Each year we no doubt do our best to make Christmas special for those we love. We bring out the good china. We drag boxes of decorations up from the basement. We bake cookies, make homemade pasta, and roast the biggest turkey we can find. This only happens once a year after all, and we want to make the most of it. Celebrating the birth of the Savior of the World is a beautiful part of our faith. But as Pope Francis reminded Vatican employees this week, the celebrations aren’t only meant for once or twice a year. Too many of us take our families and more specifically our spouses for granted.
“I encourage you to take care of your marriage and your children. Marriage is like a plant. It is not like a closet, that you put there, in the room, and just dust it occasionally: a plant is alive, it should be cared for every day.”
So while what we’re doing between Christmas and New Year’s can be wonderful, festive, and even faith-filled, in the end, as the Pope reminds us, it’s how we treat each other between New Year’s and Christmas that will have long term impact.
“A marriage is a living reality: the couple’s life should never be taken for granted, at no stage of the path of a family. Let us remember that the most precious gift for the children are not things, but the love of parents – and I mean not only the love of parents towards their children, but parents’ love for each other.”
Julie and Greg Alexander of the Alexander House marriage ministry, write in our book Intimate Graces that we can’t expect to sustain a lifetime vocation of “I do” until “death do us part” based on a one time event such as a weekend retreat or annual holiday celebrations. It can only be done day in and day out through continual effort of love and sacrifice.
So go ahead and trim the tree, buy the presents, and break out the bubbly. By all means. But after the holidays remember not to put your marriage back in storage along with the ornaments, the lights, and the wreaths. If you want a merry and truly fruitful marriage 365 days of the year treat it like that living plant. Give it lots of water, sunshine, and attention, especially during this Year of Mercy.