Marriage Crucifix

Imagine a world without divorce. Imagine families without separation. Imagine no children or hearts torn apart.

Marriage is the most challenging vocation there is and divorce everywhere is on the rise. Yet there is one small town in Europe that is an exception – a notable exception – to this disturbing statistic.

In the town of Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzagovina, not one single divorce or broken family has been recorded in living memory among its more than 26.000* inhabitants! So what is the secret of their success?

The answer is the beautiful tradition the Croatian people of Siroki-Brijeg have for marriage. In fact the Croatian marriage tradition is beginning to take hold in the rest of Europe and America among devout Catholics who have seen the blessings it bestows!

For centuries the people in Siroki-Brijeg have suffered cruelly as their Christian Faith was always threatened by first the Moslem Turks and then the Communists. They knew through experience, that the source of salvation comes through the Cross of Christ! It does not come from humanitarian aid, peace treaties or disarmament plans, even if these things may bring limited benefits.

These people possess a wisdom that does not allow them to be duped over questions of life and death. That is why they have indissolubly linked marriage with the Cross of Christ. They have founded marriage, which brings forth human life, on the Cross, which brings forth divine life.

When the bride and bridegroom go to the church to be married they carry a Crucifix with them. The priest blesses the Crucifix and instead of saying that they have found the ideal partner with whom to share their lives, he exclaims, “You have found your Cross! It is a Cross to love, to carry with you, a Cross that is not to be thrown off, but rather cherished.”

When they interchange the marital vows, the bride puts her right hand on this Crucifix and the groom puts his right hand over hers. Both are bound together and united to the Cross. The priest covers their hands with his stole while they pronounce their promises to love one other in good times and in bad, proclaiming their vows to be faithful according to the rites of the Church.

Then they both first kiss the Cross, not each other. If one abandons the other, they abandon Christ on the Cross. They lose Jesus! After the wedding, the newly-weds cross the threshold of their home to enthrone that same Crucifix in a place of honour. It becomes the reference point of their lives and the place of family prayer, for the young couple believes deeply that the family is born of the Cross.

In times of difficulty and misunderstandings, as all human relationships experience at some time, they do not turn immediately to an astrologer, or a lawyer or psychologist, they turn to the Cross. They kneel, weep tears of repentance and open up their hearts, begging for the strength to forgive each other, and imploring the Lord’s help. These pious practices have been learnt from the time of their childhood.

Here the children are taught to reverently kiss the Crucifix daily and to thank the Lord for the day before going to bed. These children go to sleep knowing that Jesus is holding them in His arms and there is nothing to be afraid of. Their fears and their differences, so normal sometimes between siblings, melt away in their kiss of Jesus on the Cross. They dream of enthroning a Crucifix in a home of their own one day.

The family is indissolubly united to the Cross of Christ. Is this simply a morbid outlook on marital and family life? Or is it a piece of wisdom that few in our modern world can understand?

The Catechism teaches that “love should be permanent or it is not true love. It is not a feeling which comes and goes, but a power to give which should be there even when feeling dies out”.

In marriage we cannot rely on our own human strength, and if we think we can, we shall fail. Temptation enters into every marriage in one way or another. On one’s wedding day it is hard to imagine a day when it all won’t be perfect. Little do the young hearts know that they are embarking on a road which will travel to the highest peaks and the lowest valleys. It is during those times spent deep in the valley that it takes heroic efforts by both to stay the course. At times it is even necessary for one spouse to have the mental discipline to pull the other spouse back into the marriage. Those who are experiencing this or have in the past can fully appreciate the grace that is necessary to hold on through the storm or the silence. There might be days when it all seems hopeless. Then a moment of true grace can bring a flood of renewed love and vitality back to the relationship to renew the sacramental bond. It is during these times of intense difficulty that spouses can experience what is truly meant by those seemingly prophetic words now being added during some marriage ceremonies: “You may kiss the Cross.”

