Much has been written about the importance of discernment in religious and priestly vocations. People spend a lot of time praying and looking at whether God is calling them to be a priest, brother or sister. Some take years trying to decide if they have a call, and that discernment is a crucial factor. But a religious life isn’t the only vocation that needs to be discerned.
Unfortunately, not enough is said about using the discernment process when deciding to marry or choosing a partner. Entering into the sacrament of marriage is not to be taken lightly.
Even so, it has been my experience over many years of working with people that too many couples are blinded by infatuation and let their feelings get in the way of making good decisions. Strong emotions have a way of clouding our ability to reason and we may leap into situations or relationships without serious thought.
Although a perfect person probably won’t come into your life, it is important to think about the values you want in a spouse. If you are an active Catholic and your faith means a lot to you, it is not wise to marry someone who doesn’t believe in God or wants no part of the church. If you want to be a parent and to raise a family, it is not logical to marry someone who doesn’t share the same desire. Are you willing to take the whole responsibility of raising your children in the faith?
Some other serious questions that should be raised when discerning for marriage:
• What are your lifestyle preferences? Are material goods important?
• Do you have interests in common?
• Who will do which task to maintain the household?
• How does each of you deal with money?
• What are your relationships with your families?
• If living close to your family is important to you, will you marry someone whose career requires frequent moves?
• Has the person displayed an abusive behavior? Do you think the behaviors will just change after you marry?
• What are each of your views on forgiveness and faithfulness? Did either of you think of what happens to your relationship if a spouse is unfaithful?
These and many other questions are considered in the marriage preparation sessions, but usually after the date has been set and the invitations sent out. Important issues should be discussed long before one says yes to a marriage proposal, or proposes.
Marriage is a sacrament and should not be taken lightly. Despite the broken relationships around us, marriage is forever. It is a covenant of everlasting love. Seek a good counselor, and pray for the wisdom and the grace to make a good decision.
Sister Margie is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.