Vocation of Holy Matrimony - A Path to Heaven

By Pete Warner (St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Marietta, GA)


What is the purpose of life? One of the greatest questions ever asked, many great men and
women have dedicated their lives to answering this question. Let me assure you that I am no
intellectual, philosophical or theological giant. I only have the courage to answer this question
because I stand on the shoulders of the giants who precede me.

The purpose of life is God's purpose. Let me read to you the very first passage of the
Catechism. "God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely
created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in
every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with
all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his
family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son
as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he initiates men to become, in the Holy
Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs to his blessed life. (The Catechism of the Catholic
Church 1)"

God created each and every one of us. As our mother and father came together, God created a
brand new immortal soul for you. It does not matter whether your parents loved each other or
not. It does not matter if they were trying to have a child or not. At the moment you were
conceived, God had created a soul just for you. He made you special. He made you just so
you could be you, and He loved you. From that very moment, He loved you and hoped that you
would accept His love so that you could come to join Him in the kingdom of Heaven.

Through His love, especially as it is embodied in the holy sacraments, we are given the Grace
to enter into full Communion with God, to become One with Him, and join Him eternally in
Heaven. The One who wants to be called "our Father" is calling us to join our brothers and
sisters at His table (Catechism 2212). That's it. That is the purpose of life. It sounds so
simple, yet to believe this one statement and to try to live it every day takes a lifetime of patient
and loving effort.

Now, what does this have to do with marriage? Marriage has everything to do with God's Will
and our Salvation. It is one of the three paths, or vocations, of earthly life and it is the very
model of the Church's union with our Lord. Suddenly, this sounds pretty serious and deep.
Well, let's break all this down into a few pieces that will hopefully be a little easier to digest.

First, what is this business about vocation and path of earthly life? Well, quite simply, it is the
life we live, the path we walk every day in our day-to-day lives. You could almost say that God
has given us three separate maps that lead to Him and it is up to us to choose which path we
walk.

The three paths are that of a single layperson, a couple joined in Holy Matrimony, and the path
of the religious life like the priesthood. Many elements of daily life are shared between all three
paths. All of us are called to trust in the Lord, to accept him as our Creator, Lord, and Savior,
to love Him with our whole heart, to obey His commandments, and to love our neighbors. How
we go about doing these things may depend on the path we choose. He created us with Free
Will, so we can even choose to turn away from Him and not accept His love. But for those of
us who have accepted His love, He offers us guidance in how to come to Him.

As we grow and move from childhood into adulthood, we enter into the first path, that of a
layperson. The Bible and the Church have much to teach us of this path. First, we are called
to be in communion with the church that Jesus himself started here on earth. This church is
the Holy Roman Catholic Church. We are called to be baptized, to confirm our Faith, and to
accept the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. We are called to learn our Lord's
commandments and to obey them. Finally, we are called to share this "Good News" that we
have learned. Matthew 28: 19 tell us clearly what we are called to do in this sharing. Jesus
tells us, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you."

Now, the following His commandments part can be the hard part here. We are called to be
charitable and help our neighbors who are in need. This is not very popular in today's
materialist culture. We are called to be chaste. Many kids do not even know what that word
means, let alone live the virtue of chastity. But this is an important point.

Sex is good. God made it to be good, but He also made it in a certain context. God created
us man and woman so that we could come together inside the context of marriage. Together,
as a trinity, man, woman, and God would bring new life into the world. Taking God out of the
equation, or taking the conjugal act out of the context of marriage leads to great problems.

God had two purposes for the conjugal act. First, it was to bring new life into the world. But
this is not the only reason. If it was, I suspect that every single conjugal act would result in the
woman becoming pregnant. But we know that there is only a small window inside a woman's
biological cycle when conception can occur. Most of a woman's cycle is a time of infertility.
Okay, so there is obviously another purpose in addition to bringing new life to the world.

The second purpose is bonding. When a man and woman join together, they join not just
physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. God created us to be joined to one person and
to stay joined to that one person our whole lives. If you do not believe this, speak to someone
who just broke up with his or her first True Love. Almost everyone you speak to would say the
same thing, "A piece of me has died." Well, they are right. God made sex to join man and
woman together and make them one person. When people enter into sexual relationships and
then break away from their partner, a piece of them breaks off with that person and dies. If a
person enters into and breaks off many sexual relationships, they can spiritually and
emotionally scar themselves to the point of becoming hardened of heart and spirit. They lose
the ability to bond. This is why God calls us to chastity.

Getting back to marriage, young people grow older and has two new paths they can turn
towards. They may choose religious life, and offer all of themselves to the Lord. Many people
criticize the religious taking a vow of celibacy, but we have only to look to the Bible to hear
Jesus himself praising this. In Matthew 19, the Pharisees tested Jesus and asked Him about
the teachings of Moses regarding divorce. Jesus told them that divorce is wrong and that
Moses only allowed the Jews to divorce because their hearts had hardened, but that it was still
adultery.

In verses 10-12, Jesus' disciples commented that if this is the case, it is better not to marry.
Jesus immediately answered, "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it is
granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they are born so; some, because they are
made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom
of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it."

