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Instruction on the Day of Marriage and Exhortation before Marriage

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Instruction on the Day of Marriage


The Most Rev. William O. Brady, S.T.D., Archbishop of Saint Paul

My beloved brethren in Christ, this man and woman present themselves today before human witnesses and before the Church to bind themselves in a solemn contract that will end only when death “does them part.” This man will pledge a husband’s fidelity to his wife. This woman will, in her turn, pledge a wife’s fidelity to her spouse. By an exchange of promises, they will take each other as man and wife. They begin their married life in faith and they understand that the perfection of life is love.

The marriage of man and woman is, in part, like any human contract. One pledges; the other accepts. Both pledge; both accept. In human marriage, the exchange is of the body and of the heart with full giving and accepting without reserve.

The marriage of those who are baptized, however, is more than an ordinary contract, much more than an exchange of promises. The baptized find their vows blessed by God, and, in the Sacrament of their union, they discover the grace to support their marriage pledge and the special spiritual help they will need for holiness in their state of life. In Christian marriage, husband and wife give more than themselves to each other. They exchange the gifts of God. They share the grace of God. Living with God as their witness in true Christian modesty, they lift each other up to spiritual ways that surpass any human counting.

The woman in the married union is meant to be the helpmate of her husband. The man is meant to be the comfort and strength of his true wife. If God will give this couple children as the fruit of their union, they will count themselves honored by their Creator and they will watch their present love come alive anew in the children committed to their care. Should their hopes of children be without realization, they will cling to each other all the more and know that, together, with ever deepening resolution, they must find their joy and their happiness in mutual help and consolation.

Blessed is the married couple whose home is a shrine even more than a house. Blessed is the married pair who understand that their union is their way to Heaven. Blessed are those husbands and wives who are given children in the flesh so that they may lead them to be the children of God. Doubly blessed are men and women when their marriage is sealed and sanctified by the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

There is a sacred unity in every marriage. Keep it well and be one together always in thought and action and in prayer.

This is an unbreakable union in marriage. See to it that in little things there are no fractures of charity and in big things no division of hearts.

There is a high dignity to marriage. Walk always proud of this man and this woman as you are proud today to be joined in sacred wedlock.

There is a special sacredness in marriage since God has willed it so. Kneel often before God in thankfulness for your union. Speak often to God for the helps you will need. Pray often to God in gratitude for his gifts, not the least for today’s gift of this husband or this wife. Let Christ be the head of your household, One who shares those days that will be worse as well as those that will be better. May today’s joyful exchanges extend until you will have grown old together in each other’s comforting companionship, growing holy together by each others’ help and example. May God bless you both and bless the family you will found.

Exhortation Before Marriage

My dear friends: You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God himself. By it, he gave to man a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. And in this way he sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under his fatherly care.

Because God himself is thus its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self. But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for his Church, that is, for the people of God whom he redeemed by his own blood. And so he gave to Christians a new vision of what married life ought to be, a life of self-sacrificing love like his own. It is for this reason that his apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern.

This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.

Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import, you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that he gave, his only-begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that he gave himself for our salvation. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God.

Nor will God be wanting to your needs; he will pledge you the life-long support of his graces in the Holy Sacrament, which you are now going to receive.

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