Romantic encounter in Barcelona
The first wedding of the year I attended was that of a beautiful couple whose romance blossomed in the equally gorgeous city of Barcelona. I am referring to the nuptials of Ryan Velasco and Candice Cepeda, two of the friends I have made as a result of my spending some years in Barcelona as a visiting professor of the famous IESE Business School, one of the top business schools in the world today.
Besides renewing my friendship with the couple, I was very glad to meet a good number of IESE alumni from all over the world who flocked to Manila to attend this joyous event. I turned nostalgic talking to these IESE graduates about our happy days in this romantic city (literally because Barcelona dates back to the Roman civilization in Europe).
The couple was lucky that they had as officiating prelate the most Reverend Deogracias Iñiguez Jr., bishop of Kalookan, one of the most pro-life, pro-family members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines. Predictably in his homily Bishop Iñiguez stressed the truth that the institution of marriage is not man-made but is made in heaven. As one of the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ, it results in a supernatural bond that is broken only by the death of one of the partners. What the good bishop said reminded me of an address delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to engaged couples in Ancona, Italy, last September 12, 2011.
The Barcelona romance started some three years ago. Ryan and Candice had been engaged at least for two years. Now that they are united in marriage, they look back at those years of engagement to savor the words of the pope about how they prepared for the final step of marriage. I am sure that these words of the pope sound very real to them: “Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that has created us, and whose grace sanctifies the decision of a man and a woman to give themselves reciprocally to the life of matrimony. Live this time of engagement in confident waiting for this gift, which must be received by following a path of knowledge, respect and attentions that you must never neglect. Only under this condition will the language of love become meaningful also with the passing of the years. Hence, educate yourselves henceforth in the liberty of fidelity, which leads to protecting one another, to the point of the one living for the other. Prepare yourselves to choose with conviction the ‘forever’ that distinguishes love: indissolubility, more than a condition, is a gift that must be desired, requested and lived, beyond any changing human situation. And do not think, along with the widespread mentality, that living together is a guarantee for the future. If you skip the steps of intimacy, which require respect for time and a gradual progression of expressions, you will ‘get burned’ in love; love needs room for Christ, Who is capable of making a human love faithful, happy and indissoluble. The fidelity and enduring nature of your love will also make you capable of being open to life, of being parents: The stability of your union in the sacrament of matrimony will enable the children that God wishes to give you to grow confident in the goodness of life. Fidelity, indissolubility and transmission of life are the pillars of every family, a true common good, a precious patrimony for the whole society. Henceforth, found on them your path to matrimony and give witness of this to your contemporaries: This is a precious service! Be grateful to those who, with commitment, competence and willingness, accompany you in formation: They are the sign of the attention and care that the Christian community reserves for you. You are not alone: Seek and receive in the first place the company of the Church.”
True, marriage is a natural institution that binds in an indissoluble manner a man and a woman of any faith. Being global managers, Ryan and Candice have a good number of intimate friends who are non-Christians but who are also bound in indissoluble marriages. The two are fortunate, however, that in their case marriage has been raised to the level of a supernatural sacrament that will strengthen them to meet the vicissitudes of ordinary life and persevere in their “liberty of fidelity.”
As one of their wedding sponsors, I pledge my never-ending prayers (especially during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) for them to always grow in love for each other and for the children God will send them. Since I am sure that at least one of them, if not both, has made a pilgrimage to the magnificent shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, the patroness of Catalunya, I will entrust their marriage and family to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The very rugged mountains leading to the shrine symbolize the difficulties that they will surely encounter in the course of their married and family life. But the breathtaking shrine at the peak of the mountain also symbolizes the incomparable happiness they will enjoy here on earth if they are faithful to each other as well as the eternal bliss in heaven to which their marriage will lead. As one of the books I gave them, as a wedding gift, is entitled Marriage as the Path to Sanctity. Their road to heaven is their mutual love for each other.
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