by Catherine Doherty.
In Holy Week, Love died for Love’s sake to teach us how to love. In Holy Week, Love teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for the beloved.
And so Holy Week is The Book in which every Catholic family can find the essence of its vocation. For the holy vocation of marriage is a vocation to love.
Every couple begins its Holy Week during the Nuptial Mass, the moment they pledge themselves to one another for life and to God for eternity.
This is the first note of their answering song of love to God—a song that grows into a symphony of unsurpassing beauty on their wedding night when they become, under the eyes of God, one flesh, one soul, one mind.
Henceforth they will partake of The Last Supper. They will be eternally renewed by the Sacrifice of the Mass—the Sacrifice of Love on Calvary—the Mass at which they will be nourished with the Body and Blood of the same Love, who is God, who died for them.
They also will be "eaten up" themselves. For they must "feed" with their very substance each other and their children—giving lavishly, never counting the cost, any more than He did.
For it is from God and from their own substance that each of them and their children will grow in wisdom and grace before His Face.
Gethsemani is a lonely garden. It is a garden which each spouse enters alone in the darkness of the spiritual nights. It is a garden enclosed indeed, known to God alone, where one takes upon himself the burdens of the sorrows, misunderstandings, problems (and even sins) of each other and of the children.
For such is the inner meaning of that tremendous and holy word "vocation," a vocation that is never entered into just for oneself alone, but always, in the final end, for the common good of all the members of the Church.
But especially it is entered into for the "Little Church of God, the family." The husband and wife must so love one another that they are ready to enter Gethsemani always, and there in bloody sweat (symbolically speaking) lift each other’s burdens to the all-understanding and infinite mercy of God.
At those times, Christ of the first Gethsemani is with them.
The Way of the Cross: This is the way of life for each Catholic individually, the only way that leads to Calvary and Easter, the supreme path to heaven even here on earth.
Who of us, mortals born of woman, hasn’t his or her via cruces, Way of the Cross, to travel? Priests? Nuns? Single people living in the world? All must walk it. All must carry the cross God allots them.
And the family—husband and wife—from the very first day of their married life, begin their way of the cross.
The Way of the Cross is the way of immolation, the dying to self, at the very heart of their marriage vocation.
Love serves. Love dies a thousand deaths and lives again for the beloved. How else can married love be sanctified but by walking slowly, lovingly, each step of that steep way of Christ’s Passion?
Books could and should be written on just that. Suffice it to say that even in the natural order, and in our poor human language, fatherhood and motherhood have been, through the centuries, synonymous with unselfishness, with a love that crucifies itself for others.
Good Friday comes to every family unexpectedly, in death and losses.
And the eventide of life comes, too, when husband and wife behold their task accomplished—their children reared and out of the family nest.
Then when this life nears its end, when they see the beautiful face of death, they can truly say with Christ: "It is consummated. We have loved passionately, utterly, unto complete death to self."
Then the Father will say to them, Come…, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world (Mt 25:34).
—Adapted from an article, "Holy Week," in Mary, a magazine, March-April 1956.
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