A commitment assisted by God’s grace

We hear much about same-sex marriage lately. It was certainly a news item following the recent Supreme Court decision. It was new for some states, but here in Massachusetts we have been accustomed to it for some time now. While I can understand the reasoning that prompted this decision, I wish that some other term could have been used rather than “Marriage.”

At the same time, have you noticed how little is said of Marriage? Have you noticed that the newspaper carries fewer wedding photos now than in the past? If you look closely you will note that most of the wedding information found in the newspaper is wedding anniversaries, not weddings.

People do not find it necessary to get married today. I have dealt with couples who have been living together for a number of years who have no intention of marrying. Couples who have a number of children still do not consider Marriage, even if they are free to marry legally and in the Church.

This phenomenon is not limited to younger couples. The whole concept of not marrying is also found among widows and widowers. At times their situations can border on the scandalous as well.

In some circumstances, the worry or concern about divorce and separation mitigates against Marriage. I have found that this is especially true when the man or woman comes from a family where divorce took place. 

Many feel they are in love and that is enough. They respond with “what difference does a ‘paper’ make?” There is also the fear of commitment to another person for life. On occasion their shortsightedness, living in the moment, prevents an understanding of the future repercussions of their decisions. 

In contrast to this state of affairs, I had a happy occasion recently. My twin sister Terry and her husband Jim celebrated 50 years of Marriage. My brother Larry and his wife Charlotte celebrated 40 years of Marriage. Both couples attend the 4 p.m. Mass on a Saturday with their families. It was my privilege to give them a special blessing before the end of Mass. It was a good example to others of the possibility of a good Marriage and a witness to the blessings of God on them through the Sacrament of Marriage for those many years. 

Although I did not ask, I wonder what makes it possible for some to celebrate so many years of Marriage and others not even approach a decade of Marriage. 

Some years ago at the wedding anniversary Mass at the cathedral, my sister and her husband were standing with Bishop Daniel A. Cronin celebrating their 25th anniversary of Marriage. They were waiting for a photograph with another couple who were celebrating 65 years of Marriage. 

Bishop Cronin asked the longer married couple to share with the younger couple advice on how to reach such a milestone. They answered “take the good with the bad, and make it work.” My sister responded that they had already learned that lesson.

No life is always either good or bad. The secret is to make it work in every situation. As Catholics we know that the Sacrament of Marriage assists with its graces the men and women who have committed themselves to accept each other in good times and in bad times, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death.

Marriage is a very important commitment to begin with, but it is easier when that commitment is known to be assisted by God’s grace. This relationship and commitment is so important that it is raised to the dignity of a Sacrament. It was at a wedding that Jesus performed His first miracle. It was the only blessing not taken away in the flood.

With society used to instant gratification, couples can forget that it takes work to make a Marriage succeed. I tell couples it is not only 50 percent-50 percent in Marriage. At times someone has to be willing to give that extra percent to make it happen. One does not only get married to be happy, but to make the other happy. You don’t marry someone you can live with; you marry someone you cannot live without.

Along with the Sacramental grace what else is needed? A few years ago Beverly Beckman wrote an article in which she expressed her best wishes for a newlywed couple and at the same time reflected on what keeps a Marriage together. She told the newly-married: “Remember what brought you here. Remember why you chose one another in the first place. Remind yourself, every day of the love that has led you to this moment.” Perhaps the wedding album needs to come out occasionally to recall what it all really means.

Recently I came across an Apache Blessing with which I conclude this column as a prayer for all those married who read this as a reminder of what Marriage is:

“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the 
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.

May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.”

Anchor columnist Msgr. Oliveira is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in New Bedford and director of the diocesan Propagation of the Faith and Permanent Diaconate offices.

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