Another part of the process produced an awareness of the amount of energy expended by Mom and Dad on the creation and the maintenance of the family. There was one groom who told me that he carried his great-grandfather’s eye glasses in his pocket the day of his wedding. His great-grandfather was an iconic figure in the family and although he had died, the groom just wanted him close during this time of the extension of his family. I imagine that most brides or grooms did something on their wedding day to connect them to their family, such as wearing a special article of clothing or jewelry.
I admire couples entering marriage today. There are so many pressures on today’s couples: cohabitation, economics, divorce and social mobility. I am happy that couples seek the church to affirm their commitment and I worry about the increasing number of Catholic couples who do not come to the church to be married. Some believe that marriage is a private institution. You will often hear it said, “well it’s my wedding and I’ll do what I want.” Thanks to reality TV we have seen marriage cheapened.
“Bridezillas” depicts self-centered women childishly desiring their own way in marriage. They prepare for their wedding often without compromise. In another program, a bachelor extends a marriage proposal to one woman left standing among the many women fighting for his affection. God is never mentioned. It appears that God is no longer a consideration for modern secular marriages. Marriage becomes a manipulation for TV ratings, the more outrageous the marital situation, the larger the audience. Yet marriage is fragile enough without creating difficulties.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized the increased pressures on marriage in today’s society. A few years ago when the USCCB was undergoing an organizational realignment and imposing a spending freeze, the proposal was made to begin the study for a pastoral on marriage. When a proposal is made for a study there is a price tag that accompanies the proposal.
Despite the imposed budget freeze, the bishops whole-heartily passed the proposal, because they recognized the need to support marriage. One of the bishops remarked that this is what we are about and that we cannot remain indifferent to the struggles of Christian marriage in our modern society.
After years of study the conference produced “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” The committee that produced the pastoral did soundings, consulted experts and addressed modern problems facing today’s couples. They used various technological means to advance the teachings discussed in the pastoral.
The most important aspect of the pastoral was its grounding in marriage as a natural institution established by God the Creator. Couples who are able to understand the transcendent in their life open themselves to the mystery of their vocational call. We need to catechize our couples in the Christian and sacred sense of their marital union.
Our own Nazareth Project has been studying how we prepare couples for marriage and is working to implement the new pastoral letter in every area of its ministry. In addition, the priests of the archdiocese heard a presentation on the marriage pastoral by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz the Archbishop of Louisville, Ky. Archbishop Kurtz has been one of the champions of the marriage pastoral. He chaired the committee for Marriage and Family Life, and has been a prophetic voice reminding the conference of the importance of marriage and family, echoing Vatican II’s Constitution of the Church in the Modern World which states: “The family is the foundation of society. In it, the various generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and to harmonize personal rights with other requirements of social life. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups, should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family.” (II, 52)
Let me assure you that our priests are committed to building the church and families, referred to as the “domestic church.” As stated in the pastoral on marriage, the family is a microcosm of the church. The ancient expression “domestic church” accurately describes the family, because the family is a small communion of persons that draws its sustenance from the larger church and reflects its life in unique ways. If we desire a stable society, a stable church, stable families, then attention to and support for marriage is essential.