A Message from the Bishop – Celebrating marriage teaching

On Sunday, Feb. 9, the Church observed World Marriage Sunday, a day when husbands and wives who live the Sacrament of Matrimony are recognized. In our time, as society continues to lose the true vision of marriage and creates a false understanding and a superficial vision, the Church affirms and teaches that marriage is a natural institution willed by God and raised by Jesus to the dignity of a Sacrament. In Christ, marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman. That union involves faithfulness, sacrifices, joys, spousal love, trust and the gift of self – of husband to wife and wife to husband.
I use the word beauty to describe the Sacrament of Matrimony. Beauty because God can always be found in beauty. In Matrimony that beauty is expressed in how the husband and wife honor each other; in the radical decision to love each other all the days of their lives; in accepting one another forever without any knowledge of tomorrow. In keeping the marriage vows of exclusive love of one man for one woman, there is beauty. There is God. Sacrifices are made for one another and for their children. They share life and home. There is spousal love – giving and receiving from one another. In these beauty is found. God is found.
In the sacrament of Matrimony the love of husband for wife and wife for husband is a gift. Each one is a gift for the other. A gift given and a gift received – freely and totally to one another. For the wife the gift is of herself to her husband and for the husband the gift is of himself to his wife.
In preparation for the Synod of Bishops to be held in October of this year, the Vatican offered a survey to the bishops. The topic of the Synod is “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.” In our diocese I distributed the survey to our pastors; religious educators; the deacon council, diocesan staff, the Presbyteral Council, Marriage Encounter groups and others in order to consult widely. We received hundreds of responses.
Many of the survey questions concern marriage as part of the plan of God and other issues affecting the family in modern times. The introduction to the survey speaks about the challenges that marriage and the family face in contemporary society. These include: challenges that devalue permanence and faithfulness in marriage, challenges from popular culture, from the media and legislative bodies, even the failure of the Church to teach and assist the faithful to understand the natural law and the very sacredness of human life.
This is an on-target description of the situation in which we find ourselves. Thus, the witness of husband and wife in sacramental marriage is needed more than ever. It is a witness that it is possible to love another exclusively until death. It is a witness to love that seeks the other; goes out of itself for the other, as does the love of wife for husband and husband for wife. Again, that witness is needed more than ever. The faithful witness to sacred vows remains as a counter-cultural witness to the reality of marriage in our time about which the survey reports and about which so many of our responders expressed.
For this witness to exclusive sacramental love we thank those whose marriage is a gift to the church and to the wider society. On World Marriage Sunday 72 couples were present to renew their wedding vows at the Mass organized by our Office of Family Life. Those couples are celebrating golden and silver anniversaries this year. Special anniversaries, 25 and 50 years, merit the recognition and the gratitude of the Church for their witness to God through the beauty of their marriage in Christ.

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