May 28, 2021

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Grace is the only ‘secret sauce’ to a happy marriage

Sean GallagherOn May 3, Bill and Melinda Gates, two of the wealthiest people in the world, announced their intention to divorce after 27 years of marriage.

The next day, Lisa Bonos asked in a Washington Post column the question, “If Bill and Melinda Gates can’t make a marriage work, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

At first glance, it may appear from the question that Bonos has a rather materialistic view on happiness in marriage. More money equals more happiness—or at least it should.

But that wouldn’t be entirely fair to Bonos. She does explore how spouses over time in their marriage need to continually hone how their relationship works and keeps going.

She quotes Carlos Lastra, a family law attorney who told her, “ ‘You’ve got to figure out your own secret sauce and keep working at it.’ ”

But while it isn’t all about money for Bonos, there is still lacking any reference, however general, to transcendent values—to God, to put it more frankly—that can keep spouses together for the rest of their lives.

In looking at such a this-world alone view on marriage, Catholics might be tempted to feel pride. After all, marriage for us is a sacrament established by God. It is a living symbol of Christ’s nuptial relationship with the Church. What’s more transcendent than that?

Pride wouldn’t be the healthiest response by Catholics, though. For one, there’s the fact that Catholics in the

U.S. divorce at nearly the same level as the rest of the general population.

But perhaps more profoundly, there’s the reality that God, who infinitely transcends humanity, would choose to weave us limited, broken people in his divine life in the sacrament of marriage. Gratitude and humility, not pride, seem to be the only natural—or perhaps supernatural—responses to such a gift.

They are certainly responses that I try with the help of God’s grace to foster within myself as my wife Cindy and I approach our 20th wedding anniversary.

Thanks be to God, we were faith-filled people when we exchanged our wedding vows on June 9, 2001, at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus. We entered into this great sacrament wanting to drink in fully the grace God offered us through it.

Yet even in the face of such a good starting point for marriage, we have experienced many challenges in our relationship over the past two decades.

That’s because we’re like anyone else: two broken humans living in a broken world. Adam and Even really messed it up for the rest of us.

Even if we were worth more than a hundred billion dollars, we couldn’t have come up with a secret sauce on our own to keep us together for 20 years. No, that’s only been possible with the secret sauce of the grace of the sacrament of marriage that God gave us from day one.

Grace is nothing less than a share in God’s own life—and that I can tell you is worth infinitely more than Bill and Melinda Gates’ fortune.

All of this may sound rather abstract or ethereal—separated from the gritty realities of daily life. But nothing could be further from the truth.

For the grace of the sacrament of marriage flows to spouses from God in every moment of every day, in all the ins and outs, ups and downs of their married relationship.

That’s a reality that provide real hope in marriage, not being worth hundreds of billions of dollars. †

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