To the simple strains of a harp, twenty grooms made their way up the central nave of St Peter’s Basilica with their mothers, followed by twenty brides dressed in white accompanied by their fathers.
All of the couples were from the diocese of Rome and had come to be married, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, by the Pope himself.
In his Homily, which preceded the Rite of Marriage, the Holy Father, taking his cue from the morning’s readings offered a real or non-fictional, as he called it, view of married life.
He said, that in the first reading from the Book of Numbers, we can imagine families led by Moses journeying through the desert. Families he noted, “are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.”
But just like in Sunday’s liturgy, families and indeed spouses, the Pope said, can become “impatient on their journey of conjugal and family life.
“The hardship of the journey he added, causes them to” experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, even “nauseating”.”
Pope Francis explained that the cure for those couples who have succumbed to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, and abandonment, is the love of Christ.
It is that love, the Holy Father stressed, “which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, and is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out.
The love of Christ, the Pope continued “can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together.” This is what marriage is all about, he said, “a man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man.”
He also underlined that marriage is a demanding journey, it is not “fiction”! “ It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.”
He concluded his Homily with some advice to the couples, reiterating that if a couple argues they should never end the day without making peace with each other.
With the attention again focused on the twenty couples seated before the Pope, each bride and groom exchanged wedding vows . Then in what was an emotional moment for many of them, they exchanged rings taken from a cushion embossed with Pope Francis’ coat of arms.
As the celebration concluded there was a round of applause for the newlyweds as they made their way out of the Basilica to the sounds of an organ fanfare. It was then on to the Vatican Gardens for those all-important photos from an unforgettable day in which they will be able to tell their children and grandchildren they were married by a Pope.
The family is essential to sustaining human and social development.