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Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Called by Marriage, Not to Marriage

CalledbyMarriageNottoMarriage

A Vocation for Life

After your marriage, your life will change forever. You will change forever. Whatever happens in your life – good or bad, joyful or tragic – you will be married to one another. And nothing, nothing, will ever change that. 

The room rang with the echoes of the priest’s words. My fiancé and I looked at each other a little nervously. It didn’t put us off marriage, far from it, but it made us realise how what we were doing was almost impossible – crazily so – if we didn’t have God’s help.

With our wedding coming up in just one month, I have spent the last year and a half considering my vocation more seriously than ever before. Until recently, it had mostly been presented to me as a series of check boxes. Which of the follow applies to you? Single life, priesthood, religious life, marriage – select one of the above. As though marriage were simply a life event, another sacrament to add to the collection, a stepping stone on the journey to Heaven.

But my vocation, and my marriage, are far more than that. Whilst I have felt a growing call to the married and family life for many years, my wedding is not an event to be checked off the list of life. 

Because as I have been praying, thinking, and trying to understand what God wants for me, I’ve come to understand that my vocation is far more than my marriage. Rather, God is drawing me closer to Him through my fiancé. I am not called to the married life; I am called to God through my marriage.

My fiancé makes me a better person in every respect. He reminds me, not by correction or criticism but simply by being, to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving person. Through him, I know I will grow in my faith and understanding, and become closer to God. I am not called to marriage; I am called to God by marrying my fiancé. 

My vocation won’t be completed in a single day, or even a sacrament. It won’t be complete when we have a ten, twenty, or even fifty year anniversary, nor with the birth of our first child or our last. My draw to God is more than a ring on my finger or a new title or new surname – and to say that my vocation begins and ends with my marriage is to ignore any and all other vocations that God has for me. My desire to care for children, to raise a family of my own, to write and change the world around me for the better – all these vocations are not lessened or nullified by my marriage. Ultimately, it is only by joining Christ and the saints in Heaven can I truly be considered to have fulfilled my vocation.

This understanding comes with it a further revelation – that if I am called to Christ through my fiancé, then he is called to Christ through me. A responsibility, then, beyond ensuring that my husband is well fed, content, and looked after – ensuring that he can fulfil his vocation, whatever that may entail, with my love and support. Once again, I wonder what on earth I’ve let myself in for. The realisation hits me, as it does so often, that what I am about to embark upon is certainly beyond my capability – without the assistance of God.

I have been incredibly lucky in my quest to understand my vocation. Not only have I been set incredible examples from my parents, family, friends, and in-laws-to-be, but I have been blessed beyond measure to begin exploring my vocation with the best man God put on this Earth. In marrying him, I am not fulfilling my vocation – I am taking the very first step.

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Faith Formation Marriage Matrimony Offering your suffering Prayer Relatable Resources Sacraments Series Vocations

Relatable: Love, Actually – A 2019 Catholic Sistas Series about Marriage

RELATABLE-LoveActually

Welcome to our new series: RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY. In this series, guest authors* will share about all the challenging realities of marriage.

Marriage today is rarely presented realistically or positively. Hollywood and the media promote Disney fairytales where couples “lives happily ever after.” Or marriage is demonized as an unnecessary complication when hooking up and cohabitation will do just as well.

But what about the Catholic who still believes in the sanctity of marriage, including its permanence? Is it even possible for couples to remain connected to one another through all of life’s struggles and suffering? YES. In RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY, we will feature authentic, honest, and hopeful stories by real Catholic women about the journey of marriage. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, after all, and we want to give a voice to those couples struggling with infertility, infidelity, miscarriage, mental illness, addiction, and financial stress. We want to give hope by sharing stories of those who have weathered those crosses and come out stronger for them. These stories will reassure strugglings wives that you are not alone. And that with God’s help, there is a way forward, even if you just take baby steps, one day at a time.

*While some authors may post anonymously for privacy reasons, we assure you that each story is authentic and reflects the journey of a real person.

 

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Addie Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

In Sickness and In Health, As Long As You Both Shall Live

It was a perfect wedding.  Dressed in their finest, family and friends of the couple crowded into the church.  A string quartet played as the bridesmaids processed, and each looked more lovely than the one before.  At last, the bride entered on her father’s arm.  Truly, she was the most radiant bride I have ever seen.  She positively floated down the aisle, as her adoring groom gazed upon her. 

I began to cry, and I didn’t stop for rest of the ceremony.  Not an sobbing “ugly cry,” but a persistent teary, drippy-nose situation.  I asked myself, what on earth is wrong with me?  I’m not really a crier, and I rarely get emotional at weddings.  Then I realized, I wasn’t crying for the couple; I was weeping tears of thankfulness for my own marriage.

My husband and I had been through a lot the few weeks prior to this couple’s wedding.  I had gone through major surgery just three weeks earlier.*  This wedding was the first outing my husband and I had been on since my surgery – besides doctor’s appointments – and I was determined to go.  In hindsight, perhaps I wasn’t quite up to it yet, but I…WAS…GOING.

As I listened to the Bible readings and the minister’s sermon, I reflected on our own wedding day nearly thirteen years ago.  It, too, was beautiful.  Like this couple, we were married in our early twenties, ambitious and starry-eyed about what our future would hold.  I remember pledging that we would remain together “in sickness and in health,” but I just assumed that would come much later; I never dreamed I would develop an autoimmune disease and have complex joint replacement surgery in my thirties.

One of the readings was 1 Corinthians 13.  This passage is so commonly read at weddings, that I tend not to pay close enough attention to it.  This time, I listened from the depths of my soul.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, 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. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Upon hearing this, I wept more grateful tears.  My husband has lived this passage.  This was a scary surgery, and for the 10 hours I was in the operating room, he had to “bear, believe, hope, and endure.”  Self-employed, he took two weeks off work to care for me.   While I was in the hospital, he slept every night in a chair by my bedside, helping the nurses feed me through a syringe and care for my personal hygiene.  His love for me has been “patient and kind.” 

The minister spoke of the holiness of marriage, and how a three-strand cord – husband, wife, and the Lord – is not easily broken.  I wanted to jump up from the pew and shout to the couple, “Please, listen!  Hard times will come someday, and they will be totally unexpected.  You must rely on God and each other, and you have to start TODAY!” 

Since I’m not totally crazy, I kept my mouth shut.  This couple will make it; they are both people of faith, who love each other and the Lord.  As they greeted their guests, I simply hugged them both, remarked on their lovely wedding, and wished them the best.

To all who are reading this, I have a request.  Be a little kinder to your spouse today, more present.  Hold your wife a little longer, tell your husband how much you appreciate him.  And please, remember to include Jesus as the third – and strongest – strand of your cord.

*I underwent a complex jaw and facial surgery, including bilateral total joint replacement, upper and lower jaw advancement, and nasal turbinectomies.

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Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Working Toward Sainthood: 5 Steps to Enhancing Your Catholic Christian Marriage

 

Like many military couples, my husband and I were first married by the local Justice of the Peace. We already had our “church wedding” date set, so we chose the same month and day, only a year early, in order to make everything legal. In the year leading up to our Convalidation, we took part in the local diocese’s mandatory pre-marriage classes, meeting as a couple with another couple, a few times each month.

Looking back on it now, almost a decade later, I realize our learning and growth, both as individuals and as a couple, did not stop at either wedding. And, there is immense value, wisdom, and love in the teachings of the Catholic Church, as it pertains to Sacramental unions. From my years of study and lived experience, allow me to impart some wisdom to those just starting out, and perhaps remind those of us solidly entrenched in this sacrament.

1.) Pray for your spouse. Many couples, and the Church itself, advocates family prayer – the family is known as the Domestic Church, after all! But, just as important as praying together, is the act of praying individually for our spouses. A wiser Catholic wife shared once she has an alarm set, and I took her recommendation to do the same. My phone reminds me every day, usually set for a time my husband would be headed home (if he had a typical 9-5 job) to pray for him. Sometimes, the prayer is lengthy; other times, it is a brief, “Jesus, watch over my husband on his way home.”

2.) Familiarize yourself with the concept and beauty of the teaching of Theology of the Body. St. John Paul II wrote extensively on the beauty and dignity of women… and the Sacrament of Matrimony. He reassured Catholics that sex is a pleasurable act, to be saved until marriage so that we are able to join with God as co-creators of life – because at the moment we are giving ourself wholly to our spouse, God is with us. Realizing God is truly in that moment is a beautiful and powerful realization… which is also a difficult one to remember when we internalize our secular culture’s view on sex as being solely an act of pleasure. It is so much more than pleasure-based, which is part of the added beauty of the procreative act.

3.) Learn about love – from Catholic writers and speakers… and, the Catholic saints! Christopher West, renowned for his work on Theology of the Body explains how our marital love is but a foreshadow of the love we experience from God. So, what we give to, and receive from our spouse is just a taste of what we aim to receive in our life after death. St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who lived in the world, giving herself entirely and devotedly to the world, reminds us that, while “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love…” She also directs us to, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” St. Frances of Rome also shares wisdom with wives, reminding us, “It is most laudable in a married woman that she be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” The saints wrote about love extensively – both God’s love for us, and ways in which we can better love our own spouses.