*Some sources quote the number of inhabitants of Siroki-Brijeg as only 13.000 (and almost 100% Catholic!) However after some research I believe the true number of inhabitants to be more than double this figure. 

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63 Responses to Marriage Crucifix

  1. I wish I came from a family with that approach to life! God bless them and help us to grow toward that level of wisdom.

  2. planechant2 says:

    An inspiring post, thank you.

  3. JessicaHof says:

    That is a wonderful and inspiring post Kathleen – how I wish we took marriage that seriously.

  4. toadspittle says:

    .
    It’s never too late, Jessica.

  5. kathleen says:

    @ theraineyview, planechant and Jessica:

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, I hope this lovely Croatian custom for marriage will become better known and practiced everywhere, now that the fruits it has shown to bear are so wonderful.

  6. What a beautiful ceremony!!

  7. Louise says:

    UNBELIEVABLY BEAUTIFUL !!!!

  8. John Herrera says:

    This is absolutely beautiful! Married people who have not begun their marriage with this practice should renew their vows in this way and consecrate their marriage to the Cross of Christ!

  9. Brother Burrito says:

    Wow, this page is receiving nearly 400 over 510 hits per hour! Check the “Live Traffic!!” button up top.

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    I’ve sent it to my e-mail address and plan on giving copies to the priests. An excellent subject for a homily that might later lead brides and grooms asking for this ceremony to be made theirs as well.

  11. Brother Burrito says:

    It’s great that even old articles here can suddenly be discovered and passed on around the world like a wildfire.

  12. DME says:

    Since the rate of Domestic Violence in Bosnia is roughly 30 percent, I would be interested in knowing how many of these women are staying in abusive homes because they feel they will lose Christ if they leave.

    I sincerely hope the number is 0, but otherwise, I would be wary of a system that demands absolutes.

  13. This is beautiful 🙂

  14. Jean says:

    I LOVE this. It’s a great lesson for pre-marriage couples as well those of us who are married. We must kiss the cross over and over again … and be prepared for it’s great blessing.

  15. Catholic Glasses says:

    Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    Awesome article!

  16. AZNativeGrandma says:

    My grandfather was from Croatia. This tradition is beautiful. I wish I had heard of this sooner. It is a practice we should encourage in marriages. Even though my husband just celebrated our 28th anniversary, I think I’m going to suggest to him, we do this…in front of our family and friends. I will also suggest this to our children and grandchildren.

  17. kathleen says:

    @ DME on 17 July, 23:20

    As the Catholic Croatians in Bosnia make up no more that 14.3% of the population of the country, it would be logical to assume that most of the 30% of cases of Domestic Violence in Bosnia that you mention (if this figure is correct) would come from the ethnc Muslim majority that make up 48% of the Bosnian people… or even Orthodox Christians (Serbs) who make up the second largest ethnic group, an estimated 37%.

    Naturally though, one could say that just being a Catholic is no guarantee that those who have this evil tendency towards violence and abuse of others, could not also be culprits!
    However, with the graces these Croatian men (and women) receive on their wedding day, when both are “bound together and united to the Cross”, the desire to overcome any such negative tendencies would be paramount in their hearts, and they would be showered with the Divine help and grace of Jesus Christ to do so: “Ask and it shall be given to you….” (Matt 7:7)

    Let us hope and pray that this holy custom of the Marriage Crucifix becomes better known and practiced in the rest of the world among Catholics. The fruits it would bear are unimaginably positive for the sacred institute of marriage, so tragically under threat these days.

  18. If one day by Gods will I marry, this is how I want to do it. Amazing!

  19. RM says:

    Sacred rituals used to honor God hold special significance in everything, especially solidifying relationships whether they be used in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders or others!

  20. josefina jose says:

    It is so amazing and awesom

  21. cezar r. reyes says:

    This practice is so beautiful and full of wisdom on how much the crucifix of Christ can deeply influence the relationship in a family. It is indeed worth emulating and should be practiced by as many families worldwide as possible.

