A member of Contemplative Leaders in Action, my former student E. writes a lovely blog, A Call to Joy. In light of recent news about the Synod on the Family, which is addressing neuralgic questions about the Church’s ministry, it is fruitful to share her meditations on being called to marriage.
On the one hand, it feels impossible to capture the intimate mix of joy and sacrifice, of both lighthearted and difficult conversations, of learning how to balance my own needs with J.’s in a new way. On the other hand, for an external processor like me, it feels impossible not to try to verbalize my experience of this new transition. If I truly believe that marriage is a vocation – from Latin, to call – what does it mean in the day-to-day when it will take a lifetime to realize its effects? How is it possible to describe being married when it constantly (as in, daily, if not hourly) requires an immediate, intimate, and very current call for transformation?
As one of the seven sacraments celebrated by the Church (and the last to be officially counted among the seven), matrimony represents one of a very few ways that the Church celebrates a fundamental, foundational mystery of Christ’s ministry. From Biblical times forward, following the lead of the author of the letter to the Ephesians, who compared the relationship of Christ to the Church as mystery (Latin sacramentum), theologians such as Tertullian, Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, Aquinas, and many others considered marriage to be a sign for the whole Church: what the Fathers of Vatican II called the domestic church.
Marriage, E. reminds us, is a school of conversion, the kind of conversion to which God calls all people. It is a conversion away from our lesser, selfish selves, into the deeper, richer, softer, more compassionate, more generous, large-hearted people God creates us to be. It is a gift both for those called to this vocation and–like all true vocations–a gift to those called to other service in the Body of Christ.