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Marriage in the News
March 2010: The Church’s Vision for Marriage: Getting Down to Basics
Much of the church’s vision for marriage “seems unreasonable and outdated” without “the firm understanding and belief that God is at the heart of every marriage,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, said in the homily he delivered Feb. 14 in Liverpool during an evening prayer service celebrating marriage and family life. He said a purpose of the celebration was to affirm that God’s presence “makes clear the true nature of marriage.”
People are led inevitably to regard marriage as “disposable and replaceable” when God’s role is not acknowledged, the archbishop said. He added, “The call of the church to a man and woman to marry rather than simply live together in a private arrangement” is based on the conviction “that God’s acknowledged presence is essential for a truly mature human relationship of husband and wife.”
This is not to say that marriage is not challenging for couples, the archbishop said. Bringing life into accord with God’s will “is a long and slow process” for anyone, and “in marriage it certainly can be very testing.” Thus, Archbishop Nichols said, “it is important that we promote marriage, offering real encouragement to young people and young couples to make the journey into marriage.” In addition, “acceptance and support” must be shown “to those who have experienced failure in their marriage. We are to encourage them in their life of faith in all the ways the church shows to us,” he said.
Church teaching on the permanence of marriage “is rooted in the sacramental presence of God,” Archbishop Nichols said. And if matrimony is not thought to have anything to do with God, the archbishop wondered how strong the reasons are “to work hard at a marriage,” once the “initial satisfaction has gone and the personal choice might seem to have been a mistake.”
Archbishop Nichols said that “on the surface one marriage may look like another: one sacramental, the other not.” Moreover, “in many marriages God’s presence is entirely out of sight because it was never understood or invoked,” he said.
In fact, he commented, an “understanding that God is involved in a marriage, giving it a different kind of permanence, a different kind of depth, is so foreign to our world that even we people of faith might be in danger of forgetting it.” He said that God’s grace completes the relationship of a man and woman so that it becomes “a sacrament which can speak eloquently to our world of the full vocation of married life.”
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