4.) Model God’s love and mercy for us, to our spouse. God doesn’t always like the choices we make. Sometimes, He wonders what we are thinking, and He shakes His head disapprovingly. But, He also recognizes our free will and has infinite love, and more importantly, mercy – if we are willing to seek it. Because we are called to sanctification through our vocation of marriage, we are challenged to be God’s tangible love and mercy to our spouse. This is not to say there aren’t consequences for our behavior or actions, but we are called to be loving and merciful to our spouse, even if we may not like their choices or actions. This advice also presupposes the Sacrament of Matrimony is healthy, and there is no physical, sexual, or emotional abuse – because abuse is never justifiable. The Church even acknowledges there is no room for abuse in a sacramental marriage.

5.) Manage your roles and expectations. Keep in mind, the roles and expectations you have at the outset of the marriage may shift. Every change during a marriage, i.e. change in employment, adding a family member, moving, etc., brings the necessity to manage the roles and expectations each person has in their marriage. Your roles and expectations may change over time. And, that is okay! Keeping an open dialogue, and being honest with yourself and your spouse, is a guaranteed way to meet the ebb and flow of marriage. Because you are a team, united with God, it is important to keep the avenues of communication open, and have the discussions of each others’ roles and expectations (for both yourself, and your spouse) together.

In our culture, it is easy to lose focus on the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is easy to get stuck in noticing the imperfections of our spouse, while overlooking our own contribution to the state of our marriage. But, as Catholic Christians, we are striving to achieve sainthood.

As married couples, we are called to the path of sainthood through our vocation as wives or husbands. Furthermore, we are challenged, sometimes more than others, to help our spouse achieve sainthood with us. Yet, putting these five steps in the forefront of your mind may just help ease some of the work toward sainthood, and may in fact help enhance the journey!

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7 Quick Takes Apologetics Baptism Christi Communion Confession Confirmation Doctrine Faith Formation Holy Orders Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Matrimony Sacraments

7 Quick Takes – the Seven Sacraments

I was rolling quite a few ideas around in my head while the calendar days were being scratched off much more quickly than I cared to see and my deadline loomed larger and larger. I bounced a few of these ideas off on my 18 yr old and he suggested that since I needed seven quick takes – why not review the seven sacraments…  As he so wisely pointed out; we are coming up fast on Lent and what could be better to ponder  at this time than the seven sacraments instituted by Christ and maintained by our catholic church?  How do you argue with such wisdom?

So subdue the drum rolls, please, as I roll out this month’s Seven Quick Takes (and we’re linking up to This Ain’t The Lyceum).


7 baptismal fontQuick Take one: Baptism

According to our Catechism (CCC 1211) these seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is comprised of the sacraments of Christian initiation. And the first of these is Baptism and is the first step that we take as we embark on our Christian journey; regardless whether we are baptized as an infant or as an adult. Jesus himself was baptized by his cousin St. John the Baptist before being led “by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty day and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Mathew 4:1-2)

According to St Gregory of Nazianzus; “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water: anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed: enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship. (Oratio 40 preached at Constantinople Jan 6,381)

Quick Take two:  Confirmation (or Chrismation)7 confirmation

The second of the initiation sacraments is Confirmation during which we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism (CCC 1831) these are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

 

 

7 holy communionQuick Take three: Eucharist

Within the Roman rite – one’s first Holy Communion is typically received around the seventh year of life which is determined by the church as the beginning of the age of reason and marks the beginning of, hopefully, a lifetime of receiving this life giving sacrament.  Within the Eastern rites the infant receiving baptism immediately following also receives Chrismation and the ‘admission to Eucharistic Communion’.  (CCC 1233) These three sacraments complete the initiation sacraments.

 

7 pennanceQuick Take Four: Penance and Reconciliation

Penance is one of the two Sacraments of healing   that Christ instituted for his Church to offer His people.  “The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health,3 has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.” (CCC  1421)

Some may ask why, once we are washed clean through the act of baptism, is there a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession? The Council of Trent (1549) answers this perfectly as quoted in the Catechism: “Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.”

It is through the sacrament of penance, as instituted by Christ through St Peter, (Mathew 16:13-20  that we are able to be washed clean and be healed of our sins.

The Catholic Catechism answers the question of what is this sacrament called with the following:

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

Lent is a wonderful time to take advantage of this sacrament – especially if it is a sacrament that has fallen by the wayside. When I read the explanation of this sacrament in the catechism it filled me with resolve not to miss this wonderful opportunity to be filled with Christ’s grace.

