Not only is this issue of OC Catholic published on St. Valentine’s Day, but it’s also World Marriage Day and part of National Marriage Week USA.
Love is all around us – referencing a song made famous in one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Love Actually.” Still, beyond hearts-and-flowers romantic love, the keys to lasting success involve staying power and devotion, as any long-married couple will tell you.
Our starry-eyed love, declared in June 1985 at Holy Family Cathedral, has mellowed, and deepened over time, as my husband Les and I welcomed three now-grown children, experienced the extended illnesses and deaths of two parents, struggled financially, and now experience enforced togetherness as I work from home and he enjoys retirement.
Just when we thought we had it made, coronavirus reared its ugly head, creating new obstacles for us to overcome together. It helps to know that Catholic teaching supports our ongoing efforts to remain happily married for the long haul.
The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops says National Marriage Week, observed annually in Catholic dioceses and parishes, focuses on building a culture of love that begins with supporting marriage and the family.
“Every marriage is meant to be a little icon of the love of Christ and his bride, the Church,” usccb.org says. “The love shared between a man and a woman in holy matrimony points us to the self-emptying, self-sacrificing love God has for each of us.”
The vows married couples make to each other – to have and to hold, exclusively, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to cherish, to honor until death – are the blueprint for hanging in with each other through marital strain, financial problems, unemployment, and debilitating illness.
In the midst of a pandemic that forces us to be together 24/7, we face in our homes a struggle to live our love, day to day, without fail, despite circumstances that are at best stressful and at worse a threat to our very existence.
That Christ sees us in our struggle is a great comfort. Indeed, the Bishops say, “He loves you through your struggle. He promised us that we would suffer in being his followers, but he also promised us that he would be with us always.”
Everyone – poets, philosophers, historians, scientists – struggles to define love. Father Daniel Gallagher, writing on simplycatholic.com, says that Pope Benedict XVI proposed an answer in his first encyclical in 2005. “He reminds us that God has already revealed to us the answer: ‘In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an expiation for our sins,’” Fr. Gallagher writes. “The very title, Deus Caritas Est, states a fundamental truth of the Christian faith: ‘God is love.’” (1 Jn 4:16).
If you had told me the gory details of the sometimes-difficult years ahead on our wedding day, I’m sure I would have decided to forge on with marriage. There is a reason my husband’s wedding ring was inscribed, “Love Never Fails.”
Indeed, as we witness in most modern marriage ceremonies, St. Paul tells us that love is the greatest of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”