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In Sickness & in Health: Marriage

Image: www.rsvplive.ie

It was front-page news two weeks ago, the announcement of the breakdown of Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes’ marriage. The pair had been together for more than two decades and married for  14 years. The former presenters of ITV’s This Morning are very popular in the UK and were seen as a golden couple who were just meant to be together.

When they first met Eamonn had recently split from his wife Gabrielle with whom he shares 3 children.  By the time Eamonn and Ruth married their son Jack (now 22 years old) had already been born.  Throughout their marriage, Ruth was by Eamonn’s side as he dealt with a series of health battles including chronic back pain and surgery. Recent months have seen him needing the aid of a wheelchair and cane for mobility.

Just days before the divorce was made public Ruth spoke with Woman’s Weekly magazine about his health and admitted she was not sure if he would ever be ‘100 percent again’.  She said: ‘With any care situation – and there are millions of carers in this country – it isn’t always easy.  It’s testing but we manage as a family.’

That is obviously no longer the case and there is a perception by many that Ruth is abandoning Eamonn in his time of need. That is a judgement which no one has the right to make, but it seems to have been given some credence by a comment of a friend.  This woman was quoted as saying that a woman of Ruth’s age (64) knows she has only a few years left in which she can look her best, dress well, feel fit, and go out and enjoy herself.  Ulrika Jonsson, the Swedish-British television presenter and former model  has said that Ruth has the right to put her own needs first.  In her opinion, Ruth probably wants ‘to crack on with life, and she’s got an old misery on two sticks dragging her down.’

If this is true, it seems that Ruth got going when the going got rough!  However, this is mere speculation and not proven in any way.  Still, it does put the issue of the nature of marriage under the spotlight.

Catholic Teaching

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between a baptized man and woman is a sacrament, in other words an expression of the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and his people. By their permanent, faithful, and exclusive giving to each other, symbolized in sexual union, the couple reveals something of God’s unconditional love.  The sacrament of Christian marriage involves their entire life as they journey together through the ups and downs of marriage and become more able to give and receive from each other.

Catholic teaching holds that sacraments bring grace to those who receive them with the proper disposition.  Grace is a way of describing how God shares the divine life with us and gives us the help we need to live as followers of Christ.  In marriage, the grace of this sacrament brings to the spouses the particular help they need to be faithful and to be good parents.  It also helps a couple to serve others beyond their immediate family and to show the community that a loving and lasting marriage is both desirable and possible.

Christians have always known that marriage is not easy.  In the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom promise to be true to one another ‘for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health’.  The love of Christ for us, which marriage reflects, led him to betrayal, abandonment by friends, and agonising death on the cross.  But that was also the path that led him and leads us to the fulfillment where ‘Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more (Rev 21:4) and where God will make all things new’.

Faith in Christ, lived in the sacrament of marriage, opens up for the couple the truth that gives life meaning, the hope that can make sense when they face difficult challenges such as sickness. As husband and wife are called to be faithful, generous, and gracious to each other in fulfillment of their marriage covenant, so is the whole Church called to be faithful to its covenant with God in Christ.

In an Ideal World

“When Christian marriage flounders,” Father John T. Finnigan, former President of the Canon Law Society of America has written, “the witness of fidelity in all Christian vocations flounders” (Marriage/pastoral Care,” Origins  5/10, August 28, 1975, p. 152).

There is certainly something sad about a marriage ending; the sense that nothing is sacred anymore, that it is inevitable promises cannot be kept. However, every marriage is unique and no one only God can know the circumstances of each breakdown.  I remember someone telling me that when her marriage broke up, she felt a failure,  That was a long time ago and it is to be hoped that people are supported and not judged by those who are in happier circumstances.

This was Eamonn Holme’s second marriage and Ruth Langford’s first.  The gossip columnists are already speculating about the possibility of ‘other people’ in their lives.  Eamonn apparently has been seen out and about with a blond woman.  There is something vaguely depressing about it all, a notion of these being fleeting things that have little or no meaning other than fodder to sell magazines and newspapers.  The golden couple are no more and all is come to dust.

I am reminded of a fridge magnet  I saw with the following words :

To my Wife

Our home ain’t no castle

Our life ain’t no fairy tale

But still you are

My Queen Forever

Love, Your grumpy old husband

Sentimental maybe, and certainly not applicable to everyone but lovely when it works.

Written by Marie–Therese Cryan

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