Some wonderful friends got married recently, and as they set out on the journey toward marriage and family, they asked for my humble advice. With their permission, I thought I would share my thoughts here, for what they’re worth. Like all advice, it’s idiosyncratic. If nothing else, say a prayer for this couple that they will be bright witnesses to the Gospel of Marital Love.
1. Remember every day that marriage is a gift from God placed like the Blessed Sacrament in your hands, hands which God has joined. You are Christophers, Christ-bearers. Every dimension of your being is to become a grace-giving Sacrament, a lived Liturgy, a total Offering, a holy Mystery of divine and human love. Your every gesture, lived in fidelity to your promises, saves the world. Rejoice that you have become God-with-us, embodying Him in a way absolutely and uniquely yours.
2. Love is the bond that seals you as one and the gift that is poured out for many.
3. Honor is the guardian of love, so you must show honor to each other and guard each other’s honor, especially teaching your children to honor their mother and father.
4. Today you have embraced your vocation to love God by loving your beloved. Always remember you will love God best by loving your spouse first, and placing all other loves in service to the first.
5. Today you are surrounded by family and friends, mentors and the whole communion of saints. Remember that your marriage will flourish in this web of support.
6. Let prayer be your daily bread. Mutual forgiveness your daily balm. Laughter your wings. Tears the presage of joy. Common labor a strong bond. Hope your anchor. Kindness a gentle embrace.
7. Speak the truth in love. Keep confidences, but never secrets.
8. Multiply small signs of your love, impractical gestures that reveal the sheer giftedness of your marital bond and the purposeless beauties in your purposeful existence.
9. Never let your love grow old, but permit it to mature, deepen, broaden, soar by every day begging the Spirit to kindle the fire of love between you.
10. Your marriage and, God willing one-day, your family life is a Garden of Virtue where your characters are afforded the opportunity to become great and noble.
11. Bless each other every night. Never go to bed estranged, harboring hurt or anger or resentment.
12. Protect your face-to-face time.
13. Before you turn outward in self-gift toward others, turn upward toward God in petition and inward toward each other in love. Always return to each other after you have given yourselves for others.
14. Strive for a well ordered love, because disordered love is no love. And disorder is a seedbed for conflict and stress. Plan your lives, your priorities together. Don’t let your calendar dictate to you but you dictate to your calendar. Reverence each other’s unique gifts and build on them.
15. Know each other’s weaknesses, help each other to grow, but never use them against each other. We are made in weakness that we might supply for each other. Each of your weaknesses is an opportunity for Christ to supply his sufficient grace through the other. Learn to laugh at your own foibles, to laugh with the other over their foibles; but never laugh at the other’s foibles.
16. Choose your battles wisely. Some things you can live with in patience, others require challenging, repentance, change. Seek counsel from others to help discern which is which.
17. Learn that some of the sweetest joys in life are found in trials lived through together in common trust, sacrifice, humility, perseverance and Christ-like charity. Don’t be afraid of trials. God orders all things for good in your marriage because you love him.
18. Be unrelentingly faithful to each other in body and mind. Fidelity is the bedrock of trust.
19. Remember God, forget yourself.
20. Know you are daily gathering materials for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and nothing you do, consecrated to him, will be lost in that “eternal and universal kingdom; a kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” May we all one day join again there to forever rejoice in the beauty of your life together, begun today. May it be so. Amen.