Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
February 7 – 14 marks National Marriage Week for the Church in the United States. We are reminded by the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, Apostolicam Actuositatem, that “[t]he Creator of all made the married state the beginning and foundation of human society.” From the beginning, marriage serves a natural purpose as husband and wife are drawn together in mutual support and for the building up of the family. When Jesus performs His first public miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, He sanctifies marriage in a particular way, showing us that marriage is not merely a natural union of man and woman, but is also a source of supernatural blessing and grace. Indeed, Apostolicam Actuositatem speaks to this saying “Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and for their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the faith.” The vocation to marriage is a beautiful gift, and through the sacramental love of married couples, God reveals Himself to the world.
Pope St. Paul VI, in his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, writes:
In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.
It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.
Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness. Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”
Marriage as a total, faithful, and fruitful life, is a gift abundantly blessed by God. In marriage, the couple is to find love as their foundation. Before he became pope, St. John Paul II wrote in “Love and Responsibility” that “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object of use.” The sacrament of matrimony calls spouses to that mutual support and mutual sanctification that allows both husband and wife to recognize their call to holiness. The grace of God poured out in sacramental marriage enables couples to strive for the highest spiritual gifts together. That blessing is not reserved for the day on which the sacrament was celebrated, the wedding day. Rather, the grace of the sacrament of matrimony continues to accompany the couple throughout their lives. As such, the Church understands marriage to be far more than a natural institution. It is rather, a sacred, supernatural institution through which God desires to pour out grace upon families and upon the world.
At present, there are some fourteen couples preparing for marriage here at St. Pius. Please pray for them as they journey toward their wedding day, that they may grow in love for one another and in their understanding of the gift of the sacrament of marriage. I am aware also of many couples who are civilly married, but who have not received the sacrament of matrimony. If that description applies to you, I would like to wholeheartedly invite you to the grace that God desires you to receive in sacramental marriage. I want to make myself available to you to help you receive the sacrament, and to work through anything that may be an obstacle for you. Pope St. John Paul II concluded his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio with invocation:
St. Joseph was “a just man,” a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families. May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of “the Church of the home.” Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little Church” in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life. May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God. May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their families.
May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength. On the solemn day dedicated to His Kingship I beg of Him that every family may generously make its own contribution to the coming of His Kingdom in the world-“a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace,” towards which history is journeying.