People often wonder what a celibate priest could know about marriage. On the surface, it seems like a fair question. But when you really think about it, a priest has experienced hundreds of marriages in the course of his ministry. He’s been there through good times and bad times and all stages of married life. People are often very open with their priest about marriage.
On this World Marriage Day, rather than give some simple “tips” from things I’ve learned, I thought I would go a bit deeper. My prayer lately has led me to contemplate the motivations that lead us to marriage and that sustain a happy marriage. Two key “drives” or “needs” stick out to me:
To know and be known – To know another person intimately and known that you are known. This is more than just familiarity that comes with time. This is knowing a person on the level of their soul. This requires real intimacy. It requires being vulnerable to share your entire life.
To be desired by the one you desire – Sometimes desire and passion can have a negative connotation. But God created us with this desire for marriage and union. It’s not bad. It’s holy, in the right context. Marriage is a beautiful context to fully live out our passion. This is seen in the desire that Adam had for Eve in his beautiful words upon seeing her for the first time, “At last!”
Notice that each of these desires is reciprocal. It’s when the other person knows you, desires you, in the same way you do that it is truly magic and wonderful. Marriage is such a beautiful way to experience the fulfillment of these two drives. But here’s the thing, as good as marriage is, no human being will ever be able to completely fulfill those two needs. God put them there to lead us to himself. Marriage is a very immediate way to experience a foreshadowing of what it will be like in heaven when God perfectly fulfills us. Those who are not married, especially those who choose the witness of a celibate vocation, but also single people and widows and widowers, point us to heaven.
May all married couples rejoice today in the privilege to image God’s love through their marriage. Never take your spouse for granted! And may all us, through the longing put their by God, desire heaven more each day and point others there with the example of our lives.