  22. johnhenrycn says:

    Somewhat but not entirely off topic: today (still Friday over here) I travelled to a small town on the shores of the mighty Ottawa River for a double burial on tomorrow (an uncle who died in July and one of his sons who died in 1985 – which is a story in itself worthy of a mini-series); and at the confluence of the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers, I looked up into the Laurentians and saw this Golgotha-like scene about 800-1000 feet above me. These three crosses were originally put there by Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th Century – basically as a landmarking guide – and with periodic replacements, they’ve been there ever since. Local lore has it that three Jesuits were thrown off the cliff into the river below by a tribe of Algonquians, and that the crosses pay homage to their martyrdom; but most suspect that is embroidery on the true tale. Anyway, it’s a breathtaking emotive testament to our Catholic Faith. On my way home tomorrow, I’m going to stay in a nearby hotel, because the crosses are illuminated at night; and the mountains themselves being uninhabited and pitch black after sunset, they say it looks as if the crosses are floating in the sky. Quite spectacular they say. wish I’d brought a camera with a zoom lens.

    Here’s another view of the mountaintop.

    And here’s wishing all CP&S readers and commenters a blessed and holy time of prayer in solidarity with Pope Francis on the International Day of Peace.

  23. kathleen says:

    Last Saturday I went to the marriage of one of my 11 nephews in a beautiful Catholic Church in London. A large Crucifix dominated the altar of the Church, rather like the one in the picture above. I gazed at it wishing that I’d had the opportunity to explain this lovely Croatian custom of the marriage crucifix to my nephew and his bride beforehand; (there are always so many practical things to organise and do before a wedding.)

    Then, to my delight and surprise, we were all blessed with a deep and meaningful homily by the elderly priest who celebrated the marriage. He talked of the importance to turn to the Crucifix (although hard to imagine at this happy moment) in times of difficulty and discord. In this way they would be given the grace to renew their love and overcome problems. “Keep Christ in your marriage”, he said.

    I thanked God for this holy priest and pray that these dear young people will have an enduring and loving marriage.

  24. Pingback: Marriage Crucifix | Embrace your feminity

  25. I love this post! Thank you very much for it, it’s an inspiration.

    i looked for a “reblog” option but couldn’t find it, so I linked to this post from my blog. 🙂

  26. femininebutnotfeminist says:

    Just read this reposted on embracingourfemininity’s blog… this is the most beautiful wedding ceremony ritual I have ever heard and plan to do it at my own wedding someday! Thank you for writing this!

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  29. crow says:

    Me too! Thank you Kathleen – you have inspired me.

  30. Lisa says:

    I wish we’d had this in our wedding ceremony nearly 24 years ago. I wish I’d even understood what carrying your cross even meant! But I like the idea of keeping this maybe for our children to have in their wedding ceremony someday. Thank you for posting it.

  31. trubooks says:

    Reblogged this on jacinta knuth and commented:
    Hmm. Such love! How true! No love is possible in any state and walk in life without being firmly grounded in this principle.

  32. Reblogged this on David Torkington and commented:
    An inspiration

  33. Elizabeth L. Smith says:

    Having been married for sixty two years, the only way marriage works is with God as our partner.

  34. Tracy says:

    Hi, pls do sent me copy and video of how the exchange of vow should be perform. It humble request if video of nuptial mass is sent Thank u

  35. Nam Marine says:

    That’s Beautiful !

  36. John Lysaght says:

    The scariest aspect of Marriage is the Marriage Bed. Nothing else compares to that. Because we live in such a fallen Wolrd and are surrounded by even more fallen people, Sex in Marriage is more of a Cross than ever. The Cross and Marriage bed have more in common than anyone realizes. It is on that structure that one lays down upon, naked, completely and utterly exposed to the one who loves you most. However, how do you know that going in? Sadly, for too many people, the first time they have sex is the last time they have it selflessly and with Charity. They stop all sense of giving or exploration at the Climatic end. They refuse to dive deeper into the person they love and instead seek that Feeling of the Flesh. So Sex is something to fear in Marriage, just like Jesus was afraid the night before his Passion.

