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Bishop Mark Davies, of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.Facebook screenshot/John Aaron.

CHESTER, England (LifeSiteNews) — An English bishop has warned that marriage is not just in “decline” but risks “disappearing” and urged a renewal of the “Christian vocation of marriage as a “call to holiness.”

Speaking in Chester on October 14, Bishop Mark Davies of the Diocese of Shrewsbury issued an impassioned plea for a resurgence of the sacrament of marriage. Speaking at the diocesan Mass celebrated particularly for married couples, Davies warned of a societal collapse due to low marriage rates.

“The headlines do not seem to exaggerate when they speak not merely of a cataclysmic decline but of marriage disappearing in Britain,” he said. “The social consequences of such a loss are only beginning to be worked out, not least for the well-being of children.”

READ: ‘We can never compromise the truth’ on gender: English bishop

He noted that for those present, celebrating many decades of married life, when they entered into the sacrament “marriage might have seemed the most natural step in the world for a young couple setting out in life and ready to begin a family.”

“The promises you made were not merely recognized by British society as the most vital of its institutions and the greatest of social goods, this was a commitment in which society uniquely promised to support you in numerous ways,” he observed. 

But such a time of societal support for marriage is no longer the case, Davies added. Addressing the jubilarians in his homily, the bishop stated:

It is hard to imagine in little more than half a century the promises you made, the vocation you embraced would become more and more exceptional. So exceptional in these early years of this 21st Century that most recent statistics show a 61% decrease of marriages in our land; the lowest number of couples entering marriage for almost two centuries; and the first time in our history that more children are born outside of marriage than in a married home. 

Davies urged Catholics not simply “to lament such a loss but to allow the Christian vision of marriage to be seen anew as a radical call to holiness, really the same thing as happiness.”

READ: Bishop warns against receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin

Davies called for a renewal of the sacrament of marriage in light of widespread marital and familial breakdown. This would entail proposing marriage “as it came from the hand of our Creator as the faithful, lasting union of man and woman open to the gift and responsibility of children (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1603).

The bishop added that Catholic marriage was founded on a calling more than a simple union of two individuals: 

To declare our faith in marriage as a Divine calling, lived out in human relationships which bear the disorder and frailties of sin, yet with the promise of unfailing grace and the hope of salvation.

Davies argued that the daily witness of sacramental marriages must serve as an “invitation to new generations to believe and set out along the same path.”

In this way, he added, families would grow, children would become more numerous, and the Scriptural calling of marriage centered on God would once again be prevalent:

The Christian vocation of marriage stands out as an invitation to new generations to believe and set out along the same path; to have the courage to make the same awesome promises; to build a stable and loving home for their children by their very faithfulness; and with the same prayer that the Lord may protect their unity of heart and bring them to old age together (Cf. Tobit 8:8). To this with Tobias and Sarah we can surely say “Amen, amen.” 

READ: UK Bishop Davies: Catholics oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ out of love

Bishop Davies has a history of speaking out on issues pertaining to Catholic morality, especially regarding topics on family life and the unborn. In this light, he has been vocal in defending the Catholic teaching on issues such as the reception of Holy Communion, marriage and family life, and gender ideology.

Bishop Mark Davies was gracious enough to send this reporter a copy of his recent homily, which is reproduced in full below with the original British spelling conventions:

Homily by Rt. Rev. Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury

For many of you who married 70, 60, 50, 40 even 25 years ago, marriage might have seemed the most natural step in the world for a young couple setting out in life and ready to begin a family. It is true no couple could sincerely pronounce the promises of marriage – “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” – without a sense of awe.

Yet, on your wedding day you knew that you were embarking on a vocation lived from the beginning and written into the very nature of man and woman. A vocation raised by Christ to be a sacrament of salvation and held holy by the Church for 2,000 years. The promises you made were not merely recognised by British society as the most vital of its institutions and the greatest of social goods, this was a commitment in which society uniquely promised to support you in numerous ways.

In the light of the Scriptures, you stood in long continuity with the story of love and faithfulness which the Book of Tobit recorded more than 22 centuries ago. The prayer of Tobias and Sarah was echoed on your wedding day as you prayed for the protection of your singleness of heart and asked the Lord to “bring us (you) to old age together” (Tobit 8: 8).

In celebrating your wedding, you could recognise yourselves in the marriage at Cana in Galilee which Saint John records at the beginning of his Gospel. It was at a wedding that Jesus chose to give the first of the signs of His Divine mission “manifesting his glory” (Jn. 2: 11). A sign given for a newly married couple in all their need. In this Christian vocation, you knew like that young couple long before that you could turn to the same Saviour every day of your married lives, heeding the words of His Mother: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn. 2: 5).

It is hard to imagine in little more than half a century the promises you made, the vocation you embraced would become more and more exceptional. So exceptional in these early years of this 21st Century that most recent statistics show a 61% decrease of marriages in our land; the lowest number of couples entering marriage for almost two centuries; and the first time in our history that more children are born outside of marriage than in a married home. The headlines do not seem to exaggerate when they speak not merely of a cataclysmic decline but of marriage disappearing in Britain. The social consequences of such a loss are only beginning to be worked out, not least for the well-being of children.

As Christians, we are not merely being called to lament such a loss but to allow the Christian vision of marriage to be seen anew as a radical call to holiness really the same thing as happiness. To propose marriage as it came from the hand of our Creator as the faithful, lasting union of man and woman open to the gift and responsibility of children (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1603). To declare our faith in marriage as a Divine calling, lived out in human relationships which bear the disorder and frailties of sin, yet with the promise of unfailing grace and the hope of salvation.

At a moment in our history when marriage is increasingly being lost sight of, the witness you have given simply by living the promises of marriage through every trial and difficulty is no small thing and today shines out more and more brightly.

The Christian vocation of marriage stands out as an invitation to new generations to believe and set out along the same path; to have the courage to make the same awesome promises; to build a stable and loving home for their children by their very faithfulness; and with the same prayer that the Lord may protect their unity of heart and bring them to old age together (Cf. Tobit 8:8). To this with Tobias and Sarah we can surely say “Amen, amen.”

End of Bishop Davies’ homily.

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