Put Out into the Deep

The Highest Expression of Intimacy

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

This week we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, a day that has taken on a commercial aspect rivaling even Christmas consumerism. The amount of money spent on gifts including flowers, candy and other articles gives a clear indication of the value placed on not just the saint’s feast day but also what it means for our society. Sometimes, the real motivation, however, is not clear.

St. Valentine was a martyr, a bishop of the early Church. The tradition is that he wrote to his flock from prison and signed the letter, “Your Valentine.” True or not, St. Valentine’s Day has become the focus of our society’s expression of the value of human love expressed in giving.

For the Sake of the Other

Obviously, the essence of love is the gift of self. The object of Christian love is to give completely of one’s self without expecting any return, solely for the sake of the other. This is the primary goal of Christian marriage. Also this week, we celebrate World Day of Marriage, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on the great sacrament given to us by Jesus Christ.

I always remember the interesting story told by John Paul I, the pope of 30 days, in a book called Illustrissimi, Letters from Pope John Paul I, written when he was patriarch of Venice. The book consisted of letters written to famous people, the illustrious, who had passed away. In one of the letters, he speaks about marriage. He comments that in the way most people speak about marriage, you would think that Christ left the Church six sacraments and a trap. No, marriage is not a trap. It is the highest relationship that two people can achieve, the highest level of friendship that exists between the members of the human race. Yes, marriage is friendship. It is the highest expression of intimacy that two people can find in their lives.

Blessings and Challenges

World Marriage Day is a celebration that is now over 25 years old and supported by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement. So often marriage is taken for granted, and its real importance in our world is underestimated. This celebration of World Marriage Day gives us a particular day each year in which we can remember the blessings and the challenges that marriage has for our world and our Church, most importantly for the married couples themselves.

Marriage is not only a social convention but also a sacrament which is formed as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. In the legal sense, marriage can be seen as a contractual relationship. Yet, the sacrament of marriage goes well beyond any exchange of rights and duties. The grace of the sacrament of marriage enables the husband and wife to grow together in a lifelong bond of Christian love which mirrors Christ’s love for His Church. This same grace also assists husband and wife as they support each other on the path of holiness and Christian virtue.

In 2001, Blessed John Paul II beatified Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, a lawyer and a homemaker who were married and lived at the turn of the century in Rome. They are the first married couple in the history of the Church to be elevated to the rank of “blessed.”

The couple has been singled out as a model of holiness for the whole Church. They had a deep prayer life, were active in the Church and lovingly raised four children, three of whom became priests or nuns. The letters sent back and forth during their courtship reveal the deep affection and love they had for each other that sustained their marriage.

Strengthened by Sacraments

We pray for all married couples and those to be married that those who put out into the deep relationship of marriage will keep the marriage bond as a permanent one, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments. We pray also that the love between spouses will mirror the love Christ has for His Church as they grow together on the path to holiness.

As we come to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, let us remember the deepest value of Christian love, which must inspire all that we do in the support of the sacramentality of marriage.

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