Monday, December 17, 2012

Marriage as a Vocation

By Kristen M. Soley
 
What is the vocation of marriage?
The word “vocation” has its roots in the Latin word vocare, which means “to call”. Thus, a vocation is a calling. The Second Vatican Council clearly stated that we all have a call to holiness. But within that universal call to holiness, there are different vocations, hand-picked by God, for us.  Our vocation is our path to holiness, to sainthood if you will.  It is our path to knowing, loving, and serving God, by growing in the Cardinal virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

Thus, a vocation is a personal call. It is offered freely and must be accepted freely. Attraction to a certain way of life or to a specific person can be a good sign of being called. Most often a person comes to recognize and accept a vocation gradually. This process, sometimes called discernment, is an opportunity for growth. It can be helped by prayer and guidance from trusted mentors, friends and family. 1

However, what begins as attraction must deepen into conviction and commitment. Those who are called to the married life should be ready to learn what their vocation means and to acquire the virtues and skills needed for a happy and holy marriage. 1

The vocation to marriage is a call to a life of holiness and service within the couple’s own relationship and in their family. As a particular way of following the Lord, this vocation also challenges a couple to live their marriage in a way that expresses God’s truth and love in the world. 1

To some extent, every priest and nun, even the Pope, is called to marriage, insofar as they are human beings. Theologically, this can best be understood in what Blessed John Paul II called the “spousal meaning of the body.” This means that the ensouled body, the person, is meant for the gift of self, particularly in marriage. Marriage is something to which every human person is called; it is the “default” vocation for all humans. So marriage, at its most basic level, is a natural vocation, a call written into our very DNA, into the very structure of our being. The married person is called to give himself totally to one person in love, while the celibate is called to give himself to all. 3
The Vocation of Marriage, Once Upon a Time…
 
I had never ruled out the vocation of consecrated life, but I felt God had called me to the vocation of marriage, even when I was young.  I had dated in my Sr. High and college years, but had discerned that none of the suitors were the man that God had in mind for me, as my husband.   They just did not make me a better person, in fact, I was sadder in a relationship with these people that I was alone.   I understood that a marriage is a union of two people that not only love each other, but lift each other up, and make each other a better person. 
After college, I began working at a reinsurance brokerage firm in the contracts department, which relied heavily on the Information Technology (computers) arm of the business.  
At our first “reports” meeting with the IT consultants, I was introduced to my future husband, Nate.  He was very kind, handsome, helpful, and even funny.  As time went on, I had the opportunity to work more one-on-one with him and in the meantime, had taken on some part-time work of my own, building a small computer application for a friend.   Nate was very kind to me.  I knew he had at least one other part-time contract he had taken on and was burning the candle at both ends with work (working 50+hours per week).  When I explained that I was struggling a bit with the application that I was writing, he volunteered to help me.  I almost fell over…  why would he want to help me, he is so busy?
When we “knew”
Within the same week, Nate was near my work space, talking with a work colleague of mine and I looked at him, not joking, standing near a window, the sun was shining through and all I could see was his silhouette.  Well, his silhouette was that of my step-Father’s… my late step-father. 
Now my Step-Father was a man who came into my life, at a time when I really needed Him (God has a way of doing that).  I was a Junior in High-school and in need of a man in my life, to love me, unconditionally.  Yes he loved my Mom, but he just accepted me for who I was and simply loved me.  He encouraged me, lifted me up, and made me a better person; he believed in me, and made sure that I knew it. 
It was at that moment, I knew… I knew that Nate was the man God had chosen for me… the moment was bigger than me and I just sat there and took it all in.  From that point forward, I never looked back. 
Well, God being, God… coincidentally, Nate, in the mean time had taken a liking to me.  He thought I was cute and nice, and enjoyed working with me.  He even told one his friends that he’d like to date a girl like me.
We were together at a big release party (an outing with co-workers, where we celebrated a year’s worth of planning and hard work as a team, to design, build, and deploy an internationally accessed, computer application for the company we were working).   I, not very subtly, let him know that I was interested in seeing him outside of work, and he reciprocated.  We went on several dates, and I just could not get over how kind he was.  I had never felt more comfortable and at ease, just being myself, than I had with him. 
When Two Became One, and the Love Multiplied
Short story long, about a year later, on Mission Beach in San Diego (visiting CA for a Packers/Chargers game), he went down on bended knee and asked me to be his wife.  Overjoyed, I said “Yes!”  Six months later, at The University of St. Catherine, on March 4th, 2000 (late winter), on an unseasonably warm 70 degree day, the priest said “If weather is any indication, God is already smiling on this union.”
In our wedding video at the wedding reception, we had a picture of Nate and I with 3 of our nieces and nephews; I was holding one, Nate was holding one, and we were holding the hands of the third, the caption said “Our future?”
We had no idea, what our future was going to look like together, but neither of us worried and we had such hope; again, God is so good.
God blessed us after our first anniversary of marriage with the promise of our first son, and has continued to show His generosity about every 18 months thereafter, to the tune of almost 7 children. 
Our Marriage, as a Vocation
What we have shared in our marriage, as a vocation, has made us a better, happier, and holier couple.   Here are some of the things we have shared, and why we thank God for having been lead to this beautiful vocation:

-          Marriage represents a Trinitarian relationship; imagine a triangle with God on top, and Nate and I completing the triangle.  Without God on top, it does not work…
-          When God is first in our marriage, everything works and peace permeates our home. 
-          God loves us unconditionally, and through our marriage we become channels of God’s love to each other
-          We are also channels of His love to our children
-          Marriage is about spending your life with your best friend
-          We love each other unconditionally and do so in spite of our imperfections (nobody is perfect)
-          We celebrate each other’s strengths and do not dwell on our weaknesses
-          With God’s grace, we are growing in holiness and trying to overcome our faults
-          We enjoy making sacrifices for each other; sacrifices borne of love…
-          We respect each other, a mutual give and take and no order barking submission
-          We love each other enough to not always have to be neither right nor first, we have actually disagreed because we were trying to out-sacrifice the other…  “no you have the last piece of cake, no you choose the show to watch”, etc.

