Sep. 3, 2016

Marriage is a serious BUSINESS

"Goodbye Father, I'm done"

I'm still figuring out this call I received from a young lady who claimed she wanted to get married few weeks ago. She allegedly loved the church in our parish and wanted to enquire if she could get married at the Holy Trinity Church. My response was yes. Then I tried to ask her which parish she belonged originally. She told me she didn't belong to any parish, again that she hadn't been to church for a long time. I tried to know how long ago she went to church and she was uncomfortable with that. She said bluntly to me, "I don't think I can answer these questions on church things right now. Goodbye, I'm done". Then she hung up. This conversation lasted barely five minutes.

It might be good to address our Christian responsibility in view of current societal trends. Everything is apparently in a state of flux. One area that is facing the heat is the traditional marriage institution. Pope Francis himself regrets that marriage and the family today is "deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization". Seriously, marriage is facing a lot of pressures. But as Christians, and as Catholics, we have to protect our faith. Our belief in marriage as sacrament is one which the Church upholds. It is that a man and a woman come together to exchange their consent before the people of God in order to enter into marriage. This is sacred and precious to the Church; it has to be protected.

The pope also advises proper pastoral care for vulnerable persons. That is important for pastors of souls like me. The Holy Father encourages us to minister to such individuals "in a discreet but generous way, materially, humanly or spiritually, in those circumstances where they are vulnerable." 

Going back to the conversation with my caller, I feel the Pope’s advice has to be taken into consideration. In the first place, it is ironical to imagine a call to a priest to discuss marriage without expecting to talk about church or faith. That will be like going to an orchestra without a symphony. Second, I wished this lady gave me opportunity to give her the pastoral attention she deserved. Here, let me explain briefly the role of the priest in the Church.

1). He is priest. 2). He is prophet. 3). He is king.

As priest, he shepherds the flock of Christ. He minsters the sacraments to them, helps them in their needs and supports them in their weaknesses. He serves them in the manner of Christ, in humility. As prophet, the priest teaches. He educates the faithful in the doctrine of the Church. He preaches the word of God. He delivers the message of Christ who is the Way, Truth and Life. As king, the priest governs the people. He guides them in the manner of the Good Shepherd. He leads in a gentle and caring way. He brings comfort and compassion to the sorrowful. He guides the flock in the faith. This is the mission of the priest, his Office.

When a priest asks someone questions about the faith, it is not meant to indict. Take for instance, the above conversation with the young lady who called. Asking questions about her faith is important for several reasons. There is need to find out what she knew in order to know what she needs. Second, it is necessary to understand the best way to assist her. Like in the family, different people feed differently. The same applies in the church family. Understanding a person’s spiritual background helps to know what type of support the individual needs. Thus, some background information is necessary in administering the sacraments.

Think about Christ’s encounter with the woman at Jacob’s well in John’s gospel (chapter 4). In the course of their protracted conversation, Christ said to her, “Go and call your husband, and come back here” (Jn.4:16-17). Christ went deep into her background in order to elicit faith in her, then heal her from the roots. The Church follows similar rules in order to serve the faithful accordingly. To wed in the Church, the bride and groom have to belong to a church, or at least register in a church. This is necessary for reference and records sake. Marriage is a sacrament. It has to be recorded like any other sacrament in the church. The minister who witnesses the marriage and the place where wedding takes place are necessary information that should be documented. Both the church and the couples might need them in the future. These are information I needed to process in the course of the conversation with the lady, but she left.

The young generation has to know these things in order not to succumb to flimsy culture. Shying away from the responsibility of getting married in the Church does not make marriage simpler. It rather complicates matters. If you wed in the church, you receive spiritual security for your marriage. If you wed in the Church, you have records and reference materials too. Those who think that getting married in the church makes it difficult to secure divorce easily after wedding, simply get it wrong. They place the cart before the horse. Divorce is not part of marriage definition, not even an agenda for conceiving marriage. If you wed in the beach for instance, the question is, “Who witnesses to your marriage?” It is as good as any other social event or picnic. It might appear simple at the beginning- no marriage instructions, no pre-cana classes to attend, no marriage surveys to take, no retreats to attend, no forms to fill out. But the long term implications might be tough. Marriage in that sense is a contract, sure, but something might be missing. This is what the Church supplies. Marriage in the church is a covenant before God and his people. It is a sacramental union. It is blessed by Christ.

Let’s keep teaching the younger generation the profound benefits of getting married in the Church. Marriage is a serious BUSINESS. It goes with responsibilities, but it is worth it. One going into marriage has to be ready for some sacrifice. She/he has to be ready to take up those responsibilities. She/he has to be ready to commit the union to God, ask for his love and mercy. The Church doesn’t make things hard, the Church makes marriage secure and lasting. And God’s grace is sufficient for you.