« Marriage is a path to holiness »
For two Christians to be united is not only to be committed to one another; it is also to be committed together vis-à-vis the Church. …/…
Through the sacrament of marriage, the couple, both as a couple and as a whole, is incorporated into the Body of Christ. …/…
Proclaiming Divine Love
The first aspect of the couple’s apostolic mission is to make God known, to proclaim His love.
Therefore it must be said that the primary aspect of the apostolic mission of marriage is to give man a glimpse of the intimate mystery of the Trinity, as well as this other mystery which is born of the first: the union of divinity and humanity, of Christ and the Church, an unbreakable and fertile union which never ceases to give birth to children of God. Just as it would not mean anything to us to learn that God is our Father if there were no human fathers, so also would the intimate love of the divine persons and the union of Christ and the Church be incomprehensible to us if there were no fruitful union of the love of a man and a woman.
Therefore God depends on you, the married couples, so that men and woman may have a glimpse of these three great mysteries: Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption. This is the primary aspect of the apostolic mission of the couple. And it is thanks to this most noble motive that you are able to love one another, to live as one, to be fruitful.
But there are other methods to cooperate with the work of God.
It is first with respect to your spouse that God wants your cooperation. Recall the words Pius XI wrote in Casti Connubii: “This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, is the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony not be looked at in the restricted sense as instituted for procreation.” So this is not a luxury, or the happy initiative of a budding young married couple, who take responsibility for the spirituality of each other. This is a mission, a divine mission. Through the sacrament of marriage, you accept responsibility for the sanctification of
your spouse, following the example of Christ who became incarnate and accepted responsibility for the salvation of humanity.
Cooperating with Christ in the sanctification of your spouse is essential to your apostolic mission. “You are for me,” the Lord tells each one of you, “an envoy, a witness, and indispensible aide for the sanctification of your spouse. It is true that I work in many different ways to make you both into saints: In the form of the Eucharistic bread, I nourish your Christian life; in the form of the priest, I pardon you when you fall into sin; but in the most moving form, that of a tender spouse, attentive, considerate, loving, I want to be close to you night and day, revealing my love to you, holding you more
Apostolate to the family
If each spouse is charged with a mission toward the other spouse, as the two are made one, they are charged with a mission toward others, and first of all toward their children.
Vos richesses sont de deux ordres : richesses humaines et richesses de grâce. Your riches are of two sorts: human riches and the riches of grace. First, human riches: The first, the source of all others and the most precious: your conjugal love – as long as the love is kept alive. As one among you said in response to a survey conducted by Teams: “An apostolic couple must be a loving couple: That’s the only way to make others envious.” Your conjugal love yields a variety of loves: fatherly love and maternal tenderness, filial love and brotherly love, so many loves which make the Christian household a unique place in the world. These diverse and engaging aspects characterize the household depending on the hours and the events: meals and evenings, work days and holidays, painful times, singsong times…
The Christian married couple does not content itself with offering its human riches, with allowing others to witness important truths through their example. They give their guest the riches of grace which they have themselves experienced. This great spiritual treasure is the presence of Christ, who enables the family community to become a “little church,” according to the words of Saint John Chrysostom. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there will I be also;” and Tertullian added: “When two are gathered, there is the Church.”
Apostolate outside the home
But the apostolate is not only a testimony and an influence, it is also an assignment. There are apostolic activities which a husband and wife may undertake and pursue together. Some activities even demand the commitment of a dedicated couple: formation of engaged couples, welcoming catechumens, assisting newlyweds, rescuing broken marriages….
No matter! The essential is not that they be always together physically, but together morally. I enjoy recalling this old memory: One day, in the subway, two workers behind me were talking about a friend. One of them said, “Oh, man, it’s so obvious that he’s a guy who is happily married!” Indeed, isn’t that what matters: that each of you devote yourself to the task of bringing richness to your marriage? One of you wrote, “The way in which each spouse speaks to others about his or her partner, about their marriage, can in itself be an apostolate.”
Just as Saint Paul called the couple Aquila and Priscilla “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” it is important that Christ be able to say this of every Christian couple.
(Extracts from a conference of Father Caffarel whitch appeared in a spécial May-August 1962 edition of “ l’Anneau d’Or “)