No. 33 Catholic Vision of Marriage
The term marriage, loosely construed today, is widely thought of as no more than a human institution; open to all-comers, whatever their personal preferences and bio-psychological orientations and urges may be. And easily terminated. Many regard informal liaisons as a preferable option. Such attitudes exact a heavy toll on those involved and on society. Few dare to admit or decry this.
Catholic understanding of marriage is very different, relying not on do-it-yourself or it-is-what-you-will formulations and practices, but on the word of God and the guidance of the Catholic Church, founded and enlivened by Jesus the Living Word of God.
For Catholics, God himself is the author of marriage and has always blessed this vocation which is in the very nature of man and woman. So, marriage is not merely a human or biological institution. It is far greater and richer. This most intimate union and partnership between husband and wife is designed by God to be loving, self-giving, life-giving, life-sustaining: leading to God. An exclusive covenant of love between a man and a woman, an undertaking of faithfulness for life, which none must violate or renege upon. (See also The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 7 : 1601 – 1666)
Good marriages are robust, and the fundamental requisites of a spiritually healthy human society. This is because the mutual love and trust between spouses is meant to be an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves us. One which figures Christ’s love for and fidelity to his Church, and those he died for. Marriage has been raised by Christ to the beauty, dignity and blessing of a sacrament. Ordered toward the good of the spouses, the procreation and education of children, and the healthy state of family and community. It represents the call by God Who Is Love, to create communities of love here on earth; founded in joy, understanding, forgiveness, compassion and peace. Beginning in the home. In Catholic marriage, husband and wife are entrusted with the exalted duty of being God’s love to one another, of transcending self, and of building the Kingdom of God in the world. Married love is good in the Creator’s eyes.
Catholic Marriage involves Three Parties
The attainment of and living up to the Christic ideal in marriage is not easy. Catholic marriage is between a man and a woman, each with distinctive traits, virtues and talents; tastes, quirks and shortcomings. In short, between two who differ from one another however much they may love one other. To differences each spouse has to adjust, without domineering and disrespect. And, however golden their intentions may be, spouses sometimes stumble, and may let themselves and their partner and their families down. Coping with and rising above failings require deliberate and ongoing growth in the Christian virtues. Conversion from the selfishness that lurks in every one. This cannot be done without the help of the God of Love, making it essential to walk, not just with each other, but with God. To let their hearts, words and actions reflect His love, His will, His goodness. Commitment to God, must precede love for the spouse, unilaterally, if necessary. Pride has to be jettisoned. Self control and forgiveness are essential. Remembering the good things about the beloved, not counting faults, soothes and promotes patience and understanding. A daily undertaking.
For Catholics, marriage is for life. It is for growth in the spirit, and for many it is a school of hard knocks as well. By the light of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, spouses are weaned from sin, strengthened against temptations to yield to the cardinal vices, and are given the opportunity to actualise the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Whether the journey seems long or not, prayer, an honest ‘mea culpa’ and perseverance with a smile and a song are wonderful restoratives. Thus despite its attendant problems and hardships, a sound Catholic marriage is priceless blessing, where not only do two become one flesh, but where in two bodies there beats but one heart. A lasting love that overcomes the passage of time and the disappointments, tragedies and the ravages of the years. Eros becomes agape. All this is possible, as those who try to walk with their Lord discover. It takes three to make a holy marriage. Thus, the yoke of the Lord becomes sweet and burdens light.
Heavenly Father, by the teaching of your Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit, grant that more and more of your people come to appreciate the dignity of the vocation of matrimony, honour the pledges they make in your sight to one another, and their commitment to you when they wed, and may they never forget these promises. Bless and console them on their journeying together. And should they fall short of their vows, raise them up and restore their unity and joy by your mercy. May they grow in virtue and pass on the baton of their lived faith to their children and to others close to them.