By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 August, 2016
The Bishop of Elphin has said he is convinced the Irish Church needs to “seriously review” what it offers people in terms of practical, emotional and spiritual preparation for marriage.
In his address in Knock basilica, where he was the principal celebrant at the annual Elphin diocesan pilgrimage to Knock on the 137th anniversary of the Co Mayo apparition, Bishop Kevin Doran referred to the two recent Synods of Bishops on marriage and the family and to ‘Amoris Laetitia’.
He noted that Pope Francis had said marriage is “a responsibility of the whole Christian community and it is not just about formal courses. It is also about sharing experience and sharing a vision”.
Bishop Doran was joined by Bishop Christopher Jones, the bishop emeritus of Elphin as well as scores of priests for the pilgrimage.
Elsewhere, Dr Doran noted that couples often make heroic efforts in the face of very real difficulties and these are often caused by circumstances over which they have little or no control.
He noted Pope Francis’ criticism of the lack of adequate affordable housing as a factor.
“We have seen in our own society the situation in which families having been dragged through the courts are left homeless because the banks have foreclosed on their mortgages, while those same banks have abused their economic power with apparent impunity. Is it any wonder that, under such pressure, relationships are fractured and sometimes crumble away,” he said.
Acknowledging that no two human situations are quite the same, the Bishop of Elphin said this was the reason Pope Francis reminds us that it is completely wrong in the case of divorce and remarriage to ‘pigeon-hole’ people.
“Some people are abandoned by their husband or wife through no fault of their own. Some don’t seem to understand the meaning of sacrifice at all. Others drift from one relationship to another, others, while others – perhaps after a short-lived and ill-prepared marriage, find themselves in ‘a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self-giving, Christian commitment’.”
He also told the congregation in Knock basilica that the Pope had emphasised the need to present marriage in a much more positive light.
“Too often he says, we have focused on rules and regulations and we have found it difficult ‘to present marriage as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment’,” he said.
That is why the Pontiff suggests that young people who are baptised “should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the Sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church”.
Referring to Sunday’s Gospel which encourages the faithful to “enter by the narrow gate”, Bishop Doran said it was a good symbol for the generosity and sacrifice that is part of love.
“If you want to go in the narrow gate, you have to let go of your baggage. When we have been offended or let down forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say that it is easy. The truth is that “family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation.”