What is Marriage when considered as a Vocation?

(Originally titled: The Marriage Vocation Is a CallingSpring-Summer, 2006)

by Rev. Fr. Dominic Radecki, CMRI

A vocation can be compared to the mainspring on a watch. When the mainspring is constructed carefully, it operates correctly, thereby allowing the gears to mesh properly so that the watch keeps time and fulfills its function. If a mainspring is inferior from the beginning, or is put together without great thought or precision, it eventually breaks, leaving the watch in a worthless and dysfunctional state.

In order to insure the most solid foundation for a vocation, we must pray in order to discover God’s particular will for us. God calls each soul to a particular state in life which will lead to his highest measure of happiness in this life and in eternity. A person may be called to the religious life, the married state, or the single state. All three vocations demand certain common qualities, the main one being that of unselfishness. To attain success in any of these states, then, self-denial and sacrifice are essential. We should never idealize any vocation to the point that we believe that it would be more free from hardships or stress than another.

Not one of these three vocations will offer us an escape from pain and suffering, or from authority. In none may we have our “own way,” if we wish to acquire lasting happiness, unless our way be also God’s way” (Dorothy Grant, So! You Want to Get Married!, p. 9).

Almighty God, Who knows us best, determines our vocation. This was clearly put forth by Christ when He told the apostles, “You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.” However, since we are endowed with free will, we have the power to accept or reject God’s plan for us.

Almighty God teaches us that the whole process of marriage, from falling in love and making the decision to marry, to exchanging vows and giving each other freely in physical union, and to the ultimate end of the physical union, the bearing of children — all this, He says, is a holy vocation, a calling, through which He calls us to Himself. This is how the married serve God — and it differs from any other vocation because it depends upon your loving and serving first of all one specific person, a husband or a wife, and secondly, your specific children (Maisie Ward, Be Not Solicitous, pp. 172- 173).

What are the Choices I need to make in life?

During the next few years, if you have not done so already, you will make three of the most important decisions of your life, namely 1) the choice of God’s place in your life 2) the choice of your career or occupation 3) the choice of a husband or wife. One or two good selections are not sufficient to ensure a life of relative happiness. In order to have a happy and successful life, you must make correct choices in all three areas.

Since your choices in these three areas involve such serious consequences, it would be wise to seek guidance from your parents and your confessor. Do not think that they do not understand your situation; if nothing else, give them credit for experience, at least for having “been there” and having “done that.” Everyone is in agreement that hindsight is 20- 20. Remember, also, that they have your best interests at heart.

Be not too prompt in acting, but take sufficient time to think the matter through. Much common sense is needed in such important enterprises. Keep in mind that God is your best guide. Through devout and persevering prayer you will obtain the wisdom to think critically and judge wisely.

How can I choose a Husband or a Wife?

An intelligent and attractive young lady in her early thirties was carefully searching for the right man to marry. Someone chided her with the remark, “Why are you not married yet?” The young woman, who was wisely waiting for the right man, replied, “Maybe God wants me to be happy.” In other words, if she had married in haste, she could regret the mistake in leisure. Far better to be prudent and selective in choosing her lifelong partner, for he would indeed be lifelong.

When you are ready to choose a partner for marriage you must deliberate carefully, because a romantic but indiscreet choice means sorrow for the rest of your life. Fr. Charles Doyle, in his work Cana is Forever states:

“The choice of a life partner in marriage is a great and grave responsibility. It obligates one to love and serve another, to rear children and govern them, and, at the same time, to serve God with one’s whole heart and soul and mind — works any one of which alone requires great faith and perseverance, and which, taken together, cannot be accomplished without special aid from Heaven.

“To choose a life mate for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until his or her death, is obviously a task that requires sane and sage judgment. So much depends on the right choice that a prayerful proximate preparation is imperative. Upon the choice of a husband or wife depends happiness or bitter regrets during this life and even heaven or hell in the next” (p. 42). An Arabian proverb states, “Choose your horse from among a hundred, your friend from a thousand, and your wife from ten thousand.”

What causes Marriage Failure?

Lack of adequate effort and discretion in choosing a partner can end in marriage failure or, at best, a difficult and unhappy married life. Love may be blind, but you don’t have to be, and you had better not be when choosing a lifelong friend and spouse in marriage. Sadly, how many marriages, which began well, have been “put asunder” by infidelity, uncontrolled anger, selfishness, spousal abuse, or chemical and sexual addiction? Their results: separation, divorce, deserted husbands and wives, and broken homes.  

“Marriage failure is [often] due to lack of emotional, intellectual and vocational maturity; an absence of any idea about the real purpose, sanctity, importance and indissolubility of marriage; to faulty conditioning and example on the part of parents; to an injudicious choice of a mate without regard to background, or religious, intellectual or social affinity” (Fr. Charles Doyle, Blame No One but Yourself, p. xi).

People who have unhappy marriages generally express their frustration by saying such things as, “If I had known what kind of a person I was marrying, I would never have married him.” Numerous polls indicate that a high percentage of married adults doubt they married the right persons, declaring that if they could go back, they would choose differently. More than likely, such couples did not have a realistic approach to marriage. Had they approached marriage properly, they would have known before they had gotten married what type of person their mate really was or would turn out to be. Once they have married it is too late.

In his book Blame No One but Yourself, Fr. Charles Doyle writes:

“The only thing one can do is to remind such unfortunate persons of the promise they made to take each other ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health until death part them,’ and that in the Sacrament of marriage there is the infallible assurance that there will be enough sacramental grace to see the union through to the bitter end, no matter how difficult and irksome. But what folly to put such a strain on the grace of God, simply because two people did not know the real meaning of love, or how to prejudge character traits, or how to assay the obvious danger signals during the courting or engagement period!”

Recognizing Potential Problems

Well in advance of marriage those who would find themselves searching for a future spouse must first learn to recognize the various character defects that cause irritation and can destroy a marriage. Those preparing for marriage must be able to identify these faults in their prospective bride or groom. There is an adage that expresses this obvious truth: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage.” It also states “Keep them half closed after marriage.” After marriage it is too late to be picky. Then you must learn to ignore some of the irritants which your spouse cannot or will not change and try to concentrate on the good points — everyone has some. Marriage isn’t a one-way street.

Being the right kind of person is just as important to a successful marriage as finding the right kind of person. Therefore, you must examine your own conscience and strive to root out your habitual sins, character defects and irksome habits. You will be successful in this to the degree that you are committed to changing and cooperating with God’s grace. For this reason, success in your marriage is very much dependent upon your commitment to God. This amendment of life is made deep within yourself because you know that it’s time to take charge of that aspect of your life, thus proving not only your love for your spouse but also your love for God.

–Taken from the Reign of Mary Quarterly Magazine, Issue 123

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