There is no relationship this side of eternity quite like sacramental marriage. As Cardinal Robert Sarah reminds us in his new book on the priesthood, Christian marriage involves the continuous and complete self-giving in love of one person to another, a mirror perhaps of the love of the Persons of the Holy Trinity.
It is a sacred institution of lifelong and exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. It has many enemies but, if lived fully and faithfully, it is extremely rewarding.
So how should Catholics prepare for marriage? Faced with nearly 60 per cent of marriages ending in divorce within 15 years, the Spanish bishops, for instance, have just replaced 20 hours of preparation with a programme lasting three years.
But here is some radical advice which doesn’t require degree-length education: practise the virtue of chastity and don’t use contraception. Abstinence during engagement can be a time spent wisely learning one of a number of highly effective methods of natural family planning.
It is a small sacrifice when the reward is a sure foundation for a lasting, sanctifying marriage, in which self-giving in love goes unimpeded by chemical, physical or psychological barriers, and upon which all else can be built.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.