With all the efforts to redefine marriage in our culture, I believe that it is important to stop and reflect for a moment on what exactly the Church and natural law tradition teach that it is.
Marriage is “a covenant or partnership of life between a man and a woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1601; see also Code of Canon Law canon 1055 §1 and the Statutes of the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Trenton, statute 256).
“[M]atrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage” (canon 1057, §2).
In this definition we see four characteristics that we all should remember when it comes to marriage:
- It is a permanent bond or relationship. I remember hearing once about a couple who wanted to write their own wedding vows and change them to “for as long as we shall love” rather than “for as long as we shall live”! We use the latter formula.
- It is a relationship that is open to children and new life.
- It is an exclusive relationship in which a certain type of love and physical intimacy is for the couple to share with each other only.
- It is between one man and one woman.
We believe that this description of marriage is a gift that we have received that we want to share with others. To share Truth with others is also a spiritual work of mercy. May we see the institution of marriage – which Jesus elevated to the status of a sacrament when it is between two baptized Christians – as a gift!