Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ June prayer intention for young people preparing for the sacrament of marriage.
June, the month of brides, has arrived. Accordingly, Pope Francis leads us in saying: Let us pray for young people who are preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community: may they grow in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.
Of course, as members of our own families and as part of the Church family, our lives intersect with many who are preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony, so this is a relevant intention for us from that standpoint. It is good for us to note the little phrase “with the support of a Christian community”. How important it is for young people who stand on the threshold of commitment or who have recently taken that step, to know of our prayerful support. Knowing that they have partners in faith and listening ears and hearts is surely a blessing for those beginning a life together.
Beyond our human presence and support, those preparing for marriage can also turn to Mary, the ultimate Bride. She knew the married life, the nurture of a family, and even the role of a guest at another’s wedding. In Open Wide Our Hearts our Bishops close their reflections with a prayer to Mother Mary. A part of this prayer reads, “We ask for your help, Mary in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.” Of course the Bishops did not have young married couples particularly in mind when they composed this prayer, but sadly, the same sins that feed racism can also become a cancer on a marriage begun in faith. So, this is a very apt part of our prayer for this month as well.
We are all probably informed of statistics or aware by familial experience of the state of marriage and divorce in our country and in the world. So, we also know of the need for prayer for those embarking on this life together. Rather than dwell on those numbers, let us reflect on the beauty of the intention for this month and the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Brian Wren composed the text for When Love is Found, a hymn for use at weddings. He writes:
When love has flowered in trust and care, build both each day, that love may dare
To reach beyond home’s warmth and light, to serve and strive for truth and right.
Pope Francis hopes that young couples will grow in generosity. This verse speaks of the need for the fruits of shared love to reach beyond the home and to shine out into the world in service, truth and right. In 2016 the Holy Father spoke with young adults in Tbilisi, Georgia. He offered those beginning their married life three “words of gold”. The first of these was “Can I?” Pope Francis went on to talk about the generosity involved in those words. One is to offer of themselves, their energy and their talents to be of service to their spouse and then beyond to others. We pray for this spirit of generosity for them.
Brian Wren’s hymn continues:
When love is tried as loved ones change, hold still to hope though all seems strange,
Till ease returns and love grows wise, through listening ears and opened eyes.
Partnering with this verse, Pope Francis prays that couples will grow in patience. This is a common stumbling block for couples as it is for all who are human. The verse is telling as it points out how changes will come that seem to alter the relationship. Yet, the lyricist challenges youth to listen and see openly, rather than with preconceptions. Pope Francis’ golden words relate well here. His second golden word is “I’m sorry.” At these moments when “all seems strange”, when there are fractures in relationship and the two who became one do not feel that unity, these are the times to be open to one another and recognize the need for those words of apology. They are what can begin the process of healing that helps “ease return”.
Finally, the hymn sings out:
Praise God for love, praise God for life, in age or youth, in husband, wife.
Lift up your hearts, let love be fed, through death and life, in broken bread.
The Holy Father also prays that young couples will grow in faithfulness. The song challenges those who are married to praise God for love and for life. In these, God is perfectly and timelessly faithful. God is the perfect model to be followed. And where should we find this faithful love? We should see it mirrored in husband and in wife, whether young or old. The poet and the Pope both recognize the fact that love needs to be fed, to be nurtured. Pope Francis’ last “golden word” is “Thank you!” Such a spirit of gratefulness is what helps couples to remain in love, to remain faithful to one another and to the God who called them together. We pray that couples will be faithful also in receiving the broken bread that is Eucharist and that holds the very meaning of thanksgiving.
Let us pray without ceasing for all those united in marriage. May they be generous, patient and faithful. May they heed Mary’s advice at the wedding of Cana, “Do what he tells you to do.”
Image: Deutsch: “Verlobung” – Frau und Mann – mit “Ringtausch” – und “Treue Verlobungsversprechen” – Dresden 12.Juni 2018 – Psalm 33,21 – “Denn unser Herz freut sich seiner.und wir trauen uns, auf seinen heiligen Namen ..” – Verlobungsring” aus “Wolframcarbid, nach dem Diamant das fast härteste Material der Welt
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