Made for Eternity
We’ll be honest. Eternity is not always at the forefront of our minds. We get caught up in the to-dos of the present and get lost contemplating the decisions of the past. Heaven sometimes seems like a too distant future.
So when presented with the theme “Made for eternity” during National Marriage Week, we reflected, “Do we actually live our lives each day as though heaven is real?” Of course, we both believe in the reality of heaven, and all the other tenets of Catholicism, for that matter, but what are we putting our efforts into, what is shaping our actions and filling our time?
Sitcoms, movies, and romance novels make marriage seem like the perfect ending, the ultimate goal. And during engagement, it’s easy to get caught up in that fairytale dream – the beautiful wedding, spectacular honeymoon, and then wedded bliss.
But the church’s vision of the sacrament of marriage leads to a deeper understanding: marriage is a vocation, marriage is a path to holiness, marriage is a reflection of the love between Christ and his church.
So back to the question: Are we living as though heaven is real?
Our desire is to live that way, but sometimes we fall short. It’s a learning process. One concrete way we try to do so is by incorporating spiritual practices and exercises into our lives, beginning with prayer.
A priest that we’re close to gifted us with the booklet, “Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness” by Deacon James Keating, Ph.D. And though it is geared toward married couples, we have gleaned wisdom from its pages, often reading one paragraph or a few sections at a time, letting it digest, and then discussing it.
In the introduction, Deacon Keating speaks of an engaged couple who during marriage preparation had difficulty answering the question: Do you pray together? Apart from going to Mass, the couple spoke of their childhood prayer rituals and that was it.
While acknowledging that worshipping at Mass is the highest form of prayer, Deacon Keating wrote, “This level of spirituality is fairly common in Catholic families, the family goes to Mass on Sunday, but then Jesus is never really spoken to or listened to again until the next Sunday Mass. When we live this kind of spiritual life something dangerous happens: We begin to think God is not accessible in the ordinariness of our days, and so we do not develop an ongoing relationship with him.”
We would be lying if we said we had never fallen into this rut before — but it is not where we want to stay. When we do get into a “spiritual slump,” we go back to the practices that brought us consolation, strength, and peace.
Another friend sent us the book “The Cana Rosary: A Couple’s Prayer” by Christopher Ebberwein, Ph.D., which has meditations for married couples for each mystery. We have begun to pray using it, sometimes substituting the word “spouse” with “spouse-to-be.” (Hey, it works!) Praying the rosary was a practice we began early while we were dating. When we were apart during our time of long-distance dating, we would pray the rosary on the phone together. Today, it is a practice that continues to bring us closer.
We also make an effort to go to Confession regularly, and seek advice and support from our family, friends and spiritual mentors. We know we need to continue to grow, so we hope to dive deeper into parish life and community, to volunteer, and to tithe more. This Lent, we hope to go daily Mass more often.
Pope Francis, giving advice to engaged couples, tells them to focus on “the essentials”: “the Bible, by consciously rediscovering it together; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in ‘domestic prayer’ to live out in the home, the sacraments, the sacramental life, Confession … and fraternity with the poor and those in need.”
We’re excited about the journey. As St. Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”