Marriage is a beautiful relationship, but it is also a sacrament. So whether you have a strong marriage, or your marriage is going through a rough patch, it is important to keep Christ at the center of your relationship. But how exactly do we do that?
Greg and Julie Alexander, co-founders of The Alexander House, stopped by Morning Air® recently to discuss the four pillars of a Christ-centered marriage. On the necessity of keeping Christ at the center of your marriage, Greg Alexander said, “A lot of people fail to understand that marriage is a sacrament. And as we know, sacraments dispense grace. But what a lot of couples fail to understand is that in this relationship called marriage, in this sacrament, the grace is there. But we have to participate with God in the sacrament to be made available to the full abundance of grace. So it’s not just automatically bestowed upon us, if you will.”
“It’s really coming to understand what the Church teaches about marriage, what God wants us to do in order to be able to participate with Him, and by doing that we make ourselves available to the full abundance of grace in the sacrament.”
Greg and Julie discussed the four pillars (see below) and shared how each pillar played a crucial role in bringing their marriage back from the brink.
Prayer is foundational. It’s one of the things where, as we were challenged by this priest to go and understand God’s plan for marriage, I started reading Scripture, and after that I just felt compelled to pray. Because at that point in our marriage we had never prayed together. So, I simply recited a quick prayer, ‘Father, we tried living marriage our way, by the ways of the world. It doesn’t work. We sincerely invite You to come into our lives to show us how You want us to live marriage.’ And that was the beginning of our prayer life.
As I began to petition God, things started to change in our relationship. And we thought, ‘Wow, there’s something to this prayer stuff.’ And it’s one of those things that you think would just be a norm in our lives, that we take for granted. We say our meal prayers, we go to Mass and say the Our Father. But really growing and cultivating this relationship with God – prayer is just that. Simply communicating with God.
We need to be delving into Church teaching to see what the Church indeed has to say about this beautiful sacrament. In fact, in the Catechism, article 7 starting with paragraph 1601 we find God’s plan for marriage. That’s kind of a novel idea when you talk to couples and ask, ‘What is God’s plan?’ And, as Julie and I were in our marriage, we had no idea initially that God even had a plan for marriage. So if we want to be able to live in a happy, holy marriage relationship, we have to know what it is we should be doing in order to live it out.
When we had nowhere to go and had hit rock bottom, it was Greg doing the studying. And that’s what was amazing, is that my heart melted. It literally changed and became completely open. He called me into the room and started teaching me that God had a plan, to look at what our Church teaches. So he went to the sacrament of Reconciliation and he began to read and study on that as well. And our eyes were opened up.
Instead of a rule that our Church gives us in order to remain Catholic, we started to realize that the sacraments and gifts that are given to our Church are just stepping stones back to God. So we went to the sacrament of Reconciliation for what we consider the first time when we were 30-something years old. And I’m telling you, we both received a grace that we could feel the chains and the shackles fall to the ground.
A lot of people think that going to the sacraments is just something that we have to do to remain Catholic, but there is indeed a grace in the sacrament [of Reconciliation] that not only gives us absolution, but gives us the power and ability to forgive as God forgives. So that means as big and bad as we think we are sometimes, our ability to truly forgive is not on our own. It comes from God and His grace as well.
So these sacraments dispense this grace that allows us to do the things that God calls us to do. And I think a lot of times it’s worth coming to understand what is grace. We know from our early catechetical years that grace is a gift freely given from God. But what does that mean? It’s God imparting a part of Himself into our lives, so that we are capable to do these superhuman things that we’re called to do.
Listen to the full conversation below: