To read the first 5 truth bombs on marriage, click here. You won’t regret it.
Weddings are a big deal in our culture. Between the months of June & September (and all year on Pinterest…ladies) there’s hardly anything else on the minds of most 20-somethings in America. And yet, marriage, especially as a religious institution, is in a sad state these days.
It seems more and more people are understanding marriage as merely a legal contract between two people with intense romantic feelings for one another. But what’s been understood for centuries, especially in Christian cultures, is much, MUCH richer.
So we turn to the trusty Catechism of the Catholic Church, the rich volume compiled under the watch of one of the greatest writers on love and marital flourishing the Church has ever seen, St. John Paul II, for answers and a heavy dose of much-needed truth.
Below, you’ll find five “truth bombs” on marriage from the Catechism that are so awesome, by the end you’re sure to be doing this (kinda like you did the last time, and the time before that):
1. “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.” (2360; 2361b)
As Christians, we believe everything (EVERYTHING) in existence is intricately ordered by God and for a specific purpose: to praise Him and return with gratitude the gift He gave to us. That fact means that in our sexuality and in our very humanity there is, necessarily, a way to be more true to our humanity or less true to it – to be more true to our sexuality or less true to our sexuality.
But how do we know what it means to be truly human or to be authentically living our sexuality? Words we read here – like pledge and commit – imply an act of self-gift, telling us that a contrary, self-focused existence accomplishes neither true expression of humanity nor sexuality. Those called to marriage must give of themselves, must commit to their spouses – on the first day and every day – if they wish to live out this vocation authentically.
2. “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” (2362)
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what many Catholics refer to as “holy sex”. And, by the way, “holy sex” is not just allowed to be enjoyed (we aren’t Puritans, after all), but as we read here, it’s both noble and honorable. The reason it can be all of the above is because our bodies are inherently good, and, thus, so is the marital embrace. In fact, Pope Pius XII, in 1951, affirmed that it was none other than God who made it so “spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit.”
But, as mentioned in No. 1, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Garnering that enrichment, joy, and gratitude between you and your spouse requires heroic humility and radical self-gift. It requires us to think outside of ourselves – to trust God and to will the good of our spouses “as other” (without concern for our own well being). If you use your husband or wife as an instrument of your own gratification (in any way, sexual or non-sexual), on the other hand, your marriage will not be enriched, and you can kiss that joy and gratitude goodbye.
3. “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” (2363)
One of the cool things about Catholicism is that it’s possible to do the “both/and” thing and not have to adhere to an “either/or” mentality. So, while it’s an incorrect assumption for people to think all the Catholic Church wants couples to do is have seventeen babies, it’s equally incorrect for couples to think they’re doing marriage right by only thinking about themselves and/or being closed off to life (and that includes The Pill).
This cuts to the heart of where the Church comes from on abortion and contraception, but more importantly it provides a blueprint for (surprise, surprise) a successful marriage. Every marriage worth its salt – and every marriage that ever truly thrives spiritually, emotionally, and physically – pays attention to both the good of the spouses and the openness to life.
4. “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.” (2366)
One of the most poetic lines about marriage in Scripture is, “the two will become one flesh,” (Mark 10:8), emphasizing clearly that marriage requires the full giving of oneself to create something entirely new. It speaks to the utter unity that the newly married couple, as man and woman, engage in as complementary spouses.
While we mainly think of unity in terms of the marital act, or the couple being “a good team” in the way they tackle life, it’s mind-blowing to think that the highest form of unity that a married couple can reach is in the creation of a new human being. In a child being born, the “two becoming one flesh” takes on an even more profound meaning, as both spouses literally give their whole selves to create, through God, an entirely new, unique person.
5. “Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one’s given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.” (2365)
The “til death do us part” promise that’s made before God and the Church on our wedding day isn’t asked of us just on that day — we’re asked to be faithful, to be loving, that day and every day after.
As the Catechism quotes, St. John Chrysostom exhorts young husbands to say to their wives:
I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.
There’s a reason “Chrysostom” means “Golden-mouthed”… The man speaks truth! Husbands, if you don’t have this devotion to your wives (and wives for your husbands), you need to do something about that.
Sts. Joachim and Anne, Sts. Mary and Joseph, pray for us!
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