The true essence of marriage lies in the marital bond. Since the sacramentality of marriage consists principally in the indissoluble bond, the indissolubility does not come into being exclusively or principally by the mutual obligation that is undertaken with the consent of the two, but by the action of God…That which God gives remains forever; he does not repent of his gifts…The matrimony of two of the baptized…is in real, essential and intrinsic relationship with the mystery of the union of Christ with the Church…and therefore it participates in its nature…[i]
These words from Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra contain truths that are rarely present in the hearts and minds of young Catholic couples today. These truths are basic to a Catholic understanding of marriage and yet are surprising to couples who have come to believe that marriage is only about them. Culturally, couples in the Western world have little or no conception of the supernatural reality that is Catholic marriage. To the average couple, marriage is about falling in love and then choosing to affirm that love with vows that they speak to one another. At best, for the nominally Catholic couple, the Church’s minister is at the wedding to “bless” their consent. They rarely discern a greater and deeper supernatural Presence who wants to enter their shared love precisely because it is his love that they are entering. This presence of course is Jesus Christ. The Bridegroom of the Church wishes to bless this couple by taking up their “yes” to one another into his eternal “yes” to his Bride, the Church. Catholic marriage will make a cultural impact in the West only when it is thoroughly bathed in this supernatural reality; otherwise it remains imagined as a secular affair surrounded by religious symbols.