“I am never going to marry. Marriage is difficult! It is marked by a lot of brokenness, unfaithfulness, misery, and unhappiness,” a young lady once said those words to me. She had witnessed several broken marriages in her family circle and those of her friends as well. In fact, her own parents are divorced. Indeed, marriage can be tough. I have known people who didn't take me seriously when I offered counsel on marriage. “Father, you are celibate, what do you know about conjugal love, about marriage,” a woman once said to me during an office visitation in 2001, barely a year after my ordination. What do I know about marriage? Nothing other than the marriage of my parents that I witnessed at the close view as their son. But still, I don't know the nitty-gritty of marriage. What I do see however in the public view are examples of broken marriages. Listening to Josh Groban’s song, Broken Vow, gave me some access to the emotional and mental agony involved in broken marriage vows: the sense of loss, the fear of loneliness, the notion of betraying and cheating spouse, etc. But nevertheless, the vows are meant to be fulfilled till death separates the spouse.
Isn’t that what Jesus says to us in Mk 10:2-16? Conjugal love must be lived in fidelity to God’s original plan. The marriage vow is a lifetime covenant never to be broken. The Catholic church teaches from her understanding of the Bible and Sacred Tradition that marriage is indissoluble. Quoting from Genesis 2: 18-24, Jesus answers the question posed by the Pharisees, is it permissible “for a husband to divorce his wife?” by saying that "God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:6-9). In those words of Jesus lies the key to God’s purpose for marriage and how to sustain it. Once couples get the intention of God in their union-their eternal union and unity in God, they will get the clear message that God’s entrance into their union is the best way to sustain the union, hence, marriage's indissolubility. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no human being separate.” There is no room for divorce in a valid and licit reception of the sacrament of matrimony. As prophet Malachi said: “I hate divorce! Says the Lord God” (Mal 2:16).
There are of course valid cases for annulment if the marriage from the start never existed. Once that case can be established by the diocesan marriage tribunal, a marriage can be annulled. Nevertheless, in God’s original plan, a valid marriage commitment should be lifelong, no matter the difficulties that will be experienced. There are many ways to keep the marriage vow till death. There is counseling available but there is also the availability of God who binds a couple together. Go to God as a couple when things start going south. Don’t allow the wounds of distrusts and disappointments to fester before you fall on your knees together to seek the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God. At Cana, she interceded on behalf of the couple running out of wine, that is, joy. Praying the rosary together and with faith is a huge help in getting through the "difficulties” of marriage.
Talking about praying the rosary, we are in the month of the holy rosary. Pray your rosary more intentionally for peace in our world and protection for the unborn who face the menace of abortion. In October, the Catholic Church in the U.S. celebrates Respect Life Month, and the first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday. There are many resources on https://www.usccb.org/ to guide us through the observance of Respect Life Month. In our parish, we shall be praying the Rosary every Sunday in October after the 8:30 am mass at the Marian grotto. Please join us in praying for respect for all life from conception to natural death.
“St. Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!”
-Fr. Bernard, OP