Marriage is the most frequent vocation and a wondrous call to holiness in service to God. Married couples must strive to recognize this holy bond in which they are called to live a sacred and saintly life and to build a domestic church. To more deeply reflect on the marriage vocation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes it well.
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. (CCC 1601)
Here are just a couple points of reflection:
The word covenant is very important. A marriage covenant is not an arrangement, a contract, or an agreement. A covenant is a solemn promise or vow. A covenant is a one-way promise and is a level beyond a contract which is a two way agreement with conditions – “you do this and I do that.” A covenant is “I promise to do this…” It is unconditional and does not depend on the actions of the other spouse.
Marriage involves a partnership of the whole life. Certainly this phrase points to the “till death do us part” section of the vows meaning this is a lifelong promise, but it also implies all parts of the spouse’s life. In living as partners, all aspects of their lives are shared, enjoyed, and supported. So “a partnership of the whole life” is both the length and breadth of one’s life.
Marriage is for the good of the spouses – there is a net benefit to both husband and wife. Lives of both spouses are enriched and improved.
Marriage is for the procreation and education of offspring. With the gift of fertility in a marriage, there is the natural blessing of children that follows. Couples have the responsibility to care for the gift of fertility properly, and the Church promotes Natural Family Planning as way to respect God’s gift of fertility and the blessing of children.
Marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification. This means a married couple can be assured that the gift of God’s grace is given and that their married life is part of their journey of sanctification.
For more information on marriage and married life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a wonderful online resource called www.foryourmarriage.org. It is a wealth of information, but at a minimum you are sure to smile at some of the videos where “people on the street” respond to the question, “What have you done for your marriage today?”