Erin Elizabeth Park
I come from a strong Catholic family of 7. Growing up, my sisters and I were always told of the importance of the vocation of marriage. I remember my mother reading from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism about vocations, specifically holy matrimony. In that book, it talks about the chief duties of a husband and a wife. The primary responsibilities of being faithful to each other and providing in every way for the children God may give them. As a child, hearing this sounded very appealing. I think most children, at some point, think about marriage or at least parenthood.
As I got older, my desire for marriage faded and was replaced by a powerful urge to join a religious order. To me, there was no greater form of happiness than to dedicate my entire life to God. In 2016, I had the honor of attending World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. One of our stops before attending the event was Rome, Italy. Our diocese was blessed enough to be able to celebrate mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. We were urged to pray about our vocation and holdfast to our callings/awakenings from the trip’s outset. I went on the trip, thinking that my desire to join a religious order would be solidified, but the exact opposite happened. During the celebration of mass at the basilica, I had an awakening. It felt as though someone was speaking to me directly, and a feeling of warmth and intense light came from the altar as the consecration took place. The voice repeatedly said, “You are called to enter into the married life, stay chaste.” This went on until I received Communion.
And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for thy servant is listening.” - (1 Samuel 3:10, NRSVCE)
Not everyone has such stories. Some feel this calling at a young age; others felt they had come to understand their vocation like this over time. It does not matter how you felt the calling or when it happened, but the important thing is to follow it. At the time, I remember feeling directly defeated. I had my heart set on joining the Missionaries of Charity. Though it took many months and dedicated prayer, I finally came to accept my vocation of marriage.
Three years and many failed relationships later, I felt like maybe my vocation had changed. It is hard to not fall into a state of disparity when it seems like trying to find your future significant-other is an impossible task. I continued to stay chaste, and I stopped looking for a relationship. Those two things I feel sculpted me into a better woman, not to mention a better wife. You hear people say that when you stop looking for love, you will find it. In my personal experience, this happened to be true.
After taking a dating hiatus in 2019, I started dating a man that came from a very different religious background than me. Knowing the difficulties of inter-faith marriages, I went into this relationship with a very pessimistic view. During the first month of dating this man, though he did not have any strong religious beliefs, I found myself reading the Bible quite often, which was not a regular habit. I started praying more and almost felt my relationship with God being strengthened through every interaction I had with this man. I found myself continually thinking about my vocation. My prayers consisted of “God, may Your will be done.”
You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” - (James 4:15, NRSVCE)
By the second month of dating, I had a strong feeling that God had finally allowed me to find my husband. That second month, we got engaged. We continued to strengthen our relationship and regularly attended mass together. Even though our relationship with God was becoming closer, we ended up falling into a state of mortal sin. We had started living together due to some financial difficulties of my own. It is definitely not easy to live with your significant other while staying chaste, but definitely not impossible.
We ended up conceiving our first child in May of 2020, 6 months before our wedding, and in July, my fiancé was activated in the National Guard. The pregnancy was incredibly hard, not only because he was on active duty, but because of the intense feelings of guilt I had for conceiving a child before wedlock. Having been in a state of mortal sin on and off for about 9 months, I felt the priests were tired of hearing my repetitive confessions of the same sins. Of course, that was not true, but the guilt I felt kept me from going for most of my pregnancy. Three months into my pregnancy, I ended up having a missed miscarriage. A missed miscarriage is often diagnosed at a routine ultrasound scan, whether around 12 weeks or at the 20-week‘ anomaly’ scan. With a missed miscarriage, the scan picture usually shows a pregnancy sac with a baby (or fetus or embryo) inside, but there is no heartbeat, and the pregnancy looks smaller than it should be at this stage. This only strengthened my desire to get out of a state of mortal sin. Though our first child’s death took a piece of us, my fiancé and I’s relationship became deeper than before. I wish we could have shared our first child together through marriage, but I do not regret the life we helped create.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
Months later, we finally got married. The process of marriage Preparation was extraordinarily insightful and seemed to fly by. The most exciting part was the compatibility test. It helped us see where our views differed and what topics we had not even thought about while dating. Obviously, our journey was far from perfect, but God allows all things to happen for a reason. The beginning of our relationship was a lot different than our relationship now. We have grown to know each other more deeply, incorporated our faith into every aspect of our lives, and have become better versions of ourselves by being together. No one is created to be perfect. In our moments of mistakes and struggles, we can turn towards our Creator and ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart. We are given a “fresh start” option, and all we have to do is ask. A husband and wife are meant to complement each other. They are not two halves that turn into a whole but are two wholes that turn into one. The primary purpose of marriage is to lead your spouse and children to heaven. Through prayer and sacrifice, the family unit will continue to be one of the most efficacious things God created to empower us on the journey of holiness.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."