Pope Francis says married couples are “a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses of the salvation in which they share through the sacrament” (The Joy of Love, No. 72).
All of us, whether we are married or not, depend on the sacrament of marriage for the well-being of our church and society. Each year, the week of Feb. 7-14, we commemorate National Marriage Week USA, and celebrate World Marriage Day on Sunday, Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.
“To Have, To Hold, To Honor,” this year’s theme for National Marriage Week, highlights “how married couples live and renew their wedding promises daily in the building up of the domestic Church in their homes” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2-5-21). Many married couples have had plenty of opportunity to build up the “domestic Church” during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaning into God’s grace to guide them through the uncertainty, anxiety and stress of these challenging times.
God’s grace, the invisible reality in the sacrament of marriage, manifests itself in marvelous ways — from resources couples learn about in places such as The Catholic Messenger, to acts of thoughtfulness and solidarity expressed by others. For example, the diocesan Marriage Enrichment web page (davenportdiocese.org/marriage-enrichment) provides a terrific list of resources. Click on hyperlinks to a seven-day at home retreat, prayers of the faithful for National Marriage Week, a free online program for couples titled “The Virtues,” a Marriage Renewal Date Night series, a Catholic Couple Checkup, suggested books, and more. Visit the ForYourMarriage.org website for additional information about events and activities for National Marriage Week and World Marriage Day.
Some parishes that typically offer National Marriage Week activities have made adjustments to provide virtual experiences, such as Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. The parish’s “Sweetheart Dinner/Dance” is now a pick-up dinner to go. Check with your parish to see what activities or prayers might be in the works for National Marriage Week. If nothing has been planned, ask about including a prayer for marriage during prayers of the faithful at Mass the weekend of Feb. 13-14.
National Marriage Week serves as a reminder that married couples need to be proactive in strengthening their sacramental marriage. “Our response to the grace of God’s initiative is itself a grace or gift from God by which we can imitate Christ in our daily lives” (usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals). The way we become aware of God’s grace is through prayer and participation in the sacraments.
Pertaining to the sacrament of marriage, each of us can become an instrument of God’s grace by reaching out to married couples in a variety of ways. Call, text or communicate affirming messages to a married couple or a spouse who could use encouragement. When it is safe to do so, offer to babysit for a married couple you know.
Drop off a pot of soup, a plate of cookies or nutritious snacks to a married couple and their family. If you are an employer, strive to be understanding of the need for flexibility when a mom or dad has to rearrange work schedules to accommodate pandemic-related challenges or school closings. For older married couples who are self-isolating, offer to pick up groceries or run an errand to the store.
Pray for married couples, and pray for young adults to embrace the sacrament of marriage. Advocate for measures in the Iowa Legislature that “promote healthy families such as increasing the state’s minimum wage, increasing the availability of affordable housing and addressing food insecurity” (iowacatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-principles-and-concerns/).
On the day of their wedding 2,000 years ago, a couple at Cana experienced God’s grace in their new marriage. Jesus saved the newlyweds from humiliation when the wine ran short at their wedding banquet. Changing the water into wine signaled the first miracle of Jesus’ public ministry. Let us continue to commemorate and celebrate the miracle of marriage, the sacrament sustained by God’s grace, through our response to God’s grace.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor