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Monday, June 05, 2006

Tongues of Fire

Well, at this point, I'd settle for just the ordinary sort of tongue... or typing fingers. Thank you for your patience with this mom, who just doesn't get enough sleep anymore, and often finds it harder than in the past to write. Don't get me wrong, Mona sleeps pretty well at night; but Hypertot is another story. At two, Davy climbs out of his crib, opens the door, and gets up whenever he darn well feels like it; so at very odd hours, we find ourselves getting up either to put him back to bed or to supervise him. As you recall, the Habanero Kid has a penchant for trouble in any unsupervised second.

But the little ones aren't the big topic today; one of the teenagers is. Number two daughter received the sacrament of confirmation yesterday afternoon, beautifully timed on Pentecost. In a class of about twenty, she received the name of Therese, with glowing face. She told me afterwards that she plans to become a Carmelite. (I presume she means secular, like me.) I could not be more delighted.

Our bishop (Bishop Sevilla) gave a good homily about the Holy Spirit, and the inner life that defines us, and vocations. What a perfect time, I think, to mention vocations. Not only do we have a priest shortage in our diocese, but teenage confirmation serves as a perfect opportunity to remind these "soldiers for Christ" of the sanctity of vocation. And much to my pleasure, when he spoke of vocation, he did not refer only to priesthood and religious life, but also to the diaconate and marriage. I have long felt that these two vocations often get neglected when we pray for vocations. In this time of casual sex and easy divorce, it would be very easy to forget that marriage is a vocation, with all of the sanctity, responsibility, and importance of any genuine calling from God.

What this means is that marriage is not just a means, and not even just an end. It is a beginning, an opening. It is a beginning of grace, and of the responsibility that grace imputes. A person with a vocation to marriage is not just called to a wedding; the marriage, the vocation of marriage, calls the married person each day to make this sacred relationship a vehicle of growth. The couple with this vocation is not called to get married, but to be married -- to live the sacrament of marriage as a ministry.

The Church teaches us that the minister of marriage is the husband or wife. The husband gives the sacrament to his wife, and the wife gives the sacrament to her husband; the priest or deacon is merely an official Church witness, the liturgical celebrant. When you consider the meaning of this, the calling of marriage becomes much, much clearer: married people live a life of consecrated ministry to one another. I am called to minister to my husband, to help and encourage him to live a life of service and love for God, and he is called to do the same for me. We are called to help each other to be better Christians, better Church members, and more loving people.

I must admit, it may be easier for me than it is for some, because of the husband I've been blessed with. The kind of person he is makes me want to be a better person myself. When I am tempted toward selfishness, he is generous. When I am tempted toward spiritual sloth, he urges me to pray more and to remember my need for God and the sacraments. When I am behaving wrongly, he finds ways to correct me so lovingly that I can never resent him for it.

This is, I think, what marriage as a vocation means. And considering that the majority of people who were confirmed yesterday will likely have a vocation to marriage, I am really grateful that Bishop Sevilla gave serious attention to this vocation as he prepared these young people to receive this sacrament that will help them in their future vocations.