Question We often hear it said these days that there is no real reason for people to get married. A piece of paper doesn’t make any real difference! How can I best argue the case for marriage?
To be honest, this is among the silliest statements one can hear. In our culture and throughout our history, “pieces of paper” or legal documents as they really are, have always been important in our lives and will continue to be so. For example, we have a piece of paper to prove ownership of our house; another gives details of our birth; one gives information about the terms of our employment; another to show we have car insurance. Without these documents, our lives would be chaotic. If Mike and Cyril go into partnership and set up a business selling televisions, they draw up a legally binding document to put the arrangement on a proper business footing, even if they are best friends. This document formalises their partnership and indicates a willingness to work together to make a go of the business to the exclusion of others who may come along and want a cut of the profits.
When a man and a woman enter into a personal partnership, they should indicate to the world their commitment to each other to the exclusion of others who may take an interest in one or other of the spouses. Since time immemorial, this has been known as marriage. But before this commitment is undertaken, the couple need to be ‘in love’! What does this actually mean? Well, I have some firm ideas on this! For me, the basis of love is a firm friendship. In fact this often comes first, with love following on its heels. Sometimes people imagine they are in love when really they are just sexually attracted to each other. When the shine wears off, there is nothing left and the couple may end up hating the sight of each other. When two people are ‘best friends’ as well as being physically attracted to each other, there is a good chance that the shine will never wear off and that the romance will never die.
During my teaching career, I have told young people many times that when choosing a marriage partner, a good test is to ask themselves if they could wash their loved ones socks or dirty underwear! Could they look after them if they became seriously ill and couldn’t do anything for themselves? Our self-giving in marriage should resemble the self-giving of Jesus on the Cross. His love for us was so great that he suffered and died for us. This is the love that we should try to mirror in our contact with those around us and in particular with our husband or wife.
So the answer to the question, if we really love someone totally in every way, not just in a sexual way, we would most certainly want to make a public commitment by going through a marriage ceremony. In the case of Catholics, we believe that we receive grace through the Sacrament of Marriage which helps us in our everyday lives. It is into this secure union that children are born. The unity between the two people soon becomes a community – a family. Unfortunately this basic teaching on marriage is being violated with the crazy ideas of people who want to be free to love and leave - both children and spouse - whenever they want to.