By: Erin Kisley
Have you ever heard the words, “You May Now Kiss the Cross,” at a wedding? If you’re not living in Siroki-Brijeg, Herzegovina, there’s a decent chance that your answer is no. These words are part of a beautiful Croatian marriage tradition from this village that is slowly making its way throughout Europe and to the United States.
On our wedding day (shameless countdown update: we are 10 weeks away!), Joe and I will bring a crucifix with us to the altar. Our priest will bless it as I place my right hand on the crucifix and Joe places his hand over mine. He will cover our hands with his stole as we declare our vows to be faithful to one another. Then, together, we kiss the greatest image of love, the Cross.
While this probably makes us sound much holier than we are, the truth is, you don’t have to be up for canonization to acknowledge a reality that drives many modern couples apart: suffering. It’s no secret that we live in a culture that finds every excuse to avoid it. The wounds of financial strain, infertility, infidelity and bad days are made “better” by credit cards, in vitro fertilization, divorce and the like.
Yet, if we desire to experience the fullness of love and the true meaning of marriage, we will see our crosses as the means of getting ourselves and our families to Heaven. For it is the cross that helps us to grow in maturity, self-discipline and true charity. This powerful Croatian tradition reminds us that if the bride and groom abandon their cross, they are essentially abandoning Jesus and His plan for their lives.
After the ceremony (and the photos, reception and goodbyes), we will bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in our home. It will become the focal point of our family. When misfortune or conflict arise, with faith, we will seek help there, before the Cross. We’ll get on our knees and in front of Jesus will weep our tears, pour out our hearts, and seek the help of Him who died for us.
Isn’t this beautiful? Did I mention that Siroki-Brijeg has no recorded divorces? Not one. Coincidence? I think not.
In his recently issued pastoral letter on artificial contraception, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., writes: “We live in a world short on love. Today love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things and comfort and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.”
I ask: In whom can we find a greater example of love and meaning than Our Jesus, crucified?
 Loveoffering.com, 2002.
This is the ninth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.