Marriage is unique in that it is not only a Sacrament, but also a vocation. When we hear the word vocation in the Catholic Church, we tend to think of priests or sisters. But the reality is that every person is called by Christ to live their life in a particular vocation. Therefore, there are two very important questions to answer both personally and as a couple: “Is Jesus Christ calling me to the married life?” And if so, “Is He calling me to unite my life with this particular person unto death?”
In the course of your preparation, you may come to the conclusion that this marriage is not an answer to God’s call. This discernment is not something to feel bad about, nor should it be seen as a failure. In fact, it is a blessing to discover this before you are married.
You might be thinking, what a depressing thing to say to an engaged couple. But because marriage is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, the Church wants you to take sufficient time to step back from the romantic feelings of your relationship, and truly get to know each other on a deeper level, so that God can reveal to you His will for your vocation.
In order to know and understand His will, we must be in relationship and communication with Him through prayer. Prayer has many definitions, but simply put, it is a personal response to God’s presence. God is always here for us. As the old saying goes, if you feel distant from God, you need to ask yourself, “Who moved?” But also remember that God does not impose or force Himself on us, we must seek Him, we must respond to His presence.
Prayer and discernment, then, go hand in hand. It isn’t likely that you will say a prayer and then God will speak to you in a burning bush, or shout from the heavens. More often than not, He will speak to you in the depths of your heart, or whisper to you, perhaps in a moment of silence, or in the words or encouragement of others. Discernment in the spiritual life is a process of sifting those movements that are from the Holy Spirit, directing us to a deeper union with God, from those that lead us away from Him.
Marriage preparation is a wonderful time to develop and deepen your prayer life and to discern not only your vocation to marriage, but all that comes with that decision, so that when you walk down the aisle, you can experience a fullness of peace and joy knowing that this is God’s will for your life, and you are fully prepared for what He has in store for you. This is why it is also a time to begin to sort through issues, conflicts, and wounds from your past, and to celebrate and build on shared values, hopes for your future, and how you complement one another. Prayer and discernment is key to this process, for God knows both of you inside and out. He knows your past and your future. Invite Him into your marriage preparation:
We thank you, O God, for the love You have implanted in our hearts. May it always inspire us to be kind in our words, considerate of each other’s feelings, and concerned for each other’s needs and desires. Help us to be understanding and forgiving of human weaknesses and failings. Increase our faith and trust in You and may Your prudence guide our life and love, especially during this preparation time. Reveal to us Your will for our vocations, and grant us the gift of discernment so that, in all things, our love may be fruitful for Your glory. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of Our Lady, pray for us. Amen.
For Further Resources
- “You think you have found Mr./Mrs. Right, but have you asked God”, a short video by Fr. James Mason
- “Eyes to See and Ears to Hear: The Gift of Discernment in Daily Life”, a three part video by Fr. Scott Traynor