As gift, marriage cannot be forced. It is something we are to receive with gratitude and to live according to God’s plan. Of course, we can be open to receiving this gift of marriage from God. We can associate with people who have the same faith and hope. We can also periodically do a little “self-house-cleaning.” We can work to divest ourselves of anything that may be a hindrance to marriage readiness.
Marriage is also a gift that the spouses make to one another when they give themselves freely and accept the other completely (body — with our fertility as well — mind and soul). Marriage is formed when a man and a woman vow to share their lives together. It is “a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, established by mutual consent between a man and a woman” (Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, pp. 7-8).
When a man and a woman receive the gift of marriage, they open the door to a life that continually requires them to give and receive the gift of their selves to each other. It is almost as if they continually have new gifts to give, receive, open and use every day of their married lives. Our faith teaches us that it is God’s will that married couples receive and nurture these gifts. For when they do, their love will overflow and be gift to their children, their extended family, the local community, and to the world. When married couples accept and live God’s gift of married love they give witness to His generosity and love in all aspects of their married lives. They will take their place within the Communion of Saints who lived lives of loving generosity.
Theresa Notare, Ph.D.is the Assistant Director for the Natural Family Planning Program, Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC.