To A Beloved Couple As Their Love Is Sanctified
Father Bob Papi
used with permission
How honoured I was that you asked me to preach at the sacramental celebration of your covenant with each other in and through Jesus Christ. However I cannot be there because the same Holy Will of the Father to which you are saying Yes asks that I be at work here in the parish. So in my prayer for you and from my heart this gift of words which I pray Our Lady of Cana will gift wrap with her love for you.
What a wonderful and lavish Triune God we have who not only pours His own life into us at our creation but more yet pours Himself into us sacramentally through Baptism, when we are plunged into the mystery of redemption, given the Holy Spirit, but more yet as He feeds us with His very Risen, Glorified Self in the Holy Eucharist and NOW, by the power of the Holy Spirit He takes you by the hand into the holy splendour of the Sacrament of Marriage and two become one!
In his famous, yet sadly so often misunderstood, teaching St. Paul states, "This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church."(Ep. 5:32 ) The Holy Spirit will open the treasure of Scripture to you as you meditate and pray together.
Holy Mother the Church has a great treasury which includes Scripture, Tradition, Lives of the Saints and the great writings of the Fathers of the Church Councils, and the writings of holy people not yet declared saints.
As I was praying about what to focus on in this letter to you I came across a recent commentary by Jean Fox, Director General of Women of the Madonna House Apostolate. Her commentary is upon a Staff letter written by the Foundress of Madonna House, Catherine Doherty.
Once read it struck my heart how much of the text can apply to married love and the mystery of two becoming one and struggling to live out this holy mystery.
In the original letter Catherine is answering a question about the apostolate, seeking to define Madonna House. The question posed: MADONNA HOUSE: WHAT IS IT?"
Catherine's answer: IT IS A WOUNDED HEART.
Commenting on Catherine's reflections on that reality Jean Fox writes:
The heart is the center of the personality, the very core of the human being, the place out of which our commitment to God and our highest aspirations come. And so, what is a wounded heart then?
A wound is a break in the integument, in the surface of the body, the skin which enclosed the body. It is breaking open of that surface, and exposing what is inside. Through a wound what is inside comes out, and things outside can come into your inner being. The deeper the wound, the deeper the exposure, and of course, the more deeply the thing outside can penetrate.
And Jean Fox concludes her commentary (most of which is directly applicable to the life of a Madonna House Staff Worker) with these words which do apply to the holy and splendid vocation and life of those in sacramental marriage:
We need to have this skin, this protection around ourselves broken open. The protection around our hearts needs to be cut open; a wound has to be made. It is painful. But that is why it is absolutely intrinsically necessary that there be suffering in this life: because we have to be opened up. So the hurts of this life all have a purpose. We can only take them when we see them as being administered not by one another but by god. This wound is inflicted by him....He picks up and uses this person to make a wound in your heart, to open a place in you so that god's mystery can enter into your mystery, and the mystery of your...[Spouse]..can enter into your mystery, so that its sharing, or communion of mysteries which is compassionate love, can take place.
Thanks to Jean Fox part of St. Paul's teaching I mentioned at the beginning becomes clearer for who has had His own Heart broken open for us, pouring out Its Divine Contents upon us and for us that in Him and in imitation of Him we might love Him and love and serve one another as He loves us!
I firmly believe that marriages are torn apart not for primarily any of the conventional wisdom reasons we have come to so uncritically accept, namely incompatibility, financial stress, psychological issues, difference of religion, race etc. etc. I do believe that marriages are torn apart because spouses will not allow themselves to have their hearts cut open.
Our culture has formed us to be totally adverse to pain, disappointment, delayed pleasure, humility, other-centeredness, hence, too often we enter marriage for what we can 'get' rather than for the opportunity to 'give'.
Clearly you love one another, but that emotion, that attraction, that blessed by God desire for each other will not suffice to sustain you, for His grace can only achieve its sacred purpose if we whom He has endowed with free will, freely choose to cooperate with His grace, with HIM! You must make a complete gift of yourself one to the other and that gift can never be complete if you are preoccupied to avoid suffering, to assure your heart is protected...for that means you are seeking to hide from the very one to whom you should be making a complete gift of yourself.
One of the most common ways modern spouses hide from each other....and tragically subsequently become engaged in hiding from the self and from our loving Triune God is by being dedicated materialists.
A materialist is not one who merely accumulates material goods, stuff, though this is the common exterior expression, but a materialist is also one who has a limited understanding of the human person, of the self, and thus has extreme difficulty, if not a veritable impossible task of attempting to relate to, much less comprehend, the loving God who becomes Incarnate, dies and rises, is Eucharist.
The pursuit of the material, as laboured for and purchased stuff, as an approach to the human body which is limited to taking pleasure, becomes a means of hiding, of avoiding, a broken open heart.
Only when the wine vats had been emptied of the old and tired wine and only when the stewards allowed that gaping wound of emptiness to distress them did they flee to His Mother and admit their distress, their need, and only then was Mary able to direct them to Jesus because NOW they were broken open enough to obey Him and more, to trust Him. They filled the vats with mere water and we must offer Him the mere water of our free will ascent to what He will do in us and with us. THEN He transforms water into wine, and we He transfigures!
You must become both empty vat and pleading steward for each other.
Each day, each moment of each day, you must be willing to be broken open for the other, and for the Other! If you are willing to do this then over time you will grow in a listening heart one for the other, a compassionate heart one for the other, you will become in truth, one for the other, gift, as He makes Himself Gift for us.
In His time He will honour this mutuality of gifting by showing His confidence in you through the blessing of children and the children themselves will call both of you to yet deeper levels of being broken open and the Holy Spirit will then take you to higher reaches of contemplation and communion with the Trinity!
O my Beloved Two become One what a holy, what a splendid adventure in Christ and with Christ you have begun and what incredible, ineffable joy awaits you in the years to come IF you will mutually take up your cross, His Cross, each day, clinging to nothing, no one, only Him and following Him, without fear, for there is true joy in suffering, true freedom in being broken open, true filfillment, full measure, pressed down and overflowing, in being emptied!
Honour each other, risk each other, lift each other up in prayer to Him, for without Him we can do no-nothing.
Our Lady of Cana will be with you, always telling you to go to Him and she will become little by little for you Our Lady of Nazareth and will teach you the ways of true family life as the Holy Family lived in loving gifting one to the other and flowing from that love caring for those who see themselves as unloved, the poor, the hungry, the naked, the lonely.
Contemplate always He of the broken open heart, gaze upon Love's wound and you will understand that we too must be of broken open hearts so that His love will stream through us to those who hunger to be loved.
This is our life.
This is our joy.
This is Baptism lived.
This is communicating to one another the Love of Him who is our Communion!
You are always in my heart, especially on this great and splendid day of your Holy Sacramental Marriage when, the two of you becoming one in Him, begin the great pilgrimage of family life! I ask Our Lady to gift wrap these poor words for you, to watch over and to teach you and I give you my blessing, a blessing of the sheer joy of broken-openness!
Fr. Bob Papi
2nd Sunday of Easter April 11, 1999 (c)