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10---marriage

A Catholic route to a marriage made in Heaven

Marriage is a vocation, and the Church — and other married couples — have a role to play ensuring it is a successful one. - By Fr Jamie McMorrin

A few years ago, I was invited to a party celebrating the golden wedding anniversary of two parishioners.

At Mass that morning, they’d renewed their marriage vows and, at the evening reception, had recreated the original menu from their wedding day all those years ago and invited many of their friends and family to celebrate with them.

Some of them remembered the wedding day itself—others, such as myself, enjoyed hearing the stories and looking at the pictures. It was a wonderful, joyful occasion.

 

Newlyweds

As the evening went on, I noticed that there was another reception going on in the adjoining function room of the same hotel, of a young couple who had just got married that afternoon.

I didn’t know them, but it occurred to me that I really ought to introduce the two wedding parties to each other.

These two couples, who shared a wedding day, were both surrounded by their families and friends, full of the joy of married love. And yet, in the 50 years that separated their wedding days, there are so many lessons.

On the one hand, the reckless, romantic generosity of youthful love; on the other, the precious wisdom of a faithful and fruitful love—no less ardent—that had withstood the test of time.

 

Two stories

In one room, talk of hopes and dreams and future plans; in the other, stories and memories of the mixed blessings of the years.

As one beautiful bride danced with her new husband for the first time, another couple, relaxed and comfortable in each others’ arms, danced the familiar steps once more, as their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren looked on.

That evening is in my mind because this weekend we’ll welcome 17 engaged couples who are to get married in the cathedral this summer for a day of catechesis and marriage preparation.

Among the facilitators, we don’t have any golden wedding anniversaries, but most of the sessions will be led by married couples from the parish, who will give testimonies, share experiences and offer some prudent advice.

 

A calling from God

We encourage the couples to think of their decision to get married as a vocation: to see Christ’s commandment ‘to love one another as I have loved you,’ not as a nice-sounding idea, but a personal call addressed to them by God, to love this particular person and, in this way, to be a living icon of Christ’s own love for the world.

It is precisely in the measure of their faithful, married love for each other that these couples will help each other to become the saints that God created them to be.

This is a tall order! The Church places great value on the dignity and sanctity of marriage, not only because she recognises the benefits of marriage for the couple, their children and wider society, but also because Christian marriage is, strictly speaking, theological: literally, it says something about God, and his love for the world.

 

God’s help

The love of celibate priests and consecrated Religious, as I’ve written on these pages before, has the same lofty mission, although lived out in a different—yet complementary—way. Like all vocations, it is impossible without God’s help.

This help comes to us primarily, of course, through the Sacraments—especially the Eucharist and Confession—and in personal prayer. But God also ministers to us through others: in the first place, within the family itself, but also through the parish community and small groups.

This year, our own parish is piloting the establishment of the Teams of Our Lady movement in Scotland, a lay-led organisation founded in France that promotes a spirituality for married couples.

 

Diversity

Once a month, the couples come together for a shared meal, prayer, formation and mutual encouragement. Our own group, like the Church itself, is a diverse group, with a wealth of different experiences of faith and marriage.

My task as a priest, in this group and in the parish, is to offer support and encouragement, accompanying married couples on their journey through life, from the excited first announcement of the engagement all the way, please God, to the golden wedding anniversary.

As I pray for these couples preparing for marriage, and for all married couples who read these words, the Church’s liturgy says it far better than I ever could: “May these your servants hold fast to the Faith and keep your commandments; made one in the flesh, may they be blameless in all they do; and with the strength that comes from the Gospel, may they bear true witness to Christ before all; may they be blessed with children, and prove themselves virtuous parents, who live to see their children’s children.

“And grant that, reaching at last together the fullness of years for which they hope, they may come to the life of the blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.’”

 

 

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