At the wedding feast at Cana, Our Lord elevated marriage, the sacred institution established by God at the beginning of the world, into one of the Church’s seven sacraments. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward divine grace.
Jesus symbolized this by transforming plain water in jars made of stone into an abundant source of miraculous wine; when the ordinary wine provided for the marriage feast was used up, Jesus supplied for their need with supernatural wine.
In this divine action he revealed a sacred mystery: hidden within marriage is the spiritual reality of God’s own divine life, his grace, that continually assists a husband and wife to live out their vocation—while sanctifying their individual souls in the process.
Every sacramental marriage has this wine, or divine grace, flowing through it. This is why Jesus said, and the Catholic Church continues to teach, that sacramental marriage is sacred and indissoluble. It is infused with Christ’s own divine life. Jesus commands us, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” It’s now a sacred thing.
Yet, this spiritual reality can be very hard to live in the day to day. We are broken and sinful people living in a broken and sinful society, as illustrated in the personal testimony shared below. It is so easy to lose sight of the sacred mystery of marriage and only see its great difficulties.
That is why marriage is a vocation, a calling, a commitment to living out a way of life that God has called us to live. But it is a vocation that he has protected with his sanctifying grace; he gives marriage his own strength to persevere. His grace is there when we look for it and accept its power to transform us. And we are made better because of it.
The portion of an article pasted below (originally posted at FirstThings.com) is one example of how the Catholic Church, in its faithfulness to Christ’s teaching on marriage, actually saves marriages by telling people the truth about what marriage really is: a sacrament established by Christ for the good of his Church and the salvation of souls.
How the Church Saved My Marriage
by Rachael Marie Collins
My husband and I were married in April 2008. Despite a lovely courtship and beautiful wedding, the first eighteen months of our marriage were terrible. Although we loved one another, we were unprepared for the daily compromises, negotiations and renunciations of self that a loving and successful marriage requires. Independent and extremely willful, we fought. We fought so ferociously and so often that after we entered couples therapy, our therapist told my husband that he should leave me. It would always be this way, she said. Things would never “change.”
Our marriage is now strong, happy and healthy. We’ve been married for over seven years and have three beautiful children. We hope to have more children and we’re committed to leading hidden, holy lives within the sacrament of our marriage in service of one another and the children given to us by God. How did this change happen? How was our marriage saved and transformed?
Our most steadfast supporter was the Church Herself. The Church’s position on the indissolubility of marriage and Her willingness to stand by this teaching in praxis (and not just in doctrine) strengthened us. She left us with no choice but to try and try again until things improved. She also provided us with the support and help we needed. We attended confession often. Faithful priests counseled and encouraged us. Older Catholic couples joyfully showed us that it was possible to have a happy marriage and how to do so.
When family members and secular therapists were ready to approve us walking away from the commitment we’d made, the Church wasn’t. I don’t know that our marriage would have survived if the Church had wavered in its teaching and practice on marriage, if it had offered us the false hope of a “merciful” way out. Instead, the Church encouraged us to rely on God’s help, to seek answers from Scripture and strength from the sacraments. We slowly learned to practice the Christian virtues of patience and forgiveness.
By forcing us to persevere, the Church taught us how to love one another.
Vocations are not easy to live, but they will be eternally rewarding when lived well. They prepare us for heaven by teaching us how to love God above all things.
Do you have a story to share about how the Catholic Church has saved your marriage, or a marriage in your family? If so, please share your inspiration with readers in the comments below.