I have been waiting to hear this from our Church for a long time: “valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage” (words from the current synod about the family). In simple words, even couples who cohabit can show signs of sanctity. And to make it simpler I will give an example of a couple in my parish.
Erasmo and Maria Luisa have been together for 36 years. They procreated 4 children, 2 suffer from psychosocial disability. The other two live far away and with children. Living conditions are extreme poverty. A small hut made of wood and metal planks with just one bed. But the most touching part of all this is that Maria Luisa has been suffering from muscular dystrophy for the last 2 years and with no medication. All day she stays inside on a small oxidized wheelchair. She doesn’t have even the strength to move a cup full of water to quench her thirst.
Erasmo goes inside the jungle every morning to cut wood for cooking stoves to sell for just 1.5 euros. That’s his salary, that’s what he does for the day. While he is working with the machete, he has told me, that he doesn’t stop thinking of his wife, hoping not to find her on the floor when he is back.
He does the cooking, he takes care of his wife, he feeds her and his kids and he is faithful to her. He loves his wife so much that you can just read it in his eyes when he speaks about her. And in the midst of this suffering, he thanks God because of His providence. There are always tortillas on the stove, he says with a smile on his face.
I came to know about them just a couple of days ago when one of my parishoners told me that a couple wanted to marry. Mere coincidence that at the same time in Rome many bishops are talking about family issues. Erasmo and Maria Luisa are not yet married. I felt that marriage was not the urgent issue at this point, but still felt helpless from where to start helping. I just opened my hands and prayed with them.
This is where I have found true love; this is where I felt I am with a “holy” family. This is where I feel God’s presence through his grace, although they are still unmarried. And now I understand and give thanks to my Church that our pastoral language with so many families can eventually change. We cannot continue to burden those who are already so burdened.