Editorial — Choosing to love

Marnie McAllister
Marnie McAllister

On Saturday, Feb. 14, couples will flock to restaurants — and babysitters will have plenty of work — for the annual observance of St. Valentine’s Day.

More than enough has been said about the commercialization of this holiday, which is probably most popular with new couples and those in their first years of marriage.

The greeting card and chocolate industry aside, it’s good for society to take a day to celebrate love. But it’s even better for society to take a longer look at love, married love in particular.

A dozen years ago, a young woman wrote a thought-provoking piece for The Record’s Young Adult Life column on the nature of love and the sacrament of marriage.

Sarah Fellows, who had been married a little more than two years at the time, wrote that love is an action, not a state of being.

“We attended an Engaged Encounter before our wedding,” she noted in her piece. “A married couple there said that marriage is not always ‘feeling’ in love. Marriage is about always choosing to love.

“We took that to mean that even when we were frustrated, and that ‘mushy’ feeling we had when we were first dating goes away, love still abides in our choices. We can choose to love even in our frustration. We have found love is evident in our reactions to each other, in the way we talk to each other, in the way we show concern and respect for each other at all times.”

She goes on to explain, “When our concern is for the other person and God’s presence in the sacrament of marriage, our commitment never comes into question.”

This approach is still working for the couple today.

Last fall, the world’s bishops, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, and Pope Francis delved into the topic of marriage and family life at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops. And they’ll continue their examination of the topic this fall during the ordinary Synod of Bishops.

Shortly after the 2014 synod concluded, Archbishop Kurtz, highlighted in his blog three “gifts” that he said emerged from the two-week long meeting:

  • The pastoral urgency to restore confidence and give hope to men and women who seek to be faithful witnesses to their sacramental marriages and their families.
  • The urgency to accompany those who struggle in this world, meeting them where they are and walking with them more deeply into the light of Christ.
  • The continued witness to the beauty of the authentic timeless teaching of Jesus, conveyed through the centuries by the Church and the call of Jesus to true joy and deeper conversion.

The Fellows family and tens of thousands of other Catholics who fill church pews each Sunday in the Archdiocese of Louisville are doing their best to be witnesses of the church’s teaching on the sacrament.

And the engaged couples featured in the Jan. 29 Bridal Section of The Record are witnesses of what’s to come.

These couples have completed one of the requisite marriage preparation programs offered in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Couples who wish to marry in the church here may choose from an Engaged Encounter (a weekend retreat that so inspired the Fellows), a one-day workshop called “Foundations for Marriage” or a “sponsor couple” program. Sponsor couples — those who have experience in marriage — can be found in parishes around the archdiocese. These volunteers meet with engaged couples several times for discussions about married life.

Despite such preparation — that aims to spark conversations about finances, parenting and other challenges that marriages face — couples hit roadblocks. The church should be a place where they can turn for support.

The church already offers several programs, including Worldwide Marriage Encounter (a weekend marriage enrichment retreat), Retrouvaille (an intensive program for struggling marriage), Teams of Our Lady (a peer-support ministry) and other parish-based programs. The United States bishops also have a website — ForYourMarriage.org —with resources for couples.

The church has long expressed eloquently and clearly its teachings on the sacrament of marriage, love and family life. Those interested in primary sources on these subjects can turn to the encyclicals “Casti Canubii,” “Humanae Vitae” and “Deus Caritas Est,” among other documents. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a pastoral letter in 2009 called “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”

The 2014 synod of bishops also produced an interim document — called the “Lineamenta” — that Catholics are urged to read.

Catholics also are invited to offer their thoughts on marriage and family in a survey available on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s website, www.archlou.org/Synod2015. The answers will help guide the bishops at the 2015 synod of bishops.

Record Editor

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