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The Three Altars that Make Marriage Holy

Today, I’d like to introduce another new contributor, Chiara Finaldi, who’ll be writing here once a month about marriage. In this post, she shares three tips for how we can make marriage holy in our homes and find strength and grace for our relationships.

Growing up in a certain type of Italian family, I had no doubts that the dinner table was a sacred place. Sunday Mass may have been long, but Sunday lunch was always much longer! This intuition was confirmed during our marriage preparation, when the wise old priest, now passed on to his eternal reward, gave us and all the couples present a talk we would never forget and have ourselves given to many other couples since.

3 Altars that Make Marriage Holy

He said that in every religion the Altar is where things are made holy. God wants our marriages and family lives to be so holy that He has given us not one but three altars where that sanctification can take place.

The Altar of the Mass

The source of every grace we need in marriage is Christ himself. He is the fountain to which we must return over and over again to quench our thirst for love and forgiveness, to find renewal and inspiration.

We can look for it in each other, but all too soon we will discover that as human beings we are limited, tired, irritable and selfish. Every married couple discovers that when an argument has gone on for longer than it should, when positions have hardened and no one is willing to budge one inch, then help is needed from the outside.

In the Eucharist, we are loved and fed by Christ Himself, and having received that unconditional love and example, communion within the marriage can be healed and restored.

The Altar of the Dining Table

When we were house-hunting a few years ago, we were surprised at just how many flats and houses did not have even a small table where people could sit and eat together. We couldn’t help wondering whether that was a cause or a symptom of the breakdown of family life in the big cities of the West.

If we read the Gospels it is amazing how many times Jesus ate with people, and how important those meals were, how many prayers he said, stories he told and teaching he gave around the dinner table, especially at the Last Supper.

In our own homes, every meal can be a reflection of that supper and the great banquet of the Mass. Beginning with Grace and conducted with as much dignity as possible, the dinner table becomes a privileged space where we can be at the service of each other as a couple and of our families.

We show our love and care for each other by the way the table is laid, by the care that is put into the food and by our recognition that it is God who provides everything we need to live. We speak of what matters to us, our work, our life and our faith and every meal can become a source of nourishment not just for our bodies but our minds, souls and relationships too.

The Altar of the Marital Bed

A few years ago a good friend of ours was ordained deacon, so we bought him the Book of Blessings and gave it to him on the condition that he would come and bless our new home. Delighting in his new-found powers, he blessed everything in the house that had a corresponding blessing in the book, including our pet chameleon.

One of those things was the marital bed, a beautiful testament to the value given by the Church to married love. This image of the bed as a holy place has helped us so many times when it risked becoming a place of selfishness or conflict.

As a reminder of the sacredness of our marital bed, we decided we would always cover it in white linen. The marital bed is that place where the sacrament of marriage is renewed and the bond between the couple is strengthened. Where, God-willing, children are conceived and tenderness is shared and increased.

Chiara and Pierpaolo have been married for 17 years and have five children and one on the way. They are based in London, UK. Chiara writes a family blog where you can find her musings on life and faith. She also runs a lively Facebook group called Catholic Mothers.

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