July 15, 2016

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Thoughts on marriage during the wedding season

Cynthia DewesEvery year, our archdiocese sponsors a Marriage Day Mass to honor those who live in sacramental marriages. Of course, long marriages receive the most attention, but any married couple may attend the event.

This year, the longest-married couple had been together for 71 years! The shortest was a couple married for four months, and there were 21 couples married more than 60 years. Several were dressed in their best, and one couple wore matching traditional African wedding outfits, very colorful and festive.

Some children were also present, which seemed to me a great idea. We can’t begin too early to demonstrate to kids the beauty and importance of marriage. Our modern culture often dismisses marriage as “only a piece of paper,” or some kind of trial to be avoided. And some women seem to think of marriage as a restriction to personal freedom.

Having observed my own and many friends’ long marriages, I believe that sacramental marriage is a relationship in which the partners affirm each other, and which actually makes them both more able to be themselves. They know the other has his or her back, so to speak.

After a while, couples don’t even need words to express their commitment, but can sit together for hours, never speaking but in total communication. Once at a family reunion, I saw my 90-year-old aunt and uncle sitting quietly at a picnic table with ruckus all around. I told my aunt how lucky they were to have each other all these years, and she said, “I thank God every day.” That’s the kind of joy and gratitude a sacrament can produce.

Now, we all know that marriage is not always romance and flowers. Spouses are human, after all, and will inevitably behave badly at one time or another. We may be selfish or inattentive to the other’s needs. We may intrude into the other’s business or their friendships or goals. We may use unfair weapons to get our way, as in withholding sex or money. Instead of trying to be fair, we may insist on being right.

So it’s important to work at being married. But first, there are some essentials in choosing a marriage partner for the long haul. There’s physical attraction, then intellectual parity and shared values, including the idea that God is the third party in the relationship. Usually this demands what we used to call “dating,” a period of courtship.

Unfortunately, today the physical attraction part seems to dominate in some relationships, and dating ain’t what it used to be. Often this leads to unwanted children and the fragmentation of society. On the other hand, sacramental marriage includes producing children and raising them with a father and a mother. I think in this arrangement, girls learn to be women from their moms and boys how to be men from their dads, and both learn to relate to the opposite sex in a healthy way.

When this happens, it continues down through the generations. No matter how the parents relate to each other, children will thrive if they feel loved and secure. Kids tend to think that the world revolves around them, and if anything is wrong it’s their fault. Parents should always keep that in mind.

When we follow our vocation and commit to a beloved in a sacramental marriage, graces follow for a lifetime. Congratulations to those who will make this happy choice in this wedding season.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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