When I got married, I was a Protestant. And sheesh, did I “protest” against the Catholic Church because it claimed that I had an invalid marriage! Just because Ralph had been raised Catholic, what did that have to do with the sanctity of our union? He did not go to church much until he went to my church. His conversion to a personal relationship with Jesus took place within my denomination. Our Presbyterian wedding ceremony was a very faith-filled, Christ-centered celebration of our commitment to each other and our mutual commitment to God. It seemed obvious that God blessed our union and made it very valid indeed.
About a year after our wedding, the Holy Spirit led me into a relationship with the Catholic Church. I was introduced to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but I struggled and squirmed in his mighty hand, even while falling in love with the Mass. As I researched the teachings of the Catholic Church and overcame the Protestant misconceptions about them, I gradually came to understand and embrace what it meant to be Catholic. However, I still could not agree that my wedding ceremony had been “invalid”.
Six years into the marriage, I found myself staring at Luke 3:15-22 and wondering why Jesus — who had never sinned — needed John’s baptism of repentance. At the time (in 1981), I was standing on the banks of my own Jordan River, i.e., the beginning of the ministry that has evolved into what I’m doing today. I was preparing to give one of my first teachings to our prayer group. And the Holy Spirit raised the question: “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?”
There are multiple layers of answers to that question, but God was showing me exactly what I needed to see at that point in my life: Jesus united himself to repentant sinners. He surrendered himself to baptismal water so that when we are baptized, he is there in the water with us, raising us up to a new life, the Christian life, and everlasting life.
That revelation melted my resistance to the Catholic Church’s teaching on the requirements of a valid marriage, i.e., a marriage validly united to the original (i.e., Catholic) Church through the witness of a priest who has been ordained in the unbroken line of the original priesthood, (i.e., the “apostolic succession” of priests).
I heard, in my heart as deeply and profoundly as any “AHA!” moment of conversion could ever be, “And Terry, I want YOU to become one with the people I am calling you to serve by getting your marriage blessed by a priest.”
Until then, I’d had no idea what God was calling me to do. The service I’d been giving to my little prayer group was barely significant. But what God placed in my heart made a lot of sense. In my un-Catholic marriage to a Catholic man, and in my refusal to comply with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sacramental unity of marriage — which includes unity not only with God but also with the Church — I had divided myself from the people I was called to serve.
What are you protesting? Why?
When the Catholic Church, through one of her priests, blesses a marriage, it becomes a sacramental union. A “sacrament” is the presence of Jesus coming to us directly and personally to give us divine graces. The presence of Jesus in a sacramental marriage gives us supernatural help in protecting the marriage during difficult times.
The ultimate in sacramental power for any marriage is found in the combination of (1) unity with the spouse in the commitment to love each other, (2) unity with God by making him the third partner in the marriage, and (3) unity with the Church that provides the sacrament.
If your marriage doesn’t have all this, do whatever it takes to get it!
Please share this with others by using the social sharing icons on the left side of this page.