Do you view your marriage as a vocation? Do you see it as a means of bringing your life into greater holiness? What about the people around you? Are they inspired to live lives of greater holiness from what they see in your marriage?
Before we can really answer these questions we need to understand what we mean by a “vocation.” Let’s all get on the same page, shall we?
First and foremost, we all have a primary vocation and a secondary (or particular) vocation. Our primary vocation is to grow in holiness and become a saint. Surprised? I hope not, this topic was recently discussed here, go check it out. Our secondary vocation refers to the particular state of life in which we are called to fulfill our primary vocation to holiness (definitions taken from the I Chose You website). So what does “the particular state of life” mean? It means that God is calling each and every one of us to live lives of holiness in a particular way that brings others closer to Him. It’s easy to see how those who are called to be priests or consecrated religious are living lives that are hopefully going to inspire others to grow in greater understanding and relationship with Jesus. But what about the rest of us?
Marriage, too, is a vocation. I think this is too easy for many of us to forget. And for many of us, we might not have ever been taught this concept. I wasn’t and it has taken awhile for this concept to fully unfold for me. And I’m sure I still have a long way to go. So, how is marriage a vocation? To answer this we need to look at the characteristics of a particular vocation.
1. It has been predetermined or predestined by God.
Although we have free will as humans, God also has a plan and everything we do fits in with His plan. God can make positive things come out of even the biggest mistakes in our lives. So God knows what our individual vocations are, even if we don’t. Our job is to pray, desire to follow His will for our lives, and listen. Marriage is one of those vocations God has predetermined for many of us.
2. It involves permanent commitment.
Priests become priests for life. Nuns and monks enter religious life for the rest of their lives. Just like these vocations, marriage too is a permanent commitment. As Catholics we don’t believe in divorce, marriage is permanent.
3. It involves sacrificing oneself to serve God and others.
What mother doesn’t make sacrifices on a daily basis for her children? What father doesn’t do the same? Husband and wife often make sacrifices for the well-being of the marriage. This is a part of marriage that no one would argue with. It’s not easy, actually it can be downright difficult at times. We might hate giving up something we really want to do for the benefit of our spouse or the family, but that’s what marriage is. And each time we make a sacrifice of our own time or money or whatever for the benefit of our family we are serving our family in a way that is bringing us all closer to holiness. After all, that is the whole point of our vocation in the first place, right?
4. It is recognized by the Church as a vocation.
Yes. Marriage is a vocation. It is so important, actually, that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began an initiative a few years ago called “For Your Marriage.” They created this website with tons of resources and articles on it that spans the gamut from dating to wedding preparation to all aspects of marriage. It’s a huge clearinghouse of marriage resources to help support all of us in our vocations as married people in the Church. So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the Church recognizes marriage as a vocation.
5. Its purpose is to help others get to heaven.
One of the purposes of marriage is to help your spouse get to heaven. And we are to guide our children to heaven as well. This is not something that is the sole responsibility of our parish priest or the CCD or religious education teachers. This is our job as parents; this is our job as a husband or a wife. We are the primary educators of our children in the faith. We should be praying for them always, no matter how old they are. Just as we should be praying for our spouse too. I don’t know about you, but I want to be in heaven one day and I know my husband’s prayers will do much to help me, because I probably don’t deserve to be there on my own merit. And I hope my prayers will help my husband to get to heaven too. I want to be there with him.
And as another little tidbit of information, did you know that in 2012, 28% of newly ordained priests had 5 or more siblings? This was the largest percentage in the statistics on the number of siblings these new priests had. Although the report doesn’t have any data on the types of families these priests came from (married, divorced, single-parent, widowed) I believe that this percentage of them coming from families of 6 children or more says a lot about the marriages their parents must have had. Without the data we can only guess, but I would suspect that at least within this 28%, these priests came from families in which their parents were still married. That says a lot in a culture with a 50% divorce rate.
Looking back at my original questions: do you view your marriage as a vocation? If you didn’t think of your marriage in this way previously, has this given you something to think about? Have these five characteristics of a vocation given you a new perspective on marriage?
How about the question on helping others to live lives of greater holiness? Does your marriage affect others? Does it help bring about a desire to live a life of greater holiness for God?
If nothing else, I hope this post provides some food for thought. It was on my mind to explore this idea because this week is National Vocations Awareness Week (ends tomorrow). While the focus of this week is on vocations to the ordained or religious life, I thought it was a good time to explore marriage as a vocation as well.
For those who are married, preparing for marriage or have discerned a vocation to marriage, I pray that your marriage is and/or will be a Holy Marriage for God.