Desiring Marriage: Just What Are We Really Talking About Here?
I believe that most of us desire marriage. I also believe this desire is good and right and God-given. Having struggled into my early forties to see my own desire for marriage fulfilled, I want to encourage others that hope can be found.
As such, I think it would be a good idea to discuss what I mean when I use the word marriage. If I am encouraging you to have hope about marriage, you should know what I am talking about!
The Catholic Church has provided a definition of marriage for us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). In §1601 of the CCC it states the following:
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
This is what I am referring to when I use the word marriage throughout this website. I am a Catholic writer. My website is dedicated to Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart (Sister Lucia of Fatima) and is under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary (Our Lady of Fatima). Therefore, it is very important to me that my writings be in accord with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Now, regarding the desire to marry: I believe that God placed this desire in us from the beginning. It is our fallen nature that has corrupted marriage and demonstrated a sinful side of it in the world. But from the beginning it was not so. God created marriage and he is its author. God designed marriage before original sin occurred. As such, marriage was initially untainted by human frailty and faults. It was good and it was pure, as was the desire we have for marriage. In §1603 of the CCC, it states (emphasis added):
“The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. …God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.”
We can see clearly that God writes this calling (vocation) in our hearts. It is expressed by the yearning we have for relationship, union, and a spouse. God willed it to be there. Just like we have a desire for food, water, air, and work, the desire for marriage is written in our very hearts by the Creator himself.
I believe that God can and wants to answer prayers for the provision of a spouse. Once I understood that God really is the initiator of this desire, I became much more confident to seek him in prayer regarding this issue in my life. But there are some caveats to this request as well.
Remember Sarah from the Book of Tobit? I mentioned her in my post entitled, “Passion of Hope: The Real Via Dolorosa.” Sarah was struggling over her prolonged singleness. She had been married 7 times and was widowed 7 times; she eventually married to a young man named Tobias. Sarah was widowed because each of her husbands died on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. God sent the Archangel Raphael to assist with the problem.
After the marriage ceremony and accompanying meal, Sarah and Tobias went into the bridal chamber. The scriptures tell us in Tobit 8:4-9a:
“When Tobias and Sarah were alone behind closed doors, Tobias got up from the bed and said to his wife, “Get up dear. Let’s pray for the Lord to be merciful and to protect us.” Sarah got up so that they could pray together and ask God for his protection. Then Tobias prayed:
“God of our ancestors, you are worthy of praise. May our name be honored forever and ever by all your creatures in heaven and on earth. You created Adam and gave him his wife Eve to be his helper and support. They became parents of the whole human race. You said, “It is not good for man to live alone, I will make a suitable helper for him.” Lord, I have chosen Sarah because it is right, not because I have lusted for her. Please be merciful to us and grant that we may grow old together.” Then they both said ‘Amen’ and went to bed for the night.”
There is so much that can be gleaned from the Book of Tobit. And yes, we will explore these gems in future blog posts. But for right now, it is important to look at the prayer of Tobias. First, Tobias references back to the scriptures of Genesis. He humbly states how important marriage is and the reason God created it in the first place: that man should not be alone. Marriage is the provision God made for this aloneness.
Next, Tobias simply explains why he has chosen Sarah to be his wife: because it is right, not because he lusted after her. In that culture and at that time, marriage was governed by law – the Law of Moses. In Tobit Chapter 7, we find Sarah’s father conversing with Tobias about his request to marry Sarah. In Tobit 7:10, Sarah’s father replies:
“You have the right to marry Sarah, and I cannot let anyone else marry her, because you are my closest relative.”
We see that Tobias had a “legal right” to marry Sarah under the Law of Moses. Perhaps that is what Tobias meant in his prayer when he stated, “Lord, I have chosen Sarah because it is right, not because I have lusted for her.” But I tend to think Tobias meant something different and it has implications for us today when we pray to the Lord for a spouse and marriage.
The above scripture passages were quoted utilizing the Good News Translation. I want to share two additional translations of that same line in Tobias’s prayer regarding the reason he chose Sarah to marry:
Tobit 8:7a (New American Bible):
“Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for noble purpose.”
Tobit 8:9 (Douay Rheims Bible):
“And now, Lord, thou knowest, that not for fleshy lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.”
In reading these three different translations, I am able to obtain additional information. I believe Tobias is sharing his heart with God. He wanted something good to come out of his marriage, not something worldly. Yes, Tobias was looking to abide by the Law of Moses in marrying Sarah. However, I also believe Tobias was craving something more, something dignified and excellent with his marriage and to leave the world a better place. This could possibly be accomplished through any children borne of the marriage and/or leaving some other type of legacy for the generations to come afterwards.
This is the second part of what we need to look at in our desires and prayers. Do we want to marry for selfish, worldly, or fleshy reasons? Or, do we want to marry for right and noble purposes? The desire to marry is natural and God-given. However, what about the person we choose or what we aspire to accomplish within our own marriage? That, my friend, may also need to be purified in our hearts though prayer.