By Juliana Valdez
The Holy Roman Catholic Church offers to her followers, avenues for us to grow stronger in faith and be obedient to the commands of Almighty God as we develop and maintain a close and personal relationship with Him. Among these avenues are the Sacraments, which our Catechism teaches are “outward signs of inward grace”.
The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is one of these avenues, where a man and woman are joined together through the grace of God, taking vows before Almighty God, friends and relatives to love, cherish, and respect each other in sickness and in health, in good times as well as bad, to accept offspring lovingly from God and remain together for as long as they both shall live.
For those whose pastime is television viewing, the shows featuring marital situations are few. Once upon a time there were family shows such as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, 7th Heaven, etc. All featured story lines where with ingenuity, understanding, humour and love, problems were solved and family life was portrayed in a positive light.
Now, family situations may be featured in an episode or two in one of the many series, but there are none really like before. Could it then reflect the state of marriage and family life in society today?
For many, marriage does not hold the importance it used to. I was actually told once, “It’s as easy to get out of as it is to get into.” Live-in relationships seem to have taken precedence over the desire to enter into Holy Matrimony.
For many choosing to get married, the emphasis is sometimes on the social aspect of the occasion. The venue, clothes, decorations, take precedence over the spiritual aspect of the occasion.
As Church, we are reminded that the Sacrament of Marriage is first and foremost, a sacred occasion. Annually, on July 26, the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, the patron saints of marriages, is celebrated. Locally, in many parishes, there is a grand celebration where couples are invited to Holy Mass during which marital vows are renewed.
After the Holy Mass there is usually a social event where the couples are celebrated. Words of congratulations and tokens are distributed to the longest married couples, the newlyweds, the couple with the most children, the most grandchildren, etc.
It is important to note that during the wedding, although the focus is on the outward signs, represented by the scenery, the effect of the sacrament is an increase in sanctifying grace for the spouses. That’s the inward grace! The wedding day is just the beginning of the marriage.
While we acknowledge that people and situations change over the years, and the happily-ever-after ending is not always possible, it does not change the fact that entering into the union must be accompanied by prayer and intercession to combat the trials which the couple will undoubtedly face.
During the lighting of the unity candles by the bride and groom, my church choir sings this beautiful anthem:
“Now joined by God in Holy Love, how blest is their vocation!
These two have chosen from above, the way of their salvation.
May love bring joy to daily cares, may harm befall them never,
The gentle yoke of Christ be theirs, uniting them forever!”
The Sacrament of Marriage is indeed a vocation which requires the couple to keep Jesus always at the centre of their union.
As we celebrate the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, we pray, through their intercession, for all marriages.