Christ gives the grace of the sacrament Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Mar. 03, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

small church once had an inspiring wedding tradition. After the wedding, the pastor would invite the newly married couple to pull on the rope that rang the church bells and share the good news of their wedding with the town.

First the bride pulled on the rope with her beautiful hands, but the bell did not ring. Next the muscular groom tugged mightily, but the bell did not ring. Then the bride and groom pulled together and, lo and behold, the bells rang out the good news of their marriage.



Then the pastor said to the couple, “Remember, when you pulled separately, you could not ring the bell. But when you pulled together, you rang the bell. In your marriage, you must pull together to make your marriage work!”

Together with Christ

I like this story. But something or someone seems to be missing. That someone is Jesus Christ. If I could draw, I would draw a picture of Christ standing over the couple, pulling on the rope, helping them to make their wedding a marriage.

Fr. Walter Burghardt playfully said that marriage is too serious to be left solely to husband and wife. The couple needs Jesus’ help each day to live the sacrament of marriage.

When the priest or deacon receives the consent of the couple, he prays that God strengthens them with the graces of marriage, “May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined, man must not divide.”

Blending of two into one

Scripture describes a married couple as becoming two in one flesh. In Growing Together in Marriage, Fr. J. Murry Elwood wrote that a married woman noticed that her cookbook distinguished between marrying flavors and marinating of flavors. She said that marinated flavors mix a little. But they retain their separate identities or one predominates strongly over the other.

But married flavors blend into something new. The same happens in a good marriage. The two become one. Hence we speak of the Kennedys, the Blakes, etc. In Together For Life, Fr. Joseph Champlin wrote that a successful marriage demands a blending of mature independence and loving dependence. The couple is one; yet, they still have areas of mature independence.

Marriage has been called the school of love because the couple learns how to love in deeper ways. The sacramental couple prays to God who is Love for the graces of marriage. Sometimes marriage calls for graces of heroic sacrificial love as spouses lay down their time, moods, and interests for the sake of each other and family.

In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, it says that God offers each family member the grace for creating family solidarity so that it may grow as a domestic church. The school of marriage lasts a lifetime. God’s graduation gift to the couple that lives the sacrament of Marriage is Eternity.

Beauty of Marriage

A prayer for the graces of marriage is expressed in this wedding blessing, “Father, give the couple the strength which comes from the gospel so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others. (Bless them with children. Help them to be good parents. May they live to see their children’s children.) And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven.”

Older married couples can reveal the beauty of married love to the young. This happened after a sudden thunderstorm. A newly married couple was stranded during their honeymoon in a remote country road. They got out of their car and wallowed through the mud to an old farmhouse. An elderly couple waited with a kerosene lamp.

The young man asked, “Could you please put us up for the night? Any place would be fine. As he spoke, a few grains of rice fell from the bride’s hairpiece. The elderly couple exchanged knowing glances and said, “Certainly, you can have the guest room. We have already eaten, but we will fix supper for you. And we will call a wrecker to pull you out at seven tomorrow morning.”

The couple rose early and left some money. As they tiptoed through the living room, they saw the old man sleeping on the couch and his wife crumpled up on a chair. They realized that this poor couple had no guest room but they had unselfishly given them their supper and room. Such old couples show the newly married the beauty of committed married love.

An anonymous person wrote of such a couple, “Their hands are gnarled, but welcoming; their faces are wrinkled but radiant; their hearts are physically tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another.” By sharing their love, they leave indelible imprints on the hearts of each other, family, and the wider community.

This couple certainly did. Let us pray for many more marriages like theirs now and in the future.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.