We see this pattern in marriage prep a lot.
For example, several civilly married couples do not see any problems with having skipped the Sacrament to get civilly married when it was convenient, or for specific practical reasons, the religious ceremony being postponed to later. It doesn’t seem that important to them, since they plan on having a Church wedding later on anyway. What about God’s point of view?
Of course, they can justify this decision, but it seems to me that things are not at their proper place here.
Let’s take a fictional couple, say, Paul and Amanda. They have always wanted a Church wedding. Here they talk about Divine Providence:
Last year we were in such a low place: living apart, not making much money, and truly unsure of what the future held for us. As soon as we just let go, and put our trust in God, Paul got the job, we had our civil wedding, we moved to Germany, Amanda got a job and now here we are. God provided us with the means to be together. More often since then, we know that if we keep the faith, and pray, and trust in the Lord then we will be okay no matter where we are.
Their trust in God is touching, but at the same time they do not see that they put the cart before the horse.
Yes, God is merciful and answers our prayers, despite our sinfulness and offenses. But why a civil wedding and not a Church wedding right away? Doesn't God's will have priority over any human requirements? It sounds like, "OK God, we really want your grace in our marriage, but right now we can't do it (for any reason whatsoever), so you'll have to wait your turn while we do things OUR way. You’ll just have to bless us later. Still, please grant us our wishes!"
Trusting in God's Providence actually means choosing God's will over anything else, trusting that, because of our obedience, He will provide what is best for us, even if it is in contradiction with what we planned, even if it means renouncing something we really, really want...
I’m thinking that many couples do not appreciate the Sacrament of Matrimony for what it really is. They see it as a beautiful ceremony, the romantic “Church wedding” of their dreams. They only see the external, the superficial, without grasping the incredibly amazing spiritual gift it represents, or they would choose it before anything else! They would have it as their priority: the Gospel’s “fine pearl.” (Matthew 14:45-46).
So what is the root of the problem?
We heard a very enlightening presentation in Santa Cruz two weeks ago, given by Camille Pauley, one of our past students, and President of Healing the Culture. She was explaining that we all long for four different kinds of happiness:
1) Physical pleasure and possessions
3) Doing good for others
4) Acceptance of God’s unconditional love.
“To be healthy and happy, human beings need a balance between the four levels…” She explained. “Unfortunately, popular culture encourages people to stay fixated on levels 1 and 2 by sending out cues that entice them to live for themselves, placing great emphasis on material prosperity, ego-gratification, self-esteem, independence, physical health, and beauty.”
No wonder God is relegated to the closet! I believe many of our young couples are fixated on these first levels. Our hope is to help them move towards higher values and goals. We want to open their hearts to God’s tremendous love and start a personal relationship with Him.
"Prompt our actions with your inspiration, we pray O Lord,
and further them with your constant help,
that all we do may always begin from you
and by you be brought to completion"
(Prayer of the Church)