With This Cross, I Thee Wed

Marital love mirrors Christ's love on the Cross

Marital love mirrors Christ’s love on the Cross

Today my husband and I celebrate our 4 year anniversary! It seems like our wedding was just yesterday!

With marriage comes a lot of unknowns. Saying “I do” in some ways is like walking the plank without knowing whether the plank gets you to land or to a long drop into the ocean! None of us can predict our future and what joys and troubles lie ahead. At a recent WilCoYA talk on marriage, the main speaker emphasized that there is no “one” person that we wait for to marry. It is our responsibility to discern marriage and enter it in imitation of Christ’s love.

Christ’s love is vividly shown to us in the cross. What if we exchanged nails or a crucifix instead of rings at our wedding ceremony? Would that help us understand the love required of us through this sacrament? The relative unimportance of marriage today, especially among young adults is truly unfortunate, especially because it shows a disbelief in the sacramental grace that comes to those who are united in the sacrament of marriage.

I feel blessed to live in the digital age where we can learn a lot about married saints,  who inspire me in my vocation. One married saint I gain much inspiration from is Saint Gianna Molla. Gianna, who was by profession a doctor, met her husband through a friend and they had three children. During her fourth pregnancy she learned that she had a fibroid (benign tumor) in her uterus. Despite a surgery to remove the fibroid, part of the tumor still remained and she chose to continue with her now high-risk pregnancy rather than risk the baby’s life through an alternate (though morally licit) procedure. Gianna eventually had her baby through a C-section but died just a few days later due to an infection.

Close to her death, she told her sister, “If you only knew how differently things are judged at the hour of death! … How vain certain things appear, to which we gave such importance in the world!” (Biographical information from www.SaintGianna.org)

The sacrament of Marriage is depicted in a stained glass window at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston

The sacrament of Marriage is depicted in a stained glass window at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston

What perspective! What sacrifice! Gianna thought not only of her unborn child but of her husband and other children (visit the St. Gianna web site for more information on their recollections of her life). Gianna and her husband couldn’t predict the joy and sorrow that came from their marriage. But they had faith and sacrificial love, rooted in Christ’s love, that strengthened them through it. When I see the trials in my marriage, in some ways, I am grateful that they are our own but seeing the trial of Saint Gianna really puts our troubles into perspective!

So while marriage comes with a lot of unknown troubles – it also comes with completely unanticipated joy and wonder much like our relationship with God! Journeying in our relationship with Him, we have ideas of how the relationship will work out – when He will help us and how we can (pretend) to help Him. He will receive our love as well as our impatience, whining and “honey-do” list. But we should always keep in mind that this relationship is eternal, and that God, despite anything that happens in our human relationships, will always open His arms to us who, as Church, is His bride. He will never abandon us, He will never ask for or use us for selfish purposes. And ultimately, He beckons us to fulfill our vocation to our highest ability, which, united to His will, allows us to strive toward Sainthood.

The saints surely didn’t know that they’d become famous, form orders, die to bear life, or  lead hundred of people to Christ. They trusted in their vocation, whatever it was, and followed God. So too can married couples journey together, united in Christ, humbly acknowledging and thanking God for their vocation and their witness, as ordinary as it may seem. Saints don’t grow in a vacuum, after all, but in the family and community!

Pope Benedict recently gave some advice for evangelizing to Catholics who may be thinking about leaving the Church. He said one of the greatest things we can do is be “better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no one will feel distant or excluded.” This can begin with our witness through our vocation – whether  married life, as well as those who are dating, single, and discerning. How have you witnessed married couples witnessing to you or to others in the Church? What tips do you married couples have for enduring crosses in a relationship?

Halo Tip # 1: If you’re married, pull out the wedding album, play the entrance song to your wedding, and celebrate the time you’ve spent together! The melody to our recessional melted my heart when it came on the radio the other day. Maybe try playing this song in the background when you’re arguing or having “conflict resolution” time?

Note: Reflections in this blog are my own and do not represent the positions of my employer.