My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of National Marriage Week USA. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops heartily endorses this international movement. Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said that the week’s celebrations are an annual opportunity to “focus on building a culture of life and love.” He went on to say that he hoped the week could nurture “an ever-deeper appreciation for the gift of marriage and the blessings of family life.”
Certainly, marriage is an ideal institution that demands love and sacrifice by both of its partners. Pope John Paul I, the pope of 30 days, once stated in his catechetical writings, “The way some people speak about marriage, you would think that Jesus created six sacraments and a trap.” Yes, the way we sometimes speak about marriage causes us to denigrate the natural union of marriage, and especially its supernatural status as a sacrament.
The celebration of National Marriage Week began in 2010. Each year, the celebration includes World Marriage Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of February. In the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, there are many celebrations of this annual week. Each year the diocese holds an annual Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass; however, it is not held in February due to the uncertainty of winter weather.
This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, May 16, at Mary’s Nativity-St. Ann Parish in Flushing. The Mass is attended by those celebrating their 25th and 50th wedding anniversary, as well as those couples celebrating other significant anniversary years. Bishop Raymond Chappetto, Vicar General, will be the main celebrant at this Mass, organized by our Marriage, Family Formation, and Respect Life Education office, under the direction of Ted Musco and Christian Rada.
The institution of marriage has come upon hard times because of the necessary commitment. Young people today, and in fact many more people than in the past, shy away from making commitments, much less lifelong commitments, which are the essence of marriage. Hence, we have a large increase in couples living together before marriage, hoping to find the correct partner. Statistics tell us clearly that those who try living together before marriage, when they eventually do marry, have a higher divorce rate than those who do not do so. Perhaps it is the fact that having made a commitment frightens them and causes them to run away from a lifelong commitment.
As the secular world evaluates marriage, certain issues are easily discoverable. First, there is greater financial stability for the couple and their children. Usually, there is better health for happily married couples and greater happiness. The fact is, they have happier and healthier children. A 2012 article in Time magazine said, “As a society, we have launched highly effective public education campaigns on much less momentous issues, from smoking to recycling … For now, the decline of marriage is our most ignored national crisis…”
We can see that when marriages fail, there certainly is a direct effect on all of the issues mentioned: financial stability, happiness and the atmosphere for children. Children raised by both parents are known to perform better in school, have fewer addiction problems, less teen pregnancy and less trouble with the law. All of these common-sense deductions can be proven with statistical facts.
What is most important about the celebration of National Marriage Week, however, is that as Catholic Christians, we see marriage truly as a sacrament. The sacrament of marriage is one of the outward signs instituted by Christ that gives grace, as the old Baltimore Catechism told us. The natural institution of marriage has been raised to a supernatural state, as a sacramental marriage is so important to our stability as a Church and society.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his many writings and Apostolic Letters, has spoken about marriage in concrete terms. He once said that there are three words necessary for a successful marriage. First, please. Then, thank you. And finally, I am sorry. All of these are simple words, but they are the ingredients for a happy marriage.
I often remind married couples, especially at our anniversary Masses, where all of the couples are present, about the book and then movie from the early 1970s called “Love Story.” It was an interesting book that later became a movie sensation, best remembered for this most famous line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” How false that sentence is, as truly love means that you have to say you are sorry continually to another person, most especially in marriage. Marriage is built on love and forgiveness. Without forgiveness, love does not endure.
As our Church and country celebrate National Marriage Week, we do put out into the deep problems surrounding marriage, which affect our society. Please join me in praying that we can restore the sacredness to the sacrament of matrimony and that many young people will avail themselves with the grace and help in the sacrament of marriage that will ensure their happiness, which entails sacrifice and forgiveness.
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