What the world needs now is not “love, sweet love” as the song goes, but the sanctifying love that God graces couples with in the sacrament of marriage. This is the love that unifies, that engenders human flourishing, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to inspire husbands and wives to set aside their self-interest for the sake of the other. This is the love that makes it possible for them to care for a husband or wife growing more agitated because of Alzheimer disease, to nurture a child with a disability, to provide emotional support to grown children struggling because of depression or divorce.
Marital love isn’t perfect, but National Marriage Week (Feb. 7-14) provides an opportunity to reflect on how the lived experience of the sacrament of marriage contributes to the wellbeing of society and the church. This week is intended “to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family,” Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., states in a letter to his fellow bishops. He chairs the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage Family and Youth.
We begin with conversation on how strong marriages promote and sustain strong societies by helping to curtail poverty and benefiting children. Abundant resources are available to stimulate dialogue and to inspire us to pray and take action in support of marriage at all stages.
The USCCB National Marriage Week web page (https://tinyurl.com/zc525wb) provides information about prayer for married couples, preaching resources for World Marriage Day (Feb. 11, which coincides with World Day of the Sick), a virtual marriage retreat and prayer intentions. For Your Marriage website (https://tinyurl.com/bn8b68s) offers resources in English and Spanish that cover the gamut: from blogs about the experiences of dating and married couples to catechesis to a look at marriage issues and access to a marriage resource center.
Check out the online contest on For Your Marriage Facebook page.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which made a seismic impact on the church. Read or re-read the document. The Holy Father shared insights about the sacrament of marriage that remain relevant in today’s world. Take this passage, for example:
“[L]et Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.”
Consider organizing a parish study group to read and reflect on Humanae Vitae. Then follow up with the excellent pastoral letter of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), which is the fruit of the Synod on Marriage and the Family.
“Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us,” the Holy Father said. “Indeed, God is also communion: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity. And this is precisely the mystery of marriage: God makes of the two spouses one single existence.”
Pope Francis reflects on Paul’s description of love in his Letter to the Corinthians, offering a blueprint for marriage: cultivate patience, demonstrate love through deeds, rise above envy, be understanding, show concern, embrace the weak. Practice loving kindness, which builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. Choose to love more than to be loved. Do not let the day end without making peace in your family. Love bears every trial with a positive attitude. The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.
Imagine a world in which everyone embraced and celebrated marriage as a sacrament and took their cues from husbands and wives living out their vocation with trust in God’s grace.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor