I got marriage wrong, twice. Here’s why I’m grateful a priest never blessed me for being in that state.
When I was in college, I entered into a relationship with another woman. She was a practicing Catholic; I was less practicing but more an occasional Catholic.
Weekly Mass attendance was still part of her routine, and we would sometimes go together. Usually, her sister went with us, so it felt more like a group activity than us going “as a couple.”
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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When we did go, I always felt self-conscious at the sign of peace, wondering if people would be able to tell that we were together by the way we quickly hugged one another. The same went for walking up for Holy Communion; I wondered if someone might look at me and know.
I now realize that feeling was Jesus looking at me—and knowing.
Sadly, the question of worthiness to receive never entered my mind. If it did hers, she never mentioned it.
State of grace catechesis seems not to have landed in my heart as a ’90s and early 2000s young Catholic. Perhaps it wasn’t emphasized enough. Or, I failed to understand its gravity, and that of mortal sin more broadly.
This is where current pastoral guidance allowing for the blessing of couples in mortally sinful relationships further exacerbates, rather than ameliorates, the problem of practicing Catholics in immoral relationships.
Another way to describe Catholics in this state, as I once was, would be: those of us actively engaged in grave sin with no firm amendment to change our behavior. We could not be privately absolved in the confessional with this disposition; how then could we be publicly blessed for the very same? We could not be privately absolved in the confessional with this disposition; how then could we be publicly blessed for the very same?Tweet This
The idea of asking a priest for his blessing as we held hands and bowed our heads would have been inconceivable. Despite our confusion and willingness to sin, we still knew the Church we were raised in did not approve of what we were doing.
This certainty was an important prick to my conscience. Soon, I could no longer consider myself both LGBT and Catholic. Unfortunately, I chose the far, far lesser of these and left the Church for good (or so I thought; all glory to God for the grace of repentance that would flood me years later).
The last time we attended Mass together was Christmas Eve 2012. We had not been in a long time. About a month prior, we had decided to get “engaged.” Confronted by our own lack of faith, we ended up leaving mid-Creed and never went back.
I am certain it was our decision to commit to our sin by attempting marriage that suddenly severed us from the Faith we were half-heartedly holding on to. We knew—more than ten years ago—that our plans were antithetical to the Catholic Faith. We could not in good conscience claim membership with a Church whose teachings we had no intention of following.
When planning our wedding, we lamented that we could not even consider having a Catholic one. Had the notion of having a priest bless our marriage been around back then, I’m sure we would have sought it—not as an aid to help us grow closer to God but as a way to legitimize our choices, both to ourselves and to our disheartened families.
Jesus came not for the righteous, but sinners. Amen. And those sinners, once called, are called to conversion.
Let’s be frank: same-sex relationships are about the sex. That is what differentiates them from two people who are very close friends, or long-term roommates. Yes, affection, mutual care, and romantic love can be present, but the defining feature and reason for being in a same-sex relationship is inherently sexual. You would not shock an LGBT-identifying person by saying this.
Blessing a same-sex couple as a couple cannot avoid the reality of the sexual nature of the relationship presenting itself to the priest. The same goes for cohabitating and divorced/remarried couples.
The particulars of Fiducia Supplicans maintain that this is not what is being blessed. But why would it be necessary to bless two persons with a single blessing—as if they were one flesh—rather than each individually if the particular nature of the relationship were not relevant to the blessing?
I didn’t need a priest or a parish to walk with me down the road to perdition—and certainly not without reminding me that’s where we were headed. I needed to be left to feel the weight of my own sin, and the emptiness of a life severed from a covenant relationship with God, in order to reach the spiritual rock bottom that would finally break open my heart to Christ.
Jesus wants all of us, our whole lives given over to Him. If we withhold a part of ourselves because we feel it unworthy of—or worse, not in need of—His mercy, we are robbing ourselves of spiritual renewal and a truly intimate relationship with the One who loves us.
If our shepherds tacitly or explicitly direct us to refuse God’s mercy by clinging to our sin rather than the cross, they have utterly failed their God-given mission.
After I left and divorced my same-sex partner, I was still away from the Church. During that time, I married my husband, also a baptized but non-practicing Catholic. We held a civil wedding ceremony on our farm and were eager to start a family.
After four childless years, my husband and I experienced profound simultaneous conversions. We began attending Mass and met with our parish priest.
We knew we needed to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation to be fully received back into the Church. But we did not realize we needed the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as well.
Our priest compassionately explained why, as Catholics, we needed to get married in the Church. He also explained that although we had made our general confession after 15 years away, we could not receive Holy Communion until our marriage was regularized, to use the canonical term.
We immediately began our six months of marriage prep and faithfully attended Mass. Waiting to receive the Eucharist was a trial, and a gift. That period of denial fostered such longing in my heart for Jesus and a deep disposition of repentance.
Receiving the Eucharist with my husband on our wedding day was like a second chance at First Communion, a joy I would not trade for anything.
We received also the sacramental blessing of marriage, which imparts grace we need to persevere in this vocation. I held back tears as our priest prayed the Catholic blessing for the bride, one of fruitfulness and children.
How much I would have lost out on had he simply welcomed us back to Mass with an ad hoc blessing of our irregular union.
If a priest had raised his hands in blessing over either of my sinful unions, I would have continued to compound my sin by receiving the Eucharist unworthily. (A priest willing to offer this blessing to couples seems unlikely to then deny them Communion.)
I would have continued a halfway relationship with the Lord without seeking conversion. (Catholics seeking this blessing as a couple rather than as individuals seem unlikely to view their sin as needing reform.)
I would have scandalized others every time they witnessed this, possibly leading some astray by my poor example. (Others would likely come to know what transpired, whether the blessing was first given privately or not.)
The biggest reason I am grateful that a priest never blessed my long ago same-sex relationship, or my irregular marriage, is my daughter. As I write, she has nursed herself to sleep at my breast.
After almost five years of infertility, God blessed us with pregnancy just two months after receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Conceiving and bearing the fruit of a holy marriage has been an enormous blessing not only for me but for our entire family.
If I had stayed in my sterile-by-design, same-sex “marriage,” my unrepeatable daughter wouldn’t be here.
Likewise, I am convinced that my current marriage was spiritually sterile until brought under the authority of Jesus. Without bringing my whole life into obedience of God’s command, I wouldn’t get to live out the vocation of motherhood. Neither my parents nor my husband’s parents would be grandparents.
This is another reason why same-sex relationships and irregular unions hurt our Church. They deny not only the consenting parties but also their families and communities the fruit of their missed vocation, be it married, religious, or single.
We must remind each other of this fact rather than look the other way so as not to appear judgmental.
Our pastors are at the heart of our Catholic communities. They have been entrusted in a special way with our spiritual lives. We need to be able to rely on them to offer the fullness of truth and charity— especially to wayward souls seeking God in His Church.