The gift of marriage

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | June 9, 2016

BishopCozzensThe past few weeks have been filled with many celebrations, including the installation of Archbishop Bernard Hebda and the ordinations of nine transitional deacons and nine new priests. We also had a smaller but very important celebration of World Marriage Day at the Cathedral of St. Paul last Saturday. At this celebration we honored many couples who came to celebrate important anniversaries of 25 or 50 years and honored four couples who were married more than 70 years.

We speak often about a vocations crisis in our Church, and I believe we do have a vocation crisis. It is a crisis in the vocation of marriage. Not only do many marriages struggle and our society misunderstands what marriage is, but also many of our young people are choosing not to get married today at all, let alone a sacramental marriage in the Church. If you speak to our priests you will discover that the sacrament of marriage is down in every parish.

This is a crisis that will have a profound impact on our future. A strong culture of marriage is essential for family life and allowing our young people to grow up in the stability of knowing they are loved. The family is the best environment for handing on the faith. If young people choose not to get married, not only our Church, but also our culture will face many struggles in the future.

This is why Pope Francis called two synods on the family and recently wrote a beautiful apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family called “The Joy of Love.” In typical Pope Francis style, this document is filled with practical wisdom and deep insight into the love of God and the love of families.

I encourage you to read this document. Pope Francis is very readable, and if you only read the summaries you find in the press, you will get a very unbalanced understanding of what Pope Francis is saying. Some have argued that Pope Francis believes we should change the Church’s teaching about marriage in order to accommodate what our culture thinks marriage is, as the way to get more people to enter the sacrament of marriage. Nothing could be further from what Pope Francis says, which is, “In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur. . . . A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown” (“Amoris Laetitia,” 307).

This being said, it is also true that Pope Francis wants the Church to show understanding and love for all those who struggle in living the Church’s teaching on marriage. He believes it is possible to hold on to the high ideal and still show mercy to those who struggle. After all, this is what Jesus always did. Jesus always spoke the truth and called us to the truth of love, but he also revealed that love in mercy toward sinners.

Pope Francis invites us to recognize that God’s mercy encourages us to walk with those who are not living the Church’s teaching on marriage as they are on the path toward the full meaning of what marriage is. Thus, those who come to the Church in irregular situations should find a listening ear and discerning heart to try and help them be more and more open to God’s merciful and faithful love.

In light of Pope Francis’ teaching and this great vocation crisis we face, I’d like to encourage one practical action item. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those in our Church who are living the sacrament of marriage with full fidelity were to try and reach out to those who struggle? What if we could reach them in a way that shows mercy and understanding?

Pope Francis speaks a lot about accompaniment in the process of evangelization. Do you know someone who is currently not fully living their Catholic faith whom you could accompany toward that fullness, showing them love through patience, understanding and mercy? Perhaps once we have demonstrated our love to them and that we value them, then God will provide opportunities to gently share with them the beauty of married love.

Marriage is meant to reflect the love of Christ for his Church. Let us try to reflect Christ’s mercy, which reached out to the weak and the lost.

Experiencing this mercy, perhaps some will be open to the faithful, covenantal love of marriage. Only this love fully accords with the truth of the human heart, and the Gospel shows us that when people experience mercy they often become open to the full truth of who they are called to be.

El regalo del matrimonio

Tags: , , ,

Category: Only Jesus

Comments are closed.