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Royal weddings: A gift from God

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There was all day coverage May 19 of a wedding in London. You didn’t have to be part of the British royal family to share in this historic event — only part of the human family. The wedding day of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was witnessed by the entire world. In light of this global celebration, I offer a reflection on Christian marriage.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after their wedding ceremony May 19. OWEN HUMPHREYS, POOL VIA REUTERS | CNS

Since World War II, this royal tradition began with the spectacular wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten Nov. 20, 1947, which was celebrated by thousands of well-wishers. They have been married 70 years, and their love has overflowed to create a royal family. Seventy years is a remarkable witness of commitment and devotion in good times and bad. Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales, were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral July 29, 1981, with 3,500 attending inside, 600,000 outside and 750 million people tuned in on televisions around the world.

Seven years ago, Prince William escorted his bride Catherine Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, down the aisle of Westminster Abbey April 29, 2011. On that day, 2.4 billion people watched the wedding — half the world. That tells me that marriage is still very popular. Despite the challenges to marriage and family life, we still believe in marriage. William and Catherine celebrated their Christian marriage and in the homily, the Anglican Bishop of London said:

“Every wedding is a royal wedding, because every bride and groom is a king and queen on their wedding day. The message is: this is a day of joy, and in the midst of the difficulties and storms of life, a day of hope … this royal calling can be captured in the words of St. Catherine of Siena, who said, ‘Be who God has called you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ ” William and Catherine have been doing just that as they recently welcomed their third child into their family and have led a nation in charitable works.

The Christian vision of marriage inspires a husband and wife to celebrate their wedding day with confidence. For many, a wedding is about two people getting married. Those of faith know that it is about more than just themselves. They know what the Scriptures tell us: they have been called and chosen by God to participate in something marvelous and joyful, and in their solemn exchange of vows, they proclaim something magnificent and powerful. The call to be a husband and wife — and, God willing, a mother and father — is one of life’s most profound experiences. It is a royal and sacred calling. 

When we attend a wedding, we witness a love story. It's not the first love story that is God's doing. All human love comes from and returns to God. It is natural for us to know we have come from God and are returning to God. Every human experience is part of that mystery. We know this in our hearts. There are other love stories: family and childhood friendships, and teenage and young adult relationships that enrich our lives. 

Harry and Meghan, in their friendship and in their courting, discovered this love. They knew that if they said "yes" to it, it would draw them deeper into a shared vision of what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives … serve God, their family, their church and their country. In the sacrament of marriage the love of man and woman is made holy and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. The goal is to help each other reach heaven and live the mission of sharing God's love with others.

Harry and Meghan probably would be the first ones to tell us that they do not yet love perfectly. That's OK because no one who was in St. George’s Chapel that day does, or in the world, for that matter. The amazing thing is that God takes our human love, though imperfect, and raises it to the dignity of a sacrament. It is a royal calling. Jesus was used to working with flawed instruments — just look at the apostles. Yet they went on to do great things. We should never underestimate the great things we can do for God and God's people. God is a God of love and profoundly loves us just as we are. Pope Francis reminds us that marriages and families don't drop down from the sky perfectly formed. It occurs through a process of constant growth, a process, he says, of "encounter, dialogue, accompaniment, and gradualism." So we should keep doing as much good as we can in our marriages, our vocations and calling from God, whatever it is, and keep growing. 

We are told that Harry and Meghan really took the religious part of the ceremony seriously and planned every part of it. Their marriage was a courageous human action, one that was bold and faith-filled. Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, chosen to give the homily, spoke of "the power of love." He said, "Love changes lives and it can change the world. Imagine a world where love is the way. Think of our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine our neighborhoods and communities, government and business, when love is the way ... when no child will go to bed hungry, when there will be justice for all, when we will treat each other as brothers and sisters, as children of God. That is the power of love. That's fire ... " And quoting Catholic Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."

In the glow of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, now Duke and Duchess of Sussex, witnessed by hundreds of millions and celebrated throughout the world, we can say: Marriage is still very popular. We believe in marriage. Every wedding is a royal wedding. Marriage is a gift of God that brings joy and hope into the world. It is the power of love. The words of St. Catherine of Siena still ring true: "Be who God has called you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Congratulations, Harry and Meghan.

Fr. Cilinski is pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018