~Catechism of the Catholic Church 1601
Do you remember the song “Love and Marriage” that Frank Sinatra
sang in the play Our Town? Here are lyrics from this popular 1956 hit.
Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.
Love and marriage, love and marriage. It’s an institute you can’t disparage. Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.
Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion. Try, try, try and you only come to this conclusion:
Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage. Dad was told by mother you can’t have one You can’t have none. You can’t have one without the other.
It is hard to imagine that these lyrics might be acceptable in today’s culture. For one, the lyrics imply that when you fall in love, you marry instead of live together. They suggest that marriage should be a union between a man and woman rather than between any two persons. And, they infer that separating love from marriage is deceptive and false rather than something real and wonderful. A lot has changed in our society’s understanding of marriage since the 1950s.
Consider this. The number of people married today is at the lowest levels ever recorded. In the 1950s, two out of every three adults were married. Today, two out of every three adults will never marry. In the 1950s, divorce was nearly unheard of. Today, nearly 50% of those that choose to marry separate and/or divorce. And, in the 1950s, marriage was honored for its specific ability to create
children, promote family and foster healthy socialization. Today, marriage is honored for something else; private affection between loving persons.
Despite the decline in marriage and the current push to recreate marriage, recent studies continue to show that traditional marriage (between one man and one woman, established for a lifetime that is open to children) is more beneficial to spouses and to society than any other form of civil union. These benefits include an increased likelihood that moms and dads will have good relationships with their children, improved economic status and accumulated wealth, better physical health, a decrease in negative risk taking by the children raised within marriage, and longevity and well-being for the spouses. These benefits translate into increased school performance at all levels, a decrease in welfare dependency and healthcare costs, and increase in civil obedience and contribution.
There has to be some reason why traditional marriage retains its enduring goodness despite all the societal attempts to dishonor it or change its integrity. Why does it continue to bring joy to the spouses, security to children and stability to society, despite all the attacks it must defend? Perhaps, marriage endures because it is not a human institution but rather something created by God. Perhaps understanding marriage involves something other than human invention and logic. Could it be that a complete and honest understanding about marriage is to be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church?
In this day and age of endless debate and discussion about love and its relationship to marriage, it is necessary to take a close look at what the Catholic Church has to say about marriage. Church documents offer a fascinating history about marriage as both a vocation and a sacrament. They reveal the origins of and the qualities of marriage. The study and reflection of what God intends for marriage provides a proper understanding of this great institution and reveals its beauty and uniqueness.
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