The definition of marriage has lost its true meaning in a world plagued with instant gratification, indolence, and egotistical incentives. There is no longer an acceptable place for generosity, charity, and self-denial in a modern relationship, but as Catholics, understanding the commitment of marriage must truly rest in our heart and soul.
Looking through the eyes of social media gives quite a different picture than the reality. We are quick to assume that most people live the perfect life, they have the perfect spouse, and they have built the perfect home, and are immune from suffering. These observations are often very far from the truth.
We must remember that there is nothing wrong in admiring these seemingly “perfect” pictures gracing social media. Since the dawn of the camera, pictures were intended to portray the happy moments in life. A picture may have portrayed a family of eight children in the early 20th century standing proudly before their family farm, or a day at the beach with college friends in the 1950’s. The only difference in today’s world is the abundance of photography; images imbue our lives every few seconds. Instead of begrudgingly looking at these pictures with jealousy and despair, we need to take them for exactly what they are – a moment in time. Why wouldn’t we want to preserve the beautiful moments in our lives?
Social media has now shrouded the reality of marriage, friendships, and dating. In an overly superficial society, it is time to stop comparing marriage to any other relationship, as marriage has its own unique place – a blessed gift given directly by the hand of God – even better, a sacrament! To further improve and deepen the marriage relationship, we must stop playing the comparison game on a basic superficial level; nothing can be accomplished through jealousy, anger, and pride. Instead of focusing on the “perfect” marriages surrounding us, we must remember that every person is vulnerable to sufferings, for this is a result of Original Sin. Let’s take a different approach and focus on developing a “holy” marriage in our own personal lives, instead of creating a superficial “perfect” marriage.
Acts of courtesy are some of the most crucial parts of holy and happy marriages. It seems like common sense that everyone should treat each other with kindness and generosity in words and actions. Now this is easier said than done, especially among people who live under the same roof. It doesn’t help that those very people, who we love unconditionally, are also the ones who know every button to push. We must remember, that these are the same people usually also know what we need most in this life. Close family members are the ones who understand our personal needs in the home, and oftentimes even the spiritual needs of our souls. Everyone is prone to a difficult day, and a short-temper can be the result of those frustrations, but never let these feelings become the norm.
It is said that a new habit can be created in twenty-one days; to do so, we must intentionally make changes and the best place to begin is with ourselves and treating others with respect. Remain peaceful interiorly in order to create peace within the marriage. Focus on your family, not upon the anger spewed by today’s media. This will only damage a peaceful soul, and thereby create upheaval within the household. The saying “never go to bed angry” has much wisdom, but it is sometimes completely impossible to solve every problem in one day. However, no matter the difficulties you are facing with your spouse, never forget to be courteous. Remain kind and loving even through the difficult times, in order to prevent indifference towards your spouse.
Laugh and laugh often – a smile is a gift from God to share with others, especially those we love. Remember that as it is necessary to breathe in order to live, it is also necessary to love with a smile. Children see everything, from the happy moments to the sadness and even the anger. Show your spouse and your children an eternal love, one that surpasses the superficial tendencies of the world.
“As little birds learn to sing by listening to their parents, so children learn the science of the virtues, the sublime song of Divine Love from souls responsible for forming them.” ~ St. Thérèse Lisieux
To foster the commitment of marriage each spouse must be willing to love eternally. Just as we strive to love God with “thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength,” we must also daily work towards loving our spouse in the same manner. For if we cannot find Jesus within the soul of our spouse, then how can we expect to find holiness in our homes?
Sounds simple, right? Well, there is a reason the term “honeymoon years” refers to the beginning phase of marriage. This phase may last longer for others, but no matter the length, it is very easy during this time to overlook one another’s daily flaws. My grandmother always said, “If your spouse has one flaw, then you probably have five times that.” How true a statement this is, it is always easier to find our spouse’s failings rather than accept our own. It may be difficult to accept personal imperfection, but this self-examination is the only way to achieve heaven. After all, we are working towards heaven not only for ourselves, but laboring to help all souls, especially of our spouse and our children, achieve sainthood.
As souls affected by Original Sin, we instinctively desire our own good first. Selfishness can creep up and take hold of a person’s very being, but it can be extremely difficult to remove this vice. If marriage is approached with dignity and reverence, there won’t be any room for a selfish heart by either spouse. Marriage will not survive when selfishness is fostered by either partner. If we only view marriage on an earthly level, it will never grow beyond materialism. We must remember that the sacrament of marriage has many graces that expand far beyond the limits of this world.
Trust in God and accept the graces from the sacrament of marriage.
Pray. Pray every day. Pray with every beat of your heart. Prayer is more than just mere words. Prayer is love and the best way to love is through action. It is comforting to know that each prayer moves us closer to God and also fosters a virtuous spirit in our souls. To grow in true love of Christ’s Church within the Sacrament of Marriage is difficult without a concrete prayer life. A void with God will also form a void with a spouse. There is no better way to begin each day than acknowledging the presence of God who is the center of your marriage.
There is no need to have a “perfect” marriage. There were no married saints who had a “perfect” marriage, even Saints Louis and Zelie Martin had their daily struggles which can be found in their beautiful letters, A Call to Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. What an awe-inspiring example of a marriage striving through the bliss and sufferings of daily life. There is no better goal in this life than to work towards sainthood for ourselves, our spouses, and our children. Saint Zelie Martin beautifully said, “we will find our little ones again up above.” This is the ultimate reward – spending eternal life as a family with Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Saints.
“Soon we’ll have the intimate happiness of the family, and it’s this beauty that brings us closer to him.” (Letter 229)
None of us are saints yet and we all have much to learn in the spiritual life. Begin and end each day with small prayers of thanksgiving. Pray the rosary together as a family. Make each daily task a small act of love. Never forget that marriage is a sacrament between husband, wife and God. Without the assistance of God, the relationship will not grow. Pray for your marriage and your children each time you receive Holy Communion. The stronger a bond you have with God, the stronger a bond you will have with your spouse.
Sainthood cannot be gained in one day; it takes many days, months, and years to achieve this goal – a true lifetime achievement. This is the same for marriage. Each day is only a small step in unifying with your spouse towards a holy marriage. Nothing in life is more precious than the human soul created by God in His Divine Image and Likeness. Treat your spouse with love and devotion, while also remembering that Jesus is blessing both of you.
Copyright 2017 Danielle Heckenkamp