Because Marriage is Supernatural

My husband Greg and I just returned from a 24-hour getaway to Cold Spring, New York in the Hudson Valley (pictured at left) Our sons stayed with neighbors and a friend visited our home to take care of the puppy. We took some time to hike and to celebrate Greg’s 46th birthday, reconnecting as a couple, away from the constant demands of children, jobs, pets, bills, and home repairs.

We married 17 years ago at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Raleigh, North Carolina. In the intervening years, we’ve witnessed many of our friends’ and siblings’ marriages dissolve. And we have weathered losses and challenges: two miscarriages, the life-threatening illness of one of our newborns, Greg’s near death in the World Trade Center, seasons of unemployment, financial stress and so on. What has kept our marriage thriving through crises and also through the sometimes grinding monotony of daily living? Our unwavering commitment to one another, the blessings of the Holy Spirit, and the recognition that our relationship has a supernatural dimension.

Marriages were around long before Christ was born. Catholic marriage is one of the seven sacraments; Christ himself performed his first public miracle at the Wedding at Cana. In the Catholic tradition, the ministers of this sacrament are not the priest, but the man and woman who are marrying. This is because the sign of the marriage are the vows the spouses make to one another.

Seventeen years ago, the vows we exchanged were sincere. “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” But those vows only came to life when we faced moments of great joy or deep sadness.

Perhaps my favorite moment of our wedding ceremony came when everyone gathered sang this hymn. I didn’t know much Catholic philosophy or theology or history then. I did know we were enveloped by love – the love of  one another, by the love our families and friends, and most particularly, by the love of a God who never abandons us.

  • Moses

    Amen to you.

  • Sarah Harkins

    Marriage is supernatural…I need to hear these words again and again. I just read something by Dr. Popcak that also echoed this theme. I'm paraphrasing: The main purpose of marriage is not to have companionship or even someone to love or someone to love you, the main purpose of marriage and is to get your mate to heaven and for your mate to get you to heaven. God chose your spouse for that purpose and no other person can do the job better and vise versa. This really put things into perspective for me and I need to be reminded of them again and again!

  • Stefanie

    Blessings to you and your husband, Allison!I find it interesting that Pope Benedict always compares priestly celebacy to marital celebacy "forsaking all others and being united to one another" — as we who are married forsake all others in order to be singularly married and devoted to one person for the rest of our lives — so, too, our priests are asked to do the same, except their spouse is Christ/Church. Fidelity to anyone — or anything — is scoffed upon in the world. As much now as it was in Roman times.Too much does the world see the priests 'deprived' of a lover/spouse — that would be like saying and you and I are so deprived because we believe in the sanctity of our unity with our spouses. I love that the Church considers our marriages as the same sign of service to one another as holy orders.

  • Allison

    @Stefanie: These are great points. I still remember our Marriage Prep class and how they told us not to be "married singles," each pursuing his/her own passions without the sense of being partners. They also told us that every marriage must be nurtured daily. I know some scoff at these Pre Cana classes, but we found them extraordinarily helpful.

  • Michael (NZ)

    Loved this, Allison – and for me a very timely post when I have been thinking on this theme for the past week, as I almost accepted a job overseas, which would have meant that I would have to leave my family behind for at least one year! Prayer took that cup away.Congratulations to you and Greg on 17 yeras of marriage! My Irene and I have now been married 26 wonderful years. We are both devout Christians and we believe in the saying " a couple that prays together, stays together"! This certainly helped us to bridge quite some challenges over the years.The secret behind our marriage is also owing to another factor that you mentioned, i.e. not to be "married singles". You share with your spouse, you acknowledge, praise, listen – every day.And here I sat in my office, singing along with "For the beauty of the earth"…Regards and blessings

  • Allison

    @Michael: I am so happy to know this post spoke to you. And isn't that musical piece wonderful? The idea that love surrounds you from your birth.I have been meditating a lot lately on the idea that God's love, which we did nothing to earn, brought us into being from nothingness. A powerful idea.

  • Stefanie

    Love does surround you from the moment of your conception — the living water of the uterus. It physically protects us. Even then. How great is our God!I was reminded of this whenreflecting upon the May 17 Divine Office reading of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315 A.D. to 386 A.D.) on the Holy Spirit: "The living water of the Holy Spirit: 'The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life.' This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good. The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well. As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of."