Scott Hahn posted this on his Facebook page, and it deserves wider circulation:
According to Croatian tradition, when a couple gets married, the priest doesn’t tell them that they have found the perfect person. On the contrary! Instead, he says to them: “You have found your cross. It is a cross to love, to carry it with you, a cross that is not to throw away but to treasure.”
In Herzegovina, the Cross represents the greatest love and the crucifix is the treasure of the house.
When the bride and groom enter the church on their wedding day, they carry a crucifix with them. The priest blesses the crucifix. When the time comes to exchange their vows, the bride puts her right hand on the crucifix and the groom puts his hand on hers, so that both hands are joined together on the crucifix.
The priest covers their hands with his stole as they exchange their vows, according to the rite of the Church, to be faithful to each other, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, till death do them part.
Then, instead of kissing each other, the bride and groom kiss the crucifix. Those who witness the ceremony understand from it that if one of them leaves the other, he or she leaves Christ on the Cross.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds bring the crucifix to their home and put it in a place of honor. It will forever be the point of reference and the place of family prayer. In times of difficulty, the family do not go to the lawyer or the psychiatrist, but kneel down together before the crucifix in search of help from Jesus Christ. They kneel down and maybe even cry and open their hearts asking the Lord and each other for forgiveness. They go to sleep with peace in their hearts because they have received forgiveness from the only one who has the power to save.
Husband and wife will teach their children to kiss the crucifix every day and not to go to sleep like pagans, without first giving thanks to Jesus. They know that Jesus is holding them in His arms and there is nothing to fear.
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Writer Tom Perna described doing this at his wedding:
Although neither of us is Croatian, we found the tradition of holding the crucifix an exceptional symbol of the vocation of marriage. So moved by seeing this at our wedding, two other couples (both friends of ours) who were recently married followed our example and did the same thing at their wedding Mass.
In the town of Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there has not been one single divorce or broken family in living memory among the 26,000 people who call the town home. A people who have suffered for their Catholic faith throughout the centuries at the hands of different conquerors, they know the importance that Christ plays in the life of a Christian and that salvation comes through the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The blog Catholicism Pure and Simple sums it up:
The family is indissolubly united to the Cross of Christ. Is this simply a morbid outlook on marital and family life? Or is it a piece of wisdom that few in our modern world can understand?
The Catechism teaches that “love should be permanent or it is not true love. It is not a feeling which comes and goes, but a power to give which should be there even when feeling dies out”.
In marriage we cannot rely on our own human strength, and if we think we can, we shall fail. Temptation enters into every marriage in one way or another. On one’s wedding day it is hard to imagine a day when it all won’t be perfect. Little do the young hearts know that they are embarking on a road which will travel to the highest peaks and the lowest valleys. It is during those times spent deep in the valley that it takes heroic efforts by both to stay the course. At times it is even necessary for one spouse to have the mental discipline to pull the other spouse back into the marriage. Those who are experiencing this or have in the past can fully appreciate the grace that is necessary to hold on through the storm or the silence. There might be days when it all seems hopeless. Then a moment of true grace can bring a flood of renewed love and vitality back to the relationship to renew the sacramental bond. It is during these times of intense difficulty that spouses can experience what is truly meant by those seemingly prophetic words now being added during some marriage ceremonies: “You may kiss the Cross.”
Finally, here’s a video on the subject, from Ascension Presents: