In the media's rush to draw conclusions from the mass wedding at the Vatican last Sunday, where some of the couples being wed had been cohabiting, one point seems to have been overlooked by nearly everyone: Pope Francis's choice of date for the nuptials.
On the Catholic calendar, the church is currently in the midst of what is called ordinary time. During all of this July, August, and September, there is only one Sunday in which a feast takes precedence over the normal Sunday liturgy.
Pope Francis had his pick of Sundays to preside over the mass wedding, and he chose that very Sunday. It would seem, then, that he wished that the couples would, from then on, remember that feast every year as the one upon which they were married. There is something about the nature of that feast that Pope Francis wanted the couples to associate with their vows.
What feast was it? The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
I believe the pope's choice of date is significant. Currently the media is abuzz with speculation concerning the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, particularly with regard to a push among certain cardinals to permit Holy Communion for civilly divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Much of the debate concerns the question of how much the Church should expect members of the faithful to sacrifice. This was also an issue at the time of the contraception debate during the 1960s. At that time, those favoring relaxation of doctrine argued that it was simply too difficult for Catholic couples to follow the Church's ban on artificial methods of birth control. Pope Paul VI responded with Humanae Vitae, in which he quoted Jesus' words in Matthew 7:14: "the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life."
Perhaps Francis is indicating a similar attitude to that of Paul VI by officiating at the mass wedding on the feast marking Jesus' self-sacrificial outpouring, and by making the Cross the center of his homily.
Those reporting on the nuptials almost completely ignored the pope's homily. The Washington Post included only a small mention of it near the end of its story, and then only in relation to the synod:
Bishops from all over the world are scheduled to come to the Vatican next month for a major meeting on the family, which the Jesuit pope referred to in the homily to Sunday’s Mass as the “bricks” on which society is built.
The Associated Press did likewise, though they put the quote farther up:
Francis in his homily likened families to the "bricks that build society."
It is as though the media simply took the most innocuous quote they could find and stuck it into the story. What Francis actually did was talk about the reality of sin in spouses' lives, and the need for God's mercy. An excerpt (click here to read the entire homily):
[Out] of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.
The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” [Num 21:4] and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment … To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.
Yes, I realize Francis is speaking about mercy and healing, the very kinds of things the media's "inclusive" pope would speak about. But he is also speaking about sin, sacrifice and the interior co-crucifixion with Christ that Catholic faith recognizes as a requirement for redemption (see Gal 2:20).
Someone in the mainstream press should have noticed that. No one did.