Homily of Most Rev John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne during Mass for celebration of Christian Marriage at Our Lady of Knock Shrine, Sunday 9th May 2004

10 May 2004


10 MAY 2004




“ I give you a new commandment: love one another;
Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another”(Jn.13: 34).

Here we are, my dear fellow pilgrims, at the Shrine of Mary, Our Lady of Knock,
to invoke her protection, to learn from her example and to be inspired by the
love she bears for her Son, Jesus. Mary, the Mother par excellence is also the
disciple par excellence. She, the Mother of the Church, is the first Christian
Pilgrim to have reached the total fulfilment of the Paschal Mystery. To her we
turn today as we ask her to draw us closer to her Son, Jesus.

Discipleship of Jesus means having that mind and heart which is in Christ Jesus;
it means giving Him space in our lives so that He can direct us to His Father
by the power of His Spirit; it means being persons capable of loving in the
manner in which He loves, without counting the cost. Only in this way can we
be known as His disciples, for He has said: “ By this love you have for one
another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:35).

Love is at the heart of the Christian message – love of God and love of each
other. Love is the very oxygen which keeps the Christian Family healthy and
strong. I remember hearing Pope Paul VI say, as he was addressing a group of
newly married couples, that “ for those who are engaged to be married love is
a pleasure, whereas for those who are already married love is a duty”. In this
way he was stressing the necessity of working always at maintaining Christian
love at the heart of marital relationships. Christ Jesus manifests himself to
the world through those who are imbued with His saving grace and He wishes to
do so particularly through genuine Christian Family living. The Family is
dependent on the loving bond of marital relationship for its vitality and
society is dependent on the healthy family unit as the veritable foundation-
stone of its stability. So it is important that we care for the Family in
its varied aspects, so as to ensure for Society, as a whole, a sure basis on
which to build for the wellbeing of all.

This year we celebrate, throughout the world, the 10th Anniversary of the
International Year of the Family established by the United Nations. The Irish
Bishops have decided that, as Christians and disciples of Christ, we should
mark this special occasion in a twofold way: firstly, that we should celebrate
Christian Marriage with hearts grateful for all the graces and blessings which
flow from this special Sacrament; and secondly, that we should then celebrate
Christian Family Life invoking God’s protection and blessing on all families
in our Nation.

The first celebration, that of Christian Marriage, is being celebrated today
throughout Ireland. The celebration of Christian Family Life will take place
next Sunday, the 16th of May.

The Christian Family is founded and rooted in a love relationship, consecrated
in the Sacrament of Marriage. Christian Marriage is a sacred union which enriches
the natural bond of love. It binds those who enter it to be faithful to each
other forever and it ensures the abiding grace to enable the couple to live
through the challenges of life in peace and harmony. This Grace is called the
sacramental grace of marriage. Christian Marriage calls for honour and respect,
for openness to love and to life. As the Marriage Rite states: “ Marriage is
from God: He alone can give the happiness which goes beyond human expectation,
and which grows deeper through the difficulties and struggles of life”. In
Christian Marriage the Bride and Groom enter into a covenant of love with each
other and with God. That covenant of love, faithfully kept and respected, is
one of the most expressive means by which Christ makes Himself manifest in the
world of today. Christ wishes to be present and active in every Christian marriage
and indeed it is rightly said that He says to each couple on their wedding day:
“Thank you for inviting me to your wedding. Please invite me to your marriage”.
Christ is the guarantor of the permanence and fruitfulness of Christian Marriage.
It is for this reason that the Catholic Church will always uphold the sacredness
of Christian Marriage and will insist that other forms of relationships and union
are not of the same nature and status.

As we give thanks today for the many blessings and graces bestowed on the families
of this Nation through the sacred institution of Christian Marriage, we are only
too conscious of the difficulties and challenges to be faced in the present climate
of our modern world. Our world needs the witness of fidelity in marriage. Our
families need the oxygen of love to maintain the bond of unity and our children
need the love, care and security that can only come from a home that is at peace
with itself and with God. This calls for an adequate and comprehensive preparation
for marriage, during which the Christian understanding of marriage and the family
are clearly enunciated. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul, has said: “ it is necessary
to enrich the theology and spirituality of marriage and family life; to proclaim
with firmness and integrity, and to demonstrate by convincing examples, the truth
and beauty of the family founded upon marriage and understood as a stable and
fruitful union of man and woman; and to promote in every ecclesial community an
adequate and integrated programme of pastoral care for the family”( Familiaris
Consortio, 91). The Catholic Church in Ireland endeavours to do this through
the dedicated agency of ACCORD, providing care and support for those preparing
for marriage, for those already married through a programme of enrichment and
for those experiencing difficulties in their relationships through remedial
counselling. I take this occasion to thank all those engaged in the excellent
services of ACCORD throughout this Nation for the invaluable and generous
service they render in safeguarding and promoting the Christian ideal of marriage.

Given the stresses and strains of modern living, it is necessary for married
couples to work at the development of their love so that it can be a guiding
light for their family and an inspiration to the community in which they live.
Those who are engaged in marriage counselling would indicate some ways in which
to ensure that marital love be healthy. They would say:

1. Find time for and with each other, while respecting each other’s space.
In our busy world it is sometimes difficult to find time for each other but
it is essential to be truly present to each other, to speak and above all
to listen to each other. Lack of real communication and presence to each
other is a major factor in the majority of marriages which break down.

2. Affection for each other is enhanced enormously by gestures of love.

3. Respect and honour are the guarantee of good relationship. The acceptance
of difference and the understanding of complementarity can enhance greatly
a relationship.

4. Children need to see and sense a healthy bond of love and affection
between their parents.

5. It is often said: “ The family that prays together, stays together”.
Bring Christ into your relationship. Pray with and for each other. Make
sure your home is truly Christian. Light the candle on the table to highlight
the presence of the ‘ Honoured Guest, Christ Himself’. Be conscious of His
presence when praying at table and make sure there are Christian symbols
in your home which will remind all in the home that a Christian Marriage
continues to be celebrated there.

As we gather here at the Shrine of Mary, may we offer today, through her hands,
to her Son Jesus, all the Christian Marriages being celebrated throughout this
Nation. May He inspire all those who are preparing for Marriage to respond to
His new Commandment of love. May we invoke Mary’s protection on all Christian
Families, she who is Mother and Spouse, so that they may become truly ‘domestic
churches’, where the love of God and of one another may be lived out in fidelity.


Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

* Bishop Magee was in Knock for the annual Cloyne Diocesan Pilgrimage
* A photograph of Bishop Magee is available on request from the Catholic
Communications Office
* The Irish Bishops’ Conference (IBC) is the collective term used to
describe the formal meetings held between all 34 Catholic bishops. The
bishops meet at least on a quarterly basis. Bishops are represented on
the IBC from all the 26 dioceses in Ireland (32 counties).