“What Is Marriage Anyway?”

by Deacon Stephen Bowling

As I travel around the Archdiocese training married couples in our new “Companion Couple” marriage preparation program Joined By Grace, I find myself constantly reflecting on the joys and virtues of marriage, especially as the dozens upon dozens of couples I have worked with so far share their stories with me. 

There is one moment in the program, however, that I keep coming back to that perhaps is the most enlightening.

The Joined By Grace program has a powerful video component at its heart; it’s a vehicle to showcase many married couples of various ages, ethnicities and states of life who give witness to what marriage is truly about . . . both as revealed by Christ, taught by the Church and lived in their daily lives.

There are five couples who appear throughout the 24 short videos of the program, but the very first words on the very first video are perhaps the most important.

The video opens with a 20-something recently married couple, Tim and Maggie Glemkowski from Chicago, and the words that Tim speaks to the camera first thing hit the nail right on the head:

“It could be said that marriage is a lot of things . . . marriage to me is like Maggie Glemkowski. Marriage to me is this person I fell in love with and that I’m learning to love more.”

Well said.

Marriage is indeed a personal experience. Marriage is also a testament of love. However, perhaps most of all, marriage is a person for each and every one of us who are married . . . and that is something we must not forget.

Marriage is one of the most romantic, the most spiritual, the most practical and the most life-giving of relationships that we as human beings can have, but in the lived experience of all who have ever undertaken it, it is also a person. This is foundational to our understanding of this wondrous sacrament (just as it is for all the sacraments actually.) The grace of the sacraments is both personal and contained within a person as well – that being the person of Jesus Christ.

We sometimes distance the personhood of Jesus from the sacraments, just as we sometimes distance the personhood of those receiving them as well. It is easy to conceptualize and wax theological about the many gifts and virtues of the sacraments, but remembering that a person and persons are always at the heart of them makes them come alive and real in a way that ideas by themselves simply cannot match.

Jesus Christ is a person . . . . The spouses in marriage are people. These people both give and receive life, and in the Sacrament of Matrimony all of these real people are to give themselves totally to the others, holding nothing back so as to renew the face of the Earth over and over again. It is a sacred event . . . one that we should all be proud to support and bless always.

If you’d like to actually hear Tim and Maggie – along with Jim and Cooky, Jerry and Erin and Cody and Erin – speak more about what marriage truly is as experienced in their daily lives, check out the first video in the Joined By Grace program HERE.

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