In Siroki Brijeg in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a town of 30,000 inhabitants with about 13,000 Catholics, there are no divorces among the latter. What can be the explanation of this remarkable fact?
For centuries, under Turkish and then Communist domination, the Croats suffered cruelly, and had to fight tenaciously for their Catholic Faith. They therefore know by experience that salvation comes from the Cross of Christ. It does not come from disarmament projects, humanitarian aid or peace treaties, even if that brings some benefit.
When young people prepare for marriage, they are not deluded by being told: “you have found the ideal person,” or “the best match.” The priest says to them truthfully: “You have found your cross. And it is a cross to love, a cross to bear, a cross that should not be rejected but cherished.”
For the wedding, the engaged couple go to the church and bring a crucifix there. This crucifix, blessed by the priest, will hold a central place during the exchange of vows. The bride first places her right hand on the cross; in turn, the bridegroom places his hand on that of his bride, and the two hands are thus united on the cross.
The priest then places his stole over the hands of the betrothed who pronounce their consent and promise fidelity. After that, the bride and groom do not kiss each other, but they kiss the cross which is the foundation of the sacrament of marriage they have just contracted.
The meaning is very beautiful: if the husband abandons his wife or the wife abandons her husband, then it is the cross that they abandon. However, to abandon the cross is to lose everything, because the cross bears Christ who is everything for us.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom bring the crucifix home and give it a place of honor in their home. It will become the center of family prayer, because everyone is convinced that the family is born from this cross.
If a problem arises, if a conflict breaks out, it is in front of this cross that the spouses come to find help. They will not go to a lawyer; they will not consult an astrologer; they will not rely on a psychologist to settle their affairs.
But they will appear before the crucified Christ. They will kneel down and it is before Him that they will shed their tears, that they will express their suffering, and that they will be able to forgive themselves by remembering the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
This is the profound reason why there are no divorces in Siroki Brijeg.