LOVE GIVES FAMILIES LIFE.  this is the MARFAM theme for February and it shouldn’t only apply to marriage, but with World Marriage Day on 2nd Sunday of February it is an opportunity to focus on marriage at least once a year. This day has been a special day for me for very many years. Chris – my late husband – and I were first introduced to it more than 40 years ago, through Marriage Encounter. We became  involved  mostly in other areas of marriage ministry: marriage preparation, marriage education, supporting troubled marriages, marriage and family ministry (Marfam) and finally after Chris’s death widowed and bereavement support.

Marriage as we learn in catechism is one of the sacraments of life, like Holy Orders.  We’re inclined to think that marriage is for the couples, but is priesthood only for the priests or for the Church?  So I have come to see marriage as a sacrament for life and for the church too, being a sign of love and of Jesus present, to one another, family, Church and community. The couples are “our” couples.  Marriage should be seen in that light in the world. The qualities e.g. commitment, responsibility, love and life, should be a witness in the world, and even – in line with my current more eco-family friendly view – of all the creatures of creation.    

Marriage is about love and about life.    Love gives life – by its nature.   Life gives love – by its calling. Life-giving love is the only true love, which mirrors the Trinity – the perfect, ultimate community of love.  This is what the Church has taught over time, and what Pope Francis teaches now through AMORIS LAETITIA “the Joy of the Family is the Joy of the Church.”  After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the “greatest form of friendship,”having all the traits of a concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth and stability which are aspects of a shared intimacy. AL123

EXTRACTS FROM article “LIFE-GIVING” BY FR CHUCK GALLAGHER one of the founders of Marriage Encounter. (1981)  “Every creature has an innate need for love, to love and be loved. Definitions of love are mainly descriptions but LOVE IS RELATIONSHIP. Belonging to the other being part of that person’s life, bone of their bone.  That is the MARITAL UNDERSTANDING.

God is love and all human love is a mirror of God’s love. Perfect love is the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit being one.  

1st lesson about Trinity and love: by nature it must be LIFEGIVING.  Its nature is creative as human life is an expression of the creative urgency of God.  We are children of the Father. We not only HAVE LIFE FROM HIM, BUT WE EXPRESS HIM with his characteristics. The distinguishing characteristic of love is NOT WHAT WE DO FOR ONE ANOTHER BUT THE LIFE WE GENERATE in, with and through one another.  

MARRIAGE. Man-woman is the highest human love relationship. The atmosphere we breathe in society is conditioned by the marital love we experience around us. (Can this still be true? Has the world of 2023 changed so much?) All other loves are dependent on it: parent-child, friend, causes. Other love may be good, but becomes duty or a need to serve or part of personality. Is it LIFE-GIVING LOVE OR BEING TAKEN CARE OF? Jesus said, “I have come to give life – in abundance,” not just an increase of love within the individual but an increase in the life-giving powers that love has in us all. This begins with couples but is not restricted to couple love.  

In marriage the POTENTIAL TO GIVE LIFE TO CHILDREN is what makes marital love unique. But spouses substitute children with pets or flowers to satisfy a need to care and for emotional satisfaction. Sex has potential to personify our love through CO-CREATION with God of children. Sex also GIVES LIFE TO ONE ANOTHER, is not just an activity or necessity. Sex in marriage is the closest moment of the shared Divine Life – “the Liturgy of Marriage.” Clearly it does not always result in a child but what matters is the life-giving mentality.  

All couple attitudes, decisions and activities should flow from their life-giving mentality: Job possibilities, relationship with in-laws, neighbours, a home to live in, friends, hobbies, etc.  FORGIVENESS,asking and granting andeven irrespective of who caused the hurt, and hospitality/generosity to others in the family and beyond flow from the mentality.  Our attitude towards elderly can be anti-life, a waiting for death, or enhancing their present life by a loving attitude, not just care-taking.

LIFEGIVING MORALITY IS POSITIVE, it asks if an act brings new life, fullness, abundance and fruitfulness, or the potential for new life, versus doing just the minimum or avoiding doing harm or causing hurt.     

A TRULY LIFE-GIVING MENTALITY CARRIES INTO THE WHOLE OF LIFE: beyond the wider family,  extend to all people, rich and poor, and especially wounded or those in any need.”  Fr Chuck Gallagher composed the beautiful prayer below.  Pope Francis speaks in much the same vein.  However, times have changed and, sadly, marriage does not hold the same place in the Church or the world.  In a different way my own vision too has grown from couples and the human family to embracing the whole WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES.   Our unique MARITAL LIFE-GIVING LOVE SHOULD EXTEND TO ALL CREATURES AND ALL OF CREATION, where, just as in our human relationships, new life is generated. Together we are called and privileged to carry out God’s plan of ongoing creation.    TR  FAMILY WEEKLY ENEWSLETTER  8 FEBRUARY 2023