From Chapter 1 of Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s book The Way: Character
Matrimony is a holy sacrament. When the time comes for you to receive it, ask your spiritual adviser or your confessor to suggest a suitable book. And you will be better prepared to bear worthily the burdens of the home.
In two Saturdays we will attend the wedding of a young man who graduated high school ten years ago. During his four years of high school he was among the ten boys and girls his age who were a part of our Godteens group. During the school year these kids met in our home each Wednesday night for 90 minutes of lessons about faith, discussion and fun. At the time we had just one child ourselves and these kids became his adopted big brothers and sisters from the time he was four years old. We manage to stay in touch with most of them as they are scattered around the country via the military, jobs, and for one them, the priesthood.
Luke and his fiancé will be wed in ten days and it has sparked discussions between my wife and I about a wedding gift. While it’s easy to just go to wherever the couple is registered (or even log on and shop their registry from your home computer) we like to do something unique for the couple when we can. There was a time in America where every couple was given a family bible. Depending on how well you know the couple in question I still like to shop for a high-quality family edition bible as a gift. The bibles that have a special section of pages inside for the logging of family events: a sketch of the family tree, birthdates, wedding dates, baptisms, and even deaths. A place where someone could find comfort in a psalm or passage from Holy Scripture as well as looking through the family section and regaining an immediate sense of belonging.
What follows are my recommendations based upon experience for couples who are Catholic. While these recommendations can also serve non-Catholic couples I would suggest you do some research of your own. I’d be very interested in your recommendations as well since obviously not every couple we know that gets married is Catholic.
Around ten years ago we began to get a different book for couples who were Catholic: The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word Catechism means “instruction” and that is precisely what this book does for any and all who want to know the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church. It is easy to reference, easy to read, and contains extensive indexes and footnotes for anyone who wishes to dig deeper.
Published in 1992 this volume is divided into four parts:
- The Profession of Faith
- The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
- Life in Christ
On the basis of Section Four alone I would recommend this book to everyone. It has been said, and I believe even documented (though I lack the links at this time to cite the studies), that “a family that prays together, stays together.” While there are those who will cynically scoff at this due to their own prejudices or jaded experiences I can point to many, many instances where I’ve seen this borne out.
For those who wish for a simpler “Q&A” approach there is the more recently published (and excellent) Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
One more book section on the subject of prayer. In 2007 the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy released a revised edition of Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. It is a great resource for parents, children and anyone else to explore the rich heritage and Catholic tradition of prayer. I have reached for this book several times through the years when dealing with a difficult situation or issue as it contains prayers for almost every occasion in the life of an average person. It is source of comfort in rough times…but also in times of good.
Let’s face it: married couples face an uphill battle and an often hostile world. When looking for a gift for them as they launch into the world consider a book of faith that will feed them as much or more than any place setting they registered for.