I’ve been thinking about marriage for a few weeks now, in a conceptual sort of way, and I liked this quote I ran across:
Marriage is a vocation, inasmuch as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment.
– Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia
It’s easy to think of marriage in terms of romance and pleasure, or in terms of stability and security. Those, at least, are the common ways in which I see it presented. But both of those paradigms have a tendency to fall apart and betray us… the romance fades, we begin to seek (and find) pleasure in other people, emotional tensions escalate to the point where they’re not a fair trade even for financial security.
When marriage is viewed as a sign of the love between Christ and the Church, however, it doesn’t so easily crumble. After all, Christ never stops loving the Church no matter what crazy circumstances life throws at Him (or us)! There is a call to faithfulness, a commitment to sacrifice, that demands everything we have – so if we enter into marriage prepared with that mindset, our marriages are far more likely to endure. This mindset also suggests, however, that one should approach marriage with the same sort of serious deliberation with which one approaches faith or a call to religious life, understanding that this is a covenant and pledge which will change and shape the rest of one’s life: hence, of course, Francis’s encouragement to discern if it is truly one’s vocation before entering into it.
Do we do this? Or do we treat marriage as our automatic life plan, assuming we can find a partner? Do we say, well, I want the romance and the intimacy and the security and the friendship and the tax benefits and maybe a kid or two as well, so marriage sounds like the way to go – or do we say, am I ready, am I mature enough to sacrifice myself for another person, am I truly called to enter into this covenant, am I prepared to open myself up to new life?