“We [the Church] have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other…that marriage develops, first of all as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then, the family, which guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet.”[I] - Benedict XVI

Marriage is the community formed by a man and a woman who publicly consent to share their whole lives in a faithful, exclusive sexual relationship that is open to the gift of children.  Marriage, a vocation and a sacrament, was created and blessed by God for the mutual help, love and sanctification of man and woman and for the generation of children.

“The intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state has been established by the creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . For God himself is the author of marriage.” - Gaudium et Spes, 48.

The love of husband and wife for each other establishes a unique communion of persons – a relationship of mutual self-giving and receiving, consummated in the gift of sexual intercourse:

"The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honourable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2362

The marriage of a Christian man and Christian woman is also a sacrament – a channel of grace and a living sign of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church.  Husbands and wives can call on the grace of the sacrament of marriage to help them love each other more generously, patiently and joyfully – to be a channel of Christ’s love to their spouse.  Marital love is expanded and enriched on a daily basis by the many moments, opportunities, sacrifices, joys and trials which daily arise where spouses can demonstrate and deepen their love and gratitude for each other.

The Church rejoices in marital love and prays with and for each married couple in the joys and challenges they will encounter.  Making a life-long commitment to another person and forming a bond that cannot be dissolved in a solemn and joyful undertaking.  In placing their lives in each other’s hands and giving up their own freedom, the bond of marriage binds spouses together in a way that makes both stronger, more free and more fulfilled.  Husband and wife now find strength in each other and the joy they find in each other helps them to face life and live it to the full.

Marriage in the divine plan is a means for the happiness and sanctification of men and women and the creation and nurturing of children, “the crown of marriage”.  Pregnancy and the birth of children are among the most special moments of a couple’s relationship.  Children are the fruit of their parents’ love and a sign of the fruitfulness of God’s love.  Spouses are called to welcome children lovingly from God and to recognise always that a child is a gift.

Married couples who face difficulties in conceiving are called to unite their suffering to Christ and to use whatever natural and morally good means are available to treat the problems of infertility.  The Church encourages couples to continue to pray for the gift of children, and to hope and trust in the Lord and in His unique plan for them.  Couples without children can grow deeply in marital love, witnessing to the beauty of marriage and becoming spiritual mothers and fathers to the persons God brings into their lives.

 [I] November 18, 2006, Address to the Second Group of German Bishops on their Ad Limina Visit.


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