By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life
Imagine a spouse asking her/his beloved, “Do you love me?” It is hard to know what the question means because I have not given any context to it. Is this question being raised within a warm morning embrace where the person posing the question knows how the other will answer but just wants to hear the words from their lips? “Do you love me?” “Of course, I love you, with all of my heart.” In contrast, is the question presented in the context of marital conflict, a context where the one asking the question may not only be uncertain of the answer but also afraid to hear what their beloved will say. “Do you love me?” may be followed by “Not right now” or “Not when you act that way” or the even more crushing line “I am not sure I ever loved you.”
When you fall in love with someone else and they with you, you could say that the bond of love is based on both faith and reason. “How do you know he/she loves you?” you may be asked about your future spouse to which you reply with a list of loving behaviors they do for you and with you. They treat you with respect, they want to spend time with you, and of course they tell you “I love you.” These are all things that can be observed but arriving at the conclusion that someone loves you also is based on something else. It is an experience “in your gut” that tells you “this is the right one.” I know someone who, after the first date he had with his future wife told a mutual friend at the time, “She is not the kind of girl you just date, she is the kind of girl you marry.” Yes, there is a faith dimension to the love spouses have for one another.
Pope Francis talks about this love, the love that is based on both faith and reason, as being based on trust. When he writes about the passage from 1 Corinthians, 13:4-7, “(love) believes all things,” he writes about the great trust that develops between spouses. It is important to keep in mind that this trust is not merely between the husband and wife, but also between the husband, wife, and God. If you are living in a sacramental marriage, remember that God is at the center of the relationship. For those who regularly read this column you have heard me quote the title of a book by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “It Takes Three to Be Married” and the three are husband, wife and God.
Just think if every couple trusted not only each other but also trusted that God was at the center of their marriage. If couples believed this, then every interaction they had would be understood as an interaction that includes God. Can you imagine what would be said (and also what would not be said) if couples, during every interaction, trusted that God was listening – was involved in the conversation. Just think if every couple would trust that they could regularly turn to God to understand the way, the truth and the life God wants them to live as a married couple?
I think of a couple who regularly turned to God in prayer when they had a decision to make or a situation to address. I am not talking about something like “what should we watch on TV tonight,” but most things (such as “what should we do this weekend”) were presented to God in prayer. They would pray together, asking God questions about how they should be spending their time, what to do about their children, and how to allocate their money to name a few. They did not expect to literally hear the voice of God in reply. No, they would go ahead and talk with each other and address the situation as most couples do but they based their conversation on their trust in God’s guidance. Their prayer opened them to follow Jesus in all that they did in their family and marital life. And it worked! Their marriage was happy and their children were loving and respectful and they all became great Catholic adults.
It is so easy for couples to rely solely on the trust they have in each other to work things out. And it is a great thing when couples trust each other so that they see each other as part of a collaborative team. But this column suggests that such couples expand their circle of trust to include God. Trust that God is present in your marriage to guide you and enter into prayer to seek the answer God has for you. Go to Mass, receive Eucharist, experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation, pray with each other in your home, pray with friends who are married pray by yourself. As a couple ask God, “do you love us?,” and know what the answer will be – YES!