A marriage guide for a ‘wedding crazy’ world

A marriage guide for a ‘wedding crazy’ world

  • July 14, 2011

TORONTO — In Catholic Marriage: An Intimate Community of Life and Love, Dr. Patricia Murphy presents a booklet to help engaged couples preparing for the sacrament of Marriage.

“Sometimes it seems that the world has gone wedding crazy. Turn on the TV any evening and there is a good chance you will find a reality show dedicated to some aspect of planning the perfect wedding,” writes Murphy, an assistant professor of moral theology at Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary.

The book invites engaged couples to look “beyond ‘Bridezilla’ ” and the myth of the “perfect wedding.” Instead, couples can look forward to their preparation for marriage by discussing important issues such as their future family and building a strong foundation for a lifetime commitment rooted in love and faith.

Murphy talks about marriage as a Christian vocation and life-long “commitment to love.” She also introduces couples to the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings on family and marriage as an “intimate community of life and love.”

The Register asked Murphy to comment on some of her key ideas.

The Catholic Register: How do the Church’s teaching on family and children reflect God’s plan for marriage?

Patricia Murphy: We are created out of love and for love, to give and receive love. This means that we will find true human fulfilment and happiness only in making a total gift of self to others. And in doing this, we imitate Christ who made the ultimate gift of Himself.

Our vocation to love — to make a complete gift of self — is even inscribed in our bodies. Women and men possess the same human dignity and vocation to love, and yet they are obviously different in key ways too: our being created as female and male (as equal and complementary) underscores the fact that we are created for relationship — to be a gift to the other.

When they marry, a woman and man make a complete, exclusive and permanent gift of self to each other. And because spouses complement each other physically and in other important ways, they are uniquely capable of co-operating with the Creator in the transmission of His gift of human life. This is why the Church often describes marriage as an “intimate community of life and love.” Marriage exists for the good of the spouses and for children.

Of course, married love also serves life in countless other ways, including reaching out to those in need or who are marginalized by society, providing genuine hospitality to family and friends, adopting children, supporting those who are sick or cognitively impaired in any way, etc.

CR: Much of the concern and cost of weddings is the reception. How is being married in the Church as important as the wedding party?

PM: Today it often seems as if the world — including “reality TV” — has gone wedding crazy. The popularity of shows dedicated to finding the perfect dress, to wedding cake masterpieces and even to the bride who has morphed into “Bridezilla” attests to the fact that weddings are a big deal and a cause for great celebration. So it is no surprise that a couple can become overwhelmed by the details of planning it all. They can even forget to focus on the things that will matter when all the guests have gone home. While a wedding is one day, a marriage is forever.

The Church takes marriage seriously and all her members share in the joy of every wedding feast, as Christ did at Cana. When two Christians marry validly, their marriage is a sacrament: it is a symbol of — and actually participates in — Christ’s own divine love for His Church. In a sacramental marriage, a couple’s genuine human love is not denied or destroyed; but it is healed and transformed from within because it is now also infused with Christ’s own love.

While every life and marriage will have its disappointments and heartaches, the Church teaches that when spouses anchor their life in Christ and draw on the grace of the sacrament, unconditional love really can be the final word. This is pretty great news indeed, especially for a world so desperately in need of true “happy endings.”

CR: How is marriage a “school of love”?

PM: Again, it is the vocation of each of us to learn to love as Christ loves. Of course, this is easier said than done for creatures like us. Even after baptism, we continue to experience the pull of selfish desires in our daily choices. So the moral life is really a matter of commitment to love. It is a matter of developing the right kind of habits, of virtues. Our everyday choices matter so much because they continue to shape us into certain kinds of people: we can become people with bigger and more generous hearts and a greater capacity to give of self — or not.

In creating their own unique “community of life and love” spouses have countless opportunities to ask, “Who am I becoming?” Am I growing — little by little — in my capacity to give of self and love unconditionally? (translation: am I learning “to get over myself”?) So it is not surprising that marriage has been called a little “school of love.”

CR: How can engaged Catholic couples prepare for their upcoming marriage?

PM: One of the most important things engaged Catholic couples can do is to commit to deepening their understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. If they do this, they will certainly have much to talk and think about. Many couples today say they have never heard the Church’s teaching presented in its fullness and in all its beauty and intelligibility.

And at its heart, the Church’s teaching on marriage and family is an invitation to all couples to begin their own unique journey in service of life and love. It is an invitation to a genuine and life-long adventure.

Also, it can be a great idea to start a conversation with a couple who have been married a long time. Love is not an abstraction or just a nice sentiment. It has to be lived in the messiness of everyday life. So, why not ask a couple who have been in their own “school of love” for decades to share some of the most important lessons they have learned about life and love?

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