By: Dr. Gregory Popcak
Why are you married?
“Why didn’t anybody ever tell us this stuff before?” The dumbstruck couple sat before me in my counseling office. Practicing Catholics married for eleven years, they had been struggling through some difficult times in their relationship and had been referred to me by their pastor. Though they had been through the marriage prep program offered by their parish, attended Mass at least weekly, and had generally tried to live faithful lives, they had never heard the one concept that defines the heart of Christian marriage. Not only were they shocked to discover it, they were deeply saddened that no one had ever told them before. Now, let me ask you….Why are you married?
There are a million answers to that question. Some people marry for security, or escape, others for affection, or passion, or a feeling they believe defines “love.” Still others marry because they have similar career or social goals. And many marry for a different reason altogether. While all of these reasons have their advantages or disadvantages, and many of these couples will marry in a Catholic church near you, there is only one reason to wed that justifies a Christian marriage, one reason that separates it from all other unions: the belief that “God is joining us because we are each other’s best hope for becoming the people he created us to be.” To enjoy the fullness of Christian marriage, a couple must believe that God has chosen each to play a role in the other’s sanctification (becoming holy) and actualization (becoming fully the person one was made to be); a role second in importance only to the saving work of Jesus Christ and his or her spouse’s free will.
Marriage, Divorce, and Annulments
Understanding this concept is the key to understanding everything else the Church teaches about marriage, including her teachings on divorce and annulments. Think about it. Assuming that a marriage is valid (i.e. that God has truly joined this couple to play an essential role in each other’s perfection and sanctification) to divorce is, in essence, to say to both God and to the world, “I know that God chose me to play a critical role in preparing my mate for Eternal Life, but I will not do it. I renounce this mission. As far as I am concerned, my spouse can go to hell. Literally.” What could be a more serious scandal? What could be a more tragic default?
Of course, this is also the reason that the Church finds some marriages to be invalid. Recognizing that not all couples marry to be each other’s best hope for arriving properly attired at the Heavenly Wedding Feast, the Church acknowledges that some unions are so diametrically opposed to God’s will from the outset that if that couple were to stay together, they would actually participate in each other’s spiritual destruction. When the Church issues a declaration of nullity (i.e. “annuls a marriage”) she is not saying that the couple didn’t mean well, or feel sincere affection toward each other when they got married, she is simply asserting that the couple was either too immature, too ignorant, or too impaired from the very beginning of the marriage to be able to understand or assume the awesome responsibility of helping each other become the man and woman God created them to be.
It is our firm belief that God has amazing plans for you and your marriage. To find out how you can have a marriage that makes the angels smile (and the neighbors sick with jealousy), check out For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage. Are you struggling with some deep issue in your marriage? Don’t panic, there is always hope. Call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the skills you need to succeed!