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The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

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Originally published on Little with Great Love | March 19th, 2024

“But if a man and a woman marry in order to be companions on the journey through earth to heaven, then their union will bring great joy to themselves and to others.”

ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

That’s why the Wedding Feast of Cana is my favorite Mystery of the Rosary to Mediate on. It also may be why the details of our Wedding Mass were far more meaningful to Jon and me than the reception and party details. The celebration matters, but the most significant part of the celebration is when we are joined together as one body in Christ as we receive and are nourished by the Sacrament of Eucharist. Two become one fed the Bread and Wine—Body and Blood.

In the mass, the bride and groom are joined together as one and are drawn up into the very life of God. Isn’t that the goal?

Just like when we come to mass each Sunday (or daily if you have that gift), we are transported into the very life of God through the Eucharist. During the Sacrament of Matrimony, the bride and groom then become a witness to those there celebrating too, in hopes of their own journey toward Heaven with their spouse, for those who sit with them, for those who are praying to meet their future spouse and those for generations to come who become part of the family married at the altar.

The marriage of man and woman is the closest thing to God uniting with His Bride (the Church) and becoming One in union with Him. 

The very goal of marriage is to bring the other—our spouse—into union with God while on Earth, on our journey into Heaven, and to bring other souls closer to God. 

The beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage is that it takes place within a sacrament—the Sacrament of the Eucharist. What a gift to be nourished at the foot of the cross by the Bread of Life as we cling to the image of Water being turned into wine at the Feast of Cana when the Mother of Jesus— the Savior, healer, and miracle worker— instructs the “wait staff” to do whatever He tells you. 

Jesus performing his first miracle surrounding the celebration and tradition of marriage demonstrates the importance of this indissoluble union that sanctifies another—a spouse—on the way to eternity.

While I have no spouse here on Earth, I have a spouse in Heaven (I hope and pray) who is the head of our domestic Church, the man whom I wed at the foot of the cross inside the Sacrament of Matrimony 26 years ago and to whom I can pray because we were united as one with that Sacrament and sealed with the Eucharist. 

We had our share of suffering and struggles and abundant joy, grace, and triumph. Many times during our sorrowful journey, it felt like we were living Lent, stripped of so many things that brought us comfort. We walked alongside one another as husband and wife through the desert as we thirsted and searched for God. Our hearts were transformed, and we were met with joy and peace.

Marriage never comes without work, suffering, hardship, or laying down one’s life for the other. In the writings of St Paul, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:25–26).

Grace comes not just because we are nourished by being married within the Sacrament but also because the suffering and struggles unite us further to the blood of Christ at the foot of the cross, where we marry the other and become one.

When I took my vows, I had no idea that my married life on Earth would only be a short 25 years; I had hoped to grow old with Jon, watch our children’s children be born, and maybe marry the love of their lives. But God had other plans for us that allowed me to walk my husband home to Heaven and see our vows made complete, in sickness and health, until death do us part. What a gift. 

It is not an easy gift to receive, but my work to bring a spouse to Heaven has nourished my journey and continues to refine me through suffering and sacrifice. I sacrificed my time on Earth with my husband for God’s Will to be done. 

And I know this brings my children and me innumerable graces. The veil is so thin; it’s no wonder we wear veils on Wedding Days, and widows wore them in past traditions, too, to mark their lives under the veil between Heaven and Earth.

The greatest sacrifice grew the most beautiful moments of our marriage. While Jon was dying from cancer, I was dying to self to serve and care for this man I wed at the altar through a sacrament that gave us grace that nourished our souls. At times, I brought my husband the Eucharist for him to be nourished by the Bread of Life as Jon fought for his life on Earth while surrendering to God’s will for his life. 

The human side of this is excruciating and heartbreaking. But knowing we are Easter people who hope for an eternal story and life, this is the greatest gift; my life was made complete as I was given the gift to walk my spouse to Heaven as I prayed over him with his final exhale on Earth and inhale of Heaven. 

Now, I can lead from Earth while Jon leads from Heaven as we walk alongside the children we co-created with one another and God as we guide them on their journey toward Heaven, too. 

“A married couple should build their life together on the foundation of a sincere and pure affection for each other, and on the joy that comes from having brought into the world the children God has enabled them to have. They should be capable of renouncing their personal comfort; and they should put their trust in the providence of God.

“People who are constantly concerned with themselves, who act above all for their own satisfaction, endanger their eternal salvation and cannot avoid being unhappy even in this life. Only if a person forgets himself and gives himself to God and to others, in marriage as well as in any other aspect of life, can he be happy on this Earth, with a happiness that is a preparation for, and a foretaste of, the joy of Heaven.”

ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

In the wake of such a poignant journey, I’ve been compelled to revisit and share this reflection on The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony on this first anniversary without Jon. It serves as a testament to the enduring essence of marriage and its profound impact on our lives, even amidst the complexities of loss and transition. As I reflect on the Sacrament of Matrimony and its intrinsic connection to our journey, I’m reminded of the timeless truth that our ultimate calling is to walk each other home. It is holy ground.

In February, I was invited to write a reflection on a Sacrament for a friend’s ministry during Lent. My friend Lisa, founder of Little With Great Love, invited me to write about The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. At the time, I wasn’t sure it felt right given my vocation, now a widow, not a wife. Yet, I felt God call me to give my fiat and trust I would be given spirit-filled words. In a few days, I quickly finished the post and submitted it. I hardly remembered what I wrote. A few weeks later, I learned it would be published on their website on my birthday and the Feast of St. Joseph, both the patron saint of holy deaths and fathers. What a signal grace for my yes.

I felt called to re-share this reflection, originally published on Little With Great Love on March 19, 2024. In honor of the words I was given to share about marriage it feels right to share the reflection titled Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and our call is to walk one another home.

Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the souls of men and women.

ST. Gianna Molla

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One Comment

  1. Dear Heather,
    You write so well and with so much gusto. Your love for Jon and his for you is palpable. I want to tell you how I can “see” and “hear” your journey as a couple on earth. It makes me smile. And it makes me cry to “feel” how much you miss him. The physical ache for his touch. What will always remain I believe will be the Sacrament of Marriage that unites you even now. I firmly believe that joy awaits you when the veil is lifted and you will reunited in God’s time. Meanwhile I pray God grants you strength, peace, courage and much joy on your journey.

    Sending love in Christ!
    Lili Coffin

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