I hope they give themselves the gift of the sacrament and the lifelong graces and blessings that it brings.
The other day, I had a short conversation with a neighborhood friend that I can’t stop thinking about. It made me reflect on what the sacrament of marriage means to me.
We were chatting at the park as our kids ran around and the dog barked.
The conversation turned to our lives before having kids, and she asked where my husband and I lived before we got married. I mentioned that we’d lived in different places from each other.
“You didn’t live together?!” she asked, sounding bewildered.
In today’s world, waiting for marriage is apparently a conversational bombshell. So I tried to put it into perspective.
“No … We’re Catholic,” I said. “So we didn’t live together.”
“I’m Catholic, too,” she said, sounding even more confused. “At least, my parents are. They love Our Lady of Guadalupe. So you mean you didn’t move in with your husband until he proposed?”
“No,” I said, “Until we were married. Until after the wedding.”
She was silent for a moment, thinking about this information that she clearly found surprising.
“So you and your husband got married in a church? We never did and honestly I wish we had.”
Now this was something new. Generally I try to avoid giving unsolicited advice, but she’d said she wished they were married in the Church, and our conversation gave me the impression that she didn’t have many people in her life encouraging her to follow through on it.
So I couldn’t resist saying with a smile, “You should totally do it!”
“Yeah, I think about it,” she said, “But it’s so expensive to have a big church wedding.”
“No, don’t have a big wedding,” I said. “It can be simple, just your families. It doesn’t have to be a whole big thing. But you should do it. If you want I can connect you with the priest at the church down the street.”
“But what’s the point of doing a church wedding if we’re not having a big party?” she asked.
It was almost time to go home, and my kids were getting tired. I only had a minute to answer her.
I paused for a moment to think. How could I begin to explain all the ways that her relationship would benefit from the Sacrament of Matrimony? How could I quickly describe why she should enter a sacred covenant with the father of her children, and the infinite graces that the sacrament will bring to them both?
Here’s what I found myself saying …
“It’s not about the party. The party doesn’t matter,” I said. “When you get married in the Church, it changes things. You know how every marriage goes through hard times? Well, when you get married in the Church, you get so much grace from God that really helps you get through the hard times. I’ve seen it for myself, in my own marriage.”
I stopped, not wanting to overwhelm her. But she seemed intrigued.
“I’ll talk to my husband about it,” she said thoughtfully.
It turns out that her story is a common one. There’s even a Civil Marriage Initiative for Spanish-speaking couples to inspire Hispanic and Latino Catholics in civil unions, like my neighbors, to pursue sacramental marriage.
I haven’t run into her at the park since that conversation, so I’m not sure what she and her husband will decide to do. But I do hope they choose to get married in the Church.
I hope they give themselves the gift of that sacrament and the lifelong graces and blessings that it brings. I’ve seen for myself how powerful those graces can be.
And if you’re reading this and trying to decide whether to have a Church wedding, I hope you give yourself that gift, too.