“Marriage … one flesh, given and received” is the theme of this year’s National Marriage Week, which will be Feb. 7-14. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat on Laity, Marriage and Family Life explains, “The theme highlights the one-flesh union of husband and wife willed by God ... and the personal self-gift of spouses to each other. These concepts point to Christ who gives himself to us under the appearance of bread and wine – as real flesh and blood.”
This theme is a powerful way of highlighting the connections between the Sacrament of Marriage and the Most Holy Eucharist. As we celebrate the three-year National Eucharistic Revival, National Marriage Week is a wonderful opportunity for couples not only to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Real Presence in the Body and Blood of Christ received at every Mass, but also how that sacrificial gift from God mirrors a couples’ self-gift, one to the other in their sacrament.
There are many opportunities for couples – whether dating, engaged or married – to do this. Right now, married couples in our diocese can register for free access to a self-paced, online marriage enrichment program called “The Banquet of Love – The Eucharist as Weekly Marriage Enrichment.” This course examines the entire Mass as a model for married life. From the Introductory Rites all the way through to the Concluding Rites, couples will look at the elements of the Mass and see how, as a couple, they can be present to and with each other in marriage, a model given to us by the Eucharistic liturgy.
On Feb. 11, married couples in the diocese are invited to attend the Annual Diocesan Marriage Celebration. This is a “date night” for couples where they attend Mass together, have a renewal of vows and marriage blessing, and then they share a meal, are enriched with a talk from the Banquet of Love program, and conclude with a toast and prayer over marriage. This is a fun and enriching evening for all couples, no matter how many years you’ve been married.
For couples who are or will begin preparing for marriage, the Church asks you to spend at least six months to a year to prepare for the Sacrament of Marriage, not so that you can plan for the wedding day but, more importantly, so that you can be well formed and prepared for the lifelong covenant that each of you will minister to each other in your marriage. As Catholic Engaged Encounter’s motto states, “A Wedding is a Day, A Marriage is for a Lifetime.”
For Your Marriage (foryourmarriage.org) is a wonderful resource from the USCCB that helps couples plan for a Catholic wedding and prepare for a Catholic marriage. You have requirements that you will need to fulfill, and arrangements that need to be made, but I challenge you to delve deeper. Learn what the Catholic Church teaches about this wonderfully unique and special sacrament and the graces that are received by the couple. Ponder the scriptural readings that speak of God’s plan for marriage and how he is present to couples. Examine the covenantal vows that you will express to each other; your consent and promise given freely to create a permanent and life-long union, fidelity to each other, and openness to life. Study the Order of Celebrating Marriage and learn the profound truths of what we believe as Catholics. Read the beautiful words of the Nuptial Blessing of marriage, where we see how God has blessed this covenant of marriage from the beginning. Pray together! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this preparation time. Go to Mass together! Experiencing the sacrificial gift given by Christ in the Eucharist will help prepare you for the gift you will be giving to each other in marriage.
For all couples – visit the Eucharistic Revival website (https://www.eucharisticrevival.org/) and take advantage of the many resources and opportunities to learn and get involved with this powerful movement to rekindle our love and understanding of the source and summit of our faith. Visit the For Your Marriage website which was created for couples at all stages of life to understand and live God’s plan for happy, holy marriages.
We know that graces given by God flow from the Sacrament of Marriage, so too the Eucharist is a well-spring that fills and nourishes us to sustain and strengthen the couple’s sacrificial love for each other. When spouses invite God into their marriage, they will experience a power and strength to help them to remain faithful to each other and to their covenant in the face of a world that no longer honors marriage as beautifully and perfectly designed by God. My prayer and hope are that couples will take this opportunity to have their marriages transformed and healed through the power of the Eucharist.