By Mario and Paola Martinez
For many years now, there have been many challenges and threats to the institution of marriage. These challenges include raising a family in a profoundly anti-Christian society, the growing divorce rate, the busyness of life, the absence of a father figure, lack of communication, financial worries, negative media influences and materialism, just to name a few. Nevertheless, by God’s infinite goodness and grace, and with the help of the teachings of the Church, we do not have to navigate the uncertain waters of marriage and family life alone.
One such teaching, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” a pastoral letter by the U.S. Bishops, was issued in November 2009. The Bishops discerned that there was a great need for the Church to remind the faithful about the key teachings on marriage as a natural gift, as a sacrament and as a public commitment between a man and a woman, and to remind us that “God himself is the author of marriage. Not us.”
The pastoral letter covers seven main themes, which contain the essence of what the Church believes marriage to be, as designed by God and explained by our bishops. Our goal is to unpack each theme throughout the year, to help bring hope and joy to your marriage and family experience.
Theme one focuses on marriage as “A Natural and Supernatural Gift.” Together we will look at how marriage was created by God from the beginning and how it is a gift to be received with gratitude and lived according to His will.
Theme two explains marriage as a “Unique Union of a Man and a Woman.” Here we will recall how man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God, to love Him and each other.
Theme three describes marriage as a “Communion of Love and Life.” This theme will help us understand the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage.
Theme four asserts marriage as a “Sacrament of Christ’s Love” where we will be reminded of our call to give ourselves to each other, as Christ gave himself to the Church.
Theme five affirms marriage as the “Foundation of the Family and Society.” Here we will see how marital love gives life to children, extended family and the community.
Theme six acknowledges marriage as a “Journey of Human and Spiritual Growth.” This theme will help remind us that marriage is a path to holiness.
Finally, theme seven establishes marriage as a “School of Love and Gratitude” where we will see how daily life is an opportunity to be a gift to one another.
We invite you to download the pastoral letter at sbmarriageinitiative.org and follow along as we discover or rediscover God’s beautiful plan for marriage and family. This letter is not only for married couples but for everyone who wants to nourish their relationship with God and enter more deeply into His mysteries.
As the Pastoral Letter aptly states in the introduction, “Among the many blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ is the blessing of marriage, a gift bestowed by the Creator from the creation of the human race. His hand has inscribed the vocation to marriage in the very nature of man and woman” (Gn 1:27-28, 2:21-24).
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.