There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage. After the Holy Eucharist, it has a power beyond anything that we can imagine.
Cardinal Raymond Burke
I was sitting in the pew gazing upward towards the front of the Church where my cousin was standing waiting for the processional hymn to begin. He was grinning from ear to ear as he kept his eyes on the back of the church waiting for his beautiful bride to appear. Moments later the organ began to play “Ave Maria,” and there she was in her white dress gently making her way towards the altar.
As I glanced back at my cousin his eyes were glazed and tears were flowing down his face. The joy that radiated deep down within his soul was pouring out as the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life with and become the mother of his children was there before him.
In our culture a wedding no longer means forever. When the bride and groom say “I do,” it equates to the couple staying together until it gets too hard and too much of a burden to bother to make it work out. If marriage is viewed as a temporary state of life then why go through with the big, fancy wedding and have such a heavy financial burden? Why bother, if the relationship could possibly end a couple of months later and there seems to be no real commitment to one another where at any time either spouse can simply pack their backs and walk away from the marriage if he or she gets bored or decides they are more interested in having a romance with someone else? All that remains then are the photo albums and bridal gown.
For Catholics, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not a casual affair. Marriage is when a man and a woman help one another to attain eternal salvation in heaven. That does not mean that marriage is all a garden full of roses on a sunshine day, but it means that a husband and a wife are committed to be there for one another through the ups and downs in their lives. When things get tough they work it out together learning how to forgive one another, and remembering to be kind and respectful in both speech and in actions.
True love means willing the good of the other and in a healthy Catholic marriage both man and woman strive towards becoming creative in working out their differences, and help one another to continue on their spiritual journey with God. The aim is perfect unity with the Trinity forever in Paradise, and that is why a Catholic wedding takes place within the Church where Christ dwells in the Tabernacle. The marriage begins with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist physically and truly before the bride and groom.
Why is the vocation to married life seen in such a way by the Catholic Church? Marriage is a sacrament; which means that it is an outward sign of an inward grace. There is an exchange of marriage vows; promises made to one another as a covenant where they “mutually hand over and accept each other” (see Code of Canon Law, c. 1057) It is a covenant; a binding union between the baptized man, baptized woman, and God.
God is the center of the marriage that holds the couple together. When the man and woman come together on their wedding day knowing that the vows they are about to make are forever, it changes the gravity of the vows that they are speaking to one another in the presence of the Lord. The marriage is no longer about the wedding day as the most important day, but about a lifetime of important days working alongside each other striving towards helping one another to get to heaven.
Once a marriage is understood as a covenant then the vows are no longer empty promises, but mean that the husband and wife are united together by God Himself, and they cannot be separated by anyone.
When a man and woman enter into a marriage with the understanding of the true value of Holy Matrimony then the very definition of marriage changes, and it receives a new meaning in this world. Marriage becomes the real deal; a true commitment that is an everlasting one. Both individuals grow together side by side in their universal call to holiness.
When there is trust in knowing that no one will suddenly get up and run out in the middle of the night, it leads a husband and wife to be able to freely give themselves wholly to one another with unconditional love in their hearts. There is only courage and the ability to allow one another to become vulnerable in each other’s arms. A husband and wife hold nothing back and accept the challenges that lie on the road ahead of them relying on one another for strength, and have each other’s back. They are no longer traveling on a road alone, but become a support system together, and best friends; a team in this journey called life. How beautiful and wonderful to know that they have a forever prayer partner. He will pray for her and she will pray for him, and God’s will shall be done.
Let us pray for more Catholics to choose to be married in the Church, and to make a life-long commitment to one another in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.