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Caught Up Into Divine Love

3/1/2016

Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori

Amid both difficulties and joys, the vocation of marriage and family is a call to reflect the love of God

Archbishop William E. Lori

The Second Vatican Council taught that “authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is directed and enriched by the redemptive power of Christ and the salvific action of the Church” (Gaudium et Spes, 48). To some, this might sound idealistic, out of touch with the daily challenges of living the vocation of marriage and family. People might ask: “Is my love for my spouse and my children ‘caught up into divine love’ when I’m struggling to support my family or just trying to keep peace among my children?”

There’s no doubt that families today face tough challenges. In fact, the vocation of marriage and family has always been challenging. But the best way we can defend marriage and family is by living this vocation to the fullest.

BUILT ON FAITH

More than 50 years ago, the fathers of Vatican II recognized that marriage was threatened by divorce and so-called “free love,” and that “married love is too often dishonored by selfishness, hedonism, and unlawful contraceptive practices.” The council also cited the economic, social and psychological pressures facing families in the modern world (GS, 47).

For the past five decades, societal support for marriage and family has eroded even further. But there’s no sense in longing for the good old days or just complaining about the way things are. Instead, more and more couples must make a conscious decision to make their homes truly a domestic church — a home built on the solid rock of faith. Families are made beautiful by a self-giving love that not only endures but flourishes amid sacrifices and sufferings. Such a home, rooted in faith and love, bears witness to Christ and his love for his people. Such a home bears witness to the beauty and nobility of the vocation of marriage.

As the cultural erosion of authentic marriage continues, one thing might be clearer than ever: A couple cannot go it alone. There’s really no way to live the vocation of marriage without getting caught up into divine love. Far from being a starry-eyed notion, this is the only way to transform life’s sufferings and inconveniences into moments of grace.

In the famous words of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.” When a couple has fallen in love, not only with each other but with God in this absolute and final way, they will come to see even the most difficult moments of life as an invitation to love God more deeply and to bear witness to his love “in season and out of season, whether convenient or inconvenient” (cf. 2 Tm 4:2).

SAVING MYSTERIES

This leads me to offer a suggestion to all families attracted to the idea of living as a “domestic church,” and of having their all-too-human love caught up and transformed by divine love. It’s not novel but it is powerful, and it’s something almost every family can do. My suggestion is that we, as families and as a family of faith, go to the Source of the divine love we share by taking part in the Church’s liturgical celebrations during Holy Week.

I can almost hear objections: “My kids will never sit still that long.” “Don’t you know what it means just to get my family to church on Sunday?” “How will my 13-year-old manage to sit through a two-and-a-half hour Easter Vigil?” Formidable objections, all! And it’s true that I probably don’t have a realistic idea of how hard it is, especially for young families, to spend that much time in church, even if these are the holiest days in the year! After all, the only things I have to pack up are my crozier and miter, not a diaper bag, blankets or toys. Nonetheless, let me stand my ground.

Holy Week and Easter are not just a collection of solemn ceremonies. This is the time when the Church re-lives and vividly reenacts all that our Redeemer did to bring about our salvation — the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper with his Apostles, his suffering and death on the Cross, and the victory of his Resurrection. We not only recall but also encounter palpably God’s utterly generous, self-giving love — that divine love which must enfold our marriages and families. Holy Week, and specifically the Easter Triduum, is the apex of the Church’s liturgical year and brings us, again and again, to the epicenter of the Church’s faith. Here is where our baptismal call to love is nurtured; where my vocation as a priest is renewed; where the vocation of marriage and family is caught up into Christ’s sacrificial love for his Bride, the Church.

So, how can you and your household prepare to take part in these liturgical celebrations? There’s no magic formula, but I do think it’s helpful if, during Lent, getting ready for Holy Week becomes a family project. For parents, this might mean reading in advance the prayers and Scripture readings for Holy Week and meditating for a few moments each day on what the Lord has done to save us. There are also many online and print resources to help parents teach their children about the events of Holy Week and about what to anticipate in the liturgy itself.

So with that, I wish you and your family a blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter. May you and your household truly rejoice to be caught up into the self-giving love of our crucified and risen Redeemer!