The Sacrament of Marriage

05-15-2022Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Nearly 20 couples have decided to celebrate their marriage here at St. Bernadette in the coming months! This is a great blessing for our Church and our world! I am very excited for these couples. It really is an honor to get to know them, as they prepare for this sacrament. Hopefully you know that the Church takes marriage preparation very seriously. Statistics show that going through a process like it increases marital success.

Marriage preparation at St. Bernadette includes several meetings with the marriage preparation coordinator. The meetings include taking the FOCCUS. This is a compatibility tool that helps to shed some light on issues that can be stumbling/building blocks in marriage. The couple is able to attend the complete Natural Family Planning course to learn the Church’s beautiful teaching on marital intimacy and a couple’s ability to cooperate with God’s plan for the creation of new life. Lastly, they will be able to participate in a day long Diocesan God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage course.

During my years of preparing couples for marriage, I have come across some interesting conversations. I recall one time while speaking with the couple about their upcoming vows. We were addressing the simple question, “I am open to children in my marriage.” He said yes. And she said no. I remember that he looked at her and said, “Wait, I thought you just didn’t want children now.” My heart sank. A tough conversation followed, one that they obviously thought they had right but did not. Yikes.

When the Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament, the Church is saying that the couple’s relationship expresses in a unique way the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and his people. Like the other sacraments of the Church, marriage is a sign or symbol which reveals the Lord Jesus and through which His divine life and love are communicated.

If you remember your religious education class, you might remember that all seven sacraments were instituted by Christ and were entrusted to the Church to be celebrated in faith within and for the community of believers. The rituals and prayers by which a sacrament is celebrated serve to express visibly what God is doing invisibly.

In a sacramental marriage, God’s love becomes present to the spouses in their total union and also flows through them to their family and community. That is hard work! By their permanent, faithful, and exclusive giving to each other, symbolized in sexual intercourse, the couple reveals something of God’s unconditional love for His people making what we call the marital act, sacred. It is not at all what we see in the porn culture around us!

The sacrament of Christian marriage involves a couple’s entire life as they journey together through the ups and downs of marriage and become more able to give to and receive from each other. Their life becomes sacramental to the extent that the couple cooperates with God’s action in their life and sees themselves as living “in Christ” and Christ living and acting in their relationship, attitudes, and actions.

But couples aren’t on their own. Catholic teaching holds that sacraments bring grace to those who receive them with the proper disposition. Grace is a way of describing how God shares the divine life with us and gives us the help we need to live as followers of Christ. In marriage, the grace of this sacrament brings the spouses the particular help they need to be faithful to each other and to be good parents. It also helps the couple to serve others beyond their immediate family and to show the community that a loving and lasting marriage is both desirable and possible!

If you are discerning sacramental marriage, let us help you. Call the office and one of the priests or deacons will help you! Also, if you were not sacramentally married (that is, you were married civilly), allow us to help you receive the sacrament of marriage. Certainly today, married couples need all the help they can get, most especially God’s grace!