In a homily delivered on St Valentine's Day at St Columba's Church, Chester, His Grace Bishop Mark Davies spoke about Marriage. The Holy Mass was part of the Diocesan Celebration of Marriage.
In “Marriage Week” we come together as a Diocese to celebrate Christian Marriage. It is a wonderful moment to see so many couples celebrating 25, 40, 50 or 60 years of married life. I think of all the years and of the changing situations of your lives in which you have lived the vocation of marriage. In the Marriage Rite we hear the words which I am eager to repeat to you today: “Christ abundantly blesses this love.” On St Valentine’s Day we are not misled into seeing such love as a passing sentiment. This is a love and a romance to be lived every day amid the joys and troubles, the sacrifices and the gifts, which mark the life of every marriage and family. I give thanks with you today for the great good which your marriage has been for you, for your children and your grandchildren and will be for generations yet to come. And today, on behalf of so many, I want to use my voice as bishop to say very simply and wholeheartedly: “Thank you!”
Sadly, we cannot fail to observe an extraordinary phenomenon in our own society by which marriage becomes increasingly “unmentionable”. Politicians speak of “new forms of family” but often seem afraid to speak of marriage itself. In classrooms teachers, rightly sensitive to the home backgrounds of the children they teach, have often become less ready to propose the model of marriage. We have even heard horror stories of inspectors in schools questioning very young children as to whether they have been taught “narrow” understandings of the family. The Church may well find herself amongst the last voices in society wholeheartedly speaking for the family based on the strong foundation of the lasting, life-giving, faithful union of one man and one woman.
In past decades, Marxists and feminists railed against the institution of marriage as an oppressive structure hindering the march of progress. Today, we know a quieter intimidation urging us to be silent about the immense and necessary good which marriage represents. I want, therefore, to encourage you today to speak up for marriage, to speak uninhibitedly of the good of marriage! In this you speak not simply from your personal experience but from our faith that marriage is God’s plan for the health and happiness of the family and, indeed, for the whole of human society. We speak from both faith and reason when we urge those to be elected to the new Parliament to support marriage against the increasing scale of the breakdown of families which we have witnessed in the past three decades.
Politicians have told me that their electors don’t look to them for sermons. I am sure we don’t expect sermons on morality from our elected representatives but we do expect a moral lead when a great, social good is at stake. We have an obligation to recognise the consequences of the breakdown in stable, two-parent families. The financial cost is staggering: according to one estimate, family disintegration costs an extraordinary £46 billion each year to the public purse (Relationships Foundation). Leaving aside the financial implications it is the immense human cost – especially for the young – which can no longer be ignored. Increasing evidence points to the fact that two-parent families and the children of marriage have better outcomes in almost every area of life. Yet, despite the evidence we have seen, so many of the legal, financial and social supports for marriage and married parents being removed. Have we become afraid to recognise marriage as a vital and privileged institution serving the good of the whole of society?
Today, marriage is in decline not merely because it has been discriminated against in the tax/benefits system; or mocked by political correctness or denigrated in public entertainment but due to a deeper neglect. We are today facing the challenge of encouraging new generations not to accept cohabitation, easy divorce and family breakdown as a normal part of life, something our society has become resigned to despite its immense human cost, especially for the young. We need to rebuild a culture of the family founded on marriage. In Pope Francis’s striking image we can find ourselves bandaging the injuries without healing the wound. We need to take marriage seriously as a great social good, and recognise that children flourish best when they have the gift of a mother and father in their lives. We need to propose anew what Pope Francis now calls “the Gospel of the Family”. Let us never be afraid to speak of the good news that is marriage!
Thank you for the witness you have given to this Gospel of the Family. Returning today to the Altar conscious of the hopes of your youth and the frailties of the years, may you always believe anew in the love that is revealed in the Sacrifice of Christ made present in the Sacrifice of the Altar. This is the measure of the love you have sought to live in the vocation of marriage: the Holy Sacrifice, the Holy Eucharist which inexhaustibly strengthens the unity and love, the faithfulness and witness of Christian Marriage.
What has the Church taught through history about Marriage?
Why not buy a copy of Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church which has a complete section written by Cardinal Burke who will be giving a talk about Marriage in Chester on March 6th.
His Eminence will also be giving a keynote speech at the 2015 SPUC Youth Conference in Southport on March 7th, and saying Holy Mass at the Dome of Home on March 8th.