Homily given by Bishop Davies at the Diocesan Celebration of Marriage at Saint Wilfred’s Church in Northwich, Cheshire on 11th February 2012
Today we have come together as a Diocese to celebrate marriage with many couples who have travelled here to give thanks for twenty five, forty, fifty, sixty and for one couple seventy years of married life. I am sure each of you today can glimpse how those promises of love and faithfulness, and of openness to the gift of family, made in the morning of your youth, became the foundation for so great a good, not least the upbringing and security of your children and grandchildren. Experience and research speak of how vital this marriage-commitment of yours is for the well-being of new generations and for society as a whole. Yet in the months ahead the very meaning, purpose and identity of marriage is about to be challenged. When earth tremors shake the walls of our homes people then give serious thought to the foundations on which their homes rest secure. This I believe is such a moment for the British people as for the first time in our history a government is proposing to change the meaning of marriage and to re-define its identity as the life-long union of one man and one woman. What the Government now proposes to legislate into law constitutes nothing less than a seismic shift in the foundations of our society.
We face a mindset which sees progress only as a continuous shifting of our society further and further from its Christian foundations until we have nothing left for family and society to be founded upon than changing, political fashions of thought. It is surely then that we hear the cry of the Psalmist: “Foundations once destroyed, what can the just do?” For the “vocation to marriage” is not the invention of any passing Parliament or political or legal system but is, as the Christian faith declares, “written into the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator”(CCC 1605). Marriage is not a merely a human institution made or un-made by any generation. God himself is the author of marriage.
Despite the many variations marriage has undergone throughout history in different cultures and social structures, the stability and the greatness of the marriage union and its identity has always remained. Christ our Lord unequivocally taught this original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning (CCC 1614) and raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. The meaning and greatness of marriage can be recognised from the natural law even without the light of faith. Indeed, many who do not share our Christian faith see in this timeless institution of marriage not only the source of the greatest good for the family but one of the key foundations on which the whole of society ultimately depends.
During his recent visit to the United Kingdom, our Holy Father Pope Benedict spoke of a mentality which today threatens to obscure “the unchanging truth” about our nature, our destiny and our ultimate good. By attempting to redefine marriage for society, politicians will find they have not only undermined the institution of marriage but obscured its identity for generations to come. For politicians of Christian conscience this will be a moment to resist the leadership of their own political parties together with every parliamentarian who recognises the Judeo-Christian foundations on which our society rests. Yet this will also be a moment for our own voices to be raised in defence of marriage. The Holy Father urged us at Glasgow: “I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom in the public forum.” “Society today needs clear voices …” he told us (Bellahouston Park 16th September 2010). Our voices must now be raised as clearly as they can be, in order to proclaim the God-given meaning of marriage not only for the sake of this generation, but for the sake of all generations to come.
May God bless and protect +Mark Davies!