 

7 annointing of the sickQuick Take Five: Anointing of the Sick

There are some misunderstandings surrounding this sacrament. At one time it was known as the ‘receiving of last rites” because it was, and still is, a sacrament used to fortify “the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.” (Council of Trent 1551) However, it is also a sacrament through which Jesus can unify our suffering with his and thus support the Church and, if it is for the good of our soul, also bring us physical healing from a grave illness. Contrary to the misbelief that one can only receive the Anointing of the Sick once in a lifetime; if one recovers from a grave illness for which they have been anointed and later faces death again, or is suffering intensely and is in need of fortification, they can once again receive this sacrament.  (CCC 1515)

This sacrament is based in Jesus’ command to heal the sick (Mathew 10:1-8) as well as through tradition.

“… the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments” (CCC 1510)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this quick takes post the Catholic Church has the three sacraments of initiation through which the Christian begins his journey to heaven. In addition, the church uses three sacraments to assist a Christian on the last leg of this journey. These are the sacraments: of penance, (when possible) the anointing of the sick and the Eucharist.  The administering of the Eucharist when in danger of death is referred to as Viaticum.

The anointing of the sick can only be administered by a priest whereas the Viaticum can be administered by a priest, a deacon or an extraordinary minister, using the reserved Blessed Sacrament.

 

7 holy ordersQuick Take Six: Holy Orders 

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.”  (CCC 1536)

Holy orders is one of the two sacraments that the Church refers to as sacraments of salvation.  (CCC 1534) The sacrament of Holy orders is conferred  through the Bishop laying his hands on the head of the ordinand while asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.  It is only a bishop that can confer this sacrament which imprints an indelible sacramental character upon the recipient who must be a baptized member of the church. Only the Church authority has the responsibility and right to call someone to Holy Orders.

While I have links to the three degrees of the priesthood above I will give a brief description of them. The episcopate refers to the Bishops and their duties, the presbyterate refers to the priests and the diaconate is the most obvious as it refers to our deacons.

What some may not know is that there are two forms of the diaconate. There is the permanent diaconate and the transitional. The transitional deaconate belongs to the seminarian who is preparing to become a priest. While the spiritual mark on his soul is permanent when he is ordained a deacon, he does eventually transition into the priesthood when he is ordained. On the other hand, the permanent deacon belongs to the man who is not, at that time in his life, feeling the call to the priesthood. He may or may not be married when ordained. If single the acceptance of ordination requires a commitment of celibacy and if married at the time of his ordination, should his wife pass away after ordination he may not re-marry. He may though, if called, become a priest.

We have all, at one time or another been inspired, by various members of the religious in our lives. Sometimes, though, we have felt let down by one priest or another. However, regardless of our feelings, or the personality of any particular priest, the sacraments celebrated by him are never invalid or impure.  This is emphasized quite powerfully by St. Augustine and, as such he is quoted in the Catechism: Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.” (CCC 1584)

That is so reassuring and perhaps one of the most important things we can remember about the sacrament of the Holy Orders – that our priests are acting “in persona Christi”.

 

7 marriageQuick Take Seven: Sacrament of Matrimony

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601) This understanding of this sacrament is the same in both the Eastern and Western (Latin) rite. In the Latin rite the spouses mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church and this is the same within the Eastern Rites except that in order for the sacrament to be held valid the priest must also extol his blessing on the couple.  (CCC 1623)

The sacrament of marriage is the other sacrament that is for the salvation of others. In fact, the Second Vatican Council refers to the family as the Ecclesia domestica or the Domestic Church. This is very apt as it is within the family that we exercise the ”priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.’ Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”  Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC 1656)

It is the duty of the wife and husband to aid each other in getting into heaven and as well the duty of the parents to raise their children in such a way that they are well prepared to continue their personal journey to heaven so it is very fitting that this is called a sacrament of salvation.

This concludes our Seven Quick Takes of the seven sacraments.  A much heavier quick takes than usual, I admit. My topic for next month promises to be a little lighter but not much. I know that by the first Friday of March I will be a tad lost in my efforts to follow the resolutions I will set for myself on Ash Wednesday. I will be flagging quite a bit – if Lent follows its norm for me. I plan to take March’s quick takes as an opportunity to reset myself with seven suggestions that not only I can follow, but anyone who is also lagging a little in the middle of the race. My hopes is that we can apply one or more of them to our Lenten sacrifice and find ourselves ready to head for the finish line and the celebration that follows. Until then, a bientot!