Quo Vadis: Where Are You Going?
Why are you getting married? Why are you choosing to get married in the Church?
Let’s face it, when you are twenty-something, in love, planning your wedding and honeymoon, etc…these may not be the first thoughts going through your mind. (But, note well: they could be the first questions the priest or marriage preparation couple asks you, though!) However, at some point before your wedding day, there will be a moment when you ask yourself, “why am I marrying this person?” You might even pause to think about those vows you will take: I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. That’s pretty serious…in today’s society, it borders on the incredible.
Thinking back to those days when we were young, how we fell in love and wanted to spend every day of our lives together, we quickly came to realize that although these desires may have drew us together, we didn’t really know just how much we would grow to love each other over time. And, as is the reality of being a military family, we wouldn’t spend every day together; actually, there would be many separations. To quote a classic Boston song, love and marriage is “More Than a Feeling.” To love in marriage often takes effort, energy, and self-giving. It means that when marriage may not feel euphoric, we still need to make the choice to love. We have promised to help our beloved to heaven. That is our primary goal.
There are many ways of doing this: some are positive actions such as praying for your spouse; performing small acts of love —a note, flowers, a hug; sacrificing for each other in dozens of small and large ways; holding back that sharp comment when you are angry and instead keeping quiet or providing charitable feedback; doing what the other wants to do rather than what you want; letting go of selfishness and resentment.
On the other hand, there are less desirable ways of achieving the same goal such as being selfish, chiding your spouse, or harshly criticizing them. Even these actions on your part help the other get to heaven, but in a roundabout way…by providing opportunities of virtue for your spouse! As St Josemaria Escriva notes in The Way : “Don’t say, ‘That person bothers me.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.’” That may be one way to help your spouse get to heaven, but not the best or loving way.
The goal of our marriage or its success cannot be measured by the house we live in, the cars we drive, or where we vacation. Our main goal should be to help each other on our path to heaven, to holiness. We’ve been blessed to hear several inspiring (and challenging!) wedding homilies on this topic over the last few years. They beautifully reminded us that marriage is not just for mutual benefit or comfort; that each spouse has to put the other first, sacrifice for the other, and be a living example for those around us.
After thirty years of helping each other on the way to holiness, there isn’t anyone else either of us would want on the journey. No one else with whom to share joy – the celebration of graduations, weddings, births, sacraments; and with whom to share sorrow – the bad health diagnosis, surgery, the late night call from a child in need, or tears when your baby leaves for college.
There are many ways to help each other but the following are just a few things that we have learned to do—and try to keep doing—in order to help each other on the path to holiness:
- Pray together every day and pray for each other. Even when we are apart due to travel or other reasons, we still know we are praying similar prayers and for each other.
- Don’t talk bad about each other to other people. It doesn’t help your marriage to do so and it doesn’t help resolve the issues you are complaining about.
- Laugh a lot at yourselves and with each other at the numerous ‘inside jokes’ you’ll live and experience. Laughing at our own faults or tendencies is a good exercise in humility and a reminder to not always judge the other. There are dozens of phrases or little things that only the two of us know about that we laugh at, and sharing them reminds us of the countless reasons we love each other and are grateful to the Lord for bringing us together.
Where are you going? Where are you leading your spouse?
Keep the faith on the way there.