July 2022 Allocutio
A Vision of Marriage
Fr. Paul Chuchill
I was asking myself what I might say to you this month and, turning to Our Lady, I asked her what she wanted me to say. The response I got back seemed to say, “Do whatever he tells you!” It then hit me that Our Lady had spoken those words, “Do whatever he tells you!” in the context of a wedding so that seemed to suggest that maybe a few words on God’s gift of marriage to the world would not be out of place, not least in a world where alternatives are not just offered but even being promoted aggressively.
If you look up Frank Duff’s The Spirit of the Legion of Mary you will find in there a chapter (7) on Marriage. It was probably written in tougher economic times but the gems he offers are well-worth reflecting on. At the heart of his article Frank says, “Marriage is God’s plan for carrying on the world. In the main he intends each man (or woman) to cleave to some woman (or man) so that they will help each other, body and soul, in the painful pilgrimage of life … Furthermore he wants them to increase and multiply so that the earth―and later heaven―will be peopled with souls”. This clearly follows that teaching of Our Lord we find in several places in the Gospels (Mt 19:4-5; Mk 10:6-8) which reflects the meaning of marriage to be found at the start of the Bible (Gen 1:27-28; 2:18-24).
Frank speaks of nature and grace working together in marriage. And in the world of nature, any species of mammals can only survive and increase by the sharing of the genetic codes divided between male and female. Now this work of transmitting life is an extraordinary participation in the work of God who is a life-giver. Our world is alive with life. It differs completely from say, Mercury, the moon, Mars, Pluto and so on in that they appear dead worlds. In fact the myriad of life forms on earth point to a wondrous miracle which has developed here. It is a gift of God. So whenever a man and woman come together to share their sides of the genetic codes and transmit life they are partaking of a great miracle God gives us. They are continuing his work. And they provide to God that necessary organic structure that allows God to place an individual soul here. That is how we all are here.
It is right then that this capacity we have should be brought before God and placed at his disposal. He should be acknowledged as the source of the gift and the one in whose plans we are cooperating. He should be called upon for help by any couple who intend to beget children so that their work will bear the best of fruits. For this reason also a couple should wait until they have consecrated their union to God and obtained his blessing before they engage in acts that could lead to new life being conceived.
The word matrimony is derived from this reality. It comes from the Latin for “the function of becoming a mother”. It is centred on the task of continuing the human race and transmitting life. It has deep human significance in that it allows history to continue and God to put into effect his plan across time and through the generations. To try and put same-sex unions into this compartment of life is to seriously distort natural reality and marriage.
For those who wish to marry in the Lord because they see Christ as the one through whom all things were made and for whom they were made (Col 1:15ss) they have an added help from God, namely a sacrament. The Sacrament is the sign that God is with them. But with that too comes a mission. Sacrament means to be a sign. A sign of what? A sign of Christ’s love of his Church. And this involves a commitment for life, of a love that will never be reneged on. And just as Christ laid down his life for us, St. Paul will even call on Christian husbands to make sacrifices of their lives if needs be for their wives (Eph 5:25). The quality of love Christ asks us to take on is much deeper than a mere emotional, good-feeling, sensually satisfactory trip.
And in this context I note that in the aforementioned article by Frank Duff he does refer to the need for sacrifice in marriage. He says that we must not confuse true happiness (which is found in vocation, holiness and self-sacrifice) with what is nothing but a counterfeit, namely “mere pleasure-sipping and jollification”.
A vision of marriage which sees itself working with the Creator at advancing his plan across the ages and acting under the grace of the Holy Spirit following the example given us by Christ’s standard actually helps couples focus together on their partnership and enhance it. They are drawn out of the selfish impulses that can destroy marriage and by working for a bigger reality together they bear the greatest fruit.
I have to leave aside for now many other sides of this huge reality. I could speak of the blessing so many couples obtain by the love of another person who lifts their sense of self-worth, or the confidence it can give, or the healing of wounds from childhood. And we could also mention the deep compassion that Christ showed for those who, for whatever reason, be it the sins of others or their own sins, who sin in any form in this area of life. I simply encourage married legionaries to witness by their own lives to the truth of marriage as intended by the Creator and to do so by the quiet and humble living of their own marriages.
Let me again quote Frank: “In the Legion there are many who have the capacity … to make this venture in faith. Each pair who does so will find imitators. Many imitators will make a new school of thought … Probably the Legion is the only organisation which is circumstanced to present this true model of marriage, because it is the only mixed one with the requisite standards …The time is over-ripe for the attempt. For … marriage is in peril”. True when he wrote this. And very true today. It is always good to hear of the work of legionaries who help co-habitating couples to marry or who assist those married civilly to raise their marriages to the sacramental level.
Finally let us invoke the help of Mary and St. Joseph whose marriage existed so that God’s plan could be advanced. May their prayers in heaven help every true marriage to bear its fruit. May Mary ask Our Lord as she did at Cana so that any marriages running out of the wine of spiritual grace may have their unions replenished with even greater joy. Amen.