Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The beauty and the blessings of sacramental marriage


The blessings of sacramental marriage


Msgr. Owen F. CampionThey talk about the glory that was Rome; well, Vienna had its glory, a cultural mecca, the dazzling center of a great empire, one of the major powers of the earth, Austria-Hungary. It was a monarchy. In direct line to the throne was Archduke Karl, 24 years of age in 1911, when the government announced his engagement to a daughter of the ancient French royalty, the Bourbons, Princess Zita.

The nation rejoiced. Karl was very popular. It was assumed that his eventual reign would bring great days to the empire.

Several weeks before the wedding, the couple canceled all public appearances. Karl went to a monastery for a silent retreat. Zita went to a cloistered convent also to make a retreat.

They explained to the public why they were interrupting all the festivities associated with their grand wedding to go on retreat. They agreed that the first, last and most critical point in marriage for them both would be their obligation, and opportunity, to help each other become saints.

Wedding of Archduke Karl of Austria and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma in Schwarzau Palace. Public domain

After their wedding, they attended Mass daily. Karl became emperor in 1916, but he shortly was overthrown in the turmoil that followed the First World War. He died in 1922, still a young man, of pneumonia, untreatable in those days. Recognizing Karl’s holy life, Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 2004. He is Blessed Karl of Austria. Zita survived him until 1989. As she was dying, she told her assembled children to begin the Rosary. She joined them. She drew her last breath praying the Rosary. Her cause for beatification is under Vatican review.

Politics and COVID-19 have distracted the news media somewhat from the recent remarks by Pope Francis about civil unions, or two persons with same-gender sexual attraction in an ongoing relationship. Even so, the papal comments have attracted considerable attention and, frankly, created dismay among some.

The pope, it must be said, in no way repudiated the Church’s teaching that marriage must be a relationship between one man and one woman. He did not urge Church acceptance of marriage between persons of the same gender.

His remarks, the reactions, good and bad, and the context formed by today’s culture make this a good time to think about Church teaching regarding marriage or, for that matter, about sexual intimacy, either among those with heterosexual inclinations or those who experience sexual attraction to persons of the same gender.

For Christians, in the last analysis, marriage, intimacy, sexuality or companionship are not ends in themselves, but they are means to an end. For most spouses, marriage is the most basic element in their lives, but marriage is a part of the overall reality of life.

Blessed Emperor Karl and Empress Zita were right. When all is said and done, marriage, and certainly the Sacrament of Matrimony, are about discipleship and about being saints. Holiness was their goal in life.

Practically speaking, this means viewing marriage, sexuality and everything in life as instructed and guided by divine revelation, and, whatever the circumstances, seeing life as about being true to the Lord. Christians who experience same-gender attractions and commendably live as celibates understand this. God bless them.

As a boy, friends of my parents had a young son with a bright life ahead of him. Shortly after graduation, he and his college sweetheart were married. About one year later, she was in the third month of pregnancy. The boom fell. He contracted polio, paralyzing him from the chin down for 41 years until he died.

His wife bought a home near the facility that housed him. She sold real estate to make a living. Every morning, and every afternoon, rain or shine, she visited her husband. The baby was born. Her mother sent her all the way through Catholic schools.

She said that her vow to her husband also was to God. By keeping her marriage vows, she felt herself abundantly rewarded.

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