Our Domestic Church
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By Mario and Paola Martinez

In the book of Genesis, we read, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Theme two of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) pastoral letter entitled “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan” presents marriage as a “Unique Union of a Man and a Woman.” We are made in God’s image and likeness as embodied men and women, and both are necessary to reflect God completely.

The union between one man and one woman is “an intimate communion of life and love” and reflects the complete image of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Pope Francis tells us that the “complementarity of man and woman” is a “root of marriage and family.”

In November 2014, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith hosted a three-day international interfaith conference titled “The Complementarity of Man and Woman” at the Vatican. Four hundred religious leaders and scholars from many traditions gathered to form a rich and diverse chorus of voices regarding the uniquely interdependent relationship between man and woman.

One theme from the conference on which they shared similar views was how the distinct characteristics of each gender suit them for parenthood. The femininity of mothers, demonstrated by their emotional awareness and generosity, and the masculinity of fathers, shown by their physical strength and focused rationality, all point to the fact that we were created to be a gift of ourselves to each other. These beautiful and unique qualities were intended and created by God and are not a coincidence.

One of the main presenters at the conference was a Catholic nun and American philosopher, Sister Prudence Allen, who highlights four principles of complementarity taken from the book of Genesis: equal dignity, significant difference, synergetic relation and intergenerational fruition. First, God created us in His image; that is equal dignity. He created us male and female; that is significant difference. He sent us forth to marry, be fruitful and multiply; that is synergetic relation. And finally, from the book of generations (Genesis 5) that goes from Adam to Noah, we see intergenerational fruition.

Pope Francis reminds us that complementarity happens when “one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other,” and that this completion, or coming together, of man and woman in marriage, reflects a “harmony” that was “made by our Creator.” Nearly all faith traditions gathered at the conference recognize that the truth of marriage is something written on the human heart by a loving Creator. Man and woman were made for union.

To download the USCCB pastoral letter and/or for additional resources, we invite you to visit sbmarriageinitiative.org.

Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.