In previous articles I talked about marriage as a covenant, not a contract. I pointed out that marriage, sex, and babies are a package deal. Approaching marriage in this way helps us prepare for a long and happy relationship. But some couples start off doing everything wrong and yet manage to make a marriage work. Other couples seem to do everything right and still wind up in a messy divorce. What gives?

It comes down to the heart. The risk of sex and cohabitation outside of marriage is that we think someone has given us their heart. And we may think we have given them our heart. But we may just be going through the motions without realizing it. If we don’t fix the heart problem, no amount of counseling or marriage retreats will ‘save’ the marriage. A couple may start off a marriage with very poor choices, but if they learn to give their hearts, the marriage will be fine. If the heart is in the right place, the rest will fall into place.

The same thing happens with our faith. We can learn lots about what it means to be Catholic. We can go through the motions of loving and serving God. But if we don’t give our heart to God, eventually the Catholic faith will become a burden and not a blessing.

It seems to me that my grandparents’ generation were just better at giving their hearts. They knew they were a gift and they knew how to give themselves away. As they attended church they learned to give their heart to God. As they walked down the aisle and said, “I do”, they knew what it meant and they really did it. Somewhere in the next couple of generations we forgot how to give our hearts. We kept walking down the aisle for First Communion and for Marriage, but the results were very different.

If you really want your marriage to work, learn to give your heart to God. When we put God first, other things fall into place. When we give our hearts to God we learn that we are a gift and He teaches us how to make a gift to another. Marriages and friendships are deeper, stronger, and more blessed when they are rooted and grounded in God’s love for us. Have you given your heart to your spouse? Have you given your heart to God?

--Fr. Joel