Faith Calls Us to Rediscover The Deep Beauty of Marriage
By Bishop David J. Malloy
T his week, Feb. 7–14, the Church observes National Marriage Week. Included in this week on Sunday, Feb. 13, is World Marriage Day. It seems that the calendar gets filled with countless days and weeks and months in honor of this or that theme. Nevertheless, any opportunity to reflect upon the sacrament of marriage and its lived reality is both important and welcome.
The fact is, marriage in our society is in trouble. According to recent statistics, since 1960 the number of married adults has dropped from nearly 70% to less than half. Adults in their twenties who are married have dropped from two-thirds to approximately 25%. And a related consequence is that eight times more children are now born to unmarried parents than 60 years ago.
If we have been observing the culture and our society, these figures should not surprise us. From the circumstances among friends and families to the representation of relationships between men and women in our popular culture, we know that fewer and fewer people are getting married and staying with that commitment. That is the reality. 
But it calls for clear thinking and examination. Does the decline in marriage mean that people are happier? Is our society better as a result?
One could argue that the decline in marriage has been hastened by two factors, especially since 1960. The first is the sexual revolution with the acceptance of contraception. Of course with the development of the “pill” as it was called, came a promise of control, and of greater union and intimacy between the couple. 
Unfortunately, as Pope Paul VI foretold in his magnificent encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, just the opposite took place. The understanding of the great gift of human sexuality, related as it is to the union of the couple and the constant working with God even in the generating of new life, was altered and even lost. We see now the rampant sexuality in our culture and our lives that makes many unaware of the sacred nature of that gift.
A second factor in the decline of marriage is the increasing emphasis on individualism that marks our time. More stress is placed on the rights and the wants of individuals. The sacrifices that are needed to be faithful to and to build a marriage and a family are often not valued as they have been.
It is no wonder that in such a context we see so many young people who choose cohabitation over commitment. At times there seems to be almost a fear to try to give of oneself to such a commitment because it is made to seem almost impossible by our culture.
National Marriage Week is a moment to stop and listen again to the experience of the Church as She proclaims the gift of marriage and family. And that proclamation resonates with the human heart.
Men and women were made for each other. They complete each other. In marriage, particularly with the grace of the sacramental help of marriage, the man and woman give themselves to each other unconditionally, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. They are always there for each other. They help each other on the road to eternal life. And their commitment, including the morally guided sharing of sexuality, contains a constant openness to the new life of their children.
Of course marriage is not easy. Nothing good comes without effort. But our Catholic faith calls us to rediscover the deep beauty of marriage, of family, of chastity, of commitment and of faith. Marriage is good for the husband, the wife, the children and for society. It is part of God’s plan. This week reminds us how well He has provided for us.