July 10, 2012

Catholic Marriage Series: Guest Post

I absolutely loved reading Ann-Marie's guest post!  Her five years of marriage have really helped her to understand the heart of the Catholic wedding vows.  She offers a lot for the newlyweds like me to think about (as well as those who have been married for years)!

I truly enjoy reading this series, and with our five year anniversary approaching on July 7th, I wanted to take the time to reflect on our own wedding and marriage. (Ok – well, it was approaching when I started writing this post. The day itself was h3ll-a-ish. It made me especially thankful for the graces that accompany the sacrament of marriage which allow us to persevere through teething babies and potty-training toddlers). Back to the reflection on our Catholic wedding. . .

When you get married in the Catholic Church, the vows are usually preceded by three questions from the priest:

"Brian and Ann-Marie, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?" 

"Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?" 

"Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?" 

The bride and groom respond "I will" or "yes" (Rite of Marriage #34).

When you break down those questions, you can think of them as Freely, Fully, Faithfully and Forever. Do you give yourself freely to your spouse? Do you give yourself fully to your spouse? Will you be faithful, forever to your spouse?

I would like to think that when I made those vows, I knew what I was doing, that I knew what I was saying. Looking back, I don’t think I have even scratched the surface of what these vows implicate (and I’m pretty sure I will be learning until the day I die).

One of the best things that we did after our wedding was to write down all our memories from that day. We got married on Saturday, and we flew to Alaska for our honeymoon early Sunday morning. So there we were, in the airport, me with my journal, desperately trying to remember every little detail from the big day. I pulled out my journal from our wedding and our first six months of marriage when I began thinking about this post. To be honest, I did not remember half of the things that happened, even after reading them. Things like I got a “two fluff” wedding, or that one of the guitarists dropped his ring and it went “dink, dink, dink” on the floor. It’s nice that I recorded this stuff, but really it doesn’t matter. What seemed so important that first day of marriage is nothing in the scope of our married life.

I now consider my wedding and marriage in terms of the four F’s. Yes, I came to the marriage freely. I knew I was freely giving myself to my husband. And on that day, in the beautiful dress, in the beautiful Church, in front of God and my family and friends, I said that I came here freely to marry Brian. And how has that played out? What does that look like now? It means that I came to our wedding without anything that might be hindering me from making this commitment.

I pledged to give myself fully to Brian in marriage. I had some vague idea of what that looked like in my head when I made that vow. Now I see what that means. It means dragging myself out of bed to make his lunch on the days that were so busy and crazy that I forgot to do it. I FULLY give myself to him in my time, and my talents. It means really trying to focus on what he is telling me about his day, and not use that time to mentally go over my to do list for the night. It means putting our relationship first and not giving him the pathetic leftover me at the end of a long day. It means putting in the effort, day after day, to meet his needs, and the needs of our children. This “fully” business is a tiring work, and part of the equation means keeping up a sound prayer life so I have the spiritual capacity to give myself fully to my husband.

Will I be faithful, forever to my spouse? The easy answer that springs to my lips is just, yes, of course (what a stupid question!). I could never see myself having an affair, or in any way being untrue to my spouse. But then again, I really don’t know anyone who goes to the altar planning on having an affair one day. . . So what does this mean to me? It means working and doing my best to stay true to my husband. To put in that daily effort that making a marriage works requires. Now that we have small children and my days are consumed with diapers, laundry, feeding and cleaning, it is so easy to put the focus of my efforts on the little faces in front of me demanding and requiring all my energies. It is easy to let my role of wife to my husband to slip away and get buried under mounds of laundry. Being faithful forever means trying to balance my life, to serve my husband, to meet his needs. Not in some lofty, big grand plan, like surprising him with a trip, or writing him elegant love letters. It is the day to day, gritty, effort of running our home, caring for our children, making his meals . . . but beyond that, it’s really listening to him, supporting his efforts, watching the girls on a Saturday morning when I would rather sleep in so he can ride his bike, making his favorite pizza dough when I know he has had a bad day, polishing the countertops because I know he likes it, cleaning out his car, and a thousand other little things. A marriage is not this glamorized, idealistic, Hollywood picture of unfettered bliss 24/7. We are the Church militant. It is a battle with ourselves, our selfishness, our contraception culture, and the influences of the world to fight for an authentic marriage. The small, daily efforts are the bricks of the cathedral of marriage - it takes a lot of them, and they get placed one at a time.

When you look at the vows we use in a Catholic wedding, they are vague and not specific.

“Ann-Marie, do you take Brian to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?”

The Sacrament of Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Contracts have to be specific, so we can hold each other accountable, and stick it to the other person when they mess up. Marriage is a covenant, where we don’t have to write out all the super specific eventualities. If it were a contract, our vows might look something like this, “I promise to do an adequate job doing the dishes Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, and if you forget to do them on Tuesday and Thursdays, then boy howdy, I get to go buy a new pair of shoes so that I won’t be mad at you.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

Our vows should inspire us and give us reason to often pause and reflect on how we are doing in our vocation. Am I being true to him? Are my actions honoring him? How does my love for my spouse play out in our daily life? I think that the key to having a good solid marriage is to always consider ourselves a work in progress, and that we have never finished working until we get to heaven. Not to quote a B movie, but we can sum it all up with a quote from Galaxy Quest, “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”

After teaching high school history for five years, Ann-Marie is working to fully embrace staying at home with her two daughters (2 1/2 and 3 months).   She blogs about family, life and building her little domestic church at Ulczynski Update


  1. what a beautiful post! I wish you many more years of happiness in your marriage

  2. Caitlin- I see that you are a vegetarian- does this mean meatless or full vegan? In any case, I could use some tips (we go meatless every Advent and Lent)- maybe you could write a food post in the future?....

    1. I just eat meatless meals. I could definitely try to write a post on it in the future, although I am definitely not an expert on it! :)

  3. Great post about the marriage vows, Ann-Marie!

  4. I *knew* someone had suggested writing down the memories! We did that the next morning at the airport over breakfast, and not only did we save memories we otherwise would have forgotten, but even doing that created such a sweet memory with my brand new husband! Now I can thank you for that idea :)! Love this post, Ann-Marie!