By: Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Recently I read some observations about marriage. I suspect a man wrote them. Remember, I read these. Never having been married, I cannot vouch for their veracity, nor am I able to subscribe to them.
A woman worries about her future until she gets a husband. A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife. A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man. To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little. To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all. Married men live longer than single men, but married men are willing to die sooner. Any married man should forget his mistakes, there’s no use in two people remembering the same thing. Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed. Women somehow deteriorate during the night. A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change, and she does. A woman has the last word in any argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument. There are two times when a man doesn’t understand a woman-before marriage and after marriage.
Having been in the marriage business for a few decades, i have counseled many couples who prepared for marriage, many who planned to untie the knot, and many who approached the altar for a second time. Some folks ask me how i could prepare couples for marriage when I never married. I answer by saying that I prepare people for death but never died.
If those observations above are true, then it is understandable that come couples head off to the divorce courts. But marriage is a sacrament. It is a blessed state in life. Men and women have their differences. The church teaches that there is no relationship on earth more satisfying than a good marriage. Some relationships are not meant to be. Yet, after a broken relationship, our human nature often searches for another fulfilling relationship. The Catholic Church recognizes broken relationships. And the Catholic Church provides an opportunity for people to enter into a second marriage. We call it the ‘annulment process.’
We must clarify the difference between a ‘Civil Contract’ and a ‘Sacramental Bond.’ Some couples marry in the Catholic Church, obtain a divorce and then enter into a second Church marriage. How can this be? Well, in the annulment process the Marriage Tribunal investigates the initial Church marriage. In the investigation the Tribunal discovers that the necessary prerequisites for a ‘Sacramental Marriage’ were not present. We thought the requirements were in place for a Sacramental Marriage, but after an in-depth study, the Tribunal decides that the union was merely a Civil Contract. Therefore, a person is permitted to have another church wedding which will actually be the first Sacramental Marriage. From a spectator’s point of view, it appears to be a contradiction to Church teaching. But, it is not. The first marriage was merely civil, not sacramental. The second marriage is Sacramental.
I biology class the professor asked, “Suppose you could take to Mars any of the laboratory equipment used in this course. How would you determine if there was life on Mars?” One student responded: “Ask the inhabitants.”
Fr. Jim Shea