A Note from Fr. Gary -
Over the course of this summer we are celebrating more weddings at our three communities than we have in a long time. At Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. Thomas, and St. Joseph, people are choosing to answer the call to the vocation of marriage. As you may know, the number of marriages in the Church has been declining in recent years, so this is an encouraging development in our communities. This development has prompted me to reflect on the gift that marriage is to all of us, whether we ourselves are married or not.
While some of us are called to a life of celibacy in service to the Church, the vast majority of us are called to the vocation of marriage as the way to grow deeper in our relationship with God and to witness to God’s love in our lives.
For us Catholics, the bond of marriage reflects the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and the Church. The Introduction to the Rite of Matrimony puts it this way, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish a lifelong partnership between themselves, derives its force and strength from creation, but for the Christian faithful it is also raised up to a higher dignity, since it is numbered among the Sacraments of the new covenant” (The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, #1).
For us, the roots of matrimony are found in the Book of Genesis. In a passage that is often chosen for wedding liturgies, we see that, from the very beginning, God intended a life-long partnership between men and women. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him,” God says in the second chapter of the Book of Genesis (see Genesis 2:18-24).
This partnership, this community of life and love, gives us a glimpse and an experience of the ever faithful love of Christ for the Church, for all of us. The mutual self-giving of husband and wife, a self-giving that is fruitful and life-giving, not only shows us the life-giving love of God, but actually makes His presence concrete in our lives through the married couple.
As a sacrament, matrimony, like the other sacraments, makes Christ present in a very tangible way. The Sacrament of Matrimony is unique in who actually ministers the sacrament. For example, in the Sacrament of Baptism, the bishop, priest or deacon is the minister. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, it is the Bishop who is the minister of the sacrament. But in the Sacrament of Matrimony, it is the baptized man and woman themselves who are ministers of the sacrament. They minister the sacrament to each other, while the priest is the official witness of the Church, and the couple’s chosen witnesses (usually the Best Man and Maid of Honor) are the official witnesses of the community.
As the couple declares their desire to enter freely into this life-long commitment (commonly called “vows,” and what the official rite calls “the exchange of consent”) their words, through the power of the Holy Spirit, create a new, tangible and living sign of Christ’s presence among us.
We give thanks for those who enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony in our three communities this summer, and become living signs of Christ’s ever-faithful love for us. I invite all of us to keep them in our prayers as they begin this journey in our midst.
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni