Previously I had written about vows as an act of decidedly loving where the commitment to love trumps the need to feel loved. If you think about it for three seconds, you’ll realize what a radical and supernatural disposition this demands of a person, for as life stretches us and pressures build, human nature reveals its weakness and vows are tried. Everyone will have to make two decisions: Did I mean it? and How do I honor my vows now?
Holy Matrimony is not for the faint of heart. It is not something to just fall into like a jazzercise class or a PTA meeting. It is the joining of one’s life to another’s—for better or for worse as they say. That’s a dangerous thing to do. You relinquish your autonomy and decide to live for someone else vowing to love him or her until death would part you, and the goal of love, if it is true love, is the well-being and salvation of another’s soul.
So what happens when the reality of living with another person becomes not merely difficult but dangerous or abusive? This is that very moment when “love, losing its emotional force, ceases to be a wind in our sails but a barge to be tugged.” Yet don’t misunderstand—tugging the barge doesn’t meaning enduring abuse and it doesn’t meaning submitting to a harmful situation. Appearances never need to be kept. Love is not a doormat and sometimes it needs to be an alarm.
Marriage is not meant to be a white-knuckled endurance test, but like our Lord’s, it is meant to be a heroic disposition of love that says, “I will spend my life for the salvation of your soul,” and rather than something forbidding this is a courageous and therefor hopeful disposition. In marriage you may even struggle with loneliness, doubt, fear, resentment or any other negative emotion, but that does not mean you have failed your vows, it means you now cling to them and love in a heroic way that will challenge your spouse to do the same. And that may involve outside help. It may involve living apart. In the long run, it will involve forgiveness. But most immediately it will involve difficult and prudent decisions made with the help of grace—God empowering us with his own divine nature; for love’s supernatural response will never be achieved in the meager confines of our fallen humanity.
Therefore, the best way that you can personally love your spouse is to maintain and grow in a state of grace—regular confessions and reception of the Eucharist. The second way is by standing in the gap and interceding before God for his or her salvation daily. These are the two greatest acts of love you can give your spouse, and you can do it regardless of whether or not you find yourselves living under the same roof.
+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
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