V. The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love
1643 «Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.»150
The unity and indissolubility of marriage
1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: «so they are no longer two, but one flesh.»151 They «are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.»152 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.
1645 «The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection.»153 Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive.154
The fidelity of conjugal love
1646 By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement «until further notice.» the «intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.»155
1647 The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning.
1648 It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.156
1649 Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. the spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. the Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble.157
1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – «Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery»158 The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.
1651 Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:
They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace.159
The openness to fertility
1652 «By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.»160
Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: «It is not good that man should be alone,» and «from the beginning (he) made them male and female»; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: «Be fruitful and multiply.» Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.161
1653 The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.162 In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.163
1654 Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.
God’s Plan for Marriage
Even when their spirituality is different or they belong to different religions, couples can find ways to live their relationship with God together.
When couples get married, they choose the person they want to accompany them for the rest of their lives. With this person they have to grow as people and as a couple. And for Christian couples and especially for those who chose to make their relationship a sacrament, that is, who went before the altar and promised to love each other as Christ loves, their lives will have a very special meaning. «That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.» (Genesis 2, 24 and Ephesians 5:31)
Now, for the richness and grace of the sacrament of marriage to bear fruit, it is essential that together they discover, every day, what God’s plan is for them. To this end, they must keep close to God and to the means that lead them to God and to his grace. This is individual and couple work. On the one hand, each one has to seek God according to his spirituality. (We understand by spirituality the way in which we live our relationship with God and with others and how we live it in the daily situations of life). Even when their spirituality is different and even when they belong to different religions, couples can find ways together to live their relationship with God and discover how God wants them to live their marriage and transmit their faith and spirituality to their children.
Each couple chooses how they are going to live their spirituality, but for this they need to first create an intimate life in which they can share their thoughts, their illusions, their history, the dreams they have together; and decide how they are going to live their married and family life. Therefore, as part of their spiritual commitment, they must avoid everything that can take them away from the true meaning of love. Today’s statistics show us a very sad picture. On the one hand, the high levels of divorce caused by pornography and marital infidelity, and on the other hand, the lack of development of marital love due to selfishness and even materialism.
That is why it is important that, from the beginning, the spouses give themselves freely and mutually to each other and seek everything that unites them and makes them grow. Let me suggest some practices that may be useful to you:
Pray for each other. Commend your partner’s needs to God.
Ask God for the grace to love your partner as God loves you.
Pray together for the needs of your family and the world around you.
Look for opportunities to serve as a couple or as a family. For example, through the Christian Family Movement, Marriage Encounters, and other organizations, activities, or ministries in your parish or region.
Take care of the senses, avoiding the use of programs or images that damage your spirituality and your married life.
Avoid pornography and those programs that damage your image of marriage.
Open up to everything that brings life, such as acts of affection and understanding.
Seek what makes your partner happy.
Avoid at all costs using your partner for your own purposes.
Look for opportunities to do things together like go for a walk, play a sport, etc.
Try to make dates but never use them to discuss or pretend to resolve conflicts.
Make special dates to talk about a problem or conflict, and preferably find a place other than your bedroom for the meeting.
Seek professional help when you feel that you are not having the desired results in your relationship. Don’t avoid it. Your marriage is too important.
Decide every day when you wake up that you are going to love your partner and look for ways to show it.
The bridegroom says:
I, N take you, N, to be my wife. I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.
The bride says:
I, N take you, N, to be my husband. I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life