When I think of the sacrament of matrimony, the first image that comes to mind is that of a wedding. Weddings are joyous events. They are joyous because in these festivities we celebrate love and life. We celebrate the love of husband and wife visible in the bride and the groom. And, we celebrate the promise of the life that will come from their union.
God’s Love Story
However, when I look at a Catholic wedding through the eyes of faith, I can see another dimension. I see a couple that is taking their love story to the altar and asking God to join it to his eternal love story. The Bible tells us about God’s love story with humanity. In it, God is the lover and we his beloveds. This story began at creation, was formalized in the covenants of the Old Testament, and reached its fullness in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, God’s love story continues and married couples are called to play a role in it.
A Sacrament of God’s Love
Through the wedding promises, spouses join their lives to each other and to God. They accept a role in God’s love story. They become a sacrament of God’s love. In their love for each other, they make the goodness of God’s love present and visible to one another, to their children, and to anyone who comes in contact with them.
This is why the Catholic Church considers marriage one of the seven sacraments-a human sign that through the actions of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit makes present efficaciously the graces that it signifies. To be a sacrament of God’s love is not easy. Because of this, Christ stands by the spouses. He touches them with his graces. He helps them when they become discouraged. He gives them strength to forgive one another. He is their model of how to love.
Preparing for Marriage Begins Now
To live a happy life as a couple, the spouses need to prepare for it long before the wedding. Loving is learned even at a young age at home and at school. It is learned by showing respect for others, being honest and dependable, being willing to make sacrifices, being generous in forgiving, and by helping others. In this preparation, prayer is also important. It keeps us mindful of God and of his plan for marriage.
An Obstacle to Learning
One of the obstacles we face today in teaching children the sacrament of matrimony is the fact that one-fourth of the students in our classes are likely to live in a single-parent home. It is very likely that these children do not experience the goodness of God’s love in the spousal love of their parents. As catechists, it is important to expose all students to a joyful vision of marriage; a vision that represents what God intends for the relationship of husband and wife.
Fortunately, none of us lives in isolation. Students who live in single-parent homes may be touched by the graces of sacrament through the marriage of their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, neighbors, friends of the family, the parents of the classmates, and your own marriage.
John Bosio is a husband and father, a seasoned family life educator and author. His latest book is Happy Together: The Catholic Blueprint for a Loving Marriage (Twenty-Third Publications).
This article was originally published in RTJ’s Creative Catechist January 2013.
Image: Photo by The HK Photo Company on Unsplash