Johnny and Hannah are most fortunate to receive their sacrament today, which is the First Class feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. Hannah, I’m sure, will never forget this day when she was taken up into the heart of her beloved Johnny as Our Lady was taken up into the heart of the Holy Trinity at the end of her life. Marriage is certainly the end of one life, and the beginning of another. Hannah will console and strengthen Johnny in the ways proper to spouses. She will also do her part in contributing a few tribulations, thus accelerating his sanctification, and I’m sure he will return the favor.
The Suffer Ring
They say a girl receives three rings in marriage: her engagement ring, her wedding ring, and her suffer-ing. Fr. Buckley sent me an email a few weeks ago confirming our respective roles in this High Mass ceremony: “You will say the Mass, a Tridentine, full-stopper and deliver the sermon/eulogy. I will receive the vows from the victims….” A good Jesuit, Fr. Buckley never misses an opportunity to educate, and I thank him in advance for allowing me to share his instructive humor; to wit: a wedding is a kind of funeral. Two people die, freely giving their lives for another person. This love, if God blesses them with fertility, will bring children into the world; children whose souls are immortal.
Those newly in love imagine that their future spouses will provide all the love and understanding they need (it’s a good thing marriage looks so perfect from the outside, or none of us would ever marry). But gradually, with much prayer and self-denial, we come to accept that a spouse’s love is beautiful but not perfect. And as we round the bend into old age, we finally come to embrace the very sacrifices, even the pains, of marriage as the most perfect expression of love. Blessed be the day when I can say that I love you enough to treasure my suffering for you. Married love must be sacrificial love or it will fail. To the degree that we forget or reject its sacrificial dimension, we render marriage meaningless. We could say the same about the Mass. To the degree that we forget the Holy Mass as a sacrifice, it becomes pointless. Less than 25% of Catholics attend Mass regularly in this country, and less than half those who live together get married because we have lost the sacrificial meaning of both. Spouses are to conform themselves to Christ, who became and becomes a “host” (hostia in Latin means “victim” or “offering”). Spouses must become bread for each other and, in imitation of Christ, bread that is offered up in sacrifice.
Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption, and yesterday was the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died in Auschwitz in 1941. No one took Fr. Kolbe’s life from him; he gave it freely for another prisoner, Francis Gajowniczek. Victor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz three years after Kolbe’s death, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that such a sacrifice had never been heard of in the camps. I’m not suggesting that your marriage will be anything like a concentration camp, but there will be moments. And God may ask even great heroism from you. How did Kolbe do this, and how will you do it?
For man, Jesus said, the sacrifices marriage requires is impossible, “but not for God.” And so to sustain the love you are given this day—to grow that love as good stewards–you need a consistent, disciplined life of prayer. Take the trouble to pray, to pray often, at times together, at times alone, at times with your children. This marriage will not work—you are too sinful, like the rest of us—it will not work unless you pray often, from the heart. Let me remind you of the family rosary. Place your marriage, and your children, in the hands of our Jesus’ own mother; pray for hearts so beautiful, so pure, as the Immaculate heart of Mary, whose feast day we celebrate today. If you are consistent with the family rosary, and faithful to the Mass and regular confession, nothing can touch you. May the Our Blessed Mother, given to us from the Cross, protect you, and may God bless you this day, and all the days of your married life.