By MEG WATERS     2/10/2022

One might think that something as consequential to humankind as the inception for the Creator’s earthly embodiment and mission of salvation, might take place in a more auspicious place than at a common wedding in a backwater hamlet on the outskirts of Galilee. Far from the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, and the corresponding crowds,
wouldn’t it have been more effective to pick a grand stage to get the word out that something big was starting?

But our God is full of surprises.

The wedding feast at Cana has more layers of meaning than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but essentially, it exalted marriage as the second of what would become seven sacraments. Marriage is the foundation of the Christian family, and good marriages are the bedrock of a moral society.

Jesus’ ministry used the optics of a marriage to begin his work. Like a married couple, Jesus gave His whole self to establishing the New Covenant and His Church, the bride of Christ. Several years ago, the Vatican initiated World Marriage Day to call special attention to the importance of marriage. It is like the wedding anniversary for the sacrament of marriage – a time when we celebrate and look for ways to strengthen the bonds of married Catholics around the world.

This year the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has dedicated Feb. 7-14 as National Marriage Week. The theme is: “Called to the Joy of Love.” Each Diocese has its schedule of events. There is even a Facebook page called For Your Marriage, a separate Catholic nonprofit dedicated to strengthening marriages.

The Diocese of Orange has celebrated Worldwide Marriage week for 16 years. The special Mass is always well attended. This year the tri-lingual Mass was held at Christ Cathedral at on Feb.7. Engaged and newly married couples were particularly encouraged to participate as Bishop Freyer used the occasion to highlight long-married couples
who share their joys and struggles. Prayers were also offered for both married and recently engaged couples.

According to Armando Cervantes, Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Hispanic Ministries for the Diocese of Orange, many parishes also have special blessings for married couples or a special Mass. The week is also an excellent time to learn about the many support ministries for married and engaged couples provided by the Diocese.

The first step for couples seeking to marry in the Church is attending a marriage preparation course at the parish level. The system not only addresses the significance of the marriage commitment, but it also helps couples make decisions about important topics such as finances and domestic expectations.

The Marriage Course by ALPHA is for couples seeking practical support to strengthen their relationship, keep the spark alive and stay connected. The next 7-part series started on Feb. 10, 2022, and meets weekly on Thursday evenings from 7–9 p.m. (ends March 24). It will be conducted online via Zoom so participants can join from the comfort of home.

Worldwide Marriage Encounter is a weekend for married couples who value their relationship and desire a richer, fuller life together. Couples from all over the world have experienced the beauty and the gift of the weekend. The weekend dates for 2022 are Feb. 18- 20, May 20-22, June 24-26, Sept. 23-25, Nov. 11-13. Applications and additional information are available on the Diocese website or your local parish.

Retrouvaille is designed for marriages going through pain or stress. It is intended to be an opportunity for healing and growth in the marriage. For more information, visit www.retrouvaille.org.

In a recent pastoral letter, Pope Francis spoke directly to married couples and families. “…all husbands and wives “set out” from their own land at the moment when, in
response to the vocation to conjugal love, they decide to give themselves to each other without reserve. Becoming engaged already means setting out from your land, since it calls you to walk together along the road that leads to marriage. Different situations in life, the passage of time, the arrival of children, work and illness, all challenge couples to embrace anew their commitment to one another, to leave behind settled habits, certainties and security, and to set out towards the land that God promises: to be two in Christ, two in one. Your lives become a single life; you become a “we” in loving communion with Jesus, alive and present at every moment of your existence. God is always at your side; he loves you unconditionally. You are not alone!”

Anyone who has been married knows that it can be the couple’s greatest joy and deepest hurt. The Church and the Diocese want to create a culture where marriages can thrive.

Visit https://www.rcbo.org/resource/marriage-enrichment-resources/ to learn more about the Diocese of Orange’s marriage resources.