t apply to us but we’re still on a life-long journey and without my regular time with the Lord it would be very different.

    We can still nurture but in a different dimension.

    New year blessings,

    Nora Carrigan (Moree)