The vocation of marriage is in crisis, said a U.S. cardinal in launching a major campaign to promote it as an institution in society.
The “The Future Depends on Love.” prayer and educational campaign for strengthening the vocation of marriage was launched by the Archdiocese of Boston and the other three Massachusetts dioceses – Fall River, Springfield and Worcester – on June 22, the feast of St. Thomas More, who, according to organizers, cherished the vocation of marriage.
The effort to promote the traditional marriage bond between a man and a woman began eight days after the Massachusetts legislature voted to deny Massachusetts voters their right to vote on a marriage amendment.
The legislature voted 151-45 on June 14 to reject a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At least one-fourth – or 50 – of the legislators had to affirm the proposed amendment for it to be placed before voters on the 2008 ballot.
A reported more than 170,000 Massachusetts citizens had signed petitions urging that the matter be placed on the ballot.
“The vocation of marriage is in crisis,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, in a letter sent to pastors last week.
He pointed to “more than a 60 percent decline in the number of marriages recorded in the archdiocese” in the last 20 years, from 12,274 in 1986 to 4,519 last year.
The campaign, he said, is among other national and local efforts in which “the church has been responding to the many challenges faced by married couples.
It was developed from the archdiocesan Committee on Marriage formed more than 18 months ago to provide recommendations to respond to the needs of engaged and married couples.
He added that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the midst of a multi-year National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage.
Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell called for support for married couples in a letter released to all priests in the diocese June 6, pointing to the power of prayer to enrich the lives of those living out their sacrament.
“Statistics across the country indicate that the number of weddings each year is declining in relation to those eligible to marry,” Bishop McDonnell said.
“There is no question parishes across the country have seen the number of Catholic wedding ceremonies go down. The society in which we live does not look favorably, as once was the case, on the lifelong commitment between husband and wife.”
The bishop said a prayer card with a prayer available in multiple languages has been produced for parishioners throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pray each day for married couples.
“Many couples pray for their children, their relatives, special family intentions, for extended family members, but sometimes forget themselves,” he wrote. “This prayer is meant to help them pray for the living out of their marriage commitment in God’s love and it is meant for others to pray for them as well.”
According to Kari Colella, coordinator for marriage ministries for the Archdiocese of Boston, the initiative “seeks to guide parishes, clergy and lay members in praying for and promoting the vocation of marriage.”
The promotion effort includes: the distribution of marriage prayer in each parish; the praying of the marriage prayer in weekday and Sunday liturgies in each parish each day; the encouraging parishioners to pray the prayer daily; and, the incorporation of support for traditional marriage in preaching, when appropriate, and in bulletin announcements.
It will also include an educational component that will begin in parishes throughout the state in the fall.
“We pray,” Colella said, that the effort “opens hearts and minds to the vocation of marriage as central in our Catholic experience.”
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