Married life is anything but a breeze. Most days, it isn’t the “happily ever after” lived out but a negotiation between love felt, love shared and love expressed… or not at all on some days. Maybe this is why Marriage is a vocation and a sacrament, a daily exercise of choice to realize God.
Here at Landings, we have a good share of married people, those on their way to the same sacrament, those who are realizing that sacrament isn’t their vocation, as well as those who have come out of a marriage that has not worked.
Any of the above examples are tough situations to be in, some a lot tougher than the rest for sure.
For me, I remember (very fondly!) a time when I thought I was better off single and free to serve God, and I remember as well a time when I was discerning if the boy I was with would be the man I will marry (as it turned out, the answer’s yes). In some difficult periods of our life together, especially in the early years of our young children’s arrivals, I had also wondered if I was really equipped to for this vocation.
As a married woman who’s still learning to navigate the currents of married life after nine years of swimming in this sea, and who has friends who are confronting the issue of marriage on different fronts – some are seeking to commit in marriage to the person they choose to love, some are realizing they prefer to remain single and carefree, and yet others are deciding it’s time to exit their hurtful marriage to find closure and healing instead – I have to admit I am always tempted to say: God is present in all choices, whatever you decide, to get in, stay or to leave.
But in many instances, especially when stories are shared of suffering and broken marriages, I’m never quite sure how to offer proper consolation and encouragement. More crucially, I catch myself often wondering how to express the love of Christ and His Church that accompanies what might seem like a challenging and strict sacrament to honour in times of crisis.
In keeping to what the Church teaches about marriage – dos and don’ts – I fear to become a Pharisee – am I being judgemental in the way I share? Am I inadvertently condemning someone when all they’re seeking is understanding for their situation?
At the same time, in following the Landings tenets of being “non-judgemental” and having “compassion”, I wonder if saying “It’s okay” in all situations blurs the lines of just what the Catholic Church is teaching.
Some think the Church’s stand on marriage is idealistic (sometimes, yes, I think so too!), unforgiving and way too harsh. And yet, I know clearly there is a better choice. There is a higher call. There is a rightful purpose to what the Church says about the sacrament.
If we can only grasp that preciously in our hearts alongside the compassion of the Church, know that the ‘letter of the law’ and ‘spirit of the law’ need not be mutually exclusive, and be able to offer mercy and love to ourselves and others.
Honestly, in this mission of helping the willing returnee to reconcile with God, and a Church he/she desperately wants to return to communion with, those who may be examining their choices around marriage or seeking a continued hope to engage with it or by it, deserves a better response from us, from me, when they share their thoughts on this life-changing vocation with me – a response that is life-giving, empathetic and affirming of this same Church they’re struggling to come back to.
Just as I’m still learning to navigate my own marriage through its curves and bends, I’m also learning to bridge the gaps between how I feel, what I think and where I place my faith. I know there is a perfect resolution of the three, and it’s a matter of fully comprehending that.
Maybe you, like me, need to hear for yourself what the Sacrament of Marriage is about and why it warrants a place in the Catholic Theme part of a Landings sharing.
Maybe you, like me, want to delve more deeply into this vocation to be able to live it out more fully and amazingly.
Maybe you, like me, are searching for that space where the head and the heart actually meets to make sense of how the Church’s wisdom is the perfect conduit to facilitate God’s grace.
May we all then catch a glimpse of that at the coming talk so our minds can open and our hearts can overflow in recognition of God’s powerful presence in this sacrament. And once we do, may we then be able to better offer our own presence to those with marriage issues with each encounter.
Rector of the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS), Father James Yeo will speak about Marriage as a Vocation on Monday 30 April 2018 at Church of the Holy Spirit, Room #03-06 from 7.45-10.00pm.