Why get married?
What does marriage mean today? Is it just a rite of passage? Is it an excuse for an awesome party? Is it a contract to give both parties a sense of security – at least for the time being?
Marriage transcends all of these reasons. It is a life-long covenant between a man and a woman. Their faithful love is a source of life and strength not just for themselves, not only for any children they may have, but also for society and for the Church.
We may not often think about it, but marriage is not just about the couple that gets married. Of course, marriage most directly concerns them. But if all they wanted to do was live life together in a long-term romantic relationship, why get married?
Marriage goes beyond the couple. A marriage is certainly a couple, but it is also more.
That's why children are such a fundamental part of marriage. Even couples that aren't able to have children can recognize their desire to give life, to live as fathers and mothers. This is true even if they are not able to do so in a biological sense, for a variety of reasons. There are so many ways of living out the human vocation to give life, with adoption being perhaps one of the more obvious ones.
Marriages serve the common good of humanity, society, and the Church, naturally reaching beyond the couple, first of all to their children, and then further still. Marriage looks inward to build up a family, but it also looks outward to see how that family can serve the needs of the world.
That’s why the bride and groom commit themselves to one another before the eyes of witnesses and representatives of the community – whether religious or civil. A couple who gets married is saying by their actions, if not by their words: “We are coming together today to form a union that will strengthen our community, our families, and the world.”
Weddings are good news not just for the couple but for the wider community! Their coming together embraces something much greater than themselves.
A wise priest once said that the barometer he uses to see if a couple is truly prepared for marriage is whether or not he could call them and say, "There is a child who needs a place to stay for the night, can I send him or her over to you?"
Families are not fortresses of solitude where we mind our own business. Families are places of love that have the power to radiate love across society.
How beautiful it is when families volunteer together, serving those in need, visiting the lonely, or picking up garbage at a local park. Loving marriages lead to families that spread love across the world, especially to those who lack love.
Those of us who are married can ask ourselves: What can we, as spouses, do to love one another in a way that spills over to our children and makes an impact on the wider society?
And all of us can ask ourselves: What can we, as human beings, do to love in a way that is more free, more full, more faithful, and more life-giving, to spread love across the entire family of humanity, starting with those immediately around us?
Let us ask God to send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to make us overflow with love to our families and to the world.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at [email protected].
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.