“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”
These classic words from The Princess Bride, although innocuously sweet sounding, holds two of the most dangerous words to western civilization. “Tru wuv” or rather true love. This may lead you to ask, “What is the matter with you, are you a robot?” I have a great deal wrong with me, and no, I am no robot but actually a hopeless sentimental. Great love songs and sappy movies are my bane, yet I tearfully struggle through them. I love my wife and still remember shedding tears when I first saw her on our wedding day when she stepped through the church door to Pachelbel’s Cannon. Romance is not lost on me.
Despite my own mushy leanings, I contend that these words can be a black hole of sentiment that lead unsuspecting lovers to broken hearts. Hallmark greeting cards, Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, Hollywood, romance novels, all fuel this dark singularity. Some of you are probably screaming, "Black hole? Singularity? What could possibly be so dangerous with romance?" Well, for Christians, specifically Catholics, our deeply held belief of the Sacramental nature of Marriage is at stake.
At one particularly moving wedding homily, a priest first told the following joke: “There are three rings in marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suffer ring.” After raucous laughter he continued with a profound interpretation, “All joking aside, marriage is a sacrament precisely because you are called to witness to the suffering of Christ. Just as Christ loves us in our darkest moments when our actions show we despise Him, you must love your spouse precisely when romance is gone and you don’t feel the warmth of infatuation.”
What? The warm feelings surrounding a wedding won’t always last? I am called to love my spouse even when they aren’t loving me? What happened to happily ever after? Society has forgotten the depth and power of the marriage bond and the symptoms of this illness are everywhere you look. No fault divorce allowing one spouse to abandon the other without cause, children in poverty with unwed parents far more prevalent, sexual deviance justified because they ask what’s wrong with their “love”, young people waiting so long to marry they miss out on having children, etc. I could give you further reading but you could find mountains yourself and you probably don’t even need it to be convinced. It is easy to observe the breakdown around us.
The Church hasn’t wavered from its positions regarding the nature of marriage, and rightly so, but teaching from the pulpit, focus within Catholic education, and reinforcement from parents and family has been woefully inadequate. As Catholic writers, parents, catechists, and parishioners the virtues of marriage as a sacrament must always be on our lips. We can affirm the joy a couple feels at a wedding, but more importantly we must extol the fidelity of a spouse who stands vigilant at their sweetheart’s deathbed. We must encourage each other to weather the pains of small annoyances so when we have to suffer greater indignities, especially for the good of innocent children, we have the grace and courage to do so. Through this discipline and effort can our society recover.
This St. Valentine’s Day it would be fruitful to meditate on the saint for whom the day is named. St. Valentine, who suffered and died for the glory of marriage, pray for us.