Journey through RCIA
The Sacraments of Service:
Holy Orders & Matrimony
In my life-time, the subjects of marriage and commitment to a cause, especially one akin to Holy Orders have been questioned, degraded, and in general made to look like a type of bondage and “old fashioned”. Even among fellow believers in Christ, it has become a issue. A cursory search of divorce and Catholics or Christians will bring up a massive field of opinions. However, in almost all* of the sites I visited, the consensus is that Catholics have a lower divorce rate among Christians. I am a divorced person, and I can tell you from personal experience that so far no other church has put as much time and effort into explaining the process of marriage and how it should be viewed. I do not know if that is the reason for the lower numbers or if some other factor; but what I do know is that out of all the denominations I have seen, only the Catholic church calls matrimony a sacrament in the way it does. Also, despite what some news outlets want to believe, the Church’s view on marriage is not (and should not) changing anytime soon.
To a new visitor or outsider wanting to find out more about the Church’s teaching on marriage, it can seem like a overwhelming topic. There can also be feelings of guilt, panic, and even dread, when one is confronted with the annulment process. I know because as I said, I’m living this now. Yet, there are a few things that I learned that give me consolation; and allowed me to pursue my journey into full communion with the Church. Firstly, a very kind priest spoke with a incredibly nervous seeker to let me know that the Church was not some over-bearing legalistic entity trying to crush me; rather a organization with the heart of Jesus who at its core is concerned primarily with the salvation of the lost. So far, I have found those words to ring true in every encounter. Secondly, after learning about the process of annulment, and what it actually does and what it requires, I was able to see that the journey; while difficult, is not impossible or infinite or hopeless.
Next, there have been several stories and popular views that place the Catholic view of marriage as some “closed-minded” and arcane institution. Upon further examination, those charges simply cannot be proven out. To address these charges all one needs to ask is how did marriage come to be and who set up its rules and who gave us the view of what marriage should look like? For most Christians, the answer should be simple. God did. In His formation of Adam and Eve; whereas Eve came from Adam to be a partner to share in life with. God could have chosen any beings and gender combinations to be the model; but He chose male and female. Whether or not we as imperfect beings implement the original plan, it was from the beginning that marriage was to be a partnership wherein men and women become co-creators with God to make new life. This model is born out in scripture time and time again until the last and most perfect model of Christ Himself being a Bridegroom laying down His life for His bride The Church. God is called “Father”, Christ is called among other things “The Holy Bridegroom”, and the Church is called His “Spotless Bride”. It is evident that this view of marriage is not “closed-minded” or “old-fashioned”; rather it is Holy and since it was instituted by God no body, including the Church, have the authority to change it. (There are many, many versus in this small paragraph; too many to just list, so I have a list at the bottom.)
Holy Orders are sometimes a hard thing to understand for new and aspiring Catholics such as myself. I think it is because we (meaning Americans in general – excluding Catholics) see so few examples of the level of dedication that Holy Orders take. For people of my generation, many of us have had divorce in our families three or more generations; many of us have had to change jobs often either by economic pressures or to provide better for our families; and many of us have seen long-standing institutions questioned or fail altogether. So, during my generations lives, it has been rare to see life-long dedication to any single idea or group. I believe these societal and economic issues have caused many in my generation (myself included) to be jaded and come to have a level of disbelief that someone could be happy in a vocation like the one’s of priests. All of that started to turn around for me the moment I stopped bucking the system that Christ himself established and realized that the Church is populated with sinners, run by sinners, and needed by those same sinners; all of whom were well aware of that fact. It was the rcia process that allowed me to see priests as people too. I’m sure that can sound strange to “cradle catholics” and non-catholics alike; but I saw the truth every time a priest would get up and introduce himself and then proceed to say how much he needed forgiveness too. Finally, the best description I heard for Holy Orders was comparing them to marriage in the sense of how the church defines matrimony.
Finally, the best way to come to terms with the Sacraments of Service, is to find out what the Church believes on them from the Church. Many people have many opinions about what Catholics believe and what the Church teaches about marriage and Holy Orders; but I find the best and straightest line is to ask the people themselves. A local radio talk-show host put it best when he said “Asking non-catholics or ex-catholics about the Church’s teaching is like some body going to your ex to ask them about you. No matter how positively they may talk about you, it will always be a skewed view through their experience.”
A Quick List of Verses on Marriage from the NASB – compiled by a local deacon, not by me:
Genesis 2:21-24, Hosea 2:14-15, Jeremiah 2:1-1, John 3:28-10,
Ephesians 5:21-28;31, Matthew 26:27-28
*- small sample of the sites I visited- not necessarily Catholic, so keep that in mind:
– A Brother In Christ