This weekend was spectacular beyond belief for my family and me. My daughter got married to the love of her life on my birthday. Double celebrations came on the heels of my wedding anniversary the week prior to the wedding. We celebrated 27 years of marriage and 34 years together. These monumental celebrations got me thinking deeply about the vocation of marriage. I have often wondered why my marriage is still working, I mean, don’t get me wrong I love my husband, but there are days when I don’t feel a lot of love. Then there are my parents who will be celebrating 52 years of marriage and my Grandparents (still alive praise God!) that have just celebrated 72 years of marriage. So again, I ask the question, “why have the marriages in my family lasted so long?”
Of course I do not have an answer, I hope you didn’t think I did. I did have examples in my life that proved no matter how difficult things get you work it out; come hell or high water you work it out!
I have always believed that love is a sacrifice, and I believe what makes my marriage work is that one of us is always willing to sacrifice for the other. What do I mean by that? At times, one person gives more than the other. Most arguments are not worth arguing over, and the big stuff gets worked out together, we work through by sacrificing. Sometimes one person has to be the bigger person to mend or help the other without holding resentment against them. Think of it this way, there is a Japanese, Kintsugi tradition that goes like this.
Okay, now apply this logic to your relationship. You each have to take turns mending the other. I try to imagine what my soul looks like from the golden pieces my husband placed there from mending me through his sacrifices. There is a town in Siroki-Brljeg, Herzegovina, Croatia that has 13,000 people and as far back as anyone can ever remember there has not been one recorded divorce, not one. Odd I know and the reason behind the incredible marriages are so fascinating that I had to share it with all of you. Sr. Emmanuel, the founder of Children of Medjugorje, puts it like this,
For centuries (because of the pressure from the Turks and then the Communists) the people suffered cruelly as their Christian faith was always threatened. They knew through experience that salvation comes through the Cross of Christ. It does not come from disarmament plans, from humanitarian aid or peace treaties, even if these things may bring limited benefits. The source of salvation is the Cross of Christ! These people possess a wisdom that does not allow them to be duped over questions of life and death. That is why they have indissolubly linked marriage with the Cross of Christ. They have founded marriage, which brings forth human life, on the Cross, which brings forth divine life.
The Croatian marriage tradition is so beautiful that it is beginning to take hold in Europe and America!
When a young couple is preparing for marriage, they are not told that they have found the ideal partner. No! What does the priest say?
“You have found your cross. And it is a cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away, but to be cherished.”
If the fiancés were told this in France (or America!), they would be struck dumb! But in Herzegovina, the Cross represents the greatest love and the crucifix is the treasure of the home.
When the bride and groom set off for the church, they bring a crucifix with them. The priest blesses the crucifix, which takes on a central role during the exchange of vows. The bride places her right hand on the crucifix and the groom places his hand over hers. Thus the two hands are bound together on the cross. The priest covers their hands with his stole as they proclaim their vows to be faithful, according to the rites of the Church…. the bride and groom do not then kiss each other, they rather kiss the cross. They know that they are kissing the source of love. Anyone close enough to see their two hands joined over the cross understands clearly that if the husband abandons his wife or if the wife abandons her husband, they let go of the cross. And if they abandon the cross, they have nothing left. They have lost everything for they have abandoned Jesus. They have lost Jesus.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in their home.
It becomes the focal point of family prayer, for the young couple believes deeply that the family is born of the Cross. When a trouble arises, or if a conflict breaks out, it is before this cross that they will seek help. They will not go to a lawyer, they will not consult a fortune-teller or an astrologer, and they will not rely on a psychologist to solve the problem. No, they will go straight before their Jesus, before the cross. They’ll get on their knees there and in front of Jesus; they will weep their tears and pour out their hearts, and above all exchange their forgiveness. They will not go to sleep with a heavy heart because they will have turned to their Jesus, the only One who has the power to save… They know that Jesus is holding them in his arms and that there is nothing to be afraid of, and their fears melt away in their kiss to Jesus. (Source: loveoffering.com 2002)
Perhaps we can learn from the Croatians and their marriage prep. Statistics states that 45-50% of first marriages in the United States ends in divorce. I am not sure how accurate this is, but even if it is close we have a problem that needs to be addressed. I do not have the answers nor do I completely understand why some marriages work and others do not. What I do know is marriage is never easy, and it takes a lot of work. When times are bad, our thoughts want to run in the direction of getting out and starting all over with someone new that will bring us everything that we think we want. When we get to times like that, we need to redirect our thoughts and focus on the love that brought us to marriage in the first place. I can hear Sheryl Crow singing in my ear right now (it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got) from “soak up the sun.” There is truth in that statement and one thing I can share that I know for sure works for me when things get real rocky in my marriage. I go to mass and pray during the consecration for my husband. When the host and chalice are raised, I raise him as well on that platter, and seriously it all begins to change for the better.
FIND OUT HOW MANY HOLY MARRIAGES THERE ARE IN THE CHURCH? http://www.romereports.com/pg161242-find-out-how-many-holy-marriages-there-are-in-the-church-en