My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
In this issue of the Catholic Courier, we honor those in our diocesan family celebrating their anniversaries of marriage, with a special remembrance of those couples whose marriages have spanned many, many years! So it is that we recall those beautiful words: "I will love you, I will honor you all the days of my life." Expressing such profound love, married couples pronounce their vows to take each other as husband and wife, to be faithful to each other "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health" until death do they part, to love each other as much as humanly possible!
This sacred union of man and woman in holy matrimony "requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement ‘until further notice.’ The ‘intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.’" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1646).
Often romance, even infatuation, precedes a marriage. But romance and infatuation are never enough to sustain a marriage. Marriage is the union of mind, heart, soul and spirit — a union so intense that the two become one. The marriage instruction reminds us: "You begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life you two are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong to each other, one in mind, one in heart and one in affections."
To have such love endure is a great challenge and demands the mutual effort and firm commitment of the spouses. There will be differences of opinions, disagreements, even at times the exchange of harsh words and the harboring of bitter feelings. But greater than these must be the love of the spouses, a love able to sustain and to overcome momentary difficulties. Love produces love. For if one loves without calling forth love — if one loves without communicating love — one has demeaned and reduced the whole notion and beauty of love. True love is constant, patient, kind, concerned and perseveringly courageous. True love refuses to hurt and willingly sacrifices for the object of its affections.
One’s true love in marriage is the one who has captured the other’s heart and emotions. There is a constant yearning to be with the one who completes his or her life. Heart speaks to heart, spirit to spirit, mind to mind. There comes a point where words are not necessary and one’s very presence is the powerful voice of love.
Love is the foundation for the very ends of marriage, namely the mutual love of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. From this love, which mirrors the very love of Christ for his bride, the church, is born the family. In honoring married couples today, we also honor the family of God, "the domestic church."
We take this opportunity to thank God for our married couples who have witnessed to the solemn commitment of marriage by their own lives and the extraordinary number of years of their marriages. From these sacred unions the human family has been enriched, new life has entered the world to care for those grown old and to continue the beauty and rhythm of life through God’s noblest creation, the human person. The powerful love, fidelity, self-sacrifice and concern for neighbors expressed by those who have not been blessed with children are marvelous examples for our young people in the family of God. These couples participate in the extended families that have enriched all our lives. We are all family people.
The strength, the foundation for the family, the community of the church family, and for marriage is found in the presence of Jesus in the most holy Eucharist. From perfect love, we learn how to love, how to feel, how to empathize, how to care. From perfect joy, we learn how to rejoice, to laugh, how to find happiness. From perfect peace we find peace, we learn how to make peace, we become bearers of peace. The absence of God in marriage, in any life, is the absence of peace, the absence of joy, the absence of love. With Jesus, we finally understand:
Love ever gives —
Forgives — outlives —
And ever stands
With open hands.
And while it lives —
For this is love’s prerogative —
To give — and give — and give. (John Oxenham, as quoted in Soft as the Voice of an Angel, Fort Worth, Texas: Brownlow Publishing Co., 1994, p. 1).
As a diocesan family, we honor and pray for you, our married brothers and sisters, who have made Jesus a true and intimate part of your marriages. May the Lord continue to bless and to sustain your married lives. Today the church renews its profound esteem and support for your vocation lived in love, in fidelity and in Christ. May you be blessed with many more and happy years! Each day recall the words of the celebrant to you on your wedding day:
"You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined together, let no one divide."
Asking God’s blessings upon our jubilarians, all married couples and our entire diocesan family, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester