Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Catholic community here.
"I will end up divorced after three years just like my friend did!"
"I'm not sure this is the man I'll spend the rest of my life with!"
"I don't need to get married in order to baptize my kids!"
These are some of the arguments we have heard from our Mexican immigrants, cohabiting as long as twenty years here at the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, influenced by a lack of information about the Catholic Faith or by superstition.
There are 300,000 Mexican immigrants living within our dioceses yet only 5 percent attend Sunday Mass; the rest have traded the day of the Lord for work; forgetting to pray "God will provide," they keep singing "Time is money." They care, however, that their kids are baptized. Still, as the children near the age appropriate for first Communion, the parents drop them at the parish Religious Ed doors and walk away. How are our kids to grow in faith without a role model at home? Many of these parents are silently shouting to be catechized, to find a community they can belong to and grow with.
As Mexicans, we have a natural love for our Lady of Guadalupe who opened the doors to the new evangelization by allowing a massive conversion of indigenous Mexicans from paganism to Christianity, a task that Franciscan Friar Toribio de Motolinia thought impossible. Such an impressive event draws to Church a whole nation each December 12th to remember the unmatchable favor God had to Mexico and America.
Created by Bishop DiMarzio in 2013 and inspired by our Lady, the Mexican Apostolate—directed by Fr. Jorge Ortiz-Garay—has launched several initiatives. One of these, "Marriage in Guadalupe," aims to bring twelve cohabiting couples to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in communal weddings to take place December 6th and 7th (the weekend before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) at Brooklyn's newly-consecrated Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph. During the six months prior to the big events, couples will be catechized—growing in faith and communion with God, as spouses and community.
We seek to build strong foundations of faith and love for a domestic church that will be fertile and fruitful for new vocations. Marriage can be fraught with mistakes happily overcome by people with mature faith, but it requires commitment and vigilance against outside influence. Secularism, consumerism, and the erotized vision of the human being broadcast an almost social compulsion away from marriage or toward its unacceptable substitutes: extramarital union, so-called "free" love, polygamy, or other distortions that disown the dignity of marriage. (See Gaudium et spes 47b.)
The Church as a teacher values and defends the great dignity of marriage and family. This reality of marriage as such responds to the Divine Plan from the first marriage (Saint Dominic 211), and is also for the same purpose, consecrated as a Sacrament. As taught by Leo XIII it is "in regards of the substance and sanctity of the bond an essentially sacred and religious act." The sanctifying dynamism of the Sacrament of Marriage comes to the spouses with the experience of donation and selfless giving in love and service. Together they experience the strength of the divine love that draws them closer and closer to the Lord and each other, maturing as people, becoming freer and growing in love for God and each other, overflowing with love for their children, turning family into a cenacle of love, a sanctuary of life and the face of human love living in it (Puebla 583).
As spouses grow in Christian fidelity and their children's lives grow in the Lord, the family feels compelled to proclaim the Good News outside of the home. This happens when they receive the loving grace poured by the Holy Spirit in their hearts and are willing to accept his Divine Plan. This ideal cannot be achieved when people do not progress in the way of happiness and do not understand that the vocation of marriage as a way of Christian life bears the requirements of following Jesus.
Our work is simple but diligent in order to spread the word and invite couples to receive the Sacrament of Marriage.We go to the seven key parishes of the Mexican Apostolate in Brooklyn and Queens, meet with the priests and listen to the Mexican community of the parishes to acquaint ourselves with their needs. We aim to build a fraternal relationship and we extend invitations to workshops and events. We hand out flyers and keep parishes in the loop through their Facebook pages.
In this way we reach both the faithful who are active in the parish and those who have walked away from Church.
Simple and diligent like St. Juan Diego.