So right from the beginning, Jesus promoted both the holy and eternal covenant of marriage and
the act of forsaking marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Still, many people want to
get married and have children. These people choose the path of Holy Matrimony.

The church tells us that marriage is a sacrament instituted by God. You could argue that
marriage is the first sacrament created (Catechism 54). In Genesis 1, God spent the sixth day
creating all the living creatures. The last creature he made is the greatest of all; God created
man. Genesis 1: 27-28, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying "Be fertile and multiply; fill the
earth and subdue it." And of course we know that on the seventh day, God rested.

So here we see, right at the very beginning of the Bible, at the beginning of all creation, God
created man and woman, blessed them in marriage, gave them one great wedding present and
then created the Sabbath as the new couple celebrated their honeymoon.

Even the Ten Commandments tell us of God's emphasis on family. The first three
commandments put God first. They tell us the "hows" of our relationship with God. The last
seven commandments tell us how to relate to our neighbors. Inside these seven
commandments, there is an order of charity (Catechism 2197). The fourth commandment, to
honor our mother and father, tells us just how important the Christian family is to God.

If you stop and think for a minute, this makes sense. The family is the original cell of social life
(Catechism 2207). God created Man and Woman the way He did so that we would have to
have the family unit of mother, father and children. Children grow up watching their parents love
each other. Children receive the love of their parents and see their parents love their brothers
and sisters. Parents are the first and primary evangelizers of the Good News to their children.
Christian parents are called to provide authority, stability and a life of relationships inside their
family. It is from these foundations that freedom, security, and fraternity in society grows.
How many problems in society today could be eliminated if only parents did what God asks of
them in their marriage and raising of their children?

Inside the family, we learn compassion. We learn to care for our elderly parents, grandparents
and great-grandparents. Proverbs 17 tells us of family relationships. Verse 6 says,
"Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their parentage." If you
want to wear a crown in the Kingdom of Heaven, build this crown through your children.

We are also called to love our brothers and sisters, and this needs to start at home. If we do
not love our actual brother, how can we love our brother in Christ? It is easy to love our siblings
in the easy times, but we must love them and stand with them in times of strife. Proverbs
17:17 says, "a brother is born for the times of stress." So we see time and again that it is the
teachings we need to relate to the Church and society come for our home life.

The Church also teaches us that preparation for marriage is of prime importance (Catechism
1632). The Church looks to the parents and family to prepare children for life, regardless of the
path they choose. The Second Vatican Council commented how alien and even hostile our
world is to faith, and that it was believing families, the Domestic Church, that were of primary
importance as centers of living, radiant faith (Catechism 1656).

But even beyond the family, it is up to all of us, from the Pastors and priests, to the Christian
community as a whole to act as the "family of God". All of us are expected to be models of
Christ and to help transmit Christian morals to the young people (Catechism 1632). This may
not even be through direct teaching, but could just be taught to them by being a good example
and role model. But of all others, it is first and foremost the role of parents to prepare their
children about the dignity of marriage, its role and exercise, so that, having learned the value of
chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a
marriage of their own (Catechism 1632).

So what is the purpose of marriage? Well, we have already discussed that one of its roles is to
join with the Lord to bring new life into the world and to prepare these children. But the
sacrament of marriage is also meant to lead the family to salvation. It is the role of every parent
to work, through the Grace of God, to get his or her spouse and children into the kingdom of
heaven. Through this very effort, they do the Lord's work, and open themselves up to the Grace
of God that will get them into heaven.

Marriage is about sacrifice. Spouses mutually give and receive to one another as they give to
their children. This giving of one's self is integrated into the Lord's covenant, so that you give to
your family as He gave for you (Catechism 1639). Sacrifice is not a burden, but a joy. You give
not because you have to, but because you want to.

When you step into the Church and get married before God and the Church, you are
participating in a sacrament that grants you His Grace. Jesus gives you the power to make
your marriage work, in both the easy time and the hard times, if you place your trust in Him and
let him lead you.

The path of marriage, through the giving of one's self to spouse and children, also helps you
overcome self-absorption, egoism, and the pursuit of one's own pleasure. Instead, it teaches
you how to open to another, to share with another, and to give of yourself to another (Catechism
1609). When you move beyond just understanding these concepts and actually live them in
your daily life, you grow to understand God and His every giving life.

So we come full circle. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony moves beyond just being married to
include God in your marriage. You understand and appreciate God as your Creator, and as the
source of all goodness. You and your spouse see Him as the source of the Grace you need to
survive in this world that is so opposed to faith. Even more, you understand that this life is only
a temporary period of your eternal existence. You see God as the source of the Grace you
need to enter into Heaven. You spend a lifetime becoming one with your spouse just as you
look forward to becoming one with God. You give of yourself to your spouse and children just
as Christ gave of Himself to us. You understand God the Creator as the source of your life.
You love Him and feel His love for you. Through His love, you give of yourself and make
yourself open to His bringing you children. You give of yourself to your children and prepare
their faith for the path they will walk in life.

These are the blessings of Holy Matrimony.