A Solid, Loving Marriage is the Bedrock of Family Life

Nate and I each play a distinct role in our marriage. Nate is the head of our household, and I am the heart of our home.

My confessor put it perfectly. Each of us brings such different, but complimentary gifts to our home. I am to respect and honor Nate’s judgment in matters of the head. He, in turn, should respect and honor my judgment in matters of the heart. God works through Nate as a channel of grace, and I, in turn, am a channel of grace for him.

The Holy Spirit works powerfully through Nate, lovingly guiding me, through him. Nate never ceases to amaze me. The Holy Spirit guides me beautifully through the wisdom he has given Nate.
I am called to honor and obey Nate as head of our home; true, but who am I really obeying?
Romans 13:1
“Every [a]person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”

God is the true head, and he has placed my husband, here on earth, as His representative for my home.

Ephesians 5:21-33 sums up perfectly this call, my vocation:

“…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself”
This is not always easy to understand and can sound a little too humbling; we, nevertheless, need to take God’s word for it, assuming we call Him God for a good reason.

What do you think / Please share:
My husband and I decided to see what our children thought:
1.        A word to describe marriage
2.       A word to describe Mom & Dad’s marriage
Andrew (11):
1.        Man  & Woman
2.       Love each other
William (9):
1.        Man and Woman
2.       Love each other very much
Elizabeth (Libby) (7):

1.        When people are a couple and have babies together
2.       Like kissing and hugging
Charlie (6):
1.        Married People
2.       Having Babies
Thomas  George (3):

1.       Christ
2.       Alive and Happy

Patrick (2):
1.       “Daddy”
2.       “Daddy!”
Please share with me your thoughts on marriage.  Use your own words to describe the vocation of marriage?

What the Church Teaches
CCC 1604 God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: "And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'"
The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is the only sacrament that is administered by the couple rather than the priest. Holy Matrimony is a covenant between a man and a woman whereby they give their free consent to enter a covenantal partnership that is permanent. The marriage, "by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring."(CCC1601) and finally, CCC 2378 – “the supreme gift of marriage is a human person”
Your Vocation or Call

Do any of you have plans for your future?  Do you think you are being called to a particular vocation (marriage, consecrated life, single)? 
God has a plan for each of you and the only way you can possibly know what His plan is, is by talking with Him.  Well, my husband and I are fairly confident that we are living the vocation we have been called to, as here we are, married with 6, almost 7 children.  God has shown His blessing on our choice to cooperate with Him, in our vocation.    The Catechism teaches in 2378 – “the supreme gift of marriage is a human person.”
What we try to teach our children, is the same thing… God has a plan for each of them, just like Mom and Dad.  We pray to God, as a family, every morning “teach us the wisdom to best discern Your will for us in our lives…” and at the end of our prayers, we, along with our children, pray for their future spouse, if they are called to the vocation of marriage.  It is NEVER, EVER, to early to begin the discourse with God about your vocation, and if, by chance you are called to marriage, the sooner you can begin to pray for your future spouse the better…  even if it turns out that you are not called to marriage, God wastes nothing and your prayers will be used for His Divine Purpose elsewhere. 
Regardless of the vocation to which you are called, the intent is to reflect and magnify God’s love within that vocation. 

As Christians, understanding that God has a plan for each of us… a perfect plan; the need for worry is eliminated.  You don’t need to worry today for what God has planned for you tomorrow and you needn’t bother trying to force a vocation.  The best thing you can do today is pray.  Pray for God to open your heart and mind to His Divine Will for you in your life.   Again, His plan is perfect for you and following His will, brings the promise of peace, joy, and success beyond your comprehension. 

Thank you.
Sources:

1.     Foryourmarriage.com
2.     Catechism of the Catholic Church
3.  My Catholicweb.org

4 comments:

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  2. A beautiful post, Kristen! My own words for the vocation of marriage? I guess I see it as a calling to do all necessary as a couple to help, primarily, each other and our children to reach heaven, and secondarily, to inspire others, by unspoken example, to want to reach heaven. The "all necessary" changes as the stages of my life change. It started out as wife, moved on to wife and mother of young-uns, and will someday move on to another stage. It even changes on a day to day basis as my family's needs change. And it isn't all "religious". It often has to be fun to make it appealing. (Think John Bosco juggling or climbing a tree.) The difficulty I have occasionally (ok, more often than occasionally) is to remember that the "wife" part of my vocation should not get mixed up with the "mother" part. To be my husband's helpmeet rather than his parent. Maybe just remembering that marriage is for the husband and wife alone. Keeping this separate from being parents, so that I take the time to be a wife to the man of my dreams!! It seems to me that if I keep those two roles in the proper place, home is a beautiful and fun place to live :)
    A book that I fell in love with, The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest by Elisabeth Leseur, gave me a wonderful example of the role of a wife in the vocation of marriage. I recommend it even if your husband is a practicing Catholic, as it is full of wisdom.
    So, this is my long comment on a rather simple idea of the vocation of marriage...do WHATEVER you need to do to lead the family to heaven.

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  3. Mary,

    Beautiful and dead on! May I please share this, in part, with the youth to whom I am presenting? It is another beautiful and paramount facet to our awesome vocation! :)

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  4. Loved the kids answers! The best thing we can do for our children is to love our spouse! Looks like your six littles get that.

    Continued blessings to your marriage and the formations you are making for your littles!

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