Marriage is not only good for the couple themselves, bringing joy and fulfilment to their lives, but it is their particular path to holiness. Marriage is also Good News for family, friends, neighbours and our parish communities. Even those who are elected to govern us are now rediscovering that marriage is the firmest foundation for Family Life and the bedrock of a healthy society.
Our young people need every encouragement to answer God’s call to Marriage. They are surrounded by a culture which is so hostile to the notion of self-sacrifice, self-gift and long-term commitment. The vocation of Marriage requires great courage and they are entitled to receive our whole-hearted support.
We cannot wring our hands and bemoan the reduction in the numbers of marriages and yet offer no effective response.
I firmly believe that the following actions will make a real difference:
- Those who are married must accept their solemn responsibility to give personal and authentic witness to Marriage, particularly within their own families and communities.
- We must all speak well of the inherent goodness and dignity of Marriage and avoid the cheap jokes and throwaway lines that unintentionally demean Marriage.
- As parishes, we must seek to improve the programmes of Marriage Preparation, enhance the celebration of the Wedding Day and provide improved after-care in all aspects of Marriage and Family Life.
- Those who preach must have the courage to boldly proclaim the richness of the church’s recent teachings on Marriage – the people of our parishes will be truly amazed to discover the beauty of these teachings!
- In our efforts to promote Vocations, we must emphasise the dignity of Marriage and recognise that families, who are helped to become aware of the Holiness of the Home, can be most fertile ground for vocations to ordained ministry and the consecrated life.
My personal experience tells me that a parish which takes no positive action, as outlined above, will continue to witness a steady decline in Marriage. After all, why should young people choose Marriage when they see little evidence of a heart-felt commitment from their parish community?
On the other hand, our positive support and encouragement as married couples and as a parish, will help to promote a ‘culture of marriage’ and provide an affirming environment for young couples considering this ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ (Gaudium et Spes 48).
Marriage calls us to a lifetime of total self-giving and service of others, seeking to reflect the covenant love of Christ for his people.
On their Wedding Day the couple promise a love that is:
- Freely given – a generous and heart-felt love, full of tenderness and compassion.
- ‘Without reservation’ – an unconditional and total self-giving.
- Given without needing to be earned or deserved and without any expectation of something in return.
- Faithful – “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” – a love that remains constant.
- Life enhancing – “to love and to cherish” – enriching and nourishing the wellbeing of the other, helping them to become the fullness of the person that God has created.
- Life creating – open to the gift of new life – “accepting children lovingly from God.”
- Life-long – a love that has no end – “for the rest of your live.”
For young couples embarking on Marriage today, one of their greatest delights is to receive the Church’s affirmation of the inherent goodness of married love. They rejoice in the realisation that their sexuality is a gift from a generous and loving Creator God, who takes delight in the mutual gift of husband and wife in married love.
They are truly amazed to discover that their love-making can, at one and the same time, be passionate and sacred and holy, giving them a glimpse of the God who loves them so deeply – as the prophet Isaiah proclaims: ‘as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.’ (Is 62:5).
Today, the young couples choosing Christian Marriage are making a very conscious and deliberate choice, at a time when there are so many other options available to them. I am personally encouraged by the maturity of their relationship and the depth of their loving commitment. If we offer a welcome to them that is warm and unconditional and if we help them to discover the presence of God in their love, then they will be increasingly open to the Church’s vision of Christian Marriage.
If you wish to find out more about Marriage and Family Life, please contact the Vicariate for Faith & Mission at firstname.lastname@example.org.