As a sequel to my previous post, Uncovering the Essentials in Life, today’s post features St. Josemaria Escriva’s point no. 27, which quips about marriage as a vocation.
“Do you laugh because I tell you that you have a ‘vocation to marriage’? Well, you have just that – a vocation.
Commend yourself to St. Raphael that he may keep you pure, as he did Tobias, until the end of the way.”St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
By way of background, at the time of writing of the above point in the 1930s, the common understanding of the term, “vocation”, referred exclusively to the calling of priests and nuns to a life dedicated to God. Marriage, however, was not considered a vocation. Hence, it was not a surprise to see laughter as the reaction of his interlocutor. However, the author wanted to emphasize the overarching consideration of marriage as a vocation.
Unsurprisingly, the social milieu of today still remains unchanged with the prevalence of cohabitation, open marriages, divorce and same-sex unions. In short, the world of today looks upon marriage as a mere contractual relationship which can be terminated by either party anytime. Such is the sad reality of today’s cult where the “unwanted” is “disposable”.
Marriage as a Vocation: a Call to Conjugal Love
Thankfully, on the 19th of March 2016, Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laëtitia, specifically addressed the growing malaise infecting the family customs and values. It clearly upheld that:
”Marriage is a vocation, inasmuch as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment.”Pope Francis, Amoris Laëtitia, 72
With that, it is quite clear that marriage cannot be taken lightly. As a vocation, it is essential that the spouses-to-be give recognition to the growing dangers that may weaken the bonds of conjugal love. For example, an overly individualistic culture caught up with materialistic tendencies and self-indulgent pleasures may erode the basic foundations of marriage. Not infrequently, such a situation breeds intolerance and hostility in the family.
Moreover, Pope Francis warns of the dangers of an erroneous understanding of freedom. He said that “Freedom of choice makes it possible to plan our lives and to make the most of ourselves. Yet if this freedom lacks noble goals or personal discipline, it degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others. Indeed, in many countries where the number of marriages is decreasing, more and more people are choosing to live alone or simply to spend time together without cohabiting.”1
The Grace of God Strengthens Love
Given our human frailties, it stands to reason that marriage be grounded on the grace of God for it to withstand the test of time. Pope Francis gives the underlying rationale:
“Mutual self-giving in the sacrament of matrimony is grounded in the grace of baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other, and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promises each other total self-giving, faithfulness, and openness to new life. The couple recognizes these elements as constitutive of marriage, gifts offered to them by God, and take seriously their mutual commitment, in God’s name and in the presence of the Church. Faith thus makes it possible for them to assume the goods of marriage as commitments that can be better kept through the help of the grace of the sacrament…”Ibid, 73
Love Endures Forever
In closing, we have seen the rationale for serious discernment of the vocation of marriage. At the same time, we have also discussed the need to anchor the union on faith. However, staying silent about love as the enduring bond would not be prudent for the couple. Hence, we should ask ourselves: what are the underlying elements for love to endure? The answer lies in the lyrical passage of St. Paul, which states:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.St. Paul, 1 Cor 13:4-7
Without a doubt, a love that speaks about forgetting the self and seeks the good of the beloved at all costs makes for an enduring marriage.
1 Pope Francis, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, 33