“What an awesome and beautiful thing is Christian marriage. It is a gift to be cherished and nurtured.
It is the heart of our communities.”---Bishop Deeley
PORTLAND---Valentine’s Day always brings a chance to celebrate and honor the beauty and gift of love and Christian marriage. A celebration heightened this year by the ongoing pandemic and the coincidence that World Marriage Day also fell on February 14 in 2021.
“I think that it is even more important to remind ourselves of the beauty and gift of marriage during this time when we have found ourselves living much more isolated lives during our pandemic,” said Bishop Robert Deeley as he celebrated in-person and livestreamed Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “Married couples and families have found this both a comfort and a challenge. The companionship of marriage, and the joint effort it provides in the care of children at home, reminds us of the comfort. The same things are, however, also the source of the challenge. There has been a lot of togetherness this year! And it can get difficult. It is good to acknowledge that, and to remind each other to pray for our married brothers and sisters.”
World Marriage Day came at the end of National Marriage Week which, this year, held the theme of “To have, to hold, to honor.”
“It brings to mind the promises made at marriage and the commitment the spouses made to each other that was accepted in those vows,” said the bishop during his homily. “While we can all pray for our married couples, we can invite those who are married to reflect today on how they have grown together since their wedding and how each of them can continue to grow in loving and honoring one’s spouse.”
The “domestic Church” is, of course, also worthy of great reverence when reflecting upon the beauty of marriage.
“The family, husband and father, mother and wife, and their children, the fruit of their love, is the domestic Church,” said the bishop. “It is the first place in which children learn of love and come to know that God is love. First, there is the experience of being loved, and then they are led to the source of love which is God, who is love. What an awesome and beautiful thing is Christian marriage. It is a gift to be cherished and nurtured. It is the heart of our communities.”
Certainly not to be forgotten, the bishop also discussed St. Valentine, the patron of married love, who is irrevocably tied to February 14.
“There’s little known about this saint. But the story about him that gives rise to devotion to him on this day is connected with marriage. Valentine is said to have been martyred because he encouraged marriage in a particular time in the Roman Empire when the emperor had forbidden marriage, particularly for his soldiers. The bishop, Valentine, continued to marry the young people who came to him in secret. He was found out, tortured, and died a martyr. As such, he became a patron of the love which is at the heart of marriage. This day dedicated to him gives us the opportunity in the Church to focus attention on the gift that marriage is. It is a vocation in the Church.”
A vocation in which married couples are called to show forth in their mutual commitment as spouses the very love of God.
“It is a true commitment, a foundation for the children born of that relationship to build their own lives on, and an anchor for the community,” said the bishop. “The stability of marriage is the ground of the community. Living out that vocation is, all by itself, a way of showing forth the Gospel of Jesus.”
Though the observance of National Marriage Week concluded on Sunday, a section on the diocesan website offers a variety of resources, including at-home retreats, for ongoing use in our parishes and communities. To view the section, click here.