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The Sacrament of Marriage

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:29am on October 24th 2018
Dear Father,

Thank you for taking your time to read this. I have two questions for you:

What does it mean to receive the sacrament of marriage in a Catholic church?

and

How can my husband and I be called to live out the vocation of married life in our relationship with each other, our family and the Catholic community?

Harold and I do try to be a stable family unit in our community.

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Hi Emilysue, one way of trying to understand the beauty of this wonderful sacrament is to think of what the priest says at Mass when he is consecrating the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. When he says 'this is my Body, which will be given up for you,' the word 'body' here means his whole self, divinity and humanity, and 'for you' sums up his whole life, given up for each of us. And when the priest says 'this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,' the word 'Blood' stands again for his whole self, divine and human, from the viewpoint of life, 'poured out for you and for many.' And the 'new covenant' means the new relationship in which all of us are, in Jesus, united with his Father.

So when a couple pronounce their vows, they are each pledging their whole selves to each other in Jesus. And the words said after that, 'for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part' share in the unconditional commitment of Jesus to his New Covenant. Each of the spouses confers that abiding sacramental presence of Jesus in whom they are united forever. Just after they've made their vows, the priest, using the words of Jesus says 'what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' While that sounds like a negative statement, that's only the second part. Because Jesus meant the spouses are bound together like the Father is bound together in an unbreakable unity with the Son in the Holy Spirit. All this happens through the sacrament of Matrimony which each of the spouses confers on the other (the priest, best man and principal bridesmaid are all just witnesses to this).

Pope Francis is very clear that marriage, like priesthood and religious life, is a vocation too, a beautiful and special calling to the spouses from God. And I guess that vocation to witness to the love uniting the Trinity in which they share, is first to be lived out with one another - each one finds their way to God through love of the other, including the inevitable sufferings that come their way. And then with their children, if God has sent them a family. That's a huge part of their vocation, since the very example of a good Christian family is a light in the darkness for others trying to find their way.

But your question shows you're willing to share your family life with others, and that can be expressed in helping other couples, especially those in difficulties, it could be, (obviously only when and if possible), in adopting or fostering children who need the care of a family. Possibly you could think of participating in various family-oriented groups or movements that may exist within reachable distance from where you live.

St John Paul II once said at the end of a huge meeting of the Focolare's New Family Movement in Rome, 'you [meaning each family] must be the Church [that is each family as a little Church], and the Church must be you' [that is, the whole Church must be a family, like yours]. Very best, Fr Brendan
Xt3's Ask a Priest answered at 3:43pm on February 12th 2019 reply
 

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