Learning from Marriage

The sacrament that just won't quit

When I started to think about getting married some eleven years ago it hardly felt like a natural step. I was thirty years old, and I had been in a steady, reasonably contented relationship for nearly two years. Diana, I don’t hesitate to add, was (and still is!) an intelligent, athletic, and attractive woman. Clearly it was time to make some decisions about our future together. I sensed that if I was ever going to marry this was the time and this was the woman. Still, I was somewhat hesitant to make a commitment. To help me sort things out, I sought out a good friend who had been married for several years. Having exhausted our sports-related "guy talk" over a Wendy’s hamburger, I awkwardly broached the subject.

"Tim, was there any one particular thing that was significant in helping you decide to marry Ellen?"

I immediately felt embarrassed for posing such a personal question in such an abstract way. Yet before I could backtrack, Tim shot back his answer with a confidence that made me wonder whether he had been waiting for me to ask. "She was my salvation," he said simply and emphatically.

At the time, Tim’s response made me even more uncomfortable and I dismissed it. Now, after more than a decade of marriage, I understand what he was trying to say in a way I couldn’t have imagined as a young single man.

I am a theologian, so I will not hesitate to put an explicitly theological spin on...

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About the Author

Richard R. Gaillardetz is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College. His books include: Keys to the Council:  Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II (co-authored with Catherine Clifford, Liturgical Press, 2012), When the Magisterium Intervenes (editor, Liturgical Press, 2012), Ecclesiology for a Global Church:  A People Called and Sent (Orbis, 2008) and The Church in the Making (Paulist, 2006).