Everyone knows Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day, or to use the original construction, St. Valentine’s Day, named for the legendary patron of lovers.
From the point of view of the Catholic Church it is not just an occasion for candy, flowers and sentimental greeting cards (and by the way, SS. Cyril and Methodius take precedence on that day on the liturgical calendar).
Nevertheless it is certainly no coincidence that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is observing National Marriage Week Feb. 7-14 and World Marriage Day is on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
National Marriage Week, now in its eighth year, promotes marriages as a benefit to husbands and wives and to the nation, as well as the best environment to raise children.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, wrote recently about marriage in a letter to his brother bishops.
“Promoting and strengthening marriage,” he said, “remains a pastoral priority of our Conference. Marriage, both as a natural institution and as a Christian sacrament is an irreplaceable food for society and for the people.”
“To be able to celebrate marriage as we do is more than just a good thing to do, it is a necessary thing to do,” said Steven Bozza, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family.
He believes it is necessary to witness to what a strong marriage is like. In past generations there were many such witnesses but today, coming from a background of divorce in society, broken marriages are more common than ever.
“We don’t have the support of the society around us,” he said. “People are looking for an easy way out. It can be done, and this is a good time to highlight it can be done by the grace of God. You have to make the decision to love. It is the sacrament, the grace of God.”
Bozza himself is in a marriage of 30 years with his wife, Janice. They had moments of struggle and suffering as do all marriages.
“At the end of the day we had each other,” he said. “When we had hard times we were able to bank on God’s grace to move us forward. We have to be the domestic church, that’s our salvation.”
Among some of the local events that will mark National Marriage Week, according to Tony and Cathy Witczak of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, are the Feb. 10-12 Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, and a Marriage Day of Reflection on Feb. 11 at St. Augustine Church in Philadelphia with Father Bill Waters and two Marriage Encounter couples as presenters.
On Feb. 17 there will be a presentation on marriage at the Catholic Business Network Breakfast at the Llanerch Golf Club in Haverford. On Feb. 18 there will be a couples’ Dinner, Dialogue and Dancing event at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Wayne.
And if you just want to stay home, there is a virtual retreat during National Marriage Week on Facebook sponsored by the USCCB. Just visit facebook.com/foryourmarriage for tips, discussions, videos and more.
Also see the conference’s For Your Marriage website for resources to support engaged and married couples.
More information on any of the above events may be obtained by sending an email message to the Witczaks at firstname.lastname@example.org.