You didn’t say it, you didn’t do it

Buttercup and Westley. Screenshot from The Princess Bride.
The Princess Bride was on TV the other night. No matter what else is happening in my life, if I’m flipping channels and I come across The Princess Bride, that’s as far as I’m going. I have the movie on DVD—I could watch it any time I want—without commercials. But, if I see it on TV, I’m watching it. It was playing in the background while I was working, and while I wasn’t paying 100% attention to it, it didn’t stop me from saying the lines along with the movie. When the wedding scene came on, however, I began to pay attention. It’s hilarious.

Everybody knows—and I’m sure Prince Humperdink would have remembered if he wasn’t so rushed and stressed—that this was not a valid marriage. But poor Buttercup was so distraught that she lost sight of this fact. Thankfully, Buttercup has Westley to put it in perspective.

It goes like this:

Buttercup: Oh, Wesley, will you ever forgive me?

You have to know what you’re saying and say it with intention and in freedom.

Westley: What hideous sin have you committed lately?

Buttercup: I got married. I didn’t want to – it all happened so fast.

Westley: Never happened.

Buttercup: What?

Westely: Never happened.

Buttercup: But it did I was there; this old man said ‘man and wife.’

Westley: Did you say ‘I do?’

Buttercup: Um, no…we sort of skipped that part.

Westley: Then you’re not married. You didn’t say it; you didn’t do it.

If you were married in a church, you were probably subjected to a whole lot of questioning, paperwork, meetings, Pre-Cana sessions and maybe a year’s worth of waiting. Why all the trouble? Because, like Buttercup, people need to know what they’re getting themselves into. No one can be tricked, coerced, bullied or guilted into a marriage. It has to be a free act of the will—both parties deliberately, lovingly (Catholic Canon Law actually says that love must be present), carefully and joyfully enter into the covenant. You have to know what you’re saying and say it with intention and in freedom. In fact, the couple are the actual do-ers of the sacrament—the priest or deacon is an official witness for the Church.

“Then you’re not married. You didn’t say it; you didn’t do it.”

I believe that what makes it sacramental is God’s presence, offering grace to two individuals who are freely and perfectly committed to giving themselves wholly to one another for the rest of their natural lives; even when they don’t feel like it. The love they have for one another, in turn, flows out into their community (and probably kids!), building it up and and bringing God’s presence there through it. Show up drunk? Not legit. Feeling trapped? Not legit. Not intending “to death do us part?” Not legit. An Impressive Clergyman says “Man and wife” without you giving consent? Not legit.

If you’re thinking about getting married, consider your intention, love for one another and what freedom you are going to offer yourselves in. If you’re married already, how are you choosing to live the vows that you made? How are you and your spouse making one another more fulfilled and free to answer the vocation that you have accepted in marriage?

The original version of this article was published on The Rogue.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" will be available from Paulist Press in Spring of 2018.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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