If you are preparing for marriage, you might enjoy watching the classic 1950s movie Father of the Bride. The opening scene introduces Stanley T. Banks, the forlorn father convincingly portrayed by Spencer Tracy, who reflects back on the family’s comedic panic that went into planning his daughter’s wedding.
At one point in his reflection, he recalls the moment he felt like he was losing his daughter: “Right then I knew we'd lost her. She'll always love us of course, but not in the old way. From now on her love will be handed out like a farmer's wife tossing scraps to the family rooster.” Stanley Banks’ happiness for his daughter is tinged with the hurt of losing his little girl. Once he felt like a rich man to have her as his doting child. No longer a king, he feels like the old farmyard rooster who will only get the scraps of her love.
In the 1951 sequel, Father’s Little Dividend, Stanley Banks progresses from the hapless father to grandpa. He blames his son-in law, “First, he steals my daughter, then he makes a grandpa out of me.” He is forced to come to terms with his mortality and at the end he rediscovers joy in the birth and christening of his grandson, who is his namesake. Through the chances and changes of life, Stanely has to come to see that, in marriage, love is not stingy but generous.
In I Corinthians 13, St. Paul writes about the generosity of love: “[Love] does not seek its own interests…it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things….Love never fails.” Those preparing for the sacrament of marriage this spring will exchange a vow that binds them exclusively to each other. The great characteristic of this love is that it binds spouses to one another with the indissoluble love of God. That’s why married love is a generous love: it is sealed with the love of God and it is a real sharing in his love. From the very beginning, marriage is fruitful in a whole new reality that comes from it which did not exist before, the union of the spouses. Marriage is also fruitful when, in cooperation with their Creator, the husband and wife give a gift of new life to the Church and the world.
In their marriage, husbands and wives are called to imitate Christ in their life and to walk in love as Christ loved us. St. Paul writes about God’s plan for married love in Ephesians 5:21-33 where he says, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Then he explains how the love of husbands and wives is analogous to the love between Christ and the Church. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and wives are to respect their husbands as the Church respects Christ. This beautiful teaching means that the generosity of married love entails self-sacrifice; whatever sacrifices have to be made for your marriage, always make them generously.
The generosity of marriage that is expressed in the love of the spouses for each other is also generous in its openness to life, for that is what marriage is intended for: love and life. The language the Church uses to teach about openness to life resounds with generosity: “Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1652). When spouses experience infertility, this does not diminish their marriage, “Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice” (CCC, 1654). The generosity of marriage makes room for others, this can especially be expressed through the gift of adoption.
As you prepare for marriage, here are some tips for how to prepare to be generous in marriage. You can begin to express this generosity even now while planning your wedding:
Commit to strengthen your most important relationship with Christ in the center of your love, pray for each other and with each other daily and make small sacrifices for each other, and ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness when you hurt each other. Begin praying for future children and ask the Lord to help you be generous in the gift of life and don’t forget the possibility of adoption. Begin now to talk with each other about your expectations for raising children in the faith. Make the reception last your whole life long, strive to open your homes in hospitality to guests and strangers. Plan in your marriage to regularly welcome family, friends and neighbors into your home and share meals and time with them. Consider how you are spending on your wedding, and how you might give a percentage of what you are spending on the wedding to things you both love, like your church or a charity that helps others. You might invite wedding guests to join you in making a contribution in thanksgiving for your marriage. Finally, the generosity of married love is expressed in the time you spend using your gifts to serve others. Consider how you will dedicate intentional time in serving the Church and others. You can ask the priest preparing you for marriage how you can serve and where your help may be needed.