Looking like the princess that she is, the lovely Catherine Middleton today became the wife of Prince William. It was a wedding that had the attention of people the world over. I watched the beautiful ceremony with my daughters this morning, enjoying the vestiges of Catholicism still quite boldly present, such as the occasional use of Latin, the chanted music, and even the very place they tied the knot, Westminster Abbey, which before the reign of King Henry the VIII, was a Catholic cathedral .
Despite years of history and the reformation, Catholic footprints haven’t lost their ability to make their presence felt. They still breathe, flowing into the English culture now and again with surprising freshness. “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” These words, first spoken by St. Catherine of Siena, are the Catholic wisdom which the Bishop of London chose to begin his sermon to the newly married royal couple. Catherine and William were being encouraged to take their wedding vows to heart, and to live a life that would give others strength and hope.
The bishop followed with some good advice such as this:
A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
I don’t know about you, but I’m praying for these two young people. Like it or not, they are role models. So, what they do does matter for the good of society. If their marriage drags along the disaster path of some of the previous royals, it will undermine the hope of many others that they too, can have a marriage that succeeds. And that is exactly what we don’t need. John Burns, in his New York Times essay, “A Royal Wedding, a Tarnished Crown,” put it this way:
Friday’s ceremony, more than a rite of renewal, is viewed as a step toward saving the monarchy — and a far from certain one, at that — after a quarter of a century in which its foundations have been shaken as never before in modern times, by the soap opera that Charles and Diana’s marriage became as well as the dissolute behavior of many other royals.
With all the talk of alternative lifestyles, sexual freedom, etc., people still want to know there’s some place in the world with an inviting hearth and a warm home. They still want to see goodness and authentic love. A lot is riding on the happy outcome of this particular marriage. And, with William and Catherine’s previous experience of living together not building up habits of virtue, they’ve got some catching up to do.
Will the trail of selfishness and sorrow repeat itself? Or will this be a story of the triumph of grace? I hope they can find their way to choose tenderness, which in his book Love and Responsibility, John Paul II defines as “the ability to feel with and for the whole person, to feel even the most deeply hidden spiritual tremors, and always to have in mind the true good of that person.” If Catherine and William are willing to sacrifice for each other in that way, then they’ll be able to enrich the world with a powerful example of a fruitful, beautiful family life, and a royally happy outcome.