Share this story

 | By Father John G. McDonald

‘Presence and Dialogue’

The Sacrament of Marriage

A seven-part series on the sacraments of the Catholic Church

Over the years, I have had many conversations with faithful people about how to best live the sacraments of the Church in their daily lives. One of the most memorable conversations I ever had came in preparation for a 70th wedding anniversary Mass. I asked the gentleman what he felt the secret was to 70 years of happy marriage. He told me, “Father, I really don’t know, but it seems like this: I get up first and make the coffee. Then she comes out to the kitchen, and we have breakfast and talk about what we are going to do that day. I go to work, and she does her thing. Then we have supper and find out what happened during the day! I’m sorry I don’t have something better to tell you.”

What he told me was profound and holy. In that conversation, it was clear that two things were very much present in their relationship over seventy years: presence and intimate dialogue. The sacrament of marriage is a way in which God manifests His desire to be joined to His people in love, fidelity, and for the good of the whole human family. God desires to be present to us, and He desires to be in an intimate dialogue with us along the way.

It can also happen that husbands and wives, married sacramentally, don’t live that presence to the fullest in daily life or actively seek the same intimate dialogue and conversation which animates life.

Many things can come from outside the marriage to distract the husband and wife from one another, but the daily communion of life, love, and dialogue can never be underestimated as the portals of the grace given in the sacrament of marriage.

We learn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1603) that “the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.” Allowing the best impulses of our God-given nature to overcome our baser desires brings foundational happiness to us and helps us lead others along the path to Christ. That couple who made it to 70 years of sacramental marriage certainly had their share of challenges and trials over those years. They let Christ lead them through their human gifts and dignity to beautiful things. Being present and in dialogue with God and with one another helped them overcome whatever troubled them, helped them stay together, and helped them get one another into Heaven.

Father John G. McDonald is currently pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Anniston. He was principal and then president of John Carroll Catholic High School from 2008 to 2016, and he served as the Carl J. Peter Chair of Homiletics at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2016 to 2019.