My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This week will begin the observance of National Marriage Week (Feb. 7 – 14) and World Marriage Day (Sunday, Feb. 12). This time presents an occasion when the Church can celebrate and reflect on the dignity of the institution of marriage.
Where does the institution of marriage have its origins? Its origins are in the divine plan of God. God gave the gift of marriage at the creation of humanity. God created humanity in “His image” as “male and female” (Gen 1:27). God is the author of matrimony. God intends man and woman to work together in service for one another out of love.
This selfless love of marriage is an image of the interior life of the Holy Trinity. We can look upon God as a communion of love. That love can be seen by the conjugal covenant between a man and a woman that is exclusive, indissoluble and faithful. The marital union between a husband and his wife is so beautiful and unique because of their joining and becoming “one flesh” that is established by God (Gen. 2:24). The moment that the couple expresses their committed love through their vows, they become a family. The desire and ability of a husband and his wife to form a lasting bond of love and commitment in marriage should be celebrated.
Marriage, both as a natural institution and as a Christian sacrament, is an irreplaceable good for society and all people. Marriage establishes the basic unit of society. Individuals come into the world through a family. Our Lord came into the world through the Holy Family. We can look at the Holy Family as a proper role for marriages and families. Christ is understanding of the importance of marriage elevated the matrimony to the dignity of the sacrament.
In his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis has shown us how the worldwide Church has reflected on the strengths and needs of engaged couples and families. On Nov. 19, 2016, the Diocese of Brooklyn held a conference on “Amoris Laetitia” at St. Francis Preparatory H.S. At this conference, we provided many keynote address workshops on the dynamic of marriage and families though the lens of catechesis and evangelization.
Also in 2016, the revised translation of The Order of Matrimony was published. This liturgical text draws our attention again to beauty of Catholic weddings. The text helps engaged couples “to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of its sign” (AL no. 213). The Order of Matrimony has made readily available a beautiful blessing for engaged couples and for married couples on their anniversary. The couple’s foundation in Christ and the Church’s personal care for them is remembered in this blessing.
It is unfortunate that many young Catholics do not appreciate the sacramental nature of matrimony. Either they avoid marriage in the Church or choose destination weddings without the benefit of sacramental marriage. Worse yet, the current practice of co-habitation delays and many times precludes any marriage whatsoever, either civil or religious. The commitment necessary for a real sacramental marriage is lacking among our faithful. We need to model great marriages to restore the confidence of our young people on marriage.
During National Marriage Week, parishes may consider promoting Friday, Feb. 9, as a day of prayer and sacrifice for this intention: “May all married couples be strengthened in their call to reflect the love of the Trinity.”
More about the Call to Prayer is available at www.usccb.org/pray. The USCCB websites For Your Marriage (http://www.foryourmarriage.org/), Por Tu Matrimonio (http://www.portumatrimonio.org/), and Marriage: Unique for a Reason (http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/) has many resources for engaged and married couples as well as those who would like to promote and defend the authentic meaning of marriage.
As we put out into the deep of understanding the great mystery of the sacredness of matrimony, please join me in praying that our Catholic faithful will rediscover the benefits of sacramental marriage.