Shrewsbury ... shall be a name 'as stirring to the heart as the glories we have lost'

Blessed John Henry Newman, 1852

Letters and Homilies

Diocesan Celebration of Marriage, Saint Columba’s, Chester, 9th February 2019

We come together to celebrate marriage: marriage as God’s creation, written “from the beginning” in the very nature of man and woman (Cf. Mk. 10:6-9); Christian marriage as a Sacrament of the New Covenant, the efficacious sign of Christ’s love (Cf. Eph. 5:2, 33). And in National Marriage Week, we celebrate the institution of marriage on which the stability of family and society are securely founded.  In this Mass we are also celebrate all the years of married life faithfully lived by couples who are united today in thanksgiving.

Pope Francis reminds us that part of the incalculable good which marriage offers is a gift given personally to you for your sanctification and salvation (Cf. Amoris Laetitia n. 72). In this dedicated year in Shrewsbury Diocese – a Year of Holiness – I want to reflect with you on how marriage itself is a path to holiness. Holiness, we might say, is the same thing as happiness, the perfection of love. Every human being is created out of love and called to love. For a small number of the faithful in every generation this love is lived in a direct imitation of Christ in celibacy and virginity. This consecration for love alone is lived in the Priesthood and in the Religious Life of Sisters and Brothers and by an increasing number of apostolic lay people in the world. For others, this love will be lived in the generosity of a single life or widowhood.

However, for the great number of the faithful this love is to be lived in marriage, in the unbreakable union of two lives. A life lived in faithfulness and openness to the gift of children. The very prayers which marked your wedding day reminded you that every couple receives the grace and responsibility to accompany each other, and the children entrusted to them, on the path to Heaven – to complete and everlasting happiness. Marriage is truly a Christian vocation, a call to follow Christ, to renounce self, to take up His Cross and with the help of his grace to strive for the perfection of love. Following this path, you have recognised the necessity of daily prayer for each another and of the frequent confession of your sins and failings which conspire to undermine your marriage and family. ‘Make full use of these means!’ is surely the best advice for any couple setting out on married life. Pope Francis would add: Never allow the sun to set on any argument or unresolved dispute. Marriage, as you well know, depends on mutual forgiveness.

In fulfilling Our Mission Together as a Diocese, I want us to re-propose to the young the greatness of the marriage vocation as a road to holiness and happiness for themselves and their children. I want us to offer formation in this Christian vision. Yet new resources and initiatives alone cannot reach the generations who, amid the confusion of contemporary society, truly long for a love which endures. This is undoubtedly the greatest vocational crisis we face in the Diocese, that fewer couples believe they can aspire to the life and vocation which you have lived.  They need your witness today.

We need to re-propose marriage as a path to holiness for new generations. To give witness to the Sacrament of Marriage where grace is found to perfect human love, such that, the Church teaches, couples “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children” (Lumen Gentium 11:2). What more could any couple ask or hope for? Today, you are such witnesses who have met every challenge which life has brought from the day you first stood before the Altar. And you now stand before this Altar to give thanks to God – with so many who have shared your lives – for the gift and grace of marriage.