The sign of the priestly stole
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Summer months make me reflect on the sacramental character of marriage. Since many girls and boys who go on holiday live together in one tent or room, like a married couple. They regard it as something proper. Since some time, I have introduced to my priestly practice a custom of giving a newly married couple the stole, which I wrapped their hands around. May it accompany them, perhaps they will put it in a visible place, and the stole will remind them of their sacramental marriage. For a stole constitutes a deep symbol of the oath made before a priest. The canon law regards marriage as giving the right to each other by two people, man and woman. This is done by making the marital oath. According to the doctrine of the Church, man and woman enter into sacramental marriage and the priest is a legal witness of their union. He must have the right jurisdiction, for example of the parish priest, bishop, delegated priest, the presence of two witnesses is obligatory, they are to confirm the fact of contracting marriage - this belongs technically to the canonical form. Christ raised such a marital contract to the dignity of sacrament, i.e. he connected his special graces with this marital bond. I think that people do not realise that properly but Christ comes to them, offering them a very concrete help. Those who have entered into marriage are not only connected by a legal contract but they invite God to their family, God who comes to be some warranty of the relationship, God who inspires them to fulfil the duties of their state and to deserve eternal life through their good lives. The grace of this sacrament is that every deed done with love by spouses is the so-called deserving deed, i.e. it counts before God. This deed is something more than a gesture of friendship, kindliness and friendship. We value such interpersonal gestures, we value good colleagues, acquaintances, competent people, friendly people - how lovely it is and how much we need it! But there is something more - sacramental friendship on the axis of which Jesus, the Resurrected Christ, is present, Christ who always holds spouses' hands. Today the opinion that being together without any legal bond is all right, that we must trust one another, is more and more common. But this trust is based on only man. If two people enter into relationship, inviting Christ into their lives, they open themselves to God's grace and multiply this grace. As baptism makes us Christians, children who become sons through Christ, through the sacrament of matrimony Christ enters the house, which the married couple is going to create. I have been the Defender of the Bond at the Metropolitan Tribunal in Czestochowa for 40 years and I can see the importance of making people aware of the meaning of the sacramental marriage. They should realise that what matters is not a beautiful and solemn wedding ceremony but an event of immense significance. This sacrament is as important as Christ's love for the Church. If there is no sacrament between spouses the relationship is fragile and weak, based on the breakable foundation of human nature, in spite of their great love, friendship, cordiality, brotherhood and other beautiful elements. This reflection may be sad or sorrowful for some people because they do not know theology in a sufficient way, or perhaps they have prayed too little and only noticed the internal side. However, when the sacrament of matrimony is administered many things happen: the young couple invites Christ to enter their family, Christ who becomes their Friend and Helper, and the Church accepts them as members of the sacramental community of families. Christians should always consider Christ's orders, which the Church gives. I would like to encourage the young couples that think of getting married to open themselves to Christ, who wants to accompany them in their lives. May examples of happy Christian marriages be some of the important arguments they will take into consideration.