This post is featured in Catholic Stand.
That Matt Walsh is one of the best voices for Catholic values in my generation. He presents truth to the world unabashedly and eloquently. I have often wanted to high-five him for his most controversial posts, and if there was a chance to win an interview and free coffee with him, I would jump at the opportunity (as high as a third trimester mama can). But there is in this one piece, a teeny point where I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Walsh. It’s the one where he claims that his marriage was “not meant to be” because I’m of the position that it could be. Here’s why:
St. Ignatius’ spirituality teaches us that there is such a thing as God’s will for our individual lives, our so-called destiny. Fr. David Lonsdale S.J. in his book “Listening to the Music of the Spirit: the Art of Discernment” writes that destiny is not a rigid, unyielding path that God sets for us from birth. Given our free will, destiny is rather “God’s hopes and dreams for our lives” when He created us, and if we set on a course of discernment, of trying to find and follow God’s will, we could very well be cruising on the flow of our proper destinies.
I used to be a member of a nationwide Catholic singles group. Its members were encouraged to undergo a formal state of life discernment for three months to determine if we were called to a priestly, religious or marital vocation. When that period was over, we were free to enter into courtship, mutually discerning if a certain person had all the characteristics of a potential godly husband or wife and if marriage was what God was inviting us to do. From this, I have witnessed strong, enviable marriages, sanctified through the Sacraments. I have also seen a handful of failed marriages for one reason or another.
Precisely because of this background, plus a thorough reading of the book of Tobit in the Bible, and fully understanding the perpetuity of marriage, I embarked on a pilgrimage to Banneaux, Beglium to seek Our Lady’s intercession for a Marian devotee husband (with blue eyes). I prayed that we would both meet at the right time and know this was God’s will, without a hair of doubt. When I first met my husband at a bar in Las Vegas (gasp, full story here), I never in my wildest west dreams thought he was a possible candidate. But after getting to know him in the context of a group of Catholic singles, I discerned for months if this was the man I had prayed for. From Ignatian discernment taught by my experienced spiritual director, the answer was an absolute positive.
In twelve years, my husband and I have gone through the tragedy of three miscarriages, submitted ourselves for counseling due to monster-size adversities, and still struggle through the regular cycles of petty disagreements (he says his eyes are green; I insist they are blue-green but the application at DMV doesn’t give that option). However, the Sacrament of Marriage, as our priest-friend homilized on the day we married, supplies us endlessly with grace to sanctify us. And our family relies heavily on weekday Masses, daily rosary, monthly Confession, and Adoration for extra heavenly help. We are not perfect and our marriage requires back-breaking carpentry work and a Calvary of sacrifice, but I believe that in and through Christ and His Church, with the constant intercession of Our Lady and constant discernment with the Holy Spirit, we are mainly and currently swimming (sometimes floundering) in our God-given destinies.
I have also seen my fair share of married couples who didn’t discern their marital vocations or their choice of a spouse, couples who jumped on the Cinderella coach, tumbling into pumpkin-orange feelings of falling in love, or who were thrown together by some mighty big-bang coincidence, and who eventually, half-heartedly decided to enter into the covenant of marriage. These marriages were romantic, but didn’t seem particularly holy in the beginning, and I would never have rated them a high score for a chance of survival. Yet, these couples have sanctified each other, sometimes converting each other or together, served the Church and each other through old age, and --step-mother of all surprises! -- their children become the Church’s biggest blessings.
How? Because maybe, even though they weren’t discerning formally or knowingly at the time they met, events of their lives were orchestrated by God’s hidden grace so that they would meet at that College Homecoming Ball, possibly fall in love and consent to the Sacrament of Marriage. Then at some point, when their hearts were open and ready, more grace gushed in, their course to heaven was set and from that moment on, their marriage was steered by love, by God himself. I can believe that when their lives are over, and such couples will stand face to face before God, they’ll learn that the points at which their lives intersected was in heaven’s plan “meant to be” and that because they said yes to God’s invitation (even unconsciously), fully participated in the Church and cooperated with the graces of the Sacraments, they made possible and real God’s hopes and dreams (indeed, their destiny) that their marriage would be a visible sign of Christ’s love for the Church.
I once chanced upon a video of a young woman whose parents had separately but simultaneously visited Padre Pio in Italy. Her father happened to sit next to her mother at Mass, and as he looked up from his song missal, he noticed her. Soon, he introduced himself and got to know her. One day, while the good padre with his mystical gifts was walking out of Church, the man asked the future saint if it was God’s will for them to marry. St. Pio said, “Yes,” it was.
Mr. Walsh’s article explained the solemnity of choosing a spouse, the glory of the marital sacrament, the value of saying “I do” before God, the miracle of real marriages, the pitfalls of believing in LaLaland endings, the evil of adultery, heartbreak of divorce and why I’m not a Nicholas Sparks fan. To all these, I say “Amen and Preach it, brother!” But romantics like me who know that God can and does write love stories in his notebooks (whether we are aware of it at the time or not), will have to argue that there is a happily ever after in eternity, when we can be rewarded for our faithfulness to God’s will and our God-given destinies. Who knows? What if in the afterlife, Mr. and Mrs. Matt Walsh could find out that their meeting and their marriage was, as a gift to their souls, “meant to be”.
(P.S. Anytime you’re up for an interview on how you met, Mr. and Mrs. Wash, please consider giving me a chance.)