In preparing for your marriage I imagine that you have heard many times “This is your special day.” Or if we are really honest we would say it is the brides’ special day. She decides everything – what color of dress her friends have to wear, what songs are sung, what flowers decorate the church… For one day in your life, the world will revolve around you.
But I disagree! “Today is not your day.” Today you come to stop thinking about yourselves and to start thinking of others!
Marriage like Holy Orders is one of the sacraments of service. The Catechism tells us that these sacraments are not for ourselves, but “are directed towards the salvation of others…They confer a special mission in the Church….”
What is the mission of marriage? The Church has always spoke of marriage as having two purposes – the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
The sacrament exists for the salvation of others and the first person you need to save is the one beside you. Husband and wife must care for each others in many ways pooling finances, make meals for each other, clean the house, caring for each other when they are sick, listen to another when they are frustrated or lonely. But ultimately the most important thing you will do for one another is to care for each others souls. If we say that the “good” of the spouses – the greatest good is that we are saved, that we go to heaven. It is your mission to help your spouse get to heaven.
You must pray for one another, pray with each other – drag the other to Mass, to confession when they are lazy or procrastinating or distracted. Set a good example for each other. Remind each other of the Gospel, commandments. Correct one another with gentleness and humility. Encourage each other to strive farther in overcoming selfishness, and living your life in love for others.
Trying to get each other into heaven probably seems like a full time task in and of itself. However, this is not the only mission the Church gives you – the second mission you receive today is the procreation and education of offspring. We pray today that God will bless your marriage with children and we remind you to welcome generously the children God will send you.
Today people think of having children as an entirely personal affair. But there are very few decisions that you will make that will have the same impact on the world around us. Each of us is here because of the generosity and dedication of our parents. In new child that comes into our world is another member of society who we need to care for when they are sick or poor or in need – but more importantly they are another person to contribute to the good of society. To be one more helping hand to those who are poor, or sick, or in need. Society depends upon members to thrive – and the Church depends upon its members to thrive. We speak of a vocations crisis – where are priests and religious to come from if not from Catholic families? We complain about the lack of good Cathoilc politicians, doctors, or businesspeople – where are they going to come from – from generous Catholic families.
But your job is not merely to “make babies” it is to form saints. You are given the task of helping your children to know and love God – to pray, to share, to sacrifice, do penance, forgive. You must help them approach the sacraments with faith – to come to confession, to pray to Jesus after Holy Communion. You must help them to discover their vocation in life.
In one of the prayers today we ask that you live long enough to ‘see your children’s children’ – not only do we hope that you will be grandparents, but that you will also be spiritual grandparents – that not merely will you be spiritually fruitful, but that your children will be spiritually fruitful – that you will form true apostles. That you will not merely lead your children on the path of salvation, but that they will lead others on the path of salvation.
These tasks may seem intimidating – but God calls you to this great mission because he has confidence in you. He has promised to give you the graces you need to live your vocation to the fullness.
Today is not your day – today you dedicate your life to others – to your spouse, to the children we pray God will send you – to the Church. But it would be unfair to say that marriage does not contribute to your own happiness, your own salvation. The gospel teaches us that “it is in losing ones life that one finds it” By giving yourself generously in the task the Church gives you today, you will find abundant happiness – today, tomorrow and for eternity.