Don’t tell them they’re too young: there’s nobility in growing old together

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

| Vocations Guide 2016 |

Whenever I give presentations to couples about marriage, I make them one solid promise: Married life can be quite difficult at times, but you are guaranteed the graces from the sacrament of marriage to get through these times.

My now-husband and I were taught that by our spiritual director while he was helping us to prepare for marriage. Fr Carlos was a sweet, humble, yet incredibly wise and fatherly priest who had the most marvellous way of simplifying the complicated.

“When you get married, will you be married only for that day?” he asked us.

“Of course not!” we giggled at what seemed to be a ridiculous question.

“Well, then the graces you receive on your wedding day will also be for more than one day. They’ll continue for as long as you are married,” he explained.

Fr Carlos’ simple catechism on marriage helped to drive home the significance of the step we were about to take. Marriage is a lifetime commitment, sustained and blessed by God’s grace.

Sure, my husband and I were substantially nervous on our wedding day, but we also were convinced that just as God had called us to marriage, he’d remain with us throughout.

Our marriage of 32 years, which has been blessed by four children, has sustained one miscarriage, a couple of job losses, too many moves, some nasty health episodes, and a string of other ups and downs. Although it hasn’t always been easy, it has certainly been blessed. In good times and in bad, there is not a single moment of our lives together that I would subtract.

How is that possible? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way in No. 1638:

“From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament.”

The source of this grace is Christ himself. He dwells in husbands and wives. Christ gives us the strength we need to bear the crosses we’re asked to carry, bear one another’s burdens, obey one another in humility, and love each other with a God-willed, holy love. God also gives us the grace we need to parent well the children we’re given. Christ’s grace unites and sustains us.

Recently, a friend criticised couples who were marrying in their 20s. His consternation was based on the presumption that 20-somethings are too immature to know what they’re doing. He was convinced that he and his fiancee would have an outstanding marriage because they’d both waited until after 50 to marry.

God, not man, calls couples to marriage, at the time in life that’s right for them, be it 20, 50 or 70, according to his will. There is something noble and beautiful about growing and maturing together as a couple and, God-willing, as parents.

Were my husband and I perfectly mature and totally suited for the demands of married life on our wedding day? No. But I can say that we had confidence in God’s grace and guidance. With God’s help and our understanding of the sacrament that we entered, we grew and matured together.

The Church teaches us that the sacrament of marriage signifies the love of Christ for his Church and gives the married couple the grace to love each other in the same way.

Christ suffered and died. Spouses, too, can suffer and die for each other. This dying sometimes means the dying of the self, in small and big sacrifices of daily life.

The graces of the sacrament will give spouses the ability to sacrifice for each other if they are open to it and are faithful to God and to each other. That’s a promise.

-CNS