by Terence R. (Terry) Garrity

Check this off first: Be sure and invite God to the wedding. Doing so will be to buck the trend of modern weddings in which everyone seems to do a better job of celebrating themselves than worshiping the God-of-Cana Who makes marriage possible.

A quick review: Marriage is a Sacrament. For a Sacrament to be valid there must be form and matter. Form is the words necessary to marry. Matter is the couple – a man and a woman – who intend to do what the Church intends. In most sacraments the priest is the ordinary minister of the sacrament; that is, it is the priest who confects the sacrament, or who brings it to fruition. In the Latin rites, you may be surprised to learn that the couple themselves are considered the ordinary ministers of the Sacrament. The Church acts merely as a witness. But since the Church is the Body of Christ, your witness is also, first and foremost its head Jesus Christ Himself.

This is so forgotten in so many modern weddings which resemble a wholly self-centered secular coronation more than a religious event, sometimes even for faithful (i.e., not lukewarm, going-through-the-motions) Catholics.

So while you reflect on colors, fabrics, the DJ, the cake, the eating utensils, and the tent rental, perhaps reflect on one another, you and your spouse, and the children to come, God willing. For that purpose, I have a short checklist below with large implications for success in the marriage:

Couples, will you start using birth control after the vows are taken, thus invalidating your marriage because you did not confect the sacrament intending to do what the Church intends?

This upsets some to no end, but it was the topic of an article in The Catholic Moment by the late Father Vath some years ago. It touched a nerve then and it should now, but the question is valid. Hint: My wife and I had to re-do our vows and we went to Natural Family Planning after that (and by the way, NFP worked).

Will you seek to actively learn more about your faith, adopting sound Catholic reading in books, periodicals, media, retreats, and spiritual counseling and share that with one another, and grow in the knowledge of your faith, especially if you grew up with the commonly defective catechesis of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s as I did?

Men, when you have children, will you defend them not only from physical harm but from the wiles of the devil? Will you stand before your family and address Satan, saying, “To get to them, you have to get past me?”

Is your attitude that job one isn’t to raise kids with the defective “I just want them to be happy,” replacing that with “I just want them to be faithful” and in times good and bad to know the peace of Jesus Christ, knowing that happy times don’t last but that the peace of Jesus Christ is meant to be forever?

If you put 90 percent of your material stuff in storage, would you ever run to the storage facility to retrieve any of it?

From our own experience after 39 years of marriage, I now know the answer is “no.” Be ready to buy a little less, live simply, and tithe a little more.

Look at your spouse and set aside physical attraction for a moment. If your spouse is in a car accident, paralyzed, incontinent, or tending toward bed sores and infections, will you be able to persevere in providing care lovingly for the rest of your spouse’s life? For 10, 20, 30 years or more?

When wrinkles and arthritis mean only snuggles at bedtime, will you look at your spouse and say  “you are more beautiful than the day we met”?

If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, you’re at least somewhat empowered to consider the roller coaster ride of married life, even happily so. I’m pretty sure there are at least a dozen more questions we can ask that demand an answer which shows that your priority is to be Christ-centered by being other-centered. Maybe sit and see how many questions you can fathom on your own. Do so as a couple desiring to make real that which God joins no man may asunder. Ever. See how you answer.

It is never too late to take stock of oneself before the wedding, to put marriage on hold, to swim against the modern tide of a pandemic of failed marriages in our society (about 50% of all marriages end in divorce; a little less for Catholics) and therefore to give you and those you mean to love the best chance at salvation, a life the sum of which is joyously greater than the million pieces and parcels which make up the years of married life.