The reflection below is written by Tony and Tessie Lopez, parishioners at Holy Spirit in Scarborough. Marriage Sunday is celebrated in the Archdiocese of Toronto on February 7/8, 2015. Thank you to all those witness the beauty of the vocation of marriage!
Sunday, February 7/8, 2015 marks the fourth annual Marriage Sunday in the Archdiocese of Toronto, coinciding with World Marriage Day celebrations across North America. It started in 2011 when Cardinal Thomas Collins asked the parishes in the Archdiocese to designate the weekend before Family Day as “Marriage Sunday.”
Marriage Sunday highlights the Sacrament of Marriage and honours husband and wife as the foundation of the family and the basic unit of society. It celebrates the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life. In one of his messages on the occasion of Marriage Sunday, Cardinal Collins underscored the importance of the Sacrament:
“Each of us has been called by God to a vocation, inviting us to use our gifts and talents to love and serve one another. By saying “yes” to marriage, you have entered into a lifelong journey that presents countless opportunities to demonstrate how a partnership centred on love and faith can make a profound impact in our world. This public witness is needed, more than ever, when we consider the daily challenges before us.”
In Toronto, there are programs supporting couples at every stage of their journey, starting with marriage preparation for those who are entering the Sacrament of Marriage. For married couples, there is Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) and similar movements focused on strengthening marriages, New Beginnings (for widowed, separated and divorced Catholics) and Retrouvaille (for marriages in crisis).
We belong to the Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Married 40 years ago, we have been blessed with two children who are both married, two grandchildren and another on the way. In 1990, inspired by the witness of friends and a pulpit presentation at our parish, we decided to register for a WWME weekend. It was a weekend like no other - an incredible experience that provided us with an environment conducive to examining our lives together and sharing our feelings, hopes, disappointments, joys and frustrations. It gave us a wonderful start for growth and deepening of intimacy in our marriage.
That weekend encouraged us to go further with our involvement with WWME. Each step opened for us a wider world of acceptance, kindness and love. The couples we met became trusty companions, models and mentors in our journey, giving us the affirmation and support we needed along the way. Focusing on each other and our relationship we are journeying with other couples who share our values and help us to grow closer in our marriage. We learned to accept that “there is no substitute for us.” We learned to accept that “God does not make junk.” We took on small roles with willingness and became an integral part of the whole.
We rely on God’s grace for the courage and wisdom we need to carry out our mission to be light for others. As we keep our spousal relationship a priority and cultivate a lifestyle of love and acceptance, we become models for our children and we are able to show them what it means to love. In the same way, we are able to show our neighbours, our friends and strangers the value of loving and supporting one another.We all have a choice as to how we spend our time and our resources. It is up to us to use the gifts and abilities that God has given us so we can make a difference in the world and become a source of life to others.
In his book, Rediscovering a Pearl of Great Price, Rev. Thomas Vandenberg noted that Marriage as a Sacrament is not just for the people receiving them but also for the life of the Church. The sacramental couple’s vocation is to create an atmosphere of love between and around them that will touch the people in their lives. As has been said, the greatest gift a husband can give his children is to love their mother and the greatest gift a mother can give her children is to love their father.
In our world today where independence and self-centeredness are rampant, Pope Francis challenges us to live counter-culturally:
“God calls you to make definitive choices and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move toward personal fulfillment. God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”
As we celebrate Marriage Sunday this February 7/8, 2015, we will reflect on our marriage journey and evaluate how faithfully we have met the pope’s challenge to all who have been called to the vocation of marriage.