Many think of “holiness” in terms of extremely pious people whose images appear on holy cards or statues that adorn altars. In their minds, holiness seems to be something that is more unattainable than attainable; more of an ideal than a reality.
Patrick and Rachel admitted they too had the same impression till they got to understand what this “call to holiness” means when they attended their original Marriage Encounter Weekend.
Indeed, holiness in your marriage is more than just praying together and going for retreats and pilgrimages as a couple.
Holiness is not in doing extraordinary things in our lives, but rather, doing ordinary things with extraordinary love.
What many married couples do not realise enough is that the arena of holy living lies right there within their marriages. One doesn’t really need to go out of one’s way to be holy. To be sure, every single baptised person is called to mission.
When marriage, especially a sacramental one, is fully understood and lived as it is meant to be, the partners in the marriage become holy and in the process make one another holy by ministering to each other and the world. It calls to mind what St Francis of Assisi was supposed to have said to fellow friars, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
When it is understood that the hard task of Christian living is in the “living” and not just the “preaching”, we can appreciate our marriages more when we see that they are the “living” spaces where holiness can and should be exercised.
When spouses truly begin to see that their marriages are holy ground, they will do well to do as Moses did when he approached the burning bush. He removed his sandals.
What are the sandals that couples can remove to uphold the holiness of a marriage? For Patrick and Rachel, sandal removing in their spousal relationship means consciously putting one’s need to be right all the time, to have the last word in every situation, or to exercise control and to do things his or her way.
One of the more challenging but needful things about the Christian life is to move oneself out of the centre of the universe and let God really take centre spot.
When a spouse is only interested in having his or her needs pandered to, the marriage will suffer. Removing one’s ego needs allows one to walk barefoot to meet the other in holiness and to love the other for the sake of the other, as St Thomas Aquinas so beautifully defines love.
One of the things that WWME tries to do is help couples make their marriage become a Holy Ground in which God is met each day in the spouses.
We recommend strongly a dialoguing environment where spouses open up and communicate with one another, especially when it is seen that communication seems to be so difficult after some years in a marriage.
Is the search for holiness necessary? Certainly. Is it a difficult task? Without doubt. But when we make this a shared agenda within a sacramental marriage, we truly become partners for life where we give life to one another.
By Fr Luke Fong
Extracted from the Catholic News