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Two becoming one

Part 4 in a series on the World Meeting of Families 2015 by Mark Mann
Read the entire series at this link.

Talking about marriage with the young people gathered at St. Mary of the Angels near Assisi a year ago, Pope Francis offered his encouragement and admiration knowing that today, “It is risky to get married: It is a risk!”

It is a risk when in our lives, “selfishness returns and we do not know how to open to the other.” It is a risk in a “culture of the temporary: it seems as though nothing is definitive.” It is a risk in a society where economic anxiety can be well-founded. It is a risk in a post-modern view where there are no straightforward answers to soul worthy questions.

In response, the Church offers a vision of sacramental married life wherein the commitment of spouses creates and protects the space to grow as a couple, as two becoming one. Romance and sexual intimacy are wonderful attributes of married life, but alone will not help a marriage survive the cares and challenges that inevitably visit every couple. Authentic marital unity is based on God’s covenant—a covenant that welcomes romance and erotic desire – but even more fundamentally commits the spouses to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor each other all the days of their life.

Marriage then is a uniquely intimate form of union that calls a man and a woman to love each other in the manner of God’s covenant. To love this way not only fosters certain virtues, it requires them. Certainly the cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude) and theological virtues (faith, hope and love) are necessary for marriage to flourish. But loving and living sacramentally in marriage also requires an interior freedom, chastity and mercy.

Authentic marital unity is built on the interior freedom experienced by each spouse; the freedom to fully
give yourself to another in the context of being a married couple. This is the freedom that opens a spouse to self-criticism, to lay aside entitlements, to step forward in generosity.

Authentic marital unity is fostered by chastity. “Isn’t that only for priests and nuns?” To be chaste in the context of marriage is to train ourselves to see our sexuality in the light of the holiness of one another’s personhood. Another way to say this is that we foster self-discipline towards self-mastery.

Authentic marital unity requires mercy which grows as we learn to love ourselves and our spouse as Christ loves us. Mercy allows us to overcome resentments, to be gentle with ourselves and our spouse. Mercy is exercised in the context of always willing the good of the other. To love this way is not an ideal on an ever receding horizon or something to postpone until practical questions are addressed.

To love this way is something we choose to do in our everyday life together. It is not easy, but we are not alone. The Church offers all couples a community of support – grounded in faith in Jesus and
vibrant in the grace of sacramental life. In turn, married couples gift the Church as witnesses that marriage offers shelter, grace, and daily lessons in the nature of God’s love—that the two may become one.

Use the following questions for further reflection on the theme of this article to grow in faith together as a family. We encourage sharing your reflections with your larger “family” of neighbors and those you see at Mass on Sundays.

If marriage is a sacrament, what are the implications for courtship?
What qualities should we look for in a future spouse?
What does this say about me as someone’s future spouse? 

Visit the World Meeting of Families page on our website. 

Mark Mann is the director for family, marriage, youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. For more information about the World Meeting of Families, visit, or contact Mark at 616-475-1243.