    It’s like a Safecracker. Once they crack the Safe and loot whatever is inside, the safe is an afterthought. They’re already planning their escape, how they will spend the loot, it’s all about them. And the Safe is left open, abandoned.

    Even the most Chaste of us physically can be the least Chaste of us Emotionally and Mentally. Chastity is not a Contractual Obligation to Wedded Bliss, completel sacrifice and Love! Chastity is a Command by our Lord, but it is not a guarentee to Love, acceptance or respect. It’s up to the people in that relationship, as to whether they will seek Purity of Mind, Heart and Soul, as well as Body and to always place Christ and his Cross in the Marriage Bed, so no one is used, no one is hurt, no one is made to feel undignified or inferior.

  37. Reblogged this on Solutio Problematis Omnes (aka "The Catholic Linker") and commented:
    This is just a beautiful story. This is further evidence that Catholicism is the solution of all our human problems when it is truly understood and put into practice. It is truth. It is real.

  38. colyla says:

    love this tradition! just sent the link to my husband via email…..

  39. John says:

    Our priest told us about this ceremony during our marriage prep sessions with him and we immediately wanted to implement it in our ceremony. We did just that and witnesses at our wedding said they were very touched by our ceremony and now that crucifix hangs at the front entrance of our house. We have since passed this post along to EVERYONE we know getting married. Spread the Crucifix everyone!

  40. Adam says:

    I’m getting married this October and my fiancee and I want to do this for our wedding. do you know is there a specific rite for this or do you just hold and kiss the cross together and insert the priest’s bit after that?

  41. kathleen says:

    Adam @ 16:04 on Feb. 24

    Adam, apologies for taking so long to respond to your question; family life has kept me busy! 😉

    It is a wonderful thing that you wish to include the marriage crucifix in your wedding ceremony, and I send you and your fiancee my congratulations and prayers for your coming marriage.

    As far as I know, there is no “specific rite” in the West for this special blessing of the couple over the crucifix. I think it is solely a Croatian custom at this time. Perhaps it is time we started this lovely Croatian tradition in every other country, for without a doubt it has brought countless blessings and great grace on the sacrament of marriage among these good people.

    If you are a member of a traditional Catholic parish perhaps you could ask the priest who is preparing you for Holy Matrimony to look into this for you. If there is nothing official available, you could perhaps include the words mentioned in bold in the above article. There are many beautiful Catholic prayers through this holy instrument of our Salvation, the Crucifix, that I am sure would be appropriate and fitting too.

    Hope this helps. God bless

  42. Judith says:

    I love this post. Very inspiring.

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  45. Maria Therese Sipe says:

    I wish I would have gotten one. We did the El Lasso. Love mine.

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  49. VERALÚCIA RODRIGUES BENTO says:

    No matrimônio somos surpreendidos por forças sobrenaturais que sustenta a família nas horas difíceis, basta que nos coloquemos sempre na presença de Deus.

    [CP&S translation: “In marriage we are surprised by supernatural strength that the family supports in difficult hours, it is enough that we always place ourselves in the presence of God.”]

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  54. Amber says:

    It is a special cross where can it be purchased from. It has a traditional interlace design.

  55. Adam says:

    My wife and I did use this in our wedding mass in the end. We just held the crucifix as we said our vows and kissed it at the end, before the blessing of the rings. The priest was more than happy to include this in the mass. He then said the prayer: “you have found your cross…etc”

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  59. Sprat says:

    My family comes from here and I did this with my wife during our wedding here in Canada. I cannot express to you the inner peace that I feel when I am in Siroki Brijeg.

  60. Pingback: The Gifts and Graces of Marriage - Marriage Resource Centre

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