Praying for married couples

On Monday Pope Francis celebrated Mass with several married couples, who had come to the St. Martha’s House (the guest house where the pope lives) to begin their day with him. The Holy Father in his homily spoke about “the three pillars of spousal relationship in the Christian vision of things,” according to Vatican Radio. They are “fidelity, perseverance and fruitfulness.” 

Jesus is the model for these ways of loving, the pope told his congregation and he spoke of the “three loves of Jesus,” which are His love for God the Father, His love for the Blessed Mother, and His love for the Church. The pontiff joyfully said, “Jesus married the Church for love,” seeing that His bride (us) is “beautiful, holy, a sinner; He loves her all the same.”

The pope encouraged the married couples to imitate Jesus’ fidelity and perseverance. He then spoke about Jesus’ fruitfulness, noting that His love “makes the Church fruitful,” bringing many souls to membership through Baptism. 

Discussing the physical fruitfulness of Marriage, Pope Francis first spoke about the difficulties couples have when “fertility can sometimes be put to the test when the children do not arrive, or are sick.” He encouraged them in those straits to look to Jesus and rely on His fertility that He has with His Church. In other words, He was calling upon them to trust in Christ and unite their crosses to His, from which have come countless fruits for the Church.

The Holy Father then spoke about the anti-fertility mentality which is common in our world, criticizing “[t]hese Marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility.” He then mentioned something which he has frequently attacked, the so-called “culture of well-being,” which was common in the West before the economic collapse of 2008, a culture which claimed that people could “have it all.”

 “This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on vacation, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free — it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this Marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with His Church: He makes His Church fruitful.”

The lack of openness to life, which Pope Francis critiqued, is rooted in a lack of faith in the providence of God. In his encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis said at No. 52 about Marriage, “This union is born of their (the husband and wife’s) love, as a sign and presence of God’s Own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love forever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the One we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator Who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. So it was that Sarah (Abraham’s wife), by faith, became a mother, for she trusted in God’s fidelity to His promise” (cf. Heb 11:11).

The Holy Father’s message, for married couples and for everyone, was that we should embrace God’s plan for our lives, instead of our own plans made without any reference to Him. God will not give us all the details. He did not inform Mary at the Annunciation of all that she would have to endure as Jesus’ mother, but in faith she said yes to God’s plan. We are saved by our faith in God. We do not know exactly where He will lead us, but we ask the Holy Spirit to help us trust in the Father’s plan.

Back on January 10, Pope Francis said, “The man or woman with faith trusts God. They trust. Trusting leads us to hope. As the confession of faith leads us to the adoration and praise of God, trust in God leads us to an attitude of hope. There are many Christians with a watered down hope, [a] weak hope [because they lack the] strength and courage to trust in the Lord.”

In many talks the Holy Father has used examples of people of faith that he has known, often married couples. We pray for all married couples and for those preparing for Marriage that God help them to have faith in God and in each other, so that their love might be faithful, fruitful and persevering. 

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