What ‘Makes’ a Marriage?
What is it that man and woman say ‘I do’ to? What are they signing up for? Precisely what makes them husband and wife? What ‘happens’ at that moment?
As well as the words of consent pledged at the altar, the Catholic Church identifies three essential components of marriage. They are:
- Unity - exclusive faithfulness
- Children - openness to fertility and
- Indissolubility - marriage is for life
(See Catechism of Catholic Church n 1643-4)
If one of these components is missing from the consent of one or both of the spouses, there is no marriage. Marriage is about lifelong unity and procreation. (Humanae Vitae n12). You get married in order to be one with your spouse, to have children and to raise a family. Each spouse marries for the lifelong good of the other, to lay down their life for the other, for mutual enrichment and the enrichment of their children if they are so blessed. That’s what marriage is about.
The Symbolism of Married Love
Did you know that the love of husband and wife reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church? Marriage between two baptized persons “is a real symbol of the union of Christ and the Church.” (Familiaris Consortio n 80). That makes marriage indissoluble just as Christ’s commitment to HIS bride, the Church, is “eternally faithful.” (see Familiaris Consortio n20 and n80)
Not only that, did you know that the love and communion of husband and wife is designed by the Creator to reflect on earth the generous, life-giving, loving nature of God in the Blessed Trinity? (see Catechism of Catholic Church n2335)
St. Paul highlights how Christ’s love for the Church is the model for marital love:
“Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy.” (Ephesians 5:25)
Marital love is thus FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, EXCLUSIVE and FRUITFUL. (see Humanae Vitae n9) Christ showed these five characteristics of love to perfection during His life on earth. This is the type of love every couple is called to in their marriage.
Children Are a Blessing
Scripture tell us that children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. (see Psalm 127 v 3-5) They are a ‘reward’ from God. “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
The encyclical Casti Connubii proclaims: “Among the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place.” (para. 11) The Catechism tells us that children are the supreme gift of marriage and benefit parents greatly.” (see para. 1652)
Children Result in Less Marriage Break-up
In the statistical research of economist and social scientist Robert T. Michael, the presence of a young child in the house meant a 30% lower divorce rate for couples married between 5-15 years. (p377) The addition of a second child lowered the likelihood of divorce a further 30%.
Catechism On MARRIAGE
Para. 2333 “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarity are orientated toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life.
Para. 2335 “The union of man & woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity & fecundity… All human generations proceed from this union.”
Para. 2367 “Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life…”