In a homily preached on September 8, 2011, the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Blessed Mother, in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., the newly installed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington mentioned arranged marriages. Specifically, he said,
A married friend told me last week that getting ready for today reminded him of planning for a very, very,very big wedding. He was being humorous, but he was actually more accurate than he knew. The relationship of a bishop and his local Church is very close to a marriage. The ring I wear is a symbol of every bishop’s love for his Church. And a bishop’s marriage to the local Church reminds me, and all of us, that a bishop is called to love his Church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave his life for her.
Of course, my appointment to Philadelphia is an arranged marriage, and the Holy Father is the matchmaker. The good news is that romance is a modern invention — and given the divorce rate, not everything it’s cranked up to be. In fact, history suggests that arranged marriages often worked at least as well as those based on romantic love. When arranged marriages were common, there was an expectation that people would get to know each other and then come to love one another. Good matchmakers were aware of the family history of each of the spouses and their particular needs. And the really wise matchmakers could make surprisingly good choices.
In the Church, we believe that the Holy Spirit guides the decisions of the Holy Father. And the results are always joyful if we commit our wills to cooperating with God’s plan. For any marriage to work, two things need to happen. People need to fall in love, and together they need to be fruitful. That’s what we need to dedicate ourselves to today – to love one another and be fruitful together in the new evangelization.
Getting to know each other is a great adventure. Our life together is part of the story of salvation, which God continues even into our own time. Mary didn’t expect the Annunciation. She didn’t expect to be mother of the Redeemer. And yet her act of obedience changed the course of history and led to a new covenant of love and fruitfulness. I have no illusions of being worthy of this ministry, but I do trust in the wisdom of the Holy Father. So I’m deeply grateful for his confidence and the privilege of serving this Church.
This idea of arranged marriages has been in my mind more and more these past few weeks, as we have been discussing not only arranged marriages, but marriages that happened out of love. It is true that the higher you went up the noble food chain, the less love was involved. This is important while looking at history, because those marriages that were unhappy, in which the bride and groom never did learn to love each other, led to adultery, on both sides of the issue.
I happen to agree with the His Excellency here that maybe there was something to arranged marriages, and not marrying for love. People learned to love each other, there was less divorce, and families thus stayed together. Maybe its time we bring this back, at least partially.
Maybe then we wouldn’t have marriages like that of Giovanni and Lussana. There marriage was one of so-called love, where Lussana cheated on her husband with Giovanni, and maybe even had her husband killed, in order to marry Giovanni. Giovanni later divorced her after he became the sole heir to his family’s fortune, and left Lusanna out cold. This is just another marriage based on love failing.
Then again, you never truly know…