The former Rite of Marriage (1969) was significantly revised and updated in 1991. The English translation came later, in 2016. We continue a careful look at the introduction to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony.
This introduction gives pastoral ministers–not just clergy, but musicians, liturgists, catechists, mentors, counsellors–plenty of valuable background to assist in the preparation of couples. It’s not just the how-to of conducting a wedding ceremony.
It’s long been my contention that the theology of some sacraments is underdeveloped or poorly promulgated. Confirmation might be one of the latter. Marriage is likely one of the former. I think paragraph 3 offers a traditional, but slightly skewed emphasis on children. Let’s read:
3. Furthermore, the institution of Marriage itself and conjugal love are, by their very nature, ordered to the procreation and formation of children and find in them, as it were, their ultimate crown.(Gaudium et Spes 48) Children are thus truly the supreme gift of Marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.
Certainly, marriage and love do indeed often lead to children. But not in every marriage or in every instance of intercourse. The commonality in all marriages is the formation of a community. Biological children are not always possible, but the supernatural union in Christ is always present. A natural marriage may indeed be ordered both to companionship and children, but the elevation of marriage to a sacrament means that a third aspect is present for Christians. Marriage is also a means of sanctification, as every sacrament is.
To be sure, sometimes couples are separated by evils (war, poverty, personal violence, etc.) or by circumstances (illness, work, commitments to other parts of a family or in society at large). Sometimes couples are not able to bear biological children. And certainly, many couples fail to explore the possibilities for sanctification that are available to them. The suggestion that children are an “ultimate crown” or a “supreme gift” tells only one-third of the story. Our bishops, clergy, and married couples would do far better to lift up all of the graces available in this sacrament.