For National Marriage Week, our readers offer some insights
By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor
Marriage is a challenge. It takes commitment, hard work, perseverance, forgiveness, and love rightly understood. It means saying yes for a lifetime, day after day, and it draws us out of ourselves to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly within. For these and other reasons, marriage is the surest way for most of us to become better than we ever thought possible, even holy. Deep down, in ways mostly unexpected, marriage is a great joy by which a man and a woman discover each other and themselves as they grow toward closer union.
Yet marriage is in trouble these days. Divorce rates hover near 50 percent. Cohabitation gains in popularity as it loses the stigma of sin. TV wedding shows focus on the dress, the ring and the banquet, with small expectation that the marriage will outlive the thrill.
Despite all the negatives associated with it, marriage remains popular, at least in the imagination of most people, even the young who are skeptical of long-term commitments. One reason for this persistent popularity is that marriage, by its ties to the past and its hope for the future, transcends our human limitations. It is a call to something higher, an engagement in something greater, as two people set out in life, in love, to form together one flesh and – by some wonder – produce offspring, new life. There is nothing else like it on earth, and there never will be.
In Catholic terms, marriage is a sacrament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting canon law, states: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601).
There are two facts that I always stress when I speak about marriage in a parish setting. One is that, as St. Paul writes, marriage is a “mystery” in which husband and wife image the relationship between Christ and his Church (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32). The other fact is that, in the Latin rite, the man and women entering marriage are able to confer the sacrament upon one another, since they share in Christ’s priesthood through Baptism. The priest or deacon at a Catholic wedding is a witness to the marriage as he officiates at the ceremony, but the spouses are the ones who administer the sacrament.
What a great dignity and nobility a husband and wife have, conferring the grace of the sacrament upon one another!
Today begins National Marriage Week, seven days leading up to St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Although greeting card companies have co-opted the celebration, we should remember that Valentine was a priest and martyr of the third century who, according to various accounts, died to restore marriage to its rightful place in the Roman Empire. The fact that Valentine’s Day remains so strong in our culture’s imagination, even after the Church removed the feast day from its liturgical calendar, is a testament to the enduring hope that we share for true and noble love.
We remember this week in a special way the young, those considering marriage or engaged to marry. We who are married should offer them encouragement and guidance as we serve as good examples and mentors. Young people need hope about marriage. They need to know that the commitment is possible and worth it. Sometimes they need a helping hand, a comforting word or a strong shoulder.
Toward that end, I asked some married friends to provide a few words of advice to those planning to tie the knot. A summary sentence is provided below, and you can read the whole comment by clicking on Read More.
Just remember that no matter how much you love your spouse and how perfect they appear, they too are human and will disappoint you because they are not God. Read More
My advice to engaged people for a healthy marriage is to keep their priorities straight. Read More
The major mistake that many men make is they put their careers first. The major mistake many women make is they put their children first. Read More
Marriage is a beautiful gift from God. Read More
One thing I would suggest for engaged couples is to have concrete rules and boundaries about the use of technology. Read More
Marriage is all the little moments and big moments and moments we do not even think about that create a life and turn two people into a truly united couple. Read More
My advice for an engaged couple would be to establish a daily prayer life together. Read More
It’s important to understand that true happiness comes from making God #1 in your life and serving others. Read More
You may also wish to consult the For Your Marriage website, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which offers a seven-day virtual marriage retreat, with readings, prayers, meditations and action items.